Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Posts Tagged ‘juvenile justice

Rikers Island and Irene

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A flurry of concern on Twitter yesterday & today about Bloomberg’s announcement that Rikers Island would not be evacuated as Hurricane Irene headed towards NYC. [Full story after the jump.] Read the rest of this entry »

Tell the DOJ to Keep Teenagers Out of Adult Jails and Prisons

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On Wednesday I noted how you can submit your feedback to the Department of Justice on the proposed prison rape elimination standards. Another option is to sign on to the letter that will be submitted by the Campaign for Youth Justice. Here are the details — note the deadline to sign onto the letter is 5 PM TODAY (UPDATE: deadline has been extended to 10 AM SUNDAY):

In response to the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) proposed regulations on the implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), the Campaign for Youth Justice is circulating a sign-on letter calling on DOJ to ban the placement of youth (under 18) in adult jails and prisons. Their goal is to obtain at least 500 national, state and local organizations and individuals in all 50 states. As the DOJ comments are due at close of business on Monday, April 4, we are asking for signatories by Friday, April 1, at 5 PM Sunday, April 3, at 10 AM. If you or your organization would like to sign onto the attached letter, please email jjcampaign@cfyj.org.

You can read the letter here (PDF), and see the list of signatories here.

Written by sara

April 1, 2011 at 11:03 am

Georgia’s Governor: Breaking New Ground in Law-and-Order Demagoguery

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So, it used to be that politicians would pair “build more!” talk on prisons with “be very afraid” talk about “criminals.” That combination could be called the “lock ‘em up” mode of “tough-on-crime” politics. The new governor of my home state has apparently hit on a new formula. From his inaugural speech:

Presently, one out of every 13 Georgia residents is under some form of correctional control. It cost about $3 million per day to operate our Department of Corrections. And yet, every day criminals continue to inflict violence on our citizens and an alarming number of perpetrators are juveniles.

College students should be concerned about their grades not whether they are going to be mugged on their way home from class. Visitors to our cities should be treated as welcomed guests and protected. Families should not live in fear of gang violence and drive-by shootings. But most of all, our dedicated law enforcement officers must not be targets for criminals. Anyone who harms one of them harms us all, for they embody the Constitutional mandate that government provide us with protection and security.

Breaking the culture of crime and violence is not a task for law enforcement officials alone. Parents must assume more responsibility for their children. Communities must marshal their collective wills; civic and religious organizations must use their influence to set the tone for expected behavior.

For violent and repeat offenders, we will make you pay for your crimes. For other offenders who want to change their lives, we will provide the opportunity to do so with Day Reporting Centers, Drug, DUI and Mental Health Courts and expanded probation and treatment options. As a State, we cannot afford to have so many of our citizens waste their lives because of addictions. It is draining our State Treasury and depleting our workforce.

So, I’m guess I’m glad Deal is using his mini-bully pulpit to point out that the War on Crime costs a lot of money and doesn’t necessarily deliver commensurate benefits. And in a backhanded way, his mini-sermon about “the culture of crime and violence” at least acknowledges that just passing laws and arresting people doesn’t magically make everyone stop doing things you don’t want them to do.

That said, this is not, by any measure, a model of how elected officials should introduce mass incarceration onto the policy agenda. Deal is still trafficking in the same cartoon of The Criminal that we’ve been hearing about from politicians for basically as long as I’ve been alive, he’s just refining it slightly to exclude “offenders who want to change their lives.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Interplay of Prisoners’ Rights Litigation and Privatization in Texas

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Craig Malisow of the Houston Press offers an interesting historical perspective on Texas’s turn to private prisons:

In 1978, Judge William Wayne Justice of the Eastern District of Texas presided over a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of all Texas prisoners against the Texas Department of Corrections (as it was then known). Two years later, Justice ruled that TDC violated prisoners’ constitutional rights in six areas. The department and the prisoners entered a consent decree regarding the necessary improvements.

The changes were slow to come, a problem exacerbated by the rapidly increasing number of inmates. “By the mid-1980s, Judge Justice had become so impatient with the pace at which the state was changing its prison system that he demanded that the state pay a daily fine in excess of $800,000 if it did not improve its efforts to comply with the mandates of the decision,” according to the Abt report.

Freaked out by the potential financial hemorrhage, lawmakers in 1987 passed the first bit of legislation that would allow the TDC — rechristened the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in 1989 — the ability to contract with private vendors for the housing of prisoners, parolees and juvenile offenders.

To follow all things Texas criminal justice, bookmark Grits for Breakfast, and if you’re interested in private prisons specifically, do the same with Texas Prison Bid’ness. I don’t write as much about Texas in this space as I do about other big states — partly because I happen to live in California, but mainly because Texas prison/jail issues are covered so much more knowledgeably and comprehensively over at Grits.

Written by sara

January 11, 2011 at 11:33 am

Gov. Cuomo: “An Incarceration Program Is Not an Employment Program”

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Cheers to New York’s new governor, Andrew Cuomo, who’s vowed to restructure and maybe even close the state’s notorious juvenile justice facilities:

Cuomo said he understands the importance of keeping jobs, but that doesn’t justify the cost to the taxpayer and the risk to the young people who are in programs that aren’t working, many of them hundreds of miles from home.

“An incarceration program is not an employment program. If people need jobs, let’s get people jobs,” he said in his address Wednesday.

One of my first posts here at Prison Law Blog was on the especially infamous Tryon juvenile facility upstate, which is scheduled to shut its doors in just a few weeks. One of Gov. Cuomo’s proposals is to shorten the current 12-month waiting period that draws out the closure process for these facilities.

Written by sara

January 10, 2011 at 8:36 am

Lawsuit Alleges “Barbaric Conditions” at Mississippi’s Privately-run Youth Prison

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The private prison company GEO Group will face a lawsuit over conditions at Mississippi’s Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, with the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU, and Mississippi lawyer Robert McDuff representing the plaintiffs. Walnut Grove was already under investigation by the federal Department of Justice. The Clarion-Ledger reports:

Some prison staff exploit youth by selling drugs inside the facility and engaging in sexual relationships with youth in their care, the suit alleges. Many youth have suffered physical injuries, some permanent as a result of dangerously deficient security policies. …

In 2007, Dennis Earl Holmes died after a lawsuit claimed he was denied adequate medical care. He suffered from treatable diabetes, according to a lawsuit his family filed on Oct. 29 in federal court. …

Michael McIntosh of Hazlehurst alleges that because of the abuse his 21-year-old son suffered in the Walnut Grove prison, “he will live with permanent brain damage for the rest of his life.”

More information, including the full complaint, available here from SPLC.

Confronting the Mass Incarceration Mindset

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A few weeks ago, I posted the always-shocking data on the rise of mass incarceration in the United States over the past 30 years. That data, however, is just the most visible way of measuring the rise of the American carceral state. And in turn, dismantling mass incarceration will require more than simply reducing the jail and prison population—which is merely a symptom of a deeper phenomenon.

What I mean is this: Mass incarceration is not just about the number of people actually behind bars. It’s also about a cultural mindset that turns to the criminal justice system—either literally or as a model—as the first response to almost any problem or disruption, even something so minor as a schoolchild’s misbehavior. In his book Governing through Crime (Oxford, 2007), Berkeley law professor Jonathan Simon argues that over the past 40 years, our society has reconceptualized virtually every social problem—extreme poverty, educational inequality, mental illness, undocumented migration, etc.—through the lens of crime, creating a culture of fear in which every citizen is defined first and foremost as a victim.

At the same time, this culture also defines certain members of our society as criminals—everywhere they go. As sociologist Victor Rios puts it, in a 2006 article,*

one of the most brutal yet unexamined collateral consequences of punitive criminal justice policies and mass imprisonment is that of the non-criminal justice institution being penetrated and influenced by the detrimental effects of the criminal justice system. Youth of color are hypercriminalized because they encounter criminalization in all the settings they navigate.

Rios found, in his interviews with black and Latino teenage boys in the San Francisco Bay Area, that many experienced their daily lives almost as if they were in jail — so pervasive has become the criminal justice system’s reach into schools, community centers, and even families. He gives the example of “Jr.”: Read the rest of this entry »

Lawsuit Challenges Texas Practice of Incarcerating Schoolkids Who Can’t Pay Fines for Misbehavior

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The Texas Tribune reports on an ACLU class-action lawsuit challenging Hidalgo County’s practice of issuing tickets to schoolkids, then incarcerating them if they can’t pay:

ACLU officials say they have heard anecdotal reports across Texas of young people jailed for failure to pay school-related fines — which in some school districts are issued by the thousands — but that the practice seems commonplace Hidalgo County, where an estimated 150 people between 17 and 21 years old have served time for unpaid fines, largely for minor school-related offenses. Issuing criminal citations for relatively mundane school misbehavior has drawn fire from advocates, who term the practice part of the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

Incidentally does anyone know more about this practice of issuing tickets, with monetary fines attached, to public school students who misbehave? Is this done anywhere outside of Texas? I’ve never heard of it before, but I also don’t follow education law very closely.

Written by sara

July 29, 2010 at 7:57 am

From Inmate to Lawyer—to Judge? Former Prisoner Might Be Appointed to the Massachusetts Bench

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My mom forwarded me an article from this weekend’s Parade magazine about a very interesting Massachusetts lawyer—and possible judicial appointee—who, unlike most lawyers and judges, has experience as a prisoner: “If appointed, [Rick] Dyer would likely be the first judge in U.S. history to bring with him not only a record of drug abuse but also a personal understanding of what it’s like to be homeless, on welfare, and behind bars.” An article from the Mass Lawyers Weekly, copied at the Massachusetts Criminal and Juvenile Defense Blog, has more information about Dyer’s background:

With multiple felony convictions on his record, Dyer made his living back in the day as a common thief. His criminal record includes entries in Brighton, Framingham, Brookline, Natick, Orleans, Marlborough, Waltham, Roxbury and Boston Municipal Court for operating under the influence, breaking and entering, use of a car without authority, disorderly conduct, driving without a license and larceny of motor vehicles. “I could start almost any car there was,” he recalls. “I made attempt after attempt to try to get straightened out, and when I couldn’t do it, I always went back to what I knew best, which was getting high, stealing cars and selling them.” …

With financial assistance from the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Services, Dyer attended Boston State College, graduating with honors in 1978. By then, he was clean and had begun volunteering at the Northeastern University School of Law Prisoners’ Rights Project, working alongside the likes of Nancy Gertner (now a federal judge), Jonathan Shapiro, Harvey A. Silverglate and John G. Flym. Those people, Dyer says, encouraged him to take the next step and apply to law school. After receiving a round of rejections the first year, Dyer applied again and was admitted to Northeastern. (Officials at other law schools, such as the University of Pennsylvania, told him they could not accept him out of concern that he would sue if he were not admitted to the bar.) He graduated in 1983, only to come up against an unforgiving Board of Bar Overseers, certain members of which were concerned that his criminal record would make him unfit to practice. But with the help of Judge [Chick] Artesani … and others he had met along the way, Dyer applied for and received a governor’s pardon [from Michael Dukakis] on July 6, 1983.

In the almost 30 years since he was admitted to the bar, Dyer has remained clean and built a practice focusing on criminal defense, including juvenile defense.

Written by sara

June 28, 2010 at 8:35 am

Well, Today’s the Day…

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… the DOJ’s deadline, imposed by Congress in 2003, for adopting national standards for eliminating prison rape. Unfortunately, the DOJ will miss the deadline. Pressured by what The Hill calls the “prison industry” — although, of course, the “prison industry” is ostensibly not an industry but a sector of our democratic system of government — Attorney General Eric Holder is delaying the promulgation of any regulations. In the words of Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Va):

The longer you delay, the more people will be raped in prison. It’s unconscionable that [DoJ] officials are blocking it now. I don’t know what Holder’s problem is.

Written by sara

June 23, 2010 at 6:06 am

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