Apparently 5th Circuit Judge Edith Jones told Pennsylvania law students that blacks and Hispanics are “more violent.” Than what? And why? She may have also said that “a death sentence provides a public service by allowing an inmate to “make peace with God.” I myself would prefer that citizens make peace with their God/Allah, whatever, when they are not about to be murdered by the state. They are being sued by all sorts of human rights groups, including the Texas Civil Rights Project.
No one envies the life of a prison guard, especially those who work in the maximum security units. One of these guards has answered Q & A for us–nothing you wouldn’t imagine, but still chilling. Especially worrisome is finding the guard’s name and address from outside friends
Imagine being locked inside a room with no windows, bars, or openings–and having tear gas canisters thrown into the hallways and rooms. Hard to imagine. But inmates at Utah State Prison in Draper don’t have to imagine it–they lived through it. After 30 minutes, guards in gas masks released some of the inmates into areas with clean air; allegedly, one guard laughed as inmates screamed with burning eyes and skin. No stretch of the imagination to learn that five plaintiffs are suing, and represented by the Utah ACLU
Good news for those who are investigating federal prison issues: a helpful guide prepared by defenders who research and defend prison issues daily. Says the Guide: they hope to “discuss the current litigation status and suggested practices for that most screwed up of federal sentencing areas, state and federal concurrent and consecutive sentences. For those facing the nightmare of the BOP’s unlawful “death rattle rule” for prisoners who have extraordinary and compelling reasons for second look resentencing, we have some ideas for legal challenges to the BOP’s rules. We have also updated information related to classification issues and habeas corpus procedures.
Nationally respected The Atlantic is systematically educating U. S. readers about the prison system that their tax dollars support. An new article details lawsuits and details in Florida, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Louisiana. Author Andrew Cohen summaries: “In our zeal to dehumanize criminals we have allowed our prisons to become medieval places of unspeakable cruelty so far beyond constitutional norms that they are barely recognizable.”
Suicides in administration segregration are 40% higher than other parts of the prison. Although they are confined 23 hours a day, many prisoners find a way to “leave” the cell–permanently. Among other consequences, this makes a guard’s job more tense and more unpleasant.
Michael Tigar, famous for representing high-profile plaintiffs in civil and human rights cases, turned his attention recently to prison grievances. He notes how the Prison Litigation Reform Act effectively stopped most inmates from reaching the court to find justice. And he mentioned my graphic novel Prison Grievances: when to write, how to write as an aid for overcoming the terrible odds. Here’s hoping the book does indeed help those inmates with serious problems Within the Walls
“The U.S. Bureau of Prisons currently holds more than 12,400 individuals in 23-hour-a-day lockdown, making it the largest practitioner of solitary and other forms of isolated confinement in the nation, and most likely the world. Yet the BOP does not know whether its use of “segregated housing” has any impact on prison safety, how it affects the prisoners who endure it, or how much it all costs American taxpayers.”
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.