Tag Archives: prison

Why are more Americans in jail for marijuana use than violent crime?


More people in the United States are now in jail for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined, a new study finds….On any given day in the US, at least 137,000 Americans are in prison on drug possession, not sales, charges, says a new report that finds that the “tough on drugs” policies may be disproportionately affecting low-income, black Americans.

By Ellen Powell, Staff October 12, 2016

More people in the United States are now in jail for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined, a new study finds….

The report, released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, points out that violent crime arrests in the US have dropped 36 percent in the past two decades. Meanwhile, arrests for drug possession – including marijuana and other illicit drugs – are up 13 percent. Those arrests tend to be concentrated in neighborhoods with high crime rates, where police officers are on the lookout for any offense. As a result, lower-income, black Americans are most likely to be arrested for possessing even trace amounts of illicit drugs. (Black Americans are 2.5 times as likely to be arrested on drug-related charges, according to federal data, even though they use drugs at the same rate as white Americans.) Those who can’t afford to post bail spend substantial amounts of time in jail, even before their case goes to trial.

Tougher sentencing was intended to get chronic repeat offenders off the street, reduce drug use, and protect public health. But the “tough on drugs” policy prevalent since the 1980s isn’t working, the report argues. Criminalizing drug possession is derailing individuals’ lives and hurting the families who depend on them, while doing little to prevent drug use and abuse.

“While families, friends, and neighbors understandably want government to take action to prevent the potential harm caused by drug use, criminalization is not the answer,” Tess Borden, the study’s author, said in a Human Rights Watch press release. “Locking people up for using drugs causes tremendous harm, while doing nothing to help those who need and want treatment.”

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The report comes at a time when the Obama administration and a bipartisan effort in Congress has already taken steps at judicial reform. For example, the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act erased a 5-year-minimum sentence for simple crack possession. As The Christian Science Monitor reported, “much of the Obama administration’s work has been done courthouse by courthouse. For one, the Department of Justice has guided prosecutors to curb the use of mandatory minimums for drug crimes. But the president has also made broader strokes.” 

Since 2014, the Obama administration expanded the criteria for clemency-seekers, leading to hundreds of who were given long-term sentences for drug charges to be released. 

But the ALCU report says that in some states, such as Texas, a “habitual offender” law means prosecutors still can push for longer sentences, including life sentences, for those with two prior convictions. The actual amount of the drug that individuals possess doesn’t matter.

And what most concerns many low-income Americans is the impact on families. While the accused are in jail, even before trial, they’re not earning a wage, meaning that in some homes the water and lights could be cut off. A woman in Louisiana with a prison record told the rights groups that because of her probation, her family could not get food stamps for a year. That means her children will be eating whatever she can find in the dumpster, she explained. It can also be hard for those arrested to find a job when they get out. 

“When you’re a low-income person of color using drugs, you’re criminalized…. When we’re locked up, we’re not only locked in but also locked out. Locked out of housing…. Locked out of employment and other services,” said one New York City man who had been repeatedly arrested for drug charges over the past 30 years.

Criminalizing drugs, the report says, can actually increase the risks associated with drug use. Driving traffic underground “discourages access to emergency medicine, overdose prevention services, and risk-reducing practices such as syringe exchanges.”

The report calls for an increase in rehabilitation programs and a move to treat drug use as a public health issue, rather than lumping it in with violent crime. That’s an approach the Obama administration is on-board with, Mario Moreno, spokesman for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, suggested. “We cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem,” he told CBS.

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Jails in Kentucky are overflowing with inmates, but you may not realize many of the inmates are there for profit


 

    • Posted: Feb 09, 2015 3:12 PM CST Updated: Feb 09, 2015 6:00 PM CST

By Emily Mieure

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  The Kentucky Department of Corrections started sending state inmates to local jails in the early 1980s — the Bullitt County Jail is just one of them.

Metro corrections is the largest jail in Kentucky with 1,793 beds.

Metro corrections is the largest jail in Kentucky with 1,793 beds.

  Metro Corrections doesn’t house state inmates because they don’t even have enough room for local inmates.

  Louisville Metro Corrections Director Mark Bolton says if he had the room, he would gladly house state inmates like other counties.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Most local jails in Kentucky are overflowing with inmates, but you may not realize many of the inmates are there for profit.

The Kentucky prison population is big and many prisoners are passed around the commonwealth. There are 12 prisons operated by the Kentucky Department of Corrections across the state and many of them are at capacity — if not above it.

When asked what could be improved with regards to the prison population, Nelson County Jailer Dorcas Figg said flat out: "Well, if we had more beds."

Figg has been working with jails for over 40 years and she said she doesn’t foresee the overcrowding problem changing.

"Because it’s not a money making business," she said.

So instead of being in state facilities, about a third of the commonwealth’s 12,000 prisoners are sleeping in county jails.

Some wonder if that’s dangerous, but local jailers insist it’s a good thing.

"It helps the counties out a whole lot," Figg said.

She says the Kentucky Department of Corrections started sending state inmates to local jails in the early 1980s. Since then, the conditions at county facilities have improved.

"Sometimes they couldn’t even hardly survive back then," said Figg. "Then once the state took it over, that was a great thing because you had standards you had to meet. Back then, you didn’t have standards," she added.

Figg’s 102-bed jail is mostly full of local inmates, but she says housing state inmates helps the budget because The Kentucky Department of Corrections pays county jails at least $31.34 per state prisoner per day. A small percentage of that goes into a jail fund.

Sometimes the state will send a prisoner to a certain county for convenience.

"I get letters from state inmates wanting to come here to make them closer to home," Figg explained. "If I had the beds, I would take any state I could because that’s beds that are being paid for — but we don’t have the beds."

Not having enough beds is a problem across the commonwealth, and Bullitt County Jailer Martha Knox says it’s a constant balancing act.

"It’s very frustrating," Knox said.

While her 304-bed jail is usually at or above capacity, she has an entire wing dedicated to only housing state prisoners. Trying to keep the right amount of local and state inmates is a daily struggle, but she says making room for the state prisoners is worth the money.

"It doesn’t pay everything but it is a big incentive," said Knox.

That money adds up because a state prisoner can stay in a local jail for up to five years.

While this seems to work well in most counties, none of it applies to Jefferson County.

Metro Corrections doesn’t house state inmates because they don’t even have enough room for local inmates.

"We take whoever the police brings us," Metro Corrections Director Mark Bolton said. "We’re 24/7, 365. Police bring them, we’re going to take them."

"As far as I know, we’ve never been a class C or D facility and by that I mean we don’t house state inmates here in Jefferson County," Bolton explained. "We just don’t have the capacity to do it."

Metro corrections is the largest jail in Kentucky with 1,793 beds. Last year, it housed an average of 1,850 inmates — so where do the extras go?

"They end up going on the floor in a temporary bed and then we get them in a bed in the order they’re brought to us when a bed is freed up," Bolton said.

He says over the years, they’ve found ways to tackle the overcrowding issue.

"We have seen the population trend down in 2014 to about a ten-year low so that’s fairly significant progress I think," said Bolton.

He gives partial credit to House Bill 463, which reduced penalties for some drug crimes. But he said Jefferson County’s Home Incarceration Program has also contributed to the decline in the population. At any given time, there are about 700 inmates on home incarceration — 600 of them are monitored through GPS.

"I think that is another element of technology that we’ve brought to the local arena here," Bolton noted. "I think the judges and prosecutors appreciate that that technology is now here and I think they’re making very prudent decisions with respect to public safety."

While some think it’s dangerous to keep certain inmates on home incarceration, Bolton says it’s a program he stands behind.

"We need to protect the public and lock people up we’re afraid of, not people that we’re mad at."

Bolton says if he had the room, he would gladly house state inmates like other counties.

"Corrections does an incredible job moving people throughout the state based upon beds that are free in other jurisdictions," he said.

Bolton said the population at Metro Corrections peaked near 1,650 in December, which he said he hadn’t seen in over six years.

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Jerry Duval, Medical Marijuana Patient, Lacks Adequate Health Care In Prison


 

The Michigan medical marijuana patient whose imprisonment could ultimately cost federal taxpayers more than $1.2 million is being denied adequate health care while he serves his sentence, his wife claims.

Jerry Duval surrendered to federal authorities in June to serve out a 10-year sentence for marijuana distribution at the Federal Medical Center Devens prison in Massachusetts. His wife, Tracey, said in an interview with The Huffington Post that he has suffered two hemorrhages in his eye since then. After the first one several months ago, Duval never received the outside medical care he needed, she alleged. And a second hemorrhage on Wednesday left him almost without sight in his right eye, his wife claimed.

"It’s actually the worst one that he’s ever had," said Tracey, who said she spoke to Duval over the phone after his eye worsened on Wednesday. "If this situation doesn’t get taken care of, he could lose his eye."

Tracey and the advocacy group Americans for Safe Access are urging the Federal Bureau of Prisons to allow Duval to visit an outside doctor to treat his glaucoma and retinal problems. They previously sought Duval’s compassionate release on the grounds that his numerous transplants and other medical problems would be better treated in a general population hospital.

Chris Burke, a Bureau of Prisons spokesman, told HuffPost over email that the agency does not comment on individual prisoners’ medical conditions.

"I can tell you that we provide appropriate and necessary medical care to inmates in our custody," he said.

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Imprisoned Gay Man Suing Kentucky Jail After Nose Bitten Off By Inmate


 

 

An incarcerated gay man in Kentucky’s Warren County Regional Jail endured days of harassment from fellow prisoners before one of them bit off part of his nose.

Now with the help of the Kentucky Equality Federation, Brandon Milam is suing the jail, its top official, the county and his assailant, Timothy Schwartz for assault, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

“Other inmates made it well known that they did not approve that I was gay,” Milam said. According to his suit, Milam endured a week of “anti-homosexual slurs, insults and remarks” including death threats, from Schwartz and other inmates. On July 2, a friendly game of hearts turned bloody after Schwartz took the term “sore loser” to a whole other level.

“I remember hearing my nose getting ripped off my face and seeing him spit it on the floor. They all 4 started in yelling ‘Kill the Faggot’ and ‘Beat that lil’ Ho Fag.’ I was also called queer several times.”

Another inmate found the severed piece of nose, but an attempt to reattach it at Vanderbilt Hospital proved unsuccessful. Milam now faces four reconstructive surgeries, the first of which costs an estimated $26,000.

“I just want my medical bills paid for,” Milam told Bowling Green Daily News. “I want to get all of this behind me.”

Milam was in jail following a probation violation for a shoplifting charge but was put under house arrest after his attack. The suit alleges the jail and jailer Jackie Strode acted with deliberate indifference in placing Milam, whom they knew was gay, in a cell with 14 other men.

“While being homosexual in and of itself does not necessarily warrant special treatment while incarcerated, recklessly ignoring this fact and placing a vulnerable inmate with others who are likely to commit a violent act such as this meets the legal standard and opens the facility, on-duty guards, and jailer to civil action,” said KEF’s Vice President of Legal, Jillian Hall.

“Steps must be taken to protect LGBTI inmates from violence, especially when they are already being called derogatory names such as queer and faggot,” Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer said in a statement. “This case reaches beyond what happened to Mr. Milam; since anyone can swear a warrant for your arrest this could happen to any LGBTI community member or any other minority group, regardless of substantial evidence or even guilt.”

Full story here: http://www.queerty.com/imprisoned-gay-man-suing-kentucky-jail-after-nose-bitten-off-by-inmate-20121017/#ixzz29ZTIwadG

By: Lester Brathwaite
On: Oct 17, 2012
Tagged: brandon milam, jail, Kentucky, kentucky equality federation, lgbt prisoners

For ex-offenders, finding a job remains the biggest challenge to returning to society


By STEVE YODER, The Fiscal Times

March 27, 2012

For ex-offenders, finding a job remains the biggest challenge to returning to society. A 2003 study by Princeton University researcher Devah Pager in Milwaukee found that a criminal record cut someone’s chance of getting a call back from a prospective employer by nearly half.

RELATED: Meet America’s New Small-Business Owners: Ex-Cons

To avoid the prison record stigma, many offenders have chosen to branch out on their own. Here are seven who have launched successful businesses after spending time behind bars.

1. Adrienne Smalls served time from 1989 to 1991 in New York’s Westchester County Jail for hitting a policeman. From 1993 to 1998, she regularly took the bus from New York City to visit her son, who was jailed on a drug offense upstate. That provided the idea for her business – getting on the buses that took family members to visit their imprisoned loved ones to sell them what they needed: everything from Tylenol and pillows to toothpaste and soap. To start out, Smalls got $500 from her family and then, in 1998, she obtained a loan from a local development corporation that funded small businesses (she paid back the loan promptly, according to The New York Times). Today her business, Prisonhelp, is going strong, and when not outfitting upstate visitors for trips, she advises ex-cons on employment, legal and other reintegration issues. 

2. Vickie Stringer served a seven-year sentence in Texas for drug trafficking. While there, she wrote a fictionalized autobiography, Let That Be the Reason. After her manuscript was rejected by 26 publishers, she pulled together $2,500 from friends and family to self-publish the book, selling a thousand copies out of the trunk of her car in the first week. When a small publisher gave her a $50,000 advance to release the book, she launched Triple Crown Publications in 2002 to help other urban fiction writers get published. The company carries at least 96 titles and has revenues of between $2.5 and $5 million, according to manta.com.

3. Augustus Turner of Cleveland, Ohio, spent almost 10 years behind bars after being busted on drug trafficking charges. While in prison, he had a lot of time to think about his dream of creating art. After getting out, he started Masterpieces, an art studio, tattoo shop and silk-screening business on Cleveland’s west side – and it’s been going strong for more than 11 years. “What I learned from the streets is how to hustle,” Turner told The Plain-Dealer in 2010. “You can dream. You can pray. It all starts there. But you have to actively make it happen.”

4. Curtis Jackson, born in Queens New York, and orphaned at age 12, started dealing crack and spent seven months in a juvenile boot camp on gun and weapons charges. After renaming himself “50 Cent,” he began writing and performing rap songs, landing a deal with Columbia Records in 1999. Since then, he’s released five albums, appeared in multiple films, launched a line of clothing and landed a multimillion-dollar deal with Coca-Cola for his vitamin water, Formula 50.

5. Anthony DiVincenzo of Hinckley, Ohio, lost his home and his autobody business in 2005 when he was arrested after an all-night cocaine party. He served three years, but when he got out he couldn’t find a job – and not because he wasn’t qualified. “I have a lot of experience, so I was offered $50,000 a couple times from auto dealerships, but as soon as they found out I had a felony, they couldn’t walk me out the door fast enough,” he told The Plain-Dealer. So in 2008, he started another autobody shop called J.C. Auto Body LLC, before moving into a sales job at a high-end car dealership last year.

6. Dave Dahl, a former drug dealer, spent more than 15 years in prison. After his release in 2005, he experienced a turnaround, left drugs behind, and went to work in his father’s bakery. While there, he developed his own line of breads. Today, Dave’s Killer Bread, based outside Portland, Oregon, sells in health-food and grocery stores across the northwest and has revived the family business.

7. Cedric Hornbuckle served eight years in Texas for drug dealing when he was accepted into the Houston-based Prison Entrepreneurship Program. After going through PEP’s rigorous training program, in 2008 he founded a moving company, Moved by Love. “I always had the [entrepreneurial] mindset; it was just that I used it in bad ways,” he told Portfolio last year. “I knew all about profit margins and managing people; it’s just [that] what I did was illegal.”

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