Tag Archives | Prison

What Is It Like Spending 40 Years In Solitary Confinement?

Confinement

Photo: Elians (CC)

Imagine having to go through this. Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox have lived 40 straight years in windowless boxes in Louisiana’s worst jail, as political prisoners. Via the Guardian:

They’ve spent 23 hours of each day in the last 40 years in a 9ft-by-6ft cell. Now, human rights groups intensify calls for their release.

First imprisoned [for robbery] in 1967, Herman Wallace came together with Albert Woodfox and a third man, Robert King, to form a Black Panther chapter inside the prison, hoping to organize African American inmates against the brutal treatment they endured. Angola was reputed to be the worst jail in America, whose 5,000 inmates were still racially segregated and where violence and sexual slavery were rampant.

Then on April 17, 1972, a prison guard was murdered during in one of the wings. The Angola 3 were immediately accused of the murder, and placed that same day in solitary.

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Is Imprisonment By Robot Jailers Coming Soon?

With jails fuller than ever and government budgets being slashed, is the future of prisoner management the robo-correctional officer? Via CBS News:
The world’s first corrections service robot allows for efficient prisoner management and takes on a number of simple tasks for guards while closing the communication gap between prisoners and their guards. The prisoners are protected from situations such as suicide, arson and assault. Furthermore, it recognizes repeated behaviors of prisoners, and detects anomalies in advance, protecting incidents from happening in the first place.
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U.S. Supreme Court Legalizes Strip Search For Any Offense

Anthony Kennedy (2009, cropped)Make sure you don’t jaywalk, ride a bike without a bell, protest anything, or otherwise upset a police officer, because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that you can be forced to strip naked for a visual search no matter how trivial your alleged offense. NPR reports:

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that jailers may subject people arrested for minor offenses to invasive strip searches, siding with security needs over privacy rights.

By a 5-4 vote, the court ruled against a New Jersey man who complained that strip searches in two county jails violated his civil rights.

Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his majority opinion for the court’s conservative justices that when people are going to be put into the general jail population, “courts must defer to the judgment of correctional officials unless the record contains substantial evidence showing their policies are an unnecessary or unjustified response to problems of jail security.”

In a dissenting opinion joined by the court’s liberals, Justice Stephen Breyer said strip searches improperly “subject those arrested for minor offenses to serious invasions of their personal privacy.” Breyer said jailers ought to have a reasonable suspicion someone may be hiding something before conducting a strip search.

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Why Are So Many Americans In Prison?

Via Al Jazeera English:
The US has the highest prison population in the world - some of whom  have been subjected to lengthy sentences for relatively minor crimes.  And that population has surged over the past three decades. Although there has been a slight reduction in the past year, more  than two million people are either incarcerated in prison or in jail  awaiting trial. The US has the highest rate of imprisonment in  the world, with 743 people incarcerated for every 100,000 Americans. No  other nation even comes close to these figures. One explanation for the boom in the prison population is the mandatory sentencing imposed for drug offences and the "tough on crime" attitude that has prevailed since the 1980s. But it is the length of sentences that truly distinguishes US prison policy. Some prisoners are locked up for life - literally - and many receive harsh sentences for non-violent crime...
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Inmate Secretly Adds Pig To State Decal On Vermont Police Cruisers

From Burlington Free Press:
How did an image of a pig — the infamous ’60s-era epithet by protesters for police officers — wind up on a decal used on as many as 30 Vermont State Police cruisers? State officials Thursday pointed to the failure of the quality assurance office within the Vermont Correctional Industries Print Shop in St. Albans to detect a prisoner-artist’s addition made four years ago to the traditional state police logo. A spot on the shoulder of the cow in the state emblem was modified into a pig... vermont police pig
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Bastoy: Norway’s Island Of Freedom For Prisoners

bastoey-prision_noruegaDer Spiegel takes a look at the resort-like island that houses some of Norway’s most hardened convicts — they are given a wide berth to do as they please, but must complete their work and behave civilly, or risk being shipped back to regular prison. Is this how criminal rehabilitation could be done here?

No bars. No walls. No armed guards. The prison island of Bastøy in Norway is filled with some of the country’s most hardened criminals. Yet it emphasizes self-control instead of the strictly regulated regimens common in most prisons. For some inmates, it is more than they can handle.

The warden is a man who deals in freedom. He is also a visionary. He wants the men here to live as if they were living in a village, to grow potatoes and compost their garbage, and he wants the guards and the prisoners to respect each other. What he doesn’t want is a camera in the supermarket.

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South Korea Rolls Out Robotic Prison Wardens

robotIncarceration just got a lot more adorable. Via the BBC:

A jail in the eastern city of Pohang plans to run a month-long trial with three of the automatons in March. The machines will monitor inmates for abnormal behaviour.

South Korea aims to be a world leaders in robotics. Business leaders believe the field has the potential to become a major export industry.

The three 5ft-high (1.5m) robots involved in the prison trial have been developed by the Asian Forum for Corrections, a South Korean group of researchers who specialise in criminality and prison policies. It said the robots move on four wheels and are equipped with cameras and other sensors that allow them to detect risky behaviour such as violence and suicide.

Prof Lee Baik-Chu, of Kyonggi University, who led the design process, said the robots would alert human guards if they discovered a problem.

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California Prisoners Stage Hunger Strike Over Conditions

Pelican Bay Hunger StrikeDavid Edwards writes on The Raw Story:
Between 50 and 100 inmates in solitary confinement at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison have pledged to refuse to eat until officials agree to better conditions. Isaac Ontiveros of the anti-prison group Critical Resistance explained the prisoners’ demands to DemocracyNow. “End the use of group punishment and administrative abuse; abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria; comply with the commission on safety and abuse in America’s prisons 2006 recommendations regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement; provide adequate and nutritious food; and expand and provide constructive programming and privileges for indefinite SHU status inmates.”
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Should Flogging Be an Alternative to Prison?

Grand KnoutAdam Cohen asks in TIME:

Flogging someone with a cane causes intense pain and permanent bodily damage. An Australian who was flogged for drug trafficking in Malaysia in the 1970s recalled that the cane “chewed hungrily through layers of” his “skin and soft tissue” and “left furrows” on him that were “bloody pulp.”

It’s tough stuff and generally considered a barbaric punishment that the 21st century Western world would and should never consider. That makes it a bit startling to find a new book by a serious U.S. academic arguing that the U.S. should start flogging criminals. Peter Moskos’ In Defense of Flogging might seem like a satire — akin to Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” an essay advocating the eating of children — but it is as serious as a wooden stick lashing into a blood-splattered back.

Despite what you may think, Moskos is not pushing flogging as part of a “get tougher on criminals” campaign.

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For Women, Darker Skin Tone Means Longer Prison Sentences

X63248-02Racial bias in our criminal justice system isn’t a binary matter, with different treatment for blacks versus whites — rather, a new study suggests that it is a sliding scale, in which severity of punishment increases proportionally as skin color becomes darker. Via the Root:

Villanova researchers studied more than 12,000 cases of African-American women imprisoned in North Carolina and found that women with lighter skin tones received more-lenient sentences and served less time than women with darker skin tones.

The researchers found that light-skinned women were sentenced to approximately 12 percent less time behind bars than their darker-skinned counterparts. Women with light skin also served 11 percent less time than darker women.

The study took into account the type of crimes the women committed and each woman’s criminal history to generate apples-to-apples comparisons. The work builds on previous studies by Stanford University, the University of Colorado at Boulder and other institutions, which have examined how “black-looking” features and skin tone can impact black men in the criminal-justice arena.

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