Prison Legal News

Prison Legal News (140)

Prison Guards walking the parimeter outside the Florence Federal Prison
Guards walk along the fence at the federal prison in Florence, Colo. Misconduct… (Bob Daemmrich / AFP-Getty Images)

September 29, 2011|By Alexa Vaughn, Washington Bureau

Washington — Arrests of federal prison guards soared nearly 90% over the last decade, possibly because of poor hiring practices during a 25% increase in prison growth, the Justice Department's inspector general reported.

Misconduct investigations doubled, and more than half of the offenses were committed during the officers' first two years on the job. The inspector general recommended that the Federal Bureau of Prisons improve its background investigation of job applicants and find better ways to assess rookie officers. Such arrests have risen 90% over the last decade, according to findings by the Justice Department's inspector general.But other factors have contributed to the problem, including private prisons and increasing numbers of female prisoners and young offenders in federal facilities, the inspector general found.

September 29, 2011

The federal prison system, grappling with a rise in officer misconduct investigations, should devise a plan to better assess job candidates to eliminate potentially unsuitable applicants, a U.S. Justice Department watchdog report concluded.

The report, published today by the DOJ’s inspector general office, examined the hiring practice at the federal Bureau of Prisons amid the increasing number of misconduct investigations and arrests.

The prison bureau's internal affairs office opened more than 4,600 misconduct investigations last year, double the number from a decade ago. Thirty-four corrections officers were arrested in fiscal year 2010, up from 18 reported arrests in 2001.

Saturday, 15 October 2011 17:07

State's radical prison reform plan ready to start

Written by
Marisa Lagos, Chronicle Staff Writer,Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle


Sacramento --

Starting Monday, California will radically change the way it sentences criminals, sending the first of thousands to serve time behind bars in their local county jails instead of in state prisons.

Drug dealers, shoplifters and other felons deemed to be nonviolent or non-sex offenders will become wards of the counties in which they are convicted, under a plan signed in April by Gov. Jerry Brown to reduce the flow of inmates entering the overcrowded california prison system.

The plan also changes parole rules so that thousands of inmates who are released from state prisons will no longer be considered "parolees" nor be supervised by state parole officers. Instead those inmates who served time for nonviolent, non-sex offenses will be "probationers" who are monitored by county probation officers - and the supervision period will be shortened.

Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten recently called Brown's plan the most "significant reform of California sentencing law in a generation."

Critics, meanwhile, have warned that the plan, known as realignment, will overwhelm counties with offenders who should be locked up in state prisons.

When Mark Melvin asked his friend to order him a Pulitzer Prize-winning history book, he didn't expect to have to file a lawsuit in order to read it.

But Melvin is currently in jail, and the book in question, "Slavery By Another Name" by Douglas A Blackmon, was returned to its sender by officials at the Kilby Correctional Facility near Montgomery, AL who allegedly claimed it to be "a security threat."

His case highlights the arbitrary censorship faced every day by America's prisoners at the hands of over-zealous officials, who deprive prisoners of access to thousands of books, magazines and newspapers.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons regulations state that publications can only be rejected if they are found to be "detrimental to the security, good order, or discipline of the institution or if it might facilitate criminal activity." That description is generally understood to include content such as explanations on how to make explosives, martial arts training manuals and books containing maps of the prison and its surrounding area.

Saturday, 15 October 2011 16:17

Prison-based gerrymandering in Tennessee Counties

Written by

Most (or all) of the prison housing units are located outside of Block 3007 (in purple)

by Peter Wagner and Aleks Kajstura, September 26, 2011

The most dramatic instances of prison-based gerrymandering tend to be in rural counties that have large prisons, because a single state or federal prison can be the majority of a small county board district. The common solution used by more than 100 counties and municipalities is to remove the prison populations prior to redistricting. In most cases, this solution is permitted by law: Federal law gives local governments the right to determine the population base for their districts, and most state laws are silent on the question.

“Many of the most dramatic examples of prison-based gerrymandering are clustered in states where local governments have a little less flexibility when redistricting”

The operative word is “most.” Many of the most dramatic examples of prison-based gerrymandering are clustered in states where local governments have a little less flexibility when redistricting: notably Virginia, Wisconsin and the subject of this memo, Tennessee.

Inmate in the now defunct Illinois Death Row

FILE - This Jan. 21, 2003 file photo shows an unidentified death row inmate in his cell in the North Condemned Unit at Pontiac Correctional Institution in Pontiac, Ill. On Friday, July 1, 2011, a ban that Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law in March took effect, shutting down Illinois' death row. It's a quiet last chapter to the story of capital punishment in , which captured the attention of the world in 2000 when then-Gov. George Ryan imposed a moratorium. Ryan cleared death row entirely three years later. Illinois has executed 12 men since 1977 when the death penalty was reinstated, the last one in 1999. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

July 27
RILEY YATES, The (Allentown) Morning Call

WN, Pa. (AP) — It has been 12 years since Pennsylvania executed a convicted killer, but in that time, death row has still cost taxpayers more than $27 million.

Every year, the state Department of Corrections spends an estimated $10,000 more for each inmate on the country's fourth largest death row compared to other prisoners. That's despite a de facto halt on capital punishment in Pennsylvania for all but prisoners who voluntarily go to their executions. The last person put to death against his will was in 1962, half a century ago.

The most recent to be executed, in 1999, was Philadelphia torture-murderer Gary Heidnik — and only because he bowed to it by waiving his appeals. Since then, the state has housed on average 227 inmates a year facing death sentences, for an additional cost of $27.24 million, or $2.27 million annually. And this when executions have ceased.

Ottawa-Carleton Detention Center


Ashley Fraser/Postmedia News files Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre


Postmedia News Jul 18, 2011 – 6:09 PM ET | Last Updated: Jul 18, 2011 7:25 PM ET

By Jeff Davis

OTTAWA — The cost of the federal prison system has risen 86% since the Harper government took over in 2006, government reports show.

When the Conservatives came to power in 2005-06, Canada’s federal corrections system cost nearly $1.6-billion per year, but the projected cost for 2011-12 has increased to $2.98-billion per year.

“That is a humungous increase of over 80%,” said Justin Piche, an assistant professor of sociology at Memorial University in St. John’s, N.L., who analyzes the costs of Canada’s prisons.

“Canadians are going to be spending a lot more on their prisons, and this is just the beginning.”

"Our crime rate continues to plummet."

Bob McDonnell on Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 in Bill-signing ceremony

At a ceremonial signing of seven bills strengthening Virginia’s prisoner re-entry laws, Gov. Bob McDonnell touted the state’s achievement in combating crime over the years, offering tough talk for would-be offenders.

"There’s no place in society for those people that want to violate the rights of others," McDonnell said. "They need to be taken off the streets and incapacitated for a significant amount of time. That’s why we abolished parole 15 years ago. Then you can see the enormous positive results in Virginia as our crime rate continues to plummet."

Is Virginia’s crime rate in a free fall? We decided to take a look.

Alabama Prison Rec Yard
The Alabama Sentencing Commission is developing a plan for truth in sentencing. (AP Photo)

Published: Monday, July 04, 2011, 7:45 AM

By Katherine Sayre, Press-Register

MOBILE, Alabama -- One night last year, Carl Demetrius Smith pointed a gun at a Circle K clerk in west Mobile, tried and failed to steal cash, and ran away with an 18-pack of Bud Light, according to prosecutors.

Smith, 43, was out on parole at the time, having served less than half of a 20-year sentence for carjacking — one of about 2,800 people released on parole every year. He’s now back in prison, finishing his time.

In Alabama, it’s usually hard to know how long prison sentences will last. Inmates can shave off years for good behavior or be granted early release.

In a quiet process with far-reaching consequences, the Alabama Sentencing Commission — a panel of judges, lawyers and corrections officials created a decade ago — is working to establish clear rules for how long criminals spend behind bars.

Friday, 08 July 2011 18:26

Change in law will free some crack inmates

Written by


Prison guards walking the parimeter of FCI Terre Haute

 Bureau of Prisons offices patrol the outside of a Federal Penitentiary at Terre Haute, Indiana. File/Mark Cowan/UPI
Published: July 1, 2011 at 9:00 AM

WASHINGTON, July 1 (UPI) -- A decision by the U.S. Sentencing Commission would let 12,000 prisoners serving time for crack cocaine out of prison up to 37 months sooner, officials said.

The commission Thursday voted to amend federal sentencing guidelines in the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 to make federal sentencing of inmates convicted on crack cocaine charges fall in line with that of inmates sentenced for regular cocaine violations.

Most of those in prison for crack cocaine offenses are black while those imprisoned for regular cocaine offenses are mostly white. Crack cocaine is sold more cheaply than regular coke.