The Fortune Society News Of The Week — the week of February 22, 2016

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

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


De Blasio Issues Reality Check On Calls To Raze Rikers

Amid calls from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to shut down Rikers Island, Mayor Bill de Blasio dismissed the idea as not viable in the near future. Closing the city’s central jail would be a huge expense, the mayor said at a press conference in Brooklyn Tuesday …

Crain’s New York


This CEO Spent Nearly 7 Years In Jail. Now He’s Helping Ex-Cons

Once the face of corporate greed, he says he has changed. L. Dennis Kozlowski once was best known for the $6,000 shower curtain he bought as part of a multimillion-dollar spending spree with corporate cash that landed him in prison for close to seven years. Since his release from prison in 2012, the former CEO of Tyco International has been quietly working to rewrite his legacy.


Cuomo Offers Support To Mark-Viverito’s Call To Close Rikers

Gov. Andrew Cuomo voiced support Sunday for New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s call to close Rikers Island. Calling the idea offered by the speaker during her State of the City speech last week “interesting and intriguing,” Cuomo said the island jail was a dated facility, and that the smaller, more technically advanced jails that can be built today would be “more appropriate” …



Time To Cut Losses, Shut Down Rikers

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s call for a commission to study the feasibility of closing Rikers Island is not only welcome but long overdue. The vast jail complex, which is actually 10 different jails, is too big, too isolated, too violent and too expensive …

New York Daily News


Prisoners Exonerated, Prosecutors Exposed

Opinion: In 2015, 149 people convicted of crimes large and small — from capital murder to burglary — were exonerated. It is the highest yearly total since this grim form of record-keeping began, in 1989. In that time, there have been at least 1,733 exonerations across the country, and the pace keeps picking up. On average, about three convicted people are now exonerated of their crimes every week …

The New York Times


A College Education for Prisoners

Opinion: States are finally backing away from the draconian sentencing policies that swept the country at the end of the last century, driving up prison costs and sending too many people to jail for too long, often for nonviolent offenses. Many are now trying to turn around the prison juggernaut by steering drug addicts into treatment instead of jail and retooling parole systems that once sent people back to prison for technical violations …

The New York Times


How Criminal Justice Reform Fails Incarcerated Women

For years, criminal justice reform was political suicide. Politicians, desperate to avoid being seen as “soft on crime,” advocated harsher and harsher punishments, such as mandatory prison sentences for drug convictions and multiple convictions through the 1990s. The result was that the prison population ballooned — and with it, the number of women behind bars. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of women sent to prison more than doubled, from 44,065 to nearly 100,000 …

Al Jazeera


This Is Not A Love Story

It was just a few minutes into 2016 when shots rang out in El Cajon, California. Neighbors assumed it was celebratory gunfire; it wasn’t unusual for someone to fire off a few rounds to mark the new year. Hauati Fa’anunu, 41, called police and said he’d shot his wife, 34-year-old Mary Fa’anunu. Their six children were home, and a prosecutor said the couple’s 8-year-old son witnessed everything …

Huffington Post


What Dying Looks Like in America’s Prisons

Terminal patients, particularly those dying inside prison, need human contact, companionship, and a chance to talk about their lives. The prison hospice program at Mohawk also provides healthy prisoners who had good behavior records the chance to train as volunteers, to give back to their fellow inmates. The program provided a real “sense of satisfaction to our guys,” according to the daytime hospice nurse. “They’re proud of what they’re doing. They’re putting someone ahead of themselves …

The Atlantic


Poll: Majority Supports Prison and Justice Reforms

A majority of Americans believe that too many drug offenders are in prison, according to a new poll that shows strong support for the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences. The survey, released by the Pew Charitable Trusts and provided in advance to RealClearPolitics, shows that most of the American public is largely supportive of criminal justice reform and comes as a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress continues to push for changes to sentencing guidelines …



No Place for Old Men

Benito Alonzo is a short, 140-pound 80-year-old. His quiet-spoken manner, drooping jowls and gray hair, trimmed in a buzz, give him the appearance of a benevolent grandfather, and indeed, he is a grandfather. In thick-framed black eyeglasses, he bears a resemblance to the defanged and aging Henry Kissinger. But Alonzo is neither a celebrity nor a statesman. He’s a convict who has lately grown infirm …

Texas Observer


Opponents Of Sentencing Reform Recklessly Conflate Drug Offenders With Murderers

Last month Wendell Callahan was charged with using a knife to murder his ex-girlfriend and her two young daughters at their apartment in Columbus, Ohio. Opponents of sentencing reform have latched onto this horrifying crime as an example of what we can expect if Congress approves a bill that would allow the early release of federal prisoners serving time for drug offenses. But the case does not prove what critics of that bill think it does …


Judge Wants Fresh Start For Once ‘Irredeemable’ Girl

Opinion: More than 20 years ago, I sentenced a teenaged girl to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Jennifer Pruitt was just 15 when she was present — but in another room — when a friend 10 years her senior stabbed a 75-year-old man to death during a robbery. A jury found Jennifer guilty of second-degree murder and, under the state’s sentencing guidelines, I was mandated to sentence her to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In the years since, Jennifer has grown into a remarkable woman, and I think she deserves an opportunity to demonstrate that she is prepared to re-enter society …

The Detroit News

No Place for A Child: Direct File of Juveniles Comes at a High Cost; Time to Fix Statutes

At the turn of the 20th century, advocates of an alternate court process for juveniles highlighted problems that existed with prosecuting court-involved children in adult court where they principally faced punishment and surveillance. As an alternative, these advocates established juvenile courts, which reduced the severity of punishment and combined it with rehabilitative regimes and programs aimed at turning children’s lives around …

The James Madison Institute


Justice Reform, RIP?

Among advocates campaigning to reduce the country’s bloated prison population and invest in rehabilitation, there is a growing sense that a) Congress is unlikely to pass anything this year worthy of being called reform, and b) it might be better to start over in 2017 …

The Marshall Project


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