Rape Behind Bars
Started the week with a post on rape in prisons and jails, so let’s end the week with one. Go here to find the first of a two-part book review essay on books dealing with inmate rape in adult and juvenile facilities. Not pretty stuff, but very interesting, especially that the topic is getting such widespread play right now. We’ll keep an eye out for Part Two when it comes out, but don’t let that stop you from getting Part One done right now. 02/26/10.
Prison and Jail Rapes Probably Underestimated
That’s the conclusion of a BJS report that serves as the basis for an
analysis discussed and linked to here. (Follow
that?) Here’s one of many key points you should dig into:
“Jail is where most inmates are raped. The press seems to have missed the fact that because the BJS numbers come from snapshot surveys, they represent only a small fraction of those incarcerated every year. People move in and out of jail very quickly. The number of annual jail admissions is about 17 times higher than the jail population on any given day.”
Go check out the whole thing. It’s work-related. 02/22/10.
Reforming Mississippi’s Prison System
Another kind reader sends news of this
new report from the Pew Center on the States regarding efforts
at correctional reform in Mississippi. Here are a couple of highlights,
but you need to check out the whole thing. It’s not long and
you can call it work.
“Mississippi provides an example of a state that, prior to the fiscal crisis, began a series of sentencing reforms with broad support that were designed to enhance public safety and control corrections costs by concentrating its prison space on more serious offenders. The most significant reform changed the state’s “truth-in-sentencing” law. Non-violent offenders in Mississippi are now eligible for parole after serving 25 percent of their prison sentence, down from the requirement of 85 percent that was established in 1995. This change was passed by the legislature and signed into law in 2008 by Governor Haley Barbour.
The JFA Institute analysis found:
- By instituting changes to its parole eligibility requirements and parole risk assessment instrument, Mississippi between July 2008 and August 2009 released 3,076 inmates earlier than they would have been under prior law. The median sentence reduction of those released was 13 months.
- Through August 2009, 121 of those released offenders have been returned to custody—116 for technical violations of parole; five for non-violent offenses. One reason for the low recidivism rate is the use of a newly-developed risk assessment instrument to help authorities decide which inmates are suitable for release.
- The JFA Institute estimates that the reforms will permit Mississippi to avoid having to build and operate an additional 5,000 prison beds over the next 10 years.
While these results are encouraging, it is important to recognize that they are preliminary. The most recent of the legislative changes took effect in July 2008 so their long-term impact remains to be seen. Moreover, the report does not address any efforts that the state is taking to ensure strong supervision of the additional parolees.” 02/02/10.
Policy Revision Timing
If you know anyone who likes to do the operational policy revision process, hook them up with the “hankering for state legislation” people mentioned at the top. However, for those who do it and those who might, there is a nice overview to go through the relevant who, what, where, and whys that can remind and teach if you link on it. No need to thank us. 02/01/10.
There ARE Places That Welcome Inmates
When it comes time to count population for federal benefits and legislative district representation. Oh, and maybe when their labor reduces costs for taxpayers. (Of course, that’s one of the first programs to get cut when we have to cut.) 02/01/10.
Digging Up Dirt
Story here on Connecticut’s decision to try to restrict inmate access to Freedom of Information Act material on prison guards, prosecutors, etc. Seems the inmates want to find out info they can use on their antagonists. Twelve states apparently have already taken action. If yours hasn’t, you might especially want to click on the link. 01/27/10.
Prison Food and the Law
Interesting article here on concerns being raised in California, as it goes through its budget debacle, about the lack of meals in prisons there specifically designed for Muslims. The argument notes that kosher meals have been authorized in state facilities, but nothing for the plaintiffs here. Not sure if any of this is relevant to what’s happening in your facilities and state but who knows when it might be? Now you’re forewarned. 01/25/10.
“The Prison Wall Is Not a Boundary Any More”
Quote from this interesting piece on the increasing difficulties of controlling drug use within facilities. The article goes into the whys and wherefores, the imagination and strategies that get used, but does use Pennsylvania as an example of a state that has more effectively addressed the problem, in case you care. Definitely worth your time to click on the link. 01/19/10.
Dogs, Cells, and Cells
Brief note here on a report discussing the difficulties of keeping cell phones out of our facilities. As the piece indicates, it looks like the dog sniffing option really doesn’t pay off well, for reasons you’ll discover when you click on the link. 12/29/09.
“I’m Tired of the Bars. And Bricks.”
Quote from one of the teen inmates participating in the jail program
described here. And
he’s not talking about the “Cheers” kind of bars. Here’s a brief
“The first program focuses on so-called life skills, things such as anger management, character building, self-esteem and gang awareness. Once the kids successfully finish the course, they can move on to another.
Mariano and Wynder try to teach them how to lead productive lives once they are free. How to respond to old temptations. How to interview for a job. How to stay free.
At first, the teens balked at the notion. A year later, Sharpe keeps a waiting list of kids who want to be a part of the groups.
The fights among the juvenile inmates have all but stopped. And Sharpe has learned that even an angry, obstinate boy can change.”
Got your interest? The rest is just as good. Go read. 12/21/09.
Aging Report, Part Deux
At The Crime Report, you’ll find the second
part of their series on the aging of our prison populations and
what the growing rate and number of inmates 50 and over are doing and
will do to our operations and expenses. They get into a bunch
of important topics, including geriatric paroling, victimization by
younger inmates, and dealing with guys who die with us. Here’s
a bit on the health problems that should tip you to all the good stuff
“According to medical reports submitted to the court, the men suffer from arthritis, hypertension, and kidney failure, as well as memory impairment, insomnia, claustrophobia, anxiety, and depression. Wallace, who just celebrated his 67th birthday, has also become hard of hearing, and has had increasing difficulty communicating with attorneys or friends, on the phone and during visits.
Under the Americans for Disabilities Act, he and other hearing impaired inmates should receive whatever special care they require. In Wallace’s case, according to one of his attorneys, the prison [he has been transferred out of lockdown at Angola to lockdown at Hunt near Baton Rouge.] gave him one—not two—hearing aids, which made matters worse by adversely effecting his balance. (The prison has promised to provide a second hearing aid.)
Many older offenders suffer from serious mental illness–some of it produced or exacerbated by lengthy incarcerations. One study revealed depression among male prisoners was 50 percent higher than for those living outside. All in all, 54 percent of older prisoners met standards for psychiatric disorders. Williams and Abraldes write: “In one report from a maximum-security hospital, 75 percent of elderly prisoners were admitted between age 20 and 30 and the majority were schizophrenic.”
At Louisiana’s Angola Prison, the warden reported that 2,000 of over 5,000 inmates were on psychotropic drugs. Many mentally ill prisoners are simply warehoused and fed drugs to keep them under control. Even worse, some are labeled “discipline” problems, and end up in solitary confinement. A 2006 report from the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons found that mentally ill prisoners are increasingly being relegated to isolation cells where they live in “torturous conditions that are proven to cause mental deterioration.”” 12/10/09.
US Prison/Jail Numbers Up Slightly 2008
The Bureau of Justice Statistics has its latest report on our national incarceration numbers out. You can get the abstract here, which will get you to the full report. In the meantime, below are their bulletpoints:
- “The U.S. prison population grew at the slowest rate (0.8%) since 2000, reaching 1,610,446 sentenced prisoners at yearend 2008.
- Growth of the prison population since 2000 (1.8% per year on average) was less than a third of the average annual rate during the 1990s (6.5% per year on average).
- Between 2000 and 2008 the number of blacks in prison declined by 18,400, lowering the imprisonment rate to 3,161 men and 149 women per 100,000 persons in the U.S. resident black population.”
(h/t The Crime Report) 12/09/09.
Great Stuff at The Crime Report
The Crime Report is starting a
series on the aging of prison populations and the impact that is
having and will have on our management of our facilities and on the
resources available to do it. Here’s the basic concern, just
to show you why you need to be reading the series:
“While 50 or 55 may not be old by conventional standards, people age faster behind bars than they do on the outside: Studies have shown that prisoners in their 50s are on average physiologically 10 to 15 years older than their chronological age. Older prisoners require substantial medical care, because of harsh life conditions as well as age. Inmates begin to have trouble climbing to upper bunks, walking, standing on line, and handling other parts of the prison routine. They suffer from early losses of hearing and eyesight, have high rates of high blood pressure and diabetes, and are susceptible to falls.
A recent study by Brie Williams and Rita Albraldes, published as a chapter in the book Growing Older: Challenges of Prison and Reentry for the Aging Population, found that in addition to the chronic diseases that increase with age, older offenders have problems such as paraplegia because of the legacy of gunshot wounds. Many have advanced liver disease, renal disease, or hepatitis. Still others suffer from HIV-AIDS, and many more from drug and alcohol abuse. Living under prison conditions, they are more likely to get pneumonia and flu.”
And while you’re visiting The Crime Report, check out its story and link to a new fed report on capital punishment in the states. Will probably be your reference source in the future if/when questions come up in your state. 12/07/09.
Threat of Prison Greater Than Experience of It?
The Oklahoma DOC did some analysis recently of the most effective sentences in lowest later recidivism, broken down by assessed risk level. Turned out that, while high risk offenders had the lowest later recidivism if given “prison only” sentences, the low and moderate risk offenders who came back least were those who got deferred sentences. We didn’t know if that was a common finding, but this research from Spain indicates that they may be finding the same thing. Go over and read and then think about what you’ve found in your place. 12/07/09.
Good Stuff at The Crime Report
Several good articles up at The Crime Report right now. This one on the latest number of HIV/AIDS inmates and the states reporting the greatest increases. This one on how Operation Pressure Point, a police crackdown on high violent crime areas in Philadelphia, brought significant and impressive decreases in homicide rates, which clearly will impact Pennsylvania’s prison populations. And this one, if you missed our link to it a few days back, on the operation of hospice programs within prisons and the role of inmates in providing services. (P.S.—If you bookmark The Crime Report, you may get to stories like these before we do.) 12/02/09.
San Quentin All Access Computer Center
Word here on
efforts to put the aforementioned “all access computer center” into operation
at San Quentin. The abstract is below but you’ll need to click
the link to get word on more materials and links.
“Prison reality television and radio sound bites of slamming cell doors are just two examples illustrating the fascination with incarcerated life in the United States. Additionally, the country’s exponential prison growth and “tough on crime” posture speaks to a general sense of fear toward this population. But while our society may fear its prisoners, prisoners often fear technology. The moment of incarceration interrupts not only these individuals’ access to the outside world, but also their access to the developing technologies most of us take for granted in daily life. Accordingly, their ability to succeed in increasingly hi-tech work environments is similarly interrupted upon release. The inefficiencies of current vocational curricula, combined with the inability of the prison system to monitor the efficacy of its own programs, has doubtlessly contributed to the state’s alarming rate of recidivism: nearly two-thirds of California’s parolees will return to prison within three years of their release.
Working toward a solution to this problem, UC Berkeley’s Teach in Prison program is creating the San Quentin All Access Computer Center, the prison’s first instructional computer lab. Starting in February of 2010, courses will be offered in both basic computer literacy and computer-aided design (CAD). With the cooperation of San Quentin staff and Cal volunteers, evaluations will measure the feasibility of the lab’s construction, efficacy of it’s curriculum, and the impact on parolee employability and recidivism.
Recognizing the problem is only the first step. How is a computer lab created in an environment where even a typewriter is considered contraband if it has internal memory storage? How does a group conduct research on a sensitive population under the supervision of recalcitrant overseers? How does a normally motivated and supportive staff receive a new program while facing its own 75% reduction in force due to state budget cuts?
Creation of the San Quentin All Access Computer Center has been a lesson in adaptability for UC Berkeley, prison staff, and the inmates who will soon take their first steps across the digital divide.” 12/02/09.
Good News on Inmates?
Although most of the news we get about offenders comes from the first half dozen stories on every local news show, occasionally we hear some reports of good things that offenders turn their hands to. A couple today—this one on inmates working in hospice programs and this one on their contribution to food production for their surrounding communities, complete with pumpkins. No recidivism numbers so not scientific, but still nice to know that corrections can mean getting some things corrected once in a while. 11/30/09.
Doing Something Right?
You performance measurers out there. Would this count
as a correctional failure or success?
“State prison officials say two southern Middle Tennessee inmates escaped, burglarized a convenience store and then returned on their own.
In a news release Monday, officials said the two broke out a window in their cell Nov. 7 at the Turney Center Industrial Complex annex in Clifton.
They stole cigarettes and tobacco products from a store in Clifton and then returned to the minimum-security annex. Officers later discovered the contraband and an investigation began.
Michael Queener and Adam Garland will face additional charges involving escape and burglary.” 11/24/09.
The Second Best Prison Rodeo
Is profiled in USA Today today. Article does get at the benefits, real and personal, associated with running these rodeos, although the fiscal costs get short-shrift, which is one reason why most states don’t do them, even states with the culture to appreciate them. 10/30/09.
Web Surf with Corrections One Today
In the name of working, you can legitimately head over to Corrections One today to take in a whole lot of good stuff up right now. Here are some tantalizing headlines to get you moving:
“You work in a PRISON?!”
Calif. to close three private prisons
The 3 most crowded state prison systems in America
Ohio could release 208 inmates over parole problem
Ala. judge cleared of sex abuse after spanking inmates
Okay, that last one may need to be explained to your supervisor. 10/28/09.
Good Timing for Indiana
The hopeful program described above comes at a good time for Indiana, where violence in their prisons is being ascribed to the overcrowded conditions there.
“The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne reports that in the first half of
2009, Indiana's prisons had 514 inmate-on-inmate attacks, 62 of which
caused serious injuries.
During all of 2008, there were only 719 of such attacks, 101 of them with serious injuries.
Indiana houses 27,300 inmates, but between 1,000 and 1,200 new inmates arrive each year. Commissioner Edwin Buss says the shortage of bed space in some state prisons has created a volatile situation.”
Full story here. 10/27/09.
No Cell Phone for You
California has confiscated over 4000 cell phones from inmates already this year, more than the confiscations of the last 3 years combined. The state’s DOC director says that crimes committed by inmates using cellphones have included the planning of escapes, restraining order violations, use of stolen credit cards to purchase inmate quarterly packages and the coordination of smuggling contraband into prisons. The argument over whether it’s best to jam signals or grab the phones will probably keep going, but, as the article points out, this is a correctional problem growing “exponentially worse.” 10/05/09.
Not a general topic of discussion in our experience in corrections, but this report indicates that maybe it should be (1/3rd of inmates have hearing problems?). Deaf inmates face an environment clearly different from the norm, and their treatment has to be affected. Fear of sign language? TTD calling? Special attention at rape time? Certainly worth your time even if you have dealt with this effectively where you are, and more so if you haven’t. 10/01/09.
Whose Money Is It?
So someone walks away from your facility, leaving their prison system bank account behind. Tempted to use it for operations? It’s not really like they’re going to come back to claim it. Well, before you do (or as you do?), check out this story on that situation in Missouri. It might not be as simple as you think. 09/30/09.
Speaking of Parents and Kids and Crime
A good overview from Illinois of the concerns related to children of incarcerated
parents and their long- and short-term costs here. In
case you need the reminder:
“An estimated 60,000 to 90,000 children in the state have parents in jail, said Rev. Calvin Morris, executive director of the Community Renewal Society. The forceable separation from their parents, in many cases for years, has a searing effect, he said. They are at high risk for bad grades, behavioral problems, the inability to form relationships and trouble with the law.”
Nice discussion of some non-profit and church work as well as a nod to the anger the kids feel when the parent comes back home. 09/22/09.
For Those of You Too Pretty
Turns out you can sue if you get bullied at your facility because you’re too attractive. In Great Britain anyway. Who wants to be the first one to test the theory in the U.S.? Don’t look at me. Wouldn’t work. 09/15/09.
Closing Prisons Isn’t Pretty or Fun
Story here on a community facing life after a state prison closes in Michigan. Closing prisons isn’t really a giant deal yet for most states, but it may be more in the future. So this story can give you some insight should it happen where you are. 09/04/09.
In the Mood for a Book Report?
Well, what if it’s about that Iowa case on faith-based prison programs and it details things you might need to consider as/if you plan your own programs? It’s not very long, so don’t worry about snoozing. It’s informative, trust us. 08/27/09.
Good piece here on the problems most states with a rapidly growing aging inmate population, focusing on Florida but relevant to us all. If you’d like to see a moving graph of the aging of the US population generally through 2050 which may help to explain at least part of the situation we’re facing, check this out. 08/18/09.
Prisoner to Poet
Story on former inmate who used his time in prison (and a lot of solitary, apparently) to read and focus on becoming a poet. Not the usual career path, admittedly, but it’s worked for him. He’s just published his first book. That’s called successful reentry. 08/13/09.
Innovations in Prison Visits
No, not in efforts to smuggle contraband. We’re
referring to some interesting programs being tried out to improve visit processes
in our facilities. This
one, for example, details a system being used in California to speed the
actual processing of visitors:
“To solve this problem, Santa Clara County introduced a Web-based self-service system that allows potential visitors to register for an inmate visit via the county's SCCgov portal. When a user registers, the Department of Correction runs a warrant and criminal background check on the potential visitor and approves or denies the visitation request. The registrant receives an e-mail notification of the request's approval or denial. Once approved, the user is able to pre-schedule inmate visits up to three weeks in advance via the county's Web site. Kiosks are also provided at the department offices for the public to register for and schedule visits.
The change has been dramatic.
In effect for three years, the system has made it possible to nearly double the number of visitors. On average, of the roughly 10,000 inmate visits each month, over 55 percent are now self-scheduled by members of the public. These visitors are pre-screened, so when they do arrive, processing them into the facility is much easier. Rather than allowing visits on only two chaos-filled days per week, the system now accepts visits six days a week. Furthermore, the reservations system has brought the department into compliance with both federal law and the California Corrections Standards Authority's mandate regarding inmate visitation rights.
There are other benefits to the system. In addition to scheduling visits, the system also provides a secure way for family and friends to obtain hearing, booking and bail information. The system reduces the number of phone calls to the department regarding court developments, and interested parties can more easily visit an inmate, post bail for an inmate, or attend an inmate's court hearings.”
Reducing the need for those phone calls may help reduce the need to jam cell phone signals, which this article questions, supporting detection efforts instead:
“Currently, several state corrections departments want to jam transmissions to cell phones by installing equipment to blast radio static over cell phone frequencies inside of prisons. This, however, violates the Federal Communications Act of 1934 which specifically forbids any interference with radio transmissions.
The two bills of the “Safe Prisons Communications Act of 2009” (HR 560 and S.251) would change all this, allowing prisons to bypass the FCC restriction.
The trouble is that not only will jamming ultimately be two to four times more expensive than detection, but it can spread out beyond the prison walls. It can affect legitimate cell phone use in areas near the prison, such as offices, restaurants, residences and sidewalks.
In a perfect environment, jamming could be confined. However, as it stands now any change to that environment (like someone walking through a hallway or moving a file cabinet) might deflect the jamming signal in unintended directions. Even worse, some public safety communications bandwidths are immediately adjacent to cell phone bands and might be blocked by a prison’s jammer. . . .
The biggest problem with jamming is that it does not detect cell phones, and thus doesn’t allow us to leverage this problem to our benefit. And it’s not foolproof – some phones may be able to work through jamming, perhaps aided by software that filters out jamming signals. In the end, jamming may create the illusion that the problem has been solved, while in reality doing relatively little to limit criminals’ ability to communicate outside of the prison walls.
Jamming is illegal for good reasons. It poses serious problems and yields no usable intelligence information. Cell phone detection is a better solution as it identifies phones inside the prison as soon as they are turned on, allowing corrections staff to quickly discover, track, and confiscate them.”
And here’s a Pennsylvania story on “virtual visits,” or using video tech to allow inmates far from loved ones who can’t get to them to maintain something of a more regular contact:
“The idea for the program started in 2001, when prison officials identified dozens of inmates who hadn't had a visit in a year, says the prison society's executive director, Bill DiMascio.
Some relatives simply don't want to visit, hardened over fractured relationships, he says. For others, the lack of cars and limited public transportation to the state's prisons keep them away.
"We know that, especially when it comes to reentry, if ex-offenders have strong family support, their chance of success is greater," DiMascio says. "It's in our self-interest to help people be in a better frame of mind when they come back into the community. If we don't, chances are they will act out and get in trouble again."
The program was initially funded through a three-year federal grant. Now the Department of Corrections picks up the tab - $93,000 last fiscal year, a tiny fraction of its $1.6 billion budget.” 08/06/09.
Arts and Rehab
For those states with any dollars at all left for rehab, you might be interested in this piece on an arts program in Britain that features playwriting and tells you of links to get you and offenders more information. What’s particularly interesting is how the program can be used to promote crime prevention as well. 08/04/09.