Since I won’t get to post in detail on all of these stories, here’s a quick roundup of (some of the) prison and jail news that piled up last week while I was away. I’ll be back to regular posting later today.
- Celebrating 30 years of “The Prison Show,” a weekly Texas radio broadcast for inmate listeners. Says host Ray Hill: “I never got out of prison. I’ve been out for over 35 years, but I’m still there.”
- WNYC profile of Amir Varack Amma, sentenced to 25 years to life at age 23, but recently released — after 19 years — due to reforms of the Rockefeller drug laws.
- “Thinking outside the cell“: Errol Louis of the New York Daily News argues for prison reform; so does Pennsylvania state legislator Ronald G. Waters.
- Voice of America reports on felon voting restrictions in the U.S.; features Yale Law student and ex-offender Andres Idarraga, who recently testified before Congress on the issue.
- New York City settles lawsuit over jail strip-search policy for $33 million.
- USA Today report on growing trend among U.S. states of banning cigarettes in prisons. Meanwhile in the UK, an inmate lawsuit claims that prison cigarette bans are cruel and unusual punishment.
- Bernie Madoff reportedly beaten badly by another inmate in federal prison.
- Washington inmate convicted of smuggling crack cocaine into sex offender center; will head to prison for at least five years and then likely be returned to the sex offender center to be confined indefinitely.
- Nevada federal judge rejects Wiccan inmate’s lawsuit seeking access to sweat lodges and raw meat.
- The Nashville Tennesseean profiles Davidson County sheriff Daron Hall, who manages the county’s contract with Corrections Corporation of America, among other responsibilities.
California Prison Crisis
- Here’s the New York Times‘ recent coverage of the overcrowding crisis. And The Economist is skeptical of an eight-year sentence for stealing cheese under California’s Three Strikes Law.
- Criticism and debate over a recent proposal to have the UC system take over prison health care. A telemedicine company says such a plan would save the state millions, but doctors’ union attorneys counter that the UC system could end up being dragged into expensive litigation over prison conditions.
- Critics claim California parole officers are backing off their supervisees as a result of prison overcrowding. See also this AP report on California’s recent parole reforms.
- Sheriff Lee Baca’s electronic monitoring initiative in Los Angeles County doesn’t seem to be working; see also this NPR report on early jail releases in Los Angeles County.
New Legislation, Regulations, Proposals, etc. Around the Country
- New York Assembly report decries the state corrections department as bloated and inefficient.
- Ohio to implement new restrictions on death row prisoners after recent suicide attempt.
- Oregon legislator wants to ban all sexual material (not just explicit material) from prisons.
- Virginia appoints its first statewide reentry coordinator, among other reforms.
- Washington governor signs law to ban shackling of pregnant inmates.
Local Jail Overcrowding
- Sebastian County, Ark.: Prosecutors’ efforts to streamline pretrial process and free up jail space.
- Redwood City, Calif., hires lawyer to fight county plan to build new downtown jail.
- Bibb County, Ga.: Recently expanded jail is already overcrowded again.
- Wichita, Kan.: A local article blaming jail overcrowding on an overburdened public defender’s office and, as a result, frequent requests for continuances in criminal cases.
- Washtenow County, Mich.: Sheriff requests funding to staff much-needed jail expansion.
- Rock County, Wis., approves $5+ million jail expansion project; Loudoun County, Va., maintains $3+ million funding for its own jail expansion, against a challenge that would have cancelled the funding.
Prison News Around the World
- Australian Aboriginal youths are 28 times more likely to end up in jail than other Australians.
- Human rights groups call for Canadian prisons to scale back use of solitary confinement. In his quarterly report, Canada’s federal prisons ombudsman agrees.
- Overcrowding in British Columbia jail blamed for inmate attack on guard.
- UK helping Haiti to rebuild jails destroyed in recent earthquake.
- Israeli Supreme Court upholds decision not to provide Muslim prisoners with fresh bread during Passover.
- Russia announces reforms to prison system that has changed little since Stalin established it.
- Red Cross calls for efforts to stem spread of tuberculosis in prisons; points to successful initiatives in Azerbaijan and Georgia that have dramatically reduced numbers of prison TB cases.