A wide-ranging collection of news and opinion from the previous week focusing on criminal justice policy, advocacy, and reform.
The Fortune Society Broadens Client Access To Social Services With Neuron ESB Integration Platform
Neuron ESB, an application, service and workflow integration platform, announced today its selection by The Fortune Society, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about the criminal justice system and supporting individuals in successful re-entry into society from prison. Capitalizing on Neuron ESB as a general purpose integration hub between internal and external systems, The Fortune Society is facilitating better access for its clients to social services.
Why Prison Vocational Training May Not Translate To The Outside
Day admitted there are obstacles to updating the vocational programs. He said incarcerated people cannot use computers while in prison, for example. Day believes that better funding for the training process–and involving local businesses–will make it more effective. The state corrections department said they are working hard to update the equipment.
Correction Officer Is Charged With Raping Incarcerated Woman on Rikers Island
A New York City correction officer was indicted on rape charges on Friday after engaging in sex acts with an incarcerated woman Rikers Island last year, the authorities said. The officer, Jose Cosme, 36, of Brooklyn, had intercourse with the incarcerated woman, on Nov. 30, 2015, at the Rose M. Singer Center at the jail complex, according to the Bronx district attorney’s office and the city’s Department of Investigation. He also engaged in other sex acts with the woman, who was not legally able to consent because she was incarcerated, officials said.
Rikers Island correction bosses routinely ‘purge’ unfavorable violence stats to create illusion of reform, review shows
As pressure mounts to reduce violence at the troubled jails, top correction bosses — seeking to create the impression they have turned matters around — repeatedly order underlings to downgrade incidents, a Daily News review of scores of internal documents shows.
Some Rikers Island Guards Will Get Stun Guns, de Blasio Says
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday announced new security measures for Rikers Island that include arming some correction officers at the jail complex with electric stun guns after a series of violent attacks on guards there. Mr. de Blasio said that only supervisors from the elite Emergency Services Unit would be permitted to carry the stun guns and would receive several days of additional training.
NYPD to speed up implementation of Right to Know Act protocols
New York Police Department sergeants will begin special training on Friday to kick-start fast-tracked implementation of new police search guidelines among its ranks, following an agreement announced last month between City Council and NYPD officials on the council’s Right to Know Act police reforms.
Outgoing Commissioner Bill Bratton says NYPD won’t reveal any actions against cop who choked Eric Garner
The city’s top cop said Wednesday that the NYPD will keep under wraps the outcome of any disciplinary case against the cop who fatally choked Eric Garner on Staten Island in 2014. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the findings in Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s case will be withheld from the public, protected by section 50-A of the state Civil Rights Law, which makes records of law enforcement officers confidential.
August Rebellion: New York’s Forgotten Female Prison Riot
Soon after dusk fell on August 29, 1974, a group of around 200 incarcerated females seized control of two buildings and a recreation yard at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, a maximum-security state prison for women 45 miles north of New York City.
Bureau of Prisons Will Reduce Time Incarcerated People Spend in Controversial ‘Double Solitary’
The federal Bureau of Prisons announced Friday that it will curtail its practice putting dangerous incarcerated people in cramped cells together for up to 23 hours a day, a practice paradoxically known as “double-cell solitary.” The agency, as part of the Obama White House’s directives earlier this year to reduce the use of solitary confinement, said it will now require mental health screenings before placing an incarcerated people in what’s known as its Special Management Unit.
Obama Grants Clemency To 111 Incarcerated People; DOJ ‘Confident’ It Will Clear Backlog
President Obama shortened the prison sentences of 111 incarcerated people Tuesday, including 35 people who had expected to spend the rest of their lives in federal custody, authorities told NPR.Word of the new batch of clemency grants came as the second in command at the Justice Department told NPR that lawyers there have worked through an enormous backlog of drug cases.
Poster child of US drug wars to be freed
In 1988, a small-time drug dealer became the first man charged under a new, harsh drug law signed by then-President Ronald Reagan. Almost 30 years later, President Barack Obama granted a sentence commutation to Richard Van Winrow, a literal posterboy for the history of America’s drug war.
Will States Follow Feds’ Lead on Private Prisons?
“At the very least, [the DOJ’s announcement] creates a political space for state officials who are looking to downsize their prison population,” said Nicole Porter, advocacy director of criminal justice reform organization The Sentencing Project. “The DOJ has shown a road map for states.”
Obama’s break with private prisons doesn’t go far enough
If immigration detention centers are to be part of the Department of Homeland Security’s mission for the long term, the agency must assume that responsibility directly. Incarceration is a government function, and it needs to be supervised directly by government. As the Justice Department begins to disentangle itself from the private prison industry, Homeland Security needs to push back as well. Shutting down 13 private prisons is a start, but there are dozens more to go.
Private Prison Companies Are Embracing Alternatives to Incarceration
Experts who track the business tell The Nation that as mass-incarceration reform has become a bipartisan issue, private prison companies large and small have seen the writing on the wall, and are aggressively moving into alternatives to imprisonment. In fact, they say, the very same companies that have traditionally lobbied hard for tough-on-crime policies that would assure their facilities a steady flow of warm bodies are now embracing the language of criminal-justice reform as they reach out into what they see as more lucrative markets.
Jailing Old Folks Makes No Sense
The numbers are rising despite recognition that continuing to lock up older incarcerated people not only does nothing to reduce crime, but is also expensive and inhumane. More and more aging people are becoming seriously ill and dying in prison. Prisons are not equipped to be nursing homes.
Court Costs Entrap Nonwhite, Poor Juvenile Justice Involved People
But Dequan and his mother, who is struggling to raise two sons here on wisps of income, were unable to meet one final condition: payment of $200 in court and public defender fees. For that reason alone, his probation was extended for what turned out to be another 14 months, until they pulled together the money at a time when they had trouble finding quarters for the laundromat.
Crime Survivors Are Organizing. They Want Criminal Justice Reform, Too.
It’s such an exciting time for criminal justice reform and the possibility of completely changing how the country understands safety. What that will mean for millions of people is really humbling to me. It’s so important that we turn this moment into something meaningful, that we actually take the opportunity that I think we’re being handed right now.
This may be one reason so many federal incarcerated people end up back in jail
Most incarcerated people don’t complete the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ formal pre-release program, investigators found. Individual prisons show “widely inconsistent curricula, content and quality” for the programs. Federal agency coordination is said to be poor.
From Convict to College Student
A program at San Francisco State University has quietly been helping formerly incarcerated people earn college degrees for decades. Now, it’s gaining wider attention as schools around the state begin to look for ways to help formerly incarcerated men and women gain access to higher education.
Transformation Through Education: The Importance of Second Chance Pell
In order for the nation to increase college access and success for all students, we know that education must occur in a variety of environments, Sing Sing prison included. Our group of college leaders, non-profit, government and corrections officials gathered for a strategic partners meeting to discuss expanding support for prison education programs and to see the work up close.
It’s Not Your Incarcerated People. It’s Your Staff
I got the chance to ask a few wardens “If you could only choose to put your resources into one pool, would you focus your reform and rehabilitation on your incarcerated people or staff?” To my surprise, those who responded said their staff
Using Phone Calls to Convict? NY’s Highest Court Puts Critical Question on Hold
Two years ago, a New York City man named Marcellus Johnson was convicted of robbery — in part as a result of incriminating telephone conversations that had been recorded while he was awaiting trial in a Rikers Island jail cell. Last April, New York’s highest court affirmed the conviction, upholding the use of the recorded conversations. However, the justices of the New York Court of Appeals left open a future challenge to the use of such recordings.
More Employers Hiring People With Criminal Backgrounds
As the economy improves, it’s becoming more difficult for employers to recruit and hire qualified employees. This is nudging organizations to take another look at job applicants who have been incarcerated.
Mentally ill people in solitary confinement — we need to get them out
As I write this, there are two fully decompensated paranoid schizophrenics sitting in solitary confinement cells in my jails in Madison, Wis. The cells are 6 x 9, with concrete-block walls, a metal toilet and a steel door with a slot. The incarcerated people are sick, and they are scared. They should not be in jail in the first place.
Forced out of a home over a marijuana joint
Middleton said a dozen officers stormed in as she and her husband were helping their 8-year-old son with his homework. Police handcuffed the couple, cut open a mattress and dumped food on the floor, she said. The search turned up three cigarettes; Middleton said only one of them was a joint of marijuana. No firearms were found. No one was charged. A week later, the D.C. attorney general’s office deemed the house a “drug-related nuisance” in a form letter sent to Middleton’s landlord.
Here’s What It’s Like To Be A Black Cop In Baltimore
When I was in the academy nine years ago, I was trained to be scared. You want to have some kind of fear and not try to play hero. That’s what keeps you alive. The idea of going into a house and not knowing what the layout is like or who’s inside or what’s inside or if they’re going to try to shoot you — that tripped me out when I first got out of the academy. But then your training takes over and you don’t think so much.
Governors should take pardons seriously
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s nomination as Republican vice-presidential candidate could have an unintended consequence: further delay in correcting a grave injustice. Keith Cooper, 49, has been awaiting Pence’s decision on a pardon that would restore Cooper’s good name after he was convicted of a 1996 armed robbery he didn’t commit.
The $2.1 Million Initiative Helping The Formerly Incarcerated Become Entrepreneurs
In a news release on Wednesday, August 24, it was announced that the Small Business Administration (SBA) has partnered with the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and microlender Justine PETERSEN to develop an innovative initiative to help formerly incarcerated individuals. The initiative includes a $2.1 million fund aimed at bridging the gap between entrepreneurial education and the formerly incarcerated through microloans and training programs
‘Less Than Human’
Well-meaning federal decrees cannot substitute for deep and abiding organizational reform, or binding legislative policy; indeed, it is entirely possible they could be reversed at the stroke of a pen, depending on the results of the November election.
George Soros’ quiet overhaul of the U.S. justice system
While America’s political kingmakers inject their millions into high-profile presidential and congressional contests, Democratic mega-donor George Soros has directed his wealth into an under-the-radar 2016 campaign to advance one of the progressive movement’s core goals — reshaping the American justice system.
The Art of Using Film to Transform the Lives of Formerly-Incarcerated Youth
Comics, with their rowdy action boxed within firm, familiar lines and violence reduced to harmless bams, thwacks and kapows, give Mario Rivera the ability to escape from reality. “When you’re reading the comic book, you’re no longer thinking about your problems,” says Rivera, a 24-year-old New Yorker who served time in prison for a violent crime he committed at age 15. The same goes for Rivera’s younger brother Shawn King, 21, who lived in 37 foster homes between the ages of 7 and 18 and was jailed for a few months earlier this year.
What I’ve Learned Cutting Hair in Jail
And we talk about all kinds of things, just like at the regular barbershop. The difference is, everyone I’m working on is trying to find out what the news is instead of swapping it. They want to know what’s been happening in the outside world, if their team won, what’s going on on their old unit. They talk about how they miss their kids.
How Having a Dog Changed My Life in Prison
The dog reminded me of my first day in Michigan’s most notorious prison. I’ll never forget the moment I stepped into a cellblock — I could practically feel all the convicts staring at me. The assistant deputy warden handed me the leash, and Steven and I both began petting the nervous little creature.
Fox Hit With ‘Empire’ Class Action Suit Over Filming At Juvenile Detention Center
With the Season 3 debut of Empire just weeks away, the first two episodes of the Fox blockbuster’s second season today are at the center of a potential big-bucks class action lawsuit filed over filming at a Chicago juvenile detention center that left hundreds of underage incarcerated people in “lockdown.”
Louisiana renews private prison contracts, as federal government cuts them
As the federal government was announcing it will phase out its use of private prisons , Louisiana was going in the opposite direction — renewing its contracts with two private prison operators.
Mississippi Limits Prison Visits to Immediate Family
Family and friends of Mississippi state incarcerated people were surprised and alarmed by a new policy announced Wednesday that bans all but immediate family members from visiting. According to a memo posted in state facilities, “this excludes ALL friends, pastors girlfriends, fiancés, cousins, nephews, nieces aunts uncles, in-laws and anyone else.”
Court: Michigan’s toughened sex offender rules cannot be retroactive
Significant changes to Michigan’s sex offender registry law cannot be applied retroactively to thousands of sex offenders because the revisions unconstitutionally stiffen the punishment of justice involved people after their convictions, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.
Incarcerated People Across U.S. Prepare for Sept. 9 Prison Strike
This comes as incarcerated people in prisons across the United States are gearing up for a prison strike on September 9, which is the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison uprising. Organizers say this year’s strike could be one of the largest prison strikes in recent history. On Friday, about 50 formerly incarcerated people and family members of currently incarcerated people from across Alabama and Georgia gathered in Dothan, Alabama, to organize support for the strike.
Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office Relies on Dangerous, Abusive Van Service to Transport Incarcerated People
According to a lawsuit the Fort Lauderdale resident later filed, the van was only supposed to hold eight incarcerated people, but drivers stuffed in 12 anyway. All wore leg shackles and waist chains. Whenever the van stopped to drop off an incarcerated person, drivers would turn off the fans that pumped air into the cargo area, and Benton, who was age 49 at the time, found it hard to breathe.
Secret Deals: Prison Operator Is Mum On Hawaii Court Cases
At issue was a key question: Just who is ultimately responsible for the death of Medina, a 23-year-old who was strangled by his cellmate at the Saguaro Correctional Center, a CCA-run prison in Eloy, Arizona, that housed about 1,800 incarcerated people in Hawaii at the time?
Man dies in Hampton Roads Regional Jail 2 days after filing emergency grievance begging for help
A 60-year-old man incarcerated for violating probation on a shoplifting charge, Stewart was vomiting blood. He was unable to eat much of anything for weeks, said Brent Lashley, who was two cells away from Stewart.
New Mexico Passed a Law Ending Civil Forfeiture. Albuquerque Ignored It, and Now It’s Getting Sued
Albuquerque resident Arlene Harjo, 56, is paying off a loan for a car she doesn’t have, because the city seized it for a crime it readily admits she didn’t commit, under an asset forfeiture program that is supposed to be banned.
Arkansas’ Unconstitutional Collections Court
Courts are not collection agencies. While states may have laws prohibiting writing bad checks, the criminal justice system isn’t structured for the purpose of helping businesses recover funds when a person bounces a check. Yet a class action lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas alleges Sherwood, Arkansas’ “Hot Check Court” acts as a “byzantine” debt collection service, leaving indigent defendants with thousands in fines and potential incarceration without due process or an inquiry into their ability to pay.
Mark Schand, who served 27 years for murder before his conviction was overturned, is fighting for $500K compensation
Mark Schand spent 26 years, 11 months and 25 days behind bars before his conviction in a 1986 Springfield murder was overturned in 2013. Now, with his freedom won, he is fighting for $500,000 from the state, under Massachusetts’ wrongful conviction compensation law.
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