Post Labor Day Roundup
California spends 11% of its budget on prisons and 6% on higher education. Thirty years ago, those numbers were 3% on prisons and 10% on higher ed. That and more from the Bay Citizen’s interactive tool.
In 36 states, it is legal to bind women in handcuffs and leg shackles while they are giving birth.
County jails remain, by default, the nation’s largest mental health hospitals.
And here’s some law and policy news you may have missed over the long weekend:
- Arizona has passed a law to charge $25 for prison visits to family and friends; the ACLU National Prison Project is suing, calling the fee an “illegal tax.” While described as a background check fee, the prison system admits that the money won’t actually fund background checks but will be used for prison maintenance. The same law will also deduct 1% from deposits to prisoners’ spending accounts; that provision is also being challenged, by the Middle Ground prison reform group.
- Ohio: Lots of changes in the works for the Ohio prison system. Director Gary Mohr is proposing to break the system down into three “tiers”; the lowest tier, “reintegration prisons,” will (in Mohr’s words) “put inmates to work” for eight hours a day. In a nationwide first, Ohio just sold a prison to Corrections Corporation of America for $72 million, which prison Ohio will now start paying CCA to operate. (Originally, the plan was to sell five prisons to CCA.)
- Texas went on a prison-building binge in the 1990s. While the good news is that the Texas prison population has been declining in recent years, now there are many unused prisons throughout the state, which local agencies took on lots of debt to build and are now scrambling to pay for.
- Alabama: Federal lawsuit filed against the Jefferson County (Birmingham) jail, alleging overcrowding, inadequate food and health care, and RLUIPA violations — specifically that Christianity is effectively the only religion that inmates are allowed to practice. The deputy sheriff says they “are not surprised” and are “in a very poor position to defend such a suit.”
- Georgia: The legal tangle between Fulton County, the City of Atlanta, and federal judge Martin Shoob keeps getting more tangled. Basically, Shoob had ordered Fulton County to buy a jail from Atlanta to alleviate overcrowding in the county’s facilities (on pain of criminal contempt proceedings for county officials); Fulton County says it doesn’t have the money; and now Atlanta has more than doubled its original asking price (from $40 million to $85 million), which Fulton County says it *really* doesn’t have.