Friday News Roundup for February 27 through March 2, 2012

Here’s a quick wrap-up of some news items that were noteworthy but not covered in our blog this week.

  • From the Arizona Prison Watch blog, Tuesday, February 28, 2012: “[T]he ACLU National Prison Project and the Prison Law Office are about to file a class action lawsuit against the state of Arizona for their horrid treatment of prisoners when it comes to health and mental health care.” Additionally, Arizona Prison Watch announced that it will be co-sponsoring a forum on March 22 called “Fair Treatment for All: Ensuring Humane Medical Care for Arizona Prisoners” at the Maryvale Community Center Auditorium at 4420 N. 51st Ave. in Phoenix. The Arizona ACLU is an additional co-sponsor of the event.
  • From the Real Cost of Prisons Weblog, Thursday, March 1, 2012: In an egregious example of racial disparities in drug arrests, “93 percent of all marijuana possession arrests in the city of Atlanta [in 2011] were African-Americans, and 7 percent were white. The city’s population is 54 percent African-American and 38 percent white.”
  • From the Newport News (Virginia) Daily Press, via SentenceSpeak blog, Thursday, March 1, 2012: “A 2010 report released by the Congressional Research Service revealed the [corrections] industry employs about 770,000 workers….By way of perspective: The U.S. auto industry employs about 880,000 people.”
  • From the National Immigrant Justice Center, via the Dignity Not Detention blog, Friday, March 2, 2012: “Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) welcomes the announcement that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has released a long-awaited set of new immigration detention standards intended to address critical human rights concerns in the system. Unfortunately, the new standards do not go far enough to protect the rights of all ICE detainees, and ICE has yet to commit to a timeline for implementation that will ensure immigrants are protected from abuse, neglect, and inhumane conditions.” Among other shortcomings, it won’t apply the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 to immigrant detention facilities.
  • Also released this week was a new study by The Sentencing Project, The Lives of Juvenile Lifers: Findings from a National Survey (PDF). Among the 1,579 individuals surveyed, the study found “high rates of socioeconomic disadvantage, extreme racial disparities in the imposition of [sentences], sentences frequently imposed without judicial discretion, and counterproductive corrections policies that thwart efforts at rehabilitation.”

No-Review Contracts for Prison Profiteers

The blog Cell-Out Arizona reports today on a new budget bill in the Arizona legislature that would make private prison companies less accountable to the public.

Earlier this month a report on the private prison industry by the American Friends Service Committee added to the statewide controversy over the accountability of private prisons in Arizona. Among other findings, the report “revealed that the state overpaid for private prisons by more than $10 million between 2008 and 2010.”

You can read more at Cell-Out Arizona.

A Victory Against Solitary Confinement for Minors

The ACLU reports today on a success in banning the practice of putting minors who are convicted as adults in solitary confinement.

The ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a class-action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of conditions at the privately-operated Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in central Mississippi. As a result of the lawsuit, the Mississippi Department of Corrections will no longer house minors under its supervision in privately run prisons, or subject them to solitary confinement.

The conditions at Walnut Grove were summarized in the ACLU’s press release: “The lawsuit describes the routine practice of…peddling drugs to the teenagers in their custody, subjecting them to brutal beatings, sexual exploitation, solitary confinement and failing to protect them from violence at the hands of older, predatory prisoners. One youth suffered permanent brain damage as a result of an attack in which GEO staffers were complicit.”

According to Dr. Ernest Drucker of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, in his recently published book A Plague of Prisons, “those placed in solitary…account for almost half of [prison] suicides.” Drucker adds that “the United States now has over half of all the world’s prisoners who are in long-term solitary confinement.”

Solitary confinement has devastating effects on inmates. The victory that the ACLU and SPLC have secured will spare some of the most vulnerable inmates from those effects. You can read more on the ACLU’s Blog of Rights.

How to Support Us!

Donations

What we need to keep Tucson’s books-to-prisoners project going….

…Money for postage!

Everything we mail has a price. It costs us about $3-5 to send 2-4 books to one prisoner. We receive about 50-60 request letters per month. All monetary donations go directly to sending books to prisoners and help us pay for our P.O. Box and mailing supplies. We also accept Bookmans credit to track down prisoners’ special literature requests.

Checks and cash donations are enormously appreciated and can be mailed to our P.O. Box. For us, a little goes a long way!

…BOOKS!

If you would like to donate books to RBtB, please send us paperbacks in good condition. If you live in or visit Tucson, you can also drop off your book donations at the American Friends Service Committee Tucson Office. Consider donating books that you have enjoyed or would recommend to a friend.

Most Requested Books:

• Dictionaries (by far the most requested!)
• Books in Spanish / Libros en español
• Spanish-English dictionaries
• History
• Spanish-American history
• Native American literature
• Aztecs and indigenous cultures of the Americas
• Medical dictionaries
• World almanacs
• How to draw
• How to start a business
• How-to books in general
• Non-fiction
• Mysteries and thrillers