- Milwaukee, Wisconsin — County jail staff cut Terrill Thomas’ access to water in his cell for seven consecutive days before he died of dehydration, USA Today reports. Thomas was too mentally unstable to ask for help as he slowly died, prosecutors said. The statements from prosecutors are the first official account, validating what inmates previously told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Los Angeles — The death of four inmates in jails run by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in March prompted a protest near downtown Los Angeles. A spokesperson for the sheriff’s department confirmed one of the deaths was a suicide, but declined to provide specific information, citing ongoing investigations, the Los Angeles Times reports.
- Washington, DC — US Immigration and Customs Enforcement awarded the GEO Group a contract for the development and operation of a 1,000-bed detention facility in Texas, according to Reuters. The $110 million detention facility is projected to generate approximately $44 million in profits per year. Critics say the addition, which would house children, would place them in an unsafe and unsuitable environment.
- Denver — In a move to reassure immigrants who are fearful of ending up in ICE custody, Denver city officials plan to restructure penalties for minor violations in order reduce the number subject to a year in jail. They will also enact a local hate-crimes law, and try out other programs to reform the criminal-justice system. According to the Colorado News, these measures will make immigration sentencing more equitable and less one-size-fits-all.
- Washington, DC — Top administrators and wardens of federal prisons were paid more than $2 million in bonuses by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. These administrators and wardens earned the bonuses while the agency was confronting issues such as overcrowding, sub-par inmate medical care, chronic staffing shortages and a lurid sexual harassment lawsuit that had engulfed its largest institution, government and court documents show. The awards ranged from $7,000 to $28,000, reports USA Today.
- Houston, Texas — A federal judge ruled that Houston’s jails disproportionately affect the poor and people of color. To address the violations of due process and equal protection, county officials were ordered to start releasing indigent inmates without bail pending trials over misdemeanor offenses, the Houston Chronicle reported.
- Minneapolis, Minn. — The chief of police, Janeé Harteau, learned as a young cop policing the Third Precinct with her partner, Holly Keegel, that women use their verbal and communication skills better than men when making arrests, reports the Star Tribune. Both found that treating people with dignity works very well in de-escalating encounters with suspects as an alternative to using physical force. Due to their findings, the department is rethinking its use-of-force policies, while stepping up its efforts to recruit female officers.
- Kansas —The state has reorganized its prison system, moving inmates to other locations in its largest facilities to reduce the use of solitary confinement, says a corrections spokesman. According to accounts in the Topeka Capital-Journal, although prisoners welcome the policy changes, there are rising concerns about the potential for conflict erupting among opposing gang members who may now be housed together.
- Pennsylvania — Penn State University criminologist Doris MacKenzie and James K. (Chips) Stewart, public safety director of the CNA Corporation, were named this year’s winners of the Distinguished Achievement Award in Evidence-Based Crime Policy by the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy at George Mason University, reports The Crime Report. The award is given to people “who are committed to a leadership role in advancing the use of scientific research evidence in decisions about crime and justice policies.” MacKenzie is an expert on correctional boot camps, and is the author of What Works in Corrections? Reducing the Criminal Activities of Offenders and Delinquents. Stewart is a former director of the U.S. Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice, and serves as an adviser to DOJ’s SMART Policing Initiative, which provides assistance and training to 35 local law enforcement agencies.
- Sacramento — Jermaine Padilla was awarded $950,000 in a settlement with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation after he was repeatedly pepper sprayed before being strapped naked to a gurney for 72 hours, reports The Sacramento Bee. Padilla was dragged from his cell after the prison psychiatrist ordered that he be medicated involuntarily. Padilla had refused to take his psychotropic medications.
- Philadelphia — Formerly incarcerated men and women have formed a political action committee to advocate for Larry Krasner, a district attorney candidate with a civil rights background, in the upcoming election. Krasner’s platform includes abolishing mass incarceration, the death penalty, and stop-and-frisk policies. It is believed to be the city’s first political action committee for those with a vested interest in criminal justice reform, reports Cherri Gregg, KYW News radio.
12. San Luis Obispo — Children who are provided free transportation to see their parents in California Men’s Colony were given handmade teddy bears. Incarcerated women at the Women’s Honor Farm made them. The visitation program, Get on the Bus, is scheduled every Mother’s and Father’s Day. This is the fourth year the Women’s Honor Farm has donated teddy bears.
13. Chicago – A new court is offering non-violent offenders a different way to address alleged wrongdoings. The court will use the holistic approach found in restorative justice. Some of the tactics, geared to younger offenders, use mediation between the accused and accuser and restitution to the local community. The use of restorative justice is gradually gaining acceptance in classrooms and community organizations across the nation as well as being integrated into the criminal justice system, The Atlantic reports.
14. United States — At year’s end 2015, 33 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons held 2,881 inmates under sentence of death, 61 fewer than at year’s end 2014, a Bureau of Justice Statistics report shows. It was the 15th consecutive year in which the number of inmates with death sentences decreased. In 2015, six states executed 28 inmates. Twenty-one states removed 82 inmates from under the sentence of death.