In 1884, Samuel Clemens published the most important American novel ever written--Huckleberry Finn. Yet in 2013, prison officials refuse to allow it inside the libraries. It's won every major writing award; writings by "Samuel Clemens" have been read by children and adults since the middle of the 1880's. So... what? The book was published two decades after the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War. Twain took on the problem of Jim Crow laws, designed to limit the power of blacks in the South. Which states routinely ban this marvelous book? Yep. One prison official actually said it would never appear in his prison because it uses the word "nigger." Well, I'm sure that word never echoes in the unit's hallways and would be an amazing new vocabulary word there, right? Or might it just be that seeing the word, and recognizing the first-ever bi-racial friendship described in magnificent literature, is somehow still a threat?
Under the Affordable Care Act (upheld by the Supreme Court), more than 1/2 of the federal and state inmaets who leave the systems (est. 730,000 next year) will be eligible for Medicaid or federal substitites to help buy health insurance from state health insurance exchanges.
California Gov. Jerry Brown is taking his version of prison overcrowding and inadequate health care (all has been repaired) to the Supreme Court rather than comply with the Dec. 2012 federal court mandate. Well, that's sure one way to fix a problem. California has released--or moved to state jails--many inmates. They need to reduce prisons by 10,000 more to reach the federal standard. And health care? "Fixed."
Tomoka Correctional Institution [sic] in Florida has guards who allegedly taunt the deaf, abuse them, and ridicule them. Probably this treatment is not what the jurors had in mind during sentencing, but according to the head of a nonprofit advocating for human rights. She is suing on behalf of 21 deaf prisoners, including one who reported the abuse but has not been seen opr heard of since.
Cocklebur Press publishes each and every brief read at the Supreme Court. One of its employees, Shon Hopwood, operates it blog and recently brought the graphic novel Prison Grievances: when to write, how to write, to the attention of its followers.
See the review, which says the book is good for prisoners because "it is written in a simple and easy to understand language and because it is a graphic novel."
At the solitary confinement unit, Central Prison, North Carolina officers and supervisors face a federal lawsuit on behalf of 8 inmates--and all future inmates. Beatings, etc., allegedly took place in the blind spots that cameras can't reach. The lawsuit requests cameras everywhere due to the pervasive atmosphere of abuse.
A federal judge in 2012 called it a "cesspool." Youth 13 are held in solitary rooms, blindfolded. Rapes and beatings. "Guards regularly had sex with their young charges and the facility's pattern of "brutal" rapes among prisoners was the worst of "any facility anywhere in the nation" (court's emphasis). Guards also were deemed excessively violent—beating, kicking, and punching "handcuffed and defenseless" youths and frequently subjecting them to chemical restraints such as pepper spray, even for insignificant infractions."
Texas keeps showing up on the list of Worst Prisons. Reeves County in Pecos, Texas, which was supposed to merely hold those "illegal aliens" until trial, just received the distinction of 8th Worst Prison in America. The GEO Group, which operates Reeves, proudly declares itself "the largest detention/correctional facility under private management in the world." Largest isn't best, here. "Overcrowded and understaffed, Reeves has a reputation for horrifically inadequate medical care."
It took years and the dedication of many affected, effective supporters, but they closed the notorious super max in Illinois. They did it with the help of photographers and artists, among others. Maybe each state should focus on one example of cruelty and inhumanity, and get it closed. How marvelous that activists were able to get artists and community folk into the legislature and out on the streets.