Tag Archives | Prison

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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65 Al-Qaeda Members Escape From Yemen Prison

Photo: Jenn Vargas (CC)

Photo: Jenn Vargas (CC)

The last major breakout of Al-Qaeda members from a Yemen prison was in 2006, but this escape consisted of nearly three times as many prisoners. Yemen Times reports:

At least 65 prisoner’s escaped on Tuesday from Al-Mukalla Central Prison. Some of the escaped prisoners have been confirmed as Al-Qaeda members who had been transferred from another prison in Al-Mukalla to the central prison.

Civilians claim that heavy gunfire broke out around 8am between security forces and escapees. The situation in the city has now returned to normal, with only one armored vehicle guarding the entrance of Jol Al-Saifa’a where the central prison is located.

The General-Secretary of Mukala’s Local Council, Mohammad Bin Ziad, who has been following the incident, told the Yemen Times that the confirmed number of escapees is 65 so far. However, he also said more details will be released after investigations have been carried out and eyewitnesses questioned.

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Margarita Island: Venezuela’s Party Prison

jp-04venez1-popupSuppose prison was fun? Venezuela’s San Antonio prison houses 2,000 convicts, including many foreigners from around the globe, mostly convicted on drug charges. They can do anything they want, except leave — there are pool halls, dance parties, swimming, drugs, guns, gender mixing and unlimited visitors. Crazy, yes, but is it any worse than what we have here? The New York Times reports:

Bikini-clad female visitors frolic under the Caribbean sun in an outdoor pool. Marijuana smoke flavors the air. Reggaetón booms from a club filled with grinding couples.

Prisoners barbecue meat while sipping whisky poolside. In some cells, equipped with air-conditioning and DirecTV satellite dishes, inmates relax with wives or girlfriends. (Venezuela, like other Latin American countries, allows conjugal visits.) The children of some inmates swim in one of the prison’s four pools.

Luis Gutiérrez, the warden at San Antonio prison, refused to discuss the prison he nominally oversees. Renowned on Margarita Island as a relatively tranquil place where even visitors can go for sinful weekend partying, is in a class of its own.

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ACLU Pushes For Porn In Prisons

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Photo: Olivier T (CC)

Is the restriction of pornography to inmates because of the lack of literary diversity offered in prisons or because of a possible porn/violence connection? ABC reports:

The American Civil Liberties Union is pushing for porn at a detention center in Moncks Corner, South Carolina.

The move came after reports surfaced that the facility only allowed inmates to read the Bible. But prison officials said that isn’t true and inmates have a wide variety of reading material at their disposal.

The ACLU said it wants prisoners to be able to read and view pornography. Lawyers for the jail said that just won’t happen.

“If they don’t like the wording in some of our policies, we’ll be happy to try and create better wording for them. But, there are certain issues that we’re just not going to be able to bend on,” said Sandra J. Senn, an attorney for the Hill-Finklea Detention Center in Berkeley County.

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Chinese Prisoners Forced To Play World Of Warcraft

china-prisonIronic — when I was a kid, being locked up in a Chinese prison and “forced” to stay up playing video games all night would have been my dream. The Telegraph reports:

A 54-year-old prisoner at the Jixi labor camp in the northern province of Heilongjiang said he was forced to play games on the internet in order to build up credit that was traded by his guards for real money, a practice known as “gold-farming”.

In an interview with the Guardian, the prisoner said online gaming was a far more lucrative activity for the managers of the labor camp than the physical labor the inmates were forced to do.  “Prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labor,” he said. “There were 300 prisoners forced to play games. We worked 12-hour shifts in the camp. I heard them say they could earn 5,000-6,000rmb a day.

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Justices Ordered California To Reduce Amount Of Prisoners By 30,000

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A Block in Alcatraz. Photo: Nonie

What do we do when prisons become overcrowded? According the new Supreme Court ruling (for California), we can release a few thousand early, transfer them to another state (make it some other place’s problem) or build bigger prisons. At no point was there any suggestion about how to reduce the amount of people sent to prisons (violent vs nonviolent offenses, helping crime-rich communities, etc.). The rule was a decision for immediate action of reducing prisoners in hope to better their standard of living. The New York Time reports:

Conditions in California’s overcrowded prisons are so bad that they violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday, ordering the state to reduce its prison population by more than 30,000 inmates.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in a 5-to-4 decision that broke along ideological lines, described a prison system that failed to deliver minimal care to prisoners with serious medical and mental health problems and produced “needless suffering and death.”

Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A.

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Venezuelan Inmates Take 22 Hostages Including Prison Director

Miranda State, Venezuela. Photo: Wilfredo R. Rodríguez H.(CC)

Miranda State, Venezuela. Photo: Wilfredo R. Rodríguez H.(CC)

In an effort to bring attention to the outbreak of tuberculosis in El Rodeo II prison, inmates are holding officials hostage. Prisoners are hoping such actions are a loud enough shout for help to have medical teams sent in to examine them. BBC reports:

Inmates at a jail in Venezuela have taken the prison director and 21 other officials hostage in an effort to draw attention to an alleged tuberculosis outbreak.

The prisoners at El Rodeo II prison in Guatire in Miranda state are demanding a medical team be sent into the jail to deal with the alleged outbreak.

The government denies there is a tuberculosis outbreak.

Officials say they will not negotiate until the inmates release the hostages.

Deputy Interior Minister Edwin Rojas said holding the officials hostage was “not the most adequate way [for the inmates] to proceed to make their grievances known”.

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ACLU Sues South Carolina Jail That Bans All Written Materials Except The Bible

0413_Jail_full_600It’s a violation of freedom of religion, obviously. (Jewish and Muslim prisoners were blocked from receiving their holy books.) But beyond that, isn’t it a damaging and cruel form of punishment to prevent inmates from reading books, newspapers, magazines, letters, and other printed material of any kind for years upon years? The Christian Science Monitor reports on rehabilitation, South Carolina-style:

The US Justice Department is asking a federal judge in South Carolina to allow it to intervene in a lawsuit against a sheriff who allegedly forbids prisoners in his jail from receiving books, magazines, or printed materials other than copies of the King James version of the Bible.

Berkeley County Sheriff H. Wayne DeWitt denies that restrictions imposed at the county lockup in Moncks Corner, S.C., rise to the level of a constitutional violation or violate US law.

A Jewish prisoner seeking a Torah said he was told by jail officials that the prison only provides Bibles.

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