CHILDREN DETAINED IN AMERICA’S PRISONS ARE CHARGED FOR UNDERWEAR, FOOD, BOOKS, EVEN FAMILY VISITS. THIS HAS TO STOP | OPINION
God Bless Ms. JONNA MASTROPASQUA!
We need more like her in this world, and inside our prisons.
Excerpts from the Article:
I teach minors who are incarcerated in the adult jail in Pima County, Arizona. A few weeks ago, a 17-year-old-girl arrived. As introduced myself, I noticed that she did not seem comfortable in her fluorescent green smock and pants. Though they were probably two sizes too big for her, she seemed to be holding them close to her small frame. She’s not the first female student we’ve had, so I knew I had to ask an uncomfortable question: “Do you have underwear?” I spoke low, trying not to let my voice carry to the rest of the unit; its current occupants: 37 teenage boys.
“No,” she whispered, “I don’t have a bra, either.” The police took it when she was arrested because it had an underwire. It and her underwear went into storage with the rest of her property. This county jail does not issue bras or underwear for free, not even to minors.
Assuming someone would put money on her account, she’d be able to order both—underwear cost $3.25 a pair and a bra costs $13.50. Once the money was credited to her account, it would take three to five days to order them and another four to get them. Luckily for her, I found a sports bra and some too-big underwear in a pile of items I had in my office, but this no solution for the minors who have to pay for items like bras, socks and even for video visits with their friends or families. A single 25 minute visit costs $7.50 or $16.50 for 55 minutes.
States like California passed a ban for-profit, private prison and detention centers to reduce the amount of money private companies make from housing prisoners. Yet, child (and adult) inmates across the country are, along with their families, bearing more and more of the costs of incarceration—even when it comes to bare necessities like toilet paper or feminine hygiene supplies.
The U.S. charges 250,000 U.S. youth a year as adults. Their cases are processed in adult court and they often await adjudication in an adult jail. Juvenile offenders charged as adults in Pima County are held in a separate housing unit from the adults, but they are still held in adult jail and treated like adults in almost all respects. Which cases are transferred out of the juvenile system for which charges varies by jurisdiction. Often it’s based on a determination made by a prosecutor coupled with the type of charge (typically higher classes of felonies, though not always.)
I’m a high school teacher, certified to teach anywhere in Arizona, but I teach minors in an adult jail. Some of my students are as young as 14. Some are held on bonds as low as $500 and most are here for crimes that will result in probation rather than prison. Some have been granted release by a judge or a probation officer, but can’t leave because they don’t have an approved place to go.
These kids bear the financial and psychological costs of jail. Not yet convicted, though likely already traumatized, they face all of the punitive aspects of incarceration, with little access to rehabilitative programs or to even relatively basic amenities at a reasonable cost.
For the families of kids in jail the monetary costs add up fast. The psychological ones may last a lifetime. Imagine what happens to a kid—maybe your kid—for whom the cost of communication with family or other support is prohibitively expensive?
My students and their families pay for commissary—food and hygiene items above and beyond the extremely limited allotments the jail provides. They get hot trays for lunch, instead of the single sandwich, milk and fruit the adults usually get. But being teenagers, they are still hungry all the time.
Commissary items are paid for with money added to an inmate’s account, but it typically costs $4 per transaction to do it. If a family member puts $40 on an inmate’s books, the inmate gets to spend $36. Commissary also includes things like sweatshirts ($12.99) or socks ($2.75/pair) or boxers ($4.25/pair)—for the times when it is cold in the housing unit (and it often is.)
Commissary companies alone bring in an estimated annual profit of $1.6 billion per year.
The list of things that are considered optional, including clothes thick enough to stay warm, is long. The prices inflated. A litany that includes a single “soup” ($1.25 for a ramen packet I can pick up at Walmart for $0.22), phone time (a pre-paid account at about $0.20/minute, if you don’t include the fees paid to load money on the account). In some places, inmates pay as much as $0.05 a minute to read eBooks that they don’t own once they’re done! The company that provides inmate tablets—and reaps the profits from their use—is GTL. A nationwide telecom service.
Occasionally, we’ll have a student or two who has people on the outside who will put a lot of money on their books so they can buy what they need. Mostly, though, these kids get sporadic support, and it usually comes in small amounts. These kids, on the whole, don’t come from affluent backgrounds and they are used to going without—it has been the story of their entire lives.
Our school is inside one of the best publicly run facilities in the country. It’s clean, staffed by the finest law enforcement officers in all the land and run by a sheriff supportive of our program and our kids. We have the backing of an outstanding county School Superintendent—he even comes to play basketball with them once a month. Our jail and our school are, outside of pre-trial release or dropped charges, the best case scenario for a minor charged as an adult.
My county, like many around the country, is cash strapped. Voters, politicians and taxpayers are reluctant to pay the astronomical costs of incarceration—according to a recent report totaling upward of $182 billion a year in the U.S. Faced with lean budgets, counties turn to private enterprise to subsidize these costs. Private enterprise is happy to help—eager to provide inmates with items counties can’t (or choose not to) afford. It sounds like a win-win.
The problem is this: private companies provide things inmates need at an often steep mark-up and already struggling families are left to foot the bill. Kids in my class who don’t have families to pay up? They are left, literally, out in the cold.
As the Trump administration sues to prevent California from enacting a bill that ends the use of private prisons and detention centers in the state, let us consider the idea that California is taking an important first step toward the crucial goal of ending private prisons, but private prisons are not the only problem.
In Arizona and many other states, the next step would be to reconsider the profit margins allowed private companies who provide goods and services to inmates in public facilities as well as the gaping holes in funding these counties are trying to fill while still providing clean, safe and secure detention of inmates.
As we consider much needed reforms to the criminal justice system along with ways to move from a punitive system toward a rehabilitative one, we must reevaluate the relationship between cash strapped states and the fiscal realities of mass incarceration. We must also consider the toll incarceration and disconnection from family and community has on recidivism and on already disadvantaged families and kids.
Prosecute them for any crimes committed. Check some of the many articles on this website to learn how badly America’s prisons are out of control!
I remind you that because guards have so much control over inmates [can you say “total control”?!], sex between an inmate and a guard is never “consensual”!
Excerpts from the Article:
An internal investigation into what officials are calling “improper activities with inmates” resulted in the recent termination of six correctional officers at the Howard County jail.
It’s still unclear at this time whether Sgt. Jordan Carpenter, Cpl. Mychael Salinas, Sgt. Noah Pyke, Officer Jonathan Snow, Officer Trevon Johnson and Officer Tyler Swygert will face any criminal charges for their roles in those activities, but a Howard County Sheriff’s Office media release did say that two incidents have been handed over to the Howard County Prosecutor’s Office for review.
Of the six terminations, the release stated that two of them occurred on the same day the allegations were reported, while three of them occurred within three days of being reported.
The incidents in question all violated department policy and the Prison Rape Elimination Act – or PREA – jail officials noted.
According to Sheriff Jerry Asher, all staff members – including the six who were recently terminated — receive extensive training on Zero Tolerance PREA policy, including rules on trafficking or having relations with inmates, staff and inmate communication, ethics and professionalism and the consequences of violating any of those policies.
All staff are then required to sign a form saying they have taken the training and will obey its rules. On Dec. 1, 2019, the HCSO’s Criminal Investigations Section spoke with two female inmates, who told officials that Carpenter had made inappropriate comments to them while they were housed together, jail documents indicate.
Records state that Carpenter admitted to jail officials that he made those comments, and he was promptly terminated after that incident. Then last month, jail officials were also made aware of allegations from a female inmate into a sexual battery that occurred in two separate incidents involving Pyke and Salinas.
Pyke and Salinas were both immediately put on administrative leave due to those allegations and denied that any physical sexual contact with the inmate. However, jail officials did find that the two still disobeyed direct orders.
In Pyke’s case, he was fired for lying and being uncooperative in the investigation, while Salinas was discovered to have made inappropriate sexual comments to the inmate, actions that jail documents noted were “unbecoming of an officer.”
Johnson and Snow were fired that same week after detectives learned that Johnson had disclosed confidential information to Pyke in reference to the incident involving the female inmate, while Snow had contact with a known felon.
The final incident happened on Feb. 26, when jail officials were notified that Swygert had an inappropriate relationship with a convicted felon, a direct violation of department policy.
It’s unclear what, if any, criminal charges these officers might potentially face, and Asher did take a few moments in his media release to address those issues.
“I have a zero-tolerance policy for violations of this nature,” he said. “The actions of a few employees are not representative of the many men and women who work tirelessly and dedicate themselves to honoring the public’s trust as members of the Howard County Sheriff’s Office.”
No Escape From Virus Threat for 2 Million Crammed in Prisons – A prison pandemic? Steps to avoid the worst.
Many prisons have stopped visits, as they should. But I tell you this: if it hits our prisons, thousands are doomed, for the “health care” is virtually non-existent. These measures could help a lot!
Excerpts from the Article:
To date, over 125,000 cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported worldwide — with more than 4,000 fatalities. Over 1,400 cases have been reported in the US alone, a number that will surely grow in the coming weeks. Miraculously, though, our country’s prisons and jails, many of them unsanitary environments, have yet to experience an outbreak.
But that will likely change, and soon. “We know that at some point we’re going to have a case,” said Patty Hayes, director of public health for Seattle and King County, Washington, this week, referring to a potential coronavirus case in local jails. It isn’t a matter of if, but when. And when the inevitable takes place, it could have a deadly impact.
Of the 2.3 million incarcerated people in the US, roughly 165,000 are over the age of 55. And compared to the general population, people in jail and prison are more likely to have preexisting health conditions such as high blood pressure, asthma, cancer, arthritis and infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, hepatitis C and HIV. We’re still learning about the coronavirus, but what we do know so far is that these two populations are most at risk of falling ill or dying from it.
If ever there was a time for our elected leaders to stand up for people behind bars, it’s now.
Failing to act could expose tens of thousands of people in prisons and jails across the country to the virus. Given the crowded nature of our correctional institutions, an outbreak is likely and the probability of correctional staff and visitors picking up the virus and carrying it back into their communities could be high.
Public officials must address this threat seriously. Here are five reasonable actions they can take:
1. Identify people who are scheduled to be released from prison or jail in the next six months and release them into home confinement, barring a specific reason against doing so. This is not a suggestion to carelessly unleash a flood of danger into the streets. Rather, we’re talking about individuals who aren’t considered to be public safety threats by state correctional departments and parole boards.
2. Parole prisoners over the age of 65, with priority given to those who have underlying health conditions that make them particularly susceptible to the virus. Those considered for parole should be deemed unlikely to reoffend, but most will meet this standard anyway. The US Sentencing Commission found that people in prison 65 or older recidivate at a rate of 13%, which is far lower than the national average of 68%.
3. Suspend copays for medical visits made by incarcerated persons. It would be cruel and unusual punishment to deny poor people who can get paid as little as $0.16 per hour for their labor — like those making hand sanitizer for the state of New York — access to potentially lifesaving health care in the middle of a national health emergency.
4. Make hand sanitizer and other personal hygiene products available to incarcerated persons free of charge. And people behind bars shouldn’t be penalized for using products like Purell that may contain alcohol.
5. Implement smart social distancing policies to protect the 4.5 million Americans under some form of community supervision. The requirement that people with a low risk of reoffending report to their probation or parole officer in person should be suspended.
People who’ve successfully completed at least three years of supervision should be transferred to administrative supervision or have their supervision terminated altogether. And technical violations committed during supervision should be discarded to limit the unnecessary human contact of people being cycled back into jail and prison over noncriminal activity.
Even without the looming threat of a global pandemic, these are all smart on crime solutions that would improve the safety of our communities and restore dignity to people in the criminal justice system. But in the face of a nationwide coronavirus outbreak, they’re particularly critical steps that policymakers should take. None of these common-sense measures would do anything to put society in harm’s way. But they could spare thousands of hospitalizations, relieve pressure on our nation’s strained medical resources and, most importantly, save lives.
People in prison or jail may have made bad decisions to wind up behind bars, but they’re still human beings worthy of God’s grace. As our country braces itself for the coronavirus, let’s make sure that those in the justice system are protected, too.
Read more at: https://www.bloombergquint.com/global-economics/no-escape-from-virus-threat-for-2-million-crammed-in-prisons
Copyright © BloombergQuint
We think carefully about spending our money … except when paying taxes! YOU, whatever state you live in, should raise hell about prison abuse because scores of preventable lawsuits like this one are wasting thousands of YOUR tax dollars!
Excerpts from the Article:
The family of a Louisiana prison inmate who died in custody a year ago filed a federal lawsuit Monday alleging he was severely beaten while handcuffed and then denied medical attention before his death.
Anthony Carl Smith, 55, was found unresponsive in his cell at the B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center in the town of Angie last March 10 — a year ago Tuesday.
The lawsuit says Smith had sought medical attention before he became involved in a “use of force” incident involving several corrections officers. The Washington Parish coroner ruled Smith’s death an accident.
In the lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, Anthony Smith’s father, Richard Smith, sued the State of Louisiana, Rayburn Warden Robert Tanner and multiple current and former employees, blaming them for his son’s wrongful death, among other claims.
The allegations in the complaint are based primarily on medical records, termination letters for several staff members involved in the incident and media reports, according to the Smith family attorney.
Smith was serving a 30-year-sentence for forcible rape and second-degree kidnapping at the time of his death. He had been sentenced in 2013.
According to the lawsuit, Smith was diagnosed with major mental health disorders, including major depression with psychotic features. To address his mental illness, Smith was taking medication regularly — medication he had not received the morning of his death when he had sought his prescription in a treatment wing of the prison.
The lawsuit says Smith’s request to check on his prescription led to several corrections officers “maliciously and sadistically beating” him while he was handcuffed in the treatment room.
The family’s lawyers said in their lawsuit that beatings are common at Rayburn. They said that not only had Smith been beaten while restrained in the past, but other prisoners had suffered the same fate, revealing a pattern of violence ignored by prison administration.
Apart from a purported trend of violence at the prison, Smith’s mental health diagnosis influenced how he was treated behind bars, the lawsuit alleges.
“Prisoners suffering from psychiatric illness are at risk in the prison setting precisely because of their mental illness,” the lawsuit says. “They have difficulty following rules, and, because they are mentally ill, they often interact with prison staff in a manner that is perceived as bothersome and annoying.”
After the beating, Smith “vomited repeatedly and became unconscious and nonresponsive.” The corrections officers and nurse on scene did not provide Smith medical care following the beating, the lawsuit alleges.
Instead, the corrections captain ordered that a spit mask be placed on Smith’s face to prevent him from spitting at officers, but the device had the effect of “forcing him to slowly suffocate on his own vomit.” Smith was later transported through the prison in a wheelchair, left in his cell and eventually pronounced dead hours later.
The lawsuit claims several officers concealed evidence of their involvement in the beating by deleting a mandated post-use-of-force photograph showing vomit on Smith’s face; the nurse responding to Smith’s care also falsified a record of his health condition following the beating, the lawsuit says. Furthermore, the corrections officers involved “continued to discuss Mr. Smith’s beating and death in the days and weeks that followed in order to cover up their unconstitutional conduct,” the lawsuit says.
Since Smith’s death, the warden has fired five Rayburn corrections officers and a Washington Parish grand jury has indicted three on obstruction and malfeasance charges.
In addition to wrongful death, the complaint cites excessive force, failure to intervene, denial of medical care and conspiracy. The lawsuit also claims the state deprived Smith of a safe environment and discriminated against him as a disabled person.
Sarah Grady, an attorney with the Chicago-based law firm Loevy & Loevy, released a statement on behalf of the Smith family Monday evening.
“Anthony was a beloved son, brother, and uncle,” Grady said. “We mourn his loss every day. We hope that this lawsuit can obtain some justice for Anthony and others like him who have been subject to serious abuses at Rayburn by guards who have been allowed to act with impunity.”
William Most, a New Orleans lawyer, is also representing the Smith family in the lawsuit.
Mississippi prisons ‘a ticking time bomb’ of squalor, violence and death. Who’s at fault? Prison Officials and Prosecutors who Fail to PROSECUTE Them! – kra
I can tell you who is at fault: Prison Officials and Prosecutors who Fail to PROSECUTE Them. READ http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/prosecution-imprisonment-will-stop-prison-abuse-demand-avoid-deaths-prison-guards/ = How to avoid the deaths of prison guards and inmates … or do you want to join the countless officials who refuse to acknowledge this huge problem called prison abuse?
This excellent, in depth report recounts the horrific situation. Open The Whole Story to see the graphs and charts and the full report.
Excerpts from the Article:
At a Mississippi prison, guards hand keys over to inmates so they can assault — or kill — other convicts. Inmates can’t sleep at night, fearing that packs of rats could crawl into their bunks. Care is so bad inmates set things on fire to try to get staff members to pay attention to medical emergencies. That’s according to a lawsuit that more than 150 inmates filed against Mississippi Department of Corrections officials, with help from Jay-Z and Yo Gotti in the celebrities-turned-activists’ latest move to pressure Mississippi officials to make change.
Mississippi prisons came under intense scrutiny two months ago after riots left several inmates dead. The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a civil rights investigation. Gov. Tate Reeves has promised to “stop the bleeding.”
Photos and videos leaked from inside prisons during the riots forced the public to face the horrific conditions that inmates endure on a daily basis. Many were left wondering: How did we get here? Who is at fault?
Deadly prison riots and a continuing high rate of deaths have renewed outrage over the state’s long-troubled system. As part of our ongoing coverage, the Clarion Ledger examines how these problems started and what it will take to fix them. Some officials have blamed much of the violence on gangs.
But there’s more at work than violent gang members, according to inmates and experts interviewed by the Clarion Ledger, including a former corrections commissioner, a longtime prison monitor and advocates for reform.
The violence is inflamed, they say, by horrific conditions inside prison walls. Lawsuits filed by inmates describe facilities that are infested with vermin and mold, and are so short-staffed that inmates and guards fear for their lives.
Since Dec. 29, 24 people have died in custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Seven were killed in violent altercations with other inmates, three died of apparent hangings and the rest have been attributed to unknown or natural causes, authorities said.
How did we get here with Mississippi prisons? Three people, Former Gov. Phil Bryant, Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn, bear more responsibility than others for the prison crisis, said Ron Welch, a retired attorney who litigated for inmates’ rights and monitored the prison system for decades. Bryant, Welch said, appointed people who had no experience operating prisons, to lead MDOC. Reeves and Gunn held influential roles in the Mississippi Legislature as lawmakers failed to fully fund the prison system despite dire warnings from corrections commissioners, Welch said. Without adequate funding, buildings have deteriorated and MDOC has struggled to hire guards who work for little pay in dangerous conditions.
Other factors are at play, experts say. Harsh sentencing laws and lack of early release programs swell the prison population, now putting Mississippi second in the nation for incarceration rates.
Secrecy, not transparency, has been the modus operandi of MDOC in recent years. The darkness has allowed problems to fester and sabotaged public trust of the system, critics say.
Some activists say the problems plaguing MDOC can be traced back more than 100 years, to the founding of Parchman Farm, now called the Mississippi State Penitentiary. They say the current challenges in the state’s prison system are an extension of Parchman’s legacy of racism, brutality and abuse and have called for the facility to be shut down.
One Parchman inmate, who asked to remain unnamed due to fear of reprisal, wrote to the Clarion Ledger in the wake of the riots. He described a prison infested with rats and mold. He said the buildings are in such disrepair that water pools on the floor when it rains. Drugs and other contraband flow freely behind bars. His descriptions of the conditions inside Parchman mirror those of other inmates and those described in lawsuits against the prison and in inspection reports. Reeves said at a recent news conference authorities found shanks, contraband cellphones and a bag of marijuana as they moved inmates out of an unsafe unit at Parchman into a nearby privately run prison.
“I believe there is a leadership crisis in the system,” Reeves said. “That starts at the top.”
Reeves suggested responsibility for the current upheaval in the prison system belongs to past MDOC leadership, who he said lawmakers felt they could not trust. Reeves has said when lawmakers have tried in the past to get answers from MDOC about conditions, financials and policies, they were “stonewalled.”
Recently, Reeves said an initial review of MDOC’s books since he’s taken office shows stunning financial waste and general mismanagement in recent years, even as prison officials requested more funding from lawmakers and hundreds of guard positions went unfilled.
“The fears we had in the legislative branch have been confirmed — money that was intended for the front lines, too often, did not reach there,” he said, noting an investigation has begun to understand the full extent of the alleged waste and more details would be released soon.
Initial findings by his staff and others include what appear to be an excessive number of vehicles owned by the department, executive-level positions that appear to have received surprising amounts of compensation time payments in recent years, and other “commodities and expenditures” that may have been inappropriate.
After visiting Parchman in January, Reeves said he was “appalled by things (he’s) learned in the last week” and promised fixes to the system.
The overarching philosophy of Mississippi officials is to pay as little as you can for corrections in the state and that hasn’t changed in 25 years, said Johnson, who was MDOC commissioner from 2000 to 2002. “You can’t operate prisons on a bare budget,” Johnson said. “We just don’t seem to grasp that if you save some money in corrections, you have to put money back into the system.”
“The Legislature has just kicked the can down the road and it’s now coming due,” Johnson said.
More funding, Reeves has said he believes will have little impact “if it is being misspent.”
The proof of “over-incarceration” is in the numbers, Mississippi State Public Defender Andre de Gruy said. While Mississippi ranks near the middle when comparing crime rates across states, the Magnolia state now has the second highest incarceration rate per capita in the nation. Mississippi’s incarceration rate recently surpassed Oklahoma’s, which is working to decrease the number of people in prison, according to FWD.us, while Louisiana continues to lead the country in incarceration.
Of every 100,000 residents in Mississippi, 652 are behind bars, according to FWD.us, a national advocacy group for criminal justice reform.
It hasn’t always been that way. Harsh sentencing laws enacted with a “tough-on-crime” mentality played a big role in growing the prison population. They include mandatory minimum sentencing laws and habitual offender laws, which have resulted in thousands of people serving long sentences for nonviolent crimes if they had been convicted in the past.
Also, in 1995, the Mississippi Legislature passed one of the toughest “truth in sentencing” laws in the nation — a law that required almost all convicted offenders to serve the bulk of their sentences without possibility of early parole. Unlike many other states that joined in a national push for such laws, Mississippi applied them to nonviolent offenders, too.
Several hundred people gather in front of the Mississippi Capitol in Jackson, on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, to protest conditions in prisons where inmates have been killed in violent clashes in recent weeks. Mississippi’s new governor says he and the interim corrections commissioner toured a troubled state prison to see conditions and to try to understand what led to an outburst of deadly violence in recent weeks. (AP
Families of inmates say they’re kept in the dark by prison officials. Dozens of people interviewed by the Clarion Ledger say it’s nearly impossible to get answers from prison or MDOC staff when their loved ones have been injured or killed.
During the recent riots, it was difficult to get more information about what was happening inside prisons, even as inmates took to social media on contraband cell phones to post photos and videos on the ongoing chaos. MDOC referred to the incidents only as “major disturbances” and refused to release information on injuries until weeks later.
The lack of transparency has been “fertile ground for corruption,” Campbell said. Campbell said without oversight and accountability, prisons have become overrun with contraband. Guards turn a blind eye to illegal activity in prisons and play an active part in bringing in contraband, she said.
In the past, Mississippi guards have been convicted of assaulting inmates, arrested for allegedly smuggling in contraband and having sex with inmates. Many of the recent deaths have occurred at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, the state’s oldest prison and one of the most infamous in the country. Some activists have called for Parchman to be shut down permanently. They say the prison cannot be divorced from its legacy of racism, brutality and abuse, that the current problems at Parchman are an extension of problems that have plagued the prison from its inception.
Civil rights lawyers helped Parchman inmates file the Gates v. Collier litigation, charging that prison conditions were unconstitutional, catalyzing reform.
Now, five decades after the inception of Gates v. Collier, Mississippi has again captured national attention for brutality in its prisons. Many of the details described in Gates v. Collier mirror the conditions today: Too few guards to maintain control and keep inmates safe, officers allowing inmates to fight and acquire drugs and other contraband, units filled with broken windows, unusable bathroom facilities and inadequate medical care.
“How would you feel if you were housed in a place where the toilets didn’t work, where the sink didn’t work, when the where the water went out … you had to defecate in a bag because you couldn’t flush the the toilet? Does that indicate anybody cares about you? If nobody cares about you then there’s no hope. What are you going to behave like?” Welch said.
“Put 100 church deacons in that situation, Sunday school teachers, and they’re going to be fighting with each other,” he said.
California Prisons Cannot Hire Psychiatrists! $300,000 a year isn’t enough to persuade psychiatrists to work at California prisons
Mental Health care in prisons is even worse than the general health care, which is atrocious! Now we see that CA cannot hire psychiatrists!
Excerpts from the Article:
A 24 percent pay bump offered three years ago failed to convince enough psychiatrists to go to work in California’s prisons, where inmate suicides reached record highs last year, according to prison and union officials.
Lawmakers and unions agree the record 38 suicides recorded last year reflect fundamental problems in the state’s correctional system, and that a lack of psychiatrists contributes to the problems.
“We’ve got a serious issue,” Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, said during a Monday budget hearing. “Whatever we’re doing is supposed to make life better for folks, not worse. These are folks who walking the street wouldn’t commit suicide, but they go into our place and they do.”
About 40 percent of the state’s psychiatry jobs, including those at prisons and mental institutions, were empty in 2018, the last year for which vacancy rate data was available from CalHR. That’s despite average wages of about $296,000 per year, according to the CalHR survey.
Elizabeth Gransee, a spokeswoman for California Correctional Health Care Services, said the vacancy rate stands at 28 percent today when contract psychiatrists, including some who use telepsychiatry, are counted.
California’s prisons have struggled to provide adequate mental health care for inmates for decades. In 1990, a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of those with serious mental illness. The state has been working under a judge’s orders to make improvements since a 1995 trial.
In 2018, whistleblower Michael Golding, the chief psychiatrist at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation headquarters, alleged prison leaders falsified data to cover up shortcomings in its psychiatric care.
Twenty-seven of the 38 people who killed themselves had serious mental illness and are part of the lawsuit’s class of plaintiffs, Michael Bien, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said during Monday’s hearing. Bien said the “vast majority” of the suicides were foreseeable or preventable, blaming many on lapses in mental health care.
He cited the psychiatrist vacancies, burnout and high turnover as contributing to the lapses. He said the situation is only getting worse as the remaining psychiatrists face added stress.
“The system is in a dangerous spiral careening towards catastrophe,” he said.
CalHR found that the state psychiatrists are better-paid than their private sector peers, but Bussey said the survey doesn’t reflect many of the incentives available in the private sector and at some local government agencies, including loan forgiveness programs and zero-interest home loans.
According to an analysis from the doctors’ union, contract psychiatrists cost the state about $36 million for a seven-month period that ended in January 2019.
Bussey, Bien, and representatives from the California Correctional Peace Officers Association said the state needs to boost pay and find other incentives and changes to boost hiring. Suicides are also increasing among correctional officers. “The environment that we’re putting folks in is really really toxic for everyone,” Weber said at the hearing.
In addition to pay increases, the state needs to improve working conditions, Bussey said. Right now, psychiatrists’ treatment decisions may be overruled by prison workers with far less medical training and they face other frustrations and disruptions in inmate treatment.
The picture for inmates dealing with the coronavirus is bleak indeed. Health care is abominable, and the “screening” of new inmates is awful. Many an addict has entered with obvious withdrawal symptoms, and died days later!
Excerpts from the Article:
As coronavirus continues to spread in the United States, hand sanitizer has become a valued resource — hard to find in the aisles of grocery stores and hoarded in homes. Yet for inmates in Delaware prisons, it is not allowed. That’s because there’s “potential for abuse to isopropyl alcohol content,” said Jason Miller, spokesman for the Delaware Department of Corrections. He said inmates are being “encouraged to practice good hygiene,” which includes frequent hand washing.
As Delaware braces for its seemingly inevitable first confirmed case of COVID-19, state prisons say they have made changes in its screening protocol to identify any possible warning signs of the virus.
There are more than 5,000 incarcerated people in DOC facilities, Miller said.
Delaware’s neighboring states — Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — have confirmed cases of COVID-19, and New Jersey has declared a state of emergency to try to prevent the spread of the virus. The state also confirmed its first death in a Bergen County man.
In countries hit hard by the coronavirus, prisons have struggled to respond. In Italy, there have been more than two dozen protests in the country’s prisons, Al Jazeera reported. Iran temporarily released 70,000 inmates to avoid the spread of the virus.
When people ask how to protect themselves against the spread of COVID-19, one of the first suggestions from doctors is washing your hands. Here are the do’s and don’ts. The Marshall Project reported that the Texas prison system is selling non-alcohol-based sanitizer, which is not what is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In New York, inmates will be making hand sanitizer for other state residents.
The Delaware DOC has started to install hand sanitizer units into the public waiting areas of the prisons, Miller said. Any staff members who develop flu-like symptoms during a shift will be sent home and cannot return until they are fever free for 24 hours.
And nationwide, the picture is bleak:
In China, the coronavirus rocketed through five prisons in three provinces, causing over 500 cases. In Iran, 54,000 inmates were temporarily released as the outbreak in that country spurred concerns the illness would rapidly spread in detention facilities. And this week in Italy, prisoners at 27 facilities rioted in response to quarantine attempts by prison officials desperate to contain the spread of a disease that has infected over 9,000 people there.
As the novel coronavirus has spread across the globe, prisons and jails have consistently been huge problem spots in places where the outbreaks are intense. As with any “congregate setting” ― environments where groups of people are gathered in close proximity to one another, like college dorms and nursing homes ― infectious diseases thrive in correctional facilities. But the difference in jails and prisons is that residents can neither fully self-quarantine nor leave and be fully quarantined elsewhere.
The U.S. has seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases in recent days, with public health officials deeply concerned about a nationwide spread. The U.S. also has a lot of prisoners ― per capita, more than any other country in the world. The 2.3 million incarcerated people in the U.S. are scattered across 1,719 state prisons, 109 federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails and 80 Indian Country jails ― on top of military prisons, immigration detention facilities, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in U.S. territories, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. And up to half of them qualify as over-crowded.
The warning lights are already starting to flash. The chief judge for the federal Southern District of New York last week required any inmate coming from the Metropolitan Correctional Center to have a temperature check before being transported to court. Some federal courts in Washington state have postponed jury and grand jury trials.
And it’s not just the incarcerated who are at risk. Guards, doctors and other prison staff return to their communities after their shifts. Inmates, particularly at jails, rotate in and out of the community. The bottom line: Jails and prisons could become hotbeds for infection if public health officials and correctional facility administrators don’t act quickly to put measures in place to diminish that prospect.
Plus, Rachel feared transmitting the virus to inmates in a detention center notorious for its abysmal conditions and operational issues.
In fact, hand sanitizer is not allowed inside most jail and prison facilities because it contains alcohol ― even if it’s prisoners themselves making it for just 65 cents an hour.
“Everyone walks to the cafeteria together, walks back through the same hallway, touches the same doorknobs, uses the same showers,” Rich said. “It was pretty clear, as this thing started evolving, that there is person-to-person transmission. It’s also pretty clear that it can spread easily.”
Many of those incarcerated are older and/or unhealthy, making them more vulnerable to COVID-19 if they become infected. The majority of incarcerated people in the U.S. are between the ages of 31-59, but the number of inmates over the age of 55 increased by a whopping 400% between 1993-2013.
It can be difficult for correctional facilities to divide inmates for health reasons ― such as quarantines or separating out more vulnerable populations ― rather than the typical system of dividing them based on security classifications, as Dr. Homer Venters, president of Community Oriented Correctional Health Services, explained in The Hill last week. This was “extremely challenging” during the outbreak of H1N1, commonly known as swine flu, he wrote. Swine flu affected prisoners all over the country, including more than 700 prisoners in California alone.
At MDC Brooklyn, inmates and their attorneys have been kept in the dark about plans to combat the coronavirus spread. Rachel said she’s been updating her husband as the situation unfolds, telling him to wash his hands constantly, especially before and after computer use. On Monday morning, Rachel said, her husband was handed a can of disinfectant powder without any explanation.
“They haven’t done anything,” she said. “It’s me telling my husband what to do.” Rachel said she believes MDC is cleaner than the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, located just five miles north of the Brooklyn facility. Her husband, who was transferred out of MCC about a month ago, said the building is crawling with rodents and pests.
Detention centers like MDC and MCC, which largely house alleged criminals awaiting trials, are at greater risk during a potential pandemic like coronavirus given the amount of traffic and frequency of people going in and out of the facility, Patton said.
“On top of that, you have all sorts of people who are medically compromised,” he said. “There are a number of people with hepatitis, people with a broad spectrum of medical issues that are not dealt with well even in the best of times. And you have older inmates, you have people who are in high-risk categories and who are kept in thoroughly unsanitary conditions.”
Rachel worries a coronavirus outbreak in these facilities could result in federal officials restricting visits by family members and legal counsel for inmates. “The entire population of federal inmates in New York City needs to be treated with respect when it comes to this virus,” she said.
The most surefire way to avoid a COVID-19 breakout in a correctional facility is to temporarily release incarcerated people like occurred in Iran, Rich said.
“If we had some rational discussion on the issue, we would conclude what they concluded in Iran ― which is that there are a lot of people behind bars that don’t need to be,” he said. But that’s not something likely to happen in the U.S., and advocates say measures should be taken in correctional facilities that could halt the spread of infectious disease.
Steps called for by the Federal Defenders of New York include comprehensive testing protocols, greater precautionary measures such as “frequent cleaning and ready availability of soap and tissues,” and ensuring that anyone who tests positive for the virus be quarantined not at prisons but at hospitals. The group also urges that arrestees be detained only under “extraordinary circumstances” to avoid any new cases from entering prisons or jails.
In a statement to HuffPost, the Bureau of Prisons denied a shortage of cleaning products, including hand soap, for inmates and staff at MDC and MCC. The bureau said it encourages inmates to wash their hands frequently and plans to discuss the concerns raised by the Federal Defenders of New York.
A key condition to help prevent or limit a coronavirus breakout in prisons is ensuring mutual respect between incarcerated people and those providing preventative care. “Correctional settings around the nation are often run with tolerance for abuse and neglect of incarcerated people,” Venters wrote in his op-ed. “The only path to effective management of COVID-19 in these settings is meaningful partnership that starts now, when plans are being designed, not two months from now when cases are being detected.”
I printed the original lengthy article, and now we see the situation is worse! The financial exploitation of the poorest among America’s poor, inmates, – most of whom are colored – is never-ending! Commissary fees are outrageous, Some prisons charge for visits, even banning live visits so they can bill for video visits, …and the list goes on!
Excerpts from the Article:
A lengthy article concerning e-tablets in state prisons was published in the April 2018 issue of PLN (p.44). One of the warnings set out in that article concerned the high fees accompanying apps for those devices. JPay stands out as a major provider of e-tablets, a variant of Apple’s iPad, bestowing those devices free to entire prison populations in New York state. Global Tel Link (GTL) started doing the same in West Virginia last Novmber.
However, there is no such thing as a free lunch, as the old saying goes and it appears based on subsequent developments that there is no such thing as a free e-tablet either. JPay charges prisoners for books, educational materials, email, games, music, video visits, and other items. About the only free use a prisoner has for an e-tablet is using it as a flat surface to support the paper they use to write letters on.
The pay scale for New York prisoners ranges from .10¢ to $1.14 per hour. West Virginia prisoners earn between .04¢ and .58¢ per hour for working.
Arkansas and Texas are two of the four states that pay their prisoners nothing for the work they are required by law to perform.
JPay charges New York prisoners $2.50 to download a single song. An entire album costs as much as $46.
Public-domain books like Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility that are free to the general public cost prisoners 99¢.
Games that are free to the public are not free to prisoners. Bubble Blitz costs $6.99, 2048 Mania is $4.99 and Chicken Town is $6.99. The alleged reason given for the charge for Chicken Town is that prisoners’ version has ad content pop-ups. Since prisoners cannot access the Internet, the ad pop-ups had to be removed from the prisoners’ version. That sounds like chicken something all right.
Thanks to activist involvement by The Online, JPay decided to remove fees for public-domain books but steadfastly refuses to refund charges it collected for previous prisoners’ downloads.
Global Tel Link is JPay’s closest competitor for the literal captive prisoner market. GTL is servicing the West Virginia prison system with free e-tablets. GTL’s scheme is to lift books from the public domain, then charge West Virginia prisoners .05¢ per reading minute. After public condemnation over this egregious practice, GTL magnanimously cut its charge to .03¢ per minute. This charge also covers video games and any music a prisoner listens to. Video visits cost 25 cents per minute and .25¢ for a one-page email with an extra .50¢ for an accompanying photo.
These are quite high charges for a “free” e-tablet, whether one is imprisoned in New York or West Virginia. Both states receive commissions from JPay and GTL from what they charge prisoners for apps and books.
This technology also paved the way for many state prisons to shut down in-house general reading libraries and limit, if not completely stop, prisoners from receiving books and reading materials sent by free book projects and retail booksellers. Ohio had enacted such a ban but retreated from it as a result of intense public backlash. Ohio prisoners may once again purchase books from vendors, but all purchases must originate from their prison trust fund accounts where all deposits and withdrawals are run by who else? JPay.
NEW YORK N.Y. prison corrections officers brutally beat inmate hours before he committed suicide – OUTRAGEOUS! – kra
And for every story like this one, several more go unreported! How do I know? I get calls and emails and articles from inmate family members every day! Each victim of out of control “guards” is a mother’s son, a child’s Dad, a sister’s brother …
When will this end? Same answer I wrote recently concerning the horrible prison “health care”: Dylan’s answer: Blowin’ in the Wind. My answer: When they start PROSECUTING those responsible! READ How to avoid the deaths of prison guards and inmates … or do you want to join the countless officials who refuse to acknowledge this huge problem called prison abuse?
Excerpts from the Article:
New York State prison guards brutally pummeled Dante Taylor, an inmate serving a life sentence for the murder of a Suffolk County mom, driving him to suicide, according to a lawsuit.
Two sergeants and two corrections officers at Wende Correctional Facility outside Buffalo beat Dante Taylor with fists and batons, hogtied his arms and legs and then threw him down a flight of stairs on Oct. 6, 2017, according to the lawsuit filed by his mother, Darlene McDay. Photos included in the suit show Taylor’s black-and-blue swollen face after the incident. Less than 12 hours later, Taylor, 22, hanged himself in his cell.
“These officers, they’re public servants. They don’t have the right to inflict punishment on people. They don’t have the right to decide that somebody should be punished or abused or brutalized,” McDay, 43, told the Daily News.
The heartbroken mom said Wende prison staff treated her with callous indifference — even on the day of her son’s death. She said she couldn’t bring herself to look at the disturbing photos of Taylor’s face.
“I’m afraid if I actually see [the photos] that I just won’t be able to keep going,” McDay said. “I’m afraid if I looked at it that I just wouldn’t be able to deal with it.”
The judge should use contempt power to lock some of these Corizon Health officials up to enforce compliance. They routinely ignore court orders! Our friends at the Human Rights Defense Center sued and won, and the defendants must comply!
Excerpts from the Article:
Corizon Health, which until 2016 held a $37.5 million annual contract to treat New Mexico prison inmates, is refusing to comply with court rulings requiring it to release settlements it made with prisoners who sued the company alleging poor care.
“It continues to be Corizon’s position that we are not subject to [the Inspection of Public Records Act], and we plan to pursue additional court action to clarify that position,” a Corizon spokeswoman said in an email earlier this month.
This comes despite two court rulings in New Mexico that say the settlements are public records. The Santa Fe New Mexican, the Albuquerque Journal and the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government sued the company over its refusal to release the settlements in 2016, contending the company and the state Corrections Department couldn’t dodge New Mexico’s public records law through contract provisions.
State District Judge Raymond Ortiz agreed and ordered the company to release the settlements. Corizon appealed his ruling to the state Court of Appeals, and when the appellate court upheld Ortiz’s ruling in October, Corizon asked the state Supreme Court to review it. The Supreme Court declined, but the company is still refusing to produce the records.
“They’re done,” Yohalem said. “They lost. They’ve got to cough up those records.”
Following the Court of Appeals ruling in October, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s spokesman said in an email: “The public records you seek should be obtainable. … [The Department of] Corrections should be able to get that information from the provider and get it to you.”
But the department has repeatedly refused to produce settlements between inmates and the onetime medical care provider, arguing it is not the custodian of the records.
“I am disappointed that the New Mexico Department of Corrections has taken no responsibility for its vendor’s lack of compliance with a court-ordered mandate,” Foundation for Open Government President Susan Boe said in an email. “Throughout the history of this case, the Department has hidden behind the statement, ‘We don’t have possession of the documents.’ Well, why not? The state still is ultimately responsible for its prisoners and should be fully informed of the nature of a prisoner’s medical care or abuse.”
Court records show the state filed a motion in December in support of Corizon’s opposition to the lifting of a stay in another pending case in which the plaintiff seeks the same records. That case, filed by the Human Rights Defense Center in 2016, has been stayed for more than three years awaiting the Court of Appeals ruling in The New Mexican’s case.
But when the Human Rights Defense Center filed a motion in November asking the court to move it forward in light of the appellate court ruling, Corizon argued the case should be kept on hold while awaiting the Supreme Court’s ruling. The state Department of Corrections filed a motion Dec. 18 supporting Corizon’s request.
The issue was moot by that point — the Supreme Court had decided two days earlier not to review the Corizon case — but the state District Court has set a hearing on the motions for April.
The Corrections Department did not respond to questions about why the agency filed the motion.
“The Department of Corrections is obviously in cahoots with them and abetting them on this,” Human Rights Defense Center Director Paul Wright said.