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Monday, October 20, 2014

WaPo editorial board hopes states will stop subjecting inmates to "psychological and physical hell" of solitary confinement

WaPo's editorial board comments on the recent settlement between the Arizona DOC and the ACLU/Prison Law Project that will limit the DOC's use of solitary confinement and expand the number of hours isolated inmates are allowed out of their cells. It writes:

In some ways, Arizona’s use of solitary confinement has been worse than others’. David C. Fathi, director of the ACLU National Prison Project, said the state still automatically assigns all inmates with life sentences to serve their first two years in isolation, whether they were convicted of a violent crime or not. This is a gratuitously nasty punishment that sets prisoners up to be problem inmates. Even after the settlement, guaranteeing prisoners a mere one hour per day outside their cells is hardly lenient, only justifiable if a prisoner is an extreme risk to staff or other inmates.

 

Yet Arizona’s Department of Corrections has not been alone in enforcing some counterproductive, harsh rules. Systems in states across the country have devised bizarrely mean-spirited restrictions, such as denying prisoners reading material or even timepieces, making it impossible for them to keep their mind from slipping away or to determine whether it is day or night.

 

Mr. Fathi predicts that once Arizona sees its rates of inmate suicide and other psychiatric issues drop, prison officials will ease up even more. The optimistic view extends beyond the state’s borders: Others, too, may note the movement in Arizona, as well as in early reformist states such as Colorado, Maine and Mississippi, and decide that it is also in their interest to end the common use of unnecessary and debilitating isolation. The less optimistic view is that it will take more lawsuits to force some states to change.

October 20, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"Solitary Confinement at Rikers"

NPR's conversation with New York magazine's Jennifer Gonnerman about her recent piece in The New Yorker about a 16-year-old who spent three years in jail while awaiting trial for stealing a backpack.

October 19, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (1)

Inmate claims corrections officers withheld medical treatment after severe beating

An inmate in New Mexico has filed a lawsuit alleging corrections officers didn't provide him with medical treatment after he was severely beaten by 10 other inmates, suffering a collapsed lung as a result. He also claims officers knew he was unsafe in the general population, partly as a result of information they had spread to other inmates.

State DOC spokesman Alex Tomlin claims officers provided sufficient treatment at the prison and sent the inmate to a local hospital for further care, according to The Santa Fe New Mexican's Uriel Garcia.

 

October 19, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Florida DOC official requests independent audit of use of force in state's prisons

Florida DOC secretary Michael Crews has requested an independent audit by The Association of State Corrections Administrators into the use of force by officers in the state's prisons, according to The Miami Herald's Julie Brown. The audit stems from the nearly twofold increase in use-of-force cases since 2008. As Brown writes:

In the recently completed fiscal year, state corrections officers logged 7,300 use-of-force cases, nearly 1,000 more than the previous year, according to the department's data... 

 

And these are only the cases that are reported by the officers and the prisons. Many others never get documented.

 

[...]

  

“Use of force’’ is a broad term. It covers any time a corrections officer uses physical force or certain chemical agents to subdue an inmate deemed to be causing a disturbance or resisting a lawful command. Officers are sometimes named as subjects, sometimes as participants.

 

Corrections officials know that a significant number of force applications never get reported, said Ron McAndrew, former warden at Florida State Prison.

 

“There were many times at Florida State Prison where I would come upon situations where I encountered an inmate who had two black eyes, a bloody mouth, and bruises up and down his body,” he said. “I would ask him what happened and he said he fell off his bunk. Well, he didn’t get injuries like that from falling off his bunk.He was too afraid to tell me that he was beaten by the officers.”

October 19, 2014 in Excessive Force, Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

FBI agent helps bring justice to Alabama inmate beaten to death by corrections officers

Friday, October 17, 2014

Arizona settles legal battle over inappropriate use of solitary confinement and inadequate medical, mental healthcare in state's prisons

Earlier this week, the Arizona Department of Corrections (DOC) reached an agreement with the ACLU and the Prison Law Office to terms of settlement in the long-running legal battle over the treatment of inmates by the state's prisons. Among others things, the settlement requires the DOC to fulfill performance standards for medical and mental healthcare. It also stipulates that DOC will change rules for placing inmates with mental illnesses into solitary confinement, and it increases the number of hours those in solitary confinement are allowed out of their cells. The DOC agrees to limit the use of pepper spray to only those cases in which an inmate poses an "imminent threat" -- that is, DOC officers will no longer use it against inmates for "passive resistance to placement in restraints or refusal to follow orders." Additionally, the inmates' attorneys will be allowed to visit the prisons to ensure that these standards are met. As The Arizona Capitol Times's Howard Fische reports:

Don Specter, an attorney with the Prison Law Office, said this deal, which must be approved by U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake, is more than just his organization and the American Civil Liberties Union accepting on faith that things will get better.

 

“We will be able to tour the prisons to check ourselves to see whether they’re providing adequate care,” he said.  “And we will also get a lot of documentation.”

 

The deal comes four months after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave the go-ahead for the case, alleging inadequate health care, to be handled as a class-action lawsuit.

 

Judge Stephen Reinhardt, writing for the appellate court, said the attorneys for the inmates provided detailed allegations of everything from “outright denials of health care” to improper isolation policies. And they also had information on how spending on certain services dropped by more than a third over a two-year period even as inmate population did not.

 

But Reinhardt, in refusing to require each inmate to prove his or her rights were violated, said the claims alleged “systemic failures” in the prison’s health care system “that expose all inmates to a substantial risk of serious harm.” And if that is the case, Reinhardt said that would require a wholesale revamp of the agency’s policies — and not simply correcting the problems of the 13 inmates who filed the original 2012 lawsuit.

October 17, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Oklahoma's botched execution amounted to "medical experimentation" and torture, says inmate's family

Clayton Lockett's execution by lethal injection for the 1999 murder of 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman in rural Oklahoma did not go well. After being declared unconscious, Lockett grimaced in pain and struggled against his restraints. Eventually, the state drew the blinds on the execution chamber and the wardon called it off. But Lockett died of a heart attack roughly 45 minutes later. 

Lockett's family has filed complaint against various state officiales as well as the doctor who allegedly performed "human medical experimentation in torturing Clayton Lockett to death, in vioalation of the Eighth Amendment." As The Guardian's Ed Pilkington reports: 

The position of doctors is particularly sensitive as physicians take the Hippocratic Oath to show “utmost respect for human life”. Where doctors have been present in the death chamber, their role has in most cases been tightly limited to assessing whether the prisoner is unconscious and then officially pronouncing death.

 

However, in the case of Clayton Lockett, the state has admitted that a physician was present who actively took part in killing the prisoner. The report of the internal investigation into the Lockett execution reveals that the physician stepped in to finish the job after the paramedic who had initiated the execution failed to place the IV into Lockett’s veins.

 

[...]

 

The investigation report indicated that there had been a shortage of appropriate needles that day, and that the physician and paramedic had failed to place the IV into the prisoner’s vein, leading to the injection of a mass of lethal drugs into his muscle.

This case is noteworthy because the complaint indentified the doctor who placed the IV in Lockett by his name. States usually try to maintain in secrecy the identities of the parties involved. But, Lockett's family claims a First Amendment right to this information. 

Relatedly, Oklahoma announced last week the delay of three executions until next year because of the dearth of needed drugs. It also needs more time to prepare staff for the state's new lethal injection protocols -- and the "larger, remodelled death chamber"-- put into place after Lockett's execution. 

October 15, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"This is about a man who simply wanted his shoes..."

...said Rev. Terrance Hughes after receiving news that a jury had awarded $4.65 million to the family of his friend, Marvin Booker, who died in 2010 while in a Denver jail. Booker was a 56-year-old homeless street preacher who weighed about 135 pounds. He reportedly suffered a heart attack while restrained by five deputies during a dispute over his shoes. His family claimed the deputies used excessive force and filed a federal civil rights claim against them, the city, and the county.

The AP reports:

Inmates told investigators that the struggle began when he was ordered to sit down in the jail’s booking area but instead moved to collect his shoes, which he had taken off for comfort.

 

Booker, who was arrested on an outstanding warrant for drug possession, was cursing and refusing to follow orders, according to the deputies’ account. He was restrained by deputies who got on top of him, placed him in a sleeper hold, handcuffed him and shocked him with a stun gun.

 

Attorneys representing the family of Booker said deputies stunned him for too long and should have backed down when Booker said he was struggling to breathe. In his closing arguments, Killmer said the “dogpile” of deputies was a zealous overreaction.

 

[...]

 

Denver’s medical examiner said Booker died of cardiorespiratory arrest during restraint, and ruled his death a homicide. The report listed other factors in his death, including emphysema, an enlarged heart and recent cocaine use.

 

Rice said Booker’s heart problems caused his death, and a healthier inmate would have survived the encounter.

As in Baltimore and New York, some are calling for a federal investigation into the use of force by Denver law enforcement:

The three-week trial came amid calls for a federal investigation of the department over other high-profile abuse cases that prompted the sheriff’s department to make sweeping reforms. Former sheriff Gary Wilson resigned in July as the city agreed to pay $3.3m to settle another federal jail-abuse lawsuit by a former inmate over a beating. It was the largest payout in city history to settle a civil rights case.

October 14, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Nearly half of Americans "confident" police use unnecessary force

Forty-nine percent, actually. And when police officers are found guilty of misconduct, only half of Americans believe they suffer meaningful consequences. 

That's according to the most recent Reason-Rupe poll, which Reason Foundation director Emily Ekins highlights here.  The poll also finds nearly three-quarters of Americans oppose racial profiling by police.

A closer look at the numbers reveals some rather predictable results -- whites view police conduct differently than blacks and Hispanics, a result unexplained by disparities in class. As Ekins observes:

There are significant differences in perception across race and ethnicity, as well as income and age. Younger, lower-income, and nonwhite Americans are considerably more likely than older, high-income, and white Americans to perceive injustice in the police force.

 

African-American and Hispanic Americans are more likely than Caucasians to believe police abuse their authority and use force excessively...Only 34 percent of Caucasians believe the police use lethal force unnecessarily, compared to 82 percent of African-Americans and 72 percent of Hispanics.

So, is the criminal justice system discriminatory?

Forty-five percent of Americans believe the criminal justice system treats whites, African-Americans and Hispanics equally, while 44 percent think the criminal system treats whites more fairly than it treats blacks and Hispanics.

Residents in urban areas are more likely to believe that police too often resort to unjustifiable use-of-force than those in rural areas. Nevertheless, nearly three quarters of all Americans still view police favorably.

Nearly three-quarters also believe nonviolent drug offenders should be allowed to vote when their sentences end, and 80 percent believe that mandatory minimum sentences for such offenders need to go.

 

October 13, 2014 in Excessive Force, Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Inmates's families paying gangs, guards to protect family members housed in one Mississippi prison

Sunday, October 5, 2014

DOJ opens criminal investigation into inmate's death from thirst after spending 35 days in solitary confinement

Oklahoma prison officials announce new procedures for killing people

Oklahoma officials are hoping changes to the protocol for executions will prevent the state's next killing from repeating that of Clayton Lockett, which was cancelled after he "writhed in pain, clenched his teeth and appeared to struggle against the restraints" only for him to die just more than half an hour later of a heart attack. CNS's David Lee:

Under the new protocols, the IV team is given one hour to attempt an IV insertion. If they are unsuccessful, the warden must contact the governor to advise of the problem and "potentially request a postponement of the execution."

 

A team member and a prison unit section chief must both confirm the viability of the IV sites, as well. The team may try to tap a femoral vein as an alternative site under the new protocols.

 

During Lockett's execution, the team had to tap a vein in his groin because they were unable to tap veins elsewhere. Warden Anita Trammell ordered Lockett's groin and the IV line insertion area covered with a sheet to maintain Lockett's dignity and keep his genital area covered.

 

Prison officials' claims of not being able to find veins on Lockett elsewhere and that the veins had been "blown out" were disputed by a preliminary autopsy in June, which noted that he had "excellent integrity and peripheral and deep veins" for the purpose of an IV insertion.

 

Dr. Joseph Cohen, an independent forensic pathologist, was unable to find "any significant underlying natural disease" nor a "cardiac condition" that played a role in Lockett's death by heart attack.

Disappointingly:

The new protocols also greatly reduce the number of media witnesses in executions, from 12 to 5. Preference will be given to media from where the crime was committed and to The Associated Press.

October 5, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Prominent spiteful curmudgeon Sheriff Arpaio again told to fix county's substandard jails

Maricopia County's (Ariz.) jails have been under federal oversight since 2008 because they're terrible. County sheriff Joe Arpaio seems to think the feds have no business telling him how poorly he can treat prisoners inside his county's jails - that just wouldn't be right. But a federal judge disagreed and ordered the county to get their jails in order. As Eric Balaban of the ACLU National Prison Project writes at the Blog of Rights:

[O]ver five years ago, federal judge Neil Wake placed the jail under federal oversight and ordered the county and Sheriff Joe to fix their dangerously substandard system. But that order fell on deaf ears, as men, women, and children at Sheriff Joe’s jail have continued to suffer and die. A female detainee who reported a history of cardiac problems and who said she was suffering chest pain was not examined by a physician despite her complaints. Instead of receiving legally mandated care, she died hours later. Two other prisoners died of complications from inadequate treatment for alcohol withdrawal. 

 

[...]

 

Last year, the county tried to get out from under the federal oversight Judge Wake ordered in 2008, claiming that it had done what is necessary to care for detainees’ mental and physical health... [T]his week Judge Wake issued a scathing 66-page decision finding that the jails continue to provide detainees with inadequate medical and mental health care. He ordered the jail to remain under federal oversight until it can meet constitutional standards.

October 5, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

"Inmate death in private transport van in Miami-Dade raises questions"

The Miami Herald has this excellent article by David Ovalle about lingering questions in the death of an inmate suffering from a variety of mental health and medical conditions. Ovalle writes: 

[Karen] Isaacs earlier this month was found slumped over dead inside the van — operated by Tennessee-based Prisoner Transportation Services of America through a contract with the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office — during a stop at a West Miami-Dade Taco Bell restaurant.

 

Her case offers a window into the little-publicized world of private inmate-transport companies. And it has now spurred a law enforcement investigation into whether the transport officers provided her with proper care and attention during the grueling two-day road trip.

 

According to sources with knowledge of the investigation, Isaacs is believed to have acted strangely throughout the trip — apparently suffering hallucinations — while drinking little water and refusing a meal during a stop in Orlando.

 

And when the two transport officers finally saw that she was unresponsive in the Taco Bell parking lot, they first called their superiors in Tennessee. Only after unsuccessfully trying to revive her did the officers dial 911, sources said.

 

The cause of death remains unknown. An autopsy of Isaacs has so far proved inconclusive while the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office awaits the results of more tests.

October 4, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 3, 2014

Feds say L.A. county jails still provide inadequate mental health services

The Los Angeles Times's Cindy Chang:

The county jails have been monitored by federal officials for the last 12 years under an agreement requiring improvements in treatment of the mentally ill. On June 4, the Department of Justice announced it would seek court oversight of the jails, citing a dramatic increase in inmate suicides.

 

In the Sept. 25 letter, federal officials said they hoped to have a draft of a consent decree ready this week. The county's written response to the Justice Department's June 4 letter was not enough to avert federal oversight, given "the severity of the issues" and the failure of the 2002 agreement to sufficiently improve jail conditions, they wrote.

 

A consent decree would be overseen by a federal judge and probably cost the county millions of dollars to implement.

 

[...]

 

The June 4 letter described "dimly lit, vermin-infested, noisy, unsanitary, cramped and crowded" living conditions that exacerbated inmates' mental distress. After suicides more than doubled, from four in 2012 to 10 the following year, jail officials did little to address the situation, the letter said, calling many of the suicides preventable.

October 3, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"How Serious Is the Supreme Court About Religious Freedom?"

Yesterday in The Atlantic Professor Dawinder Sidhu examined Holt v. Hobbs, a First Amendment religious freedom case scheduled for oral argument before SCOTUS early next week. Principally, Sidhu questions whether SCOTUS will extend the same broad protection for religious belief it employed earlier this year in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby to the claims of a less sympathetic group – federal prisoners. He sets it up this way:

Religious freedom in the United States has ebbed and flowed between two competing concepts: the principled view that religion is a matter of individual conscience that cannot be invaded by the government, and the practical concern once expressed by Justice Antonin Scalia that accommodating all religious practices in our diverse society would be “courting anarchy.” In June, the Supreme Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that closely held corporations, whose owners objected to contraception on account of sincere Christian beliefs, could not be forced by the Affordable Care Act to include certain contraceptives in their employee insurance plans. In supporting the religious rights of business owners over a national health-care policy predicated on broad participation, the Roberts Court seemed to stake its place on the more protective end of the religious-freedom spectrum.

 

But the idea that Hobby Lobby creates robust protections will be credible only if the justices are willing to recognize the religious freedom of marginalized religious minorities—not just the Judeo-Christian tradition. The next religious-freedom case to come before the Court, Holt v. Hobbs, will test whether the Roberts Court’s stance on religious freedom includes a minority faith, Islam, practiced by a disfavored member of our society: a prisoner. At stake are both the state of religious freedom in the country and the Court’s reputation.

 

Holt involves Gregory Holt, an inmate in Arkansas also known as Abdul Maalik Muhammad. A dispute arose between Holt and the state’s Department of Correction when he sought to grow a one-half-inch beard in observance of his faith. According to the department’s grooming policies, inmates may only grow a “neatly trimmed mustache.” In 2011, Holt filed a lawsuit against the director of the department, Ray Hobbs, and other state employees, saying that the prison had violated his religious rights. After decisions by federal trial and appeals courts in favor of the department, Holt filed a hand-written petition to the Supreme Court, which agreed to review the case. The justices are scheduled to hear arguments in Holt on October 7.

October 1, 2014 in First Amendment, Freedom of Religion, Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Foreword: The Death Penalty in Decline: From Colonial America to the Present"

The title of this post comes from this recent article by Professor John Bessler, the abstract of which states:

This Article traces the history of capital punishment in America. It describes the death penalty's curtailment in colonial Pennsylvania by William Penn, and the substantial influence of the Italian philosopher Cesare Beccaria -- the first Enlightenment thinker to advocate the abolition of executions -- on the Founding Fathers' views. The Article also describes the transition away from "sanguinary" laws and punishments toward the "penitentiary system" and highlights the U.S. penal system's abandonment of non-lethal corporal punishments.

October 1, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Texas's prisoner barbecue just one of many routine Eighth Amendment violations taking place behind prison walls

Yesterday I noted several prisoners in Texas allege that extreme temperatures inside the state's prisons violate their Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Because of their confinement, the prisoners can't readily alleviate the symptoms of long term exposure to the heat without help -- they have limited access to water, few fans, and usually can't open the windows in their cells.  The temperatures are especially threatening to the aging prison population, and inmates taking certain medications are also vulnerable. Several of the state's prisoners have died, and now a hearing by an arm of the Organization of American States is scheduled to review these prisons' conditions. 

In an op-ed in today's Los Angeles Times, renowned attorney Martin Garbus argues that the Eighth Amendment is routinely violated in prisons throughout the country. That is, Texas is not alone. Garbus writes:

As a litigator and constitutional lawyer, I have heard appalling stories from the nation's prisons and jails. One prisoner described to me how he was handcuffed to the bottom of his bunk in his underwear day after day for months. Another described how his cell was located directly beneath broken toilet pipes, which meant the cell smelled horribly of urine and excrement. I've heard how cells are unbearably hot or cold and how four prisoners are confined to spaces intended for two, with only one set of bunk beds. I've heard about showers that produce only scalding or icy water and about how, when cell toilets overflow, staff are in no hurry to fix them or to clean up.

 

The health risks in prisons are also unacceptable. MRSA, a bacterial infection whose strains are often resistant to antibiotics, now runs through maximum security prisons. I contracted it myself after visiting such a prison in June and was hospitalized for three days. Sexual assaults and sexual activity are well known to occur in prisons, but prisoners rarely have access to protection, such as condoms, that can help prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

 

And then there is solitary confinement. It is hard to tell exactly how many prisoners are in solitary each year in the United States. Today, 44 states allow it, but many states do not report how many inmates are held in solitary. A 2005 report from the Vera Institute of Justice estimated the number at 81,622.

October 1, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Announces Hearing on Texas Extreme Prison Heat"

The title of this post comes from this press release from the University of Texas School of Law's Human Rights Clinic announcing the October 27, 2014 hearing before the Inter-American Comission on Human Rights in Washington D.C. on the extreme heat inside Texas prisons.

Earlier this year, the Texas Civil Rights Project filed a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (DCJ) on behalf of prisoners in Texas claiming that temperatures inside the state's prisons violate the prisoners' Eighth Amendment rights. CNN's Emma Lacy-Bordeaux reported at the time:

The lawsuit, broadly concerned about the lack of air conditioning across state facilities, centers on a facility in Navasota, Texas, known as the Wallace Pack Unit. Located about 70 miles northwest of Houston, the facility houses about 1,400 men. As of January, the compliant said, 114 men over the age of 70 were housed there. They have no air conditioning, and the windows which do open provide little relief, the suit claims, leading to temperatures inside that often exceed those outside.

 

[...]

 

The lawsuit alleges some 20 deaths since 1998 and details names, ages and internal body temperatures of the victims, including cases where the body temperature recorded was well over 100 degrees. One man, 45-year-old Rodney Adams, died one day after his arrival. His internal temperature registered 109.9.

Indeed, temperatures in Texas prisons often exceeded 100 degrees, a condition that affects prison staff as well as inmates. Exposure to such extreme temperatures can be particularly dangerous for elderly imates and those with specific health conditions. As NPR's Alisa Roth stated:

[T]he number of inmates prone to this sensitivity has been growing; the elderly prison population has been increasing for years, and people with mental illness make up a disproportionate percentage of inmates in the U.S.

And at least 14 prisoners reportedly have died because of heat related illnesses since 2007.

The DCJ's efforts to alleviate the effects of the heat have been few. It has added a few large fans to several of its prisons, but it doesn't appear to have otherwise substantively addressed the issue. The New York Times's Manny Fernandez reported:

A Texas law requires county jails to maintain temperature levels between 65 and 85 degrees, but the law does not apply to state prisons. The American Correctional Association recommends that temperature and humidity be mechanically raised or lowered to acceptable levels. 

 

[...]

 

A prison agency spokesman, Jason Clark, said that many prison units were built before air-conditioning was commonly installed, and that many others built later in the 1980s and 1990s did not include air-conditioning because of the additional construction, maintenance and utility costs. Retrofitting prisons with air-conditioning would be extremely expensive, he said.

 

As a result, the agency takes a number of steps to assist inmates, Mr. Clark said, and he disputed the criticisms of inmates and their lawyers about inadequate fans, water and ventilation. On hot summer days, he said, prison officials restrict outside activity, provide frequent water breaks, allow additional showers, permit inmates to wear shorts and increase airflow by using blowers normally used to move warm air in the winter.

(h/t Grits for Breakfast)

September 30, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 5, 2014

NYTimes editorial board continues its call to end death penalty

The New York Times editorial board has become an increasingly staunch critic of the death penalty. Earlier this year, it called the death penalty a "despicable practice" that is both "racist" and "barbaric." The board again called for an end to the "irretrievably flawed" and "immoral" practice earlier this week after DNA evidence compelled a state judge to overturn the conviction of two North Carolina men for the 1983 rape and murder of a young girl. It argued:

Cases of capital prosecutions based on flimsy evidence or marred by prosecutorial misconduct, not to mention racial bias, are distressingly common... 

 

How many more remain on death row today? Can the American people be assured that none will be killed by the state? For this reason alone, the death penalty must end.

The Times observed that the two North Carolinians were treated particularly poorly. "The arrests, confessions, trial, and convictions" of the two men were all highly questionable. Both men were just teenagers at the time of their arrests, but they nevertheless were questioned for hours without their parents or lawyers present. They also were compelled to sign confessions written by the police. The prosecution failed to inform the defense of potentially exculpatory evidence, and it declined to seriously consider a third suspect - even when police requested fingerprint analysis of a print found at the crime scene as a possible match to that suspect.

Then there's this: "The prosecutor on the case, Joe Freeman Britt, was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “deadliest prosecutor” for the nearly 50 death sentences he won during his tenure. Almost all have since been overturned."

September 5, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

New study finds subsidized housing for former inmates might reduce recidivism

Many taxpayers may not be enthusiastic about their dollars being used to ameliorate the housing problems of former inmates, but recent research suggests that the benefits of doing so could be significant. As Christopher Moraff noted in a recent post at The Crime Report:

[Washington State Univeristy professor Faith] Lutze and a team of researchers recently completed a comprehensive assessment of a Washington State program that aims to reduce recidivism by providing high-risk offenders with 12 months of housing support when they are released from prison.

 

The study tracked 208 participants in three counties and found statistically significant reductions in new offenses and readmission to prison. It also found lower levels of parole revocations among participants. While housing is the immediate goal of the program, the Re-Entry Housing Pilot Program (RHPP) operates in concert with the Department of Corrections’ Community Justice Centers to provide a range of reentry support services.

 

Participants live in heavily subsidized apartments, often with roommates, and are required to engage in treatment, secure employment and work toward self-sustainability. Lutze says stable housing not only reduces violations of public order laws related to living and working on the street, but it increases exposure to pro-social networks and provides a sense of safety and well-being conducive to participating in treatment and other services.

 

That not only improves community safety, she says, but it “reduces the economic and human costs of ex-offenders cycling through our jails and prisons just because they do not have a safe place to live.” While this seems like a common-sense strategy, programs that place housing at the forefront of prisoner reentry are actually relatively scarce in the U.S., and have historically been driven by a handful of pioneering non-profits.

 

Since the 1990s, the New York-based Fortune Society has graduated hundreds of ex-offenders from its transitional housing facility in West Harlem, known as “The Castle.” The program has been so successful — with recidivism rates as low as one percent — that the group received city support to open a second facility, Castle Gardens, in 2010.

 

A similar program run by the Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco, offers housing and support services to drug addicts, many of them ex-offenders, in six cities.

 

For all their success, access to these programs is limited, and demand regularly exceeds supply.

August 7, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Do recordings of phone conversations between inmates and their attorneys violate the Sixth Amendment?

A current class-action suit is challenging these recordings. Some judges apparently have tried to keep prosecutors from such practices, but as yet those prosecutors don't really care.

August 1, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Another botched execution adds to death penalty debate

On July 23, Arizona executed Joseph Wood by lethal injection. Although typically lasting between 10 and 20 minutes, Wood didn't die for nearly two hours. Today, The Atlantic's Matt Ford recounts Wood's execution as well as several others that have been botched this year, and offers the following:

Whatever we know about these executions, the known unknowns are greater. Because the states will not share them, we don't know the dosages of the drugs administered. We don't know the drugs' manufacturers or their quality-control procedures. We mostly don't know the credentials of those administering the drugs. More importantly, the defendants don't know any of this, either. Without this information, those sentenced to execution cannot challenge the execution procedures in court nor check for possible medical complications. State execution-secrecy laws, routinely upheld by lower courts but untested before the Supreme Court, prevent this basic level of prophylactic Eighth Amendment protection. If death by torture is not cruel, defendants contend, what is?

 

Defense attorneys have repeatedly begged the courts to compel corrections officials to at least reveal the source of the drugs that would end their clients' lives. They have repeatedly been refused. This time, Wood and his lawyers tried a First Amendment challenge to execution-secrecy laws, arguing that the public has a right to know how their government puts their fellow citizens to death. This would also give the inmates the facts needed to pursue Eighth Amendment challenges.

 

But so far, lower courts have deferred to the states' claimed need for secrecy. "The information already released by the state enables informed debate about the lawfulness and propriety of Arizona’s two-drug cocktail," replied federal Judge Jay Bybee of the Ninth Circuit. Wood appealed that decision to the Supreme Court; last night, the justices denied his petition without further comment or dissent. Less than 24 hours later, Wood died choking.

 

There are two executions scheduled for August 6. Missouri will put Michael Worthington to death and Texas will put Manuel Vasquez to death, both by lethal injection. The Supreme Court will likely get another chance to consider the procedures very soon. 

CRL&P related posts:

July 29, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"'The Dignity and Justice that Is Due to Us by Right of Our Birth': Violence and Rights in the 1971 Attica Riot"

The title of this post comes from this recent paper evaluating the qualms of the participants in the Attica Prison riot.  The abstract states:

The response to the Attica riot has tended to focus on the spectacle of violence — the acts of the rioters and the state’s response to those acts. This paper distinguishes the violent events of the summer of 1971 from the grievances that inmates wished to express and their claims about rights and justice. This paper examines how the range of possibilities for theorizing and responding to prison violence and inhumane conditions that existed in the early 1970s was narrowed to a framework that recognized specific civil rights named by the state, obscuring deeper claims.

July 22, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 21, 2014

John Oliver's delightful exposition of dispiriting criminal justice system

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Talk of fed judge's decision declaring CA death penalty unconstitutional

Thursday, July 10, 2014

'Prisoners and Habeas Privileges Under the Fourteenth Amendment'

The title of this post comes from this recent paper by Professor Lee Kovarsky, the abstract of which states:

The U.S. Reports contain no answer to a million-dollar question: are state prisoners constitutionally entitled to a federal habeas forum? The Supreme Court has consistently ducked the basic constitutional issue, and academic work on the question idles on familiar themes. 

The strongest existing argument that state prisoners are constitutionally entitled to a federal habeas forum involves a theory of incorporation under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. I provide a new and different account: specifically, that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Privileges and Immunities Clause (“PI Clause”) guarantees a habeas privilege as a feature of national citizenship, and that the corresponding habeas power reaches state custody. 

We now know that the common-law habeas writ did not evolve primarily as a security for individual liberty, but in service of judicial power. In Boumediene v. Bush, the Supreme Court blessed this revised writ history. This Article is the second entry in a series exploring the legal implications of those revisions. In the first article, A Constitutional Theory of Habeas Power, 99 VA. L. REV. 743 (2013), I argued that Article III judicial power secured for federal prisoners the habeas privilege identified in the Suspension Clause. The question that I reserved there — and that I answer here — was whether anything about Reconstruction changed the operation of the habeas guarantee embedded in the original Articles of Constitution. 

The answer, in short, is yes. The Fourteenth Amendment PI Clause — not the Due Process Clause — expanded the constitutionally protected scope of the federal habeas privilege. The PI Clause yokes the habeas privilege to national citizenship, the rights of which neither the federal government nor states may abridge. And if, as I have argued, a federally protected habeas privilege requires a corresponding federal habeas power, then the PI Clause entitles state prisoners to a federal habeas forum. 

The first-order question I answer here — whether the Constitution guarantees a state-prisoner privilege — is logically antecedent to second- and third-order questions about the privilege’s scope. Because the Constitution entitles state prisoners to a federal habeas forum, the legal community ought to hit reset on basic assumptions about Congressional power to restrict the habeas remedy, particularly in postconviction cases.

July 10, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Lawsuit by Texas prisoners seeks accommodations similar to those given to pigs

Prisoners in Texas are claiming the conditions of the state's prisons violate their constitutional rights. It's too hot, their civil rights suit alleges. As CNN reports:

The suit cites internal data from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice which found that over the past three years the mercury topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Thermometer-537x358"Stainless steel tables in the inmate dormitories become hot to the touch" the complaint reads and "prisoners have to lay towels down on the table to rest their elbows while sitting."

 

In addition to the older inmates, the complaint said a number of men have various underlying medical conditions that make them especially vulnerable to heat stroke, like 69-year-old Marvin Yates, who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and hypertension.

 

"I don't know if I will make it this summer. The heat and humidity are so bad inside I have trouble breathing," said Yates, one of three named plaintiffs, in a press release announcing the lawsuit.

 

The lawsuit alleges some 20 deaths since 1998 and details names, ages and internal body temperatures of the victims, including cases where the body temperature recorded was well over 100 degrees. One man, 45-year-old Rodney Adams, died one day after his arrival. His internal temperature registered 109.9.

The Eighth Amendment prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment," which SCOTUS has long held precludes punishment that degrades human dignity. Prisoners' restricted movement and limited access to prison facilities that have air conditioning - such as the administrative facilities - mean that there is virtually nothing they can do to mitigate exposure to extreme heat. Although Texas law prohibits county jails from allowing facility temperatures to exceed 85 degrees, state facilities are not likewise restricted. Then there's this:

The lawsuit alleges that hogs on Texas Department of Criminal Justice property receive better treatment than the prisoners. "TDCJ policy requires temperatures be kept no higher than 85 degrees to ensure 'pig comfort,'" the suit said, adding that the department begins "to cool the pigs when the temperature goes above 74 degrees to keep the pigs 'comfortable.'"

The lawsuit, filed by the Texas Civil Rights Project and the University of Texas School of Law Civil Rights Clinic, requests that these facilities be made to keep temperatures at 88 degrees or below. 

June 22, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

'Correctional Officer Excessive Use of Force: Civil Liability Under Section 1983'

The title of this post comes from this intriguing study recently published by the The Prison Journal, the abstract of which states:

Despite recent research demonstrating the impact of inmate perceptions of correctional legitimacy on order maintenance, the extant literature has failed to examine the contextual reality of correctional excessive use of force claims. Utilizing legal cases from the U.S. Court of Appeals and U.S. District Courts, this article examines correctional officer excessive use of non-deadly force and identifies recurring themes in these claims. Findings highlight the common occurrence of retaliatory violence, negative attitudes, failure to listen to inmate concerns, inadequate training, and an inability to decipher reliable threat cues consistently present in correctional officer use of non-deadly force claims. Suggestions for future research and policy implications are offered.

June 19, 2014 in 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Excessive Force, Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 9, 2014

SCOTUS denies review of decision requiring California to monitor compliance with ADA by local jails

The Los Angeles Times reports today that SCOTUS has rejected California's appeal of the lower court decision requiring the state to ensure that prisoners transferred to county jails receive the accommodations required under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Under Gov. Jerry Brown's leadership, California began transferring state prisoners to local jails after the Court found that overcrowding in state prisons so burdened medical staff that they could not provide adequate medical and mental healthcare. As The Times's David Savage writes:

In 2012, the Legislature decreed that these inmates were the "sole legal custody" of county officials.

 

But last year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the state retained the legal duty to make sure that prisoners who have a disability are given the "reasonable accommodations" required under the Americans With Disabilities Act, even if they are held in a county jail.

 

"These accommodations include the basic necessities of life for disabled prisoners and parolees, such as wheelchairs, sign-language interpreters, accessible beds and toilets and tapping canes for the blind," said Judge Stephen Reinhardt for the 9th Circuit. "The state is not absolved of all of its responsibility for ADA obligations as to the parolees" just because they are now held in county jails, he wrote.

 

The appeals court upheld a 43-page order by U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken which said state officials must check with each parole violator who is sent to a county jail and has a disability. She said the state must see to it that the inmate receives the accommodations required under the law.

 

Brown and Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris appealed to the Supreme Court in March and asked for a review of the 9th Circuit's decision. It "sets a dangerous and sweeping precedent that effectively nullifies the states' 10th Amendment right to delegate powers to local governments," they said. If left standing, it would leave the state "liable for alleged ADA violations in the county jails," they argued.

 

Late last year, the state said about 26,000 parolees were being held in 200 jails throughout the state, and 1,889 of them had a disability. This number is constantly changing, they said.

 

In reply to the appeal, lawyers for the prisoners who sued the state said Brown and Harris had exaggerated the impact of the judge's order. "At its core, the injunction merely requires the state to provide disability notifications, collect disability data and issue reports to the counties," they told the court.

 

After considering the appeal last week, the court said it had denied review in the case of Brown v. Armstrong.

June 9, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

“It was big enough for me to put my fist in there”

...says an Arizona inmate of her untreated lower abdominal wound.

Regan Clarine had been pregnant, and the prison's medical staff attempted to induce labor. But this failed. So they performed a C-section. However, the sutures that closed the incision made during the procedure came loose hours later while Clarine was back in her cell. She allegedly went untreated for two weeks.

"It was the worst pain I'd ever been through in my life."

Al Jazeera's Abigail Leonard and Adam May report the disturbing details of what happened next: 

When she finally saw medical staff, she said they told her that she was lucky to be alive. They treated her with a wound vacuum. Then, she said, they employed an antiquated medical treatment.

 

“They decided to use sugar… like McDonald’s sugar,” she said. “They would open it and pour it inside [the wound] and put gauze over and tape it up. And I had to do that for like three weeks.”

The article continues:

Clarine’s story is one of dozens. Two years ago, Arizona privatized its prison health care system like many counties and other states have done. In a six-month investigation, America Tonight found disturbing cases of inadequate treatment, and evidence that Wexford Health Sources Inc., the first private company Arizona contracted to provide prison health care, was aware that it was violating prisoners’ constitutional rights.

 

Arizona’s system is currently run by Corizon Health, Inc., the largest private prison health care provider in the country. Now, for the first time ever, one of its former employees is blowing the whistle about its failures.

CRL&P related posts:

May 29, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Nothing like the smell of gunpowder in the morning

The controversial executions in Ohio and Oklahoma give you pause? You're questioning the justness of lethal injection? There must be a better way to kill convicted murders? No problem, says one state legislator in Utah. As the AP reports, the remedy to present injustices might come from a method of the past: 


4-posada-firing-squad-grangerState representative Paul Ray, a Republican from the northern city of Clearfield, plans to introduce his proposal during Utah's next legislative session in January. Lawmakers in Wyoming and Missouri floated similar ideas this year, but both efforts stalled. Ray, however, may succeed.

 

Utah already has a tradition of execution by firing squad, with five police officers using .30-caliber Winchester rifles to execute Ronnie Lee Gardner in 2010, the last execution by rifle to be held in the state.

 

Ray argues the controversial method may seem more palatable now, especially as states struggle with lawsuits and drug shortages that have complicated lethal injections.

 

"It sounds like the wild west, but it's probably the most humane way to kill somebody," Ray said.

 

Utah eliminated execution by firing squad in 2004, citing the excessive media attention it gave inmates. But those sentenced to death before that date still had the option of choosing it, which is how Gardner ended up standing in front of five armed Utah police officers. Gardner was sentenced to death for fatally shooting a Salt Lake City attorney in 1985 while trying to escape from a courthouse.

 

He was third person to die by firing squad after the US supreme court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Other death-row inmates have opted to die by gunfire instead of lethal injection in Utah, but they are all several years away from exhausting the appeals of their death sentences, Assistant Utah Attorney General Thomas Brunker said. Ray's proposal would give all inmates the option.

CRL&P related posts:

May 17, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Prof. Berman calls for re-examination of presumption of finality in sentencing, with implications for federal habeas corpus petitions

In his exciting new essay Re-Balancing Fitness, Fairness, and Finality for Sentences, Professor Douglas Berman considers when a criminal defendant’s final sentence—after exhausting state court Phoenixappeals—may be reviewed or reconsidered by a federal court on account of “subsequent legal developments” pursuant to a writ of habeas corpus. For a writ of habeas corpus to issue, a criminal defendant must first demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the state court’s decision violated the defendant’s constitutionally protected rights. If there has been a constitutional violation, the defendant then must prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that the state court’s decision was contrary to constitutional law, or that its decision was unreasonable under the particular facts of the case.

The consideration of “sentence finality,” argues Professor Berman, ought to account for relevant distinctions between habeas corpus petitions for review or reconsideration of convictions and those for sentencing, a difference currently missing from finality discussions by courts and commentators.* He concludes:

I strongly believe that lawmakers and judges should be inclined to reverse the standard finality presumption [when] a defendant is challenging only his extended on-going prison sentence based on consequential new developments… Put another way, I contend that finality concerns ought to presumptively recede when a defendant challenges an extended prison term, especially if and when the relief sought is not reversal of past punishments already endured, but merely a new assessment of significant scheduled future punishments still in the offing.

To begin with, the historical record does not evidence a commitment to finality in sentencing at the time of the nation’s founding. To the contrary, early sentencing practices coupled with various provisions of the federal constitution suggest a desire that judges and correctional officials retain discretion in the imposition of sentences. In fact, the desire for finality is a relatively new phenomenon. Professor Berman observes that discretion was the norm until the 1960s when support for retributive sentencing policies began gaining popularity.

This historical reality should inform consideration of this period’s debate over the finality of criminal judgments in two critical ways: (1) because it was widely understood (and still well-accepted) that all sentences were indeterminate and subject to review and reconsideration by corrections officials, advocates stressing the importance of treating criminal judgments as final were necessarily focused only on finality of criminal convictions; and, (2) any problems or harms resulting from giving too much weight to the interest of finality for criminal convictions were necessarily mitigated by parole mechanisms which allowed reconsideration of any and all criminal sentences that might later be considered unfit or unfair based on subsequent legal or social developments.

Moreover, the conceptual justifications for finality vary depending on the nature of the defendant’s request—whether it pertains to the conviction or the sentence. As reflected by contemporary standards, whereas criminal trials demand determinations about “historical factual issues to be reflected by” the rote decision as to the defendant’s guilt or non-guilt, sentencing requires an examination of a much broader set of considerations to ensure that the outcome of this more nuanced decision reflects “just and effective punishment” for the wrongdoing. As Professor Berman explains:

Put most simply, sentence finality is a concern different in kind from conviction finality, and thus the finality balance struck for convictions, whatever its merits or flaws, should not, in modern times, be unthinkingly applied when a defendant only seeks review or reconsideration of an on-going sentence.

These historical, conceptual, and practical differences ought to affect the way courts analyze challenges to the standard finality presumption. That is, an inmate’s habeas corpus petition ought to receive less exacting scrutiny than a plea to review a conviction.

I’m no expert, but I find Professor Berman’s thesis persuasive. I’ve long been troubled by laws limiting the discretionary authority of those responsible for sentencing decisions, such as mandatory minimum sentencing, which shifts sentencing decisions from decision-makers to prosecutors.  I also worry about faith in the nonexistence of—or perhaps ambivalence to—future circumstances that might provoke just challenges to today’s sentencing decisions—e.g. the disparity in sentencing for possession of crack and powder cocaine. Professor Berman’s bifurcation of finality in convictions and sentencing seems to go a long way towards the creation of doctrine that is more responsive to the demands of justice than the current standard.

* Professor Berman also is committing a series of posts to several issues raised by his article at his renowned legal blog, Sentencing Law and Policy.

May 15, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners, Reasonableness | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Fifth Circuit stays execution of Texas inmate alleged to be 'intellectually disabled'

Today, the Fifth Circuit stayed Texas's scheduled execution of Robert James Campbell for the 1992 rape and murder of a 20-year-old woman. Campbell's attorneys claim the state can't execute him because he's "intellectually disabled," proof of which state officials allegedly concealed. If true, according to SCOTUS precedent, the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments prevents Campbell's execution. As WaPo's Mark Berman and Karen Brooks Harper report:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans ruled Tuesday afternoon that the execution be stayed, saying that although it was regrettable that it took until “the eleventh hour” for the court to review evidence of the inmate’s intellectual disability, that was not the fault of Campbell or his attorneys.

 

“Because of the unique circumstances of this case, Campbell and his attorneys have not had a fair opportunity to develop Campbell’s claim of ineligibility for the death penalty,” Judge James L. Dennis wrote for the court. “In light of the evidence we have been shown, we believe that Campbell must be given such an opportunity.”

 

It’s unclear how long the execution will be stayed. There is no set time for the stay, said Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Campbell's attorneys also have appealed Texas's secrecy as to pharmacy providing the killing drug, which purportedly presents a substantial risk that it could cause Campbell excruciating physical and mental pain. Last month, state officials halted Clayton Lockett's execution in Oklahoma after he appeared distressed, but he died of a heart attack 43 minutes after the procedure began. Unlike Oklahoma's three-drug cocktail, however, Texas only uses pentobaritral, which state officials claim has killed efficiently since its adoption two years ago.

May 13, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Missouri inmate seeks halt to his upcoming execution

Death row inmate Russell Bucklew is seeking an emergency injunction to prevent Missouri from killing him. Bucklew claims he has a rare medical condition the will cause "tortuous pain" during his execution, in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishments." The Courthouse News Service (CNS) tells his story:

Bucklew was convicted in 1997 of first-degree murder, kidnapping, first-degree burglary, rape and armed criminal action. He shot Michael Sanders to death and then kidnapped his ex-girlfriend and raped her before being wounded in a shootout with police.

 

Later, Bucklew escaped from prison and attacked his ex-girlfriend's mother with a hammer. A prosecutor called Bucklew "a homicidal Energizer bunny" because of his persistence in going after his victims, the Southeast Missourian reported.

 

In his lawsuit, Bucklew claims he has a vascular tumor that will cause extreme pain and suffering, violating his Eighth Amendment rights, if he is executed by lethal injection on May 21.

 

"The size of Mr. Bucklew's tumor and the weakness of his distended vessels create a very substantial risk that he will suffer excruciating, even tortuous pain during an execution," the complaint states.

 

"Because the vascular tumor partially obstructs Mr. Bucklew's airway, he is at high risk of choking during an execution, particularly if distended vessels in his mouth or throat rupture and bleed. This will cause gasping and coughing that Mr. Bucklew will experience as suffocation.

 

"There is also a grave risk that, because of Mr. Bucklew's severe vascular malformations, the lethal drug will not circulate as intended, delaying the suppression of the central nervous system and prolonging the execution - which will likely cause excruciating pain to Mr. Bucklew. These risks are heightened by the use of a compounded drug, pentobarbital, in the absence of any disclosure about the drug's safety, purity and potency. In fact, the Department of Corrections will not even confirm whether the drug is subject to any laboratory testing whatsoever."

 

Bucklew claims the state has no protocol for executing a prisoner with a complex medical condition such as his, and that a qualified physician should be in the chamber for the sole purpose of reviving him if the execution is not successful. 

Lethal injection has become the topic of considerable debate since European producers of sodium thiopental withdrew the drug from the market. As a result, some states have turned to drug cocktails produced by domestic compounding pharmacies. They often keep the identity of these pharmacies anonymous, allegedly out of some concern about retaliation from anti-death penalty activists. These secrecy laws have been repeatedly challenged in court.  

The lethal injection itself has drawn considerable attention after two highly publicized executions in Ohio and Oklahoma. In Ohio, Dennis McGuirre's execution lasted 26 minutes, during which he reportedly writhed in pain and gasped for air. Oklahoma executed Clayton Lockett two weeks ago with similar results. Lockett's execution was halted by the on-site doctor after he showed signs of distress, but he died of a heart attack 43 minutes after the procedure began. Following his death, the state agreed to a six-month stay of execution for the inmate who had been scheduled for killing the same night as Lockett so that an investigation can be completed. The NYTimes recently said the United States has "no business putting people to death by any means." It described the death penalty as "barbaric, racist," and it called states' secrecy as to the providers of lethal injection drugs "cowardly."   

Missouri's lethal injection protocol is much like that of Oklahoma.  

CRL&P related posts:

May 12, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Oklahoma to hold first double execution in 80 years

Well, that didn't take long. Just days after staying the executions of two death row inmates, the Oklahoma Supreme Court announced on Wednesday that the inmates did not have a right to know the source of the 7 scissor tailed flycatchersdrug cocktails that would be used to kill them. The court dissolved the stays and the inmates soon will be executed.

Today, the governor announced that the state plans to carry out the exections of Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner on the same day. According to the AP:

It's rare for multiple executions to happen in one day, with only Arkansas, Illinois, South Carolina and Texas doing so since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S. in 1976, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center.

 

"I think it's actually becoming less common because states have deliberately spaced things out," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the center, which opposes capital punishment. "It takes a toll on a prison and its personnel."

 

The most recent occurrence of two inmates being executed on the same day was Aug. 9, 2000, in Texas. The last time Oklahoma did it was June 11, 1937, when convicted murderers Charlie Sands and Leon Siler were electrocuted.

 

Arkansas is the only state that has executed three inmates on the same day since 1976: once in 1994 and again in 1997. In both instances, all three executions were carried out in less than three hours, according to the Arkansas Department of Corrections.

April 24, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"Missouri executes inmate after Supreme Court turns down stay request"

UPDATE: SCOTUS also has reversed a lower court's decision overturning the death sentence given to a Kentucky man for the kidnap, rape and murder of a teenager in 1997. The AP reports:

Woodall pleaded guilty to kidnapping Hansen on Jan. 25, 1997, from a convenience store in western Kentucky. Woodall acknowledged that he raped the girl and slit her throat twice before taking her body to Luzerne Lake and throwing it in the water. DNA evidence, fingerprints and footprints led to Woodall.

 

A jury imposed a death sentence, but more than a decade later, a federal court found the jury instructions were flawed and overturned that sentence. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling in 2012.

 

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan joined Scalia's opinion reversing the appeals court.

 

To overturn a death sentence, Scalia said, Woodall had to show the decision involved an "unreasonable application" of clearly established federal law. But that standard can be met "only if the error alleged is so obvious that there could be no fairminded disagreement about its existence," Scalia said. In this case, the majority found the trial judge's decision was not unreasonable.

 

Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, said the "normal rule is that Fifth Amendment protections apply during trial and sentencing." Breyer said the high court's precedent was clear in requiring the no-adverse-inference instruction during a sentencing hearing.

---

SCOTUS has denied William Rousan's request for a stay of execution for the 1993 killing of a couple in Missouri by Rousan, his brother, and his son. After rehearsing the gory details of the crime, The Guardian reports:

Brent Rousan pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Robert Rousan co-operated with prosecutors and pleaded
guilty to second-degree murder. He served seven years in prison and was released in 2001.

 

Governor Jay Nixon declined William Rousan's clemency request Tuesday evening, clearing the way for the execution to proceed. In a statement explaining his decision, Nixon said he thought Rousan's sentence was appropriate for his alleged role as the mastermind behind the "cold-blooded plot" that led to the couple's slayings.

 

Earlier Tuesday, the US supreme court turned down Rousan's request to delay his execution.

 

Efforts to spare Rousan's life hinged an argument that has held little sway over the courts — concerns about the secrecy used to obtain the execution drug, and the possibility that a substandard drug could cause pain and suffering in the execution process.

 

Several states, including Missouri, now use compounded execution drugs purchased from unnamed pharmacies. Courts so far have allowed most executions to move forward. However, on Monday, the Oklahoma supreme court stayed the executions of two death row inmates who challenged the secrecy surrounding the process of procuring execution drugs.

 

Missouri has executed one death row inmate each month since November. Another Missouri inmate, Russell Bucklew, is scheduled for execution on May 21. Only Texas, with seven executions, has executed more inmates than Missouri's four so far in 2014. Florida has also executed four inmates this year.

April 23, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Oklahoma court stays executions pending challenge to state's secrecy of source of execution drugs

The New York Times reports that the Oklahoma Supreme Court has delayed the executions of two inmates challenging the state's law protecting the identity of its source of lethal injection drugs. The inmates' attorney said they were "relieved" that the court has granted them the opportunity "to fully adjudicate the serious constitutional issues about the extreme secrecy surrounding [the state's] lethal injection procedures," while the state's attorney general called the court's decision "a constitutional crisis for our state."

The Times reports:

0,,15858458_303,00The case for a delay had seemed airtight to many legal experts. Last month, a state district court declared that a 2011 supplier-secrecy law, which officials said they needed to coax companies to supply scarce execution drugs, was unconstitutional. In effect, the court agreed that the condemned have a right to know how they will be put to death and to question, at least, whether the untested drug combination the state says it will use, from sources it refuses to reveal, could amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

 

The case is part of a growing legal battlenationally over secrecy in methods of execution, as traditional drugs have become scarce and states have engaged in covert scrambles to find new drug combinations and manufacturers. Oklahoma officials say they must offer secrecy because potential manufacturers fear reprisals for involvement with the death penalty.

 

The decision overturning Oklahoma’s supplier-secrecy law, made March 26 by Judge Patricia Parrish, is now under appeal. But in the meantime, Judge Parrish said, it was up to the state’s Court of Criminal Appeals to issue a stay of execution while the issue plays out.

 

The defendants applied to that court, but it asserted that under its governing statute, it had no jurisdiction because the condemned men had no pending case before their court, such as an appeal of their convictions or sentences.

 

So the lawyers appealed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Last Thursday, in the latest of several increasingly pointed go-rounds, the Supreme Court said that the Oklahoma Constitution gave it the authority to decide matters of court jurisdiction and that the Court of Criminal Appeals was misreading its own statute and should handle the request for an emergency stay.

 

On Friday, the criminal court responded with the bureaucratic equivalent of “mind your own business,” saying the Oklahoma Supreme Court does not have the power “to manufacture jurisdiction” in the criminal court “by merely transferring it here.”

Because sources for execution drugs have dried up, states have had to turn to compounding pharmacies subject to less government regulation for substitute drug cocktails. However, due to staunch opposition to the death penalty (and for fear that there will be nowhere else to turn for their fix), states have taken steps to ensure that these sources remain anonymous.

In an editorial earlier this year, The Times called such secrecy "cowardly" and condemned the continued use of the death penalty as "barbaric, racist and arbitrary in its application."

CRL&P related posts:

April 22, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Ohio Settles Federal Lawsuit, Will Cut Youth Isolation In State Prisons"

The Crime Report notes that Ohio will limit the time juvenile prisoners spend in isolation. It reports:
 
Drc_logo_smallThe U.S. Justice Department and Ohio officials have reached an agreement that will reduce the amount of time spent in isolation by young people in state juvenile correctional facilities, reports the Sandusky Register. Last month, federal officials filed a lawsuit asserting that youths are being held in seclusion for significant periods of time at four locations. “Numerous national studies have established that seclusion of youth with mental health disorders even for short periods of time can severely harm youth,” said the lawsuit. One youth was in seclusion for 19 days, and another for 21 days.
 
The suit asked a court to end the practice of putting youths in seclusion for long periods of time and to provide better mental health treatment. Erie County Juvenile Court Judge Robert DeLamatre said the number of youth in state juvenile correctional facilities had declined dramatically, from about 2,300 in 2001 to 500 today. Ongoing litigation over the state system probably made some judges more reluctant to send youth into the state system, he said. “Certainly the lawsuit brought a spotlight on conditions, and things in the department that may be a little invisible to [judges.] We don’t know on a day to day business how that youth is being treated,” he said.

April 15, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Ga. Supreme Court says inmates have right to petition for use of law library

The Georgia Supreme Court today shook its head at a trial court's recent denial of an inmates right to petition for the use of a law library. The AP reports:

Librarybooks_bannerA Georgia Supreme Court ruling reinforces inmates' rights to access prison libraries and legal assistance.

 

In an opinion released Monday, the high court says a trial court erred when it barred an inmate from filing a petition to force prison officials to give him access to a law library.

 

Waseem Daker was convicted in 2012 of stabbing and strangling a woman and stabbing her 5-year-old son. He was sentenced to nearly 50 years in jail.

 

He has requested a new trial and said he plans additional legal action. He complained to prison officials about his lack of access to legal materials.

 

The trial judge said his petition was frivolous and wouldn't allow it to be filed. The high court says the trial court must allow the petition to be filed.

February 24, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Judge blocks Missouri's access to execution drug

Missouri will have to wait to receive the drug cocktail for its upcoming execution until at least next week. Ohio recently employed the same drug--compounded pentobarbital--in the execution of Dennis McGuire on January 16, which lasted 26-minutes. Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) has since delayed the state's next scheduled execution until the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction completes its review of McGuire's execution.

As The Guardian reports:

A US federal judge has temporarily blocked an Oklahoma compounding pharmacy from selling a drug to the Missouri department of corrections for use in an upcoming execution.

 

The restraining order was issued in a lawsuit filed a day earlier in US district court by the Missouri death row inmate Michael Taylor. His attorneys allege that the department contracts with the Apothecary Shoppe to provide the drug set to be used in Taylor’s 26 February lethal injection.

 

The lawsuit argues that several recent executions involving the drug, compounded pentobarbital, indicate it will likely cause Taylor “severe, unnecessary, lingering and ultimately inhumane pain”.

 

In his order on Wednesday Judge Terence Kern wrote that Taylor’s attorneys submitted “facts demonstrating that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to plaintiff before defendant can be heard in opposition”.

 

The judge set a hearing for Tuesday and ordered the pharmacy to submit a response to the injunction by Friday. He said the order would remain in effect at least until the hearing.

 

It was not immediately clear if the execution would be delayed because of the ruling. The state has not revealed the name of the compounding pharmacy supplying the drug and the Apothecary Shoppe previously declined to confirm or deny that it was the source of a drug used in an earlier Missouri execution.

CRL&P related posts:

February 12, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

When victims' families defend defendants against capital punishment

In When Victims Speak Up in Court--in Defense of the Criminals, The Atlantic's Andrew Cohen writes about the difficulties faced by prosecutors and judges when victims--or victims' families--defend defendants against the state's pursuit of certain punishments. In particular, Cohen examines the ongoing Colorado murder case in Colorado v. Montour in which the victim's family opposed the death penalty for the Lethal-injection1defendant. Cohen explains:

The last time [the defendant] faced trial for [the victim's] death, the victim's family supported the death penalty as an option. Not this time. This time, having educated themselves about capital punishment, and better understanding the nature of [the defendant's] mental illness at the time of [the victim's] death, the [the victim's family] have been vocally, stridently, ceaselessly against the imposition of death in this case. Earlier this month, for example, as potential jurors in the...case were lined up outside the courthouse waiting to learn about the case for which they were summoned, the [victim's family] picketed the line and pleaded with [the prosecutor] to spare their son's killer.

 

Episodes like this -- and the media attention they inevitably generated -- prompted....the prosecutor in the Montour case[] to remove the family  from his preliminary list of witnesses to be called during the sentencing of the case. And that removal, in turn, has prompted [the defense] attorneys to ask the trial judge in the case to allow the [victim's family] to testify during sentencing. That prompted an aggressive response from [the prosecutor], arguing that Colorado's victims' rights laws don't apply to "mitigating" factors during sentencing but only to "aggravating factors." And that is where we stand today.

Capital punishment, of course, likely will subsume much of this controversy (perhaps at the expense of other much needed sentencing reforms), especially as questions as to its propriety have re-emerged  nationally after the shameful Ohio execution that lasted 26 minutes. The executed man's family now is suing the state for its alleged violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on "cruel and unusual punishment." Meanwhile, several state senators have called for the reinstatement of firing squads in executions. Given these developments, Cohen's article is a particularly compelling read. It begins:

One of the most profound changes in criminal justice over the past 40 years has been the rise of the victims' lobby. Essentially shut out of the core of the process until the 1970s, the victims' rights movement today can cite legislation from sea to sea, chapter and verse under both federal and state laws, that broadens the rights of victims to participate in the trials of those accused of harming them or their families. The Department of Justice's 2012 "Attorney General Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance," for example, totals 66 pages and barely scratches the surface of what similar state guidelines reveal.

 

The immutable trio that once existed in criminal cases— judge, prosecutor, and defendant—now almost always resembles a quartet. Victims have a voice—and they use it. All 50 states now allow some form of "victim impact statement" at sentencing. Because such statements are often so compelling to jurors, defense attorneys frequently seek ways to blunt their impact. But these efforts almost always fail. Even judges who are sympathetic to the constitutional rights of defendants, who fret about the prejudicial impact of victim testimony, say they are bound by legislative declarations broadening the scope of victim participation in criminal cases.

 

But a pending Colorado case raises a profound question that few judges (or prosecutors or jurors) ever have to confront: What happens when the victims of violent crime seek to speak out on behalf of the defendant and not the state? What happens when the family member of a murder victim seeks leave to beg jurors at sentencing to spare the life of the man who killed their son? What responsibility does the prosecutor have in that case? What obligations do the courts have? Do victims' rights sound only when they favor the government and the harshest sentence, or do they sound as well when they cry out for mercy?

 

So far, the prosecutor in the case, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, has answered those questions clearly: He wants to block one couple's efforts to speak out against the death penalty for the man who murdered their child. Brauchler has filed a motion in a pending case seeking to bar Bob and Lola Autobee from participating in the sentencing phase of the trial of Edward Montour, their son's killer. The law only guarantees the rights of victims to "discuss the harm that resulted from the crime," Brauchler argues. But I haven't been able to find a single victims' right advocate who believes that's true.

CRL&P related posts:

January 28, 2014 in Collateral Consequences, Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Guards May Be Responsible for Half of Prison Sexual Assaults

Last week, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released this three year survey finding that the number of inmates reporting sexual abuse by prison and jail staff is growing--up more than 10 percent since its last survey. Of course, increased reporting could be the result of other systemic factors Jailunrelated to the actual frequency of such crimes by correctional officers--e.g. improved complaint procedures and education about inmates' rights. But, as ProPublica's Joaquin Sapien reports, the survey's findings cast doubt as to the true efficacy of alerting correctional officers of allegations of sexual abuse--which, in turn, raises questions as to the likelihood that inmates would expose themselves to reporting processes quite possibly operated by those whose abuse caused the need for reporting in the first place. The title of this post comes from that report, which explains:

[E]ven in the rare cases where there is enough evidence to prove that sexual abuse occurred, and that a correctional officer is responsible for it, the perpetrator rarely faces prosecution. While most prison staff shown to be involved in sexual misconduct lost their jobs, fewer than half were referred for prosecution, and only 1 percent ultimately got convicted.  

 

Roughly one-third of staff caught abusing prisoners are allowed to resign before the investigation comes to a close, the report concludes, meaning there’s no public record of what exactly transpired and nothing preventing them from getting a similar job at another facility.

 

“These findings point to a level of impunity in our prisons and jails that is simply unacceptable,” said Lovisa Stannow, Executive Director of Just Detention International, a prisoner advocacy group in California. “When corrections agencies don’t punish or choose to ignore sexual abuse committed by staff members— people who are paid by our tax dollars to keep inmates safe— they support criminal behavior.”

 

The lack of punishment may deter inmates from reporting. When the Justice Department has surveyed inmates directly, as opposed to the administrators that oversee them, the reports of abuse have been far greater. A 2013 survey estimated that more than 80,000 prisoners had been sexually victimized by fellow inmates or staff over a two-year period, roughly five times the rate reported by administrators.   

 

“Inmates don’t report because of the way the institution handles these complaints: they’re afraid if they do report, then the staff will retaliate,” said Kim Shayo Buchanan, a law professor at the University of Southern California who studies the issue. “Even if you report and they believe you, which they probably won’t, the most likely thing to happen is that the person will be suspended or maybe fired.”

 

Calls for comment to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Association of State Correctional Administrators weren’t immediately returned.

January 27, 2014 in 14th Amendment, Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

South Carolina Is Still Defending Its Neglectful Prisons

Andrew Cohen's post today at The Atlantic lambastes South Carolina's "immoral appeal" of this recent decision in which the judge found that the state's prison conditions violate the state and federal Constitutions' protection against "cruel and unusual punishment."  Cohen says "the state's motion is
Unknownremarkable for the assertions it makes that directly contradict the evidence in this case"; and, he later declares that the state's "assertions [on appeal] turn on their head the entire edifice of American law[.]" The title of this post comes from his piece, which begins:

Over the objections of the state's best editorial writers and some of its leading legislators, South Carolina has chosen to fight a recent court order declaring its prisons to be unconscionable (and unconstitutional) dens of abuse and neglect for mentally ill inmates housed there. Lawyers for the state filed a motion Tuesday with Judge Michael Baxley, the link to which can be found here, asking him to "alter or amend" his January 8th order in which he found that...

 

… inmates have died in the South Carolina Department of Corrections for lack of basic mental health care, an hundreds more remain substantially at risk for serious physical injury, mental decompensation, and profound, permanent mental illness.

 

The motion will be denied, as it should be, and then the legal dispute over the treatment of the inmates will move to the state's appellate courts. The process will take years. It will cost a great deal. And so long as state officials are litigating the matter, and proclaiming themselves aggrieved by the rule of law, there is little reason to think that the wretched lives of the inmates will be rendered any safer. They will instead remain citizens with grand rights but no remedies.

January 23, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Imprisonment and Disenfranchisement of Disconnected Low-Income Men

The Urban Institute has this issue brief describing the disparate impact mass incarceration has had on African Americans and Hispanics. The title of this post comes from that brief, the abstract of which states: 

Incarceration rates have risen over time and vary by race and ethnicity, reflecting changes in federal and state crime policies over the past few decades. In 2011, African American men were six times more likely and Hispanics nearly two and half times more likely to be imprisoned than white men. This brief summarizes some of the disparate impacts these policies have had on African American and Hispanic men and the consequences for their families and communities.

January 9, 2014 in Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

There's an alarming number of deaths in US jails

The Guardian had this disturbing article early this week about the number of people who have died while in the custody of United States jails. The title of this post comes from the article, which begins:

Kyam Livingston begged for help. After seven hours of lying on the floor of a jail cell, the 38-year-old mother of two died, her calls unheeded by the correction officers providing security for the approximately 15 female inmates at Brooklyn "central booking" jail this past summer, according to witnesses and court documents.

 

Witnesses told the family that she had died in the cell among fetid conditions before she was taken to Brooklyn Hospital Health Center on 21 July 2013 where Livingston was pronounced dead at 6:58am, according to police reports. A witness, registered nurse Aleah Holland, told The Daily News, that police at Central Booking ignored her complaints of stomach pains and diarrhea. She said that when she and other inmates banged on the bars calling for help, officers told them Livingston was an alcoholic.

 

No one knows what happened, and no one wants to say. The NYPD told the family that she died of a seizure, but her family says she never suffered from seizures. This October the family sued the city, the NYPD, and the Department of Corrections in an effort to force systemic change and "responsibility" for her death.

 

Livingston was one of the few hundred jail deaths that happen across the country. In 2011, (the latest available numbers) 885 inmates died(pdf) in the custody of local jails, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics reported. Notice I said jails. These are different from prisons. Prisons are for people who have been convicted of a crime and sentenced. There are roughly 3,000 jails nationwide and each facility is set up to process people that have been arrested before they are arraigned or go to trial. Some will serve a misdemeanor sentence (of under a year). The majority will be let go because the charges against them won't stick as they move through the legal system. Others will remain in jails while waiting to go to trial too poor to make bail – yet to be convicted of anything. Regardless, they will be treated as criminals.

Also on CRL&P: How much does a public defender need to know about a client?

December 29, 2013 in Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 20, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Dec. 20, 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Community based-mediation between youth offenders and their victims?

In Reducing Incarceration for Youthful Offenders with a Developmental Approach to Sentencing, Professor Samantha Buckingham argues that a community-based sentencing scheme would better serve youth offenders--and society at large--than our currently unsophisticated and inefficient one. Here's the abstract:

Current sentencing practices have proven to be an ineffective method of rehabilitating criminal defendants. Such practices are unresponsive to developmental science breakthroughs, fail to promote rehabilitation, and drain society’s limited resources. These deficiencies are most acute when dealing with youthful offenders. Incarcerating youthful offenders, who are amenable to rehabilitative efforts, under current sentencing practices only serves to ensure such individuals will never become productive members of society. Drawing on the author’s experiences as a public defender, studies in developmental psychology and neuroscience, and the Supreme Court’s recent line of cases that acknowledge youthful offenders’ biological differences from adult offenders, the author proposes a restorative-justice approach to replace current sentencing practices. This solution includes tailoring a youthful offender’s sentence to his or her developmental level and offering a community-based mediation between victims and offenders. The proposal counteracts a major deficiency of current sentencing practices — the failure to offer youthful offenders an opportunity to truly understand their crimes. Only by providing an opportunity to learn from an offense will a youthful offender be in a position to rehabilitate. This Article responds to possible critiques of the proposal, including concerns about the ability to accurately measure the success of a restorative-justice sentencing model, the fear of implicating the offender’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and the cost of implementing mediation-based efforts. Ultimately, this Article determines that a developmentally appropriate, community-based sentencing scheme — with restorative justice overtones — best addresses the unique situation youthful offenders find themselves in. A sentence for a youthful offender should — indeed, must — present meaningful opportunities for the youthful offender to rehabilitate, and age-appropriate sentences grounded in restorative-justice principles will do this effectively.

December 19, 2013 in Collateral Consequences, Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Dec. 11, 2013

NSA takes advantage of 'cookies' used for advertising to track surveillance targets.

Federal judge rejects California AG's request for dismissal in case challenging law requiring 10-day waiting period for gun owners.

Cruel and unusual punishment suit after prisoner placed in solitary confinement for one month could cost taxpayers.

American man claims discrimination after the California Department of Corrections denied him a job because he had previously used a false SSN, while in Illinois this guy still has a job.

Amendment aimed at protecting sexual assault victims scrapped as Congress passes the National Defense Authorization Act.

Bill introduced in the Senate to eliminate state laws regulating the sexual activity of people with HIV.

Chinese Law Prof is expelled for criticizing China's one-party government.

Man convicted of a hate crime after attacking a Sikh cab driver to serve more than three years in prison. 

And, a six-year old is suspended after kissing a classmate on the cheek. I wonder if he would have received similar punishment if had hit her.

 

December 11, 2013 in Civil Rights Litigation, Fourth Amendment, Freedom of Speech, Gun Policy, Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

CRL&P Daily Reads: Dec. 10, 2013

Allegedly illegal strip searches in Milwaukee jail could cost the city millions; man acquitted of drug charges files a civil rights suit against FBI alleging malicious prosecution; police face civil rights suit after officer pleads guilty to child porn; jail staff knew diabetic woman in their care needed insulin perhaps days before she died; Miami Gardens police allegedly used excessive force and denied medical treatment to arrestee; and, man was killed by a police officer who had accidently been tased by another officer.

Atlantic says Obama misled MSNBC's Chris Matthews on NSA surveillance; Guardian reflects on how the debate over surveillance has changed since Snowden's leaks; Nobel-winning writers say NSA surveillance is compromising freedom; Bill Clinton worries about the NSA's collection of economic data; and, NSA makes tech companies worry about profits.

Federal judge holds journalists have no constitutional right to be embedded with military; and, ACLU says prison officials violated the First Amendment by denying reporters access to prisoners after a riot.

Gun manufacturers doing better than before Newtown.

Same-sex couples race to challenge Texas's same-sex marriage ban; and, this graph shows geographical online efforts to promote gay-rights.

 

December 10, 2013 in Civil Rights Litigation, Excessive Force, First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Freedom of Press, Freedom of Speech, Gun Policy, Prisons and Prisoners, Same-sex marriage, Strip Searches, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)