Tag Archives: oversight

NZ: Greater transparency for prison system

From the article: “All 17 prisons are now measured on their performance against each other in a range of areas including security, assaults, drug tests and rehabilitation programmes. They are then categorised in four performance grades, with the resulting tables released quarterly.”

I am always interested in prison oversight and find the different methods to be fascinating.  The UK has an extensive prison inspectorate, which uses several teams of expert inspectors to evaluate a prison.  It then gives a rating (good, reasonably good, not reasonably good, or poor) in each of four areas (safety, purposeful activities, respect and dignity, and resettlement/reentry).  Unsurprisingly, I believe Australia has picked this method up and I know that Canada, which does not currently have an inspectorate (it has a large ombudsman office), is considering it.

NZ DOC’s website provides the following “three steps to determining a prison’s overall rating:”

  • At the first level key security measures like escapes and unnatural deaths will be checked. If any of these occur the prison will be classified as needing improvement, no matter how well it’s doing in the next two measures.
  • At the next level internal prison issues like the number of complaints, drug testing results, assaults etc are measured. If these are not up to standard the prison will be classified as needing improvement.
  • The third level measures some aspects of our ultimate goal of reducing re-offending, by increasing participation in programmes allowing prisoners to gain job skills and real jobs.

They then use rankings of “Exceptional, Exceeding, Effective, and Needs Improvement.”  You can see an example of their ranking of the prisons here.

To me, this seems like a good start, but perhaps too superficial.  There’s a big push in the US to have “data-driven” corrections – let’s boil everything down to a number, assign a weight, multiply, and boom, you have an effective evaluation of the prison.  Of course, it doesn’t really work like that.  You do need to use metrics (and I object to any prison inspection or evaluation system that is based purely on an inspector’s “feeling” about a prison), but prisons are complex and just looking at the numbers without further investigation often misses the contributing causes and connections between the numbers.  It also opens the door for the prison to manipulate the numbers in order to appear better or simply under-report.

Still, I’m all for public scrutiny and if this brings additional attention to important data such as assault rates, then that’s great.

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ME: Legislators grill Corrections chief on use-of-force incidents

This is the follow-up to the earlier post about the very disturbing use of force video out of Maine in which a supervisor is shown spraying an inmate in the face with mace while the inmate is restrained in a restraint chair (and surrounded by several officers).  The inmate begs to be able to breathe while the supervisor clearly tries to teach him a “lesson” by making it as miserable and torturous an experience as possible.

In this article, corrections staff apparently indicate that there’s very little central office oversight of uses of force, which seems dangerous in and of itself.  A legislative criminal justice and public safety committee “grills” the corrections director about the incident and what needs to be fixed in the system.  Yay for legislative oversight…

Read more here.

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California suppressed consultant’s report on inmate suicides

From the article: “New court filings reveal that the state suppressed a report from its own consultant warning that California’s prison suicide-watch practices encouraged inmate deaths. Lindsay Hayes, a national expert on suicide prevention in prisons, told corrections officials in 2011 that the state’s system of holding suicidal inmates for days in dim, dirty, airless cells with unsanitized mattresses on the floor was compounding the risk that they would take their own lives.”

Read more here.

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California Sheds Prisoners but Grapples With Courts

NY Times article on the current state of California prisons.  The state has made significant positive change in reducing its population and improving conditions, but is it too early for oversight to end?  “Critics [of the prison system], including the lawyers who sued the state on behalf of prisoners, say that many of the changes are nothing more than cosmetic and that the system still does not provide adequate care to physically or mentally ill inmates.”

Read the article here.

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Afghanistan: Karzai calls for prison torture investigation

From the article: “The Afghan government has set up a delegation to investigate reports of torture in Afghan-run detention facilities. The delegation, which was announced on Tuesday, was created two days after the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan published a report on the “ill-treatment of conflict-related detainees in Afghan custody.” The UN report, based on interviews with hundreds of detainees held in 89 facilities between October 2011 and October 2012, details 14 abusive practices, including the twisting of genitals, extracting fingernails and electric shock.”

Read more here.

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CA: Brown fails to produce prison plan, seeks end of court control

From the article: “Gov. Jerry Brown contends California no longer needs to reduce overcrowding in the state’s prisons.”

Great by the state’s attorneys here:

The overcrowding and healthcare conditions cited by this court to support its population reduction order are now a distant memory.

Yeah, okay.  I hope these aren’t the same CA state lawyers sharply criticized by a federal judge as being incompetent

Read more here.

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Ohio’s youngest inmates have become its most dangerous

From the article: “The most violent prisons in Ohio aren’t the maximum-security facilities or those housing Death Row inmates.They’re those holding teenagers. There were more assaults than inmates last year at Ohio’s youth prisons, where the rate of assaults per inmate was 48 times greater than in adult lockups. An annual assessment filed this month by a court-appointed monitor said the conditions of the facilities are improving and that in certain areas, the state Department of Youth Services serves as a model for the nation.”

Read more here.

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OH: Auditors uncover problems at private prisons in Ohio

From the article: “During the past year, unsafe and unsanitary conditions were documented by state monitors at one of Ohio’s privately-run prisons forcing the new operator to make major changes less than one year after taking control of the facility.

At the Lake Erie Correctional Institution, which is now owned and operated by Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America, state-employed monitors and auditors found conditions that included inmates not having immediate access to running water or toilets and using plastic bags for defecation and cups for urination.”

Read more here.

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UK: Prison’s failings slammed in report

From the article: “Prison inspectors have produced a damning report into the safety standards at an overcrowded jail published just days after it was saved from the axe. Inspectors from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) arrived unannounced at HMP Lincoln in August this year and say they found serious failings at the category B jail, in the report released on Tuesday.”

Read more here.

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Justice Department Announces Consent Decree Regarding Orleans Parish Prison in New Orleans

From the DOJ press release: “The consent decree outlines remedial measures to address the allegations in the complaints filed by class plaintiffs and by the United States in Jones v. Gusman, including deficiencies in prisoner safety from physical and sexual assaults, medical and mental health care, suicide prevention, environmental and life safety and limited English proficiency (LEP) services for Spanish-speaking prisoners.”

Read more here.

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