18 October 2014
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Mississippi Ministers: Close Private Prison and Save Lives

Management and Training Corporation, is not being sued by ACLU and SPLC.

“The lawsuit describes a facility where prisoners were often locked in filthy cells and ignored even when they were suffering from serious medical issues,” according to a statement from SPLC. “Many cells lacked light and working toilets, forcing prisoners to use trays or plastic bags that are tossed through slots in their cell doors. Rats often climbed over prisoners’ beds. Some prisoners even captured the rats, put them on makeshift leashes and sold them as pets to other prisoners.”

Gray said the incentive behind for-profit groups has to be examined carefully.

“The incentive for a for-profit prison is to house as many persons as possible,” Gray said. “The state has an incentive to use the private prisons. The incentive of the state is to reduce costs and the incentive for the private, for-profit is to increase profit. It becomes kind of a perfect storm.”

15 October 2014
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Florida: Where Tax Fraud Can Kill You

So you screw up with the IRS. Bad. But then you’re placed into the Florida prison system: really, really bad. Latandra Ellington sent her sister two letters saying she feared a guard was going to kill her. She died. The prison responded, basically, “oops.”

“DOC officials would not say how Ellington died. But the results of an independent autopsy ordered by her attorneys found that Ellington died of ‘hemorrhaging caused by blunt force trauma consistent with punches and kicks to the lower abdomen.'”

Take that, 1040 filers! Meanwhile, she is dead. The family requested the autopsy, and lawyers are involved. They worry that others don’t know to call lawyers when a loved one dies, or know to get the evidence established ASAP.

15 October 2014
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Where is Texas ACLU?

Inmates have won class-action lawsuits in Arizona and California, and had settlements in Mississippi etc. Class actions are miserably expensive, and few law firms could afford to spend the time and attorneys on a dicey lawsuit. We get that.

But. Given the amount of pain and unnecessary suffering within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system, shouldn’t the Texas ACLU step up and file on behalf of inmates who have a consistent problem (heat, for example), so that the private firms can concentrate on those cases that might produce a juicy settlement? Of course the Texas ACLU has its hands full with a myriad pile of other problems it’s attempting to help resolve. But why is prison always the last focus? I’m disappointed, and hope to learn they are, indeed, about to organize a class-action over Texas prison conditions.

3 October 2014
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How Many Investigations Before Prison Change? More than 49, Apparently

Alabama just can’t get beyond plantation mentality. They’ve had 49 independent investigations into the corrupt and unconstitutional prison system, yet officials have again responded that all is well. Poof! Problems disappear? Of course not. This state is a shining example of why this nation needs independent overseers with POWER to make changes in state systems. I do understand the separation of state/federal powers, really I do. But once human lives are in jeopardy and no one steps up, then we need a new system.

30 September 2014
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Private Prison in Mississippi is Murdering Inmates: Who Will Help?

What does it take to get a horrible prison fixed? Who is in charge of overseeing corrections? Why isn’t the public outraged at these conditions?

East Mississippi Correctional Facility has been investigated, reported on, and now ignored for years. Officials at Management and Training Corporation were required to walk the facility and note what needs fixing–years ago. Guess they then went home, took baths, and forgot what they saw. But you won’t if you look at the photos in this linked article.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is, again, suing. Let’s see if the rats who run MTC join the rats on the floors of the cells…

19 September 2014
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Monster: Prosecutor Labels 16-yr-old on trial

What if you were 16, on trial for being a robbery look-out gone wrong, and the prosecutor labeled you a ‘monster’ to your jury? Walter Dean Myers went inside the head of a high school kid in his novel for young people, Monster. The story is told as a film script, using Steven Harmon’s high-school class experience in filmmaking. The novel reads fast, interspersed with thick-penciled diary entries and mug shots.

You will read a script text of Harmon’s reaction to his initial booking, his fears inside the cells, his confusion about trial tactics, his depression and guilt. The book feels real; you will not remember that au author other than Harmon has written it. A nice touch: was Harmon ‘guilty’ or ‘really guilty’ of this crime? Are there degrees of guilt? Was the jury verdict one you agree with? Expected?

11 September 2014
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Mumia Writes About Education and Prison

The Classroom and the Cell is a fascinating dialogue between federal political prison Mumia Abu-Jamal and Columbia education professor Marc Lamont Hill. It’s in dialogue format, which is initially off-putting. But it works. The thoughtful exchange of ideas explore Black culture including hip-hop and religion, American education, and the population of prisons.

After examining issues from unusual and certainly provocative viewpoints, the authors agree on a few solutions:

de-carceration. Getting rid of the money bail system, pre-trial detention, early release for non-dangerous prisoners.

1.ex-carceration. Getting rid of incarceration as the primary or even secondary method of responding to crime. Treat drug addiction as the medical problem it is. Provide proper medical facilities like mental wards. Use community dispute resolution, restitution, suspended sentences, community probation. Although I bow to his experience and wisdom, I find it hard to accept his notion that even the worst of the worst prisoners can change with the right help. Maybe…. But certainly locking them into cages does not help anyone.

9 September 2014
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BOP Grievance Procedure Investigated

A 2013 study of the Bureau of Prisons has revealed that people are happier if they take part in the system that evaluates them. Yep. A 7-yera study by the U.S. Marshalls Service and the Dept. of Criminology at the University of Maryland has concluded what any first-grade teacher could have told us: inmates need to have a voice.

Ironically, the study sees as positive that prisoners’ failure to complete the draconian steps of the Prison Litigation Reform Act and thus courts decide in BOP’s favor. How is that a good thing, actually?

“”The study appears to validate the BOP’s grievance system. ‘Generally speaking, people feel a process is more “just” when their voice is heard before decisions are made, decision makers treat everyone equally, outcomes are proportionate, and there is a process of appeal or challenge if they don’t agree with an outcome.’ Well, yes. Getting to vent about a problem is useful. But how does that make the BOP process a good part of incarceration?

8 September 2014
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How Michael Santos Learned About Prison Life

Too smart and too rich for words, 25-year-old Michael Santos assumed that, if caught, he would be treated fairly well–he had never touched the stuff. The feds taught him differently. Despite having big-time lawyers, he received a 45-year sentence and began his real education–in all levels of prisons across the whole country. It was not the trip he had planned when he bought real estate in Spain.

Inside: Life Behind Bars in America is one of 6 or 7 books Santos has published since disappearing from his comfortable homes. He learned all his lessons and wants us to know them too–mostly, lessons about how punitive and un-correctional our correctional system is. Read this book and earn how the petty (drug dealers) get mixed with the mighty (murderers, rapists), and how the power system inside prisons parallels the one outside, but with horrific consequences. He was released in 2012 and plans to continue educating us.

6 September 2014
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A Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling

Two prison activists collaborated to bring a 2000 book to life; activist/author Marc Mauer and artist Sabrina Jones have created a graphic novel that re-tells the history of prisons and explains prison policy. A Race to Incarcerate offers both stunning graphics and a readable, cautionary tale for young people and those who enjoy getting information visually. [See full review, this web, under “Other Books.”]

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