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Articles by Jayson Hawkins

California Prison Guards Keep Jobs After Aiding Attacks on Sex Offenders

The attorneys argued that the allegations against the officers were substantiated only by the testimony of prisoners and that evidence of that sort would not hold up before the State Personnel Board.

A parallel investigation by the state Office of the Inspector General (OIG), which is tasked with overseeing the conduct of corrections department employees, concluded on January 10, 2020 that the evidence in this particular case was adequate to pursue the termination of the six guards identified by the warden. Inspector General Roy Wesley, however, expressed concern that it might set a dangerous precedent when it came to firing officers based solely on the word of prisoners.

Dana Simas, a spokesperson for CDCR, disagreed with the assertion that the department was dismissive ...

Growing Need to Protect Attorney-Client Emails

“It’s common attorney sense, a bedrock of American law: when your attorney communicates with you, that’s supposed to be privileged,” said Jumana Musa, director of the Fourth Amendment Center at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL). 

Common sense or not, that principle has not stopped federal prosecutors from prying into electronic communications to pursue convictions. The practice dates to at least 2011 when an incarcerated former Pennsylvania state senator’s emails to his attorneys were used as evidence to lengthen his sentence.  

An assistant U.S. attorney in New York’s Eastern District warned defense lawyers in June 2014 that such communications were fair game, writing that “emails between inmates and their attorneys ... are not privileged, and thus the office intends to review all emails.”

A bipartisan bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on Sept. 21, 2020, seeks to end this practice by barring emails from prisoners to their lawyers from being monitored. 

The Effective Assistance of Counsel in ...

NYC Floating Jail May Finally be Closed

As an ex-president of a local community board lamented, “Hunts Point was a place to put things that no one else wanted.”

In January 1992, tugboats pulled the Vernon C. Bain Center, a featureless five-story jail, into port. The facility, which holds 800 prisoners and has over 300 employees, did not seem out of place among the strip clubs and other eyesores that pockmarked the neighborhood at the time.

Much has changed in the intervening 28 years. Mirroring the renewal of Times Square, Hunts Point has shuttered the sex shops; violent crime has plummeted 280 percent since 1990. Next up is a planned marine terminal along the waterfront, which the city hopes will shift movement of goods from congested roadways to the East River. Part of that shift will include closing the Rain Center to free up potentially valuable real estate. ...

Beltway Sniper Marries in Prison

Muhammad was depicted as the mastermind behind the murders. He received the death penalty and was executed in 2009. Malvo, only 17 at the time of the killings, was believed to have been heavily influenced by Muhammad. Convicted in eight of the slayings, Malvo received sentences of life without parole for each. Under current laws in Maryland and Virginia, he will never leave prison.

Malvo, a native of Jamaica, has managed to find a measure of joy and normalcy amidst his incarceration. In early March 2020, he wed a woman whom he had been writing and visiting with for the previous two years. The woman’s identity was not revealed, but two of Malvo’s attorneys described her as close to his own age and “an absolutely wonderful individual.”

Carmeta Albarus, part of Malvo’s ...

Can the Pandemic Undermine Mass Incarceration?

The direction of public policy in massive bureaucratic states tends to create an almost inexorable momentum all on its own, and that momentum often overwhelms not only the conditions that created the policy but also the public welfare it purportedly serves. It is extraordinarily difficult to break this type of momentum, and public figures and political movements have both been known to dash themselves to pieces against the faceless wall of longstanding policy. American mass incarceration is this type of policy. What began as a response to public concerns about violent crime has grown over the decades into a complex web of entrenched interests that seem immune to all attempts at reform.

Historically speaking, established bureaucracies tend to be more vulnerable to sudden shocks than gradual change, with war, natural disasters, or financial crises often providing the impetus for reform. Activists who have been pushing for criminal justice reform believe that the systemic stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic might provide a sufficiently large shock to generate change, and there is growing evidence that their hopes might not be in vain, as discussed in an article by Sarah Stillman in the May 25, 2020 issue of The ...

Colorado Explores Ending Private Prisons

“I believe that profit should never be a motive in the prison industrv,’’ said Rep. Leslie Herod, the Denver Democrat who co-sponsored the bill.

Support for the legislation was split along party lines, but the bill was approved in the House and Senate. Resistance from Republicans has been based on the economic impact that closing the state’s three private prisons will have on the small towns where they are located.

“I don’t know why there is a bill here to target rural Colorado in such a detrimental way as this bill does,” said Rep. Rod Pelton, whose eastern district houses a correctional facility owned by CoreCivic that had been scheduled to reopen.

Other counties in the southeastern part of the state reported that their local private prisons accounted for 25 percent to 50 percent of their tax base. Herod said the study funded by her bill would take those ...

Ohio Jails Under Investigation

Governor Mike DeWine admitted back in June 2019 that the state Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) standards were outdated and did not reflect societal changes. “Look, running a jail today is very different than it was 50 years ago or 25 years ago. With the massive amount of people that have a mental health problem or who have substance abuse problem in our county jails, they are under tremendous pressure,” he said.

The 2020 reports said the DRC had tripled the staff of jail inspectors from three to nine and would begin top-to-bottom annual inspections of its facilities. Ohio’s administrative code also was altered to include surprise inspections and mandated that critical incidents such as use-of-force and suicides be reported. The period from May to December of 2019 recorded 25 escapes, 21 deaths, 16 suicides (as well as two more attempts considered “serious”), three charges of sexual misconduct and three fires.

The changes in DRC policy follow 15 federal lawsuits ...

Study Shows Solitary Confinement Poses Mortality Risk After Release

Now, a study published February 1, 2020 in The Lancet public health journal by Cornell professor Christopher Wildeman and Lars Andersen of Denmark’s ROCKWOOL Foundation has documented a link between being placed in solitary confinement and a significant increase in prisoner death rates within five years of release.

The authors set out to discover if they could find a link between solitary confinement among Danish prisoners and post-release mortality. For their study, they gathered data from Danish government sources on all 13,776 people who had been incarcerated for seven days or longer in the period stretching from 2006-2011.

They sorted these individuals into two groups — those who had spent at least 72 hours in solitary confinement during their incarceration and those who had not. The study tracked mortality rates among both ...

New Law in Maryland Reveals Pathetic Prison Wages

Wages for prisoners at the DOC vary from $0.90 to $2.75 per day, according to position and skill level. MCE’s 1,500 prisoner laborers receive between 17 cents and $1.16 an hour.

Maryland spends more than $5 million a year to pay for DOC prisoner labor. Wages for MCE workers add another $2.68 million. Meanwhile, the program brought in $52 million last year from the sale of products ranging from furniture and flags to stationery and license plates.

The move by lawmakers to publish prison wages was also seen as a window into the job skills offered during incarceration and how or if those skills would be useful after release. An earlier version of the bill also called for transparency on the costs that prisoners pay for commissary items, but that failed to pass.

The Prison Policy Initiative, a nonprofit based in Massachusetts, reports ...

Delaware Changes Prison Health Care Provider Due to Lawsuits Against Prior Contract Holder

by Jayson Hawkins

March 2020 brought sweeping changes to the way people lived and worked as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic spread across the country. Prisons, where social distancing was often difficult or impossible to practice, proved especially vulnerable to COVID-19, yet the Delaware Department of Correction pushed ahead with a switch to a new health-care provider. Centurion of Delaware LLC accepted responsibility for the medical and behavioral health care of the state’s prisoners effective April 1.

“It’s tough enough to transition to a new medical and behavioral health [provider] in 30 days,” commented Claire DeMatteis, Delaware DOC commissioner, “but doing so in the middle of a health pandemic is remarkable.”

The sudden switch reflects a loss of confidence in the state’s previous provider, Connections Community Support Programs, which agreed to void its annual $60 million contract three months ahead of schedule. Connections was facing lawsuits from two hospital systems after amassing nearly $10 million in unpaid bills for services provided to Delaware prisoners. Connections was also under investigation by the state Justice Department.

Jason Miller, spokesman for the Delaware DOC, said ample preparation and planning had taken place over March for the change in providers to proceed despite ...