My facebook account and blog are filled these weeks with countless examples of jails and prisons ignoring dire medical emergencies, many of which result in deaths. When will the U.S. provide legitimate, comprehensive oversight of the penal institutions? It should have begun with the establishment of jails; it should happen now.
Snake oil. Prayer beads. Shaman smoke. Laying on hands.... Inmates in Arizona prisons are denied necessary medical treatment, insists a lawsuit filed by American Friends (Quakers) and the Arizona ACLU. Instead, inmates are told that medical problems are "all in their heads" and that they should just pray about it. Remember when the Puritans drowned women, accused of witchcraft, and insisted that God would save the women if they prayed about it? God didn't step up to the bat on those, and apparently He's missing in the Arizona prison medical centers too. Let's hope the court can save these ill and desperate inmates; the prison system isn't about to. CCA says it's doing what is required under the law. Period.
Last year, the Texas Parole Board shredded the contents of 86,000 packets, believing their contents had been scanned and filed electronically. Not so. Then, to cover the errors, they hired extra helpers, put in overtime, and tried to cover the errors. That cost tax payers, but not nearly as much as it cost the inmates, some of whom will now wait 3-5 years before their case is reviewed again. Both the Texas Inmate Families Association and the guards' union are calling for a re-do. They want the cases reviewed, and those who qualify released.
New Mexico Police are taking searches to the extreme; first, last month's story of requiring a driver to have 4 anal probes at a hospital--because he clutched his buttocks in a routine traffic search. Doctors found nothing. Now, a story of the police using pepper spray on a woman's vagina during a jail search. At what point do the citizens of New Mexico scream, "Enough!"? It's time.
We all know the prison industry rules. But what many do not know is how directly the Prison Industrial Complex takes money directly from our lives. As many as 65% of private prison contracts require our counties to pay for each cell as if it is occupied and costing the company money--even when that cell is empty. These contracts should be challenged at every level and then, perhaps, made illegal. As long as the taxpayer is involved, the county is responsible to us and our shrinking pocketbooks. This nonsense must stop.
Prison Grievances: when to write, how to write, is a 60-page graphic novel that teaches inmates to write. It simultaneously discourages frivolous grievances. Already in the libraries of all Maine and Texas prison libraries, the book is now, perhaps, about to reach the Christmas stockings of Minnesota inmates. Hope so!
Sen. Phil Gramm decided to get tough on drug crime; Texas and 11 other states quickly agreed, and banned any and all drug felons from food stamps--for life. Thus, when 180,000 women were released in the last 5 years, they could not get help to provide for their families. This refusal to help those who need help the most merely feeds the Industrial Prison Complex. It does not deter crime. It does not make society safer. Tell these states to allow drug felons to get back on their feet: TEXAS, AK AL, GA, MO, MS, SC, WV, WY.
Norman Pattis took a close look at the statistics and psychology behind plea bargains. This aspect of criminal justice needs this type of review--more often, and with more publicity. Help disseminate this article and scream aloud the message: innocent people should NOT agree to plea bargains, no matter what the pressure.
In a detailed, scholarly review of executions in Texas, three professors and their students investigated the relationship of lynchings to electrocutions. The Rope, the Chair, and the Needle draws heavily on an enormous base of research throughout the century and concludes that racism and a "cultural readiness of exclusion" have kept the South morally convinced that "the other" should never have power. Executed disproportionally for the same crimes (extensive empirical data), Afro-Americans in the South are taught over and again that their place is the subordinate one, that they should fear the true power of their masters, that the law can deny a person's humanity based on prejudice. The authors connect prosperity in the South with a fewer executions; financial depressions with lynchings and executions. The book is persuasive because it is factual and attempts a balance. Read it!