Prison Grievances: when to write, how to write, received a terrific honor today. Amazon announced that it is one of 100 titles chosen as Editors' Picks for 2014.
What could this mean? I hope it means that mainstream media is going to focus on prison reform. Now. Wouldn't it be marvelous if more and more books about, for, and by people incarcerated get noticed and read and discussed?
The Texas rascals are at it again; the Organization of American States organized a meeting of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The group met in DC to discuss the deaths of 14 Texas inmates. Guess who didn't show up? Yes, that would be the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice. Ands the Attorney General of Texas, Greg Abbott, who is preparing to move into the governor's mansion soon. He's plain busy. Instead, the Human Rights Clinic at University of Texas School of Law and plaintiff attorneys across Texas, and the Texas Civil Rights Project met with international investigators to discuss the inhumane temperatures that are maiming and killing people. Texas holds 150,900 people in ancient prisons with no air conditioners and cement walls. The people charged by the citizens of the state--don't even show up. They're waiting for litigation to resolve the complaints. Of course, getting into court, and getting aid from the court, can take years--obviously. Meanwhile, people die.
It's comforting when people actually investigate prisons. In Vermont, they looked at female populations and discovered that a whopping 70% of those in prison are there as repeaters--but because of a technical parole violation. And why is that? No child care. No transportation to parole office. No money for telephone to call in. These problems can be resolved with a little common sense, not with yet more incarceration--paid for by taxpayers. And not resolved by tearing mothers away from their families again, leaving many of them without any financial support. When will legislators listen to families? to common sense instead of their political/monetary supporters? Follow the money.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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...
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?