Category Archives: Publication

Buried Alive: Solitary Confinement in the US Detention System

Report from the Physicians for Human Rights on solitary confinement.  Check it out here.

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CA: REPORT ON SUICIDES COMPLETED IN THE CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION

This report discusses suicides in the CDCR for the first six months of 2012 and provides a state by state comparison of suicide data that is excellent.

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Gender and Justice Report on Massachusetts Female Offenders Released

Check out the article describing the report here.

Check out the fact sheets on women offenders in MA here.

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Prison Population Declined In 26 States During 2011

From the article: “Twenty-six state departments of corrections reported decreases in their prison population during 2011, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported today. California reported the largest decline (down 15,493), while New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Florida, and Texas each had population decreases of more than 1,000 prisoners in 2011.”

Read more here.

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Urban Institute: The Growth & Increasing Cost of the Federal Prison System: Drivers and Potential Solutions

Descriptive blurb: “The federal prison population exceeds 218,000, a tenfold increase since 1980. This massive growth is projected to continue and is accompanied by increasing costs, which account for 25% of the Department of Justice’s budget and edge out other important public safety priorities. This brief describes the main drivers of the federal prison population, half of whom are drug offenders. Front-end decisions about who goes to prison and for how long have the greatest impact, suggesting that reductions in sentence lengths -particularly for drug offenders – can most directly contain future growth. “Back-end” changes, such as increasing earned credits for early release, can also help alleviate the pressure. The federal system can learn much from state efforts to contain prison populations and costs; doing so will require the cooperation and support of numerous players across all branches of the federal system.”

Access the report here.  Read a related Washington Post blog here.

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BJS Publication: State Corrections Expenditures, FY 1982-2010

Highlights:

  • Preliminary data from the Census Bureau’s annual State Government Finance Census indicate states spent $48.5 billion on corrections in 2010, about 6% less than in 2009. By comparison, states spent $571.3 billion on education in 2010 and $462.7 billion on public welfare.
  • From 1999 to 2010, among 48 states, 11 states showed a linear decrease in current operations expenditures per inmate, with an average annual decline of $1,093; 5 states had a linear increase, with an average annual additional cost per inmate of $1,277.
  • The mean state corrections expenditure per inmate was $28,323 in 2010, although a quarter of states spent $40,175 or more.

Go here to read the publication.

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Bureau of Justice Statistics: Correctional Populations in the United States, 2011

Highlights from the report:

  • Adult correctional authorities supervised about 6,977,700 offenders at yearend 2011, a decrease of 1.4% during the year.
  • „„The decline of 98,900 offenders during 2011 marked the third consecutive year of decrease in the correctional population, which includes probationers, parolees, local jail inmates, and prisoners in the custody of state and federal facilities.
  • „„About 2.9% of adults in the U.S. (or 1 in every 34 adults) were under some form of correctional supervision at yearend 2011, a rate comparable to 1998 (1 in every 34).
  • „„At yearend 2011, about 1 in every 50 adults in the U.S. was supervised in the community on probation or parole while about 1 in every 107 adults was incarcerated in prison or jail.
  • The community supervision population (including probationers and parolees, down 1.5%) and the incarcerated population (including local jail inmates and federal and state prisoners, down 1.3%) decreased at about the same rate in 2011.
  • „„The majority (83%) of the decline in the correctional population during the year was attributed to the decrease in the probation population (down 81,800 offenders).

Access the report here.

Hat tip to The Catholic Eye for the link.

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Book Review: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

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If you are interested in mass incarceration and social justice, you have already heard about this book.  I’ve had no less than three people recommend it to me and I finally took the time to read it last week.  Below is the Publishers Weekly review:

legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarceration.

Essentially, she argues that the so-called color-blind laws that we have in place today do not just passively result in the greater incarceration of the African-American population, but actively target that segment of America.  Just as literacy tests in the Jim Crow era (on their face, race-neutral laws) resulted in fewer African-Americans being able to vote, so too do today’s laws, either in what they criminalize (crack versus powder cocaine) or in how they are implemented (police focus of resources on high minority neighborhoods) disproportionately affect the black community.  Further, in our current society that lauds racial equality and elects a black president, it is no longer kosher to actively discriminate based on race; but racism is not dead, we have (perhaps purposefully in some cases, but blindly by most people) have given it a new name under the separation of felons and non-felons.  Based on our collateral sanctions laws, it is perfectly okay to discriminate against felons in employment and voter disenfranchisement.

This last point, although I had heard it before, had never truly hit home for me prior to  reading this book.  As long as we continue to prohibit those who are incarcerated or who have a felony record from voting, we are ignoring the very segment of the population that has a vested interest in changing the laws so as to be more fair and reentry-focused.

My only problem with her argument (and I am sure this is echoed by conservatives everywhere) is that unlike race, which you cannot choose, felons did choose to commit a criminal act.  Yes, we can discuss social cues and the sad consequences of poverty, etc, but there is that basic fact that is always going to shut many people’s ears to what she is saying.

Further, when laws are discussed in legislative committee hearings, the issue of the impact on race does not come up, nor do I believe that 99% of legislators (at least my state) actively want to target the black population.  According to Alexander, the issue of race should come up – we are fooling ourselves by thinking we are in a color-blind society and we should always consider whether the laws that we pass explicitly or implicitly target an ethnic segment.

In all, this book is an important piece that makes the reader reconsider preconceived notions about the high rate of incarceration of African-Americans in the US and the legislative choices that we make as a society that have led us here.

OH: Mental Health and the Juvenile Justice System

Ohio’s Correctional Institution Inspection Committee publishes a report on mental health and the juvenile justice system.  From the CIIC website:

This report provides an overview of current literature pertaining to the mental health service needs of the juvenile justice population, the current mental health caseload and services provided in the Ohio Department of Youth Services, litigation (SH v. Reed) that has prompted changes in DYS’ provision of mental health services, and current Ohio task forces that are working to identify solutions to improve mental health services across the state.

Access the report here.

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OH: Evaluation of New Officer Training

Every state corrections department has a new officer training.  The potential positive impact of the training can be immense, as inexperienced officers are generally placed on second shift, which also tends to be the shift on which the most serious incidents occur.  In this day of staffing reductions, corrections departments generally do not have a surplus of staff to ensure lengthy supervised probationary periods.  Rather, new staff generally are given a post and are expected to be able to work the block with just the new officer training to prepare them.

Despite the importance and prevalence of new officer training, there is very little systemic research on the topic…until now.  Ohio’s Correctional Institution Inspection Committee has published a report on new officer training, comparing Ohio to fifteen other states plus the Bureau of Prisons.  You can check it out here.

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