Illinois Prison Removes More Than 200 Books From Prison Library
Illinois Newsroom by Lee V. Gaines
May 29, 2019
When she found out that staff at the Danville Correctional Center had removed more than 200 books from a library inside the prison’s education wing, Rebecca Ginsburg said she felt a pit in her stomach.
“I felt sick,” she said. Ginsburg directs the Education Justice Project, a college in prison program that offers University of Illinois classes to men incarcerated at the Danville prison in east-central Illinois. In late January, prison staff removed dozens of titles from two rooms that serve as the program’s library.
Those titles include books like “Visiting Day,” a children’s book about visiting a parent in prison by author, Jacqueline Woodson. Also included among the removed books are two titles written by African-American scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., a book by philosopher Cornel West, “Up From Slavery” by Booker T. Washington, and “Mapping Your Future: A Guide to Successful Reentry 2017-2018” written by the college in prison program’s reentry team.
TOXIC TREATMENT: THE ABUSE OF TEAR GAS WEAPONS IN CALIFORNIA JUVENILE DETENTION
ACLU Southern California
May 22, 2019
Pepper spray, formally known as aerosolized oleoresin capsicum or "OC spray," is so toxic and dangerous that it is classified and regulated under state law as a form of tear gas. It can cause not only intense pain, but also blistering of the skin, respiratory arrest, and even an increased risk of strokes and heart attacks; its psychological and emotional impacts are uncertain.
And yet, it is alarmingly overused in California's juvenile detention facilities against youth as young as 12 and those in psychiatric crises.
This ACLU Foundations of California report, the result of reviewing 10,465 documents, is the first to detail the use of these toxic chemical agents in state and county juvenile detention facilities. It finds that state and county officials used toxic chemical agents more than 5,000 times between January 2015 and March 2018 against children and youth in juvenile facilities in 25 counties and in state facilities overseen by the Division of Juvenile Justice.
When Abuse Victims Commit Crimes
The Atlantic by Victoria Law
May 21, 2019
On a morning this past March, two dozen women gathered on a Harlem sidewalk. Many had been released from prison over the past decade. They were boarding a charter bus to Albany, where they hoped to persuade state senators to vote for a new bill that could keep women like them—victims of domestic violence—from getting sent to prison. The bill in question, the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, which was signed into law this past week, gives judges more options when sentencing individuals who have been convicted of violence against abusive partners or other crimes that such partners had coerced them into committing. Instead of being required to hand out predetermined sentences for particular crimes, judges could instead mete out shorter prison terms or avoid incarceration altogether.
Several of the women on the bus that day spent years in prison for acts involving abusive partners. One told me that she spent more than 17 years behind bars for fatally shooting her boyfriend in the neck while he was choking her. Another told me that when her partner wrapped his hands around her neck and began choking her, she grabbed for the nearest object—a knife—and thrust it. The man died, and she was charged with murder and sentenced to 19 years to life. (The names of these women are being withheld for their privacy. They requested that The Atlantic refrain from contacting their former partners or their families, for fear of retaliation. Their crimes are corroborated by police records.)
Behind Bars for 66 Years
The Marshall Project by Joseph Neff
May 23, 2019
ASHEBORO, N.C. — John Phillips has been behind bars since April 8, 1952, when he was arrested on sexual-assault charges. He was 18 years old and only in the ninth grade, and he was sent to be evaluated at the state mental hospital for black people. The report classified Phillips as a “moron” and said he had the mind of a child aged 7 years and 7 months. His lawyer entered a guilty plea. The judge sentenced him to life.
After 66 years in prison, Phillips is the state’s longest-serving inmate, a stooped and garrulous 85-year-old man whom inmates nicknamed Peanut and who gets around with the help of a worn wooden cane. Decades ago he lost his desire to live outside of razor-wire fences.
Solitary confinement worsens mental illness. A Texas prison program meant to help can feel just as isolating.
The Texas Tribune BY JOLIE MCCULLOUGH
APRIL 23, 2019
Prisoners who volunteered for a mental health diversion program say promises of therapy and time out of their cells weren't fulfilled. And Texas prison officials aren't regularly tracking success rates — even as they ask lawmakers to fund an expansion of the program.
Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2019
Prison Policy Initiative By Wendy Sawyer and Peter Wagner
March 19, 2019
Can it really be true that most people in jail are being held before trial? And how much of mass incarceration is a result of the war on drugs? These questions are harder to answer than you might think, because our country’s systems of confinement are so fragmented. The various government agencies involved in the justice system collect a lot of critical data, but it is not designed to help policymakers or the public understand what’s going on. As public support for criminal justice reform continues to build, however, it’s more important than ever that we get the facts straight and understand the big picture.
This report offers some much needed clarity by piecing together this country’s disparate systems of confinement. The American criminal justice system holds almost 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 109 federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails, and 80 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories. This report provides a detailed look at where and why people are locked up in the U.S., and dispels some modern myths to focus attention on the real drivers of mass incarceration.
The Real Difference Between Jail and Prison
Reader's Digest by Lauren Cahn
We tend to use the terms "jail" and "prison" interchangeably. And while both are legally sanctioned confinement facilities, they're not the same thing.
Both “jail” and “prison” refer to secure facilities that are legally permitted to deprive people within the criminal justice system of certain constitutional rights (such as the right to go where they want when they want). But under the law, they’re not the same thing. So what is the difference between jail vs. prison?
Jails are confinement facilities for people awaiting trial or sentencing. They’re usually run by local law enforcement and maintain only one level of security.
Prisons are confinement facilities for those who’ve already been convicted of crimes. Usually, prisons are run by the state or federal government (or a private company under contract with the government). Prison facilities are segregated by, and their physical design reflects, their security level (minimum, medium, or maximum); prisoners are assigned to a security level based on the crimes for which they’re convicted as well as other factors. And it’s not always effective—consider these
COOK COUNTY CHIEF JUDGE RELEASES NEW REPORT ON BOND REFORM SHOWING OVERWHELMING SUCCESS
Coalition to End Money Bond
Late last week, Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans released a new report about bond reform and its impact in Cook County. Notably, the court also released case-level data for the first time, which will allow independent analysis by people outside the court system. The central conclusion from the new report is simple: fewer people are being incarcerated in Cook County Jail and increased pretrial releases “did not increase the threat to public safety in Cook County.”
What this truly means is that releasing more people pretrial in recent years has, in fact, increased public safety. In addition to the fact that reforms have not been shown to increase already low re-arrest rates, jailing fewer people will ultimately reduce crime because pretrial incarceration increases recidivism. The changes have also meant that, on any given day in Cook County, thousands of people who are members of the public are spared the inherent harms—physical, economic, emotional, legal—that necessarily occur in jail.
The report analyzes data about tens of thousands of bond decisions made in Cook County in 2016 and 2018, both before and after the implementation of General Order 18.8A, the local court rule requiring judges to set money bonds only in amounts people can afford to pay. According to the report, the Order has had clear positive effects: money bonds have been used less frequently overall, the median money bond amount has dropped significantly (from $5,000 to $1,000), and the average daily number of people in Cook County Jail has declined from 10,064 in January 2014 to 5,799 in December 2018. Despite the Order’s stated goal of ensuring “no [one] is held in custody prior to trial solely because [they] cannot afford to post bail,” however, approximately 2,000 people were locked up in Cook County Jail for just that reason on the day of the report’s release.
County Board limits landlords’ inquiries into tenants’ criminal histories
Chicago Sun-Times by Rachel Hinton
The Cook County Board on Thursday passed limits on the practice of asking potential tenants about their criminal histories, despite pleas to hold off until landlords and property owners had a chance to air their concerns.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle hailed the measure as balancing “the need for inclusion with the need for safety,” but one landlord shared war stories about renting to ex-offenders who stole from her other tenants and nearly set up “a meth lab in my house.”
Dubbed the “Just Housing” ordinance, the measure is actually an amendment to the county’s housing ordinance. It is designed to end housing discrimination against people trying to turn their lives around. The amendment adds language that prohibits potential landlords or property owners from asking about, considering or requiring the disclosure of “covered criminal history,” meaning arrest records, charges, juvenile records and conviction histories will be off limits to landlords.
New York City’s Bail Success Story
The Marshall Project By ELI HAGER
March 14, 2019
Judges have drastically cut back on bail and jail in criminal cases, a new study shows. And defendants are still showing up in court.
Like many states, New York has a bail law that is half a century old. The legal rules that in 2010 made it possible for 16-year-old Kalief Browder to be jailed on Rikers Island for three years for allegedly stealing a backpack—just because his family couldn’t pay $3,000 in bail to get him out—all remain on the books.
Criminal justice reformers around the country are admonishing the Empire State to change its system, arguing that having to pay money to get out of jail unfairly targets the poor. And a newly elected Democratic majority in Albany is eager to heed those calls, as lawmakers this month pore over the final details of a bill that would make New York the third state to virtually abolish money bail.
What this is about
Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive