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26 August 2012
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Inmates sue over Pelican Bay ‘sensory deprivation’

Ten inmates held in isolation at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison for more than a decade sued the state Thursday, saying their conditions – which deprived them of virtually all human contact and any meaningful chance for release – violate international standards against torture and inhumane treatment.
The prolonged solitary confinement in the North Coast prison’s Security Housing Unit is the harshest anywhere in the nation and “strips human beings of their basic dignity and human


25 August 2012
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Struggle for prison health care enters new phase

A new phase opened May 7 in the long-running struggle to provide adequate health care for California prison inmates and to end conditions a federal judge said in 2005 were leading to the unnecessary death of one inmate a week.
The State of California, the attorneys who brought the lawsuit on behalf of prison inmates, and the receiver now in charge of prison health care filed a joint report in court this week, setting forth their differing – in some cases opposing – views on how to end the receivership while assuring adequate treatment for the state’s current inmates.
The state claims prison health care has been “totally transformed,” w


25 August 2012
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In Jackson, tourists pay for the chance to experience life behind bars

Tours are booming for Michigan’s most famous lockup city, with visitors coming from across the state and beyond to go on the Jackson Historic Prison Tour.
Its highlight: the infamous 7-Block at the former State Prison of Southern Michigan. It closed in 2007.
The eerie 7-Block, still part of a razor-wire enclosed ca


26 July 2012
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State sued over prison conditions

Conditions at Vienna Correctional Center are something out of a Dickens novel, judging by a stomach-churning lawsuit filed earlier this month by inmates who say they live with filth, vermin and a paucity of bathrooms.

A lawyer for inmates says that prisoners at Vienna and Vandalia Correctional Center, which could be the next legal target, are living in poorer conditions than inmates in California, which has been ordered to reduce overcrowding by a federal judge.

“We are worse than California,” s


26 July 2012
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Sexual Exploitation of Female Offenders

There was yet another mention in the press recently about the systematic and prolonged sexual exploitation of female inmates by male corrections staff. The description of the inmates’ helplessness and victimization was almost too painful for me to read. A question kept ringing in my ears, a question posed by corrections officials nationwide who are baffled as to why corrections workers would risk


28 June 2012
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PLRA trumps again

A federal judge overstepped his authority by creating review procedures of Illinois supermax prison transfers, the 7th Circuit ruled, finding that the Illinois Department of Corrections can conceive its own system.
Robert Westefer, representing a class of inmates incarcerated in the Closed Maximum Security Unit at the Tamms Correctional Center, challenged the procedures by which the Illinois Department of Corrections assigns inmates to the prison in a 2000 lawsuit.

Westefer claimed that transfer procedures violated prisoners’ due process rights.


28 June 2012
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Texas Prisoners Cost $620 Million More Than They Did in 1990, Thanks to Longer Sentences

Meet the average modern Texas prisoner, released in 2009. He spent 2.8 years behind bars — 32 percent more time than his average prisoner predecessor released in 1990. If he was busted for a violent crime, he spent 5.3 years locked up, a 44 percent increase from his predecessor in 1990. You’ve spent a hell of a lot of tax dollars keeping Mr. Average Prisoner in the clink, according to this Pew Center study on prison tems, which didn’t phrase it quite that way.
Pew crunched the numbers for Texas: $1,783 (average one-month prison stay) x eight months (average increase from 1990 to 2009) = $14,682/prisoner. If you multiply that by the amount of prisoners released in 2009, you get $620.1 million dollars, the amount taxpayers have spent keeping people in prison longer.


28 June 2012
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California Bill Would Lift Media Ban on Access to Prisons

This important story was put out yesterday from Californians United for a Responsible Budget, via San Francisco Bay View. If legislation like this were passed in other states, as well as in California, it would go a long way toward exposing to the public the truth about supermax prisons and solitary confinement units–which are not only torture chambers, but also virtual domestic “black sites.” See our earlier post for more background on the bill.


28 June 2012
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Overcrowding conditions worsening in Blount County Jail

Anyone who is imprisoned knows that conditions will not be like a country club or Buckingham Palace.
But some residents feel their loved ones who have been incarcerated in the Blount County Detention Facility recently should be able to serve their time in a better atmosphere.
The husband of Maryville resident Danielle Hubbard spent some brief time in the facility after being charged with contempt of court. He had to share a small cell with three other inmates and was relegated to sleeping on the floor.


28 June 2012
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First-Ever Senate Hearing On Prison Isolation: Solitary Confinement ‘Makes Our Criminal Justice System Criminal’

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) convened a Senate hearing yesterday to examine the implications of solitary confinement in the American prison system, the first ever hearing to address prison reform as a human rights issue.

A replica of a solitary cell — just 7 feet by 10 feet and bare except for a cot and a toilet — was placed at the front the hearing room during the proceedings as a stark reminder of the prison conditions that face inmates in prolonged isolation.

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