2013 June

24 June 2013
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Dubious Title Goes to Amarillo Unit

Amarillo sits at the top of the Texas Panhandle, dry, battered by red sands. No one would go there on purpose. Yet of course there’s a prison there, and it now is making the news: highest reported incidents of sexual abuse by staff, and inmate-on-inmate. Appx 8% for both reported…. who knows what isn’t reported for dear of retaliation on the plains?

23 June 2013
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Prison Cell Overcrowding May Consitute Violations

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Judge Denny Chin, noted that Walker “plausibly alleged conditions that, perhaps alone and certainly in combination, deprive him of a minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities,” and that prison officials were “deliberately indifferent to this deprivation.”

Thus his case was sent back to the lower court, where he will have the opporunity to explain why 6 men in a 2-man cell deprives him of minimal life necessities. According to Walker, his cellmates included gang members, and the “overcrowding, gang activities, violence [and] fights” in the cell placed Walker “in a situation to kill or be killed.” Walker also claimed that his cell was unsanitary, with so much “urine on the floor” that “urin[e] or defecat[ion] would splatter.” Walker complained to the warden and other prison officials to no avail.

22 June 2013
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W. Va. leg: Is Overcrowding Prisons a Danger?

Sometimes, you just have to shake your head. At least they are noticing, though: the West Virginia legislature realized they investigate dangers within the mining industry, and are now wondering if there is danger for staff and inmates in overcrowded prison and jail cells. Surely this will lead to a committee that appoints a committee. Meanwhile, they plan to study other states’ overcrowding. I suggest they start with California, which is under yet another federal court order to release inmates because some prisons are 345% overcrowded.

18 June 2013
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Prison Offices have A.C.; Armory has A.C.; Cells Don’t

A death-from-heat lawsuit named Texas prison officials has culprits in the deaths of four men last summer. Seems all of them sit in 75 degrees and have their weapons kept a serviceable 75 degrees, while temperatures within the cells soar above 100 into the night. The weak, those on medicines, the vulnerable die. Inmates don’t even receive adequate water, according to the complaint: ” Prisoners are not allowed to have personal fans at the Gurney Unit and water is in short supply, the families say.
“Defendants provide grossly inadequate amounts of water to help prisoners survive the extremely high temperatures indoors,” the complaint states. “TDCJ policy requires officers only to bring one large jug per fifty-four prisoners to the prisoner living areas (at most) three times a day. Throughout the system, and at Gurney, the jugs did not contain enough water for each prisoner to drink enough to protect them from the heat, and are frequently filled with lukewarm water.

18 June 2013
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Private Prisons, No Oversight, Create Shocking Treatment

As states continue to hand over expensive prisons to for-profit companies, it is the prisoners who suffer and the stockholders who gain. That needs to change. But money talks. Currently, the East Mississippi Correctional Facility proves the point. But last week, it was the New Orleans jails. In Mississippi, mentally ill are locked behind steel doors and left–alone for days and weeks. A class-action lawsuit contends the inmates have resorted to burning mattresses just to get an official to enter and care for a sick or injured inmate.

17 June 2013
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How Hard Is It To Remain Clean, Remain Outside the Walls?

A 25-year sentence for drugs is a nightmare, but leaving the prison and returning to The Life might be even worse. So Seth Ferranti, a federal inmate, has entered a 500-hour program to face his demons before he faces society–and the program is harder than anyone could imagine. One huge obstacle is the amount of booze and drugs within the prison that continue to beckon. Really? Apparently it’s not even surprising enough for the drugs to be the point of his blog:

16 June 2013
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Graphic Novel for Inmates Receives Glowing Review

Ken Herman, political commentator for Austin’s Statesman, was surprised to read the opening blurb by Sister Helen, saying she would “take the book into the cells with her.” But then, he hadn’t read many graphic novels dedicated to helping inmates learn the intricacies of grievance writing. His concern is that the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice has refused to allow the book into its law libraries–even for free. But the purpose of the column seems to be to encourage the prison general libraries to carry it. Cross your fingers! Vote is this week.

14 June 2013
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New Infographic Reveals Societal Cost of Elderly Inmates

Between 2007-2010, the number of state and federal prisoners 65 years and older grew by a staggering 94 times that of the overlap prison population (which also ballooned). A great new infographic highlights the causes and consequences.
The impact? Money. Loss of life and health. Society pays for long-term care and finally burial expenses for the elderly in prison. The cause? Those 3-strike laws that increase a second and third arrest into major felonies so the perpretrator is condemned for life.

14 June 2013
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‘Barbaric’ and ‘Inhumane’ Prison Conditions in Mississippi

the Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a class-action lawsuit against the East Mississippi Correctional Facility and its private operators, Management and Training Corporation. MTC says it’s new to the facility and working on corrections. (Yet again.) This might make a horror movie: “The lawsuit describes a facility where prisoners are often locked in filthy cells and ignored even when they are suffering from serious medical issues. Many cells lack light and working toilets, forcing prisoners to use trays or plastic bags that are tossed through slots in their cell doors. Rats often climb over prisoners’ beds. Some prisoners even capture the rats, put them on makeshift leashes and sell them as pets to other prisoners.”

13 June 2013
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Calif: 34% Suicides from Segregated Housing; Deaf Require Interpreters

Inmates in solitary confinement are 33% more likely to commit suicide than other inmates.

California judge agrees with plaintiffs: “the consistent dearth of SLIs (sign-language interpreters) when psychiatric technicians take their rounds for patients housed in solitary, known as administrative segregation housing units” means those with disabilities cannot communicate with their evaluators. “SLIs are also absent during education and vocational programs at the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility.” U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken insisted Tuesday that the state must quickly put the sign-language interpreters (SLIs) in place. She said there is “clear” and “convincing” evidence that the corrections department has not complied with the court-ordered plan and is still in violation of the ADA. Sign language interpreters must be present in the solitary unit when technicians evaluate the mental health status of inmates, according to the ruling.

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