1. USA — Last year, the state of Texas carried out the most executions in the US with nine. Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee followed with three each. Florida had two, and South Dakota and Missouri had one. Pending death warrants for 2020 as of Jan. 17 show that Ohio is leading the nation with nine, followed by Texas with seven, Tennessee with three and Georgia with one, the Death Penalty Information Center reports.
2. USA — Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, Dreams Of My Father by Barack Obama, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb, Kindred by Octavia Butler, and Mosby’s Medical Dictionary are among thousands of books banned by state and federal prisons in America, The Birmingham Times reports.
3. Washington, DC — Federal courts have cleared the way for more than 2,400 federal prisoners to have their sentences reduced while compassionate releases have been approved for another 124 seriously ill prisoners, the U.S. Justice Department reported last January.
4. Washington, DC—Incarcerated people doing time in a jail are publishing a six-page newsletter, called Inside Scoop, The Washington Post reports. The 81⁄2 by 11 publication usually has from 10 to 16 articles. There are articles about criminal justice reform and jail programs as well as poems and advice columns, including one about finances.
5. New Jersey —In a move he said was in honor of Martin Luther King’s legacy, Gov. Phil Murphy on Jan. 20 signed a trio of bills into law to further criminal justice reform, NJ.com reports. State officials say one new law could streamline the parole process and reduce the state’s prison population. The other measures change the rules on when authorities can seize valuables and money in the state and allocates taxpayer dollars to fund programs to reduce violence, NJ.com reports.
6.Florida —The state’s Supreme Court issued an advisory opinion Jan. 16 that felons must first pay certain fines and fees before gaining access to the polls, Mother Jones reports. The decision is not legally binding but could influence future rulings by federal judges and put the re-enfranchisement of potentially 1.4 million Floridians at risk.
7. Georgia — Jimmy Fletcher Meders was granted clemency hours before his scheduled execution Jan. 16, in part because jurors wanted him to be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, CNN reports. Four years after his trial, the state added life without parole as a possible punishment.
8. Huntsville, Texas — John Gardner was the first person executed in the U.S. this year, The Texas Tribune reports. Gardner was executed with a lethal dose of pentobarbital at 6:20 p.m. on Jan. 15.
9. Nashville, Tenn.— State Attorney General Herbert Slatery is pursuing execution dates for nine death row inmates, all men, The New York Times report. Four of the nine are Black. Statistics show Blacks make up 17% of the state’s population but about half of its Death Row prisoners. There also is a geographic disparity: since 2001, only eight of the state’s 95 counties have imposed sustained death sentences. Almost half of the men on Death Row are from Shelby County, which includes Memphis and is Tennessee’s largest county but it includes less than 14% of the state population, according to a court filing asking the executions to be put on hold.
10. Vacaville, CA — The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California reports that James A. “Sneaky” White Jr., a Jewish prisoner convicted of murder and imprisoned for nearly four decades, stepped out of prison on Jan. 21. While incarcerated, he began community outreach programs, including a Vietnam veterans’ group while in San Quentin, one of several prisons where he spent time. At Ironwood, he convinced a warden to help him start the college program. At the time there was only one other program like it in the state, at San Quentin; now nearly every prison in California has adopted the format. White also created a culture of charity in prison, convincing fellow inmates and guards to donate to local organizations. Over the years, he helped raise several hundred thousand dollars for everything from seeing-eye dogs for veterans to a local girls’ softball team, all through in-prison fundraisers like walkathons and pizza sales.
11. Kentucky—Less than a month after Governor Andy Beshear signed an executive order restoring the right to vote to roughly 140,000 people with felony convictions who have completed their sentence, state Republicans introduced a bill that would make it hard- er for those people to vote, Truthout reports.