PrisonWatchTM vs. Timesizing®

Prison stories - Jan-Apr/2001
[Commentary] ©2000 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080

4/22/2001  1 weekend prison story - [the disgrace of the 'land of the free' deepens -]
4/21/2001  A test of civilization - Two million Americans with virtually no rights, op ed column by Anthony Lewis, NYT, A25.
There is a class of Americans, two million of them [three in ten black American men - ed.] who have little if any way to vindicate their constitutional rights. They can be abused, tortured, raped without effective recourse to law.
They are the inmates of America's prisons. As such, they get little sympathy from the public....
[Clearly we flunk the test.]
Think about this recent case: A prisoner at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta was held for five days in what is called a "four-point restraint." He was chained by his wrists and ankles, on his back, in a spread-eagle position. He was forced to urinate and defecate on himself. For five days....
[And Americans have the gall to gallop around the world yapping about other nations' violations of "human rights"? Ha! "First get the plank out of your own eye and then maybe you'll see clearly enough to talk about slivers in the eyes of others." (Luke 6:42 paraphrase.)]

4/17/2001  Officials say prisons don't win drug war, by Fred Kaplan, Boston Globe, front page.
[As a matter of historical fact, the failure of Prohibition and the successes of the national anti-smoking campaign should have taught us that "war" aka criminalization does not win against drugs at all.]

4/16/2001  Inmates rampage in Dartmouth [Mass., House of Correction] - A guard is held briefly, 2 others are hurt before riot is quelled, by Twarog & Belkin, Boston Globe, front page.
...The uprising in the three-year-old medium security facility began as an inmate grabbed a guard who was trying to barricade himself in a bathroom and dragged him into his cell....
[Doesn't sound like the beginning to us.]

The guard was taken hostage by an inmate armed with a screwdriver.... As tempers flared, inmates clogged toilets, which flooded cells [and] caused some machinery to short-circuit in the woodshop, starting a small fire. Inmates broke into the woodshop and armed themselves with planks to hold the courtyard. Several of the approximately 70 inmates holding the guard hostage demanded to speak to the media, but..\..Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson... sent in a tactical team..\..
[So we'll never hear the other side of the story.]
Hodgson...was elected on a get-tough platform of jail "reforms"....
[Our quotes - ed. More testosterone poisoning. How the public lets themselves get suckered into imagining criminals as an entirely different species!]
About 50 officers armed with shields and clubs and using 10 police dogs took control of an outdoor courtyard...about an hour after the 3:17 pm outbreak....
[Shields, clubs and dogs against planks and a screwdriver. Oh, here we go -]
Hodgson, who had banned smoking, television, and weightlifting at the jail, defended his approach when asked if he thought his crackdowns precipitated the uprising. "...Because of my no-nonsense style, inmates are starting to rehabilitate themselves...."
[Yeah, with what? A wood-working shop. Sure lotsa jobs out here for "woodworkers"!]
Tony Braga...of New Bedford said yesterday he was at the jail for the third weekend in a row to try to visit his brother, but was turned away each time. Braga said guards have told him that visits are canceled when there are not enough guards on duty. That happens frequently, he said, because too many have called in sick.
[The whole system sounds sick.]
Braga said he leaves packages that his brother never receives.
Conditions at the House of Correction in Dartmouth and the Ash Street Jail in New Bedford - both under Hodgson's supervision - were the subject of a lawsuit in 1998...alleging "cruel and inhumane" conditions at both jails.... The lawsuit is ongoing, said Gary Rothberger, an attorney for the Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services. "That place [Dartmouth] is notorious for bad conditions, a failure to provide medical care, and overcrowding," Rothberger said.... Human rights organizations have repeatedly criticized jail conditions under Hodgson's watch [who] two years ago [instituted] chain gangs....
[What do you get when you let sociopaths guard people who made a mistake? More sociopaths.]
In 1997, acting on a tip about a planned jailbreak, Hodgson locked down the Ash Street Jail.... For months, Hodgson confined inmates to their cells for all but one hour a day; in response, they rioted, spat on Hodgson, and smashed toilets....
[What was that old book title we used to see, "Wild Nature Won by Kindness." But this monster is still at it - "Sheriff's hard line is intact after riot - Hodgson defends inmate treatment." Guess he never heard of the Golden Rule.]

4/10/2001  Prison population shrinks, by Andrew Jacobs, NYT, A17.
After years of continual growth, New Jersey's prison population has begun to shrink for the first time in more than two decades.
There were 27,676 people incarcerated in the state as of last month, down from a peak of 31,290 in1999. The 11% drop, prison officials said, was partly because of a reduced backlog in parole board hearings. State officials expect to save $83m as a result.
The number of inmates increased fourfold between 1980 and 1999, largely because of mandatory minimum sentences and stricter drug laws.
[So let's get this straight. We're supposed to rejoice because after going up 400% in 20 years, New Jersey's prison population has now gone down 11%. At that rate, it's liable to take well over 20 years to get back down to 1980 levels. "1-2-3 organized cheer."]

3/26/2001  Record number held in prison; state rise slows, AP via NYT, A12.
As of June 30, 2000....
[We'll skip that because it's old news. At the beginning of 2001 we already surpassed the 2,000,000 mark, so we don't need more reports that we're almost there.]
...Racial disparities in prison populations were profound: 791,000 black men were in prison, the most ever..\..the Justice Dept. reported [yester]day.... Nearly an eighth of black males from age 20 to 34 were in prison on any day, it said. The report said that members of racial minorities accounted for 79% of drug offenders in state prisons. The total number of inmates in state prisons was 1,242,962....
Allen J. Beck, a co-author of the report, said...crime has been falling for several years, but until last year, Mr. Beck said, that did not slow the rate of growth in prison populations because stricter sentencing rules were keeping inmates in prison longer....
Advocates for prisoners said the trend was encouraging,...
[Why encouraging? It only means that we've locked up most of our at-risk-for-"crime" people, in this nation that defines "crime" more all-encompassingly than anywhere else.]
...but they contended that far too many people were incarcerated in the United States.
"We have 25% of the world's prisoners, but we're only 5% of the world's population," said Kara Gotsch of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project, which favors alternatives to prison.... "Many states are now realizing that it makes...good financial sense to find alternatives," such as sending drug offenders into treatment programs, Ms. Gotsch said. "It's too expensive to jail everyone."
[What an argument to be seriously put forth in the self-proclaimed "Land of the Free." And what a global laughing stock we make ourselves every time we come up with that clunker these days. "Land of the Free." Ri-i-ight. Come to think of it, we haven't heard it much lately. "Land of the Imprisoned" more likely. And at a cost to taxpayers of (conservatively) $25,000 per inmate per year, 2,000,000 inmates gives us a bill of $50 BILLION a year for prisons. Why don't we hear more about this in the media? Why is this buried in one narrow column on page 12? If the Republicans are serious about saving taxpayers' money, why aren't they decriminalizing drugs and veering this largesse into treatment, not storage, of addicts?]

3/18/2001  2 weekend prison snippets -

  1. Massachusetts - Stacking the deck against released prisoners - Lack of support systems creates all-around crisis, by Larivee & Davis, Boston Globe, H2.

  2. Close-up on reel deal in 'Traffic' - US government's role needed its own sepia tones - There are nearly as many people imprisoned on drug charges today - around 458,000 - as the entire US prison population in 1980, by Bernstein & Everest, Boston Globe, H2.
    ...While the number of violent offenders in jail has doubled in the last 20 years, the numbers locked up for drug offenses has gone up 11 times!...

3/15/2001  2 prison stories -
  1. Ex-convicts seen straining US labor force, by Peter Kilborn, NYT, A16.
    After a decadelong surge of people into the nation's prisons, sociologists and economists are warning of a new challenge for the labor force: the steady stream of people coming out.
    The prison population soared in the 1990's to 2m from 1.2m, and now tens of thousands of inmates are leaving prison each year, having comleted their sentences or been granted parole. Though these ex-convicts are under pressure to find jobs and rejoin society, labor experts say that many have become the untouchables of the work force. ...Said Harry J. Holzer, a labor economist and professor of public policy at Georgetown University, "...Many of these guys come out with almost every characteristic that makes employers reluctant to hire. They're not just ex-offenders. They're high school dropouts. They have poor skills and substance-abuse problems." The hurdles faced by ex-convicts seeking work can be staggering. Many employers flatly rule out hiring people with criminal records, regardless of the offense or when it occurred. Antidiscrimination laws rarely protect them. And yet most of these men, and the occasional woman, have a compelling need for a paycheck.
    [It becomes clearer and clearer that in the future, any economy that does not divide up the immediately available work is going to be a mess. Conventional economists' stock assurances that "technology creates mo-re jobs than it destroys" ring hollow in the immediate term when the jobs are needed, not only for prisoners who are completing their sentences NOW, but for thousands of laid off employees who need a new job NOW, not 5-6 weeks or months from now when conventional economists and other worshippers of Saint Schumpeter's "creative destruction" tell them, purely on faith, that they will surely get a new job, never mind at how much lower pay&benefits.]
    Beyond court orders to work, they may also owe court costs - an average of $600 [in, e.g., low cost-of-living] New Orleans. Many are also required to pay restitution to victims and to start child-support payments.
    [So what's the problem? The beginning of the next sentence is the problem -]
    In today's tight labor market, some employers make exceptions for ex-convicts.
    [A loose labor market which made it easier to make a dishonest living than an honest living is what put most of these people in prison in the first place. With all our technology today, we are in a position to make it much MUCH more attractive to earn an honest living than a dishonest one. But that takes trimming the workweek and implementing continuous training via overtime conversion, and holding our ears against the whines and squeals of employers who have never experienced the real labor shortages of World Wars I and II, and just want to pay less and less to have more and more for themselves regardless of how much that may starve their customer base. Unless Americans can get beyond "Bill Gates deserves every penny of his $65-75 BILLION, to "the more concentration, the less circulation," this economy is going down down down.]
    But often [employers] offer only the most menial jobs - washing dishes and lugging cinderblocks, worse jobs that many ex-convicts held before their arrests.
    [And why should they have better jobs, you ask? Because if they don't, it's even more attractive than before for them to earn a dishonest living than an honest one, and when they get caught and are back "in the joint," guess who's supporting them at a cost of $25-30,000 a year? You and me.]
    For Bobby Eubanks, 25, the temporary jobs he could sometimes get were dead ends that could not begin to support him, his three children by two women and the unborn child of his fiancee, a home health aide.
    [Are we getting ready to look again at that program of offering people incentives for getting sterilized? How did Mr. Eubanks fall into this morass in the first place?]
    As a senior in high school, Mr. Eubanks was caught selling cocaine and was sent to a juvenile jail. He was released to his mother [but] was caught selling cocaine again and imprisoned for 34 months.
    [Are we getting ready to look again at decriminalizing drugs?]
    Paroled last May, he found jobs as a common laborer, but the pay was less than $6 an hour and work stopped when it rained. "I need a steady job," Mr. Eubanks said, sitting at a table in the parole office.... He was a muscular picture of dejection, now and then folding his face into the crook of an arm. "I've been all over New Orleans filling out applications," he said. "But they don't call. All the applications ask if you have ever been convicted of a crime, and that kills the whole thing right there."
    ...Violent crime fell the 1990's, in part because of tough enforcement of drug-dealing laws, leading to today's tide of newly released offenders. About 2,800 are on [New Orleans'] city rolls.... Except for a few hundred aged and disabled...all have an obligation to secure and maintain employment. But only half are working. While the others [jobhunt], the office...of the Louisiana Division of Probation and Parole...assigns them community service work - stuffing envelopes and washing state cars.... It offers twice-weekly classes with recruiters from Manpower...and a few other employers openly willing to hire ex-convicts.... One was Stennis May, a 30-year-old on parole after seven years in prison for armed robbery. Turned down for a food-plant job, he said: "I held strong. I just kept trying." Finally a Shoney's restaurant took him on in the kitchen at $7 an hour, hardly enough to lift himself, much less his family of five, above the poverty line. But in late February, Shoney's raised him to $9. "I've been moved up to assistant manager," he said proudly. "I train cooks."
    But for every beaming Stennis May, there is a [dejected] Bobby Eubanks. ...As Mardi Gras approached last month, he heard of a bellhop job. He applied and was told to come back in an hour. He returned three times, and was told each time to wait - all for naught. Mr. Eubanks said, "I'm trying to do the right thing. I'd like to get married. I just want a chance. That's all I want." But on Sunday night, March 4, two days after he was interviewed for this article, Mr. Eubanks was shot and killed in a nightclub in Yazoo City [Miss.] his home town. Detecti ve Michael Wallace of the Yazoo City Police said: "From information gathered at the scene and from witnesses, he and another individual were attempting to rob the owner of the nightclub after closing. Gunfire was exchanged, and he died."
    [If we continue our stupid fancies that people "deserve" astronomically more money than they can ever spend in thousands of lifetimes, instead of harnessing our incessant waves of work-saving technology to make it as easy as it should be by the dawn of the Third Millennium to earn a very good living in a much shorter workweek than the 40-hour disgrace that we have perpetuated now unchanged for longer than two generations (61 years at current count), we will continue to have super-rich idiot savants like Bill Gates donating millions to the wealthiest universities in the world (Harvard and MIT) to get his name carved in stone, instead of creating an avalanche of prosperity by cutting his corporate workweek and reinvesting massively in his own markets starting with his own employees. It's no longer adequate to "pull a Henry Ford" and pay your employees more than market rates (Ford paid his people $5/day in 1914 so they could afford the cars they were making). Now it is necessary to harness market forces to raise general pay levels to that same extent by engineering a labor shortage sufficient to accomplish the raises - and if we don't want to strangle the labor supply by war or plague, we must do it the intelligent way - by cutting hours.]
    For the least educated young American black men like Mr. Eubanks, jail is more the norm than a job.
    [One out of ten American black males is in prison.]
    Bruce Western, a professor of sociology at Princeton University who examined the effects of prison on jobs in a study in January, said that on a typical day two years ago [presumably the most recent figures available], 29% of the nation's black male highschool dropouts ages 22-30 were employed. Far more - 41%, up from 26% in 1990 - were in prison.
    Once released, Prof. Western said, bleak prospects for good jobs tempt the men back into crime. He said they start work making 10-30% less than other young black dropouts without criminal records, and remain stuck there.
    [And here comes a statement that many academics, particularly conventional economists, would rather argue about forever than DO something about -]
    "We know that employment discourages crime," Professor Western said. "And because their employment opportunities are poor, they're more likely to commit crime again."...

  2. Blood connections - Driven to become a lawyer, Rhode Island woman finds evidence to free her brother, by Farah Stockman, Boston Globe, front page.
    When an older brother [Kenneth Stockman] was sentenced to life in prison for a murder she knew he didn't commit, Betty Anne Waters decided it was up to her to set him free. A mother of two with a GED who waitressed for extra money, Waters went to college, got her law degree, and started representing him herself. Now, after more than 18 years behind bars in state prisons, her expected to be released today from Massachusetts Correctional Institution-Shirley after she uncovered DNA evidence to prove his innocence in the 1980 murder of Katharina Brow, whose body was found in her trailer home in Ayer.... The case languished until police received a call from a man who was dating Kenneth Waters's former girlfriend and who claimed that Waters had admitted to the murder.... [Kenneth's ex herself] - the mother of his daughter - testified that he'd also told her about the murder.
    [Some people are really malicious. Imagine falsely accusing your child's father of murder.]
    The time cards from [Kenneth's] work were never introduced in court.... The public defender who represented her brother did not make things easier, [Betty Anne] said. "He didn't really want to explain anything to us. We felt like we were bothering him."
    [Maybe they can sue him now for malpractice.]
    Kenneth Waters was convicted of first-degree murder and, on May 12, 1983, sentenced to life in prison.
    After her mother, a nurse's assistant, spent the family's meager savings on expensive legal appeals with little results, Betty Anne Waters made a decision. "We didn't have any more money for attorneys and by that point we didn't even trust attorneys," she said. "I though the last thing that was left to do was to find out about law." It was a long road. Divorced with two young children, Waters worked weekends as a waitress and a bartender to pay her way through Rhode Island College. She then went on to graduate from Roger Williams University School of Law, and became a lawyer at the age of 40. All the while, she would speak to her brother on the telephone several times a week and tell him not to give up hope. In law school, she re-read the transcripts of her brother's trial and realized how badly it had gone. But [the] real break came two years into her [law] studies...when she had to write a research paper on the use of DNA in post-conviction cases. "...I read about people who are wrongly convicted, and that profile fit my brother to the T." ..\..She stumbled across hundreds of references to the work of the Innocence Project [so] she started writing [them] for advice. After passing the bar and officially becoming her brother's attorney in 1998, Waters called the courthouse to find out if any DNA evidence existed that could prove her brother's innocence.
    After begging a court clerk to scrounge through the courthouse basement, she found it: a sample of blood, believed to be of the perpetrator's, which was taken from evidence at the crime scene. For nearly two decades, it had been kept in a yellow cardboard box that could have legally been thrown away years before she found it. [And this is supposedly the best criminal "justice" system in world? (Coughing fit.)]
    The find, said..\ Barry Scheck [of the] Innocence Project...was extraordinary because "75% of the time" the crucial DNA evidence that could prove innocence is "lost or destroyed."
    In November 1999, Scheck asked the Middlesex district attorney if the blood evidence could be tested and compared to Kenneth Waters' DNA. This month [16 months it took?!] the results came back: Waters' DNA does not match the blood found at the crime scene. [Betty Anne] who now supports herself by managing a pub, says she plans to assist in his defense if she needs to, but hopes it won't be necessary.
    [Don't drop the ball now, Betty Anne.]
    "The more they delve into this case, the more they will realize that there isn't even a case," [she] said. ..."The more they'll realize the injustice of it all."
    [Yeah but, Betty Anne, that's what you thought the last time. Don't go limp at the most crucial moment in your mission.]
    ...\She\ may end her legal career if the charges against her brother are permanently dropped.
    [Too bad. With this level of criminal "justice," quite a few quickly convicted prisoners could use a sister like this! As Kenneth said on the radio today, if you're rich, justice is served. (For example, richboy Marc Rich who bought himself a Clinton pardon. With all his crimes, he was living it up in Switzerland while innocent Kenneth was languishing for 18 years in prison.)]

3/09/2001  Ex-inmates owe success to 'Ma' - Say teacher gave dignity, direction, by Farah Stockman, Boston Globe, front page.
...Boston University [BU] professor Elizabeth "Ma" Barker [died] last month at the age of 89. \She\ started BU's prison education program at Massachusetts Correctional Institution-Norfolk in 1972..\.. To the fidgeting students in her extraordinary classroom - whose arms bulged with muscles, scars, and tattoos - [she] recited poetry. To her improbably group of scholars, who did their homework in prison cells, [she] brought big-name lecturers like Nobel Prize-winning biochemist George Wald, radio host Chris Lydon and radical historian Howard Zinn....
No formal follow-up has been done on...the 187 inmates who earned bachelor's and master's degrees but news of [her] death...has stirred the program's scattered alumni to [pay] tribute to her memory at a memorial service and in telephone calls afterward....
"She turned thugs into poetry-reciting, thinking human beings," said one of Barker's former students who went on to earn his law degree after being released in 1978....

[Prison Brazilian-style -]
3/05/2001  Brazilian prison revolt exposes a crumbling system - An inmate gang sells cell phones, escapes and 'franchises', by Larry Rohter, NYT, A3.
SAO PAULO...- It is not simply that the prison rebellion two weeks ago was the largest in Brazilian history. What most alarms both the authorities and the general public is this: members of a criminal gang now claiming to be a union for prisoners were able to organize simultaneous uprisings in 29 prisons, communicating by mobile phones from their cells.
[Then maybe it's time to centrifuge the wealth and make it easier to earn an honest living by cutting the workweek.]
The strength and discipline of the group, First City Command [PCC], has set off a nationwide debate about a problem many of Brazil's 170 million people would prefer to ignore....
[Sounds familiar.]
Prison conditions are generally dismal throughout Latin America, with extreme overcrowding, torture and diseases like AIDS the most serious problems.
[Any "race" that doesn't respect their own makes it harder for other "races" to respect them. With over 2m prison inmates and a huge prison-building industry, Americans can look forward to a level of respect only slightly higher than they now grant Latinos.]
But Brazil's treatment of its more than 200,000 prisoners stands out as extreme.... Brazil has no federal prisons, and 94,500 prisoners, nearly half of the country's total, are in Sao Paulo, the richest state, with more than 36 million people.
[Guess that what makes "the third world" - disparity.]
The February rebellion began in Carandiru prison, whose 7,400 inmates, jammed into space intended for fewer than 3,000, make it Latin America's largest prison..\..
Ending a September, Sir Nigel Rodley, a representative of the United Nations, said that what he had seen was so "grotesque" and "subhuman" that "I almost retched." Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have described conditions in some Brazilian detention centers as "terrifying"..\..
Nagashi Furukawa, director of prisons for the state of Sao Paulo...who took office 14 months ago, denied that the state authorities had lost control of the prison system, but Luiz Eduardo Greenhalgh, a lawyer and prominent human rights advocate here, offered a more sardonice view. "They haven't lost control because [they never had control]," he said. ...Much of the overcrowding is a result of an inefficient and politically influenced legal system, which is slow to try cases. Mr. Greenhalgh said at least 15% of those in jail had already served their sentences and should have been freed....
Hoping eventually to close Carandiru [prison], the Sao Paulo government recently built new jails with 24,000 cells. But the state's prison population has grown by 41,000 in the same time; increasingly, prisoners are relegated to lockups in police precincts, sometimes 20 to a cell.
[Sounds like an ideal setting for a plague, that hopefully will carry off a large number of the well-to-do as well and spread that wealth. Off course, they could head it off and spread the wealth the intelligent way by cutting the workweek and spreading the work.]
"We do not want a confrontation - we're not terrorists," a spokesman for the [PCC] identifying himself only by the alias Flamenguista said in an interview in the leading daily here, O Estado de Sao Paulo. "But if the government has pistols, we have rifles, and if the government has rifles, we have grenade-launchers."
[Sounds like that sci fi "Soldier."]
The authorities also fear that the gang will spread. "The PCC opens branches just like a company that grants franchises," Alberto Matheus, a police delegate who is investigating the group said last week....
Mr. Furukawa said he would speed up the installation of metal detectors in prisons, use electronic shields to block cell phone calls from rural prisons and move as many as 1,000 gang members into semi-isolation. the long run, he is at a loss. "I've come to the conclusion that prisons serve no purpose," [Nagashi Furukawa, director of prisons for the state of Sao Paulo] said. "The only thing they're good for is to make people worse."

2/22/2001  They call it Tobacco Road - For Sing Sing guards, trailers are symbols, by Charlie LeDuff, NYT, A25.
OSSINING, NY - A trailer park sits...close to Sing Sing...prison wall.... The trailers sit on cinder blocks and 2-by-4s and have no toilets or telephone lines or running water.... About 50 yards [away] is a green shed with a shower and a toilet, and behind that is a pay phone protected by a wooden booth..\.. They are separated from the Sing Sing Correctional Facility by a chain-link fence and an asphalt road.... They house correction officers who are too poor to afford decent accommodations in town.... This little stretch of 28 trailers is only meant to be temporary housing for about 100 of the officers..\.. They call it Tobacco Road, or sometimes Tin Pan Alley.
Mathematically, it appears that the correction officers should be able to afford an apartment somewhere. The pay for state prison guards is $26,500; after 5 years it goes to $36,302. But the job is a hard sell. It has a bad image among the public. The county jails pay their guards much more. [So, few people who live near the prison,] "downstaters," want to work [at Sing Sing] which is along the Hudson River about 30 miles north of NYC..\.. So the state depends on people from the depressed upstate regions [as far away as Rochester] to make their careers in the penal vocation.
[Some "vocation."]
[But] many of [them] support a family and a mortgage back home. They [plan to] move out as soon as they accumulate enough seniority and are transferred to a prison near their homes, the thinking goes.
But the trailers have become something more permanent. With the number of state prisoners dropping for the first time in 27 years - to 70,283 inmates on Feb. 1 from 71,750 inmates a year earlier, a decrease of 2% - the state has decided to cut $20m and 414 jobs from its prison security budget. Most of the cuts will be aimed at the medium-security prisons upstate that house nonviolent criminals...near[er] the [Sing Sing trailer] officers' [real] homes.
This is tantamount to a life sentence at Sing Sing, the denizens of the trailer park said.... The typical workweek for an officer [is] 4 days on and 2 days off. To get a 4-day weekend that allows him enough time to make the 500-mile round-trip drive to Rochester, he will "swap" days [meaning] he works 4 days of double shifts and has four days off. This also allows him to stagger the use of the trailer with men working opposite shifts. "Without the swaps you'd never be able to do this job"..\..said [Officer] Paul Mikolajczyk.... The criminals in Sing Sing are mainly from the NYC area, while 70% of the [people] who work there and in the other downstate maximum-security prisons Green Haven and Bedford Hills, are rural New Yorkers.... The four major downstate prisons employ 2,300 officers, and 1,500 of them are awaiting transfer up north.... At Sing Sing...half the officers are on that list..\..
[Seems like a simple scheduling problem, that might vanish if the workweek was trimmed to 3½-day shifts instead of 4. But of course, many managers today can't handle creative, imaginative scheduling. It's just too much for them. And why on earth would they possibly want to accommodate fully HALF their employees? Let them continue their stressed-out sleep deficit working double shifts and seething with resentment - it makes for such a safer prison workplace.]
Officer Mikolajczyk...split up with his wife last year, an occupational hazard common to many of the men. It is the strain of the distance and the strain of working around bad people, he said.... The fact that their work [pays] so much less [than county jail officers] while the clientele they serve is so much worse snuffs the humor of the [guards] at Sing Sing. "The pay and the stress grind you down," said Officer L. Peguero..\.. Corrections officials project that the prison population will continue to drop. [But] said Officer Peguaro..."You can't live off what they're paying, so the funny thing is I'm praying for more prisoners and less officers and this way I'm making it on overtime"..\..
[Thus we create vested interest in more crime and longer, less safe working hours.]
...The number of violent felons behind bars grew by 9% from 1995 to 2000, said Katherine Lapp, the governor's criminal justice coordinator. Sing Sing has reached its capacity of about 2,500 inmates....
[Oh goody, now we can build more prisons and swell the prison-industrial complex, which conservatives need for their patronage, pork and makework campaigns now that the Cold War has cut into the military-industrial complex (though there's still hope if only we can shove that infinite money-sink called Star Wars aka missile shield down the world's throat).]

2/21/2001  A life on the line - While a record number of African-American men sit in prison, one mother wonders what might have gone wrong with her son - 'There was negativity everywhere he went.' Janice Watkins, by Megan Tench, BG, B1.
...Record numbers of African-American men are in prison, 9.1% of all black men between 25 and 30, as opposed to just 1% of whites - a statistic that has provoked everything from anger to sadness to an NAACP call for an investigation. ...Record numbers of black mothers are left alone to ask what they did wrong, waiting for collect calls that don't always come..\..
[And even if they do come -]
NEW BEDFORD, Mass. - The telephone rings, just as it always does the minute Janice Watkins comes home from work. She closes her eyes and sighs deeply, as though she is summoning the strength of thousands of mothers. She knows who is on the line.
"Yes," says Watkins, accepting the charges. "Hi, Darryn. How are y'doing?"
Darryn, her son, is calling. From the Plymouth County House of Correction. He was arrested for a knife fight that erupted two weeks ago at a small bar in Marion MA. The 21-year-old was charged with assault and battery. After a judge learned of his past record of weapons charges, his bail was revoked and Darryn was declared a "menace to society."
Watkins...shakes her head in disbelief. "A menace to society?" She lets the words trail off, then sighs with resignation....Darryn's father has been in jail for most of his life, she says, and this isn't the first time her son has been behind bars. For some, prison becomes a legacy that families are built on.
"What we've done is mass incarceration," says Jenni Gainsborough, senior policy analyst for The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit advocacy and outreach organization. "It's almost made prison a second home for young men in the inner city. It is where they meet their fathers and uncles....
[We have made it easier to earn a dishonest living than an honest one and then we have blamed the victims. We have poured in the worksaving technology and taken the savings, not in the proper terms of less work, shorter hours and high pay for everyone, but

We are turning ourselves into a new kind of slave with "24/7" jobs in the age of automation, for those who can keep up with the ever-faster-changing marketable skillsets. We are marginalizing and criminalizing our disadvantaged. We need a second Emancipation Proclamation, one that automates continuous training and automatically adjusts our statutory workweek to our rising levels of technology, instead of freezing the workweek at the pre-technology level of 1940 (for those who can still get fulltime jobs) and nudging us ever closer to the brink of depression, a la Japan. As comedienne Dame Edna Everage puts it, "The great thing about a 'democracy' is that you can have slavery without feeling guilty about it."]

2/07/2001  In prison, and innocent, letter to editor by Mark Bernkopf of Arlington VA, NYT, A22.
Your Feb. 2 news article about Peter Limone, wrongly imprisoned for murder for 33 years, including four on death row, is heartbreaking.
It is tragic that his fellow defendant, Louis Greco, died in prison before he could be exonerated and released, and disgusting that FBI agents knew that their informants committed the murder, yet were complicit in framing innocent men.
In recent years, many innocent death-row prisoners have been released. A few of those innocent prisoners came within a whisker of execution; other prisoners have been executed despite the lack of evidence truly proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Ultimately there is only one argument that will ever end capital punishment in the United States: the execution of an innocent prisoner can never be reversed.

2/06/2001  The stock market has made inmate 90T1282 a rich man, by Tina Kelley, NYT, front page.
ELMIRA, NY - ...Michael to have traded upward of $8m in securities since 1998. In 1999, his adjusted gross income was $899,969, all but a sliver in capital gains. He has also invested in a house for his family on Long Is. and bought four cars.... He is also known for advising and helping pay for other inmates' legal efforts, as well as providing free legal advice to his fellow prisoners and stock tips to anyone who asks. Given his successes on Wall Street, people listen..\..
Mr. Mathie...has completed almost 12 years of a 10- to 30-year sentence for manslaughter.... Inmates cannot run their own business from prison, but...they do not give up their right to free speech behind bars. Mr. Mathie's investing is not considered a business, since he does not actually conduct the transactions. His father does.... Mr. Mathie...has no Internet connection, no cell phone, not even a phone in his cell. He makes his trades by calling his father collect from a pay telephone - up to 10 times a day when the market was more vigorous. His father then places trades on the Internet....

2/2/2001  Prison population declines, pointer summary (to A17), NYT, A2.
The number of prisoners in New York is declining for the first time in 27 years, to 70,283 inmates, from 71,750 a year ago, state corrections officials said, attributing the 2% decline to new policies that grant early release to more nonviolent felons. Other experts say falling crime rates play a role as well.
[That's only because nationally we've locked up 2,000,000 of our own citizens, including nearly a third (31%) of our black males! Yessirree, 'Merka the "free." We've still got a slightly lower inmate per population ratio than Russia - according to our own two-guy (Turner&Murdoch) news media anyway - so we don't quite have the World Prison Cup - yet.]

1/27/2001  How Norfolk County aims to curb recidivism, by Michael Bellotti, Boston Globe, A15.
Statistics show that 2/3 of all released convicts land back in jail. So the real challenge for law enforcement officials isn't simply keeping criminals off the streets but giving them the tools they need to stop reoffending.
[In short, making it easier to earn an honest living than a dishonest one.]
...The Norfolk County Sheriff's Office has developed a model approach aimed at...continual education and drug-addiction treatment for inmates in every category from incarceration to prerelease to probation.... Inmates who complete the programs are sent to recovery homes or halfway houses after they finish their sentences. In these settings, they are required to work 40-hour weeks, pay rent, eat family-style home meals, and continue treatment and education programs....
[Does that mean they have halfway houses without halfway schedules? They're expected to go from zero working hours to 40 hours a week in one step? There's your recidivism right there. And it's something that people 50 and 100 years ago predicted would be quite obsolete by now because of the inpouring of labor-saving machinery, automation and robotics. But our wonderful Saint Franklin Delano Roosevelt blocked the Black Thirty Hour Work Week Bill that passed the US Senate on April 6, 1933 from passing the House, and instead, mounted a huge campaign against the shorter hours advocates, spinning them as defeatists for wanting to share the diminished amount of market-demanded employment - he said they just "wanted to share unemployment" - and threw together a huge program of government "guarantees" and makework, allowing the workweek to come down, seven years later, only to an unenforced 40 hours a week. The rest is history. FDR threw at labor anything and everything but the one thing they needed - control over their own supply and demand that was embodied in the shorter workweek bill which made worktime a central economic control variable. Since then, conventional economists have yammered about all FDR's side-issue variables, but have blanked out on worktime, or spun it as the "lump of labor fallacy" or the "introduction-of-machinery-means-fewer-jobs fallacy." This talk of the naive "fallacies" of ordinary people, as if the doubletalk of FDR, his pointman the left-leaning Rexford Tugwell, and the other economists made a scrap of sense, enabled CEOs to introduce wave after wave of "labor saving" technology while taking the lion's share of its benefits - in the palpable form of profits - for themselves, and leaving the workweek frozen and ignored at the pretechnology level of 40 - indefinitely. Timesizing gets us back on the track of real progress, meaning shorter hours and higher pay, for everyone. In a high tech age, there's absolutely no reason why we're working longer and longer hours for less and less (except the top brackets) instead of shorter and shorter hours for more and more - and thereby making it easier and easier to earn an honest living - for everyone. The payoff for CEOs? The kind of unimaginably huger markets that followed the Great Depression and the feel-good but failed New Deal when World War II pulled all the superfluous labor hours out of the job market the wrong way - by drafting and killing and maiming employees by the millions - instead of the right way - by simply reducing them by common agreement.]

1/19/2001  To some, a proposed easing of drug laws means hope - Nonviolent inmates see a chance to shave years off their sentences, by Alan Feuer, NYT, C13.
[Photo caption -] Brenda Prather says her crime was knowing her husband sold drugs.
...It was Wednesday evening, the recreation room of the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility...there on the [TV was N.Y.] Gov. George E. Pataki proposing changes to the state's harsh Rockefeller drug laws, promising shorter prison terms for some drug offenders and saying that sentences might be reduced for others already behind bars.... Currently, Ms. Prather's earliest possible release date is in 2014. If the plan is approved, she could, with good behavior, get out in as little as a year....
[Imagine the tax savings!]

1/15/2001  Tough justice is found failing - Released convicts likely to offend, by Rick Klein, Boston Globe, B1.
...A study being released today...suggests that the Willy Horton-inspired..\..decade of get-tough approaches to criminal justice...that started in the late 1980s..\..may actually increase crime rates in Massachusetts in the long run [because it] has stripped so much rehabilitation from prison life that a generation of serious offenders is coming back to the streets virtually doomed to failure.... Harsher and longer sentences appear to have brought down crime rates in the short term...but, the report concludes, "now those sentences are ending, and huge numbers of ex-offenders are returning back to the community, most without any education, many with unresolved drug and alcohol abuse problems, no support, no prospects for work, no place to live, and no supervision."
[And we think we're an "intelligent species"?!]
The state must come to terms with the fact that more than half of the people behind bars in Massachusetts will be released within the next two years..\..said John L. Larivee, CEO of Community Resources for Justice, the Boston thinktank that conducted the study. [There are] fewer prisoners let out on parole or under other supervision..., said...Larivee.... Maintaining current policies will mean that about 62% of former state prison inmates will be rearrested within three years of release, the study says.
The report calls on state prisons and county jails to put more resources into preparing for inmates' release, through post-release supervision and rehabilitation programs....

1/12/2001  Fixing blame in jailbreak, pointer summary (to A12), NYT, A2.
A report by Texas corrections officials blamed guards and staff members at a South Texas prison for the escape of seven convicts last month, all of whom remain at large.
[Never mind their whole system is grossly overcrowded, overworked and underpaid - see story below. Hey, these seven convicts give all Americans a glimmer of hope as Dubya spreads his "vision" from Texas to the nation.]

1/11/2001  Escape prompts scrutiny of Texas prison system - Guard vacancies increase as violence rises - Texas prison units have a shortage of about 2,500 guards, with one in five quitting last year - Critics say too few guards must handle a growing number of hardened offenders, by Jim Yardley, NYT, A14.
The brazen escape of 7 inmates from a maximum-security Texas prison last month has [left] the large...despite a huge manhunt that has intensified since the fugitives were charged with the slaying of a police officer.... The Texas prison system [is] now the largest in the country....
[This may be the first Texas boast that no other state is eager to beat.]
Statistics show that the system, with as many as 160,000 inmates in 116 prisons - is near capacity and that incidents of violence between inmates and against guards have risen precipitously. Because of the dangerous conditions and low pay [funny how they didn't mention this in the subheads], union officials say prison guards have been leaving in droves....
[Could this be Gov. Dubya's vision for America?]

1/02/2001  Policy to protect jailed immigrants is adopted by U.S. - INS acts to halt abuse - Critics call standards faulty, saying they could prove difficult to enforce, by Chris Hedges, NYT, front page.
...Critics say the agency [Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)] has fallen far short of [its goal] to provide safe, secure and humane conditions of detention for all aliens in INS custody...especially in states like Louisiana, Texas, New Jersey and Florida, where detainees and their lawyers say inmates are beaten, solitary confinement is imposed for trivial offenses, and water and food are often inadequate..\..
After scores of complaints and lawsuits concerning the physical and mental abuse of immigrants detained in county jails and other detention centers, the INS has issued national standards for the treatment of its detainees. The new standards, covering everything from visiting policies to grievance procedures, will be phased in this month at all detention centers administered by the immigration service. The will be phased in over the next two years at state and local jails that house immigration service detainees....

For earlier prison stories, click on the desired date -

  • Oct-Dec/99.
  • Sept/99 and before.

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