April 2016 News Briefs

Seattle, Wash. — The state’s highest court is taking a new look at the death penalty. Dozens of former state judges are claiming the state’s death penalty is unconstitutional, the Associate Press reports.

Sacramento, Calif. — State prison officials announced that inmate firefighter Shawna Lynn Jones, 22, died from her injuries on Feb. 25. Jones was struck by a boulder that had rolled down a hill. She was airlifted to UCLA Medical Center, where she was listed in critical condition with major head injuries. Jones’ organs were donated after she was removed from life support in keeping with her family’s wishes.

Sacramento, Calif. — Gov. Jerry Brown announced the appointment of two posts in the state prison system’s communications office. Jeffrey Callison was appointed assistant secretary of communications at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Vicky Waters was appointed CDCR press secretary. Neither position requires Senate confirmation.

Sacramento, Calif. — State prison officials will be introducing new television channels geared to help the prisoners’ rehabilitation efforts. Freedom TV offers aid to inmates’ efforts in substance-use disorders, anger management, criminal thinking, and family relationships in developing positive social and personal skills. Wellness TV focuses on aiding inmates in developing and maintaining positive health-centric habits. Inmates can learn the factors that affect wellness of mind and body. Cognitive behavioral therapy content is coupled with nutrition and exercise to emphasize total and complete wellness. Education TV provides programming to help inmates with mathematics, social studies, English, history, geography, government, visual and performing arts, and much more. Employment TV offers programming designed to help inmates develop employable skills, including job-finding, interviewing, resume-building skills and financial literacy.

Mule Creek State Prison — The first inmates have been moved into the prison’s new “infill” facility. The $330 million, 60-acre facility ultimately will house 1,584 inmates in a dorm-style setting and also include space for rehabilitation programs. The new facility also is expected to employ 377 staff.

Riverside, Calif. — The Berkeley, Calif. based Prison Law Office filed a federal lawsuit alleging inmate abuse and other violations in the county jails. The lawsuit alleges that staff use excessive force and medical and mental health care are deficient, the Associated Press reports.

Hartford, Conn. — A new re-integration facility opened in February for 56 women with a capacity to add 12 more prisoners, the Associate Press reports. The facility has programming designed help the women identify issues that led to their arrests and develop skills to help them stay out of prison, once released.

Salt Lake City, Utah — State senators voted 15-12 to abolish the death penalty on March 2. The measure now goes before the Republican-dominated House. If it passes the House, Gov. Gary Herbert, a supporter of the death penalty, would likely veto the bill, the Associated Press reports.

New Mexico — Prisoner Barry Holloway has filed for an injunction against the use of double-celling in the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility, court documents show. The injunction cites a 1991 decree that brought federal oversight over the state’s prisons after 33 inmates died in a 1980 prison riot in Santa Fe, the Associated Press reports.

Phoenix, Ariz. — Relief from inadequate health care is lagging because “the state is dragging its feet in carrying out the improvements it promised when it agreed to resolve the case,” the Associated Press reports. The settlement was won on behalf of 33,000 inmates.

New York — Vanessa Gathers spent 10 years behind bars for a deadly robbery. She initially said she had nothing to do with it but later confessed. Prosecutors recently agreed to her release after examining her since-recanted confession, finding that it was peppered with facts that didn’t add up, which caused the detective’s tactics to come under question, the Associated Press reports.

Virginia — There is no waiting period for the restoration of voting rights for persons convicted of nonviolent offenses after the end of supervision. However, persons with more serious offenses must wait three years after the end of supervision and submit an application that includes a letter from their probation or parole supervisor, the Associated Press reports.

Washington D.C. — The nation’s highest court reversed the 2002 murder conviction of Louisiana Death Row inmate Michael Wearry, the Associated Press reports. The ruling cited the failure of prosecutors to turn over evidence casting doubt on the credibility of a prison informant and another witness and the state’s failure to disclose medical records raising questions about a witness’ description of the crime.

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