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Articles by Christopher Zoukis

Coronavirus: A Nationwide Survey of the Push for Early Release as Pandemic Fears Grow

by Christopher Zoukis

“Mother Nature is a serial killer. No one’s better. More creative. . . . She’s a bitch.”

– World War Z

Between January and August of 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services played a game, a simulation of sorts. The exercise was called Crimson Contagion, and it was designed to help the U.S. prepare for a viral pandemic. 

During the simulation, as reported by The New York Times, a group of 35 tourists from the United States, Australia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Thailand, Britain and Spain visited China. While there, they became infected with an unknown virus, flew home, and became their respective countries’ Patient Zeros. The World Health Organization declared a pandemic seven weeks later. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines for social distancing and state governments directed the workforce to stay home. Nonetheless, the simulation predicted, the pandemic would ultimately infect 110 million Americans and kill 586,000.

Coronavirus: The Origins

On December 31, 2019, the Chinese government acknowledged the treatment of citizens in Wuhan, China, for pneumonia. Within a few days, Chinese researchers identified a new virus that had sickened dozens of people in Asia.

On ...

California Three-Judge Court Denies Emergency Motion to Reduce Prison Population During Pandemic

On April 4, 2020, a three-judge court in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California denied a motion seeking an order requiring the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to immediately release specific categories of inmates due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision came 5 days after California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he would grant early release to 3,500 prisoners to try to check the spread of coronavirus among prisoners and employees at the state’s 35 prisons. Lawyers representing the governor told the court that Newsom was already taking “extraordinary and unprecedented protective measures” to fight COVID-19.
“He feels like he’s in a Nazi Germany death camp,” the daughter of one prisoner told the Los Angeles Times. “They basically locked them all in the ‘sick’ dorm and are only taking guys out with a high fever…An inmate in his dorm of 150 men just tested positive, so they put his entire dorm on lockdown. He can’t get bandages he needs for open sores from an autoimmune disease. He’s 72 and due out in August.”

The Emergency Motion to Modify Population Reduction Order, filed on March 25, 2020 by attorneys for the ...

GEO Group Produces Litigation Documents After HRDC Files Public Records Suit

by Christopher Zoukis, MBA

The Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), the parent organization of Prison Legal News, prevailed in a lawsuit seeking to force private prison contractor GEO Group to comply with Vermont’s public records law. 

The complaint, filed in a Vermont Superior Court, sought to obtain records ...

The Second Step: Invest in Prison Education Programs, Reinstate Pell Grants

by Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Aaron Kinzel is a professor of criminal justice at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Jose Bou is the manager of Equity, Family and Community Partnerships in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Sean Pica is the executive director of Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison. Aminah Elster is a proud ...

Former Prisoners Become Attorneys: From Breaking the Law to Practicing Law

by Christopher Zoukis

“A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client,” the old adage goes. But Isaac Wright, Jr. knew he was innocent, so he represented himself at his 1991 trial on charges under New Jersey’s “drug kingpin” law. Unsurprisingly, he was convicted and sentenced ...

Prison Work Programs: “Cost-Effective Labor Pool” or “Slave Labor of Yesterday”?

by Christopher Zoukis

According to a 2017 survey by the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI), of the more than 2.2 million people incarcerated in state and federal prisons and local jails across the United States, 61 percent hold some form of job.

In marketing materials prepared for Federal Prison Industries, also ...

Class-Action Suit Against CoreCivic ICE Detention Center Allowed to Proceed

by Christopher Zoukis

A lawsuit alleging that private prison operator CoreCivic violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) by forcing immigrant detainees to work at one of the company’s detention centers will proceed in federal court. The class-action claim withstood a motion to dismiss on August 17, 2018.

CoreCivic, formerly ...

Second Circuit: Prisoners Have the Right Not to Snitch

by Christopher Zoukis

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has held that the First Amendment protects both a prisoner’s right not to snitch and his or her right not to provide false information to prison officials. The May 9, 2018 opinion established new precedent in the Second ...

Report Highlights Shortcomings of New York’s Parole Board

by Christopher Zoukis

An investigative report issued in August 2018 by two advocacy groups, Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) and the Parole Preparation Project (PPP), found significant problems with the New York State Board of Parole’s (BOP) policies, practices and political dynamics that have led the board to deny ...

Alaskan Native American Company Profits from Immigrant Detention

by Christopher Zoukis

Under contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), guards at the Port Isabel Detention Center in Los Fresnos, Texas are provided by Ahtna Support and Training Services – a subsidiary of Ahtna, Inc., which is one of 13 Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) created by Congress for the ...