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International Penal Abolitionists

Working to Prevent Human Misery

3/26/06 03:16 pm - radicalphoenix - Editorial: NY Times: Go Away: You Can't Vote

March 25, 2006

The right to vote should never be curtailed in a way that disenfranchises a whole class of people. This view is gaining traction even in the Deep South, which pioneered the shameful state laws that barred nearly four million ex-felons, parolees and probationers from voting in the last national election. It's heartening to see those laws being modified or repealed across the country. But states will need to re-educate elections officials, who are often dismally ignorant of election laws and biased against people who have been convicted of even minor crimes. As a result, many men and women who have paid their debts to society remain disenfranchised, even in states that guarantee them the right to vote.
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3/24/06 01:06 pm - cheekybrit - A new community

I've started a new community criminology_hub for others out there with interests in criminology, criminal justice, deviance, etc., whether they be academic, professional, or "other!"

3/7/06 01:54 pm - radicalphoenix - US Seeks Funds to Build Prisons in Iraq

By Sue Pleming
February 28-Tuesday

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department is winding down its $20 billion reconstruction program in Iraq and the only new rebuilding money in its latest budget request is for prisons, officials said on Tuesday.

State Department Iraq coordinator James Jeffrey told reporters he was asking Congress for $100 million for prisons but no other big building projects were in the pipeline for the department's 2006 supplemental and 2007 budget requests for Iraq, which total just over $4 billion.

"This is the one bit of construction we will be doing -- $100 million for additional bed capacity for the Iraqi legal system," he said.
Eventually, the Iraqis would take more detainees now in U.S. custody and more space was needed, Jeffrey said, adding that money would also be set aside to increase the number of prosecutors and "corrections advisers."
"We have another program to continue support, protection and hardening of facilities and such for the judges who are exposing their lives," he said.
Experts on Iraq reconstruction said it was notable that the only new rebuilding money was for prisons after the public relations disaster caused by the eruption of the scandal at Abu Ghraib prison where U.S. forces abused Iraqi inmates.
"For a country like the United States that is promoting the advancement of freedom, building jails is not necessarily your best image," said Rick Barton of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
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3/7/06 01:40 pm - radicalphoenix - NY Times Editorial: Giving Birth In Chains

March 5, 2006
Giving Birth in Chains

America regards itself as an eminently civilized country, but in many states female prisoners who give birth are required to be held in shackles during labor. Besides being grotesquely inhumane, this appalling practice is medically dangerous.

A report by Amnesty International U.S.A. finds that nearly half the state corrections departments — and the Federal Bureau of Prisons — have policies that expressly permit this practice. Prison officials justify the policy by saying that the women are a flight risk, even though many of them are nonviolent offenders who would present little risk, even if they were not doubled over with labor pains or strapped down on a delivery table.

It should not take a genius to see that chaining a woman's feet together or handcuffing her arm and leg to the side of a bed is not a smart thing to do during labor or childbirth. Yet doctors and nurses must sometimes fight with reluctant corrections officers if they want their pregnant patients unchained and effectively treated. Court papers in a lawsuit filed in Arkansas claim that because of resistance by the corrections guard, a mother-to-be remained shackled until she had suffered nerve damage and a permanent back injury.

The primitive practice of chaining women in childbirth should shame us all. As one father put it after his wife, who was serving time for vehicular homicide, gave birth in custody: "It sounds like something from slavery 200 years ago."

2/28/06 03:58 pm - radicalphoenix - The Myth of L.A.'s Race War

February 26, 2006

By Maria Luisa Tucker, AlterNet

J.R. has spent 12 of his 28 years behind bars for attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and discharging a firearm, among other things. His broad back is covered with tattoos of women, marijuana leaves, cars, guns. The images were etched into him with a tattoo gun made from a Walkman motor, a guitar string and a single needle. Like the majority of men behind bars in Los Angeles County, J.R. was a gang member. Which gang, he declines to say.

The calculated intimidation factor of his tattoos and his gangbanging past were necessary for survival during his years on the streets and in prison, and are now necessary for his job. Amidst the brightly colored buildings of Hispanic East L.A., J.R. works as a motivational speaker for Homies Industries, a cornerstone of L.A.'s community of gang intervention organizations. He has been rehabilitated, not by the system but by the combination of parenthood, religion and the realization that gang life almost inevitably leads to prison or death. In the neighborhoods he works, kids are more likely to listen to tattooed ex-cons than cops or teachers, and this ex-con is hoping to steer kids away from gang life and toward education and jobs.

J.R. is not alone in this mission. Over the last couple of decades, a cadre of reformed gangsters has created a community that exists in a netherworld between law enforcement and gang life, working to prevent crime and simultaneously keep the trust and respect of gang members. Along with Homies Industries, there are organizations like Unity One, Unity T.H.R.E.E., Homies Unidos, Amer-I-Can and NO GUNS, which negotiate ceasefires between rival gangs, and provides tattoo removal, job training and life skills classes. The gang intervention workers know what goes on in the streets, jails and prisons better than pretty much anyone else. And recently, they have felt a sense of familiar wariness at the news of the violent, racially charged riots that erupted in L.A. County's jails.

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2/23/06 01:19 pm - radicalphoenix - Prisons Ask for Alternatives to Jailing Deadbeat Parents

February 20, 2006

Akron Beacon Journal

Associated Press-
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Prisons officials are asking lawmakers to consider alternatives to putting deadbeat parents behind bars, where they don't earn much money and continue failing to support their children.

The 601 men and 24 women sent to prison in 2004 for not paying child support made $12 to $18 a month working prison jobs, while taxpayers paid about $63 a day for each prisoner's shelter, food, clothing and medical care.

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2/16/06 03:34 pm - radicalphoenix - KS: More prisons do not address gang problem

Posted on Wed, Feb. 15, 2006

Mark McCormick, Wichita Eagle
Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams is asking legislators for a new weapon in the war against youth gangs. The proposal, Senate Bill 458, would make it a crime for gangs to recruit at schools, make it easier to keep gang members locked up after an arrest, and define the term "gang member" in state law.

I'm not opposed to such a plan. Some schools are like daily gang-recruiting conventions. We have to do something to stem gang influence there.
If this measure proves as effective at locking up gang members as law enforcement has been in reducing crime generally, it's going to mean more gang members arrested, charged and jailed. Crime has been dropping for the past 10 years. If there's anything we do well, it's lock people up.
But when will we start choking off the pipeline of people filling prison cells? How long can we continue building and filling prisons?
"You can do it as long as you want to continue to pay for it," said Brian Withrow, director of the Midwest Criminal Justice Institute at Wichita State University. "But the reality is, you reach a point where you can't do that anymore."
Society has come full circle to a realization that rehabilitation programs make the most sense, he said.

During the 1960s, the country invested a lot of money in programming, but because the programs were expensive and the short-term results somewhat mixed, critics labeled them ineffective, Withrow said.
It became cheap and chic for politicians to just build more prisons. It got to the point that anything short of locking up criminals got you labeled soft on crime.
What we're figuring out again, though, is that community-based programs are actually tough on crime, he said.

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2/8/06 04:16 pm - radicalphoenix - MN:Two who were incarcerated say current system is counterproductive

February 05, 2006
Star Tribune
Lori Sturdevant: Needed: a better prison system

Two ex-inmates saw firsthand why current corrections efforts are counterproductive

A new question confronted this old newshound the other day. What's a journalist to do when a pair of longtime sources get out of prison?

Turn on the tape recorder, I concluded. Winston Borden and Roland Amundson are too quotable, and what they have to say about the criminal justice system is too important, for any other response to suffice.

To recap their cases: Borden, a former state senator, business lobbyist and attorney, was released in October after 11 months at a federal minimum security prison camp in Yankton, S.D., for failure to file tax returns. Amundson, a former Minnesota Court of Appeals judge, served 40 months, most of them at the state correctional facility in Lino Lakes, for stealing some $300,000 from the trust fund he managed for a mentally retarded woman.

Both pleaded guilty. Both cited, and were treated for, serious mental health disorders in connection with their crimes. Neither is speaking out now to make excuses for their behavior or to rehabilitate their reputations. They got what they deserved, they say.

But they also say that Minnesota and the nation deserve a better corrections system -- not so much for the sake of the inmates as for the communities to which they will return.

I'll let them elaborate:

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1/31/06 05:04 pm - radicalphoenix - Coretta Scott King, 78, Widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dies

Coretta Scott King
January 31, 2006, NY Times

Coretta Scott King, first known as the wife of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., then as his widow, then as an avid proselytizer for his vision of racial peace and non-violent social change, has died, her sister in law, Christine King Farris, said this morning.
She was 78 and had been in failing health since suffering a stroke and heart attack last August. Mrs. King appeared at a benefit earlier this month, but did not speak, and was unable to attend the yearly celebration of Martin Luther King Day.

Andrew Young, the former United Nations ambassador and longtime family friend, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Mrs. King died in her sleep and was discovered by her daughter Bernice about 1 a.m. "It seemed as though she was resting when she passed away," Mr. Young said, according to the paper's Web site.

In a statement, the King family said that "Mrs. Coretta Scott King, first lady of human and civil rights, died overnight." Mrs. King rose from rural poverty in Heiberger, Ala., to become an international symbol of the civil rights revolution of the 1960s and a tireless advocate for a long litany of social and political issues, ranging from women's rights to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, that followed in its wake.

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1/31/06 04:58 pm - radicalphoenix - Where's home for prison inmates? Answer could mean dollars for communities

Associated Press Writer

January 27, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Communities with prisons often gain political clout: Inmates are counted as local residents when it comes to divvying up government grant money and laying out legislative districts.

Big-city congressmen, whose districts typically lose in the deal, have told the Census Bureau to think about changing the arrangement _ a switch that would create a mass migration of more than a million people, at least on paper.

The lawmakers want inmates counted as residents of their home towns and cities in the 2010 Census.

Many rural areas, where most prisons are located, would lose big chunks of population. Some cities would gain a lot of new "residents."

"I believe this is essentially an issue of fairness," says Rep. Jose Serrano, a Democrat from the Bronx in New York City. "Because federal dollars are distributed based on population, prisoners should be counted in their last known permanent residences where they are most likely to return to upon release."

New York City would gain about 36,000 residents if it could reclaim all its inmates in upstate prisons, according to state and federal statistics.

Many prison communities don't like the idea, arguing that they deserve benefits for housing criminals from other areas.

"We get the stigma of having these facilities," said Christopher Bromson, interim town manager of Enfield, Conn., home to three state prisons. "We get all of the ill effects of it, and now to take away the one positive. That, I think, is grossly unfair."

Bromson said his town of 45,000 would lose grant money for road construction, schools and its general budget if the 3,000 inmates were counted as living elsewhere.

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