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.

Letter from Women in CCWF concerning forced transfers to McFarland and overcrowding

This letter was received a few months ago by someone who forwarded it to CA PW among others, and apparently nothing has been done yet.

To Whom It May Concern:

I a writing you on behalf of the women in Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla.
I want to make everone aware of the transfers being forced on many to McFarland California.
I ave just spoken to a returney from McFarland and I want to inform you of what is happening there:

1. The Plumbing Is backing up and clogged.

2. There are no programing or programs of any kind nor will there be according to the staff when asked about them.

3. The Living Quarters are filthy and infested. They are putting all levels of inmates into a dorm setting together. All Custody Levels.

4. CCCMS Inmates were transfered without Meds.or Mental Health Care.

Another problem taking place here at CCWF is we are already really overcrowded in our cells with 8 or more women: The Populaton is soaring here, they are taking the overflow from receiving over 700 women and are placing them in with us. They are all going into general population as if no evaluations have taken place.

Medical has taken ALL our Meds away from us, stating to us that they are too costly and we will not be getting them any more.

I do not know whom to write to get us help?

I do not know if the woman I am sending this to will be giving her name? That will be her decision, but we are going through her hoping she can get us heard.

PLEASE RESPOND to us. We have been asking for help for a very long time.
Signed: (name withheld for now by CAPrisonWatch for anonymity reasons, out of fear for repercussions).

See also the March that the California Coalition for Women Prisoners did in August.


Message by the Freedom Alabama Movement (FAM): Stop Slave Labor and other Human Rights Violations in Prisons!

This came via email, contact below:

Greetings of Solidarity! Feel free to copy and distro widely in an upcoming publication.
(This was written by a member of the IWW organizing committee.) 

We in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) have been approached by a group of hundreds of prisoners in Alabama who are launching a second prison strike this year demanding an end to prisoners as slave labor, the massive overcrowding and horrifying health and human rights violations found in Alabama Prisons, and have put forward legislation for successful rehabilitation and a clear path for earning parole.


These brave men and women of the Free Alabama Movement (FAM) are building on the recent Hunger Strikes in Pelican Bay and the Georgia Prison Strike in 2010, with the aim of building a mass nonviolent movement inside and outside of prisons to earn their freedom, and to end the racist, capitalist system of mass incarceration called The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and others.


The conditions in Alabama prisons are horrendous, packing twice as many people as are meant to be there, with everything from black mold, brown water, cancer causing foods, and general disrepair. They are also run by free, slave labor, with 10,000 people working to maintain the prisons daily, adding up to $600,000 dollars a day or $219,000,000 a year of slave labor if inmates were paid federal minimum wage, and tens of thousands more receiving mere dollars a day making products sold by the state or to private corporations.


While unique in some ways, the struggle of these brave human beings is the same as prisoners around the country, and the millions of black, brown, and working class women and men struggling to survive a system they are not meant to succeed within. These prisoners need your support, and for you to help spread the struggle.


To do so the Free Alabama Movement along with the IWW’s Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee is asking for the following:


1) For the creation of Prisoner Solidarity Committees in their local areas to raise money, attract media attention, and spread the word of this struggle to local prisons

2) Amplify the voices of prisoners by posting this and future updates to your website, facebook, sharing it to your email list, or with your contacts in prison

3) Join our email list so as to be kept up to date and amplify future updates

4) Donate money to the Free Alabama Movement and the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee at ??


The IWW is a grassroots revolutionary union open to all working people, including the incarcerated and the unemployed. Founded in 1905, we have gained reputation in recent years for struggles at Starbucks, Jimmy Johns, and the General Strike call during the Wisconsin Uprising. We are committed to amplifying the voices of prisoners, ending an economic system based on exploitation and racial caste systems like mass incarceration, and adding our contribution to the global movements for a just, free, and sustainable world. 

Website: Freealabamamovement.com
Facebook page
Twitter: @FREEALABAMAMOVE

The Release of Aging People in Prison (RAPP) Campaign

This campaign should be expanded to every state!
This is from a leaflet of RAPP:

The Release of Aging People in Prison (RAPP) Campaign

SUMMARY

The Release of Aging People in Prison (RAPP) Campaign is an independent organizing and policy project that aims to establish a parole process in New York that is transparent, all inclusive, and fair, in which the state bases its parole decisions on legitimate public safety risk and individuals’demonstrated personal growth while in prison.

Led by Mujahid Farid, a 2013 Soros Justice Fellow who was incarcerated for 33 years in New York before his release in 2011, the RAPP Campaign focuses on the rapidly growing population of aging people in prison — many of whom are long-termer s convicted of serious crimes.

Many of these human beings have taken responsibility for their crimes, have transformed their lives and developed skills and abilities they lacked before incarceration, and could be released from prison with no threat to public safety. Yet many are denied release, often for political reasons, and needlessly remain imprisoned into old age.

Our campaign will seek fair and objective hearings for all individuals who come before the Parole Board. Significantly, our approach will not seek expanded release opportunities for certain classes of offenses by denying opportunities for others. In contrast, we will insist that decisions be made on a person’s individual merits and experiences inside.

This operating principle not only makes the RAPP Campaign unique, but also allows it to challenge a fundamental pillar of the mass incarceration crisis:
the reliance on a system of permanent punishment, a culture of retribution and revenge rather than rehabilitation and healing.

The RAPP Campaign is mobilizing currently and formerly incarcerated individuals, their families, and other concerned community members in efforts designed to increase parole release rates for aging people in prison who pose no risk to public safety.

RAPP is also partnering with the Drop the Rock Coalition, which previously helped lead efforts to reform NY’s infamous Rockefeller Drug Laws, and is reaching out to other prison justice groups to join in carrying out this work. From this united base, we will work to:

(1) raise public awareness about the destructiveness of mass incarceration and the benefits to society in releasing aging people, including those convicted of violent crimes who do not pose a risk to public safety and
(2) promote the use of key mechanisms for releasing elderly people including parole decisions, compassionate release, and policy changes.

BACKGROUND

For 40 years the prison population in the United States has been increasing to where it has become an international embarrassment.

While this has been acknowledged by federal and state governments, legislators, policymakers, and prison administrators (who face rising administrative costs amidst serious budget crises), and where incremental steps reduced some prison populations, there remains a strong reluctance to utilize available downsizing options as they apply to certain categories of people confined.[note 1]

The prison population will not be substantially reduced unless such options are used.

This project will seek to address mass incarceration through the “back end” of the criminal justice system, promoting the release of low – risk groups — especially aging people in prison, who make up a rapidly growing portion of the prison population. A recent Human Rights Watch report shows that between 1995 and 2010, the number of state and federal prisoners aged 55 and over nearly quadrupled to 124,400, while the prison population as a whole grew by 42%.

The explanation for this can be found in sentencing policies adopted during the past 25 years (Old Behind Bars: The Aging Prison Population in the United States, 2012), but also in the failure of correctional and parole systems to utilize existing release mechanisms. Current conditions don’t suggest improvement.

The ACLU’s report, “At America’s Expense: The Mass Incarceration of the Elderly,” finds that by 2030 there will be more than 400,000 older people behind bars, a 4,400 percent increase from 1981 when only 8,853 state and federal prisoners were elderly.

New York State presents an even sharper example. Over the past 11 years, the New York State prison population has decreased by 21% — from 71,466 in 2000 to 56,315 in 2011.
At the same time the population of prisoners aged 50 and over increased by 64% — from 5,111 in 2000 to 8,392 in 2011 (Correctional Association statistical sheet, “Elderly Prisoners and Parole Reform”).

Prison administrators know that older people who have served long sentences frequently serve as role models, facilitate most prison rehabilitation programs, and provide leadership, having found meaning in life through service to others.

Moreover, the vast majority of released prisoners over 50 do not return to prison. Those who do return generally do so because of a technical parole violation (failure to report to a parole officer, missing work, or missing curfew).

New York State policymakers are realizing that there are alternatives to costly, unproductive incarceration when such violations occur (2007 Releases: Three Year Post Release Follow – up, NYSDOCCS).

Consistently, the return rate of long – termers convicted of murder (most commonly people of advanced age) is the lowest (6.6%) system -wide, with only 1.3% returning for a new commitment (id).

Despite low recidivism rates, ample evidence of personal transformation, and the significant cost savings that could be realized, political considerations too often prevent administrators from using available release mechanisms.

The RAPP Campaign will utilize the voices of the key population of formerly incarcerated women and men and currently incarcerated elderly to show that they can and should be released with no threat to public safety. It will build a public base to encourage policy-makers, parole commissioners and correctional officials to accelerate release of the elderly through both new and existing mechanisms for release.

Note 1:
In 2011, after years of struggle over boilerplate denials to violent offenders, New York’s Executive Law was amended requiring the parole board to create new procedures that “incorporate risk and needs principles” to measure decision-making. The board adopted the widely used evidence-based “Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanction” (COMPAS) assessment tool.

But the board has remained resistant to change and continues to issue boilerplates denying release based on the “nature of the crime.” This is one example of an already-existing mechanism that could be used for release of aging prisoners.

WHO WE ARE

Mujahid Farid, RAPP Campaign Organizer:

In 1978 at age 28 I entered prison. In 2011 I was released approaching 62.
The closer I got to my release date, the more I looked around at the men I would be leaving behind— many of whom had, like me, been incarcerated since their teens and twenties, and who were now, like me, more than 60 or 70 years old. I became more sharply aware of the increasing infirmities they face, the frailties of age, and the illnesses affecting them.

Like me, they had spent their entire adult lives in prison, and most were different from the person who had first entered the system.

Unlike me, they were not going home.

As a result of many years behind the walls of New York State prisons, I gained valuable insight into the various mechanisms responsible for mass incarceration, and I have been an advocate for systemic change, using community education and challenging the accepted social constructs that lend support to the carceral spirit.

During my incarceration, I maintained a practice of working on criminal justice issues, and the project proposed here is consistent with my activities over the past thirty-five years.

I played a major role in creating programs that helped the prison population deal with social crises.
One of my most noted accomplishments was being a founder of the Prisoners’ AIDS Counseling & Education (PACE) program, still in existence within NYSDOCCS. I organized and instructed courses for New York Theological Seminary, allowing other prisoners to earn college-credited certificates to initiate their journey into structured higher learning.

Since my release I initiated a collective of small business startups to address the issue of mass incarceration. These small business initiators have agreed to operate under principles of “social entrepreneurship” to provide formerly incarcerated persons, as well as disadvantaged community members, with employment opportunities and the ability to assist in building economic institutions in the community.

Our agreement entails providing mutual assistance to make each business successful, and to generate collaborative relationships between for -profit start-ups and community non-profits/social services agencies.
Finally, our agreement entails building support in the established business community.

With the encouragement of many people I left behind in prison and with whom I maintain contact, I have also proposed to various organizations to undertake the issue of aging in prison.

I was met with much sympathy and concern over the issue, but have been unable to find any organization willing to undertake a major project as described herein. Community-driven projects advocating on behalf of
aging and persons usually excluded from ameliorative legislation, policies, and practices are crucial now due to the volume of reports, studies, and commentaries published on this issue in the past two years.

The time to harness public consciousness on these issues is now.

So, I have undertaken this task.

This project arises from my commitment and belief that this situation can and must be altered, that release mechanisms for aging people confined must either be created or, where they exist, utilized.
I feel blessed and fortunate to be out, knowing that the tribulation of perennial incarceration could still be happening to me as it is to others.

As someone personally affected, I care deeply about those I left behind, and I remain committed to doing my part in bringing forth solutions.

Correctional Association of New York
The RAPP Campaign is located at and hosted by the Correctional Association of New York (CANY), an independent, non – profit prison reform organization. CANY was founded by concerned citizens in 1844 and granted unique authority by the New York State Legislature to inspect prisons and to report its findings and recommendations to the legislature and to the public.

Through monitoring, research, public education and policy recommendations, the Correctional Association strives to make the administration of justice in New York State more fair, efficient and humane.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

To get more information, offer your story, or join our efforts, please contact:

RAPP Campaign
c/o The Correctional Association of New York
2090 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.– Suite 200
New York, New York 10027

Phone: 212-254-5700 Extension 317
Fax: 212-473-2807

California Gov. Jerry Brown unveils an ‘ugly’ prison plan

This comes from the LA Times, May 3rd 2013:

By Paige St. John, Los Angeles Times
SACRAMENTO — Under threat of contempt of court, Gov.Jerry Brown unveiled a plan to ease prison crowding by releasing certain inmates early, sending others to county jails and relocating some to state fire camps — but added that he doesn’t support it.

Although the plan would remove thousands of inmates from California’s packed prisons, it would not meet court requirements to lower the population by more than 9,000. The jurists could order more inmates freed if they find the governor’s plan unacceptable.

FOR THE RECORD:
Prison plan: In the May 4 LATExtra section, an article about Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest plan to reduce prison crowding said that the plan called for the early release of thousands of inmates. In fact, the plan proposes releasing hundreds, not thousands, of inmates. —
Brown said in court filings that he would ask lawmakers to permit the release hundreds of “low-risk” prisoners who are elderly or medically frail, along with offenders who earn credit for good conduct. He would also put thousands of inmates in camps dedicated to conservation work and fighting wildfires, in empty county beds and in a new prison set to open this summer.

It was unclear Friday whether the Legislature would agree. Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) called prospects for the plan “dubious” and questioned the wisdom of spending public dollars on more prison beds rather than rehabilitation efforts.

The filings, submitted just before a midnight deadline Thursday, made clear that even Brown has little taste for his own recommendations. The governor, contending that the inmate count has already been sufficiently lowered and he needs to do nothing more, will take the “unusual step” of drafting legislation he does not want, the documents say.

On Friday, his administration was campaigning against its own proposal.

“The plan is ugly,” prisons chief Jeffrey Beard, whom Brown appointed, told reporters. “We don’t like it. But … it’s the best plan we could come up with.”

Beard said the judges are fixated on an arbitrary number, ignoring improvements in prison conditions since court intervention began more than a decade ago.

“The state has transformed the prison healthcare system into one of the best in the nation,” Beard said. “This is about more than a number. The case is too important to the people of California, to the safety of our neighborhoods.”

Beard acknowledged that the state’s plan fails to meet the federal population target by about 2,570 inmates. Asked if state officials could avoid being held in contempt, Beard replied, “I certainly hope so,” adding, “We can’t do any more without creating problems.”

Prisoners’ lawyers said the governor offers too little, too late.

“There is no reason they can’t comply to the letter of the order in the extended time frame they have been given,” said Rebekah Evenson of the Prison Law Office, lead plaintiff in the 12-year-old court case that triggered the federal population caps four years ago. “They have to stop their political posturing and need to knuckle down.”

Evenson contended that California prisons are “bloated” with low-risk inmates who can and should go free.

In addition to freeing 650 prisoners who are elderly, frail or earn good-conduct credits, Brown’s plan calls for moving 1,700 others to the new prison and 1,300 to fire camps. The state would also lease 1,600 cells from county jails. Separately, the administration is already negotiating space for 1,200 additional inmates in various local facilities, some of them privately owned.

Beard said the state also is considering leasing private prisons and staffing those facilities with state corrections officers, but he provided no numbers.

Read the rest here

California Jails Unequipped for 1,100 Long-Term Inmates

From: KQED 
By: Don Thompson, AP, posted by Laird Harrison, Feb. 28th 2013

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP)—California counties are housing more than 1,100 inmates on long-term sentences in jails designed for stays of a year or less, according to the first report detailing the growth in that population under Gov. Jerry Brown’s criminal justice realignment strategy.

[photo: Fresno jail inmates. (Monica Lam/Center for Investigative Reporting) ]

The oversight of so many long-term inmates is presenting challenges for county sheriffs, especially with the number expected to grow markedly in the years ahead. In addition to finding adequate space to house the new population, the sheriffs also must provide the inmates with education, treatment programs, rehabilitation services and recreation, which adds to their costs.

Vehicle theft, drug trafficking, receiving stolen property, identity theft and commercial burglary were the most common crimes for jail inmates who were sentenced to 5 to 10 years in county jails, according to the report, which was obtained by The Associated Press before its public release.

The report, covering all but six of the state’s 58 counties, was done by the California State Sheriffs’ Association and sent to the governor’s administration and Legislature.

“We are not set up to house inmates for this period of time,” said Nick Warner, the association’s legislative director. “They’re living in conditions that they’re not designed to stay in for this long.”

The Los Angeles County Jail is holding 35 percent of all long-term inmates. Statewide, 44 inmates already have been sentenced to more than a decade in local jails, with one Los Angeles County man serving a 43-year term for trafficking large amounts of drugs.

As of Monday, the association found that 1,153 inmates in county jails were sentenced to at least five years. Drug trafficking resulted in most of the sentences topping a decade, although a Riverside County inmate is serving nearly 13 years for felony child abuse and a Solano County inmate is serving more than 10 years as a serial thief.

– See more at: http://blogs.kqed.org/newsfix/2013/02/28/california-jails-house-1100-long-term-inmates/#sthash.SqnEUYhG.dpuf

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.