1 North Carolina —
(AP) Construction has yet to begin on installing air conditioning in the state’s prison system although the General Assembly approved $30 million for the project last fall. Prison spokesperson John Bull cited intense competition for construction crews and supply chain issues as part of the cause for the delays. In the state’s largest prison for women, the North Carolina Institute for Women in Raleigh, summer temperatures can exceed 100 degrees, said Kristie Puckett Williams, Deputy Director for Engagement and Mobilization at the North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union. The prison is on the state’s priority list along with the Dan River Prison Work Farm and the Caswell Correctional Center.
2 Oregon —
(Oregon Public Broadcasting) “A federal appeals court has denied Oregon’s request to derail a class action lawsuit over the state’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic inside its prisons,” reported Oregon Public Broadcasting on May 26, 2022. The lawsuit seeks damages for families of the prison system’s 45 COVID-19-related deaths, and for others infected during their incarceration. The denial of the state’s request may be the first time a federal judge has ruled to continue a suit by incarcerated people seeking damages for a state’s response to COVID-19. Oregon’s potential liability could be millions.
3 Oklahoma —
(AP) Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt filed a motion calling for a judge to expunge part of a state grand jury report critical of the governor. The report called meetings Stitt held with his appointees to the Pardon and Parole Board “grossly improper.” The meetings took place before the appointees took office. The motion argues that state law restricts grand juries to issuance of indictments, negating the portion of the report in question. Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater requested the grand jury. The motion called Prater “overzealous.” In a statement, Prater said that the grand jury’s investigation of the parole board led to the report. “The Grand Jurors delivered their report to the Presiding Judge. The Judge reviewed the report and found it to be proper to be filed,” wrote Prater.
4 Wisconsin —
(AP) Under pressure from political rivals, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers asked the leader of the state’s parole commission to rescind the parole of Douglas Balsewicz, 54. Balsewicz is serving an 80-year sentence for murdering his then 23-year-old wife in 1 997. J ohanna B alsewicz suffered more than 40 stab wounds. The parole decision provided for Balsewicz’s release in mid-May after serving less than 25 years. After meeting with the victim’s family the governor wrote, “I do not agree with this decision [to parole Balsewicz] and I have considerable concerns regarding whether Johanna’s family was afforded sufficient opportunity to voice their memories, perspectives, and concerns before this decision was made.”
5 Nebraska —
(AP) The state will pay $479,000 to settle a lawsuit arising from the murder of Terry Berry, Jr., a “talkative” 22-year-old who was put in a cell with Patrick Schroeder, a man serving a life sentence for murder. Berry was in prison for forgery and assault and was nearing parole. The lawsuit argued that a prison caseworker warned against the decision to place the men in the same cell because Berry was “very talkative and bothersome” and because Schroeder did not want a cellmate. Schroeder received a death sentence after he pled guilty to the murder of Berry.
New Jersey —
(Associated Press) Six correctional officers face assault and tampering charges following a 2020 incident at a minimum security Burlington County youth facility. The officers used pepper spray twice as they extracted an unidentified inmate from a cell after he offered to submit to handcuffs, according to a statement from acting Attorney General Matt Platkin. Photo and video evidence contradict reports filed by the officers after the incident, added Platkin. “Correctional officers are entrusted with great authority over the inmates in their custody, and when they abuse that power, they must be held accountable,” said Platkin in a statement. The head of the state’s prison guards union as well as an attorney for one of the officers dispute the charges. The defendants are suspended without pay.
7 New Hampshire —
(AP) No charges will be brought against 14 officers related to their documentation of two use-of-force incidents said Attorney General John Formella. Investigation of the incidents at the New Hampshire State Prison for Men in Concord began in February 2021. F ormella’s o ffice d ecided that “based upon the affirmative defenses available to the corrections officers and other evidentiary issues, there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any of the corrections officers involved in these incidents committed any criminal offenses.”
Statewide labor shortage linked to decreased immigration
NYC mayor appoints two women to head criminal justice programs
Expanded crime prevention efforts in South Bronx aimed at reducing recidivism, rearrest rates
U.S. Census reveals number of immigrant workers has dropped by 100,000 since 2017
By Edgar Villamarin
Journalism Guild Writer
A considerable reduction of working-age immigration to Oregon and elsewhere in the U.S.in the last few years has contributed to a labor shortage, research shows. Oregon immigrants are about one-third fewer than in the previous two decades, reported The Oregonian.
Josh Lehner of the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis compiled statistics from U.S. Census data that shows that about 200,000 immigrant workers between the ages of 25 and 54 are in the state. The corresponding number in 2017 was about 300,000.
About 80% of immigrants in that prime age range have historically been employed. The reduction has a substantial impact on the labor force, the April 17 story noted.
“With around 100,000 job vacancies today in Oregon, it sure seems like business could use more labor to adequately staff and grow their operations,” Lehner wrote in his analysis.
Other states have experienced a similar decline. Immigrants numbered about one million nationwide annually in 2015 and 2016, but that number dropped to about 200,000 in 2021, according to the article.
The pandemic played a major part in the decline of immigration in 2020 and 2021, but the reduction was already evident in 2017 for both Oregon and for the country as a whole. The falloff coincided with restrictive immigration policies imposed by the then Trump administration, reported The Oregonian.
To date, the Biden administration has not altered or reversed many of those policies and there is no national agreement as to how to manage illegal immigration at the border with Mexico. No consensus been achieved on a standard for how many immigrants should be allowed into the country each year.
There is no doubt that the drop in immigration has severely affected the labor market, said the article. Lehner observes that one out of every seven Oregon workers was born outside of the United States. The jobs that foreign-born workers typically hold are mostly in the agriculture, factory and hospitality fields, which are also the sectors with the tighter labor markets in the last few months, said the article.
“Overall, every single industry has foreign-born workers,” Lehner wrote in his analysis. “No industry is likely immune to the slowdown in international migration or outright decline in available workers.”
By George Franco
Journalism Guild Writer
New York Mayor Eric Adams has appointed two women to lead in the expansion of crime prevention programs in the city.
“We need to attack this from every level; this is so important as many of these people are coming back to the same conditions that got them in trouble,” Adams stated.
Adams’s three-point prevention plan includes, first, to teach reasons for not needing to use firearms; second, to ensure that prisons have the necessary rehabilitation program services; and third, that newly returning citizens have a good support system, the Bronx Times reported Feb. 28, 2022.
In a press conference at South Bronx Neighborhood Opportunity Network (NeON), Adams announced the reappointment of Ana Bermudez as commissioner of the Department of Probation and Deanna Logan as director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.
“Commissioner Bermudez and Deanna Logan are proven reformers who share my vision for the criminal justice system, and I look forward to working with them to ‘Get Stuff Done,’” Adams said.
The mayor also revealed plans to connect every probationer under the age of 21 with a mentor of the Credible Messenger Justice Center, co-founded by the Department of Probation and directed by Bermudez. The mentor program aims to prevent young offenders’ return to incarceration, while at the same time preventing others from making the same mistake, according to the article.
The city will also create a substantial expansion of its NeON Works programming, offering classes, training, and resources to offenders on probation.
“The prerequisite to prosperity is safety and justice — and the two go hand in hand,” said Adams. “If we are going to make our city safer and more just for all New Yorkers, we need to lead with evidence-based policies and upstream solutions.”
The Data Analytic Recidivism Tool reported that 30% of 200,000 persons arrested in New York returned within a year. The National Institute of Justice reported that 44% of released prisoners recidivated during the first year following release. In 2005, out of 405,000 released prisoners, 68% returned to prison for new crimes within three years, and 77% committed new offenses within five years.
The article said recidivism factors include a person’s social environment and community, events in prison, and difficulty adjusting after release.
8 Kentucky —
(AP) A grand jury in May indicted three correctional officers at the Big Sandy federal prison in Inez with charges alleging civil rights violations. The indictment alleges two assaults in 2021 that resulted in bodily injury and cover-ups of both assaults. Bureau of Prisons spokesperson Donald Murphy would not comment on the open case, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. “The BOP takes seriously our duty to protect the individuals entrusted in our custody as well as maintain the safety of correctional staff and the community. Incidents of potential criminal activity or misconduct inside BOP facilities are thoroughly investigated for potential administrative discipline or criminal prosecution.”
9 Alabama —
(AP) The state plans to finance construction of two supersized prisons by selling $725 million in bonds. The proceeds will add to $400 million in pandemic relief funds and $135 million in state funds already committed to the project. A coalition of advocacy groups has risen up against the plan. “It means that this is a project to marry our state to mass incarceration for the better p art o f t his c entury. I t means that Alabamians, and Black Alabamians in particular, will continue to be incarcerated and brutalized by the Alabama Department of Corrections on a breathtaking scale,” Executive Director of the Alabama Justice Initiative, Veronica Johnson, said in a statement. The new prisons would replace existing facilities and house up to 4,000 prisoners. Alabama is in an ongoing legal battle with the U.S. Department of Justice over conditions in its prisons.
10 West Virginia —
(AP) Legislators called for a workgroup to study the state’s overcrowded regional jail system, said a published report. As of late May, 10 regional jails designed to house 4,265 held 5,320 people. The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported that the group could meet by September. Beyond overcrowding, the group will evaluate ways to reduce the cost of incarceration to counties.