Women’s deaths add to concerns about Georgia prison doctor

For nearly a decade, a succession of inmates at one of the largest women’s prisons in Georgia has suffered agonizing deaths, some going days, weeks and even months before receiving treatment that might have saved or prolonged their lives, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation has found.

Evelyn Spear’s complaints that she couldn’t swallow were treated as indigestion for three months before it was determined that she had cancer. By then, it had spread from her lungs to her lymph nodes.

Peggy Bean, suffering from a loss of blood to her intestines, was vomiting feces before it was realized she needed emergency surgery. She didn’t survive the operation.

Paula Cooper, who had breast cancer, was returned to the prison population after a mastectomy even though the incision was bleeding. It was still bleeding when she died five months later.

Those deaths and others paint a bleak picture of the medical treatment for inmates at Pulaski State Prison in Hawkinsville. All were under the care of Dr. Yvon Nazaire, raising fresh questions about the state’s decision to hire him as the prison’s medical director despite a well-documented history of negligence and patient deaths in New York.

Continue Reading @ MyAJC.com

FL man tortured by privatized “service”

Originally posted on Wobbly Warrior's Blog:

Man Alleges Horrific Abuse On Private Prison Van | ThinkProgress

Darren Richardson of Florida says he was urinated on and denied food during a 10-day trip in a private prison transport company’s van, after he was pulled over for rolling through a stop sign …

… “Mr. Richardson’s legs were purple from the knee down and his feet were black when he arrived at the Pike County Correctional Facility,” the complaint reads. But the nurse who tended to his injuries at the prison allegedly told him they “had seen much worse come off that bus.”

via Man Alleges Horrific Abuse On Private Prison Van | ThinkProgress.


No offense, let alone rolling through a stop sign and an unpaid probation fee, should potentially cost you the use of your legs while in custody.

But others have fared worse on privatized prison transport vehicles. Burned alive. Raped. Robbed. Threatened with…

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Sullivan County Jail- Blountville,Tennessee: Abuse, Hanging & Flash Bang devices

In the spotlight currently is Sullivan County Jail located in Blountville, Tennesse. This department was recently featured on National Geographic’s “Southern Justice”. Of course, the truth was not shown or exposed, so we decided to put it here so you can review and draw your own conclusions.

We received the following as a message on July 11th;

As the director for Prison Reform Movement (a national grassroots group dedicated to Criminal Justice reform), I was absolutely sickened to receive the following message. Identifying information was redacted due of the reality of retaliation:

“I wanted to call to your attention an incident that occurred at Sullivan Co., TN, jail Monday, July 6, 2015. Inmates were awakened around 9:15 am with a ‘flash bang'; this was followed by pepper balls being fired into the housing unit at the sleeping inmates. 10-15 officers dressed in riot gear and face masks then entered the pod, while others stayed at the bars and continued to fire on inmates. After being fired on, inmates were told to get down on the ground. They were made to crawl from the back of the housing unit to the front; those who could not crawl fast enough were dragged. One of the ones who was dragged was an inmate that has a colostomy; after being dragged, he was stomped in the back as were other inmates. A black inmate was told by a white officer that he would be taken out of view of the camera and have his teeth knocked down his throat. The inmates were strip searched and the housing unit shook down; inmate belongings were scattered. My husband, who is mentally ill, called me to tell me what was happening. Because he was on the phone with me reporting the attack, more pepper balls were fired in his direction; I could hear a female officer in the background yelling out orders…she was telling him to shut up. Since the attack on these inmates, several are experiencing symptoms of PTSD including anxiety, sleeplessness, panicked feelings when officers come near the pod, etc. When I spoke with the black inmate, he told me he felt afraid. Fearing retaliation against my husband, I cannot go to the press with this. I have contacted an attorney – Most attorneys are afraid to take such cases because it can be professional suicide. I would like another attorney option. Any advice you could have would be most appreciated. I am concerned that the trauma of this attack will trigger a psychotic episode with my husband; the effects of trauma are not always immediate.
thank you…”
and then there is this:

Inmate found hanging at Sullivan County Detention Center

There’s an investigation underway after an inmate was found hanging in his cell at the Sullivan County Detention Center.

The Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office reported officers checked the area and found Joey Edward Cunningham just before 9pm Monday. He was hanging by a sheet tied to an air vent.

Cunningham faced charges of initiation of process intended to manufacture methamphetamine within 1000 feet of a school, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

He’d been incarcerated since June 11.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation will investigate his death. Via WCYB Channel 5

Yes, Southern Justice at its finest, right? Shame on National Geographic…glossing over the real issues and celebrating the abusive criminal justice system.

Season 2 of Southern Justice premieres Wednesday, July 15th at 10:00PM on the National Geographic Channel.

Grand jury report rips Florida prison over deadly beatdown

Matthew Walker

Matthew Walker-Florida Department of Corrections

23 Cents an Hour? The Perfectly Legal Slavery Happening in Modern-Day America

The government and corporations have a pool of powerless, exploitable workers in skyrocketing prison populations.

By Terrell Jermaine Starr / AlterNet

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com


If you thought slavery was outlawed in America, you would be wrong. The 13th amendment to the Constitution states that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

In plain language, that means slavery in America can still exist for those who are in prison, where you basically lose all of your rights.  (You don’t gain a lot of your rights back when you get out of prison, either, but that is a different story.) So, given the country’s penchant for rapacious capitalism, it may not come as a surprise that there is much of the American prison system that exploits American prisoners much like slaves.

In fact there is large-scale exploitation in American prisons benefiting American corporations and the military-industrial complex. UNICOR, better known as Federal Prison Industries, or FPI, is a government-owned corporation that employs inmates for as little as 23 cents per hour, to provide a wide range of products and services under the guise of a “jobs training program.” In theory, this is supposed to give inmates skills that will prepare them for the workforce upon release.

Critics of FPI have long claimed it exploits prisoners who don’t have the right to organize for representation to protect their rights and it unfairly competes with small businesses that can’t provide goods and services for the average pay of 92 cents an hour FPI workers make. The program employs around 13,000 prisoners per year. In 2013, it reported gross revenue of $609.7 million.

According to FPI’s website, inmates employed in the program carry out a wide range of services that include making house and office furniture, mattresses, flags, traffic signs and military items. These items are usually made for other federal agencies, but private companies can contract workers through FPI as well.

It is no surprise that the inmate/slave labor force has grown along with mass incarceration in America. The Prison Policy Initiative counts 2.3 million people in prison, according to the 2010 census, by far the highest rate of incarceration in the developed world.

Many more are ensnared in the criminal justice system’s other branches. At the end of 2013, nearly 5 million adults were either on probation or parole, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics. All of these populations and even those not even convicted of a crime are vulnerable to exploitative fees and byzantine rules seemingly designed to catch people and get them back into the grips of the prison system. Basically, there is a trifecta of exploitation in the American criminal justice system. As reported on AlterNet, the bail system in America keeps many people in jail in a massive form of pretrial detention one has to buy one’s way out of. And police departments are increasingly funding themselves by charging poor people exorbitant fees for minor infractions.

In terms of prison labor, one of its controversial services is the production of solar panels. Reuters reports that Suniva Inc, a Georgia-based solar cell and panel maker, uses prison labor for 10 percent of its manufacturing needs to keep its costs low so it can, in part, keep up with producers from China. The company is also backed by Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Over the last 18 months, Suniva moved all of its solar panel assembly to the United States from Asia. Suniva’s deal with FPI helps it to avoid U.S. government tariffs on Chinese-made panels and capture lucrative government contracts. Roughly 200 inmates make solar panels in factories at prisons in Sheridan, Oregon and Otisville, New York, according to Reuters.

Solar panels made in America are more efficient in generating electricity from the sun, allowing companies like Suniva to sell them at premium rates. As for the inmates, Suniva’s vice president of global sales and manufacturing Mike Card says he doesn’t know how much they are paid.

Manufacturing solar panels is actually a good skill to have, but according to Alex Friedman, managing editor of Prison Legal News, FPI has no job placement program for inmates once they are released.

“You can have lots of skills, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get a good job when you get out,” Friedman told AlterNet. “You can be really skilled at whatever it is, diesel engines even, but you also have a felony record. You’re getting out from prison after five or two years or whatever it is and starting from scratch.”

Another field where FPI inmates are providing labor is through military contracts. In 2013, federal inmates stitched more than $100 million worth of military uniforms for the Department of Defense, according to the New York Times. The federal inmates who make these garments earn no more than $2 per hour, something that puts competing small businesses that have to pay at least minimum wage at a major disadvantage.

Cathy Griffiths, operations manager for clothing maker American Power Source of Fayette, Ala., complained in 2012 that she had to let 50 of her 300 employees go after FPI won a lucrative contract with the U.S. Army. During the same year, American Apparel, Inc., an Alabama company that makes military uniforms, said it had to close down a plant and lay off 175 workers because it was forced to compete with FPI for federal contracts.

“We pay employees $9 on average,” Kurt Wilson, an executive with American Apparel, told Prison Legal News at the time. “They get full medical insurance, 401(k) plans and paid vacation. Yet we’re competing against a federal program that doesn’t pay any of that.”

With prisoners lacking even a modicum of labor protection, it is very hard for any company to compete with companies that use this source of dirt-cheap prison labor.

“Prisoners currently don’t fall under any fair labor standard practices or umbrellas,” Christopher Petrella, a researcher at UC Berkeley who studies labor abuses in prisons, told AlterNet. “So, often times, prisoners will get paid but they aren’t afforded the same protections as a worker outside of prison.

No one is complaining about prisoners having the right to work and learn skills that will help them once they are released from prison. But that is not the issue. In reality, FPI is paying far below minimum wage rates. Prison labor takes advantage of a vulnerable workforce that can’t advocate for itself, form a union, fight for its labor rights or seek legal protections for potential workplace abuses.

Prison workers have no political support, either. “There is virtually no constituency that really cares,” Petrella said. “That’s a very sobering and tragic thing to say, but I think it’s actually true. Prisoners are often times disenfranchised. They can’t even vote. So, if they can’t even vote, then what kind of constituency exists that politicians can then lean on to make these sorts of decisions about how they want to move forward with reforming the system?”

The number of inmates working under FPI make up just a small number of the 2.2 million prisoners behind bars in a wide range of state and federal work programs, so it’s just a small part of the larger issue of exploited labor. But it is important to note that the federal government finances and operates FPI, a corporation that outsources labor in exploitive ways.

Friedman says FPI and other work programs in general must undergo major reforms that include giving inmate workers the right to protect themselves from exploitation, paying them as much as a worker who is not locked up would make, and training them for jobs that will actually lead to employment once they leave prison. Without such changes, Friedman says prison labor is nothing more than slave labor.

One injustice that simply won’t end: The saga of Brandon Hein

Originally posted on Media and Mayhem:

Some students of mine from past semesters know that — for a host of personal and other reasons — the mind-boggling injustice of Brandon Hein’s continued imprisonment has concerned me for years.

More information about Brandon’s case can be found here, although the blog is only occasionally updated. Actor Charles Grodin has also devoted significant time and effort  to the cause of undoing this injustice. And William Gazecki’s superb documentary Reckless Indifference is still an excellent introduction to Brandon’s case.

We must never, ever, forget Brandon Hein.

And it is time for Governor Jerry Brown to use his executive powers to end Brandon’s imprisonment.

View original

Kalief Browder, Jailed For 3 Years Without Conviction, Dies Of Suicide

He was suspected of stealing a backpack as a teen. His parents couldn’t afford the $10,000 bail so he remained at Rikers for three years. He was beaten by guards repeatedly…

By NewsOne Staff

A 22-year-old man who spent three years in jail at New York City’s Rikers Island without ever being convicted of a crime died this weekend of an apparent suicide, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Kalief Browder, who was released in 2013, died at home in the Bronx on Saturday, his lawyer Paul V. Prestia told the Times. Browder was 16-years-old when he was arrested on suspicion of stealing a backpack, and he spent about two years in solitary confinement, the report says. He was never convicted.

From the Los Angeles Times:

“I think what caused the suicide was his incarceration and those hundreds and hundreds of nights in solitary confinement, where there were mice crawling up his sheets in that little cell,” Prestia said in a phone interview Sunday evening. “Being starved, and not being taken to the shower for two weeks at a time … those were direct contributing factors.… That was the pain and sadness that he had to deal with every day, and I think it was too much for him.”…

Browder, who was black, insisted he was innocent. The story told how he had spent two of his three years on Rikers Island in solitary confinement, and how he had attempted suicide multiple times before prosecutors ultimately dropped the charges in May 2013.

Publicity around Browder’s case came at a time of increasing scrutiny on jails, prisons and municipal courts, especially in how the nation’s justice system treats people of color.

Via LA Times

You Can’t Go Home Again

Via The Marshall Project

Surprising new research suggests parolees who go somewhere new are less likely to offend again.


When people move away from a troubled neighborhood, do they become more likely to avoid crime and live a productive life?

For years, social scientists believed — often reluctantly — that the answer was no. Beginning in 1995, a large federal experiment called Moving to Opportunity provided housing vouchers to families living in extreme poverty in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City. Some of those families were required to use their vouchers to rent an apartment in a neighborhood where fewer than 10 percent of residents were poor. The hope was that children in those families would do better in school, obey the law, and eventually become middle-class adults. But that didn’t happen. Over the long term, the sons of Moving to Opportunity families were actually more likely to be arrested and to use drugs than boys in the control group who continued to live in poorer neighborhoods. Their incomes remained low.   But now a spate of high-profile new research seems to be overturning the Moving to Opportunity consensus. Moving from one neighborhood to another, it turns out, can have a big impact on crime and incarceration, as well as on individual earning potential. The key factor may be timing that move to the right moment in a person’s life.

The latest contribution to this research is from David Kirk, an American sociologist at Oxford University in England. His new study, which appears in the academic journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, took advantage of what social scientists call a “natural experiment” — a case when a real-world event creates random change. In this case, the event was Hurricane Katrina. Kirk first started thinking about its impact on the people who commit crimes in late 2005, when he visited storm-ravaged New Orleans to spend time with his in-laws, who live there.

“Driving around the city, it was hard not to contemplate the nature of the devastation and what it meant for individuals,” he said in an interview. “Certain neighborhoods didn’t really exist anymore. So where were folks coming out of prison going? They would normally go back to the Lower Ninth Ward or Mid-City, but they couldn’t. Where were these individuals?”

Kirk set up a study to find out, examining state data on where 5,400 parolees lived after leaving prison in 2005 and 2006. It turned out that after Hurricane Katrina, parolees dispersed throughout the state, often ending up in even poorer neighborhoods than the ones they had come from in New Orleans. They typically moved to smaller cities like Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and Lake Charles.

Previous research had found that former prisoners who return to poor neighborhoods are more likely than those who return to middle-class or affluent areas to end up back in prison, regardless of those former prisoners’ individual characteristics. But in a series of papers, Kirk revealed a surprising pattern in Louisiana after Katrina. Regardless of neighborhood poverty, the density of parolees living within a zip code had a powerful effect on whether recently released prisoners were able to turn their lives around.

In neighborhoods where five of every 1,000 residents had recently been released from prison, 34 percent of parolees returned to prison within one year, either for committing a new crime or for breaking the rules of parole. In similarly poor neighborhoods with just one recently released prisoner per 1,000 residents, 22 percent of parolees returned to prison. In a forthcoming paper, Kirk will look at Louisiana parolees eight years after their release from prison. The positive influence on these individuals of new neighborhoods with fewer parolees persists over time, he said.

Kirk speculates that moving helps former prisoners sever ties to people likely to become criminal associates. “Residential change is a turning point that may give people a fresh start,” he said. “It’s something that organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous talk about: Stay away from the people and places associated with prior behavior. In that sense, this is not entirely novel.”

Kirk’s findings join a widely heralded new series of draft papers from Harvard economists Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, and Lawrence Katz. They reassessed the decade-old Moving to Opportunity data in order to isolate only those children who were youngest — under the age of 13 — when their families moved. Staying in a high-crime neighborhood reducedreduced boys’ future incomes by 7 percent and girls’ future incomes by 4 percent, relative to kids who moved from high-crime to low-crime neighborhoods early in childhood and later earned more as adults.

That research is ongoing, and it is not yet clear if young children who left high-crime areas also experienced lower arrest rates. But the overall trend among sociologists, economists, and political scientists is to rethink the power of helping people change where they reside, especially during those periods of life, such as early childhood or the first year out of prison, when people are most vulnerable and also most heavily influenced by the social environment around them.

“The pendulum has swung back to thinking that neighborhoods are very important,” said Jonathan Rothwell, a fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies urban policy.

Housing vouchers that can be used only in neighborhoods far from the parolee’s original home could help former prisoners avoid ending up back behind bars, Kirk suggests. So could overturning state laws that currently require some parolees to return to their previous counties. Yet other scholars urge caution. A separate body of research on prisoners reentering society shows that family, friends, and former employers are the people most likely to help a recently released prisoner get a job, and that getting a job is a primary factor in avoiding re-incarceration.

“I have concerns about the policy implications” of Kirk’s Louisiana study, said Nancy La Vigne, director of the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute. “If the implications are that we should ensure that people, upon release from prison, are dispersed throughout a state, will it compromise social support networks in ways that make it more difficult to successfully reintegrate? What we know is that family members are there for returning prisons and provide emotional and tangible support.”

For Kirk, the key is recognizing that neighborhood-based social networks often exert a negative influence, in addition to a positive one. Previously, he studied the effects of “legal cynicism” in Chicago — perceptions of law enforcement as unresponsive and illegitimate — which appeared to contribute to high homicide rates in certain neighborhoods even as they gentrified. That type of cynicism, he posits, may blossom when many recently released prisoners gather in a small geographic area.

“Families aren’t always positive influences,” Kirk said. “Somebody has a brother or a cousin who is into drugs or worse, and that’s not good to be around. A next step on my agenda and in the field in general is to look at what residential change means for social networks. Can they help maintain positive relationships and end negative ones?”