1. Nevada — (AP) In the ten months since a March 2022 audit, Nevada’s Department of Corrections has not fully implemented any of the 16 recommendations to improve pervasive weaknesses in its use of force procedures. However the agency has partially implemented 14 of the recommendations. The department attributed failure to timely implement the suggested improvements to longstanding staff shortages. The audit report described use of force data as “not accurate, complete, or reliable,” with incidents frequently understated.
2. Arizona — (AP) The long struggle between a federal judge and the Arizona Department of Corrections over medical and mental health care for the state’s incarcerated population has led to an ultimatum from the judge. Judge Roslyn Silver gave the department three months to provide health care staffing sufficient to end its failure to meet constitutional standards. In 2021, Silver tossed a 6-year-old settlement intended to resolve the system’s health care problems because of the state’s noncompliance with its terms. “Given this history, the court cannot impose an injunction that is even minutely ambiguous because defendants [state officials] have proven they will exploit any ambiguity to the maximum extent possible,” Silver wrote.
3. Oklahoma — (AP) A minister with a history of death penalty protest-related arrests can be present in the execution chamber of condemned inmate Scott Eizember, said state prison officials. They had previously denied the Rev. Jeffrey Hood’s access to the chamber during the execution, saying the minister could pose a security risk. But after Hood sued, corrections officials reversed their position after consulting with family members of Eizember’s victims who feared that the suit would further delay the execution. Hood agreed to adhere to some strict guidelines set by prison officials.
4. Arkansas — (The Washington Post) A man suffering from mental illness slowly starved to death as he spent a year in Sebastian County jail because he could not pay $100 cash bail. Larry Price Jr., 51, was in segregated housing where staff conducted wellness checks every 15 minutes. Four thousand entries in the staff log described Price’s state as “Inmate and Cell OK.” The last 10 of the entries were after Price was dead. Fort Smith police arrested Price after he exhibited bizarre behavior, mimicking a gun with his fingers and making verbal threats to officers. Erik Heipt is an attorney representing Price’s surviving family members. He said that the guards either falsified the log entries or ignored Price’s condition. The case “represents everything that’s wrong with the cash bail system because it punishes the poor,” said Heipt.
5. Illinois — (Bloomberg Law) A man who pled guilty under duress to a crime he did not commit should receive a certificate of innocence that would allow him to clear his record and sue the state, his lawyers argued before the state’s highest court. The law that provides for such a certificate applies only when a person does not “voluntarily cause or bring about his or her conviction.” The focal question for the court became what the legislature meant by “voluntary.” A circuit court ruled that the man “failed to show that he didn’t voluntarily cause his own conviction,” said Bloomberg Law. But his attorneys argue that holding convicted people to coerced confessions misconstrues the intent of the law.
6. Alabama — (AP) Gov. Kay Ivey recently announced new rules that further restrict Alabama’s use of “good time” credits to reduce prison sentences. Critics say the rules, which categorize offenses that result in loss of good time and prescribe how much time is lost, are overly harsh. Carla Crowder, executive director of Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, said the order “essentially ends good time or makes it extremely difficult for anyone to earn it given the brutal conditions across the prison system.”Gov. Ivey said in a news conference, “Our actions today … [incentivize] inmates who truly want to rehabilitate and better themselves [and] reinforces the concept that bad choices have consequences …”
7. Ohio — (AP) A law that gives Ohio’s Department of Rehabilitation and Correction the power to hold prisoners past their minimum sentence because of behavioral issues or inadequate rehabilitative efforts is being challenged in the state Supreme Court as unconstitutional. “The provision allows the executive branch to act as prosecutor, judge and jury, and infringes on the right to a fair trial by not ensuring protections such as the right to an attorney during proceedings about extending a sentence,” attorneys said. The state argues that the law is constitutional because it does not result in sentences beyond the original maximums.
8. Pennsylvania — (AP) Gov. Tom Wolf has issued a number of pardons, far exceeding any of his predecessors since taking office in 2015. To date, Wolf has pardoned 2,540 individuals, about one-fourth for non-violent marijuana offenses. A pardon allows for expungement and total forgiveness of a criminal conviction. “I have taken this process very seriously — reviewing and giving careful thought to each and every one of these 2,540 pardons and the lives they will impact. Every single one of the Pennsylvanians who made it through the process truly deserves their second chance, and it’s been my honor to grant it,” Wolf said in a statement.
9. New York — (Vice) Louis Molina, commissioner of New York City’s jail system, has proposed replacing physical mail with scanned copies processed by an outside vendor and provided to inmates on electronic tablets. The large number of drug overdoses in NYC’s jails led to the proposal. But prisoners’ rights groups say the process violates attorney client privilege. “It is unconscionable for DOC to propose taking away something that is such a positive source of human connection … restrictions on correspondence and packages will likely lead to more frustration and tension — which will only exacerbate existing issues at our city’s jails,” wrote city council members in a letter to the Board of Corrections.