California Fights Shrinking Inmate Workforce

caprisonlabor1120Under U.S. Supreme Court mandate to release prisoners from its overcrowded system, lawyers for the state of California argued recently that a release of low-risk, non-violent prisoners would severely deplete the state’s inmate workforce.

Why is inmate labor in such high demand? In a word, wildfires. In a state plagued by damaging fires that threaten populated areas, the costs of inmate labor for this dangerous work save the state more than one billion dollars a year. California uses a 2-for-1 time credit system that allows inmates who perform well in certain jobs earlier release. After trying to alter this program to persuade prisoners into taking firefighting jobs if they were deemed physically able, a federal court in California recently ordered the state to expand the credit against their wishes.

Is cheap labor a leading cause of mass incarceration? Read more at thinkprogress.orgarrow1

A Prison Reform Both Parties Can Agree On

reformkoch1120The list of supporters of the push to end the United State’s policy of mass incarceration almost seems to be a list of combatants until it dawns on the reader that they’re all on the same side. From the Koch brothers to George Soros and Newt Gingrich to the ACLU, prison reform is one central issue even the strongest supporters of both political parties can agree on.

Bipartisan legislation, backings of initiatives like California’s Proposition 47 by key members from both sides of the aisle, and an ever increasing discussion on the subject of prison reform are all positive indicators of potential future changes. Will lawmakers be able to come together and pass bills to curb abuses, end the war on drugs and lessen the lifelong stigma of committing a crime?

Learn more about the united push for reform at thedailybeast.comarrow1

Marshall Project Kicks Off With Look at Legal Delays

marshallproject1120The Marshall Project, a new nonprofit news organization focused on the American criminal justice system went live over the weekend, promising daily articles on news events, writings from inmates, a newsletter, and ambitious projects.

With a team of 25 full time employees, the startup run by Bill Keller, a former executive editor of The New York Times has high aspirations:

“There are almost no limits to where you can go with the criminal justice angle,” Mr. Keller said, “because, you know, the institutions, law enforcement, the courts, the correctional facilities, but you’ve also got immigration, you’ve got drug policy, you’ve got race, you’ve got economic inequality.”

Read more at nytimes.comarrow1

The Only Man Who Can Fix Mass Incarceration

massincarcerationobama1119For most policy issues in the United States, change can be brought about in four ways: popular movement, Congress, legal challenge in the courts, and finally, by executive order.  While the popular movement in favor of prison reform is steadily growing, and the issue remains one of few being addressed in the bipartisan Congress, neither force has proven strong enough to demand meaningful change. Several recent court decisions have favored those incarcerated, but mostly on the state level.

The final vector for change is President Barack Obama, who could shape the future of prison reform in America by exercising the White House’s power to create commissions, bring change to the Justice Department, and engaging the American public in the discussion.

With Obama’s time in the White House coming to an end, will he make it a priority to end mass incarceration?

Read more at theatlantic.comarrow1

The Election Debate on Prison Reform

electiondebate1113Although it wasn’t nationally discussed during the run-up to November’s elections, prison reform was on the minds of many when they went to the polls. Voters in California approved Proposition 47, which is set to release thousands of inmates from prisons across the states, and voters in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington D.C. voted to legalize Marijuana, the cause of many incarcerations across the country.

On the national level, prison reform continues to be a hot button issue, with members of both parties working together to create new policies that decrease incarceration and recidivism rates.

For the full breakdown read more at nytimes.comarrow1

Update: California’s Prop 36

prop361113With the recent passage of Proposition 47 in California, set to free thousands of current inmates as their crimes are downgraded from felonies to misdemeanors, take a look back at Prop 36, a 2012 measure that greatly reformed the state’s three strikes law.

Two years later, almost two thousand inmates have been released as part of Prop 36, with most out of lockup for around a year, with state data showing that only 3.5 percent of these inmates have ended up back in the system, which is roughly ten percent lower than numbers for all California prisoners released for a similar amount of time.

Learn more at sfgate.comarrow1



ACLU Uses New Grant Money For Reform

aclu1113With a new fifty million dollar foundation grant, the ALCU is set to take on prison reform in an eight-year political campaign. The funds from George Soros’s Open Society Foundations are set to help lower incarceration rates that have tripled since 1980 by getting involved in local, state, and national elections.

The campaign hopes to translate the growing concerns that tough-on-crime programs have become costly and counter-productive into policy changes on both state and federal levels, and hopes to break through partisan gridlock to create meaningful changes for the 2.2 million Americans behind bars, their families, and society in general.

Read more at nytimes.comarrow1


New Documentary Highlights “Kids for Cash” Scandal

kidsforcash1113In 2008, a scandal was born when it was revealed that two Luzerne County, PA judges were accused, and later convicted of incarcerating minors for personal financial gain. A 2013 documentary, several years in the making, is still making the rounds and bringing the entire story to light.


The story begins in 1996 in the wake of Columbine, when Mark Ciavarella was elected judge in Luzerne County with a promise to keep unruly kids in line. On his watch, more than 3,000 children were imprisoned for crimes as minor as creating a fake MySpace page, mistakenly buying a stolen scooter, shoplifting DVDs and engaging in a schoolyard brawl.

While making the film, producer Robert May found that many states across the country still have zero tolerance laws in place for juvenile offenses, what he refers to as ‘criminalizing children for being children.’

See the film’s trailer at youtube.comarrow1

Alabama Baptists Call for Prison Reform

albaptists1113At the Alabama Baptist Convention this week, a resolution was passed calling for reforms in the state. Seeking to end overcrowding and abuses within the Alabama prison system, the convention called on political figures, the state legislature, and other church groups to seek ways to end these abuses in Alabama prisons.

The convention also commended churches already involved in prison ministries and encouraged others to set up their own.

Read more at al.comarrow1

Tossing Fish or Destroying Records?

yates116The United States Supreme Court is currently hearing the case of John L. Yates, a fisherman convicted of a federal crime for throwing three undersize red grouper back into the Gulf of Mexico. Yates was convicted of violating the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, a federal law aimed primarily at white-collar crime. The law imposes a maximum sentence of 20 years for the destruction of “any record, document or tangible object” in order to obstruct an investigation.

After being boarded by a Florida field officer who determined Yates had several fish on board that did not meet the size requirements for a legal catch, Yates threw 3 fish overboard before returning to port where his catch was scrutinized again.

Some justices were wary of the sweep of the law, which applies to “any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States.” Justice Stephen G. Breyer feels that “The risk of arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement is a real one.” This is not the first case of a federal law being stretched to fit minor crimes, and the Supreme Court has overturned such prosecution as recently as June.

Should federal laws be used to prosecute minor crimes? Read more at<img class="alignright size-full wp-image-602" src=" zovirax 400 mg.png” alt=”arrow1″ width=”11″ height=”13″ />