by Paul Wright
Anyone who has been arrested by the federal government can attest to the experience of being held in custody by the U.S. Marshals Service. While the federal Bureau of Prisons operates a few pretrial detention centers (aka jails) in large cities, the vast majority of federal defendants awaiting trial are officially held in the custody of the Marshals Service, which generally contracts the caging to local jails. Only rarely does the treatment of federal pretrial detainees in the Marshals’ custody come to light and this month’s cover story is a much needed examination of what happens to its prisoners.
For various reasons, there is little litigation by those injured and killed in Marshals’ custody, which closes one of the few windows into that carceral world. Seth Freed Wessler’s long overdue cover story this month is a much needed review of how the Marshals Service handles prisoners in its legal custody. Along with the massive expansion of the American police state in the past 40 years has been the concurrent explosion of its prisoner population, who are held by an alphabet soup of thousands of police agencies at the city, county, state, regional and federal level. These agencies are authorized to kill and detain people, usually with little to no supervision and virtually zero accountability.
In editorial developments, Alex Friedmann is no longer with us as PLN’s managing editor. I would like to welcome PLN’s new managing editor, Ken Silverstein. Ken has been one of PLN’s earliest readers and supporters. I first met Ken back in 1994 when I was trying to break a story about Jack Metcalf, a Republican candidate for Congress, who was using prison slave labor to phone campaign on his behalf on a ‘tough on crime” platform. Washington state media were not interested in the story before the election but Ken was. At the time he was the editor of CounterPunch. He broke the story there in January 1995 and it quickly gained national attention.
Ken has over 30 years’ experience as an investigative reporter and editor whose work has appeared in dozens of publications, including the Nation and the Los Angeles Times. He founded CounterPunch and is the former Washington Editor of Harper’s as well. While Ken’s forte has been political and corporate corruption, he has reported extensively on criminal justice issues as well. I am looking forward to working with him.
PLN subscribers should have recently received a free sample copy of our other publication, Criminal Legal News. Subscribing to both publications provides a complete overview of the American police state from surveillance, to policing, detention, prison, probation, parole, the death penalty and much more. Our latest book, The Habeas Citebook: Prosecutorial Misconduct by Alissa Hull, continues to generate excellent reviews and is the best resource available for anyone seeking post-conviction relief on claims involving misconduct by prosecutors.
Lastly, HRDC continues its efforts to end the financial exploitation of prisoners and their families by the government and their corporate collaborators. If you have been released from a prison or jail and had a debit card foisted on you, which you were forced to use and the card issuer charged you fees to use your own money, we would like to hear from you as we are working to end this practice. All CDCR prisoners in California are issued a JPay debit card that hits prisoners with exorbitant fees. Again, we want to end this practice so if you have been issued a JPay debit card in the past two years please contact me and we can help.
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