Plz Sign: Immigrants Are Not For Sale

Please Sign the petition of My Cuentame:

The short video is on the Correction Corporation of America & the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and their attempt to open the country’s largest private immigration detention facility in south Florida.

The video features south Floridians voicing their criticism both against CCA’s/ICE’s facility and against the phenomena of private immigration detention centers/prisons. The petition asks Rep. Debbie Wasserman to stand with her constituents and “say no to CCA.”

IMMIGRANTS ARE NOT FOR SALE

We call on Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-20) to WITHDRAW her current endorsements for CCA’s project.

The Obama Administration announced a change in the priorities for detentions and deportations, to focus on real national security concerns, not on separating parents from their children or deporting DREAMers who are only seeking a better future.

It is time for ICE to stop the immigrant money making machine and tell CCA to GO AWAY from Southwest Ranches.

SIGN PETITION and tell REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ To Say NO to CCA!

News about private prisons (especially of GEO) in Louisiana

These news items were posted on the website of the Private Corrections Working Group in 2011. Via Twitter someone alerted us about the GEO group, but the website of the PCWG is a bit user-unfriendly. Also there are no links provided to the newspaper articles of the Jena Times and the Town Talk, so all we can do is mention where we found it: here. we hope this is what the person tweeting to us meant with the “articles” about GEO.

LaSalle Correctional Center, Urania, Louisiana
September 28, 2011 The Jena Times

The LaSalle Parish Police Jury served as a Board of Review for property assessments for year 2011 and took action on four protests filed by taxpayers.

LaSalle Assessor Aron Johnson presented each of the four protests, explaining why he had assessed the property in the manner he did and attorneys for the property owners had their say before the Jury took action.

The first protest heard by the Jury concerned a helicopter, which had been assessed to M&M Maintenance of LaSalle. Attorney Joe Wilson asked the Jury to strike the assessment since the helicopter had been sold by M&M Maintenance of LaSalle, LLC, to Everett Mayo and should have been assessed to Mayo. (Mayo is also the sole owner of M&M Maintenance.)

The Jury affirmed the assessment as levied by Johnson at $286,681 and sent the matter to the Louisiana Tax Commission. The next protest concerned Whitehall Plantation Lodge, owned by Justiss Oil Company, Inc. of Jena. Assessor Johnson had set the assessment at $482,824, and Wilson asked the Jury to lower the value to $350,244 because of depreciation.

The Jury voted to reduce the assessment to its 2007 level, which was $380,700. Next on the agenda was a protest from Justiss Oil Company, Inc. concerning the assessment of their office building located on U.S. 84 East in Jena. Johnson had placed the assessment at $850,042 and Wilson asked the Jury to lower the assessment to $793,322 because of depreciation.

However, the Jury voted to affirm the assessment at the figure placed on it by Johnson. The final protest concerned the LaSalle Detention Facility located in Jena and operated by CPT Operating Partner, LP (The GEO Group, Inc.).

Assessor Johnson assessed the facility at $60,918,400 (which included $598,400 for land and $60,320,000 for improvements). A representative of JP Rand for Paradigm Tax Group asked the Jury to lower the value to $30,758,400. However, the Jury voted to affirm the assessment as placed by the Assessor’s office.

Allen Correctional Center, Kinder, Louisiana
February 9, 2011 The Advocate
The Jindal administration is asking companies to detail how much they would charge the state to care for inmates in Allen and Winn parishes if two state prisons are sold to ease budget problems.

Responses to the Request For Information, or RFI, are due Friday as part of a possible move toward selling the correctional centers. Private companies oversee Winn Correctional Center in Atlanta, La., and Allen Correctional Center in Kinder. Winn is managed by Corrections Corporation of America while Global Expertise in Outsourcing, Inc. operates Allen.

Selling the prisons is still just a possibility at this point. However, a sale would force the state to pay the new owners for the care of inmates at the medium security centers. Some elected officials are nervous about how much the state would end up paying.

Michael DiResto, spokesman for the Division of Administration, said Wednesday that the RFI is “for planning and information gathering purposes.”

January 27, 2009 The Advertiser
A prison guard has been booked with helping three dangerous inmates escape from the privately run state prison in Kinder, the Allen Parish Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday. Detective Peggy Kennedy said Jesse Jordan, 19, of Glenmora was held without bond after being booked Monday night on three counts of assisting escape and one of malfeasance in office. He had worked there as a guard since May, Chief Deputy Grant Willis said. “It appears the motivation on his part was for monetary value,” Willis said. He said Jordan was cooperating with investigators. Jordan was employed by GEO — Global Expertise in Outsourcing Inc., the private company that runs the prison, Kennedy said. A call to the prison was not immediately returned.

Daniel Reeder, 24, of Shreveport, Troy Hargrave, 32, of Crowley, and Cecil Stratton, 29, of Berwick were missing at the 6 a.m. head count, prison officials said. They described all three as dangerous and said Reeder and Hargrave were serving time for manslaughter. Three rows of razor wire on the ground in front of the fence had been cut through, but neither the fence nor the razor wire on top of it had been cut, Willis said. “We can’t say for certain that’s the way they got out, or whether it was a decoy,” he said.

January 27, 2009 The Town Talk
Three inmates — two of whom were serving time for manslaughter — escaped from a correctional center in Kinder sometime before 6 a.m. Monday, prison officials reported. …

Hawaii AG report blasts "humonetarianism" and dependence on private prisons

This document could go a long way towards changing the Hawai’i prison system; I’m impressed that it was released by the state Attorney General. That, in turn, could have ripples elsewhere – certainly in Eloy, AZ, where Corrections Corporation of America incarcerates nearly 2000 Hawai’ians.  Eloy has real problems – as does CCA.18 Hawai’ian prisoners are suing employees at Saguaro prison there for torture, and one is suing for sexual assault (the guard who perpetrated it was actually prosecuted).  

All either Eloy or CCA seem to be concerned with is the money they can make in Arizona, of course, not reducing crime or victimization in Hawai’i or human rights abuses in their own community. If Hawai’ian legislators don’t get on the ball with sentencing and prison reform, they should be called out as either incompetent or corrupt – no one can afford for any of them to be indifferent to the prison crisis anymore.


Read the report this links to, then find your state legislators here.


Call or write to them here:


Senate Clerk’s Office

State Capitol, Room 10
415 South Beretania Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
(808)586-6720 phone
(808)586-6719 fax
sclerk@capitol.hawaii.gov


House Clerk’s Office
State Capitol, Room 27
415 South Beretania Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
(808)586-6400 phone
(808)586-6401 fax
hclerk@capitol.hawaii.gov

The key term is “evidence-based practice”. Good luck. I hope you manage to wage a successful boycott of Eloy and CCA by the time this battle is over. Israel outlawed private prisons because the profit motive is in direct opposition to human rights concerns – maybe Hawai’i will abandon them as well, for all the right reasons.



—from Hawaii.gov—


Here’s the Executive Summary:

This study examined the records of the 660 persons who were released on parole in the State of Hawaii between July 1, 2005 and June 30, 2006 (Fiscal Year 2006). It addresses two main questions: What are the demographic and criminal history profiles of parolees who have been incarcerated in Hawaii and in private prisons out of state? And, how do the recidivism rates of these two groups compare? Using records obtained from the Hawaii Paroling Authority, the Department of Public Safety, and the Department of the Attorney General, parolees were tracked for three to four years after their release from prison.

The study found that:

– 54 percent of Hawaii’s prisoners are incarcerated in private prisons on the mainland — the highest percentage among all U.S. states.

– As of the end of 2009, it cost approximately $118 per day to incarcerate an inmate in Hawaii, and at least $62 per day to incarcerate him or her in a private prison on the mainland. Note, however, that unlike the in-state per day cost, the private prison cost estimate is not all-inclusive.

– 75 percent of Fiscal Year 2006 parolees never served time in a private prison on the mainland, while 25 percent did serve time there.

– Of the one-quarter of parolees who have been imprisoned on the mainland, 70 percent served half or more of their time there.

– The average time served on the mainland was 3.5 years.

The analysis of the parolees’ demographic and criminal history profiles found that:

– Parolees averaged 56 total prior arrests and 24 convictions per parolee, including an average of 20 prior felony arrests and 8 felony convictions.

– Parolees in the mainland cohort had somewhat more felony arrests and felony convictions per person than did parolees in the Hawaii cohort.

– Parolees in the mainland cohort had been convicted of fewer property and drug crimes, and more violent and “other” offenses, than had the parolees in the Hawaii cohort.

– The average maximum sentence for parolees who had been incarcerated on the mainland was longer: 10.9 years, versus 8.5 years for the Hawaii cohort.

– The average time served by the mainland cohort was longer: 6.2 years, versus 3.2 years for the Hawaii cohort.

– The mainland cohort included substantially more males than did the Hawaii cohort: 20 male parolees for every female parolee in the mainland group, versus 4 male parolees for every female parolee in the Hawaii group.

– As compared to their male counterparts, female parolees in both cohorts were more likely to be property and drug crime offenders.

– There were no statistically significant differences in ethnicity between the two parole cohorts. Most notably, Native Hawaiians comprised 40 percent of each cohort.

The analysis of recidivism found that:

– Parolees in the mainland cohort received significantly lower scores on the Level of Service Inventory-Revised (LSI-R). Hence, mainlanders had fewer needs for service and a lower average risk of recidivism than did parolees in the Hawaii cohort.

– In the aggregate, the LSI-R scores predicted recidivism fairly well.

– A little more than half of parolees in both cohorts failed on parole within three years.

– The average time to recidivism in both cohorts was about 15 months.

– The recidivism rate for the mainland cohort (53 percent) was slightly lower than the recidivism rate for the Hawaii cohort (56 percent), but this difference is not statistically significant.

– There was more recidivism among the mainland cohort for parolees in the higher-risk LSI-R categories.

– There was more recidivism among the mainland cohort for violating conditions of parole.

– Nearly half of all rearrests were for violating the conditions of parole.

– In both cohorts, older people recidivated less than did younger people. Age is a powerful ally of efforts to stop criminal offending.

– There were few significant differences between the two cohorts in acts of misconduct committed while in prison.

– Parolees in the mainland cohort were more likely to violate parole conditions than were parolees in the Hawaii group.

– Furlough programs were related to significantly lower rates of recidivism among mainland parolees, but not among parolees who were imprisoned only in Hawaii.

Recommendations from this study:

– Since there is no empirical justification for the policy argument that private prisons reduce recidivism better than public prisons, the State of Hawaii should decide whether to continue, discontinue, expand, or contract its reliance on private prisons based on other criteria. While cost is one criterion, it is not the only one that is important to consider.

– It is ill-advised to rely on a framework for thinking about corrections (herein termed humonetarianism) that stresses short-term financial savings at the expense of programs aimed at improving the prospects for offenders’ rehabilitation and the satisfaction of their basic needs and rights. Long-term savings are often found in forward-thinking policies and programs.

– The State of Hawaii needs to calculate more inclusive and accurate estimates of the cost of incarceration in-state and in private prisons on the mainland.

– Much more research needs to be done in order to adequately describe the contours and consequences of Hawaii’s correctional policy. One high priority is a study that explores who gets sent to prison (and where). The present study examined only persons who were released on parole.

– The State of Hawaii should conduct more research about its correctional policies and outcomes, especially given a policy world that is increasingly evidence-based.

– The Department of Public Safety and the Hawaii Paroling Authority need an integrated records management system. At present, inmates’ records are often incomplete, scattered, and difficult to locate.

Crime and Punishment

By Bomani Shakur

“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”
– Dostoyevsky

If what Dostoyevsky says is true (and I believe it is), then America, which boast the largest prison population in the world, is perhaps the most uncivilized country there is. A bold statement, I know, especially coming from someone who has spent the past twenty-three years behind bars. But if what Dostoyevsky says is true, then what happens inside these places is crucial to understanding what kind of society we live in; and who better to speak to the reality of prison life than someone who is living the experience?

But no one wants to learn about the madness that predominates inside these places. People – average, law-abiding citizens- are losing their homes, jobs, and are struggling to survive, and the last thing anyone wants to hear is how hard prison is for a bunch of criminals. “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime” is the prevailing sentiment and attitude. It never occurs that the rising incarceration rate is connected to the same economic and political policies that resulted in the home-foreclosure crisis and the rise in unemployment.

When people think of crime, what usually comes to mind is a poor person inflicting pain upon another poor person. Very seldom, if ever, do we stop and allow ourselves to consider the forces that create crime; trapped by the pull of our own necessities and fears, we live reactively, focusing on the effects instead of the causes of what we see and believe—and so we remain divided. And it’s precisely because of this division that we are our own worst enemies—divided, they rule us!

But who are “they”, and what do they have to do with the way in which we see and treat each other?

Howard Zinn, in his book A People’s History of the United States, tells us who they are and how they use us against one another:

“[T]he wealthiest one percent of the nation owns a third of the wealth. The rest of the wealth is distributed in such a way as to turn those in the 99 percent against one another: small property owners against the propertyless, black against white, native-born against foreign-born, intellectuals and professionals against the uneducated and unskilled…”

Hence, in the context of a capitalistic society, crime is the result of an unequal distribution of wealth. As such, a distinction between guilt and responsibility must be made. For instance, a person can be guilty of selling drugs but not at all responsible for creating the conditions wherein selling drugs is the only viable option of survival. Indeed, when one lives in a society where profit takes precedence over human potential, one’s very existence becomes a crime; and whether this takes on the form of selling drugs, stealing food, or joining a gang to fight over turf and limited resources, the goal is to stay alive.

I grew up in poverty, born to a marginally educated black woman who, because of a lack of opportunity, sought to raise me and my three siblings on welfare. In the whole 42 years I’ve been alive, I’ve only seen my father one time. By the age of ten, I was stealing food from the neighborhood grocery store in order to survive. I was thirteen when I took my first joyless joyride in a stolen vehicle, which ultimately led to my being sent away for the first time. By the time I turned seventeen, I had been living on my own for several years and selling drugs in one of the most impoverished, drug-infested neighborhoods in Cleveland, Ohio. A few months after my nineteenth birthday, in 1988, the year crack cocaine became an epidemic, I was involved in a shoot-out over money and I killed a rival drug dealer. For this, I was sent to prison to serve a life sentence for murder.

In a nutshell, this is the story of my life, and if any of it was unique, the telling of it would be inconsequential, an unnecessary recounting of my own personal troubles. However, what makes my story significant is that it’s the exact same tale told by millions of poor people who grow up in the slums of America, which points to the possibility of there being something larger than one’s personal troubles at work in the process to determine where one ends up in this society.

In his groundbreaking work on The Sociological Imagination, C. Wright Mills, using the example of unemployment, explains the difference between personal troubles and societal issues:

When, in a society of 100,000, only one man is unemployed, that is his personal trouble, and for its relief we properly look to the character of the man, his skills, and his immediate opportunities. But when in a nation of 50 million employees, 15 million men are unemployed, that is an issue, and we may not hope to find its solution within the range of opportunities open to any one individual. The very structure of opportunities has collapsed. Both the correct statement of the problem and the range of possible solutions require us to consider the economic and political institutions of society, and not merely the personal situation of a scatter of individuals.

Applying the same logic, it should be considered an issue that black people – in a country wherein they only represent thirteen percent of the population—make up 50 percent of those who are sent to prison. It is likewise an issue that virtually 100 percent of those behind bars are poor and come from economically deprived sections of society.

In addressing this issue, it’s not enough to point the finger at a bunch of so-called criminals and, without first looking at the economic and political institutions of society, claim that they are the sole cause of their predicament.

Despite what those in power would have us believe, no one starts out with the goal of becoming a criminal and spending the bulk of their lives behind bars, and in and out of prison. As individuals, we make choices based on what we perceive our options to be; and those options, be they good or bad, are a product of the society we live in.

“When a society is industrialized,” explains C. Wright Mills, “a peasant becomes a worker; a feudal lord is liquidated or becomes a businessman. When classes rise and fall, a man is employed or unemployed; when the rate of investment goes up or down, a man takes new heart or goes broke. When wars happen, an insurance salesman becomes a rocket launcher; a store clerk, a radar man; a wife lives alone; a child grows up without a father.”

Similarly, when a society is deindustrialized, a steel worker becomes a corrections officer; a would-be college student, a drug dealer. When communities are decimated and hemmed in by poverty, families take new heart or fall apart. When a fictitious “War on drugs” is declared on the inner-city, penitentiaries are built in rural areas and filled with criminals; a wife lives alone; a child grows up without a father.

Contrary to what we have been told, this is how life (under the system of capitalism) unfolds – not in a picnic basket of unlimited opportunity, but in a crucible of socioeconomic forces that force us to assume positions of survival. Thus, a steel worker becomes a corrections officer, not in pursuit of a lifelong dream but in order to feed his family. A boy growing up in the ghetto becomes a criminal/gang banger, not to glorify crime but in order to survive. And what C. Wright Mills would have us understand is that the various permutations that we as individuals undergo are directly connected to the economic and political permutations of the system.

When corporations, through Congress, lobby for the enactment of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), removing obstacles for corporate capital and goods to move back and forth between Mexico and the United States, they do so with full knowledge and understanding of the economic consequences. Cheaper labor means greater profits; but it also means the closing of factories, a lower standard of living, a subpar educational system, and an increase in crime, as normal, everyday citizens scramble to survive. And what do those in power do in order to address the ramifications of their decisions? They build more prisons.

With the advent of deindustrialization in the 1980s, the prison population in the United States more than quadrupled, peaking at 2.5 million and surpassing both South Africa and Russia in per capita prison populations. During the same period (1980-2007) – while 30 million people languished below the poverty line – the United States produced 1,000 billionaires, and 227,000 millionaires with the combined worth of $30 trillion, more than the GDP’s of China, Brazil, Japan, Russia, and the EU put together. This is how the system of capitalism works: the rich get richer, and the poor get screwed – i.e., fucked in the anus sans grease!

In his book Understanding Power, Noam Chomsky talks about what he refers to as “superfluous populations,” which is a very intellectual way of calling people “trash.” From the perspective of the rich, whose main objective is to accumulate wealth, human beings are useless when they no longer contribute to profit-making, so as a result, explains Noam Chomsky, they want to get rid of them—and the criminal justice system is one of the best ways of doing it.

So prisons—it must be understood—aren’t about controlling crime and punishing those who commit it; they’re about controlling the poor. Looked at correctly, it’s not an exaggeration to say that what is going on now is very similar to what was going on in the 1940s when Hitler was exterminating the Jews. The only real difference is that those who are now being thrown away are considered “criminals” which, let’s face it, makes it a whole lot easier to accept. But just as Hitler created the justification for the mass extermination of the Jews, so, too, have those in power created the justification for the mass incarceration of the poor.
When Ronald Reagan declared the so-called War on Drugs in the 1980s, a finely honed strategy of imposing mandatory sentences for particular kinds of drugs (read: crack cocaine) was used to lock up those from predominantly Black and Hispanic communities. For instance, a young man in the ghetto gets caught with a kilo of cocaine or twenty thousand dollars in cash, and he is sent to prison for twenty years. In the meantime, nothing is said about the chemical corporations who make billions of dollars from sending the necessary chemicals to Latin America in order to manufacture the very drugs that are destroying inner-cities throughout the United States.
And what about the bankers who launder billions of dollars in drug money through American banks? According to the O.E.C.D. (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), it’s estimated that a half-trillion dollars in drug money gets laundered internationally each year—more than half of it ($260 billion) through American banks. But are any of these people in prison? The answer is NO! And the reason why none of these people are in prison is because those in power determine what constitutes a crime and, more importantly, who gets categorized as criminals. A white man laundering billions of dollars in drug money is a businessman. A black man selling drugs in the ghetto is a criminal; and for his “crimes,” he is sent to prison.

And what happens to that Black—poor White or Hispanic—man when he enters America’s prisons? If he makes it through orientation without being raped, he’s lucky. It’s a brutal world in here, and unless one is totally devoid of common sense, one very quickly learns that there is safety in numbers. In other words, the picture repeats and expands, and it’s the ghetto streets all over again. But in here the police operate without restraint, and the old adage about “absolute power corrupting absolutely” is on full display, Not a day goes by without someone being sprayed in the face with mace, shot with a pellet gun, or thrown down a flight of stairs.

A few weeks ago, while watching the news, I witnessed a group of college students in California being sprayed in the face with mace because they had the audacity to protest against the rising cost of college tuition, student-loan debt, and the uncertainty surrounding future employment. In New York City (and around the country), I witnessed members of Occupy Wall Street being forcibly evicted from their camps, some (as in Oakland California) being shot with pellet guns, thrown atop automobiles, and kicked and shoved about like cattle. Watching these things, it occurred to me that this is what Dostoyevsky must have meant when he said, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” Indeed, what many Americans witnessed and experienced for the first time is something that those of us in prison witness and experience on a daily basis.

So why are normal, everyday citizens being treated as criminals, and for what crimes are they being punished? From the perspective of those who own society, it’s considered a lack of appreciation when slaves rise up to question their masters; and of course when people come together and begin to talk earnestly about the inequity of the system, they automatically represent a threat to the status quo and must go. Then we learn how thin the veneer of civilization really is, and how fragile our so-called freedoms are.

When eyes are burning with mace, when blood is dripping down the face, it all becomes frighteningly clear: capitalism is a sham; and whether in or out (of prison), as long as we live under a system that views everything and everybody as a commodity, we’re all doing time. And that, at the end of the day, is the real crime—not that some of us are locked up, but that none of us are free!

————-
Bomani Shakur (Keith LaMar) #317117
O.S.P.
P.O. Box 1436,
Youngstown, OH 44501
Dec. 2011

Lawmakers Push To Reduce Prisoner Recidivism

From Vermont Public Radio
Dec 20, 2011
John Dillon

(Host) Vermont has set ambitious goals to cut the number of prisoners who return to jail.
The effort to reduce the recidivism rate is still in the study phase. But officials say it’s critical to control the spiraling cost of corrections.

VPR’s John Dillon has more:
(Dillon) Right now, 43 percent of Vermont prisoners released from jail are incarcerated again within three years.

The Legislature recognized that the high rate of returning prisoners makes corrections one of the fastest growing areas of state government. Lawmakers passed a bill last winter called the War on Recidivism act. But that war is still very much in the planning stage. The first step was research.

(Schlueter) “I think the good news is that there are many successful programs in each and every one of the topics that you asked us to look at that are successful or at least promising in terms of reducing recidivism.”

(Dillon) Max Schlueter is director of the Vermont Center for Justice Research. He oversaw a study that looked at recidivism prevention programs around the country and in Vermont.
Schlueter says Vermont has been a leader in certain areas.

(Schlueter) “Closer to home, I think it’s safe to say that the Department of Corrections and its community partners have long embraced notions of evidence-based programming and in particular probably one of the most essential evidence based practice, the use of risk assessment.”

(Dillon) Dick Sears is a senator from Bennington who chairs both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Corrections Oversight Committee.

He says lawmakers want to reduce recidivism over the next three years from 43 percent to 30 percent.
(Sears) “And that may not sound startling but that reduces the number of crimes committed, reduces a lot of things, and the human toll and toll on victims and so forth.”

(Dillon) Sears sees the war on recidivism as part of a progression of reforms designed to reduce the corrections population and control costs.

(Sears) We started out talking about reducing the number of out of state beds. Now we’re talking about really reducing crime further and reducing the repeat offender. And that’s critical.

(Dillon) Vermont now has 522 prisoners doing time in prisons out of state.
Corrections Commissioner Andrew Pallito told the oversight committee that he’s working on initiatives that should cut that number over the next several years.

(Pallito) “We have a series of proposals in the 2013 budget that will bring our of out of state population, will continue to bring it down. I think you’ll be impressed when you see the totality of what we’re thinking.”

(Dillon) Pallito says the recidivism study is just the start of a multi-year effort. And he says a first step was agreeing on a common definition of recidivism so policy makers can track progress and see how Vermont compares to other states.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

Court Blocks Florida Inmates From Having Pen Pal Ads

Pen pals are an important part of keeping people in prisons healthy, despite the safety concern (everything is a safety concern in prisons, if it comes to it to have more humanity for prisoners…). Safety concerns may even rise more if prisoners cannot relate to or engage with human beings on the other side…

From (would you believe it): Fox news

Dec 22, 2011
A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected a complaint from pen-pal services that challenged a Florida policy banning inmates from advertising themselves on the online sites.

The operators of WriteAPrisoner.com and two other services claimed the policy violated the free speech rights of the state’s inmates. But the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with state officials who argued the Match.com-style listings could lead to security problems.

It’s the latest decision in an ongoing legal feud between the online pen-pal sites and corrections officials who have adopted similar policies in several other states. The federal appeals court in Chicago in July upheld a similar restriction adopted by the Indiana Department of Correction.

Florida officials prohibited the online ads in 2004 after receiving complaints about pen pal scams. The rule allowed inmates to correspond with pen pals but banned them from placing ads on sites to find new pals. Inmates who ignore the rule could have privileges such as visitation or phone calls revoked.

WriteAPrisoner and two letter services, Freedom Through Christ Prison Ministry and Prison Pen Pals, argue that the sites play a valuable role in helping inmates. They say many people who use the sites are from religious groups, and that they help inmates rehabilitate by providing them more contact with the outside world.

But prison officials countered that the sites could lead to more money and contraband entering the facilities. The department would have to assign more staffers and to comb through mail to root out any signs of fraudulent schemes or illegal material, state officials said in court records.

In an 18-page ruling, Circuit Judge Charles R. Wilson concluded that allowing inmates to post ads on the sites would place an extra burden on already-strained prison staffs. He said the rules don’t violate the inmates’ rights, and noted they still allow them to “glean the positive influence” from pen pals using sites that don’t require ads.

Florida corrections spokeswoman Ann Howard said the state is pleased with the ruling. WriteAPrisoner.com owner Adam Lovell said the decision blocks his site from offering rehabilitative services to Florida inmates that could have helped reduce recidivism. He is considering whether to appeal.

“The department’s rule and today’s decision solved a non-existent problem,” he said. “It is a sad day for us, but we proudly move on with the support of a very strong base committed to prison reform.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/12/22/court-blocks-florida-inmates-from-having-pen-pal-ads/#ixzz1heVf3CTw

Report: Too many juveniles go back to prison

From: NorthWest Herald
Dec 25, 2011
By SARAH SUTSCHEK

More than half of young offenders in Illinois’ youth prisons are back within three years of their release, according to a new report.

The system intended to help imprisoned juveniles get back into their communities for more rehabilitation is broken, but not beyond repair, according to the study by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission.

During a six-month period, 54 percent of the 386 youths whose parole was revoked were sent back to prison for technicalities such as truancy and curfew violations.

Other findings include the fact that youths are systematically deprived of their constitutional rights in decisions regarding parole revocations.

The report recommends that judges preside over parole revocation hearings, rather than prisoner review boards.

Young offenders also typically stay on parole until their 21st birthdays, increasing the likelihood of returning to custody. The report recommends that the length of parole should be limited. Plus, parole officers handle both adults and youth with caseloads averaging 100, but have no special training for dealing with young people. Rarely do they refer young parolees to programs that could help them with jobs, substance abuse or mental health issues.

“You have officers who are overworked and who don’t have adequate training,” said commission chairman George Timberlake, retired chief justice of the 2nd Circuit Court. “It’s easy to say, ‘It’s a violation. I’m writing it up,’ and the kid goes back inside the prison.”

Statewide, there are more than 1,000 young people in custody in eight prisons with an additional 1,600 on parole.

Locally, between seven to 12 kids are sent to juvenile prisons from McHenry County each year, said James J. Edwards, who heads the juvenile division of Court Services. The average number of juveniles in detention centers also is low, hovering around five or six youths a day.

“When you look at a county our size, historically we have a low percentage of kids who ever end up in the Department of Juvenile Justice,” said Phil Dailing, director of Court Services. “We don’t contribute a lot to this problem.”

The burden is on county officials, when appropriate, to find alternatives rather than send young people to prison, Dailing said.

Read the rest here.

Further reading:

The Report of the IL Juvenile Justice Commission (PDF)

Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission: Broken Parole System Traps Young Offenders (Huffington Post, 14 dec 2011)