Category: Corrections (page 1 of 2)

House Fails to Pass Conditional Medical Release Bill

-New-_Massachusetts_State_House,_July_2014

(Photo credit)

On Wednesday, July 13, 2016, the Massachusetts Senate passed “An Act relative to Medical Placement of Terminal and Incapacitated Inmates”. This Act would have allowed for conditional medical parole of inmates with a terminal illness or permanent incapacitation, allowing them to receive medical or palliative care outside of the prison system.

The process would have required a county Sheriff or correctional facility Superintendent to recommend someone for conditional medical parole. The inmate would then have a hearing before the Parole Board to determine whether parole would be granted.  The parole was conditional and would have been revoked if the inmate was to recover.

The bill then moved on to the House of Representatives for consideration. As of July 18, 2016, it had been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.  The bill was not taken up in session, however, and therefore was not passed before session ended on Sunday, July 31 .  Passing this bill would have helped Massachusetts catch up with the 45 other states that currently have similar programs in place.

Attorney Joel Thompson had the following comment:

“I was thrilled to see the Senate pass a bill that would bring Massachusetts into line with 45 other states and the federal prison system, by giving state and county prison officials the ability to seek an appropriate placement outside of a correctional facility for prisoners who are terminally ill or permanently incapacitated.  The challenge was significant, as this bill lacks the kind of widespread interest seen with some other criminal justice proposals.  The management of dying and debilitated prisoners is neither a popular nor a pleasant topic, and it ultimately affects very few people.  That reality made PLAP’s involvement in this policy debate all the more important.

PLAP testified in favor of this bill based on the first-hand experiences of PLAPpers, who have represented the ill and the infirm, from terminal cancer patients to bedridden prisoners with dementia.  Not infrequently these prisoners receive disciplinary reports for behavior that is entirely attributable to their medical condition.  Such cases illustrate how prisons simply are not designed to manage these prisoners and their significant needs, yet Massachusetts does not allow Sheriffs or the Department of Correction to seek out a placement in a long term care facility or home hospice, under appropriate supervision.  PLAP identified the practical importance of making such a tool available.

While we ran out of time during this legislative session for the bill to reach a vote in the House, we see the Senate’s passage of the bill as an important step forward, one which will give us momentum heading into the next session.  I know PLAPpers will again step up to educate lawmakers about the bill and to advocate for its passage.”

Indiana House of Representatives passes $80 million criminal justice bill: $60 million to go towards treatment programs

Greg Steuerwald

Pictured above: Rep. Greg Steuerwald of Avon, Indiana (Co-author of the bill)

“Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, co-author of the bill, said during a discussion before Monday’s vote … ‘This is a way to make sure we’re keeping people out of jail and keeping families together.'”

The bill, geared towards addressing non-violent crimes, especially non-violent drug crimes, without the use of incarceration, passed unanimously. The bill will now be assigned to a committee in the Indiana Senate.

Click here for the full IndyStar article.

“Prison is Not for Punishment in Sweden. We Get People into Better Shape”

“Our role is not to punish. The punishment is the prison sentence: they have been deprived of their freedom. The punishment is that they are with us,” says Nils Öberg, director-general of Sweden’s prison and probation service.

The United States prison system is widely regarded as broken. Prisons were supposed to “rehabilitate” offenders who have wronged society by punishing them with a prison sentence. Unfortunately, the United States prison system has failed to rehabilitate thus producing high recidivism rates and overall crime. In Sweden, they are testing a new approach to crime. Oberg, the director-general, believes in addressing the inmate’s needs in order for he or she to correct the behavior that led them to prison in the first place. Sweden’s prison rates are significantly lower after they implemented this approach. They’ve also been fortunate enough to actually close prisons because of the lowered crime rate.

Why Isn’t Prison Justice on the Ballot This Tuesday?

Help Lady Liberty Out and Read the Full Article Here.

 

It seems as if criminal justice reform has been a mainstream topic since the 1970’s, but continuously we see prison reforms being halted or ignored by congress. The “tough on crime” approach was of major attention when New York City promised to harshly tackle the issue, but now that talk of reforming has taken place, the actual chance to take action on it seems to be absent from campaigns and ballots. Why? Well, most people pay attention to the problem of crime and then demand change, not the problems affecting criminals. However, as the article points out, America wears a scarlet letter of mass incarceration, which is an embarrassment for our country. And with so many people being affected by prison sentences, more people should be demanding change for the current system. Just because the crimes are happening behind prison walls doesn’t mean we can turn a blind eye. In fact, the author suggests, by reforming the criminal justice system, we will see a positive change in other areas, most notably, the economic inequality gap.

 

Changing Prison From the Inside Out

 

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Mark Olmsted vowed to never forget his fellow inmates that he would leave behind after his release from a nine month prison stint, and he certainly did not. When he got out he continued to keep in contact with his former cellmates, sending them money here and there or just a friendly letter to let them know they haven’t been forgotten by the outside world. As he continued to campaign for prison reform, he received surprising, and seemingly impossible, tweets from an inmate in an Alabama prison. Turns out that some inmates in southern area prisons are networking via contraband cell phones to inform us, the outside world, of their lives and prison conditions. This network has come to be known as the Free Alabama Movement. A part of it’s statement purpose reads, “And this Movement isn’t about getting ‘some outside support,’ or having our family ‘call the politicians or mayor’s office,’ ‘call the news station’ and on and on and on. The reason for this is simple: we can’t form a movement conditioned on ‘outside’ people without first unifying the ‘inside people.'” So, take a moment out of your day to hear the truth about prisons and prison life from the best experts there could possibly be: the inmates themselves. 

Free Alabama Movement Official Website– Here you can listen to the prisoners who have been forgotten, silenced and ignored. Listen to them, let their voices be heard, and spread their message further along in the outside world.

AND the Free Alabama Movement is ALL over youtube, recording their lives on the inside and exposing the hard truths to the outside.

Not only are there youtube videos being posted by FAM, but one inmate actually hosts a talk show from inside the prison, allowing for other inmates with contraband cell phones to call in and speak on his online radio station.

“The Throwaways”: New Film Spotlights Impact of Police Killings and Mass Incarceration in Upstate New York

 

New documetary film “The Throwaways” follows Ira McKinley, a filmmaker and ex-convcit, as he guides viewers through nearly empty city of Albany, New York while shedding light on the prison and police problems that have plagued marginalized populations for years. Ira McKinley describes his life before prison, explaining that his father was shot and killed by cops when he was just 14 and he quickly became “addicted to the life.” To support his new lifestyle, including a crack habit, he began robbing stores which ultimately landed him in prison until 2002. After he was released, he describes how hard it was for him to re-enter society as an ex convict, deeming himself a “marked” citizen. Ira McKinley bravely takes viewers into a world of racial profiling, which he refers to as “The New Jim Crow,” based on the book by Michelle Alexander, mass incarceration, and the slow death of once heavily populated, black communities.

Click here to watch the interview or read the full article.

Click here to learn more about Michelle Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”

Click here for “The Throwaways” documenary website.

Break the Prison to Poverty Pipeline

 

“The way we treat prisoners while they are locked up, after all, directly affects how they fare when they re-enter society”- Clio Chang, author of article.

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Rikers Island has started to improve conditions for inmates with the  elimination of solitary confinement for youth ages 16 and 17. However, much more needs to be done to rehabilitate, not punish, America’s most vulnerable citizens. Rikers Island has an infamous reputation for being especially brutal to its inmates for minor disturbances and has most recently been brought into the spotlight for it’s lack of rehabilitation for inmates. The United States has become a strictly punitive system that makes it impossible for inmates to escape their prison history and then successfully re-enter society. Even though in theory prisons were meant to rehabilitate via educational programs, job trainings etc., it has developed into a system of punishment that lacks the resources necessary to break the prison to povery pipeline. Click here to read the full article.

You’re Old and Finally Out of Prison: What Happens Now?

“People talk about the euphoria you feel about getting out,” he said. “I didn’t feel anything like that. I was scared to death and I certainly wasn’t happy. You don’t spend three decades in an eight-by-sixteen foot cell and then come out and expect to live a normal life. You become acclimated to prison life and get institutionalized” -Lawrence White, also pictured below, a released prisoner who served 30 years.

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The quote above, said by Lawrence White, accurately explains the difficulty of adjusting to freedom after having spent so many years behind bars. Many people who are released from prison do not receive the reentry help and up to date information that is needed for them to survive in a new day and age. After living in a controlled and secluded facility for a majority of their life, many inmates, such as Lawrence White mentioned above, forget how to live independently and without being told what to do. The abrupt push into the free world is only the beginning of inevitable difficulties for all inmates, but it may be even harder for those who are aged 50 and older and have spent a majority of their life in prison. Finding a home, apartment or an assisted living facility that is willing to take ex felons, a job that doesn’t require daily lifting of heavy weights (construction and foodservice jobs are the most commonly available to ex prisoners), medical care and with that the ability to pay for it via healthcare, etc., are just a few of the uphill battles for the aged inmates. For those who lose the battle, many end up homeless or in cramped, illegal living spaces, and begging on the street. Fortunately though, there are programs that are dedicated to helping aging prisoners adjust to society and ensuring they receive the proper care and resources they need. Click here to read the full article.

Patrick Unveils Overhaul for Bridgewater Hospital

ryan_statehospital5_met Above, Bridgewater State Hospital

 

Bridgewater State Hospital has been under fire after a patient died by the hands of several correctional officers while they were attempting to place him in restraints. The death, ruled a homicide, sparked an investigation into the hospital and the treatment of mentally ill prisoners. As a result, Deval Patrick has written up a plan that consists of decreasing the use of restraints and isolation of patients and hiring more properly trained clinicians that can effectively and appropriately handle mentally ill individuals. Many mental health advocates are in favor of this overhaul, grateful that patients will be able to get the help they truly need from a licensed clinician, instead of relying on correctional officers to do the job. Click here to read the full article.

 

We Can’t Afford to Ignore Drug Addiction in Prison

As the drug epidemic continues to grow and drug offenders continue to pile up in prison, we are faced with the undeniable truth that sending addicts to jail is not going to solve the drug problem. The “War on Drugs” specifically focused on eliminating the supplier while completely ignoring the addicts and the depths of addiction. What we should have focused on was prevention and treatment for drug addicts, but instead of treating the addict as the sick and vulnerable human being they truly are, we punished them for having a problem. As new research comes to light about the brain and addiction, I hope it will change people’s opinions about addicts and the right way to heal them. In the article, it states that when a person becomes an addict, it physically changes their brain chemistry and make up. Instead of receiving signals that they need food or water, they get a message that they need their drug to satisfy the physical dependence. Without proper treatment and counseling for addicts they will go straight back to the thing that makes them feel better; their drug.

How many times are we going to arrest and release a drug offender until he or she passes away from this harrowing health problem? When people are sick, we provide them with care. It is irrational to believe that locking up a sick person will cure their disease, so why do we believe this is true for drug offenders? The scariest part of releasing a drug offender is knowing that their need for their drug grew stronger every day they sat in that jail, but their tolerance for the drug was decreasing at the same time. For some, the drug becomes stronger than them. And for the unfortunate, the drug wins. It’s time to stop letting the drug win and stop letting it overcrowd our prisons.

Link to the Article

For more information about prisoners and drug treatment, please visit:

The Anonymous People Documentary Website 

Or:

Justice Policy Institute

 

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