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


community board

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) 


community board

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)


community board

Resisting oversight

Prison laborers at Alabama’s Parchman in 1911.

Resisting oversight

AL refuses to work with the DOJ after it finds ‘pervasive’ inmate beatings by guards violate constitutional rights

By LJ Dawson

Founder of The Des and freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C.

On July 23, the Department of Justice released a second damning report of civil rights violations in Alabama prisons by correctional guards on inmates. This report comes more than a year after the DOJ released a 2019 report which found violence in AL prisons was ‘Common, Cruel, Pervasive’ even separate of guard abuse.

The most recent report focuses specifically on guard on inmate abuse where the first focused on how AL prison conditions created violence between inmates. The DOJ found pervasive use of excessive force in 12 of 13 prisons – which makes you wonder what AL was doing right in the 13th. “We have reasonable cause to believe that the uses of excessive force occurring within Alabama’s prisons give rise to systemic unconstitutional conditions,” the DOJ reported.

But, the same overcrowding – 6,000 inmates over capacity at the start of the 2020 – that creates violence between inmates also causes guards to use excessive force, according to the report.

The DOJ released what is called a “notice letter”. It is not legally binding, but it lays out the findings in an effort to bring the state or department of corrections in this case, to the table to figure out a way to fix the problem.

But AL isn’t super in to fixing the problem, or it doesn’t seem to be.

The DOJ doesn’t immediately sue states or DOC’s it finds to be violating citizens constitutional rights. So for over the last year, the ADOC and the DOJ have not come to a CONSENT decree – these agreements were used in places like Ferguson and many other cities with police brutality issues to legally FORCE departments to get in line. A year of debating an agreement seems like a longtime, and the only proposed solution in AL has been to build more prisons to reduce overcrowding.

The state has refused to enter into a consent decree to the puzzlement of many, but they may be counting on a change in procedure.

Jeff Sessions severely limited the use of these legally binding consent decrees on his last day in the Trump administration in 2018.

And guess what? In response to the July DOJ report, AL’s attorney general responded with surprise, though he has known of this investigation, and directly referenced Sessions.

“I have made it absolutely clear from the beginning that the State will not, under any circumstances, enter into a consent decree with the federal government to avoid a lawsuit. […] Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed the use of civil consent decrees in a DOJ memorandum, acknowledging the sovereignty of state governments and urging special caution before using this bludgeon to settle litigation against the states,” the AG wrote, continuing to call the DOJ a “hall monitor” for wanting to supervise the prison reform.

The AG made it clear in his press release that the state will never enter a consent decree. “In short, a consent decree is unacceptable and nonnegotiable,” the AG said.

SO, that leaves us at the only outcome possible: the DOJ will take them to court where a judge could rule to force AL to follow the DOJ’s suggestions anyways.

And in this case, the evidence against the ADOC is, well, overwhelming. Two inmates in 2019 were bludgeoned to death by guards after already being subdued, there are reports of already restrained inmates being beaten for retaliation and little investigative effort by the ADOC into these violent beatings.

But a lawsuit to force the ADOC to follow their constitutional obligations to state citizens takes longer, which means thousands of men are struggling to survive in some of the deadliest prisons in America.

There’s a lot to unpack in this report: flip to p.10 for the evidence. News story here.

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