Tag Archives | Prison

Guantanamo-Style Force Feeding Occurs In U.S. Prisons Every Day

force feedingVia Common Dreams, Ann Neumann on barbaric force feeding occurring onshore and offshore against prisoners who see hunger striking as their last available method of protest:

I know a hunger-striking prisoner who hasn’t eaten solid food in more than five years. He is being force-fed by the medical staff where he’s incarcerated. Starving himself, he told me last year, is the only way he has to exercise his first amendment rights and to protest his conviction.

The fact that force feedings are being discussed in the context of Guantánamo obscures the routine use of feeding tubes in American prisons. Other recent feeding tube cases have taken place in Washington state, Utah, Illinois and Wisconsin. No sweeping study of force-feeding has been done, so statistics on usage don’t exist. Only three states have laws against force-feeding prisoners: Florida, Georgia and California, where a hunger strike in 2011 at a facility in Pelican Bay effectively caused a court examination of prison conditions.

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ACLU Uncovers Illegal Debtors’ Prisons Across Ohio

debtors' prison

Despite being blatantly unconstitutional, citizens are commonly being jailed for their inability to pay tickets and fines, wreaking havoc on people’s lives (and costing the state far greater sums than the unpaid tickets), ACLU Ohio reveals:

The resurgence of contemporary debtors’ prisons sits squarely at this intersection of poverty and criminal justice. In towns across the state, thousands of people face the looming specter of incarceration every day, simply because they are poor.

For Ohio’s poor and working poor, an unaffordable traffic ticket or fine is just the beginning of a protracted process that may involve contempt charges, mounting fees, arrest warrants, and even jail time. The stark reality is that, in 2013, Ohioans are being repeatedly jailed simply for being too poor to pay fines.

The U.S. Constitution, the Ohio Constitution, and Ohio Revised Code all prohibit debtors’ prisons. The law requires that, before jailing anyone for unpaid fines, courts must determine whether an individual is too poor to pay.

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How A Man Was Sentenced To Life In Prison For Stealing A Pair Of Socks

Via Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi on crime and punishment under California’s Three Strikes law:

Suddenly, a pair of socks caught his eye. He grabbed them and slipped them into a shopping bag. “No, they were ordinary white socks,” he says, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. “Didn’t even have any stripes.”

Wilkerson never made it out of the store. At the exit, he was, shall we say, over­enthusiastically apprehended by two security officers. Thanks to a brand-new, get-tough-on-crime state law, Wilkerson would soon be sentenced to life in prison for stealing a pair of plain white tube socks worth $2.50. Because Wilkerson had two prior convictions, both dating back to 1981, the shoplifting charge counted as a third strike against him. He was sentenced to 25 years to life, meaning that his first chance for a parole hearing would be in 25 years.

Wilkerson is unlucky, but he’s hardly alone.

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Have Prisons Become The Mass Housing Of Our Time?

Via Creative Time Reports, aerial photographer Christoph Gielen on prisons as the new housing boom:

Since 1980, when the U.S. prison population began to increase dramatically, Americans have been living in an era of mass incarceration, which Jeremy Travis, president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, has called one of the “greatest social experiments of our time.” The Spatial Information Design Lab, a think- and action-tank at Columbia University, goes so far as asking, “have prisons and jails become the mass housing of our time?”

I want to illustrate how prison design and architecture do in fact reflect political discourse, economic priorities, cultural sentiments and social insecurities, and how, in turn, these constructed environments also become statements about a society.

The opportunity to visually examine these restricted locations is significant; while some (low-resolution) satellite images of prison complexes are available in the public domain, the public cannot inspect Supermax facilities on the ground.

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California Reconsiders Draconian Three-Strikes Prison Sentences

American justice: 17 years behind bars for stealing cigarettes. The Los Angeles Times writes:

A Los Angeles County judge responsible for reconsidering the life prison terms of more than 1,000 offenders sentenced under the state’s three-strikes law began the process at a hearing Monday, reducing the punishments for five inmates convicted of relatively minor crimes.

Among those given shorter sentences was a 74-year-old who has served more than 15 years for possessing $10 worth of drugs and an 81-year-old behind bars for more than 17 years for stealing dozens of packs of cigarettes.

The hearing came three months after voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 36, which softened California’s tough three-strikes law and allowed many inmates sentenced for non-serious and nonviolent offenses to ask for shorter prison terms. In Los Angeles County, the hearings are expected to continue through at least much of this year.

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For-Profit Prison Corporation Accused Of Partnering With Violent Gangs To Run Jail

Corrections Corporation of America is accused of using targeted prison gang violence as a cost-saving measure, ThinkProgress reports:

A lawsuit brought by eight inmates of the Idaho Correctional Center alleges that the company is cutting back on personnel costs by partnering with violent prison gangs to help control the facility. Court documents and an investigative report issued by the state’s Department of Corrections show how guards routinely looked the other way when gang members violated basic facility rules, negotiated with gang leaders on the cell placement of new inmates, and may have even helped one group of inmates plan a violent attack on members of a rival gang.

The inmates contend that officials at the prison — the state’s largest, with more than 2,000 beds — use gang violence and the threat of gang violence as an “inexpensive device to gain control over the inmate population,” according to the lawsuit, and foster and develop criminal gangs.”

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Pussy Riot Members Transferred To Russia’s Most Brutal Penal Colonies

What is the punishment for compelling performance art? Two years to be spent in cramped, dirty, cold “corrective labor” camps, with possible abuse from guards or inmates, the Guardian reports:

Two members of the anti-Kremlin punk band Pussy Riot have been sent to remote prison camps to serve their sentences, the group has said. Maria Alyokhina, 24, will serve the rest of her two-year term at a women’s prison camp in Perm, a Siberian region notorious for hosting some of the Soviet Union’s harshest camps. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, has been sent to Mordovia, a region that also hosts a high number of prisons.

“These are the harshest camps of all the possible choices,” the band said via its Twitter accounty. They are expected to serve the rest of their sentences, which end in March 2014, in the camps, where conditions are reportedly dire.

Confusion reigned on Monday as relatives and lawyers tried to assess exactly where the women were sent.

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Man Forced To Do Prison Labor While Awaiting Trial Sues For ‘Slavery’

It’s always good to see someone pushing back against the grotesqueries of the prison-industrial complex. Via Boing Boing:

In 2008, Finbar McGarry, a grad student at the University of Vermont, was arrested on gun charges. McGarry’s charges were ultimately dropped, and he was released. But while he was awaiting trial, his jailers ordered him to work for $0.25 in the jail laundry or be condemned to solitary confinement. He’s now suing, saying that this amounted to slavery.  If he wins, it will have huge repercussions for America’s jails, where pre-trial prisoners who have not been convicted of any charge are forced into hard labor.

During the course of his work, McGarry says he contracted a serious MRSA lesion on his neck—a potentially deadly bacterial infection. In 2009, he pressed a suit in federal court for $11 million—claiming he was made a slave in violation of his 13th Amendment rights. The judge ruled that McGarry’s constitutional rights had not been violated, but that finding was overturned on appeal last week.

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Jail Solidarity, Part Three

ryan griffis (CC)

“As his face faded from the television screen, the light in my eyes dimmed.”

Natalie Solidarity writes at Diatribe Media:

My gentle friend was returned to state custody even as I willed otherwise. Three days later, my Occupy Chicago brothers and I sat on cold stone benches, watching families visit their fathers for the hallmark holiday. We drove together to visit our comrade together because that’s what families do. It was a hot Sunday, and I had finally entered the waiting area after being reminded my tank top was not welcome and I had to cover my body in a tee-shirt. At our comrade’s cellblock division, the guards did not perform the vigorous pat-down we found in other sections, even though they’re all part of the same Cook County system. In this division, number 6, my brothers and I simply dumped our nearly-empty pockets into bins and walked through metal detectors.… Read the rest

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Jail Solidarity, Part Two: Until The Prison Walls Are Rubble

Natalie Solidarity writes at Diatribe Media:

In the depressing afternoon of June 14th, I watched the same tactics from prosecutors regarding freedoms of the remaining NATO5 “terrorists.” After dejectedly exiting 26th and California, my comrades and I drove across Chicago to support another prisoner. In a different courtroom with similar ridiculous charges levied against yet another gentle comrade whose only crime was daring to stand up to the bully state, I watched an Occupier stand in front of a judge. This time, instead of shackles, he entered the room with his right arm heavily bandaged and in a sling, and his body was in disrepair. The bruised, battered and shocked accounts from that horrible night of his brutal and unnecessarily forceful arrest at the Quebec Solidarité rally and Casserole march showed his arm was fine before incarceration. He’s being charged with a crime against police that he did not commit.

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