FL: Privatized prison health services leaves public employees out of a job

Looks like the drive toward privatization is moving to other ancillary matters of prisons, such as healthcare for prisons. I think severing the connection between the public and the prison is a bad, bad thing. We’ve already discussed why it’s not a good thing to give the task of incarcerating prisoners to private companies interested in making a profit. But, I think there’s something deeper. There’s a connection that needs to remain with the public and with the public interest. People need to have a connection to prisons and what goes on in them. Once that connection dies down, it’s even easier for citizens to simply “forget” about what goes on in our jails and prisons.

The Prison Enquirer

From the article: “Under terms of its contract, Corizon must offer comprehensive care to Florida’s inmate population for 7 percent less than it cost the state in 2010. Health care costs have increased steadily since then.”

That’s the upside.  The downside is that the company has come under fire for allegedly inhumane practices.

Then again, proponents of privatization have stated that the reality is that state-run prison medical services can also subject inmates to inhumane care – even when not inhumane, mistakes and negligence are going to happen in any healthcare system.  The goal is simply to limit the number of inmates affected and to limit the negative effects of any poor medical decisions.

Read more on FL here.

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About the Exoneration Registry

This is a great page, a project of both the U of Michigan and Northwestern U law schools. The public needs to be made more aware of the sheer number of those exonerated. If the technologies exist, the courts need to help aid prisoners in their quest for further investigation of their crimes and convictions.

About the Exoneration Registry.

Prison Reform Represents Good Government, Not Partisan Politics

Looking beyond any sort of moral issue one has towards mass incarceration, I’ve always wondered how the most conservative of lawmakers could align their “more beds, more prisoners” mentality with their fiscal principles. Richard A. Viguerie made his case for why conservatives should back the reform of incarceration in the United States in a recent op-ed post for the New York Times. Interestingly, Viguerie makes a case that prison reform has more to do with fiscal matters. Reforming prisons should also be about compassion. Compassion for prisoners and their families. Many conservative political ideologies, including support of the death penalty and mandatory life sentences without parole, do not give an air of compassion.

These three principles — public safety, compassion and controlled government spending — lie at the core of conservative philosophy. Politically speaking, conservatives will have more credibility than liberals in addressing prison reform.

I will be the first to say that liberals need to do more to help change the carceral situation in the United States. I don’t think, however, that it’s fair to give conservatives the higher moral ground in prison reform. Simply quoting a dip in incarceration rates during Reagan’s presidency doesn’t give any credence to that idea. Especially considering President Reagan’s “War on Drugs” slowly became responsible for filling up prisons like no other governmental-backed program in our nation’s history. Just because it took time after his eight years in the White House for this so-called War to gain steam doesn’t give conservatives a claim a moral victory. This problem goes beyond political ideology and party.

I think at the end of the day, there are more than fiscal issues that lead conservatives, who are by and large God-fearing Republicans, to support mass incarceration. When the federal courts began examining southern prison systems in the 1960s and declaring them unconstitutional, judges had the nearly impossible task of dealing with state legislatures who never had to allocate budget to state prisons. Legislators wondered why money should be diverted from law-abiding citizens when the pseudo-plantation prison farm supported itself? In addition, though many have much to gain in the increase in the prison industrial complex of the twenty-first century, I believe there’s more of a biblical reason behind incarceration. Repenting for sins. Keeping law-abiding society safe. People who rape and kill not only offend society, but they offend God. I believe at the end of the day, when a member of the Christian right has to choose between progressive reforms of prisons, which would save money and put less people in jail, and incarcerating criminals, the later will usually win. While we may not have a state established religion, it’s simply too hard for some to differentiate their religious beliefs from government.

Though, I do applaud outfits like Right on Crime in at least opening up a dialog on an issue that many conservatives have avoided for decades. Unfortunately, even with concerted political effort, reform of the system will take decades.

Read letters to the editor responding to the original op-ed post here.

MS: Inmate fatally stabbed at Parchman

The Prison Enquirer

From the article: “MDOC Commissioner Christopher Epps says an initial investigation revealed Lewis was not strip searched or restrained properly. Epps said policy and procedure weren’t followed and disciplinary action will be taken when the investigation into the incident is complete.”

Read more here.

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The Tucker Telephone: Prison Abuse, Arkansas Style

Prison farms in the 1960s American South could easily be mistaken for the 1860s. Killing two birds with one stone, after Reconstruction southern legislatures purchased unused plantation land and placed inmates on this land to farm antebellum style. Not only did this provide new prisons to replace those destroyed after the Civil War, but it also allowed these states to reap in the profits from prison agriculture. Sadly, it did not take long for these prisons to resemble slave plantations of old. Southern legislators did not care much about the abuses at these prisons, especially since they supported themselves financially. Prisoners, especially black prisoners, did not deserve much attention from law-abiding white citizens, according to these lawmen. If these prisons re-introduced those paternalistic notions of the white planter classes before the Civil War, even better.

Photo courtesy of Cara Joy Clausen.
Photo courtesy of Cara Joy Clausen.

I am going to talk about these southern prison farms quite often in this blog, for it is my research specialty. Let’s look at the Cummins and Tucker Prison Farms in Arkansas. In particular, we will examine one torture implement: the Tucker Telephone. This large wooden box contained a small, crank-operated generator. It also had two cables with clamps coming from it. Prison trustees (armed prisoners that actually guarded other prisoners, we will discuss this in the future as well) would clamp these cables on two different portions of the prisoner. Their favorite places was usually a finger and the penis. Then, they would crank, sending volts of electricity through the prisoner’s body.

This mode of torture was utilized until the late 1960s. Yes, that is not a typo. 1960. Like, around fifty years ago. It is even custom today when in the office of the Cummins or Tucker Prison Farm warden’s office to ask him whether the phone on his desk is a Tucker Telephone. Eventually, the work of courageous lawyers and judges, especially federal Judge J. Smith Henley, would open up the avenues of prisoner compliant. For the first time ever, these prisoners issues would be heard. And eventually, Judge Henley would declare the whole prison system in Arkansas unconstitutional.

Click here to look at this photo at Cara Joy Clausen’s flickr page. She also has other awesome pictures from the Arkansas prison farm.

Peaceful Protest to Resume July 8th 2013, If Demands Are Not Met

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

ATTENTION: Governor Jerry Brown; CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard; and all other parties of interest.

In response to CDCR’s failure to meet our 2011 Five (5) Core Demands, the PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Representatives respectfully present this notice of, and basis for, our indi- vidualized, collectively agreed upon, decision to resume our nonviolent peaceful protest action on July 08, 2013.

The upcoming peaceful protest will be a combined Hunger Strike [HS] – Work Stoppage [WS] action. Once initiated, this protest will continue indefinitely—until all Five (5) Core Demands are fully met. Here’s why.

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Over-Policing at its Finest: Marijuana Arrest Stats Tell a Grim Story

ACLU research only confirms what we already know: the large proportions of African Americans in prison has nothing to do with some made up increased propensity to commit crime. While research shows that whites and African Americans use marijuana at the same rate, African Americans are FOUR TIMES more likely to get arrested than whites.

Mississippi Prisons Still Barbaric – No Matter Who Runs Them


MS_-_DOCA major portion of my PhD dissertation research involved the federal court reform of Parchman Prison Farm in Mississippi during the 1970s. I present the judicial history of Judge William Keady’s historic leadership role in the transformation of Mississippi’s prison farm toward constitutionality. The legislature provided the major roadblock.  Up until that time, state legislators did not have to provide funds for the prison, since the prison not only provided money for its own operation but also provided profits. Legislators in Mississippi did not want to take tax money from law-abiding citizens to run a constitutional prison. Ultimately, the work of Judge Keady and his court’s oversight created a constitutional prison farm (even though Parchman had to remain under federal court supervision for decades).

Fast forward to 2013. State officials merely built more prisons to deal with the overflow of their farms. Governments slowly moved these prisons, especially in states like Mississippi and Louisiana, to the private sector, helping create the prison industrial complex we have today. This was not a move in the name of humanity, however. For governments simply wanted a way to continue building more beds for prisoners and not revisit their crude and outdated sentencing laws. They could continue winning elections in red states by being “tough on crime.”

aclu

Looks like these private corporations running the prisons are having their own issues with the constitution. According to the Clarion-Ledger, a federal law suit from the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center claims that inmates at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, near Meridian, MS, are experiencing “barbaric” conditions, where prison officials are not allowing the prisoners access to health and mental facilities. For an closer look at the prison, take a look at this blog written by someone with a loved one in EMCF. Interestingly, to settle a law suit, the ACLU agreed with prison officials moving mentally handicapped prisoners to EMCF in 2000 from the infamous Unit 32 of Parchman Farm.

The ACLU blog features a post of a letter written by an inmate at the EMCF who claims to have been raped in the prison. It’s a brutal, but all to common, read. Inmates held him hostage for several hours in his cell by knifepoint.

I was raped from 11:30pm @nite until 3:30am in the morning by one other prisoner. As he raped me continuously all I could do was cry because one false move and I knew this guy would take my life. After being a victim of rape by another male I am suffering still from anxiety, depression and stress issues because of this attack.

The inmate then writes about his reasons for being in jail, blaming himself at times for what happened.

I was hurt very badly and sometimes I feel like it’s my fault but at the end of the day I know it wasn’t.

We all know where the blame should be focused. While not being named a defendant in the suit, Management and Training Corporation of Centerville, Utah run the prison. MTC, according to their website, is the world’s third largest private operator of prisons. It remains to be seen how the MTC will be brought into this case. I will certainly be keeping up with the litigation, so stay tuned for more updates.

Death Penalty Not Worth the Economic–or Moral–Cost to Society

While one can argue for or against the death penalty on purely moral grounds (“eye for an eye” misinterpretation of a bible quote versus only God should put people to death), from a legal standpoint the arguments should focus on whether it performs any sort of positive for the criminal justice system (deterrent affect on crime) and whether or not it is an economically sound program. In both of these situations, there are few positives.

The state of the death penalty in America (courtesy of The Economist)
The state of the death penalty in America (courtesy of The Economist)

Only two states have yet to put a man to death since the United States Supreme Court provided a constitutional death penalty in Gregg v. Georgia (U.S. 1976): Kansas and New Hampshire. Kansas has an opportunity to revisit their dusty capital punishment regime in a recent case involving convicted murderer Kyle Flack. While there are two camps to this argument, some evidence should stand out:

In 2003, a legislative audit examined the state’s death penalty expenses in the previous decade. Kansas, the audit found, had spent or would spend almost $20 million on its 14 death penalty cases, including cases where the death penalty was sought but not granted.

With a punishment that’s so empirically unproductive for the criminal justice system, one has to wonder why so many citizens–especially those who claim to be conservative–would support such a penalty.

Other experts dispute his conclusion. The Kansas murder rate is 3.5 per 100,000 people, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. In Missouri, it’s 7 murders per 100,000. Both have the death penalty, but only Missouri has carried it out in recent years.

Iowa has no death penalty. Its murder rate is 1.3 per 100,000 people.

We’ve beaten this dead horse enough, but the evidence is glaring. I hope the sovereign states continue to excise the death penalty from their law books. It’s time for legislators to take some economic–and moral–responsibility here and get rid of capital punishment. Quotes courtesy of The Kansas City Star, Dave Helling, The Kansas Death Penalty Has Cobwebs, May 17, 2013. For the original post of the above graphic, visit The Economist.