Tag Archives | Prison-Industrial Complex

ACLU Awarded $50 Million by Open Society Foundations to End Mass Incarceration

Kate Ter Haar (CC BY 2.0)

Kate Ter Haar (CC BY 2.0)

via Don’t Comply:

The Open Society Foundations today awarded a grant of $50 million to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in support of its nationwide campaign to end mass incarceration. The campaign seeks to reform criminal justice policies that have increased incarceration rates dramatically during a period of declining crime —and exacerbated racial disparities. The nation’s adult jail and prison population numbers over 2.2 million with one in 100 adults behind bars, the highest incarceration rate in the world. The ACLU intends to cut that number in half by 2020, with the most ambitious effort to end mass incarceration in American history.

“Reducing our nation’s prison population by 50 percent may sound like a lofty goal. But Americans are recognizing that we can’t arrest our way out of every social problem and, in fact, the overuse of our criminal justice system has been making matters worse,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D.

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State Imprisonment Rates 2012-2013

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Via Brennan Center for Justice

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Head over to The Brennan Center for Justice for an active map that gives exact statistics for each state.

via Vox:

Over the past few years, federal* and state* governments have been trying to shrink their prison populations. Recent data suggests there’s a lot more work to do.

On one hand, the number of inmates in federal prisons is finally starting to decline. On the other hand, the total number of inmates in state prisons is creeping back up after four years of decline — and those state increases more than offset the decrease at the federal level.

But even the aggregate numbers don’t tell the whole story. Some states reduced their prison populations in 2013, while others didn’t. And much of the upward trend this year was caused by rising prison populations in a few big states — states that had been working to shrink their prisons in the past, but fell off pace this year.

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The Worst Psychological Torture? Solitary Confinement

“Why Solitary Confinement Is The Worst Kind Of Psychological Torture” by George Dvosky at io9 outlines how solitary confinement came into use with the best of intentions, but is now understood to cause, in some cases, irreparable psychological damage.

This photo is of a recreation yard within the housing unit now referred to as the "Old Main." by Ken Piorkowski

This photo is of a recreation yard within the housing unit now referred to as the “Old Main.” by Ken Piorkowski

via io9:

There may be as many as 80,000 American prisoners currently locked-up in a SHU, or segregated housing unit. Solitary confinement in a SHU can cause irreversible psychological effects in as little as 15 days. Here’s what social isolation does to your brain, and why it should be considered torture.

There’s no universal definition for solitary confinement, but the United Nations describes it as any regime where an inmate is held in isolation from others, except guards, for at least 22 hours a day. Some jurisdictions allow prisoners out of their cells for one hour of solitary exercise each day.

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Drop Prison Rates, Drop Crime Rates

 Overcrowding in California State Prison

Overcrowding in California State Prison

States that have dropped incarceration rates have also seen a drop in crime rates.

via Think Progress:

The United States still has the highest incarceration rate in the world, but those few states that managed to significantly reduce their prison population over the last decade saw benefits other than reduced lock-up costs. They also saw their crime rate go down at a higher rate than the national average, according to a new report from the Sentencing Project.

The report bolsters the notion that locking up the wrong people doesn’t improve public safety. In fact, “smart on crime” policies not only minimize punishment toward non-violent offenders; they can also re-allocate resources toward violent crime.

“The experiences of New York, New Jersey, and California demonstrate that it is possible to achieve substantial reductions in mass incarceration without compromising public safety,” wrote Marc Mauer and Nazgol Ghandnoosh of the Sentencing Project.

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The Rise Of The Privatized For-Profit Probation Industry

probationHuman Rights Watch reports on the prison-industrial complex creeping further outside of the prison walls:

Every year, US courts sentence several hundred thousand misdemeanor offenders to probation overseen by private companies that charge their fees directly to the probationers. Often, the poorest people wind up paying the most in fees over time, in what amounts to a discriminatory penalty. And when they can’t pay, companies can and do secure their arrest.

The 72-page report, “Profiting from Probation: America’s ‘Offender-Funded’ Probation Industry,” describes how more than 1,000 courts in several US states delegate tremendous coercive power to companies that are often subject to little meaningful oversight or regulation. In many cases, the only reason people are put on probation is because they need time to pay off fines and court costs linked to minor crimes. In some of these cases, probation companies act more like abusive debt collectors than probation officers, charging the debtors for their services.

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Life in Prison for Shoplifting Under 3 Strikes Law | Brainwash Update

Abby Martin remarks on a recent ACLU report highlighting the shockingly high number of people serving life sentences without parole for non-violent crime, calling out state laws that leave judges without options when setting these mandatory sentences.

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The Mass Incarceration Telecommunications Industry

phonesFrom a Nation on the booming business of privatized prison profiteering:

The calls were expensive, more than a dollar per minute. In order to accept one, I had to set up a prepaid account with Global Tel* Link, or GTL, “The Next Generation of Correctional Technology.” If Tim called and my account was out of money, the automated voice would prompt me to replenish it via credit card, while he waited on the other line. “By accepting an inmate call, you acknowledge and agree that your conversation may be monitored and recorded,” the company advises.

For Tim’s relatives, this had been their reality for years. GTL makes more than $500 million a year exploiting families like his, who face the choice between paying exorbitant phone rates to keep in touch with incarcerated loved ones—up to $1.13 per minute—or simply giving up on regular phone calls. Like many other telecommunications companies that enjoy profitable monopolies on prison and jail contracts across the country, GTL wins its contracts by offering a kickback—or “commission”—to the prison or jail systems it serves.

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