New study: Fix W.Va. prisons this way

From: Charleston Gazette, jan. 22nd 2013, by Phil Kabler

Plan can reduce inmate population and save money, panel says.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A nonpartisan panel that has been studying West Virginia’s prison overcrowding problems for the past year has submitted recommendations its members believe could reduce the prison population and save the state more than $100 million by 2018.

The Justice Center of the Council of State Governments presented its report to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Tuesday, recommending a three-prong approach to alleviate prison overcrowding:
  • Expand community-based substance abuse treatment programs.
  • Require post-release supervision of all inmates, including those who have maxed out their sentences and are not placed on parole upon release.
  • Improve community-based supervision of inmates on probation or parole, including expanding day report center programs.
“I think the policy framework that was released today helps strengthen all parts of the system to improve outcomes,” said Marc Pelka, policy analyst for the Justice Center.

The center’s report estimates that if the recommendations are adopted, West Virginia’s inmate population will drop from the current 7,531 to 7,418 by 2018. That would amount to an overall savings of $140 million in operating costs over that period, compared to a projected growth of the prison population to 8,893 by 2018 if no changes are made.

North Dakota’s oil boom also brings boom in prison population

From: Twin Cities Pioneer Press, Jan. 25th 2013

BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota’s soaring oil production has led to record population in the state. And that means more crime and less jail space.

Corrections Department Director Leann Bertsch says the state’s prison population is at a record level. She says there are a record 1,550 inmates at the state penitentiary in Bismarck and lockups across the state are filled beyond capacity.
Bertsch says she expects the trend to continue based on the increased number of felony cases in the state.

Mississippi’s incarcaration rate continues to climb, straining finances

From: Gulf Live, Mississippi Press
Jan. 10th 2013

JACKSON, Mississippi — As Mississippi enters the second half of the current fiscal year, Mississippi’s prison population continues to increase and shows no signs of abating, according to a news release from the state Department of Corrections.
During 2011, the number of prisoners under the jurisdiction of state and federal correctional authorities declined by 0.9%, from 1,613,803 to 1,598,780, but not in Mississippi.
Mississippi has increased its inmate population by over 1,000 in the past two years:
• July 1, 2012 – 22,023 inmates, an increase of 716 from July 1, 2011
• July 1, 2011 – 21,307 inmates, an increase of 382 from July 1, 2010
• July 1, 2010 – 20,925 inmates
According to the United States Department of Justice – Bureau of Justice Statistics, only three states — Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma — have incarceration rates at or above 650 per 100,000 residents. Mississippi is second only to Louisiana in incarceration rates. 
Today, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world, with over 1.5 million men and women living behind bars.

Join the Chowchilla Freedom Rally!

This event is organized by Occupy4Prisoners, and will take place on Jan. 26th:
We are 3 weeks away from our statewide mobilization to Chowchilla to protest the unconstitutional overcrowding in California’s women prisons and show our support for our loved ones inside who are struggling to survive as the conditions worsen. As a result of the conversion of Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW), one of the remaining women’s prisons has now reached 179% capacity. A woman recently transferred to CCWF informed us that they were given clothes and bedding that “you wouldn’t want even your dog sleeping on.” Another person confirmed: 
Everything we rely on to survive, including medical and legal, is highly impacted by overcrowding. Overcrowding is the issue. It causes everything else to come crashing down like dominoes.”

We need your help to show the U.S. Supreme Court, the government, and prison officials that not only are we witnessing this discrimination and abuse but we will not be silent! Join us in demanding an end to overcrowding! Our loved one’s deserve humane living conditions and their freedom! Bring them home!
CHOWCHILLA FREEDOM RALLY
Saturday, January 26, 2013
NEED A RIDE? HAVE A RIDE TO OFFER?
Contact chowchilla.rally@gmail.com or 415-255-7036 x 314

Caravans leaving from MacArthur BART in Oakland at 10:30AM and Chuco’s Justice Center in Inglewood at 8:30AM. We will gather at 2PM at SE corner of Ave. 24 and Fairmead Blvd off Highway 99 in Chowchilla.

Rally begins at 3PM at VSPW. 

COME TO THE PROTEST PRE-PARTY!

Chowchilla Freedom Rally Benefit hosted by Occupy 4 Prisoners!
Saturday, January 19th 6 – 8PM
The Hold Out, 2313 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland
$5 – 10 donations, no one turned away

The benefit will feature “Fighting For Our Lives,” a short documentary about the history of resistance to medical neglect at CCWF & VSPW plus presentations by prison survivors, information about the protest and sign-making. We’re so grateful for the community support!

Can’t make the benefit but want to donate? Contribute online at womenprisoners.org

Solidarity actions encouraged! If you cannot make the rally or do not live in California, we encourage you to organize a solidarity action on the same day in your community. Hold a demonstration in front of the DOC offices or the county jail, organize a speak-out against prisons in a public space, stand in solidarity the Chowchilla Freedom Rally! Please let us know how we can support you! Contact info@womenprisoners.org

Interested in helping to organize this event? Join our coalition! Our next meeting is Wednesday, January 9, 2013 from 6 – 8PM at the CCWP offices. 1540 Market Street, Suite 490, San Francisco. Or contact adrienne@womenprisoners.org

The Chowchilla Freedom Rally Coalition includes members from California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, Justice NOW, All Of Us Or None, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children, Fired Up!, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Transgender, Gender Variant, Intersex Justice Project, Critical Resistance, Youth Justice Coalition, Global Women’s Strike, Occupy 4 Prisoners, Asian Pacific Islander Support Committee and the California Prison Moratorium Project.

California prisons to stay tortuously overcrowded

From Russia Today (RT):
August 14th 2012

Prison officials in California have a problem with overcrowded institutions, but it isn’t what you might think: unable to keep their facilities under 137.5 percent capacity, corrections officers in Cali are asking for an increase in that cap.

California authorities have had more than a year now to try and find a solution to fix the state’s booming prison population, but as of this week say that they don’t expect to end an issue with overcrowding until even well into 2013.

In May of 2011, the US Supreme Court said that overcrowding was such an issue in California that the conditions prisoners were being subjected to there were on par with “cruel and unusual punishment.” At the time, the Supreme Court said California had two years to come to terms with the problem and ensure that all institutions on the Golden Coast were kept under 137.5 percent capacity. State officials now say that such a goal is unlikely — even with another year until their deadline — but a federal court says they want to see what is being done to address the problem.

In a last-ditch attempt to end its overcrowding problem, a panel of three federal judges say California has until this Friday to figure out which of its prisoners are “unlikely to re-offend or who might otherwise be candidates for early release,” the Los Angeles Times reports.
The federal judges want California leaders to outline a plan this week to put less harmful prisoners back on the streets as a way of opening up its jail cells. Prison officials say that they plan on offering up a proposal of their own that keeps them close-to-quota without releasing anyone, though: according to the Times, state officials intend on asking the high court for a prison cap of 145 percent, not the current 137.5, because they believe that they can keep their facilities running efficiently and still to the brim with inmates — even nearly 50 percent more than what their buildings are designed to hold.

“Reducing the inmate population is not the goal of the court,” corrections agency spokesman Bill Sessa tells the paper. “It is a means to an end, which is providing better healthcare that was compromised by overcrowding.”

Mr. Sessa adds to the Times that the state’s healthcare woes will be remediated, at least a little, when a 1,700-bed facilities is opened in Stockton next year, a city that recently was forced to file for bankruptcy protection. But even with that new institution opening up in 2013, a population cap of 145 percent means prison officials want to cram around 118,000 inmates into spaces intended for 81,500.

Read the rest here.

State sued over prison conditions

From: Illinois Times, June 28 2012
By Bruce Rushton

Conditions at Vienna Correctional Center are something out of a Dickens novel, judging by a stomach-churning lawsuit filed earlier this month by inmates who say they live with filth, vermin and a paucity of bathrooms.

A lawyer for inmates says that prisoners at Vienna and Vandalia Correctional Center, which could be the next legal target, are living in poorer conditions than inmates in California, which has been ordered to reduce overcrowding by a federal judge.

“We are worse than California,” says Alan Mills, legal director for the Uptown People’s Law Center in Chicago, which sued the state in federal court on June 13. “California is putting people in gymnasiums. But, to my knowledge, they are not putting people into basements or storage rooms.”

In addition to suing the state over conditions at Vienna Correctional Center, the Uptown People’s Law Center is considering a lawsuit over conditions at Vandalia Correctional Center, where minimum security inmates are held, Mills said. If the state doesn’t settle, lawsuits could take years to resolve, he said.

It is, Mills said, a matter of math. The inmate population has increased by 10 percent during the past two years while the state prison budget has decreased by 15 percent, he said. There is some hope in recently passed legislation that reinstitutes an early-release program for inmates who behave themselves, Mills said.

The legislature also appropriated $26 million to keep the Tamms supermax prison open. Gov. Pat Quinn says that he will close it nonetheless, and if the money is spent to expand a minimum security work camp next to the supermax, intolerable conditions might improve, Mills said.

Stacey Solano, Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman, said the department doesn’t comment on pending lawsuits, but health, safety and security of inmates and staff is the department’s top priority. She confirmed that Tamms will be closed, but declined to say how the department might spend money appropriated to keep the supermax open.
In the meantime, inmates are living in squalor, according to the class-action lawsuit filed on June 13 in federal court.

Nearly 1,900 prisoners are living in Vienna Correctional Center, which was built to hold 925 inmates, according to the lawsuit. While state law requires each inmate to have at least 50 square feet in cells or dormitories, inmates at Vienna have 33 square feet or less, the plaintiffs say. Inmates get three hours or less of exercise time each week, and much of their time is spent on bunks crammed 18 inches apart, so close that a prisoner can reach out and touch the person sleeping next to them.

Rather than fix broken windows, the state has boarded them up, depriving inmates of natural light and fresh air. Mice, rats, millipedes, cockroaches and other vermin run free, and food contains rodent feces and mold, according to the plaintiffs.

“Prisoners find cockroaches in their coffee cups, drinking glasses and toothbrushes and feel cockroaches crawl across them while they lie in their bunks,” the plaintiffs say. “The men often have to physically sweep cockroaches off of their mattresses and remove cockroach feces from their pillows and clothing.”

A converted administration building that is home to 600 inmates has seven toilets, two urinals, seven sinks and seven showers.

“To make matters worse, some of these toilets and sinks often do not function or drain properly due to leaking or clogged pipes,” the plaintiffs say. “Rust-colored water comes out of these few sinks, which the prisoners use to brush their teeth, wash their faces and ‘clean’ their dishes. Broken toilets are left filled with feces, sometimes for weeks.”

Mold is rampant.

“It grows along the walls and ceilings, in the light fixtures, around the sinks and drinking fountains, in the showers and behind the toilets,” the plaintiffs say. “The mold on the ceiling and in the showers sometimes grows so thick that it breaks off and falls on the prisoners while they are sleeping in their bunks or showering.”

Just five guards watch over the 600 inmates who live in the converted administration building.

“Because there are so many prisoners and so few officers, the officers are frequently unaware of the fights that occur in the dormitories and when the officers are aware, they often let the inmates fight it out, intervening only after the fight is finished in order to issue disciplinary citations,” plaintiffs say.

The conditions described in the lawsuit are confirmed in a report by the John Howard Association, a Chicago-based prison reform group that visited the prison last fall. The visitors smelled sewage and found inmates dodging rust-colored water that dripped from bathroom ceilings. Prisoners said they were given just five minutes to eat meals. Hundreds of inmates with nothing to do simply paced or huddled around a small television.

“A Vienna staff member seemed to recognize the stunned look on our faces,” the report’s author wrote. “‘This is a nightmare,’ he said quietly to one of JHA’s staff. ‘This should not be.’”

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

Read the Monitoring Visit by John Howard Association of Illinois below:

http://www.illinoistimes.com/Springfield/file-123-.pdf

Read the Vienna Complaint Court Document below:

http://www.illinoistimes.com/Springfield/file-124-.pdf

Alabama Overcrowding: Committee looks at prison violence

Today, June 20th 2012:

From: WSFA

MONTGOMERY, AL (AP) –
A joint legislative oversight committee on prisons is planning to meet to discuss reports of increased violence in Alabama prisons and allegations of sexual abuse at one prison.

A committee has scheduled a meeting for 1 p.m. Wednesday in the Joint Briefing Room at the Alabama Statehouse to discuss reports of rising inmate-on-inmate violence in prisons. The Legislature’s Joint Prison Oversight Committee will also discuss allegations of prison employees sexually abusing women inmates at Tutwiler Prison in Wetumpka.

Read the rest here: http://www.wsfa.com/story/18834048/committee-looks-at-prison-violence

—————-
Here is the article by the Equal Justice Initiative about the Prison Overcrowding in Alabama, which is becoming increasingly serious:

ALABAMA’S OVERCROWDED PRISONS BECOMING MORE VIOLENT
June 5, 2012
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Alabama’s prisons house twice as many people as they were designed to hold and the ratio of inmates to correctional officers is the worst of any state in the country. As a result, there is an alarming increase in violent incidents in the state’s overcrowded prisons.

As The Birmingham News recently reported, violence among prisoners was up 40% in 2010-2011 compared to the previous year; assaults leading to serious injury doubled. Three inmates have been killed in Alabama prisons since October 2011.

Actually, the rate of violent assaults in Alabama prisons is likely worse than the official data show. Lawsuits challenging the overcrowding, short staffing, and pervasive violence in Alabama prisons have uncovered evidence that the state underreports attacks on inmates.

For example, the Department of Corrections’ public reports for 2008-2009 listed only one assault with serious injury at Donaldson Correctional Facility, but internal records showed at least 16 Donaldson inmates were taken to outside hospitals during that time for treatment of serious injuries, including collapsed lungs, vomiting and urinating blood, and loss of sight in one eye.

Crowding and staffing shortages are likely to worsen in the coming year, for which the corrections budget has been cut by $16 million.

Corrections officials’ failure to protect inmates from assaultive staff and fellow inmates contributes to the rise in violence. “They’re letting people fight,” said EJI director Bryan Stevenson. “They’re not responding in any meaningful way.”

Stevenson said society at large has a stake in ensuring that inmates are protected from violence in prison. “Most people are going to be released,” he said. “Torturing, abusing and assaulting people over many years and then releasing them to the public is not a sensible public safety strategy.”

Links:

Birmingham News: Alabama Prison Violence Rising in Overcrowded System, 6/3/12

Associated Press: Report: Violence Increasing in Crowded Alabama Prisons as Budget
Cuts Loom
, 6/3/12

Birmingham News: Alabama’s Bullock Mental Health Facility the Most Violent Prison in State, 6/3/12

Anniston Star Editorial: Pause About Prisons: Allegations of Abuse, Increased Violence Real Concerns in Alabama, 6/5/12

Birmingham News: Alabama prisons: Reports of Rising Violence, Sexual Assaults to get Legislative Hearing, 6/5/12

Huntsville Times Editorial: Alabama’s Mean Prisons, 6/8/12

Eufaula Tribune: Clayton Prison Ranks Seventh for Inmate Violence, 6/9/12

Birmingham News Editorial: Alabama and its Lawmakers Need to Seriously Address Growing Problems of Violence Behind Bars, 6/10/12

Gadsden Times Editorial: No Easy Answers on Prisons, 6/10/12

Huntsville Times: Alabama Prison Chief Faces Budget Cuts, Challenges Over Tutwiler Abuse Reports, 6/13/12