Privatizing prisons to exploit inmates for profit is slavery and must be abolished

November 30, 2013

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Good morning:

Crazy 1946 inspired me to write this article with his comment yesterday in response to Crane’s post, The Woman Who Moved During Count. He said,

I’m sitting here in utter confusion (ok, that’s not unusual, but…) and wondering why we call it a “Justice System”? Is treating a person like an animal in an effort to break their spirit considered “justice”? What possible benefit to the rest of society could come from creating a person that develops a hatred for those that enforce the rules of society because of the way they are treated after they make a mistake? I can’t help but be angered when we hear of our fellow humans being treated worse than our laws permit live stock to be treated…. and to think, we do this while calling our selves civilized…

When I took criminal law in law school, I was taught that the legitimate goals of imprisonment were punishment, rehabilitation and deterring others from committing crimes. The emphasis was on locking up violent offenders for long periods of time. Nonviolent offenders usually were not sentenced to prison unless they had prior convictions. Therefore, the majority of prison inmates had been convicted of violent crimes.

The idea to rehabilitate prisoners by working through their addiction problems, teaching them skills to make an honest living, and helping them reintegrate into the community after serving their sentences was a wonderful idea. Getting their addictions under control and setting them up with a job that paid a living wage, a place to stay, and a support group led by a competent counselor was a great way to prepare them to support themselves and accomplish something positive in their lives. Rehabilitation was based on the Golden Rule. Treat a person with respect and they are more likely to respect themselves and treat others with respect. Train and set them up with a skilled job that paid a living wage and a support group to help each other through rough spots seemed as perfect a solution as is humanly possible to turn convicted felons into well adjusted and productive citizens.

Unfortunately, the programs, training, jobs paying a living wage, places to stay and community support required lots of money to have any chance of success and the federal government was more interested in using the War on Drugs to lock people up, specifically black males, for most of their potentially productive years. Rehabilitation was mocked and dismissed as a costly and impractical liberal solution to solving crime. Convicted offenders were demonized and legislatures cranked out statutes increasing sentences. Programs in the prisons were eliminated and inmates were released into their respective communities after serving their sentences without any assistance. The situation they faced was literally sink or swim. No surprise then that recidivism rates increased as institutionalized prisoners could not survive in a hostile environment without job opportunities and no way to support themselves financially without committing crimes.

It doesn’t take a weather man to tell which way the wind blows.

The dire situation got much worse when corporate America realized there was a lot of money to be made reinstating slavery by replacing state run prisons and operating them on a for-profit basis exploiting the prisoners as slave labor. Aided and abetted by politicians eager to reduce, if not eliminate federal and state governments by privatizing their activities and selling off their assets to reduce debt, corporations such as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) began contracting with various states to house their prison inmates. Amazingly, the corporations insisted on and many states agreed to so-called lock-up quotas requiring states to pay penalties if they failed to send enough people to prison to keep the prisons full.

We need to get our priorities straight. The grotesque return to the exploitation economy that created and sustained the antebellum South is extremely alarming. Greed is not good. Greed is evil. Slavery by any other name is still slavery. Exploiting human beings for any reason is morally and ethically unacceptable. If you think about it, people who profit from exploiting others actually represent a greater threat to humanity than all of the serial killers put together. Two words: Human trafficking.

Exploiting prison inmates for slave labor is not far behind.

Corruption in the form of financial kickbacks to judges for keeping prisons full of inmates, whether they deserve to be in prison or not, has already happened.

A couple of years ago, for example, two juvenile court judges in Pennsylvania were convicted of accepting kickbacks from the developer of a privately owned juvenile detention center for sentencing over 3,000 children to draconian prison terms.

Kids for Cash is a documentary about the case produced by Robert May. It recently premiered at the DOC NYC Festival and will be released early next year. Here’s Robert May answering questions after the premiere.

Fred says, “Check it out.”

The Woman Who Moved During Count

November 29, 2013

by Crane-Station for Frog Gravy.

Frog Gravy depicts daily life during incarceration in Kentucky in 2008 and 2009, in jails and in prison, and is reconstructed from my notes.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

KCIW PeWee (pronounced Pee Wee) Valley Women’s Penitentiary near Louisville, KY, a few days before Thanksgiving, 2008

We are meticulously counted, every four hours or so. For the count, which we refer to as “count,” or “count time,” we must be in our room, at our bedside, not moving and not talking.

During one of the evening count times an officer strolls the floor, looking into each room, pointing to each inmate, and counting to herself. A pregnant inmate, who has been having contractions for some time now, informs the officer that she is in labor. She is housed in the room across the hall from me. She is very restless and she cannot sit still during this count.

The officer accuses her of faking labor and playing a game to mess up the count. The woman talks back to the officer, saying, “I know when I am in fucking labor!”

The officer escorts the woman away. A little while later, two officers come to the pregnant woman’s room and pack all of her belongings into boxes. The rest of us, who witnessed the incident during count time, assume that she went to the hospital to have the baby. We were wrong. The officers had handcuffed the woman and taken her to cell block: the hole.

There is actually a jail within the confines of the prison, and it is a building that we call “cell block.” It is a brick building with isolation cells that are nearly identical to “hole” cells in the jails. The holes are tiny cement cells. “Isolation” cells in the jails sometimes have television, whereas the “hole” cells do not.

You may or may not have a mat. I think you do get a mat here at PeWee, but I am not sure because I have never been in the hole at PeWee. One blanket is issued at 11 PM and then taken away at 4 AM. The cells are ice cold. When I was in the hole in McCracken, I had arthritis so bad from the cold that I wrapped my legs in toilet paper strips. I had no socks or shoes.

The hole is perhaps best known for the 24/7 fluorescent lighting, that is disorienting as well as blinding. Also, holes are punishment cells known for sensory deprivation and time distortion. There is absolutely nothing to do but count cement blocks or look at the hairs in the floor drain, if you can see them; they do not allow you to have glasses in the hole.

Food is delivered through a slot in the steel door. This is the only way to know the approximate time. There is no view to the outside. There is a tiny window to the hallway, but the hallway side of the window is covered with a hinged steel flap that can be opened only if an officer decides to open the flap and peer into the cell.

There is no way to wash your hands in the hole. The push-button spout points upward and issues a tiny upward stream for a second or two, but the stream is certainly not continuous. After a bowel movement, therefore, you must simply hope for the best, because if you plan to eat, well…there is no bar of soap, and there are no paper towels. There are no real towels either. No washrags, no sheets, and certainly no pillow.

When inmates die in cell block nobody really cares because they were just inmates. The pregnant woman in labor was handcuffed and walked to cell block. Cell block is about a one-quarter mile walk from Ridgeview Dormitory. I hear the rest of the pregnant woman’s story from another inmate, who was there when she arrived. The woman telling the rest of the story spent 30 days in cell block for having cigarettes.

The woman in labor cried and pounded on the door, but staff ignored her, so other inmates tried to talk to the woman, because there was nothing else that they could do. The inmates talking to the woman were also mothers, for the most part. The nursing staff showed up briefly and told the woman in labor that until her water broke there was nothing they could do, because she was not really in labor, unless her water broke. The pregnant woman told the nursing staff that her water had broken.

They left her.

According to the woman telling the story as she observed it, although cell block staff is supposed to perform half-hourly checks on cell block inmates, they only checked on the woman in labor twice.

At about 3 AM, the pregnant woman exclaimed, “Oh my God!” Other inmates heard “like a pop, and then we heard a baby cry.”

It was a boy.

According to inmate witnesses in adjacent cells, the mother was “passed out, with the baby attached.” The staff refused to open the cell door until an ambulance arrived.When the ambulance arrived, the mother was handcuffed.

Had the baby not cried, it is likely that no one would have opened the flap to check on him or his mother.

Author’s end note: The woman and her baby survived. The baby was subsequently cared for by Amish women, through a program called The Galilean Home, where Amish women care for babies born into captivity, until the mother’s release.

The mother returned to prison. The day staff in cell block apparently refused to take her back, so she returned to population. The woman was serving time for non-violent drug offenses.

Thanksgiving Open Thread

November 28, 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Open thread today.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Fred and Crane

What’s on your mind today?

White supremacist finds out he’s 14% black

November 27, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Good evening:

Found a delightful story on the Grio that I’m going to share with you this evening.

A white supremacist who was attempting to create a neo-Nazi town in North Dakota recently underwent a DNA test on a talk show, which revealed that he is not 100-percent white.

He’s 14-percent Sub-Saharan African.

Check out his reaction when he gets the news.

Stupid jerk should not have been surprised because everyone alive today, no matter their color, descended from homo sapiens sapiens that emerged in southern Africa approximately 200,000 years ago.

This was our 775th post.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Senate Bill 1731 Aims to End Endangered Species Protection

November 27, 2013

by Crane-Station
cross-posted at Firedoglake/MyFDL

Bald Eagle
Image by David Lewis on flickr

Our beloved Decorah Eagles might want to consider seeking expatriate asylum status outside of the US. Nearly 40 years after President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law, Tea Party senators led by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced S 1731 last week, seeking to dismantle existing environmental conservation law. If signed into law, the proposed bill will move endangered species protection to the states on an opt-out basis, whether or not the states want this, and will require ‘delisting’ of all species, endangered or not, every five years.

The goal is to kill, drill, and pave while padding moneyed interest pockets by removing any environmental protections whatsoever, and then lie to the public every five years by publishing a new fake ‘delisted’ list, to give the appearance that things are going well. In a press release titled, Tea Party Bill Would Eviscerate Endangered Species Act, Center for Biological Diversity’s Brett Hartl explains,

The bill would eliminate all protections for the critical habitat of endangered species and allow state governments to effectively veto any conservation measures designed to protect an imperiled species within their respective state. Meanwhile federal wildlife agencies would need to complete onerous accounting reports to estimate the costs of protecting endangered species rather than completing tangible, on-the-ground conservation activities to protect species and the places they live.

“This bill would devastate species protections and open the door to log, mine and pave some of the last places on Earth where these animals survive,” Hartl said. “It’s a boon for profiteers like the Koch Brothers but will rob every American who values wildlife and wild places.”

In an article for EcoWatch titled, Tea Party Bill Would Gut Endangered Species Act, Center for Biological Diversity further explains:

In its 40-year history, the Endangered Species Act has been more than 99 percent successful at preventing extinction for wildlife under its protection and has put hundreds of plants and animals on the path to recovery, including bald eagles, grizzly bears, whales and sea turtles.

Despite this successful track record, the bill’s most extreme provision would require that every five years all protected species be removed from the list of threatened and endangered species, eliminating all legal protections. No matter how close to extinction they might be, every listed species would then have to wait until Congress passed a joint resolution renewing their protections under the act for another five years. Five years later, this process would start over again, eliminating all protections until Congress passed another joint resolution.

The Tea Party is legendary for its underhandedness in environmental issues. For example, to speed up oil and gas drilling, the House has approved a bill that would, among other things, force environmental protesters to pay a $5000 fee to get a permit, to protest drilling. Russia Today explains further in its article titled, US House approves $5,000 fee for official drilling protests, less federal authority over fracking:

In addition, the bill would allow for automatic approval of onshore drilling permits should the US Department of Interior (DOI) take over 60 days to act on an application. DOI would also be required to begin commercial leasing for development of oil shale – not to be confused with “shale oil” – which is rock that must be heated to about 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit to yield crude oil.

The controversial practice has been largely nonexistent in the US since the days of President Herbert Hoover, who prohibited leasing federal lands for oil shale, “the dirtiest fuel on the planet,” according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. The oil shale process “takes a large amount of energy and money, as well as 3-5 barrels of water per barrel of oil produced, a dangerous issue in the parched West,” according to Jessica Goad of the Center for American Progress’ Public Lands Project.

Forty years ago, our nation’s living symbol, the American Bald Eagle, was listed as endangered, due to overuse of the pesticide DDT, illegal shooting and habitat destruction . It was delisted in 2007, as a direct result of conservation efforts. These efforts are now being challenged, by a group of people who, while claiming not to like ‘big government,’ actually hold positions in the same ‘big government’ they claim to hate. Not only do they want big government, they favor a police state version of it, that charges people a fee to exercise a first amendment right to free speech, even while seizing that right themselves, to lie freely about the status of any given class of wildlife, every five years. That is not a democracy.

On endangered species, from The Guardian:

After Life: a photographic perspective on endangered species

Related (video):

Endangered Species Act 101

Bill S 1731 text:

113th CONGRESS 1st Session S. 1731 IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES November 19, 2013

Behold! George Zimmerman’s Arse . . . nal

November 27, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Good morning:

Behold! George Zimmerman’s arsenal:

One KelTec 12-gauge shotgun, a pump-action high-tech, $1,200 self-defense weapon with more than double the capacity of conventional shotguns;

One AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle;

One .380-caliber handgun;

One 9 mm handgun;

One Glock 19 handgun; and

More than 100 rounds of ammunition.

The greatest quantity — 59 rounds — was for the AR-15 assault rifle.

(Inventory of defendant’s weapons seized by police pursuant to a search warrant)

Information provided courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel.

BTW, the discovery of the shotgun corroborates Samantha Scheibe’s description of the weapon that she said he pointed in her face.

New information in Zimmerman affidavit for search warrant

November 26, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Good morning:

The Orlando Sentinel has the latest report on George Zimmerman.

According to the search warrant, Zimmerman talked to deputies after he was taken into custody. He told them that he and Scheibe had lived together since Aug. 23, that she was pregnant with his child and that they had agreed earlier that day to separate.

He said his plan was to move to Texas, according to the warrant.

He told deputies that as he was packing, Scheibe began to throw his belongings around the house, including two of his guns, the shotgun and one of the handguns.

In a recorded phone call with a dispatcher, he said he had not pointed a gun at her. He told deputies in his face-to-face interview that he had not touched or pushed her, according to the warrant.

He also told deputies that he had recorded the argument on his cell phone. Deputies seized two, a black Apple iPhone and a Blackberry.

But his claim of having recorded what happened does not mesh with paperwork filed by his lawyer last week. In it, Zimmerman asked for the return of both of those phones, alleging they had no evidence related to the case.

Deputies got the warrant, suspecting that Zimmerman had locked away the shotgun after the confrontation but before deputies unlocked the door and pushed their way inside.

Deputies found the guns in a black soft-sided case secured with a combination lock, according to the warrant.

This information would have been listed in the affidavit for the search warrant.

When Samantha Scheibe denies that she was pregnant and denies that she ever told him she was pregnant, I expect we will hear the defense accuse her of lying and having an abortion. This will be added to accusing her of screwing him literally and figuratively for a BIG payday selling her story.

I’m tired and disgusted with this little man’s games.

If Florida can’t lock him up, maybe Texas will.

Superintendent of Steubenville schools indicted for obstructing justice in rape case

November 25, 2013

Monday, November 25, 2013

Good afternoon:

BIG NEWS out of Ohio.

The New York Times is reporting:

Michael McVey, the superintendent of Steubenville City Schools in Ohio, was indicted by a grand jury on felony counts of obstructing justice and tampering with evidence. Three other adults, including an elementary school principal, were indicted on lesser charges.

“While this started out being about the kids, it is also just as much about the parents, about the grown-ups, about the adults,” said Mike DeWine, Ohio’s attorney general, in announcing the charges. “How do you hold kids accountable if you don’t hold the adults accountable?”

Check it out.

Guess who is representing George Zimmerman? UPDATE BELOW

November 25, 2013

Monday, November 25, 2013

Good morning:

Got a quick post this morning from Think Progress about the curious case of George Zimmerman’s public defender, Jeff Dowdy.

Check it out!

UPDATE: Jayne Weintraub is now representing the defendant.

Texas court bars inmate’s claim that he was sentenced to death because he is black

November 24, 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Good morning:

By a vote of 6-3, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has rejected Duane Bucks’s request to vacate his death sentence and remand his case to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing. Mr. Buck was sentenced to death by a Harris County jury for the 1995 murder of his former girlfriend, Debra Gardner, and her friend, Kenneth Butler. He has admitted that he shot them to death in a jealous rage and does not challenge the conviction.

Mr. Buck challenges the death sentence because of the testimony of the prosecution’s controversial expert witness, Walter Quijano, regarding future dangerousness, a factor that the jury was instructed to consider in determining whether to sentence him to death.

Matthew Fleisher has the story:

Asked during his testimony if “the race factor, black,” increased Buck’s risk of re-offending, Quijano answered, “Yes.” He went on to testify that being either African-American or Latino “increases the future dangerousness for various complicated reasons.”


What Quijano didn’t mention was that “the race factor, black,” also greatly increases one’s likelihood of being executed in Texas, where blacks are about three times more likely to get death penalty sentences for committing the same crimes as white people, according to University of Maryland professor Ray Paternoster.

Harris County, Texas, in which Houston is located, leads the state in executions with 100.

Because Mr. Buck asserted his claim in his second application for a writ of habeas corpus in violation of the rule that limits inmates to one application, the six-judge majority dismissed his appeal without considering the merits of his argument.

Judge Alcala, joined by judges Price and Johnson wrote a stinging 30-page dissent in which he said,

I respectfully dissent from the Court’s dismissal of applicant’s second subsequent application for a writ of habeas corpus. The record in this case reveals a chronicle of inadequate representation at every stage of the proceedings, the integrity of which is further called into question by the admission of racist and inflammatory testimony from an expert witness at the punishment phase. Applicant’s initial habeas counsel was so incompetent as to assert not even one arguably legitimate claim in the initial 11.071 application, which was summarily denied by this Court for raising only record-based or frivolous claims. As a result of prior habeas counsel’s errors and the combined force of state and federal procedural-default laws, no Court has ever considered the merits of applicant’s legitimate claims for post-conviction relief. This cannot be what the Legislature intended when it enacted Article 11.071 to provide capital habeas litigants “one full and fair opportunity to present all [] claims in a single, comprehensive post-conviction writ of habeas corpus[.]” See Ex parte Graves, 70 S.W.3d 103, 117 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002).

Since expert witnesses who predict that an inmate will be a danger to others, if released, are wrong 95% of the time, I would ban consideration of future dangerousness in all sentencings.

Whores like Quijano should be in prison instead of masquerading as experts in predicting future dangerousness.

The author of the article, Matthew Fleischer, was awarded a Fund for Investigative Journalism grant for his series “Dangerous Jails.”

If you believe Duane Buck should get a new sentencing, please sign this petition that was started by Linda Geffin, a former prosecutor who tried his case.

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