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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 Prosecutors and incarcerated people can learn from each other
TED - Jarrell Daniels
A few weeks before his release from prison, Jarrell Daniels took a class where incarcerated men learned alongside prosecutors. By simply sitting together and talking, they uncovered surprising truths about the criminal justice system and ideas for how real change happens. Now a scholar and activist, Daniels reflects on how collaborative education could transform the justice system and unlock solutions to social problems.
Watch / Listen / Learn
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.)
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.
What this is about
Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive