Prisons News & Opinion ArticlesDisplaying 1 - 20 of 30 1 2 Next
  • Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was ordered Wednesday to serve an additional 43 months on federal conspiracy charges, bringing his total sentence between two federal courts to 7.5 years in twin cases stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
  • On the night before the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling Monday in Montgomery v. Louisiana, giving new hope for release to prisoners serving life without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles, Sister Alison McCrary received a collect call from the Louisiana State Penitentiary, better known as Angola. It came from a man she had met during her 10 years visiting the prison as a spiritual adviser to those on death row. Nicknamed “Reverend Joe,” he did not face execution, but like most of Angola’s residents, nonetheless confronted the prospect of dying in prison.
  • The president is adopting Justice Department recommendations that also include banning solitary for prisoners who have committed low-level infractions.
  • Jan 25 2016
    Why we must rethink solitary confinement
    In 2010, a 16-year-old named Kalief Browder from the Bronx was accused of stealing a backpack. He was sent to Rikers Island to await trial, where he reportedly endured unspeakable violence at the hands of inmates and guards — and spent nearly two years in solitary confinement. In 2013, Kalief was released, having never stood trial. He completed a successful semester at Bronx Community College. But life was a constant struggle to recover from the trauma of being locked up alone for 23 hours a day. One Saturday, he committed suicide at home. He was just 22 years old.
  • There’s something macabre about hosting a photo-op inside of a prison. Waiting for the pope to arrive at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia on Sunday, inside walls topped with barbed wire, cameramen milled about while televisions blared. Harsh lights were trained on the papal chair, handmade by prisoners, which sat empty at the front of an elementary-school-style gymnasium. The early warning sign of a Francis sighting is always his entourage. Surrounded by hordes of men in black suits and cardinals in black cassocks, the pope’s white was striking. He changed the feel of the room, just barely, smiling with unmistakable delight at the row of female inmates seated at the front.
  • Night had fallen at the Clinton Correctional Facility in far northern New York when the prison guards came for Patrick Alexander. They handcuffed him and took him into a broom closet for questioning. Then, Mr. Alexander said in an interview last week, the beatings began. As the three guards, who wore no name badges, punched him and slammed his head against the wall, he said they shouted questions: “Where are they going? What did you hear? How much are they paying you to keep your mouth shut?”
  • In a tweetstorm following his speech at the NAACP's 2015 national convention, President Barack Obama provided a different way to look at that cost by explaining what that $80 billion could go to:
  • Maryland District Judge Askew Gatewood brushed off a prosecutor's request to jail Ronald Hammond for possessing 5.9 grams of marijuana — saying it wasn't even enough pot to "roll you a decent joint" — and ordered the Baltimore man to pay a $100 fine instead. But the case eventually led to a 20-year prison sentence for Hammond. As the Baltimore Sun's Justin Fenton reported, Hammond was on probation at the time for selling $40 worth of crack cocaine to an undercover officer. Maryland Circuit Judge Lynn Stewart-Mays suspended a 20-year sentence in that case, telling Hammond he would face the full term if he violated his probation in any way.
  • The answer to "Why was Walter Scott shot in the back while running away?" is simple: he was shot because a police officer chose to shoot him. (For more on the circumstances of Scott's killing, see German Lopez's excellent overview of the case.) But the answer to "Why was Walter Scott running away?" is harder. And in an extraordinary story published today, the New York Times's Frances Robles and Shaile Dewan offer a surprising explanation: child support. Scott has been repeatedly sent to jail for failure to pay child support. By the time of his death, he owed $18,000, and there was a warrant out for his arrest.
  • For the last forty years, America's approach to criminal justice has grown steadily more punitive. Successive waves of state and federal legislation lengthened prison sentences, reduced opportunities for rehabilitation, expanded the powers of law enforcement agencies, and imposed new restrictions after release. The cumulative result of these various initiatives is a sprawling prison system filled with millions of bodies, leaving deep scars on American society. This carceral fever could be close to breaking at last. The Coalition for Public Safety, a new alliance of political groups and think tanks, is the latest signal that opposition to mass incarceration has gone mainstream.
  • There's growing momentum for reducing mass incarceration in America. Both the federal government and states are beginning to take a hard look at how many people they're sending to prison and for how long. But how did the US get here? Why did the US prison population grow so muchover the past 40 years? A National Research Council report from 2014 debunked two big misconceptions about what caused the increase, and offered two big reasons: prosecution has become more efficient, and prison sentences have lengthened. Here's a guide:
  • Today, like any other day, there are around 2.4 million people incarcerated in America’s federal, state, and local prisons and jails. Together, the nation’s inmates would constitute the fourth biggest city in the United States, knocking Houston down a notch. Expand that grouping to everyone under correctional control, including probation and parole, and you’d have a metropolis of nearly 7 million, second only to New York. Finally, reunite the number of people that see the inside of a jail cell in a given year, and you’d have a prison city with a population as big as New York and Los Angeles combined (11.6 million). This is not because society is struck by criminality. Incarceration has increased by 700 percent in 40 years despite crime rates dropping.
  • Nov 11 2014
    In Alabama, Judges Play God
    On an April night in 1997, when Shonelle Jackson was eighteen, he went out to a local club in Montgomery, Alabama. As he and several friends watched a d.j. perform, a young man called Cocomo—a gang member from across town—walked up behind him and slapped him in the head, then ran off. The next day, Jackson, who had no car, approached a known thief named Antonio Barnes and asked him to steal him a ride. Jackson wanted to find Cocomo and “holler at him.” Barnes hot-wired a Buick LeSabre, and, with Jackson driving, they picked up Barnes’s friends Poochie Williams and Scooter Rudolph. All had been drinking or smoking weed, and they were armed: Jackson had a .380-calibre handgun, Barnes had a .357, Rudolph had a 9-millimetre, and Williams had a shotgun.
  • Sep 16 2014
    How Gangs Took Over Prisons
    On a clear morning this past February, the inmates in the B Yard of Pelican Bay State Prison filed out of their cellblock a few at a time and let a cool, salty breeze blow across their bodies. Their home, the California prison system’s permanent address for its most hardened gangsters, is in Crescent City, on the edge of a redwood forest—about four miles from the Pacific Ocean in one direction and 20 miles from the Oregon border in the other. This is their yard time. Most of the inmates belong to one of California’s six main prison gangs: Nuestra Familia, the Mexican Mafia, the Aryan Brotherhood, the Black Guerrilla Family, the Northern Structure, or the Nazi Lowriders (the last two are offshoots of Nuestra Familia and the Aryan Brotherhood, respectively).
  • Orange is the New Black, the Netflix series returning Friday, explores the lives of women serving time at Litchfield Penitentiary, a fictional prison in upstate New York. The series was partially filmed at Suffolk County jail in Riverhead, a men’s facility in Long Island. But when viewers stream Orange over the weekend, they likely won’t see—and certainly won’t smell—the overflow of feces Riverhead’s actual prisoners are exposed to every day.
  • Two people were killed and scores injured Wednesday night, when "an apparent gas explosion" demolished a portion of the Escambia County Central Booking and Detention Center in northwestern Florida.
  • A new Justice Department study shows that allegations of sex abuse in the nation’s prisons and jails are increasing — with correctional officers responsible for half of it — but prosecution is still extremely rare. The report, released today by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, takes data collected by correctional administrators representing all of the nation’s federal and state prisons as well as many county jails. It shows that administrators logged more than 8,000 reports of abuse to their overseers each year between 2009 and 2011, up 11 percent from the department’s previous report, which covered 2007 and 2008.
  • White Americans are more likely than black Americans to have used most kinds of illegal drugs, including cocaine, marijuana and LSD. Yet blacks are far more likely to go to prison for drug offenses.
  • Former Rep. E. Clay Shaw, Jr., who helped draft the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, says it's time to reconsider.
  • When she was 24, Piper Kerman dated a woman who was part of a drug smuggling ring. Years later, after being named as part of that ring, Kerman served time in a federal prison and at one point shared a cell with her former girlfriend. Her memoir of that experience inspired the Netflix series.