21 March 2013
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Maine prisoner bound, gagged, then pepper sprayed

A Maine inmate in solitary confinement spit at a guard after trying to injure himself. Several guards were called in, and the sargeant not only sprayed him but taped the spray into the inmate’s face. That officer, first fired, has been reinstated.

20 March 2013
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Testimony for House Bill 968, Zero Tolerance for retaliation against grievance writers

Testimony for House Bill 968, Zero Tolerance for retaliation against grievance writers

I teach. Although technically retired, I continue to teach—and my topic now is prison grievances. This zero-tolerance bill should have been enacted at the same time the Prison Litigation Reform Act was enacted, 1996. It set the rules for inmate complaints. We’re here today to catch up on common sense.

When a Texas citizen breaks the rules, we send him/her to jail or prison as punishment, and expect them to learn to follow the rules while they’re in prison.

27 February 2013
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Coerced Confessions Cost Us All

Chicago is focusing on the release of Nicole Harris, who ‘confessed’ to killing her son after being held 27 hours by police. Today she is free, “after serving seven years of a thirty year sentence. Her conviction in the death of her son, Jaquari, was overturned by a federal appeals court last October and earlier this month the 7th Court of Appeals ordered Harris’s release.”

26 February 2013
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TX: Eat Your Eyeballs? But Still Sane Enough for Execution

Andre Thomas is making the news in Texas Tribune. He’s on death row, except he’s blind after gouging out both eyes and hears God telling him things–like to murder his wife and children, and pluck out his eyes. Texas Ct of Criminal Appeals said “Thomas is “clearly ‘crazy’ but he is also ‘sane’ under Texas law,” because a jury had concluded he knew right from wrong at the time of his crime. Yup.

25 February 2013
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HARVARD Magazine Spotlights Prisons

Bruce Western, Harvard Kennedy School Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, is highlighted both on the cover and the inside story on “The Prison Problem.”  “We may have skimped on welfare, but we paid anyway, splurging on police and prisons.  Dollars diverted from education and employment found their way to prison construction.”   Perhaps this unusual coverage will help Harvard graduates better understand causes, conditions, and solutions to mass incarceration.
March/April 2013, The Harvard Magazine, p. 38-43

24 February 2013
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Calif. Cell Walls A-Tumbling?

California voters accepted Prop. 36, which begins unwinding the massive over-incarceration under the draconian 3-Strikes Law.  “Throughout the entire state, around 2,800 people are eligible for sentence reductions, nearly half of which originate in Los Angeles County. Judge Ryan began receiving request even before voters passed the proposition.

23 February 2013
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Illinois Inmates and Hunger Strike

When you read that inmates have gone on a hunger strike, you have to know conditions are really, really intolerable. They know they’ll be punished with solitary. What what has these inmates so upset? “Among other complaints, the hunger strikers at Pontiac (which is the oldest prison in Illinois and the eighth-oldest in the country) […]

19 February 2013
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Rational Approach to Privatization

Writing on blog, Carl ToersBijns (retired prison system manager, etc.) investigates how the state and private industry can work together to create better prisons. It isn’t easy, and it requires a lot of oversight:

18 February 2013
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Post Release: where is the help?

A formerly incarcerated woman describes the suicide path of a 16-yr-old girl who bounced into and out of a New York prison. “Get out of prison, go report to parole, go to Credo, (drug and alcohol counseling), go to mental health, get a job, pay your rent, don’t drive till we say you can, pay […]

18 February 2013
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Baylor Offers Business Certificates

A terrific writer at Texas Tribune, Maurice Chammah, describes an innovative in-prison program designed to help develop inmates into entrepreneurs. First they are taught and encouraged: “more than 100 students in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, an initiative organized by a Houston nonprofit of the same name that teaches business skills to prisoners who will soon […]

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