Michigan’s parole policies waste money, need reform

This comes from the Detroit Free Press

Barbara Levine and Michael LaFaive,  December 13, 2014

Michigan spends nearly 20% of its general-fund dollars locking people up. A portion of that money could be better spent elsewhere, such as on education, roads or pension reform.

Despite cost-containment efforts, the Michigan Department of Corrections spends $2 billion a year, more than $1.6 billion of which is spent directly on operating prisons. If all this spending improved public safety, it would be worth it. However, it does not. One way to reduce spending without compromising public safety is through sentencing and parole reforms.

Michigan sends fewer people convicted of felonies to prison than most other states because we have been a national leader in diverting those convicted of serious offenses into community-based programs. As a result, nearly 70% of our prisoners are serving time for assault offenses. What drives our prison population is how long we keep people locked up, compared to other states.

In its 2012 report, “Time Served: The High Cost, Low Return of Longer Prison Terms,”the Pew Center reported that Michigan prisoners serve much longer terms for comparable offenses than prisoners in other states. Michigan’s average length of stay is nearly 17 months longer for prisoners overall and 30 months longer for assault offenders.

Read the rest here.

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Mentally Ill Inmates At Michigan Women’s Prison Report They Were Hog Tied Naked, Deprived Of Water

This shocking situation has been going on for a while now. When is MI DOC going to act and take its responsibility on the treatment of people inside its prisons, male and female, especially those who need care and not even more punishment?
From ThinkProgress, Sept 8, 2014
By: Nicole Flatow
Mentally ill at Michigan’s only women’s prison are deprived of food and water for days, and even “hog tied” naked as punishment, according to the accounts of several witnesses compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.
Witness reports include particular abuse against mentally ill inmates who are placed in solitary confinement. Inmates reported that the water had been shut off in confinement units, while guards rejected inmates’ water requests for days. At least one inmate who reported this treatment was taken to the hospital last month after she was found non-responsive in her cell.
In another instance, an inmate who was “crying naked on the floor and unable to move-because her feet were cuffed to her hands behind her back” was told that “her fellow prisoner would have to stay like that for two hours or more because she had not learned how to ‘behave’,” according to a letter from the ACLU of Michigan to the Department of Corrections, two University of Michigan law professors, and several other advocacy organizations. “The guard was referring to a young woman with serious mental illness who is unable to control her behavior unless her mental illness is properly treated.”

“According to reports we have received from multiple individuals who have witnessed these events first-hand, mentally ill inmates at Huron Valley are being treated so inhumanely that we believe many corrections experts would characterize their experience as a form of torture,” the letter states. “Witnesses have reported seeing mentally ill prisoners denied water and food, ‘hog tied’ naked for many hours, left to stand, sit, or lie naked in their own feces and urine, denied showers for days, and tasered.”

Women in Solitary Confinement: Sent to Solitary for Reporting Sexual Assault

By Victoria Law, on SolitaryWatch
December 12, 2013

It seems absurd that a person who has been sexually assaulted would be punished for speaking up, especially since prison policy prohibits sexual contact between staff and the people whom they guard. Yet, in many women’s prisons, those who report rape and other forms of sexual assault by prison personnel are often sent to solitary confinement.
After enduring over a year of repeated sexual assaults by a guard, Stacy Barker became one of 31 women incarcerated in Michigan who filed Nunn v MDOC, a 1996 lawsuit against the Department of Corrections for the widespread sexual abuse by prison guards. The following year, Barker was repeatedly sexually assaulted by an officer, who was also a defendant in Nunn. After a month of silence, she reported the assaults to a prison psychiatrist. Barker was immediately placed in segregation and then transferred to Huron Valley Center, which was then a psychiatric hospital for prisoners. There, she reported that hospital attendants verbally harassed her.
In October 1997, Barker attempted suicide. Barker did not receive counseling or psychiatric evaluation. Instead, three male guards stripped her naked, placed her in five-point restraints (a procedure in which a prisoner is placed on her back in a spread-eagle position with her hands, feet and chest secured by straps) on a bed with no blanket for nine hours. She was then placed on suicide watch. She reported that one of the staff who monitored her repeatedly told her he would “bring her down a few rungs.”
Placing women in solitary confinement for reporting staff sexual harassment or abuse is far from rare. In 1996, Human Rights Watch found that, in Michigan, incarcerated women who report staff sexual misconduct are placed in segregation pending the institution’s investigation of their cases. The placement is allegedly for the woman’s own protection. The five other states investigated also had similar practices of placing women in segregation after they reported abuse.
Not much has changed in the thirteen years since Human Rights Watch chronicled the pervasive and persistent sexual abuse and use of retaliatory segregation in eleven women’s prisons. Former staff at Ohio’s Reformatory for Women have stated that women who reported sexual abuse are subjected to lengthy periods of time in solitary confinement where cells often had feces and blood smeared on the wall. In Kentucky, a woman who saved evidence from her sexual assault wasplaced in segregation for fifty days. In Illinois, a prison administrator threatened to add a year onto the sentence of a woman who attempted to report repeated sexual assaults. She was then placed in solitary confinement.
In 2003, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) became law, ostensibly to address the widespread sexual abuse in the nation’s jails and prisons. Among its recommendations was “the timely and comprehensive investigation of staff sexual misconduct involving rape or other sexual assault on inmates.” However, this has not stopped the widespread practice of utilizing solitary to punish those who speak out. An investigation into sexual abuse at Alabama’s Tutwiler Prison for Womenfound that women who report sexual abuse “are routinely placed in segregation by the warden.”  Some prison systems have also created new rules to continue discouraging reports of staff sexual assault. At Denver Women’s Correctional Facility, a woman reported that prison officials responded to PREA by creating a rule called “False Reporting to Authorities.”
“A lot of us do not report any kind of staff misconduct because history has proven that any kind of reports true or false are found [by the administration] to be false,” she stated. “When it was found to be false, the people were immediately found guilty and sent to administrative segregation.” In some cases, a woman may not even file an official complaint, but may only be speaking within earshot of another staff member.
I didn’t want to believe it but then I experienced it first hand with a close acquaintance of mine. She had conversations with a guard and he asked sexually explicit questions about what she would be able to do in bed because of her disability and it went on for a while. She came to me and said she didn’t want to be around him and she told an office worker about him and he ended up writing a report on her, before she could do it to him and she was eventually questioned. I was questioned and I told the investigator that I believed her and that the officer was a pervert and flirted openly with any girl who was desperate for a man’s attention. I told him I felt like he was a predator and shouldn’t be working at a women’s prison. I later found out she went to the hole and was going to be ad. seg’d just like the others but she left on her mandatory parole to go back to court and was re-sentenced and brought back. Luckily they didn’t ad. seg her when she came back. I’m not sure why they dropped it but maybe it was because she was gone for a while.
Under PREA, those accused of sexual assault are sent to solitary confinement even before the charges are proven. In California, Amy Preasmyer was placed in solitary confinement after being accused of sexual assault by another woman. “I was abruptly removed from my bed late in the evening to face an extended wait and then a transfer to Ad-Seg,” she reported. “Upon entering my newly assigned chambers at 3 a.m., I found the toilet was backed up and a DD3 (EOP) [person with a disability] had urinated everywhere prior to me, leaving extremely unsanitary conditions and aromas.” She was not allowed to access supplies that would allow her to clean or disinfect her cell. Although she was eventually cleared of all charges, being in Ad Seg forced her to miss her final examinations for college. During that time, she also lost the privilege to shop, walk outside or even call home.
Read the rest here. This is the second part of a two-part series by Victoria Law.

Behind Bars

This was posted on the blog of our friends and comrades in the struggle, Humanity for Prisoners, a well-respected organization in Michigan, headed by Doug Tjapkes, who has tirelessly worked to make life better for those in prison and their families and loved ones:

Behind Bars, on Humanity for Prisoners website:
March 30, 2012

Think it’s a jungle out there, where your struggling each day? Consider what it’s like behind bars.

…while coming out of my cell for a shower, me and an officer I had words with a couple days prior, said “Today is your day, MF,” trying to get a response out of me, but I didn’t pay any mind to what he meant until I started washing up. As I was turning around I seen five prisoners advancing toward me, and one had a knife on, but I didn’t think nothing of it and continued shaving until I got stabbed in my back. I turned around and a prisoner stabbed me again in the arm and stomach. I grabbed him and we struggled for the knife…he dropped it and they all ran. I got some clothes on and tried to make it to my room. I fell in front of my cell. Officers came up there smiling, and asked what happened. I told him my neighbor stabbed me. The officer told me to put pressure on it, and called for some medical help. I went to the hospital, and they had tubes in me. When I returned, the staff accused me of assaulting them so I was put in the hole.

This is daily routine. No surprise to anyone behind bars.

Rare federal case may put defendant on death row in Michigan

Paul Egan / The Detroit News

Detroit — Jury selection begins this morning for a type of trial rarely seen in Michigan — one in which the defendant could face the death penalty.
Timothy Dennis O’Reilly, 36, is charged with murdering Norman “Anthony” Stephens during a Dec. 14, 2001, holdup of an armored truck at the Dearborn Federal Credit Union.

Michigan was the first state in the union to ban capital punishment, in 1847, but death can still be imposed in Michigan for federal capital crimes such as murder during a bank robbery.

Tony Chebatoris of Hamtramck, the last person executed in Michigan, was hanged at Milan in 1938. His crime was similar to the one O’Reilly is charged with. Chebatoris shot and killed 50-year-old truck driver Henry Porter while escaping a bank robbery in Midland in 1937.

Nobody’s been executed in the state since, though Marvin Gabrion has sat on death row at a prison in Indiana since 2002, when a federal jury in Grand Rapids sentenced him to death for the brutal murder of Rachel Timmerman. Her handcuffed and chained body, weighted with cinder blocks, was found in a lake in a national forest, making Gabrion eligible for the death penalty. Gabrion’s case is being appealed.

Now, O’Reilly is the first of three defendants in the Dearborn robbery to go to trial in front of a jury and U.S. District Judge Victoria A. Roberts. The case wasn’t charged until 2005 and complications related to capital cases resulted in it taking longer than normal to get to trial. Since a jury must be picked on which everyone is open to the idea of capital punishment, jury selection could take close to a month — also much longer than normal. The entire trial could take three months.

Two co-defendants, Norman Herbert Duncan and Kevin C. Watson, also face possible death sentences when they go to trial.

Another defendant, Earl L. Johnson, was sentenced to life in prison after a jury convicted him of conspiracy, bank robbery, and aiding and abetting a murder.
The 2001 Dearborn robbery, which netted more than $200,000 in cash and remained unsolved for years, was the first of three similar armored truck robberies. The other two happened at a Comerica on West Chicago in Detroit in June 2003 and February 2004.

At the last robbery the guard fired back, killing robber Eddie Cromer. The other man fled, but Detroit police arrested Duncan near the scene.

About six months later, the FBI received a letter from an inmate at Ryan Correctional Facility, saying O’Reilly, an inmate there, was bragging that he, Duncan, Watson and others had committed the Dearborn robbery.

According to documents filed in the case, O’Reilly later made taped admissions after the FBI helped the inmate conceal a tape recorder inside a radio in the prison yard.

O’Reilly and Duncan had worked for Guardian Armored Security Services, the company targeted in the 2003 and 2004 robberies.
Stephens, the victim in the Dearborn case, left a wife and young children and 12 brothers and sisters.

“They didn’t give him a chance,” his sister Mary Scott said in a 2007 interview. “I just can’t explain it to you, the hurt of the whole family.”

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100608/METRO/6080311/Murder-suspect-faces-death-penalty-in-rare-Michigan-case#ixzz0qHoEzzgi