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Articles by Kevin Bliss

Urban Redo: Lorton, Virginia Prison Recreated as Liberty Village

COVID-19 Hits Fairfax, Virginia Juvenile Detention Center

Opioid Crisis in Canadian Prisons Needs to be Addressed

They point out that Canadian and international ...

Scottish Prisoners Issued Mobile Phones During Pandemic

The SPS introduced mobile phones into its prison system as a means ...

Private Health Care Services in County Jails Comes at High Price

Alabama Guards Accused of Excessive Use of Force, Hospitalizing One Prisoner and Injuring Another

Arkansas Governor Hutchinson Grants Commutation for Blind Mother

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson agreed to commute Willie Mae Harris’ sentence after 34 years in prison for accidentally shooting her abusive husband. She was released on June 5, 2020.

Harris, 72, from Bradley, Arkansas was charged with murder in 1985 after an argument with then-husband Clyde. She tried to beat him back with a gun, which went off and killed him. Her 13-year-old daughter was present at the time. Harris refused a 20-year plea agreement, maintaining that it was an accident in self-defense. She was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life.

Harris was sent to Wrightsville Women’s Facility where she started teaching other prisoners how to read. According to her records, she has not received any disciplinary reports and has a risk assessment of “minimum.” She completed several programs, such as anger management and stress management, and attended self-help groups. She suffered a stroke in 2008, which took her eyesight.

Lee Eaton, a New Orleans attorney representing Harris, sought commutation for Harris several times in the past 11 years. Her daughter, Silvia Jackson Harris, who was not able to testify during her mother’s trial due to her age, was able to argue that the killing was unintentional and ...

University of Florida Still Using Prison Labor, But End in Sight

Florida is one of the only remaining states that still use unpaid prison labor, and UF utilizes these services more than any other college in the state. They have logged over 156,000 labor hours supplied by the Florida Department of Corrections’ (FDC) workcamp prisoners in the past four years.

UF President Kent Fuchs released a statement that the university will not renew its contract with the FDC for the supply of this prison labor. But, the current contract already entered does not end until July 1, 2021.

The statement read in part: “As we move forward in implementing these initiatives, we are committed to this challenging, uncomfortable transformational work.”

Will Boose, founder of CAPS and a spring 2020 UF graduate, said this decision was long overdue and that continuing the current contract would be no more than an additional year of exploiting prisoners for free labor.

“The University just told us they will be ...

Former Prisoners Testify on Abuse at Notorious New Jersey Women’s Prison

They said corruption and threats of retaliation were so prevalent that it created a culture of acceptance that has persisted for decades.

In April of this year, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the New Jersey District Attorney’s Office (DAO) released a 29-page report prepared after a two-year-long investigation of Edna Mahan, which stated that conditions at the prison violated prisoners’ constitutional rights. It gave a list of “Minimal Remedial Measures” necessary to rectify the situation. The report stated that these remedial measures must be addressed or the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC) would be liable to lawsuit.

The investigation began after a series of arrests over a number of years (See: PLN, June 2019, p. 48). With the assistance of two expert consultants in correctional operations and sexual safety, an investigation team conducted a four-day ...

California Passes Bill Allowing ICE Detainees to Sue Private Contractors

In the latest in an ongoing battle between California leaders and ICE officials, state Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) authored AB 3228 to combat abuse and neglect inside private detention facilities. “For-profit private detention centers must be held accountable in the face of egregious human rights violations and harm to the health, safety and welfare of Californians, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Bonta said.

AB 3228 was an extension of Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32), also proposed by Bonta. AB 32 was passed to end the practice of private-run prisons in California. State-run facilities were responsible for the health and welfare of ICE detainees. If abuses were present, detainees had recourse to hold the federal government accountable through the Federal Tort Claims Act.

But private prison companies, such as the GEO Group, CoreCivic and Management and Training Corp., were not governed by the Act. So, the Assembly adopted AB 32, which held ...