The Fortune Society News Of The Week — the week of March 7, 2016

Monday, March 7, 2016

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

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Key to Vision of Closing Rikers, City Council Bail Fund Moves Through State Process

Last year, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito unveiled her plan for a fund that would cover bail for poor individuals charged with low-level criminal offenses who would otherwise be forced to wait in a city jail for their court date. The Council dedicated $1.4 million of budget funds to back the project, which is nearing launch …

Gotham Gazette

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There Are Still 80 ‘Youth Prisons’ in the U.S. Here Are Five Things to Know About Them

The prisons are geographically isolated, making it extremely difficult for juveniles to maintain relationships with people back home, remain engaged with their schoolwork, or keep up with the social and recreational activities they used to love — all of which can reduce delinquency. In these facilities, youths are exposed to a harsh, lifeless physical environment, solitary confinement, antisocial peers and high rates of violence and sexual abuse, stunting their ability to trust, engage, and learn …

The Marshall Project

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Inside the ‘Shithouse,’ the Prison Unit Where Troubled Inmates Throw Feces at Guards

The facility is designed to break you. It houses some of the most dangerous people in Texas, as well as some of the most mentally-disturbed. I immediately feared that I would soon find myself turning into them, by virtue of my proximity. I understood that only the strongest men can spend full days among lunatics and not become one …

The Marshall Project

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The End of Solitary Confinement— What is California going to do with “the worst of the worst”?

The new Step Down policies do seem like a reversal of previous California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) rhetoric. The new program comes after a series of inmate-initiated hunger strikes over the last few years, as well as two lawsuits over the SHU filed since Pelican Bay opened. Yet the CDCR has historically maintained that these strikes undermine public safety …

Pacific Standard

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After California Prisons Release “Gang Affiliates” From Solitary Confinement, Costs and Violence Levels Drop

Significant reductions in California’s use of solitary confinement in state prisons are expected to save the state millions of dollars, perhaps even more if state lawmakers heed the advice of the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO). Contrary to warnings by Governor Jerry Brown and others, the reductions in isolation also appear to be coinciding with a measurable reduction in violence in California’s prisons …

Solitary Watch

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The Juvenile Detention System Is A Factory Farm For Troubled Kids

In a world full of young people without power or agency, where no one can get out, and no one can see in, and there is no outside oversight beyond the bureaucrats and politicians charged with running the facility; you have a recipe for unchecked neglect at best, and outright abuse at worst. Many people don’t realize it, but there is no set standard for what these facilities do or how they execute their missions. There is a complicated tapestry of facilities that detain kids in this country, and they can vary wildly in mission and level of care …

Medium

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Reentry Groups Invest In Ex-inmates To Break The Cycle Of Crime

Marsha Martin will never forget the day she was released from a military correctional facility in 2011, after serving a 15-month sentence for theft. One thought kept running through her mind: “How do I start my life over?” “It took me about six months to break down my pride and go to the system and say, ‘I need help,’ ” Martin, 41, said …

The Washington Post

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The Jail Without Bars

“Six months after I became sheriff, the most dangerous inmate in the jail escaped and was gone for 10 days,” says former Sheriff Gary Raney. “It was a big wake-up call and I realized we’d gotten complacent. We needed big changes.” After the escape, Raney and his staff revamped the Idaho jail’s mission and culture to focus on four specific goals: safety of staff, security of the facility, well-being of inmates, and meeting/exceeding stakeholder expectations …

Vera Institute of Justice

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Rooted in Rights Video: Ricardo | AVID Jail Project

In anticipation of the release of the Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities (AVID) Jail Project’s most recent video about Ricardo Rodriguez and his experience being punished for self-harm, Director William Hayes of the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention (DAJD) gave the following response: “We agree that there is no benefit in disciplining [inmates with serious mental illness] who self-harm. We also understand that those in isolation, regardless of degree of mental illness, are emotionally challenged as this environment is not therapeutic.”

Disability Rights Washington

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A Fix-it Miami Lawmaker Goes Into Prisons, Talks to Inmates … But Avoids 1 Question

Since August, the retired forensic auditor had learned that if he wanted to understand how inmates were treated in the state’s troubled corrections system, he had to find a place to conduct one-on-one interviews with offenders. His conclusion: Find a very public space within the prison confines, out of earshot of corrections officers or prison staff, away from any recording equipment “and never ask what sent them to prison, unless it’s going to be your last question.”

Miami Herald

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Guards investigated for antagonizing mentally ill state prisoner

Three guards were investigated for antagonizing an inmate with a mental illness at the state-run Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility last summer, the Department of Corrections has confirmed. The investigation began Feb. 6 when officials received a copy of a recording the officers made of themselves harassing the inmate via the intercom system. It was concluded on Monday and “appropriate actions were taken,” according to a memo from Superintendent Ronald K. Malone obtained by the Journal Sentinel …

Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel

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Lawmakers Consider Bill to Remove Criminal History From Job Applications

Some state lawmakers are advocating on behalf of incarcerated individuals to help improve their employment prospects. In what is referred to as the Ban the Box bill, House Bill 5237 would prevent any employer in Connecticut from requiring job applicants to disclose their criminal history before receiving a conditional offer of employment …

Fox 61

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