Prisons Corruption News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Prisons Corruption News Articles in Media
On any given day in the United States, at least 137,000 people sit behind bars on simple drug-possession charges, according to a report released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch. Nearly two-thirds of them are in local jails. The report says that most of these jailed inmates have not been convicted of any crime: They're sitting in a cell, awaiting a day in court, an appearance that may be months or even years off, because they can't afford to post bail. "It's been 45 years since the war on drugs was declared, and it hasn't been a success," lead author Tess Borden of Human Rights Watch said in an interview. "Rates of drug use are not down. Drug dependency has not stopped. Every 25 seconds, we're arresting someone for drug use." Federal figures on drug arrests and drug use over the past three decades tell the story. Drug-possession arrests skyrocketed, from fewer than 200 arrests for every 100,000 people in 1979 to more than 500 in the mid-2000s. The drug-possession rate has since fallen slightly ... hovering near 400 arrests per 100,000 people. Police make more arrests for marijuana possession alone than for all violent crimes combined. The report finds that the laws are enforced unequally, too. Over their lifetimes, black and white Americans use illicit drugs at similar rates. But black adults were more than 2˝ times as likely to be arrested for drug possession. The report calls for decriminalizing the personal use and possession of drugs, treating it as a public-health matter.
Note: This latest report adds to the evidence that the war on drugs is a trillion dollar failure. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corruption in policing and in the prison system.
692 felony convictions in California ... were thrown out between 1989 and 2012 based on errors or misconduct by police, prosecutors, defense lawyers or judges, according to a new study by researchers at UC Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania. The report ... didn’t include misdemeanor cases, which amount to about 80 percent of all prosecutions, or juvenile cases. And it also excluded the costs of jailing people who were later released without charges, which may amount to $70 million a year, the report said. The study examined only records from California and ... looked at cases in which felony convictions were overturned and the defendants were later cleared. More than half the cases involved prosecutors’ wrongful withholding of evidence. One example was that of former Black Panther Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt. Pratt was convicted in 1972 of murdering schoolteacher Carolyn Olson [in 1968] and was sentenced to life in prison, based in part on [witness] testimony. He was freed in 1999 after a judge found that prosecutors had withheld evidence that the witness was an informant for the FBI, which was then trying to discredit Pratt as part of its Cointelpro campaign. The authors questioned long-standing laws that shield prosecutors from lawsuits by criminal defendants. They said they knew of no other profession that received immunity for “intentional wrongdoing that gravely injures another.”
The Federal Communications Commission voted to cap the price that phone companies can charge for calls to and from prison inmates, which they say can run up to a staggering $14 per minute. The rates for prison phone calls far exceed those of the general public, with the financial burden falling on the families of the more than 2 million incarcerated Americans. Under the new rules, scheduled to go into effect in early 2016, most prison inmates will not be charged more than 11 cents per minute for any call. The rules will ... also curb the extra charges that can often tack on up to an extra 70 percent, according to the commission. “The truth is that each of us is paying a heavy price for what is now a predatory, scaled market regime,” said Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. “Not one of us here would ever consider paying $500 a month for a voice-only service where calls are dropped routinely for no reason.” While they don’t ban them outright, the new FCC rules also strongly discourage what they describe as kickbacks, the commission phone companies usually pay correctional facilities to win lucrative phone service contracts. “Incarceration is a policy choice, and it’s imminently unfair to then ask the families to pay for the correctional budgets,” said Aleks Kajstura, legal director at the Prison Policy Initiative ... citing the case of one inmate who faced a $56 bill for a four-minute conversation with a pro bono attorney.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing prison industry corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
There are constitutional requirements for providing adequate health care to our incarcerated populations. In 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Estelle v. Gamble that “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the ‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain’ ... proscribed by the Eighth Amendment.” In 1993, in Helling v. McKinney, the court decided that prison officials cannot expose inmates to environments that “pose an unreasonable risk of serious damage” to their future health. Since then, however, frequent reports and lawsuits ... strongly suggest that many U.S. prisons and jails have ignored these rulings. Allegations of subpar care in Arizona provide a good example of how correctional health care dysfunction puts cancer patients at extreme risk. In March 2012, the ACLU and allied prisoners’ rights groups filed a lawsuit against the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) and several state officials [that] points to several cases of what it describes as poorly treated, or untreated, cancer. The American Friends Service Committee-Arizona released a report in October 2013 [which] found that some 105 prisoners died in custody from March 2012 to June 2013. The AFSC studied 14 deaths in depth. Six involved metastatic cancers. “This clearly indicates that the conditions were long-standing and suggests that these deaths might have been preventable had the individuals received more timely care,” the report charges.
Note: In 2013, the ADC terminated its contract with prison health contractor Wexford. A billion dollar company named Corizon then got the lucrative contract. According to the New York Times, inmate deaths increase at Corizon-serviced facilities. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the corrupt prison industry.
America ... is indecently over-incarcerated. We lock up far more people per capita than any nation even close to our size: roughly 2.4 million men, women, and children. The financial toll of mass incarceration is irresponsible; the human toll is unconscionable. Just 40 years ago, our incarceration rates were much lower, and on par with our peer nations. Since then, however, our prison population has ballooned by about 700%. What happened? We launched the so-called War on Drugs. Criminalizing drug abuse only further shatters people and families that are already in pieces. Our criminal-justice system ... takes people whom we have failed since birth — subjecting them to substandard food, poor living conditions, failing schools, unsafe communities — and then tries to “correct” them through inhumane, over-punitive treatment. For four decades, we have embraced the lie that incarceration ... protects us. Mass incarceration does not make us safer; it makes us more vulnerable. It destroys communities, wastes resources, separates families, ruins lives. It is the result of policies that criminalize poverty and make prisons and jails become warehouses for deeply damaged people with little or no access to mental health or substance abuse treatment. Instead, let’s invest those resources in our neighbors and family members so they don’t end up in the system to begin with, and if they do, so they can get back on their feet.
Note: What is not mentioned here is the role of the greedy prison-industrial complex which has privatized prisons and made imprisoning people profitable. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the corrupt prison industry built upon by systematic violations of civil rights.
A judge who sentenced a wealthy du Pont heir to probation in the rape of his three-year-old daughter said in court documents that he would "not fare well" in prison. The rape case against Robert H. Richards IV became public this month after his ex-wife reportedly filed a lawsuit seeking damages for the abuse of his daughter. According to a lawsuit filed by his ex-wife, Richards raped his daughter, now 11, in 2005 when she was 3, telling her "to keep what he had done to her a secret." The girl told her grandmother in October 2007, and Richards pleaded guilty in June 2008 to one count of fourth-degree rape to avoid jail time, court records show. The lawsuit also alleged that Richards abused his toddler son. Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden's sentencing order for Richards suggested that he needed treatment instead of prison time and considered unique circumstances when deciding his fate, reports the [News Journal of Delaware]. Attorney General Beau Biden initially indicted Richards on two counts of second-degree rape of a child, punishable by ten years in prison for each count. But as part of a plea agreement days before his 2008 trial, Richards pleaded guilty to fourth-degree rape -- reportedly a Class C violent felony that can bring up to 15 years in prison, though guidelines suggest zero to 2 1/2 years. At Richards' 2009 sentencing, prosecutor Renee Hrivnak recommended probation. Richards, a great-grandson of du Pont patriarch Irenee du Pont, is unemployed and supported by a trust fund, [and] owns a 5,800-square-foot mansion in Greenville and a home in the exclusive North Shores neighborhood near Rehoboth Beach.
Note: For more on sexual abuse scandals, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
In May this year, a huge company listed on the London Stock Exchange found itself in the midst of controversy about a prison it runs for the government – Thameside, a newly built jail ... in south-east London. Two months later, the same company was the subject of a high- profile report published by the House Of Commons. Again, the verdict was damning: data had been falsified, national standards had not been met, there was a culture of "lying and cheating", and the service offered to the public was simply "not good enough". Three weeks ago, there came grimmer news. The company ... was one of two contractors that had somehow overcharged the government for its services, possibly by as much as Ł50m; The firm that links these three stories together is Serco. Its range of activities, here and abroad, is truly mind-boggling. As a private firm it's not open to Freedom of Information requests, so looking into the details of what it does is fraught with difficulty. But the basic facts are plain enough. As well as five British prisons and the tags attached to over 8,000 English and Welsh offenders, Serco sees to two immigration removal centres. You'll also see its logo on the Docklands Light Railway and Woolwich ferry. But even this is only a fraction of the story. Serco is responsible for air traffic control in the United Arab Emirates, parking-meter services in Chicago, driving tests in Ontario, and an immigration detention centre on Christmas Island.
Note: Serco is possibly the largest company you've never heard of. Did you know that the Obama administration awarded Serco a $1.25 billion contract to help implement online health insurance exchanges under Obamacare, as reported in this Reuters article? Watch this video to see just how powerful and pervasive they are.
It's a curious paradox: Crime rates continue to fall in California, but the number of people killed by the police keeps rising. In Los Angeles County, for example, the number of 2011 homicides was a historic low of 612 people. But the number of fatal police shootings skyrocketed by nearly 70 percent that same year, to 54. That number of fatal shootings by officers was almost equal to 10 percent of the county's homicides last year. Los Angeles is not alone. Nationwide, officer-involved shootings are on the rise, with cities as disparate as Dallas and Albuquerque registering sharp spikes in fatal police shootings. What's going on? It's too soon to know whether 2011 was just an unusual year or the start of a trend. In 2011, 72 officers across the country were killed by perpetrators - a 75 percent increase from 2008. This rough equation makes some sense - if the police are encountering suspects who are more likely to fire on them, they're going to fire back. California is struggling with decades-old budget decisions that have left far too many mentally ill people out on the street, where they can be a danger to themselves and others. Police officers, not caseworkers, are all too often first responders to the mentally unstable. [And] California's ... draconian sentencing laws - followed by prison overcrowding and early release programs - haven't made anyone safer. Legislators and governors have tinkered around the edges of these issues without attempting a full overhaul, but a full overhaul is what the state needs.
Note: For more on corruption within the judicial system and "prison-industrial complex," click here.
Corrections Corporation of America ... president and CEO, Damon Hininger, [spoke] in a conference call with analysts ... about the recent purchase (January 2012) of a state prison in Ohio. CCA purchased the Lake Erie Correctional Institution for $72.7 million as part of Governor John Kashich’s ... prison privatization program. According to a press release from the state, tax payers will realize an estimated $3 million in annual savings. CCA is not stopping at Ohio though. CCA’s Chief Corrections Officer Harvey Lappin, former Director of the Bureau of Prisons who joined CCA less than a year ago, is making similar offers to buy prisons in other states. CCA offers to buy the state’s prison with cash up front in exchange for a 20-year management contract plus an assurance that the prison will remain 90% full over that period. In Ohio’s case, that meant that for the big chunk of cash up front, it would guarantee payments to CCA for 20 years for inmate per diem, occupancy fee ($3 million/year) and a guarantee that the minimum inmate population would be no less than 90% of capacity. Selling the facility has its downfalls. Once a state has sold its facility, it leaves little opportunity to contract with another prison management company in the event of a dispute or to save money. CCA, in the case of buying a prison, could be in the driver’s seat to dictate prison policy to the state.
Note: For revealing reports from major media sources on corruption in the prison-industrial complex, click here.
Prisoners in a northern Mexico jail were allowed out at night to carry out murder-for-hire jobs using jail guards’ weapons and vehicles, officials said [on July 25], revealing a level of corruption that is stunning even in a country where prison breakouts are common as guards look the other way. The prisoners carried out three massacres this year in the city of Torreón in which 35 people were killed, Ricardo Nájera, the spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said at a news conference. Among them, the authorities said, was last week’s attack on birthday revelers at a party hall. The gang shot randomly into the crowd, they said, killing 17 people. Ballistics studies confirmed that four guns used in the shooting were the same as those assigned to jail guards, Mr. Nájera said. “The criminals carried out their executions as part of a settling of scores against members of rival gangs linked to organized crime,” he said. “Unfortunately, in these executions the criminals also cowardly murdered innocent civilians — and then returned to their cells.”
Former Pennsylvania judge Michael Conahan has pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge for helping put juvenile defendants behind bars in exchange for bribes. He is accused along with former judge Mark Ciavarella of taking $2.8m (Ł1.8m) from a profit-making detention centres. Prosecutors in a federal court in Scranton, Pennsylvania, said Conahan had closed a county-owned juvenile detention centre in 2002, just before signing an agreement to use a for-profit centre. Prosecutors say Mr Ciavarella, a former juvenile court judge, then allegedly worked with Mr Conahan to ensure a constant flow of detainees. The two men were originally charged in early 2009 with accepting money from the builder and owner of a for-profit detention centre that housed county juveniles in exchange for giving children longer, harsher sentences. A spokeswoman for the non-profit Juvenile Law Center alleges that Mr Ciavarella gave excessively harsh sentences to 1,000-2,000 juveniles between 2003 and 2006. Some of the children were shackled, denied lawyers, and pulled from their homes for offences which included stealing change from cars and failure to appear as witnesses.
Note: To understand just how corrupt our judicial system is, watch Consipiracy of Silence at this link.
Portugal [in] in 2001 became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. At the recommendation of a national commission charged with addressing Portugal's drug problem, jail time was replaced with the offer of therapy. People found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail. The recently released results of a report commissioned by the Cato Institute ... found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled. "Judging by every metric, decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success," says Glenn Greenwald, an attorney, author and fluent Portuguese speaker, who conducted the research. "It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country does." Compared to the European Union and the U.S., Portugal's drug use numbers are impressive. Following decriminalization, Portugal had the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the E.U.: 10%. The most comparable figure in America is in people over 12: 39.8%. Proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana.
Note: For an inspiring interview with a sociologist who serves on one of the drug commissions in Portugal, click here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
At a friend's sleepover more than a year ago, 14-year-old Phillip Swartley pocketed change from unlocked vehicles in the neighborhood to buy chips and soft drinks. The cops caught him. There was no need for an attorney, said Phillip's mother, Amy Swartley, who thought at most, the judge would slap her son with a fine or community service. But she was shocked to find her eighth-grader handcuffed and shackled in the courtroom and sentenced to a youth detention center. Then, he was shipped to a boarding school for troubled teens for nine months. The justice system in Luzerne County, in the heart of Pennsylvania's struggling coal country, has also fallen prey to corruption. The county has been rocked by a kickback scandal involving two elected judges who essentially jailed kids for cash. Many of the children had appeared before judges without a lawyer. The nonprofit Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia said Phillip is one of at least 5,000 children over the past five years who appeared before former Luzerne County President Judge Mark Ciavarella. Ciavarella pleaded guilty earlier this month to federal criminal charges of fraud and other tax charges, according to the U.S. attorney's office. Former Luzerne County Senior Judge Michael Conahan also pleaded guilty to the same charges. The two secretly received more than $2.6 million, prosecutors said.
Note: Yet another example of corruption in the legal system. Sadly, federal officers of high rank are often as easily overcome by greed as the average person.
For years, the juvenile court system in Wilkes-Barre [PA] operated like a conveyor belt: Youngsters were brought before judges without a lawyer, given hearings that lasted only a minute or two, and then sent off to juvenile prison for months for minor offenses. The explanation, prosecutors say, was corruption on the bench. In one of the most shocking cases of courtroom graft on record, two Pennsylvania judges have been charged with taking millions of dollars in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers. “I’ve never encountered, and I don’t think that we will in our lifetimes, a case where literally thousands of kids’ lives were just tossed aside in order for a couple of judges to make some money,” said Marsha Levick, an attorney with the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, which is representing hundreds of youths sentenced in Wilkes-Barre. Prosecutors say Luzerne County Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan took $2.6 million in payoffs to put juvenile offenders in lockups run by PA Child Care LLC and a sister company, Western PA Child Care LLC. The judges were charged on Jan. 26 and removed from the bench by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court shortly afterward. The high court ... is looking into whether hundreds or even thousands of sentences should be overturned. Among the offenders were teenagers who were locked up for months for stealing loose change from cars, writing a prank note and possessing drug paraphernalia. Many had never been in trouble before. Some were imprisoned even after probation officers recommended against it.
Note: For many insights into government corruption from reliable sources, click here.
Not only are America's prisons and jails largely failing the 13.5 million adults who pass through them each year, but the American public is also failing the prisons and jails. Politicians have passed laws dramatically increasing the inmate population to 2.2 million on a given day without understanding life behind bars or funding programs likely to help prisoners return home and not commit more crimes. Even the data that would help specialists make sense of U.S. crime and punishment are lacking. "We should be astonished by the size of the prisoner population, troubled by the disproportionate incarceration of African-Americans and Latinos, and saddened by the waste of human potential," [a] panel said in a report to be presented to Congress. The recent boom in imprisonment has not always made Americans safer. Each year, the United States spends an estimated $60 billion on corrections. The report...finds too much violence and too little medical and mental health care, as well as a "desperate need for the kinds of productive activities that discourage violence and make rehabilitation possible." Studies...suggest that the most accurate indicator of a successful return to society is the inmate's connection to family. The panel described the high-security segregation of inmates as "counter-productive," often leading to greater prison violence and more serious crimes upon release.
Note: Certain elite groups are making large profits on the dramatic increase in numbers of prisoners across the nation over the past two decades. The prison-industrial complex sadly draws very little media attention.
About the same time that President Bush was condemning the abuse of prisoners in Iraq as un-American, a year-long inquiry began into the mistreatment of prisoners at home. More than 2.1 million people are in jail in the US at any one time; that is about one in 140 Americans. One of the biggest drivers of the expanding population are the tough policies brought in over the last 20 years ... like the "three strikes" laws that hand out long, mandatory sentences to repeat offenders. Bland, bureaucratic phrases like management control or secured housing unit describe regimes where solitary confinement is an almost permanent way of life, with prisoners locked in spartan cells for at least 23 hours each day. Gary Harkins, is an officer at the maximum security Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem, and also a member of Corrections USA, a group which represents about 120,000 prison guards and opposes the growing number of private prisons. The roots of the problem may be closer to home, as suggested by words attributed to former Pennsylvania prison guard Charles Graner - ringleader of the Abu Ghraib abuses - which came out during court testimony. "The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, 'I love to make a grown man piss himself.'"
Note: This article neglects to mention that prisons are a major industry bringing huge profits to government contractors. When profits are a driving force, the decisions made often do not reflect what is best for all involved.
The president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, has called for an inquiry into juvenile detention after the ABC aired harrowing footage of apparent abuses of young people in custody in the Northern Territory. The program also prompted the leader of the NT, Adam Giles, to pledge he would seek advice on establishing a royal commission. The ABC's Four Corners program on Monday night aired footage of a 17-year-old boy, one of six boys tear-gassed at a juvenile detention centre near Darwin, being hooded and strapped to a mechanical restraint chair. The footage is part of a catalogue of evidence obtained by Four Corners of the repeated assault and mistreatment of boys at youth detention centres in the Northern Territory. Amnesty International has described the abuses carried out against children as shown in the Four Corners program as a violation of both the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention Against Torture. Julian Cleary, Indigenous rights campaigner at Amnesty International Australia, called for an end to the systemic abuse of children in youth detention. "To see a crying, distressed child seized by his neck, forced to the ground, manhandled, stripped naked by three grown men and left naked in a cell is just sickening," he said. "The footage of guards laughing at a child being tear-gassed and in distress defies belief." The NT has the highest rate of youth detention in Australia, and 95 per cent of detainees are Aboriginal.
Note: Unlike the US, Australia has signed and ratified The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. A follow-up article suggests that the UN may take action on prison system corruption in Australia.
In some juvenile court systems around the country, young people regularly appear at hearings in handcuffs, leg irons, or both. But 21 states – five this year alone – have reformed such shackling practices. Skye Gosselin was 12 the first time court officers shackled her. She had been charged with disorderly conduct. At 14, she spent several hours handcuffed to another girl as she awaited her hearing, this time for skipping school. Then she was taken into court with metal bands wrapped around both her wrists and ankles, said the now-16-year-old. "The dehumanizing experience shaped not only how others saw me, but how I saw myself for many years. (It) made me think of myself as a criminal,” [she said]. Children as young as 9 have been shackled, as have children who have been abused by their parents. Up to 100,000 youths are shackled each year. [Reformers] say the automatic use of restraints is not in line with the rehabilitative purpose of juvenile court, limits youths’ ability to participate in their defense, tends to hurt and humiliate them, and, in some cases, traumatizes them. It makes little sense that adult courts typically have to follow guidelines to determine if shackling is really needed, but juvenile courts in many states don’t, says Shakyra Diaz, policy manager for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. The US Supreme Court has ruled that routine shackling of adults in court is unconstitutional because it can undermine the presumption of innocence.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
[There is a] perverse form that public investment takes in many poor, minority neighborhoods: "million dollar blocks." Our penchant for incarcerating people has grown so strong that, in many cities, taxpayers frequently spend more than a million dollars locking away residents of a single city block. There are 851 blocks in Chicago where the public has committed more than a million dollars to sentencing residents to state prison. The total tops a million dollars for nonviolent drug offenses alone in 121 of those blocks. Most of Chicago's incarcerated residents come from and return to a small number of places. And in those places, the consequences of incarceration on everyone else — children who are missing their parents, households that are missing their breadwinners, families who must support returning offenders who are now much harder to employ — are concentrated, too. Million-dollar blocks exist too in New York and New Orleans and many big cities. When the spatial concentration of all this money is mapped ... the picture poses a critical question: What would happen if we poured the same resources into these same struggling parts of any city in very different ways? What if we spent $2.2 million dollars not removing residents from the corner of West Madison and Cicero but investing in the people who live there? Evidence suggests that such investments could do more to deter crime than locking people away.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the corrupt prison industry.
A report showing that more than half the $100 million the city of Los Angeles spends each year on homelessness goes to police demonstrates that the city is focused on enforcement rather than getting people off the streets. This city is doing almost nothing to advance housing solutions but continues down the expensive and inhumane process of criminalization that only makes the problem worse," said Becky Dennison of Los Angeles Community Action Network. Almost 15,000 people the LAPD arrested in 2013 were homeless, or 14% of those arrested, according to the report from the city administrative office. Labor costs for the arrests were estimated between $46 million and $80 million. Officer Deon Joseph, a longtime skid row senior lead officer ... said he frequently arrests the same people over and over because of the revolving door for mentally ill people and others between the jails and prisons and skid row. "I do not believe prison is the answer for most people struggling with mental issues," Joseph wrote. "Sadly in today's system we have to wait until they commit a violent crime to get them 'help' in a jail cell. The report ... was commissioned by the City Council’s housing committee, which questioned why the homeless population grew 9% between 2011 and 2013 even as the city contributed millions to the homeless authority.
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