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Articles by Casey Bastian

California Supreme Court: Prisoners Cannot Legally Possess Cannabis

by Casey Bastian

On November 8, 2016, California voters went to the polls to consider whether the Control, Regulate, and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act, known as Proposition 64 (Prop64), should be approved. Prop64 was easily passed with voters clearly supporting the legalization of recreational marijuana. Medicinal use in ...

Benevolent or Predatory?

Lake Ozark Politician Gives Women Prisoners Help, Gets Sex

by Casey J. Bastian

In 2015, Gerry Murawski was an elected city alderman for Lake Ozark, Missouri. Murawski was also engaging in questionable relationships with several young women. During the period of 2015-2016, Murawski would provide money and favors for at least four women who had been held in the local Laclede County Jail. The young women would give massages, companionship, and sex after they were released; one stated that she felt “obligated” to engage in sex acts with Murawski for the financial help he had provided.

This conduct would eventually lead to three separate investigations by local, state, and federal authorities. At one point, Murawski admitted to the FBI that a prostitute he solicited through Craigslist in 2015 had been only 16 at the time. Meeting an underage girl online and having sex with her at a Columbia, Missouri hotel did not lead to any criminal charges. In fact, not one of the three investigations resulted in any criminal charges against Murawski. It didn’t even hurt his political career. Murawski would be elected mayor of Lake Ozark in 2019.

Murawski was recently asked by local reporters with the news ...

Audit Reveals Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Chaplaincy Services Branch Critically Depleted

by Casey J. Bastian

The Office of the Inspector General completed an audit of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Chaplaincy Services Branch (CSB) in July 2021. The CSB is responsible for the BOP’s religious services nationwide. The program is intended to ensure that the constitutional right of prisoners to practice religion is protected. Almost 70 percent of the BOP prisoner population identifies with a particular faith group or tradition.

The audit revealed that the CSB is so depleted that a mere 236 personnel are serving more than 150,000 prisoners. This results in only eight of the 26 recognized faith groups being represented. The audit concluded that “a significant shortage in the number of chaplains and other chaplaincy services staff impairs the BOP’s ability to implement a safe and effective religious services program.”

The audit identified five key areas requiring improvement and policy updates to help ensure prisoners’ access to religious services as well as the safety and security of the institutions. As well as identifying the current deficiencies, the audit offered several recommendations to alleviate those problems. On May 21, 2021, the BOP adopted several of the recommendations while promising to implement those changes in a reasonable amount of ...

Massachusetts Department of Corrections Sued Over Use of “Fake” Drug Tests on Legal Mail

by Casey J. Bastian

The Massachusetts Department of Corrections (DOC) has been knowingly using drug tests described by plaintiff’s lawyers as “fake” on legal mail to both interfere with attorney/client communications and impose strict punishments without due process. These claims are the basis of a class complaint recently filed by affected prisoners and defense attorneys. “This flawed test has seriously harmed our clients, attorneys, and the attorney-client relationship, and the DOC should immediately stop using it,” said chief counsel Anthony Benedetti.

The tests in question are manufactured by Sirchie Acquisition Company (Sirchie) and distributed by Biotech, Inc (Biotech). The DOC acquired the tests for the purpose of preventing the introduction of contraband through the mail system; chiefly synthetic cannabinoids, which can be sprayed on paper and smoked. Sirchie manufactured the Narcotics Reagent Analysis Kit (NARK) 20023 test and claimed the tests use “crime lab accepted chemistry” designed to “function as a transportable narcotics laboratory.” The problem is that the NARK 20023 tests are fundamentally unreliable. One DOC employee stated that the tests result in false positives “up to 80% of the time.” In 2012, Sirchie issued its “Nark News” brochure that acknowledged it is “almost impossible” to develop a test ...

Anti-Parole Whistleblower Prompts Investigation of Virginia Parole Board

The Enduring Life of Life Sentences

One of every seven prisoners is ...

Confidential Settlement in Case Involving Alleged Pattern of Racist Misconduct in Michigan Prisons

After 36 Years in a Louisiana Prison for a Rape He Didn’t Commit, Archie Williams Wins Freedom — and a TV Show Spotlight

Despite this experience, Williams has maintained a warm ...

Reuters Investigation: Lamentable Medical Care in Jails and Prisons Exposed During Pandemic

Pardoned Nevada Bank Robber’s Story Creates Hope for Prisoners