The ruling covers only Columbia County, Oregon, but plaintiff Prison Legal News anticipates that other groups will help jail inmates overturn a jailhouse rule against receiving envelop mail. The policy first began, of course, in Maricopa County AZ, where the notorious sheriff worried that opening mail for inspection took too much time, and his staff found numerous instances of contraband in the letters. The practice spread to other jails. Now, though, First Amendment rights are protected--in one county at least.
My graphic novel, Prison Grievances: when to write, how to write, just had a terrific boost: Amazon.com added its special feature, "Look Inside," to its posting. Now buyers can see page after page of the art work, and learn how I integrate instruction for writing grievances.
An inmate killed another inmate in the overcrowded Menard Correctional Center in Illinois this week. More than half the inmates at Menard are there as punishment for murder. John Maki, director of the prison-monitoring John Howard Association, says Menard has a long list of problems: "This is why everything matters in prisons. Why food matters in prisons. Why medical care matters in prisons. Why staffing levels -- because they are such tense and course of places, that when something goes wrong, it can spark really bad things."
Arnold & Porter and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, an advocacy group, insist the court step in to end "barbaric treatment more suited to the dungeons of medieval Europe than to a modern American prison." Predictably, "The government said that the suit doesn’t specify which persons allegedly mistreated the five prisoners and doesn’t supply enough information about the ones named as plaintiffs in the action.
“There are no facts alleged by any of the five plaintiffs showing a ‘serious harm’ that resulted from the alleged lack of treatment,” the government said in a filing. “Rather, these inmates simply allege that they were denied treatment for unspecified illnesses, with no facts of any resulting harm alleged.”
In Corrections.com, retired officer Carl ToersBinjs (Florence, AZ), lists five problem areas that prison administrators should focus on to become the best leaders possible. He believes that facing these deficiencies and overcoming shortcomings will help morale and safety. 1) arrogance 2) opaque 3) undisciplined (doesn't delegate), 4) detached (no ownership), 5) self awareness (strengths and weaknesses). Terrific points; hope officer training will address these annually.
Today the Supreme Court issued Moncrieffe v. Holder, deciding that a non-citizen" is not necessarily barred from discretionary relief" merely for marijuana IF the "state illicit drug trafficking offense" is based on possession but NOT remuneration (getting paid for sharing) or NOT for just "a small amount." That means: no guarantee here, but the Immigration and Nationality Act isn't a solid wall to overcome. Recreational pot smokers can at least argue that they're not a major threat to the security of the U.S.
Dr. Paul Farmer, a U.S. immunologist and co-founder of global Partners in Health, told me last night that it "makes him ill" to think of US prisoners, and he is sad that governments, agencies, human rights groups, and communities can't get together to overcome the obstacles facing health care professionals within the US prison system. He has helped Russia with overcoming a resistant strain of TB in its prisons; we should all become that community and fight to have quality health care in our prisons.