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[Commentary] ©2003 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080 - HOMEPAGE

Prison stories - January-April/2003

4/24/2003   1 sort-of prison story, reported in the Wall St Journal or NY Times - 4/19-21/2003   1 prison story, reported in the Wall St Journal or NY Times -
  1. 4/20   The silencing of Gideon's trumpet - Forty years ago, the Supreme Court found that the Constitution guaranteed the right to a lawyer - Maybe the Bush administration hasn't read the decision, by Anthony Lewis, NYT Mag, 50.
    Forty-one years ago, a poor, isolated prisoner in Florida, the least influential of Americans, wrote a letter to the Supreme Court - a letter in pencil, on lined prison paper - claiming that he had been wrongly denied the right to a lawyer when he was convicted. The Supreme Court agreed to hear his case and found that the Constitution required counsel to be provided in all serious criminal cases for defendants too poor to hire their own. Clarence Earl Gideon would have a new trial, this time with a lawyer. The new jury found him not guilty....
    Why does the dream of the Gideon decision - the dream of a country in which every person charged with crime will be capably defended - remain just...a dream?... This country differs from all other Western countries in its attitude toward crime and criminals.... We are tough on crime [or as] critics might [say,] "brutal." American prisons tend to be more unpleasant than they are elsewhere; sentences, much longer.
    [and incarceration rates and expenses much higher = evidence that America, despite its triumphalism, is a backwards nation, a retard, in terms of social progress and human evolution.]
    And of course, we impose the death penalty, which has been abandoned everywhere else in the trans-Atlantic world as a savage relic. ...There is no doubt that the harsh view exists, exacerbated by politicians, starting with Richard Nixon and his "war on crime."
    [and NY Gov. Nelson Rockefeller]
    Manifestations of this harshness are widespread. [The USA, despite hidden deterioration in its own economy, outlasted the Evil Empire and then began to look more and more like that Evil Empire with a huge expansion in America's prison-industrial complex and prison population. Now the USA, despite obvious deterioration in its economy and inadequacy of its economic assumptions, has invaded, "pre-emptive" to no found weapons of mass destruction, a religious-fundamentalist land ruled by torturers - and is beginning to look more and more like that religious land. Thanks for this article, Anthony. Keep "firing" as long as you can.]

  2. 4/21   Right to remain silent meets politics of protest, by Joyce Purnick, NYT, A22.
    ...Hundreds of..\..peace demonstrators...were arrested in New York during the political demonstrations over the past 2 months and asked [by detectives] about their political activities; their answers were entered into a database.
    When the practice came to light, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly defended it as constitutional and legal. But - obviously embarrassed - he stopped it, said he hadn't known about it and ordered the database destroyed....
    [...but not necessarily without copying to another database...? America unravels further....]

  3. [So, the US economy languishes for lack of consumers, while the wealthy make it easier and easier to deactivate consumers by incarceration. And once they're in lockup -]
    4/21   Inmates' claims of widespread beatings persist five years later, by John Sullivan, NYT, A21.
    Helen Artis, who was a corrections officer at Bayside State Prison [Leesburg NJ], said that officers, determined to "get someone," beat a prisoner [any prisoner]. [photo caption]
    Wilbur Jones said he as beaten without provocation by officers at Bayside State Prison, then charged with refusing to follow orders and put in solitary confinement. [photo caption]
    Adrian Torres described being made to kneel, motionless, for hours, after a corrections officer was killed at Bayside State Prison. Prisoners who moved were beaten, he said. [photo caption]

4/15/2003   2 prison stories, reported in the Wall St Journal & NY Times -
  1. Alabama: 70 inmates moved to Louisiana, by Dana Beyerle, NYT, A16.
    ...to ease crowding in the Tutwiler Prison for Women..\.. The Corrections Dept. transferred 70 women to a private lockup in Louisiana...the private South Louisiana prison in Basile..\... They might be there up to 60 days..\.. The Prison is under a federal court order to reduce the inmate population....
    [See previous article on 12/03/2002.]

  2. County says it's too poor to defend the poor, by Adam Liptak, NYT, front page.
    MARKS, Miss.- ...Quitman County is suing the state because it says it cannot afford to provide defendants with anything more than assembly-line justice. Mississippi is among a handful of states that provide no money for the defense of the indigent in noncapital cases. The lawsuit, which will go to trial..\..here in Marks, the [county] seat...is in its way a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, which held that poor people accused of serious crimes are entitled to legal representation paid by the government....
    [Another unfunded mandate. More and more evidence that we should have just let the backward South go instead of killing more of us in the Civil War than in all previous American wars put together to force the South to stay in the Union. Dixie would have been embarrassed out of slavery by now anyway, just as South Africa was.]

4/14/2003   1 prison story, reported in the Wall St Journal & NY Times - 4/10/2003   1 prison story, reported in the Wall St Journal & NY Times - 4/09/2003   2 prison stories, reported in the Wall St Journal & NY Times -
  1. Two million inmates, and counting, editorial, NYT, A20
    The population of the nation's jails and prisons passed 2 million last year, for the first time in history. The United States has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world....
    [Yeah, let's grab our bloated military and go out and LIBERATE all these other, inferior nations in the world, cuz we're sooo much better than them!]
    The number of men and women behind bars today is four times what it was in the mid-1970s, and it continues to grow.
    This soaring incarceration rate is not tied to the violent crime rate, which is lower than it was in 1974. And it is out of line with imprisonment practices worldwide. The U.S. has about 700 inmates per 100,000 residents, compared with fewer than 100 per 100,000 residents in Germany, Italy and Denmark....
    Nearly 60% of federal prisoners and more than 20% of state inmates are in custody on drug charges, in many cases low-level ones..\..
    Our overflowing jails and prisons come at a high price, in dollars and wasted lives...and this is a time of enormous state and federal budget gaps.
    [Hey that's right. If we keep passing George Bush Junior's tonic taxcuts, how we gonna support our hungry prison-industrial establishment? How we gonna keep all these criminals locked up? (And with "tonic" like these taxcuts for the rich have been so far, how we gonna git economic recovery?)]
    When a prisoner is a first offender guilty of a nonviolent crime, a jail term is often just a very expensive way of turning a young person who could be set on the right path into a hardened criminal. It seems far more sensible to reconsider tough mandatory sentencing laws and build in more discretion for judges to deviate from guidelines. The money saved could be redirected to alternatives to prison, including drug treatment and violence prevention programs for youths....

  2. [but we're still going the other way -]
    Terror defense lawyers say jailers held them for 2 hours - A judge orders that officials explain an extended detention of a defense team, by Benjamin Weiser, NYT, A19.
    Lawyers for a Staten Island man [Ahmed Abdel Sattar] detained in a terrorism case have told a federal judge in Manhattan [John Koeltl of Federal District Court] that two members of their legal team who had been meeting with their client in jail [Metropolitan Corrrectional Center in Lower Manhattan] were kept in a locked cell for nearly two hours, despite their requests to leave.... Mr. Sattar's lawyers, Barry Fallick and Kenneth Paul, wrote to the judge that they had had previous problems at the jail during their visits to meet with Mr. Sattar, but that the situation had worsened..\..
    The [latest] incident occurred after the two, a lawyer and a paralegal, had met with the man, [who] is being held for a year on charges of working as an operative for an Egyptian terrorist group. The case has received particular attention because one of his co-defendants is Lynne Stewart, a prominent NY lawyer who has also been charged with supporting terrorism....
    [The madness boils on, and Osama laa-aa-affs his head off. Suddenly Americans are becoming decidedly uncool. 'Whom the gods destroy, they first make mad.']
    The lawyer and the paralegal who visited Mr. Sattar on March 20 told a guard they were ready to leave at 3:20 pm according to a memo sent by his lawyers to the judge. They asked again at 4:45 pm and as 5 pm approached, they asked a guard to call their offices so their coworkers would not worry about them, the memo said, but the request was refused. They were [finally] released at 5:15, the memo said..\..
    Last week, the judge...ordered the government to obtain a prompt written response from jail officials about the incident. The response has not been made public, but Mr. Fallick said he received a copy yesterday. In it, Mr. Fallick said, an official said he regretted the inconvenience that had occurred for the 2 visitors, but said it was more likely that a busy lieutenant forgot to escort them out of the jail than that they had been deliberately stranded....
    ["And if you believe that, we've got a bridge to sell ya." More likely instead that over-zealous guards, eyes glued to the tube watching dheir buds in the Iraq invasion, got a little POed at people trynna help wunna dem Ayrabs! Guess this is the kind of treatment Americans can expect all over the world in future, now that we've declared that we're righteous enough to break the no-first-strike rule and plenty of other rules made for all them other, inferior people in the world. The world will see see how righteous we are as the new wave of vehicles roll into Iraq - from Cheney's Halliburton Corp. and its subsidiaries.]

4/05-07/2003   3 prison stories, reported in the Wall St Journal & NY Times -
  1. 4/06   As inmate population soars, Southern states set the pace, by Allen Breed, Boston Globe, A13.
    ...When Sheila Young...principal of Craig Elementary School, which is in one of the poorest neighborhoods in New Orleans...asked \her\ third-graders...how many of them had a family member or neighbor in prison, more than half the hands shot up. When it comes to locking people up, Since 1980, the country's prison population has quadrupled to 2.1 million, with the South accounting for 45% of that increase, according to a report released Friday by the grass-roots group Critical Resistance South [CRS].
    [Another piece of evidence that the South was not worth all the blood-letting of the Civil War to keep in the Union. They would have been embarrassed out of slavery in several decades anyway, just as South Africa was out of apartheid.]
    Citizen activists from around the region are meeting in New Orleans this weekend to brainstorm about how to change the situation. ...Said [Rose] Braz, national director of CRS, "Do we want to invest in prisons, prisons and more prisons?"...
    Why are the [South's incarceration] numbers so high?... But as crime rates have fallen, many states in the South and elsewhere have attempted to cut their prison populations. Partly as a result of these measures, the South's incarceration rate has grown slower than the other region's over the past 20 years - 180%. The West saw the highest growth, 289%, according to the JPI report....
    Floriduh oops -da is one state that still isn't persuaded. Gov. Jeb Bush has forged ahead with 25-year-to-life mandatory terms for sex criminals and guaranteed 10-year sentences for people carrying guns during the commission of a crime. He is also seeking $75m for prison construction projects, even though the system currently has empty beds.
    [And this is the mentality of Bush Sr's spawn, another of whom is in the White House.]
    Corrections Dept. spokesman Sterling Ivey said Florida's crime rate is the lowest it's been in 30 years [probably because the entire likeliest population cohort is already in lockup], and Gov. Bush isn't about to start releasing people just to balance a budget.
    [God knows the old folks down there have got enough money to lock everyone in the state up permanently, including themselves - if the sights down the Intracoastal and Okeechobee Waterways are anything to judge by.]

  2. 4/07   Prison rates among blacks reach a peak, report finds, by Fox Butterfield, NYT, A11.
    An estimated 12% of African-American men ages 20 to 34 are in jail or prison, according to a report released yesterday by the Justice Dept.... By comparison, 1.6% of white men in the same age group are incarcerated..\..
    The proportion of young black men who are incarcerated has been rising in recent years, and this is the higest rate ever measured, said Allen Beck, the chief prison demographer for the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the statistical arm of the Justice Dept.... The report found that the number of people in US jails and prisons exceeded 2 million for the first time last year, rising to 2,019,234....
    [Thence whence the 2.1m figure that's been going the rounds?]

  3. 4/06   Prison riot in Honduras kills 86 inmates, AP via NYT, A3.
    Rival gang members fought and set fire to a prison [yester]day, inciting a riot that ended with 86 prisoners dead, dozens of others...as many as 70 inmates and guards...injured and an unknown number on the loose [from] their cells at the 1,600-inmate El Porvenir prison [farm] outside La Ceiba, a port city 220 miles north of Tegucigalpa, the capital.... There is little security [there], and weapons and drugs are common, with gang members often controlling cell blocks....

4/01/2003   1 prison story, reported in the Wall St Journal & NY Times - 3/21/2003   1 prison story, reported in the Wall St Journal & NY Times - 3/14/2003   1 prison story, reported in the Wall St Journal & NY Times - 3/06/2003   1 prison story, reported in the Wall St Journal & NY Times - 2/28/2003   1 prison story, reported in the Wall St Journal & NY Times - 2/17/2003   1 prison story, reported in the Wall St Journal & NY Times - 2/13/2003   2 prison stories, reported in the Wall St Journal or the NY Times -
  1. Group sues Christian program at Iowa prison - A project is said to use tax dollars for 'pervasively religious programs', by Laurie Goodstein, NYT, A23.
    Two federal lawsuits filed yesterday in Iowa contend that a state-financed evangelical Christian prison program that gives privileges to participating inmates violates the separation of church and state. The program, at the Newton Correction Facility in Newton, Iowa, is run by Prison Fellowship Ministries, an organization founded by Charles Colson, who served a prison term for his role in the Watergate coverup. The program has also been adopted at prisons in Minnesota and Kansas, and in Texas, where it was backed by pResident Bush when he was governor.
    The lawsuits, brought by Americans United for Separation of Church & State, a Washington-based advocacy group, are intended to provoke a constitutional challenge to the pResident's religion-based initiative, under which federal and state governments would give more money with poor people, addicts, the unemployed and prisoners....

  2. Guatemala: 6 killed in prison riot, by David Gonzalez, NYT, A12.
    A soldier jailed for the 1998 killing of a bishop who campaign for human rights was decapitated during a prison riot in which six inmates were killed. ...One early report said it stemmed from complaints that some inmates had smuggled in guns. Another report suggested that it erupted over animosity toward several officers who were implicated in the killing of Bishop Juan Gerardi. Obdulio Villanueva, a former soldier who was convicted in that killing, was among the inmates killed during the uprising.

2/01/2003   1 prison story, reported in the Wall St Journal or the NY Times - 1/28/2003   1 prison item, reported in the Wall St Journal or the NY Times - 1/25/2003   1 prison item, reported in the Wall St Journal or the NY Times - 1/23/2003   1 prison item, reported in the Wall St Journal or the NY Times - 1/11-13/2003   1 prison item, reported in the Wall St Journal or the NY Times - 1/08/2003   1 prison item, reported in the Wall St Journal or the NY Times - 1/03/2003   1 prison item, reported in the Wall St Journal or the NY Times -
For earlier prison stories, click on the desired date -
  • Oct-Dec/2002.
  • Jun-Sep/2002.
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  • Jan-Apr/2001.
  • Oct-Dec/99.
  • Sept/99 and before.


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