June 13, 2019
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Releases Report:
Collateral Consequences: The Crossroads of Punishment, Redemption and the Effects on Communities
WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released its report,Collateral Consequences: The Crossroads of Punishment, Redemption and the Effects on Communities. Each year, federal and state prisons release more than 620,000 individuals, and even after completing their sentences, these individuals still face potentially thousands of collateral consequences upon reentering society. Individuals can face barriers to voting, jury service, holding public office, securing employment, obtaining housing, receiving public assistance, getting a driver’s license, qualifying for college admission and financial aid, qualifying for military service, and maintaining legal status as an immigrant. The impact of each consequence extends past people with felony convictions to affect families and communities.
Chair Catherine E. Lhamon said, “These collateral consequences impose heavy burdens on formerly incarcerated persons’ ability successfully to reintegrate into free society and in so doing render all of us less equal and less safe. Congress, and local communities, should heed the call documented in these pages to lift unnecessary restrictions and speed effective reentry for formerly incarcerated people.”
Key findings from the Commission majority include:
· Collateral consequences exacerbate punishment beyond the criminal conviction after an individual completes the court-imposed sentence. Valid public safety bases support some collateral consequences; however, many are unrelated either to the underlying crime for which a person has been convicted or to a public safety purpose.
· Evidence shows harsh collateral consequences unrelated to public safety increase recidivism by limiting or by completely barring formerly incarcerated persons’ access to personal and family support.
· The general public, attorneys, and courts often lack knowledge of what the totality of the collateral consequences are in their jurisdiction, how long they last, and whether they are discretionary or mandatory, or even if they are relevant to public safety or merely an extended punishment beyond a sentence. This absence of awareness undermines any deterrent effect that might flow from attaching such consequences, separate and apart from the punishment itself, to criminal convictions.
Key recommendations from the Commission majority include:
· Collateral consequences should be tailored to serve public safety. Policymakers should avoid punitive mandatory consequences that bear no rational relationship to the offense committed, and impede people convicted of crimes from safely reentering and becoming contributing members of society. Jurisdictions should periodically review the consequences imposed by law or regulation to evaluate whether they are necessary to protect public safety and if they are related to the underlying offenses.
· Call on Congress to limit discretion of public housing providers to prevent them from categorically barring people with criminal convictions from access to public housing; lift restrictions on access to student loans based on criminal convictions, except for convictions related to financial fraud; eliminate restrictions on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits based on criminal convictions; and require federal courts to give comprehensive notice of federal restrictions on individuals’ rights before guilty plea entry, upon conviction, and upon release from incarceration.
Collateral Consequences is based on expert and public input, extensive research and analysis, and testimony, findings, and recommendations from Commission State Advisory Committees in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
Local prison inmates graduate college
Eyewitness News Bakersfield CA by Jessica Shotorbani
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — The California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi held it's first ever college graduation for inmates today. Seventeen inmates walked across the stage in hopes of new beginnings.
The college program has become extremely popular since it started in 2017 with more inmates joining every day.
“It’s the beginning of a new life and it’s probably got to be the biggest accomplishment so far," said graduate Guillermo Hartman.
Hartman has been in and out of prison from the past 32 years and today he said this sentence will be his last.
“I’m finishing up a ten-year term right now and I can actually say that I have hope and a foundation compared to every other time I got released from prison. This program has totally opened my mind and let me know I’m worth being a successful member of society," reflects Hartman.
Judge rules that St. Louis jails can’t hold inmates who can’t pay
St. Louis Post-Dispatch by Robert Patrick
ST. LOUIS — A federal judge on Tuesday barred St. Louis jails from holding inmates simply because they can't pay bail. She granted class action status to inmates who sued.
U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig's ruling gives officials a week to hold new detention hearings for current inmates in the city's two jails and says new arrestees must have a hearing within 48 hours of their arrest. Inmates can still be held, Fleissig wrote, if they are a danger to the community or if there is no other way to ensure they show up for court.
The ruling could affect hundreds of inmates in the city of St. Louis, potentially granting them new hearings, or even releasing them. It comes amid a widespread re-examination of bail practices in Missouri and across the country, and amid local efforts to close the city's workhouse, formally known as the Medium Security Institution.
As inmate suicides spike, troubling questions raised about handling of mentally ill in nation's local jails
As inmate suicides spike, troubling questions raised about handling of mentally ill in nation's local jails
Associated Press and Capital News Service by Sharon Cohen and Nora Eckert
The last time Tanna Jo Fillmore talked with her mother, she was in a Utah jail, angry, pleading and desperate. She'd called every day that past week, begging for help.
I need my medicine, she demanded.
I have to get out of here! she screamed.
Fillmore was in the Duchesne County Jail on a charge of violating probation in a drug case; she had reportedly failed to report a change of address. At 25, she'd struggled with mental illness for years, but Xanax and hyperactivity medication had stabilized her. Now, she told her mother, the jail's nurse was denying her those pills — and she couldn't take it any longer.
New York Could Become First State To Be Completely Done With Private Prisons
Forbes by Morgan Simon
With many corporations having capitalizations that make them larger than countries, it can sometimes feel hard to imagine governments effectively being able to set limits on companies — let alone entire industries. We’ve seen this recently in the case of tech monopolies having federal regulatory agencies completely befuddled, or, on a more local level, the difficulty communities have getting corner stores to sell more fresh food and less cigarettes and liquor.
One interesting exception to this rule is the private prison industry; where the government (given they are the largest client) is uniquely positioned to effectively regulate the sector — or, as many would argue, to eliminate private prisons entirely, given their problematic incentive to encourage the criminalization of vulnerable communities. This includes at our southern border, where the vast majority of immigrant detainees seeking refuge are held in for-profit facilities.
New York State has been leading the way in flexing its muscles with respect to the private prison industry, having taken three concrete actions against private prisons: 1. prohibiting private prisons from operating within the state, 2. divesting state pension funds from the largest private prison companies, GEO Group and CoreCivic, and then just last week, 3. passingBill S5433 in the State Senate, which would prohibit NY State-chartered banks from “investing in and providing financing to private prisons.” Let’s take a look at what these three policies in concert mean, and what may come next as Bill S5433 goes to the Assembly and ultimately the Governor for approval as soon as this week.
Pregnant women with substance use disorders need treatment, not prison
Statnews.com by Marty Jessup
More than 210,000 women spent Mother’s Day 2019 in America’s prisons and jails.
Two-thirds of them are mothers of young children; an unknown number are pregnant. Many of them have substance use disorders with a significant history of trauma and mental health problems. Some have been incarcerated solely for the alleged crime of substance use during pregnancy, and many have lost custody of their children because there aren’t enough treatment centers for women and their kids.
Pregnant women with substance use disorders inside and outside of prisons and jails are struggling, and many are dying. The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 1 in 12 pregnant women had used an illicit drug in the past month. Recent reviews of maternal causes of death in three U.S. states identified opioid overdose as a significant contributor to maternal deaths, between 11% and 20% of all deaths during pregnancy. The number of newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome has increased 300% in 28 states in the last 20 years.
HUGE Celebrations for Monica Cosby:
FIELD FOUNDATION ANNOUNCES ITS FIRST LEADERS FOR A NEW CHICAGO AWARD RECIPIENTS -- The Field Foundation today announced the 14 recipients of its inaugural Leaders for a New Chicago award, supported by a $2.1 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to expand the definition of leadership in Chicago.
“In Chicago we have no shortage of brilliant minds working every day to change lives and reshape our city,” said Angelique Power, president, the Field Foundation. “We are so honored to be in partnership with the MacArthur Foundation as we hand over a megaphone, share resources, and then sit back and watch as these incredible people continue to soar, bringing our city to more just and beautiful places than we could’ve ever imagined.”
THE 2019 LEADERS FOR A NEW CHICAGO AWARDEES ARE:
• Monica Cosby, a leader of the participatory defense work at Westside Justice Center and one of the leading advocates for incarcerated women and the fight for post-incarceration rights in Chicago.
Crime Is Down, Yet U.S. Incarceration Rates Are Still Among the Highest in the World
The New York Times by Campbell Robertson
For all the talk of curbing America’s appetite for mass incarceration and bipartisan support for reducing prison sentences, the number of people incarcerated in the United States declined only slightly in 2017, according to data released on Thursday by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.
The United States still has the largest known incarcerated population in the world.
“If we keep working on the kinds of criminal justice reforms that we’re doing right now, it’s going to take us 75 years to reduce the population by half,” said Rachel Barkow, a sentencing expert at New York University School of Law and author of “Prisoners of Politics: Breaking the Cycle of Mass Incarceration.”
SPOTLIGHT: SUPPORTING SOLITARY FOR MANAFORT MEANS SUPPORTING IT FOR EVERYONE
The Appeal: Vaidya Gullapalli
June 05, 2019
Yesterday the news broke that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign head who was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison on federal charges, will now face criminal charges in state court in Manhattan. The New York Times reports that Manafort will most likely be held at Rikers Island, segregated from the general population. Though it is not clear that Manafort would be confined to his cell even if he is isolated, many reports have said he will be in “solitary confinement.”
Tens of thousands of people, by conservative estimates, spend their days in solitary confinement cells in jails and prisons across the United States. (An oft-cited estimate of 61,000 people in isolation nationwide is understood, including by those who arrived at it, to be a substantial undercount.) But it made news that Manafort was expected to be sent to Rikers and isolated.
Some responded with satisfaction to the report that a previously powerful rich white man, closely associated with the president, would be subjected to the same abuse as masses of poor Black and brown people. But that response is an example of how ending injustice can seem so impossible that our hopes warp into a desire to expand injustice.
The problem is not that the Manaforts of the world don’t usually spend time in solitary, or in prison. The problem is that tens of thousands of people around the country sit in what are, effectively, torture chambers.
How bad prosecutors fuel America’s mass incarceration problem
Vox.com by Sean Illing
There are a lot of reasons why America’s criminal justice system is broken, but if Emily Bazelon is right, one of the biggest is overzealous prosecutors.
A legal reporter for The New York Times magazine, Bazelon explores the near-unregulated power of American prosecutors in her new book, Charged. It’s a deeply reported look at a failing justice system that does not function the way most people think it does.
We have this idea of a legal system in which prosecutors and defense lawyers are equal, with dispassionate judges presiding over everything. But Bazelon argues that this balance has been lost over the past several decades.
Now prosecutors wield limitless power, deciding whom to charge, who gets a second chance, and, in some cases, who lives and who dies. If there’s an underreported piece of the mass incarceration puzzle, Bazelon says this is it.
What this is about
Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive