D.C. Council votes in favor of new criminal code; state senators dispute D.A. Krasner impeachment; rising crime rates weaponized against reform candidates

justice from the frontlines: Nov. 7, 2022

new D.C. criminal code passes first vote

The D.C. Council unanimously voted to rewrite the city’s criminal code, but it must pass a second vote in two weeks time that is signed by the mayor in order to take effect. The bill contains reforms such as the elimination of most mandatory minimum sentences, the allowance of trial by jury in misdemeanor cases and a reduction in maximum penalties for certain offenses such as robberies. This reform would be the first “comprehensive modernization” of the code, according to Public Safety Committee Chair Charles Allen. The Washington Post (Nov. 1, 2022)

PA senators challenge Krasner impeachment

As crime rates in Philadelphia rise, State House Republicans have moved to impeach Philadelphia’s District Attorney, Larry Krasner. Dem. State Senators pushed back against this; Senator Art Haywood said that the concerns surrounding the rise in crime can be attributed to other factors including socioeconomic conditions and the availability of guns. Other state senators such as Democrat Nikil Saval support Krasner’s anti mass incarceration policies. Go Erie (Nov. 2, 2022)

weaponized crime rates

Republicans like New York gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin blamed rising crime on reform efforts by the Democratic state legislature. Zeldin criticized incumbent Governor Kathy Hochul for neglecting to do something about the “pro-criminal laws.” In reality, these laws consist of increased prisoner rights in the parole process, reduced juvenile incarceration rates and the elimination of cash bail for misdemeanors and non violent felonies. These policies coincided with the upheaval of the pandemic and necessary reforms cannot be blamed as an isolated cause for rising crime. NPR (Nov. 3, 2022)

prisons deny hunger strike 

On Aug. 22, individuals living inside maximum security prisons organized a hunger strike to protest unsafe living conditions. Inmates are experiencing mold exposure, which is causing painful lung problems. One inmate, Leonard Jefferson, who is incarcerated in Rhode Island Maximum Security Prison, described the living conditions as “the closest thing to hell on earth.” Jefferson estimated that over half of the maximum security population took part in the strike, but the Rhode Island Department of Corrections denied this, saying “there have been no actions to indicate a hunger strike.” Incarcerated people said this lack of acknowledgement makes it hard to prompt change. The Brown Daily Herald (Nov. 1, 2022)

justice reform pays off 

In 2017, Louisiana passed a series of criminal justice reforms. Some of these reforms included the lowering of mandatory minimum sentences and the shortening of the time period during which past convictions can be used to trigger the state’s harsh habitual offender legislation. Since 2017, the state’s prison population fell dramatically, with 2021 seeing 10,000 fewer people incarcerated than in 2016. To calculate financial savings, the prison population drop each month was multiplied by a per diem rate. Ultimately, the state saved approximately $150 million from implementing the reforms. The Louisiana Weekly (Oct. 31, 2022)

New Mexico buys private prisons

At a cost of $217 million in rent over the next 20 years, the state of New Mexico has recently acquired three private prisons under the leadership of Gov. Michelle Lijan Grisham. Presently, the population of incarcerated people is trending down while rent costs are trending up. New Mexico has historically relied on private prisons, with a report from the Sentencing Project finding that 45% of inmates were held in private prisons in 2020. Advocates of state control believe that the states can more closely monitor safety conditions inside. Others believe that the prisons should have been closed altogether. Searchlight New Mexico (Nov. 3, 2022)

justice still absent

Fifty years ago, two students at Southern University were killed during a campus protest. Denver Smith, who may have tried to make sure his sister was safe and Leonard Douglas Brown, who wondered what the crowd was gathered for, were killed by a deputy with no involvement during the protest. With the 50th year anniversary approaching after the shooting, a 10-month examination by the Louisiana State University Cold Case Project, provides a much clearer picture of one of the most troubling episodes in race relations in Baton Rouge. Louisiana Illuminator (Oct. 30, 2022)

prevention program failed 

In July 2021, Advance Peace, a gun violence prevention program, was supposed to launch in New York City but after months of poor planning and miscommunication, the program has been quietly scrapped. Devon Boggan, founder of Advance Peace, received calls from reporters to comment on the plans of the launch but this was news to him. Boggan typically gets involved early when a new city wants to use his model but it’s been more than 19 months since New York Officials have made progress. The Trace (Nov. 1, 2022) 

Gun cases dismissed 

Federal prosecutors expect to drop dozens of felony gun and drug cases involving officers on a violent crime squad in the D.C. An ongoing investigation raised questions of officers credibility because officers were seizing guns without making arrests, and possibly lying on reports. Due to this, seven officers in the 7th district in D.C. have been placed on administrative leave or desk duties. Bill Miller, a U.S. attorney’s office spokesman declines to say how many cases have been dismissed. The Washington Post (Nov. 1, 2022)

sentenced to life over $14

For two decades, David Coulson spent time in jail for stealing $14. At the time of the offense, in which he took change from an unlocked garage, he was living on the streets, struggling with drug addiction and mental illness. Despite his health crisis, Coulson had no violent crimes on his record, the judge ordered that he be locked up for life, saying he could be released after 35 years. Coulson was released last month. His release was unusual but his punishment was not. The Guardian (Nov. 2, 2022) 

guilty on sexual assault charges 

Federal prison transport guard, Rogeric Hankins, pleads guilty to violating detainee’s civil rights by sexually assaulting her, in court on Tuesday. Corporation, picking up people who were arrested for out-of-state warrants and transporting them back to the jurisdiction. Hanking picked up a victim from Olympia, Washington to take her to St.Paul, Minnesota and as he was transporting her, he stopped at a gas station in Joplin, Missouri, and took her in to use the bathroom and after that Hankin led her to the men’s bathroom and told her to go to the furthest stall from the door. No sentencing has been set, though Hankins faces up to 10 years in prison. Fox News (Nov. 1, 2022)

In other news, Hae Min Lee’s family again asked the Maryland Court of Special Appeals for redo of Adnan Syed hearing;

From the Des

in other news

Hae Min Lee’s family again asked the Maryland Court of Special Appeals for redo of Adnan Syed hearing


community board

Negotiating a Criminal Justice Bill Across Party Lines 

Opinion: Plea bargaining and mass incarceration go hand in hand. We need to end both

Editorial: The empire strikes back – against progressive prosecutors 

Archives of Resistance: The movement to end police violence has a rich visual history. In Brooklyn, a collective of volunteers is doing its part to preserve it

Reshaping Our Wanting: There is a place for desire in an abolitionist world — at least when desire is pleasure and love and freedom

download: automatically record your traffic stop

attend Abolish Mandatory Reporting and Family Policing, Nov. 10

We Need a New Paradigm to Halt the Unprecedented Growth of Electronic Monitoring

Doctor charged with prison manslaughter; New Bureau of Prisons Chief promises change; Manhattan DA prosecutes domestic violence victim he ran on protecting; Texas DA supports man on death row; LA kids prison investigation finds serious sexual and physical abuse

justice from the frontlines: Oct. 31, 2022

doctor charged for death of inmate 

A San Diego doctor has been charged with involuntary manslaughter for the death of Elisa Serna, a 24-year-old woman who collapsed in prison. A nurse who walked away from Elisa after she collapsed was also charged last November. Both medical professionals face accusations of criminal negligence as they failed to perform their full duty of care. A state auditor recently published a report revealing that San Diego County jails have one of the highest death rates in California. US News (Oct. 26, 2022)

prison chief promises reform

Colette Peters, the new Chief of the federal Bureau of Prisons, has pledged to enact reforms within the agency, including changes to hiring practices, increased transparency and accountability for employees who are guilty of sexually assaulting inmates. In her former role as Oregon’s prison director, Peters oversaw a decrease in Oregon’s prison population. Peters said she looks to hire prison staff who are interested in preparing inmates for reintegration into society. AP (Oct. 24, 2022)

nonviolent offenders stuck in cycle

A new investigation from The Marshall Project reveals that the majority of repeat defendants in Cuyahoga County’s court system are not violent offenders but rather people suffering from addiction and mental illness. Police in the area refer to these defendants as “career criminals,” but the problem is more complex than meets the eye. Data revealed that less than a third of cases involving repeat offenders involved a violent offense. Advocates are calling for alternatives to incarceration, as these individuals have fallen into a cycle of recidivism that is difficult to escape. The Marshall Project (Oct. 26, 2022)

district attorney switch-up

Then-candidate for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg took to Twitter to share his support for Tracy McCarter, a victim of domestic abuse who was charged with the murder of her violent ex-husband. After winning his election in November 2021, Bragg is now prosecuting McCarter despite having the power to drop her charges. Bragg cites plea deals he has offered McCarter and attempts to reduce her charges as signs of the understanding he once demonstrated on the campaign trail, but a Color of Change petition reveals that many people are disappointed in Bragg’s lack of legal support for McCarter. Jezebel (Oct. 26, 2022)

Texas DA believes Areli Escobar is innocent

A Texas State judge ruled that the scientific evidence which led to Areli Escobar being placed on death row is not accurate. District Attorney José P. Garza, despite initially wanting to defend Escobar’s conviction, reevaluated his case. When the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals took the case, Garza urged the court to give Escobar a new trial. His plea was unsuccessful, but Garza maintains Escobar’s innocence in advance of a potential hearing of the case by the Supreme Court. The allegedly mistaken DNA evidence had been crucial to the jury’s initial decision to convict Escobar. The New York Times (Oct. 24, 2022)

police reform stalled 

More than two years after the murder of George Floyd, violent crimes continue to increase causing police reform to be stalled. In the midst of the pressure, elected officials pledged sweeping changes to how officers operate and how they’re overseen. Elizabeth Glazer, one of New York’s leading experts on criminal justice, looked into why police reform has stalled. Glazer found that there’s a kind of built-in conservatism about the importance of maintaining the police and the movement coincided with rocketing rates of increase in shootings. She also found that “defund the police,” was really a lost opportunity. It was viewed as an existential threat to police departments and could’ve been a chance to reshape their roles in a way that focused on their core strengths and to begin to give back to other professionals the responsibility to deal with the homeless and mental illness. ProPublica (Oct. 24, 2022)

drug reform and diversion on ballot

The demands of a reform group in Hays County have become focal points in the upcoming DA race and a “Reeferendum” in Central Texas. The organization Mano Amiga has helped turn this November’s elections into a referendum on both marijuana decriminalization and pretrial diversion. Activists within the organization have gathered enough signatures to put a measure on the ballot this year that would end citations and arrests for possession of up to four ounces of marijuana in the city of San Marcos. After years of pushing for this to be on the ballot, the time has finally come. Local and state police unions haven’t taken a public position on this year’s referendum to decriminalize marijuana possession but they have endorsed Puryear, the GOP nominee to replace District Attorney Wes Mau. Bolts (Oct. 21, 2022)

missing and murdered

On Oct. 22, New Mexico had a Missing in New Mexico Day event in Albuquerque which was designed to bring law enforcement face-to-face with families searching for their missing loved ones. Two mothers, Rose Yazzie and Vangie Randall-Shorty talked directly with Raul Bujanda, the FBI special agent who leads the Albuquerque field office, and they outlined not only the timeline of the investigation but significant errors they’ve viewed during the process. Yazzie told Bujanda that it took the Navajo Nation Police more than two weeks to complete a missing report for her daughter and Randall-Shorty discussed months long delays in finding out the circumstances around her son’s death. They are both seeking information about their children’s cases but want law enforcement to come up with a strategic plan to find Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives. Source NM (Oct. 24, 2022)

kids locked up and abused

An investigation into a juvenile facility that imprisons Louisiana children revealed over 60 suicide attempts in two years and over 90 escape attempts in the last three. One escaped girl hoped to be taken to a “big jail.” The escapes and suicides are a result of repeated physical violence, sexual assault and psychological torment, the investigation found. Despite years of documented failing, the state regulators have never fined or punished the facility or threatened its contracts. Local law enforcement was described as “largely dismissive” of sexual-abuse allegations. The New York Times (Oct. 30, 2022)

extension on localizing parole 

Back in July of 2020, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser asked Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton for legislation wresting control of the District’s parole system from the federal government. But today, D.C. remains in the same position with no agreement on a path forward for a new parole system. Congress had a closed-door meeting saying it would take about two years to get done. The holdup has an impact on Black D.C. residents, who data show are overrepresented in the parole system. The longer the delay, the more prison time can result for those in jail for technical violations, losing their jobs, housing and gains they may have made. The Washington Post (Oct. 25, 2022)

From the Des

in other news

police do not believe a woman once again, and another time


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Still locked out of the ballot box

Still locked out of the ballot box

 An estimated 4.6 million Americans are still unable to vote due to felony records despite reforms

 

Despite eight states reforming their laws regarding felony disenfranchisement since 2020, two percent of the voting-age population will be unable to vote this election cycle, according to a new report from The Sentencing Project. Key findings include: 

  • One in 19 African Americans of voting age is disenfranchised, a rate 3.5 times greater than that of non-African Americans.

 

  • More than one in 10 African American adults is disenfranchised in eight states – Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Virginia.

 

  • The report conservatively estimates that at least 506,000 Latinx Americans or – or 1.7 percent of the voting eligible population – are disenfranchised.

 

  • Approximately 1,000,000  women are disenfranchised or over one-fifth of the total disenfranchised population.

"4.6 percent million people are disenfranchised due to a felony conviction, a figure that has declined by 24 percent since 2016, as more states enacted policies to curtail this practice and state prison populations declined modestly."

On Tuesday, The Sentencing Project held a virtual press briefing to discuss the release of their new report, “Locked Out 2022: Estimates of People Denied Voting Rights Due to a Felony Conviction.” Speakers discussed findings of the report, trends in felony disenfranchisement and how these findings will impact the upcoming midterms.

The new report, updates and expands on the 2020 report, “Locked Out 2020: Estimates of People Denied Voting Rights Due to a Felony Conviction,” done by the Sentencing Project. 

Credit: The Sentencing Project

“It’s gotten much harder to estimate the number of people and the rates of those disenfranchised because each of these policies is quite a bit more nuanced than it has been in the past so we present these estimates with some humility,” Chris Uggen, lead author of the report said. 

Terrible racial disparities remain because of this issue. According to the study, about 5.3 percent of the Black voting age population remains disenfranchised and 1.7 percent of Latinx population remains disenfranchised.

Avalon Betts-Gaston, project manager for the Illinois Alliance for Reentry and Justice, spoke virtually at the press conference about her experience of being wrongfully convicted and sentenced to a federal prison for four years and how voting affected her after her sentencing.

“To lose that voice and that ability to parent my children was devastating to me,” Betts-Gaston said.

“Prior to that time I had been very active as a voter, I was making sure I was researching candidates,” Betts-Gaston said. She also describes coming from a family who was always involved and informed voters and how her grandfather made voting a big production in her family.

Betts-Gaston

“To lose that voice and that ability to parent my children was devastating to me,” Betts-Gaston said. 

This election year, there has been some concern about the impact of voting bans on people with felony convictions. 

“In reporting this issue one of my concerns is in the two weeks leading up to the election this concern or talk about ineligible voting can deter people from exercising their rights,” Uggen said. 

“So I think it’s very important to tell the whole story and explain that indeed people do have the right even when they may face some intimidation. We have to let people know in states where you are indeed eligible, that you are eligible.” 

“This is a national intimidation in my opinion, a national intimidation effort for those with arresting conviction records,” Betts-Gaston said.

There have also been concerns about what is next for voting in specific states, such as Florida. In Tuesday’s press briefing, a question was asked about if the voter suppression tactics are  a deterrent for the formerly incarcerated community, specifically in Florida. 

The Sentencing Project

“Because Florida is the current center of attention with regards to this issue, it is having that chilling effect on other states, especially in southern states,” Betts-Gaston said. 

"We should not have to do any of those things, our vote and voice should never be taken from us and that is where I’m moving and that is the direction our country must head." Betts-Gaston said

Betts-Gaston discussed how people shouldn’t forget about the people who have been prosecuted for this issue and serving time for voting. She describes it as “sending a clear message.” 

“This is a national intimidation in my opinion, a national intimidation effort for those with arresting conviction records,” Betts-Gaston said. 

Betts-Gaston said, “ When society was no longer able to just outright ban  [people of color] from voting, they came up with creative ways to do that and that was through the criminal punishment system.”

In addition to the report, the speakers expressed what needs to be done in order to move forward and combat this issue. 

“We need to get beyond the language of saying that somehow a felony disenfranchisement should be part of the punishment, we need to have that conversation,” Betts-Gaston said. 

“It does not serve any societal benefit. For that reason we should not be doing it. We should not have to prove that we paid our debt to society. We should not have to do any of those things, our vote and voice should never be taken from us and that is where I’m moving and that is the direction our country must head into because we have to start having real conversations.” 

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Shaking off the dust

The United States Sentencing Commission’s four year interruption has left the circuit court system in disarray and many incarcerated people waiting to hear back on appeals. Its first meeting addressed the list of priorities it will tackle including The First Step Act.

NUMBERS

Still locked out of the ballot box

 An estimated 4.6 million Americans are still unable to vote due to felony records despite reforms. This includes more than one in 10 Black adults in eight states – Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Virginia.

More Voices of Justice To Come

Mass incarceration punishes kids too

Mass incarceration punishes kids too

new report shows the devastation families face because of mass incarceration 

The arrest of a parent can be traumatic and severe for children whose parents are incarcerated, causing emotional, physical, educational and financial well-being difficulties. According to a  new study, kids of incarcerated parents are likely to become incarcerated themselves.

 

The study reports that half of people in state prisons are parents to minors, leaving 1.25 million kids to cope with the fallout.  According to research done in state prisons, children of incarcerated parents face formidable cognitive and health-related problems throughout their development.

 

“If you have a parent that was incarcerated while you were growing up, you’re more likely to end up incarcerated yourself,” said Wanda Bertram, communications strategist for the Prison Policy Initiative. “There’s clearly a generational aspect to this.”

 

This causes challenges for parents, especially women when it comes to parenting behind bars. A survey of prison inmates by the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that women are more likely than men to be a parent of a minor and more likely to have lived with the child prior to imprisonment.

 

“If you grow up and you have an incarcerated parent, you don’t have that source of support, you have one less person to help you get your first job, or find your first place to live, and even help you get connected with the healthcare system,” Bertram said.

 

“All things that we know help keep people on a stable path to adulthood and thus keep them out of the criminal justice system.”

 

While these children go through difficult times, it can be hard to find where they will go depending on if they have other family or not. The report found that 71% of children either stay with the other parent or step-parent, 13% stay with the grandmother and/or grandfather (4%) or another relative (5%). So far a small percentage of  parents reported that their child has been incarcerated. “About 3,400 parents in prison report their minor children are in the foster care system,” according to the report.

 

“Foster care is not a very good system, there’s lots of problems with it,” Bertram said. “It tends to frequently tear people away from their families.” Bertram added that trauma can lead to behaviors that are often criminalized such as skipping school.

 

Even if incarcerated parents try to stay in touch while behind bars, barriers like visitation policies and distance make it logistically and economically difficult.

 

“As a result of this, people have to rely on other means of communication such as phone calls, video calls and mailing options,”  Bertram said.

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Bail industry gets away with murder, costing defendants and citizens alike

An investigation was published indicating that six NYC bail bond companies were using fake trade names in order to continue operations without being shut down by state officials for large amounts of debt. The ability of agencies to continue to profit off of the bail system despite state laws that allow officials to suspend agencies owing large sums of money is the sixth loophole emphasized by the report.

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NUMBERS

Mass incarceration punishes kids too

The arrest of a parent can be traumatic and severe for children whose parents are incarcerated, causing emotional, physical, educational and financial well-being difficulties. According to a  new study, kids of incarcerated parents are likely to become incarcerated themselves.

DISPATCHES

left to die

new report finds ten of thousands of people over fifty who are sentenced to life without parole face increasingly grim conditions

More Voices of Justice To Come

imprisoned pregnant women may get more protection from bill; death row man killed despite mental health concerns; police to use robots armed with shotguns; B-More teens shot at high rates; LA men in prison for almost 30y found innocent

justice on the frontlines: Oct. 24, 2022

juveniles imprisoned at adult prison

Under pressure from officials, following the escape of nearly two dozen juvenile inmates from Bridge City Center for Youth in New Orleans, Governor John Bel Edwards relocated ten youths to the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Juvenile justice advocates and the transferees’ families are protesting the move, which would house minors in the same place as adult inmates on death row. State officials say the move is temporary while the Youth Center is renovated, and the youths will be kept in a separate building 1.5 miles from the rest of the penitentiary. Opponents to this move have cited the Penitentiary’s history of violence and alleged poor medical care. US News (Oct. 18, 2022)

baltimore teens shot at high rates

2022 has been a historically deadly year for teenagers in Baltimore. 71 children, the majority of whom were 16-17 year old Black males, were killed by gun violence this year. One third of the shootings took place in the Eastern District of the city. Deputy Mayor Anthony Barksdale said the city had recognized the high rates of youth shootings and is trying to find ways to prevent it. Barksdale said the presence of “ghost guns” – guns which are bought in parts on the internet and assembled at home – is contributing to the violence. Gun violence now kills more children than car accidents nationwide. The Baltimore Banner (Oct. 17, 2022)

inmates now a protected class

The Atlanta City Council has voted to include former inmates as a protected class of people. The decision means that former inmates cannot be denied opportunities for employment or housing on the basis of their incarceration. Bridgette Simpson, co-founder of a nonprofit that helps convicted people reintegrate into society, said that one in eight people in Georgia are impacted by the justice system and may fall into this protected class. The ordinance is predicted to lower recidivism rates throughout the city. Atlanta News First (Oct. 17, 2022)

deaf man killed in jail

A deaf man named Javarick Gantt was killed inside the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center. Gantt was arrested without bail on a warrant for violating probation, a decision which his friend Anthony Taylor did not understand. Taylor and Gantt’s mother expressed concerns about the way Gantt was housed with other inmates. Kirsten Poston, president of the Maryland Association of the Deaf, questioned the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services’ (DPSCS) compliance with a court settlement outlining proper accommodations for people who are deaf. DPSCS Intelligence and Investigative Division detectives are currently undergoing both criminal and administrative investigations into Gantt’s death. The Baltimore Banner (Oct. 19, 2022)

avoiding records for the rich

Court diversion programs offer defendants the opportunity to avoid a criminal record through various forms of restitution, including community service acts. However, this more appealing option comes at a high cost: literally and metaphorically. Courts set high fees for diversion programs, meaning wealthier defendants can avoid a record where others may not be able to. Diversion programs mean that justice systems cater differently to those in different financial situations. Advocates such as Joanna Weiss, co-director of the Fines and Fees Justice Center, believes diversion should be free. NPR (Oct. 17, 2022)

protecting pregnant women in jail 

A bipartisan senate bill introduced by Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Republican Susan Collins layouts improved care for incarcerated pregnant and postpartum women and their babies. If this act – called the Protecting the Health and Wellness of Babies and Pregnant Women in Custody Act – is passed, federal facilities would be mandated to provide access to medical and mental health services in addition to education for women in regards to parental rights as well as physical needs like lactation consultation. Under the act, pregnant women would not be placed in solitary confinement in their last trimester. Dr. Carolyn Sufrin said the bill could replace varied state standards with one national standard of care. 19th News (Oct. 17, 2022)

injustice delivered

On Wednesday, three Louisiana men incarcerated for over 28 years were found wrongfully convicted of murder. Bernell Juluke, Kunta Gable and Leroy Nelson were originally found guilty of the second-degree murder of Rondell Santinac in 1996, who died from a drive-by shooting. Newly uncovered evidence linked the original police investigation to an officer who was found guilty of murder conspiracy and endemic corruption. Prosecutors unveiled additional evidence of innocence, involving the credibility and testimony of the lone eyewitness to the shooting. Officers Len Davis and Sammie Williams were the first officers present at the scene of the shooting two minutes after the shooting and before any of the officers dispatched by 911 operators arrived. This made the court believe that they were following a pattern where they covered up for drug dealers they provided protection for. The Guardian (Oct. 20, 2022)

competency questioned, still executed

The state of Oklahoma executed Benjamin Cole, who was sentence to death for murdering his young daughter. His case caused a debate over if he should’ve been executed or not due to battling from schizophrenia and being severely mentally ill. His attorney said his mental illness led him to kill his daughter. Oklahoma state law makes it illegal to execute someone found to be insane. Cole was the second death row inmate put to death in a series of more than two dozen executions scheduled in the state of Oklahoma. CNN (Oct. 20, 2022) 

colon cancer kills incarcerated man

The Office of Inspector General for the Justice Department is launching an investigation for the death of Frederick Bardell. Bardell was convicted in 2012 of downloading child pornography from a shared website and sentenced to 151 months in federal prison. While in prison Bardell died due to colon cancer. In 2020 and 2021, Bardell filed a motion for compassionate release arguing he had advanced from cancer but his motion was denied by U.S. District Judge Roy Dalton. The government opposed Bardell’s motion arguing that it was not definitive that Bardell had cancer. Reason (Oct. 17, 2022) 

armed robots to be used as lethal shotguns 

pregnant inmate

Oakland police officers have been pushing and advocating for language that will allow robots to kill robots under certain emergency circumstances. The Oakland Police Department is in discussions over the authorized robot use policy. Some observers say the plan for robots to be armed contradicts itself because, “it’s billed as a de-escalation facilitator, but they want to keep it open as a potential lethal weapon.” Lt. Omar Daza-Quiroz, who represents the department, says they are still having conversations and doing more research. The department assurance that a shotgun-toting robot would be subject to departmental use-of-force policy did not satisfy critics. The concern is that police would be rolled out and robots would take over when police decided to use lethal force. The Intercept (Oct. 17, 2022)

mishandling nitrogen hypoxia documents

The Alabama Department of Corrections was slammed by the federal judge for mishandling an execution. Alabama wanted to execute convicted murderer Willie B. Smith III, but Smith’s attorney had filed a challenge claiming that Smith, who’s intellectually disabled was not provided a required explanation to opt out of the nitrogen hypoxia – a paper form distributed to all death row inmates at Holman Prison. The form distributed wasn’t an official Alabama Department of Corrections form and due to that they weren’t required to follow ADA guidelines. Alabama Political Reporter (Oct. 19, 2022) 


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supreme court rejects retrial request due to racism for Black death row prisoner, lack of medical examination kills incarcerated woman, covid relief funds bought police sniper rifles and bonuses, parkland shooter avoids death penalty

justice on the frontlines: Oct. 17, 2022

Rejected by Supreme Court 

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court turned away a Black death row inmate’s appeal for a new trial due several jurors expressing opposition to interracial relationships during his court case. Andre Thomas was convicted of murdering his estranged wife, their 4-year-old son and his 13-month-old step daughter. Thomas denied guilt. He gouged his eyeballs out twice and ate one of them. The prosecutors agreed he was in a psychotic state when he committed the murders, but Thomas was still sentenced to death by an all-white jury. Thomas’ lawyers argued that there was jury bias because three jurors said they were against interracial relationships during the jury selection process. NBC News (Oct. 11, 2022)

VA prisons could save $28M

A new report laid out recommendations for Virginia prisons to cut the cost of phone calls and basic goods. The report released earlier this month included feedback from various prison reform advocacy groups, incarcerated individuals, members of the Virginia General Assembly and others. The policy change could save the state more than $28 million annually. The report also recommends giving incarcerated people at least 120 minutes per day of no cost phone calls, making visitation video free, and increasing daily spending on prison food from $2.20 per person to $4.00 per person. State lawmakers ordered more information on the report ahead of the 2023 session where they may take further action on these recommendations. DC News Now (Oct. 10, 2022)

Supreme Court hears death row case 

Rodney Reed, whose claims of innocence drew millions of Americans to pay attention to his death row sentence, appealed to the Supreme Court last week to force Texas to test DNA evidence. A decision is expected sometime next year. Reed was convicted by an all-white jury in 1998 of the rape and murder of Stacey Stites, a 19-year-old white woman. Despite mounting evidence that her fiancé killed her, he has stayed on death row for decades. The supreme court is deciding whether Reed waited too long to ask for the DNA tests. The Intercept (Oct. 9, 2022)

cancer kills incarcerated women

An incarcerated woman died from cervical cancer which went undetected because she didn’t receive a Pap smear for 10 years while in prison. Niccole Wetherwell’s death highlights the lack of medical record upkeep by the Nebraska department of corrections despite a 2015 state law requiring that they update and complete medical records. Various proposals and attempts to create or acquire an electronic health record system as a solution have produced little progress. Omaha World-Herald (Oct. 12, 2022)

covid relief bought police sniper rifles 

The city council in Independence, Missouri reallocated $2 million in federal covid relief funds to police who spent it on sniper rifles, ballistic helmets and officer bonuses. Without federal guidelines, local jurisdictions spent covid funds where they chose. Because almost any spending can qualify as covid relief, police agencies are using the covid funds to fulfill their needs. Correctional institutions purchased body scanners, surveillance systems and built new prisons. The Marshall Project (Oct. 13, 2022) 

charges dropped

On Tuesday, Baltimore prosecutors abruptly dropped murder charges against Adnan Syed, the man whose case captured worldwide attention with the hit podcast “Serial.” The move caught the family of the victim and officials in Maryland by surprise. Charges were dropped due to other DNA on the victims shoes. The victims family didn’t receive a notice about the hearing and their attorney wasn’t offered an opportunity to be present at the proceeding. The Baltimore Banner (Oct. 11, 2022) 

death penalty avoided

The Parkland school shooter has avoided the death penalty after the jury rule for life in prison without the possibility of parole. The jury recommended this decision after a months-long trial to decide Nikolas Cruz’s punishment. Parents of the victims feel he doesn’t deserve compassion for what he did to the students. Prosecutors asked the jury to sentence the gunman to death because it was premeditated and calculated. CNN (Oct. 13, 2022) 

returning to the free world

Formerly incarcerated Texans are facing hardships to restart their lives after leaving prison. Without much help from the state, the Next Chapter program in Lufkin is stepping in to help recently released people to get back on their feet. The program helped like Maurice Watts to get a job without a college education. They helped him develop reading and communication skills. They also gave him a short-term loan for gas and food. The Texas Tribune (Oct. 12, 2022) 

arranging prisoner swap 

U.S. basketball star Britney Griner has been struggling emotionally, and she is worried that she may not be freed from Russian prison. One of her lawyers said that she is not in good condition. On Wednesday, President Biden stated that there has been no movement with the Russian president on her case. A White House official said that the administration was trying every available channel with Moscow to arrange a prisoner swap. If Griner’s appeal is unsuccessful, she will not be released. New York Times (Oct. 12, 2022) 

unannounced and without a warrant

Each year, child protective services agencies inspect the homes of roughly 3.5 million children without warrants, while only 5% of those homes have had children that are physically or sexually abused. New York City’s child protective service bureau showed up unannounced and without a warrant to search Ronisha Ferguson’s home after she was accused of inadequate supervision due to working long hours. They are being harmed rather than saved. Most of these children are forced to watch their moms and dads be humiliated, powerless and turned into second-class citizens in their own homes. ProPublica (Oct. 13, 2022)


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left to die

left to die

new report finds ten of thousands of people over fifty who are sentenced to life without parole face increasingly grim conditions

Multiple back surgeries, high blood pressure, cholesterol and pre-diabetes make it difficult for Carolyn Moore to move around the prison she is incarcerated at. Moore, featured in a June report on the 40,000 people who are serving life without parole in America’s prisons, has spent the last 37 years behind bars.

Her case was highlighted among others in a report that found almost half of the people serving life without parole are elderly and face poor healthcare, food and living conditions in facilities that are “largely unprepared” to manage their medical, physical, mental and social needs, according to The Sentencing Project’s “Nothing but Time.” Despite an increase in compassionate releases due to covid over the last few years, there has been little change within facilities or policy to address the substantial cost and demands of care of a growing elderly population. 

“In the report, we show 40% of the people serving life are 50 and older which is problematic for humanitarian reasons,” Ashley Nellis, author of the report, said. The exploding cost of care for incarcerated elderly was not something that was accounted for, she added.

The report found hazardous prison conditions affect the health of incarcerated elderly people. “The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 73% of imprisoned people aged 50 or older reported having a chronic medical condition and two thirds of people in prison, regardless of age, were taking prescription medication,” according to the report.

The report found that nearly half of prisons don’t have a set plan to care for elder, and that facilities are unsanitary and cannot handle medical, social, mental, and physical needs. Due to these disadvantages, aging occurs sooner in prison than the outside world. By 2030, it is predicted that one third of people will be at least 50 years old. 

Racial inequity persists in the elderly prison population as well: 48% of those serving life without parole are Black and close to 60% are not white. 

The vast majority of the elderly population facing life without parole is men, only 4% is women. Women both in and out of prison live longer than men, and they are more prone to report mental, cognitive, and physical health decline. 

As the aging prison population grows, states face growing costs. Data showed that in 2015 corrections collectively spent $8.1 billion on medical costs for inmates. “The cost is an issue to be concerned about. You can expect billions of dollars to help house elderly people and provide their healthcare and hospice care,” Nellis said.

In ten years, even if no other person gets sentenced to life without parole, almost an additional 10,000 more people serving these sentences will be over 50 and considered elderly. 

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Overdose Deaths Behind Bars Rise as Drug Crisis Swells

Even if Alabama’s prisons and jails are especially overrun by drugs, death, and violence, their problems are not unique in the U.S. Within three weeks this spring, incarcerated people died of overdoses in Illinois, Oklahoma, New York, and the District of Columbia.

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New report debunks 2020 youth crime wave

politicians and pundits are peddling youth gone wild but a new report says the most recent data doesn’t support their claims and harsher sentences won’t stop crime

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inmate in AL prison “starved” and neglected, Cleveland spent millions of dollars on surveillance cameras to deter crime, Black people in the U.S. 7X more likely to be falsely convicted, two dozen kids to be imprisoned in Angola

justice from the frontlines: Oct. 3, 2022

neglected to starvation

Kastellio Vaughn, who was convicted on burglary and break-in charges in 2019, fears for his life in Elmore Correctional Facility in Alabama. When twins Kassie and Kascie visited their brother, they said he was unable to walk and lost a significant amount of weight. Kassie Vaughn received disturbing pictures from an unidentified inmate of her brother slumped over, emaciated with a large undressed wound. Vaughn had to be transferred to Staton Correctional Facility’s Medical Observation Unit. Kassie Vaughn shared the photos of her brother on Facebook to bring awareness to his health conditions, but Alabama Department of Corrections hasn’t responded to these recent allegations. ABC News (Sep. 26, 2022)

habitual offenders

Nearly 2,000 people in Mississippi and Louisiana serving long or life sentences were labeled as “habitual offenders.” A change in Louisiana law allows for claims based on ineffective counsel to apply to sentencing not just verdicts. An investigation by The Appeal, found that the nearly 30-year-old policies still punish people for small crimes. The Appeal (Sep. 26, 2022)

inmates with disability punished

Albion Correctional Facility, a women’s prison in New York, has been sending their disabled inmates to solitary confinement as punishment. One of the inmates was sent there for 15 days for getting into a fight. Under the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act, prisons shouldn’t have sent her there because they are not allowed to hold people with physical and mental disabilities for a long period of time for any reason. The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision runs the state prison system and has sent hundreds of people to solitary confinement and hasn’t been complying with the law. New York Focus (Sep. 26, 2022)

millions spent on police cameras

Cleveland spent at least $7 million on 1,500 surveillance cameras to deter crime or apprehend suspects since 2007. Unlike other cities, Cleveland officials refuse to share where the cameras are and how they are used. The city does not have policies aimed at balancing transparency, privacy, civil rights and community safety. In Baltimore and Oakland California camera locations are disclosed and citizens vet how police use surveillance technology. The police department has not provided a draft policy on how it will release records, public information and data. The Marshall Project (Sep. 29, 2022)

inflation hits inside

At Western Missouri Correctional Center inflation has weighed on many prisoners. Inmates have reduced the number of calls they make and shortened the length of their conversations in order to save money. They also have been going without toothpaste and instead using soap and mouthwash. While the inmates are battling inflation, they have turned to buying and listening to music to cope with their emotional distress. With no outside support for some inmates, they have not been able to afford hygiene products or medications. Prison Journalism Project (Sep. 26, 2022)

children incarcerated

Louisiana officials will incarcerate about two dozen children in the coming days inside Louisiana’s State Penitentiary, the infamous Angola. Children 10-years-old and up with a history of assault may be transferred from their current juvenile correctional facilities. Louisiana law clinics and the ACLU sued to try to stop the transfer of children and argued that keeping them in an adult prison was unconstitutional and psychologically harmful. Chief District Judge Shelly Dick reluctantly signed off on the plan. Mother Jones (Sep. 27, 2022)

CA prison showers halted

Regulations to combat the severe drought in California are being used to control prisoners. Prisoners have been forced to work for showers. Governor Jerry Brown made an executive order that called for a 25 percent reduction of water usage on a statewide level which is causing prisons to conserve water. San Quentin State Prison issued a bulletin imposing water restrictions. They limit showers to three times a week and for five minutes. Those incarcerated who have chosen to go to school or work a non-CDCR approved job are restricted to three five-minute showers a week. The Nation (Sep. 27, 2022)

kids taken and cases delayed

Bryan Hickson and Patricia Soto found out they were having a baby boy. But two days later, they received a call that their child would be removed from their home. Massachusetts’ Department of Children and Families, the state’s child protective services agency, informed Soto that they were taking custody of the child. Both thought it was a mistake, but because Soto had history with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) because of allegations of domestic violence between her and an ex-partner back in 2018. This raised the question of why Hickson couldn’t keep the baby. DCF declared he wasn’t present. So they were forced to give up custody. Mother Jones (Sep. 26, 2022) 

prison guards to be replaced with drones

All 50 states have struggled to bring in prison guards which has driven them to start thinking about surveillance technology. Officers have been frustrated with low pay, violent conditions, long hours and isolated work locations and end up quitting. These factors are driving the state of Nevada to use drones in the prison and surveillance bracelets to monitor the people serving time there. Governors in Florida and West Virginia have declared states of emergency due to staff shortages. The Nevada Department of Corrections plans to move forward with surveillance technology. POLITICO (Sep. 28, 2022)

falsely convicted

A new report shows that Black people in the U.S. are seven times more likely to be falsely convicted of a serious crime than white people. Data gathered from exonerations for murder, sexual assault and drug crimes from 1989 through August 2022 highlighted significant challenges in obtaining national criminal justice statistics. Counties are supposed to report the crimes rather than the state but this leads to misreporting and lack of accountability. Dramatic racial disparities have made a significant impact to the point that innocent Black people also spend a significantly longer time in prison before exoneration than white people. Yahoo! News (Sep. 27, 2022)

new trial

Nearly 20 years later, one of two living members of the “Texas 7” prison gang convicted in the murder of a North Texas police officer in 2000, could get a new trial due to a judge’s anti-Semantic comment. Randy Halprin was convicted and sentenced to death in 2003 in the killing of Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins. Witnesses have testified that the judge in Halprin’s case, Vickers Cunningham, was known to make racial and anti-Semitic comments against Halprin. WFAA (Sep. 27, 2022)


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Magic mushrooms could treat patients with alcohol use disorder 

Photo from Adobe Stock

Magic mushrooms could treat patients with alcohol use disorder 

New report shows success in preventing alcohol abuse with psychedelic mushrooms

Psychedelic mushrooms and psychotherapy treatment could help treat patients who suffer from alcohol use disorder, according to a new study.

 

Classic psychedelic medications, whose primary effect is to trigger non-ordinary states of consciousness have shown promise in the treatment of alcohol use disorder, but the research is still inconclusive.

There has been a growing interest in the clinical potential of psilocybin and other classic psychedelics to treat neuropsychiatric conditions, including substance use disorders.

 

A new study released in August, reported that psychedelic mushrooms could be used to treat people who are struggling with abusing alcohol. 

The study was released in partnership between New York University Langone Center for Psychedelic Medicine, New York University Grossman School of Medicine, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, University of Alabama and University of New Mexico.

 

The objective of the study was to see whether two administrations of high-dose psilocybin reduce the percentage of heavy drinking days in patients with alcohol use disorder undergoing psychotherapy.

 

In the study, psilocybin administered in combination with psychotherapy was associated with robust and sustained decreases in drinking.

 

Patients who were affected by psilocybin had the same psychotherapy which reduced their percentage of heaving drinking days by more than 50%.

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IN DEPTH

The number of women behind bars continues to rise in U.S.

Just because prison overpopulation is usually discussed in regards to males, America also has a glaring problem of over incarcerating mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and grandmas. There are currently 108,000 women in prison in the United States — accounting for nearly 30% of the world’s incarcerated females.

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Fighting for a second chance

When Dontrell Britton returned from federal prison to his mother’s DC apartment in 2017, he didn’t have tens of thousands of Instagram followers or over 400 thousand TikTok followers on his team like he does now.

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These Colors Don’t Run (At Least Not Fast Enough)

In the devastating aftermath of the mass killing at a Texas elementary school this week, questions swirl around the police response, or lack there of, while an 18-year-old slaughtered children, we turn to Posse Comitatus.

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U.S. DOJ failed to count 1,000 deaths in prisons; new evidence leads to release of Serial’s Adnan Syed; Texas judge imprisoning children at high rates

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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