NZ: Prison staff could wear cameras to reduce assaults

This is the first I’ve heard of this idea – staff wearing cameras.  I’m not sure if that’s a good idea or not – after all, if you want to beef up camera footage, wouldn’t you just make sure that there were no blind spots in the units?  Today’s cameras are pretty high tech and can capture detail down to what an officer is writing in a log book.

Read more about increased security measures in New Zealand’s jails here.

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Delaware prison sex abuse agreement in dispute

From the article: “In addition to adequate staffing levels, the ACLU is concerned that DOC officials do not have written policies and procedures in place to ensure compliance with all provisions of the consent agreement stemming from a lawsuit in which a female inmate claimed she was raped by a prison guard in 2008. State officials settled that underlying case and now argue that the ACLU is making unfounded assertions that they are not complying with the consent agreement.”

Read more here.

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OH: Toledo Correctional inmate dies after getting attacked

Well, there’s been another homicide at TOCI.  The Toledo Blade had earlier reported that with three homicides, TOCI had more than the entire MI correctional system (within a year).  With four, I’m thinking it might be the deadliest prison in the Midwest.

Read more here.

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Prison company leaving Idaho after problem-filled decade

From the article: “Private prison giant Corrections Corp. of America will leave Idaho after more than a decade marked by scandal and lawsuits surrounding its operation of the state’s largest prison.”

Read more here.

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El Salvador prison overcrowding creates horrific conditions in police station holding cells

From the article: “El Salvador’s prisons are wretched, overcrowded hellholes, among the worst in Latin America, but for William Romero Cartagena a trip to prison would be a step up in life. Romero is among 3,000 or so detainees currently housed in police station holding cells, unable to get remanded to one of the nation’s 19 prisons. The holding cells are even more crowded and ghastly than the prisons.”

Read more here.

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Ohio adds new execution method after supplies of go-to lethal injection drug dry up

From the article: “The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction on Friday announced it would soon allow a new chemical cocktail to be shot intravenously during lethal injections.”

Read more here.

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Ohio adds new execution method after supplies of go-to lethal injection drug dry up

From the article: “The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction on Friday announced it would soon allow a new chemical cocktail to be shot intravenously during lethal injections.”

Read more here.

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CA: Solitary confinement case set to expand

From the article: “A federal judge Thursday said she is likely to allow a lawsuit alleging that solitary confinement conditions at Pelican Bay State Prison amount to psychological torture, to be expanded from the cases of 10 prisoners to include about 1,100 inmates now held in indefinite isolation.”

According to the article, there are 500 men who have been held in solitary confinement (defined in the article as 22.5 hour per day lockdown) for more than a decade.  Unbelievable.

Read more from the article here.

The reality is that not all solitary confinement is created equally.  Speaking from my state, some segregation units are relatively humane, with inmates who have access to adequate food, lighting, recreation opportunities, reading material, and who report few concerns.  Other segregation units (I am thinking of one in particular) are the not-so-good scenario, with inmates who are in a sensory-deprived environment, where they can only get books if they pay off a porter, recreation is limited, etc.

What makes the difference?  Well, I can tell you.  The first issue is overcrowding.  Segregation is a microcosm of prison and just as on the compound, overcrowding taxes staff resources and makes staff go into “survival mode,” where they do even less than they might have otherwise done for a population that they could handle.  This results in a negative spiral, as inmates’ issues are not addressed, so they become frustrated, so they act out, so staff react negatively, etc.

The second issue is the time that inmates are kept in segregation, which is not always (sometimes not even frequently) within the control of staff, particularly if inmates are waiting for a disciplinary transfer.  They could be back there for months, or even a year.  This results in a huge amount of frustration (understandably, in my opinion).  Staff feel helpless.  Again, a negative spiral.

The third issue is in fact the type of inmate that you’re housing, although in my opinion this is less of an issue than the above two.  The inmate is in the most secure environment, so security classification seems less of an issue.  However, it is certainly the higher security inmates who engage in the most disruption (breaking off sprinkler heads, flooding the range, creating a disturbance, etc).

So, is it always psychological torture?  I would say no when you are talking about a short term stay in an under-capacity unit with a manageable population.  But a definitive yes to the overcrowded, under-resourced segs where inmates just sit with nothing to do for months.  The only question is, what do you do with the inmates who have legitimately misbehaved in order to place themselves in the unit?

h/t Vera Institute

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