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Articles by Kevin Bliss

COVID-19 Lockdowns in Prisons Affecting Post-Secondary Education

COVID-19 Strikes Alaskan Prison

Families Must Pay for Cremation Bill of Loved Ones Who Die in Prison

Former Transgender Prisoner Fights for LGBTQ Rights in Massachusetts Prisons

Nebraska Declares Overcrowding Emergency in State Prisons

In an effort to help reduce population, parole board chairwoman Roslyn Cotton said that the parole board was accelerating the number of reviews being held. She said that from January to May the board conducted 2,700 hearings and released 1,546 to parole. Nebraska ACLU communications director Sam Petto said, “Cotton proudly noted that three-fifths are granted parole, but to us we kind of put that on its head and say you say 40% aren’t ready to enter the community and that is not a success story to us.”

NDCS Director Scott Frakes assured the public he would not jeopardize their safety. He said they did not plan on releasing any prisoner who did not meet parole requirements. “There’s been speculation that this certification will result in the automatic release of numerous inmates in an effort to reduce the number of people housed,” he said. “This is not correct.”

Frakes said Nebraska could not reduce overall population by selecting from a large pool of low-level, non-violent ...

Report: Screening Failures Cited in COVID-19 Outbreak in California Prisons

“Nine is an extraordinary number of staff deaths,” stated attorney Michael Bien. “I cannot recall anything like that in any year. Right now it is very dangerous for those in custody and those working there.”

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (Department) instituted mandatory screening for visitors and employees at all of its 35 prisons last March. One month later, the Office of the Inspector General examined the prisons and found that the directive that all the staff and visitors would be screened for COVID-19 was being inconsistently applied.

Some of the prisons screened incoming personnel in the parking lot before the person could even get out of their car. Others did not screen until the person was somewhere on prison grounds. “We found that this second approach increased the risk that staff or visitors may have walked into or through other work spaces without having been screened,” said the report. “By that point, ...

New York City BOP Prisoner Dies After Being Pepper-Sprayed

Floyd was serving a 12- to 15-year sentence for a Long Island home invasion committed in 2007. He was being held at the state-run Sing Sing Correctional Facility when he was transferred to MDC in relation to an ongoing case. Associated Press reporters Michael Sisak and Michael Balsamo said that court records showed that Floyd was not a defendant in any pending federal cases when transferred.

MDC was on lockdown due to protests over the death of George Floyd May 25 and internal aggravation concerning new coronavirus protective measures such as requiring all detainees and prisoners to wear personal protective masks all day. Floyd became aggressive and barricaded himself inside his cell, breaking out the cell door’s window with a piece of metal. In a statement released by the BOP, they said, “He [Floyd] became increasingly disruptive and potentially harmful to himself and others. Pepper spray was deployed and Floyd was removed from his cell.”

Medical staff later found Floyd unresponsive in his cell. They attempted to ...

Captain Accused of Abusing Mentally Ill Prisoners Cleared in Internal Investigation

The captain (whose name has been withheld since he has not been charged with a crime) has since been demoted to a lieutenant, but the Clayton Police Department and the Department of Corrections Internal Affairs have both concluded their investigation, finding no evidence of wrongdoing.

Clayton Police Corporal Jenny Schwartz said the only report in evidence about the ex-captain was filed on June 2, which said that a prisoner assaulted the ex-captain by spitting on him. She said the investigation concluded with an application for a warrant for the prisoner’s arrest being sent to prosecuting attorney Wesley Bell’s office.

St. Louis County NAACP Chapter President John Bowman said the ex-captain should be held accountable and is critical of the county for not doing enough. ...

New York Jail Accused of Discrimination by Female Prisoners

n March 2020, the Oneida County Correctional Facility in New York was accused of discrimination against the women who are housed there. Two months prior to that, all the women were moved from pods that offered the same privileges as men to two wings of a unit last used for disciplinary segregation.

The reasons stated for the move by county Sheriff Rob Maciol were a declining female population and a state order requiring the separation of “at-risk” women from the general population.

Guards came into the women’s pod on January 22 and told them to pack their property. Prisoners stated that they were then moved to an older section of the jail that still had the surfaces “covered with toilet paper, feces, and urine.”

It contained a closed-in recreation yard that they were given access to only one hour per day, smaller living spaces with no privacy for the toilets; tainted water; only one shower, and no access to video-chat services on facility tablets.

Upon entering Henry Block unit, the women were split up. Those considered to have medical or mental health issues or guilty of serious offenses were housed in Henry Left and all the others ...

$12.5 Million Settlement for Oklahoma Prisoner’s In-Custody Death Riled Sheriff’s Race

Sheriff Jody Helm, Deputy Darrell Momsen and their fellow candidate Cory Rink all promised more training and transparency. Helm was appointed after the April 2018 death of acting Sheriff Rick Fagan, who had been tapped for the job when former Sheriff Jerry Niles went on administrative leave during the investigation into Huff’s death.

Niles and his daughter-in-law, Jennifer, the jail’s former administrator, together with Turn Key Health Clinic employee Lela June Goatley, allegedly left Huff in a restraint chair for two-and-a-half days without access to medication or medical treatment. The 58-year-old, who had been arrested on a public intoxication charge, died on June 8, 2016, of chronic alcoholism. Jennifer Niles, along with jailers Shawn Caleb Galusha and John Robert Markus, later pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter charges and served 55 hours in jail.

Huff’s arrest on June 4, 2016, was not his first visit to Garfield County Detention Center ...