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Articles by Keith Sanders

California Town Fighting to Keep Prison Open

by Keith Sanders

In the 1950s, the timber mills in Susanville, California, began to shutter. For this isolated town of about 8,000 residents, the economic impact of losing its only industry was devastating. But in 1963 the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) came to the rescue. The department ...

San Luis Obispo County Jail Conditions Violate Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments

by Keith Sanders

On August 31, 2021, the Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division released a report detailing its investigation concerning the conditions inside San Luis Obispo County Jail.

The findings of the report, conducted pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42, U.S.C. § 1997, ...

History Professor Fired After Criticizing University’s Racist Past and Pro-Prison Present

by Keith Sanders

Dr. Garrett Felber, a history professor at the University of Mississippi (UM), has distinguished himself over the years as a vocal critic of America’s racist criminological and penological institutions. At conferences and public speaking engagements, he has decried mass incarceration, called for the abolition of prisons, and ...

Unreliable Drug Tests Standard for Law Enforcement and Prisons

by Keith Sanders

Illicit drugs pose a serious problem for both prisoners and officials inside America’s prisons and jails. To combat smuggling, many state and federal prisons use field test kits to evaluate substances introduced into the facilities. These kits allow prison officials to detect the presence of meth, amphetamines, ...

Texas County Jail Cited for Neglecting the Needs of a Pregnant Prisoner

by Keith Sanders

In December, 2020, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) issued a Special Inspection Report detailing the Brazoria County jail’s failure to attend to the nutritional needs of a pregnant prisoner. The report cited the jail for not ensuring that pregnant prisoners are given meals appropriate to ...

Company Surveils Activists Opposing Construction of Prisons and Jails

by Keith Sanders

As if building prisons were not enough, companies are now engaged in what are called “corporate counterinsurgency” measures designed to influence public opinion by monitoring and surveilling groups opposing the construction of new prisons and other public works projects.

One architecture and design company in particular, HDR Inc., even has what it calls its STRATA team, dedicated to keep tabs on activist groups’ social media accounts for the government.

Documents obtained by a public records request and given to Motherboard, a Vice News project, detail how the billion-dollar firm utilizes the information gleaned from its surveillance. HDR has a program called “social listening” that monitors social media platforms 24/7 in order to discern key trends and influencers. The results of the monitoring are included in an “influencer” report that analyzes public sentiment by categorizing groups as “ethnic enclaves,” “barrios urbanos,” “scholars and patriots,” and “American dreamers.”

Building Up People Not Prisons, a prison abolition group, revealed documents showing how HDR “leverages large data sets to visually display social and political risk nationwide.”

For instance, in April 2021 the Board of Commissioners in Greene County, OH contracted HDR not only to build a new jail but ...

Court Grants Class Certification for Illinois Prisoners in Restrictive Housing Lawsuit

by Keith Sanders

On June 14, 2021, United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois granted Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification while granting in part and denying in part Defendant’s motion to Supplement.

The Plaintiffs, six prisoners housed in restrictive housing at different facilities in the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), filed a federal complaint on June 2, 2016 against IDOC’s “use of segregation, which they claim is tantamount to ‘extreme isolation,’ violates constitutional standards.” The Plaintiffs alleged two counts: one, the conditions in IDOC restrictive housing violates the Eighth Amendment; and two, they have a “protected liberty interest in avoiding extreme isolation.”

Subsequently, the Plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification on September 6, 2019. The Defendant filed his motion to supplement authority and/or evidence. Plaintiffs originally sued John Baldwin, then Acting Director of the IDOC, but who was replaced by Rob Jeffreys, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25(d) that automatically substitutes Jeffreys as a party.

The Court first addressed the Defendant’s motion to supplement additional authority. The Defendant submitted as additional authority opinions issued by the Seventh Circuit, McFields v. Dart, 982 F.3d 51 1 (7th Cir. 2020) and Howard v. Cook County Sheriff’s ...

Iowa County Wants to Use COVID-19 Relief Money to Build New Jail

by Keith Sanders

On June 8, officials in Woodbury County, Iowa, voted unanimously to approve the use of money from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to help fund the construction of a new $65 million regional jail complex. The 110,000 square-foot facility will house 480 prisoners and provide space for four courtrooms and a county attorney’s office.

Originally, the county’s cost to build the new jail was $50 million, which was raised during a bond referendum in 2020. But according to reporting by IowaWatch, county supervisors announced that the cost had gone up due to inflation induced by the pandemic. They also disclosed that Woodbury County has less reserve funds than other counties in Iowa, thus needing to seek funding from other sources.

ARPA passed in early 2021 in order to provide economic relief to Americans amidst the coronavirus pandemic in the form of direct financial payments. The $1.9 trillion stimulus package was also supposed to stimulate the lagging U.S. economy. Money from ARPA was allocated to the states, which in turn dispersed it to counties and cities. Iowa received $4 billion.

The U.S. Treasury set specific guidelines for how states, cities, and counties could spend ARPA funds. IowaWatch ...

New Mexico Jail Sued For Allowing Woman Prisoner to Die of Infections

by Keith Sanders

On February 25, 2021, the estate of Carmela DeVargas, who died while in custody at the Santa Fe County Detention Center, filed a federal lawsuit against the Santa Fe County Board of Commissioners and its employees. The suit alleges officials at the Detention Center failed to provide ...

Prisoner’s Suicide in Sherburne County Minnesota Jail Results in $2.3 Million Settlement

by Keith Sanders

A recent investigation by KARE 11, a Minnesota-based NBC news affiliate, has brought much-needed attention to systematic failures at jails throughout Minnesota. Many local and state correctional facilities in that state, according to the months-long investigation, do not provide prisoners with adequate medical and mental health care. ...