Archive for May, 2008

California ready to integrate prison cells

Posted in Articles on May 29, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

California prisons are bracing for more inmate violence as they prepare to obey a mediation agreement and desegregate cells, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Prison officials will evaluate each inmate, and those who are deemed eligible for integration but refuse may face disciplinary action.

Lt. Rudy Luna, assistant to the warden at San Quentin State Prison, tells the Chronicle he believes “we will have a spike in fighting because we have races that don’t get along.”

Some experts said a spike in violence could be temporary. “We are not here to say that everybody is holding hands and singing Kumbaya. There is a lot of hate,” Jim Marquart, chairman of the criminology department at the University of Texas at Dallas, tells the paper. “But, inmates are intelligent and they want to just do their time and … go home.”



Jail growth explodes as Feds crack down on illegal migrants

Posted in Uncategorized on May 27, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

DEL RIO, Texas — Many in Congress are counting on border walls to discourage illegal immigration and dope smuggling from Mexico. Here in Del Rio, Texas, authorities are using prison walls instead.

The ever-expanding Val Verde County jail is filled with would-be yardmen and maids, immigrants awaiting deportation. They’ve been caught in a law enforcement dragnet known as “Operation Streamline,” a zero tolerance program that began here and has since spread both east and west along the Mexican border.

Critics of the lock-’em-up approach question the skyrocketing costs, complain of poor conditions inside the detention facilities, and predict that ultimately the efforts won’t stop immigrants and drugs from making their way north.

But supporters say the approach is reducing crime and discouraging immigrants from trying to cross into the United States. The number of illegal immigrants caught in the Border Patrol’s Del Rio Sector is at its lowest level since the early 1970s.

“Enforcement works,” said Val Verde County Sheriff D’Wayne Jernigan. “We’re definitely seeing a reduction in crime throughout the border area and a reduction in the number of aliens running loose in our community.”

Though federal authorities are planning a small section of border fencing near the international bridge linking Del Rio and Ciudad Acuna, Jernigan, who prefers boots on the ground over physical barriers, says the illegal traffic has slowed without a wall.

In all of 2007, 22,920 people were apprehended in the Del Rio sector, many of whom passed through the Val Verde jail. In 1974, the oldest year-end figures available, almost twice that many, or 44,806, were caught. They don’t count how many get through, but officials believe fewer captures mean fewer illegal crossings.

As recently as 2000, 157,178 were caught in the sector. Then, in late 2005, after an outcry from the sheriff and other local officials, the Border Patrol inaugurated Operation Streamline in the Del Rio Sector. It was later expanded to Yuma, Ariz., and, most recently, Laredo, Texas.

The new approach is aimed at ending the controversial “catch and release” practice. For years, thousands of undocumented foreigners apprehended along the border were released for lack of jail space and given a notice to appear in court. Most simply vanished into the underground economy.

Now the buzz phrase is “catch and detain,” meaning virtually everybody who gets caught is sent to federal court or returned home immediately.

The result has been a logistical and financial burden for the U.S. Department of Justice, which must add attorneys and staff to bring charges against those being held. U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey recently called the burden “staggering.”

Along with it has come an almost insatiable demand for jail space.

Eight years ago, for example, the Val Verde Correctional Facility had only 180 beds. This year, after completing its second 600-bed expansion, the maximum security jail has room for 1,425 prisoners, an increase of almost 800 percent.

While the state prisoner population has remained flat at about 70 to 80 a day on average, the numbers serving time for immigration and drug offenses have skyrocketed, officials say.

“If it wasn’t for federal prisoners we wouldn’t need any of this. It just wouldn’t be necessary,” Jernigan said during a recent tour of the massive facility he oversees in Del Rio. “This is a federal court city and there’s a need to house federal prisoners here.”

Two brand new prisons specializing in federal detainees are also rising up along the Texas-Mexico border south of here — a 654-bed unit being erected in Eagle Pass and a 1,500-bed jail nearing completion in Laredo.

Like the Val Verde lock-up, the privately-run facilities belong to the Geo Group, Inc., formerly known as Wackenhut, which last year experienced its strongest financial performance ever, the company said.

Even the largest jail for illegal immigrants, the Willacy County Detention Center, was too small to accommodate federal demands. Located in Raymondville, Texas — nicknamed “prisonville” — it’s expanding capacity from 2,000 to 3,000 beds this year, officials say.

The detention boom hasn’t been done on the cheap.

According to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), it costs $88 a day to house a prisoner in privately run jail facilities — and nearly $120 a day at ICE processing centers.

Nationwide, the average number of daily prisoners detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, has increased 44 percent since 2001, figures show. Meanwhile, ICE’s budget for Detention and Removal Operations has more than doubled in the last four years, rising from $959 million in fiscal year 2004 to $2.4 billion in 2008, according to agency data.

Fixing the porous southern border became an urgent national priority after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The number of Border Patrol agents on duty, for example, will have doubled by the time President Bush leaves office, to 18,000, according to federal officials.

But Bush’s proposed immigration overhaul — giving guest worker permits to certain Mexican laborers — collapsed in Congress last year. That paved the way for workplace raids, an increase in fines for people caught hiring illegals, an expansion of electronic worker verification programs, and a series of anti-immigrant measures enacted by state legislatures.

Critics say the get-tough policies have been extraordinarily costly, both in financial and human terms. The U.S. already locks up far more people than any other country, according to the London-based International Centre for Prison Studies.

“Throwing money at the problem and then claiming that temporary gains are total victories is futile,” said Judy Greene, an analyst at Justice Strategies, a non-profit group that studies incarceration alternatives,. “I think Americans will come to see this over time, just like they did with the drug war, which didn’t have the advertised effect.”

Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, which provides legal assistance to many undocumented workers, said the crackdown is doomed to fail because it doesn’t address the root causes of illegal immigration. He blamed a massive “economic dislocation” in Mexico, where he said free trade policies have devastated rural agriculture and sent its field hands fleeing.

“I think we could lean on Mexico and tell them there’s no financial aid, reciprocity, any of that stuff, unless Mexico makes progress toward democratizing its own economy,” Harrington said. “Without that, we’re going to continue what we’re doing now, and that’s investing an endless amount of money into a bandaid that’s just not going to hold.”

Ricardo Ahuja, the Mexican consul in Del Rio, said migrants already are breaking through the physical and legal barriers.

“They’re finding other routes,” Ahuja said. “It’s a question of supply and demand. If there weren’t jobs waiting for them in the U.S., they wouldn’t cross.”

But supporters of the crackdown say the data proves it’s working and that the alternative is a suspension of the rule of law on the border. While Del Rio Sector apprehensions dropped 67 percent approximately two years after Operation Streamline was introduced there, they’ve gone down just 14 percent in the heavily-crossed Tucson area, figures show. U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, is now pushing Congress to expand the zero tolerance polices border wide.

“This has an unbelievable deterrent effect,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said at a recent press conference. “When people who cross the border illegally are brought to face the reality that they were committing a crime, even if it’s just a misdemeanor, that has a huge impact on their willingness to try again.”


Warnings of rioting as prison population surges

Posted in Articles on May 27, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

The prison population is on course to hit 100,000 in four years’ time, after hitting a new record of 83,000 for the first time.

The Prison Officers’ Association warned that suspected criminals might be going free because there are not enough cells to house them while prisons watchdog Anne Owers also said that conditions in jails were the worst she had known in eight years, with evidence of low level unrest in some prisons.

Adding to fears of an overcrowding crisis, Lord Woolf, a former Lord Chief Justice, warned of a summer of “small scale rioting” as Britain’s prisons were pushed close to bursting.

Internal Ministry of Justice figures obtained by the Prison Officers’ Association showed the number of people being held in Britain’s jails was 83,070 – up from 82,779 at the end of last week.

Colin Moses, the association’s chairman, said the number of inmates in British prisons was now set to hit 100,000 by 2012.

The new prison population record was a “disgrace”, Mr Moses said, coming at the same time as the department looks to cut £60million off the prisons budget this year and next.

Mr Moses said suspected criminals might be going free because there are not enough cells to house them.

Mr Moses said: “I often ask myself, how many custodial warrants are outstanding because as a prison place is available a prisoner appears.

“So are the public really safe or are the police only executing warrants dependant on prison and police cell spaces?”

Liberal Democrat Justice spokesman David Howarth said: “The punishment should fit the crime and not be based on the ever-decreasing availability of prison cells.

“This crisis is putting our penal system and the staff who work in it under unnecessary strain.”

Nick Herbert, shadow Justice Secretary, added: “The Government has spent the last decade ignoring every warning that prison capacity was inadequate.

“Now the public is paying the price as thousands of violent prisoners are released early, overcrowded prisons are awash with drugs, and re-offending rates rise, making the situation worse.”

Meanwhile, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Lord Woolf of Barnes said the current hot spell would increase tensions in jails, with very few of them having air-conditioning.

The peer said: “The present situation is extremely worrying. I don’t think prisons will blow up tomorrow or next week but there is certainly a danger of that.”

Lord Woolf, who published a study into the riots in Strangeways Jail in Manchester in 1991, said a hot summer escalates tensions.

He said: “Hot weather won’t help. There may be a prison or two which does not have air conditioning – but not many, if any.

“The prison service is very good at handling prisoners but they are at bursting point. We are getting into the danger area.

“It could manifest itself in perhaps today more small scale rioting of the sort we have heard about it.”

In a separate interview with The Daily Telegraph, Anne Owers, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that “incidents are happening in prisons” which showed the system was “running hot”.

Conditions in prisons in January and February was “were more difficult than any time I have seen”, she said.

She said: “Prisons are running hot and they were running very hot in January and February, and there were a number of incidents that were controlled.

“They are signs of a system that is running hot. This is a system operating at full strength and under considerable pressure.”

Prisoners were being “pulled out of offending behaviour programmes” and sent to other institutions to free up cell space.

Other offenders who were sentenced in Birmingham were “spending their first night in a police cell in Plymouth”, she said.

She added: “All those working in the prison system know that it is operating very close to the edge. It has calmed down but the population is going up again.

“The likelihood is that it will go up during the summer – a difficult summer for the prison service.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We will always provide enough prison places for serious offenders, those who should be behind bars: the most dangerous, the seriously persistent offenders, the most violent.

“Prison is the right place for such people. Since the beginning of March we have increased total capacity by over 1,000 places through the prison building programme and every effort is being made to make best use of the existing estate and bring new accommodation on-stream early.”


Prison cell phone torture not unusual

Posted in Articles on May 27, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

Women’s Refuge is calling for a serious deterrent for a jailed man who tormented his former partner by making cell phone calls from behind bars.


The Waikeria remand prisoner was caught by new phone monitoring technology introduced by the Department of Corrections. His victim was too terrified to report the calls, which were aimed at trying to get her to drop charges against him.


Women’s Refuge spokeswoman Catherine Delore says it is not an isolated case, but it has aggravating features which should be taken into account at sentencing next month. She says Women’s Refuge wants a sustained long-term strategy to stem this sort of abuse


Why are state’s prisons so full?

Posted in Articles on May 26, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

More people are imprisoned in Oklahoma than in all of Hong Kong, or Austria

In a recent United Nations survey, 39 of 50 participating countries reported prison populations of less than 25,000. In Oklahoma, which has the third-highest incarceration rate in the nation, about 26,000 are in prison.

“We have ridiculous sentence lengths for crimes,” said Oklahoma County Public Defender Bob Ravitz. “Instead of having moderate ranges that protect society and do what justice would require, we have ranges that allow everybody to get mad.”


In Oklahoma

•There are more than 60,000 people in Oklahoma’s correctional system, including about 28,000 on probation and nearly 5,000 on parole.

•While there are 644 white inmates per 100,000 population, there are 2,980 black inmates per 100,000 population, according to the Oklahoma Sentencing Commission.

•Accounting for 7 percent of the state’s population, blacks made up nearly 30 percent of the prison population.

•About 12 percent of all black males in Oklahoma from ages 25 to 29 were in prison or jail in 2006.



•The United States imprisons more people than any other industrialized country.

•The prison population grew by 25,000 last year, bringing it to almost 1.6 million, according to the Pew Research Center.

•One in every 99.1 adults is behind bars. For some groups, the numbers are higher.

•One in 36 adult Hispanic men is behind bars while one in 15 adult black men is behind bars.

•One in nine black men aged 20 to 34 are behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006.


Are we too harsh?

“When we make these people felons, even the ones that do great on probation, when they come out, they are still convicted felons. It makes getting a job and doing well infinitely harder. Is it impossible? No. Is it impossible for some? Yes,” Ravitz said. “We put people in the system that a lot of states don’t put in the system in the felony category.”

In Oklahoma prisons, about 83 percent are there for nonviolent crimes — including about 10 percent on fraud and 10 percent on driving under the influence charges. Sentencing guidelines provide prosecutors with nearly unparalleled discretion — the range for a first-time possession of crack/cocaine is two to 10 years and first-time conviction for possession with intent to distribute is five years to life.

In 2004, the Oklahoma Sentencing Commission concluded many of these issues have likely contributed to the growing prison population and the growing disparity within that population. They made numerous recommendations. So far, none have been adopted, Ravitz said.

“It’s unfortunate but a lot of African Americans offend at higher rates than whites. That doesn’t mean the justice system is racially discriminatory,” said David Muhlhausen, senior policy analyst for The Heritage Foundation, a conservative public policy think tank. “Disparities exist because there are disparities in offending rates. If you want to really get to the disparity issue then some groups should look at offending less than others.”

Muhlhausen agreed some states may rely too heavily on incarceration, and that the lack of minority district attorneys could pose problems.

He also advocated for uniformity in the drug sentencing codes, but he was critical of creating victims out of criminals.

“Unfortunately, many youth do not understand that dealing drugs is not a career. … It’s a cycle,” he said.

“But somehow saying that they are a victim because the criminal justice system is treating them badly simply does not hold.”


Biases in the system?

On the other side of the equation is University of Oklahoma Law Professor Cheryl Wattley.

“Imagine a teenager is stopped in a car on a joyride after stealing grandma’s car keys. If the kid is white, they might be told to the take the car home and give grandma back her keys. If the teenager is black, they will likely be booked for grand theft auto,” Wattley said.

“At every phase of the criminal justice system, you have judgment-based decisions, and when they are made cross culturally, those decisions tend to be harsher. … It’s not even a conscious consideration when they are making the decision, but it’s an insidious component in how we exercise judgment.”

“I absolutely believe there are biases within the criminal justice system,” she added.

Oklahoma Appellate Court Judge David Lewis is one of only a few black male judges. There are no black male district attorneys in the state. Black offenders are over-represented in nearly every level of the criminal justice system, with the exception of probation.

There they account for about 18 percent compared with white offenders at more than 60 percent.

“The numbers speak for themselves. But you can’t just look at the incarceration numbers. You must look at arrests. You must look at who gets charged for what crimes. You must look at sentences. You must look at probation. You must look at whether or not it’s a first offense,” Lewis said.

Some people would look at these numbers and say ‘obviously there is racism in the system,’ others would say ‘all this means is that black people are committing more crimes.’

“The dialogue and the debate, I think, needs to be somewhere in the middle,” he added


Man who stole from Broncos hangs self in jail

Posted in Suicides on May 26, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

— A former hedge fund manager convicted in a multi-million dollar investment fraud whose victims included three Broncos has committed suicide in jail.

But Kirk Wright’s suicide will have no effect on a lawsuit filed by six former NFL players against the league and its players union over $20 million they say they lost in an investment scheme, an attorney for the plaintiffs said Monday.

The lawsuit claims the union endorsed Wright’s services even though he had liens against him.

Wright hanged himself in a suburban Atlanta jail on Saturday, three days after he was convicted of leading an investment scheme that caused clients, ranging from the former NFL players to his mother, to lose millions of dollars while he spent the money on jewelry, real estate and a $500,000 wedding.

Wright, 37, faced up to what would have amounted to a life sentence. He hanged himself with bedsheets, said John Mansch, chief of the Union City jail. He did not leave a note and officials had “no indication whatsoever he intended to do any harm to himself,” Mansch said.

An attorney for the former players said they weren’t planning on using Wright as a witness in the case.

“The point of the lawsuit is to make sure what happened does not happen again,” attorney Marlon Kimpson said.

However, the union has countersued the ex-players, arguing it does not endorse any of its registered financial advisers and is not responsible for what happened. The union also claims the players breached union rules by not exhausting internal remedies before filing the lawsuit.

The former NFL players are former Bronco Steve Atwater, Ray Crockett, Al Smith, Blaine Bishop, Carlos Emmons and Clyde Simmons. No trial date has been set for the lawsuit. former Broncos Terrell Davis and Rod Smith also said they lost money to Wright.

The criminal charges against Wright were related to the 2006 collapse of his Atlanta-based hedge fund company, International Management Associates.

According to authorities, Wright and his company collected more than $150 million from thousands of client accounts since 1997 and used false statements and documents to mislead some of them to believe the value of those investments was increasing. Much of that money is missing.

Wright was arrested in May 2006 at a hotel in Miami Beach, Fla., where he was staying under an alias. Authorities have said nearly $30,000 in cash, several fake ID’s and seven prepaid cell phones were found in Wright’s hotel room.

As part of Wright’s criminal sentence, he also faced a fine of up to $16 million and could have been ordered to pay restitution to his victims. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Atlanta declined to comment Monday on what affect Wright’s death will have on the payment of any restitution.

Wright already had been hit with a $20 million judgment as part of a civil suit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission.


Prisoners Get Cold Case Decks Of Cards

Posted in Articles on May 26, 2008 by cosgoingwrong

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — Prisoners are getting cold case decks of cards in an effort to help solve homicides and missing persons’ cases at the Snohomish County Jail.


The decks of cars will be distributed to the prisoners on Wednesday.


The cards feature 52 unsolved homicides or missing persons’ cases, dating back to 1972.


Each card has a photo of the victim (if available), a brief description of the crime and a tip line to call with information.


The youngest person featured is a 13-year-old girl, Yee Lu, who was found murdered in her Stanwood home on July 1, 1983.


The oldest person featured is an 87-year-old man, Martin Williams, who died in a fire in his Marysville home on July 10, 1987. The fire was ruled an arson.


Detectives said the goal is to get tips and leads that will help detectives solve some outstanding cases and find answers for grieving families who have been waiting years, even decades


Cold case detectives were able to buy 5,000 decks of cards that will be distributed to local jails and prisons.


The sheriff’s office got the idea after an article appeared about a cold case in Florida being solved using the cold case cards. A Florida detective got the idea from the United States military, which issued decks of playing cards with photos of the most wanted terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.