May 2016 News Briefs

Sacramento, Calif. — Gov. Jerry Brown granted clemency to 59 people, just before Easter Sunday. Most were convicted of nonviolent drug-related crimes. All of those pardoned have obtained a court certificate declaring that they are now rehabilitated. A gubernatorial pardon may be granted to people who have demonstrated exemplary behavior and have lived productive and law-abiding lives following their conviction.

Los Angeles — Robert Contreras will be paid nearly $6.9 million to settle a lawsuit after police shot him and left him paralyzed, reports the Associated Press. Officers said they fired after Contreras turned toward them with something in his hand—it was a cellphone.

Colorado — A 2015 change in the law regarding parole revocation cut in half recidivism rates for technical violations and reduced the state’s prison population.
Oklahoma — The Oklahoma Corrections Department has paid $92.7 million to Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America and Florida-based GEO Group, Inc. to house state prisoners for one year, according to prison officials. Since 2004, the state has spent about $975 million on contracts with the for-profit, private prison companies, the Oklahoman reports. The state’s prison system is operating at 122 percent of capacity, prison officials report.

Kincheloe, Mich. — Inmates at Chippewa Correctional Facility in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula have participated in a peaceful protest over the quality of food provided by a state contractor, an official said. The demonstrations follow another protest at Kinross Correctional Facility, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Hartford, Conn., — In 2007 Connecticut raised the age at which juveniles can be tried as adults to 17. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says he now wants the age to be raised to 20 by July 1, 2019. Malloy’s reasoning includes research that shows developing brains can make bad, impulsive decisions that can lead younger people into the criminal justice system, reports the Associated Press.

New York — Richard Rosario spent 20 years in prison before his conviction was overturned, and he was freed. While Rosario was in Florida, he was convicted of a shooting that happened in New York City even though he said he had 13 alibi witnesses to confirm his story, reports the Associated Press. Rosario’s case adds to the more than 25 New York City convictions that have been overturned in the last five years.

New York, N.Y. — A jury trial set Candie Hailey, 32, free after dismissing a charge on which she had spent more than three years in a New York City jail, reports the Associated Press. Hailey, who has been diagnosed with borderline character disorder, mood disorder and anti-social personality disorder, spent much of those three years in solitary confinement for repeated rules violations. She had faced new charges of criminal mischief, harassment, obstructing government administration and assault, all from her stay in jail. The charges were dismissed in March.

New York — U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin approved a plan in March to reduce solitary confinement in the state’s prisons. Scheindlin says the “historic settlement” will greatly reduce the frequency, duration and severity of solitary confinement for thousands of prisoners, making conditions “more humane and more just,” reports the Associated Press. She called solitary confinement a “drastic and punitive designation, one that should be used only as a last resort and for the shortest possible time to serve the penal purposes for which it is designed.”

Williamsport, Pa. — Lycoming County Coroner Charles Kiessling Jr. has started ruling heroin overdose deaths as homicides. Kiessling says drug dealers are murderers. He said he wants to raise awareness of a heroin epidemic that contributed to a 13 percent increase in overdose deaths in the state in one year. “If you chose to sell heroin, you’re killing people and you’re murdering people. You’re just as dead from a shot of heroin as if someone puts a bullet in you,” Kiessling told The Daily Item of Sunbury.

Frankfort, Ky. — Proposed new legislation would give some nonviolent felons a second chance by letting them seek to have their criminal records erased. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin said he looked forward to signing the bill, if it clears the state House and Senate, reports the Associated Press.

Ocala, Fla. — Johnny Edward Ostane was freed after serving more than two years for battery of a police officer and other charges. Ostane’s release came after a follow-up investigation found inconsistencies with the arresting officer’s report, along with inconsistencies in other reports by the same officer, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

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