Tag Archives: prison

86 Percent of Women in Jail Are Sexual-Violence Survivors When speaking of mass incarceration, men are usually the default, it’s time that change.

According to a recent study, 86 percent of women who have spent time in jail report that they had been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. As well, while women represent just 13 percent of the jail population between 2009 and 2011, they represented 67 percent of the victims of staff-on-inmate sexual victimization. Sexual violence is so pronounced among jailed and incarcerated women that Sen. Cory Booker, (D-NJ,) labeled the overarching phenomenon as “a survivor-of-sexual-trauma to prisoner pipeline.”

These numbers come from the Vera Institute of Justice, which authored a survey last year titled “Overlooked: Women and Jails in an Era of Reform.” Given the rising numbers of incarcerated women, specifically in local jails, and the lack of research on them, the Institute wanted to examine who those women were and what adversities they faced. Other findings were equally alarming as those above.

Two thirds of the women in jail are of color, and the majority of that population is also low-income. Further, nearly 80 percent of the incarcerated are mothers, most of them raising a child without a partner. Eighty-two percent were incarcerated for nonviolent offenses, while 32 percent have serious mental illness and 82 percent suffer from drug or alcohol addiction. Finally, 77 percent of those polled were victims of partner violence and and another 60 percent experienced caregiver violence.

First Lady of New York City Chirlane McCray, who works with women at Rikers Island, added that in addition to the prevalence of sexual assault, abuse and trauma present in the lives of the majority of incarcerated women, “women are often trapped in a lower-paid status,” she told Salon on a recent episode of “Salon Talks.”

This economic reality is often what inspires the crimes that end up landing these women in local jails in the first place. Laurie Garduque, the criminal justice director of the MacArthur Foundation, which co-published the survey, told Salon that many women end up in jail because of “crimes of poverty.” During the survey, she encountered women who were jailed for reasons like unpaid parking tickets, stealing discount clothes for their children and for failing to show up to court.

“A lot of people are there because they haven’t paid their fines and fees, haven’t paid their child support, have outstanding bench warrants,” she added. Beyond that, many are forced to stay in jail awaiting pre-trial because they have no resources to pay cash bail.

The survey found that in 2012, 36 percent of women were being held in a pre-trial unit in Massachusetts because they could not afford bail amounts of less than $500. Given that Black and Latina women live at low-income rates disproportionate to the white population, they are also the cohorts most impacted by the cash bail system.

Simply, the economic realities for women compounded by the economic realities for people of color combine to create a system where members of certain at-risk populations awaiting trial may spend significant time behind bars for minor offenses they were compelled to commit regardless of whether they are convicted of them or not. “It’s really a revolving door,” Garduque said.

Garduque also emphasized another point. “Over the same period of time where we’ve seen a growth in incarceration with respect to prisons, we’ve seen growth and the reliance of jails,” she continued. “So they’ve become transformed, devoted less to protecting public safety and more in line with housing poor people, and people with behavioral health issues, or where other systems have failed them.”

Many of these problems only mount once a woman is jailed as “most jail environments were not designed with them in mind and do not take into account the particular adversities they have experienced,” the report says. Garduque explained that many jails are not equipped to deal with gynecological issues, pregnancy, menstrual cycles or the fact that the majority of women in jail retain custody of their children.

All of this data points to a striking problem in criminal justice reform. Policymakers tend to address reform in stages, prioritizing some populations and leaving others vastly overlooked. Because women still represent a small percentage of the jail population, “the jails have not focused their time or resources to think about what specifics needs need to be addressed,” Garduque said. “That’s why jail, in many respects, will make women even worse off.”

Overall, though the population of 1.2 million women currently supervised by the criminal justice system in many ways mirrors that of incarcerated men, being that both disproportionately house affect the low-income population and people of color. Yet, reformers rarely include women in the discussion of mass incarceration and criminal justice reform. It’s a striking mistake given the shifting demographics of those behind bars.

While there has been an overall decline in the number of incarcerated men on a local and state level, the same is not true for incarcerated women. In fact, “the rate of growth for female imprisonment has outpaced men by more than 50% between 1980 and 2014,” the Sentencing Project says.

Given that women are the fastest growing jail population in the nation, the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge is working with jurisdictions to address the “misuse and overuse of jails” and to reduce jail populations by fostering more equitable justice systems.

The Vera Institute and the MacArthur Foundation see women-specific reforms as the only route forward. “It’s much more complicated than it is for men,” McCray added.

In an attempt to address this, the foundation selected various jurisdictions with different resources to demonstrate that “regardless of their resources,” Garduque said, “if they have the political will, and if they have the knowledge and information, that they can enact the reform to eliminate unnecessary use of jail and still address the issue of racial and economic disparity.”

There has been a tentative response to the plight of incarcerated women in Congress as well. In July, Booker proposed a new bill titled “the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act” cosigned by Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Dick Durbin. According to Slate, some of the provisions include a ban on the shackling or placing in solitary confinement of pregnant inmates.

Further, the bill would require prisons to provide free menstrual products for those awaiting trial and bar male guards from supervising female inmates in bathrooms, except during emergencies. Inmates would no longer be charged for calling friends and family members. The bill would also consider the placement of incarcerated women who are mothers in relation to their families, and foster more accessible communication and visitation between mothers and their children in general.

These and other proposed reforms contained within the Dignity Act fall in line with what the Vera Institute urges. Yet, the Dignity Act would only apply to women in federal prisons. Even with its passage, things would not necessarily change for the number of individuals jails and state prisons who make up the overwhelming bulk of the incarcerated women in the United States.

Still, the act’s passing would be a step forward for many and, perhaps, a motivation for state and local authorities to reconsider and revise their own practices.

Whatever the case, the already dire situation for women behind bars — and quite specifically in jail — erodes further toward the inhuman with every passing day. It’s a systematic crisis that, by now, has transcended the legal and the logistical to take on the dimensions of a moral emergency.

“I know there’s a lot going on right now,” Booker told Refinery 29, referring to the political climate. “But you can always judge the greatness of a society by looking at who it imprisons and how it treats them.” By that measure, the United States has much to do in order to claim any kind of greatness.

By Rachel Leah / Salon

Posted by The NON-Conformist


Harvard’s Chelsea Manning and Michelle Jones debacles reveal the university’s poor judgment.

Michael Morell, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, July 6, 2016 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Chelsea Manning is pictured in May 2017. Image: Slate Magazine

Harvard University, whose seal bears the motto “Veritas” (Latin for truth), is having a very bad week.

First, on Wednesday, the New York Times and the Marshall Project revealed the damning story of Michelle Jones, a convicted murderer recently released from prison after “a breathtaking feat of rehabilitation.” Jones, who is black and now 45, spent two decades behind bars in deep study of American history, earning a college degree and, last year, winning the Indiana Historical Society’s award for best research project. She applied to the Harvard history department’s Ph.D. program and was among the 18 students admitted from a pool of more than 300 applicants.

But then the graduate school’s brass—including its president, provost, and dean—took the unusual step of reversing the admission, “out of concern,” the Times reported, “that her background would cause a backlash among rejected applicants, conservative news outlets, or parents of students.”

Then on Friday came the news that Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government was revoking a visiting fellowship that it had, only days earlier, granted to Chelsea Manning, the transgender Army private who had served one-fifth of a 35-year sentence for providing secrets to WikiLeaks. (In his final days, President Obama commuted her sentence after seven years in a military prison.

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While Black Boys Are Fast-Tracked to Prison, the Pipeline to the Classroom Remains Blocked for Black Male Teachers

A Black male teacher in the New York City public school system joined a recent Q&A with Black male studies scholar Dr. Tommy Curry. The NYC educator described seeing “Black teachers, especially Black male teachers, mistreated and often pushed by suspected racists to act out in anger or to a point in which we are overwhelmed and resign.”

Seeking counsel from Curry, the NYC educator gave a dire summation: “After years of teaching and seeing Black male teachers mistreated and forced to resign or be fired, I often wonder if I should choose another profession or when [not “if”] the time will come when I [become] the primary target.”

Curry sympathized with and encouraged the fellow Black educator but offered no gimmick remedies or hopeful rhetoric. Brandishing a Ph.D. Curry holds full tenure at the University of Texas A&M but says his accomplishments have “afforded me no respect from my white colleagues.” His new book, “The Man-Not: Race, Class, Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhood,” corroborates and dissects the New York teacher’s observations.

“There’s a reason that there’s a shortage of Black male teachers, and it’s not because we’re not capable,” Curry said. “It’s because the kind of racism and the kind of dehumanization we experience … is so overwhelming, it almost paralyzes our will.”

During the 2014-2015 school year, nonwhite children outnumbered white children for the first time in public school history. But with an unprecedented demand for teachers that reflect the students they’ll be charged to educate, the pipeline to the classroom is blocked for Black male teachers.

According to a 2016 Department of Education report, Black males represent 2 percent of the United States’ teaching workforce. Radio personality Evan Dawson helped make it plain: “You’d have to stop by more than 50 classrooms in this country before you found one Black male teacher.”

Dr. Travis Bristol, aformer New York City high school teacher and current research and policy fellow at Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, told Boston, Mass.’s WBUR Radio that, “The experiences of Black males teachers really represent a microcosm of what’s happening to Black teachers in urban United States.” He cited Chicago, New Orleans and Washington, D.C., as cities where Black educators have vanished over the past 15 years. Bristol, who is Black, emphasized that the loss of Black male teachers is especially damaging because of their already-paltry numbers.

In the essay “Black male teachers: There aren’t enough of them,” Bristol details the routine violation and despair faced by Black male teachers like Dante Smith. A former high school teacher, Smith observed Black students treated like murderous convicts skilled at concealing contraband. He said an administrator doubted that he’d collected all the students’ cell phones even after Smith showed him the confiscated mobiles. “Believing that he had not collected enough phones, the administrator interrupted the exam to stop and frisk the students for cellphones,” Bristol writes. Smith resigned the next year.

Mirroring the shabby treatment reported by Curry and Smith, Bristol’s 2015 research examines how countless Black teachers experience tremendous “frustration sitting in on department meetings and having [their] comments about how to address the social, emotional and academic challenges facing students of color discounted by white colleagues on the faculty.” Being predictably ignored, many Black male teachers conclude their fellow white teachers do “not see them as intellectual peers.”

This also helps explain why Dante Smith and many other Black educators seek a new line of employment.

Malignant neglect from white colleagues is a widespread impairment for Black people in every field of employment. But for Black teachers, a unique job stress is being forced to view the devastation of Black children as an impotent witness. Speaking anonymously, the NYC teacher who questioned Curry explained the most excruciating aspect of his profession: “Watching the attack of Black boys and Black girls from white teachers and administration and being powerless to do anything about it, other than attempting to heal wounds that I couldn’t prevent.”

Having a front-of-the-class view of the criminalization and miseducation of Black boys and girls erodes many Black educators’ love for and reason for teaching.

Bristol made similar observations while studying a collection of Black male teachers in Boston during the 2013-2014 school year. A Northern city infamous for violent white opposition to the busing of Black students in the 1970s, Boston is subject to a 1985 court order to have 25 percent of public school teachers be Black. Bristol noted a glaring pattern where Boston’s Black male teachers “were concentrated in the most challenging schools.” Seeing classrooms brimming with Black children attending schools designed to under nourish and fast-track Black boys to prison sabotages the most talented of instructors.

While he was visiting WBUR, Bristol had a statement pledging Boston Public Schools’ commitment to Black and nonwhite pupils read to him. “If you look at overall student achievement, the group that is most at risk tends to be Black males. This is the demographic that tends to have the lowest academic growth and lowest overall graduation rate. We can do more to support these students and their families,” BPS officials wrote.

Bristol dismissed their remarks as worthless gab, noting that, in Boston, “Over the past four years, the percentage of Black male teachers continues to fall.” Authentic concern for Black students should be reflected in vigorous commitment to hiring, retaining and valuing Black educators. As opposed to feeling welcome, Bristol explained that Boston’s “Black male teachers, specifically, are more likely to have negative evaluations.” Being placed in the most demanding teaching environments and simultaneously subjected to the harshest scrutiny guarantees that Black male teachers will continue to have one the highest turnover rates of any educators.

Stephan Blanford is the school board director in Seattle, Wash., and the lone Black on a 7-member school board. He told KUOW radio being director of the school board has been the experience of his life. However, “As an African-American man, it’s been hugely frustrating.” While using his position to promote academic excellence for all Seattle students, with particular concern for nonwhite children and racial disparities in education, Blanford confessed “racial microaggressions” and “unrealistic expectations of what I could do” are just two of the variables that have made it “pretty hard to be a Black man.”

Like prison, the classrooms are designed to be “hard” time for Black students and Black educators.

Gus T. Renegade/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

‘Cruel and unusual’: NY governor signs measure to stop sending teens to adult prison

Under a new law in New York, juveniles under 18 will no longer be funneled through adult jails, where studies show they face a higher risk of suicide and sexual assault. However, opponents warn the measure serves as a recruiting tool for gangs.

On Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed legislation to “raise the age” of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 as a part of the state’s $163 billion budget.

Previously, The Empire State was one of only two states that automatically prosecuted 16 and 17-year-old offenders as adults, regardless of their offense. The new measures will first raise the age of juvenile delinquency to 17 by October 2018. Then the age of criminal responsibility will be raised to 18 by October 2019.

In a press release, Cuomo cited evidence that recidivism among young people who are processed as adults is 34 percent higher than young people housed in the youth justice system.

Cuomo took recommendations from the Commission on Youth, Public Safety & Justice, which found young people are more than five times as likely to become the victims of sexual assault and eight times more to commit suicide while in adult prisons, compared to teens housed in juvenile prisons.

“Putting aside the fact that psychologists will testify that 16- and 17-year-olds often are not mentally mature, the reality of putting a 16 or 17-year-old in the same facility as hardened adult criminals is, on its face, cruel and unusual,” Cuomo said, according to the Guardian.

Young minorities have also been disproportionately incarcerated under the current laws, with African-Americans and Hispanics accounting for 82 percent of juveniles in adult facilities throughout the state and 95 percent in New York City.

Cuomo estimates that raising the age will prevent between 1,500 and 2,400 crimes every five years.

Under the new law, cases involving juveniles under 18 with violent felony charges would be handled by a newly established Youth Part of the criminal court. Those teens would be subjected to a three-part test to determine if their case is serious enough to be transferred to Family Court.

Teens who are not transferred could still be tried as an adult, although judges can consider the defendant’s age when imposing incarceration.

Lawmakers and prosecutors who oppose the measure said that it would make young gang members more difficult to prosecute.

“What you call ‘raise the age’, I call the gang recruitment act,” Assemblyman Al Graf (R-Long Island) said during debates according to the Times Union.

“This is a great tool to be able to recruit younger members of our community to enter gangs,” Graf continued.

The bill also ensures that teens under the age of 18 will be housed in specialized juvenile detention facilities that are certified by the New York City Administration for Children’s Services and the State’s Office of Children and Family Services, as well as the creation of task force to ensure the measure is implemented correctly.

“We have won a tremendous victory for communities across the state that have endured senseless tragedies and called on the Legislature to deliver a justice system that recognizes the difference between a child and an adult,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, according to a press release.

“This is the beginning of a new chapter in New York State where young people are given a chance to grow up and recover from their past wrongdoing without forfeiting their futures,” Heastie continued.

From Russia Today

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Changes coming to LA criminal justice system to reduce high incarceration rate

With the highest incarceration rate in the world, Louisiana lawmakers are taking steps to change that.

Image result for louisiana and incarceration rate and highest
Image: NOLA.com

With the highest incarceration rate in the world, Louisiana lawmakers are taking steps to change that.

The Justice Reinvestment Task Force approved five measures, amending criminal justice laws.

Rep. Terry Landry, who sits on the committee said, “What we’ve been doing for the past 20, 30 years have not worked. So, if you keep doing the same thing and getting the same results, they tell you you have to change course.”

The reform is something many have look forward to for decades.

New Orleans resident Fox Rich said, “They sentenced my husband to 60 years as a first-time felony offender in LA in a crime that no injury was sustained by any of our victims. So, this is an opportunity that we’ve waited a very long time for and we’ve worked a very long time for to make sure we have prepared ourselves for his return into society.”

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House Pushes Ahead With $611 Billion Defense Policy Bill

Image: CBS Dallas

The Republican-led House is pushing ahead with a $611 billion defense policy bill that prohibits closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and forbids the Pentagon from trimming the number of military bases.

The annual policy bill also awards U.S. troops their largest pay raise in six years.

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FCC decides to slash prison phone rates — and maybe recidivism

Federal regulators will vote on capping the cost of phone calls from prison, which are far more expensive than ordinary calls.
Image: Istockphoto via NPR

It costs a lot of money to talk on the phone to someone in jail — so much that those phone bills have drawn the attention of federal regulators. Now the Federal Communications Commission is set to vote Thursday to limit the price of prison phone calls.

“We’re cutting off necessities, just so we can keep this communication going,” says Miguel Saucedo, a Ph.D. student and community activist in Chicago. His brother Luis is in prison in Illinois, where he has been incarcerated since 1996.

For roughly 20 years, Miguel Saucedo and his family have been setting aside money to talk to Luis on the phone — money that could have gone to those necessities. Saucedo doesn’t know exactly how much his family has paid over the years. But he estimates “it would have to be” over $10,000 or $20,000.

For most of us, those phone calls would cost just a few cents per minute. But for inmates and their families, phone rates and fees can be many times higher. It’s common for them to pay $13 for a 15-minute call.

“I see the clearest, most egregious case of market failure ever,” says FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who has been working on this issue for several years. “This is a major cost that families pay. And these families are the most economically vulnerable in our nation.”

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