MN: Inside look at Stillwater prison’s double bunking

From: KSTP-TV [no date given, 2015?]

A rare look inside a Minnesota prison and a look into a particular practice there called double bunking.  The Department of Corrections is trying this in an effort to save money.  But it’s not without risks.  5 EYEWITNESS NEWS gives you the first ever look inside Stillwater’s double bunked cells.
More prisoners and less money.  The Minnesota Department of Corrections says those two factors left them with no choice.  At Saint Cloud and Stillwater, they’d have to cram two men into cells built for one.  That was a year ago.  See for yourself how well it’s working.  You’ll hear from those in charge and from the prisoners themselves.
Prisons by nature are not quiet places.   But take a walk inside Stillwater and you’ll hear one section roaring above the rest.
This is B-West and it’s loud.  Built for 250 inmates it now holds 400.  “They try to make it nice, but you can’t make this nice,” inmate Christopher Haney said. 
In a space so small you can touch opposite walls at the same time two men try, sometimes in vain to keep out of each other’s way.  “If you’re in with a guy and ya’ll cool it’s not bad.  But if you’re in here with somebody and you don’t get along this is a very tight place,” inmate Arteze Lewis said.
Other inmates go off to jobs seven hours a day.  They return tired and more ready to rest than fight.
But they are only so many jobs to go around.  Most on B-West are new and don’t have one and that’s why they’re here.  They’re out of their cells just one hour a day.  23 hours in a six-by-ten space with zero privacy.
Deputy Commissioner of Corrections Dennis Benson explains, “Certainly one of the obvious issues is that every room has a toilet.  And use of toilet facilities can be an issue when you double bunk.”
Inmate Christopher Haney said, “A lot more tension.  You’ve got to deal with your roommate and the guys next you up and down the hall.”
Prison officials say they’re trying to reduce that tension.  They’ve learned tough lessons along the way.  The number of assaults at Stillwater jumped when double bunking began.  Last summer two separate incidents injured a staff member and two inmates.  “We had B-West locked up for several weeks as a result of trying to strike that balance,” Warden Daniel Ferrise said. 
They’ve lowered the number of inmates, adjusted schedules and do more cell searches.  But that can only reduce the danger of working here.  “Double celling at higher custody facility is a risk and we’re in the business of making calculated risks.”
Corrections says the number of assaults is back down to normal but officials tell us they’ve taken double bunking as far as it can go.  With the prison population expected to rise by another 700 this year they’re hoping for more money from the legislature to add new cells or to send inmates to private prisons.  But with another state budget deficit that won’t be easy.
Advertisements

How Ohio’s Plan To Privatize Prison Food Could Lead To Deadly Riots

From: Think Progress
By Aviva Shen on Feb 11, 2013

In an effort to cut costs, Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) is planning to hire a private food vendor to feed 50,179 inmates in the Ohio prison system. The administration argues the decision to outsource prison food will save as much as $16 million a year.

Motivated by a huge state deficit, Ohio has become a laboratory in prison reform — with mixed results. The state sold a prison to Corrections Corporation of America, a private prison company, in 2011, only to discover abysmal conditions far below state standards in sanitation, food quality, hygiene, and health care. However, Ohio’s new sentencing reforms are saving the state millions while diverting nonviolent offenders away from prison and into educational and rehabilitative programs.

Ohio’s taste for privatization is likely to make prison food even less appetizing than it already is. Private vendors can skimp on food quality, quantity, and staff in order to make a profit. Unlike state-run cafeterias, private vendors servicing juvenile detention facilities can skip the federal nutrition guidelines for school lunches:

The state Department of Youth Services, which has 469 youths at four detention facilities, spends $6.18 million a year, or $27.60 per inmate per day for food service, said spokeswoman Kim Parsell. The costs are higher because youths don’t help with food prep or cooking, the meals adhere to federal guidelines for school lunches and the teen-aged detainees have higher caloric needs, she said. The state receives $5.51 per day per youth as reimbursement from the national school lunch program. Switching to a private vendor is expected to save DYS about $1.2 million a year, she said.

The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, the union that represents some 10,000 prison workers, warns that a contractor will pay lower wages, hire fewer people and dish out less food to make a profit. Roughly, 450 state workers in DYS and DRC could end up losing their jobs, though some could apply for other state jobs or perhaps be hired by the contractor.

Tim Shafer, OCSEA operations director, said complaints about inmate food may sound like whining but they contribute to the safety and security of a prison.
“As a former corrections officer, I can tell you one of the best things in the world is a full inmate. They want to sit down and chill out,” Shafer said. Inmates are fed a heart healthy diet that features a rotating menu of dinners such as sloppy joes, fajitas, and chicken and biscuits.

Poor food quality and sanitation have sparked multiple deadly riots at private prisons run by corporations like CCA and GEO Group. In one prison, inmates were fed soup filled with worms, while other prisons served burritos and brownies contaminated with human feces.

Read the rest here: http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/02/11/1563191/ohio-privatize-prison-food/?mobile=nc

Oklahoma prisons: 99.2% filled

Oklahoma prisons: Situation normal, all filled up
Jan. 28th 2013
From: Tulsa World.

The Legislature needs to grant Department of Corrections Director Justin Jones the additional $66.7 million he is requesting for prison operations and staff retention for fiscal 2014.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/opinion/article.aspx?subjectid=61&articleid=20130128_61_A11_CUTLIN804961&allcom=1

The same news elsewhere:

Oklahoma needs more prison beds, corrections director says
From: News OK

Law cited in growth
The inmate population growth is attributed to a state law that requires inmates convicted of certain violent crimes, including murder and manslaughter, to serve at least 85 percent of the sentence before becoming eligible for parole and inmates drawing longer sentences, he said.

The number of prisoners increased about 900 in the past year, Jones said. The agency was able the past couple of years to renovate buildings on prison grounds into bed space, but no spare buildings are available. The state has a growing backlog of inmates in county jails, Jones said. About 1,700 are in county jails now, up from 650 in 2000. Since 2003, the state consistently has been backed up by 1,000 inmates or more.
When county jails go over their capacity, they face fines and disciplinary action from the state Health Department.

Overcrowded jails can invoke the so-called 72-hour rule to get state prisoners transferred or scheduled to be moved in that time period.

Jones suggested lawmakers consider contracting with one of two empty 2,100-bed private prisons in the state, in Watonga and Hinton, and place prisoners there. County jails receive $27 a day to hold state prisoners; the state this year will pay about $22 million to the counties, Jones said. Placing the prisoners in one of the private prisons is estimated to cost $29 million.

Read more here: http://newsok.com/oklahoma-needs-more-prison-beds-corrections-director-says/article/3748924?custom_click=pod_headline_politics

Note from OK PW: We could ask ourselves how this is possible? And why do we need more prisons? We need (more and better) communities, education, health care and jobs, to prevent more people from going to prison or jail because of crimes committed. We need to look at poverty and the culture of want, greed. When we have learned, we will invest in prevention.

Last inmates leave Tamms ‘supermax’ prison

One of the more contentious episodes in the history of Illinois penitentiaries ended Friday as the last inmates held at the “supermax” prison in Tamms moved out and Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration prepares to shut it down.

The final five inmates at the high-security home for the “worst of the worst” were shipped to the Pontiac Correctional Center, a prison spokeswoman said. Among the last to leave was a convict who helped lead a prison riot in 1979 and stabbed serial killer John Wayne Gacy while on death row.

Also bused out of the southern Illinois city were four dozen residents of the adjoining minimum-security work camp, packed off to Sheridan Correctional Center in north-central Illinois.

The departures mark the end of a nearly 15-year experiment with the super maximum-security prison, which supporters say the state still needs for troublemaking convicts — particularly during a time of record inmate population. But opponents contend the prison’s practice of near-total isolation was inhumane and contributed to some inmates’ deteriorating mental health.

More than 130 inmates were moved out of the prison in just nine days, after the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that legal action by a state workers’ union could no longer hold up the governor’s closure plans. The state has offered to sell the $70 million facility the federal government, but there are no solid plans for the future of the prison, often simply called Tamms.

“It’s sad for our area, but we’re never going to give up,” said Rep. Brandon Phelps, a Democrat from Harrisburg whose district includes Tamms. “We still have an overcrowding problem. That’s the deal with this. The governor has made it worse. Eventually, some of these facilities are going to have to reopen.”

But activists opposed to the prison’s isolation practices cheered Friday’s landmark moment. One organizer, Laurie Jo Reynolds, called the course to closure “a democratic process” that involved not high-priced lobbyists or powerful strategists but, “the people — truly, the people.”

Shuttering Tamms is part of Quinn’s plan to save money. The Democrat said housing an inmate at the prison cost three times what it does at general-population prisons. He has also closed three halfway houses for inmates nearing sentence completion, relocating their 159 inmates, and plans to shutter the women’s prison in Dwight. 

Read the rest here: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-last-inmates-leave-tamms-supermax-prison-20121228,0,1550702.story

Audit finds prison doctors paid for hours not worked

From: Las Vegas Sun
Dec 12th 2012, By Cy Ryan

CARSON CITY — Doctors hired by Nevada’s prison system may have been paid $1.9 million for hours they didn’t work, an audit found.

The audit found that full-time physicians, who are employed to work four ten-hour shifts a week, put in an average of only 5.3 hours per day. Part-time doctors work two ten-hour days.

“We estimate the annualized unsupported payments for full time doctors and part time doctors for fiscal year 2012 were approximately $1.9 million,” said the report by the Division of Internal Audits in the state Department of Administration.

The 23 physicians at the seven state prisons are paid an hourly rate ranging from $64 to $82.
An audit several years ago found that physicians hired in the state mental health system failed to put in the hours they were paid for, prompting officials to tighten controls.

The prison audit included physicians, dentists and psychiatrists.

The audit says physicians, as exempt employees, are not required to work the full ten-hour daily shift, but standard practice in Nevada is they put in “something equivalent to a 40 hour work week or more.”

Read the rest here: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2012/dec/12/audit-finds-prison-doctors-paid-hours-not-worked/

Officials moving to shutter Nevada State Prison

From: Nevada Appeal
By GEOFF DORNAN, July 20, 2011

Prison officials are moving ahead with plans to close down the historic Nevada State Prison on Fifth Street.

Since May, when the Legislature voted to shut NSP down, Director of Corrections Greg Cox has been slowly moving inmates and staff to other institutions as space became available. He said about 130 close-custody and special-needs inmates have already been moved out of NSP to institutions including Warm Springs and Northern Nevada Correctional Center, both in Carson City.

The most dangerous were moved to Ely State Prison, Nevada’s maximum-security institution.

Some special-needs inmates were moved to Lovelock Correctional Center, 70 miles northeast of Reno along Interstate 80.

High Desert Correctional Center in southern Nevada, the state’s newest prison, will get nearly all of the more than 500 remaining inmates. That institution has two new and vacant units with enough capacity to hold those inmates.

Cox said the closure is being handled in a four-phase process designed to “limit the impact on staff and the community.”

“The Legislature’s intent and the department’s goal is to complete the closure in a safe, secure and efficient manner and to do this with as few staff layoffs as possible,” he said.

More than 200 corrections employees were assigned to NSP.

Cox told lawmakers in May that if they gave him time, he could greatly reduce the number of layoffs the closure would cause.

At the suggestion of state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, the Legislature delayed the governor’s plan to close NSP by Oct. 31 back to March 31. Cox said that should reduce the projected 107 layoffs to 30 or less.

The department has already been able to close two units at NSP, which allowed it to move some staff to other area institutions where there are vacancies, including Lovelock.

Over the next few months, additional units will be closed as inmates are transferred out.

Cox told the Board of Examiners earlier this year that nearly all correctional staff willing to transfer would be able to keep a job. He has also said he expects some retirements among veteran officers who don’t want to leave the Carson City area.

The closure is driven by the fact that the antiquated design of NSP — parts of which are more than 100 years old — requires nearly twice as many correctional staff to operate as the state’s newest prison, High Desert in southern Nevada. Because of that difference, Cox testified during the legislative session, it costs $23,615 a year to keep inmates there, compared to just $14,061 at High Desert.

Read the rest here.

Underwear Shortage In Illinois Prisons: Latest Sign Of State’s Financial Woes

Huffington Post:
June 29th 2011

Illinois’ budget crisis is not news to anyone, and as politicians in Springfield argue about what to cut, the budgetary woes have begun to spill over into some somewhat unusual and unexpected areas.
In Taylorville, Illinois–there’s an underwear shortage.

According to the Bloomington Pantagraph, inmates at the central Illinois prison are being forced to wear the same pair of underwear for several days in a row because the jail cannot afford more undergarments. A prison watchdog group suspects the Taylorville facility may not be alone.

A report issued by the John Howard Association shows that inmates in the prison are wearing dirty and threadbare clothes that are only being washed twice a week, raising “serious hygiene concerns.” Several inmates reported much of the original clothing they received to wear — three pairs of pants, three shirts, one jacket, one hat, two pairs of boxers and two pairs of socks — are already used, soiled or in otherwise poor condition when they receive them.

The group is calling for the state Department of Corrections to remedy the situation and provide sufficient clothing for its inmates, in addition to looking at other issues — like overcrowding and a lack of in-facility educational programs. They say such programs can reduce the rate of recidivism.

Read the rest here.