February 2017 News Briefs

Eloy, Arizona — The inmates at La Palma Correctional Facility painted the four walls of a multipurpose room in memory of their California homes Cronkite News reports. The inmates, who were transferred to Arizona as part of a contract with the California prison system, are in a drug and alcohol treatment program. The private prison is operated by Corrections Corporation of America, which recently rebranded as CoreCivic.

Milwaukee, Wis. — The Huffington Post reported that four people have died in custody in county jail since last April, including two inmates with medical emergencies, a man with mental-health issues who succumbed to “profound dehydration” and a baby who died following the ignored repeated requests of a detained pregnant woman in labor. Based on an independent investigation, the deaths were likely caused by delays in access to care, personnel shortages and a lack of staff oversight.

Illinois — Illinois has been selected for participation in the National Criminal Justice Reform Project (NCJRP). NCJRP offers technical assistance in planning and implementing data-driven, evidence-based practices in pretrial reform, re-entry and offender recidivism, mental health and substance abuse, reducing incarceration, and information sharing. The state was one of three states selected for participation from more than 20 applicants across the country.

Somerville, Mass. — John Valverde, 47, spent 16 years in prison for killing a man accused of raping his girlfriend, SF Gate reports. While in prison, Valverde earned two college degrees and taught fellow inmates how to read and write. He also worked as an HIV/AIDS counselor. Valverde is the new chief executive of YouthBuild USA Inc. It is an organization with a worldwide set of programs aimed at helping young, low-income dropouts to improve their lives. The program began in 1978 in New York City’s East Harlem. It has now grown to 250 programs around the U.S. and more than 80 programs in 21 other countries. Participants work toward their high school diplomas or equivalency while learning job skills by building affordable housing, performing community service and participating in leadership training, SF Gates report.

Connecticut —Democrat Gov. Dannel Malloy has reduced the state’s inmate population to a 20-year low as rates of violent crime are falling, according to The Crime Report.

Pennsylvania — According to PennLive.com, the prison officials ended the “food loaf” policy in an effort to “humanize” how the most dangerous and quarrelsome prisoners are treated, the department’s executive deputy secretary, Shirley Moore Smeal, said. The loaves, made of rice, raw potatoes, carrots, cabbage, and oatmeal, were replaced by a more nutritionally balanced meal delivered in a paper bag to inmates deemed deserving of a “behavior-modifying meal.”

Pennsylvania — A recent report from a criminal justice reform group said Pennsylvania should stop automatically suspending driver’s licenses for drug convictions not related to driving. The report by the Prison Policy Initiative focuses on the 12 states, including Pennsylvania and Washington D.C., that automatically suspend driver’s licenses for all drug convictions. These laws make it harder for those with such convictions to access jobs, the report said. The report noted that only Virginia, Michigan, Florida and New Jersey suspend more licenses annually than Pennsylvania.

Arkansas — The state’s lethal injection supply of potassium chloride is set to run out. The state has not had an execution since 2005 as its 35 Death Row inmates are waiting for the state Supreme Court to decide on the legality of the state’s secrecy law, which requires the Department of Correction of conceal the maker, seller and other information about capital punishment drugs.

Alabama — Lynneice Washington will be the first district attorney in Jefferson County who is not a white man. When she takes office next month, Washington will be the first Black woman serving as a district attorney in the history of the state. She will also join a very small club nationwide: Ninety-five percent of elected prosecutors are White and just 1 percent are women of color, according to a report released last summer by the Reflective Democracy Campaign.

Atmore, Ala. — Ronald Bert Smith Jr., 45, was executed on Dec. 8. Smith killed a store clerk more than two decades ago. Thirteen minutes into the execution two consciousness tests were conducted as Smith heaved and coughed, The Associated Press reports. The AP article quoted, “In a consciousness test, a prison officer says the inmate’s name, brushes his eyelashes and then pinches his left arm. During the first one, Smith moved his arm. He slightly raised his right arm again after the second consciousness test.”

Jackson, Ga. — William Sallie was put to death on Dec. 6. Sallie killed his father-in-law, shooting and wounding his mother-in-law and abducting and sexually assaulting his wife and her sister, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports. Georgia executed five people in 2015 and led the nation in executions last year with nine. Texas was second, with seven executions.

USA — While the incarceration rates in federal prisons, state jails and state prisons fell by more than 8 percent from 2010 to 2015, violent and property crimes have dropped at even higher levels — a combined 14.6 percent. A study released by the Pew Charitable Trusts showed that the 10 states with the largest declines in imprisonment during that time span, including California, Texas and New Jersey, saw crime fall an average of 14.4 percent.

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