1. South Carolina –There were at least 10 suicides in the state’s prisons last year— the cause of two deaths have not yet been determined, re- ports The Post and Courier. In addition, there were nine homicides — including seven at Lee Correctional, making last year the deadliest year in the history of the state’s prisons. Prison homicides and suicides have risen in the state for at least five years in a row even as the inmate population declined.
2. Cleveland, Ohio –The state’s prison system is so short of staff that interns evaluate the state’s correctional facilities, The Plain Dealer reports. The administrative staff of the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee has just one full-time employee. Five years ago, it had six. Because of the employee shortage, the staff struggles to write and disseminate reports to legislators and the public on the state’s 27 prisons and three juvenile facilities, according to interviews and a review of records.
3. USA –More states plan to count state prisoners as residents of their home communities, rather than residents of the places where they are incarcerated, The Pew Charitable Trusts reports. Counting prisoners as residents of their hometowns would boost the legislative representation of Democratic-leaning urban areas with large minority populations while weakening the power of Republican, mostly White rural areas, Pew reports. New York and Maryland made the change after the 2010 census, and California and Delaware will start with the next redistricting cycle after the 2020 count. Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Jersey could follow suit.
4. USA –The length of a prisoner’s incarceration in the federal prison system largely depends on how the sentencing judge exercises his or her discretion, accord- ing to a new report by the U.S. Sentencing Commission. The commission examined federal district judges in 30 cities and found that the length of sentences for the same crime could vary greatly — as much as 63 percent — between judges in the same city. The goal of the Commission’s report was to assess the impacts of the a U.S. Supreme Court deci- sion, which abolished part of the federal sentencing statute that restricted federal judges to imposing sentences within mandatory guidelines.
5. California – Quintin Morris, 53, was released from Folsom State Prison after being granted parole last year for a crime he always said he did not commit. The last dozen or so years the California Innocence Project assisted Morris fight his conviction for being one of the masked gunman who opened fire on four teenagers in the Pacoima area of the San Fernando Valley in November 1991. Records show police stopped Morris and his friends near the crime scene. Even though no scientific evidence linked him to the crime, one of the victims said that Morris was one of the masked gunmen. A jury convicted Morris in 1994, and he was sentenced to 33 years to life in prison.
6. Lincoln, Neb. —A Jan. 25 ruling by the state’s highest court keeps Death Row inmates eligible for capital punishment, the World–Herald Bureau reports. The ACLU of Nebraska had argued that when the state Legislature repealed capital punishment in 2015, the law was in effect long enough to convert the death sentences of the 11 men then on death row to life in prison. The civil rights organization claimed that the 2016 vote by Nebraskans to restore capital punishment pertained only to future cases.
7. Santa Fe, NM — More than 200 inmates in New Mexico are suing Securus Technologies Inc., the company that provides phone service to the state’s prisons, because of an increase from about 3.25 cents to 8 cents per minute charge, according to The Associated Press.
8. Richmond, Va. — A bill approved Jan. 25, requires prison officials to, “notify visitors about the policy prohibiting menstrual cups and tampons ahead of their visit; provide visitors the option of removing any prohibited menstrual product and replacing it with a state-issued one in order to have a contact visit with an inmate; allow visitors who do not want to remove prohibited menstrual products the option of a no-contact visit with an inmate,” Capital News Service reports.
9. USA – Hispanics in the United States are four times more likely than Whites to be incarcerated; twice as likely to live in poverty and about 50 percent more likely to be unemployed, 24/7 Wall St. reports. Hispanic adults are also less likely to have completed high school or college and are far less likely than White Americans to be homeowners. The states with the lowest Hispanic home ownership are: Massachusetts (25.4 percent) Rhode Is- land (27.7 percent), New York (25.1 percent). The states with the highest poverty rates for Hispanics are: Rhode Is- land (28.9 percent), Pennsylvania (30.8 percent), North Carolina (30.1 percent).