A wide-ranging collection of news and opinion from the previous week focusing on criminal justice policy, advocacy, and reform.
Katz Tours Fortune Society
The Fortune Society Senior Vice President Stanley Richards (l.) led Queens Borough President Melinda Katz on an August 10th tour of its Long Island City facility and briefed her on the programs offered by the society, a non-profit organization that helps formerly incarcerated men and women re-enter the community.
The DOJ’s Decision About For-Profit Prisons Might Make The Justice System A Little More Just
The move comes just a week after a DOJ report revealed contract prisons “incurred more safety and security incidents per capita than comparable BOP institutions.” Several bodily injuries, the damaging of property and even the death of correctional officers have occurred in private prisons in recent years. A few weeks ago, an investigative report by Mother Jones — in which a staff writer worked as a private prison security guard for four months — revealed the deeply concerning conditions of a Louisiana prison and helped shed light on the horrifying reality inside for-profit correctional facilities.
Training Rikers Island Staff to Defuse Conflicts With Mentally Ill Incarcerated People
While the city’s jail population has declined significantly, the number of mentally ill incarcerated people has remained stubbornly high. As part of its response, correction and health officials have turned to what they call Crisis Intervention Team training to teach officers how to navigate situations that they typically have resolved with force or pepper spray.
City incarcerated people are frequently missing mental health appointments because they can’t get officer escorts
The city Department of Correction failed to get incarcerated people to needed mental health appointments close to 40,000 times over the past four months, according to records released by the system’s oversight board.
The problem is primarily due to a lack of officer escorts and frequent lockdowns to stifle the mayhem, Board of Correction records show.
Dance lessons at Rikers to give women ‘liberating release’
“These classes can help with focus, self-image, teamwork and confidence, providing an opportunity for the incarcerated people to positively release tension, stress and anxiety that would otherwise result in violence within the facility,” the ad says.
NYPD new – and improved: How nation’s top police force reformed from within
As public safety has increased and as the NYPD abandoned stop-question-frisk as a crime-fighting tool, the department is creating the opportunity to reduce friction with minority communities where policing has been the heaviest.
With Bratton resigning, the incoming commissioner, Chief of Department James O’Neill, has committed to rebuilding trust between the department and black and Hispanic New Yorkers.
Gov. Cuomo doubtful that full $2B will be available for affordable housing this year
Gov. Cuomo said Thursday he does not expect a deal to dole out the full $2 billion in affordable housing money agreed to in the current state budget until next year. Cuomo has been under pressure by affordable housing advocates to cut a deal as quickly as possible with state legislative leaders.
Justice Department says it will end use of private prisons
“They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” Yates wrote.
U.S. to Phase Out Use of Private Prisons for Federal Incarcerated People
The Obama administration said on Thursday that it would begin to phase out the use of private for-profit prisons to house federal incarcerated people The Bureau of Prisons had resorted to such prisons to ease overcrowding as the incarceration rate soared, but the number of federal inmates has been dropping since 2013.
Eric Holder: We Can Have Shorter Sentences and Less Crime
Today, a rare bipartisan consensus in favor of changing drug-sentencing laws presents an opportunity to improve the fairness and efficiency of America’s criminal justice system. But to build on this coalition for reform, which includes senior law enforcement officials, we need action in Congress.
How Community Policing Can Work
Call it guardian policing, trust policing, problem-solving policing, relationship-based policing, community policing or partnership policing. The many names share one vision: humane, compassionate, culturally fluent cops who have a mind-set of respect, do not fear black men, and serve long enough to know residents’ names, speak their languages and help improve the neighborhood.
In U.S. Jails, a Constitutional Clash Over Air-Conditioning
The air inside the Jefferson Davis Parish jail was hot and musty. Incarcerated people, often awakened by the morning heat, hoped for cooling rain after nightfall. And ice, one incarcerated person recalled, brought fleeting relief in the cell she called a “sweatbox.”
Even though summer temperatures routinely roar past 100 degrees here, the jail, like scores of other jails and prisons across the country, has no air-conditioning.
My Life as a Blind Man in Prison
When I started going blind, I was still trying to fight my case, and remember sitting in the law library, straining to read the books. But after I completely lost my eyesight in 2012, my attempts at overturning my conviction quickly fell by the wayside.
The life and death of Luis Góngora: the police killing nobody noticed
No one tracks police brutality against the homeless, but a review of media reports reveals that at least thirteen of the 1,146 people killed by police in 2015 were homeless. Given a homeless population of about 565,000 in 2015, that means the homeless were 6.5 times more likely to be killed by police than the rest of the population.
Clouds of Dust Hang Over Arkansas Program to Fight Blight
But after rounds of cost-squeezing, what was envisioned as a bold rehabilitation program for incarcerated people increasingly became a municipal project on the cheap. In interviews, more than a half-dozen of the participants described being sent daily with scant protection into demolition sites presumed by the authorities to contain asbestos, which when inhaled in the slightest amounts can lead to incurable cancer. Similar operations in the private sector have led to criminal charges, environmental and workplace safety experts said.
Is There Still Time for Obama to Make Good on His Clemency Promises?
The current criteria for the 2,000 or so eligible justice involved people are strict: They have to be convicted of nonviolent drug offenses, to have served a significant amount of time, and to have sentences that would be significantly shorter under current law. Although these justice involved people have now been identified and can be fast-tracked through the petition process, #ClemencyNOW argues that red tape and a lack of resources are impeding the initiative’s progress.
The Legacy of Lynching, On Death Row
In 2005, the Supreme Court decided Roper v. Simmons, a landmark ruling that held that states could no longer execute justice involved people who had committed their crimes before the age of eighteen. At the time, the Equal Justice Initiative had several clients in Alabama who had been charged when they were teenagers and were now exempt from execution. To inform them of the ruling, Stevenson went to death row at the Holman Correctional Facility. He described his visit to me as we sat in his windowless office at E.J.I.’s headquarters, a converted warehouse in downtown Montgomery.
Black incarceration hasn’t been this low in a generation
The African American imprisonment rate has been declining for many years. Indeed, the likelihood of African American men and women being in prison today is lower than it was a generation ago when the law was passed, as these two charts show.
Crime in Context
We were struck by the wide variation from community to community. To paraphrase an aphorism about politics, all crime is local. Each city has its own trends that depend on the characteristics of the city itself, the time frame, and the type of crime. In fact, the trends vary from neighborhood to neighborhood within cities; a recent study posited that 5 percent of city blocks account for 50 percent of the crime. That is why most Americans believe crime is worse, while significantly fewer believe it is worse where they live.
Police violence a rising concern for Millennials, new poll shows
In the wake of highly publicized incidents of police shootings of African Americans this year, members of the Millennial generation increasingly identify police brutality and criminal-justice reform as a top priority for the next president.
Aging Incarcerated People: Photographer Shines Light on Loneliness and Isolation
I only understood prison in an abstract way before going inside. I had spent months researching the topic and knew the facts, but it didn’t eliminate my fear before I walked in for the first time. But when deputy warden Michael Tausek introduced my first three subjects—Steven, Robert, and Albert—my fear dissipated.
Why Legal Victory Against Big Bank By Incarcerated People Makes Sense
The stigma, isolation and trauma associated with incarceration impact every aspect of life for someone who is reentering society. For JP Morgan, a bank responsible for the 2008 financial collapse on Wall Street, to engage in such predatory behavior is criminal. Monetizing reentry in this manner further dehumanizes formerly incarcerated people because it unfairly forces them to remain under a different, yet equally pernicious, form of supervised control and oppression. Doing so increases hardship and makes successful reentry much less likely.
Videos Surface of a Death in Custody the LAPD Didn’t Want Release
The videos capture Howard in an agitated state on the station house bench. They show the officers shooting him with a Taser while simultaneously tackling him to the ground. For four minutes, six officers are either on top of or surrounding Howard, handcuffing his hands and feet. One officer is atop him, with a knee in his back. Another, at least briefly, can be seen with his arm around Howard’s neck and shoulders. Officers and medical personnel slowly come to realize Howard is in distress. Four different people perform CPR over nine minutes.
Menstrual Equity for Homeless and Incarcerated Women
Lashonia Thompson has focused her life around criminal justice reform and women in re-entry. Right now, she is working with Laura De Las Casas on Pads 2 Prisons, a program that promotes the distribution of menstrual products as a human right and raises awareness about the health risks of low-quality products.
My skin is contraband: How prisons are hostile to women visitors
Alone with the CO, you are told to unhook your bra, presumably so that anything hidden inside will fall out. For the same reason you are to turn the elastic on your underwear inside out. The CO wands you and pats you down. When this happened to me I was scared, not knowing how invasive the search would be. I also felt guilty because my search delayed about a dozen people who had limited time to visit their incarcerated friends and family.
Kids in trouble need guidance — not shackles
There always will be juveniles who have to be restrained in court, because of the potential for escape or the risk they pose to others — or both. But shackling should not be the default approach.
The Forgotten Tale of How America Converted Its 1980 Olympic Village Into a Prison
From the get-go, America was intent on building living quarters for the planet’s greatest athletes that could double as a medium-security prison for around 1,000 people. State and federal legislators vowed that they would not let the Lake Placid facilities turn into another crumbling piece of infrastructure, and instead argued that building a prison would be a practical investment to accommodate the nation’s skyrocketing number of incarcerated people.
Reduce Incarceration, Increase Law and Order
That’s why I and so many of my law-enforcement colleagues are calling on the next president to make reducing unnecessary imprisonment a principal goal. One important place to start: push the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, a bill that would recalibrate sentencing policy to meet the needs of the 21st century.
A Family Matter
In California, caseworkers are required to obtain a warrant from a juvenile-court judge in order to remove a child from a home. The state allows that when a child is in “imminent danger,” there’s no time for paperwork, and caseworkers can remove children without obtaining a warrant. But without a clear definition of imminent danger, caseworkers often bypass the warrant process even when there’s no obvious physical risk.
Criminally Yours: There’s No Such Thing As Wiping The Slate Clean
The years of harsh punishment, no matter the mitigation — drug addiction, mental illness, desperate poverty, lack of education — might finally be coming to an end as a more reasoned approach takes hold and the “broken windows” philosophy of policing is repudiated.
But then something always pops up to smash this optimistic perception and throw criminal justice back into the 1990s, when even jumping a turnstile gained you a criminal record.
Inside the administration’s $1 billion deal to detain Central American asylum seekers
As Central Americans surged across the U.S. border two years ago, the Obama administration skipped the standard public bidding process and agreed to a deal that offered generous terms to Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest prison company, to build a massive detention facility for women and children seeking asylum.
Supreme Court ruling will reduce number of sex offenders required to register for life
The decision by the court’s majority states that justice involved people who commit some kinds of sex crimes, such as possessing child pornography, cannot be made to register with state police for life unless they commit at least one more sex crime after their initial convictions. In other words, they have to become recidivists to qualify for the lifetime registration.
On His First Day Out Of Prison, A Convicted Sex Offender Faces Uncertain Future
Now, one of about 800,000 registered sex offenders in the United States, Guerrero faces the challenge of assimilating back into society. He was in his mid-30s and asking some pretty daunting questions: Where would he live? Who would hire him? How would he explain his past to people?
In Idaho, there’s no insanity defense for accused shooter who says he was fighting aliens
What typically happens in such cases is that the accused will seek a plea deal and hope that the judge takes their mental condition into account when passing sentence, legal experts said. Critics contend this does not provide sufficient protection against long prison terms or the death penalty for defendants who might be confined to a psychiatric hospital if they were charged in another state.
Texas Plan To Jail Fewer Poor People Infuriates Some Court Officers
A judge in Smith County, in east Texas, said the rules would weaken the courts and suggested that people without money should use their food stamps to pay fines.
A court collections officer in Burnet County, north of Austin, wrote that people have told her they cannot afford fines, but then gotten arrested multiple times for public intoxication. “So they have money for their beer but not money to pay their fines and fees?” she asked.
Florida leads nation in disenfranchising formerly incarcerated people
James, convicted as a first-time justice involved person on a charge of conspiracy to sell drugs, served 14 years in prison before he was released in 2008. He is one of several Florida pastors with a felony record who, despite having turned their lives around, are barred from voting because Florida has one of the most restrictive laws for restoring voting rights in the country.
No decision yet on ending incarcerated person’s 37 years of solitary confinement
Testifying before a federal judge Thursday, the former head of the state’s prison system and its current chief offered radically different opinions over freeing from solitary confinement a 64-year-old incarcerated man who has spent nearly 37 years confined 23 hours a day to a 7-by-12-foot cell.
Kids in solitary in Philly jails: ‘It was the worst time of my life’
Phillips, now 25 and serving 25 to 50 years for shooting and wounding two police officers he thought were home intruders, did not attempt suicide again. But he said he spent nine of 11 months at PICC in isolation. (Morris confirmed that he was segregated most of that year.)
Teen Incarcerated Person Commits Suicide After AZ Department of Corrections Was Warned of Her Mental-Health Problems
New evidence shows that a few weeks before a teenager held in solitary confinement at Perryville Prison died in what appears to be an act of suicide, the Arizona Department of Corrections had been specifically warned about her deteriorating mental health and notified that the conditions in which she was being kept likely violated state policy.
‘Good Behavior’ Credits Did Not Increase Recidivism in MO Study
Recidivism rates did not increase when justice involved people on probation and parole in Missouri had their sentences shortened for good behavior—reducing the supervised population by 18 percent in three years—according to a study published yesterday by The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Discovery Of Video Recordings At Leavenworth Detention Center Spurs Outrage
Evidence at a hearing Tuesday revealed that the private contractor operating the facility, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), made video recordings of confidential conversations between incarcerated people and their attorneys and passed some of it on to government prosecutors in response to a grand jury subpoena.
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