1. USA — After a nearly two decade lapse, United States Attorney General William P. Barr is clearing the way for the federal government to re- sume capital punishment for five death row prisoners. Federal executions follow protocols that replace a three-drug procedure with a single drug, pentobarbital.
2. USA — The national death row population went down for the 17th straight year in 2017, while the period from sentence to execution increased to 20 years, three months, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. The number of individuals sentenced to death fell by 94 to 2,703, which would be lower if included were the more than 900 condemned prisoners in Colorado, Oregon, Pennsylvania and California (moratoriums on executions). The 23 executions in 2017 were half the number in 2010. Only eight of the 32 states with capital punishment conducted executions in 2017. There were 34 new death sentences imposed in 2017 with 23 executions, 21 died of natural causes, two died by suicide and one died in a traffic accident.
3. USA — Justice Department officials announced that 3,100 inmates are being released from federal prisons across the country because of a change in how their good-behavior time is calculated, The Washington Post reports. In addition, $75 million was redirected for a new system to assess prisoners’ risk of reoffending as well as a program that would bring earlier releases.
4. Lansing, Michigan — Sharee Miller, 47, went to court to assert her First Amendment right to report prison abuse, the Detroit Free Press reports. Miller says she saw a prisoner “stripped naked and painfully hogtied for hours and another, also left naked, deprived of food and water until she foamed at the mouth and went into cardiac arrest,” according to a 2015 lawsuit. Miller complained, first to officials at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility, where she is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder, and then to prison watchdogs on the outside. The Michigan Department of Corrections responded in 2014 by firing Miller from her job as a prisoner observation aide, a job that requires her to watch troubled prisoners 24 hours a day and keep detail recorded notes, every 15 minutes, of what they observe. Miller sought $200,000 in punitive damages, plus more than $2,500 in lost wages. She also wanted U.S. District Judge Sean Cox to prohibit prison officials from punish- ing prison observation aides who report abuse and to order them to give her back her for- mer job. The trial was set, but under a settlement, observation aides will be allowed to report mistreatment to a government oversight agency or state-designated protection and advocacy organization. Miller will be reinstated to her position, compensated for her lost wages, and have her record cleared of having been terminated for violating prison rules.
5. Philadelphia — District Attorney Larry Krasner, who took office in 2018 and vowed that he would “never” seek the death penalty, is asking the state’s highest court to make the death penalty un- constitutional because it is racially biased, is arbitrary, and discriminates against the poor, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. “The most jaw-dropping statistic is that out of 155 Philadelphia death sentences, 72 percent of them have been overturned,” Krasner said after reviewing every case in which a Philadelphia defendant was sentenced to death over a 40-year period ending in December 2017.
6. New York City— In a letter to Department of Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann, the Legal Aid Society asked that prisoners in city jails be protected against heat waves, HuffPost reports. “Most crucially, we ask that the city move all individuals confined to their cells to air-conditioned units,” the letter said. “This includes individuals held in Enhanced Supervision Housing, who are typically locked into un- air-conditioned cells for a minimum of 14 hours, and up to 23 hours. When people are not in air-conditioned areas, the city must provide free access to cool showers and ice to all persons confined in non-air-conditioned units.”
7. Arizona —Attorney General Mark Brnovich wrote a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey in support of rein- stating capital punishment, KVOA reports. “I’m worried about the lack of transparency that Arizona has shown in the past with regard to where it was getting the drugs, what drugs it was using and the qualifications of the people who would be administering the drugs,” said Emily Skinner, Assistant Director of the Arizona Capital Representation Project, a nonprofit that works with death row inmates to improve their defense.” More than 100 people are on the state’s death row — 14 have exhausted their appeals.
8. Pennsylvania — Prison- ers held in solitary confinement at a state prison are reportedly on hunger strike to protest health and living conditions and to bring an end to long-term isolation.