The Fortune Society News Of The Week — the week of August 31, 2015

Sunday, August 30, 2015

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

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“Opening the Box”: After Being Jailed In Iran, Sarah Shourd Examines Solitary Confinement in U.S.

Since her release from an Iranian prison, Sarah Shourd’s work has focused on exposing and condemning the cruelty and overuse of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. Hosted by The Fortune Society, her play …

 http://www.democracynow.org/2015/8/24/opening_the_box_after_being_jailed

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Rikers Island OT Surge Is Worthless; Violence Is Worse $93M Later

They’re spending a lotta cash, but inmates are still getting slashed.  Overtime for  corrections officers has hit the highest level in over two decades as jail boss Joseph Ponte struggles to stem a major spike in violence …

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/rikers-ot-surge-worthless-violence-worse-93m-article-1.2336114

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Opinion: Rikers Reforms Are taking Root: The City’s Correction Commissioner Says New York’s Jail Is On The Path To Reform

Joseph Ponte, NYC Corrections Commissioner writes: “When I took the job of city correction commissioner last year, no one said that it would be easy to reform the long-abused and oft-neglected department. Violence had been …

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/joseph-ponte-rikers-reforms-root-article-1.2335895

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Daily News Report Exposing Rikers Island Violence Gets Banned At Jail  

City jail honchos blocked inmates from reading the Daily News’ Summer of Blood” front-page story detailing a major spike in violence. People coming to Rikers to visit inmates said they were met by warnings on the speaker systems about …

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/daily-news-report-rikers-woes-barred-jail-article-1.2335131

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Gay Transgender Rikers Island Inmate Was Repeatedly Raped By Correction Officer: Suit

A gay transgender inmate transitioning into a woman was repeatedly raped by a Rikers Island correction officer and jail officials did nothing to stop it, a new suit charges, adding that the inmate was assaulted after months of harassment …

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/gay-transgender-rikers-inmate-raped-guard-suit-article-1.2338788

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How One Prison Leader Is Taking On Solitary, From Maine To NYC

Joseph Ponte is one NY prison official championing prison reform, not only in NY but all over the country. He is the NYC Corrections Commissioner and is seen as one of leading prison reformers in the country. When he was …

http://www.corrections.com/news/article/40816-how-one-prison-leader-is-taking-on-solitary-from-maine-to-nyc

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In New York, Testing Grounds For Community Policing

There have been some minor achievements. But breaking through walls of silence and suspicion that often keep officers and residents at a distance is no simple task. The fact that most residents are black or Hispanic and most officers white adds …

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/24/nyregion/for-new-york-police-a-radical-change-for-queens-residents-a-step.html

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State Officials Expanding Program That Helps Youth Struggling With Mental Illness

State officials are expanding a program targeting youths struggling with mental illness. New York’s Office of Mental Health started the OnTrackNY initiative two years ago to provide services and treatment to young adults experiencing …

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/state-expands-program-helping-youth-mental-illness-article-1.2334629

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When Prisons Need To Be More Like Nursing Homes;  Finding New Ways To Treat The Growing Pool Of Older, Ailing Inmates

America’s prison population is rapidly graying, forcing corrections departments to confront the rising costs and challenges of health care in institutions that weren’t designed to serve as nursing homes. In New York, for example …

https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/08/27/when-prisons-need-to-be-more-like-nursing-homes?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter&utm

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New Superintendent Named At New York Prison Where Inmate Died

The state corrections department named a new superintendent for the Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon, NY, and vowed to review “safety concerns” after the April death of a prisoner who inmates said was handcuffed and …

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/26/nyregion/new-superintendent-named-at-new-york-prison-where-inmate-died.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share&_r=0

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Opinion: Judith Kaye On Problems With Our Justice And Prison System

A former chief judge of NY State writes: “It’s a pity that, despite mountainous new technology, neuroscience, and mental health research, the school-to-prison pipeline and our country’s leadership in mass incarceration mushroomed …

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/20/opinion/judith-kaye-on-problems-with-our-justice-and-prison-system.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share

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National:
After Ferguson, States Struggle To Crack Down On Court Debt

For years, state and local governments have attached additional fees to everything from speeding tickets to parole supervision. According to a growing body of research, these fees can trap poor people in debt, and corrupt law enforcement …

http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2015/08/26/after-ferguson-states-struggle-to-crack-down-on-court-debt

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National:
White House Is Pressed To Help Widen Access To Hepatitis C Drugs Via Medicaid

Federal and state Medicaid officials should widen access to prescription drugs that could cure tens of thousands of people with hepatitis C, including medications that can cost up to $1,000 a pill, health care experts have told the White House …

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/26/us/wider-reach-is-sought-for-new-hepatitis-c-treatments.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share

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National:
Criminal Justice Reformers Await Holy Ally: Pope Francis

Reformers hope Pope Francis’ visit to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia next month will grab lawmakers’ attention. He will also address Congress and could raise the issue of criminal justice reform …

https://www.yahoo.com/politics/criminal-justice-reformers-await-holy-ally-pope-127242295951.html

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National:
Opinion: Uber Should Keep Hiring The Formerly Incarcerated

If we care about civil rights, we should applaud Uber — and companies like Walmart, Koch Industries, and Target — for committing to end hiring discrimination against returning citizens …

http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/judicial/251687-uber-should-keep-hiring-the-formerly-incarcerated

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National:
A Crime And Policing Expert Critiques Black Lives Matter’s Police-Reform Plan

Black Lives Matter has taken a big step forward thanks to a document it just released called Campaign Zero that offers a series of policy recommendations that pursue BLM’s avowed goal to “end police violence in America …

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2015/08/expert-critiques-black-lives-matters-plan.html

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National:
From The Bench, A New Look At Punishment

The nation is in the midst of a searching examination of the criminal-justice system. And some judges are now taking a more active role, pushing for a reassessment of how defendants are punished …

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/27/nyregion/from-the-bench-a-new-look-at-punishment.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share&_r=0

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National:
Opinion: Why Obama’s Refusal To Pardon More Prisoners Reeks Of Cowardice

The president can pardon anyone for any or no reason.  But President Obama has been more stingy with this power than any president. It betrays a rampant political cowardice in his administration, and a callous disregard for human rights …

http://theweek.com/articles/572914/why-obamas-refusal-pardon-more-prisoners-reeks-cowardice

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National:
As Legal Marijuana Expands, States Struggle With Drugged Driving

As more states make medical and recreational marijuana use legal, they are grappling with what constitutes DUID, or driving under the influence of drugs, and how to detect and prosecute it. And they’re finding it more difficult than …

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/marijuana-drugged-driving_55d73688e4b08cd3359bb3db

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National:
Do You Age Faster In Prison? Science Tries To Catch Up With The Problem Of “Accelerated Aging”

For years, corrections officials have spoken of prisoners who appear far older than their actual age. In the early 1990s, a few officials suggested “the typical inmate in his ’50s has a physical appearance of at least 10 years older.” That was …

https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/08/24/do-you-age-faster-in-prison?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter&utm

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National:
CenturyLink Calls For A 5-Step Process To Reform Prison Calling Rates

CenturyLink, one of the largest providers of calling services to prisons, has outlined to the FCC a five-step plan intended to reform the inmate calling services (ICS) rules. In said that any reform to ICS rules should include …

http://www.fiercetelecom.com/story/centurylink-calls-5-step-process-reform-prison-calling-rates/2015-08-21

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Alabama:
With Suspension Lifted, Alabama Resumed Acquiring 1033 Program Military Surplus Items In May

Alabama’s law enforcement can once again receive military surplus equipment under the DOD’s 1033 program.The program has come under intense criticism over the past year, as news reports revealed that grenade launchers, helicopters …

http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2015/08/with_suspension_lifted_alabama.html#incart_river

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Arizona:
Report: Police Beat The Hell Out Of Private Prison Inmates After Riot

Over the 4th of July weekend, riots broke out at a private state prison near Kingman, AZ. Special forces were called in. Now, a new report says that the government’s response may have been worse than the riots themselves …

http://gawker.com/report-police-beat-the-hell-out-of-private-prison-inma-1726724072

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California:
LAPD Urges Officers To Be Community Guardians, Not Warriors On Crime

LAPD officers need to think of themselves as guardians over communities,  not warriors cracking down on them. “If we’ve got to take somebody to jail, we take them. But when we need to be empathetic, we’ve got to do that too …

http://www.latimes.com/local/crime/la-me-warrior-guardians-20150821-story.html

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California:
Prisoners Who Fight Wildfires In California: An Insider’s Look

As California enters its fourth year of record-breaking drought, parched forests are erupting in flames. The state employs 6,000 professionals to fight them but, because that’s not nearly enough, it also assigns 4,000 prison inmates to …

https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/08/19/prisoners-who-fight-wildfires-in-california-an-insider-s-look?ref=hp-1-121?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter&utm

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Missouri:
Opinion: Cornell West: The Fire Of A New Generation

Ferguson is ground zero for the struggle against police brutality and police murder. I wanted to be a small part of that fight back that puts one’s body on the line. It was beautiful because the crowd was chanting, “This is what democracy looks like …

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/19/cornel-west-the-fire-of-a-new-generation/?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share

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New Mexico:
Amid Backlash Against Isolating Inmates, New Mexico Moves Toward Change

In New Mexico, many low-risk inmates were moved out of solitary. The men still housed in isolation can now earn their way out in nine months with good behavior. That’s still more time in solitary than most mental health experts support, but …

http://www.npr.org/2015/08/24/432622666/amid-backlash-against-isolating-inmates-new-mexico-moves-toward-change

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North Dakota:
First State Legalizes Taser Drones For Cops, Thanks To A Lobbyist

It is now legal for law enforcement in North Dakota to fly drones armed with everything from Tasers to tear gas thanks to a last-minute push by a pro-police lobbyist. With all the concern over the militarization of police in the past year …

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/08/26/first-state-legalizes-armed-drones-for-cops-thanks-to-a-lobbyist.html

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Tennessee:
CA Investigation: MPD Officers Fatally Shoot 24 In Five Years; All Closed Cases Ruled “Justified”

Since 2009, Memphis police have fatally shot 24 suspects. Of the 22 closed cases, all were ruled justifiable homicides. Two cases from this year remain under investigation. As U.S. cities wrestle with fallout from a series of fatal …

http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/investigations/ca-investigation-mpd-officers-have-fatally-shot-24-in-five-years-all-concluded-investigations_23290653

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Texas:
Texas Quietly Rescinded Ban On Food Stamps For First-Time Drug Offenders

Texas soon will allow tens of thousands of residents convicted of  drug crimes to receive food assistance from the federal government,  joining almost every other state in ending a ban that once covered the  entire nation …

http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2015/08/texas-quietly-rescinded-ban-on-food.html

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Washington, D.C.:
White House Door Isn’t Always Open To Ex-Cons

President Obama, as part of his push to overhaul the criminal-justice system, said ex-offenders should have a chance at redemption. The White House’s security operation, however, hasn’t always been on board. Invited guests …

http://www.wsj.com/articles/white-house-door-isnt-always-open-to-ex-cons-1440324000

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