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Articles by Christopher Zoukis

Family of Prisoner Who Died from Allergic Reaction Settles Lawsuit for $2.4 Million

The family of a 22-year-old prisoner who died from a food allergy while he was held at the Snohomish County, Washington jail has settled a lawsuit against the facility, but an attorney for the family claimed the county lied about the amount of the settlement and lied about evidence in ...

Opposition to the Death Penalty Grows with High-Profile Support

Five high-powered, influential individuals have joined the call for abolishing the death penalty and a sixth may soon be joining their ranks, according to insiders in the Obama administration. The list of new capital punishment opponents includes two Supreme Court justices, a former U.S. president, a governor and the ...

Pope Francis Calls for Worldwide Prison Reform, Support and Hope for Prisoners

Pope Francis has endeared himself to prisoners around the world and those who advocate on their behalf, visiting some of the world’s most dangerous criminals and offering hope and support to all behind bars, regardless of their religious beliefs. The pontiff even made his compassion for prisoners a centerpiece of ...

Report: Nearly One in Four Exonerations Involves Crimes that Never Occurred

A report issued by the National Registry of Exonerations in November 2013 found that 22% of the known exonerations in the U.S. resulted from “no-crime” convictions – that is, cases in which the offender was cleared of wrongdoing because the crime never happened. No-crime exonerations differ from those that ...

A Clean Slate: Prisoners Taking Advantage of Tattoo Removal Programs

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) is among the latest – and largest – agencies to join a growing national trend: providing prisoners with the opportunity to take advantage of a program that offers a real and tangible step towards rehabilitation and employability through free laser treatments to remove ...

Aramark’s Correctional Food Services: Meals, Maggots and Misconduct

Aramark’s Correctional Food Services: Meals, Maggots and Misconduct

by Christopher Zoukis and Rod L. Bower

Prison food service vendor Aramark was included among 132 businesses in 21 countries that were named the World’s Most Ethical Companies in 2015 by Ethisphere Institute, a self-described “global leader” in defining standards for ethical ...

Los Angeles County Jail Home Detention Program a Failure

Los Angeles County Jail Home Detention Program a Failure

by Christopher Zoukis

The Los Angeles County Jail's early release program began in the late 1980s as a result of an adverse finding by a federal judge that the jail’s overcrowding amounted to an 8th Amendment violation for cruel and unusual punishment. Since that time, several early release programs have been attempted, but many have failed. The latest early release program to run into disgrace concerns home detention.

In 2007, L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca obtained special authorization from the state legislature to enact an early release home detention program. The program was to be utilized for nonviolent, low-level, misdemeanor offenders and applied to a projected 2,000 jail prisoners at any one time. The projected cost savings were significant considering that it cost the county around $20 per day to house a prisoner in home confinement compared to $118 per day at the jail. Plus, such costs could be transferred from the county to the home detention program participant. Unfortunately, the program has been increasingly underutilized. Between February 2009 and November 2010, approximately 1,200 jail prisoners were accepted into the program. As of March 2010, only 225 ...

No Resources for Programs to Help Prisoners Make Parole in West Virginia

No Resources for Programs to Help Prisoners Make Parole in West Virginia

by Christopher Zoukis

West Virginia's prison and jail population has continued to grow despite the passage of a sweeping prison reform bill, so much that the state has been taking bids from private prison operators to house hundreds of prisoners in out-of-state facilities. Sadly, as the overcrowding program grows, the West Virginia Parole Board denies release to about half of the eligible prisoners, many of whom are unable to participate in rehabilitation programs required for parole due to budget restraints.

In November 2013, West Virginia opened bids for at least 400 beds in out-of-state privately operated prisons. The additional beds are necessary to alleviate the Division of Corrections' (DOC) overcrowding crisis, which has caused it to house 400 or so DOC prisoners in regional jails.

Prisons-for-profit giant Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has been eyeing West Virginia as a prospective "market," according to a transcript from CCA's Earnings Conference Call to investors in October 2013. CEO and President Damon T. Hininger told investors, "So, we actually have been working on West Virginia for about two years. It’s part of that group of six [states] that we ...

China's Forced Prison Labor and Re-Education Camps Await Prostitutes After Roundups

China's Forced Prison Labor and Re-Education Camps Await Prostitutes After Roundups

by Christopher Zoukis

Notwithstanding China's great economic boom that has created a new class of millionaires and well-to-do urban citizens, the specter of Mao-era re-education camps still looms over China's poorest citizens, especially the estimated six million women working in its growing sex industry. These women are routinely arrested by police in vice sweeps that some say are simply a means to replenish jailhouse workshops. Moreover, many are even forced to pay for the “privilege” of working in prison sweatshops.

Experts estimate that 18,000 to 28,000 women are sent to such camps each year. Most are charged with prostitution offenses, but others, mostly deemed political nuisances, are also held at the camps.

While China announced in November that it would abolish the Mao-era system of "re-education through labor," Chinese citizens can still be held for up to four years without trial if accused of prostitution and other offenses. Detention centers established in 1991 allow local public security bureaus to impose "custody and education" for prostitutes in a murky, quasi-legal system. Women arrested for prostitution are often subjected to sexual abuse, being photographed naked, and ...

Budget Savings Plan for Michigan Department of Corrections a Failure

Budget Savings Plan for Michigan Department of Corrections a Failure

by Christopher Zoukis

In December 2012, the Michigan legislature passed a law that would allow up to 250 retired state prison guards to come back to work on a part-time basis and still receive their pension benefits. The bill’s goal was to reduce overtime by current Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) prison guards, afford the prison system enough time to recruit and train new guards, and save the state upwards of $10 million in the 2013 budget.

The problem is that, while the bill passed, there weren’t enough takers. Thus far, a total of 3 retirees returned to work in April 2013, and another 25 are slated to return, but have not yet started. Part of the problem is the “sunset clause,” which places a cap on the amount of time these retired prison guards can come back to work. As the law currently reads, they are only allowed back to work until September 30.

According to state Representative Greg MacMaster, a Republican from Kewadin, the time period is so short due to legislative and administrative delays in enacting and employing the law. He has proposed revising the “sunset ...