You teachers, Scout or Youth Group leaders … get this show on the road in YOUR town! 🙂 Why is this here? Because when we reduce homelessness or aid the homeless we reduce crime. Most homeless, of course, are not criminals, but some, in their desperation, do commit crimes.
Excerpts from the Article:
As Daniela Orozco picks off excess plastic bordering a 3D-printed box, she recalls how many homeless people she saw on her way to school when she was a high school freshman.
Four years later, the number has multiplied. People live on a main thoroughfare near the school, at a nearby park, and below the off-ramps and bridges in her hometown of San Fernando, which is about 20 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. In the San Fernando Valley, homelessness increased 36% to 7,094 people last year, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Agency’s annual count. Daniela and her friends wanted to help, but giving money wasn’t an option.
“Because we come from low-income families ourselves, we can’t give them money,” the high school senior says. “We wanted to offer something besides money,” her classmate, Veronica Gonzalez, chimes in.
That was the starting point for their invention: a solar-powered tent that folds up into a rollaway backpack. The girls and 10 others from their high school had never done any hands-on engineering work before, but with the help of YouTube, Google, and trial-and-error, they got it done.
The teen girls from San Fernando High School worked on their invention over the course of a year. Come June 16, they’ll present it at MIT as part of a young inventors conference. The teens, none of whom had coded, soldered, sewn, or 3D-printed before they joined forces, won a $10,000 grant from the Lemelson-MIT Program to develop the invention.
They were recruited by DIY Girls, a nonprofit that teaches girls from low-income communities about engineering, math, and science, to go after the grant. When DIY Girls was founded in 2012, the nonprofit worked with 35 girls in one elementary school classroom. Last year, it served 650 girls in elementary, middle, and high schools throughout Los Angeles County. The small nonprofit even keeps a waitlist because demand for its services is so high.
When packed up, the tent looks like a “big blue sun,” Prinsesa Alvarez says. A clear opening on the backpack lets sun shine through to charge the solar panels.
“I studied aerospace engineering. When I was getting my master’s degree, I was often the only girl in the class and definitely the only Latina in the class. It felt like kind of imposter syndrome,” says Evelyn, who got her master’s from UCLA. “It’s such a farfetched idea: You’re going to represent the Latina community in a bad light if you ask a stupid question or you’re going to represent women in a bad light if you ask a stupid question, and of course that’s not true. But I felt that.”
And she doesn’t want the girls working on the tent to ever feel that way. None of their parents are engineers. Some of them will be the first in their families to go to college.
In the beginning, the team depended on Evelyn for guidance, but they quickly started doing everything on their own. If they had an issue with a solar panel not functioning properly, they watched YouTube videos. If they couldn’t figure out a stitch pattern, they Googled it. The girls even developed their own inspirational hashtag: #wegetitdone. “You’re learning new things you’ve never even heard of or even thought of,” says Chelly Chavez, who learned the programming language C++ to get the technical aspects of the tent to behave. The tent has button-powered lights, two USB ports, a micro-USB port, and the girls have even tested a sanitizing UVC light on a countdown timer.
“We’re just like, ‘how do we do this,’ ‘how do we do this,'” notes Prinsesa Alvarez as she helps Chelly with a mess of wires during a recent team meeting.
The girls work on their project six days a week, getting together even through their winter and spring breaks. They often come home after hours of sewing to find loose needles falling off their clothes. They made two prototypes of the tent, but the first one is now in shreds. They put it through the ringer during quality control tests, tearing it with a knife, dousing it with water, and stomping on it.
Before settling on their tent idea, the team had tossed out other options. They wondered: What could they do about pollution or water quality? But they realized they wanted to invent something that would help their community more directly.
“Because we live here, we see it growing constantly,” Maggie Mejia says of the homeless population. For her, it even hits close to home: “If your parents miss X amount of bills, you can fall into homelessness, too.”
Maggie and the others don’t have concrete plans for the future of their invention after the MIT presentation, but they hope it could eventually be mass-produced. The team tested several materials before deciding what to use in their solar-powered tent.
The $10,000 grant from the Lemelson-MIT Program could only be used on the invention itself, not traveling to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to present the award. So DIY Girls fundraised an additional $15,000 to send the team to MIT, an expense the girls’ families couldn’t otherwise bear.
But they’ve made it, and it’s a success story that could make a really big impact. Already featured by local TV stations and Ryan Seacrest on his morning radio show, the team wants their accomplishment to encourage other girls to pursue STEM careers.
“Me and her, we’re the only two junior girls in our AP Calculus class, which has way more guys than girls,” says Paola Valtierra, pointing to Kassandra Salazar, who dreams of being an astronaut and has a tiny, metal one on her keychain. “But we’re gonna change that.”
Massachusetts makes history as first legal marijuana shops on East Coast open Tuesday “Obviously, it will be a historic artifact of tomorrow so I won’t be consuming it,” said the mayor of Northampton, who became one of the first customers.
The “experiment” is over. It is abundantly clear that the benefits of legalization far, far outweigh any drawbacks. See many related articles under Marijuana. We do need more research, which now is not possible because researchers at hospitals, universities, and other organizations are afraid of the asinine federal law making possession of pot a crime.
Legal sales of pot will top $1 BILLION this year, and Massachusetts alone is expected to see $700,000 in sales next year!
Excerpts from the Article:
The Bay State made history Tuesday with the launch of the first recreational marijuana stores on the East Coast — more than two years after voters decided to legalize non-medical cannabis. Medical marijuana facilities Cultivate Holdings, in Leicester, and New England Treatment Access (NETA), in Northampton, opened their doors at 8 a.m. to kick off the state’s first legal recreational marijuana sales to people over the age of 21.
“I’m proud that Northampton is playing a role in this historic day ending some 80 years of prohibition here in the commonwealth of Massachusetts and moving into a new modern era where we have safe, tested, well-regulated adult use of marijuana and cannabis,” he said, to more cheers.
Leicester Police Chief Jim Hurley told NBC News Tuesday afternoon that officials “saw a much larger crowd than we had anticipated” at Cultivate.
A spokesperson for NETA said Tuesday afternoon that about a thousand purchases had been made at the business so far. Amanda Rositano, NETA’s director of organizational compliance, said at the Monday news conference with the mayor that the business was still prioritizing its medical marijuana patients amid the recreational sales and would be working to inform customers about marijuana use as well as the rules and regulations for consumption.
Mitch Rosenfield, owner of nearby store The Hempest, which sells hemp, cannabidiol/CBD products and smoking accessories, said he welcomed the move.
“Being the first state on the East Coast to do this, I think we’ll see a lot of people from New York, from all over the Northeast who want to check what this is all about,” he said.
Rosenfield said he was glad the state took the time to get things right but noted a few things may have been overthought and “we’ve missed out on a lot of tax revenue” with the delay.
“It’s supposed to bring a lot of new people in Northampton maybe people who haven’t been here before so we’re looking to seeing some new faces in our shop,” she said.
Steven Hoffman, the chairman of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, told NBC News it had been a “pretty intense” and “nonstop” process to get to this point since the commission was appointed in September 2017. “I think the biggest challenge is just trying to get it right there’s no road map here, plus this is a very controversial issue,” he said.
Hoffman added the commission were working to “balance the will of the voters in terms of accessibility, with public health and public safety issues.” “It’s not going to be in every city and town in the state, it’s not gonna be on every street corner, but it’s going to be accessible,” he said.
Hoffman said Massachusetts “benefited enormously” from the lessons learned by the states who legalized recreational marijuana before, but that all states were different in demographics and laws.
In Massachusetts, pot shops will be limited in how much they can sell in a single purchase — one ounce of flower or five grams of concentrate — and both public consumption and driving under the influence of marijuana are still illegal.
Sam Barber, president of Cultivate, said the store would be following those amount regulations for its opening day and it could not make any guarantees on how long its supplies would last. Meanwhile, NETA has set its initial purchase limit at an eighth-ounce of flower per customer.
Hoffman said one thing he believed set Massachusetts’ law apart was strict requirements for diversity “not just in terms of employment in the industry but in terms of equity ownership.” That also includes a requirement to “help those communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the previous war on drugs to make sure they’re full participants,” he added.
Britte McBride, the commissioner of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, told NBC News that while the industry would be expanding, the state required a multi-step application process which included stringent background checks and inspections to ensure new business would be compliant with the law.
You should learn the TRUTH about immigrants and the border, and pay no heed to our asinine president! As is clear from so many articles I have posted, ICE is mostly arresting hard-working, harmless people, NOT “rapists and murderers and gang members”!
We need comprehensive reform of immigration laws and FAIR enforcement of current ones.
Look at this! More than 20 people arrested, lives ruined, and YOUR tax money wasted here instead of being used to protect us from dangerous people!
Here I am seen discussing these very issues about 3 years ago:
Excerpts from the Article:
An immigrant who sought refuge from deportation in a North Carolina church for 11 months was detained Friday at a scheduled appointment with immigration officials, prompting more than a dozen supporters to block a law enforcement van and wind up under arrest themselves.
Mexican national Samuel Oliver-Bruno, 47, was detained at a Raleigh-area immigration office, according to a U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement news release.
The advocacy group Alerta Migratoria NC said in a statement that Oliver-Bruno went to have fingerprints taken so he could apply to stay in North Carolina with his wife and son. He has been living in CityWell United Methodist Church in Durham since late 2017 to avoid the reach of immigration officers, who generally avoid making arrests at churches and other sensitive locations .
ICE said Oliver-Bruno, who has lived in North Carolina for two decades, had no legal basis to be in the U.S. and had exhausted his “extensive” appeals. Oliver-Bruno pleaded guilty in 2014 to using false documents to try to re-enter the U.S. in Texas after a trip outside the country, according to court documents.
Several dozen protesters came to the federal immigration office in Morrisville in hopes of dissuading authorities from arresting Oliver-Bruno. Alerta Migratoria said Oliver-Bruno was detained and put into a van after entering the office, and that supporters were arrested trying to block the van.
Online booking records show at least 20 demonstrators were arrested at the immigration office on charges including failure to disperse and resisting officers.
Alerta Migratoria said Oliver-Bruno had filed an application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services seeking to avoid deportation. The group’s statement said he was asked to come in for a biometric screening as part of the application, and he was aware he had to “risk getting detained.”
Advocates say Oliver-Bruno’s family had “recently faced threats” in his home state of Veracruz, Mexico, where drug cartels are active. They said he fears for his safety if he is deported.
Pretty much to be expected, given that the State does not know what really happened, with conflicting testimony “out the wazoo”! Since the C O, Floyd, was killed, the jury probably felt they should convict someone of murder.
I have had hundreds of jury trials, and I assure you: we shall never know the truth about this incident. Read related posts.
NOTE: the defendant with a lawyer was acquitted of all charges, the other two each had several guilty verdicts. I have seen inmates make this mistake often – going to trial without a lawyer. That always is stupid! I bet that if those two defendants had an attorney, the state would not have gotten any murder conviction, and the convictions obtained would have been for lesser charges. But pro se defendants usually do not ask the Judge to instruct the jury on lesser charges. The law is complicated, going to trial is tricky (I have had at least 700 trials – lost two), and the law library in prison is a disaster. READ http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/tragic-prison-law-libraries/ – Prison “law libraries”: They are a disaster!
We already know that one cannot believe anything said by Geoff Klopp, president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware. The guy is a lying jackass, interested ONLY in getting more money in D O C staff’s pockets.
Reviewing the breakdown of the charges and the verdicts at the end of the article, it seems to me the trial was a resounding loss for the State, and that many of the guilty charges were based on “accomplice liability” law, not always fair, which says if you were there, you are guilty, irrespective of whether you actually committed a crime.
After all, the “biggie” was the charge of murder. When Floyd was killed D O C personnel came out thumping their (inmate-abusing) chests, saying “We are charging 18 inmates with murder!” And they got only one. 15 more await future trials.
Defense counsel should have argued jury nullification to the jurors.
Excerpts from the Article:
One of three defendants was found guilty of murdering Lt. Steven Floyd during a deadly riot at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center last year. After a nearly four-week trial, a New Castle County jury found Dwayne Staats guilty of first-degree felony murder, first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer, kidnapping, assault and conspiracy.
Staats was found not guilty of intentional murder in the first degree. Jarreau Ayers was found not guilty of any of the three murder charges but guilty of kidnapping, assault and conspiracy. Deric Forney was found not guilty of all charges against him.
“If there is no other basis to hold Mr. Forney, he should be released,” Judge William C. Carpenter Jr. told the court.
The trial was the first of what will be a string of prosecutions against inmates who prosecutors claim were involved in the deadly February 2017 siege of Vaughn prison near Smyrna. Perry Phelps, the Delaware Department of Correction commissioner who was sworn in on the day the deadly riot began, said he felt justice had been served with Tuesday’s verdict.
State prosecutors had no comment on the verdict, other than that the jury worked very hard, and they will begin preparing for the upcoming cases.
Geoff Klopp, president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, said the union is “dissatisfied with the results.” He hopes prosecutors “will dig in extra hard and turn over whatever stones they can to bring justice and comfort to the correctional officers of the state of Delaware.”
Staats admitted he planned the takeover to force Delaware Gov. John Carney to hear inmates’ protests about prison conditions. Ayers said he was there helping inmates with medical conditions during the nearly 18-hour standoff.
Forney denied any involvement. After the verdict, his attorney, Ben Gifford, reiterated that his client maintained his innocence throughout the trial, “and he is thankful that the jury came to the same conclusion.”
Asked what he thought was missing in the prosecutors’ case to convict Forney, Gifford said: “Evidence.” “I don’t think there was nearly enough evidence,” Gifford said. “I mean two witnesses out of over 100 to say that he did anything.”
For the jury, it came down to a question of which inmates to believe – those standing trial or those taking the witness stand against them.
Prosecutors relied on the accounts of 11 inmates who had been inside the prison to call Ayers and Staats the leaders of the prison takeover and Forney as their “soldier.” Those witnesses tied Ayers and Staats to planning the uprising and facilitating events through the 18-hour hostage standoff.
Ayers and Staats characterized the inmate witnesses as liars seeking a benefit in exchange for their testimony. Ayers’ and Staats’ cross-examination of their former prison inmates was at times personal. They knew each other and often referred to each other by nicknames, like Jay Bird, Poncho, Burner and Smoke.
“What happened to Sgt. Floyd is a tragedy and it shouldn’t have happened, but so was this investigation,” said Ben Gifford, who represents Forney. Gifford and the defendants characterized the investigation as “sloppy.”
There were no cameras in the building. Of the blood-stained clothes and shanks Delaware State Police tested, there were no forensic matches to any particular defendant currently on trial. Prosecutors argued additional testing would likely not have yielded useful information.
Staats and Ayers said they had no personal hand in the violence. Some inmate witnesses told a different story. Witnesses testified that Forney attacked a correctional officer in the initial moments of the uprising. Staats testified that he planned the uprising and violent overtaking of correctional officers. He argued that Floyd’s murder was not part of the plan and was carried out by men who splintered off what he said was a plot to draw attention to the conditions of Delaware’s prisons.
Ayers was characterized by prosecutors as a facilitator of Staats’ plan. Inmate witnesses said he played a role in gathering lockerboxes to block the doors, ordering inmates in from the yard after the building had been taken over and making decisions about who got to leave the jail during the hostage standoff.
Count 1 – riot: guilty
Count 2 – first-degree murder, intentional: not guilty
Count 3 – first-degree felony murder: guilty
Count 4 – first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer: guilty
Count 5 – first-degree assault: guilty
Count 6 – first-degree assault: guilty
Count 7 – kidnapping: guilty
Count 8 – kidnapping: guilty
Count 9 – kidnapping: S guilty
Count 10 – kidnapping: guilty
Count 11 – conspiracy: guilty
Count 1 – riot: guilty
Count 2 – first-degree murder, intentional: not guilty
Count 3 – felony murder: not guilty
Count 4 – murder of a law enforcement officer: not guilty
Count 5 – assault: guilty
Count 6 – assault: guilty
Count 7 – kidnapping: guilty
Count 8 – kidnapping: guilty
Count 9 – kidnapping: guilty
Count 10 – kidnapping: guilty
Count 11 – conspiracy: guilty
Count 1 – riot: not guilty
Count 2 – first-degree murder, intentional: not guilty
Count 3 – felony murder: not guilty
Count 4 – murder of a law enforcement officer: not guilty
Count 5 – assault: not guilty
Count 6 – assault: not guilty
Count 7 – kidnapping: not guilty
Count 8 – kidnapping: not guilty
Count 9 – kidnapping: not guilty
Count 10 – kidnapping: not guilty
Count 11 – conspiracy: not guilty
Judge blocks Trump administration from denying asylum claims to immigrants who cross border illegally
I doubt that tRump will learn that he cannot make up laws before he is tossed out of office, because (a) he thinks he can do whatever he wants and (b) he fundamentally does not understand his job and the separation of powers!
Excerpts from the Article:
In an order laced with language accusing President Donald Trump of attempting to rewrite immigration laws, a federal judge based in San Francisco temporarily blocked the government late Monday night from denying asylum to those crossing over the southern border between ports of entry.
Judge Jon S. Tigar of the US District Court for the Northern District of California said that a policy announced November 9 barring asylum for immigrants who enter outside a legal check point ‘”irreconcilably conflicts” with immigration law and the “expressed intent of Congress.” “Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” Tigar wrote, adding that asylum seekers would be put at “increased risk of violence and other harms at the border” if the administration’s rule is allowed to go into effect.
The Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department slammed the ruling and the lawsuit, calling them both “absurd.
The temporary restraining order is effective nationwide and will remain in effect until December 19, when the judge has scheduled another hearing, or further order of the court.
The order is the latest setback for the administration that has sought to crack down on what it says are flaws in the immigration system, and it is a victory for the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and other groups who argued it is illegal to block someone based on how they entered the country.
Immigrant rights groups, who argue the administration is creating a crisis at the border to score political points, praised the judge’s ruling.
“This is a critical step in fighting back against President Trump’s war on asylum seekers,” said Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In their lawsuit, immigrants advocates argued it was illegal to block someone from seeking asylum based on how they entered the country, and that the Trump administration also violated the Administrative Procedure Act by not providing public notice or comment on its new asylum rule. “This ban is illegal, will put people’s lives in danger and raises the alarm about President Trump’s disregard for separation of powers,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project and the lead attorney in the case. “There is no justifiable reason to flatly deny people the right to apply for asylum, and we cannot send them back to danger based on the manner of their entry,” he said.
Hazing, Humiliation, Terror: Working While Female in Federal Prison Inmates expose themselves and threaten rape. Male guards let them do it. Women who complain are ‘pretty much blackballed.’
Again, nothing here which is news to me, but the article does highlight problems female C Os encounter, just one aspect of the abuses so rampant in America’s prisons, state and federal.
The sex abuse is rampant, flat out outrageous, and WHO do you think pays for this sort of stuff?! YOU DO! A few hospitals or schools could be built with the money here wasted! … “In 2017, the Bureau of Prisons agreed to pay $20 million to female employees at the Coleman prison complex in Sumter County, Fla., more money to each plaintiff than any other Title VII gender discrimination settlement of the past decade. A judge found that, among other problems, managers had routinely ignored complaints about masturbation by inmates in front of female employees, known in prison slang as “gunning.” Women at Coleman had learned to avoid areas known as “gun ranges.” …
This is true in ANY of America’s prisons! – kra
Due to its length, I have edited out several reports of terrible abuse; just open The Whole Story to get the picture!
Excerpts from the Article;
Makeup, earrings and perfume are off limits. So are smiles. Even the swing of a ponytail can attract unwanted attention, so women slick their hair back into a style known as the “bureau bun” — as in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. They wear oversized uniforms to hide the faint outlines of their undergarments, or cover themselves from neck to thigh with baggy black windbreakers known as “trash bags,” even on hot summer days on the concrete yards.
For women who work in federal prisons, where they are vastly outnumbered by male colleagues and male inmates, concealing every trace of their femininity is both necessary and, ultimately, futile. “They never even see what you are wearing,” said Octavia Brown, a supervisor in Victorville, Calif., of the inmates she oversees. “They see straight through it.”
Some inmates do not stop at stares. They also grope, threaten and expose themselves. But what is worse, according to testimony, court documents, and interviews with female prison workers, male colleagues can and do encourage such behavior, undermining the authority of female officers and jeopardizing their safety. Other male employees join in the harassment themselves.
And while women who report harassment face retaliation, professional sabotage and even termination, a New York Times examination found, the careers of many harassers and those who protect them flourish.
When an inmate thrust his penis against Jessica Hodak, at the time a secretary in California, and threatened to rape her, she wanted to discipline him. But her manager pressured her to let it go, she said in a lawsuit. When an inmate groped a guard named Melinda Jenkins, she was ordered to play down the episode, according to a pending complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. When she refused, the complaint says, managers made her submit to an unwanted medical examination that involved exposing her breasts to a colleague.
In one extreme instance, Wynona Mixon, a case manager who reported being raped by an inmate in a Tucson prison, suddenly found herself facing incarceration: She was criminally charged with raping her attacker.
The bureau today has more than 10,000 female employees, but women say little has changed for those who dare to speak up. “Once you go through it, you’re pretty much blackballed from the government,” said Quantina Ponder, a correctional officer in Miami whose harassment complaint against a high-ranking officer was upheld in 2015. “I know if it’s any kind of promotion or anything that I work hard for, I’ll probably never get it because of my situation.”
In May 2017, the House Oversight Committee opened an investigation into the agency, writing that despite continuous allegations of sexual misconduct, “the BOP continued to award bonuses to top administrators.”
In 2017, the Bureau of Prisons agreed to pay $20 million to female employees at the Coleman prison complex in Sumter County, Fla., more money to each plaintiff than any other Title VII gender discrimination settlement of the past decade. A judge found that, among other problems, managers had routinely ignored complaints about masturbation by inmates in front of female employees, known in prison slang as “gunning.” Women at Coleman had learned to avoid areas known as “gun ranges.”
One of the more than 135 women who provided testimony said it happened in the hallway, the shower and the activity room. “I probably saw 25 to 30 inmates masturbating during this one shift,” she said. Another affidavit described two female officers left alone with 70 inmates, several of whom took out their penises. When the women called for backup, no one came.
The inmates had started to masturbate, she recalled the officer saying, and he wanted them to finish so they would behave during lunchtime. Inmates in solitary are known to protest by throwing feces and other bodily fluids through their meal delivery slots. “I was just like, ‘Oh my God,’” Ms. Carpenter said. “I didn’t even want to turn around because I knew they probably had their faces pressed up against the window, trying to see as much of me as they could.”
Many women say that their isolation begins on Day 1, when new hires are labeled “fresh meat.” Their cellphones and social media accounts fill up with unwanted advances from colleagues, who openly take bets on who will sleep with them first.
“Every single day something happened, whether it was an inmate jerking off to you, whether it was an inmate pushing you, whether it was a staff member harassing you through email, on a phone, following you to your car,” said Jessica Hodak, who started working at the prison in Victorville 11 years ago when she was 25.
The Bureau of Prisons oversees 122 prisons with more than 180,000 inmates. Few women worked there until the 1970s, when a series of legal decisions and social changes led the agency to allow them equal access to jobs. Over time, women have grown to make up a third of the agency’s work force, holding jobs from secretary to regional director, overseeing an inmate population that is 93 percent male. But there is a feeling that they have never fully been accepted as equals.
“It’s a male-dominated world. It’s a chauvinistic world,” said Joey Rojas, a prison union organizer who helped bring the Coleman lawsuit, adding that men who support female colleagues can be overshadowed by those who do not.
A lot of men think women “don’t belong in prison because they’re the weaker sex, so we’re going to have to come to their defense,” he said. Elvin Garcia, who served five years in federal prison on drug-related charges and now works as a re-entry advocate, said he often saw male officers undermine the authority of their female colleagues. “I think their mentality and ideology, they would always look down at them.” He added, “When there’s an emergency or riot, I don’t think they feel comfortable having a female as their backup.”
Over 21 years at the Bureau of Prisons, Wynona Mixon stood out. She wore makeup, styled her tight curls to frame her face and let her warm smile peek out in response to good news from the inmates she oversaw as a case manager, like an upcoming release or the birth of a child. “I portrayed positivity to the inmates, portrayed that they could do better,” she said. “I felt good about helping.” Her attitude made her suspect to some of her colleagues at the high security penitentiary in Tucson. While she thought of herself as a kind of den mother, they labeled her an “inmate lover,” a common insult used by prison workers to suggest that a colleague has been compromised, either by smuggling in contraband or having sex with inmates.
“I was different and they hated it,” Ms. Mixon, 54, said. In August 2011, she said, an inmate named Christopher Goins raped her at knife point inside a staff bathroom. Mr. Goins had been incarcerated for raping his cousin. Before that, he had served time for attempting to murder a female defense lawyer outside a courthouse by slitting her throat.
Ms. Mixon, like other victims of sexual assault in this article, agreed to be identified by name. She reported the episode immediately and was sent to the hospital. She went on disability leave because of post-traumatic stress disorder. Three years later, she was driving in her neighborhood when the police pulled her over and arrested her. She was charged with raping Mr. Goins.
Prosecutors were using a federal law that says that inmates cannot legally consent to sex while in custody. The law was written to protect inmates from rape by guards or fellow inmates who could later claim that the sex had been consensual. In Ms. Mixon’s case, the Justice Department used the law to blame her for her own assault.
Female correctional officers are found guilty of sexual misconduct with inmates at higher rates than their male counterparts, which according to some prison employees adds to the belief that women do not belong. But experts say the disparity is the result of an opportunity gap — nine in 10 federal inmates are male, and most reported incidents are heterosexual in nature — as well as a general lack of support for female employees that makes men more likely to report incidents in which women are at fault.
While Ms. Mixon’s experience was severe, many women who report harassment say they face blatant retaliation. One officer, Sheila Pugh, was offered a settlement after she reported that an internal affairs investigator, Steven Brown, had verbally abused her for months, once locking her inside an office with him while she banged on the door to be let out. Mr. Brown disputes her account and says her complaint was not sustained in an internal review.
This is so important. Thousands of untested rape kits sit on shelves in many states. Laws like this ensure that important information is entered into data bases to prevent more rapes and to apprehend rapists!
A bill sponsored by Senator Wayne Langerholc Jr. (R-35) that will address Pennsylvania’s backlog of untested rape kits was signed into law. Act 164 of 2018 will reduce the backlog of untested kits by creating a commission of local and state agencies to review funding needs and communications.
The new law is intended to supplement and strengthen the Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act, a law approved in 2015 that mandates a more comprehensive process for evidence testing in cases involving sexual assault.
Announcing the Solitary Confinement Resource Center A Comprehensive, Searchable Collection of Resources on Solitary Confinement in the United States
I have so many articles on solitary confinement, a tool so widely used by prison guards to attempt to silence those who dare speak out about all of the crimes and abuse committed by D O C personnel.
Expect more great information to emerge from Solitary Confinement Resource Center.
I have SEEN the devastating effects of isolation. READ this and realize why I say “Thank you, God, for my strong spirit”! It’s not about What They Did to Me -Prison Abuse
Excerpts from the Article:
The Solitary Confinement Resource Center is a curated, fully searchable database of media, research, firsthand accounts, court and policy documents, and advocacy tools on the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, jails, and juvenile detention facilities.
Although some 80,000 people are held in isolation in the United States on any given day, solitary confinement units and supermax prisons long functioned as virtual black sites, hidden from the public, policymakers, and the press. Today, despite the best efforts of a system that resists transparency, the body of information on solitary confinement is growing, but it remained scattered and difficult to access.
Believing that information can be a powerful force for change, Solitary Watch joined with the Unlock the Box national campaign to create this central, comprehensive bank of resources for use by advocates, journalists, scholars, educators, attorneys, health care providers, corrections officials, solitary survivors and their loved ones, and other concerned citizens who seek to shine a light on one of the darkest corners of our criminal justice system.
We encourage Solitary Watch readers to explore the Solitary Confinement Resource Center, and use the form found on the site to suggest additional resources.
The Solitary Confinement Resource Center is made possible through a grant from the Jacob and Valeria Langeloth Foundation.
Down Under, More Humane Private Prisons Australia and New Zealand contract with companies to design and manage facilities and reward the companies financially if their prisoners’ recidivism rates fall.
Very interesting and important news, given that private prisons have thus far been DISASTROUS!
These new and innovative private prisons are learning from the prisons in Scandinavian countries, where inmates are treated humanely and crime is way down.
Excerpts from the Article:
About 35 years ago, America began turning prisons over to the private sector. The idea was that private prisons would be better and cheaper than government-run ones. “The great incentive for us, and we believe the long-term great incentive for the private sector, will be that you will be judged on performance,” Thomas Beasley said on “60 Minutes” in 1984. Mr. Beasley was president of the newly created Corrections Corporation of America. Today about 9 percent of those behind bars in 28 states and in federal prisons — more than 128,000 people — are in prisons run by the private sector. More than half of all private prison beds are owned by CoreCivic, the new name for Mr. Beasley’s company. In addition to prisoners, about 70 percent of detainees in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody are in private facilities.
But private prisons have turned out to be neither better nor cheaper. They have about the same recidivism rates as their government-run counterparts — nearly 40 percent. And the Government Accountability Office has concluded time and again that there is simply no evidence that private prisons are more cost-effective than public prisons.
Private prisons have come under tremendous political scrutiny because the more people they house, the more they profit. Most corrections contracts with the private sector merely ask the private operator to replicate what the government is doing.
Given how entrenched the private sector is in American corrections, the private prison industry is here to stay. But there are ways to improve these institutions. Currently they are rewarded according to the number of prisoners they house. What if private prison contracts were structured so that they made more money if they treated prisoners humanely with policies that helped them stay out of trouble once released? Prisons exist to lower crime rates. So why not reward private prisons for doing that? Judge them on performance, as Mr. Beasley said.
America doesn’t use performance-based contracts. But Australia and New Zealand are experimenting with these models. Two relatively new private prisons have contracts that give them bonuses for doing better than government prisons at cutting recidivism. They get an even bigger bonus if they beat the government at reducing recidivism among their indigenous populations. And prison companies are charged for what the government deems as unacceptable events like riots, escapes and unnatural deaths.
Although the contracts set specific objectives, they do not dictate how prison operators should achieve them. “If we want to establish a prison that focuses on rehabilitation and reintegration, we have to give the private sector the space to innovate,” said Rachael Cole, a former public-private partnership integration director for the New Zealand Department of Corrections. “If we don’t give them the opportunity to do things differently, we will just get back what we already have.”
I recently visited New Zealand’s Auckland South Corrections Facility, a low-lying yellow and white brick structure in the shadow of the local airport. It houses 970 men and avoids many of the dehumanizing elements typical of prisons. Prisoners are called by their first names instead of by number, and corrections officers are called reintegration officers.
Serco, a British company that operates prisons globally, manages the facility for the New Zealand Department of Corrections under the country’s first public-private prison partnership. Men who follow the rules, complete educational and vocational programs, and keep a positive attitude can move from the more traditional housing units into six-room cottages designed to prepare them for life outside prison. The residences, which house almost a quarter of the prison’s population, resemble dorm-room suites with desks and bookshelves in the bedrooms, carpeted living spaces, couches, windows without bars, microwaves, refrigerators, cooking utensils and a flat-screen TV. The men cook their own meals and do their own laundry.
Even those who live in more conventional cells manage their own affairs through a computer system to schedule family visits, medical appointments and their daily responsibilities. Each prisoner has a résumé and is expected to apply and be interviewed for jobs at the facility. The prison also responds to the job market. Noticing the growth in barista careers, Serco opened two cafes in the prison to provide on-the-job training.
New Zealand’s prison population has soared in recent years, reaching an all-time high of more than 10,600. The country also struggles with racial disparities, with an overrepresentation of Maori — the nation’s indigenous Polynesian people — in their prisons. Maori make up only about 15 percent of the country’s population but half of New Zealand’s prisoners. Aiming to reduce the Maori’s recidivism rate, Serco and its partners worked with indigenous groups to build a cultural center for the Maori prisoners at the Auckland South prison. When I visited, one Maori prisoner, a bald, bearded man dressed in the prison uniform of gray shorts and a burgundy shirt, was cleaning the cultural center to prepare it for a meeting. He said that the center hosts events like the Maori New Year celebration and that family members frequently join.
In Australia, the Ravenhall Correctional Center near Melbourne is a 1,000-bed medium-security facility with 51 buildings spread across six acres. There is no razor wire. The prison is operated by the GEO Group, a global prison firm (with most of its facilities in the United States), under a partnership with the Victoria state government. Men live in five communities in small buildings similar to college dorms. Social workers and other clinicians meet with the men inside the communities; overall, the prison has more than 70 clinical programs. When I visited, a group of men whose good behavior had allowed them to progress to living in four-bedroom suites were making sandwiches for lunch and contemplating stir-fry for dinner. “What makes Ravenhall different is that I didn’t think of it much as a jail,” said a man named Cameron, who was released in April and now works as a landscaper for Rebuild, a Y.M.C.A. program that trains prisoners in construction work and hires some of them when they leave the prison. “It is a place to be if you really want to change. You had to either be in a program or in education. You can’t just stay in the cottage and do nothing.”
These prisons are so new — Ravenhall opened less than a year ago — that we don’t yet know if the system works, but corrections departments in both countries are optimistic. Auckland South opened in 2015, and an evaluation of Auckland South’s initial success in reducing recidivism will likely be released later this year.
If the prisons in Australia and New Zealand prove successful, could a similar approach work in the United States? It would require getting beyond simplistic views of private prisons, recognizing that their failures could be a result of the incentives they receive. And it would involve a leap of faith to allow the private sector some flexibility in how it chooses to reduce recidivism.
“This partnership is about moving away from the prescribed way of doing things,” said Jeremy Lightfoot, deputy chief executive of the New Zealand Department of Corrections, told me in his office in Wellington in July. “This prison is in our network. If it is succeeding, then we are succeeding.”
In America, the government tends to rely on the private sector only when it needs capital. In Australia and New Zealand, governments partnered with private industry to design the contracts themselves and fashion innovative practices to reduce recidivism.
“What you have to realize is that we are human beings as well,” Cameron said. “If you put the boys in the cage and treat the boys like an animal, they will think they are animals. But if you put them in an environment where things are peaceful and they are treated like humans, they can change.”
Lots of studies and reports clutter the landscape of criminal justice reform where bold, simple laws are needed!
This comprehensive (long) article reflects the degree to which justice now is elusive, not routine, in the system, and it discusses many possible improvements.
IF YOU HAVE A SERIOUS INTEREST IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM READ IT; IF NOT SKIP IT, FOR YOU ARE LIKELY TO GET BOGGED DOWN AND CONFUSED!
Having been immersed in all of these issues for twelve years now, I am struck that the authors seem to have no idea about powerful forces which prevent reform, which dictate how parole and probation really work, etc. Let me sum it up again: the system today is a gravy train for millions of people – for every one person arrested 29 benefit financially (judges, cops, prosecutors, support staffs, PDs, prison personnel, probation and parole officers, and innumerable thousands of private contractors!). HEREIN LIES A HUGE PROBLEM BECAUSE MANY OF THE ABOVE SPEND MILLIONS OF DOLLARS LOBBYING LAWMAKERS AND DONATING TO THEIR CAMPAIGNS…. yet this report seems oblivious to this fact. 🙁
Excerpts from the Article:
After decades of explosive growth, prison populations have mostly flattened. Much of that is due to lawmakers lessening penalties for drug possession or low-level property offenses. While a welcome start, a bolder approach is necessary to truly begin to make a dent in the numbers of individuals who have served and will serve decades behind bars. This approach will take political courage from legislators, judges, and the executive branch of state governments.
Approximately 200,000 individuals are in state prisons serving natural life or “virtual” life sentences. And as of year’s end 2015, one in every six individuals in a state prison had been there at least for 10 years.
These are not merely statistics. These are people, sentenced to unimaginably long sentences in ways that do little to advance justice, provide deterrence, or offer solace to survivors of violence. The damage done to these individuals because of the time they must do in prison cells – as well as to their families and their communities – is incalculable.
People should not spend decades in prison without a meaningful chance of release. There exist vastly underused strategies that policy makers can employ to halt, and meaningfully reverse, our overreliance on incarceration. We present eight of those strategies below.
Understanding long prison terms and mechanisms for release
Too many state prisons hold too many individuals doing too much time. The goal of our eight strategies is to bring immediate relief to these individuals, by creating or expanding opportunities for their release. However, to discuss such reforms, we first need to understand the basic mechanisms by which someone is released from prison. In particular, it’s important to have a general idea of how parole works.
In general, when someone is convicted of a felony and sentenced, that person loses their liberty for a period of time. A portion of this period is typically served in a prison, and often a portion is served in the community under supervision, also known as parole. When parole boards have discretionary power, they periodically review someone’s case to determine if they should be released, beginning on their earliest release date. (One’s earliest release date may be well before the end of their punishment, or close to the end of their punishment, depending on state- specific statutes and requirements set by the judge.)
Discretionary parole, mandatory release, and determinate and indeterminate sentencing explained
There are two basic types of release systems. Most states say they have one or the other, but it’s more helpful to think of your state’s system as incorporating elements of both. Here we explain the two types.
For instance, someone convicted of aggravated robbery might be sentenced to a maximum of 30 years in prison, and in most states would be eligible for release after a certain period of time, let’s say 10 years. At that 10-year mark, this individual reaches their earliest release date, and the parole board considers their release on parole for the first time. If not released on parole, the parole board continues to consider release at regular intervals until that person is granted parole or maxes out their sentence.
Our 8 strategies
The eight suggested reforms in this report can shorten time served in different ways:
Several ways to make people eligible for release on parole sooner.
One way to make it more likely that the parole board will approve conditional release on parole.
Several ways to shorten the time that must be served, regardless of sentencing and parole decisions.
One simple way to ensure that people are not returned to prison.
Of course, states vary in many ways, most critically in how they structure parole eligibility (see sidebar above), and policymakers reading this report should anticipate tailoring our suggested reforms to their state systems. Each of the reforms laid out in this report could be effective independent of the others. However, we encourage states to use as many of the following tools as possible to shorten excessive sentences:
Presumptive parole ⤵
Second-look sentencing ⤵
Granting of good time ⤵
Universal parole eligibility after 15 years ⤵
Retroactive application of sentence reduction reforms⤵
Elimination of parole revocations for technical violations ⤵
Compassionate release ⤵
Presumptive parole is a system in which incarcerated individuals are released upon first becoming eligible for parole unless the parole board finds explicit reasons to not release them. This approach flips the current parole approach on its head, so that release on parole is the expected outcome, rather than one that must be argued for. Under this framework, an incarcerated person who meets certain preset conditions will automatically be released at a predetermined date.
How parole boards make decisions
Parole decisions are often tricky to predict or interpret. We explain the (often faulty) logic that informs parole decisions.
Currently, parole boards treat continued confinement as the default and must justify why someone should be released. Logically, parole should only be denied if the board can prove that the individual has exhibited specific behaviors that indicate a public safety risk (repeated violent episodes in prison, refusal to participate in programming, aggressive correspondence with the victim, etc). But parole board members – who are almost exclusively gubernatorial appointees – may lose their jobs for merely considering to release someone sentenced to life, or for releasing someone who unexpectedly goes on to commit another crime. As a result, many parole boards and their controlling statutes routinely stray from evidence-based questions about safety (see sidebar, right).
The subjectivity of the current process is powerfully illustrated by the tremendous variations in the rate at which states grant parole at parole hearings, which vary from a high of 87% in Nebraska to a low of 7% in Ohio, with many states granting parole to just 20% to 30% of the individuals who are eligible.
Graphic showing parole grant rates in every state.Figure 3. Not all states make their parole grant rates available, but the existing data – collected by the Robina Institute – shows a tremendous variation between states (often resulting from the differences in state parole systems). In a few states, the data is more complicated for other reasons. Washington State, for example, eliminated discretionary parole in July 1984, leaving that option only to individuals who committed crimes before that date. However, Washington’s Indeterminate Sentence Review Board says it also reviews for release on parole anyone convicted “of certain sex offenses on or after Sept. 1, 2001” along with “persons who committed crimes prior to their 18th birthday and were sentenced as adults.” Therefore, it’s unclear how to report the parole grant rate for Washington.
An effective parole system that wants people to succeed will start with the assumption that success is possible. Instead of asking “why” the parole board should believe in the person coming before them, it should ask “why not” let that person go, then outline a plan that includes in-prison program participation and post-release community-based programming to help the potential parolee overcome barriers to release.
Changing this presumption would also create powerful new incentives for the entire system. The Department of Corrections would have an incentive to create meaningful programs, and incarcerated people would have an incentive to enroll and successfully complete them.
An effective presumptive parole system would have elements like those often found in Mississippi, New Jersey, Michigan, and Hawai’i:
Give clear instructions to incarcerated people on what they need to do in order to be released on a specific date.
Give clear instructions to incarcerated people, if they are denied release, on what they need to do to be released at the next hearing.
Require re-hearings in no more than 1 or 2 years.
Provide case managers to help incarcerated people develop a plan to be successful at parole decision time.
Provide transparency to incarcerated people by sharing as much information as possible about how the parole board reached its decision.
Provide transparency and accountability to the legislative branch by requiring annual reports on the numbers of, and reasons for, denials of parole, especially denials of individuals whose release has been recommended by guidelines supported by validated risk assessments.
Of course, those four state models have limitations that other states should be cautious about repeating:
Limiting presumptive parole to only certain offenses or for certain sentences.
Allowing parole boards to set aside official guidelines and deny release for subjective reasons.
Second look sentencing
Second-look sentencing provides a legal mechanism for judges to review and modify individual sentences. The most effective way to do this is described in the newly revised Model Penal Code, published by the American Law Institute.
The reality is that people and societies change, as do views about punishment.
The Model Penal Code recommends a process by which long sentences are automatically reviewed by a panel of retired judges after 15 years, with an eye toward possible sentence modification or release, and for subsequent review within 10 years, regardless of the sentence’s minimum parole eligibility date. This proposal also requires that state Departments of Corrections inform incarcerated people of this review, and provide staff resources to help them prepare for it.
The reality is that people and societies change, as do views about punishment. Second-look provides the opportunity for judges to weigh the transformation of an incarcerated individual against the perceived retributive benefit to society of 15 incarcerated years.
Second-look is the only proposal in this report in which the judiciary would play a leading role, and that makes it particularly powerful tool in a reformist toolkit because polls show that people trust the judiciary much more than they trust the legislative or executive branches of government.
Granting of good time
States can award credit to incarcerated individuals for obeying prison rules or for participating in programs during their incarceration. Commonly called things like “good time,” “meritorious credit” or something similar, these systems shorten the time incarcerated people must serve before becoming parole eligible or completing their sentences.
Conceptual graphic showing how good time impacts time served.Figure 5. This schematic of time served shows how a good time system can make people eligible for release on parole sooner and how it can make the ultimate completion of their sentence shorter. As this section describes, states vary greatly in how much good time they award and in what circumstances they award it.
States are unnecessarily frugal in granting good time and irrationally quick to revoke it. Good time should be granted to all incarcerated individuals, regardless of conviction and independent of program participation. Prisons should refrain from revoking accrued good time except for the most serious of offenses, and after five years, any good time earned should be vested and immune from forfeiture.
As the name implies, good time is doled out in units of time. Good time systems vary between states, as the National Conference of State Legislatures has previously discussed. In some states, the average amount of good time granted is negligible (North Dakota) or non-existent (Montana and South Dakota.) But in others, administrators are empowered by statute to award far more. For example:
Alabama can award up to 75 days for every 30 days served;
Nebraska can award six months per year of sentence, and can grant an additional three days per month for clean disciplinary records;
Oklahoma can award up to 60 days a month, plus additional credits for various kinds of positive disciplinary records, and a number of one-time grants for various educational or vocational accomplishments.
Procedures will vary from state and incarcerated people may not automatically be awarded the statutorily authorized maximum. In Texas, for example, the statute authorizes up to 45 days per 30 served, but the more typical amount awarded is 30, with the full amount reserved for people with non-violent sentences assigned to work outside the fence or in close proximity to correctional officers.
The most robust good time systems will:
Make good time eligible to every incarcerated person regardless of conviction, and ensure that every incarcerated person can apply good time toward initial parole or discharge. (For instance, Rhode Island prohibits individuals convicted of murder, sexual assault, child molestation, or kidnapping a minor from earning good time. And while Texas allows all individuals to earn good time, people with certain convictions are not allowed to apply it in the only two ways allowed – to lessen the time they must serve before initial parole eligibility or to shorten their actual time served.)
Fully fund any programs in which participation can result in receiving good time. For example, if drug treatment or educational classes make someone eligible for additional good time credits, there should not be a significant waiting list.
Avoid the common pitfall of restricting valuable rehabilitative programs to only those close to release and low-risk and justifying those restrictions by pointing to lean budgets. This runs contrary to best practices, which say that “targeting high-risk offenders for intensive levels of treatment and services has the greatest effect on recidivism, and low-risk inmates should receive minimal or even no intervention.”
Grant additional good time to people who are physically or mentally unable to take advantage of a program that gives good time. Many incarcerated people are mentally or physically incapable of engaging in programs, and anyone in that category should be awarded the maximum offered to those who can engage in programs.
Allow good time to be forfeited only for serious rule and law violations and allow forfeited good time to be restored. Texas, for example, prohibits the restoration of forfeited good time, while Alabama allows restoration by the Commissioner of the state Department of Corrections upon the warden’s recommendation. Finally, states should not allow one incident to result in a loss of good-time accrued over years, by vesting earned good-time after a certain period. We again rely on the Model Penal Code, which suggests good-time credits earned over five years be vested and untouchable.
Universal parole eligibility after 15 years
While many states will retain the option of imposing long sentences, their sentencing structures should presume that both individuals and society transform over time. This proposal uses the same 15-year timeline as proposed by the Model Penal Code for Second Look Sentencing discussed above.
States will vary in how they structure sentences and how parole eligibility is calculated, but states should ensure that people are not serving more than 15 years without being considered for parole.
Retroactive application of sentence reduction reforms
Sentences are determined based on the laws in place at the time the crime was committed. Unfortunately, when sentencing reform is achieved, it almost always applies only to future convictions. This means people currently incarcerated experience unequal justice and fail to benefit from progressive reform. Our statutes should be kept current with our most evolved understanding of justice, and our ongoing punishments like incarceration should always be consistent with that progress, regardless of when the sentence was originally imposed.
For example, one significant sentencing reform that was not made retroactive was Congress’ modifications to the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which created the infamous crack cocaine/powder cocaine disparity that treated possession of small amounts of crack cocaine as equivalent to possession of 100 times as much powder cocaine. Congress recognized that this law was based on irrational science and resulted in disproportionate arrests for people of color and changed it in 2010, but the reform was for new drug crimes only. People sentenced under the old law were forced to continue to serve sentences that were now considered unjust.
Our statutes should be kept current with our most evolved understanding of justice.
Delaware passed a justice reform package in 2016 that not only reformed three- strikes laws but allowed those convicted on three-strikes statutes to apply for a modification of their sentences. Delaware took the common-sense step of making its reforms retroactive, but far too few legislatures do.
Historically, when sentencing reforms do grant relief to individuals already serving lengthy sentences, it is more often the result of a judicial order. (Courts make their decisions retroactive either by requiring states to change their laws, or by having the states erect frameworks for incarcerated people to apply for resentencing.)
When the U.S. Supreme Court reversed an earlier decision and declared in 1963 that it was unconstitutional to put poor people on trial without first appointing them a lawyer, the Supreme Court ignored the State of Florida’s plea to not make the ruling retroactive. The Supreme Court did so knowing that it would apply to many thousands of people serving prison sentences in five southern states, including a substantial portion of Florida’s prison population.
In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed its earlier decision and, in Atkins v. Virginia barred the execution of the intellectually disabled — the Court used the term “mentally retarded” — instructing that the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment should be interpreted in light of the “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a mature society.” The Court did not define “mentally retarded,” leaving each state to devise its own standards. Over the next 11 years, at least 83 individuals condemned to die instead had their sentences reduced because of a finding of “mental retardation” stemming from Atkins.
The Supreme Court has made other improvements in sentencing retroactive as well, including barring execution for offenses committed before age 18 and barring mandatory life without parole sentences for offenses committed before age 18.
State courts have also made changes retroactive. For example, in 2012 the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in Unger v. Maryland that that jury instructions in capital murder convictions prior to 1981 were flawed and ordered new trials for the approximately 130 individuals still incarcerated with life sentences. (Most of those people were released by the state and placed on probation to great success.)
Elimination of parole revocations for technical violations
Parole supervision should focus on strengthening ties between individuals on parole and their communities. Unfortunately, the emphasis is more often on pulling parolees out of the community and returning them to incarceration at the first sign that they are struggling, with parole officers intent on “catching mistakes through surveillance and monitoring, rather than on promoting success via rehabilitation and support.” Parole officers have the power to return people to prison for “technical violations” that represent no threat to public safety and may simply indicate that a person on parole needs more assistance, or less stringent rules, not more incarceration.
Approximately 60,000 parolees were returned to state prisons in 2016 not because they were convicted of a new offense, but because of a “technical violation” such as missing a meeting with a parole officer or traveling to another state to visit a relative without permission. (Parole officers in Massachusetts can even re-incarcerate a parolee if they believe the person “is about to” engage in criminal behavior.) For people who have already served years in prison and worked hard to earn their release, states should make sure that parole officers are supporting their reentry, rather than sending them back.
Parole revocations for technical violations are a problem in most states, but 10 states in particular were responsible for a majority of such revocations in 2016:
Graph showing that in 2016, 10 states were responsible for 69% of all parolees sent back to prison for technical violations of parole.Figure 7. These ten states accounted for over two-thirds of all returns to incarceration for technical violations of parole conditions in 2016, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). See an alternate view of how much parole revocations for technical violations cost these states annually. Note that Wisconsin is not included in these graphs, because the state did not report any revocations to BJS; however, it reports 2,923 “revocation only” admissions to prison in 2016 (and even more in 2017) on its Department of Corrections website.
States should stop putting parolees behind bars for behaviors that, were the individual not on parole, would not warrant prison time. If a parole condition is itself a law violation, it can be dealt with by the criminal justice system. For example, a parole condition common to all states prohibits parolees from possessing firearms. Since states make it a criminal offense to be a felon in possession of a firearm, traditional criminal justice procedures can be brought to bear when a parolee is found with a firearm. All other, non-criminal violations should be addressed through community intervention and should never subject someone on parole to re-incarceration.
How often does your state re-incarcerate people on parole for technical violations?
See state-by-state data from 2016.
Some states take great care to avoid sending people to prison on technical violations, but other states allow high rates of re-incarceration. In order to increase the likelihood that individuals on parole succeed, and to lighten the load on overwhelmed parole officers, states should adopt suggestions advanced by the Robina Institute and Columbia University Justice Lab:
“Front-load” supervision resources immediately after release, when individuals released from prison are most likely to need support;
Tailor conditions to individual parolees instead of using boiler-plate language intended to cover every possible situation;
Limit the length of time an individual can be on parole regardless of sentence, and shorten parole terms by granting good-time for compliance with conditions.
Compassionate release is the release of incarcerated individuals, usually but not exclusively aged, who are typically facing imminent death, and who pose no threat to the public. This process is often lengthy and cumbersome, which is unfortunate given that people recommended for compassionate release are almost always terminally ill or profoundly incapacitated and the complicated nature of this process means many die before their cases are resolved.
All states but Iowa have a framework for compassionate release, but currently few states use compassionate release to a meaningful degree. The processes vary tremendously, but the basic framework is the same: An incarcerated person is recommended for release on compassionate grounds to prison administrators, who then solicit a medical recommendation, and then administrators or members of the parole board approve or deny a conditional release. These programs are plagued by many shortcomings, including:
Requirements that a person be extremely close to death, or so incapacitated that they do not understand why they are being punished.
Requiring medical professionals to attest that someone is within six months, or nine months, of death. Health professionals are reluctant to give such exact prognoses, which means prison officials will default to the “it’s safer just to not let this person go.”
Allowing prison personnel to overrule medical prognoses.
To be sure, some states do certain facets of compassionate release better than others, but states would be wise to implement the recommendations of the Model Penal Code on compassionate release, along with FAMM’s excellent suggestions. Particularly robust compassionate release systems will:
Be available to all incarcerated people regardless of the underlying offense.
Streamline all processes and set reachable deadlines so that petitioners don’t die due to bureaucratic bottlenecks before they are released.
Limit the ability of prison officials to overrule, on medical grounds, a recommendation of release by medical professionals.
Commutations are modifications of a sentence by the executive branch to either make someone eligible for release before they otherwise would be, or to release them outright. These decisions are usually made by the governor, or some combination of the governor and a board, whose members are themselves often appointed by the governor. (For a detailed description of the process and structure in each state see The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation’s helpful summary.)
Definitions: “Pardons” vs. “clemency”
“Commutation,” “pardon” and “clemency” all mean slightly different things. We explain pardons and clemency and how they relate to commutation.The procedures are often very similar, but the outcomes vary greatly between the states. Typically, an incarcerated individual submits a petition to the governor’s office, who reviews the petition or forwards it to whatever board must make the initial recommendation. At that point, the petition is approved or denied based on whatever criteria that state uses.
There is not a comprehensive data source on the numbers of commutations granted across the 50 states, but it appears that clemency in general and commutation in particular are used far less than they have been in years past. Notable recent exceptions are former Illinois Gov. George Ryan (R), who in 2003 commuted the death sentences of all 167 individuals on death row to either life or a sentence of years, and Mike Huckabee (R), who as Arkansas governor issued 1,058 acts of clemency, many of them commutations and pardons to individuals with violent crimes.
Executives should consider using commutation in a broad, sweeping manner to remedy some of the extremes of the punitive turn that led to mass incarceration. Many executives have the power to shorten the sentences of large numbers of incarcerated individuals or to release them altogether. It will be tempting for governors to take caution from President Barack Obama’s methods, which were bogged down by bureaucratic, structural and political cautiousness. We suggest following the unique strategies of President Gerald Ford, who granted clemency to tens of thousands of men for evading the Vietnam War.
If states are serious about reversing mass incarceration, they must be willing to leaven retribution with mercy and address the long sentences imposed during more punitive periods in their state’s history. This report provides state leaders with eight strategies to shorten overly long prison sentences. All that is left is the political will.
About the Prison Policy Initiative
The non-profit, non-partisan Prison Policy Initiative was founded in 2001 to expose the broader harm of mass criminalization and spark advocacy campaigns to create a more just society. The organization is known for its visual breakdown of mass incarceration in the U.S., as well as its data-rich analyses of how states vary in their use of punishment. The Prison Policy Initiative’s research is designed to reshape debates around mass incarceration by offering the “big picture” view of critical policy issues, such as probation and parole, pretrial detention, and reentry outcomes.