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Jay Bybee's Latest "It's Not Torture" Decision

Andrew Cohen at the Atlantic writes about Bush Administration torture memo author, now federal judge Jay Bybee's latest decision justifying torture.

[Bybee]came to conclude as a matter of law that a man shacked at his wrists and shackled by his ankles to his bed, without a mattress, in a cell lit continuously for seven days, who was forced to eat his food like a dog because of his shackles, did not have a constitutional right to present the evidence of this confinement to a jury.

The opinion is here. It's about an inmate in California placed on a "contraband watch." The sickening policy is described in the opinion as: [More....]

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Senate Hearing This AM on Solitary Confinement

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, will hold a hearing this morning on solitary confinement. It begins at 10 am ET. BOP Director Charles Samuels will be speaking. I wonder if his medical director and co-defendant, Newton Kendig, will be with him. Sen. Richard Durbin is chairing the hearing. There will be a webast at the Senate's website.

The lawsuits are trickling in now. (More here. I hope the side arguing against solitary confinement gets the most media attention.

The biggest horror story I've read yet is that of John Jay Powers, in the suit filed yesterday:

Mr. Powers was convicted of bank robbery in 1990. At that time, he had no history or symptoms of serious mental illness. While in custody, he witnessed three inmates murder another inmate, stabbing him 13 times. He was transferred to protective custody, twice testified against the murderers, and suffered repeated threats against his life by other inmates. Around this time, he began to suffer from PTSD. He briefly escaped from prison and was transferred to ADX in 2001, where he spent nearly 10 years in an isolation unit and became mentally deranged.
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Class Action Suit Against Supermax : Treatment Not Fit for Dogs

A class action has been filed against the Bureau of Prisons and several top officials by 11 mentally ill inmates, on behalf of all mentally ill inmates, alleging horrific mistreatment at Supermax Prison in Florence, Colorado. The case is Bacote, et al v. Federal Bureau of Prisons. A website has been set up with information about the case, SuperMaxLawsuit.com. According to the 108 page complaint which alleges deliberate mistreatment:

Some prisoners mutilate their own bodies with razors, shards of glass, sharpened chicken bones, writing utensils and whatever other objects they can obtain. Others swallow razor blades, nail clippers, broken glass and other dangerous objects. Many engage in fits of screaming and ranting for hours on end. Others carry on delusional conversations with the voices they hear in their heads, oblivious to reality and the danger that such behavior might pose to themselves and to anyone who interacts with them.

Still others spread feces and other waste throughout their cells, throw it at the correctional staff and otherwise create health hazards at ADX. Suicide attempts are common; many have been successful."

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Kerobokan Prison: The Mercy Campaign

Please visit The Mercy Campaign.

Today's news in Indonesia and Australia focuses on the abysmal conditions described in a book "The Kerobokan Hotel." The book describes Kerobokan Prison as a hellhole.

Since the book was written, programs have been launched at the prison aimed at rehabilitation and bettering conditions. While those programs are worthy of praise and continued support, with more than 1,000 inmates in a space built for 300 (now down to 900 after some agreed after the riots to move to prisons closer to their homes in Java), it's nowhere near enough -- particularly when the corruption of guards, who dole out better treatment for those who pay, remains and non-violent drug offenders are on death row. [More...]

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Change: No Forced Evacuations At Kerobokan Prison

After negotiating with rioting inmates and consulting other inmates, authorities in Bali have announced there will be no forced evacuation of prisoners at Kerobokan Prison.

Some Indonesian inmates do want to leave because the prison is too far from their homes. Authorities have agreed to transfer these inmates to prisons closer to home. 17 of the inmates, all male, who left yesterday were resettled at Tabanan.

Schapelle Corby, the Bali 9 and two other Australian inmates want to stay at Kerobokan. While Scott Rush left yesterday, as I noted here, he was quickly returned, as were a dozen or so other foreign inmates who had left. So they will not be moved....for now. [More...]

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Kerobokan Prison Evacuating All 1,000 Inmates

Update: The evacuation of the foreign prisoners has been delayed as police negotiate with the ringleaders of the riot. Why? Sounds like they can't get past the Indonesian prisoners to get the others out -- or that some of the foreign prisoners have already been taken hostage.

The riots Tuesday night at Kerobokan prison in Bali continued into Wednesday, as prisoners retook control. There has been no electricity and major parts of the prison are burned out.

More than 400 military troops are now gathered outside the prison. At 2 pm local time (11 pm MT, ) they had planned to go in and remove all 1,015 inmates.

Then they decided to first remove the foreign and female inmates, either by bus or air. There are 125 female inmates and about 50-60 foreign inmates. Authorities believe the foreign prisoners may be targeted by the other inmates and used as hostages. [More...]

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Prisoners Riot, Take Control of Bali's Kerobokan Prison

Authorities say Schapelle Corby and the other Australians serving drug sentences in Kerobakan Prison are safe, following a night of riots by prisoners that resulted in multiple fires and guards abandoning the prison.

The riot broke out about 11pm on Tuesday, with prisoners trashing cells and throwing stones at the guards who were forced to retreat to the street outside the overcrowded jail which houses more than 1000 male and female inmates.

Some prisoners were then able to gain access to the registration wing of the jail, within metres of the entrance to the facility, where they set offices and furniture alight.

Police stormed the prison this morning and took back control. Three prisoners were hospitalized after being shot with rubber bullets by police. Photos are here. [More...]

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OK Woman Sentenced to 12 years for $31 Marijuana to Get Early Parole Hearing

Good news for Patricia Spottedcrow of Oklahama, whose travails I described here. The Oklahoma Board of Pardons and Paroles has agreed to early consideration of her parole, possibly in April.

Patricia pleaded guilty and received a 12 year sentence for selling $20 of marijuana to a police informant at the home she shared with her mother and possession of marijuana in the presence of a child. The severity of her sentence caused her case to receive national media attention. Spottedcrow, age 25, has four children, no prior convictions, was broke and had recently lost her home. cently lost her home. The two children present in the home, one of whom was a 10 month old infant, did not witness the transaction according to Patricia. [More...]

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Honduras Prison Fire Kills Hundreds of Inmates

Update: Conditions at the Honduran prison.

More than 350 inmates at the Comayagua Prison Farm, 45 miles north of the Honduras capital Tegucigalpa, have been trapped and killed in a fire. At least 300 inmates are still missing and presumed dead. Around 475 inmates were able to get out. It is the largest and worst prison fire in Latin American history.

Danilo Orellana, director of the Honduras prison system, told The Associated Press inmates said the fired was started by an inmate who lit his mattress on fire. He said another theory is there was an electrical short. He ruled out claims that a prison riot was to blame. [More...]

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Florida Senate Rejects Bill for Private Prison Complex

The Florida Senate today put the kabosh on Republican plans to turn 30 state prisons into the largest private prison complex in the country. Florida incarcerates more than 100,000 inmates, making it the third largest incarcerator in the country (Only Texas and Calfornia have more inmates.).

As the ACLU says:

If lawmakers want to save money in our prison system, they should reform mandatory minimum sentencing, invest in re-entry programs and re-visit parole policies that feed the addiction to incarceration and throw people into the revolving door that is our prison system. Privatization schemes, often coupled with inflated claims of cost savings, distract policymakers from an inescapable truth: The best way to reduce prison spending is to reduce the number of people we imprison.

The profit motive is a huge part of the problem.
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The 12 Best Federal Prisons to Do Time

CNBC has a slideshow of the 12 best federal prisons to do time, as compiled by Alan Ellis, criminal defense attorney and co-author of the “Federal Prison Guidebook.”

The slideshow takes forever to click through, so I'll just list them, along with any unique features Alan notes. CNBC says the list is not in any particular order. For the uninitiated, FPC means Federal Prison Camp (least restrictive), FCI is Federal Correctional Institution and USP is US Prison (most restrictive, except for SuperMax.) [More...]

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New Report: Number of Aging Prisoners is Soaring

Human Rights Watch has released a new report, “Old Behind Bars: The Aging Prison Population in the United States."

Aging men and women are the most rapidly growing group in US prisons, and prison officials are hard-pressed to provide them appropriate housing and medical care, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Because of their higher rates of illness and impairments, older prisoners incur medical costs that are three to nine times as high as those for younger prisoners.

By the numbers: [More...]

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Jury Awards $22 Million to Pre-trial Detainee For Inhumane Treatment

Steven Slevin, 57, was arrested for a DUI and related minor offenses in New Mexico in 2005. He spent two years in solitary at the Dona Ana County Detention Facility. He was not provided mental health or medical care. Even his request to see a dentist was refused -- resulting in him being forced to pull his own tooth.

A federal jury has awarded him $22 million for the inhumane treatment. [More...]

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Miss. Court Blocks Some of Barbour's Pardons

The Attorney General of Mississipi succeeded today in having a state court judge block 21 of the 200 pardons granted by outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour:

A Mississippi judge has temporarily blocked the release of 21 inmates who'd been given pardons or medical release by Republican Haley Barbour in one of his final acts as governor. Circuit Judge Tomie Green issued an injunction late Wednesday at the request of Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood.

AG Hood said the pardons violated the state constitution by not giving notice the inmates had applied for relief.

Harbour has now explained his actions: [More...]

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U.S. Prison Population Drops to 1.6 Million

The Bureau of Justice Statistics has released two new reports on prisoner population in 2010. The total number of prisoners has declined for the first time in 40 years. But while the number of state prisoners declined, the number of federal prisoners increased.

The total U.S. prison population fell to 1.6 million at year end 2010, a decline of 0.6 percent during the year, the first decline in the total prison population in nearly four decades.

This decline was due to a decrease of 10,881 in the number of state prisoners, which fell to just under 1.4 million persons and was the largest yearly decrease since 1977. The federal prison population grew by 0.8 percent (1,653 prisoners) to reach 209,771, the smallest percentage increase since 1980.

1 in 33 adults, 7.1 million people, were under the supervision of adult correctional authorities at the end of 2010. The reports are Correctional Population in the United States, 2010 and Prisoners in 2010.

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