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Articles by Christopher Zoukis

Trump v. Biden on Criminal Justice

“If we catch a drug dealer – death penalty.” – President Donald J. Trump, 2018

“Lock the S.O.B.s up.” – Former Senator Joe Biden, 1994

As protests and calls for police reforms continue in response to police shootings of unarmed suspects, both the Republican and Democratic parties seem to be on the same page: How do we maintain the status quo and strengthen the police state while pacifying the population. But even with these views in mind, the question of how each candidate, if elected, would deal with criminal justice reform needs to be examined. Since 1992 PLN has compared presidential candidates track records on criminal justice issues and the consistent result is two empty bottles with different labels. One reason the U.S. has a mass incarceration problem and an overwhelming police state is the bipartisan consensus in creating and sustaining it. This election is no different.

The problem starts for each candidate at different points in time, in different eras, and with divergent factors contributing to their positions. While it would be nice to say that one party is better for criminal justice reform, this isn’t possible. The only difference is asking whether ...

Coronavirus in Prison: The Cruel Reality

As Numbers Rise, Some Prison Systems Admit Defeat, Others Try to Ignore Death Toll

With Lives of Immigrant Detainees at Risk to COVID-19, Federal Judge Forces ICE’s Hand

by Christopher Zoukis

As a result of a ruling June 5, 2020, hundreds of immigrant detainees held by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in south Florida may have to be released. That day a federal judge for the Southern District of Florida agreed the agency was likely “[shuffling] people ...

Federal Court Slams Michigan Jail for Bungling COVID-19 Pandemic, Demands Names of Vulnerable Prisoners for Release

On April 17, 2020, a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Oakland County Jail due to its mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint against the Oakland County Jail ...

Silence: The Bureau of Prisons’ Pathetic Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

The silence is deafening. Over a week in mid-May, Prison Legal News tried to contact public information officers at seven federal prisons seeking an answer to a straightforward question: What are you doing to protect prisoners at your facility from COVID-19?

The answer?

As of press time, ...

New York Judge Orders Release of 18 Rikers Island Detainees Due to COVID-19 Risk

On April 6, 2020, New York Supreme Court Judge Mark Dwyer ordered the release of 18 pre-trial detainees held at Rikers Island in response to a lawsuit brought by attorneys Lauren Gottesman and Mary Lynne Werlwas of the Legal Aid Society, and Robert Briere. The lawyers had ...

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, ...

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 ...

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 ...