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A Matter of Fact

[Editor's Note: This will be the last "A Matter of Fact" column. Many of you have written to praise the column but others have complained that: 1) it's a waste of space, and 2) its hard to digest an entire page of facts and figures all at once.

From now on "A Matter of Fact" material will be spread throughout each issue in bite-sized nuggets called "In Fact". So rather than waste valuable column space, the "In Fact" items will be used to fill the space left over at the end of articles that don't quite fill a page.]

Statistics from the New York State Senate's Office of Minority Programs show that 80 percent of all NY state prisoners come from just eight NY City neighborhoods.

Clinton Correctional Facility (CCF), in upstate New York, holds fewer than five percent of NY state prisoners. Approximately 50 percent of the brutality cases filed statewide by LAY Prisoners Legal Services stem from incidents at CCF.

The Israeli army has used "rubber bullets" since 1987 against Palestinian protesters. Although the plastic- or rubber-coated steel pellets are intended to be non-lethal, there have been 42 reported fatalities resulting from their use, according to the Israeli group Betselem, which monitors Israel's actions in the occupied Palestinian areas.

Thirty-one California state prisoners have been fatally shot by prison guards since 1989. Most were killed to "break up a fight" between prisoners.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) reported 311 prisoner-on-guard assaults in 1994, 918 in 1996. The TDCJ says it doesn't compile statistics on guard-on-prisoner assaults.

The TDCJ does track "use of force" reports, however. TDCJ figures cite 7,804 major use of force incidents in 1996. Less than half of those (3,169) were investigated by Internal Affairs; 113 were found to involve prohibited excessive force.

In the first six months of 1997, TDCJ figures cite 4,043 use of force incidents; 98 were later deemed inappropriate.

In the month of July, 1997, the TDCJ documented 101 incidents where chemical agents (pepper spray or CS mace) were used by prison guards to control "unruly convicts".

Human Rights Watch reports that while five percent of Indiana state prisoners in general population have a serious mental illness, over half of the prisoners in Indiana's supermax SHU are mentally ill.

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