Judge Orders Mental Health Measures Across Alabama Prisons After Suicide Spike : NPR

From the article:

A federal judge has determined that the risk of suicide among state prisoners in Alabama “is so severe and imminent” that he ordered the state’s Department of Corrections to immediately implement permanent mental health remedies to address “severe and systematic inadequacies.”

The decision by Judge Myron Thompson on Saturday, comes after 15 prisoners killed themselves in the span of 15 months.

In a 210-page ruling that includes summaries of the circumstances leading to each of the inmate suicides, Thompson agreed with prisoners’ attorneys that the spike had reached crisis levels, a result of what he previously said are “horrendously inadequate” mental health services provided to inmates.

Source: Judge Orders Mental Health Measures Across Alabama Prisons After Suicide Spike : NPR

In less than two years, 15 prisoners committed suicide. These are people that needed mental health care, and it was not provided.

Emily Bazelon’s ‘Charged’ Reveals How Prosecutors And Plea Bargains Drive Mass Incarceration : NPR

From the article:

The U.S. prison population is booming. It is estimated nearly 2.2 million people were incarcerated in America in 2016, and as many people in the U.S. have criminal records as have graduated from four-year colleges.

Journalist and Yale Law lecturer Emily Bazelon attributes America’s high incarceration rates to prosecutors more than judges. She says that in the 1980s, when crime was on the rise, legislators across the country passed laws with mandatory minimum sentences that have disproportionately affected black and brown communities.

“That set up prosecutors to be able to determine the punishment by the charge they bring in,” Bazelon says. “And so we’re still living with that change — even though crime has really fallen since that time.”

Bazelon notes that the majority of court cases — more than 90 percent — end in a plea bargain rather than a trial, which gives prosecutors even more power.

Source: Emily Bazelon’s ‘Charged’ Reveals How Prosecutors And Plea Bargains Drive Mass Incarceration : NPR

It’s just not right that crime is literally falling, but our incarceration rates are skyrocketing. Even worse, the prison system is a for profit system.

I like this interview, as it shows how people end up in jail because they are poor.

One good note in the interview is if you want to end unfair mass incarcerations, vote in a prosecutor that agrees. That one election can change lives.

Jails are replacing family visits with video chat / Boing Boing

From the article:

Jails around the country are replacing in-person visits with “video visitations,” which means kids, parents,  and spouses of inmates won’t be able to see each other in real life, only through a small video monitor. This depressing photo is from GTL, who provides video-visitation services to prisons.

It’s not surprising to learn that families will have to pay a lot of money to use this degrading technology: “Video calls cost 40¢ per minute in Newton County, 50¢ per minute in Lowndes County, and $10 per call in Allen County,”

Source: Jails are replacing family visits with video chat / Boing Boing

The current predatory pricing of phone calls from jails is stunning to begin with. The average cal from a family member in jail from us was $15-$30. it averaged about $18 for a short call. We are not talking an all nighter. It was always less than 15 minutes.

This is so fucking predatory, and there is nothing you can do about it.

This is a further way to charge inmates for services that should be free.

In a day and age where I have free calls on my cell phone, I am completely confused as to how they can argue that just making phone calls is so expensive that a third party administrator can rake in the cash on it.

We allow this as a country because there is this idea that people in prison are not there to be rehabilitated, but to suffer. Any suffering that people in prison go through, the general culture climate responds with, “Good.”

This flies in the face of research and data that show us what can help inmates get better, and have productive lives. Further isolating inmates from their loved ones is not something that will help with recidivism.

Texas Inmate With a Wool Allergy Has Spent 10 Years Trying To Get a New Blanket – Hit & Run : Reason.com

From the article:

A Texas inmate with a wool allergy has been trying to obtain a cotton blanket for 10 years. He eventually opted to file a pro se lawsuit alleging civil rights violations, and a federal judge ruled last week that the suit, or at least parts of it, can move forward.

Calvin Weaver’s suit says he was diagnosed as “hyper-allergic to the wool blanket issued by” the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). He reports that he got a medical pass in 2001 allowing him to use a cotton blanket. But in 2009, inmates with wool allergies were given non-wool blankets “with a recycled blend of waste by-products,” the suit says.

“He alleges that the new blankets caused itching, open sores, and sleep deprivation resulting in hypertension and anxiety,” according to a summary of the lawsuit included in Judge Kenneth Hoyt’s March 29 ruling.

Source: Texas Inmate With a Wool Allergy Has Spent 10 Years Trying To Get a New Blanket – Hit & Run : Reason.com

Holy shit, he just needed a cotton blanket. Why would they deny them unless they are fucking unempathetic shit bags?

Trans woman arrested & sexually harassed by jail staff for hours over a $15 traffic ticket / LGBTQ Nation

From the article:

Sierra Castle lived through every transgender woman’s worst nightmare.

When Castle went to a local police station to report a minor traffic accident, police in Cobb County, Georgia took the report but then noticed she had an outstanding $15 seat belt citation fine. They arrested Castle and hauled her to jail.

According to a lawsuit Castle has filed against the county sheriff, command staff and deputies at the jail, she was subjected to 18 hours of sexual harassment and disparagement from inmates and jail staff.

Source: Trans woman arrested & sexually harassed by jail staff for hours over a $15 traffic ticket / LGBTQ Nation

I am terrified of this for myself, and my wife.

Department Of Justice Report Finds Conditions In Alabama Prisons Unsafe : NPR

From the article:

The U.S. Department of Justice says conditions in Alabama prisons are unsafe and unconstitutional. The findings are the result of a more than two year civil rights investigation prompted by spiraling violence in Alabama lockups that has resulted in deadly harm.

The Justice Department report finds that Alabama routinely violates the constitutional rights of prisoners by failing to protect them from prisoner-on-prisoner violence and sexual abuse. It notes “a high level of violence that is too common, cruel, of an unusual nature, and pervasive.”

Source: Department Of Justice Report Finds Conditions In Alabama Prisons Unsafe : NPR

Prison reforms cannot happen soon enough. Even the chairman of the Prison Oversight Committee, Republican State Senator Cam Ward, said it was not shocking.

Prison reform now. These are human lives being harmed by our current prison system.

 

Buddhist Inmate Execution Blocked; Justices Say Religious Rights Were Violated : NPR

From the article:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the execution of a Buddhist inmate on death row because prison officials wouldn’t let his spiritual adviser be present in the execution chamber, even though they provide chaplains for inmates of some other faiths.

This case is in contrast to a similar case last month, in which the high court permitted the execution of a Muslim inmate who couldn’t have his imam with him at the moment of death. The court provided no explanation for the different result.

Source: Buddhist Inmate Execution Blocked; Justices Say Religious Rights Were Violated : NPR

I am not a fan of the death penalty, as it is applied poorly with very clear racial disparity.

However, if you are going to literally kill someone, how can you deny them their spiritual adviser. Priest, Imam, or Buddhist adviser should all be allowed. Prisons are a horror show for human rights.

What makes this interesting is they declined a Muslim inmates request last month and let the man die without his Imam.

FBI Scientist’s Statements Linked Defendants to Crimes — ProPublica

From the article:

Court records and FBI Lab files show statements by prosecutors or Richard Vorder Bruegge, the most prominent member of the Forensic Audio, Video and Image Analysis Unit, veered from his original conclusions in at least three cases.

Source: FBI Scientist’s Statements Linked Defendants to Crimes — ProPublica

This dude has a degree in geology. He’s not even a forensic anthropologist. People have gone to jail and had their lives ruined over this man.

A North Carolina prison forces this woman to shower with dozens of men / LGBTQ Nation

From the article:

Kanautica Zayre-Brown is serving a potential 10-year sentence at Harnett Correctional in Lillington, North Carolina. She bunks with 38 male inmates. She is also required to change and shower with these men.

She faces regular harassment from other inmates, but usually doesn’t report it for fear of being placed in segregated status.

North Carolina seems to think this is okay.

Source: A North Carolina prison forces this woman to shower with dozens of men / LGBTQ Nation

She is a transgender woman that has had gender confirmation surgery, and has legally changed all her documents to female. North Carolina will not accept these legal changes.

Except from the article:

North Carolina issued new policies in 2018 that allows for transgender inmates to receive appropriate care while incarcerated.

The policy reads, “The facility TARC [Transgender Accommodation Review Committee] will make accommodation determinations based on clinical evaluations, historical documents, and offender interview. These determinations may address issues including, but not limited to, safety planning, allowance or prohibition of items designed for masculinizing to feminizing personal appearance, request for continued hormone therapy or other treatment interventions occurring prior to incarceration, request for gender specific clothing items, private showering, and/or specific housing considerations.”

This is not safe. This is brutality.

Rikers Rape Victim Wins Settlement After Smuggling out DNA Evidence

From the article:

Jane Doe, a woman who smuggled out clothing with DNA evidence on it after she was raped by a guard at Rikers won her $500,000 settlement in a civil lawsuit against the city in a rare victory on Monday, the Intercept reported.

Source: Rikers Rape Victim Wins Settlement After Smuggling out DNA Evidence

She was reduced to literally smuggling out evidence of the rape, in the form of a ripped up shirt that had the predatory guards semen on it for DNA analysis.

This is because she could not trust the prison to actually protect and bring her rapist to justice.

It should be noted the guard, because of her her actions, was fired, but never served in jail himself for raping an inmate.

Rikers continues to have double the rapes of other facilities.