Prison Legal News

Prison Legal News (140)

Posted at 05:43 PM ET, 03/20/2012 By Anita Kumar

A trio of Virginia legislators is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the state’s use of solitary confinement in prisons, especially of those who are mentally ill.

March 14, 2012 at 4:34 PM by AHN   Tom Ramstack – AHN News Legal Correspondent
Two prison cells shown empty and side by side

Washington, D.C., United States (AHN) – The Supreme Court plans to deal with a vexing dilemma next week of when criminals who commit murder are too young to be sentenced to long prison terms.

The hearing involves separate cases of two boys who committed brutal murders when they were 14 years old.

They both were sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole, which prompted outrage among advocates of juvenile justice.

They accuse the courts of brutality for failing to recognize that the boys’ immaturity might have contributed to their criminal behavior.

Alabama’s Equal Justice Initiative, which will argue the case next week on behalf of the defendants, says life in prison for children violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban against “cruel and unusual punishment.”

March 12, 2012 | By Julie Small | KPCC

Picture of a Pelican Bay Prison Secure Housing Unit.

The "Secure Housing Unit" at Pelican Bay State Prison

California prison officials have announced plans to revise policies for controlling prison gangs. Last week they said they want to refine criteria for deciding who poses a threat — and gets isolated in what’s called Security Housing Units or “the SHU.”

Thursday, 19 January 2012 21:24

Some Alabama crack cocaine offenders freed early

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Published: Sunday, January 15, 2012, 8:30 AM     Updated: Sunday, January 15, 2012, 9:52 AM By Kent Faulk -- The Birmingham News

Image of hands holding a bagful of crack cocaine.

The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 changed how judges sentenced felons for crack cocaine offenses as compared to those sentences for crimes involving powdered cocaine. (The Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA -- Willie Thomas Morris left the federal prison at Talladega a free man on Nov. 8 after having served about two-thirds of a nine-year and two-month sentence for his conviction on gun and crack cocaine charges.

"His family was very happy to have him back home, especially before the holidays," said Scott Brower, the Birmingham lawyer who had represented Morris after he was charged.

Thursday, 19 January 2012 20:05

Private U.S. Prison Won't Face Federal Liability

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CALIFORNIA - State law can address the claims of an inmate who says medical staff mistreated him at a privately run federal prison, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, rejecting the idea that the landmark Bivens case gives him federal standing.
Richard Lee Pollard filed a pro se lawsuit in 2002 over injuries he sustained by slipping on a cart left in the doorway of a butcher shop at the Taft Correctional Institution in California.

Monday, 02 January 2012 17:49

Texas still top state for the death penalty

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By Anna M. Tinsley

TEXAS - With six executions scheduled for the first three months of 2012 -- and more than twice as many executions as any other state on the books last year -- Texas is poised to continue leading the nation in executions despite a nationwide slowdown in capital punishment.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011 16:33

Courts won’t give up on fines

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Judges determined to collect old fees despite a plan to clear ledgers.

COLUMBUSOhio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor says judges and clerks of court will continue to aggressively try to collect unpaid court fines and costs, even if the legislature passes a new bill.House Bill 247 passed the Ohio House by a vote of 92-0 last week, it would allow judges to declare old debts uncollectible and allow them to take them off their ledgers. The bill was introduced in the Senate on Thursday.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011 16:33

Alternatives for nonviolent offenders

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North-Hampton-County-Prison outside view

The exterior of Northampton County Prison, shown in May, 2011. (Kevin Mingora/Morning Call file photo)

11:45 a.m. EST, December 19, 2011

Pennsylvania - Gov. Corbett stated in his budget address in February, "We need to be tough on crime, but we need to consider the fiscal complications of our prison system." After that, state Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and author of the tough-on-crime bills of the 1980s, was quoted as saying, "But we also got in our nets many little fish, meaning nonviolent offenders."

Since the 1980s, our seven state prisons built to house 8,000 inmates have increased to 27 prisons for 51,000 inmates. Incredibly, last year Pennsylvania exported 2,180 inmates with good conduct records to Virginia and Michigan at a cost of about $42 million per year. These two states along with 27 others have decreased their prison populations with no adverse effect on public safety.

Pittsburgh Prison front view

First Posted: 12/ 1/11 07:38 PM ET Updated: 12/ 2/11 12:12 AM ET

A Pennsylvania state prison where a group of corrections officers stand accused of tormenting and brutalizing inmates will face a federal civil investigation into alleged systematic civil rights abuses, the Justice Department said Thursday.

Seven guards from State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh, a medium-security facility, have been arrested since September and face state criminal charges including rape, assault, witness intimidation and official oppression. The most serious charges were brought against Harry Nicoletti, 59, a guard indicted on 92 felony and misdemeanor counts, including 10 counts of institutional rape.

Thursday, 15 December 2011 18:52

Death row inmates' desire to die renews debate

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Legal experts are divided on whether a condemned prisoner who drops resistance to execution should be allowed a dignified end.


Oregon prisoner Gary Haugen faced death next month for killing two people, but Gov. John Kitzhaber banned further executions during his term. (Don Ryan, Associated Press / May 18, 20

 November 25, 2011, 6:58 p.m.

San Quentin, Calif.—Serial wife-killer Jerry Stanley wants to die.Imprisoned on death row for the past 28 years, Stanley insists he deserves execution for the cold-blooded killing of his fourth wife in 1980 and for shooting to death his second wife five years earlier in front of their two children.
Despairing of the isolation and monotony of San Quentin's rooftop fortress for the purportedly doomed, Stanley earlier this year stepped up his campaign for a date with the executioner by offering to solve the cold case of his third wife's disappearance 31 years ago — by disclosing where he buried her body.