Skip navigation

Articles by Christopher Zoukis

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 involve ...

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 jail prisoners were involved ...

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've been targeting…[T]hey're ...

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 other humiliations. "It's arbitrary, abusive ...

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 clause,” ...

Prison Staff Records Left in Prison's Barber Shop

Prison Staff Records Left in Prison's Barber Shop

by Christopher Zoukis

On August 4, 2011, a prison guard at Fort Dodge Correctional Facility in Des Moines, Iowa, a medium-security state prison which houses more than 1,300 prisoners, found sensitive employee records in a file drawer in the prison's barber shop, a location converted from an administration office several months prior. The records, forms related to the prison's severe weather plan, were about a decade old and contained the names and social security numbers of 23 prison employees.

As a result of the records being found in an area where prisoners could have had access to them, the Iowa Department of Corrections paid for 1 year of credit protection, through August 2012, for the affected prison guards at a cost of $1,920. The union subsequently asserted that this was not sufficient protection for their affected members and that the protection should be expanded. Eventually the case was sent to arbitration, where the state was found negligent by arbitrator Jay Fogelberg, and ordered to pay for 3 years of additional credit protection for the affected employees. Of the 23 affected employees, 17 accepted the additional protection, which will cost the State $3,825, ...

Study Finds Victims of Bullying More Likely to Enter Criminal Justice System

Study Finds Victims of Bullying More Likely to Enter Criminal Justice System

by Christopher Zoukis

A new study suggests a direct link between childhood bullying and later imprisonment for bullying victims. The study, presented at the American Psychological Association's 121st Annual Conference, finds that childhood and teenage victims of bullying, almost 30 percent of American youth, are more likely to have conduct disorders and enter the American criminal justice system than those not harassed. This is the first study to examine individuals who were bullied throughout their adolescence, not during a specific period of time during their childhood.

The study, conducted by Dr. Michael Turner of the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of North Carolina, was based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor and Bureau of Justice's 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which followed 7,335 subjects, aged 12 to 16, for a total of 14 years. Participants were placed into one of four groups: never bullied, bullied as children, bullied as teens, and bullied as children and teens. Of the study participants, 74 percent were not bullied. Of those that were, 15 percent were bullied prior to turning 12, six percent were bullied ...