A wide-ranging collection of news and opinion from the previous week focusing on criminal justice policy, advocacy, and reform.
New Yorkers on parole take road trip for voting rights
A group of New Yorkers on parole left Harlem in a van this morning to conduct a two-day voting rights awareness campaign for formerly incarcerated people in Cleveland, Ohio.
New Yorkers on parole launch two-day voting rights education drive
for formerly incarcerated people in Cleveland
A group of New Yorkers who are on felony parole and who cannot vote in the
upcoming presidential election will drive from Harlem in New York City to Cleveland, Ohio to raise awareness surrounding voting rights for formerly incarcerated people.
‘Cruel and unusual’ punishment: activist calls for change in U.S. criminal justice system
Currently a criminal justice reform advocate, Martin spoke about mass incarceration, racism and America’s “cruel and unusual” criminal justice system at a lecture Tuesday. Martin said he spent six years of his life in New York State prisons after he was arrested for armed robbery. Before leaving, he earned a two-year liberal arts degree after a corrections counselor suggested he enroll in a college program for incarcerated people.
Formerly incarcerated people helping to transform prison into building for women and girls
Wearing a New York Mets hat and a denim jacket, Cheryl Wilkins was the perfect hostess. Cracking jokes, she made sure guests — particularly young people — attending a block party in front of the state’s former Bayview Correctional Facility felt welcomed. Wilkins, who was released in 2005 after spending nearly two years incarcerated in the facility, knows what it’s like to be young and not know where to turn.
City Council approves bills to improve health care for incarcerated people on Rikers Island
The City Council passed a package of bills Wednesday that aim to improve health care for incarcerated people and a nursery program for babies born to women locked up on Rikers Island. One bill will require everyone who gets arrested and sent to criminal court for arraignment to be screened for possible health issues before they’re arraigned.
Two correction officers injured after attacked by incarcerated people at Rikers Island
“The assault took place while the correction officers sprang into action to prevent one incarcerated person from attacking another during meal time,” said Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association president Elias Husamudeen.
Vance announces $19M in grant funding for diversion, services
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office is making $19 million in grant funding available for organizations to create programs to divert low-level justice involved people from prosecution, provide services to youths aging out of the foster system and provide jobs for at-risk youth and formerly incarcerated people.
Not one New York police officer has a body camera
Not one of the department’s approximately 35,800 officers is wearing a body camera, even as the devices have become a staple for officers elsewhere. The Police Department says it is committed to outfitting officers with body cameras, and on Monday said that a company had been chosen to supply up to 5,000 over the next five years. But a contract has yet to be signed, and a rollout of the cameras would not begin for months.
‘Orange Is the New Black’ cast members help renovate home for formerly incarcerated women
Cast members of the TV show “Orange is the New Black” joined over 100 volunteers from nonprofit Rebuilding Together on Saturday to renovate the Sarah Powell Huntington House, a homeless shelter in the East Village that houses women recently released from prison and their children.
Calls to 911 from black neighborhoods fell after a case of police violence
The effect broke along racial lines: The majority of the decline in calls took place in black neighborhoods. “It shows what a deep rift events like this cause in the social fabric, in predominately black communities,” Mr. Desmond said.
‘Ban the Box’ laws may worsen hiring discrimination, new research finds
New research suggests that ban-the-box laws—so-called because they eliminate a box on many job applications asking if applicants have a criminal record—are creating a wider racial gap when it comes to which applicants are interviewed and hired.
National prison strike exposes need for labor rights behind bars
Fighting for fair labor practices is so integral to the American identity that the first labor disputes predate the Revolutionary War. Over time, work strikes have helped to end child labor, instituted the weekend, and brought about fair wages. But what remains largely ignored by the labor movement is the forced and rarely remunerated work that takes place in prisons—until now.
Clinton promises ‘end to end’ criminal justice reform in pitch to black voters
In a humble church with a familiar name, Little Rock A.M.E. Zion, Hillary Clinton on Sunday made a passionate case for police reform and a direct appeal to the city’s black voters, whose support she needs to win this swing state.
The movement to end racist voting laws
This year, state laws will bar nearly six million Americans with criminal convictions from voting in the presidential election. About 4.4 million of those are people who are not in prison but are still denied the right to vote. While these disenfranchisement laws have a history in many parts of the country, the harshest are found in the South, where they were central to the architecture of Jim Crow.
College behind bars
In this documentary from APM Reports, follow a class of imprisoned students trying to make their way through their first semester, from orientation through final exams. And visit a women’s facility where a group of incarcerated people has been publishing research that’s changing historians’ understanding of the history of prisons.
A virtual visit to a relative in jail
Computer-based video visitation, a service that Securus provides for a fee, can indeed be a helpful option: It allows people in jail or prison to see loved ones who can’t visit in person for whatever reason — the long distance, disability, illness, a busy schedule or responsibilities at home. However, what Securus doesn’t advertise is that, in many cases, you’re not allowed to visit any other way.
18 examples of racism in the criminal legal system
Here are 18 examples of racism in parts of different stages of the system. Taken together, the racism in each of these steps accelerates the process of incarceration of African American and Latino males. Together, they demonstrate that racism may well be the biggest crime in the criminal legal system.
Giving hope—and a vote—to the formerly incarcerated
When the polls open in Los Angeles on Nov. 8, Michael “Mikey” Nunez will be casting his first ballot. The 34-year-old is one of the tens of thousands of Americans who registered to vote on Tuesday as part of National Voter Registration Day. But Nunez might never have registered if not for the intervention of Homeboy Industries.
Criminal justice reform: an obituary
For some proponents of justice reform, the failure this year was actually a relief. They escaped what some had feared as the worst outcome: Congress enacting a diluted reform bill, declaring mission accomplished, and dropping the subject for years. Another consolation is the prospect that Hillary Clinton, who has vowed to “reform our criminal justice system from end to end,” wins, gets a somewhat less conservative Congress, and keeps her promise.
The unintended consequences of taking a hard line on school discipline
Researchers talk about a “school-to-prison pipeline” that runs like this: Young people are suspended from classes for long stretches, or are handed over to the police. As a result, they become prime candidates for quitting school entirely. Dropping out, in turn, makes them less likely to find jobs and more likely to become part of the criminal class.
Homeland security must stop using private prisons for immigration detention. Here’s how to do it.
If DHS implements our recommendations, it will no longer need the private prison corporations on which it now relies so heavily. This will make the detention system more accountable, transparent, and better able to assure safe, humane conditions for immigrants who came here to seek a better life.
America’s prosecutor problem
Even as race and justice issues dominate national headlines, few media outlets have focused on the formidable power prosecutors wield. But they should. Of the 2,437 elected prosecutors in America (at both the both federal and county levels), 79 percent were white men — even though white men made up only 31 percent of the population.
Municipal prison bonds turn to junk as population of incarcerated people falls
With officials re-evaluating tough-on-crime laws that caused populations of incarcerated people to soar and the federal government moving to jettison its use of private prisons, the reduced need for such facilities is rippling through a niche of the $3.8 trillion municipal-securities market.
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.
How can a criminal record haunt you for the rest of your life?
In recent years, lawmakers and advocates have attempted to roll back some of these policies. Advocates in states including Massachusetts, Texas and Idaho have waged legal challenges against overzealous laws dictating where people on the sex-offender registry can live. And an increasing number of state legislatures have voted to allow justice involved people with drug related crimes to get food stamps. But thousands of restrictions, many of which limit job opportunities and access to social services, still remain.
A formerly incarcerated person turned his life around and now takes incredible photos
After his release, Di Camillo began learning the mechanics of photography while on house arrest. He found that photographing and connecting with strangers gave him a sense of solace that helped with the anxieties of his life. “I find myself empathizing with a lot of these people that struggle because I myself struggle — maybe in a different way,” he said. “But I see us as mirrors of each other.”
Sounds of justice
Legendary music executive Jason Flom has led a double life for the past two decades. In one, he discovers multi-platinum artists like Katy Perry and Lorde. In another, he helps everyday people like Steven Lennon — and changes their lives by freeing them from prison.
California extends the ballot to jails
Californians in county jails for felony offenses will be able to vote next year, thanks to a new bill passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday. The bill—introduced by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, a Democrat—is part of a growing nationwide liberal push against felony disenfranchisement for those in and out of prison.
Thousands of incarcerated people in Los Angeles County are housed in Pitchess Detention center, 50 miles from the inner city neighborhoods where police make many arrests. The closest bus stop is a mile away from the jail, and visitors can either walk the last mile or get a ride from Mama Betty.
PA high court expands right to sue counties over public defenders
Pennsylvania’s highest court will allow defendants with justice involvement to sue a county in an effort to prove a public defender’s office isn’t adequately funded to provide the constitutional right to an attorney, a victory for civil rights lawyers.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court recognizes indigent defendants’ right to sue before receiving ineffective representation
The counties that are often most in need of indigent defense services are the ones that are least likely to be able to pay for it. That is, in many instances, the same indicators of limited revenues – low property values, high unemployment, high poverty rates, limited household incomes, and limited higher education, etc. – are often the exact same indicators of high crime.
Dayries was arrested in downtown Austin after police, working a drug sting, ran his name through their database. During his trial later that year, he was sentenced to 70 years in prison by a Travis County jury for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon. Prosecutors asked for such a harsh sentence because of his prior convictions for burglary and theft, and perhaps because he had refused a plea deal. Unless he’s paroled (he becomes eligible in 2040), Dayries won’t be released from prison until 2080. By then, he’ll be 111 or dead.
D.C.’s broken parole system
Judge Mary Ellen Abrecht first became aware of D.C.’s dysfunctional parole system in “correspondences with [incarcerated people],” she says. She served as a D.C. Superior Court judge from 1990 to 2003 and as a senior judge from 2003 to 2015. “[They] would write to me saying, ‘I expected to be eligible for parole by now.’…Those kinds of complaints became frequent enough that I started to credit them,” she says.
Podcasting from prison
The producers were interviewing Rauch for a new podcast on prison life. “There is a Rauch in every prison,” one of them told me. Afterward, they’ll edit together clips of the interview. They’ll record narration and compose original music. And they’ll do all of this without internet or cellphones, from a media lab steps off the prison yard.
Oklahoma incarcerates more women than any state. What it’s doing to stop moms from going to prison.
“This lifestyle is very easy to fall back into, and every time I’ve gone back, it seems to hit me harder and faster than the last,” Houston-Brown, 43, tells The Daily Signal in one of a series of interviews. “That is the curious thing about addiction—it is so powerful and cunning, it grabs you when you least expect it and it does not let go, no matter how hard you try.”
The cities that feed Virginia’s deadliest jail lock up hundreds over simple pot possession
Mark Goodrum died last year after spending a month in Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Virginia. He had been charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession and was unable to come up with the money he needed ― approximately $100 ― for a bail bond. Getting locked up in connection with a simple marijuana possession charge isn’t particularly rare in the area served by Hampton Roads Regional Jail.
Before death, mentally ill incarcerated person held in solitary
Two weeks ago, the Milwaukee County medical examiner’s office ruled the death a homicide, determining Thomas died of “profound dehydration” and noting he suffered from bipolar disorder. Incarcerated people who were near Thomas’ cell told the Journal Sentinel that guards shut off his water after he began acting erratically. They said Thomas begged for water days before he died.
Private prison company contends feds acted illogically and illegally
One of the nation’s largest corrections companies contends the Department of Justice acted “illogically” and illegally when it decided to phase out its use of private prisons. Florida-based GEO Group, which operates two Texas facilities that face closure, launched the attack this week in what it says is the nation’s first legal challenge to the recent decision out of Washington.
Justice involved person fights for the rights of incarcerated people and battles censorship
Paul Wright has been fighting to get Prison Legal News into America’s prisons and jails for more than 25 years. Part journalist, part First Amendment crusader, Wright says his monthly publication doesn’t get a warm welcome from corrections officials whose institutions and practices are often criticized in its pages.
Compassion, communication, de-escalation are essential
I was struck by how both law enforcement and community leaders were speaking about the necessity to communicate with each other, to work as a community to keep the peace and treat each other with respect. That compassion and human dignity shown toward both citizen and first responder is essential for the community’s well-being. The prison environment is a microcosm of the community. While discipline is necessary, we also need respect, humility and compassion to operate our prisons.
Warden of notorious Holman prison retired three months after being stabbed by incarcerated person
Horton did not say why Davenport decided to retire or whether his record of presiding over high levels of violence at prisons where he has been warden played a role in the corrections veteran’s departure.
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