Prison News Highlights

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Prisoners’ Rights

NYT editorial

September 23, 2009

In 1996, Congress passed a law that made it much harder for inmates to challenge abusive treatment. It has contributed significantly to the bad conditions – including the desperate overcrowding – that prevail today. The law must be fixed.

In the name of clamping down on frivolous lawsuits, the Prison Reform Litigation Act barred prisoners from suing prisons and jails unless they could show that they had suffered a physical injury. Prison officials have used this requirement to block lawsuits challenging all sorts of horrific conditions, including sexual abuse.

Hi everybody. This is a foretaste of my latest project – Prison News Highlights.

I’ll be publishing Homeless News Roundup tomorrow, but hope to continue working with other angles on what happens to people when they fall out of the system, and it turns against them. And more.

I only got the idea to start doing this new project this afternoon, so this round is rough and nowhere near what I would like it to be.

However, it’s something. Whaddaya think?


Criminal Justice – Abuse in the system

by Gerard Gilbert

October 2, 2009

Just as medical dramas don’t prepare you for the actual dignity-sapping and often surreal experience of being a hospital patient, so crime dramas are generally no training for the realities of being processed by the justice system.


And now Moffat has gone and done it all again, with a fresh, week-long Criminal Justice following a completely new case, from the commission of the crime (if that’s what it turns out to be) to the jury’s final verdict. “When I finished the first series I found I still had lots I wanted to say about the criminal justice system”, he says. “I wanted to make sure it was different to the first one, so my initial thought was, ‘what about women’s experience of the same process?’.”

For sale: Former Calif. prison site in LA County

by Jacob Adelman

October 1, 2009

LOS ANGELES-California threw open the doors of a former prison on Thursday to drum up bidders’ interest in the largest state-owned surplus property to hit the market in several years.

The Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Institution, a 74-acre site in Whittier, was expected to draw some $70 million for state coffers, Department of General Services spokesman Jeffrey Young said.

The state sells a handful of properties it no longer needs each year, but the prison was the biggest to go on sale since the mid-2000s, when a corrections department facility in the Silicon Valley was sold to Cisco Systems Inc., Young said.

U.S. House votes to block Guantanamo transfer

by Andy Sullivan

October 1, 2009

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In a blow to President Barack Obama, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on Thursday to prohibit his administration from transferring terrorism suspects from the Guantanamo Bay military prison to face prosecution in the United States.

The measure, if it becomes law, would further complicate the administration’s plan to empty the internationally condemned military prison by January 2010.

Guantanamo detainees currently can only come to the United States to face trial under restrictions already imposed by Congress. Lawmakers have also denied funds to shut down the facility.

Task force created to combat al-Qaida in Afghan prisons

by Mark Seibel

October 1, 2009

WASHINGTON —  The Obama administration took steps Thursday toward confronting a troubling al-Qaida presence in Afghanistan’s prison system, announcing the creation of a military task force to oversee detention operations there and naming a prominent military lawyer to be its deputy commander.

Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, had called for the task force’s creation last month in a strategic assessment that included dire warnings about the prison system.

“There are more insurgents per square foot in corrections facilities than anywhere else in Afghanistan,” McChrystal wrote. “Unchecked, Taliban/al-Qaida leaders patiently coordinate and plan, unconcerned with interference from prison personnel or the military.”

Peru’s Fujimori gets 6 years prison for bribes


September 30, 2009

LIMA (Reuters) – Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison on Wednesday for wiretapping opponents and paying bribes to lawmakers and publishers during his rule from 1990 to 2000.

Fujimori, 71, is already serving a 25-year sentence for human rights crimes. He will likely spend the rest of his life in jail, unless he receives a presidential pardon.

Afghan prisoner hearing postponed as Tories deny gagging witness

by Murray Brewster

October 1, 2009

OTTAWA – A public hearing into what the Canadian army may have known about the alleged torture of Taliban prisoners in Kandahar, has been postponed amid accusations of government obstruction.

The Military Police Complaints Commission has been overwhelmed with motions filed by federal government lawyers and has decided to delay the opening of the inquiry, slated for Monday, until Wednesday.

The delay came as the Conservative government faced more accusations that it’s trying to obstruct the investigation into allegations that Canada allowed the transfer of prisoners to Afghan jails, even though torture was considered commonplace.

The Way It Is: Are Liberals Disgusting?

by Dan Agin

October 1, 2009 (huffpo)

So is rapid change really repulsive? A hundred years ago, many thousands of women in Britain and America decided they had waited long enough for political justice and they joined the Suffragette Movement–the movement to get their all-male governments to allow women to vote in elections. Conservatives had their stock answer: The old way was the best way–only men were clear-headed enough to have political power. So they arrested suffragettes whenever the women demonstrated and put them in prison like ordinary criminals. And when the suffragettes in prison went on hunger strikes to protest that they were political prisoners and not ordinary criminal prisoners, the men in power shoved feeding tubes down their throats and force-fed them the way patients in insane asylums were force-fed when they refused to eat.

Read more at:…

The Department of Justice’s Efforts to Prevent Staff Sexual Abuse of Federal Inmates

posted September 16, 2009


This review examined the efforts of the Department of Justice (DOJ or Department) to deter the sexual abuse of federal prisoners by federal correctional and law enforcement personnel. It is a crime for a prison employee to engage in any sexual contact or sexual relations with a federal prisoner.1 Under the federal criminal code, consent by a prisoner is never a legal defense because of the inherently unequal positions of prisoners and correctional and law enforcement staff who control many aspects of prisoners’ lives. Apart from criminal charges, federal corrections staff may be subject to administrative discipline for engaging in sexual misconduct that is not criminal but violates employee conduct policies, such as using indecent language or gestures, or surveilling prisoners for the purpose of sexual gratification.

Prisoner’s rights abused: Ombudsman

September 27, 2009

by Melissa Fyfe

A PRISONER was assaulted and marched naked through the controversial Melbourne Custody Centre in an incident that breached his human rights, the Ombudsman has found.

The August 2008 incident, revealed in the Ombudsman’s recent annual report, led to the punishment of several officers from the prison’s operator, the private company GEO Group Australia.

Ombudsman George Brouwer found officers had used excessive force on the prisoner. The inmate, who had soiled himself, was moved naked through the centre to the showers. ”I considered this treatment not to be in accordance with the values enshrined in the Charter [of Human Rights and Responsibilities],” Mr Brouwer said in his report.

84% of women prisoners in Spain have suffered physical or sexual abuse

Barcelona Reporter

October 1, 2009

84% of women prisoners in Spain have suffered physical or sexual abuse

This figure was announced by the secretary general of Prisons, who will give specific attention to these people, a novelty included in the Equality Plan.

Deputy Assistant Director of General Treatment and Management of the General Secretariat of Penitentiary Institutions, Ministry of Interior, Maria Angeles Cifuentes, are participating in the first seminar in combating gender violence taking place today and tomorrow in Barcelona.

SCOTUS to Consider Abuse Photos and Uighurs’ Release Tuesday

by Daphne Eviatar

September 28, 2009 (and here it is Thursday!)

Among the cases the Supreme Court will consider reviewing in its private meeting tomorrow are two controversial cases arising out of the war on terror. Both question whether the president’s authority over detainees and information about their treatment is absolute, or reviewable by the federal courts.

The first and better-known case involves whether the executive branch has the right to refuse to release photos of detainees abused by U.S. officials in overseas prisons simply because it fears the photos could spark violence against U.S. troops. Lawyers for detainees, such as American Civil Liberties Union attorney Amrit Singh, have insisted that the photographs “provide visual proof that prisoner abuse by U.S. personnel was not aberrational but widespread, reaching far beyond the walls of Abu Ghraib,” and therefore their disclosure is “critical for helping the public understand the scope and scale of prisoner abuse as well as for holding senior officials accountable for authorizing or permitting such abuse.”


Skip to comment form

    • Miep on October 2, 2009 at 05:27

    I didn’t get to doing Homeless News Roundup on Tuesday, sorry. But it will be up tomorrow.

    I’m still thinking I need to post it twice a week, though. And, I’m looking at Prison News Highlights once a week.

    This one is just a quick dip, but I’m looking at it being long on raging against the machine, with HNR being more along the lines of not just looking at the evils of how the homeless are treated, and generally bearing witness; but also focusing on where the disenfranchised might get help, as Knucklehead so kindly pointed out.

    But Prison News Highlights will also be about bearing witness.

    So, tips for the forgotten, or the too easily forgotten.

    • Robyn on October 2, 2009 at 05:39

    …and perhaps adding the occasional comment.  I’m probably one of the few people who will be around with actual experience working in a prison.

    • jamess on October 3, 2009 at 05:09

    are usually a good idea, miep

    someone has to digest the news

    and report it in a form

    that’s easier to understand.

    personally I think the Foreclosure Crisis

    could use a lot more reporting too.

  1. The thing about prisons is that the walls work both ways: they keep the prisoners in and they keep the rest of us out.  So those of us now on the outside don’t really get a glimpse of what’s going on inside.  Sure, we get propaganda (MSNBC’s shows especially), and we get nonsense talk from politicians (about being tough on crime).  But the grim reality of confinement for long terms isn’t really thought about.  Nor is the point: when prisoners are released what are they coming out to?

    Thanks for starting on this.  

    • Mu on October 3, 2009 at 16:52


     During much of the ’90s and even into 2001-2 I represented several inmates/prisoners in abuse lawsuits, as well as suspects in police excessive force cases.  Between the “PLRA” and a Right Wing Supreme Court I and my clients found over and over again how horrific our Government has decided to treat jail inmates and prisoners, even suspects being harassed/abused by bad cops on the sides of streets.  

     On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was in the Federal Courthouse in Atlanta, waiting my turn to argue in an appeal filed by the lawyers for a bad/corrupt/sadistic Sheriff and his Chief Jailer in a County Jail abuse case.  It was either one or two cases before mine when a clerk came in and whispered something to one of the Judges on the 3-Judge Panel (which was an odd thing to see).  The Judge announced to the Courtroom that if anyone flew in (the 11th Circuit covers Georgia, Florida and Alabama) for the day to see the Clerk of Court after their hearing.  My argument went forward.  The fix was in and the Judges sucked-up to the Sheriff’s/Jailer’s lawyer and sneered as they cross-examined me.  The ultimate ruling:  District Court overturned and case dismissed.  The 11th Circuit held that because the Sheriff (hmmm… trying to remember now if the Chief Jailer was still in the lawsuit by this time) didn’t deny the needed medications himself and because he didn’t personally commit any abuse and because he was not put on “Actual Notice” of any abuse and then allow it to continue on, then he had no responsibility, no liability.

    The message from our Courts and Congress to Sheriffs, Police Chiefs and Prison Officials is clear:  stay as “hands off” with respect to your department’s/facility’s daily operations as possible, stay as uninformed and distant from those operations as you can, and that way you’ll be able to build a wall of separation and “plausible deniability between yourself and any abuse that goes on amongst your subordinates and the people they are charged with guarding and protecting (yes, even criminal defendants and those serving time in jail or prison are entitled to a modicum of protection:  their punishment is incarceration, NOT physical abuse or denial of medical treatment).


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