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1. Muscatine, Iowa – Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said that more states should let people with felony records vote while they’re in prison in an article in the Des Moines Register. “I think that is absolutely the direction we should go,” Sanders said in response to a question regarding voting from prison.
2. Nevada – An estimated 90,000 Nevadans were un- able to vote in the 2016 election because of prior convictions, or about 4% of the voting age population, reports The Nevada Independent. A new bill would remove any waiting requirement and automatically apply voting rights to any per- son regardless of the severity of their crime, or if they are on parole or probation.
3. Washington – (Reuters) On a 5-4 vote with the court’s conservatives in the majority, the US Supreme court reversed two lower court decisions that delayed the execution of Alabama inmate Christopher Price, 46, for 60 days. Price has requested execution by lethal gas instead of lethal injection.
4. Sacramento – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has awarded $4 million in grants to volunteer and community-based organizations in its continued effort to enhance rehabilitative programs and activities in California state prisons. The grants were awarded for a period of three years, for a total of $12 million in fund- ing. CDCR will use the Innovative Programming Grants to help balance offerings and provide opportunities at prisons that historically may not have a large number of volunteer-led programs.
5. Pennsylvania – Brandon Flood, 46, has a new job as secretary of the five-member Board of Pardons, a panel that give felons a chance for clemency or wipe their slate clean by pardoning past convictions, The Inquirer reports. What makes the appointment remarkable is that Flood’s past includes boot camp for juvenile offenders, felony convictions for deal- ing crack cocaine and carrying an unlicensed gun.
6. Pennsylvania – State law- makers approved a dozen victim-centered bills that include restrictions on cross- examinations of rape vic- tims, eliminating the statute of limitations for child sexu- al abuse, making it easier for people with intellectual dis- abilities to testify in court, as well as a formal bill of rights for crime victims known as Marcy’s Law.
7. Simi Valley – Craig Coley was released from prison in 2017 after then Gov. Jerry Brown who said that DNA evidence and reinvestigation proved his innocence pardoned him. Coley has since reached a $21 million settlement with the city of Simi Valley for being wrongly imprisoned for nearly 40 years.
8. USA – There were 101 exonerations for violent felonies in the US, including 68 homicides, 7 child sex abuse convictions, 10 sexual assaults on adults. Two of the homicide exonerees had been sentenced to death. Thirty- three were of drug crimes; Twenty-three were based on whole or part DNA evidence; Seventy were of convictions in which no crime was actually committed; 107 included misconduct by government officials; forty-nine were based on guilty pleas; thirty-one involved mistaken eyewitness identifications; nineteen involved false confessions; 111 included perjury or a false accusation; and ninety-nine were the result of work by prosecutorial conviction integrity units or innocence organizations.
9. Minnesota – Ex-offenders on parole or supervised release can use medical marijuana under a new policy, the Star Tribune reports.
10. New Hampshire – Last April state lawmakers passed a veto proof measure to end the death penalty, the Los Angeles Times report.
- Alabama – State lawmakers took steps to change Alabama’s execution method from lethal injections to nitrogen hypoxia, Criminal Legal News reports. The change ended a lawsuit filed by eight Death Row prisoners who chose execution by nitrogen hypoxia over lethal injection.
- Arkansas – A trial judge dismissed all charges against former Death Row prisoner Rickey Dale Newman and set him free on Oct. 11. Newman spent nearly 17 years incarcerated following the February 2001 murder of a transient woman, the Death Penalty Information Center reports. He became the 160th person since 1973 to be exonerated after a wrongful conviction and death sentence.
- Baltimore – James “J.J.” Owens received $9 million last May for being wrongfully convicted of the 1988 rape and murder of a woman. DNA evidence exonerated Owens in 2006, and he was released from prison in 2008. After 10 years of legal wrangling, the case finally settled, Criminal Legal News reports.
- California – Los Angeles County’s jail population is three times larger than San Diego’s; however, the death rate in San Diego jails is higher, Criminal Legal News reports. Between 2007 and 2012, 60 prisoners died in San Diego’s jails, including 16 suicides. None of the 10 largest jails in the state had a higher death rate.
- Lincoln County, Ore. – Bradley Thomas’ family collected $2.85 million to settle a wrongful death suit, Prison Legal News reports. Thomas, 55 years old, was mentally ill when he died of dehydration in a county jail. The lawsuit claimed that jailers violated his civil rights when they were “deliberately indifferent” to his serious medical and psychiatric needs following his arrest in 2015.
- Little Rock, Ark. – The state’s highest court decided 4-3 to strike down the state’s death-penalty mental competency law. The ruling held that it is a due process violation for prison directors exclusively to decide if a Death Row prisoner is competent for execution, the Death Penalty Information Center reports.
- Louisiana – While lawyers litigate the state’s lethal injection protocol, a federal judge halted the execution of the state’s 71 Death Row prisoners, until at least July 18, 2019, Criminal Legal News reports.
- Iowa – The state’s Supreme Court adopted and announced a new rule that takes claims of actual innocence as freestanding claims under the post-conviction-relief statute, regardless of whether the applicant knowingly and voluntarily pleaded guilty. The new rule overturns prior cases that had barred relief under those facts, Criminal Legal News reports.
- New York – Herman Bell received a sentence of 25 years to life in 1971 for the murder of two NYPD officers. He spent 46 years in prison. He was denied parole seven times before granted parole and released in April 2018. Now 70 years old, he’s long held that he was a political prisoner, Prison Legal News reports.
- Oklahoma –Two former Death Row prisoners agreed to a $3.15 million settlement in their federal civil rights lawsuits against their prosecutor and the State of Oklahoma, Prison Legal News reports. Yancy L. Douglas, 43, and Paris Lapriest Powell, 44, were exonerated in 2009 of the drive-by shooting of a 14-year-old girl in 1993.
- Philadelphia – On his third day in office, District Attorney Larry Krasner fired 31 career prosecutors, Criminal Legal News reports. He instructed the remaining prosecutors to stop insisting on cash bail for minor offenses, such as possessing marijuana.
- South Dakota – Rodney Scott Berget, 56, was executed Nov. 11 for killing 63-year-old corrections officer Ronald Johnson in 2011 during an escape attempt with another inmate, reports Newsweek.
- Tennessee – The Tennessee Journal of Law and Policy published a review of the application of capital punishment in the state. The review examined all the first-degree murder cases prosecuted in the last 40 years and concluded that the system is a “cruel lottery” and does not rectify the deficiencies that led the U.S. Supreme Court to declare its death penalty laws unconstitutional in 1972,” Criminal Legal News reports.
- Texas – Of the 26,000 guards employed in the state’s 104 prisons, 28 percent quit in 2017, an increase from last year’s 22.8 percent turnover rate, state reports show. The high rate of attrition was followed by a failure to fill 3,930 open positions, resulting in a vacancy rate of 15.22 percent in April, Prison Legal News reports.
- USA– A survey was conducted for the Vera Institute of Justice between Feb. 27 and March 5, found a majority of Americans, 67 percent overall, believe that building more prisons and jails does not reduce crime, Prison Legal News reports. In addition, 62 percent, don’t believe that more prisons would improve the quality of life in their communities.
They came from all over the prison and the nation. Scholars dressed in standard blue prison uniforms walked down a staircase that leads from the cellblocks, while a group of civilians hiked down a ramp that leads from a courtyard just inside the entrance to the prison to meet on the San Quentin Lower Yard for the Prison University Project’s first ever academic conference.
The conference, called Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reform: 21st Century Solutions to 20th Century Problems, was organized by Amy Jamgochian and consisted of nine panels, where teachers, lawyers, advocates, formerly incarcerated women and incarcerated scholars presented their ideas on higher education access and criminal justice reform.
“Each panel had a lot of quality,” said Judy Appel, a Berkeley Unified School District board member who attended the conference. “The PUP students who spoke had the most deep and helpful analysis into the problems and solutions. Their nuances, as a policy maker, made me think about how we should be working more with folks inside on policy solutions.”
The panels took place in separate Prison University Project (PUP) classrooms, the study hall and even the San Quentin News room. Broken into two sessions, five panels took place in the first 90-minute period, four panels in the second.
Each panel member, guided by a moderator, presented separate ideas on focused topics. They covered “Histories and Narratives of Incarceration,” “Precursors to Prison,” “The Fine Line Between Help and Harm,” “Bodies and Control, Developing Agency in the Community,” “Alternative Methods and Materials,” “Alternatives to Incarceration,” “Incarceration and Intersectionality: the Experiences and Analyses of Formerly Incarcerated Women” and “Hurdles to Re- entry.”
In the room where Precursors to Prison was discussed, Jesse Vasquez, a PUP student sat on a panel with Xenia Cox, founder of Paroled to College and graduate student at Rutgers University School of Education who co-authored Using Resilience Theory and Trauma-Informed Practice to Disrupt the School to Prison Pipeline. She flew in from New Jersey just for the conference. Also on the panel were Brita Bookser and Gabby Falzone, both from the University of California at Berkeley.
“Jesse killed it,” Adnan Khan, founder of First Watch, said. “That’s one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard.”
Vasquez delivered a passionate, researched talk sprinkled with his own personal experiences in a presentation called Public Education: A Head Start or a Setup.
“The school-to-prison sewage system starts with state-mandated core curriculums and standardized testing and ends with penal statutes that criminalize ignorance and trauma,” Vasquez said. “Since children cannot identify with the academic presentation of reality, they seek an alternative. Gangs usually meet a youth’s need for identity and community.”
On panel three: The Fine Line Between Help and Harm, PUP student James King and coordinator Heather Hart gave a joint presentation about how the savior complex in prison rehabilitative programs upholds the status quo. The powerful speech made other panelists rethink their positions.
“Academics can and should be strong partners with us in facilitating criminal justice reform—we need partners who will enter prisons, work with incarcerated people to develop alternatives to incarceration and develop pathways for us to engage with outside communities,” King closed his speech saying.
“Hold on, I need a minute because I feel like you were talking about me,” one panelist said.
Nayeon Kim, an attorney and PUP instructor, considered King’s and Hart’s speeches the best she heard that day.
“It was great discussion about internal decolonization work that people should do to stay ahead of the system,” Kim said. “It called people to hold themselves accountable to true needs, spoken by people who don’t need anyone to feel bad, they need partnerships.”
The panels took a short break for lunch, where the guests were served the same thing the incarcerated men get about three times a week—boxed peanut butter and jelly lunches.
“Being here was hard for me,” said Lily Gonzalez, who spent two years in solitary confinement while incarcerated. “When I saw the peanut butter and jelly, I gagged. I knew it would be triggering, but I came because the reality I believe for myself isn’t the one I’m experiencing right now. I’m here for people in here, not because I validate institutions but because I’m willing to go through hoops to have the interactions.”
One woman visiting a prison for the first time opened up the boxed lunch, took out the bread and started eating the plain bread. When asked why she didn’t put the peanut butter and jelly on the bread first, she answered, “I thought the sandwiches were premade.”
In the second session of panels, one dealt with Incarceration and Intersectionality: the Experiences and Analyses of Formerly Incarcerated Women. The members were Venus Rountree, a currently incarcerated transgender person, Karen Shain, the moderator and three formerly incarcerated women: Kathleen Culhane, Lily Gonzalez of Revolutionary Scholars at Cal State Northridge and Romarilyn Ralston.
Ralston shared her experiences from serving 23 years at the California Institute for Women State Prison. There she enrolled in college. Upon release, she obtained two graduate degrees and works as a coordinator for Project Rebound, through which formerly incarcerated people get college degrees. She has been home for more than seven years and off parole for two.
Montrell McDuffie, a 20-year-old PUP student, teamed up with PUP coordinator Alison Lopez to present a paper on Sounding Educated: Education at a Correctional Institution about the wisdom of letting students submit papers in their own English dialects.
“As an African-American I already have negative perceptions and less of a chance at succeeding than going to prison,” McDuffie said. “Part of the reason I struggled in English was because I felt that having to write ‘grammatically correct’ was not me.”
After the final round of panels ended, the only complaint was that everyone couldn’t hear all the panels. PUP has posted a short video from the conference on their website (prison university project.org).
The conference ended with a speech called “Reimagining Justice Everywhere from the Prison to the Classroom” by Associate Professor Patrick Elliot Alexander, a teacher at Mississippi State Prison (Parchman) who wrote From Slaveships to Supermax.
Alexander, originally from Dayton, Ohio, took the job at Parchman because he wanted to get proximate to the problem. He described Parchman as a place where the men serving time wore the same striped uniforms they did during slavery and worked in the fields picking vegetables for pennies an hour. Yet the men he interacts with are scholars.
“Every day my students repeat ‘I’m a student, I’m a teacher, I’m a scholar, I am capable.’ Now imagine doing that at Parchman at the top of your lungs,” Alexander said.
After his speech, a Native American reminded the audience that Indians also suffered greatly in this country.
“You forgot one minority—the Indian. He does six times more time than the White man and more time than the Blacks,” said Hector Heredia, Native American chaplain. “When you talk about slavery, you have to remember Indians were the first slaves.”
James King closed out the conference by thanking everyone who helped make it possible and expressing hope for more to come.
“This conference was a great experience, and I’m hoping that it leads to more academics coming into prison to work with incarcerated scholars to work on solutions to incarceration,” King said.
For the purpose of deportable convictions, a carjacking conviction in California does not always qualify as a violent crime, according to a recent federal court decision.
The United States Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit held that carjacking under California Penal Code 215(a) does not qualify as a crime of violence under federal law because the state statute does not require “physical force capable of causing physical pain or injury to another person.”
In the Solorio-Ruiz v. Sessions case, at issue was whether Mexican native Roberto Solorio-Ruiz was deportable because of his 1995 carjacking conviction. Solorio-Ruiz applied for relief from removal under a law that allows residents who had been lawfully domiciled in the United States for seven consecutive years. A waiver is available in certain circumstances but not when the applicant has served more than five years for an aggravated felony.
The Board of Immigration Appeals found Solorio-Ruiz ineligible for a waiver because of his carjacking conviction.
The Ninth Circuit concluded that a conviction for carjacking under California Penal Code 215 is no longer categorically a crime of violence. They based their decision on the United States Supreme Court ruling in Johnson v. United States, 559 U.S. 133, 140 (2010), which held that the physical force that a crime of violence entails must be “violent force—that is, force capable of causing physical pain or injury to another person.” Furthermore, the Ninth Circuit held that their prior holding in Nieves-Medrano v. Holder, 590 F.3d 1057, 1058 (9th Cir. 2010) no longer has standing after Johnson.
However, the question of whether California carjacking is a theft offense under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a) (43) (G) remains open and the Ninth Circuit remanded the case to the Board of Immigration Appeals to consider that issue.
In Solorio-ruiz v. Sessions DAR 01/30/18 at page 988.
In spite of the negative stigma of a felony conviction, new policies developed by local, state and federal officials will encourage employers to hire the formerly incarcerated, according to a Rand Corporation report.
Policies such as “Ban the Box,” certificates of rehabilitation, the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) and Department of Labor Reintegration of Ex-Offender grants, even with limitations, improve the chances of the formerly incarcerated for employment, the Rand study found.
“To inform policies and programs aimed at improving employment rates for ex-offenders, we conducted experiments to examine employer preferences regarding policy options targeted to incentivizing the employment of individuals with felony criminal records,” Rand stated.
According to the Rand study, there are several theories that attempt to explain the “consistent negative relationship” between the formerly incarcerated and employers, which results in poor labor market success for many of those with criminal records.
“Employers’ primary concerns are violent convictions and low skills,” according to the Rand study.
Having a criminal record is associated with low productivity and reliability, it was reported. This, according to Rand, explains why ex-offenders receive fewer job offers and earn less money.
“There are two sets of economic discrimination theories to explain why firms choose not to hire ex-offenders even when they possess the necessary skills for a job,” Rand reported. First, “employers worry that their clients or employees associate ex-offender status with being a high-risk worker.” Second, “employers cannot be certain about the productivity levels of prospective workers.”
The Rand study focused on policies designed to ease employer concerns by offsetting “actual or perceived costs of employing an ex-offender.” For example, in 1996 the federal tax code made available a credit to for-profit companies that employ groups that face certain barriers to entry in the job market, including “ex-felons.”
Another way to increase employment opportunities for ex-felons is the “Ban the Box” (BTB) policy that limits the use of an applicant’s criminal history by employers when making hiring decisions.
“There are over 4,800 legal restrictions facing people with convictions after sentence completion…73% of these legal barriers are permanent.”
“SAFE AND SOUND: …” by Californians For Safety and Justice Nov. 2017
“By delaying employers’ ability to use a job applicant’s criminal history as a signal of low employability, BTB policies aim to encourage ex-offenders to apply for positions,” Rand reported.
A certificate of rehabilitation can also be used as an incentive for employers to hire the formally incarcerated. According Rand, “a certificate of rehabilitation (CoR) is a judicial order in which, typically, a court determines that an individual has shown exemplary behavior and declares them judicially rehabilitated.” Eleven states, including California, provide some form of this certificate.
Because an ex-offender’s loss of driving privilege can negatively affect an employer’s decision to hire them, some employment and training programs for ex-offenders include a transportation component, the Rand study says, adding also that “auto ownership has been shown to increase employment rates.”
“To identify policies that could increase employment rates of workers with criminal records, we conducted two policy experiments using a survey-based, modified-discrete choice experiment approach,” Rand reported.
Rand chose a tax credit and a private staffing agency to test employers’ preferences within its experimental hiring design.
“While the policy features studied in the experiments are largely hypothetical, they are based on the federal WOTC; local and state BTB laws; services of probation, parole, and re-entry programs; and services of employment or staffing agencies,” the study stated.
Some results from the study indicate that employers that used the baseline staffing agency would forward a candidate with the necessary skills and a nonviolent felony conviction to the next round of recruitment 42.9 percent of the time.
It was reported that seven out of 10 employers “would consider hiring a candidate if, in addition to the baseline package, there was also a guaranteed replacement worker program (65.6 percent) or a certified work performance history.”
Other results show that if an ex-felon job candidate with the required skills and a nonviolent felony conviction was supported by a tax credit, about six out of 10 employers would forward the candidate on to the next level of recruitment.
Lastly, “approximately five to six out of 10 employers said they would forward the candidate on to the next recruitment round if they had secure, consistent transportation,” Rand reported, adding finally that “the candidate with validated work performance is 24.4 percent more likely to be considered for a job than the other candidate.”
The state’s prison system plans to build a new 50-bed mental health facility in Chino for Southern California inmates.
ICE reported “24,476 of the 185,507 inmates in the federal Bureau of Prisons system were not citizens…” THE NEW YORK TIMES Dec. 22, 2017
Working, drawing and preliminary plans are budgeted in at $3.6 million and will probably be completed at the end of 2019,” Bill Sessa, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), told the Chino Champion newspaper.
He noted there is a shortage of mental health beds in Southern California.
CDCR is required by law to provide mental health care to inmates, from counseling to medications to crisis beds, Sessa said.
The proposed facility would be located at the California Institution for Men in Chino, the March 31 story said.
The 48,000-square-foot hospital would be built inside the prison and will cost $56.6 million, Sessa said.
There are currently 373 beds for mental health patients in CDCR prisons, Sessa said.
Local opposition has surfaced in the past over such plans.
Find more information at: WWW.CHAMPIONNEWSPAPERS.COM
JANUARY 23, 1938
L. L. Stanley, prison physician at San Quentin for the past 25 years, gave many interesting details of his work in a talk given at Rotary club Tuesday.
Stanley pointed out that the prison was first established on a barge at Vallejo in 1849, that Vallejo at the time had aspirations to be the capital of California and did not appreciate having the prison in their “front yard,” so the barge was towed down the bay and anchored at the point where the prison is now located.
From that small beginning, the prison has grown to one of the largest in the United States. Stanley first became connected with the institution in 1913, at which time he had only one convict assistant, who, after the operation, would steal the alcohol the instruments had been sterilized in and get gloriously drunk.
Stanley told of how, in the early days, dentistry was practiced, teeth being pulled by inmates while others forcibly held them down. The dental department now is ultra-modern, with 30 technicians on the staff.
Since his affiliation with the prison, Stanley stated that 50,000 men had come under his observation that over 800 had died there and more than 150 hanged.
He described the procedure of receiving new inmates, telling of the thorough physical examination given in which it is found that 10 percent have syphilis, 1 percent have tuberculosis, and 10 percent are feeble-minded.
Through research, every effort is made to improve the physical condition of convicts before glandular treatment and voluntary sterilization.
Dr. Stanley told of many personal experiences in connection with his work, his talk being greatly enjoyed by the Rotarians.
Other guest accompanying Dr. Stanley were his wife and his mother, Mrs. M. E. Stanley and Smith’s cousin. Mrs. D. A. Knox of Garden City. Kansas.
William Bromley was program chairman and introduced the family guest.
Visitors included Dr. R.A. Cushman, Howard Martin, James E. Busch, Arthur Tracy, Dr. R. B. Toller, Mrs. C. M. Fulkerson, and Chet Collins of Santa Rosa.
Henri DeLotti, manager of Sun Glo Dry Ice Corporation, was announced as a new member.
George Merk presided.