Prisons Corruption News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Prisons Corruption News Articles in Media
Most modern justice systems focus on a crime, a lawbreaker and a punishment. But a concept called “restorative justice” considers harm done and strives for agreement from all concerned — the victims, the offender and the community — on making amends. And it allows victims, who often feel shut out of the prosecutorial process, a way to be heard and participate. In this country, restorative justice takes a number of forms, but perhaps the most prominent is restorative-justice diversion. There are not many of these programs — a few exist on the margins of the justice system in communities like Baltimore, Minneapolis and Oakland, Calif. — but, according to a University of Pennsylvania study in 2007, they have been effective at reducing recidivism. Typically, a facilitator meets separately with the accused and the victim, and if both are willing to meet face to face without animosity and the offender is deemed willing and able to complete restitution, then the case shifts out of the adversarial legal system and into a parallel restorative-justice process. All parties — the offender, victim, facilitator and law enforcement — come together in a forum sometimes called a restorative-community conference. Each person speaks, one at a time and without interruption, about the crime and its effects, and the participants come to a consensus about how to repair the harm done. The methods are mostly applied in less serious crimes, like property offenses in which the wrong can be clearly righted. The processes are designed to be flexible enough to handle violent crime like assault, but they are rarely used in those situations.
Note: This deeply moving and highly educational piece from the New York Times Magazine about the power of restorative justice is well worth reading in its entirety at the link above.
The US Department of Justice released a report this week showing that 26 states have recorded decreases in their prison populations during 2011. California boasted the biggest decline of over 15,000 prisoners and several other states including New York and Michigan reported drops of around 1,000 prisoners each. This is the third consecutive year that the population has declined, and as a result, at least six states have closed or are attempting to close approximately 20 prisons. But sadly, because incarceration has become a virtual jobs program in many states and because certain corporations are profiting handsomely from the incarceration binge that has been in place for the past few decades, the reduction in prison populations and prison closures is being met with huge resistance. According to a recent report by the Sentencing Project called On the Chopping Block (pdf), which detailed all the prison closures and attempted closures in the past year, several state governors have been dragged into legal battles with state employees and unions who want the prisons to stay open. The private prisons, which are funded by the taxpayer ... need to generate revenue to keep their shareholders happy. For them, the bottom line is keeping their prisons full, regardless of need or cost. Last year, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) came under fire when it emerged that they sent a letter to 48 states offering to take over any prisons going spare – with the small caveat that they be guaranteed 90% occupancy for the next 20 years.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on corruption in the prison/industrial complex, click here.
More than 700 leaked secret files on the Guantánamo detainees lay bare the inner workings of America's controversial prison camp in Cuba. The US military dossiers ... reveal how ... many prisoners were flown to the Guantánamo cages and held captive for years on the flimsiest grounds, or on the basis of lurid confessions extracted by maltreatment. The 759 Guantánamo files, classified "secret", cover almost every inmate since the camp was opened in 2002. More than two years after President Obama ordered the closure of the prison, 172 are still held there. The files depict a system often focused less on containing dangerous terrorists or enemy fighters, than on extracting intelligence. Among inmates who proved harmless were an 89-year-old Afghan villager, suffering from senile dementia, and a 14-year-old boy who had been an innocent kidnap victim. The documents also reveal: • US authorities listed the main Pakistani intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), as a terrorist organisation. • Almost 100 of the inmates who passed through Guantánamo are listed by their captors as having had depressive or psychotic illnesses. Many went on hunger strike or attempted suicide. • A number of British nationals and residents were held for years even though US authorities knew they were not Taliban or al-Qaida members.
Note: For many key reports on government secrecy from major media sources, click here.
On Bastoy, an island 46 miles south of Oslo,  residents live in brightly colored wooden chalets, spread over one square mile of forest and gently sloping hills. They go horseback riding and throw barbecues, and have access to a movie theater, tanning bed and, during winter, two ski jumps. Despite all its trappings, Bastoy island isn't an exclusive resort: it's a prison. Bastoy's governor ... describes it as the world's first human-ecological prison — a place where inmates learn to take responsibility for their actions by caring for the environment. Prisoners grow their own organic vegetables, turn their garbage into compost and tend to chickens, cows, horses and sheep. The prison generally emphasizes trust and self-regulation: Bastoy has no fences, the windows have no bars, and only five guards remain on the island after 3 p.m. In an age when countries from Britain to the U.S. cope with exploding prison populations by building ever larger — and, many would say, ever harsher — prisons, Bastoy seems like an unorthodox, even bizarre, departure. But Norwegians see the island as the embodiment of their country's long-standing penal philosophy: that traditional, repressive prisons do not work, and that treating prisoners humanely boosts their chances of reintegrating into society. Norway's system produces overwhelmingly positive results. Within two years of their release, 20% of Norway's prisoners end up back in jail. In the U.K. and the U.S., the figure hovers between 50% and 60%. Of course, Norway's ... prison roll lists a mere 3,300 inmates, a rate of 70 per 100,000 people, compared with 2.3 million in the U.S., or 753 per 100,000 — the highest rate in the world.
Note: Why aren't other countries taking heed of Norway's excellent example? Part of the reason is that some companies make massive profits from the prison system. For more on this, click here.
The torture of Iraqi detainees at a secret prison in Baghdad was far more systematic and brutal than initially reported, Human Rights Watch reported. Human Rights Watch ... documented its findings, which it described as “credible and consistent,” in a draft report provided to The New York Times. The group said it had interviewed 42 detainees who displayed fresh scars and wounds. Many said they were raped, sodomized with broomsticks and pistol barrels, or forced to engage in sexual acts with one another and their jailers. All said they were tortured by being hung upside down and then whipped and kicked before being suffocated with a plastic bag. Those who passed out were revived, they said, with electric shocks to their genitals and other parts of their bodies. “The horror we found suggests torture was the norm in Muthanna,” said Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East program at Human Rights Watch. “Security officials whipped detainees with heavy cables, pulled out finger and toenails, burned them with acid and cigarettes, and smashed their teeth,” Human Rights Watch said.
Note: For more on the atrocities committed by the US and its recent wars, click here.
Eric Loomis pleaded guilty to attempting to flee an officer, and no contest to operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent. Neither of his crimes mandates prison time. At Mr. Loomis’s sentencing, the judge cited, among other factors, Mr. Loomis’s high risk of recidivism as predicted by a computer program called COMPAS, a risk assessment algorithm used by the state of Wisconsin. The judge denied probation and prescribed an 11-year sentence. No one knows exactly how COMPAS works; its manufacturer refuses to disclose the proprietary algorithm. We only know the final risk assessment score it spits out, which judges may consider at sentencing. Mr. Loomis challenged the use of an algorithm as a violation of his due process rights. The United States Supreme Court declined to hear his case, meaning a majority of justices effectively condoned the algorithm’s use. Shifting the sentencing responsibility [from judges] to a computer does not necessarily eliminate bias; it delegates and often compounds it. Algorithms like COMPAS simply mimic the data with which we train them. An algorithm that accurately reflects our world also necessarily reflects our biases. A ProPublica study found that COMPAS predicts black defendants will have higher risks of recidivism than they actually do, while white defendants are predicted to have lower rates than they actually do.
I was 29 and mowing the lawn at my mother’s house in Birmingham, Alabama, on a hot day in July 1985 when I looked up and saw two police officers. I asked the detective 50 times why I was being arrested. Eventually, he told me I was being arrested for a robbery. I told him, “You have the wrong man.” He said, “I don’t care whether you did it or not. You will be convicted.” At the station, it became clear I’d been at work when the robbery occurred. The detective verified this with my supervisor, but then told me they were going to charge me with two counts of first-degree murder from two other robberies. When I met my appointed lawyer, I told him I was innocent. He said, “All of y’all always say you didn’t do something.” I might have seen him three times in the two years I waited for trial. The only evidence linking me to the crime was the testimony of a ballistics expert who said the bullets from the murder weapon could be a match to my mother’s gun. They found me guilty. [In] 1986 I went to death row. Eventually, [in] 2015, the State of Alabama dropped all charges. I was released that same day. When you’ve been locked up for nearly 30 years, nothing is the same. It was like walking out on to another planet at the age of 58. Every night, I go outside and look up at the stars and moon, because for years I could not see either. Now, I am determined to go wherever I am asked to help end the death penalty. I am so thankful that I get to travel with Lifelines and [the Equal Justice Initiative], and share my story.
I do my best to resist the thought that prison is a reflection of our society, but the comparisons are unavoidable. From the moment I crossed the threshold from freedom to incarceration because I was charged with, and a jury convicted me of, leaking classified information to a New York Times reporter, I needed no reminder that I was no longer an individual. Prison, with its “one size fits all” structure, is not set up to recognize a person’s worth; the emphasis is removal and categorization. Inmates are not people; we are our offenses. Considering the charges and conviction that brought me here, I’m not exactly sure to which category I belong. No matter. There is an overriding category to which I do belong, and it is this prison reality that I sadly “compare unto the world”: I’m not just an inmate, I’m a black inmate. Here, I am my skin color. Whenever, in my stubborn idealism, I refuse to acknowledge being racially categorized and question the submission to it, the other prisoners invariably respond, “Man, this is prison.” What I see in prison is sad, but what I’m seeing from prison is worse. During my time in the CIA it became clear, in the organization’s words and actions toward me, that they saw me not as an American who wanted to serve his country but as “a big black guy.” There is a black America, there is a white America, there are many Americas. The greatness and promise of this country lies in equality reinforced by our differences. When I am free, I don’t want to feel that I’m merely going from one prison to another.
Note: The above was written by Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA agent targeted for prosecution as part of the Obama Administration's "crack down on the press and whistle-blowers." Author James Risen tried to help Sterling expose CIA racism, and later wrote an unrelated book exposing some questionable government practices. Sterling was then sent to prison for what Risen wrote. Risen's latest book exposes major government corruption related to the war on terror.
A bipartisan campaign to reduce mass incarceration has led to enormous declines in new inmates from big cities, cutting America’s prison population for the first time since the 1970s. But large parts of rural and suburban America ... have gone the opposite direction. Prison admissions in counties with fewer than 100,000 people have risen even as crime has fallen. Just a decade ago, people in rural, suburban and urban areas were all about equally likely to go to prison. But now people in small counties are about 50 percent more likely to go to prison than people in populous counties. The stark disparities in how counties punish crime show the limits of recent state and federal changes to reduce the number of inmates. Far from Washington and state capitals, county prosecutors and judges continue to wield great power over who goes to prison and for how long. And many of them have no interest in reducing the prison population. The divide does not appear to be driven by changes in crime, which fell in rural and urban areas at roughly equal rates. Cities have adopted a more lenient approach to drug offenses in particular, diverting many low-level drug offenders to probation or treatment rather than to jail. Those choices have started to reverse - if only modestly - longstanding racial disparities in American prisons, where blacks and Hispanics are incarcerated at drastically higher rates than whites. But rural, mostly white and politically conservative counties have continued to send more drug offenders to prison.
Note: The war on drugs has been called a "trillion-dollar failure," and spending on jails outpaced spending on schools by three times over the last 30 years. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about judicial system corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
Between 2005 and 2015, 6,913 people died while in legal custody in Texas. Many died of natural causes while serving long prison sentences. Others ended their own lives. A few died at the hands of another inmate, or, in some cases, police or correctional officers. Together, these deaths form revealing patterns about Texas-style justice and the state of corrections in an increasingly carceral country. This information used to be hard to access, but it’s now readily available in an online database called the Texas Justice Initiative. The final product was culled from thousands of internal reports and includes names, time and place of death, cause of death, time in custody, and a description of the circumstances. “These deaths occurred in local jail cells, in the backs of police cars, and on prison sidewalks,” [project creator Amanda] Woog wrote in the summary report of her findings. Among the “suicide” listings is one for Sandra Bland, who died in police custody after a traffic stop. Like Bland, more than 1,900 of those who died, or 28 percent, had not been convicted of or even charged with a crime. Pre-booking deaths reported by law enforcement have been on the rise since 2005. The data gathered on Texas reflects a markedly high number of deaths in custody compared to national trends.
Over the last 30 years, local and state governments increased how much they spend on putting people in jail three times more than how much they spend on educating students, according to a new analysis by the Department of Education. From 1979-1980 to 2012-2013 ... governments increased spending on incarceration by 324 percent (from $17 to $71 billion). This is more than three times the spending increase on education, which only grew 107 percent (from $258 to $534 billion) over the same time period. All of the 50 states had lower expenditure growth rates for PK-12 education than for corrections. “When I think about the lives of those who are incarcerated, I can’t help but feel disheartened,” Education Secretary John King wrote on Medium. “I can’t help but think about their families, spouses, sons, daughters, and parents - or about the art not created; the entrepreneurial ideas that may never reach the drawing board; the classrooms these Americans will never lead; and the discoveries they’ll never make.” King also cited research showing [that] a 10-percent increase in high school graduation rates leads to a 9-percent decrease in the rates of criminal arrest, and reduces murder and assault rates by 20 percent. “Redirecting some of the funds currently spent on corrections in order to make investments in education that we know work,” the Department of Education report said, “could provide a more positive and potentially more effective approach to both reducing crime and increasing opportunity.”
There were 149 people exonerated in the United States last year after being wrongly convicted of crimes. More than a third of the people exonerated were convicted of murder, says a report released Wednesday by the National Registry of Exonerations, a project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Northwestern University School of Law. All of the people exonerated last year ... had served an average of more than 14 years in prison. Five of the people who were exonerated had been sentenced to death. All told, the National Registry says it has logged 1,733 exonerations in the country since 1989. “Not long ago, any exoneration we heard about was major news,” the report stated. “Now it’s a familiar story. We average nearly three exonerations a week, and most get little attention.” There are also more exonerations in cases involving false confessions or guilty pleas than there used to be. In four of 10 exonerations last year, the people had pleaded guilty, largely in cases involving charges of drug possession. About a third of all exonerations last year involved these drug possession cases. A remarkable number of these cases occurred in just one place: Harris County, Tex., home to Houston. The registry’s report described how the Harris County District Attorney’s office had investigated cases after noticing a number of people who pleaded guilty to possessing illegal drugs, only for a crime lab - sometimes months or years later - to reveal that the materials these people had were not drugs after all.
Note: Most false convictions never see the light of the day. A detailed report by forensics expert John Kelly and former FBI chief scientist Dr. Frederick Whitehurst reveals "a drug testing regime of fraudulent forensics used by police, prosecutors, and judges." And recently the FBI was found to have faked an entire branch of forensic science. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing prison system corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
On the evening of April 21 in Building 21 at the Fishkill Correctional Facility, Samuel Harrell ... got into a confrontation with corrections officers, was thrown to the floor and was handcuffed. As many as 20 officers repeatedly kicked and punched Mr. Harrell, who is black, with some of them shouting racial slurs, according to more than a dozen inmate witnesses. Mr. Harrell was then thrown or dragged down a staircase. Corrections officers called for an ambulance, but ... mentioned nothing about a physical encounter, [and] told the ambulance crew that Mr. Harrell probably had an overdose of K2, a synthetic marijuana. An autopsy report ... concluded that Mr. Harrell, 30, had cuts and bruises to the head and extremities and had no illicit drugs in his system. The manner of death: Homicide. No officers have been disciplined in connection with the death. Inmate witnesses at Fishkill say they are the ones who have been punished. Several described being put into solitary confinement and threatened with violence after speaking with Mr. Harrell’s family, their lawyers and with news reporters. The Times documented similar allegations of abuse from inmates at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., where in June two convicted murderers escaped, resulting in a three-week manhunt. There, inmates described being beaten and choked with plastic bags by corrections officers seeking information about the escapees.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing prison system corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
One of the biggest corruption scandals to hit America's juvenile justice system began unfolding in 2007, when parents in a central Pennsylvania county began to complain that their children had been tossed into for-profit youth centers without a lawyer to represent them. The kickback scheme, known as "kids for cash," has resulted in prison terms for two Luzerne County judges and two businessmen. Convictions of thousands of juveniles have been tossed out. Now the case is entering its final chapter: a few remaining class action lawsuits. One of those claims drew to a close ... when a federal judge signed off on a settlement in which one of the businessmen, Robert Powell, would pay $4.75 million. Powell, who co-owned two private juvenile justice facilities, served an 18-month prison term after admitting to paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to former ... Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. and his boss, Judge Michael Conahan. In return, Ciavarella routinely found children guilty and sent them to Powell's facilities. Ciavarella was convicted in 2011 of racketeering and other charges, and sentenced to 28 years in prison. Conahan, a friend of Powell's who oversaw the scam, pleaded guilty to racketeering and was sentenced to more than 17 years behind bars. A fourth conspirator ... pleaded guilty for his part in the plot and was sentenced to a year in prison.
Note: More than 5,000 kids were exposed to a court that jailed them for profit in this conspiracy involving just a handful of corrupt officials. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and civil liberties.
At any given time, roughly 480,000 people sit in America's local jails awaiting their day in court, according to an estimate by the International Centre for Prison Studies. These are people who have been charged with a crime, but not convicted. They remain innocent in the eyes of the law. Three quarters of them ... are nonviolent offenders, arrested for traffic violations, or property crimes, or simple drug possession. Many will be found innocent and have their charges dropped completely. Defendants who [are] detained before trial [wait] a median of 68 days in jail. Many ... are forced to wait simply because they can't afford to post bail. A 2013 analysis by the Drug Policy Alliance ... found that nearly 40 percent of New Jersey's jail population fell into this category. People sit behind bars not because they're dangerous, or because they're a flight risk, but simply because they can't come up with the cash. A recent analysis by the Vera Institute ... found that 41 percent of New York City's inmates were sitting in jail on a misdemeanor charge because they couldn't meet a bail of $2,500 or less. For low income people, the consequences of a pre-trial detention, even a brief one, can be disastrous. And in many cases, these people will eventually be found to be innocent. Some civil rights reformers [argue] that bail policies are tantamount to locking people up for being poor. We spend somewhere in the ballpark of $17 billion dollars annually to keep innocent people locked up as they await trial.
Two Ohio men wrongly accused of murder experienced freedom for the first time in nearly four decades on Friday morning, but said they don’t harbor bitterness over their unjust imprisonment. A Cleveland judge on Wednesday had dropped all charges against Ricky Jackson, 57, and Wiley Bridgeman, 60, allowing for the pair’s release. Jackson was 19 when he was convicted along with Bridgeman and Bridgeman’s brother, Ronnie, in the 1975 shooting death and robbery of Harold Franks, a Cleveland-area money order salesman. Testimony from a 12-year-old witness helped point to Jackson as the triggerman and led a jury to convict. The witness, Edward Vernon, now 53, recanted his testimony last year, saying he was coerced by detectives, according to Cuyahoga County court documents. Vernon wrote in a 2013 affidavit that he never saw the murder take place, but he was told by detectives that if he didn’t testify against Jackson, his parents would be arrested. The Ohio Innocence Project, which took up the case, said Jackson had been the longest-held U.S. prisoner to be exonerated. Jackson was originally sentenced to death, but that sentence was vacated because of a paperwork error. The Bridgeman brothers remained on death row until Ohio declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1978. “One of them came within 20 days of execution before Ohio ruled the death penalty unconstitutional” said Mark Godsey, director of the Ohio Innocence Project.
Note: Watch an inspiring five-minute video of this beautiful man who was originally sentenced to death based largely on the testimony of a 12 year old, who it turns out was coerced by police to blame him. And how many have been wrongly executed that we will never know about? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties articles from reliable major media sources.
The officers got the wrong man, but charged him anyway—with getting his blood on their uniforms. Police in Ferguson, Missouri, once charged a man with destruction of property for bleeding on their uniforms while four of them allegedly beat him. [A] 52-year-old welder named Henry Davis ... had been arrested for an outstanding warrant that proved to actually be for another man of the same surname, but a different middle name and Social Security number. The booking officer had no other reason to hold Davis, who ended up in Ferguson only because he missed the exit for St. Charles and then pulled off the highway because the rain was so heavy he could not see to drive. The cop who had pulled up behind him must have run his license plate and assumed he was that other Henry Davis. Davis said the cop approached his vehicle, grabbed his cellphone from his hand, cuffed him and placed him in the back seat of the patrol car, without a word of explanation. The booking officer ... proceeded to escort him to a one-man cell that already had a man in it asleep on the lone bunk. Davis balked at being a second man in a one-man cell. The booking officer summoned a number of fellow cops. One opened the cell door while another suddenly charged, propelling Davis inside and slamming him against the back wall. [A] female officer allegedly lifted Davis’ head as the cop who had initially pushed him into the cell reappeared. “He ran in and kicked me in the head,” Davis recalled. “Paramedics came. They said it was too much blood. I had to go to the hospital.” A federal magistrate ruled that the [police] perjury about the “property damage” charges was too minor to constitute a violation of due process and that Davis’ injuries were ... too minor to warrant a finding of excessive force. Never mind that a CAT scan taken after the incident confirmed that he had suffered a concussion.
Note: If you are willing to know how bad it gets, read the entire article at the link above. Then read an educational article on the skewed reporting of the New York Times on the Michael Brown murder. For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.
For more than a decade, researchers across multiple disciplines have been issuing reports on the widespread societal and economic damage caused by America’s now-40-year experiment in locking up vast numbers of its citizens. Several recent reports provide some of the most comprehensive and compelling proof yet that the United States “has gone past the point where the numbers of people in prison can be justified by social benefits,” and that mass incarceration itself is “a source of injustice.” That is the central conclusion of a two-year, 444-page study prepared by the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences. The report highlights many well-known statistics: Since the early 1970s, the nation’s prison population has quadrupled to 2.2 million, making it the world’s biggest. That is five to 10 times the incarceration rate in other democracies. A report by Human Rights Watch notes that ... “in its embrace of incarceration, the [US] seems to have forgotten just how severe a punishment it is.” The severity is evident in the devastation wrought on America’s poorest and least educated, destroying neighborhoods and families. From 1980 to 2000, the number of children with fathers in prison rose from 350,000 to 2.1 million. Since race and poverty overlap so significantly, the weight of our criminal justice experiment continues to fall overwhelmingly on communities of color, and particularly on young black men. After prison, people are sent back to the impoverished places they came from, but are blocked from re-entering society.
Note: For more on the prison-industrial complex in the US, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
"CCA" has become a dirty word. Kanye West cited it when rapping about America's class of "New Slaves." Anonymous invoked it to describe a bad financial investment that undermines justice. And for state after state, the word represents a failed approach to public safety. Profiting off mass incarceration is a dirty business. Private prison company Corrections Corporation of America [CCA] squanders taxpayer money and runs facilities rife with human rights abuses. All private prison companies have corrupting incentives. One is to save money by cutting corners. Another is to promote their bottom line. Although CCA isn't the only company with these incentives, it has done more than any other corporation to [make] the private prison industry into a behemoth plagued by abuse and neglect and profiting off our nation's over-reliance on incarceration. CCA routinely shirks its responsibility to comply with basic standards. In Idaho, CCA employees falsified nearly 4,800 hours of staffing records. In Ohio, auditors found outrageous violations like prison without running water for toilets, in which prisoners had no choice but to use plastic bags for defecation and cups for urination. And yet, CCA made $1.7 billion in just the last year -- more than any other private prison company. The company pours money into both lobbying and campaign contributions. From 2002 to 2012, CCA devoted more than $19 million to lobbying Congress, and its PAC shelled out over $1.4 million to candidates for federal office during the same time period.
Note: CCA is just one of the many powerful entities getting rich off mass incarceration. Meet the other Prison Profiteers and take action to fight their abuses at PrisonProfiteers.org. For a video exposing this craziness, click here. For more on corruption in the government-prison-industrial complex, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
From Enfield, Conn., to New York City and the San Francisco Bay, lush gardens filled with ripe fruits, vegetables and flowers are growing in unexpected places — prison yards. Prisons use them to rehabilitate inmates and to teach them basic landscaping skills that they can use to get jobs. For the last three years, all 18 state prisons in Connecticut have had garden programs. None cost taxpayers money. Last year, Connecticut prisons produced more than 35,000 pounds of produce – saving taxpayers $20,000 a year by putting produce back into the prison system. “We believe that everybody has a heart and everybody has a chance for transformation,” said Beth Waitkus, the director of the Insight Garden Program that started 10 years ago at San Quentin prison. “What happens with gardening is … they reconnect to themselves. They reconnect to their feelings. They reconnect to each other as a community, a small community in the prison, and they really reconnect to nature. And, I think that offers a huge opportunity for transformation when we reconnect to ourselves and to the natural world.” While Waitkus spends her time in San Quentin teaching inmates how to plant flowers, take care of soil and prune plants, she also keeps the connection strong once they leave prison. Nationally, the recidivism rate is more than 60 percent, according to the 2011 Annual Recidivism Report. For garden prisoners at San Quentin, Waitkus said the return rate is less than 10 percent, and most other prison gardens report return rates in the single digits. In Connecticut, officials say not one of the garden graduates has returned.
Note: For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
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