Challenging Punishment: What the California Prisoners Hunger Strike Tells Us About Mass Incarceration

By Samuel K. Roberts, PhD

prison_barsThe hunger strike at Pelican Bay is the third such action in the past two years and only the most recent in a 20-year history of protests against conditions there going back to the 1995 Madrid v. Gomez case. Now the strike has spread to roughly two-thirds of the state’s 33 prisons, currently involving at least 12,000 prisoners and perhaps as many as 30,000. Strikers’ demands vary, but in total include an increase in hourly wages (currently 13 cents); more humane treatment; and the restoration of educational, rehabilitative, vocational and mental and physical health services recently excised from prison budgets. One of the main demands is an address of the inhumane conditions of solitary confinement, or extreme isolation, in Secure Housing Units (SHUs) and supermax prisons, in which prisoners are locked in a cell for 22 to 24 hours a day, and denied contact with anyone except prison…

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Pardon the Hiatus: I’ll be back shortly!

Hello everyone. Just wanted to let you know that I have a few posts in the works and they will be published within a week or two. It’s been a few busy weeks, wrapping up my time here at Ole Miss and preparing to move onto Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota. But I’ll be back on track soon. My reading list is full, so there are some great posts in store. 

Today in Legal History: Johnson Signs Civil Rights Act

As we celebrate our independence on this day, let us remember those that were not considered worthy of independence at the creation of our Constitution. By and large, African slaves, Native Americans, and even women were a forgotten afterthought in our nation’s struggle for independence and in the creation of it’s form of government. The “deals with the devil” contained within the Constitution (Rendition Clause, etc) were one of the main reasons southern states eventually ratified the Constitution. Thus, our new nation set a path of inequality. While legislation like the CRA of 64 removed some of the inequalities, many still remain today. But, let’s remember the historic fight to establish equality for all races and creeds in our nation. They are worthy of celebration on our nation’s independence day. Everyone have a great and safe day!

Texas executes 500th inmate since state resumed capital punishment

The Prison Enquirer

From the article: “McCarthy, 52, was executed for the 1997 robbery, beating and fatal stabbing of retired college psychology professor Dorothy Booth. Booth had agreed to give McCarthy a cup of sugar before she was attacked with a butcher knife and candelabra at her home in Lancaster, south of Dallas. Authorities say McCarthy cut off Booth’s finger to remove her wedding ring.”

Read more here.

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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.