PrisonWatchTM vs. Timesizing®

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

6/22/2001  1 prison story - 6/20/2001  2 prison stories -
  1. California: Violent inmates, by Evelyn Nieves, NYT, A15.
    The Dept. of Corrections wants to put its most violent inmates in a 2-yr behavior modification program that would strip them of all privileges.
    [Ah, isn't that why they got violent in the first place?]
    The plan, which will be submitted to the Legislature after July 1, would use a carrot and stick approach with up to 380 prisoners....
    [So with no priviliges, where's the "carrot"?]
    Privileges like phone calls would be restored, depending on the inmate's participation in a violence prevention program. [And just how humiliating are they going to make this program?]
    Steve Fama, an advocate for prisoners, said the proposal was too punitive, raising the risk that it would backfire.
    [Prisons don't need to be punitive. They just need to make impossible a repetition of the crime, and get the inmates working to support themselves - without clobbering outside jobs. And you guessed it, the only way to do that is to implement a general nationwide safety net that ensures market-demanded employment is spread around to provide everyone a good share of wages, however much work is taken over by technological advance. That requires flexible adjustment of the workweek - making maximum working hours per person vary inversely and automatically with un(der)employment, and implementing automatic overtime-to-training&hiring conversion at the top of the workweek.]

  2. Texas: Easing reins on prisons, by Jim Yardley, NYT, A15.
    A federal district judge who has monitored the state's prisons for nearly 30 years has eased his control over the system. The judge, William Wayne Justice, released the [Texas] prison system from federal oversight on issues including crowding, staffing, discipline, health care, and death row. But he ordered prison officials to address some problems further, including abusive guards, inmate-on-inmate violence and the treatment of mentally ill inmates. Judge Justice's oversight stems from a 1972 lawsuit.
    ["Judge Justice" - great monicker! Better even than "Judge Judy."]
6/17/2001  1 weekend prison item - 6/15/2001  2 prison items -
  1. Louisiana: Crowding leads to sentencing changes, by Lino Rodriguez, NYT, A25.
    The House approved legislation reducing sentences for drug convictions and eliminating mandatory sentences for many nonviolent crimes. The bill, approved in a 65-to-35 vote, was a response to crowding in state prisons. The measure allows judges to sentence nonviolent offenders to jail or probation. Gov. Mike Foster, a Republican, has said he supported the bill as a means of saving $60m a year in prison costs and rehabilitating nonviolent offenders.
    [So taxpayer parsimony, not principle, makes the difference for sentencing reform in Louisiana but hey, whatever works and gets the job done. Look at the contrast with a neighboring state -]

  2. Alabama governor offers plan to ease crowding in the jails, NYT Regional Newspapers via NYT, A21.
    MONTGOMERY, Ala...- Gov. Donald Siegelman outlined a $6.8m plan today to alleviate jail crowding by removing state inmates and creatingi more prison cells within a year. The proposal, which comes in response to a court order to improve conditions in county jails, seeks to free up 2,866 prison beds for violent offenders.
    The plan calls for restarting work camps, diverting some drug offenders to alternative programs, paroling more inmates and possibly renting prison space in other states. Gov. Siegelman said that at least one prison to house up to 2,000 might have to be built, but that would be five or six years from now....
    The Associated Press reported that the president of the Alabama Sheriffs Assoc., Sheriff Herbie Johnson of Autauga County, said the governor's plan did not appear to provide the immediate help that some counties needed.
    [Seems like Louisiana and Alabama have contrasting philosophies. Louisiana wants to cut the demand for jail beds, sort of like the people who want to conserve energy instead of just drilling for more oil. Alabama, on the other hand, wants to keep finding or building more jail beds, like the people who want to keep drilling for more oil or stripmining for more coal, and forget about lightening up on sentences.]

6/14/2001  Alabama: Plan to ease jail crowding, by Lino Rodriguez, NYT, A22.
Gov. Donald Siegelman said the state would not meet a court-ordered Monday deadline to remove more than 2,800 state inmates from county jails. Instead Mr. Siegelman said he intended to outline a plan today to ease the crowding.
[Don't believe it. 'Trow the bum in dere wid'em and he'll act on deadline soon enough.]
Under state law, prisoners must be removed from county jails within 30 days of sentencing. The number of state inmates remaining in county jails after sentencing jumped from 1,964 when the deadline was imposed to 2,819 on Tuesday.

6/11/2001  1 weekend prison item -

6/09/2001  US figures show prison population is now stabilizing - Effect of drop in crime - Leveling off of inmates and a boom in prison building start to ease crowding, by David Firestone, NYT, front page.
[So we're supposed to congratulate ourselves for that, in the face of this? -]
after growing explosively for three decades....
[and this? -]
For the first time in years, the overcrowding that has plagued state prisons and local jails alike is beginning to ease, due to...a decade of new construction..\..and..\..
[And under the circumstances, the only reason we're seeing this -]
due to falling crime rates....
[- may well be because we've locked up such a substantial proportion of our total population - 2,000,000 people out of 280m = .7%. Stalag/Gulag USA, "land of the free," with only Russia ahead of us in proportion of incarcerated citizens. We have become indistinguishable from our old enemy. We have become our own worst enemy.]

6/07/2001  1 prison story -

6/6/2001  1 prison item - 6/05/2001  1 prison item - 6/02/2001  1 prison item - 6/01/2001  2 prison items -
  1. Texas retooling criminal justice in wake of furor - Executions could slow - Bush's successor as governor expected to sign most bills passed in broad change, by Jim Yardley, NYT, front page.
    HOUSTON...- Texas, which leads the nation in executions and endured withering criticism of its death penalty system during the presidential campaign last year, is poised to make significant changes in its criminal justice laws and so, supporters of the overhaul say, create a fairer system of capital punishment....

  2. [Massachusetts' Suffolk County "retooling criminal justice in wake of furor" -]
    Rouse enlists group to review department, by Farragher & Latour, Boston Globe, front page.
    Suffolk County Sheriff Richard J. Louse [oops, that's] Rouse, confronted with growing criticism that he tolerates low standards and systemic abuses, said yesterday that the chief of a national corrections group...James A. Gondles Jr., executive director of the American Correctional Association..\..has agreed to lead a review of his department....
    [For "furor," see numerous stories below starting on 5/26 and continuing downward.]

5/30/2001  1 prison item - 5/26/2001  1 prison item - 5/25/2001  Rouse often an absentee sheriff, Third of three parts, by Murphy & Rezendes, Boston Globe, front page.
At 12:05 p.m. on a Friday, the black Ford minivan backed into an illegal parking space on Dorchester Avenue, and out stepped Richard J. Rouse, the $104,000-a-year sheriff of Suffolk County. His four-hour workday complete, Rouse looked relaxed, standing on the sidewalk in the neighborhood where he got his start in Boston politics, smiling and shaking hands.... Based on six days of surveillance by The Boston Globe from May 11 to May 18, it was a typical day for Rouse: a late start, a few hours of work, and home before 5 p.m.
[Much as we support shortening the workweek, given the disaster in this guy's prisons (see story below), and his taxpayer-paid salary for a 40-hour week, we call for his resignation.]
What's more, Rouse often used the minivan to ferry his children to school and sporting events - removing the police plate and using an untraceable civilian plate that the Registry of Motor Vehicles issued after being assured it was needed for undercover work....
[Photo caption -] 2:44 on a Friday afternoon - Sheriff Richard J. Rouse carrying party platters into his home.

5/24/2001  Guard brutality called rampant - Crimes of punishment - Assault changes mount against Suffolk County guards, Second of three parts, by Farragher & Latour, Boston Globe, front page.
...On a mid-October day in 1999...Leonard Gibson...then an 18-year-old detainee at the Nashua Street Jail awaiting trial in a stolen car case, was in a medical unit because he has Tourette's Syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes involuntary movements and uncontrollable outbursts [such as swearing and obscenity].
[Hooboy, it had to happen sooner or later - the juxtaposition of Tourette's and ignorant, poorly trained, loutish American prison guards. And it finally happened (or finally got reported on) in the "enlightened" Commonwealth of Massachusetts -]
That October day, those outbursts allegedly enraged two guards on the 3-to-11 shift, Lieut. Eric J. Donnelly and Officer William R. Benson. ..\..Said Rene Rosario in a recent interview [who was in a neighboring cell that day], "Donnelly came in and Lenny starts having his problem and the officer yells, 'Shut up!'... And Lenny said, 'I'm sorry. I can't help it. This is a disease.' Then they promised to slap the Tourette's out of him."
Rosario [who] was told to keep quiet about what he saw..\..recalled watching in horror directly across from Gibson's cell as Benson and Donnelly moved in on the teenager. "He was screaming," Rosario said. "He was pleading, 'Please don't hit me! Stop! I can't help it!' But all you could hear was the pounding. He was really hurt."
Donnelly and Benson, as well as a third guard and a male "nurse" [our quotes - ed.], were fired or banned from the Nashua Street Jail in connection with Gibson's alleged beating.
And last year, another officer, Daniel Hickey, was fired after DNA tests and other evidence showed that he beat an inmage and spit on him inside a transport van.
[Ah, wouldn't it be easier to do a little psychological testing and a lot of TRAINING of these guards up front before giving them absolute power over other human beings?]
Gibson's alleged beating [if it wasn't actual, a lot of people got fired for nothing!] is among the most prominent pieces of evidence of what critics call a Suffolk County correction system in disarray - a department dogged by charges that some of its officers not only carried out vicious beatings of male detainees, but coerced sex from female prisoners.
In addition to the mounting criminal and civil suit charges alleging brutality by officers, questions linger about an inmate [Alexander Cintron] who died while in custody, allegedly after guards gave him drugs laced with poison, according to a lawsuit.
The revelations, spanning three years, have unfolded under the stewardship of Suffolk County sheriff Richard J. Rouse, whose response to the scandals has been assailed by critics as largely cosmetic....
Brutality became so routine, the indictment [by a federal grand jury last week] says, that prison officers developed their own lexicon around it. When one officer declared that a detainee needed a "tickle," others knew...what it meant..\.. Officers...rather than showing restraint when inmates taunted or disobeyed them - meted out beatings to handcuffed prisoners, conspired to cover up the assaults, and lied to investigators..\.. "Ninety-five percent of the time it was because a guard didn't like an inmate," not because there was a problem with the inmate, said Bruce Baron, who resigned from the department as a deputy sheriff and now lives in New Hampshire.... "It was a macho thing."
In June 1998, prosecutors say detainee Reginald Roscoe paid dearly for refusing to have his bag searched. After struggling with an officer over the order..\..a SERT (Sheriff's Emergency Response Team)...led by Lieut. Randall R. Sutherland responded and handcuffed Roscoe behind his back. As they led Roscoe to another unit, Sutherland talked about "taking him the hard way." Moments later, according to the indictment, Deputy Sheriff Thomas M. Bethune Jr. shoved Roscoe's head into a wall, splitting the skin on his forehead. Roscoe needed five stitches to close the wound....
[It takes a lot of non-violence training to show restraint when inmates taunt or disobey you. What kind of training are these men getting? Just turn on your TV and watch the movies offered many evenings on commercial networks in the "civilized" Boston area, movies with Sy Stallone, Bruce Willis, and a barroom-load of other violent role models. "Sew the wind, reap the whirlwind."]

5/23/2001  2 prison items -

  1. Alabama: Prison crowding crisis, by David Firestone, NYT, A12.
    Gov. Donald Siegelman said the state might have to build a new prison and consider alternative sentencing programs to ease a prison overcrowding crisis....
    [No kidding! Better hurry, Donald. Your state is already the laughing stock of the world and the disgrace of the nation.]
    He said he did not know how the state would respond to a court order last week requiring the prison system to accept nearly 2,000 prisoners backed up into county jails in a month...
    [The dumbing of America rolls on, and the stupidest are in the president's and governors' offices.]
    ...but he said a first step would quickly create 300 new beds in the prisons.
    [Where ya gonna put'em, on the roof?]

  2. Sexual abuse in Suffolk [Mass.] prison - Pattern of misconduct raises questions about sheriff's leadership, First of three parts, by Francie Latour & Thomas Farragher, Boston Globe, front page.
    [The Boston Globe starts another of its investigative reportings. Some of these have won Pulitzers in the past.]
    [Photo caption -] Karen Passanisi said she engaged in sexual activity with corrections guards in exchange for favors.
    At night, she scrubbed floors, an inmate at the nearly new prison [Suffolk County House of Correction at South Bay] just yards from Boston's busiest highway.
    He worked the day shift, 7 to 3, in a uniform and a badge that she says became a license to abuse her. Over time, she endured the guard's advances for coveted prison luxuries: cigarettes, or precious minutes outside the cell.
    Early one morning, without warning, the woman who lay sleeping after finishing her graveyard shift felt the man's weight over her cell bed. "I woke up to him pulling his hands out of my pants," said Karen Passanisi, speaking publicly for the first time. "He stuck his fingers up inside of me.... I said 'You (expletive) pervert. Get out of here.'" The officer, whom she identified as Robert Parise, is one of eight employees fired or suspended since 1999 for alleged sexual misconduct at the Suffolk County Sheriff's Dept.... But a two-month Boston Globe examination of the Suffolk County House of Correction at South Bay suggests that the cancer of sexual misconduct and other wrongdoing is deeply entrenched....
    Further, the newspaper's examination of [Sheriff Richard J.] Rouse's five-year stewardship found that he presides over an insular hierarchy that tolerates low standards and systemic abuses, and that the sheriff himself takes a decidedly lackadaisical approach to his position....

5/17/2001  Alabama: Little relief for overcrowded prisons, by David Firestone, NYT, A14.
The Legislature approved a $1.2B general-fund budget that leaves the state far short of its goals in hiring new corrections officers or building new prisons. Prison crowding has reached a crisis, but the budget did not provide for new prisons or hiring more than about 50 new guards.

5/09/2001  1 prison story in NYT or BG -

5/08/2001  Flaws in chemist's findings free man at center of inquiry, by Jim Yardley, NYT, front page.
OKLAHOMA CITY...- When Jeffrey Pierce [a landscaper who happened to be working near the crime scene] was convicted of rape in 1986, he lost his freedom and his family. He and his wife decided to divorce and she left Oklahoma to raise their twin infant sons as if he did not exist.... But today, after maintaining his innocence throughout 15 years he spent behind bars, Mr. Pierce was freed because DNA testing refuted the crucial testimony against him from an Oklahoma City police chemist [Joyce Gilchrist,] long accused of shoddy work and now the focus of one of the most wide-ranging investigations into a police laboratory....
Mr. Pierce's lawyers argued from the outset that Ms. Gilchrist had overstated the certainty with which [scalp and pubic] hair comparisons could be used to identify a single person. Also, she violated a court order by failing to forward any of the hair evidence to a private laboratory hired by the defense, meaning that the defense could not fully analyze her work before trial. The evidence she did send [semen samples?] leaked out of the package and could not be analyzed, defense lawyers said. The state appeals court said her action "absolutely violated the terms of a court order" but nonetheless upheld the conviction, saying Ms. Gilchrist's failure to turn over the evidence was not enough to overturn the conviction....
Mr. Pierce['s then-wife's] birthday was the same day that the rape occurred, and Mr. Pierce bought her diamond earrings on a shopping trip that day with two co-workers. This was his alibi in the trial, but the jury was not swayed....
Inside the state prison that had now become his home, Mr. Pierce met an inmate who gave him plain advice on how to survive in a world inhabited by convicted killers: get strong and keep to yourself. He went to the weight room. "He has told me stories about a guy who got stabbed, a guy who got gang raped, a guy who died in the cell," [his brother,] Gary Pierce said.
The key break in the case came late last year when, under a new state law, the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System won approval to submit the forensic evidence in the case for independent DNA testing, something Mr. Pierce's lawyers had sought for years.
Last month, the preliminary results showed that the DNA taken from the rapist's hair did not match Mr. Pierce. In addition, an FBI analysis of the hair samples contradicted Ms. Gilchrist's original hair testimony. In March, Ms. Gilchrist was placed on administrative leave. ...Officials in..\..the office of the Oklahoma County district attorney, Robert H. Macy...have denied accusations that they encouraged Ms. Gilchrist to sharpen her testimony to win convictions. "Everybody asks me, 'Why did they keep her?'" Gary Pierce said. "She got convictions. They didn't care about the methods she used."
..\..[The] twin sons seemed to know not to ask about their father. They were never told that he was in prison.... Three weeks ago, after [his ex-wife] learned that the preliminary DNA report had pointed to Mr. Pierce's innocence, she told her sons about their father.... "They are excited but sad to think this could have happened to Jeff and them," she said. "They've been robbed for 15 years of a wonderful person."

5/01/2001  Alabama's packed jails draw ire of courts, again, by David Firestone, NYT, front page.
DECATUR, Ala...- A few weeks ago, a federal judge walked through the doors of the Morgan County Jail in this tidy riverfront city...stepped around scores of inmates that the state prisons had refused to take..\..and observed firsthand [the chaos t]hat happens when 256 inmates aare crammed into a jail built for 96.... After he finished...Judge U. W. Clemon wrote a blistering ruling...ordering the state prisoners removed by mid-May and the jail cleaned. Judge Clemon's strong language has shaken up one of the country's most overburdened corrections systems....
[Doncha love how they slip into "the villain is actually a poor victim" language, as if The System is overburdened by outside forces.]

For earlier prison stories, click on the desired date -

  • Jan-Apr/2001.
  • Oct-Dec/99.
  • Sept/99 and before.

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