PrisonWatchTM vs. Timesizing®
Prison stories - Jan.-May/2002
[Commentary] ©2002 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080 - HOMEPAGE
5/27/2002 1 prison story -
5/25/2002 1 prison story -
- Quality-of-life crimes, letter to editor by Ted Gottfried of NYC, NYT, A16.
Following a new mayoral initiative (front page, May 22), New York City prosecutors and police said they would begin cracking down on repeat petty crimes like prostitution, public drinking and drug use, whose perpetrators serve little jail time. These "criminals" would now serve as much as a year in prison.
Why not target other quality-of-life crimes like car-horn blowers, loud radio players, litterers? Maybe it's because it's easier to demonize and scapegoat prostitutes and pot smokers for political gain.
Why are we jailing these people? Are pot smokers really such a threat to the city? After all, they have virtually no effect on their surroundings, while a manic late-night horn blower can awaken an entire city block.
Why not use limited police resources to take aim at crimes that involve violence or loss of property instead?
4/25/2002 1 prison story -
- [prison efficiency on parade]
Tennessee - Inmate out again through same hole, AP via BG, A2.
MEMPHIS - A murder suspect who escaped from jail 11 years ago broke out again using the same hole in the same fence. David Ivy, 30, escaped May 16 by crawling through a fence around an inmate recreation area on the Shelby County jail roof.
[And they've made no progress in giving him a trial?! Stay tuned for next press release in 2013.]
4/21/2002 1 prison story -
- 6 years after conviction, DNA clears man in murder, by William Glaberson, NYT, A30.
On Tuesday, Barry Scheck, the defense lawyer, called Charles Hynes, the Brooklyn [NY] district attorney [and] outlined a legal motion that he and another lawyer, Glenn Garber, were drafting to free Hector Gonzalez, who had served more than 6 years in prison after being convicted of murder....
[Barry Scheck, co-founder of the NYC-based Innocence Project, features also in our story below on 4/20.]
In the phone call...Mr. Scheck described DNA evidence clearing Mr. Gonzalez that had been given to the district attorney's aides. He [also] described sworn statements from four new witnesses who said Mr. Gonzalez had not taken part in the attack..\..
Mr. Gonzalez, now 25, had always said that he was not one of the members of the Latin Kings gang who repeatedly kicked and stabbed a man and then slit his throat in a Brooklyn nightclub brawl in 1995.... The district attorney ordered two detectives to go to the Eastern Correctional Facility in Ulster County NY, where Mr. Gonzalez was serving [a] sentence 15 years to life. They took him to a Brooklyn courtroom to be freed..\.. Yesterday [Mr.] Gonzalez walked out of [the] Brooklyn courthouse into freedom he had not been scheduled to taste for a long time. He could not stop smiling....
4/20/2002 1 prison story -
- Seeking salvation behind bars, Letter to editor by William Ellis of Norfolk MA, BG, E8.
...I read...the views in Francie Latour's Globe article, "Prisoner rehabilitation revived as cause in Mass." (Page A1, April 5)....
Throughout my 27 years of incarceration, I have watched inmates come and go - and many return - often due to a basic oversight: failure to, or even attempt to, acquire education.... Due to the auspices of then president of Boston University John Silber, and the gritty resolve of professor Elizabeth Barker, I was able to earn a bachelor's degree in liberal studies (1979), and a master's degree in liberal Arts (1990) under conditions one might consider grim at best. I have also tutored and taught inmates.
[Here's a good word about Silber for a change.]
The ramifications of 9/11 have trickled down to prisons, especially here at Bay State Correctional Center. We have suffered Draconian cutbacks and near elimination of educational opportunities. As of today, Boston University is the sole educational program here.
If an inmate can leave prison...with all the time served, able to read, write, and do math well, he or she will have the foundation on which to build anything. An inmate deeply steeped in educational fundamentals can acquire a new meaning and insight into life that raises self-confidence and [emboldens] the spirit.
...Behind prison walls...there are inmates here today seeking a better avenue of personal salvation. And while post-release and supervision programs have value, I urge all interested to begin first with offering a good basic fundamental education....
4/18/2002 1 prison story -
- State lags in aid for exonerated prisoners, by Francie Latour, BG, B1.
...Although a dozen prisoners statewide and more than nationally have been exonerated in recent years, Massachusetts, like most other states, has no law to compensate the wrongfully convicted. A growing number of states have begun to pass laws to provide funds for post-conviction DNA testing, but Massachusetts lacks that sort of law as well....
A few...most notably Bobby Joe Leaster, who was jailed for 5 years for a murder he did not commit, have asked the [Ma.] Legislature for compensation. Leaster received a $500,000 annuity in 1992, but he is the exception.
[They'll just have to sue.]
...One of the state's youngest exonerated prisoners, Donnell Johnson, filed a lawsuit against the city of Boston and 3 Boston police homicide detectives [alleging] that the officers conspired to hide evidence that could have helped his case, and that the city's police dept. has allowed officers to lie under oath with impunity....
But for many others, few if any grounds exist for a lawsuit. [Neil] Miller's [rape imprisonment] is such a case. His 1990 conviction rested almost entirely on eye-witness testimony from the victim...who will not testify on his behalf even though DNA evidence excluded Miller and was later matched to another suspect already serving time in prison. When he left prison, Miller...had $500 in savings. He spent half of that...on eye-glasses...more for clothes, a driver's license, a Soc. Sec. number. Paying for psychiatric care was out of the question, even though he felt his anger mounting \and\ while they committed no crime, these former prisoners say they bear many of the same scars as any incarcerated inmate released to the world: the rage from stifled dreams, the shock of walking down a public street or sleeping on a queen-size bed..\..
At a 2-day Harvard conference on wrongful convictions that began yesterday, Barry Scheck, co-founder of the NYC-based Innocence Project, said the lack of legislation put Massachusetts behind Texas in its treatment of wrongfully convicted prisoners. [These are] 2 states long seen as being at opposite extremes in attitudes toward criminal justice..\..
[Not any more. After years of one-party rule and now our own pet fascist, Tom Finneran, Massachusetts is accelerating to the back of the pack.]
The crammed, clapping audience at Harvard Law School [saw] wrongfully convicted former prisoner Neil Miller in a blue dress shirt and crisp pants smiling as he and other freed innocents accepted honors in an Ivy League setting.
[That and a sawbuck'll get you a latté at Starbucks.]
But away from the spotlight, Miller...is jobless....
[It all comes back to jobs, and the urgent need for the macro-economic safety net of an economywide workweek that actively (though gradually) responds to unemployment, forced retirement, welfare, disability, homelessness and prison population by shrinking when those problems expand, and expanding when those problems shrink.]
Since he won his freedom in 2000, ending a decade behind bars for a rape he didn't commit, he has had only one job, as a liquor store clerk. It ended [when] he exploded at a customer for making sarcastic comments. Charged with assault and making threats, he is now on probation. \Even before,\ "I've gone to [Burger King,] McDonald's, Uno's, Strawberries. Nobody will hire me. And that's sad that a liquor store is the only place that would hire me. That's just not right."
As states across the country race to reintegrate a new wave of former prisoners back into society - spending millions to house, educate, and mentor the guilty so that they do not return to crime...the exonerated say they have been largely ignored....
4/15/2002 2 prison stories -
- U.S. joins inmate in prison discipline case - Justices weigh liability for shackling convict to a post for 7 hours, by Linda Greenhouse, NYT, A23.
The Bush administration joined a former Alabama prison inmate in arguing before the Supreme Court [yester]day that a lower court wrongly shielded prison guards from liability for hitching the inmate to a post and leaving him to stand for seven hours in the summer sun, his arms raised and with only minimal access to water. ...A federal appeals court in Atlanta found that three Alabama prison guards did violate the 8th Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment by twice shackling the inmate, Larry Hope, to a bar known as a hitching post for disruptive behavior on a chain gang. But the court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, said the guards were nonetheless entitled to immunity because when the two incidents occurred in 1995, there were no directly relevant legal precedents making it sufficiently clear that the practice was unconstitutional.
As opposed to the absolute immunity enjoyed by judges and prosecutors for their official actions, most other officials receive conditional or qualified immunity..\.. It is a nettlesome [concept] that...has eluded a clear articulation by the federal courts....
4/11/2002 2 prison stories -
- Give prison artists a second chance, letter to editor by Estelle Williams, NYT, A26.
Re "Unlock prison art" (editorial, April 8) [see 4/08/2002 below]:
The cancellation of the "Corrections on Canvas" art show and the ban on the sale of prisoner art in NY State expose the mean-spirited prison system for what it is.
As a community volunteer at a NY prison, I have seen the positive effects that the art program has had on men I know, men who used their brushes and colored pencils to translate their anger and pain into a product for which they received acclaim and recognition. For many men, this is the first positive feedback they have ever received for efforts at self-improvement.
[And positive feedback* has repeatedly been proven the most effective change agent (*aka love).]
- ["and now for something completely different" -]
Prison sperm smuggling ring a tale of bribery and lost hope, by Marc Levy, BG, A15.
...Guard Troy Kemmerer..\..at Allenwood Federal Prison...pleaded guilty to bribery and is awaiting sentencing....
...To the government, the semen \for a girlfriend\ who was trying to get pregnant...wasn't a big deal. Prosecutors were more concerned with rooting out corruption at the federal prison in the rural north-central Pennsylvania town of White Deer....
The NY Post cited anonymous law enforcement sources as saying that the investigation began several years ago after a convicted Colombo family hit man in prison since 1988 was seen in an Allenwood visitation room showing off a toddler he called "my son."...
4/10/2002 1 prison story -
- [the good(?) news -]
Growth in prison population slows, AP via NYT, A26.
[So it's not that it's actually stopped growing or anything. It's just that the rate of growth has decreased.]
The number people in prison grew last year at the slowest rate in three decades, the [US] Justice Dept. said. The population in prisons and jails rose about 1%, to 1,965,495, according to the annual report.
[Hmm, we thought we breached the 2-million 'milestone' back at the beginning of Y2000.]
As of June 30, 2001, one of every 145 U.S. residents was behind bars.
["Our country 'tis of thee, Great land of liberty???"]
Most of the growth came in federal prisons.
[This is mainly because we didn't learn from the failure of Prohibition 70 years ago that criminalization of substance abuse is stupid. You tax such substances for their costs, not criminalize them, let alone mount a costly and resource-draining 'War on Drugs.']
- [the bad news -]
Led by China, executions soar, Reuters via NYT, A8.
Governments executed at least 3,048 of their citizens last year, more than double the number in 2000, the human rights group Amnesty International said.... Of the 31 countries using the death penalty..\..
[So here we are, the self-appointed world leader, right up there with third-world nations on this high-profile issue.]
- China, which is cracking down on crime, accounted for 81% of the total, executing at least 2,468 people.
[But hey, they've got grotesque overpopulation, right? What a warning against continuing our slipshod immigration policy and non-existent birth policy!]
- ...Iran ranked second with 139 reported executions
- ...Saudi Arabia [ranked] third with 79
- The United States was fourth with 66 executions....
4/08/2002 1 prison story -
- Death is different, editorial, BG, A24.
Ray Krone, who spent 10 years in prison for sexual assault and murder, including time on Arizona's death row, was freed on Monday after a DNA test exonerated him and cast suspicion on another prisoner. According to the Death Penalty Information Project, Mr. Krone was the 100th innocent man nearly put to death in this country since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.
Given the way death-penalty crimes are prosecuted, as the wrongful-conviction scandals in Illinois a few years back showed, a certain number of mistaken convictions are essentially built into the process. A sad reality of the criminal justice system is that in all too many cases, defendants are convicted of serious crimes on the flimsiest of evidence.... This week's discomforting milestone...is further evidence of deep unfairness in the death penalty system and of the urgent need for a law reducing its inequities.
[How about just repealing our big step backwards into barbarism in 1976, re-abolishing the dealth penalty, and for those thirsty for blood revenge etc. etc., just install a little kevorkian kit in a niche in the wall of the cell of each inmate sentenced to life imprisonment. It's time we should be empowering people to get what they want instead of fighting it, especially if their wishes save us money, and let those passionately attached to their innocence (or their lives) live on in hopes of freedom.]
[Hooboy, did the Boston Globe ever screw this up! Three weeks later they picked up a Reuters story on this same incident and published it as if it had just happened - "DNA evidence clears inmate of murder," Reuters via 4/30/2002 BG, A4, begins, "PHOENIX - A former postal worker [Ray Krone] who spent 10 years of a life sentence in prison walked out of an Arizona courtroom a free man yesterday, cleared by DNA evidence of the 1991 stabbing death of a bartender...." Wakey, wakey!]
4/05/2002 1 prison story -
- Unlock prison art, editorial, NYT, A22.
...For 35 years, the [NY] State Dept. of Correctional Services has held an annual "Corrections on Canvas" show in Albany. Prisoners benefited by having an outlet for their creative energies and an opportunitiy to earn small amounts of money for their work, which they make with supplies that they buy themselves. Half of the money from art sales is paid to the Crime Victims Board..\..
Unfortunately, NY State has just delivered a body blow to [this] one of the most successful programs in its prison system.... NY's corrections commissioner, Glenn Goord, has canceled the show and banned the sale of prison art statewide.
[Sounds like the Israeli approach to solving problems. Strip naked your targets and give them nothing to lose whatever they do to you thereafter (or v.v.).]
The department says it does not want to give the impression that inmates can profit from their crimes.
The direct cause appears to have been controversy over art sales by Arthur Shawcross, who is serving a 250-year sentence for killing 11 women in the Rochester area. To prevent a single notorious criminal from exhibiting artwork, Mr. Goord is harshly depriving the state's other 67,000 inmates, many of whom are in prison for non-violent offenses, of a small privilege that gives them a sense of self-esteem. The corrections system is losing an important tool in modifying prisoners' behavior, and preparing them for the next step most will take: returning to the streets.
[The obvious solution is a class-system among prisoners - those we can never afford to release and those we can. Class 1 we install a Kevorkian kit in a niche in their cell wall so they can comfortably cut the malingering anytime they want, if they know they're guilty (or they figure their chances of getting justice are nil and they're depressed about their lives), and class 2 whom we rehab, with programs like this Corrections on Canvas. Oops, the NYT says as much -]
...The Dept. of Correctional Services..\..should rethink [its blanket] decision right away [and only] bar the state's most violent inmates from participating \in\ Corrections on Canvas....
3/27/2002 1 prison story -
- Prisoner rehabilitation revived as cause in Massachusetts, by Francie Latour, BG, front page.
[Good thing too, because -]
...After years spent slashing education, job training, and work release programs for inmates..\..Lowell [MA] Police Superintendent Edward Davis...said the state has stacked the deck against those inmates and [against] public safety....
While roughly two-thirds of all inmates had some parole supervision a decade ago, only about one-third of offenders do now. Many violent offenders have been denied access to transitional services, and leave maximum-security facilities directly for the street.
According to..\..a report published this year by MassINC, a Boston think tank...44% of the returning prisoners have committed new crimes. And advocates estimate that up to a quarter of returning ex-offenders are homeless and more than half can't fill out a job application or read a bus sign....
[Excerpt by colleague Kate. And this relates to a letter in the Times today -]
Life after prison, letter to editor by Ethan Wohl of Brooklyn, NYT, A22.
Re " Commissioner's ban on inmates' art sales ends annual show" (news article, March 30):
As manager of a small company that employs ex-offenders, I know that often their biggest challenge is to recognize that they have skills and abilities beyond those that landed them in prison.
Without the belief that they can make it in the real world, recidivism is the easiest course.
3/20/2002 2 prison stories -
- Towns with odd jobs galore turn to inmates - Towns find cheap labor in inmates, by Peter Kilborn, NYT, front page.
ZACHARY, La. -...In recent years struggling rural communities like this one have relied more and more on inmates to do jobs that public employees once did: tending cemeteries, cleaning courthouse restrooms, moving furniture, renovating municipal buildings, and even running errands for the police.... In the last few years the use of prisoners for manual labor has increased around the country, particularly in the South and Southwest where it not only fills the desperate demand for inexpensive laborers, but also helps prisons relieve overcrowding and supplement their budgets....
[Or is this just slavery coming ba-a-ack in slightly modified form? At any rate, add this to immigration and robotization as pressures toward sharing the vanishing work.]
3/16/2002 1 prison story -
- Justice Department opposes lower jail terms for crack - Aides cite small disparity against powder, by Neil Lewis, NYT, A20.
WASHINGTON...- Senior Justice Dept. officials said [yester]day that disparities between sentences for distributing crack cocaine and powder cocaine were far smaller than generally believed and that they would oppose any changes in the law to reduce prison terms for crack offenses....
- Mentally ill inmates, letter to editor by US Rep. Jose Serrano (NY), NYT, A26.
Re "Ending chronic homelessness" (editorial, March 13):
...In 2000, a state judge ordered the city [of NY] to provide discharge planning to the approximately 25,000 mentally ill inmates who cycle through the city jail system each year. The city faces contempt proceedings for its failure to comply with the order and will most likely pay millions in contempt fines that it would have used to provide the services these people are entitled to under the law.
[Obvious solution: city spends specified portions of the fine providing the services by benchmark dates, or loses the money to the courts.]
3/10-11/2002 record FIVE (5) weekend prison stories -
- [actually good news -]
California: Closing private prisons, by Barbara Whitaker, NYT, A12.
Gov. Gray Davis is seeking to end the state's experiment with privately operated prisons. The governor's office cited cost and a declining inmate population as the primary reasons for the move, which was tucked away in his budget proposal.
["Cost"?! Slink away, ye privatizers! The one factor you can't control is executive pay - which is probably your hidden agenda for wanting privatization in the first place.]
Under the governor's plan, five private prisons would close on June 30 and four others would be phased out when their contracts expire in 2007.
The state prison guards union, which contributed $2.3m to Gov. Davis's election campaign, has opposed the private prisons.
[American labor may be roadkill, with only 13-14% of the workforce, down from 39-40% in the 1950s once they lost control of worktime per person in the 30s, and special interests and unlimited campaign contributions may be sleaze, but sometimes the outcome is good. We don't mind privatizing something relatively simple like garbage collection, but privatizing prisons or the military or immigration is nuts. Even in the best cases, you're gambling you'll find better managers in the private sector, and management today in the private sector is such low quality, focused (as usual every 60-80 years in the Kondratieff wave) on recession-inducing acquisitions & downsizing consolidations rather than product/service-innovation & upsizing market development, that your gamble goes against the odds.]
3/09/2002 1 prison story -
- 3/11 Breeding violence in solitary, op ed by Margaret Burnham, BG, A15.
...Inmate John Todd [is] suing without legal assistance \to\ challeng[e] his confinement in MCI-Cedar Junction's supermax [solitary confinement] unit. [He] argues that the Dept. of Correction is violating his right to equal protection by reserving the supermax for men..\.. The Massachusetts Appeals Court agreed with Todd that the reason given for sex-segregating the Dept. Disciplinary Unit - that women prisoners are not as violent as men - improperly relies on gender stereotypes.
Although gender equality appears to be the winner, the Appeals Court's reasoning could leave us with a grotesque result - extending the horrors of disciplinary unit [solitary] confinement to women....
- 3/10 Catholic inmates backed on wine, AP via BG, A15.
Denying [Roman] Catholic federal prison inmates wine during communion services may violate their constitutional rights, the US Court of Appeals ruled Friday....
- 3/10 Sex offender says he seeks castration, Kansas City Star via BG, A15.
KANSAS CITY - A man facing possible commitment in Kansas as a sexual predator has found a doctor who has agreed to castrate him. Herbert L. Fox, 65...a convicted pedophile, is the first sex offender to seek castration since Kansas enacted its sexual-predator law in 1994, officials said.
- 3/10 Panel faults sentence proposal - House bill seen adding inmates, by Ralph Ranalli, BG, B1.
A new analysis indicates that the bill passed by the Massachusetts House last October establishing sentencing guidelines for judges would add 3,631 inmates to the state's correctional system, even as Acting Governor Jane Swift announced this past week that she will close three correctional facilities to save money....
- 3/10 Short timers, by B.J. Roche, BG, B4.
...One weekend last month...was the final stretch for the Thomaston..\..Maine State Prison [and] some 14,000 people were trying to get in [for] free tours led by retired guards. \It was\ built in 1824, rebuilt after a fire in 1923, and replaced this year by a new prison in Warren ME. \It was\ Stephen King's inspiration for "Shawsbank Redemption"....
3/06/2002 1 jail story -
- Expanding in U.S., Falck buys Wackenhut security, Bloomberg via NYT, B4.
[These Danes must be crazy!]
Group 4 Falck, a leading global provider of security services...based in Copenhagen \will\ buy a rival, the Wackenhut Corp., for $573m so Falck can expand in the United States, where demand for security guards is rising after 9/11.
[Fine if it was just into security guards, but isn't Wackenhut the somewhat malodorous outfit that's been running our prisons? Talk about asking for trouble! 'Course maybe Wackenhut Corrections (see 3/31/2000) is slightly different from plain Wackenhut.]
Falck and a bigger rival, Securitas, are buying competitors in the $14B market in the U.S., which they expect to grow faster than other markets....
[Yeah, as American society deteriorates and crime rises.]
Wackenhut, which is based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. [sounds lovely, doesn't it?] provides more than 40,000 security guards to companies.
3/05/2002 prison news -
- Britain: Judges urge shorter jail terms, Reuters via NYT, A6.
Three top judges urged magistrates to stop imposing unnecessary jail sentences because prisons may soon overflow.
[Apparently the UK has become infected with our stupid US incarceration obsession.]
Last week the Home Office reported that the number of prisoners in England and Wales had reached a record 70,000, near the jail [system]'s capacity of 71,500.
[And these should all, we maintain, be included in the unemployment rate. And so should homelessness, disability, welfare and forced retirement. Only then would we get a picture of our true economic "health," instead of the hollow chest-thumping that bills the U.S. and U.K. economies as some kind of success stories.]
3/3/2002 weekend prison news -
- Illinois: Reviewing death row cases, by Daniel Dorfman, NYT, A20.
Gov. George Ryan will review the cases of all 163 inmates on death row before he leaves office next year and has not ruled out commuting all the sentences, his spokesman said. The review comes 2 years after Gov. Ryan issued a moratorium on the death penalty after 13 death row inmates were freed after new evidence was submitted....
[Probably some of it DNA.]
3/02/2002 prison news -
- Prison lockdown remains during probe, BG, B2.
WALPOLE, Mass. - The state's maximum-security prison in Walpole remained in full lockdown yesterday as the Dept. of Corrections [DOC] continued to investigate an assault that occurred Friday afternoon. Prisoners at MCI-Cedar Junction have not been allowed to leave their cells as corrections officers interview them about the events that forced the hospitalization of an inmate, said Justin Latini, a DOC spokesman....
2/28/2002 prison news -
- The upside to supervising inmates after their release, op ed by Sheriff Frank Cousins of Essex County MA, BG, A15.
...Conducted by Anne Pielh, a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, [MassINC's study, "From Cell to Street"] reports that nearly 20,000 offenders are being released from state and county prisons each year and returning to their communities with no supervision. This has led to a recidivism rate of 44%. The problem could be diminished, she concluded, if the states hired additional parole officers and compelled released offenders to report for mandatory aftercare programs.
["Aftercare"??! It would be nice if some estimates were offered as to how much the problem could be diminished and how much money it would save taxpayers, especially since that's the kind of thing that's hinted at in the title, but alas, none is offered.]
What Pielh is calling for is a "continuum of care" for offenders upon release....
[Hooboy, the illness model again, which can always backfire by diminishing a person's freedom of choice. "My illness made me do it." Rather than sugar-coating the whole thing, why don't we restrict ourselves to language that evinces only our desire to rule out the possibility of repetition/recidivism, whatever that takes in each instance.]
2/21/2002 prison news -
- Out of jail, into temptation: A day in a life, by Alan Feuer, NYT, front page.
Nando came home from jail to a small apartment in the Bronx that stank like a backed-up toilet.... "It's like a garbage dump," he said..\.. He had been gone 8 months...for selling crack.... Nando [is] a 20-year-old man who agreed to spend his first day out of jail with a reporter and photographer as long as his last name did not appear in print..\..
[Of course, his photo is splashed right there on the front page of the nation's newspaper.]
What lay ahead for Nando...would prove to be a veil of dark temptation, a toxic mix of the traps and troubles that sent him off to prison to begin with.... Nando was released at 5 am on Feb. 4.
[Thus our suicidally myopic wealthy decision-makers have turned our nation into a huge criminal training facility, costing themselves and us $30,000 per criminal per year in prison costs. In choosing between "pay me a little now, or pay me a lot later," these rich morons invariably choose "later." They have succeeded in making it easier for millions of Americans to earn a dishonest living than an honest one - at last count, our prison population was over a record 2,000,000 (at $30K per criminal, that's $60,000,000,000 a year it's costing us, and God knows the figures on our homeless population, let alone our forced-retired, unemployed, welfare, disabled, and suicidal - like the wealthy, but quick and honest. Think of the wasted consumer markets these millions represent, millions of people wasted by our current primitive Constipated Capitalism. Well, Timesizing is Ex-Lax to turn Constipated Capitalism into Ben Hunnicutt's Liberation Capitalism (Chapter 1, "Work Without End"). And while we're on the subject, why on earth are we still criminalizing drug offenses anyway when if we had any brains, we'd have learned from the failure of Prohibition that criminalizing drugs doesn't work. Just tax each drug for its costs, including social costs, and quit the straining self-righteousness and anal perfectionism, not to mention the costly and wasteful prison-industrial complex, physical and mental. Yeah, that's "rich" - America doesn't have an Oedipus complex or an Electra complex but a Prison-industrial complex. And Komrade Bushkin, leader of our autistic Corporate Socialist Autarchy and Welfare State for Wealth, the American Plutocratic Republic, is pushing to bring back our old Military-industrial complex. Booshkin eez obsessed with doing vut heez dad failed to do, like (read my lips) not raise taxes, and pull Sadman Insane out of power in irate Iraq. So, as Jeffrey Platt points out, he's going to use terrorism the way Joe McCarthy used communism - to salvage his own political posterior. He's got us between Irack and a hard place - TWO hard places: Afghanifstand & Misrael. Quelle bêtise.]
- By 7 am, he had learned that his best friend had just been arrested on a crack charge.
- By 9 am, he was languishing in a welfare office.
- By 10, he had been offered a joint.
- By 10:15, he had been offered his old job back, selling crack and marijuana....
2/17/2002 weekend prison news -
- Honduras - Innocence is presumed under new penal code, Reuters via BG, A8.
TEGUCIGALPA - A new penal code based on a judicial presumption of innocence, rather than guilt, took effect yesterday in Honduras, where 90% of the country's 11,000 inmates are in prison without being convicted of crimes. The new code, utilizing an oral, public judicial process, replaces a system dating back to 1906. Officials said the new penal code would help clean up a judicial system widely recognized as weak, politicized, and corrupt. Under the new code, suspects can be imprisoned without trial only for serious crimes in which they are considered threats to society or at risk of fleeing.
[One big step for Honduras. One small step for mankind. The article below about the Queen's visit to Jamaica asks "why an independent nation should retain a European monarch as head of state?" The short answer is, The Falklands. The long answer is - it's a lot tougher on assassins. Who do you hit? The PM? - he's just a functionary. The Governor General? - he's just the Queen's rep. The Queen? - she's just a figurehead and besides, she's way over in England most of the time. The US Presidency focuses all these functional and symbolic roles, with predictable results. Four presidents assassinated in a century and a half (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Kennedy), compared to two monarchs zapped in 8 centuries (Richard II, Charles I), and in Canada, only one federal-level assassination in a century and a third, and it wasn't the prime minister (D'Arcy McGee).]
2/09/2002 prison news -
- Convicted killer escapes from Texas jail, AP via NYT, A12.
ABILENE, Tex. - ...Killer overpowered a correctional officer and escaped from a state penitentiary here today.... The inmate, John William Roland...took Sgt. Wesley Hurt's uniform and handcuffed and beat him before escaping in his pickup truck about 4:45 am, said Larry Todd, a spokesman for the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice. Mr. Todd said there was no weapon in the truck.
...Mr. Roland was serving a life sentence.... He was convicted of shooting to death a former roommate and had been at the prison here, about 170 miles west of Dallas, since 1993.
[How dumb are prison guards in Abilene, you ask? Here are some clues -]
...Mr. Roland asked to speak with Sgt. Hurt in a secluded area of the prison after breakfast [breakfast at 3:30 am???] and then beat him in the head and legs. "An officer out at the front of the unit noticed the pickup leaving the premises, but thought it was not unusual since it appeared to be driven by a correctional officer," Mr. Todd said....
The escape from the state facility follows a string of county jail breaks.
[See story below on 2/08. Here's a factoid about one of those escapes though, that was not provided then -]
Two convicted murderers and 2 others awaiting trial on murder charges escaped on Jan.28 from the Montague County Jail by overpowering a guard and fleeing in her vehicle....
[Seems Texas supplies jailed murderers with dumb weak guards, uniforms, secluded change areas, and escape vehicles. And presumably, room, board and health care before their escape. All Americans should get such a deal!]
2/08/2002 prison news -
- Doctor: Transsexuals in women's prison, by Thanassis Cambanis, BG, B1.
...Dr. Marshall Forstein, mental health services director at Fenway Community Health, testified yesterday in federal court, where a male inmate is suing for the right to have a sex change operation..\..that several transsexuals who were treated at his clinic are serving time in the state's prison for women in Framingham MA.... "They were men and now they're women, and they're housed in [the women's prison in] Framingham," Forstein added. "The Dept. of Correction might not actually know that."...
2/07/2002 prison news -
- Four Texas prison escapees back in custody, by Ross Milloy, NYT, A20.
...in Ardmore, Okla. \They\ escaped from a Texas county jail last month.... "They was the hungriest boys you've ever seen," said George West \whom they took hostage at a convenience store on Wed.\...before surrendering before dawn [yester]day.... "They hadn't had food for like three days"..\.. Curtis Gambill and Joshua Bagwell... - convicted of the 1996 murder of a 16-year-old cheerleader -...spent most of the 6½-hour standoff smoking, drinking beer and gorging themselves on potato chips and beef jerky.
[Them boys is gonna remember this here blowout fer years to come.]
Even as the standoff in Oklahoma played out, two other prisoners escaped from a county jail in Granbury, Tex., raising the number of escapees from Texas country jails since January 2001 to 146.... Of the 140 people missing from custody last year...only 56 escaped from secure facilities - 29 of those from hospitals or courts, and 12 more who were released too early or inadvertently freed as a result of paperwork error. The other cases involved "walk-aways" from work crews, electronic monitoring mishaps or other low security environments....
Brian Olson, spokesman for a union that represents 3,200 of Texas's 22,000 state corrections officers, said, "Obviously there's some kind of problem with the counties...." [But] national officials said they were unaware of any particular problem in the Texas prison system, which houses 157,000 inmates, or the country-run jails..\.. Texas [has] 255 county-operated and private prisons....
2/05/2002 prison news -
- Cornell, prison builder, schedules accounting review, Reuters via NYT, C4.
The prison builder and operator Cornell Cos. [is] reviewing the accounting of an off-balance-sheet transaction and said the review could have material financial consequences....
[Oops, the Enron ripples spread on.]
The board had formed a special committee to review an August transaction in which Cornell sold 11 facilities and then leased them back. ...The facilities were sold to an entity owned by affiliates of an unnamed investment bank...
[Sounds like a multilayered concealment effort.]
...for net proceeds of $173m..\.. The company also said its president and CEO will no longer be chairman.
The news set off a decline in the price of Cornell's shares on the NYSE, where they lost more than half their value....
[And rightly so. Maybe Cornell University should look into barring these specimens from sliming their name. The prison-industrial complex is going to suffer a bit now that Bush is puffing the old military-industrial complex again, but then the old unemployment "solution" is so much quicker - more product and personnel can just get blown away. It all comes back to jobs and how difficult we have made them by taking the productivity of technology and using it, not to shorten everyone's working hours, but to put some people out of work and scare the rest, and then some more, and some more.... The end result will be half the population in jail and the other half working 7-day, 12 hour shifts guarding them. Unless ye burning Bush convinces the less intelligent voters that there really is an "axis of evil" and we've got to cut taxes, quintuple the national debt and the Pentagon, and get out there and blow away the global labor glut!]
1/31/2002 prison news -
- Heal the prisoners, and the rest of us, letter to editor by Chairman Kenneth Prager MD of Medical Ethics Committee of Columbia Presbyterian Center at NY Presbyterian Hospital, NYT, A28.
The statement by officials that a 31-year-old California prisoner given a heart transplant [see next story] was handled as any other patient would have been is incorrect. The inmate was actually treated better than some law-abiding patients who are denied heart transplants because of inadequate insurance.
[But whose insurance except Bill Gates' can afford million-dollar heart transplants?]
There is something intuitively very wrong with this situation.
The article cited a 1976 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prisoners must receive "adequate medical care." Are there any limits to the Court's mandate?
["Adequate" sounds like "regular," not "high-test," but clearly there are wide divergences in people's concept of "adequate."]
Should it included assisted reproductive technology for infertile inmates? Should a convicted serial murderer receive the limited resource of a human heart?
[What about an inmate who is a pre-operative transsexual? Haha, we just said that as a reductio ad absurdum. Then colleague Kate pointed out this unnoticed article in yesterday's Globe - "Inmate's suit asks state to pay for sex change," AP via 2/04/2002 Boston Globe B2, speaking of Robert Kosilek, who uses the name Michelle, and is doing life in Massachusetts Correctional Institution-Norfolk for strangling his wife. "He asserts in his lawsuit that the Department [of Corrections] is violating his civil rights and subjecting him to cruel and unusual punishment by refusing to provide treatment for his gender-identity disorder." And according to a Nova program "Sex Unknown" on PBS last night (8-9pm on Ch. 2 Boston), the 1960s theory that nurture, not nature, determines gender identity has since been reversed by the discovery of a physical difference between the male and female hypothalamus, thus giving murderous Michelle some ammo for his/er medical argument. Hooboy.]
Society clearly bears an ethical responsibility to provide prisoners with good medical care.
[The Supreme Court didn't even say "good" - they just said "adequate."]
However, this responsibility should certainly extend to law-abiding citizens to at least the same degree.
[Basically, Dr. Prager is suggesting a definition of "adequate medical care" for inmates; namely, care that is available to all law-abiding citizens. And clearly, heart transplants are not available to all law-abiding citizens. If they become available, or if lack of health continues to spread throughout the law-abiding population, we're going to see people committing crimes in order to get health coverage - even though some of the medicos hired by the prison system are deviant doctors who could get hired nowhere else, according to inmate advocate Susan Mortimer of Somerville, Mass.]
1/26/2002 prison news -
- Inmate's new heart is an omen for states, pointer blowout (to A16), NYT, frontpage.
In a sign of the kind of expenses many states may soon face, a California state prison inmate has received a heart transplant that is likely to cost taxpayers close to $1m. The federal courts have ruled that inmates cannot be denied medical care just because they are incarcerated...
[Heart transplants are not "medical care." They are heroic and experimental efforts that should not be considered for prison inmates until they are standard "medical care" and freely available to every unincarcerated person in this country. Giving them to inmates amounts to medical experimentation on inmates. Sometimes the lack of common sense in this country is astonishing.]
...and prisoners in California have received other organ transplants, like livers and kidneys, in recent years.
[Liver and kidney transplants are not as heroic and experimental. If they are in some circumstances, the same goes for them as for heart transplants.]
But experts said they believed that the California case was the first successful heart transplant for an inmate.
[Implies that millions of taxpayers' dollars have been previously wasted on this risky experimental procedure and proof positive that it is heroic and experimental, and not yet categorizable as "medical care."]
The nation's prison population is growing older, and many inmates have chronic illnesses that can eventually require...transplants. The result is that health care costs in the prison systems are soaring, with a need for transplants expected to add substantially to the tax burden.
[Then maybe it's high time we made it a lot easier to earn an honest living in this country than a dishonest one, by timesizing rather than by private-sector downsizing and inadequate public sector makework - except in time of war.]
1/21/2002 weekend prison news -
- Youth prisons in California stay abusive, suit contends, by Evelyn Nieves, NYT, A8.
Two years ago, the Calif. Youth Authority, which runs the state's juvenile prisons, acknowledged what critics had been saying for years: something was very wrong. Instead of rehabilitation and education, the system of 11 prisons and four camps, with about 6,300 prisoners, had become known for brutality and other abuses. Reports that mentioned
led the state inspector general, Steven White, to conclude that "it would be impossible to overstate the problem."
- mentally ill youths were stripped to their underwear and isolated in cages 23 hours a day
- that prisoners were
- subjected to biomedical experiments and
- sexually and physically abused by guards, and other problems
As a result, the Calif. Board of Corrections ordered a review of the Youth Authority by more than 100 experts [which] led to a 4" thick report in Nov/2000 that included scores of recommendations for reform.
But on Thursday, a prison reform group and a disability rights group, with 2 San Francisco law firms, filed a class action lawsuit against the system contending that little had changed [and] contend[ing] that inhumane conditions are pervasive.
It asks the court to order state officials to make reasonable, prompt and sustained efforts to correct the conditions....
It describes such practices as
- the use of cages as classrooms and
- the forcible injection of mind-altering drugs to control the behavior of inmates
- It contends
- mental health care is virtually non-existent and...
- prisoners with disabilities are sometimes isolated in dungeon-like holes splattered with feces and blood and
- that the inmates live in fear of physical and sexual violence
1/18/2002 prison news -
- Tight budgets force states to reconsider crime and penalties, by Fox Butterfield, NYT, frontpage.
[We 'brilliant' Americans, seldom the brightest lights in the world despite our self-congratulation, cheap out on mental illness and toss all our mentally ill out into the streets. Then we criminalize homelessness (having already ignored the lessons of the Prohibition flop and criminalized drugs) and toss ever more people in jail. Now we're cheaping out on jails. Hey, we're painting ourselves into a corner. We're either going to have to have a really BIG war to provide enough 40-hr/wk jobs for the people we don't ship overseas & kill (forget this nambypamby "war on terrorism" stroll), or share the vanishing work - as Japan is starting to do.]
After 3 decades of building more prisons and passing tougher sentencing laws, many states are being forced by budget deficits to close some prisons, lay off guards and consider shortening sentences. In the last month, Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois have each moved to close a prison, laying off guards in the process, prison officials say.... California, which led the nation's prison building boom, will close 5 small, privately operated minimum security prisons when their contracts expire this year....
Budget pressures are also adding momentum to a push to put a proposal on the Calif. ballot in November that would reduce the number of criminals subject to the state's 3-strikes sentencing law....
[Good, public referendums - they make mistakes but they don't have to keep relearning them as often as revolving political administrations.]
Stephen Ickes, an asst. dir. of the Oregon Dept. of Corrections, said, "...Budget problems are making people ask...whether we can afford to keep on doing what we've been doing," locking up ever more criminals for longer periods. "We are going to have to make some tough choices about prisons versus schools, and about getting a better investment return on how we run our prisons so we don't have so many prisoners reoffending and being sent back."
Since the early 1970's, the number of state prisoners has increased 500%, growing each year in the 1990's even as crime fell. In that time, prisons were the fastest-growing item in state budgets - often the only growing item..\..
["Pay now or pay later." Pay a little up front or a lot down back. But up front is getting cut, even in prisons -]
Illinois is cutting education for 25,000 inmates....
More than 2,000,000 inmates were in state and federal prisons and local jails, which cost more than $30,000,000,000 a year to run, Allen Beck, of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, said.
In those years, said Franklin Zimring, director of the Earl Warren Legal Institute at the University of California,
[oh yes, of the famed Warren Commission for covering up who really killed JFK]
public pressure to get tough on crime made prison budgets virtually untouchable.
But with crime having dropped or leveled off in the last nine years, this political pressure has abated, and with the economy in decline, many states are having to cut spending to balance their budgets....
[America continues to careen back and forth between too much and too little. Now all these newly jail-trained-to-crime people are going to be pushed out with no money, no education, no skills, no training, no resume, no support, no guidance - what option do they have? - so crime will skyrocket again. The only reason it's been low recently is because we've locked up the entire age-income cohort of those most at risk, e.g., young males, especially minority males. For example, we've tossed one in ten of our fellow black male citizens behind bars. We might as well repeal the Emancipation Proclamation.]
1/07/2002 weekend prison news -
- Tennessee: Prisoner kills counselor, by David Firestone, NYT, A17.
A counselor for the Corrections Corp. of America, the nation's largest private operator of prisons, was stabbed to death by an inmate, becoming the first employee to die in job-related violence in the company's 19-year history. The counselor, Delbert Steed...was stabbed in the back with a homemade weapon while meeting with the prisoner, who was serving two life sentences for murder at the Hardeman County Correctional Facility in Whiteville, some 50 miles northeast of Memphis....
[An argument for capital punishment after all?]
- [A nation challenged -] The prisoners - Troops arrive at base in Cuba to build jails - Preparing to house more than 2,000 captives from Afghanistan, by Kathryn Seelye, NYT, A8.
Soldiers from domestic American military bases began arriving today at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to help build maximum-security jails for prisoners from Afghanistan. The U.S. is holding more than 300 prisoners.
Jails being built to accommodate an initial group of about 100 prisoners could be finished within two weeks, said Capt. Tom Crosson, a spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees Guantanamo. He said the detainees would be flown there from Afghanistan shortly after that....
[Used to be you "joined the navy, to see the world." Now you fight us and we'll fly you halfway around the world to go to jail.]
Eventually an anticipated 1,500 troops are to build facilities on Guantanamo to house up to 2,000 prisoners....
[Presumably these guys will be able to get 'good' jobs in the prison-industrial sector with Wackenhut when their hitch is up.]
Captain Crosson said the prisoners are classified at the moment as "maximum-security detainees."...
[No details on how 'luxurious' these accommodations are.]
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