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Articles by Dale Chappell

National Guard Called in to Help Run Indiana State Prisons

Back in May 2020, as COVID-19 infected the nation’s prisons, the National Guard was brought in to help IDOC with detection and treatment of COVID-19 in state prisons. It was an effort to stay ahead of the game, or at least keep up with the wildfire spread of the disease. But things got out of hand and the National Guard switched from medical workers to actually running the prisons.

At first, teams of four National Guard members were deployed to Plainfield, Pendleton, and Westville Correctional Facilities. They expected to be there until the end of May, maybe a few weeks. Members with experience as EMTs, firefighters, and other health-care background were selected to bolster IDOC’s medical staff.

“These medical professional quickly augmented the governor’s efforts to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in correctional facilities during this public health crisis,” the National Guard’s website said about its work in state prisons.

By August 2020, entire National Guard units were deployed to operate some of ...

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994: 25 Years Later, Where Do We Stand?

Some 25 years ago, President Bill Clinton signed into law the biggest incendiary device that lit the fire of mass incarceration: The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (VCCLEA). “Gangs and drugs have taken over our streets and undermined our schools,” he said as he signed the bill into law before a wall of uniformed police officers.

Under the VCCLEA, the federal government coerced the states to adopt harsher sentences and require that prisoners serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. States that refused to go along lost out on $12.5 billion in grants ($19 billion in today’s terms) to build new prisons and bulk up police forces. Most states jumped on board.

But states had already been hiking up their sentences because violent crime was rampant in the early 1990s. So requiring even longer sentences, especially with the 85 percent rule and abolishment of parole, meant lots more prisoners in jail for lots more time. This “Truth-In-Sentencing” scheme filled prisons to capacity, prompting the prison ...

First Wrongful Death Claim Against San Quentin Prison Filed Over COVID-19 Death

by Dale Chappell

The family of one of the prisoners who died of COVID-19 at San Quentin prison in California has filed the first wrongful death claim — a precursor to a lawsuit — against the prison. Papers filed by the family’s lawyers on September 10, 2020, detailed how prison officials ignored the risks of the coronavirus and transferred 121 prisoners to San Quentin from a known COVID-19 hotspot without testing them — and then housed those prisoners in an open dorm with San Quentin prisoners without any precautions.

In short order, more than 2,237 prisoners became infected and 26 died (one guard also died). The transferred prisoners came from the California Institution for Men in Chino, where more than 600 cases of COVID-19 were reported with at least nine deaths.

Known for being the home of California’s death row, San Quentin also houses large numbers of low-level, non-violent prisoners, with many being older and at-risk for COVID-19. One of those prisoners was Daniel Ruiz who, at age 61, had at least four identified medical problems that put him at risk for death of COVID-19, according to the papers filed. He was one of 40,000 prisoners identified across the state ...

New Study Shows “Tough on Crime” Generation Spent More Time in Prison Despite Falling Crime Rate

The collaboration of experts from the State University of New York at Albany and the University of Pennsylvania analyzed data from 1.6 million prisoners, focusing mainly on North Carolina during 1972 to 2016, as it was representative of the idea of longer prisons sentences in an attempt to curb crime across the country.

The highly detailed study found that the crime rates for rape, aggravated assault, burglary, and other violent crimes were higher in the 1970s than in the 1990s. Yet, those adults who came of age during the 1990s had higher rates of arrest and incarceration than their counterparts just 20 years earlier.

Titled “Locking Up My Generation,” the study’s authors identified a “cohort effect” that filled the nation's prisons in record time, which they defined as a group that shares “common historical or social experiences.” To be more specific, it’s a ...

ICE Deportations Fueling Spread of COVID-19 to Latin American Countries

Can Kentucky Keep Charging Prisoners for Their Jail Stay if They Are Found Not Guilty?

Rhode Island Takes Uncommon Steps to Address a Common Problem: Drug Addiction in Prison

Lifers Now Exceed Entire Prison Population of 1970

BOP Guard Pleads Guilty to Sexually Molesting Prisoners at MCC Manhattan

The 43-year-old naturalized citizen from Nigeria, ...

“Collateral Consequences” of Convictions Hinder Chances of Post-Prison Success