You should be concerned about the dysfunction of America’s prisons not only because of all the needless and costly abuse of inmates, but because the same dysfunction allows ESCAPES!
Excerpts from the Article:
Morgan County authorities said 30-year-old John Kaleb Gillespie broke out of the Morgan County Jail two weeks ago. At some point after his escape, he met up with a 16-year-old girl. The two were found Monday near Bessemer.It’s not clear how they knew each other, but now we know the two were communicating while the convicted sex offender was in the Morgan County Jail.
“When it comes to visitation in the jail there’s two things you need to think of. There’s on-site and off-site,” explained Mike Swafford, spokesperson for the sheriff’s office. The Morgan County Jail has very specific visitation rules and a set schedule. But there is more than one way to interact with inmates. “For off-site, which is video visitation, similar to FaceTime, it’s not through Facebook, it’s a separate app,” Swafford added.
The Jail Funds app, gives users the option to schedule 15-minute video calls with inmates for about 6 dollars. Registration requires users to enter their birthdate and driver’s license number, and according to a statement from the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office on the app, anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
“What shouldn’t happen is minors should not be able to interact with sex offenders without other folks knowing,” said Swafford. “Now there’s nothing that keeps a minor from interacting with a sex offender, depending on their case in general.” That’s a requirement for in-person visits as well.
“On-site, we control here. There are stipulations of what can happen, can’t happen. For us, minors have to be accompanied by an adult,” he added. Morgan County jailers are supposed to supervise all video calls and it’s not clear what happened in this case. Now the sheriff’s office says it is working to figure out how to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
The Whole Story and the Video:
On strictly legal grounds, I have to agree with the decision here, given the law. However, one could argue that this was more than “visual inspection”. It’s a damn shame that the jury did not decide in favor of the women on their 8th Amendment claim: cruel and unusual punishment.
Excerpts from the Article:
On July 16, 2019, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in a two-to-one ruling, affirmed a district court’s dismissal of a Fourth Amendment claim prior to a jury trial, at which the jury found for the defendant prison officials on an Eighth Amendment claim.
The facts of the case were that 200 female prisoners at the Lincoln Correctional Center in Illinois were forced to strip and stand so close together that they were touching, in groups of four to 10. “Menstruating inmates had to remove their tampons and sanitary pads in front of others, were not given replacements, and many got blood on their bodies and clothing and blood on the floor,” the appellate court wrote. “The naked inmates had to stand barefoot on a floor dirty with menstrual blood and raise their breasts, lift their hair, turn around, bend over, spread their buttocks and vaginas, and cough.”
Meanwhile, trainee guards made “derogatory comments and gestures about the women’s bodies and odors, telling the prisoners that they were “dirty bitches,” “fucking disgusting,” “deserve to be in here” and “smell like death.” Male guards watched the women from a gymnasium during the 2011 training exercise.
The plaintiffs originally raised a Fourth Amendment claim, which was dismissed by the district court based on Seventh Circuit precedent, holding “that a visual inspection of a convicted prisoner is not subject to analysis under that amendment, though a claim properly lies under the Eighth Amendment if an unnecessary or demeaning inspection amounts to punishment.”
Following the jury’s defense verdict on their Eighth Amendment claim, the plaintiffs appealed trying to have their cause of action under the Fourth Amendment reinstated.
Because the prisoners were ordered by prison guards to expose their genitals themselves, and were not probed by staff members, King v. McCarty, 781 F.3d 889 (7th Cir 2015) was held not to apply in this case.
“Applying the Fourth Amendment to all unwelcome observations of prisoners would eliminate the subjective component [of Eighth Amendment analyses] and create sort of Eighth Amendment lite, defeating the objectives that the Justices sought to achieve by limiting [Fourth Amendment] liability in Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312 (1986) and similar decisions,” the appellate court wrote.
The majority went on to identify a split between the circuits on this issue in Harris v. Miller, 818 F.3d 49 (2d Cir. 2016) and Hutchins v. McDaniels, 512 F.3d 193 (5th Cir. 2007), and noted dissents in some Seventh Circuit panels.
The Court of Appeals reasoned that once convicted of a felony, even a former prisoner on parole has a greatly diminished expectation of privacy and may “be searched without either probable cause or suspicion,” citing Samson v. California, 547 U.S. 843 (2007). The Seventh Circuit ultimately decided that until the Supreme Court holds otherwise, the established precedent that the “Fourth Amendment does not apply to visual inspections of [convicted] prisoners” would remain in effect.
“It has been 35 years since the justices last considered the extent to which convicted prisoners have rights under the Fourth Amendment while still inside prison walls,” the majority opinion stated. “For more than 20 years it has been established in this circuit that the Fourth Amendment does not apply to visual inspections of prisoners. It is best to leave the law of the circuit alone, unless and until the justices suggest that it needs change.”
“The Fourth Amendment affords all people a base level protection against the most intrusive of searches by government officials,” countered Ruth Brown with the law firm of Loevy and Loevy, one of the attorneys who represented the prisoners. “This was, for the 200 women, degrading. This is what the Fourth Amendment is designed to protect, in our opinion.” See: Henry v. Hulett, 930 F.3d 836 (7th Cir. 2019).
Here’s another one; I see so many horrifying articles of prison abuse that I cannot post them all. YOUR money wasted! READ Prison Abuse – Why Massive Indifference is a Massive Mistake =
Excerpts from the Article:
Lincoln County officials and the mother of a man who died in 2016 from injuries related to a jail suicide attempt settled a lawsuit for $300,000 on Thursday.
The settlement, approved by a U.S. district judge, comes after Monica Brown, the mother of Mark Jaconski, filed a lawsuit against Lincoln County and its law enforcement and jail staff in 2017 alleging civil rights violations, medical malpractice and wrongful death.
Supporters of Jaconski started an online petition and social media pages accusing Lincoln County officials of denying him access to medication prescribed for his mental health.
Lincoln County sheriff’s deputies picked up Jaconski on outstanding traffic warrants on June 17, 2015, according to his estate’s complaint. Authorities took Jaconski to a hospital, where he was evaluated for mental health issues and injuries from being apprehended and detained. He was deemed “fit for confinement,” the complaint states.
Brown said she called the jail and left voicemails to let officials know her son had prescribed medication for his mental health issues, but she said she never heard back. According to the complaint, Jaconski told a corrections officer, Sgt. Caleb Noland, that he was bipolar and schizophrenic. Noland was aware of Brown’s calls but did not respond, the suit said.
After two days in jail, Jaconski appeared before a municipal court judge who authorized him to be released. During lunch that day, the suit said, Jaconski told Noland he needed his medication and that he was going to hurt himself, and the sergeant had corrections officers put Jaconski in an isolated cell. Approximately 40 minutes to an hour went by with Jaconski in the isolated cell before someone noticed Jaconski hanging by the neck from his pants tied to the top bunk rail.
Jaconski was taken to a hospital, where he suffered from anoxic encephalopathy, quadriplegia and seizure disorder for a number of months.
He was released from a rehabilitation center to his mother for hospice care, and he died on Jan. 22, 2016.
All of these are good ideas, and badly needed to curb injustice.
2020 Legislative Priorities for the Coalition for Smart Justice
We made historic progress in criminal justice reform this year. From expanding access to second chances to reforming the drug code and more, there’s a lot to be proud of! But our work isn’t done yet. You helped us get this far, so we wanted you to be the first to know about our priorities for the 2020 half of this legislative session.
Next year, we’ll be tackling these key issues:
Fines, Fees & Drivers’ License Suspensions
We want to end the criminalization of poverty that traps people in a punitive cycle by allowing the court to consider a person’s ability to pay court fines and fees, and ending the practice of automatic suspension of drivers’ licenses where someone is unable to pay.
Data Collection & Transparency – Collect and publish data to understand racial disparities, measure policy impacts and inform better policy choices.
Sentencing Reform – Eliminate most mandatory minimums and expand opportunities for sentence modification and early release.
Pretrial Reform – Reduce the number of people in prison before they’ve been convicted of a crime and ensure fairness through the pre-trial process from arrest to trial.
Probation Reform – End the revolving door to prison by implementing post-release policies that promote success after incarceration.
Treating Children as Children – House all children in juvenile facilities and increase the minimum age at which children can be prosecuted criminally.
Stay up-to-date on our work by following us on Twitter and Facebook, and keeping an eye out for emails as they come through.
We can’t wait to make more history with you as we continue to work toward our goal of ending mass incarceration and challenging the racial disparities in Delaware’s criminal justice system!
ACLU: 302-654-5326 ext. 106, 100 W. 10th Street, Suite 706, Wilmington, DE, 19801
At detention facilities, legal rights ‘in name only’ Whether we call them ‘concentration camps’ or detention centers, the lack of justice for those seeking refuge must end.
These ICE detention centers are atrocious, and are a national disgrace. Below I am pictured speaking about them 4 years ago in Wilmington, DE.
Excerpts from the Article:
As President Donald Trump prepares to pick a new secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is preparing to appear in a Brooklyn court. She is being sued for blocking a man on Twitter who criticized her for calling immigration detention sites “concentration camps.” Her opponents seized on the comment. One of their talking points: America’s hardworking immigration officers should not be equated with Nazis.
To some extent, I can understand their perspective.
I recently visited four Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention sites across the country. I met many of their workers. They carried clear plastic backpacks and lunchboxes as they filed through security in the morning, looking weary and bored. As I left each site, some asked me whether I had had a “nice visit” and wished me safe travels.
These workers don’t bring to mind cinematic villains. Yet they are part of a system that, no matter its appearances, is inflicting the horror of trapping people inside.
I saw it in the eyes of the people I interviewed in detention. A 28-year-old Cuban woman told me about spending five days sleeping on the ground in an outdoor cage run by Border Patrol, the “perrera” — a place for dogs. That was followed by 17 days in the “hielera,” a frigid room. She had been denied a shower the entire time.
She recounted this months later, when I met her at an ICE detention site in Adams County, Mississippi. She had not seen or talked to her husband for months, since U.S. authorities separated and detained them. She said that last summer, an asylum officer interviewed her and determined that her fear of persecution if she returned to Cuba was credible — the first step in an asylum case. But she said she had never seen a judge, had no court date, no lawyer, no ICE officer assigned to her. She was alone and trapped: She had no idea of what would happen to her next, how to move her asylum case forward and whether she would ever be released.
Adams County is part of the immigration detention boom. Detention levels have skyrocketed to a record high of about 50,000 people a day, at an annual cost of more than $2 billion. Counties are grabbing at detention contracts that provide jobs, although many will be filled by out-of-town residents. New detention sites are opening in the Deep South — hours from urban areas with networks of pro bono or low-cost attorneys. Even in big cities, the number of people detained far outpaces the number of attorneys available to help them. The result is that these immigration jails are effectively legal black holes, where legal rights often exist in name only.
“You come to this place and you can never win,” another woman told me. She had spent three months in an ICE detention center near Miami, separated from her then 5-month-old baby. Her husband, a U.S. citizen, was driving her to Walmart when local police questioned them during a random traffic stop. She was not accused of a crime, and she was in the process of petitioning for residency based on her marriage to a citizen. But police took her to a local jail and held her for ICE.
“I haven’t seen my baby in three months,” she said, and asked me what would happen to her.
Without a lawyer, she is likely to remain in detention for months or years — and ultimately be deported away from her husband and child. Just 3% of detained individuals without a lawyer succeeded in their cases, compared with 74% of nondetained and represented individuals who won in theirs, according to a study that focused on New York immigration cases. For asylum-seekers, the stakes are often life or death.
Yet immigrants have been denied the right to a government-appointed lawyer in their deportation proceedings. I met many who didn’t have enough money to make a phone call from prison, let alone pay a lawyer. Even those who could afford it struggled to find one, since they are stuck on the inside without access to Google, email or a cellphone.
Our immigration system is set up for them to fail, with Kafka-esque limits on their ability to apply for legal relief and appeal to federal courts. Navigating this complex and unforgiving set of legal rules is hard for lawyers, let alone for detained individuals. Some are offered release on bond, but in unaffordable amounts like $25,000.
Many people I met had never seen a judge, several months into their detention. They had no idea how or when they might ever be free. They were confused, scared and, in some cases, suicidal. A woman from Cameroon who fled its ongoing civil war after her father was murdered told me she prayed that God would provide her a way out.
Local governments should end ICE detention contracts, if they exist, and prohibit new ones. Cities and states should robustly fund free legal service providers and bond funds. Major law firms should send their lawyers to the Deep South to work with local pro bono providers to address the drastic shortfalls in legal services. Community groups should lobby Congress to cut funding for detention and pass comprehensive reform legislation like the Dignity For Detained Immigrants Act.
Trump’s new Homeland Security secretary is likely to ramp up immigration detention to even higher levels, using the specter of prison to deter people from coming here and the reality of it to punish those who do. We cannot afford to be divided by semantics.
Whatever we call them, America’s immigration prisons are antithetical to the free society we claim to be. We must do all we can to dismantle this system. Naureen Shah is the senior advocacy and policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, working on immigrant rights.
Thank God that more and more judges are starting to realize that prison abuse, truly atrocious abuse, is the norm all across the land, and they will not swallow attempts by officials to avoid or delay accountability.
Here, a 27 year old transgender lady with epilepsy and schizophrenia died while in jail because she could not post $500 bail on a misdemeanor charge!
Did she die from medical neglect? Did she commit suicide? Did guards beat her to death? Did another inmate kill her? The truth will out!
Excerpts from the Article:
Before a nearly full courtroom Friday, a federal magistrate refused to pause a lawsuit filed by the mother of a transgender woman who died in solitary confinement on Rikers Island last summer. The city had asked to delay the case twice in October, saying it did not want to interfere with the ongoing investigations into Layleen Polanco’s death by the Bronx District Attorney’s Office and the Department of Corrections.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Sanket Bulsara wasn’t buying it.
The city “relied on inapposite authority, misapplied the state of the law, and attempted to invoke privileges in an improper manner,” Bulsara said in Brooklyn today, calling any potential interference during the discovery process with a state investigation totally speculative.
“There are parallel investigations going on all the time,” Bulsara said, going on to emphasize that it was the defendants, not Polanco, who were the subject of the investigations.
Relatives of Polanco said she had epilepsy and schizophrenia before she died at age 27, locked up because she had not been able to pay $500 bail on misdemeanor charges. In New York City, her death has become a rallying cry for criminal justice reform, particularly for black trans women.
The District Attorney’s Office has not issued a report or charged anyone yet, despite having reportedly completed the interviewing and document collection phases of its case.
In Oct. 16 court papers, David Shanies, attorney for the Polanco family, objected to the request for a stay. “It would be … perverse if the city were permitted to block a civil action by declaring that its own ‘investigation’ precludes litigation against it,” he wrote.
Polanco’s mother, Arecelis Polanco, appeared in court Friday with her lawyers in turquoise-rimmed glasses and a black blazer. In Spanish after the proceedings, she said her faith in the U.S. justice system had essentially come full circle. When she first came to the country, she had confidence in the law, but she said the death of her child in jail shattered that trust. She said Layleen gave her “the greatest joy in this world.”
“This judge on this case gave me faith back,” Arecelis Polanco said, her remarks translated by Layleen Polanco’s sister Melania Brown. “It gave me faith that there’s justice in America.”
“I’m not clear that this couldn’t happen again,” he said. “The entire city should be concerned.”
Defendants also include officers, a Corrections Department official, and a doctor. The plaintiffs said they anticipated adding one or two other defendants. “I’m thinking specifically of the officers who were in the housing unit where Layleen died,” Shanies said.
Kimberly Mckenzie, director of outreach and community engagement at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, said she was pleased with Friday’s proceedings. The day was about supporting Layleen Polanco and her family, she explained.
“Our lives matter,” Mckenzie said, “black trans women. This should never happen at the hands of our city.”
The Whole Story
Just read so many of the articles on my website, field just a few of the calls I get every week, to realize the sad truth of My Little Statue, below!
Raise some hell about it. Here is How: READ Practical Tip – Get Empowered! How YOU Can Create a Powerful, Effective Force for Reform of our Criminal Justice System
Prison officials ignore much of what the law requires! Why? Because they seldom are held ACCOUNTABLE! 🙁
We can never know the real number of suicides anyway, because prison officials ROUTINELY lie like hell about the cause of death, writing, for example, “natural causes”, when it was a known suicide. I have SEEN them do this.
Here we see bureaucratic bungling at its best. The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ most recent data shows 621 reported suicides in jails and prisons in 2014. Based on my vast experience and the number of articles I see about prison suicides, I bet my life that the number is at least three times that many!
Excerpts from the Article:
Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide in a federal prison in lower Manhattan triggered an investigation and the reassignment of two corrections officers, as well as the head of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, by Attorney General William Barr.
But it also shined a light on a problem: The federal government has no idea how many prisoners take their own lives in federal and state prisons, even though it’s required by law to keep track.
The government is obligated under the 2013 Death in Custody Reporting Act to collect and disclose information from law enforcement agencies and states on all deaths in custody, including suicides and deaths during arrest.
The bill, which was passed in 2014 following Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer, required the Justice Department to analyze the national data and issue a report by 2016 with suggestions for reducing these deaths.
But that never happened, in part because the Justice Department shuffled the data-collecting responsibility around to different bureaus, causing delays and leaving experts and policymakers with little information on how common prison suicide is.
“I don’t understand why, as we sit here in the second half of 2019, the most recent data we have on deaths in custody is from 2014,” said David Fathi, director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project. “But I can tell you that has a serious impact on our ability to diagnose and address the problem of prison suicides.”
Today, nearly five years after the bill passed, no new data on prison suicides is available and the Justice Department has not written the report. The department won’t start collecting the information until fiscal year 2020 at the earliest, according to a December 2018 Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General report.
There are some available statistics that show the prevalence of suicides in certain prisons or states. The Bureau of Prisons, which operates the facility where Epstein killed himself, had 27 inmate suicides in fiscal year 2018, a five-year high, according to USA Today.
Across the country, states including Texas and Utah have passed death-in-custody reporting legislation in recent years in response to an increase in prison deaths. Texas had a 10-year high of 40 inmate suicides in 2018, according to state records obtained by the Associated Press. Utah’s first deaths in custody report shows that suicides accounted for over half of the 71 deaths that occurred in county jails from 2013 to 2017.
But there is no comprehensive national data. The data could help illuminate any possible relationship between prison suicides and factors such as the types of crimes people are charged with, inmates’ ages, and whether inmates were placed on suicide watch and for how long.
“You can’t have accountability unless you have a count,” Scott said. “The bill gave two years to get a report done, and they haven’t started counting yet. It just seems to me that it cannot possibly be that complicated to collect the data.”
The inspector general concluded that the lack of knowledge makes it impossible for the department to comply with the Deaths in Custody Reporting Act, because it doesn’t know exactly how many suicides occur in the custody of federal law enforcement agencies.
The Death in Custody Reporting Act gives the DOJ the ability to withhold grant money from states that do not submit the required information. Short of that, the Bureau of Justice Statistics was going to use information from open sources, like news reports, and local law enforcement agencies to count deaths under states’ jurisdictions.
But it never used that approach. In the fall of 2016, because of statutory reasons, the Justice Department tasked a different bureau — the Bureau of Justice Assistance — with collecting the state data. That bureau then took almost two years to come up with a plan that resembled a previously used method that only captured half of all deaths, according to the inspector general report.
The inspector general’s office concluded that because of this flawed approach, the Justice Department might not get the quality of data that fulfills the intent of the law. Now the Justice Department will not begin collecting the necessary state data until 2020 at the earliest because of the delays, according to the inspector general’s office. Once it starts, there’s still the question of what will happen with the required report.
As of August 2018, the DOJ had no plans to write the required report or release the data it will collect. By not writing the report, the department is limiting its ability to reduce deaths in prisons and jails, the Inspector General concluded.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ most recent data shows 621 reported suicides in jails and prisons in 2014. Because states reported data voluntarily, the count is not comprehensive, Scott said.
In Epstein’s case, data could have helped to implement changes in prisons that might have avoided his death, Fathi said. Epstein had been recently taken off suicide watch and was in solitary confinement, which are risk factors for inmates committing suicide, but without data it’s difficult to know just how common these factors are. “Jeffrey Epstein is obviously a uniquely unsympathetic person, but he was someone whose life the government was obligated to protect during his incarceration,” Fathi said. “Although this case is obviously unique in some ways, in other ways it is typical of the utterly avoidable suicides that happen in our prisons and jails literally every day.”
Convincing Pennsylvania prison lifers to apply for clemency is Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s toughest campaign yet
Sure it’s tough, because for decades inmates have been misinformed, misled, left clueless, and denied. I specialize in this area, and this is no surprise to me. Prison “law libraries” have no clue how to apply properly. NONE. To this day, when I do an Application for an inmate I must caution them to expect other inmates to say “that will never work”, and similar comments, because it seldom does work when they do it themselves!
One of the first Applications I did was to get a lifer in PA out, and I succeeded.
Here, God Bless the Lt. Governor of PA. He gave the inmates sound advice.
Excerpts from the Article:
Through a pair of solid iron doors, past chain-link gates framed by loops of razor wire, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman made his way into a prison gym to address a skeptical crowd in this bucolic Luzerne County borough. About 180 prison lifers filled wood bleachers and rows of blue plastic chairs at State Correctional Institution Dallas. Some of the inmates had long white beards and canes leaning against their knees. A few had wobbled in clutching the arms of younger men for support.
Is this the start of a new era for Pa.’s Board of Pardons? A record 21 lifers are up for commutation. They’d come to the gym last Thursday to hear the man who chairs the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons explain why, after decades of rejection, they should bother to apply for clemency — which remains the lone hope for release for the state’s 5,400 prison lifers.
It was both an unlikely lobbying effort and one of the toughest sells of Fetterman’s career.
“If you’re cynical about the commutation process,” he told the men, “you have good reason to be, because nothing was really done about it in the last 40 years. A catastrophic bottleneck has doomed hundreds and hundreds of men and women to die in prison. But we have the best opportunity in 40 years to get people out.”
Fetterman urged the audience of about 200 inmates, many with life sentences, to apply for commutation even if they have been denied in the past.
Many said they had never applied before, although they’d been incarcerated for decades — in some cases, pushing a half century.
The first question came from a man who said he was a Vietnam veteran, imprisoned 48 years and denied commutation twice. One barrier, as he understood it, was opposition from the district attorney in his home county. “How do you deal with that?” he asked. “What the DA says is a factor, but it’s no longer a deciding one,” Fetterman told him. Then he asked when the man last applied. The answer: 1987.
Commutations of life sentences were routine in Pennsylvania until the 1980s, when they slowed to a trickle, and then stopped altogether after a commuted lifer, Reginald McFadden, killed three people in 1994. After that, the process was retooled to require unanimous approval from the five-member Board of Pardons before a governor could grant clemency.
Board of Pardons Secretary Brandon Flood — himself a recipient of a pardon from Gov. Tom Wolf just weeks before taking the post this year — tried to convince the men that the process has changed: “Whatever your knowledge base was about the clemency process prior to January 2019, forget about that. It’s a new administration and a new culture.”
In his first year in office, Fetterman has made clemency reform a focus, eliminating application fees, embarking on a project to streamline and digitize applications, and seeking to turn what has been an opaque process into a transparent, accessible one. He’s also advocated for legislation to roll back the requirement for commutation to a 4-1 vote.
Under his tenure, the board has recommended more applicants for commutation than under any lieutenant governor in 25 years. Wolf so far has granted clemency to 11 lifers.
Fetterman’s long-term goal is to remake commutation as a release valve for an imperfect justice system, offering relief to the wrongfully convicted and the disproportionately sentenced. Creating a viable outlet for people who maintain their innocence would represent a particular departure for the board, which traditionally has required expressions of remorse from applicants.
But last month the board recommended commutation for Charles “Zeke” Goldblum, who had served 42 years for the murder of George Wilhelm, a crime he has maintained he did not commit. Wilhelm’s family pleaded with the board to keep Goldblum incarcerated. Yet both the prosecutor and the presiding judge had written letters to governors as far back as Robert Casey, who left office in 1994, to say they’d learned of evidence exonerating Goldblum.
Fetterman said the board also is updating its regulations to include expedited review for the elderly, including many of the 700 lifers age 65 or older.
His effort recognizes that Pennsylvania is an outlier, with its automatic life sentences for first-degree murder and for felony murder, or participation in a felony that results in a death. Pennsylvania is one of only five states that exclude all lifers from parole consideration, according to a study by the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law at the New York University School of Law. (Parole is a more routine process involving approval from a board of correctional professionals, unlike clemency, a political process that tends to fall in and out of favor from one administration to the next.)
As a result, Pennsylvania is home to 10% of the nation’s prisoners serving life without parole. Even as violent crime fell 20.9% statewide from 2003 to 2015, the lifer population grew 39.7%, according to an analysis by the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit advocacy organization.
So Fetterman is pushing this Redemption Tour, which so far has spanned seven state prisons, from SCI Chester, outside Philadelphia, to SCI Albion, in the far northwest corner of the state. He also hired two recently commuted lifers: Naomi Blount, who served 36 years for first-degree murder, and George Trudel Jr., who served 30 years for his part in an assault in which Trudel did not stab the victim but hid the knife for a friend.
One man from Philadelphia, incarcerated 25 years, said he had never bothered applying. A friend who’d served 40 years without a single misconduct had been denied, he said. How could anyone with a less perfect record expect to prevail? A real avenue for clemency will be a powerful incentive for reform in the prisons, he said.
“When you’re sitting in a jail cell and you see governor after governor never use commutation as a tool to help those who rehabilitate themselves, you lose hope,” the lifer said. “When individuals see hope, it makes them want to do more.”
Still, the questions kept coming: Is it true you cannot file for commutation if you have a pending appeal? (Answer: Nope.) How can the lifers seek to reconcile with victims’ families? (There’s a statewide apology bank.) What if you have a standing deportation order and you want to return to your home country? (That works for Fetterman.) Is there a realistic chance that bills proposing parole for lifers could pass in Harrisburg? (“Don’t count on the legislature to iron that out any time soon,” Fetterman said.)
For all other questions, the advice was the same: Go ahead and apply. In answer to a man who had applied only once since being incarcerated in 1970, Fetterman shook his head and said it again. “Once in 50 years? Sir, I’m begging you. Put in an application.”
GEO Group Running Out of Banks as 100% of Known Banking Partners Say ‘No’ to the Private Prison Sector
This is wonderful news. See so many articles on my website, under “prison abuse”, explaining why private prisons are awful and a WASTE of YOUR money. PRAY that private prisons become extinct soon!
Excerpts from the Article:
All of the publicly known existing banking partners providing lines of credit and term loans to private prison leader GEO Group have now officially committed to ending ties with the private prison and immigrant detention industry. These banks are JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, BNP Paribas, SunTrust, and Barclays. Fifth Third Bank and PNC have additionally made commitments to stop providing financing to the private prison industry as a whole.
This exodus comes in the wake of demands by grassroots activists — many under the banner of the #FamiliesBelongTogether coalition — shareholders, policymakers, and investors. Major banks supporting the private prisons behind mass incarceration and immigrant detention have now committed to not renew an estimated $2.4B in credit lines and term loans to industry giants GEO Group and CoreCivic once their current facilities expire.
This shift represents an estimated shortfall of 87.4% of all credit and term loans to the industry, which depends on these instruments to finance their day to day operations. Together, these banks commitments — alongside a federal judge’s block on the Trump administration’s plans to expand family detention this weekend, new policy initiatives such as California ending all contracts with private prisons, and Democratic primary candidates publicly raising the idea of a federal ban on for-profit incarceration — lead many to speculate a threat to the survival of the private prison industry all together.
Five banks have not yet made the commitment to stop extending their credit lines and term loans to CoreCivic: Regions (headquartered in Birmingham, AL), Citizens (Providence, Rhode Island), Pinnacle Bank (Nashville, TN), First Tennessee Bank (Memphis, TN), and Synovus Bank (Columbus, GA). In response to an inquiry, Pinnacle President and CEO Terry Turner said “while we don’t discuss details of client relationships, we base commercial credit decisions on several factors.
Even with these remaining partners still at the table, international credit rating agency Fitch downgraded CoreCivic from stable to negative, and stock prices for both companies now near historic lows. The one year returns to investors for both GEO Group and CoreCivic are down nearly 30%, which classifies them as significantly underperforming when compared to other entities in their investment class of US Real Estate Investment Trusts (a designation that initially allowed private prisons to reap major tax benefits).
As a brief historical recap: the American private prison industry is a relatively new phenomenon, with the first private prison opening in 1984. Given their business model depends on keeping a consistent and increasing number of people incarcerated, it’s been speculated and critiqued that this is why GEO Group and CoreCivic have spent $25M on lobbying over the past three decades. Disclosures show they’ve lobbied on a number of bills related to funding for ICE enforcement over the years. Both GEO Group and CoreCivic say that they don’t lobby on legislation or policies that would affect the basis for or length of incarceration or detention, but according to the Justice Policy Institute, both companies have served on task forces of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has written and promoted model legislation focused on mandatory minimums sentences, three strikes laws, and “truth in sentencing” legislation.
Banks are only one piece of the wider financial lives of private prison companies, which include share ownership, bond underwriting, the purchase of bonds, and others. Still, in the wake of reputational risk and falling share prices, it is questionable at best if new partners will take the leap to join GEO Group and CoreCivic in business and fill their potential financing gaps. In addition to the #FamiliesBelongTogether coalition representing over 10 million people nationwide, asset owners and managers of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and the Confluence Philanthropy network, representing over $2B in AUM, added their voices to a public letter demanding that banks stop financing the private prison industry. Among others, these signatories include the Akonadi Foundation, Edward W. Hazen Foundation, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, Libra Foundation, Zevin Asset Management, and Veris Wealth Partners. Investors are increasingly asking about, and when possible avoiding, other exposures they have to the industry beyond banks.