New Mexico threatens inmate with 90 days' solitary because his family made him a Facebook page

The New Mexico Corrections Department has a policy prohibiting inmates from "accessing the Internet through third parties," which they've interpreted to mean that prisoners whose families maintain Facebook pages for them can be punished with solitary confinement.

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Formerly incarcerated woman on why 'Orange Is The New Black' is mostly inaccurate

Orange is the New Black.


Orange is the New Black.

A confession: I'm not a fan of the TV series "Orange is the New Black." I love some of the actors on the show, but I think it's kind of a romanticized white fantasy that makes cute of an experience that is not cute, as even today's headlines on this very blog reveal. With glee, I read this Washington City Paper analysis of the show by a woman who served time in prison on a drug-related offense. She is very funny, and her critique is informative.

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California prisons sterilized at least 150 female inmates

While most of the sterilizations were agreed to by the women, those same women also report being heavily pressured into the surgeries. For instance, one woman reports that, in 2010, a doctor tried to convince her to have a tubal ligation while she was sedated and strapped to a surgical table for a C-section. What's more, the doctors pushing for and performing sterilizations didn't have approval from the state to do the procedures at all.

And here's the part that really stood out to me: When prison staff pushed back against the doctors in 2005 and questioned the fact that women were being sterilized, it wasn't because the staff was concerned about proper oversight or whether the women were being pushed into making decisions they wouldn't have made except under duress — it was because the staff was upset the women were getting extra medical services they didn't "deserve".

During one meeting in late 2005, a few correctional officers differed with Long’s medical team over adding tubal ligations to a local hospital’s contract, Kelsey, 57, said. The officers viewed the surgeries as nonessential medical care and questioned whether the state should pay.

“They were just fed up,” Kelsey said. “They didn’t think criminals and inmates had a right to the care we were providing them and they let their personal opinions be heard.”

The service was included, however, and Kelsey said the grumbling subsided.

You can read the rest of journalist Corey Johnson's story at The Center for Investigative Reporting and The Desert Sun. There's also a report on the matter recently published by The California State Auditor.

Timberland's new warranty conditions screw the prisoners who must buy them


Timberland -- whose boots are the sole option for many prisoners in US correctional institutions, thanks to sweetheart deals with prison commissaries -- has a new set of kafkaesque warranty conditions for prisoners that makes it effectively impossible to get defective footwear repaired, meaning that prisoners could spend decades without suitable footwear.

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Pornoscanners head to prisons

Normally technology migrates from prisons to schools to airports -- think CCTVs and Pre-Check -- but for the late and unlamented radioactive pornoscanners that the TSA had to give up on, the technology path went the other way -- if you're lucky enough to be incarcerated in the USA (which incarcerates more people than any other nation on Earth), you may be treated to one or more TSA-surplus pornoscans.

Pirated movies shown to prisoners

The Lorain County Correctional Institution shows pirated movies to prisoners, "even as inmates serve time for illegally downloading movies." Richard Humphrey, 22, who was sentenced to the prison for selling pirated copies of movies, said, "How do you expect someone to be rehabilitated when there's authority figures that are running those institutions that are copyright infringing?"

Inside America's illegal "Little Guantánamos"

Prisoners in America's notorious communication management units (called "CMUs" or "Little Guantánamos") are making great strides in their legal action against the US government over the prisons' illegal status, the illegally discriminatory detention of people in CMUs based on their political or religious beliefs, and their inhumane treatment of prisoners.

In this long, excellent piece, Annie P Waldman tells the story of how the CMUs were opened illegally, without the requisite public comment period, and how they've been used as a gulag to punish political and religious prisoners -- more than 70 percent of those imprisoned in CMUs are Muslim -- under inhumane conditions.

Waldman profiles one of the CMU prisoners, Yassin Aref, who has only held his youngest daughter twice since she was five. A Kurdish anti-Saddam Iraqi refugee, he served as an imam after migrating to the USA, and was caught in an FBI terrorism sting in which he agreed to witness a loan involving an paid FBI informant who had told the counterparty (but not Aref) that the money originated with an arms sale. Aref is serving 15 years in the CMU under conditions amounting to

Aref is one of the CMU prisoners who are the named plaintiffs in a surprisingly successful lawsuit against the US government.

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UK Tories ban sending books to prisoners


Writing in Politics.co.uk, Frances Crook (chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform) decries the latest nasty Tory tough-on-crime initiative: denying books from the outside to prisoners, many of whom spend more than sixteen hours per day in their cells. This follows on a ban on homemade birthday cards from prisoners' children, and a ban on underwear and other comfort items from outside (women prisoners are hit very hard by this as they are not supplied with undergarments otherwise and spend months wearing the same underwear and bras).

As Crook points out, banning books, birthday cards and underwear has nothing to do with rehabilitation for criminals, and everything to do with pandering to a vicious public who want to see everyone who is locked up made as miserable as possible.

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Nun faces 30 years in prison for exposing security lapses in nuclear weapons program


Mike from Mother Jones sez, "Josh Harkinson writes about the upcoming sentencing of Megan Rice, an elderly nun and Plowshares activist who broke into the Y-12 enriched uranium facility with two fellow aging activists. The incident, which exposed glaring security flaws and was deeply embarrassing to the feds, could get the trio a maximum 30 years in federal prison. Harkinson writes:"

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Pussy Riot in Putin's gulag: daily forced gynecological exams


When Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova walked out of the Siberian prison camp IK-50, they were defiant. The Pussy Riot members said they wanted acquittal, not amnesty, and an affirmation of the right to protest in Russia. Tolokonnikova gave the press a V-for-victory and shouted "Russia without Putin!"

But afterwards, in a phone interview with the Guardian, Alyokhina described the horrific conditions inside, where women were put to slave labor, and where Tolokonnikova faced daily, punitive forced gynecological exams for three weeks.

Pussy Riot has called on western countries to boycott eh Sochi Games in February.

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Prisoners return to Philippines jail after escaping home to help their families


When Super Typhoon Haiyan ripped the roof off of Leyte Provincial Jail and filled the cells to neck height, 600 prisoners swam to the wall-tops and walked away. Now, nearly half of them have returned, including prisoners facing charges as serious as murder. The men went home and helped their families cope with the damage to their homes and towns, then came back to prison because (in the words of returned prisoner Danilo Tejones) "I want my case to be finished so that I can get free legally."

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Documentary about Richard Stratton - "marijuana millionaire" sentenced to 25 years in maximum-security prison

[Video Link] "A documentary chronicling the life of author Richard Stratton, from his early experiments with marijuana in suburban Massachusetts to his ultimate entry into the world of high volume, international hashish and marijuana trade. His involvement in the drug market, including the shipment of 7 tons of hashish from war-riddled Beirut into New York Harbor, led to his arrest and conviction to 25 years in maximum-security prison. This video, through re-enactments, stock footage, score and interview, tells the unbelievable story."

Here's a recent interview with Stratton.

(Via the World's Best Ever)

Prison Profiteers: extracting billions by exploiting prisoners and their families

America imprisons more people than any other nation in the history of the Earth, and those prisoners' only lifeline to the outside world is the prison phone-system, from which they must make collect-calls. Those calls are billed by Global Tel Link and companies like it, companies that offers kickbacks to the prisons that use its services, which bill prisoners' families more than a dollar a minute, hundreds of times more than free-market carriers. GTL is making over $500M by exploiting the vulnerable families of the most emiserated people in America, and its competitors are making hundreds of millions more. 2.7M American children have to ration their calls to their incarcerated parents, undermining the cohesion of prisoners' families and their ability to support prisoners on release.

This point is made in a long and sad article on prison profiteering by Liliana Segura in The Nation. Worse than phone profiteering is the cruelty of the prison medical contractors, who ration vital treatments to prisoners, leaving them in agony and worse. For example, Correctional Medical Services "discourages treatment for hepatitis," leaving prisoners with hep. C to slide into permanent, profound disability.

These problems are much worse in private prisons, who are guaranteed occupancy by the states and counties that contract with them -- effectively, the government promises to lock up a minimum number of its citizens as a condition of doing business with private prisons. These prisons are not subject to freedom of information requests, are not inspected in the same way as public prisons, and have profit-taking built into their billion-dollar business, meaning that every dollar they spend on care and rehabilitation for prisoners is a dollar they don't return to their shareholders.

The ACLU is campaigning against prison profiteers and they deserve your support.

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Pfc. Manning transitions gender: 'I am Chelsea.'


A self-portrait snapshot Bradley Manning took, and emailed to his supervisor in the Army in April, 2010, prior to leaking government documents to Wikileaks.

One day after being sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking secret government files to Wikileaks, Pfc. Bradley Manning today announced via NBC TODAY the decision to live life as a woman.

We first wrote about this aspect of Manning's story in 2010, after realizing that a series of chat logs circulating on the internet--which we'd published without understanding the subtle references within--spoke to Manning's desire to transition.

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Prison visiting room photo backdrops

Prissss

NewImage

The image above left is a photo backdrop in the visiting room at Woodbourne Correctional Facility in New York. It's one of many unusual paintings found in prison visiting rooms around the United States. Their function is to make family photos more pleasant. Alyse Emdur photographed these scenes and compiled images sent by inmates into a book, titled Prison Landscapes. Above right, James Bowlin holds a fake trout bass at the US Penitentiary in Marion Illinois. BLDBLOG posted an interview with Emdur.

Fantastical scenes are actually much less common—from what I gather from my correspondence, realism is like gold in prison. That’s the form of artistic expression that’s most appreciated and most respected, so that’s often the goal for the backdrop painter.
"Captive America: An Interview with Alyse Emdur" (BLDBLOG)

Prison Landscapes (Amazon)