Sacramento — Matthew Beck, 26, suffered fatal head, neck and back injuries when a 120-foot tree uprooted and fell on him, Vice News reports. Beck was leading a crew clearing brush in the remote Hoopa Valley area of Northern California. Beck was convicted of burglary in 2014. He was serving a six-year prison sentence at one of California’s 43 fire camps. This October, Beck was scheduled for parole.
Sacramento — A report, released in late March by the state Office of the Inspector General, faulted a “critical shortage” of doctors at California State Prison, Sacramento, despite a “seemingly unprecedented ability to recruit and retain” primary care providers, The State Worker reports. Doctors there “complained that current work conditions were unsustainable and many were actively looking for employment elsewhere.” According to the report, medical staff at the prison struggled to respond quickly to emergencies, properly review medical records, maintain oversight of inmates receiving opioid-based medication and arrange medical appointments for new inmates.
Colorado — The state’s highest court ruled on May 22 that decades-long sentences handed down to juveniles are constitutional because they will be eligible for parole eventually. The sentences are combined or aggregated, and the parole eligibility falls within the inmates’ expected lifetimes, even if that means they are in their 70s, The Denver Post reports. Across the country, 2,089 offenders incarcerated for crimes committed as juveniles are serving virtual life sentences, according to The Sentencing Project.
Austin, Tex. —This past March, the city passed an ordinance called Fair Chance Hiring. The measure requires private employers to postpone questions about a criminal conviction until later in the hiring process. Austin is the first Southern city to do so. Formerly incarcerated people joined forces in order to fight discriminatory hiring practices, the Alternet reports.
Texas — The state still contains the largest inmate population in the country. However, new data shows that criminal justice reforms, begun in 2007, may have slowed the state’s incarceration growth rate, The Daily reports. The data shows that the prison population is shrinking at a faster rate than half the country. In 2010, the state’s prison population was 173,649 inmates. But the report by the Sentencing Project shows that in five years, there has been an almost 5 percent reduction in the number of incarcerated people in the state.
Louisiana —Three key bills in a criminal justice overhaul package, which will reduce sentences and expand opportunities to parole for inmates, have been moved forward in the state’s legislative process. The bills rewrite sentences for most drug offenses, reduce penalties for low-level drug possession offenses and scale prison terms based on the amount of drugs involved. The legislation also overhauls the state’s numerous theft statutes and reduces or eliminates mandatory minimum sentences for several other non-violent crimes, The Advocate reports.
Connecticut — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is considering a new bill that places limits on the use of solitary confinement in the state’s prisons, the Hartford Courant reports. The measure would provide greater transparency on the use of solitary confinement and limit the ability to place prisoners under 18 in the harshest form of solitary confinement.
Alabama — On May 24, his eighth scheduled execution date, Death Row inmate Tommy Arthur, 75, was put to death by lethal injection for the 1982 murder for hire of Troy Wicker Jr., AL.com reports. Arthur did not admit to or mention anything about the crime. On June 8, inmate Robert Bryant Melson was executed by lethal injection for the 1994 murders of three fast-food restaurant workers, Nathaniel Baker, Tamika Collins, and Darrell Collier.
Washington, DC — The federal prison population is projected to grow next year by 4,171 to 191,493 as the federal government steps up prosecutions of illegal immigrants and drug offenders, reversing the trend toward a smaller prison population under former President Obama, the Wall Street Journal reports. The 2 percent growth estimate in fiscal 2018 was in a Justice Department budget proposal, which also calls for 300 new federal prosecutors and 75 new immigration judges. The plan is expected to be a boon to private prison companies as government-run prisons are 14 percent above capacity.