This post will focus on prisons:
- accountability for corporate prisons;
- overcrowding and sentencing;
- justice for people with disabilities;
- prison program in Wisconsin; and
- a report showing that the attitude governments adopt towards Iran strongly depends on the number of prisoners in their own country and whether the government trades in oil with Iran.
Will Private Prisons Finally Be Subject to the Freedom of Information Act?
Alex Park, Mother Jones, Dec. 16, 2014
“Anyone can use the federal Freedom of Information Act to request records about prisons owned and operated by the government. Information about prisoner demographics, violent incidents, and prison budgets are all obtainable. But privately run facilities—even those that hold federal prisoners—are exempt from the law. Last week, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) introduced legislation to change that. On December 10, she introduced a new bill, the Private Prison Information Act. If passed, it would force any nonfederal prison holding federal prisoners to comply with the Freedom of Information Act.”
CAP has worked on a bill like this for many, many years. It is unbelievable to us that transparency and accountability in this area were not deemed important while many deaths and other incidents have been hidden from public scrutiny.
Officials – Tough laws overcrowd state prisons
Times Daily, Dec. 13, 2014
“Alabama punishes some crimes more harshly than other states, according to a report last week at a state Prison Reform Task Force meeting.
“For example, Alabama is among 16 states that consider the theft of something worth more than $500 a felony. Other southern states have higher thresholds.
[Note: Hawai`i’s threshold is $300 to trigger a Class B felony = up to 5 years in prison. This has not be increased since 1986. The Dept. of Labor Statistics Inflation Calculator Shows that $300 in 1986 is equal to $646.60 in 2014. Scary when we are the outliers!]
“At a lawmaker orientation Thursday in Montgomery, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was asked if the state is unnecessarily throwing away people with lengthy prison sentences.
“‘We have to look at the habitual felony law if we are going to correct the prison system,’ Moore said. He’s also on the task force.
“He expanded on that later: ‘The Habitual Felony Offender Act ties the hands of sentencing judges and often results in excessive sentences, which are not only unfair but further exacerbate the problem of prison overcrowding.'”
Women in prison: the cycle of violence
Dawn Foster, Open Democracy, Dec. 3, 2014
“Most women in prison in Britain have experienced sexual or domestic violence, yet the system fails to address their needs and further victimises them. For some, it is the end of the road…”
“The benefits of moving away from carceral penalties for women’s crimes are unequivocal: re-offending rates are drastically decreased, rehabilitation is improved and social stigma reduced, and options that don’t involve detention are far, far cheaper both in the short term and the long run. Women are unnecessarily detained, when domestic violence and rape services, and drug rehabilitation services could stop offending at an early stage. Cutting these services, and failing to address police dismissal of violence against women means more women are pushed into prison, and failed. ‘In our view there is general agreement that the majority of women offenders pose little risk to public safety and that imprisonment is frequently an ineffective response’, the report concludes.
“Accepting that women offend because they are the victims of violence, and have already been failed by state support networks when they reach the courts, means we must treat women’s offending differently, if there is any chance of ending the cycle of violence these women are trapped within.”
It is interesting to note that the women in the UK are 5% of the population; in Hawai`i it is close to 13%.
How the U.S. Justice System Screws Prisoners with Disabilities
From arrest to trial, suspects with intellectual disabilities face a system they don’t understand—often leading to false imprisonment or even execution.
The Daily Beast, Dec. 16, 2014
“Last week, Robert Wayne Holsey of Georgia and Paul Goodwin of Missouri were executed within just a few hours of each other. Each of them had IQs that hovered around 70. An IQ below 70 generally indicates someone with intellectual disability (ID). Goodwin and Holsey, then, were right on the borderline.”
This is such a sad story about what happens to people who get caught in the criminal justice web because they don’t understand what is happening to them.
WI prison workshop provides outlet for inmates, toys for kids
Meg Jones, the Journal Sentinel, Dec. 16, 2014
“The cost to operate the woodworking shop is low because scrap wood is used as well as trees cut down by inmates at a minimum security prison in northern Wisconsin. Money made by selling some of the crafts is funneled back into the program to pay for supplies, Waupun Correctional Institution Warden Bill Pollard said.”
There was a woodshop at Kulani where the men made beautiful bowls, poi pounders and toys. We need programs like this at all our facilities so that incarcerated people can have the chance to give back to their communities like these men in Wisconsin.
Number of prisoners in own country predicts attitude towards Iran
Phys.org, Dec. 16, 2014
“The attitude governments adopt towards Iran strongly depends on the number of prisoners in their own country and whether the government trades in oil with Iran. The more prisoners a country has, the more aggressive the attitude of its government towards Iran. However if a government trades oil with Iran then it adopts a milder attitude towards the country than those nations without such an oil connection . These are the findings of research by NWO-funded scientists Wolfgang Wagner and Michal Onderco from the VU University Amsterdam. They published their research results this week in the journal International Studies Quarterly.”
CAP believes that prisons are a reflection of society’s failures. When we cut community services and put that money into incarceration, we put everyone in every communities at risk.
WE CAN CHANGE THIS SICK PARADIGM BY WORKING TO REFORM SENTENCING AND PUSHING FOR MORE EFFECTIVE ALTERNATIVES TO INCARCERATION. We need your voice to help convince legislators that there are better, more effective ways to deal with social and public health problems.