Alabama — Thomas Arthur, 75, was executed on May 25 by lethal injection. The majority of death sentences are handed down in 2 two percent of the nation’s counties. The average time people spend on Death Row before execution has increased from six years in 1994 to 15. Nineteen states have abolished capital punishment or imposed a moratorium on executions.
Sacramento — A judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state law that gives prison authorities responsibility for establishing procedures for lethal injection executions. After voters passed a plan in November intended to speed up executions, the Northern California ACLU challenged the law that gave California’s corrections department wide authority to establish an execution protocol. Another lawsuit to overturn the measure is still pending before the California Supreme Court.
Florida —The state’s highest court has ordered that Ralph Daniel Wright Jr. be acquitted of the murder charge that sent him to Death Row. He is the 159th person since 1973 exonerated from capital punishment in the U.S., the Death Penalty Information Center reported.
New Mexico —– A mentally ill woman who spent eight months of her 2.5–year sentence in solitary confinement while in county jail was awarded $1.6 million, Albuquerque Journal reports. Subsequently, state Legislators passed a bill aimed at limiting the use of solitary confinement against the seriously mentally ill children and pregnant women. Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed the bill, explaining it “oversimplifies and misconstrues isolated confinement in such a way so as to eliminate flexibility and endanger the lives of inmates and staff alike.”
Los Angeles —The city’s police department paid nearly $81 million in legal settlements last fiscal year, the Los Angeles Times reports. Two of the settlements were for wrongful murder convictions. The prisoners each spent more than 25 years behind bars. They were awarded a combined almost $24 million; $15 million went to a boy left paralyzed after an officer shot him. Over the last five years, the department’s settlements and judgments are about $215 million, according to The Times.
Georgia — Between February and April, Gwinnett County police flagged nearly 500 immigrants to ICE for potential immigration violations Approximately 70 percent were arrested for traffic-related violations, The Intercept reported.
Toledo, Ohio — Human Rights Defense Center filed a federal lawsuit claiming soft-cover books it sent to inmates at a privately run prison were sent back because they weren’t pre-approved by management. The center publishes Prison Legal News. It also publishes a catalog of soft-cover books to educate prisoners about various topics, including criminal justice policies, legal research and health care.
New York — The Rikers Island jail is too dangerous to accept inmate transfers from outside the city, The New York Times reports. New York Daily News reports that corrections officials are sending prisoners who repeatedly attack staff and other prisoners to county jails throughout the state.
Washington — The Federal Bureau of Prisons awarded Geo Group two 10-year contracts for 3,532 beds in Big Spring, Texas. The contracts are expected to generate revenues of approximately $664 million.
Washington — The U.S. Congress is investigating the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ handling of “egregious” misconduct at a government-run detention facility in Coleman, Fla. Despite female staffers’ persistent allegations of sexual harassment, the warden and other officials were awarded thousands of dollars in bonuses, according to USA Today.
Louisiana — The highest incarceration rate in the world, exceeding 750 prisoners per 100,000 persons, is Louisiana. Gov. John Bel Edwards, the only Democratic governor in the Deep South, and some top Republican lawmakers have joined to back legislation that will overhaul the corrections system and curtail the prisoner population, reports The New York Times. Louisiana, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia are the states with the highest levels of incarceration.
New Jersey — The state has begun a new statewide bail system that essentially eliminates cash bail. The new system requires courts to detain – or release – defendants before trial based on their risk to public safety rather than their ability to pay, reports The Wall Street Journal. According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 62 percent of the people in jail in 2015 had not been convicted of a crime but were awaiting trial.
Colorado — About 8,000 Colorado inmates are part of a pilot program that expects to deliver electronic tablets to more than 18,000 inmates in all 20 private and public prisons in the state, The Denver Post reports. The program is designed to give inmates access to a wide range of media, including educational programming.
Ohio — With one of the highest opioid overdose death rates of any state, a lawsuit was filed against five drug companies by the state’s Attorney General. The lawsuit alleged the companies fueled the opioid addiction crises by misrepresenting the addictive risks of its prescription painkillers, reports The New York Times. The state’s Republican Attorney General Mike Dewine said opioid addiction has hurt the state. Stark County has seen a 20 percent increase in opioid-related deaths in the past year. County officials requested a cold storage trailer because the morgue is full, reports The Washington Post.
Augusta, Me. — Republican Gov. Paul Lepage, who has earned the reputation as tough-on-crime, announced in May a plan to release an unknown number of “lower-risk” prisoners from the state’s over-crowded correctional facilities, reports The Associated Press.
Trenton, N.J. — Legislation has been submitted to change the way incarcerated individuals are counted for legislative redistricting purposes. The bill cleared the state’s Assembly on May 22. The bill requires that incarcerated individuals in state and federal facilities in New Jersey be counted at their last-known complete address.