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Articles by Dan Pens

Federal Religious Freedom Law Passed

On July 27, 2000, Congress unanimously enacted Senate Bill 2869, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), which was signed into law by president Clinton, as a public law 106-274. The bill passed congress in two weeks and tries to reverse the supreme court ruling in ...

South Carolina Prison Chief Fired as Scandal Widens

Governor Jim Hodges angrily fired South Carolina's prisons chief January 11, 2001 after two guards were charged with allowing four minimumsecurity prisoners (2 male, 2 female) to have sex inside the governor's mansion.

The charges deepened a prison scandal that began last summer when Susan Smith, the state ...

Bag'm, Tag'm and Bury'm; Wisconsin Prisoners Dying for Health Care

[The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (www.jsonline.com) published an investigative series titled: "Wisconsin's Death Penalty," by Mary Zahn and Jessica McBride, October 22-24, 2000. Wisconsin doesn't have capital punishment, but the Journal Sentinel revealed the routine "execution" of state prisoners by a Department of Corrections health care system ...

Food Strike Puts Washington DOC on Spin Control

Prison food sucks. That's no big secret. And it should come as no surprise that for any given meal only a fraction of prisoners may bother to show up at the chow hall. Turkey A'la King? Good luck! But when 640 out of 700 prisoners fail to attend ...

Fraud Charged by Washington DOC Whistleblower

An employee of the Washington Department of Corrections Office of Correctional Operations contacted the state auditor's office in August 1997 pursuant to the State Whistleblower Act. The unnamed whistleblower [we'll call him/her "Doe"] told the auditor that the DOC used improper and illegal methods to award a ...

CMS Fined Nearly $1 Million in Virginia

Correctional Medical Services (CMS) contracts with the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) to provide medical care to some of its 30,000 prisoners. In a 13-month period starting in January 1999 the VDOC levied nearly $1 million in fines against CMS for failing to live up to its contract, according ...

Death as a Salesman: Benneton Ad Campaign Comes to Death Row

By Dan Pens

In January, 2000, Italian fashion conglomerate Benetton Group kicked off a worldwide "issue advocacy" ad campaign titled "Looking Death in the Face." The ads, featuring images of death row prisoners, sparked outrage among U.S. death penalty advocates. Which is, of course, exactly what Benetton expected. The ...

Illinois Supermax Hunger Strike

By Dan Pens

Displaying remarkable solidarity while encaged under unimaginably oppressive conditions, more than half of the 273 prisoners at the Tamms Supermax prison in downstate Illinois began a hunger strike by refusing their breakfast on May 1,2000. Prison officials said 173 prisoners joined the action. Alan Milks, a ...

Whistle-blowing Doctor Shakes Up Nebraska DOC

I have a story to tell--about how a doctor can be used to kill patients. I will talk to anybody you want me to. I spent twelve years of my life, and these people push me around and turn me into something horrible. I am ashamed of what I have ...

Corcoran Show Trial Ends with Acquittals

Corcoran Show Trial Ends With Acquittals

The saga of Corcoran's infamous SHU shootings ended June 8, 2000 when a jury acquitted eight California prison guards of federal charges that they entertained themselves by staging gladiator-style fights among prisoners from rival gangs.

Between 1989 and 1994 seven unarmed prisoners were ...