San Francisco’s Prison Show radio producer visited Texas this week to interview ag seg inmates and bring the documentary, Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary, to interested groups. Noelle Hadrahan went to the Clements Unit in Amarillo, where an inmate was beaten to death last week by a guard. She met with inmates and the warden, and made tapes of interviews. Ten she visited Austin with the documentary that has been seen around the world–and now, finally, here!
Impact Publications has a line of little $10 paperbacks aimed at the enlarging world of incarcerated citizens; certainly they have an endless market that needs guidance. Guide they do: Best Job for Offenders: 101 Opportunities to Jump-Start Your New Life, gives us 3 chapters on Best Jobs for You, Transitional Employment, and (too-brief) Job Restrictions. Then it summarizes a federal guide.
Well, it took a mere $1.8 Million to catch the notice of officials, but The Minnesota Dept. of Corrections has replaced Corizon Health, the target of multiple lawsuits and staff complaints over insufficient care. At least 9 inmates have dies since 2000 due to denial or delay of services by Corizon, according to the MN Star Tribune. Now Centurian Managed Care has the $67.5 Million contract to care for MN’s 9,500 inamtes. Let’s hope they clear up the backlog of problems and provide humane service.
Alabama Senator Cam Ward investigates the numbers and possible consequences of the overcrowded jails and prisons, and realizes something needs to change, fast. Thus they’ve set up a task force to decide how to get prison units back to manageable numbers. Excessive inmate populations endanger not merely (!) inmates, but the security staff as well. They are looking down the road, and they are seeing lawsuits similar to the ones in LA and CA. Let’s hope the task force can read real fast, and make changes super fast, too.
Faced with a draconian choice, many arrestees accept plea bargains. Prosecutors can show them that, for instance, a federal drug sentence taken to court receives an average of 16 YEAR sentence. Human Rights Watch concludes that average plea bargain for the same crime is 5 years, 4 months. Who wants to gamble that way? So citizen after citizen admits to a crime, bargains, and ends up in federal prison for 5 years. Maybe some of them are guilty–probably are. But how about those who are not? We need to change our sentencing laws and make them reasonable for the crime.
Maybe it’s all states, but The Atlantic has just published an in-depth look at treatment of mentally ill inmates in South Carolina. It’s sickening. Some day, our grandchildren will look back at our neglect just as we look back at Victorians who hid the mentally ill in the attic. All of us should speak to all of our legislators and state officials: it’s time to end barbaric treatment of the weakest and sickest, those without power in jails and prisons.
We have too many laws. The state and federal legislators need to spend time deleting old ones, considering the impact of new ones, and stop knee-jerking into new laws for every sad/tragic/compelling story out there. There will always be tragedies. Passing yet another law against human behavior is not going to stop the tragedies. The consequence of all these laws: almost HALF of all males age 23 have been arrested. The breakdown by race isn’t as apparent as you’d think, either. Everyone is getting arrested!
Texas guards’ union Lance Lowry begs the Texas legislators and citizens to upgrade prisons so temperatures cannot climb to 130 degrees. He also asks for pay raises, and increased minimum requirements for guards.
Experts in the field are reconsidering evidence based on voice stress. They should. Texas recently passed a bill prohibiting Junk Science to be used in courtrooms. Let’s hope Voice Stress is among those banned.
Not often that an inmate wins one, especially if he doesn’t understand the System and its complicated rules. But Javiad Akhtar filed, and filed again, missing a deadline and not submitting correctly. He was of course smashed out of courts. But the UC Davis Civil Rights Clinic rode in on their legal horses, and helped Mr. Akhtar appeal to the 9th Circuit. The Court agreed that his disabilities, his limited English skills, and his attempts to follow the System’s rules allowed him to be heard again. They ruled he had been “sufficiently detailed to put prison officials on notice of the Eight Amendment claim.” The prison should have accommodated his request, which was documented by doctors’ documentation. Why the California system pursued this case is a mystery. They were wrong. Naturally they have filed another motion to dismiss. Tax dollars–cha-ching!