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Articles by Bill Barton

Philadelphia Jails to Release Prisoners Earlier in the Day

The information was revealed in a series of stories in August 2020 by The Philadelphia Inquirer. Following publication, Prison Commissioner Blanche Carney said, “Anyone released after the close of their facility’s Cashier’s Office will now receive their property at their facility.”

Ann Jacobs, director of the Prisoner Reentry Institute at New York City’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said, “This is a good example of a system listening and responding in a way that looks like it will make a big difference.” Making sure that the changes are permanent will require “collaborative vigilance,” said Jacobs.

‘‘You can’t rest on your laurels. What we know about any kind of systems change is that it changes as long as it’s being observed and measured.”

Philly jails’ spokesperson Mallie Salerno stated that every person released from jail will ...

Missouri Downsizing Prisons to Save Cash

Budget director Dan Haug said, ‘‘What they are doing is they are consolidating space within various prisons around the state, closing certain housing units and those types of things.”

The Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) housed 33,000 prisoners in 2017; the January 2020 prison population stood at 26,000. Changes in the state’s criminal code, replacing incarceration with probation in many cases, accounts for the drop in population.

DOC spokesperson Karen Pojmann noted that the plan will close housing units at Northeast Correctional Center in Bowling Green, Farmington Correctional Center, Boonville Correctional Center, Algoa Correctional Center in Jefferson City, Tipton Correctional Center, and Western Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in St. Joseph.

“Closing housing units reduces staffing needs and enables the department to more effectively and efficiently staff facilities, boost safety and reduce mandatory overtime,” Pojmann said. “We’re hoping these changes also can reduce staff stress and improve retention.”

In addition to removing 1,756 beds for prisoners, the plan will also obviate the need for filling 131 currently vacant staff positions. It will save ...

BOP Official Reportedly Had Sexual Relationship With Former Police Union Head

The officials were not named in the brief public report, but — according to USA Today coverage of the story — officials familiar with the matter identified the BOP official as Judith Garrett and the ex-prison union chief as Eric Young, who served in that capacity through August 2019.

The BOP said “the assistant director had been removed from a management position in July 2018.”

“The BOP will take appropriate actions in response to the (inspector general’s) findings,” the agency’s statement said, but declined prosecution of Garrett.

Young’s successor as union president, Shane Fausey, said the findings were “a surprise,” and “We are convening an emergency meeting of the board right now. We’re going to have to look back at everything to see what related to him (Young) ...

Alabama Says It Will Reform Prisons, the Nation’s Deadliest

Back in 2014 Alabama was sued in federal court regarding failures in taking care of the medical and mental-health needs of prisoners. Approximately three years later, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson found the ADOC “horrendously inadequate” in meeting those needs and also criticized severe staff shortages in the system. He then subsequently ordered the state to hire more than 2,000 additional correctional staff by 2022.

The possibility of a DOJ lawsuit against the state has apparently spurred Republican Governor Kay Ivey to convene a criminal-justice panel. “We’ve done a great job of identifying the issues,” panel member Chris Englund, a Democratic state representative, said. “But ...

Rappers Jay-Z and Yo Gatti Help Prisoners in Mississippi Sue State Over “Inhumane and Unconstitutional Conditions”

Lawyers representing music stars Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and Mario “Yo Gotti” Mims, along with Carter’s entertainment company, Team Roc, filed a federal lawsuit in the Northern District of Mississippi on January 14, 2020, on behalf of 24 prisoners held at Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. The suit’s named defendants are then-Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) Commissioner Felicia Hall and Marshal Turner, superintendent of the Parchman prison until April 2020.

The suit was filed by Blackmon & Blackmon of Canton and Alex Spiro and colleagues from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan in New York. Prior to filing, Team Roc sent a letter to Hall and then-Gov. Phil Bryant accusing MDOC of operating prisons that are “inhumane and unconstitutional.” Bryant’s term ended in January 2020 when his former lieutenant governor Tate Reeves, was inaugurated.

Spiro said the group was ‘‘prepared to pursue all potential avenues to obtain relief for the people living in Mississippi’s prisons and their families,” and concluded the letter with a warning: “Roc Nation and its philanthropic arm, Team Roc, demand that Mississippi take immediate steps to remedy this intolerable situation.”

Since December 29, 2019, at least 30 men have died in Mississippi prisons, most at ...

Rhode Island Corrections’ Union President Fined for Excessive Political Donations

The Rhode Island Board of Elections voted in December 2019 to fine correctional officers’ union president Richard Ferruccio for allowing the union’s Political Action Committee (PAC) to exceed the state’s limit on annual campaign contributions for three successive years. Ferruccio agreed to pay the $1,020 penalty after the board voted to approve the fine.

The PAC exceeded the state’s $25,000 cap by $4,075 in 2017, $1,350 in 2018 and $4,775 through the first three quarters of 2019, according to the board’s findings.

Traditionally, the union has a vocal role in proceedings at the State House, particularly on criminal justice reform issues, including its recent opposition to the plan to close the high-security unit at the Adult Correctional Institution while a new unit is built. The PAC is also known to issue political endorsements during election season.

During 2019, the PAC donated $1,000 apiece to Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, Congressman James Langevin, Treasurer Seth Magaziner, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio.

According to Richard Hahn, the PAC’s treasurer, the union has started new policies ensuring that it complies with state law, and he apologized for the past violations.

In other actions, the board fined ...

Report: Oaks of Justice Pitch to Help Prisoners Return Home Appears Shady

It’s scarcely news that people incarcerated in federal prison are often desperate for any possible chance to return home. Unfortunately, prisoners aren’t really in a position to verify the legitimacy of assorted offers of shortened sentences, and misinformation is rampant.

On its website, the group Oaks of Justice claims that it can assist federal prisoners in obtaining early release and completing their sentences at home while being monitored by surveillance systems worn on their wrists like a smart watch. According to its website, the wrist monitors track respiration, pulse, and alcohol or drug use.

The company also claims that its program is part of the First Step Act. Oaks of Justice says users of its service must remain within boundaries, a so-called “geo-yard,” set at the time of release.

Company founder Joanne Barefoot Morgan (aka Winnie Joanne Barefoot) has claimed that federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) officials and President Donald Trump support the program, according to a January 2020 report by The Marshall Project. A spokesperson for the BOP said the Bureau has no such deal with the company.

Dolores Wallace’s sister was serving a 3 ½-year sentence in federal prison. She asked Dolores to look into ...

Michigan Permits Prisoners to Seek Financial Assistance for College

In October 2019, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into law a 2020 budget that allowed prisoners to seek college financial aid through a state program that had long been out-of-bounds to prisoners.

The Tuition Incentive Program (TIP) reimburses tuition expenses for Medicaid-eligible students at participating private and ...

D.C. Juvenile Offender Finally Released After 26 Years Behind Bars

David Bailey was a reckless and violent 17-year-old when he shot and killed two people outside a Washington, D.C. night club. He was convicted of second-degree murder and received a sentence of 35 years to life.

According to The Appeal, “both of Bailey’s parents struggled with ...

Massachusetts Supreme Court Orders DOC to Free Terminally Ill Prisoners After DOJ Investigates Mistreatment

On January 28, 2020, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) voided several regulations used by the state Department of Correction (DOC) to justify denying 29 petitions by prisoners for medical parole, also known as “compassionate release.” The ruling came in a case by one of a number ...