The Atlantic by Frank Tannenbaum
Remember as you read this is almost 100 years old and still too relevant today:
To the uninitiated, prison cruelty seems to be a rare and isolated phenomenon. When on occasion instances of it become known and the community has its sense of decency outraged, there is generally a demand for investigation and removal of the guilty warden and keeper. With that achieved, the average citizen settles back comfortably into the old habits of life, without asking too many questions, and with the general assumption that, after all, it cannot be expected that prisons should be turned into palaces.
To him who goes into the matter more deeply, there is the added comfort, not only that the given warden has been punished for cruelty, but that there are legal and constitutional provisions against its reappearance. Our laws provide against cruel and unusual punishments, and to the average mind, with its faith in the law, this is sufficient assurance against their repetition. These facts, added to the infrequency of the publicity, strengthen the general feeling that prison brutality is a personal matter for which particular individuals are responsible.
This is the general view. But to those who are acquainted with prison organization, brutality is a constant factor—constant as the prison itself; and the publicity which upon occasion makes it known to the public has only an accidental relation to the thing itself. It is some fortunate approach on the part of an inmate to the publicity forces in the community, or some accidental trial, such as brought before the public the current charges against Bedford, which makes it evident that brutality exists in a particular institution. It is obvious, of course, that, had it not been for the trial at which the charges of brutality at Bedford were brought in as a part of the court procedure, brutality might have existed for a long period of time without general public knowledge. I am stressing this point because it helps to carry the important fact that cruelty in prison and publicity out it are not closely related.
Tennessee governor grants clemency to Cyntoia Brown
WREG 3 - Memphis
Eryn Taylor and CNN Wire
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The woman who was sentenced to life in prison at the age of 16 after killing a Nashville man who solicited her for sex has been granted full clemency by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.
“This decision comes after careful consideration of what is a tragic and complex case,” Haslam said. “Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16. Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life. Transformation should be accompanied by hope. So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions.”
Those conditions require Brown not to break any state or federal laws, and be subject to a release plan or other supervision conditions. Those could include work, education, employment, counseling and other requirements.
She will be released to parole supervision in August 2019. She will remain on parole for 10 years.
I'm Honestly Fed Up With all the Bad News So I Illustrated the Best News of 2017
Bored Panda by Mauro Gatti
I'm honestly fed up with all the bad news everywhere. I am not a journalist or an influencer, but I want to use my art to spread some positivity. I wanted to create something positive as an anti-venom to the vitriolic rhetoric that pervades our media. That's why I want to share some of this year's positive news from around the world in the hope that it brings you some happiness and inspires you to spread some good news yourself! Art, technology, food, science, animal rights, human rights... we have progressed in so many categories and it's necessary to let the world know that, despite having much more to do, we've accomplished some amazing things in 2018.
#18 Dutch prison population is the lowest in Europe and its prisons are being turned into homes for refugees.
But read the rest of them for some potentially needed inspiration...
Test your knowledge of American Incarceration
The New York Times by Sahil Chinoy and Ask Ngu
December 21, 2018
The criminal justice reform bill known as the First Step Act, which President Trump signed into law on Friday, has been lauded as a sorely needed instance of bipartisan lawmaking. The law will reduce sentences for federal prisoners while seeking to balance public safety needs.
Here, you can check your knowledge of the American criminal justice system and how the First Step Act fits in.
Read More & take the test
The Love Story that Upended the Texas Prison System
Texas Monthly by Ethan Watters
October 11, 2018
In 1967, a 56-year-old lawyer met a young inmate with a brilliant mind and horrifying stories about life inside. Their complicated alliance—and even more complicated romance—would shed light on a nationwide scandal, disrupt a system of abuse and virtual slavery across the state, and change incarceration in Texas forever.
On November 9, 1967, Fred Cruz was in his sixth year of a fifteen-year robbery sentence and starting yet another stint in the hole. Of the many punishments the Texas prison system doled out to inmates, solitary confinement was one of the most brutal on the body and the soul. It wasn’t Cruz’s first time there, but it wasn’t something one got used to. The Ellis Unit, about fourteen miles north of Huntsville in a boggy lowland area of East Texas, was known as the toughest prison in the system, and there was no worse place to be in Ellis than solitary.
The cell’s darkness was so complete it made the eyes ache. On some occasions, Cruz was given a thin blanket and nothing else—no clothes and no mattress for the steel bunk. His toilet was a hole in the floor. He’d receive only three slices of bread a day with a full meal twice a week, and had shed multiple pounds from his already thin frame. After two weeks, an outer door to the cell would be opened, allowing in light from the hallway. This would be considered a “release” from solitary. Then the warden or an officer would come by and assess the sincerity of Cruz’s contrition. If he failed that yes-sir-no-sir encounter, the solid steel door would be shut again and the days of darkness would recommence.
No Place to Call Home
BPI & Roosevelt University: Policy Research Collaborative : 2018
Click here to find out more about the collaboration
For individuals with criminal records, finding a place to live in Chicago can be extremely challenging.
Through interviews with 81 individuals with criminal records, this study shows how the presence of a
criminal record creates barriers for individuals on the private housing rental market regardless of the
individual’s age or the age of the individual’s record.
Participants were asked to sketch on a map where they think they could find a place to live. This
report juxtaposes their answers with information about where they have experienced rental rejection
in the past. The presence of a criminal record can multiply other forms of disadvantage, deepening
racial, class, and gender divides. By discriminating against individuals with criminal records, landlords
not only undermine individuals’ attempts to build stable lives, but also reproduce and multiply large-
scale social inequities.
Nationally, 95% of state prisoners will be released from prison at some point, while an estimated one
in three Americans has a criminal record.
In Chicago alone, approximately 11,000 individuals return
from Illinois prisons each year, so the challenges experienced by people with criminal records are
Moreover, in Illinois, about 48% of individuals released from prison will return within
three years—a figure that reveals the pressing need for improved reentry opportunities and
Housing, in particular, comprises a crucial component of successful reentry—a key
building block that promotes steady employment, fosters mental and physical health, supports
individuals in their recovery from substance abuse, and provides the other advantages of stable
shelter that are vital to basic human wellbeing.
No Place to Call Home proposes policy solutions to help overcome systemic discrimination against
renters with criminal records and mitigate the ripple effects of that discrimination. Through a
combination of reforms, this report proposes a pathway to expand housing access to those with
criminal records in order to make Chicago and other cities more equitable and hospitable places for
all residents to call home. This study was approved by the Roosevelt University Institutional Review
Board: IRB No. 2018-028.
What this is about
Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive