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Pardons Elude Men Freed After Decades in North Carolina Prison

ncpardon1

Henry L. McCollum awaiting word on a rental home in Fayetteville, N.C.

From The New York Times

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — In the days leading up to the one last summer when Henry L. McCollum left North Carolina’s death row, it seemed that inmates and staff members could not stop talking about what awaited him beyond Central Prison.

The man who had spent almost his entire adult life awaiting execution would be able to go out for fried chicken, his favorite. Maybe he could strike a movie deal. At the very least, Mr. McCollum remembers, people told him that he would be a man of considerable wealth once the state paid him the $750,000 he could seek under North Carolina law because he had been wrongly convicted and imprisoned for decades.

Mr. McCollum, 50, was released from prison last September after DNA evidence showed that he did not rape and murder a young girl in 1983. But since then, he and his half brother, Leon Brown, who was also exonerated and freed in the same case, have led anything but glamorous post-prison lives. Instead, because of legal decisions made to help accelerate their release, as well as Gov. Pat McCrory’s deliberate approach to granting what is known here as a pardon of innocence, both men have clung to a minimal existence, absent substantive remuneration, counseling or public aid in transitioning back to society. (more…)

How Police Body Cameras Were Designed to Get Cops Off the Hook

bodycam1

From GIZMODO

In the wake of protests over police violence against black men, many civil rights activists are calling for a high-tech solution: strapping wearable body cameras to cops. The idea is to hold police accountable for unnecessary violence. But the history of police body cams reveals that the devices have often had the opposite effect.

On the afternoon of March 1st, a band of Los Angeles Police shot a homeless man. Video of the incident was captured by both a witness armed with a cell phone, and by body cameras strapped to the officers. Despite the evidence, what actually happened on Skid Row before police shot Charly Keunang remains a matter of dispute. How it went down depends on who you ask — and, more importantly, on whose video you’re watching.

The civilian shot video from a short distance away, and the footage shows officers circling Keunang before a physical struggle erupts. Keunang is thrown to the ground. Officers struggle to contain him. He’s resisting but subdued. He’s not going anywhere but he hasn’t been cuffed. Then after some yelling, three officers open fire. (more…)

Identity Theft, Tax Fraud Snares Prisoners

The Internal Revenue Service has said identity theft of prisoners is rampant.

The Internal Revenue Service has said identity theft of prisoners is rampant.

Corrections employees in several states face federal prosecutions

 

From The Wall Street Journal

A raft of federal prosecutions has uncovered tax-fraud schemes involving the theft of Social Security numbers of U.S. prisoners, in many cases by corrections employees.

Last year alone, federal courts meted out prison sentences to an Alabama bail bondsman, two former Alabama corrections employees, a Florida corrections officer and a Georgia man, who were convicted separately of stealing the identities of more than 1,200 prisoners and claiming more than $6.5 million in tax refunds under the inmates’ names.

In January, a Kentucky judge sentenced a local corrections officer to three years in prison for filching prisoner information to open up credit-card accounts with Capital One, Barclays Bank and Victoria’s Secret.

(more…)

Inmates stage food protest at maximum-security Nevada prison

hungerstrik2From Las Vegas Sun

A group of inmates at Nevada’s maximum-security prison in Ely refused food for two days to call attention to claims they’re not getting enough to eat, according to Nevada corrections officials and a group that advocates for prisoner rehabilitation.

 Twenty-six inmates in one Ely State Prison unit refused meals Friday morning “as a result of their interpretation of reduced food portions,” the state Department of Corrections said in an unsigned statement responding to questions from the Associated Press.

Seventeen inmates continued the meal boycott Saturday morning, the statement said. Prison administrators met with each inmate “to listen to their issues,” and all inmates were taking meals by Saturday evening, officials said. (more…)

Panel Explores Prisons, Ecology And Police

pielc.jpgFrom Eugene Weekly

When a society uses mass incarceration as a means of control, we know it has social impacts, but a panel on “The Ecology of a Police State” at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) March 6 explored how prisons also impact the environment.

Panelists presented to a packed audience at the UO School of Law how prisons are linked not only to oppression, but how these “often-overpopulated human warehouses” are also tied to direct and indirect environmental degradation and environmental racism, and are now being rebranded as part of a “green economy.”

Paul Wright, editor and executive director of Prison Legal News and Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC) and a prisoner until his release in 2003, gave the example of Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen, Washington, when speaking of how prisons are often built in areas that have been exploited by logging and mining. “The trees are gone, the jobs are gone but, hey, we will build a prison,” Wright said.

He pointed to the example of California’s Kern Valley State Prison, where arsenic was discovered in the water weeks after its 2005 opening, and yet six years later, men incarcerated there were still forced to drink the unhealthy water.

(more…)

Why prisons need prison gangs

liberalprisonFrom Quartz

It may seem counterintuitive that gangs can exist in what is perhaps the ultimate tightly-regulated environment. Gangs, however, have been thriving in American prisons since the 1950s, and are now ubiquitous. Why is it that the corrections system has been unable to eradicate gang activity from the facilities they run?

A recent article in Behavioral Economics by M. Garrett Roth and David Skarbek makes the case that gangs have actually become necessary elements within the prison system, allowing inmates to create and sustain an internal economy centered on contraband, eliminating much of the violence and disorder that would be present without them.

Through their examination of the California state prison system—the birthplace of the country’s most notorious prison gangs, including the Mexican Mafia, Nuestra Familia, and the Aryan Brotherhood—Skarbek and Roth discovered that correctional officers and prison authorities actually benefit from the existence of prison gangs, and have come to rely on gang hierarchies to maintain order, saving money in the process.

(more…)

Comedy Breakout- a hilarious house show to benefit the Prison Books Collective

Comedy BreakoutCOMEDY BREAKOUT

a hilarious house show to benefit the Prison Books Collective
Friday
March 20th
7:30doors/ 8:30show
$5-20 Sliding Scale (No One Turned Away)
@ The Hillsborough Road Co-op
621 Hillsborough Rd, Carrboro
LIMITED/NO PARKING:
park on a sidestreet/walk/ride yer bike.
featuring:
Kathleen McDonald
Drew Robertson
Tristan Dufresne
Brian Burns
Katherine Lloyd
Aaron Cobb

Hosted Josh Rosenstein

Obama’s Police Reforms Ignore the Most Important Cause of Police Misconduct

police_scary_ap_imgThese well-meaning changes will simply reproduce racial inequality.

From The Nation/ By Alex S. Vitale

President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing has released a long list of reforms to American policing, some of which, including independent police prosecutions and dramatically scaling back the role of police in schools, are true advancements. However, there are also major pitfalls in the report’s reliance on procedural rather than substantive justice.

Liberal police reforms of the 1960s, including the Katzenback Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice and Johnson’s Safe Streets Act, were intended to achieve similar ends of improving police community relations and reducing police brutality through police professionalization and a host of procedural reforms. The result of this process, however, was the massive expansion of policing in the form of SWAT teams, the War on Drugs and, ultimately, mass incarceration.

Princeton political scientist Naomi Murakawa, in her book The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America, details how the liberal assessment of the problems of race failed to take seriously the role of racial domination in the structuring of the criminal-justice system. Instead, they focused on the need to create a criminal-justice system that was more professional and less arbitrary in its meting out of punishment against people of color. Embedded in this approach was the misconception that the negative attitudes of blacks about the police were based on a combination of poorly trained and biased officers on the one hand and exaggerated feelings of mistrust by African-Americans, derived from their social and political isolation, on the other. (more…)

Political Prisoner Birthday Poster For March 2015 Is Now Available

file-in-the-birthday-cakeHello Friends and Comrades,

1) Here is the political prisoner birthday poster for March. As always, please post this poster publicly and/or use it to start a card writing night of your own.

2) Sundiata Acoli has recently had his parole put on hold until the New Jersey Supreme Court decides whether to hear arguments in his case. Please write him a note of support and encouragement.

Sundiata Acoli #39794-066 (Squire)
FCI Cumberland
Federal Correctional Institution
P.O. BOX 1000
Cumberland, MD 21501 (more…)

Why Americans Don’t Care About Prison Rape

alcatraz_prison_block_cc_imgFrom The Nation

In June of 2012, the New York Times “Room for Debate” feature considered whether or not convicted youth offenders should be treated differently than adult convicts in the penal system. Those in favor of trying some youth offenders in adult courts included a victims’ advocate, and an attorney from the conservative Heritage Foundation; those against included an inmate at California’s San Quentin prison, and a human rights activist. The victims’ advocate and the attorney from the Heritage Foundation talked about extreme cases of violence and the benefits of stern consequences. The inmate and the human rights activist talked about rape.

“The suicide and sexual abuse rates of younger prisoners are higher than those of the physically mature,” Gary Scott, the inmate, noted: “how can rehabilitation be possible in such a dangerous environment?” Scott was incarcerated at age sixteen.

T.J. Parsell, the human rights advocate, put it like this: “In early 2003, I testified on Capitol Hill with Linda Bruntmyer, a mother from Texas whose 17-year-old son was incarcerated after setting a trash bin on fire. In prison, he was raped repeatedly. He later hanged himself inside his cell. I felt a special bond with Linda, because I too had been raped in prison at 17.”

Taken together, the accounts of the carceral system featured in the Times’s roundtable on youth offenders span the entire American conception of prison itself. On one hand, prisons are understood as the terminus at the end of a long line of injustices adjudicated by a cold bureaucracy. On the other hand, American prisons are infamous for their brutality, especially when it comes to sexual violence. Being sent to prison is, in this sense, not the conclusion of the criminal justice process but the beginning of long-term torture.

That prisons routinely house thousands upon thousands of instances of sexual exploitation and rape is at the very least tolerated, and at most subtly appreciated as part of their punitive purpose. Our collective meh at the bracing reality of prison rape may be partially premised on the fact that the problem seems contained; but like most severe sicknesses, it only appears that way, and not for long. (more…)