Category: Mass Incarceration
Jarvis DeBerry: Supreme Court ruling may doom more Louisiana juveniles to permanent imprisonment
worker | April 29, 2021 | 8:08 pm | Local/State, Mass Incarceration | Comments closed

Jarvis DeBerry: Supreme Court ruling may doom more Louisiana juveniles to permanent imprisonment

Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court is seen on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling that mandatory sentences of life without parole for juvenile defendants don’t jibe with the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment” and should be imposed on the rare juvenile who is “permanently incorrigible,” Louisiana has acted as if incorrigibility isn’t rare at all. It has acted as if young defendants deserve every bit of the cruelty that older defendants do.

“Louisiana — just like we see on the adult side — per capita has sentenced more children to life without parole than any other state,” Victor Jones, a New Orleans-based attorney for children, said last week.

Since 2012, Jones said, Louisiana has largely been ignoring Miller v. Alabama, which prohibited mandatory life without parole for defendants younger than 18. Henry Montgomery, a Louisiana man who was 17 when he killed a Baton Rouge police officer in 1963, asked the Supreme Court to make its Miller ruling retroactive, and even though the court did, Louisiana’s response was to grant Montgomery parole hearings and then deny the model prisoner’s request for release. He’s now 74.

Now, Jones said, Louisiana judges will be further emboldened to condemn juveniles to prison for the rest of their lives.

The ruling “broke my heart for specifically Black children and children with disability,” Jones said. “Because those are the two groups that we know are more likely to be faced with these charges. The idea that a child is incapable of redemption is contrary to morals, but it’s also contrary to scientific evidence that shows that juvenile brains are not the equivalent of adults, and therefore there is room to grow. Think about being held accountable for the rest of your life for something you did as a child.”

Undergirding such decisions, she said, is the belief that children who do wrong are “throwaway children,” that anything can be done to them because “nobody loves them.”

Kevin Griffin-Clark, who was sentenced to the now-shuttered Tallulah Detention Center when he was 10, said Thursday that he begged his mother to stop traveling the 3½ hours from New Orleans every weekend because he knew she was putting herself out by either renting a car every time or arranging someone to drive her. He said one man who often drove his mother said she’d cry all the way to Tallulah, “get herself together, come in there and visit you, and then she would come out and cry the whole time home.”

Griffin-Clark said some boys attacked him with sticks, and a shard of glass from a broken bottle he threw at them struck one of them in the face, causing him to lose his eye. When Griffin-Clark got to Tallulah, he said, he was so tiny he couldn’t fit any of the clothes.

The 36-year-old husband and father of three is now a multimedia specialist and youth pastor who has no tolerance for adults who are unforgiving of children. “If we’re honest, we all have a story (where) we did something that could have changed the trajectory of our lives for the worse in an instant, and God gave us grace and it didn’t go that way,” he said.

Jarvis DeBerry is editor of the Louisiana Illuminator, an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization based in Baton Rouge.

“Cruel and unusual punishment’: Texas judge orders count of heat-related prison deaths
worker | December 30, 2016 | 6:57 pm | Local/State, Mass Incarceration | Comments closed

"Cruel and unusual punishment': Texas judge orders count of heat-related prison deaths
A federal judge in Texas has ordered the state to disclose the number of heat-related deaths that have occurred in its prisons since 1990. The order comes as part of federal civil rights lawsuit over the heat-related deaths of 13 inmates.

Six inmate plaintiffs in a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state prison system argued that more than 1,400 inmates, many elderly and infirm, are suffering “cruel and unusual punishment,” a violation the Eighth Amendment, by not having access to air conditioning, according to the Houston Chronicle.

US District Judge Keith Ellison held a hearing on the lawsuit on Wednesday, and gave the state 30 days to comply, AP reported.

The lawsuit, which was filed in 2013, contends that 13 inmates have died of heat-related deaths since 2007, including 11 in 2011, when a heatwave brought some of the hottest temperatures on record.

Daily measurements taken by the National Weather Service show that, since the beginning of the summer in 2016, the peak heat index has averaged 104 degrees, NPR reported.

The prison’s cell blocks are poorly ventilated, steel and concrete blocks, the inmates said. To make matters worse, the Wallace Pack Unit sits on humid pasturelands between Austin and Houston.

“A lot of times it gets so hot in our dorms that we have to strip down to our boxers, and we’ll just lay on the floor because it’s a little bit cooler on the floor than it is trying to sit up in our bunks,” plaintiff Keith Cole, 62, who is serving life for murder, told NPR. “We try to stay in front of our fans. But in reality, there’s really not too much that we can really do in our living areas to alleviate the heat.”

Cole suffers from heart disease, diabetes and hypertension, and there are a lot of older prisoners like him in the prison.

“My age, with the medical conditions that I have, the medications that I am on, extreme heat can kill me,” he said. “So, it’s not a comfort issue with me. It has nothing to do with that. This is a serious medical issue.”

Autopsies reveal that, since 1998, 20 inmates have died from heatstroke or hyperthermia in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, plaintiffs’ lawyers said.

There are probably more, inmates said, but the cause of death is often listed as heart attack.

There are 109 state prison facilities in Texas, with 30 only that are air-conditioned in all housing areas. Facilities have balked at the expense of outfitting all their prisons with air conditions, and have said that retrofitting the Pack Unit alone would cost $22 million.

US Political Prisoner Abu-Jamal Sues Prison for Denying Life-Saving Medicine
22:06 06.10.2016(updated 00:49 07.10.2016)
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Former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal has leveled a federal lawsuit against officials in the Pennsylvania prison system for denying treatment to him for hepatitis C, which has reached life-threatening levels.On September 30, Abu-Jamal sued five high-ranking officials in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ (PDOC) Bureau of Health Care Services, including the physician who treated him, PDOC Secretary John Wetzel and private, for-profit medical contractor Correct Care Solutions. Abu-Jamal states that “he has requested that he be provided with antiviral medication that would cure his disease but the defendants have denied that treatment,” according to Courthouse News Service. The writer and activist, jailed since 1982, said that he was diagnosed with hepatitis in 2012, developing a “severe skin rash” that covered 70 percent of his body by February 2015, confining him to a wheelchair. Abu-Jamal was given only topical creams, which resulted in an allergic reaction. Abu-Jamal is a journalist and activist, formerly with the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia. In 1982 he was sentenced to death for the murder of Philadelphia police officer David Faulkner, a sentence that was later commuted to life without parole after public outcry. The morning of March 30, 2015, Abu-Jamal was rushed to intensive care after going into diabetic shock and losing consciousness. He had a glucose level of 600. He said that, after being released, prison medical staff did not take “any steps to investigate whether the hepatitis C may be the cause of the rash and/or other medical issues.” A grievance submitted in April protesting poor medical treatment was denied, and Abu-Jamal was subsequently hospitalized in May. Even after constant requests and blood work revealing that his hepatitis was chronic, the writer was still denied treatment. According to the complaint, “On several occasions between late July 2015 and September 2015, plaintiff requested from his treating physicians that his hepatitis C be treated with either Harvoni or Sovaldi, the two antiviral medications. The physicians told him that the matter was out of their hands, that the DOC was not treating anyone with the antivirals because of the medications’ cost.” In August, a federal judge denied an injunction request from Abu-Jamal that would have forced the PDOC to supply him with Harvoni, which costs roughly $90,000 for the full-treatment regimen. However, the court found that denying treatment “prolong[s] the suffering of those who have been diagnosed with chronic hepatitis C and allow[s] the progression of the disease to accelerate so that it presents a greater threat of cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma [i.e. liver cancer], and death of the inmate with such disease’ in violation of the Eighth Amendment,” according to the Abolitionist Law Center. The ALC said that Abu-Jamai is not alone, as some 5,400 inmates in the PDOC are estimated have hepatitis C. Less than one percent receive treatment, despite the fact that in recent years several medications have entered the US market that cure the disease in a matter of weeks. Mumia is currently being held at State Correctional Institution Mahanoy, a medium-security jail in Frackville, Pennsylvania.

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‘End prison slavery!’ 24,000+ inmates join nationwide jail strike (VIDEO)
worker | September 21, 2016 | 8:54 pm | Analysis, Mass Incarceration, police terrorism, political struggle | Comments closed

© Lucy Nicholson
More than 24,000 inmates in at least 40 prisons from over two dozen states have refused to follow orders, failing to report for work and causing prisons to go on lockdown, since the nationwide prison work strike began in early September.

From Alabama to Michigan to Texas, despite the isolation of prisons and a desire to cover-up news of the work stoppages by correctional departments, reports are leaking of widespread disruption at prisons.

The nationwide prison strike began September 9, when inmates refused to report for their prison jobs. It is becoming the largest prison strike in US history.


In California, at least 150 inmates are confirmed to be on strike in the John Latorraca Correctional Facility and Merced County Sheriff Jail. They are demanding better conditions, a lieutenant to be ousted and an end to solitary confinement. Inmates have been threatened with guns and dogs.

“Initially with the strike, they refused all consumption of food and all movement. They had boycotted court, their yard time, their visitation, all medical movement until something is changed,” Victoria Castillo, an organizer with Live Free Merced, told RT. “We had all sort of problems with inmates not properly triaged or being triaged and cleared from prison and then having to have extensive surgery for cancers and underlying medical conditions that were potentially life threatening as well as improper mental health evaluations.”

Castillo said that at the John Latorraca facility, there were “suicides every 60 to 90 days.”

There are additional reports that the largest women’s prison in the state, Central California Women’s prison in Chowchilla, is also on an all-out strike.

Azzurra Crispino, organizer with the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, told RT that while the mainstream media is not covering the strikes, there are many grassroots organizations working inside and outside over the major goal to reform prison conditions and strive for a prisoners’ union.

“It is important to talk about why we want a prisoners’ union and a fair minimum wage or a fair wage for prisoners. It is not just to better their conditions and give them a little nest-egg when they come out of prison and reduce recidivism, but also the recognition that the system of mass incarceration in the United States in only possible, because it exploits these captive workers,” Crispino told RT. “Unionizing prisoners, which is why the Industrial Workers of the World is involved, is a strategy towards prison abolition and an end to prison slavery.”

Crispino said there are private and public companies that benefit from the labor prison industry.

“McDonald’s, Starbucks, AT&T, Verizon, Victoria Secret, United Airlines. It is a long list of companies that use prison labor for pennies to the hour, if at all any wage, and are benefiting from this monetarily,” Crispino added.

Crispino said inmates have been threatened with retaliation in the form of solitary confinement, and long-term solitary confinement.

“In California at Merced, the inmates were threatened with dogs, rubber bullets and pepper spray,” Crispino told RT. “We have seen a decrease in food quality to the prisoners. In South Carolina, there have been reports of maggots in the food. Lockdowns have been widespread.”


In Florida, protests erupted in four facilities in the north of the state.

At the Holmes Correctional Institution, a major disturbance happened on September 7, with several hundred inmates housed in multiple dorms for 24 hours. Visitations were canceled, and lockdown continued through the weekend.

At the Mayo Correctional Institution, two dorms were involved in work stoppage and disturbances on September 9 and 10. The institution was placed on lockdown. No injuries were reported, but again, visitation was canceled and lockdown continued through the weekend.

The Florida Department of Corrections said several inmates identified in the disturbances were transferred to other prisons. They also said the strikes would be investigated.

“More than 24,000 prisoners missed work. The facilities experiencing full shutdowns that we know about hold approximately 24,000 prisoners,” said Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee in a statement last week. “There are probably thousands more who didn’t work that we don’t know about, yet. Many are still not working today and intend to continue the strike until their demands are satisfied or the prisons break under the economic strain of operating without their slaves.”


In Alabama’s Holman Prison, inmates went on a full strike and refused to report for their jobs on September 9. Also at Atmore, inmates did not report for work for a day.

In Michigan, prisoners at the Kinross Correctional Facility refused to report for kitchen work, forcing correctional officers to provide bagged food for lunch and breakfast the next day, according to Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Chris Gautz.

Four hundred prisoners marched peacefully in the yard for several hours when a common room was damaged, and the facility was put on lockdown. Gautz said 150 prisoners who were considered strike organizers are being transferred to other prisons in the state.

There were also strikes in Indiana and Iowa, a hunger strike at Ohio State Penitentiary and SOCF in Lucasville, Ohio, and possibly at least half a dozen strikes in Texas.

The nationwide strike launch on September 9 also marked the 45th anniversary of the 1971 Attica Prison riot, when 1,300 men demanded an end to slave labor, an end to law enforcement brutality and fair visitations rights. The strike lasted four days before law enforcement raided the prison, killing 39 inmates and guards, leaving 128 men injured. Afterward, prisoners who survived the shooting were then tortured.

Over half of $1.2 trillion mass incarceration costs fall on families, communities – study
worker | September 13, 2016 | 8:27 pm | Analysis, Economy, Mass Incarceration, political struggle | Comments closed

© Joshua Lott
Imprisoning millions of Americans comes at a cost, and not just for local, state and federal government budgets. A new study finds society itself is missing out on more than $1 trillion, mostly impacting the family members and communities of the incarcerated.

“For every dollar in corrections spending, there’s another 10 dollars of other types of costs to families, children and communities that nobody sees because it doesn’t end up on a state budget,” Michael McLaughlin, a doctoral student and certified public accountant, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

McLaughlin is the lead researcher for “The Economic Burden of Incarceration in the US,” a study recently conducted by Washington University in St. Louis. Along with a team of researchers, he and Carrie Pettus-Davis, a co-director for the Smart Decarceration Initiative and director of the Concordance Institute for Advancing Social Justice, both Washington University-based, determined that the “annual economic burden” of US incarceration is an estimated $1.2 trillion, according to The Source, a Washington University publication.

The $1.2 trillion figure is nearly 6 percent of GDP and is 11 times the cost of what governments pay for corrections, the study reports, based on 22 costs from three categories: “costs of corrections,” “costs borne by incarcerated persons,” and “costs borne by families, children, and communities.”

Aside from the $91.1 billion spent by governments on corrections, the “societal” expenditures are being totaled for the first time, the study authors claim.

Inmates miss out on about $70.5 billion in wages every year while behind bars, and in their lifetimes, they are likely to give up $230 billion, due to employment restrictions and discrimination, the researchers concluded.

The largest drain on the economy from incarceration, the study found, comes from criminogenic forces inherent in the system itself. Criminal behavior that is learned or mastered inside prisons goes on to harm the community the ex-convict returns to, costing some $285.8 billion each year.

“We’re getting to a point in the U.S., in society, that we’ve incarcerated so many people that it’s kind of become a common thing in some communities,” McLaughlin told the Post-Dispatch.

People who have never been to jail are 18 to 25 times less likely to commit a crime than those who have previously been behind bars, Pettus-Davis told the St. Louis newspaper.

Imprisonment becomes so common that other social cues or deterrents are rendered useless or no longer exist in some communities, they say.

The researchers do acknowledge, however, that it is also possible that many communities would be dealing with the same issues even if the US was not the leading incarcerating country in the world.
Poverty could also be a driving factor, which is why the study authors claim to have done their best to control for factors like financial hardship and isolate the effects of incarceration.

The cost to families is wide-ranging, from adverse health-related effects costing $10.2 billion to decreased property values costing $11 billion, or the increased risk of divorce, which costs $17.7 billion.

The most vulnerable relatives of the incarcerated, their children, pay more than their fair share in social costs. According to the study, they are five times more likely to end up in jail or prison and earn less income and education, a total loss of $166.6 billion.

While the study did not consider any benefits of imprisonment, the study authors told the Post-Dispatch, “there is a point where the marginal cost of incarcerating an additional individual exceeds the marginal benefit.”

“If anything, we believe our study underestimates the true cost of incarceration,” McLaughlin added, alluding to incalculable costs such as negative emotional health.

Can Trump be trumped?

By James Thompson

Donald Trump has distinguished himself once again as a consummate racist by attacking an Arizona judge for his Latino heritage. Trump asserts that the Arizona judge from Indiana is prejudiced against him because of his Latino heritage. Immune to shame, Trump further asserts that judges of Muslim heritage would be prejudiced against him as well.

Let’s accept Mr. Trump’s logic for a moment. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If a Latino judge or Muslim judge will be prejudiced against an Anglo defendant, then it follows that the reverse is true. This means that an Anglo judge will be prejudiced against Latinos, Muslims, African-Americans and so forth. Also, a judge whose heritage is with the 1% would be expected to be prejudiced against the 99%.

Perhaps Mr. Trump will make it part of his campaign platform to eliminate prejudice in the criminal justice system. Mr. Trump should fight to see that all African-Americans tried by judges prejudiced against them because of their race will be retried and released if found innocent in the retrial. Similarly all Muslims, Latinos, as well as the 99% tried by prejudiced judges should be retried and released if found innocent in a trial by their peers including the judge.

The scary part of all this is that we can easily see how Mr. Trump would run the oval office. He would use the oval office, as he is using his presidential campaign, as a bully pulpit against anyone who disagrees with him or tries to hold him or his class allies accountable.

It’s all about the class war, stupid.


Guantanamo Inmates Subjected to Mental Torture in Camp 7
worker | June 2, 2016 | 7:37 pm | Mass Incarceration, political struggle | Comments closed
In this photo, reviewed by the US Military, a guard leans on a fencepost as a Guantanamo detainee, left, jogs inside the exercise yard at Camp 5 detention center, the U.S. Naval Base, in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, January 21, 2009

Guantanamo Inmates Subjected to Mental Torture in Camp 7

© AFP 2016/ POOL//Brennan Linsley
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Somali-born detainee of the US military detention center in Guantanamo Bay Guleed Hassan Dourad said that he had experienced mental torture in his cell daily since he was moved to Camp 7 in 2006.

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE (Sputnik), Joanne Stocker — Detainees housed in Camp 7 at the US military detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba are subjected to daily mental torture in their cells, Somali-born detainee Guleed Hassan Dourad testified before a military commission at the base on Thursday.

“I experienced noises, smells, and the vibrations [in the cell]…That’s what made me come here [to court] to testify that we have mental torture in Camp 7,” Guleed said.

US authorities had moved Guleed to Camp 7 in 2006 from another site in the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

Guleed explained he had experienced mental torture in his cell daily since 2009. He noted that he had stopped complaining about the sensations because the guards and camp commander ignored his protestations or escalated the torture after he complained.

Guleed testified that other Guantanamo Bay detainees, including alleged September 11 plotter Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Abu Zubaydah, have experienced similar sensations.Lawyers for bin al-Shibh had requested Guleed testify to establish that their client’s complaints were well-founded. Prosecutors have alleged that bin al-Shibh made up or imagined the vibrations.

The US government has never charged Guleed with a crime. On Thursday, he testified that he has not had access to a lawyer since he was taken into US custody in 2004.

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