from the frontlines: sept. 26, 2022

racist police hiring practices

Following allegations of both racism within the Kansas City Missouri Police Department and that their employment practices discriminate against Black applicants, the U.S. Department of Justice launched a formal investigation. The investigation will determine if the KCPD violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by engaging in racist practices affecting entry level hiring, promotion rates, and disciplinary actions. NPR (Sep. 19, 2022)

public defenders’ clients more often jailed

New research spearheaded by eight district attorneys revealed that, in several districts across Colorado, defendants who cannot afford a private attorney and rely on public defenders are more likely to be sentenced to jail. While the incarceration rates for felony clients both publicly and privately represented were similar from 2017-2019, from 2020 onwards the rates began to differ; so far in 2022 61% of public defenders’ clients were jailed, compared to only 54% of private attorneys’ clients. The Denver Post (Sep. 19, 2022)

miscounted prison deaths

A bipartisan report released by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee revealed that the U.S. Department of Justice failed to properly count approximately 1000 deaths of people in prison. The investigation, chaired by Senator Jon Ossoff, found that the miscount was the result of the DOJ neglecting to enforce the Death in Custody Reporting Act of 2013, which mandates states that receive federal funding report any prison deaths. Louisiana Illuminator (Sep. 20, 2022)

compassionate release blocked in Georgia

New data from the United States Sentencing Commission found that vulnerable prisoners seeking compassionate release for fear of COVID sickness are less likely to be granted approval in Georgia than anywhere else in the U.S. Federal judges in Georgia’s Middle District granted only 1.7% of the requests they received. The requests of prisoners such as Kenneth Moore, who is serving a 14-year sentence for conspiracy to distribute cocaine, were denied on the grounds that Moore, and others like him, had received the COVID-19 vaccine.  The Current (Sep. 21, 2022)

Serial’s Adnan Syed released

Adnan Syed, subject of the popular podcast Serial, has been released from prison after serving almost 30 years for the murder of his high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. His conviction was vacated in response to a petition filed by public defender Becky Feldman requesting Syed’s case be reviewed under the 2021 Juvenile Restoration Act. Feldman felt Syed deserved a new trial after examining undisclosed evidence in possession of the state of Maryland, including handwritten notes about another suspect. The Baltimore Banner (Sep. 20, 2022)

judge imprisons too many children

Tarrant County courts send more children to juvenile detention centers than any other county in Texas. One state district judge, Alex Kim, has detained a disproportionate number of children. An analysis of the county’s juvenile justice system, led by former head of Tarrant County Juvenile Services Carey Cockerell, found that new policies, such as one that allows for longer detention while a decision is reached, are driving the high rates. Cockerell also said Kim and two associate judges do not hold court often enough.  The Texas Tribune (Sep. 21, 2022)

stifling heat

Hit with a heat wave, Georgia doesn’t have universal air conditioning in their prisons. Only a quarter of Georgia prisons are fully air conditioned and Georgia is one of 13 states in the South and Midwest that with this issue. Many people in prison are susceptible to heat-related illness which have caused dozens of health-related deaths in Texas prisons. In order to combat this issue, Georgia will have to modernize their facilities with air conditioning and train staff for extreme heat events. Prison Journalism Project (Sep. 19, 2022)

male choice

Some male politicians s say that a woman who receives an abortion should receive the same criminal consequences as one who drowns her baby. Rep. McCormick (R-LA) told a committee of state lawmakers that “the taking of a life is murder, and it is illegal.”. Male  lawmakers in states such as Indiana, Texas, Arizona and Kansas believe they need to wipe out existing abortion regulations to punish these women. A poll conducted by Pew Research Center, said that people don’t believe men should have greater say on abortion policy. CNN (Sep. 21, 2022)

cruel and unusual punishment

San Quentin State Prison in California has been using their Adjustment Center (AC) for their incarcerated COVID patients since June. When the prison turned the AC into a COVID unit, a devastating outbreakinfected more than 62 percent of the population and killed 28 incarcerated people and one correctional sergeant over the course of several months. Prisoner Wayne Hughes was sent there because of COVID-19 and he along with other patients “described being trapped in dirty cells in conditions that felt punitive—sometimes while battling serious cases of COVID.” Type Investigations (Sep. 19, 2022)

"The unit has a name: the Adjustment Center. Often shortened to the AC, it has long served as the harshest of California’s death row units, usually used solely for solitary confinement of people whom officials consider a threat to the security of the institution."

court mandate

New York City’s Department of Corrections is under a court mandate to reform Rikers. The system continues to struggle with violence, abuse and allegations of neglect from prisoners, high absenteeism among staff and other issues. Kevin Bryan hung  himself on Sept. 14 at the Eric M. Taylor Center, making him the 14th person to die in custody shortly after his release. New York City says they have a handle on the issue and will make a renewed case for keeping control of the facilities. Bloomberg (Sep. 19, 2022)

toxic bars

At least 23 jails have been proposed or constructed on toxic land in Midwestern states. All but three states of these facilities were in their states’ toxic air corridors. Harmful health risks like COVID-19, air pollution, and cancer were found on the land, leading to a lower life expectancy. Capital B News (Sep. 12, 2022)

on strike

Incarcerated workers within the Alabama Correctional System may go on strike in the coming weeks. The number of the individuals who may go on strike is unknown but a considerable amount hold jobs inside. Alabama’s prisons remain some of the most dangerous and inhumane. An on-going lawsuit with the U.S Department of Justice alleges unconstitutional treatment, narcotics abuse and increased violence between incarcerated individuals that can be directly linked to a lack of staffing system wide. The proposed date for the strike is Sep. 26. Alabama Political Reporter (Sep. 21, 2022)

forced prison labor to end?

In the November midterm elections, five states will vote whether or not to remove the punishment clause from their state constitutions. Roughly two out of three of the 1.2 million people incarcerated in state and federal prisons in America are forced to work.. Prison reform advocates believe that the use of forced labor for inmates is rooted in antebellum slavery. Yahoo! News (Sep. 20, 2022)

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Lonyae started working as a Research and Reporting Intern for The Des in August 2022. She is a senior at Texas Christian University, pursuing a degree in Journalism with a minor in Writing. At The Des she is most excited for working with new staff, expanding her storytelling skills in her writing as well as expanding her knowledge in the criminal justice system.