Advocates for Aging Prisoners Look to Force a Debate on Parole
City Limits by Roshan Abraham
August 20, 2019
When Sammy Cabassa stepped onto the sidewalk again after 34 years in prison, he found it dizzying. The then 60-year-old was granted parole – after his 4th parole hearing in 5 years – in 2017. When he walked back into the city he left as a young man, the bright lights were hard to adjust to, after years of spending almost all of his time in dimly lit facilities. ...
Decades outside of society can have stark consequences for those who eventually gain freedom: Incarcerated elders lag behind in terms of health, finances and support networks. Despite this, reforms that could get parole-eligible elders a hearing before New York state’s parole board – a step toward having more people leave prison before they’re physically frail and giving them more time to acclimate to society – have been shelved repeatedly, even this year during a legislative session packed with criminal justice reforms.
Grateful for the signing the Children's Best Interest Act, and to Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton for her support. IF this is fully implemented, with resources for family-based treatment and training for all stakeholders, it could be one a huge factor in reducing incarceration in Illinois.
Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn’t Work
The New York Times By Melanie Deziel
As the number of women inmates soars, so does the need for policies and programs that meet their needs.
Over the past three decades, the number of women serving time in American prisons has increased more than eightfold.
Today, some 15,000 are held in federal custody and an additional 100,000 are behind bars in local jails. That sustained growth has researchers, former inmates and prison reform advocates calling for women’s facilities that do more than replicate a system designed for men.
“These are invisible women,” says Dr. Stephanie Covington, a psychologist and co-director of the Center For Gender and Justice, an advocacy group based in La Jolla, Calif. “Every piece of the experience of being in the criminal justice system differs between men and women.”
At the most basic level, women often must make do with jumpsuits that are made from men’s designs rather than being cut for female bodies. And standard personal-care items often don’t account for different skin tones or hair types.
It’s not just vanity: What drives some prisoners to mix their own makeup or tailor their uniforms is the need to maintain their dignity in a situation that does little to protect it.
Prisoners Unlearn The Toxic Masculinity That Led To Their Incarceration
Huffington Post by Anna Lucente Sterling
July 31, 2019
In prisons across California, inmates are unlearning toxic masculinity. It might be the answer to the state’s recidivism problem.
It’s been 10 years since George Luna was behind bars, but he still goes back to correctional facilities on a regular basis. He has spent most of his life cycling in and out of the justice system in Northern California. Now, he says he’s out for good and he’s looking to help other inmates do the same.
The former inmate is a facilitator of a prison rehabilitation program that teaches men about gender roles and how ingrained ideas of masculinity have contributed to their violent crimes. GRIP, or Guiding Rage into Power, started at San Quentin State Prison in 2013 and has expanded to five state prisons across California.
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A CHICAGO JAIL MIGHT BE THE LARGEST MENTAL HEALTH CARE PROVIDER IN THE U.S.
Pacific Standard by Arvind Dilawar
June 10, 2019
After Illinois cut funding for mental-health services, Cook County Jail now handles a large portion of the state's patients. A new book tells their story.
"Mental ward / is where I landed," begins a poem by Marshun, an inmate at Cook County Jail in Chicago. The poem describes Marshun's struggle with bipolar disorder, as well as his appreciation for flowers and photography. He was diagnosed before first entering Cook County Jail, where he's been an inmate on and off since he was 20 years old, but it was only during his most recent stint at 33 that he entered the Mental Health Transition Center, a program that provides inmates with mental-health services. "If I had come to this program when I was 20," Marshun says, "I wouldn't have come back to jail."
Marshun's story is just one of many that photographer Lili Kobielski captures in her recent book, I Refuse for the Devil to Take My Soul, a revealing collection of portraits and interviews from inside Cook County Jail. The facility is not only one of the largest jails in the United States, but it may also be the nation's largest mental health care provider.
Many inmates receive mental-health treatment at Cook County Jail simply because it is the provider of last resort. Beginning in 2009, the state government of Illinois crippled its health-care system, slashing nearly $114 million in funding from mental-health services and depriving 80,000 residents of access to mental-health care through budget impasses. As a result, two state-operated facilities and six city clinics closed, two-thirds of non-profit agencies in Illinois reduced or eliminated programs, and a third of Chicago's mental-health organizations lowered the number of patients they served.
The Prison Industrial Complex: Mapping Private Sector Players
First published last year, this one-of-a-kind report exposes the corporations that profit off our nation’s carceral crisis and the marginalized communities it’s ravaged. It serves as the largest lens into the prison industrial complex ever published, and this year, we added more than 800 corporations to bring the report total to over 3,900 corporations across 12 sectors and their investors.
Before we developed this report, many of these corporations flew under the radar, often intentionally masking their involvement in the prison industrial complex to avoid headline risk. With this annual publication, we are committed to continuously exposing the multi-billion-dollar industry built off the vulnerable communities—disproportionately black, brown, and cash poor—targeted by the criminal legal system.
There are thousands of publicly traded, private equity-owned, and privately held companies that commodify the suffering of those in the system and their loved ones. With this report, we hope to not only convey the enormity of the prison industrial complex, but to also empower allies with the information necessary to challenge it. The data at the heart of the report provides critical information about these corporations, and we encourage advocates, litigators, journalists, investors, artists, and the public to explore the data, share it with others, and join us in the movement against the commercialization of the criminal legal system.
Read the report
Health Care Jobs Bill SB1965 - signed into Law
July 31, 2019 - IL E-News Release
Governor JB Pritzker signed a new law Wednesday that expands access for Illinoisans involved in the criminal justice system to gain employment in the health care industry.
“Over 4 million Illinoisans have an arrest or conviction record – that includes over 40 percent of our working age population,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “This vicious cycle of poverty, crime and injustice – which disproportionately impacts communities of color – does a disservice to everyone involved, from affected families to employers to taxpayers. I’m so proud that this legislation will dismantle another part of the wall that blocks people with records from living a dignified life. Today, with this action, we’re showing the world that we are building an Illinois that works for everyone.”
Senate Bill 1965 creates a timelier and efficient health care waiver application process, expands the list of eligible organizations that can initiate a fingerprint-based background check and those than can request waivers to include workforce intermediaries and pro bono legal service organization, and allows people with disqualifying conditions to obtain waivers before receiving a job offer.
Prior to the passage of SB 1965, only health care employers who extended a conditional offer to an applicant could begin a fingerprint-based background check. The new law expedites that process to reduce the barriers to employment and occupational licensing within the state’s health care sector, which is projected to be the fastest growing industry in the next 10 years. SB 1965 takes effect immediately.
“Governor Pritzker has once again demonstrated his commitment to communities throughout the state of Illinois by signing SB 1965 into law. Securing employment is critical to decreasing the likelihood of recidivism,” said Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton. “SB 1965 is a critical piece of legislation that will expand opportunity, justice, and equity throughout Illinois while increasing the pool of qualified candidates to fill much-needed positions.”
“This new law will help many throughout the state get their lives back on track,” said Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago). “It will put people back to work and help keep them out of our prison system. By getting these background checks done upfront, we provide a greater level of transparency between applicants and employers, avoid wait times and help Illinoisans with criminal records have a better shot at getting a job.”
“As Illinois pushes forward with criminal justice reform, it is extremely important that we enhance and create opportunities for returning citizens to be productive in society and in our economy,” said Rep. Justin Slaughter (D-Chicago). “SB 1965 represents a major step forward in reducing recidivism in Illinois, as it will facilitate employment in the healthcare industry for ex-offenders that have embraced rehabilitation and turned their lives around.”
What this is about
Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive