Prison News Roundup – NEW
There are many people writing and blogging about the prison system and what it’s like for people who have loved ones in prison. We have decided to take the most applicable articles and provide them to you in a newsletter forum. Keep in mind that the articles we share are not necessarily the opinions of the editors, however we feel that they are of interest to you. Happy reading!
Could Antonin Scalia’s replacement on the SCOTUS help end mass incarceration?
The US Constitution prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment” but recently deceased Justice Antonin Scalia often pushed the Court toward prescribing harsh sentences. In practice, he found nothing that would qualify as cruel and unusual punishment. This has led to mass incarceration, and disproportionately long prison sentences for both major and minor crimes. “Few people did more to ensure the ranks of American prisons swelled over the past generation than Scalia.”
If Scalia’s replacement is a judge who more seriously believes in the essence of human dignity inherent in all persons, including prisoners, and will look at the harsh sentences currently filling our prisons, we could move towards ending mass incarceration.
Bernie Sanders did not promise to free a quarter of America’s prisoners
America and China are the world’s first and second biggest jailers, with millions of people in the prison populations.
Sanders is looking at prison reform, so that America “won’t have more people in jail than in any other country.” While the exact numbers for Chinese detention statistics may not be known, prison reform and reducing America’s sky-high prison population is a worthy goal, and has finally achieved some level of bipartisan support. Politics and policy are diverse and complex, and while the United States may be unique in many ways, it is not so different that it cannot learn from other countries, as Sanders has suggested.
Read the article in the Huffington Post: No, Bernie Sanders Did Not Promise to Free a Quarter of America’s Prisoners
When aging felons are freed
More than 130 prisoners serving life sentences for violent crimes in Maryland were freed on probation, following a landmark ruling, related to a jury instruction that was halted in the early 1980‘s. It was ruled that people convicted on the basis of the old jury charge had been denied due process. The prisoners were convicted of felonies in jury trials before 1981.
The average age of the released prisoners is 64, they typically entered prison at age 24, and served 40 years. Ninety percent of them are African-American. Forty years ago, blacks were often charged with more serious offenses than whites for the same crime.
The prisoners received social services and other special preparations, and so far, none of them has re-offended. But their release has infuriated some of their victims’ families, and raised questions about what a life sentence really means.
Read the article in NPR: From A Life Term To Life On The Outside: When Aging Felons Are Freed
Nevada rates of incarceration
Between 2000 and 2008 the number of inmates in Nevada increased by 26.7 percent. Between 2008 and 2009, the state’s number of inmates dropped 2.6 percent.
Nationally in 2009, 457.8 people were incarcerated for every 100,000 population. In Nevada 487.7 were incarcerated for every 100,000.
In 2013, Nevada’s incarceration rate reduced considerably, but is still higher than the national average. By the end of 2013, Nevada’s prison population was 13,056, which was 460 inmates for every 100,000 people in the state.
Read the article in Newsmax: Rates of Incarceration in Nevada
California’s standards for using inmates as firefighters
California’s new corrections chief will focus on using more county prisoners in the state firefighters program, rather than lowering standards for the inmate firefighters.
There was some controversy when the previous head of Corrections sought to expand the number of inmates who could qualify, despite having violent histories.
Inmates must be physically fit and complete firefighting classes. Several categories of violent offenders are excluded. The department has agreements with 12 county sheriffs, and expects to have enough firefighters this year, without changing its standards. They supply about 6 percent of the firefighters in the program.
Read the article in the Herald-Standard: California backs off easing standard for inmate firefighters