hope that everyone had a chance to read the Prison Commission's entire
report. While none of it is news
to the UNION people who contributed
to the research, and who lived the nightmare, the fact that it is
agreed upon by law enforcement
professionals means that it just might have some impact. As long
law enforcement owns the majority
of politicians and the "public demand" isn't strong enough to get these
things done, reform cannot take
place. You are the public who must make these demands and get out
vote for lawmakers who are really
going to represent you.
Your ability to work toward organizing
is the key to whether or not these reforms can take place. Without
tightly organized voting groups
that outnumber those of law enforcement, not that difficult to do when
everyone contributes time and
money, there is no representation for the prisoners and their families.
Those connected to prisoners
outnumber everyone now, but whether they want to give up their chains is
question that remains to be
demonstrated. All those UNION members who submitted their case
and chronologies to this endeavor
PLEASE pat yourself on the back.
I thank the members of the Commission
who have read the UNION newsletter for a little more than a
now and I am very happy with
your work and your recommendations which is very much in line with what
have been saying for the past
Ultimately the demand must come
from enough of us who will take action and nobody can do that for us.
We are the rescuers that we've
been praying for, as the future hinges on the size and financial ability
our own voting group.
Don't forget to write into editors who ran articles about this important
report. This is
a good one to print off and
send to the prisoners so they can see some hope and realize what some of
their families did here to help
B. Cayenne Bird
Summary of Findings and
What happens inside jails and
prisons does not stay inside jails and prisons. it comes home with prisoners
after they are released and
with corrections officers at the end of each day's shift. When people live
work in facilities that are
unsafe, unhealthy, unproductive, or inhumane, they carry the effects home
them. We must create safe and
productive conditions of confinement not only because it is the right thing
to do, but because it influences
the safety, health, and prosperity of us all.
The daily count of prisoners
in the United States has surpassed 2.2 million. Over the course of a year,
million people spend time in
jail or prison, and 95 percent of them eventually return to our communities.
Approximately 750,000 men and
women work in U.S. correctional facilities as line officers or other staff.
The United States spends more
than 60 billion dollars annually on corrections. Many of those who are
incarcerated come from and return
to poor African-American and Latino neighborhoods, and the stability
of those communities has an
effect on the health and safety of whole cities and states. If there was
time when the public consequences
of confinement did not matter, that time is long gone.
Some of the people confined in
our jails and prisons have committed serious and violent crimes. We can
legitimately deprive them of
liberty, but we cannot allow anyone who is incarcerated to be victimized
other prisoners, abused by officers,
or neglected by doctors. We must remember that our prisons and
jails are part of the justice
system, not apart from it.
There are nearly 5,000 adult
prisons and jails in the United States—no two exactly alike. Some of them
unraveling or barely surviving,
while others are succeeding and working in the public's interest. To
succeed, jail and prison administrators
everywhere must confront prisoner rape, gang violence, the use of
excessive force by officers,
contagious diseases, a lack of reliable data, and a host of other problems.
Solving these problems takes
dedication and dollars. But there is no reason why health and safety should
be limited to only some correctional
facilities and no reason why even the best institutions cannot make a
larger contribution to public
safety and public health. The findings and recommendations outlined below,
and explored in detail throughout
the pages of this report, address the most pressing problems facing
corrections today and the reforms
that can and must occur.
I. Conditions of Confinement
Finding: Violence remains a serious
problem in America's prisons and jails.
There is disturbing evidence
of individual assaults and patterns of violence in some U.S. prisons and
Corrections officers told the
Commission about a near-constant fear of being assaulted. Former
prisoners recounted gang violence,
rape, beatings by officers, and in one large jail, a pattern of illegal
Former Florida Warden Ron McAndrew described small groups of officers
operating as "goon squads" to
abuse prisoners and intimidate other staff. And in February, 2006, while
Commission was gathered in Los
Angeles for a final hearing, more than a thousand prisoners were
attacking each other in the
Los Angeles County jails, days of violence that the press described as
that hearing, California corrections
Secretary Roderick Hickman told the Commission: "Quite frankly, no
one denies that violence occurs
in prisons and jails in this country."
Finding: We know which conditions
in correctional facilities fuel violence and, therefore, how to prevent
Violence and abuse are not inevitable.
Every correctional facility can provide a safe environment for
prisoners and staff. As Donald
Specter, director of the Prison Law Office in California, told the
Commission: "Prisons don't have
to be as dangerous and as violent as they are. The culture of our prisons
virtually dictates the level
of violence that you will have in them. And if you change that culture,
reduce the violence."
The majority of prisons and many
jails hold more people than they can deal with safely and effectively,
creating a degree of disorder
and tension almost certain to erupt into violence. Similarly, few conditions
compromise safety more than
idleness. But because lawmakers have reduced funding for programming,
prisoners today are largely
inactive and unproductive. Highly structured programs are proven to reduce
misconduct in correctional facilities
and also to lower recidivism rates after release. Results from a Zogby
International poll released
in April, 2006, show the public's support for protecting public safety
better programming: 87 percent
of Americans favor rehabilitative services for prisoners as opposed to
Decisions about where to house
prisoners and how to supervise them also have an enormous impact on
safety. A well-developed system
to objectively classify prisoners by risk reduces violence among them.
does an approach to supervision
in which officers are engaging with prisoners throughout the day. Yet the
best classification and supervision
systems still are not commonplace around the country.
Teaching and modeling non-forceful
ways for officers to resolve conflict is crucial because the
unnecessary or excessive use
of force and weapons provokes broader violence. Such guidance is
especially important given the
increasing use of pepper spray, TASER guns, and other weapons that can
cause serious injuries if used
excessively. Former general counsel of the Texas prison system, Steve
Martin, told the Commission
that these weapons are often used as a "first strike" response, before
tactics are considered or attempted.
Finally, the ties with family
and community that former prisoners depend on after release also promote
safety during incarceration.
Unfortunately, the distance between home and the correctional facility—and
culture in some facilities that
does not welcome visitors—makes it hard to maintain those ties. There are
even barriers to maintaining
contact by phone when the cost of receiving a collect call from someone
prison—much higher than in the
free world—operates like a tax on poor families.
prevent violence: recommendations1.
Reduce crowding. States and localities must commit to eliminating
the crowded conditions that
exist in many of the country's prisons and jails and work with corrections
administrators to set and meet
reasonable limits on the number of prisoners that facilities can safely
2. Promote productivity and rehabilitation.
Invest in programs that are proven to reduce violence and to
change behavior over the long
3. Use objective classification
and direct supervision. Incorporate violence prevention in every facility's
fundamental classification and
4. Use force and non-lethal weaponry
only as a last resort. Dramatically reduce the use of non-lethal
weapons, restraints, and physical
force by using non-forceful responses whenever possible, restricting
the use of weaponry to qualified
staff, and eliminating the use of restraints except when necessary to
prevent serious injury to self
5. Employ surveillance technology.
Make good use of recording surveillance cameras to monitor the
6. Support community and family
bonds. Reexamine where prisons are located and where prisoners are
assigned, encourage visitation,
and implement phone call reform.
c ommission on safety and abuse
in america ' s prisons
Finding: We need more reliable
measures of violence behind bars than we have today.
Data about deadly violence show
decreasing rates nationally of homicide and suicide, but we do not have
equally reliable data about
the much larger universe of non-lethal violence. There are prisons and
are not collecting or reporting
information about assaults: For example, Arkansas, North Dakota, and
South Dakota each reported zero
assaults among prisoners statewide in the year 2000. In-depth studies
suggest that actual levels of
violence among prisoners are at least five times higher than what even
best administrative records
capture. Equally troubling, we have no national measures of non-lethal
physical violence perpetrated
by staff against prisoners, despite widespread agreement that excessive
use of force happens. Chief
statistician for the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics Allen Beck told
Commission, "I cannot measure
well the level of assaults using administrative records as they exist
1.2. medical care
Finding: High rates of disease
and illness among prisoners, coupled with inadequate funding for
correctional health care, endanger
prisoners, staff, and the public.
Much of the public dismisses
jails and prisons as sealed institutions, where what happens inside remains
inside. In the context of disease
and illness, which travel naturally from one environment to another, that
view is clearly wrong. Left
untreated, staph infections and diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis
HIV directly affect our families,
neighborhoods, and communities.
As a result of poverty, substance
abuse, and years of poor health care, prisoners as a group are much
less healthy than average Americans.
Every year, more than 1.5 million people are released from jail and
prison carrying a life-threatening
contagious disease. At least 350,000 prisoners have a serious mental
illness. Protecting public health
and public safety, reducing human suffering, and limiting the financial
of untreated illness depends
on adequately funded, good quality correctional health care.
Unfortunately, most correctional
systems are set up to fail. They have to care for a sick population on
shoestring budgets and with
little support from community health-care providers and public health
authorities. Capturing the degree
of failure in California, Dr. Joe Goldenson told the Commission, "There
are facilities with four or
five thousand people that only have two or three doctors." Around the country,
some physicians are operating
on a license that restricts their work to correctional facilities because
are deemed not qualified to
provide care in the community. The public has yet to face the broad and
term costs of these kinds of
Finding: Medical neglect and
the spread of infectious disease are not inevitable; there are solutions
health-care dilemmas facing
Correctional facilities have
a tremendous opportunity to provide health care to people in jail and prison
that also protects the public
health. But corrections cannot do this alone. Lawmakers must provide adequate
funding, and health-care providers
from the community must get involved. Together, they can recruit qualified
and caring medical staff who
are able to manage contagious and costly diseases. Proper screening and
of infectious diseases in correctional
facilities makes a difference: Between 1992 and 1998, New York City
reduced tuberculosis cases citywide
by 59 percent, and drug-resistant cases by 91 percent, through this kind
Improving correctional health
care requires more than partnerships. Many short-term cost-saving
measures imposed by local, state,
and federal legislatures have long-term negative consequences. To
drive down the costs, legislators
pressure corrections administrators to require prisoners to make co-
payments for their medical care.
While co-payments seem reasonable on the surface, they cost more in
the long run by discouraging
sick prisoners from seeking care early on, when treatment is less expensive
and more effective and before
Equally troubling, misguided
federal law deprives correctional systems of desperately needed Medicaid
and Medicare dollars to fund
decent health care. Many people in prison and jail qualify for these federal
benefits and lose them when
they are incarcerated. Just like any other community health-care provider,
correctional agencies should
be reimbursed for the cost of providing health services to people who are
Medicaid and Medicare eligible.
Finally, along with committing more funds to care for mentally ill prisoners,
states and counties need to
expand treatment in the community. Our jails and prisons should not function
as mental institutions.
Provide health care that protects
1. Partner with health providers
from the community. Departments of corrections and health providers
from the community should join
together in the common project of delivering high-quality health care that
protects prisoners and the public.
2. Build real partnerships within
facilities. Corrections administrators and officers must develop
collaborative working relationships
with those who provide health care to prisoners.
3. Commit to caring for persons
with mental illness. Legislators and executive branch officials, including
need to commit adequate resources to identify and treat mentally ill prisoners
and, simultaneously, to reduce
the number of people with mental illness in prisons and jails.
4. Screen, test, and treat for
infectious disease. Every U.S. prison and jail should screen, test, and
infectious diseases under the
oversight of public health authorities and in compliance with national
guidelines and ensure continuity
of care upon release.
5. End co-payments for medical
care. State legislatures should revoke existing laws that authorize
prisoner co-payments for medical
6. Extend Medicaid and Medicare
to eligible prisoners. Congress should change the Medicaid and
Medicare rules so that correctional
facilities can receive federal funds to help cover the costs of providing
health care to eligible prisoners.
Until Congress acts, states should ensure that benefits are available to
people immediately upon release.
Summary Of Findings And Recommendations
Finding: The increasing use of
high-security segregation is counter-productive, often causing violence
inside facilities and contributing
to recidivism after release.
Separating dangerous or vulnerable
individuals from the general prison population is part of running a
safe correctional facility.
In some systems around the country, however, the drive for safety, coupled
public demand for tough punishment,
has had perverse effects: Prisoners who should be housed at safe
distances from particular individuals
or groups of prisoners end up locked in their cells 23 hours a day,
every day, with little opportunity
to be productive and prepare for release.
People who pose no real threat
to anyone and also those who are mentally ill are languishing for months
or years in high-security units
and "supermax" prisons. In some places, the environment is so severe that
people end up completely isolated,
confined in constantly bright or constantly dim spaces without any
meaningful human contact—torturous
conditions that are proven to cause mental deterioration.
Prisoners often are released
from solitary confinement and other high-security units directly to
the streets, despite the clear
dangers of doing so.
Between 1995 and 2000, the growth
rate in the number of people housed in segregation far outpaced the
growth rate of the prison population
overall: 40 percent compared to 28 percent. As lawyer, scholar, and
prison monitor Fred Cohen told
the Commission, segregation is now a "regular part of the rhythm of prison
life." There is troubling evidence
that the distress of living and working in this environment actually causes
violence between staff and prisoners.
And the consequences are broader
than that: Housing a prisoner
in segregation can be twice as costly as other forms of confinement, and
misuse of segregation works
against the process of rehabilitating people, thereby threatening public
Limit Segregation: Recommendations
1. Make segregation a last resort
and a more productive form of confinement, and stop releasing people
directly from segregation to
the streets. Tighten admissions criteria and safely transition people out
segregation as soon as possible.
And go further: To the extent that safety allows, give prisoners in
segregation opportunities to
fully engage in treatment, work, study, and other productive activities,
feel part of a community.
2. End conditions of isolation.
Ensure that segregated prisoners have regular and meaningful human
contact and are free from extreme
physical conditions that cause lasting harm.
3. Protect mentally ill prisoners.
Prisoners with a mental illness that would make them particularly
vulnerable to conditions in
segregation must be housed in secure therapeutic units. Facilities need
rigorous screening and assessment
tools to ensure the proper treatment of prisoners who are both
mentally ill and difficult to
c ommission on safety and abuse
in america ' s prisons
II. Labor and Leadership
Finding: Better safety inside
prisons and jails depends on changing the institutional culture, which
be accomplished without enhancing
the corrections profession at all levels.
Most corrections professionals
work under extremely difficult circumstances to maintain safety and help
prisoners improve their lives.
But because the exercise of power is a defining characteristic of
correctional facilities, there
is constant potential for abuse.
In the worst cases, the institutional
culture can devolve into one where, in the words of prison chaplain
Sister Antonia Maguire, prisoners
are treated like "animals, without souls, who deserve whatever they
Cultivating a positive culture
inside our correctional facilities is more than a "feel good" idea. As
Minnesota Warden James Bruton
wrote, "Security and control—given necessities in a prison
environment—only become a reality
when dignity and respect are inherent in the process."
Today there are efforts to improve
the underlying culture of prisons and jails in places as far apart as
Oregon, Arizona, Massachusetts,
and Maryland. Corrections administrators leading those reforms
understand that an "us versus
them" mentality endangers prisoners and staff and, over time, harms the
families and communities to
which prisoners and staff belong. "We're moving away from having that
feeling of being safe when offenders
are all locked up, to one where we're actually safer because we have
inmates out of their cells,
involved in something hopeful and productive," explained Mary Livers,
Maryland's deputy secretary
Efforts at culture change cannot
succeed and bear fruit, however, without recruiting and retaining a highly
qualified officer corps and
great corrections leaders. All too often, that is not the case. The rate
turnover among officers averages
16 percent annually—and is higher where the pay is lower. Directors of
systems remain on the job for
no more than three years on average, and their rapid turnover destabilizes
State and local governments must
improve pay for officers and find other ways to develop the labor force
at all levels. Training for
officers must improve so that they are better prepared to interact effectively
prisoners from diverse backgrounds.
The skills and capacities of lieutenants, captains, and wardens—
staff who have the greatest
influence on the culture of prisons and jails day to day—must be developed.
And governors and local officials
must hire the best qualified professionals to lead correctional systems
and give them the freedom and
resources to do the job well.
Change the culture and enhancethe
1. Promote a culture of mutual
respect. Create a positive culture in jails and prisons grounded in an
of respectful behavior and interpersonal
communication that benefits prisoners and staff.
2. Recruit and retain a qualified
corps of officers. Enact changes at the state and local levels to advance
the recruitment and retention
of a high quality, diverse workforce and otherwise further the
professionalism of the workforce.
3. Support today's leaders and
cultivate the next generation. Governors and local executives must hire
most qualified leaders and support
them politically and professionally, and corrections administrators
must, in turn, use their positions
to promote healthy and safe prisons and jails. Equally important, we must
develop the skills and capacities
of middle-level managers, who play a large role in running safe facilities
and are poised to become the
next generation of senior leaders.
III. Oversight and Accountability
Finding: Most correctional facilities
are surrounded by more than physical walls; they are walled off from
external monitoring and public
scrutiny to a degree inconsistent with the responsibility of public
Summary Of Findings And Recommendations
All public institutions, from
hospitals to schools, need and benefit from strong oversight. Citizens
it because they understand what
is at stake if these institutions fail. Prisons and jails should be no
exception. They are directly
responsible for the health and safety of millions of people every year,
what happens in correctional
facilities has a significant impact on the health and safety of our
Corrections leaders work hard
to oversee their own institutions and hold themselves accountable, but
their vital efforts are not
sufficient and cannot substitute for external forms of oversight. Former
Oklahoma Warden Jack Cowley
cautioned, "When we are not held accountable, the culture inside the
prisons becomes a place that
is so foreign to the culture of the real world that we develop our own
doing things." Or as U.S. Department
of Justice Inspector General Glenn Fine, who oversees all federal
prisons, told the Commission,
"There is tremendous pressure within an institution to keep quiet." Despite
increased professionalism within
the field of corrections, there remains resistance to scrutiny by
"outsiders" that must be overcome.
The most important mechanism
for overseeing corrections is independent inspection and monitoring.
Every U.S. prison and jail should
be monitored by an independent government body, sufficiently
empowered and funded to regularly
inspect conditions of confinement and report findings to lawmakers
and the public. Today, this
is the case in only a few states and localities.
While independence is a crucial
feature, the relationship with corrections should be collaborative: insiders
and outsiders working together
to ensure safe and effective facilities.
The federal courts also have
an important role to play. Federal civil rights litigation ushered in life-saving
reforms over the past 30 years.
Several misguided provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act enacted
in 1996 must be changed so that
the federal courts can deliver justice to individual prisoners who are
victims of rape, excessive use
of force, and gross medical neglect, and compel reform in facilities where
prisoners and staff are in danger.
Equally important, the U.S. Department of Justice must step up efforts
monitor correctional facilities
and, when appropriate, bring civil or criminal actions in response to abusive
conditions. States should develop
similar capacities. Finally, every prison and jail should allow the press
do its job; invite lawmakers,
judges, and citizens to visit facilities; and work in other ways to inform
public about life behind bars.
Finding: Internal oversight and
accountability is no less crucial than monitoring from the outside. We
to strengthen the mechanisms
that exist and make more use of them.
The American Correctional Association
(ACA) has developed a solid set of standards governing all
aspects of correctional operations
and provides a process whereby facilities can become accredited by
complying with the standards.
Yet today only a tiny fraction of the nation's jails and fewer than half
America's prisons are accredited.
Every prison and jail should
be accredited, and the ACA should raise some standards—pushing
institutions to excel beyond
acceptable practice to good practice—and continue to strengthen the
Internal oversight also depends
on listening to those who are incarcerated and to the officers who work
the tiers and pods. No director,
warden,or shift commander alone can know all he or she needs to know.
In many correctional facilities,
there are inadequate, sometimes wholly meaningless, systems for
receiving and responding to
prisoners'grievances and reports by staff about misconduct, and there are
failures to safeguard from retaliation
those who speak out. Corrections administrators must encourage
prisoners and staff to voice
their concerns and then protect them.
IV. Knowledge and Data
Finding: Uniform nationwide reporting
on safety and abuse in correctional facilities is essential.
Incomplete and unreliable information
currently hampers the ability of corrections leaders, legislators,
and the public to make sound
decisions about prisons and jails.
All correctional facilities should
be required to record and report to the federal government essential
information about safety and
health inside facilities. The data we have today is incomplete and unreliable
in ways that make it impossible
to get a complete picture of safety and abuse in correctional facilities,
compare levels of safety in
systems and facilities across the country, or dependably track trends over
time within a single state or
There must be public demand for
more and better information about the health and safety of our
correctional facilities. Without
it corrections administrators cannot make the best management
decisions, legislators cannot
make the best policy decisions, and the public has no way to judge whether
those decisions protect or hurt
The federal Bureau of Justice
Statistics, the Association of State Correctional Administrators, and others
are working to standardize the
data collection process. Congress should pass legislation that builds on
those efforts by funding uniform,
nationwide reporting, and state legislatures should mandate compliance
with the national reporting
Congress also should enact legislation
that provides incentives for states to track the success of former
prisoners, using the most sophisticated
measures, and then analyze the outcomes alongside conditions
of confinement, including levels
of violence. This is a tremendously difficult task, but it is work that
policymakers should embrace
as it will contribute directly to public safety.
Finally, we cannot hold corrections
administrators accountable for the safety of prisoners and staff, and
for public safety, if we do
not provide the resources necessary to effectively manage their facilities.
criminal statute, every sentencing
policy, and every policy related to probation and parole has
consequences for the conditions
inside our prisons and jails and for the health of communities.
Legislators should be required
to confront the potential consequences of the laws they are considering
and publish impact statements
Increase oversight and accountability:
1. Demand independent oversight.
Every state should create an independent agency to monitor prisons
2. Build national non-governmental
oversight. Create a national non-governmental organization capable of
inspecting prisons and jails
at the invitation of corrections administrators.
3. Reinvigorate investigation
and enforcement. Expand the investigation and enforcement activities of
U.S. Department of Justice and
build similar capacity in the states.
4. Increase access to the courts
by reforming the PLRA. Congress should narrow the scope of the Prison
Litigation Reform Act.
5. Monitor practice not just
policy. Ensure that American Correctional Association accreditation more
accurately reflects practice
as well as policy.
6. Strengthen professional standards.
Improve and support American Correctional Association standards.
7. Develop meaningful internal
complaint systems. Corrections managers should strengthen the systems
that allow them to listen to
those who live and work in prisons and jails.
8. Encourage visits to facilities.
Create opportunities for individual citizens and organized groups, including
judges and lawmakers, to visit
9. Strive for transparency. Ensure
media access to facilities, to prisoners, and to correctional data.
c ommission on safety and abuse
in america ' s prisons
We all bear responsibility for
creating correctional institutions that are safe, humane, and productive.
so much at stake for our citizens'
health and safety, with so many people directly affected by the
conditions in our prisons and
jails, this is the moment to confront confinement in the United States.
Improve Knowledge And Data: Recommendations
1. Develop nationwide reporting.
Federal legislation should support meaningful data collection, and states
and localities should fully
commit to this project.
2. Fund a national effort to
learn how prisons and jails can make a larger contribution to public safety.
federal government and states
should invest in developing knowledge about the link between safe, well-
run correctional facilities
and public safety.
3. Require correctional impact
statements. The federal government and states should mandate that an
impact statement accompany all
proposed legislation that would change the size, demographics, or other
pertinent characteristics of
prison and jail populations.
This morning there are at least
95 articles at www.google.com (click on news tab and enter prison,
California) along the same lines
as the three below. Those people who answered my call to open up
lives last year and submit
a chronology to this Commission are not mentioned in these articles except
part of the permanent, recorded
But the results are the most
important part and this international hard-hitting exposure of inhumane
prison conditions would not
have been possible without you. The mentally ill are suffering the
worst of the
abuses and you can write about
that in your ten sentence letters to editors but overall the press coverage
does a fantastic job.
I thank the journalists who have followed with us via this newsletter for
seven years and brought out
our other stories as well.
There must be millions of dollars
in media time and space about your suffering. When we started the
UNION in 1998, only three or
four newspapers carried an occasional story. Had everyone related to a
prisoner gotten together and
raised money, we could have purchased this exposure before the election
but it's all still good.
Those prison guards who have
tortured my son, Nora's son and others, called us liars and tried to prevent
this type of news coverage from
ever being exposed to the public, the Department of Corrections who
named us by numbers (instead
of our names) when 40 of us begged for those in ad segs and SHUs to be
released are unveiled.
Without the intelligence, risk-taking
courage of the UNION people who took the time to tell the details of
their own suffering, the world
would never know about the oppression under which we live, or about the
absolute hell we've endured
for the past fifteen years, all of it for no reason. All of
this inhumanity, none of
it a solution to crime.
I thank everyone who responded
to this call to action to participate and today, I am very relieved that
have this much news coverage
about torture in America, but especially in California's prisons.
I am issuing another call to
action for us to protest in Sacramento to draw attention to and object
appropriation of $600 million
with which to build bogus mental hospitals which will be nothing but ad
and SHU units. We certainly
need such facilities but completely outside of the control of CDC.
me a date Mon. through Thurs
when you can bring ten people to back me up at a protest in
The other citizen's groups outside
of prison reform are out doing protests at the Capitol right now, so we
need at least 500 committed
before I call it as small protests do not count.
My calls to action have always
resulted in positive results, not as quickly as we would like, but if we
out every win we've had since
1998 by taking group action, the results are impressive and indisputable.
This type of press coverage
tells the voters they are wasting tax dollars and at risk of a system that
chews up lives. It is worth
far more than purchased advertising because the truth rings through in
article I've read so far.
I am very proud of you for what
you did here, and grateful to the National Prison Commission for
and for listening and for caring.
The politicians know of the suffering and dying but make no effort to
respond to individual complaints
and that is why we must continue to fight until our screams are not only
heard but acted upon.
Give me a count - you writers
and protesters who are heard today far and wide. Thank God for the
of the UNION who have carried
everyone in these battles. This is a big one that you who participated
caused to happen for the good
of every prisoner and their family in the nation.
Good luck came through discipline
and your action. If you didn't participate when I called
to you, it is
possible you are a part of the
problem instead of the solution. I'm too happy over this today to
list sitters, but reform comes
much faster when more participate.
B. Cayenne Bird
High Cost of Prisons Not Paying
Off, Report Finds
The U.S. spends more than any
other nation -- $60 billion a year -- to house inmates, but sees little
a result, a bipartisan panel
By Jenifer Warren, Times Staff
June 8, 2006
SACRAMENTO — Americans spend
$60 billion a year to imprison 2.2 million people — exceeding any other
nation — but receive a dismal
return on the investment, according to a report to be released today by
commission urging greater public
scrutiny of what goes on behind bars.
The report, "Confronting Confinement,"
says legislators have passed get-tough laws that have packed the
nation's jails and prisons to
overflowing with convicts, most of them poor and uneducated. However,
politicians have done little
to help inmates emerge as better citizens upon release.
The consequences of that failure
include financial strain on states, public health threats from parolees
with communicable diseases,
and a cycle of crime and victimization driven by a recidivism rate of more
than 60%, the report says.
"If these were public schools
or publicly traded corporations, we'd shut them down," said Alexander
Busansky, executive director
of the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons, established
by a private think tank in New
York. Rather, the commission said, Americans view prisons with
detachment or futility, growing
interested when a riot makes the news and then looking away, "hoping the
troubles inside the walls will
not affect us."
With 20 members representing
diverse perspectives, the bipartisan panel urges Americans to ignore the
costs of incarceration no longer.
Launched in early 2005 amid what panelists called "accumulating doubts
about the effectiveness and
morality of our country's approach to confinement," the commission will
deliver its findings to a Senate
subcommittee in Washington today.
Among the highlights in the 126-page
• Violence remains a serious
problem in prisons and jails, with gang assaults, rapes, riots and, in
beatings by "goon squads" of
Crowding is one cause, with most
lockups so packed that they feature a "degree of disorder and tension
almost certain to erupt in violence."
Idleness also compromises safety.
"But because lawmakers have reduced funding for programming,
prisoners today are largely
inactive and unproductive."
Family ties — another proven
factor in promoting safety and successful paroles — are strained by
prisons' location in remote
areas and by a culture that does not welcome visitors. There are even barriers
to receiving phone calls, with
the cost of a collect call from prison far higher than what is charged
free world, amounting to "a
tax on poor families."
• High rates of disease
in prison, coupled with inadequate funding for healthcare, endanger inmates,
and the public, with staph infections,
tuberculosis, hepatitis C and AIDS among the biggest threats.
In California, healthcare has
been deemed so bad — claiming one inmate life in an average week through
incompetence or neglect — that
a federal judge seized control of prison medical care from the state and
recently handed it to a receiver.
• The rising use of high-security
segregation units is counterproductive, often causing violence inside
prisons and contributing to
Although designed to isolate
the most dangerous inmates, segregation units increasingly house those
who may appear unmanageable
but who pose no danger to others or are mentally ill. Prisoners are often
released from solitary confinement
— where they experience extreme isolation from human contact for
long periods — directly to the
streets, despite the proven risk of doing so.
The commission recommends more
rigorous screening, an end to conditions of severe isolation and
proper treatment for the mentally
• Prison culture — the
"us-versus-them" mentality — endangers inmates and staff and harms the
and communities to which convicts
return. Many states are pursuing a new approach, which the
commission called more than
a "feel-good idea."
"Security and control — necessities
in the prison environment — only become a reality when dignity and
respect are inherent in the
process," said former Minnesota Warden James H. Bruton, one of scores who
provided testimony. Change will
require recruitment and retention of high-quality officers and leaders,
the field — which employs 750,000
people — is not viewed as one of "knuckle-draggers in dungeons."
• Despite increased professionalism
in corrections, resistance to outside scrutiny and oversight remains.
In California, the Office of
the Inspector General acts as a watchdog, investigating reports of abuse,
assaults and fatalities. But
the media are limited in their access to the state's 33 prisons, and legislative
efforts to overturn such restrictions
have been vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his
predecessor, Gray Davis.
The commission includes members
who run correctional systems and attorneys for inmates, as well as
lawmakers and others from the
criminal justice field. The panel spent a year exploring problems — the
first comprehensive, national
effort of its kind in three decades.
Its co-chairmen are former U.S.
3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge John J. Gibbons and former U.S.
Atty. Gen. Nicholas deB. Katzenbach.
State Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los
Angeles) also served on the panel, which was staffed and funded through
the Vera Institute of Justice.
All 20 members supported the
report's findings, concluding that "we should be astonished by the size
the prisoner population, troubled
by the disproportionate incarceration of African Americans and Latinos,
and saddened by the waste of
The report can be found at http://www.prisoncommission.org
respond to the above article
Jun. 08, 2006
Study: Prison abuse, neglect
not unique to state
By Don Thompson
SACRAMENTO - Abuse and neglect
in California prisons is so bad that it has brought condemnation from
national experts and forced
a federal judge to seize control of inmate health care.
Now a federal commission says
in a 126-page report made available in advance to the Associated Press
that similar problems exist
in many prisons and jails across the nation.
California has become known as
a national leader in areas such as environmental protection and energy
efficiency. In this case, it's
leading by bad example, said state Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, a
member of the national Commission
on Safety and Abuse In America's Prisons.
The first national prison commission
in three decades is presenting its findings and recommendations
today to the U.S. Senate Judiciary
subcommittee on corrections and rehabilitation in Washington, D.C.
Also today, federal judges from
Sacramento and San Francisco will hold an unusual hearing in the state
capital to consider expanding
federal control of inmates' medical treatment to cover mental health care.
The review stems from an ongoing
dispute between a non-profit inmate rights group that filed class-action
lawsuits against state officials
over how the prison system should operate. The suit was settled shortly
after it was filed in 2001,
but the two sides have been sparring since over implementing the details.
Problems that have made headlines
in California echo in other lockups for 2.2 million inmates nationwide,
the commission said in its report.
• Medical care so poor that inmates
often die of neglect.
• A ``code of silence'' that
protects wrongdoers while punishing whistle-blowers.
• Crowding and underfunding
that leaves inmates with living space the size of a twin bed.
• An emphasis on punishment,
including mentally damaging periods of isolation, instead of on programs
that could help convicts prepare
for a return to society.
``If you want to know anything
that's wrong with prisons, come to California,'' said Romero, the Senate
majority leader who has held
many hearings into prison problems. ``How not to run a prison -- that's
California has been about for
Elaine Jennings, representative
for the newly renamed California Department of Corrections and
Rehabilitation, said the department
is making progress but the national report shows the challenges it
The adult and juvenile prison
systems were combined nearly a year ago to give top corrections
administrators more control
over individual prisons and allow better coordination. Jennings said there
better security, separation
of inmates, and employee discipline than before.
New interim Corrections Secretary
James Tilton promises to restore education and vocational programs
that failed under his two predecessors.
The commission's findings that
more prison rehabilitation was needed found an unusual ally in Chuck
Alexander, executive vice president
of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.
``We're going to have `rehabilitation'
stenciled on our badges, but that's as far as it got. The educational
and vocational programs have
been virtually shut down,'' Alexander said.
Such programs are needed to keep
ex-convicts from quickly returning to prison, he said.
Far from locking society's problems
safely behind bars, poor treatment virtually guarantees that most
inmates will eventually get
out and cause more harm, the national commission said.
``It's based on a false premise
that you lock people away and they somehow get rehabilitated. And they
really don't get rehabilitated
at all,'' Romero said. ``Seven of 10 parolees will come back, most after
committing new crimes.''
respond to this one firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. prisons called risk to lives
Report lists overcrowding, few
constructive activities as conditions that cause inmate violence
By Greg Garland
Originally published June 8,
Overcrowding, cruel conditions
and a lack of constructive activities for inmates fuel violence in America's
prisons and threaten public
safety because most inmates return to their communities ill-prepared for
life, according to a report
to be presented to Congress today.
"Few conditions compromise safety
more than idleness," says the report by the Commission on Safety
and Abuse in America's Prisons,
a nonpartisan group that has studied conditions inside the nation's
correctional facilities for
the past year. "But because lawmakers have reduced funding for programming,
prisoners today are largely
inactive and unproductive. Highly structured programs are proven to reduce
misconduct in correctional facilities
and also to lower recidivism rates after release."
The report highlights issues
that have emerged in Maryland as state officials struggle to control prison
violence that records show has
turned increasingly deadly in recent years.
"It sort of validates what we've
been saying," said Frank C. Sizer Jr., the state's prison chief. "You can't
continue to lock people up and
not do anything with them and put them back into society with no tools
be able to cope."
Some correctional officers have
been critical of Sizer and his boss, Public Safety and Correctional
Services Secretary Mary Ann
Saar, for focusing what they say is too much of their attention on inmate
rehabilitation. They say it
has come at the expense of safety and security of prison staff.
"There is a balance between security
and treatment," Sizer said. "A good treatment program only serves
to improve safety and security."
The report being released today
is the product of a yearlong study by a 20-member commission that held
hearings around the country
and was staffed by the New York-based Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit
group that researches criminal
justice issues. The commission was co-chaired by former U.S. Attorney
General Nicholas de B. Katzenbach
and John J. Gibbons, former chief judge of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of
The report says there is far
too much violence in America's prisons and cites "other serious problems
that put lives at risk and cause
The problems include "too many
facilities that are crowded to the breaking point, too little medical and
mental health care, unnecessary
uses of solitary confinement and other forms of segregation, a
desperate need for the kinds
of productive activities that discourage violence and make rehabilitation
possible, and a culture in many
prisons and jails that pits staff against prisoners and management against
Among other things, the commission
recommended that policymakers eliminate crowded conditions at
prisons and jails, invest in
programs proven to reduce violence and change behavior in the long term
substantially reduce the use
of physical force in dealing with the inmate population.
"The majority of prisons and
many jails hold more people than they can deal with safely and effectively,
creating a degree of disorder
and tension almost certain to erupt into violence," the report says.
The country spends about $60
billion a year on corrections, said Alexander Busansky of the Vera Institute.
He said 2.2 million people are
in prison or jail. Maryland operates 27 jails and prisons that house about
27,000 inmates at any given
time, according to state corrections officials.
Maryland prisons and jails, like
many others around the country, have long suffered from overcrowding,
state officials say.
The problems are particularly
severe at two state-run facilities in Baltimore, the Central Booking and
Intake Facility and the Baltimore
City Detention Center. Both have a history of violent incidents.
The report says a variety of
factors fuel violence.
Besides overcrowding, unnecessary
or excessive use of force can provoke broader violence, the report
says. And the increasing use
of high-security segregation at prisons "is counterproductive, often causing
violence inside facilities and
contributing to recidivism after release."
An inmate placed in segregation
is kept locked in an isolation cell for 23 hours a day, sometimes for
months at a time and often with
little human contact, the report notes.
The commission also called for
a change in federal rules to shift health care costs for eligible prison
inmates to Medicaid and Medicare
programs, which would ease some of the burden on the states.
Maryland Deputy Secretary of
Public Safety and Correctional Services Mary L. Livers, who testified before
the commission, said the report
should lead to positive discussion about changes that are badly needed
the field of corrections.
She said it is "vitally important
to staff safety and to inmate safety" for inmates to be involved in productive
activities while they are incarcerated.
Livers said administrators have
been trying to move Maryland's correctional system more in that
direction, calling it "a major
culture shift" from the way business has been done in the past.
To view the full report, go to
B. Cayenne Bird
United for No Injustice, Oppression
P.O. Box 340371
Sacramento, Ca. 95834