A wide-ranging collection of news and opinion from the previous week focusing on criminal justice policy, advocacy, and reform.
New study shows Sandy exacerbated mental health and drug use issues
Brown’s greater challenge came when Sandy’s impact led him to relapse into a drug addiction he was fighting to break. He has now been sober since February of this year, and is an outpatient with Northwell Health’s Far Rockaway Treatment Center at 1600 Central Ave. Brown also took part in Project Restoration, a newly released survey conducted by Northwell Health on the effects Sandy had on survivors’ mental health and substance dependency problems.
Rikers Island violence scrutinized
Faced with incarcerated people deemed too violent or vulnerable to be housed with the rest of the population, Rikers Island officials have been isolating them in a separate facility without access to some required services.
Rikers Island unit to protect transgender incarcerated people runs afoul of federal segregation guidelines
Two years ago, the city’s Department of Correction set up a segregated unit on Rikers where transgender incarcerated women would be held — safely. Now, because of a federal regulation the city is trying to comply with, that special unit may be phased out.
Advocates say new rule doesn’t do enough to prevent rape on Rikers Island
On Tuesday, the Board of Correction, which monitors conditions in New York City’s jails, voted to adopt a rule to prevent and address sexual abuse in the city’s jail system. Yet advocates, including those who have been raped while in custody, charge that it does not go far enough.
Watch RIKERS documentary
RIKERS brings you face to face with men and women who have endured incarceration at Rikers Island. Their stories, told direct to camera, vividly describe the cruel arc of the Rikers experience — from the shock of entry, to the extortion and control exercised by other incarcerated people, the oppressive interaction with corrections officers, the beatings and stabbings, the torture of solitary confinement and the many challenges of returning to the outside world.
Rikers documentary examines life behind bars through eyes of incarcerated people
A new documentary out this week lays bare life on Rikers Island, the troubled jail complex in New York’s East River. The film is told through intimate interviews with formerly incarcerated people. One of them, Barry Campbell, says that Rikers should be an antidote to a life of violence on the streets, but instead, incarcerated people often have to fight to survive.
How we treat our incarcerated
Bill Moyers, managing editor for BillMoyers.com and creator the of documentary “Rikers,” and Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, professor of law at New York University Law School and author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Spiegel & Grau, 2015), talk about Moyers’ documentary which looks at conditions on the infamous island jail through the eyes of former incarcerated people.
Mental health advocates ask why NYPD isn’t using officers with crisis-intervention training
Mental health advocates are asking why the NYPD is continuing to send ESU officers to respond to those calls instead of calling upon one of the more than 4,000 officers who have completed the department’s four-day crisis intervention training since the program’s launch in June 2015.
‘I was terrified’: incarcerated people say they paid a brutal price for a guard’s injury
Over the next two hours, according to incarcerated people, officers beat and stomped on each of the more than 30 incarcerated people present that morning, screaming curses and racial epithets and destroying property. Several men said their ribs were broken by kicks and punches. A 58-year-old incarcerated person said he was rammed, headfirst, through the Sheetrock wall in his room. Down the hall, a 41-year-old incarcerated person said his nose was broken as a guard repeatedly slammed a metal door into his face.
Howard needs to respond to questions surrounding suffocation of an incarcerated person
Almost a month ago, state corrections officials concluded that employees in Sheriff Timothy B. Howard’s jail committed a homicide, and yet the county’s sheriff remains silent. What is he thinking?
Housing, not handcuffs, is the solution to rising homelessness
Criminalization of homelessness occurs in many forms. Palo Alto, CA made sleeping in one’s own vehicle a crime punishable by a $1,000 fine or up to six months in jail. In June, Saratoga Springs, NY banned sitting or lying on sidewalks. While federal courts increasingly find these laws unconstitutional, cities still adopt them, appeasing some constituents with “tough” measures disconnected from proven solutions to homelessness.
Stop-and-frisk going paperless at federal monitor’s suggestion
The NYPD is planning to use an electronic form for cops to fill out on their smartphones or tablets every time they employ the tactic. Peter Zimroth, the federal monitor for the NYPD, on Thursday recommended to a federal judge that the force use an electronic version of the UF-250, as the stop, question and frisk form is formally known.
Cuomo strikes deal to revive affordable housing program
For the second time in three months, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has forged a deal with developers and union construction officials to revive a program designed to create apartments for poor and working-class New Yorkers. But will it get done?
Fraction of Americans with drug addiction receive treatment, Surgeon General says
Millions of Americans suffer from alcoholism or addiction to legal and illegal drugs, but only a fraction are being treated, according to a report released on Thursday by the surgeon general. One in seven people in the United States is expected to develop a substance use disorder at some point, the report said. But as of now, only one in 10 will receive treatment.
Clemency is now critical
During this “midnight period,” until Jan. 20, Obama must accelerate his pattern of commuting the sentences of federal incarcerated people penalized under outdated mandatory minimum penalties. These are men and women serving disproportionately long prison sentences that burden American taxpayers and overcrowd our already underfunded federal prison system. It’s the right thing to do – morally and justly – for the country.
Federal Bureau of Prisons renews contract with the company formerly known as CCA
The private prison company formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America—recently rebranded CoreCivic—announced Tuesday that the Federal Bureau of Prisons will extend its two-year contract with the company, despite recent findings of inadequate supervision and gaps in oversight of private prisons.
Criminal justice reform can empower forgotten Americans
Democrats can mobilize Democratic constituencies and support all groups driven down by inequality by showing determined leadership moving policies to address mass incarceration, to radically reform our criminal justice system and to reinvest in the communities most ravaged by the policies of the past. This is one of the few areas where liberals and conservatives find themselves in agreement.
Janet Reno was unafraid of science that could exonerate the innocent
At such a tough-on-crime moment, the notion that fallibility was poured into the foundation of the criminal justice system was startling and disruptive. Ms. Reno, who died this week at 78, was unafraid of looking directly at it. The first woman to hold the position of attorney general, she served eight years.
As a sheriff, I know that jail is not always the answer
Rather than jailing the woman for a low-level, nonviolent offense, the officer gave her a citation for shoplifting, instructed her to appear in court at a later date and let her go. She returned home to her children that day instead of spending weeks in jail awaiting trial at no benefit to public safety and to the detriment of her family.
My daughter died after spending four days in jail
When I learned my 18-year-old daughter had been arrested for heroin possession, it was a nightmare. But, I thought at the time, There might be a silver lining. Maybe she will get help. Instead, her four days in jail became a death sentence.
Juveniles lack legal advice; often urged to plead guilty
Everybody knows when you are accused of a crime, you get a lawyer. But in practice, that is not the case for thousands of kids. The Justice Department says about half the young people locked up in detention facilities never had an attorney. And now, a new report finds that even when juveniles do get legal advice, it often comes from lawyers who urge them to plead guilty.
When a sibling goes to prison
But incarceration also affects a separate number of children who have been isolated from another profound relationship: They are the children with siblings in jail or prison—and much less is known about them. It isn’t even clear how many of them there are.
The incarcerated LGBTQ people asserting their humanity through art
On the inside is a new exhibition at the Abrons Art Center in New York that features work by people who found art, and their immense talent for it, after they were incarcerated. The artists featured in the show are currently locked away in the vast network of the United States prison system, which criminalizes people at the highest rate in the world. They identify across the LGBTQ spectrum and are asking us to see them as not just prisoners, but people.
Education is the key to changing the lives of formerly incarcerated people
Aside from being a 42-year-old single mother, a sister, an aunt, Latina, Dominican, a native New Yorker, a named scholar, and an Ivy League student, I am also someone who has been both indirectly and directly impacted by mass incarceration. People who have been incarcerated tend to hide their past due to the stigmas and negative connotations associated with those who have been convicted of a crime. However, I have such an amazing support system at GS—not only among our incredible student body but also with our administrators—that I’ve found the strength to openly share who I am.
A courtroom suicide shows the court’s unpreparedness to deal with mentally ill defendants
One hour into the session, she slumped over, eyes closed. Two women sitting next to Silvestri grabbed her to keep her from falling to the floor. An ambulance rushed her to Lowell General Hospital, a powerful mix of tricyclic antidepressants and sedatives in her veins. By the time the vehicle pulled up to the emergency room, it was too late. The medical examiner ruled her death a suicide.
How not to build a jail
Recently, something happened in D.C. that hasn’t happened in over a century. The D.C. jail now has more cells than it needs. The daily average population being housed by the D.C. Department of Corrections has started falling, from 3,089 in 2009 to 2,041 in 2014. This trend has only accelerated with the decriminalization and then legalization of marijuana in the District.
Baby died after staff ignored labor, incarcerated person says
A formerly incarcerated person at the Milwaukee County Jail says a corrections officer laughed off her request for medical help as she went into labor, contributing to her newborn’s death in a jail cell in July. A lawyer for Shadé Swayzer has filed a notice of claim against the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office, alleging that jail staff are responsible for the death of Swayzer’s child.
Cash bail under fire as discriminatory while poor incarcerated people languish in jail
Nearly a year later, Williams, 44, is about to spend another Thanksgiving in Cook County Jail, still unable to pay the bail. In the year he’s been incarcerated, he lost his job as a cook, his sister died, his girlfriend gave birth to their son and the couple lost their car, according to his girlfriend, Kareem Williams.
State secrets: Here’s what N.C. won’t tell you about incarcerated people in solitary confinement
Roughly 2,500 incarcerated people in North Carolina are in solitary at any given time. As of early March, the most recent date for which state prison officials provided information, seven incarcerated people had been in solitary for more than 10 years – a practice that human rights experts say amounts to torture. A prison spokesman rejected the Observer’s request for the names of those incarcerated people.
Clean the slate in Pennsylvania
The commonwealth is taking a step in the right direction as a new law takes effect Monday that for the first time seals criminal records from public view for people convicted of some second- and third-degree misdemeanors, so long as they completed their punishments and stayed free from arrest for 10 years.
Live Law San Quentin: hope
“These are difficult times, scary times in the world. I have had a number of conversations in the last few days with friends who are feeling that the future feels murky and unsettled. There’s nothing like coming inside prison to help put things in perspective. It may seem a strange place to look for hope in troubled times, but I consistently find resilience, humor, perseverance, and wisdom in the context of this class that sustains me.”
A broken system
Veda Carter thought she could protect her son as long as a jail cell was available. For more than 10 years, she tried to find Corey Carter quality, consistent treatment. Corey had schizophrenia and, sometimes, he struggled with paranoia. The Corey whom Veda knew and loved would start to change.
A day to expunge criminal records is hugely popular in Philly
On Monday, new amendments to a state law will go into effect. The changes to Pennsylvania’s Act 5 allow people with certain types of misdemeanors to ask the courts to seal their records so that they are available only to law enforcement, and not to the general public.
There’s nothing sweeter than an exoneration. And also nothing sadder.
Twenty-nine years, two months, and 28 days. That’s how long it took Clarence Moses-EL to disentangle himself from a rape he didn’t commit, a 48-year prison sentence for a wrongful conviction, and the web of deceit spun by Denver authorities.
Rehabilitating formerly incarcerated people starts with affordable housing
Facing housing and employment discrimination, people with criminal records may end up on the streets, commit crimes out of desperation, and land back in jail. That’s why Great River Landing, a new housing project in Minneapolis that will offer affordable housing for 72 formerly incarcerated felons, is being hailed as a small but important step in fighting homelessness and mass incarceration.
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