August 2016 News Briefs

San Francisco— San Francisco State University will lead a statewide effort to expand college access for formerly incarcerated individuals, the university announced June 17. Seven California State University campuses — Bakersfield, Fresno, Fullerton, Pomona, Sacramento, San Bernardino and San Diego — will establish programs modeled after SF State’s Project Rebound. Established in 1967 by the late Dr. John Irwin, a formerly incarcerated individual who became an SF State sociology professor and internationally recognized advocate for prisoners’ rights, the program helps those who have spent time in jail or prison earn college degrees, drastically reducing the likelihood they will return to incarceration. The expansion is funded through a $500,000 “Renewing Communities” grant from The Opportunity Institute.

Iowa— The state’s highest court on June 30 refused to restore voting rights to more than 20,000 of the states ex-felons, ruling that the state constitution allows the disenfranchisement of people convicted of “infamous crimes,” THINKPROGRESS reports.

Nebraska— State legislators passed a law calling for prison officials to use the least restrictive means, while maintaining safety and order in the prisons, when separating inmates from the general prison population. The law grew out of hearings in 2014 by a legislative investigative committee that showed a lack of formal rules on solitary confinement allowed Nikko Jenkins to be isolated much of his time in prison and contributed to him killing four people in Omaha following his release directly from solitary confinement to the community.

Kansas— The state high court ruled on June 17 that solitary confinement can, in extreme cases, amount to a violation of constitutional rights and ordered district judges to take into consideration how long prisoners spend in solitary confinement, The Topeka Capital Journal reports.

Arkansas— A corrections analysis group reports the state’s inmate population will climb 2.4 percent a year and increase from more than 17,000 inmates last year to more than 22,000 inmates by 2026, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.

Arkansas— The state can execute eight death-row inmates, a split state supreme court ruled June 23, The Guardian reports. The ruling upholds a state law that keeps information about its lethal injection drugs confidential.

Texas— According to data from the state comptroller’s office, 101 men and women who were wrongfully sent to prison received $93.6 million over the past 25 years, The Texas Tribune reports.

Louisiana— A lawsuit seeks to restore voting rights for some 70,000 Louisiana residents who are on probation or parole for felonies, The Associated Press reports. The suit claims state laws preventing people who are on parole or probation from voting violates the Louisiana Constitution. The 1974 constitution allows suspension of voting rights for people judicially declared mentally incompetent or those who are “under an order of imprisonment” for a felony. The lawsuit contends that the denial of voting rights does not extend to felons who have been released on parole or probation. The suit asks the court to declare unconstitutional state laws that prohibit voting by felons on parole or probation.

Mississippi— The U.S. Justice Department reached an agreement with Hinds County on June 23 requiring the county government to provide programs offering alternatives to jail, reentry services for inmates leaving incarceration and the prohibition of some jail sentences for failure to pay court ordered fines and fees, The New York Times reports. The settlement comes after the Justice Department found, last year, that the county’s jails regularly violated the constitutional rights of inmates by keeping prisoners past their release dates and that it failed to protect prisoners from violence perpetrated by guards and other inmates.

Raleigh, North Carolina—Prison officials announced on June 29 plans to stop isolating inmates who are 17 and younger in solitary confinement, The Charlotte Observer reports. In addition, prison officials said the state will establish a new Youthful Offender Program that will focus on the education, behavioral health and treatment needs of the approximately 70 inmates younger than 18 housed in the state prison system.

Washington, DC— The Obama administration on June 24 announced approximately 12,000 prison inmates will be able to use Second Chance Pell Grants to go to college, Politico reports. The taxpayer-funded grants would allow prison inmates to receive financial aid for college for the first time in more than 20 years. There are 67 colleges and universities participating — ranging from Alvin Community College in Texas to Villanova University in Pennsylvania. Most are public colleges No for-profit college is on the list.

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