Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Aljazeera criticizes 3-strike laws

Nothing, finally, surprises me about prisons and prison law.  But reading today a long story in Aljazeera:  Power & People, I discovered that people in the middle east find our laws excessive.  Whew!

 In Saudi Arabia, they still cut off the hands of thieves.  They hold public beheadings.  But still, the authors of this article find that the U.S. 3-strike law, requiring life imprisonment for a third crime, to be excessive.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Private federal prison implodes: who pays?

OK, so ... the federal prison system hired a private firm to collect doctors together who would work on prisoners.  But no one seems to have been watching what that private firm did with the money, or whom they forgot to repay--like the doctors and the hospitals.  -
"BUTNER -- A Florida-based company that lent its CEO more than $5 million for an Angus cattle ranch and a biography and screenplay about himself has gone into receivership, leaving Duke University Health System and area doctors’ offices owed more than $8 million for treating patients from Butner federal prison, according to court records and officials of the state medical society."

Read more here:


Russians question US jail precedures

How bad is the Houston jail?  Well, acording to the Russian radio stories, 4 Russians are asking international human rights observers to investigate.  They contend they are denied legal acccess, among other complaints.

Russians detained in Houston complain about their prison conditions.

Friday, October 19, 2012

John Howard Society endorses graphic novel

The international organization, founded in 1777, investigates prison abuses;  keeps the public informed;  advocates for humane conditions in prisons.

And their executive director has just announced that he will "be honored to support" Prison Grievances.  They read it and announced that it is "Brilliant!" and "much needed."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Man Who Spent Time In an Iranian Prison Thinks California's Are Worse

Well, can you think of something to say about American prisons that would be worse than what Shane Bauer concludes?  Shane was one of three American hikers arrested in Iran after the crossing over the border from Iraq in 2009. He spent 26 months in Tehran's Evin Prison, the first four in solitary confinement. "He wasn't given a lawyer, a trial, or even an idea what he was supposedly guilty of," reports The Atlantic Wire.  But it was better tham California solitary confinement.

"While a prison term is assigned by a judge, the amount of time in solitary sentences can be indefinite and the way out, impossible. The quickest route into the hole is to be associated with a prison gang, but anyone can accuse you of that without evidence and the appeal process is a joke. (The number of inmates who have successfully overturned a gang validation is 0.4 percent.)"

"The quickest way out of solitary is to accuse some one else. By revealing everything you know about a gang, you can earn your way to slightly better quarters, while also earning the wrath of those you might have ratted on. But if you aren't actually in a gang (which you can't prove in court), then you have nothing to offer authorities and remain where you are."  see the full story:


GOA report traces problems to prison growth

Spet 2012 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office to Congress found that in 2011, 48% of federal inmates were incarcerated for drugs. 

The most severe crowding, puzzlingly, was in the highest security facilities:  55% are overcrowded.  Perhaps that gang tag (discussed yesterday) has pushed this crowding.

Among unacceptable conditions cited are double and triple bunking, wait list for education and drug treatment programs, limited meaningful work opportunities, and increased staff/inmate ratios.  These conditions contribute to inmate misconduct, which negatively affects the safety and security of staff and inmates.  See the full report:


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How to Give up Gang Status?

California inmates in two prisons, at prisons near Tehachapi and Corcoran, are refusing food over new policies, policies that were supposed to relieve those in solitary confinement of lengthy stays.

How does someone 'quit' a gang while he's in solitary?  Good question.  Currently, wardens from around the state are attempting to read and understand the guidelines.  Meanwhile, inmates believe the rules, intended to help, will make it even more difficult to get out of solitary confinement.

Ohio turns to sentence reforms; privatizing failing

Ohio sold the Northeast Ohio prison to Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) in 2011;  a recent audit revealed that the private prison is meeting only 66.7% of the state's standards, including low staffing, lack of training, overcrowding (mattresses on floors), lack of santitaion, and--most worrisome perhaps--inadequate contraband services.

These oversights create an unsafe environment for both staff and inmates. 

Why isn't there an "in loco parentis" standard for citizens whose lives the state now controls?  We have that standard for students--who can at least move back home.  According to Cinncinati's City Beat,

"ODRC Director Gary Mohr might have decided to stop privatizing Ohio’s prisons. On Sept. 25 — the same day the audit was mailed to Mohr’s office — Mohr announced his department would focus on sentencing reforms to bring down recidivism instead of saving costs by privatizing more prisons. The news came during the week CityBeat’s cover story on private prisons was in stands."


Monday, October 15, 2012

Overcrowding from 3 strikes? Unnecessary

Sociology professor Robert Nash Parker determined that crime has been decreasing at about the same rate in every state for 20 years, regardless of whether three-strikes policies are in place or not.

Parker's findings appear in the paper "Why California's 'Three Strikes' Fails as Crime and Economic Policy, and What to Do."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cease fire plus hunger strike in Calif prison

Although inmates at one California prison broke their fast and began eating on Wednesday, another prison solitary population decided to continue fasting.  Across California, Wednesday began prisoners' attempts to stop racial violence within The Walls.

 About 300 prisoners at California Correctional Institute in Tehachapi, north of Los Angeles, also began refusing meals Wednesday. About 200 of them continued to refuse food Saturday.

Curiously, prison officials say they do not know what caused inmates to begin fasting.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Lifetime Lockdown and Reentry

The American Friends Service Committee of Tucson, AZ, released a major report recently, following the statistics and stories of inmates left in lockdown for extended periods.

 “The sustaining societal and economic consequences of solitary confinement, supermax prisons, and prisoner lockdown are detrimental to families, our communities, and the economy, and need not be expanded, but rather reduced and eventually halted all together” (p. 40).

Conditions Affect Staff as Well

We need to remember that once anyone enters jail or prison, those In Walls conditions affect them.  All of them.

Oklahhoma Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview is investigating the wide-spead turn-over of prison staff.

“These prison staffing levels are life and death situations now,” Hickman said. “Someone is going to die if we don't make some changes and make them sooner rather than later.”
The Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester is short 50 employees, he said. The maximum-security prison is authorized to have 521 workers and is funded to have 363. It has 310.

Read more:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Advice to Jail/Prison Staff

An excellent article in reminds officers of their own freedoms, and that those freedoms should help them stay calm and professional in a tense and negative world.

Ohio Private Prisons: 50% more assaults

When states contract with private prisons, it's to ease taxpayer burdens. But then the consequences: "One study by George Washington University found private prisons have a 50 percent higher rate of inmate-on-staff assault and a 66 percent higher rate of inmate-on-inmate assault. The troubling numbers were attributed to lower standards at private prisons that keep costs low and profits high."

The Ohio Correction facility, the first private prison in the state, was cited for 47 violations by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODFC).

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

4500 in NY solitary confinement

How big is your city?  Your university?  Imagine 4500 people in boxes?  I can't.  But that's what the New York Civil LIberties investigating group discovered.

“New York’s arbitrary, inhumane and unsafe use of extreme isolation has led to an urgent human rights crisis,” according to the report. “Corrections officials can separate and remove violent or vulnerable prisoners from the general prison population without subjecting them to the punishing physical or psychological deprivation of extreme isolation.”

We can't keep ogmoring these numbers;  they will eventually swamp us--with taxes, with ex-cons who haven't seen and talked with others in decades.

Let's Review Medical Paroles

Marc Levin, director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, researched parole for "infirm" inmates and discovered that, in Texas alone, the state would save  $42.6 million in 2013, while only adding $1.57 million in parole costs. 

It's arithmetic.  Tax dollars.  So why can't parole baords begin releasing the terminally ill, the veterans who can't walk but can be released to VA centers, etc.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

What we don't know can hurt us

Governor's Veto Leaves Some Prisoners Out of View

October 4, 2012, 12:57 pm • Posted by Laird Harrison

When Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill expanding news media access to state prisons, he was following in a long California tradition. Three previous governors have vetoed such bills that would let reporters record interviews of whatever prisoner they choose.

Michael Montgomery/KQED
So why does the legislature keep butting heads with the governor on this issue?
When the bill passed in the State Senate, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said in a media release that expanding media access would help uncover problems in the state prison system.
The lack of good information is also a danger to the prisoners, the employees and the public at large. It was under these closed-door conditions that prison health conditions deteriorated to the point that the courts stepped in. When it comes to prisons, what we don’t know can really hurt us.
Brown argued in his veto message that wardens need control of what television interviews prisoner can have.
Giving criminals celebrity status through repeated appearances on television will glorify their crimes and hurt victims and their families.
In an interview with KQED’s Joshua Johnson, California Watch prisons reporter Michael Montgomery provided some background.
Michael Montgomery: Three previous governors have vetoed similar measures, in part after the Department of Corrections raised complaints. In this case the Department of Corrections said the bill would be very costly if it passed. It would have required prison officials to deal with lots of interview requests from the media, and it would have required them to respond on short notice.
Joshua Johnson: What is the situation now?
Michael Montgomery: As a reporter covering the prisons you can meet with inmates of your choice during regular visitor hours, if they have the right to visitors. You can take notes, but you can’t record your meeting which is behind glass. So in essence the current rules are really much more restrictive of the broadcast media than print outlets. For broadcast reporters, it silences the voices of many of those inmates.
Joshua Johnson: What do you make of the governor’s argument that he didn’t want to make essentially TV stars out of these inmates?
Michael Montgomery: The current restrictions do make it impossible for a celebrity, like Charles Manson, to speak on television or the radio. However the issue for many reporters is that the current rules make it impossible to interview any inmate of your choosing. You can interview inmates randomly. You can interview inmates who are chosen by the Department of Corrections. But you cannot go to the department right now and say “I want to record an interview a specific inmate.” That is banned by the state of California.
Joshua Johnson: How does that affect our ability to really understand how California’s prison system works, what’s going on behind bars, what areas might bear improvement?
Michael Montgomery: One example concerns last year’s hunger strike, which last year spread to about 13 prisons. The men who started that hunger strike are at Pelican Bay State Prison. And the Department of Corrections continues to prevent broadcast reporters from interviewing these men. These are men who launched a very successful hunger strike that helped pressure the Department of Corrections to make some changes in these isolation units. And they are inmates with whom the Department of Corrections has actually had a dialogue. However, we as broadcast reporters are not allowed to interview them on tape. So in that sense the public has been left a bit in the dark about what these men have to say

NY: 5400 segregated inmates

Nearly 4,500 prisoners in the state are held in segregated housing on any given day, about half in solitary confinement and half in cells with another inmate, according to the N.Y.C.L.U., which planned to publish a 72-page report on its findings on Tuesday, a copy of which was provided in advance to The New York Times.

The civil liberties group called both types of segregation “arbitrary, inhumane and unsafe,” arguing that corrections officials have too much discretion to send inmates to segregated housing for long periods, even for minor infractions.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Staggering Number in Correctional System

More than 7 million adults are under some form of correctional supervision in the United States.

More than 1.6 million are incarcerated in federal and state prisons;  760,000 are locked in our jails.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

No shackles while delivering

Calif. Gov. Brown signed AB 30, allowing female inmates to have those shackles taken off whiole they deliver babies.  Now how about the other states?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Privatized health care in AZ

When the State of Arizona chose Wexler Health Services to supply the medical needs of inmates, taxpayers were supposed to save money, and the inmates were supposed to be cared for.  Opps.

The Arizona Department of Corrections has just fined its own outsourcer $10,000 for both "wasting state resources" and for "improperly dispensing medicine."  The actual case stories are sickening (pun intended).  The Pittsburgh-based company took over inmate care July 1 after winning a $349 million, three-year contract. The company plans to appeal the fine.

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