Prisons Corruption News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Prisons Corruption News Articles in Media
Finalizing the settlement of a class-action lawsuit that alleged overuse of solitary confinement, New York will change the way it handles such confinement in its prison system. The 79-page agreement ends a lawsuit filed by New York's ACLU chapter, which accused one of the largest prison systems in the country of using inhumane and torturous methods in dealing with prisoners. New York state will immediately move roughly 1,100 inmates into alternative programs. They will also develop training programs for corrections officers designed to encourage the use of forms of discipline and security other than isolation. Prisoners still held in solitary for more than 180 days will receive additional counseling, social time, and access to telephones. Today's change comes months after California changed how it handles solitary confinement, settling a lawsuit that said the practice of putting people in long-term isolation violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The New York settlement also includes a change in diet, requiring the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision "to replace the Loaf ... with a nutritious, calorie-sufficient, and palatable alternative meal composed of regular food items." Providing an example, the settlement says "a sack lunch consisting of fruit, cheese, cold cuts, sandwich bread, and coleslaw would meet the requirements of this subsection." That would be a step up from the notorious "Loaf," which The New York Times describes as "a foul-tasting brick."
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The Federal Communications Commission ended a grave injustice last fall when it prohibited price-gouging by the private companies that provide interstate telephone service for prison and jail inmates. Thanks to the F.C.C. order, poor families no longer have to choose between paying for basic essentials and speaking to a relative behind bars. Research shows that inmates who keep in touch with their families have a better chance of fitting in back home once released. The commission now needs to be on the lookout for — and crack down on, if necessary — similar abuses involving newer communication technologies like person-to-person video chat, email and voice mail. Before the recent ruling, a 15-minute interstate telephone call from prison could easily cost a family as much as $17. The cost was partly driven by a “commission” — a legalized kickback — that telephone companies paid to state corrections departments. The commissions were calculated as a percentage of telephone revenue, or a fixed upfront fee, or a combination of both. The F.C.C. ruled that rates and fees may not include the “commission” payments that providers pay to prisons. It also set a cap for interstate calls: 25 cents a minute for collect calls and 21 cents a minute for prepaid and debit calls. And it required the companies to base charges on the actual costs of providing service.
Note: Another article further exposes this practice which pads the pockets of the jailers at the expense of inmates. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
A longtime judge has been ordered to spend nearly three decades in prison for his role in a massive juvenile justice bribery scandal that prompted the state's high court to toss thousands of convictions. Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. was sentenced ... to 28 years in federal prison for taking $1 million in bribes from the builder of a pair of juvenile detention centers in a case that became known as "kids-for-cash." The Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed about 4,000 convictions issued by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008, saying he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles, including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea. Ciavarella, 61, was tried and convicted of racketeering charges earlier this year. Federal prosecutors accused Ciavarella and a second judge, Michael Conahan, of taking more than $2 million in bribes from the builder of the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care detention centers and extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the facilities' co-owner. Ciavarella, known for his harsh and autocratic courtroom demeanor, filled the beds of the private lockups with children as young as 10, many of them first-time offenders convicted of petty theft and other minor crimes.
Alternatives to Violence Project is a conflict-resolution workshop for inmates with a history of violent behavior at Sing Sing Correctional Facility. It is a program started by the Quakers in 1975 and still has strong Quaker involvement from meetings around the county. Each month the program conducts workshops at the prison for some of the most violent offenders in the New York State prison system. "Quakers have been involved in prison ministry for a long time because the founders like George Fox were incarcerated for civil disobedience," said Fred Feucht, 65, a Quaker from the Purchase Meeting and an outside coordinator for the project at the prison. Although the program is steeped in the nonviolent beliefs of the Quakers, most of the volunteers are not Quakers and believe that people need to learn conflict-resolution skills to avoid violence. "We grew out of the Quakers but we reached outside for most of our leaders," Mr. Feucht said. "A lot of our inside leaders are Muslims." Inside, leaders are inmates who have completed the ... workshops and now work as volunteers to conduct and administer the program. Volunteers in the project advocate that violence is the basic cause for people being incarcerated. Many remain involved with the program outside prison, and a group of former project facilitators formed a support group called the Landing Strip. With tougher sentencing laws today, repeat violent offenders may never be freed. For many graduates of the program, it is seen as a last chance.
For nearly two decades, the Bureau of Prisons has contracted with a handful of private companies to incarcerate thousands of non-U.S. citizens. Held in a dozen so-called “criminal alien requirement” prisons ... the inmates in private custody are, for the most part, locked up for immigration offenses or drug violations. CAR facilities have ... a track record of abuse and neglect. In August, it seemed that years of pressure [from advocacy organizations] had finally paid off, when the Justice Department announced it would begin phasing out private prisons. Under the DOJ directive, the facilities ... would see their contracts reduced or allowed to expire without renewal and the inmates in their custody transferred. Within hours of the announcement, the stocks of industry heavyweights Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group plummeted more than 35 percent. The momentum was short-lived. On November 9, as it became clear that Donald Trump had defeated Hillary Clinton in the race for the presidency, Fortune declared private prisons “the biggest (stock market) winner in Trump’s victory,” noting a 49 percent surge in CCA stock. In the weeks that followed, Trump would tap Jeff Sessions as his choice for attorney general. Not only could Sessions ... undo the DOJ’s directive, but the plans promoted by Trump and his advisers threaten to drastically increase the number of people held by companies that have repeatedly demonstrated the conflict of profit motive when it comes to depriving people of physical liberty.
Note: Read the complete article above for a detailed account of the substandard conditions at a CCA facility which led to inmate and corrections officer deaths. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing prison system corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
The salesman stood outside the prison bus, inviting people inside for a brief tour. The price tag for such a vehicle? About $580,000. This bus, along with hundreds of other products and services, are on display this week at the American Correctional Association’s annual winter conference in New Orleans. It has become the largest gathering of corrections personnel in the United States. The trade show ... offers a peek into the sprawling private industry around incarceration. Unlike other conventions, however, this convention is closed to the public, and the customers on the trade show floor are mostly prison wardens, jail officials and directors from state corrections agencies. The exhibitors are there to make their pitch for a slice of the $80 billion incarceration industry in the US. The companies aren't the only ones looking to earn money. In many states, sheriffs and wardens ... look to private companies to help pay the bills. They do this, in many cases, by taking commissions on revenue from goods sold to inmates - everything from phone calls and commissary goods to ... e-cigarettes. “The whole idea of a system that exists for the purpose of keeping people locked up for profit creates all the wrong incentives,” said Marjorie R. Esma, the executive director of the local American Civil Liberties Union in New Orleans. Such incentives, of course, can lead to more people in jail for petty crime. Look no further than Louisiana, which has been dubbed the “prison capital of the world” because of its high incarceration rates.
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U.S. jails now hold nearly 700,000 inmates on any given day, up from 157,000 in 1970, and the Vera Institute of Justice found that smaller counties now hold 44 percent of the overall total, up from just 28 percent in 1978. Jail populations in mid-sized counties with populations of 250,000 to 1 million residents grew by four times and small-sized counties with 250,000 residents or less grew by nearly seven times, Vera's analysis shows. In that time large county jail populations grew by only about three times. Exactly what's behind that trend is not clear but experts say a range of factors likely contribute, from law enforcement's increased use of summonses and traffic tickets to the closing of state mental hospitals in that time. Unlike state prisons that hold inmates doing lengthy terms, local jails and county lockups are generally used to house pretrial detainees or those who have been sentenced to serve stints of a year or less for relatively minor crimes. Jail use continues to rise though crime rates have declined since peaking in 1991, the analysis shows. Blacks are jailed at nearly four times the rate of whites and the number of women locked up in jails has grown 14-fold since 1970, according to the Vera report. The number of jails with 1,000 beds or more has soared from 21 in 1970 to 145 in 2014, and the average number of days people stay locked up in jail has grown from nine in 1978 to 23 in 2014.
Note: Violent crime rates have dropped to 1/3 of what they were just 20 years ago. See an excellent graph on this. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on prison system corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
When Jack Dawley returned in 2007 to his hometown, Norwalk, Ohio, after eight years in prison and on parole in Wisconsin, he knew getting by would be difficult. For four years, he ... paid down the $1,400 in fines and court fees he owed. But in 2012, he injured his back, lost his job and missed a payment on his court debt. He was arrested and sentenced to jail for 10 days. When he got out, he had 90 days to make a payment. He failed, and went back to jail. A cycle was beginning: jail every 90 days. Although the United States outlawed debtors’ prison two centuries ago, that, in effect, is where Dawley kept going. It is crowded there. [In] Ferguson, MO ... the recent Department of Justice investigation of the police and courts portrays a system designed to jail the poor for their poverty. Across America, courts levy fines and fees ... on misdemeanor offenders, and jail them when they cannot pay. You don’t go to jail for walking your dog without a leash, making an illegal left turn or burning leaves without a permit, but in many states you will go to jail if you can’t pay the resulting fees and fines. We have a two-tier system: The rich pay fines. The poor go to jail. Debtors’ prison is both senseless and illegal. In 1983, the Supreme Court ruled that courts must inquire about a defendant’s ability to pay fines and can jail only those who can pay but won’t. Yet defendants don’t know [that] they can ask for a hearing on their ability to pay, [and] courts routinely fail to suggest a hearing.
More black men are behind bars or under the watch of the criminal justice system than there were enslaved in 1850, according to the author of a book about racial discrimination and criminal justice. Ohio State University law professor and civil rights activist Michelle Alexander..., the author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, [says] there are more African American men in prison and jail, or on probation and parole, than were slaves before the start of the Civil War. More than 846,000 black men were incarcerated in 2008, according to U.S. Bureau of Justice estimates. African Americans make up 13.6 percent of the U.S. population according to census data, but black men reportedly make up 40.2 percent of all prison inmates. The criminal justice system is the newest in a long line of societal structures that have disenfranchised people of color, Alexander argues in her book. Alexander writes that despite today's belief in "colorblindness," our criminal justice system effectively bars African American men from citizenship, treating them as a separate caste: "Denying African Americans citizenship was deemed essential to the formation of the original union. Hundreds of years later, America is still not an egalitarian democracy. The arguments and rationalizations that have been trotted out in support of racial exclusion and discrimination in its various forms have changed and evolved, but the outcome has remained largely the same."
Note: For more on the deep injustices of the prison-industrial complex, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Norway's prison system is designed with three core values in mind: normality, humanity and rehabilitation. The point of incarceration in Norway, they say, is to make inmates "better neighbors" once they are released - and they take that mission very seriously. In the US, prison is generally seen as punishment for crimes committed. But Norway might change that. In 2015, prison directors and lawmakers from North Dakota traveled to see Norway's prisons for themselves. The trip was part of a program that takes state officials to visit the country, which has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the world. When the leaders returned, North Dakota slowly began making changes to its prison system. The move has been controversial with some prison staff. The changes called for different dynamics between inmates and corrections officers, causing one of them to leave over what he believed was a fundamental shift in their training. North Dakota's prison directors say the benefit in the long run - reducing the state's recidivism rate - is worth giving this new approach a chance. If the goal is to make them better neighbors, North Dakota inmate Jonathan McKinney says it's working. He spent more than two years in and out of solitary confinement during part of his 17-year sentence for murder and other serious charges. Because of Norway's influence, prison officials allowed him to transfer to medium security when he showed good behavior - a move that he would not have been able to make as easily before.
Note: Watch an incredible nine-minute video on the mind-boggling success of Norway's prison system.
Dozens of adults and children, all clad in white, stood in a line. A holy man handed each a cup of ayahuasca, a muddy-looking hallucinogenic brew. Among those imbibing from the holy man’s decanter were prison inmates, convicted of crimes such as murder, kidnapping and rape. “I’m finally realizing I was on the wrong path in this life,” said Celmiro de Almeida, 36, who is serving a sentence for homicide. “Each experience helps me communicate with my victim to beg for forgiveness,” said Mr. de Almeida. The provision of a hallucinogen to inmates ... reflects a continuing quest for ways to ease pressure on Brazil’s prison system. The country’s inmate population has doubled since the start of the century ... straining underfunded prisons rife with human rights violations. Around , Acuda, a pioneering prisoners’ rights group in Porto Velho, began offering inmates therapy sessions in yoga, meditation and Reiki. Two years ago, the volunteer therapists at Acuda had a new idea: Why not give the inmates ayahuasca as well? Acuda had trouble finding a place where the inmates could drink ayahuasca, but they were finally accepted by an offshoot here of Santo Daime, a Brazilian religion founded in the 1930s. “Many people in Brazil believe that inmates must suffer,” said Euza Beloti, 40, a psychologist with Acuda. “This thinking bolsters a system where prisoners return to society more violent than when they entered prison.” At Acuda, she said, “we simply see inmates as human beings with the capacity to change.”
The Federal Aviation Agency has declared a no-fly zone over Ferguson, Missouri as tensions between police and protesters continued after last weekend’s police shooting of Michael Brown. The FAA issued a temporary flight restriction on Tuesday, prohibiting aircraft—including news helicopters—from entering the area. The agency listed the reason as “to provide a safe environment for law enforcement activities.” The extraordinary move comes days after the shooting of Michael Brown. The 18-year-old was shot multiple times and killed by police Aug. 9. Witnesses to the shooting said Brown had his hands up and was surrendering to police. Law enforcement officials, meanwhile, said the shooting occurred after a physical confrontation with Brown and a friend. The shooting and ensuing controversy has led to protests, looting and a strong police response in the St. Louis-area community.
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Reports about what life is like inside the military prison for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay are not uncommon. But very little is reported about two secretive units for convicted terrorists and other inmates who get 24-hour surveillance, right here in the U.S. For the first time, an NPR investigation has identified 86 of the more than 100 men who have lived in the special units that some people are calling "Guantanamo North." The Communications Management Units [CMU] in Terre Haute, Ind., and Marion, Ill., are mostly filled with Muslims. About two-thirds of the inmates identified by NPR are U.S. citizens. Prison officials opened the first CMU with no public notice four years ago, something inmates say they had no right to do under the federal law known as the Administrative Procedures Act. The units' population has included men convicted in well-known post-Sept. 11 cases, as well as defendants from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1999 "millennium" plot ... and hijacking cases in 1976, 1985 and 1996. When the Terre Haute unit opened in December 2006, 15 of the first 17 inmates were Muslim. As word got out that the special units were disproportionately Muslim ... the Bureau of Prisons started moving in non-Muslims. Guards and cameras watch the CMU inmates' every move. Every word they speak is picked up by a counterterrorism team that eavesdrops from West Virginia. [Several] inmates have been suing the Federal Bureau of Prisons. They say the special units were set up outside the law and raise serious due process issues. Unlike prisoners who are convicted of serious crimes and sent to a federal supermax facility, CMU inmates have no way to review the evidence that sent them there or to challenge that evidence to get out.
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Professor Noam Chomsky may be among America's most enduring anti-war activists. But the leftist intellectual's anthology of post-9/11 commentary is taboo at Guantánamo's prison camp library, which offers books and videos on Harry Potter, World Cup soccer and Islam. U.S. military censors recently rejected a Pentagon lawyer's donation of an Arabic-language copy of the political activist and linguistic professor's 2007 anthology Interventions for the library. Chomsky, 80, who has been voicing disgust with U.S. foreign policy since the Vietnam War, reacted with irritation and derision. "This happens sometimes in totalitarian regimes," he told The Miami Herald by e-mail after learning of the decision. "Of some incidental interest, perhaps, is the nature of the book they banned. It consists of op-eds written for The New York Times syndicate and distributed by them. The subversive rot must run very deep." Prison camp officials would not say specifically why the book was rejected. A rejection slip accompanying the Chomsky book did not explain the reason but listed categories of restricted literature to include those espousing "Anti-American, Anti-Semitic, Anti-Western" ideology, literature on "military topics." Prison camp staff would not say how many donated books have been refused.
Facing pressure from religious groups, civil libertarians and members of Congress, the federal Bureau of Prisons has decided to return religious materials that had been purged from prison chapel libraries because they were not on the bureau’s lists of approved resources. After the details of the removal became widely known this month, Republican lawmakers, liberal Christians and evangelical talk shows all criticized the government for creating a list of acceptable religious books. In an e-mail message Wednesday, the bureau said: “In response to concerns expressed by members of several religious communities, the Bureau of Prisons has decided to alter its planned course of action with respect to the Chapel Library Project. The bureau will begin immediately to return to chapel libraries materials that were removed in June 2007, with the exception of any publications that have been found to be inappropriate, such as material that could be radicalizing or incite violence. The review of all materials in chapel libraries will be completed by the end of January 2008.” Only a week ago the bureau said it was not reconsidering the library policy. But critics of the bureau’s program said it appeared that the bureau had bowed to widespread outrage. “Certainly putting the books back on the shelves is a major victory, and it shows the outcry from all over the country was heard,” said Moses Silverman, a lawyer for three prisoners who are suing the bureau over the program. “But regarding what they do after they put them back ... I remain concerned that the criteria for returning the books will be constitutional and lawful.”
Behind the walls of federal prisons nationwide, chaplains have been quietly carrying out a systematic purge of religious books and materials that were once available to prisoners in chapel libraries. The chaplains were directed by the Bureau of Prisons to clear the shelves of any books, tapes, CDs and videos that are not on a list of approved resources. In some prisons, the chaplains have recently dismantled libraries that had thousands of texts collected over decades, bought by the prisons, or donated by churches and religious groups. Some inmates are outraged. Two of them, a Christian and an Orthodox Jew, in a federal prison camp in upstate New York, filed a class-action lawsuit last month claiming the bureau’s actions violate their rights to the free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The bureau, an agency of the Justice Department, defended its effort, which it calls the Standardized Chapel Library Project, as a way of barring access to materials that could, in its words, “discriminate, disparage, advocate violence or radicalize.” “It’s swatting a fly with a sledgehammer,” said Mark Earley, president of Prison Fellowship, a Christian group. “There’s no need to get rid of literally hundreds of thousands of books that are fine simply because you have a problem with an isolated book or piece of literature that presents extremism.” A chaplain who has worked more than 15 years in the prison system, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is a bureau employee, said: “At some of the penitentiaries, guys have been studying and reading for 20 years, and now they are told that this material doesn’t meet some kind of criteria. It doesn’t make sense to them."
For the roughly 2.2 million people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails, daily life is often violent, degrading, and hopeless. But what if our approach to those behind bars were constructive, rather than destructive? Four-legged companions ... share living quarters with Fulton County Jail inmates as part of the Canine CellMates program in Atlanta. Believing all inmates have a capacity for good is what inspired [Susan Jacobs-Meadows] to found the program at the jail 2 1/2 years ago. More than 100 inmates have participated, and Jacobs-Meadows says it is extremely rare for an inmate to reoffend after completing the program. Since 2009, inmates at Washington’s Stafford Creek Corrections Center ... have planted more than 1.5 million flowers as environmental stewards in the Sustainability in Prisons Project’s Prairie Conservation Nursery Program, [which] also offers the potential for college credit. Solitary confinement at Oregon’s Snake River Correctional Institution used to mean a concrete cell, no bigger than a parking stall. Prisoners spent about 23 hours a day there. [This] often provoked aggressive behavior from prisoners. So guards tried an experiment: Send inmates back to nature or, more accurately, bring nature to them. The Blue Room, implemented in April 2013, immerses inmates in nature for an hour by playing videos of arid deserts, lush forests, and open oceans as they sit in a chair alone, imagining roaming the wide open spaces before them. The room ... has been credited with a reduction in reported incidents of violence.
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The Bureau of Justice Statistics has released new evidence that mass incarceration continues to unwind in the United States. The rate of U.S. adults under some form of criminal justice supervision declined for the seventh straight year, dropping to a level not seen since 1996. The criminal justice supervision rate comprises individuals on probation or parole as well as those incarcerated in local jails or in federal or state prison. A total of 6,851,000 adults were under criminal justice supervision in at the end of 2014, a decline of 52,200 from the year before. Evaluating change in the criminal justice system as whole is essential for determining whether the nation is truly making progress on reducing mass incarceration. Research on the state and federal prison population has documented a decline for over half a decade, but such data can be misleading if the criminal justice system is playing a shell game - transferring prisoners to local jails or moving them onto parole. The new Bureau of Justice System report shows that the correctional system is indeed shrinking across the board rather than simply shifting offenders from one form of supervision to another.
Note: This is great news. But it will take a very long time for the era of mass incarceration to end if the criminal justice supervision rate shrinks by less than one percent per year. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing prison system corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Last Friday, Richard Thomas was sentenced to seven years in prison for lighting the skirt of Sasha Fleischman on fire on an Oakland AC Transit bus. Thomas, who is 17 years old, was tried as an adult for his crime, and many, including Fleischman’s parents, Debbie Crandall and Karl Fleischman, have said the sentence was too harsh. The case represents a clear missed opportunity for a restorative justice solution. Restorative justice provides an effective alternative to the punishment focused model that dominates our criminal justice system. Instead of focusing on what laws have been broken, restorative justice brings the victim and the offender together to determine how to repair harm to the survivor and the community, hold the offender accountable, and reduce future harm. Crandall was supportive of the restorative-justice process, and after Thomas accepted a plea deal, she told KQED: “I wish there had been another way for this to be resolved that did not involve adult court — a place where Richard would really have the chance for rehabilitation.” Juveniles who serve time in adult prisons have significantly higher recidivism rates than those who remain in juvenile facilities. Placing juveniles in community-based centers can help to further decrease recidivism rates. Restorative-justice provider Community Works West’s Restorative Community Conferencing Program illustrates [this]. There is a 15 percent recidivism rate for youth six months after completing Community Works West’s program, compared with 45 percent to 75 percent recidivism rates for youth in and out of the Alameda County Juvenile Justice system.
Note: This teen was sent to prison for seven years despite objections from his victim and his victim's parents. How does that happen? See these excellent, concise summaries of prison corruption news stories from major media sources.
One of North Carolina's longest-serving death-row inmates and his half brother are being freed after three decades in prison after another man's DNA was discovered on a cigarette butt left near the body of a girl the siblings were convicted of killing. On Tuesday, a judge overturned the convictions of Henry McCollum, 50, and Leon Brown, 46, in the 1983 rape and murder of Sabrina Buie, citing the new evidence that they didn't commit the crime. The ruling is the latest twist in a notorious legal case that began with what defense attorneys said were coerced confessions from two scared teenagers with low IQs. McCollum was 19 at the time and Brown was 15. Defense lawyers petitioned for their release after a recent analysis from the butt pointed to another man who lived near the soybean field where Buie's body was found in Robeson County. That man is already serving a life sentence for a similar rape and murder that happened less than a month later. The DNA from the cigarette butts doesn't match Brown or McCollum, and fingerprints taken from a beer can at the scene aren't theirs either, attorneys say. No physical evidence connects them to the crime. Ken Rose, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Durham, has represented Henry McCollum for 20 years. "It's terrifying that our justice system allowed two intellectually disabled children to go to prison for a crime they had nothing to do with, and then to suffer there for 30 years," Rose said.
Note: How many thousands of innocent people have been executed or given life sentences like this? For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing prisons news articles from reliable major media sources.
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