The case for capping all prison sentences at 20 years
Vox By German Lopez :: Feb 12, 2019
America’s prison sentences are far too long. It’s time to do something about it. America puts more people in jail and prison than any other country in the world. Although the country has managed to slightly reduce its prison population in recent years, mass incarceration remains a fact of the US criminal justice system.
It’s time for a radical idea that could really begin to reverse mass incarceration: capping all prison sentences at no more than 20 years. It may sound like an extreme, even dangerous, proposal, but there’s good reason to believe it would help reduce the prison population without making America any less safe.
A Rare Inside Look at a Private Prison: Reporters found weapons, drugs, and rampant violence
Slate by Mary Harris
At a prison in southern Mississippi, guards can’t do basic population counts. They can’t keep cellphones, drugs, and weapons out of the building. They are at the mercy of gang leaders to control the inmates. Is this just what happens when you try to do corrections on the cheap?
Guests: Joseph Neff and Alysia Santo, staff writers for the Marshall Project. Read their story on Wilkinson County Correctional Facility.
Murphy signs law limiting solitary confinement in N.J. prisons
nj.com by S.P. Sullivan
A lengthy and vocal campaign to strictly limit solitary confinement in New Jersey’s prisons came to a close Thursday when Gov. Phil Murphysigned a long-stalled reform measure into law.
“I am proud to stand together with New Jersey’s criminal justice reform advocates and legislators to advance a humane correctional system that allows for the safe operation of facilities and focuses on strengthening reentry initiatives, substance use disorder treatment, and recovery programs,” the Democratic governor said in a signing statement Thursday.
Supporters say the measure is among the most comprehensive controls on the controversial practice of placing prisoners in isolation in the United States.
PBS :: Terun Moore on prison as a teen and getting a second chance
March 18, 2019
At age 17, Terun Moore was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole. But in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled such sentencing of minors unconstitutional. Now on parole after 19 years, Moore is enrolled in community college and working with the People's Advocacy Institute, which aims to reduce violence in Jackson, Mississippi. He offers his brief but spectacular take on second chances.
Profiting from prison
Axios: Stef W. Kight and Dan Primack
June 8, 2019
A handful of American businesses have their fingers in almost every aspect of prison life, raking in billions of dollars every year for products and services — often with little oversight.
The big picture: Taxpayers, incarcerated people and their families spend around $85 billion a year on public and private correction facilities, bail and prison services, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.
BONUS The prison labor you benefit from
Prison labor is behind some products and services Americans use every day — from call centers and Whole Foods goat cheese to farmer's market fruit, Stef writes.
Formerly incarcerated people are building their own businesses and giving others second chances
ABA Journal by Kevin Davis
As he prepared to leave prison for the second time, David Figueroa decided he was going to walk away from the Chicago street gang he belonged to since he was a boy and build a better life for himself. “I wanted to do the right thing this time,” he says. “I wanted to get a job. I wanted to get married. I wanted to have children.”
He knew finding work would be hard because of his criminal record. “It was a very scary moment,” recalls Figueroa, whose hands, fingers, arms and chest were covered with gang tattoos when he left prison in 2005 at the age of 29. He thought at the time: “Wherever I go, I will be looked at as a scary person.”
Figueroa grew up in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, notorious for its violent street gangs in the ’80s and ’90s. He wanted out, and he hoped to work in construction. But doors began slamming as soon as he filled out job applications. “Every time I checked the box that asked whether you were a convicted felon, I never got a call back,” he says.
Private prison stocks fall after Elizabeth Warren says they should be banned
CNN Business by Anneken Tappe
New York (CNN Business)Friday was a bad day for private prisons
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is calling for private correctional and detention facilities to be banned. Shares of private prison operators dropped following her remarks.
Private prison operator CoreCivic's (CXW) stock was down 5%. Shares of The GEO Group (GEO), a Florida-based private prison and detention company, fell 5.6%. The broader stock market was flat to slightly higher on Friday.
Warren's campaign said it was unfazed by the stocks' slump.
"They shouldn't have a share price because they shouldn't exist," said Kristen Orthman, spokeswoman and director of communications for the Warren campaign.
A spokesperson for the Geo Group said its facilities are "highly rated by independent accreditation entities."
"Senator Warren's announcement is a continuation of politically-motivated attacks based on false narratives," the spokesperson said, adding the company would welcome lawmakers like Warren to come visit.
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.
What this is about
Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive