Tomorrow: largest prison strike in US history


America imprisons more people than any other country in history, in both absolute and relative terms. American prisoners -- disproportionately racialized and poor people -- are held in inhumane conditions that include long periods of solitary confinement, in violation of international protocols against torture. Read the rest

In prison, "punitive frugality" causes ramen to beat cigarettes as currency


According to a new University of Arizona study, instant ramen is the most valuable currency at one US prison. For example, a two .59 packets of ramen could be traded for one $10 sweatshirt while one ramen packet was worth "five tailor-made cigarettes." Why did the noodles overtake cigarettes as the most valuable currency? Because the cafeteria food is terrible and it's getting worse. Sociologist Michael Gibson-Light calls it "punitive frugality." From The Guardian:

The study paints a bleak picture of the state of food available at the prison. Gibson-Light found that black-market food became more valuable after control over food preparation switched from one private firm to another in the early 2000s.

“That change was part of a cost-cutting measure,” Gibson-Light said. “With that change that resulted in a reduction in the quantity of the food the inmates were receiving.”

Inmates at the prison Gibson-Light studied went from receiving three hot meals a day to two hot meals and one cold lunch during the week, and only two meals for the whole day on the weekend...

“[Money] doesn’t change unless there’s some drastic change to the value in people using it,” he said. The shift from tobacco to ramen highlights how dire the nutritional standards at prisons has become, he added.

Read the rest

Chelsea Manning cut off from contact with lawyers after medical emergency


U.S. military officials are preventing imprisoned whistleblower Chelsea Manning from having contact with her legal team or her friends, following unconfirmed reports that she was hospitalized after a health crisis.

Read the rest

America's prisons are replacing vital in-person visits with expensive, nonfunctional video calling


A new documentary, "(In)Securus Technologies: An Assault on Prisoner Rights", tracks the rise of for-profit video "visitation" programs, which are being rolled out across America's unimaginably huge prison system, replacing the in-person visits that have been shown to be vital for prisoners' successful rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Read the rest

Captured: a book of prison inmate drawings of CEOs and other too-big-to-jail criminals


Jeff Greenspan and Andrew Tider are two artists who spent more than a year working with prisoners to identify CEOs who presided over terrible crimes without any personal penalties, and paired convicts with CEOs, commissioning portraits of the rich people whose impunity protected them from the inmates' fate. Read the rest

Citing copyright, Army blocks Chelsea Manning from receiving printouts from EFF's website


Chelsea Manning's helpers write, "Citing potential copyright infringement, the Army censored materials on prison censorship from the Electronic Frontier Foundation that were sent to Chelsea by one of her volunteers." Read the rest

Obama commutes sentences of 95 prisoners and pardons two

President Obama holds his end of 2015 news conference at the White House, Dec. 18, 2015.    REUTERS

President Barack Obama today announced he has commuted the sentences of 95 federal prisoners, and granted two prisoners pardons. Most of them are nonviolent drug offenders.

This is the most he has done at one time, and more than doubles the number of clemency orders he has granted since taking office. His signature today sets free 40 prisoners who are serving life sentences.

Read the rest

Multi-generational cruelty: America's prisons shutting down kids' visitations


The history of American prison visitations are a mix of racism ("black men, denied sex, will riot in jail") and compassion -- especially the late 1960s' ground-breaking, multi-day family visitation programs that allowed prisoners to play and live with their children for a whole weekend a few times every year. Read the rest

Not (just) the War on Drugs: the difficult, complicated truth about American prisons


U Penn political scientist Marie Gottschalk has a new book out, Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics, in which she expands on her prodigious work on the root causes of America's astounding rate of incarceration. Read the rest

The hockey-stick from hell: US incarceration per 100,000 people, 1890-today


Vox parsed out the Bureau of Justice Statistics' numbers on incarceration in prisons (excluding jails) and produced this ghastly visualization tracking the transformaiton of America into the country with the highest rate of incarceration in the history of the world. Read the rest

Prisoners' debate team trounces national champs from Harvard


The New York prisoners team is composed of people convicted of violent felonies who have gone on to take continuing education classes in prison through Bard College. They debated the proposition that public schools should be allowed to refuse education to undocumented students, arguing for the proposition. Read the rest

How guards and prosecutors retaliate against solitary confinement prisoners who blow the whistle


The Dallas Six is a group of prisoners who were beaten, shocked and gassed by prison guards who had previously beaten them in retaliation for complaints about abuse in solitary confinement. Read the rest

America's mass incarceration of black people: the most important essay you'll read today


Ta-Nehisi Coates's longread in the Atlantic, "The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration" is a stupendous piece of serious journalism, tracing the long history of system racism in America to the present day condition: America imprisons more people than any other country in the world; it imprisons more people than at any time in its history; and it imprisons black people, especially black men, at a rate that beggars belief. Read the rest

Help crowdfund a relentless tsunami of FOIA requests into America's private prisons

Michael from Muckrock writes, "Investigative news site MuckRock is taking a broad look at how private prisons have rewritten state and local laws to ensure that they profit at the expense of inmates, staff, and taxpayers, even as reports indicate that promised savings are almost non-existent." Read the rest

Homing pigeon caught dropping off drugs at prison


Guards at the La Reforma jail near San Jose, Costa Rica caught this homing pigeon as it flew into the prison carrying a bag of cocaine and marijuana. Read the rest

Drone drug delivery at prison spurs yard fight


A drone dropped a package of marijuana, heroin, and tobacco into the recreation yard at Ohio's Mansfield Correctional Institution igniting a big brawl over the contraband. Just wait until drone drug delivery is free with Amazon Prime! Read the rest

The US starves its prisoners


Schuylkill County Prison in Pennsylvania feeds inmates portions that are “not even enough to fill a 5-year-old child,” according to a group of prisoners who have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit. It's not the only US prison starving its inmates. Legislators in some states are proposing that prisoners ought to be fed just twice a day, instead of three, and in Morgan County, Alabama, "federal authorities jailed Sheriff Greg Bartlett in 2009 after he admitted to depositing over $200,000 in state money allocated for prison meals into his personal account (in Alabama, sheriffs can keep excess state funds provided to pay for prisoners’ food)." The Marshall Project has recreated photos of meals in various US prisons. Read the rest

More posts