Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants calls for the abolition of mandatory minimum sentences for drug sentences

Gants

The title says it all. In an impassioned keynote speech at the second annual MassINC Criminal Justice Reform Coalition Summit, Chief Justice Gants asserted, “doing so makes fiscal sense, justice sense, policy sense and common sense, and ultimately, good sense will prevail”, to loud applause from the audience. Not everyone, however was in agreement with Chief Justice Gants. Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley argued in favor of mandatory minimums, rebuking the notion that drug offenses are non-violent crimes, and asserting that the vast majority of inmates in Massachusetts are incarcerated for violent crimes, leading to an increased public perception of safety.

Though he spoke before District Attorney Conley, Chief Justice Gants anticipated an opposition, saying “When some district attorneys say they fear judicial leniency, they really are saying that they do not want to relinquish to judges the power to impose sentences that minimum mandatory sentences give to prosecutors,”. After the event, Bristol County District Attorney Tom Quinn affirmed, saying “‘I don’t feel comfortable, being in the criminal justice system a number of years, ceding that power back to the judiciary,’ Mandatory minimum sentences, he added, help establish consistent sentencing.”

 

For the full SouthCoastToday article with Tom Quinn’s quote, click here. The other two quotes in this blog post come from this Masslive article.

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Closed after riots, an immigration detention facility in Willacy, Texas is now up for bid

Willacy County Prison Riot

“On March 9, the private company is due to bid for contracts to run a new immigrant facility in Leflore County, Miss., as well as four existing immigration facilities throughout Texas. MTC will compete for these contracts with two bigger private prison operators, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and The GEO Group, Inc.”

Click here for the full Marshall Project article, by Maurice Chammah.

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Indiana House of Representatives passes $80 million criminal justice bill: $60 million to go towards treatment programs

Greg Steuerwald

Pictured above: Rep. Greg Steuerwald of Avon, Indiana (Co-author of the bill)

“Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, co-author of the bill, said during a discussion before Monday’s vote … ‘This is a way to make sure we’re keeping people out of jail and keeping families together.'”

The bill, geared towards addressing non-violent crimes, especially non-violent drug crimes, without the use of incarceration, passed unanimously. The bill will now be assigned to a committee in the Indiana Senate.

Click here for the full IndyStar article.

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In Record Setting Winter, Suffolk County Prisoners Help Shovel

prisoner-shovel

“…teams of inmates in bright orange outfits have been deployed across Boston, Beacon Hill, Revere, and Roxbury to clear crosswalks, fire hydrants, and handicap ramps…

Click here for the full boston.com article, by Eric Levenson.

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In Washington State, Visitation Is Becoming Monetized

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Here’s how it works: Homewav installs video stations in each cell block at no cost to the jail. Then it charges families for each video visit. Lewis County takes a 40 percent cut and Homewav keeps the rest.”

Click here for the full Northwest Public Radio interview.

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Bronx Prison Transformed into Reentry Center

Fulton Community Correctional Facility

 

The Marshall Project recently reported on the Bronx’s Fulton Correctional Facility, a former prison now to be used “as a reentry center for newly released inmates”, among other repurposed prisons and jails.

Click here for the full article.

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College Courses in Washington Prisons and PLAP’s Book Drive!

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A recent Seattle Times article highlighted the Freedom Education Project of Puget Sound (FEPPS), a program which offers inmates in Washington the opportunity of a college education: “Education does more than offer inmates a credential, “… it teaches them how to be the people we want our fellow citizens to be — thoughtful, critically aware of the world around them, disciplined and able to recognize authority.”

This, plus the 2013 RAND Corp. study which concluded that “… every dollar spent on inmate education translated to $4 to $5 saved on re-incarceration” (along with many other reasons) are why PLAP is now holding a prison book drive! All donated books will be disseminated to prisons nationwide by the Prison Book Program, an organization run out of Quincy, MA that is dedicated to furthering the education of America’s incarcerated population. Donations can be brought into PLAP’s office until the book drive ends on 2/4/15, though books can always be mailed to Prison Book Program directly.

For the full Seattle Times article, click here.

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Rikers Set to Increase Minimum Age for Solitary Confinement to 22 in January 2016

“Effective immediately, the new rules will reduce the maximum amount of time inmates age 18 and older can be sentenced to solitary confinement to 30 days, from 90. The department also will eliminate so-called owed time. In the past, inmates who left Rikers before completing their stint in solitary confinement returned there if they went back to the jail.”

Click here to read the full New York Times article.

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MADOC Correctional Recovery Academy Shows Promise for Reducing Recidivism Rates

“Research has shown drug treatment for drug involved offenders is effective in lowering the rates of recidivism (Mackenzie, 2006; Sherman, et al, 2002; MADOC, 2009). The focus of this study was toidentify and describe differences in the recidivism rates of offenders who participated in the Massachusetts Department of Correction (MADOC) Correctional Recovery Academy (CRA) program to determine if expected decreases in recidivism could be noted for this population. CRA is an intensive six month skill-based residential substance abuse treatment program. There are a total of 503 residential treatment beds located across six separate MADOC institutions. The CRA targets substance abuse, anger management, criminal thinking, and relapse prevention utilizing a therapeutic community social learning approach with an advanced cognitive behavioral curriculum that promotes positive social learning.”

Click here to read the full report.

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“Prison is Not for Punishment in Sweden. We Get People into Better Shape”

“Our role is not to punish. The punishment is the prison sentence: they have been deprived of their freedom. The punishment is that they are with us,” says Nils Öberg, director-general of Sweden’s prison and probation service.

The United States prison system is widely regarded as broken. Prisons were supposed to “rehabilitate” offenders who have wronged society by punishing them with a prison sentence. Unfortunately, the United States prison system has failed to rehabilitate thus producing high recidivism rates and overall crime. In Sweden, they are testing a new approach to crime. Oberg, the director-general, believes in addressing the inmate’s needs in order for he or she to correct the behavior that led them to prison in the first place. Sweden’s prison rates are significantly lower after they implemented this approach. They’ve also been fortunate enough to actually close prisons because of the lowered crime rate.

Posted in Civil Rights, Corrections, Federal Corrections, Federal Courts, International, Legislation, National, Prison Conditions, Prison Reform, Publications, Media and Advocacy, Recidivism, Reentry Programs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment