Solitary confinement began as a means of segregating violent prisoners. Today, however, it is overused and used illogically, according to both prison advocates and the president of Texas' local guard union, Lance Lowry. The average stay in Texas solitary is just under two years. YEARS! Yet the new head of Colorado Corrections spent one 23-hour stint in a solitary cell last month and almost cracked; Colorado is revising its policy. Texas' executive director of Criminal Justice Brad Livingston expects Texas to follow with its own re-examination. Let's hope he doesn't just appoint another committee. We know there's a problem. Texas is holding more than 7,200 inmates in solitary, some for reputed gang affiliation.
Join me and a host of experts at the Dallas national Prisoners' Family Conference. Learn how to care for yourself while helping your Loved One. The plenary speakers are dynamic; the quiet times shared with others in your situation will enrich your life. Do join us!
Steve Martin consults across the country on prison issues. He is an expert with all the experience: he's been a guard, a lawyer, general counsel, and now activist. And what he is saying is that prison policy must change to save the lives of guards. It's the right thing to do for inmates, too. Return to a system where death-row inmates and those in solitary confinement can earn their way to rewards and even out of solitary. These positive incentives help guards keep control and reward the Good Guys. This makes so much sense that we have to wonder why it isn't that way now.
Between the U.S. Senate and the U.S. attorney's Office, there's optimism and news about drug sentencing. The Senate passed a bill with three key provisions: make crack cocaine sentencing provisions for drugs retroactive; cut mandatory/minimum in half; and grant judges discretion. Then Eric Holder appealed to the pubic and all state bars to forward names/cases that need reviewing for pardons. Amazing! Let's hope these two acts, together, allow many inmates to get out and get new lives.
The Supreme Court has reserved immunity in most cases involving prosecutors. Many of the circuit courts have, also. The 7th Circuit, however, has carved out a wee nitch that might allow those wronged by the legal system to fight back. The Washington Post has investigated and analyzed major arguments and cases in an article worth reading:
The National Academy of Sciences concluded that hair analysis is a flawed science in 2009. Now, Texas has the first-in-the-nation commission set up to review legal cases that depended on this flawed science. The Commission itself had all sorts of controversy when it was first set up as a political entity by Governor Perry. After considerable publicity and push-back, the committee was reformed and true scientists added. Now, those scientists will examine the case transcripts as well as 'expert' testimony of old cases that may have hinged on false science. Best of luck to them!
Perhaps it takes a long time to change a culture. But it shouldn't take that much time to change actions of personnel who work for you. Yet prison officials and governor of Alabama insist they haven't had time to make changes in Tutwiler Prison for Women, despite the JANUARY 3013 report the DOJ handed them. That is a year, for those without a handy calendar. How hard is it to hold a meeting of all prison personnel and say, "No, you may not record women in the showers and on the toilet." Or "No, you cannot insist on oral sex in exchange for a cell phone." Then there wouldn't need to be another and another report, right?
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.