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Articles by Edward Lyon

California Jail Prisoner Loses Limbs, but Faces Setback in Lawsuit Alleging Medical Neglect

The former inmate, Perry Belden, ...

New Documentary Released on Forced Sterilizations of Female Prisoners

Texas: Prison Air Conditioning Needs Revisiting

There are, without a doubt, many tens of thousands of former and current Texas prisoners who would gladly room with the General in his preferred lodgings after spending one summer in a typical Texas prison.

Texas currently operates 102 prisons across a state covering more land than some European countries. It is smack in the geographic center of the traditionally hottest states in the country from California on the West coast to Georgia and the Carolinas in the East. Some of the commonalities these states share is a lack of air conditioning in their prisons, excessive summer heat and, from Texas to points east, those states are known as the Bible Belt.

One would think that a state with such a reference would practice forgiveness, love and compassion. Texas seems to be mired firmly in the Old Testament’s “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth,” strict retributive doctrine where ...

North Carolina Temporarily Closes Three Prisons for Lack of Guards; Final One Reopens During COVID-19 Pandemic

DPS and DACJJ administrators decided to close three of their minimum-security facilities, on a temporary basis, to allow them to operate their remaining prisons at a constitutionally acceptable level. Yet prisoner Scott Whitmeyer was stabbed to death on the evening of September 28, 2019. He was assigned to Whiteville’s Columbus Correctional Institution and was living in a dormitory within the medium-security prison.

Republican state Senator Bob Steinburg questioned the closing of the three prisons. One of them is in Steinburg’s district and another is not far away, which would no doubt cause an economic slowdown for his constituents. Steinburg issued a statement saying that “Secretary Moose and senior staff at the Division of Adult Corrections have agreed to appear before the Senate Select Committee of Prison Safety so that other Senators may ask questions.”

There were multiple delays. However, by August 2020 all three prisons had been reopened. On August 10, State Treasurer Dale Folwell stated ...

Violence at New York City’s Rikers Island Jail Increasing Even as Population Falls

Despite the jail’s population being lower than any time since 1945, constant monitoring by federal authorities and agreements by city government to regulate the jail’s violent culture, uses of force have risen since 2016 — from 390 incidents per month to 600, a whopping 54 percent increase. The numbers were reported on August 6, 2020 by a federal appointee who monitors the jail system

Prior to 2015, New York City’s Legal Aid office, assisted by several private law firms, had prosecuted a class action civil rights lawsuit challenging confinement conditions at RIJC. When the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) joined the suit as plaintiff-intervenor, the city quickly entered into a settlement largely favoring the plaintiff class. (See: Nunez v. City of New York,  Case No. 1:11-cv05845-LTS-JCF, U.S.D.C. (S.D. NY).

The original Nunez agreement allowed for thousands ...

Mental Health Crisis in California’s Lock-Ups Worsens With COVID-19

Mental health problems are especially egregious at CDCR’s California Institute for Women (CIW) in Chino. This is a 1,398-bed prison, currently operating at a slight overcapacity with 1,500 prisoners. Although females currently make up only 4 percent of CDCR’s population, they represent a disproportionate 11 percent of the suicide rate.

Prior to COVID-19, a group of CIW prisoners receiving mental health treatment had dayroom access 23 hours a day. By mid-March, the women found themselves confined to their cells for 23 hours a day, sometimes longer. They stated that prison staff told them nothing about lockdown procedures, when they would be allowed recreation and phone calls to family members or even when they would be allowed to shower.

On April 6, 2020 three major events occurred at CIW. Staff there began wearing masks, the prison received its first positive result on ...

Native Americans Protest Theft of Alcatraz Island

The federal government has been in continuous violation of one of its treaties with Native Americans that it agreed to in 1868 called the Treaty of Fort Laramie for years. In essence, the U.S. government agreed that unused federal lands would be open for ownership claims by certain Native American tribes.

The Pacific island off the nation’s West coast across from San Francisco, California, where the Alcatraz prison was built originally belonged to the Ohlone tribe. In 1850, the federal government seized it for use as a military base. It eventually became a military prison before its 1934 transformation as the forerunner of today’s supermax prisons. It housed such notorious prisoners as Al Capone, along with 19 Hopi tribesmen charged for the “crime” of refusing to assimilate into Anglo culture.

Alcatraz, known as “The Rock,” was permanently shuttered in 1963. The federal government declared the defunct federal penitentiary “surplus property,” a legal precursor under the Fort Laramie Treaty to returning it to its rightful owners, the ...

Former Pennsylvania Prison All Solitary with Silence Mandatory

The thought progression is that prisoners become penitent as a result of spending time in a penitentiary after being found guilty of committing crimes.

In early-1800s Pennsylvania, the Society of Friends or Quakers, strongly disagreed with then-existing prisons and penology concepts and practices. They envisioned a place of solitude where convicts would spend all day, every day, by themselves with nothing but a Holy Bible to read. In such circumstances of penitent meditation, the convicts would see the error of their ways and become redeemed, positively contributing members of society when released.

Construction on Eastern State Penitentiary began in 1821 and was completed in 1829. The cells were huge in comparison to most of today’s 6-by-9 footers, measuring a full 7 and a half by 12 feet. Since the only time a convict ...

Massachusetts Jail Phone Cost Reductions Under Attack

These programs are funded through telephone revenue “commissions” paid to Cocchi by ICSolutions and to Evangelidis by Securus.

Phone rates in Cocchi’s jail are 12¢ per minute with “commissions” totaling about $820,000 annually. Phone rates in Evangelidis’ jail are $3 for the first minute and 15¢ per each subsequent minute, with “commissions” totaling about $300,000 annually.

Both sheriffs say they allow for free phone calls because of the pandemic. They are having to run three and four classes per program each week in order to meet distancing requirements, adding costs to keep them ongoing. They state phone “commissions” pay the costs for these programs.

They claim to be severely underfunded by lawmakers and cannot continue rehabilitative programming without phone provider “commissions.” Nonetheless, the state legislature in October 2020 was considering Senate Bill 2846 (previously Senate Bill 1372) that would require prisons and jails ...

Dark Web Creator Petitions President Trump for Clemency

Somewhat analogous to Star Wars’ young Aniken Skywalker’s journey to the Dark Side of The Force, Ulbricht’s Silk Road moved to the Dark Web. Silk Road quickly became a virtual hotspot for selling all manner of illegal goods, including narcotics, fake passports, and credit card information.

During Silk Road’s short-lived tenure between 2011 and 2013, it reputedly became the world’s largest virtual black-market economy. Paying for the illicit items available on Silk Road was accomplished through Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency. Ulbricht had reportedly made more than $100 million by the time he was arrested in 2013.

As Ulbricht’s 2015 trial for money laundering, conspiracy, and computer hacking progressed, allegations of six murder-for-hire plots were brought up. During final arguments, the prosecutor told the jury none of the alleged contract murders ever happened. Why then bring unadjudicated offenses before a petit jury to support the charged offenses that culminated in two life-without-parole ...