Recently in Prisons Category
Officials say a prison guard is recovering after he was attacked by a condemned inmate on California's death row.Given that he has only been on death row three years, this is not a case where we can say he should have been executed already. Even so, this is a reminder that he will be a danger from now until he is executed. If the repeal initiative passes, he will be a danger from now until he dies of other causes, which may be a very long time.
They say 27-year-old Jesse Manzo assaulted the San Quentin State Prison correctional officer Thursday evening as he was being escorted back to his cell after taking a shower.
Manzo slipped his wrist out of an open handcuff and used the handcuff to hit the officer several times.
Officials said Friday that the officer was taken to an outside hospital for treatment of cuts including a significant facial injury.
Manzo has been on death row since 2013.
He was convicted of first-degree murder in Riverside County for the 2008 gang-related hate crime killing of Raymond Franklin.
Unrepentant mass killer Anders Breivik's isolated confinement in a three-room prison suite furnished with a treadmill, a refrigerator, a DVD player, a Sony PlayStation, a desk, a television, and a radio constitutes "inhuman or degrading treatment" under the European Convention on Human Rights, an Oslo court has ruled. The court instructed Norwegian authorities in nonspecific terms to relax the restrictions imposed on Breivik and ordered the government to pay his legal fees, which total about $50,000.Some people argue that we should emulate Europe in our treatment of criminals. In my view, Europe is a contrarian indicator. If Europe does X, that makes X somewhat more likely to be a bad idea.
Thanks for the tip to our frequent commenter "notablogger," who notes, "I wish this were a story in the Onion. Alas, it is not."
It seems the ACLU made the common error of citing federal prison statistics to support an argument about incarceration in the nation generally. As Latzer points out, federal prisons are only 13% of the total and not at all representative.
Hard data are hard to come by, especially at the state level. The information available is often aggregated into broad categories that make it very difficult to present the truth clearly. We know anecdotally that overall prosecutors are only seeking prison sentences and judges are only imposing them in cases where they are genuinely deserved, with exceptions being rare. Still, the myth has a firm hold and has fooled people who should know better.
CJLF has recently obtained data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation that tallies up the state prisoner population by offense of commitment at the detailed level. Marissa Cohen, our Public Policy Director, has put the data into charts. The pie chart is to the left, and the bar chart is after the break. Click on the chart for a larger version.
On the pie chart, start at 12 o'clock and go clockwise. Homicide, robbery, assault, sex crimes, and kidnapping bring us all the way to 9 o'clock. Three-quarters of state prisoners are in for crimes of violence. Add in burglary of homes, and we are up to 10 o'clock -- five-sixths. Burglary of a home is a crime of psychological violence. The harm it inflicts goes far beyond the monetary damage from forced entry and theft. The drug offenders are mostly in for trafficking, not possession for personal use.
Since the daring January 22 escape, word has circulated that the English-as-a-second-language teacher, Nooshafarin Ravaghi, and one of the escapees, Hossein Nayeri, had a relationship that was "close" and "personal," highly atypical for a prison teacher and an inmate, not to mention inappropriate and completely banned. It is believed that Ravaghi provided Nayeri and two other inmates, Bac Duong and Jonathan Tieu, with a printed photograph from Google Earth to help them escape from the maximum-security facility. Authorities believe she may have helped them on the outside as well.
Robin Respaut has this article for Reuters:
In 2012, under court order to reduce prison overcrowding, California announced an ambitious criminal justice reform plan that promised not only to meet the court mandate but also to improve criminal sentencing and "save billions of dollars."
Now, three years after implementing the changes, California has reduced its prison population by some 30,000 inmates, and the state is in the vanguard of a prison reform movement spreading across the country, with support from both the right and the left.
But the promise of savings - a chief goal of prison reform nationwide - has not been realized. Instead, costs have risen.
But the statements ... also reflect a basic misunderstanding of the data on prison populations. We've listed the statements in order, from the least egregious to the most outlandish, to demonstrate how -- almost like a game of telephone -- the facts get increasingly unmoored from the actual data. It's a complex issue, which leads itself to facile explanations.
[Contrary to President] Obama, the state prison population (which accounts for 87 percent of the nation's prisoners) is dominated by violent criminals and serial thieves. In 2013, drug offenders made up less than 16 percent of the state prison population, whereas violent felons were 54 percent of the rolls and property offenders, 19 percent. (See graph below.) Reducing drug admissions to 15 large state penitentiaries by half would lower those states' prison count by only 7 percent, according to the Urban Institute.
Given the relatively small share of drug offenders, ending the war on drugs would not significantly alter the racial disparity in incarceration rates, contrary to the conventional wisdom.
Blacks make up 37.5 percent of all state prisoners, about triple their share of the population as a whole, according to the Justice Department. If we released all 208,000 people currently in state prison on a drug charge, the proportion of African Americans in state prison would still be 37 percent.
Translation: Sentencing reform has been doing a lot of false advertising. The kinds of proposals we see being put forward about leniency for "low level, non-violent" drug offenders will neither decrease the prison population to anything like what reformers demand, nor will they do anything at all to curb racial disparity in the prison population.
The idea that society should decide about incarceration based on racial statistics is repulsive to me (I guess we don't have enough Jewish prisoners, yes?), but, as the Post article shows, even if we were to adopt it, it won't produce the claimed results.
"Exploited" is a favorite term of people stuck in the past who still view the world through Karl Marx's glasses. One might as well try to do advanced mathematics with Roman numerals or study cutting-edge astronomy with Galileo's telescope.
Although I am skeptical of the claimed reduction in recidivism rates with most programs, I have long believed that prison employment is a program we need more of, and Bozelko provides strong personal, albeit anecdotal, support:
The clamor over low inmate pay neglects one essential fact, one that is central to the current preoccupation with justice reform: Inmate work programs are the best known way to rehabilitate prisoners. Honest work elevates people regardless of what they are paid. Work humanizes inmates; employed inmates seem less like caged animals. While they paid me less than two dollars a day, my supervisors valued me as a person and an employee, at a time when no one else did, including myself.