Michigan’s parole policies waste money, need reform

This comes from the Detroit Free Press

Barbara Levine and Michael LaFaive,  December 13, 2014

Michigan spends nearly 20% of its general-fund dollars locking people up. A portion of that money could be better spent elsewhere, such as on education, roads or pension reform.

Despite cost-containment efforts, the Michigan Department of Corrections spends $2 billion a year, more than $1.6 billion of which is spent directly on operating prisons. If all this spending improved public safety, it would be worth it. However, it does not. One way to reduce spending without compromising public safety is through sentencing and parole reforms.

Michigan sends fewer people convicted of felonies to prison than most other states because we have been a national leader in diverting those convicted of serious offenses into community-based programs. As a result, nearly 70% of our prisoners are serving time for assault offenses. What drives our prison population is how long we keep people locked up, compared to other states.

In its 2012 report, “Time Served: The High Cost, Low Return of Longer Prison Terms,”the Pew Center reported that Michigan prisoners serve much longer terms for comparable offenses than prisoners in other states. Michigan’s average length of stay is nearly 17 months longer for prisoners overall and 30 months longer for assault offenders.

Read the rest here.

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Wisconsin prison system revamps disciplinary rules

This comes from WisconsinWatch.org:

Wisconsin prison system revamps disciplinary rules: Changes come as concerns grow over use of solitary confinement

By: BILL LUEDERS, Dec. 10, 2014

The Wisconsin Department of Corrections is quietly preparing to make significant changes to its rules governing inmate discipline, amid heightened discomfort over the state’s use of solitary confinement.

“The disciplinary process should be used as a means to motivate the inmate to alter their negative behavior, with long-term correction of the behavior as the end goal,” wrote Cathy Jess, administrator of the DOC’s division of adult institutions, in a Sept. 25 memo to staff.

Jess’ memo, obtained by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, sheds light on the DOC’s revamping of its disciplinary code, last revised in 2001. The new code calls for speeding up the process of imposing discipline for minor offenses, while upholding the ideals of rehabilitation and fairness.

Prison officials have declined to discuss specifics and it remains unclear what changes will occur. But Jess calls the new rules, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, “an excellent opportunity to focus on making positive changes” to the state’s use of solitary confinement, which in Wisconsin is called segregation. This has been a topic of growing state and national concern.

“Long-term segregation placements have been shown to be ineffective in terms of discipline and do not serve our corrective or rehabilitative goals,” the memo states.

About 1,500 of the state’s 22,000 inmates are in segregation, locked in their cells for upwards of 23 hours a day.

Read the rest of this interesting new development here.

Ind. scrambles to address ruling on mentally ill inmates

This article comes from USAToday, Jan. 2nd 2013, written by: Tim Evans:

INDIANAPOLIS — Weeks after a doctor at an Indiana prison determined a suicidal prisoner was experiencing “severe difficulty coping with segregation,” the Indiana Department of Corrections placed the inmate back in a segregation unit.
Isolated for 23 hours a day in a cell not much larger than a closet at New Castle Correctional Facility, the inmate’s mental state continued to deteriorate.
Two weeks later, he was dead — one of at least 11 mentally ill inmates who committed suicide while in IDOC segregation units from 2007 through July 2011.
Now state officials and advocates are scrambling for solutions in the wake of a federal court ruling that found Indiana’s treatment of mentally ill prisoners in segregation units violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.
The decision was issued Monday by Judge Tanya Walton Pratt in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services Commission and a group of inmates.
Pratt found “mentally ill prisoners within the IDOC segregation units are not receiving adequate mental health care in terms of scope, intensity, and duration.”
The judge also noted IDOC was aware of concerns about its treatment of mentally ill prisoners and “has been deliberately indifferent.”
Ken Falk, the ACLU of Indiana’s legal director, hailed the ruling as a win not only for mentally ill inmates, but for all Indiana residents.

Daniels: Reports Of Juvenile Prison Abuse ‘Out Of Date’

May 20, 2010

The governor on Thursday downplayed a scathing federal report calling on Indiana to address widespread abuses within its juvenile correction facilities.

A Jan. 29 letter and report from U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez to Gov. Mitch Daniels details troubles within the former Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility, including a mentally ill inmate left dirty and pulling out her hair and male guards having sex with and performing strip searches on young female inmates, 6News’ Joanna Massee reported.

The letter follows a civil rights investigation launched by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2008 that documented inadequate abuse investigations, excessive use of force and isolation, inadequate mental health care and inadequate special education services. The investigation into allegations of abuse began in 2004.

Daniels initially declined to comment on the report, but when asked about the issue at a jobs announcement on Thursday, he told Massee the report was “hopelessly out of date.”

“The problems there (the Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility) — which were very severe and obviously needed attention — are many years old,” Daniels said. “They’re doing their job and tidying up what is really a six- or eight-year-old inquiry.

“When the report was originally released, Daniels volunteered to make improvements at all the facilities and to provide reports resulting from a partnership with the Indiana Juvenile Justice Task Force, an agency charged with monitoring the expected improvements.

The Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility was closed in 2009, and female inmates were moved to the new Madison Juvenile Correctional Facility.

A statement from the Indiana Department of Correction called it “a much different facility than its predecessor in Indianapolis,” but a former employee told 6News that conditions for inmates worsened after the move.

“I do not think any child inside Madison Juvenile is safe,” the former employee, who did not want to be identified, told Massee.

6News was not allowed inside the Madison facility. 

More: Share your experiences with the state’s juvenile justice system

State Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, who sits on the Senate Corrections Committee, said he is concerned about the allegations of abuse at the state’s juvenile correction facilities.

“When we have people in our custody, under our care, we have a responsibility and a duty, under our constitution, to take care of their wellbeing,” he said.

Delph said that the Department of Correction has not brought any issues involving juvenile justice to his attention. He said he has requested a meeting with the agency.

Correction Commissioner Edwin Buss declined requests to be interviewed.

Link to Article Here

Indiana bars extended family from seeing more than 1 prisoner

Limit on prison visits angers South Bend family

By ALICIA GALLEGOS Tribune Staff Writer
May 23, 2010
SOUTH BEND — When Sam Dickens’ son went to prison earlier this year, the father didn’t think he’d have any problem visiting him at Westville Correctional facility.

After all, Dickens’ nephew is also an inmate in an Indiana prison, and Dickens has been visiting the young man for years.

But Dickens said he was shocked to learn he couldn’t be on his son’s visiting list.

Instead, new visiting restrictions at the Indiana Department of Correction meant Dickens had to choose to visit his son or his nephew, not both.

“I’m so frustrated. It’s just not right,” Dickens said during a recent interview at his home. “They’re separating the families.”IDOC officials explain the new visitation rule was implemented this year because of security concerns.

The restriction specifies extended family members and friends can visit only one IDOC inmate per six months. The rule, said IDOC spokesman Doug Garrison, is to curb rampant contraband trafficking plaguing Indiana prisons.

“We’re trying to reduce the chances of people bringing contraband into our facilities,” Garrison said.

Contraband problems

Garrison says the new visitor restriction will help the IDOC better regulate who is coming into their facilities and who might be bringing prohibited items.The spokesman stressed the rule applies only to extended family members and does not affect fathers, mothers, children, sisters, brothers or grandparents.

But relatives such as Dickens and Tracy Franklin argue that many times it’s extended family members, such as aunts and uncles, who have helped raise children.

Franklin, of South Bend, has a son and nephew in Indiana prisons, along with a cousin. She only recently found out about the new restriction.

“I think family members should be able to see their loved ones,” she said. “That’s unfair. I can’t go see my nephew. I can’t go see my cousin.”

Dickens said his nephew, Greg Dickens, always looked up to him and that going to visit the man “empowers him,” and “kinda helps keep him alive.”Greg Dickens was convicted as a teenager of murder in the death of South Bend Police Cpl. Paul Deguch. He is now serving a life sentence.

Dickens’ son Samson Dickens just recently began serving a 6-year sentence for assault, his father said.

Garrison acknowledges the visiting policy will no doubt adversely affect families who are not at fault. But, he said the rising climate of contraband has forced correctional facilities to tighten their rules.

Take for instance one recent month, Garrison said, where IDOC officials confiscated 250 cell phones from one prison facility.”It’s absolutely crazy,” he said.

Indiana prisons are not alone.

In recent years, banned items — particularly cell phones — have steadily grown in prisons across the country, according to the American Correctional Association.

A visitor in a wheelchair sitting on hordes of cell phones. Civilians throwing tennis balls or footballs over prison yard fences with hidden items. Visitors slipping products inside sleeves.

“Inmates are creative,” ACA spokesman Eric Schultz said.Schultz said prisons are making various efforts to fight contraband, although he said he has not heard of other prisons restricting extended family members.

“That’s interesting,” he said of the IDOC rule. “I can’t say we have heard that.”

In Michigan, a similar visiting restriction is in effect, according to the MDOC website.

Proposed visitors can be on visiting lists for immediate family members, but only on the list of one prisoner who is not immediate family.

The rule indicates aunts, uncles or other family members can be included as “immediate family,” if they can provide verification they served as a surrogate parent.MDOC Spokesman John Cordell said he is not surprised about Indiana enforcing the new restriction.

“Unfortunately visitors are one of the ways contraband comes into prisons,” he said.

‘Balance needed’

Visitors might not seem like that big a deal to those on the outside, but the Rev. David Link says for prisoners, they mean the world.

Link, former University of Notre Dame law school dean and now prison chaplain and deputy director of religious and community services for the IDOC, said inmates who have more family visits have a better attitude while in prison and are more likely to be successful upon release.”There’s not much that’s more important to the incarcerated than being able to visit with their families,” Link said. “It doesn’t just make them turn their life around, it makes them a better-acting prisoner.”

Link adds that non-family members — such as mentors, friends, or teachers — can often have an even greater impact on prisoners than an immediate family member. On the same note, an immediate family member can easily be the bad influence.

“We gotta look at it as a case-by-case basis,” Link said. “Someone has gotta look at who is best to visit and who might not be best to visit.”

Rather than a blanket limitation, Link believes, a better balance needs to be made between visiting benefits and maintaining security.

“We can’t let up on the security,” he said. “But we also gotta think of people as individuals.”As for the IDOC, Garrison said extended family members who would like to appeal the visiting restriction can always request an exception from the prison superintendent.

“I would encourage people to do that,” he said.

Dickens said he has made the difficult decision to visit his son in prison and not his nephew. He is considering appealing to the IDOC for an exception.

http://www.southbendtribune.com/article/20100523/NEWS01/5230373&Template=printart

Voices Against Injustice will conduct a protest at CCA prison Marion County Jail II

VOICES AGAINST INJUSTICE (via Facebook)

Thursday, March 4, 2010
Time: 6:00pm – 9:00pm
Location: Marion County Jail 2
Street: 730 E. Washington
City/Town: Indianapolis, IN

Every day that the NYSE is open for business, they trade stocks and bonds based on the population of privatized prisons. This is nothing less than modernized slavery with no regard for anymore for race (even though the statistics don’t lie that African-American Men represent 14% of the US Population, yet they account for 40% of the prison population). It would appear that the prime commodity for the booming business of the privatized prison industry would be the young black male.

Do you not see the similarity between the black and white stripes of the prison uniform and the UPC barcodes places on the goods we purchase in the stores? Human beings have been reduced to commodities. Prisoners are no longer humans, they are goods owned by each state to be traded. When I was a prisoner in Michigan, I was told I was no longer Heidi Marie Rogan… I was inmate #238631. I was no longer my own person, I was property of the State of Michigan. I was given a Class A ticket because I pierced my nose. The offense: damaging state property. My bunkie received a ticket because she fell asleep on the yard in the summer sun and received a sunburn over her body and needed medical treatment for it. Her offense: damaging state property. Rude awakenings. We were no longer humans. We were property. I worked at a landfill. I picked up garbage at a garbage dump for $1.85 a day. Not an hour. A day.

This is not even where the big money comes in though. Prisons around the United States are manufacturing products that some of you have in your own home. They are manufacturing clothing that some of you may be wearing on your body at this very moment. These prison factories are manufacturing clothing, pallets, furniture, cleaning supplies, and more. Ironically, the inmates manufacture the very steel doors that keep them locked inside the walls. They do all of this for way below minimum wage, receiving a daily wage rather than an hourly wage. Some states claim to have become “progressive” since they are now paying a minimum wage to their prisoners. I see this as a move made simply to appease the masses and shut the grumbling mouths of the enlightened up. At the risk of sounding like I am spewing forth rhetoric, this seems to be the move of the sharecropper.

On March 4th, 2010 Voices Against Injustice is standing against this insanity. Marion County Jail II is a privatized jail managed by CCA. We will be in front of this facility raising our artistic voices of intellect against this insanity. After a short informative speech, we will then move over to Urban Element. We have an ACLU attorney who is investigating the constitutionality of the permit laws within Marion County. A massive amount of Indianapolis’ vocal artists are coming out to support this cause including: Nsaychable, Souled Out, Gabby, Tony Styxx, Bashiri Asad, and more. Many performers will be coming from out of state as well, traveling from as far as Ohio and Mississippi. Due to the length of the ACLU’s battle with the city on this event, our keynote speaker’s will not be able to make until our event that will be held in June, which we are greatly looking forward to which will be discussed the night of the 4th.

Please plan to be there. We need many volunteers to help coordinate this massive front to fight this issue. If you have any questions about this, please send Heidi an email: sahabah2007 at gmail.com.

Prison inmates train dogs and help themselves

‘It’s incredible the difference that a few dogs can make’ as prisoners teach them to help disabled kids.

The shrill barking of nine Labrador retriever puppies Thursday gave way to blissful laughter from their new trainers: 18 inmates at the Plainfield Correctional Facility.

One by one, the 8-week-old pups were pulled out of their crates and introduced to the men who’ll care for them and help them learn to assist children with physical or mental disabilities.
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The Indiana Canine Assistance Network’s Service Dog Apprenticeship program is a tremendous success and a great way for offenders to give back to the community, said prison spokesman Kevin Mulroony.

“You’ll see the most hardened felons turn into the sappiest guys,” he said. “It’s incredible the difference that a few dogs can make.”

Four area prisons participate in the 9-year-old ICAN program, which director Sally Irvin modeled after a program started 30 years ago by Pauline Quinn, a nun from Michigan.

A total of 42 dogs are in training at Plainfield and the Branchville Correctional Facility, Indiana Women’s Prison and Rockville Correctional Facility for women.

Since its start in Indianapolis in 2001, 69 dogs have completed the two-year program. Ten are used as drug-detection dogs for local law enforcement agencies, and two bomb-detecting dogs serve with the United Nations security force in New York.

Two dogs were trained to determine when diabetics might be at risk of collapse from low blood sugar, and others went on to help children or others with disabilities.

Irvin said it costs ICAN about $16,000 to train one dog, so the program depends on donations and grants.

“Private citizens are by far the biggest donation source,” Irvin said. “Since we only charge clients $950 for the dogs and offer two weeks of training and a lifetime follow-up, it takes a lot of financial support.”

Costs include training inmates to work with the dogs, as well as housing and caring for the animals. The program breeds two or three litters per year, but breeders, rescue organizations and shelters donate 60 percent to 70 percent of the dogs.

Each dog lives in the housing unit with the inmate-trainer and remains with trainers nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Irvin said.

To qualify for the program, offenders must have a background clear of violent behavior, have had no negative conduct reports for at least a year, and apply and interview for the program as they would for a job.

“The program requires (offenders) to take complete ownership in their job,” Mulroony said. “They all know that there’s a lot of effort that goes into the training for the dog and how it will benefit the community.

“When you see an offender walking through the hall with their dog, you can just tell that there’s a bond already. That dog and this job becomes their world.”

February 20, 2010
Indystar.com Link