State investigators cite culture of abuse, racism by High Desert State Prison guards

This comes from the LA Times, Dec. 16, 2015, and is about a report on High Desert State Prison in Susanville, California.

Paige St John reports for the LA Times:

State investigators are calling for immediate action at a Northern California prison with an “entrenched culture” of racism and violence, where guards allegedly have set inmates up for attack.

In a special report released Wednesday, the independent Office of Inspector General said that abuse and cover-ups at the High Desert State Prison in Susanville were so severe — and have been for so long — that officials should consider requiring some of the guards to wear body cameras and GPS devices in order to “curtail misconduct.”

The six-month investigation at the facility was ordered after complaints of excessive force by guards and reports that sex offenders were being housed alongside those likely to assault them.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), chairwoman of a state Senate subcommittee on public safety and corrections, said the findings were “deeply disturbing and reveal broken systems.”

Read the rest here.

Link to the Report:

http://www.oig.ca.gov/media/reports/Reports/Reviews/2015_Special_Review_-_High_Desert_State_Prison.pdf

 

 

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Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes reports on Armenia

Press release from the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) of the Council of Europe:

Strasbourg, 27.01.2015 – The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published today its reports on the last two ad hoc visits to Armenia, carried out in April 2013 and May 2014, together with the responses of the Armenian authorities.
 
During the April 2013 visit, the CPT’s delegation received a significant number of allegations from detained persons that they had been subjected to physical or psychological ill-treatment and/or excessive use of force by police officers. The alleged physical ill-treatment consisted in the main of punches, kicks, or inappropriate use of batons, at the time of apprehension or during subsequent questioning (in particular by operational police officers). 

In addition, a number of allegations were received of threats of physical ill-treatment and of repercussions for family members. In several cases, the ill-treatment alleged was of such a severity that it could be considered to amount to torture (e.g. extensive beatings; infliction of electric shocks; simulated asphyxiation with a gas mask; blows to the soles of the feet). In a number of cases, the medical examination of the persons concerned and/or the consultation of medical files by the delegation revealed injuries which were consistent with the allegations of ill-treatment made.
 
In their response, the Armenian authorities indicate that new guidelines have been issued and that the training of police officers has been enhanced to prevent instances of police ill-treatment.
 
In the report, the CPT acknowledges the efforts made by the Armenian authorities to improve the system of handling potential cases of police ill-treatment and welcomes the creation of the Special Investigation Service (SIS) as an independent investigative body. However, the examination of relevant documentation, including investigation files concerning complaints about police ill-treatment, revealed a number of flaws in the current system which clearly undermined the effectiveness of any action taken to detect and investigate such cases. The CPT makes a number of specific recommendations to improve the existing procedures for the reporting of injuries and the processing of potential cases of police ill-treatment by prosecutors.
 
The CPT’s delegation also carried out a target visit to Yerevan-Kentron Prison, in order to examine the conditions under which life-sentenced prisoners were being held in the establishment. In the report, the CPT expresses serious concern that hardly any of the specific recommendations made after previous visits have been implemented as regards the situation of two life-sentenced prisoners who had been continuously held in solitary confinement for 13 years, without being offered any out-of-cell activity other than outdoor exercise for one hour per day. The Committee emphasises that the conditions under which the two prisoners were being held could be considered as amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment, bearing also in mind that neither of them was being provided with adequate psychiatric treatment, even though they both suffered from severe mental disorders. 
 
The main objective of the May 2014 visit was to review the situation of life-sentenced prisoners in the country. For this purpose, the CPT’s delegation visited Nubarashen and Kentron Prisons in Yerevan.
 
In both establishments, the delegation received hardly any allegation of physical ill-treatment from prisoners. 
 
However, the visit brought to light that many of the specific recommendations previously made by the Committee had not been (fully) implemented in practice, in particular, as regards the detention regime of life-sentenced prisoners, restrictions on prisoners’ contact with the outside world and the systematic use of handcuffs. 
 
As regards, more specifically, the situation of the two above-mentioned life-sentenced prisoners at Kentron Prison, certain improvements were observed in terms of psychiatric care. However, the situation had remained by and large unchanged since the 2013 visit with regard to their detention regime.
 
On the other hand, the CPT appreciates all the measures taken by the Armenian authorities after the 2014 visit with a view to putting an end to the solitary confinement of the two above-mentioned prisoners and providing them with adequate treatment and care. The Committee also welcomes the initiative of the Armenian authorities to amend the Penitentiary Code in order to abolish the legal obligation of segregating life-sentenced prisoners from other prisoners.
 
In their response, the Armenian authorities provide further information on the draft legislation which is intended to significantly improve the situation of life-sentenced prisoners and to facilitate the granting of conditional release for them. In addition, the authorities indicate that additional steps have been taken to provide the two above-mentioned prisoners with adequate health care and more out-of-cell activities.
 
The visit reports and related Government responses have been made public at the request of the Armenian authorities and are available on the CPT’s website: http://www.cpt.coe.int/en/states/arm.htm

Vera Report about the overuse of jails: Incarceration’s Front Door

On Feb. 11th, the Vera Institute of Justice published their report Incarceration’s Front Door: The Misuse of Jails in America.

“Local jails, which exist in nearly every town and city in America, are built to hold people deemed too dangerous to release pending trial or at high risk of flight. This, however, is no longer primarily what jails do or whom they hold, as people too poor to post bail languish there and racial disparities disproportionately impact communities of color.

This report reviews existing research and data to take a deeper look at our nation’s misuse of local jails and to determine how we arrived at this point. It also highlights jurisdictions that have taken steps to mitigate negative consequences, all with the aim of informing local policymakers and their constituents who are interested in in reducing recidivism, improving public safety, and promoting stronger, healthier communities.”

Please visit this link to download the full report or the summary.

California suppressed consultant’s report on inmate suicides

This comes from the LA Times:

Feb. 28th, 2013
By Paige St. John, Los Angeles Times

The report warned that California’s prison suicide-watch practices encouraged inmate deaths. Gov. Brown has said the state’s prison care crisis is over.

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown has pointed to reams of documents to make the case in court and on the stump that California’s prison crisis is over, and inmates are receiving good care.

But there is at least one document the administration wanted to hide.

New court filings reveal that the state suppressed a report from its own consultant warning that California’s prison suicide-watch practices encouraged inmate deaths.

Lindsay Hayes, a national expert on suicide prevention in prisons, told corrections officials in 2011 that the state’s system of holding suicidal inmates for days in dim, dirty, airless cells with unsanitized mattresses on the floor was compounding the risk that they would take their own lives.

His report described in detail inmates being divested of their clothes and possessions and robed in a “safety smock.” Hayes concluded that such conditions encouraged prisoners to declare they were no longer suicidal just to escape the holding cells. Many of them took their own lives soon after.

The state asked Hayes to create a short version of his report that omitted his damaging findings, to give to a court monitor and lawyers for prisoners, the court documents show. Hayes complied, but when inmate attorneys obtained a complete copy, the state asked a U.S. District Court to order it destroyed. The judge refused.

The report says the state’s handling of suicidal inmates is “seemingly punitive” and “anti-therapeutic.” Hayes noted that guards, not mental health workers, dictate many of the conditions of suicide watches, such as whether to allow daily showers. Hayes alleged prison workers sometimes falsified watch logs showing how frequently those inmates were checked.
Hayes found that in 25 of the cases he reviewed, seven prisoners had killed themselves within hours or days of being released from suicide watch. He found lapses in care — lengthy delays in checking on the prisoners, failure to attempt CPR — in 68% of the cases he studied. Hayes did give the state high marks for compiling exhaustive reports after an inmate’s death.

Contract records show that corrections officials recruited Hayes, a former consultant for inmate plaintiffs, to begin in 2010 a three-year project on suicide prevention, demonstrating the state’s resolve to improve inmate mental health care.

His first report was filed in August 2011. Hayes said in a deposition that none of the follow-up reports and consultations called for in his contract occurred.

“When your report landed, it was not roundly applauded and in fact was buried,” Robert Canning, a prison official overseeing Hayes’ work, wrote in a June 2012 email to the consultant. There were 32 prison suicides in California in 2012, above the national average.

Other new filings show that the staffing shortage at one prison psychiatric hospital is so critical the psychiatric staff has declared they have been working since Jan. 23 “under protest.”

The doctors in Salinas Valley State Prison’s psychiatric program, run by the Department of State Hospitals, say they routinely juggle caseloads of up to 60 patients a day, and in some instances have been assigned wards containing as many as 120 patients a day.

Read the rest here

Prison Abuse Logs 2007-2011

From: the Human Rights Coalition:

Prison Abuse Logs
The result of over four years of investigation into prison conditions inside Pennsylvania’s jails and prisons, the Prison Abuse Logs consist of more than 900 entries detailing human rights violations by prison officials and law enforcement. Despite repeated efforts to notify county, state, and federal law enforcement, along with elected officials of evidence of criminal acts being perpetrated by prison authorities and staff, every level of government has consistently turned a blind eye to routine, institutionalized attacks on the human rights of prisoners.

The Human Rights Coalition hopes that the release of these documents will aid journalists, lawyers, researchers, policymakers, and community organizers in efforts to shed light on the systematic abuse and torture of prisoners.

Information contained in the logs has been reported to the Human Rights Coalition by prisoners, their family members and supporters. HRC has no way to independently verify each entry; readers are encouraged to investigate on their own.

Many of the entries contain descriptions of abuse, torture and violence, and may be upsetting.

Prison Abuse Logs
Excel Spreadsheet (sortable)

Prison Abuse Logs pdf file (reverse chronological order)

New report details systematic torture and abuse of prisoners in Pennsylvania State Prison

From: Human Rights Coalition-Fed Up! Chapter

RELEASE: New report details systematic torture and abuse of prisoners in Pennsylvania State Prison

Contact: Amanda Johnson – hrcfedup@gmail.com – (716) 238-4089

April 25, 2011 – After a year-long investigation, the Human Rights Coalition has issued a report on the conditions of incarceration for people in the solitary confinement units at the State Correctional Institution in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. The report, Unity and Courage, examines discriminatory practices of the PA Department of Corrections and portrays the efforts of a group of prisoners engaging in nonviolent and peaceful protest to demand their basic human rights.

Unity and Courage documents a culture of abuse fostered by prison staff, characterized by the excessive use of force, assaults by officers, use of racial slurs, forced cell extractions, chemical gassing, destruction of legal paperwork, torture devices, and deprivation of food and water. The Human Rights Coalition began its investigation of the use of solitary confinement at Huntingdon in December 2009, when a prisoner committed suicide after being denied mental health treatment by prison staff.

Prisoners began an organized campaign of resistance in September of 2010, by refusing to come in from the exercise yard until they could speak with public officials about their treatment. Correctional officers wheeled out canisters of chemical spray, hosing the prisoners down until they would comply with orders to be handcuffed and returned to their cells, where they were denied showers and medical attention for days. Some were put in isolation cells and had to sleep naked on concrete slabs.

Approximately 2,500 men and women are housed in solitary confinement units across the state. They are in small, brightly lit cells 23 hours a day, with little or no ability to communicate with family, and no access to educational and rehabilitative programming. At Huntingdon, solitary confinement prisoners are dependent on correctional officers to receive food, have access to showers, exercise and law library, and to exchange ingoing and outgoing mail. With severe restrictions on outside contact and a Departmhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifent of Corrections abuse monitoring system that is shielded from external scrutiny, policies and practices of systemic abuse at the prison go unchecked at the cost of prisoners’ health and lives.

“Their goal is to stop us from speaking out against them,” wrote Huntingdon protester Kyle Klein, “but it will never work, not a chance in hell, or the hell we are in. Even when winning is impossible, quitting is far from optional.”

Contact info of public officials who received advance copies of Unity and Courage

No Exit

A new report released by The Sentencing Project finds a record 140,610 individuals are now serving life sentences in state and federal prisons, 6,807 of whom were juveniles at the time of the crime. In addition, 29% of persons serving a life sentence (41,095) have no possibility of parole, and 1,755 were juveniles at the time of the crime.

No Exit: The Expanding Use of Life Sentences in America represents the first nationwide collection of life sentence data documenting race, ethnicity and gender. The report’s findings reveal overwhelming racial and ethnic disparities in the allocation of life sentences: 66% of all persons sentenced to life are non-white, and 77% of juveniles serving life sentences are non-white.

Other findings in the report include:

* In five states – Alabama, California, Massachusetts, Nevada, and New York – at least 1 in 6 prisoners is serving a life sentence.

* Five states – California, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, and Pennsylvania – each have more than 3,000 people serving life without parole. Pennsylvania leads the nation with 345 juveniles serving sentences of life without parole.

* In six states – Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota – and the federal government, all life sentences are imposed without the possibility of parole.

* The dramatic growth in life sentences is not primarily a result of higher crime rates, but of policy changes that have imposed harsher punishments and restricted parole consideration.

The authors of the report, Ashley Nellis, Ph.D., research analyst and Ryan S. King, policy analyst of The Sentencing Project, state that persons serving life sentences “include those who present a serious threat to public safety, but also include those for whom the length of sentence is questionable.” One such case documented is that of Ali Foroutan, currently serving a sentence of 25 years to life for possession of 0.03 grams of methamphetamine under California’s “three strikes” law.

The Sentencing Project calls for the elimination of sentences of life without parole, and restoring discretion to parole boards to determine suitability for release. The report also recommends that individuals serving parole-eligible life sentences be properly prepared for reentry back into the community.