The Fortune Society News Of The Week — the week of November 17, 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

A wide-ranging collection of news and opinion from the previous week focusing on criminal justice policy, advocacy, and reform.


Rampant Use Of Solitary Confinement In The U.S. Constitutes Torture

While the U.S. told the Committee Against Torture that federal law restricts the use of solitary confinement, the fact is any prisoner — regardless of age, gender, or physical or mental health — may be held in solitary.  Indeed, approx. 80,000 …

http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/solitary-confinement-torture

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Solitary Confinement Is “Cruel And Usual Punishment,” Says Canadian Medical Association

The placement of federal inmates in solitary confinement is “cruel and usual punishment” in Canada’s prisons and should be severely curtailed, says Canada’s leading medical journal. The lack of stimulation and social interaction can …

http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/11/17/solitary-confinement-is-cruel-and-usual-punishment-canadian-medical-association/

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Rikers And The Limits Of Prison Reform

After an investigation discovered a “deep-seated culture of violence” against teenage inmates at Rikers, the U.S. Attorney issued an ultimatum: reform in 49 days or face a federal lawsuit. But the pace of reform has been agonizingly slow …

http://harvardpolitics.com/united-states/rikers-limits-prison-reform/

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Corrections Department Lays Out Reform For City Jails

The city’s Dept. of Corrections announced reform proposals for Rikers Island and
other city jails in light of the recent reports of violence and use of solitary confinement at the facilities. He urged the city’s Board of Correction to adopt his …

http://www.amny.com/news/nyc-jail-reforms-proposed-by-the-city-s-department-of-corrections-1.9631178?cmpid=amNewYork

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Rikers’ 250 Worst Inmates Would Move Into ʺEnhanced Supervisionʺ Unit

Correction Commissioner Ponte’s $14.8-million plan for Rikers would move the worst of the worst into “enhanced supervision housing” confining them in cells for up to 17 hours daily instead of the current 8-hour maximum. The move would …

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/new-jail-unit-eyed-worst-inmates-rikers-article-1.2015544

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Rikers Island To Launch Unit For Transgender Inmates

Transgender inmates at Rikers — women who were men at birth and now identify themselves as women — will have a unit to call their own. The new voluntary housing unit will have 30 beds while the correctional facility could house up to …

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/rikers-island-launch-unit-transgender-inmates-article-1.2015264

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Opinion: End The Insanity

The repeat criminal charged with pushing Wai Keun Kwok to his death in front of a subway train suffered from schizophrenia. Despite a law that empowers authorities to institutionalize dangerous mentally ill people who refuse to take their meds …

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/editorial-insanity-article-1.2016953

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NY Lawmakers Probe Care For Mentally Ill Inmates

NY lawmakers examining mental illness among inmates in the state’s prisons were set to hear from authorities and advocates following reports of afflicted prisoners getting inadequate care, including an ex-Marine who died in an overheated …

http://www.pressrepublican.com/news/ny-lawmakers-probe-care-for-mentally-ill-inmates/article_9b14c190-6b25-11e4-91ff-3f34b2400e5e.html

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NYC Crime Rate Hits Lowest Mark Since 1994

New NYC statistics show total crime is down 7.9% in Aug., Sept., and Oct. as compared to the same period last year. The stats focused on the seven major crimes — murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny and …

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/nyc-crime-rate-hits-lowest-mark-1994-article-1.2013028

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Opinion: Bratton And de Blasio Deliver

Pay no mind to the shrill voices on the left warning of a creeping police state. Or to those on the right shrieking about urban anarchy. Incredibly, Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Bratton are living up to their promise of “a fairer, safer city …

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/harry-siegel-bratton-de-blasio-deliver-article-1.2014061

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MO Governor Activates National Guard Ahead Of Grand Jury Announcement

Citing “the possibility of expanded unrest,” Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and prepared to send the Missouri National Guard to help maintain order in St. Louis when a grand jury decision is announced in the Brown case …

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/missouri-governor-declares-emergency-readies-national-guard-ahead-of-grand/article_ed54c11e-15f6-5065-830f-abf6aa884528.html

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Racial Gap In U.S. Arrest Rates: “Staggering Disparity”

Police in Ferguson, MO — which erupted into unrest after a white officer killed an unarmed black teen — arrest black people at a rate three times higher than people of other races. Meanwhile, 1,581 other police departments  across the U.S. …

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/11/18/ferguson-black-arrest-rates/19043207/

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Federal Prison Reform Is Top Justice Department Challenge For 2014, IG Report Says

For the second year in a row, the Justice Dept.’s top performance challenge is something other than national security/counterterrorism, says Justice’s Inspector General. Reform of the federal prison system is the #1 challenge for 2014 …

http://www.mainjustice.com/2014/11/17/federal-prison-reform-is-top-justice-department-challenge-for-2014-ig-report-says/

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The DoJ And Congress Are Begging Each Other To Reform Marijuana Laws. So Why Hasn’t Either Budged?

The crowning inconsistency of the federal drug control system has always been the
classification of pot as a Schedule 1 substance, making it among the worst drugs as far as the DEA is concerned — literally as bad as heroin, and worse than …

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/11/18/eric-holder-has-the-power-to-reform-marijuana-laws-himself-so-why-doesnt-he/

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Opinion: The Racist Origins Of Felon Disenfranchisement

The state laws that barred nearly six million people with felony convictions from voting in the midterm elections this month date from the late 19th century when Southern lawmakers were working feverishly to neutralize the black electorate …

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/19/opinion/the-racist-origins-of-felon-disenfranchisement.html?smid=nytcore-ipad-share&smprod=nytcore-ipad

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Is Mass Incarceration Going Away?

Each time a sentencing reform measure is passed — California’s Proposition 47, for example, or Texas’s initiatives — hopeful officials and concerned public figures see it as a sign of a long-anticipated turn against mass incarceration. But …

https://www.themarshallproject.org/2014/11/18/who-says-mass-incarceration-is-going-away

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Changing Priorities: State Prison Reform Would Make More Funding Available For Education, Says New Report

A report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities suggests that state criminal justice reform could free up millions of dollars that states could use to improve their preschool, K–12, and higher ed systems, especially for low-income areas …

http://all4ed.org/articles/changing-priorities-state-prison-reform-would-make-more-funding-available-for-education-says-new-center-on-budget-and-policy-priorities-report/

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How For-Profit Prison Corporations Are Undermining Efforts To Treat And Rehabilitate Prisoners For Corporate Gain

Over the last 30 years, private prison corporations have profited from, and at times
contributed to, the expansion of tough-on-crime and anti-immigrant policies that have driven prison expansion. Indeed, the number of people behind bars has …

https://www.themarshallproject.org/documents/1363655-treatment-industrial-complex

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More Federal Agencies Are Using Undercover Operations

The federal government has significantly expanded undercover operations in recent years, with officers from at least 40 agencies posing as business people, welfare recipients, political protesters and even ministers to ferret out wrongdoing …

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/16/us/more-federal-agencies-are-using-undercover-operations.html

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Opinion: Newt Gingrich Says Overhaul Michigan’s Criminal Justice System

“Like most conservatives, I always look at expensive government programs with a key question in mind: Are taxpayers getting their money’s worth from the program? When it comes to our criminal justice system, the answer is a resounding no …

http://www.freep.com/story/opinion/contributors/2014/11/15/newt-gingrich-michigan-prisons-criminal-justice-reform/19037091/

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Federal Judges Order California To Expand Prison Releases

Federal judges have ordered California to launch a new parole program that could free more prisoners early, ruling the state failed to fully implement a February order intended to reduce unconstitutional crowding. For a second time, the judges …

http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-ff-federal-judges-order-state-to-release-more-prisoners-20141114-story.html

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California Tells Court It Can’t Release Inmates Early — It Would Lose Cheap Prison Labor

California’s objections to reducing the population of its prisons raise troubling questions about whether prison labor creates perverse incentives to keep inmates in prison even when they don’t need to be there …

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/11/17/3592964/how-californias-program-to-have-inmates-fight-wildfires-could-be-keeping-people-behind-bars/

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Panel: End Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences

A special commission studying Massachusett’s criminal justice system recommended eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for all drug offenses. It also voted to recommend parole eligibility for all …

http://www.commonwealthmagazine.org/News-and-Features/Online-exclusives/2014/Fall/043-Panel-End-mandatory-minimum-drug-sentences.aspx

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Must Arizona Allow Same-Sex Prison Inmates To Marry?

Now that same-sex marriage is legal in Arizona, should inmates be permitted to marry? Given the law, must they be permitted to do so? That’s the position of  the director of Middle Ground Prison Reform, an advocate for the incarcerated …

http://www.azcentral.com/story/ejmontini/2014/11/18/arizona-department-of-corrections-charles-ryan-charles-manson-wedding-same-sex-marriage-inmates/19230987/

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How To Stop Horrible Prison Deaths? Group Urges Florida Enact Reform

Citing recent reports of inmate deaths, Florida State University’s Project on Accountable Justice says the Fla. Dept. of Corrections needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. In a 24-page report, the nonpartisan policy research group said …

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/how-to-stop-horrible-prison-deaths-group-urges-flo/nh73f/

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Rauner Right On Prisons: They Are Broken

In the first debate in the race for governor, Bruce Rauner gave a brutally accurate assessment of Illinois’ prison system: “It’s broken.” As he explained, we haven’t “properly staffed and invested in our system,” and we imprison too many …

http://www.suntimes.com/news/otherviews/31065302-452/rauner-right-on-prisons-they-are-broken.html#.VGZD9hso7cs

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Alabama Has Long, Hard Road To Criminal Justice Reform

It’s no secret Alabama’s broken criminal justice system is in the early stages of reform. But if that doesn’t happen to the extent it needs to, the result could be financially crippling for Alabama. The change, however, isn’t going to be easy …

http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/local/alabama/2014/11/15/alabama-long-hard-road-criminal-justice-reform/19100479/

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Utah Leaders Unveil Prison System Reform Proposals

Utah’s criminal justice commission has unveiled package of recommendations to cut costs and the inmate population in Utah’s prisons, including a proposal to make first-time drug possession a misdemeanor instead of a felony …

http://news.hjnews.com/news/utah-leaders-unveil-prison-system-reform-proposals/article_cdcbb7f2-6b7e-11e4-9a0d-9f50bcc28200.html

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Editorial: State Has A Clear Path To Prison Reform

Despite its divided state government, New Hampshire’s governor and Legislature could find a way to reduce the state’s growing prison population and save money without increasing the crime rate. Other states are doing it, and New Hampshire …

http://www.concordmonitor.com/home/14320119-95/editorial-state-has-a-clear-path-to-prison-reform

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D.C. Votes To Overhaul Asset Forfeiture, Give Property Owners New Rights

The D.C. Council has agreed to overhaul the city’s civil asset forfeiture program which has allowed police officers to take millions of dollars in cash, cars, and other property without charging the owners with crimes …

http://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/dc-council-votes-to-overhaul-asset-forfeiture-give-property-owners-new-rights/2014/11/18/d6945400-6f72-11e4-8808-afaa1e3a33ef_story.html

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Woman’s Youthful Offense Wrecks Dream Of Being A Nurse

Dina Lexine Sarver has longed for years to be a nurse. So it’s easy to imagine her excitement when she was accepted into a nursing program. But, as it turns out, she can’t even be a chaperone for her children’s field trips. Her offenses block her …

http://jjie.org/womans-youthful-offense-wrecks-dream-of-being-a-nurse/107927/

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Defy Ventures Looks To Turn Former Criminals Into Entrepreneurs

Imagine what your life would be like if you were defined solely by the worst thing you’ve ever done. Defy Ventures calls former criminals the most overlooked talent pool. Founder Catherine Hoke shared the organization’s success stories …

http://www.techrepublic.com/article/defy-ventures-looks-to-turn-former-criminals-into-successful-entrepreneurs/

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Prison Ministry Seeks To help Parents

In a small store front, a diverse group of 50 gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the Awana Lifeline Resource Center. The eclectic group came to christen a permanent space to manage incarceration-based education programs …

http://www.signalscv.com/section/44/article/129908/

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The Manna Food Truck: Serving Up Delicious Food And Second Chances

 Of the 10 food trucks at the Fabulous Food Show this year, The Manna Food Truck stands alone. The truck is sponsored by Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry of Cleveland and gives culinary job training and work to the formerly incarcerated …

http://www.cleveland.com/food/index.ssf/2014/11/the_manna_food_truck_at_the_fa.html

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