Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Posts Tagged ‘guantanamo

Web Resources: Lawfare

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Jack Goldsmith, Benjamin Wittes, and Robert Chesney recently launched a blog, Lawfare, focusing on national security law. Readers interested in the bleed-through between the War on Terror and the War on Crime (which I’ve touched on before) will want to bookmark the site, if only because it promises to provide access to the latest briefs in pending Guantanamo detention cases. Today Benjamin Wittes gathers a number of briefs in pending D.C. Circuit appeals.

Written by sara

September 7, 2010 at 3:52 pm

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A Tale of Two Lawsuits

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The other day my Google Reader brought me news of two new lawsuits filed this week against, respectively, the federal and California state prison systems. In the first, the Center for Constitutional Rights — which has coordinated much of the legal work on behalf of Guantanamo detainees — is challenging the federal Bureau of Prisons policy of moving certain inmates into isolated cells known as “Communications Management Units,” without any advance notice or meaningful review of their transfer. These inmates face very stringent limits on their communications with their family and with the outside world, and CCR alleges that the policy is an effort to create “a stateside Guantanamo” for prisoners with unpopular political beliefs. (Two-thirds of the inmates in these special prison units are Muslim.) In the second, Crime Victims United — the California organization well-known for receiving much of its funding from the state prison guards’ union, and for its staunch support of “tough-on-crime” legislation — is suing to block enforcement of a new law that would have the effect of releasing a relatively small number of the lowest-risk offenders. Says a San Diego citizen whose son was murdered, “The victims are being ignored.”

Though filed in the same week, these two lawsuits seem on the surface to be as different as could be. Read the rest of this entry »

DOJ Plans to Buy Illinois Prison Whether or Not It’s Approved for Terror Detainees

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According to Assistant Attorney General Ronald Welch, the Obama Administration will move forward with plans to purchase a prison facility in rural Thomson, Ill., whether or not Congress approves the transfer of Guantanamo detainees there. The DOJ has asked for $237 million in appropriations in next year’s budget to buy and begin using the facility to hold high-security federal inmates. Rep. Don Manzullo (R – IL), who represents northern Illinois in Congress, publicly supports the new federal prison as a way of creating jobs, but has been critical of plans to transfer Guantanamo detainees there, ostensibly for safety reasons.

Here I’ll just note a few related points; make of them what you will: 1) As I noted the other day, prisons actually haven’t been found to boost local economies, or to create as many jobs as hoped; 2) I’ve never quite understood why people are so worried about bringing the remaining Guantanamo detainees into the U.S., considering that the federal supermax in Colorado already holds some pretty dangerous folks; 3) Is this the start of a federal prison mini-boom? As the Pew Center on the States reported this week, although state prison populations have fallen in over half the states, the federal prison population is growing:

The survey found that the federal prison population continued to grow, rising by 6,838 prisoners, or 3.4 percent, to an all-time high of 208,118. Expanded federal jurisdiction over certain crimes and increased prosecution of immigration cases account for much of the increase.

Do Prisons Boost Local Economies? Studies Suggest No

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Rural communities can certainly gain a political boost from having a prison in their area — thanks to prison-based gerrymandering — but do they also benefit economically? Apart from security concerns, decisions to build prisons in out-of-the-way areas were often defended in recent decades as a way to boost local economies, especially in rural areas that had lost manufacturing or agricultural jobs. But studies show the economic benefits of a local prison may be mostly imagined. The issue is in the news again with the ongoing debate over whether to relocate Guantanamo Bay detainees to northwest Illinois. The Christian Science Monitor reports:

Studies over the past decade conclude that prisons have done little to change the economic realities of rural communities. … In some circumstances, research suggests, prisons have actually done harm.

“The towns that get prisons, especially the most desperate communities, tend to be worse off,” says Gregory Hooks, a sociology professor at Washington State University and author of two studies of rural prisons. “That was a surprise.”

Mr. Hooks and other researchers have used census data to compare rural counties with and without prisons. These studies show that prisons fail to increase total employment, raise incomes, or reduce poverty. It’s not clear why. One reason may be that local people get relatively few prison jobs because they lack the skills and qualifications needed to work as guards or administrative staff. Researchers also speculate that prisons may displace other economic activity.

Moreover, unlike factories and other economic development, prisons generate little extra business. They are centralized institutions with their own distant suppliers. “Prisons have had nowhere the positive economic benefits people say they will have,” says Boyce Sherwin, a former director of community development in Malone, N.Y., a town with three prisons.

Written by sara

March 15, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Prison Controversies at Issue in Illinois Governor Race

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Controversies over prisons near and far may be at issue in the upcoming Illinois gubernatorial campaign, at least for Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn. From a recent AP report:

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is in danger of losing in the primary because of his association with disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was expelled from office.

Quinn twice ran as lieutenant governor on the same ticket as Blagojevich. He has also taken heat for proposing a tax increase to clean up the state’s financial mess and for working with Obama to move terror suspects from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to an Illinois prison. His effort to cut costs by letting some nonviolent inmates out of prison turned out to include releasing violent offenders – some of whom have been accused of serious new crimes.

Written by sara

January 30, 2010 at 5:03 pm

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