46,265 prisoners will be eligible to apply to have their sentences reduced.
photo credit: Tony Avelar/Christian Science Monitor
Today, the US Sentencing Commission voted to make the latest reductions in federal sentencing guidelines, which it approved in April, apply to people currently serving sentences in federal prison for drug crimes.
46,265 prisoners will be eligible to apply to have their sentences reduced. The average reduction will be about 25 months. Prisoners will begin to be released on November 1, 2015.
Read more about the way that the guidelines were changed, and how they work, here.
Nearly two years after a state prison inmate died under suspicious circumstances, the Department of Corrections has offered no reasons for his death and 10 employees suspended over the incident are still on leave and drawing full pay.
Frank Smith of Miami was 44 when he died on Sept. 4, 2012, after a violent altercation with officers as he was being moved from a prison hospital to his cell at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford.
The Department of Corrections placed 10 staff members, including an assistant warden, on paid leave, a routine step when employees are suspected of wrongdoing. So far, taxpayers have paid nearly $700,000 in salaries to them for not working.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement took control of the case 21 months ago and FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey said the investigation continues. He said the delay could be because of the time needed to complete toxicology reports.
“There’s no time line that I can give you” on when the investigation will end, Bailey said.
The Alachua County Medical Examiner has declined to release details of Smith’s autopsy, citing the investigation. Gainesville-area State Attorney Bill Cervone said Wednesday that nothing has been presented to his office for possible prosecution.
Darren Rainey, a mentally ill inmate at Dade Correctional Institution in Miami, was scalded to death in a prison shower in 2012. Another inmate, Randall Jordan-Aparo, 27, died in his cell at Franklin Correctional Institution in 2010 after he was repeatedly gassed by guards as he begged for treatment for a worsening medical condition, the Miami Herald reported.
In that case, four investigators with the Department of Corrections filed a federal whistle-blower lawsuit, claiming that inmates are beaten and tortured and that prison supervisors fabricated official reports to cover up Jordan-Aparo’s death, the Herald reported.
“They killed that damn kid,” prison investigator Aubrey Land told Gov. Rick Scott’s chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel, in March, according to the Herald.
Land and investigators David Clark, Doug Glisson and John Ulm said in their suit that they faced “false and unwarranted” internal affairs complaints and sued after Miguel’s office denied them whistle-blower status.
Scott repeatedly cites the drop in the crime rate as a reason why he deserves to win re-election. On a public safety tour this week, he won endorsements from police chiefs and sheriffs across the state.
Scott has said nothing about the inmate deaths since a few days after Smith’s death became public in October 2012. At that time, he said: “I think all of us want to make sure that anybody that’s in one of our prisons is treated with respect and they’re safe.”
Soon after the state confirmed Smith’s death, prison officials replaced Union Warden Barry Reddish without explanation.
Union Correctional Institution employees placed on paid leave included assistant warden Nan Jeffcoat; Lt. Joseph Allen; Sgt. Darryl Phillips; and officers Joshua Bostic, David Brooks, Jermaine Corley, Robert Hill, Clinton Hodges, Derrick Searcy and Kenneth Warren.
Jeffcoat has been on paid leave since Oct. 8, 2012. The others have been on paid leave since Oct. 5, 2012.
All received form letters notifying them that they were being placed on paid leave “pending investigation of charges which could result in your dismissal.”
Most of the employees could not be reached for comment.
“I can’t talk about this,” Warren said Wednesday, denying that his suspension is related to Smith’s death.
“It ain’t because of that,” he said.
At the time it confirmed Smith’s death, the prison system opened investigations into possible excessive use of force on five other Union inmates: Christopher Arnold, Ronnie Daniels, Willie Knight, Rudolph Rowe and Leslie Smith.
Smith, a career criminal with a lengthy rap sheet, was nearing the end of a 16-year term for carjacking and assault convictions. The prison system said his visitation privileges were suspended for six months in 2009 for lewd exhibition of body parts and for a year in 2011 for possession of narcotics.
The prison system lists Smith as 5-8 and 129 pounds. His ghostly mug shot can still be seen, staring blankly ahead on the Department of Corrections web site. His status: “Deceased.”
We are Treading in murky waters these days.
As our Anonymous comrades are being slowly released from prison, we are learning that each case has it’s own complications and restrictions.
It is no secret that the United States and the Department of Justice is more vindictive toward hackers and anyone associated with Anonymous as opposed to the United Kingdom, but no matter what the case, each one has it’s issues.
We’ve heard from Jake Davis (topiary) and Ryan Akroyd speak about their restrictions. Chris Weathehead court sanctioned restrictions, but those are set to expire soon.
Court Sanctions/Restrictions on Freed anons and Hackers are a clear indication that goevernments (specifically the United States) is attempting to silence activists.
As some of these absurd restrictions are lifted, we see our comrades and other activists stepping up and speaking out stronger than ever.
The Case of Higinio Ochoa (aka Higz/W0rmer) has a new set of absurd court sanctioned restrictions that are being placed on him since he did his time, and “repayed his debt to society released as a free man.”
It is these restrictions we are trying to address with a fundrasing event. Ultimately it is how we all are going to react that we can only hope to change the future of activism, and how all forms of activism are addressed within the legal system.
The case of Higinio Ochoa has several issues. First of all and most saddening is that this activist, both on the streets with OWS and on the keyboard, is a strong individual who is able to inspire no matter where he is. He’s been an inspiration to all who have had the opportunity to communicate with him. His sense of hope for the future and the need for change is found in each email I receive from him. He’s just the kind of activist that the U.S. government would love to silence. This is where we run in to new problems that we’ve yet to come across and are doing our best to resolve for Higz and his family. I hope you take the time to read this because if you believe in the power of the voice, this can easily happen to you if you are arrested:
W0rmer has done his time in prison and we won’t get into the details of being torn from his family and placed In a Federal prison some 1363 miles away from them. This can’t possibly be the closest the BOP can place an inmate from one’s family. Now that it is time for him to be released, we have a new set of problems and hurdles that this man must address. The first issue is getting him home from his more than one and half years in prison. The Bureau Of Prisons toss you a bus ticket and says “Good Luck”. Sad if you ask us that a man who cares so much about others is forced to take a two day bus trip, alone, to check in at a halfway house in Austin, TX
Now comes the interesting part; Hig will be placed on parole and forced to have his internet use monitored at all times.
It seems that the BOP doesn’t have the ability to monitor Hig in his hometown, where he resides with his family, and so his application to be released to home has been denied. Hig was advised that he would need to live at a halfway house in Austin, TX BUT the problem as we understand it is this:
In order for him to be accepted by the halfway house, he must be a resident of Austin, TX. If he has no residence there, he is considered homeless in Austin and the halfway house has the option of not accepting him. So much for the whole reunification process! This is a huge issue for us. We don’t have an exact date of release for Hig but if he doesn’t have a home in Austin, it won’t matter because the BOP has the option of holding him in prison for an additional 5 months. Hig says that he should be released in August and that is the plan but an exact date is not known at the time of this writing.
Please don’t ask if it wouldn’t be easier for him to just stay in prison for 5 more months because first, prison sucks and second, the problem will still be there. Even if he were kept in prison for 5 more months, there is still nowhere for him to go once he is released. The BOP has already denied him the right of returning to his home town as there is no way for him to be monitored there so we are right back to the problem we find ourselves in.
Hig can’t get to the halfway house without a residence in Austin, TX and he can’t even get released from prison without an address in Austin, TX which is the closest the feds can get him to his family and is 3 hours away from them each way. There are no options for Hig other than to get him residence in Austin if we intend to get this man home. There are no options to bring this family back together but to get them to Austin. This, in my opinion is equivalent to the “Carrot and stick approach”. They have something you want but the ability to reach the ultimate goal is nearly unreachable. As activists, we must stop this cycle and work to get our Anons home.
We must support them as we are able and remind them that their efforts and their beliefs are appreciated. We, again in our opinion, have a duty to bring our Anons home and reunite them with their families so they may return to lives that are filled with love and support. This is our duty to our comrades.
We do this because we want to and not because we are forced to. We do this out of love and respect. The BOP is offering Hig early release. If he is not able to meet their demands, the dreams of returning home to his beautiful wife and small son are squashed. Imagine how hard that must be to a prisoner who has already been isolated from his family for more than a year and a half already. I’m not here for lack of anything better to do. Sadly, these arrests keep Sue and the folks at Freeanons very busy.
We are here because this man has inspired many of us to be here. This man has been so appreciative of the support and it is our duty to see this through and get him home.
We ask that you accept this job with us as a show of support for Hig and also as a show of support for his wife who has taken on the role of ‘single parent’ long enough. Thank you to everyone here. This is not a luxury move. This is the only way to get our comrade home.
$687 of the $6000 goal to reunite Hig and his family have been met thus far. If anyone can help donate a dollar maybe $2 between all of friends and social networks, This family will be together once more. Let’s not keep another comrade alone in the dark behind bars for 5 more months.
Joshua Klaver was 10 years old when he died after years of abuse at the hands of his father, Santa Clara County, California Sheriff Deputy KW Klaver. He died by Hanging in a barn on his father’s property in San Martin, California. He lived many years before his death in mental and emotional anguish, the fear and confusion of the unwillingness for anyone to help him took a painful toll on him and as painful as it was for him, it was also excruciating to watch it happen as the Sheriff Department and the Family Court System left us unaided.
In Alabama, prisoners are being stabbed in their cells while sleeping because cell doors don’t lock. Overcrowding, under funding, wardens that don’t care, and drug-dealing guards whom allegedly order hits on inmates if crossed make for a toxic mix.
We have heard it before with prisons in other states, overcrowding, decreased funding, and in Alabama, the fourth highest incarceration rate in the United States all come together to make Alabama’s state prisons one big, horrendous mess. Some prison reform advocates are speaking out.
On June 3 of this year at St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville, Alabama, an inmate went to bed, and during the night, another prisoner sneaked into his cell and stabbed him in the neck with a shank, a home-made weapon. Although the victim, 36-year old Jodey Waldrop was taken to a hospital only 19 miles away, he died an hour later.
What makes this story so so terrible is the fact that Waldrop was the third prisoner to be murdered at St. Clair within the past 10 months, all killed with shanks. Even more unsettling is that this most recent killing brings the total of deaths at St. Clair to five in the past so months. If one looks at the national figures, it will put what is happening at St. Clair in better perspective.
Nationwide, 1.35 million people are inside prison walls. Prisons nationwide saw 52 murders total between 2001 and 2010, based of Bureau of Justice statistics. Based on these figures, St. Clair, with 1,500 inmates has had three killings in just the past year. This leaves many prisoner rights advocates shaking their heads.
Bryon Stevenson, with Equal Justice Initiative, a prison reform non-profit in Alabama thinks the problems in St Clair are the result of a combination of problems, “There is a lot of illegal activity by correctional staff — they’re smuggling in drugs, cell phones, and other contraband,” Stevenson told one reporter. “These officers bring the stuff in and have inmates collect the money. And when people refuse to pay, oftentimes violence is ordered by the officers to make sure that they recover what they’re supposed to get.”
St. Claire is not the only correctional facility in Alabama with problems, although they seem to be horrific in nature. In January, the results of an investigation of the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, lead by the U.S. Department of Justice were released. The scathing report accused Alabama’s Tutwiler facility of violating the Constitution, citing what it called “a history of unabated staff-on-prisoner sexual abuses and harassment.”
The DOJ investigation said the violation of the Eight Amendment right to be protected from harm was just the latest in a list of unconstitutional violations amassed over the past 20 years. The DOJ also informed the state it intended to further investigate the medical and mental health care of inmates as well as other issues.
There is no good answer to Alabama’s prison problems. Kim Thomas, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections, participated in a panel discussion on June 17 in Birmingham. He told the audience the state of Alabama spends $43 a day to house prisoners, compared to the national average of more than $70 a day.
The money is just not enough to provide the rehabilitative care needed to keep recidivism down.”We have an obligation to provide opportunities for people to improve their lives, and that takes dollars,” Thomas said.
This latest DOJ investigation is not the first time the feds have been on Alabama’s case. In 2004, a lawsuit was finally settled over medical care for prisoners, requiring six years of court supervision. Now, it looks like there will be another investigation, because two advocacy groups have filed lawsuits against the Alabama State Department of Corrections.
On June 17, The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Center filed a lawsuit in federal court in Montgomery on behalf of 40 inmates across the state, alleging that medical and mental health conditions have gone untreated. Commissioner Thomas denied the allegations, saying he was disappointed but not surprised the groups have “chosen to discontinue working with us and instead are insistent upon expensive, time-consuming litigation.”
Alabama Senator Cam Ward is pragmatic about whether changes to the state’s prison system will come about, saying if the public isn’t interested in change or can’t be convinced that change is needed, the federal government will step in and do it for us. “It’s going to be solved,” he said. “Either a federal court will do it for us” or the legislature will fix the problem.
Less than half of the 28 states affected by a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision banning mandatory sentences of life in prison without parole for juvenile murderers have reformed their laws.
And of the 13 states that have made legislative changes in response to Miller v. Alabama, only four—Delaware, North Carolina, Washington and Wyoming—allow resentencing for their existing juvenile life-without-parole populations, according to a study by The Sentencing Project in Washington, which does sentencing policy research and reform advocacy.
Miller struck down the mandatory federal and state sentences for juveniles who committed homicides before they were 18. The 5-4 court, led by Justice Elena Kagan, held that that the sentence “prevents those meting out punishment from considering a juvenile’s ‘lessened culpability’ and greater ‘capacity for change,’ and runs afoul of our cases’ requirement of individualized sentencing for defendants facing the most serious penalties.”
Kagan wrote that she expected that “appropriate occasions for sentencing juveniles to this harshest possible penalty will be uncommon.” And, she added, “Although we do not foreclose a sentencer’s ability to make that judgment in homicide cases, we require it to take into account how children are different, and how those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing them to a lifetime in prison.”
The high court in Miller did not say whether its decision was retroactive and whether an estimated 2,100 juveniles already sentenced to life without parole could be resentenced. The justices have declined twice, without comment, in the present term to hear cases raising the retroactivity issue.
“We don’t know a whole lot of what is actually happening with those cases,” said Ashley Nellis, senior research analyst for the project. “They could get either a review of their sentence or they could go before the parole board immediately for review. We don’t know if there is any real consistency across the states.”
However, what those juveniles who were sentenced before Miller should get is “another day in court,” she said. “Obviously, their sentences have been ruled unconstitutional, and the whole thrust of the ruling was that they weren’t given individualized review. To just slap another sentence on them is repeating the same mistake.”
Some state courts have addressed the retroactivity question, according to the study. State supreme courts in Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska and Texas have ruled that Miller applies retroactively, while state high courts in Louisiana, Minnesota and Pennsylvania have ruled it does not. Cases on that question are pending in supreme courts in Alabama, Colorado, Florida and North Carolina.
The 13 states that have changed their laws in response to Miller imposed new minimum sentences on juvenile murderers that must be served before parole review. Those sentences range from 25 years in Delaware, North Carolina and Washington to 40 years in Nebraska and Texas.
An extremely long minimum sentence, the study says, could ignore the intent of the Supreme Court decision. “To sentence young people into their elderly years amounts to a determination that some offenders permanently lack the capacity to change, which violates the spirit, if not the letter, of both Supreme Court rulings,” it says.
Nellis said she and her colleagues were “overwhelmingly disappointed” by the pace of change in the states during the past two years. “The ruling was pretty straightforward, in our view, and the states seem to have come up with any number of ways to stall.”
She suggested that the large population of juveniles sentenced to life without parole might be behind the reluctance to act within some states.
At the time of the high court’s Miller ruling, more than 2,500 prisoners were serving life without parole for juvenile-committed homicides, the study reports, and two-thirds of those sentences occurred in just five states: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, California and Louisiana.
The 13 states that have made legislative changes since Miller are Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.
The 15 states that have not made legislative changes are Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Vermont and Virginia.
Twelve states and the District of Columbia ban life without parole for juvenile murderers. Those states are Alaska, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming.
An “unexplained power surge,” is to blame for the June 15th power outage at the Yazoo City Correctional Complex in Yazoo County. Power was restored to the complex except for Yazoo City Low Federal Prison, which remains without power. That prison houses more than 1700 inmates. News Channel 12 has questioned the Bureau of Federal Prisons as well as the complex about the outage but little explanation has been given after the Federal Correction Complex in Yazoo City loses power. Those with connections inside tell us News Channel 12, that’s unacceptable.
“Those conditions are just not favorable,” says Vincent Kirksey, Local 1013 Union President. He claims he has more than 430 workers inside the Yazoo City Low prison.
Tuesday, prison officials told us electrical engineers were working on the problem. But as time goes on concerns for inmates and prison workers increase. We’re told they’re already starting to feel the impact.
The union chief told WJTV that it could be eight to 10 weeks before power is restored. In the meantime, that means the prison will be without power and air conditioning, with temperatures expected to consistently reach into the 90s.
Mother of an inmate at Mississippi prison lacking power tells of terrible conditions
On Friday, I posted about the power outage at the low-security federal prison in Yazoo City, Miss. A union official told local TV station WJTV that it could be eight weeks or more before power is restored. Average July and August temperatures in Yazoo City climb into the 90s.
Yesterday, I heard from the mother of one of the Yazhoo inmates. She asked to remain anonymous out of fear that prison officials may retaliate against her son. But I was able to confirm that her son is indeed an inmate there.
He reports that the conditions are horrible and the area where the damage was is being treated like a crime scene. What could possibly take 430 Union workers 8-10 weeks to fix?
[A]t least 4 times in the weeks prior to the 15th … the power went off (once for as long as 11 hours). Wasn’t that enough of a warning signal that there was a problem somewhere? And shouldn’t they have been getting these electrical engineers to prevent a disaster such as they now have?
The inmates have fans in the units powered by generators, but the generators have been allowed to run out of gas on several occasions sometimes for up to 8 hours. The inmates are allowed to move these fans at will and some of them have stupidly placed them back to back causing the fans to burn up. many are hanging their sweaty clothes on them, blocking the air for others. The guards are allowing this stupidity because they do not want to go into the units to enforce rules, because it is so hot in there.
They are not being fed properly . . . and the men have only cold water for showers . . .
These are men who have committed non-violent crimes, mostly drug possession. They have already been given sentences far more harsh than necessary (in most cases) due to the federal mandatory minimums.
If animals were found to be locked in a shelter under these conditions, this would be all over the news and the public would be outraged. These are HUMAN BEINGS.
She said she also fears that if conditions continue, there could be rioting.
The United States Criminal Justice System is flawed, broken, yet fixable; Prison Reform and Sentencing Reform should be major agenda's for each state- we need to stop warehousing prisoners and ready those who are going to parole.
Inmate rehabilitation improves public safety and lowers prison costs.
“We have to care because we can't afford not to".
Posts here are NOT my work, unless noted as such. See my disclaimer in the 'about' section. This blog serves as a Public Service Announcement.