The Fortune Society News of the Week — the week of March 13, 2017

Monday, March 13, 2017

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


Black women bear an undue burden of the HIV epidemic

As a black woman, one issue that is important to me is the silent epidemic among women and particularly women of color. They bear the brunt of the burden, and it often goes unnoticed. Of the total estimated number of women living with HIV at the end of 2013, 61 percent were African-American, and only 30 percent of them were virally suppressed. The HIV epidemic has deeply affected trans women of color; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 1 in 4 trans women are infected with HIV, with black trans women being most likely to test positive.

NBC News


Gov. Cuomo points to ‘the hell that is Rikers Island’ in push to raise age of [young people with justice involvement]

Gov. Cuomo Tuesday pointed to “the hell that is Rikers Island” to up pressure on the Legislature to raise the age at which someone can be tried as an adult. “New York should be ashamed to be one of two states in the nation that treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults for criminal liability,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The hell that is Rikers Island would be a target for human rights groups if they ever looked in their own backyard.”

NY Daily News


Food for thought: prison food is a public health problem

This past fall, a new report from Prison Voice Washington detailed the decline in food quality served in the state’s correctional facilities. While incarcerated people often voice complaints about (very real) quality-of-life issues related to food service, there is a broader public health concern here: the long-term health consequences of forcing incarcerated people to consume unhealthy food.

Prison Policy Initiative


Here’s the most cost-effective way to solve our prison crisis

Anthony Cardenales began stealing fruit as a youngster in the South Bronx, and by the time he was 17 he was in prison, serving a 17-year sentence for murder. During a family visit, when he admonished his daughter for getting into fights at school, she countered, “But that’s what you do, Daddy.” The comment led “Tone,” as his friends call him, to commit himself to turning his life around. He applied to the Bard Prison Initiative, a full liberal-arts degree program now operating in six New York correctional facilities, which admitted him first to an associate’s degree program and then for a bachelor’s degree. Going to college, Cardenales says, led to his “internal transformation.” It gave him hope for the future.

New York Post


Bayview series: women and the prison system

Despite the closure of New York City’s only women’s prison in 2013, the horrors of Bayview Correctional Facility remain with the women who were imprisoned there. Opened in 1978, Bayview Correctional Facility functioned as the city’s only female prison until four years ago, when it permanently closed its doors and went on the market for private sale. With nearly two-thirds of the prison’s total population from the New York City area, the closure of the prison remains controversial. Most of the incarcerated women were forced to relocate to upstate prisons, one of which included Albion, a medium security prison eight hours away near the Canadian border.

Culture Trip


For the families of incarcerated [individuals], video visits replace in-person face time

On a recent Thursday afternoon, five-year-old Tahnyia Shirir walked into a basement room at the Brooklyn Public Library’s East New York branch to visit her dad, Tahriek. Tahnyia wiggled out of her black parka to reveal her school uniform. “Have you grown?” Tahriek asked his daughter from a television screen. Tahriek is currently incarcerated at Rikers Island. He’s been there for about a year, but this was only Tahnyia’s second time video-visiting with him through the library’s twelve-branch TeleStory program, which allows families to talk with their incarcerated loved ones.

The Village Voice


To help [formerly incarcerated men and women] get jobs, some states reconsider licenses

Robert Lewis didn’t think it would be hard to get a job selling insurance. He was a car salesman for decades and sold insurance for a while after graduating from college. But in Lewis’ home state of Illinois, felons can’t get a license to sell insurance. And in 1985, Lewis was arrested for felony theft. Lewis says he long ago kicked the drug habit that contributed to his arrest, and these days the 62-year-old can often be found running around after his grandkids. “I was a whole other person back then,” Lewis said of his Reagan-era brush with the law. But the criminal record derailed his recent job application.

The Pew Charitable Trusts


When wrongful convictions affect blacks more than whites, can we call it a justice system?

Racial disparities have long been evident in the U.S. criminal justice system, but a new report drilling into statistics on wrongful convictions points up exactly how nefarious the problem is. African Americans are much more likely to be wrongfully convicted of a murder, sexual assault, or drug offense than whites. National Registry of Exonerations found that “innocent black people are about seven times more likely to be convicted of murder than innocent white people,” and thus also account for a disproportionate share of the growing number of exonerations.

Los Angeles Times


The forgotten ones: New Jersey’s [incarcerated young women]

The stories of our young incarcerated women are too often ignored. But this disregard stands in stark contrast to the realities of how our prison system uniquely impacts girls. Over the past 20 years, the proportion of girls involved in the juvenile justice system has increased at every stage of the process, even as overall youth arrests have declined.

Juvenile Justice Information Exchange


Death by mismanagement?

The story of Nicholas Glisson’s premature death in an Indiana prison begins with just two pills, two Oxycodone painkillers. Glisson had the pills because he was a survivor of laryngeal cancer, which had required the removal of his larynx and part of his pharynx. He needed a voice prosthesis to speak and a tracheostomy tube to breathe. He had the pills because he was in constant pain. One day in July, 2007, he offered to give two pills to someone he thought was a friend. Only this “friend,” who had asked for the pills, evidently was a “confidential informant” working for the police. The friend turned in Glisson and the ailing man, 47 at the time, was arrested for “dealing in a controlled substance.” Five weeks after he went to prison he was dead from “starvation, acute renal failure, and associated conditions.”

The Marshall Project

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