Tag Archive: Prisons

Jul 28 2015

Is Congressional Push to Reduce Mandatory Prison Sentences Enough?

Recently President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 46 non-violent drug offenders which was the largest clemency granted since 1960. This was a drop in the bucket considering nearly half of the 207,000 men and women in the federal prison system are serving sentences for drug crimes. Mandatory minimum sentencing arouse in the 70’s and 80’s during the height of the drug epidemic in this country that saw a dramatic increase in crime.

Congress is now considering two bipartisan bills to scale back mandatory sentences.

As senators work to meld several proposals into one bill, one important change would be to expand the so-called safety-valve provisions that give judges discretion to sentence low-level drug offenders to less time in prison than the required mandatory minimum term if they meet certain requirements.

Another would allow lower-risk prisoners to participate in recidivism programs to earn up to a 25 percent reduction of their sentence. Lawmakers would also like to create more alternatives for low-level drug offenders.

While theses bills are commendable they fall far short of addressing the whole problem, John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” points out in this week’s segment:

“Ridiculously long sentences are not a great deterrent to crime,” Oliver said. “Prison sentences are a lot like penises: If they’re used correctly, even a short one can do the trick – is a rumor I have heard.” [..]

There should be a lot more pardons and commutations. But if we really want to address this problem permanently, we need states and the federal government, not just to repeal mandatory minimums going forward, but to also pass laws so that existing prisoners can apply for retroactively reduced sentences.

Because almost everyone has agreed that mandatory minimum laws were a mistake. And we cannot have a system where people are continuing to pay for that mistake  – and where perhaps their best chance of getting out of a prison that they should no longer be in is somehow finding a turkey costume and hanging around the fucking White House at Thanksgiving.

VOX‘s German Lopes has an excellent background article as a follow-up to John Oliver’s segment.  

Dec 24 2013

The Quality of Mercy

President Barack Obama has been quite miserly with his power to pardon and commute sentences. Since taking office, the president has only pardoned 39 people and commuted only one sentence, the fewest of any president in history. His recent “binge” commuting the sentences of eight federal prisoners who were convicted of crack cocaine offenses was was the first time retroactive relief was provided to a group of inmates who would most likely have received significantly shorter terms if they had been sentenced under current drug laws, sentencing rules and charging policies. All eight had already served 15 years and six had been sentenced to life. Unfortunately, that doesn’t do much for the thousands of other prisoners sentenced under the draconian laws that preceded  Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. Prison overcrowding in the country costs tax payers billions each year and most of the inmates are minorities and non-violent drug offenders.

The other prison population that could use a little mercy is the aged who, for the most part, no longer a danger to society. According a report by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, in just the past three years, the number of inmates over the age of 65 has grown by almost a third, while the population under 30 fell by 12 percent and are two to three times more expensive to keep in prison than their younger counterparts. Perhaps, as the report suggests, it is time for a compassionate release program for sick and infirm inmates.

“If the Risk Is Low, Let Them Go”: Elderly Prison Population Skyrockets Despite Low Risk to Society

Even amidst a modest reduction in the U.S. prison population, the number of aging men and women expected to die behind bars has skyrocketed in a system ill prepared to handle them and still oriented toward mass incarceration. We speak about the problems facing aging prisoners with Mujahid Farid, who was released from a New York state prison in 2011 after serving 33 years. He is now lead organizer with RAPP, which stands for “Release Aging People in Prison.” Their slogan is “If the risk is low, let them go.” His campaign work is part of Soros Justice Fellowship and is housed at the Correctional Association of New York. We are also joined by Soffiyah Elijah, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, which monitors conditions in state prisons. “The parole board routinely denies people based on the nature of the offense, the one thing that no one can change, just like we can’t change our height or our eye color,” Elijah notes. “We need to look at that and say, if someone presents a low risk to recidivate, then we should be releasing them from prison. We’re wasting precious taxpayer dollars incarcerating people, and it’s much more expensive to incarcerate people who are older.”



Trancript can be read here



Transcript can be read here

Jun 06 2011

Immigrants For Sale

Prisons for profits, with our tax dollars

Immigrants For Sale

Immigrants are for sale in this country. Sold to private prison corporations who are locking them up for obscene profits!

Here are the top 3 things YOU need to know about the Private Prison money scheme:

The victims: Private prisons don’t care about who they lock up. At a rate of $200 per immigrant a night at their prisons, this is a money making scheme that destroys families and lives.

The players: CCA (Corrections Corporation of America), The Geo Group and Management and Training corporations-combined these private prisons currently profit more than $5 billion a year.

The money: These private prisons have spent over $20 million lobbying state legislators to make sure they get state anti-immigrant laws approved and ensure access to more immigrant inmates.

Exposing The Immigrants For Sale Scheme

Georgia is the latest state to pass an anti-immigrant bill like SB1070, with Governor Deal having signed it on Friday. Georgia is ALSO home to the largest private prison in the country.

It’s hardly a secret that private prison corporations like Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO group, along with right-wing lobbying group ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and a few pocketed state legislators like Russell Pearce in Arizona, have been at it-deliberately promoting and designing laws aimed at incarcerating immigrants and turning the prison system into an incredibly lucrative business.

Just last year the private prison industry secured close to $5 billion through state and government elicited contracts of which an increasing percentage is attributed to migrant detention facilities and bed spaces. An NPR report outlined how CCA aims to translate the anti-immigrant rhetoric and political void into a long-lasting cash drive-believing that immigrants will provide a fresh influx of ‘guests’ in their less then onerous ‘hotel’ cells. Even worse, CCA founder Tomas Beasly once called his scheme ‘more profitable’ than selling burgers or cars-a clear indication that any sense of justice in the prison industry will be forever trumped by cash flows and profit margins.

It is clear that for CCA, along with the GEO Group and Management and Training, immigrants are a product-one that is for sale to the highest vendor. They view locked-up immigrants as the next big share jump, stock option, bonus incentive, or any other motive that tickles their multi-billion dollar fancy. They have no shame admitting so-every year the private prison industry gets together for a major convention to essentially design strategies that will fill the more then 150,000 bed spaces they currently own.

Recall For AZ Russell Pearce Gains Momentum: 18K Signatures – Twice What Is Needed

We’ve been tracking the recall campaign against Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, author of SB1070, because he insisted on playing his nativist fiddle in the Senate while Arizona’s economy burned to the ground. It probably hasn’t helped that he’s become belligerent whenever anyone brings up his role in the Fiesta Bowl scandal, either.

Of course, Greta Van Susteren knew better than to ask Pearce any such tough questions last night on her Fox show. She mostly lobbed out the news of the day – the fact that the people leading the recall had filed more than twice what they needed, some 18,000 signatures – and let him swing away.

But Pearce looked scared, and he should be:

In a celebratory display of unprecedented organization, a bipartisan group of activists poured into the Arizona secretary of state’s office yesterday with more than 18,300 signatures to demand the recall of State Senate president Russell Pearce. The filing of the petitions marked the culmination of a campaign that has defied expectations, and a watershed moment for the beleaguered state. Once the state and Maricopa County recorders verify the legal requirement of 7,756 signatures from the traditionally conservative and Mormon-founded Mesa district, Pearce, who is considered by many as the de facto governor and motivating force behind the state’s notorious blitz of extremist policies on education, health, guns and immigration, will become the first State Senate president in American history to be recalled.

h/t Crooks & Liars