PrisonWatchTM vs. Timesizing®

Prison stories - June-Sept./2002
[Commentary] ©2002 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080 - HOMEPAGE

9/28/2002   1 prison item, reported in the Wall St Journal or the NY Times - 9/25/2002   1 prison item, reported in the Wall St Journal or the NY Times - 9/23/2002   1 prison item - 9/21/2002   1 prison item, reported in the Wall St Journal or the NY Times - 9/20/2002   1 prison item - 8/28/2002   1 prison item, reported in the Wall St Journal or the NY Times - 8/27/2002   2 prison items -
  1. The rich, and the rest, ...letter to editor by Dale Andersen, Ladera Ranch CA, NYT, A20.
    So Elizabeth Grubman will do two months [probably in minimum-security prison] and some community service (news article, Aug. 24). She walks. No surprise. Which is why so many people have no confidence in the law.
    If Lizzie were black, poor or lower middle class [or mentally ill - see item below] - in other words, one of us - there'd be no plea bargain....

  2. [for example -]
    110 wrongful convictions, and counting, editorial, NYT, A20.
    Eddie Joe Jones has served 17 years of a life sentence for the rape and murder of a Detroit teenager.... The prosecution [had] heavy reliance on his confession. Mr. Lloyd was in a mental hospital and on medication when he confessed..\.. At his sentencing, the judge said he regretted that Michigan had no death penalty.... Rather than press for details that would have been known only to the killer - the proper way to ensure that a confession is legitimate - the police fed him information about the crime. In the end, all Mr. Lloyd's signed confession proved was that under pressure to solve a high-profile murder, the police could find a way to get a mentally ill man to take the rap..\..
    But yesterday the same judge freed Mr. Lloyd after prosecutors and defense lawyers submitted DNA evidence exonerating him. Mr. Lloyd is the 110th person nationwide to be freed on DNA testing....
    Every DNA reversal is a lesson in the problems with one prosecutorial tool or another. Witnesses are unreliable. Criminals will lie in exchange for lenient treatment. Mr. Lloyd's case shows that even a signed confession is not always what it seems.
    And it provides further proof that the American justice system is imperfect at best, and frequently far too flawed to rely on capital punishment. In 1985 Mr. Lloyd's judge decried Michigan's lack of a death penalty, but its absence now appears to be all that prevented him from sentencing an innocent man to die.
8/26/2002   1 prison item - 8/18/2002   1 prison item - 8/11/2002   1 prison item - 8/10/2002   note the cover article in today's Economist magazine - 8/07/2002   1 prison item - 8/04/2002   1 prison item - 7/31/2002   2 prison items -
  1. [first the 'good' news]
    1% increase in U.S. inmates is lowest rate in 3 decades, by Fox Butterfield, NYT, A14.
    The nation's prison population grew last year at the lowest rate since 1972 and had the smallest numerical increase since 1979, before the prison boom began, according to a report issued yesterday by the Bureau of Justice Statistics....
    Altogether, there were 2.1 million Americans in state and federal prisons or in local jails at the end of 2001, the report said.
    [Giving the 'Land of the Free' the biggest prison population in the world.]
    The "small" rise in the number of inmates for the whole year, "only" 1.1% [our quotes - ed.], comes at a time when crime began to grow again, after a decade of declining....
    [Oops, this was supposed to be the good news.]

  2. [then the bad news]
    California: Soaring costs for guards, AP via NYT, A14.
    It could take the Dept. of Corrections until 2009 to resolve a chronic shortage of prison guards, costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in overtime, the state auditor has found.
    [Well it couldn't happen to a more deserving state, the state that influenced so much of our crime, violence and concentrated wealth with its 'entertainment' output.]
    Overtime costs exceeded $110m in the first half of the last fiscal year. The audit said the state's new contract with the guards' union would cost about $518m a year within 5 years.

7/29/2002   1 prison item - 7/27/2002   1 prison item - 7/23/2002   1 prison item - 7/21/2002   2 prison items -
  1. Addicted to prisons, letter to editor by Pres. Vincent Schiraldi of Justice Policy Institute of DC, NYT, Week 12.
    Re "The ruinous drug laws," by Bob Herbert [see below, 7/18]:
    On the same day that Mr. Herbert argues for abolishing New York's draconian Rockefeller drug laws, you report [on] a survey that found that while drug use nationally among teenagers is at an 8-yr low, drug use among teens increased in New York last year.
    If New York is seeing an increase in drug use among its youth, despite the fact that a higher percentage of its incoming prisoners are incarcerated for drug offenses than any state but New Jersey, perhaps it means that prisons are the wrong prescription for curing drug abuse.
    [As we always said, let's learn from the failure of Prohibition and the success of the campaign against smoking and decriminalize drugs. Lifestyle regulation works best when it's merely a matter of gradual taxation, not impatient and absolutist criminalization.]
    The Rockefeller drug laws are proving both unfair and ineffective. It's time for New York [and the rest of the nation!] to kick its addiction to prisons and return sentencing discretion to judges, where it belongs.
    ["Addiction to prisons" - we love it!]

  2. The points that prisoners can make - On Rikers Island, manufacturing weapons from just about anything is an astonishing craft, by former officer Ted Conover of Sing Sing, NYT Magazine, 18.
    Stolen from kitchen or infirmary. Broken off bunk frame or pried from Plexiglas desk cover. Secreted inside show or between belly and elastic waistband and spirited through ineffective metal detectors. Rubbed, then, for hours and hours and hours against cement floor or brick wall until able to slice or pierce: a weapon [or "shank"] now exists where before there was none.
    Abstracted from their original context of gritty Rikers Is. cellblock...shanks...show the craft and creativity spawned by inmate anger, spite and fear. Some prisons are full of inmate weapons hidden inside mattresses, under sand in the exercise yard, in crevices or window ledges. [They] are...confiscated by corrections officers when found during routine pat frisks, cell searches or (seldom) after a fight.
    Most often, shanks ("shivs" is an older slang term) are not used to murder or to be flourished in flashy knife battles or to coerce weak inmates into sex, as movies would have it. They are used to conduct the business of gangs, usually by quietly "sticking"...debtors, turncoats, rivals in the back, buttocks or leg or by slicing them on the head to teach them some kind of lesson. Typically, the shank is then passed from the assailant to a confederate; prison officers find only blood on the floor and a wounded inmate who won't name his attacker, who insists it was "an accident," because he knows that ratting out his assailant will only make it worse next time.... When gang power in prison is in dispute, tit-for-tat stabbings can be a daily occurrence....

7/18/2002   1 prison item - 7/10/2002   1 prison item - 7/06/2002   1 prison-alternative item - 7/03/2002   1 mostly prison item - 7/02/2002   1 prison/crime story - 6/30-7/01/2002   2 prison stories -
  1. 7/01 Russia glances to the West for its new legal code - Russia getting a Western-style legal code today that protects rights of defendants, by Steven Myers, NYT, front page.
    ...On Monday, Russia will adopt a new legal code that governs the prosecution of criminal cases and protects the rights of those accused.... Anyone accused of a crime must now appear in court within 48 hours, codifying the concept of habeas ccrpus into Russia's system.... As of Monday, defendants may demand a lawyer from the moment they are arrested.... The code enshrines the fundamental concept of presumption of innocence and gives new responsibilities - and, in theory, independence - to judges, while it will gradually strip prosecutors of the enormous powers they have wielded over almost every step of any prosecution, from arrest to trial. Defense lawyers will have the right to challenge the admissability of evidence, throwing out, among other things, evidence collected by wiretaps without a warrant.
    The changes spelled out in Russia's revised Criminal Procedural Code represent one of the most dramatic of the reforms pushed by Pres. Vladimir Putin, who has repeatedly vowed to break the legal, economic and social practices of the Soviet Union by establishing what he has called a "dictatorship of law." The code...replaces one written in 1960 when Nikita Khrushchev ruled the Soviet Union....
    Supporters say the new code will bring order and fairness to the dispensation of justice. They say it should reduce unwarranted arrests, thereby easing overcrowding in Russia's notoriously abysmal prisons, where there are today nearly 1 million prisoners....
    [So if there are only 1m inmates in Russia, how come the articles last year said the USA was second to Russia in number of inmates when the USA has 2m? Looks like the USA is #1 after all - in number of its own citizens incarcerated. "Land of the Free" - ha! We're worse than Russia.]

  2. 6/30 Secrecy of Japan's executions is criticized as unduly cruel, by Howard French, NYT, front page.
    ...Each year, around the year's end or early spring depending on the prison, a handful of inmates are led from their cells and hanged. What does not vary is the policy of near total secrecy that the families of the executed and human rights groups say makes Japan's practice of capital punishment unnecessarily cruel.
    Prisoners are told of their execution only moments before their hanging, and are given only enough time to clean their cells, write a final letter and receive last rites. Relatives are told of the executionn only after the fact and are given a mere 24 hours to collect the body. Adding to the secrecy, the Ministry of Justice refuses to release the names of the hanged, except to their relatives, or even to confirm the number of prisoners on death row, which human rights lawyers now estimte at 56.
    Because it typically executes only 5-6 prisoners each year, Japan has managed to keep a relatively low profile with international campaigners against the death penalty. The UN Human Rights Commission, however, has condemned Japan's secretive executions....
    [Of course, Americans can't even find out about Vice President Cheney's secret meetings with Enron crooks to frame the nation's energy policy.]

6/28/2002   1 prison story - 6/14/2002   1 prison story - 6/03/2002   2 prison stories -
  1. Study shows building prisons did not prevent repeat crimes - An experiment to get tough on criminals appears not to have worked as planned, by Fox Butterfield, NYT, A11.
    The rate at which inmates released from state prisons commit new crimes rose from 1983 to 1994, a time when the number of people behind bars doubled, according to a Justice Dept. study released yesterday..\.. Convicts who were released from prison in 1994 were [5%] more likely to commit new crimes than convicts released a decade earlier....

  2. Inmates job opportunities, revenues hit by economic slump, Kyodo News 06/02/02 23:07 EDT via AOLNews.
    TOKYO...- Prison inmates' employment opportunities have been severely hit by the prolonged economic slump in Japan, with sales and revenues of goods produced by them falling, according to a Justice Ministry report. The number of inmates engaged in such work grew to some 51,000 at the end of fiscal 2001, from 35,700 in fiscal 1992, including about 31,000 prisoners now involved in subcontracted work such as carpentry, dressmaking and metal processing, said the report by the ministry's Corrections Bureau....
    Prisoners who serve terms requiring labor must work 40 hours a week, making it impossible to promote work sharing, in which the same job is shared and working hours reduced, ministry officials said....


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