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Articles by Michael Fortino, Ph.D

Utah State Auditor Finds Grave Deficiencies in Prisoner Placement Program

The audit resulted in six major categorical findings, according to the state auditor. Those findings included allegations suggesting:

1. UDC failed to adequately learn from inappropriate activities that occurred at the Daggett County Jail.

2. UDC’s monitoring of contract jails is wholly inadequate.

3. “IPP does not adequately track and resolve concerns identified at contract jails.

4. “UDC operated without jail standards.

5. “UDC cannot adequately judge how effective IPP is at accomplishing its mission” and

6. “UDC Internal Audit Bureau does not prioritize IPP’s significant risk factors.”

State Auditor John Dougall commented: UDC has not “adequately learned from [previous issues] and improved its oversight of IPP, and IPP did not adequately improve its monitoring of contracted facilities.”

The most troubling problems were discovered at the now-closed Daggett County Jail. According to The ...

Open Prison: Lessons from the Past

Open prison is unthinkable today in the United States, though in Scandinavia such institutions are heralded as models of civility and rehabilitation. The U.S. experimented with open prisons back in 1941, which proved there were better ways to rehabilitate and reduce recidivism. Unfortunately, those lessons were short-lived.

In California, then as now, maximum-security institutions like San Quentin and Folsom were dens of tension and violence. In 1935, the California State Legislature wanted to try something different. A veteran penologist named Kenyon J. Scudder was enlisted to open a new prison at Chino. It would become the California Institution for Men, and the only one of its kind.

Scudder laid down some conditions. He wanted control over the selection and training of staff, and over how much freedom the prisoners would be permitted while incarcerated. To avoid punitive mindsets, he refused to hire staff who had previously worked within the system.

Instead, his jailers (“supervisors”) would have college degrees. They would carry no batons or guns, and weapons would only be a means of last resort. Prisoners would be able to choose what to wear, which jobs they preferred and what to study. Numbers identifying prisoners would ...

California Prison Officials Put Hold on Policy That Led to “Gladiator Fights”

In September 2019, California prison administrators and officials agreed to put a hold on a policy known as “incremental release” after complaints from prisoners and their relatives that it had been used to promote a “divide-and-conquer” strategy at state prisons by orchestrating “gladiator fights” among prisoners, ...

As Coronavirus Spreads, New York Governor Exploits Prison Labor to Produce Hand Sanitizer

On March 9, with fears of coronavirus spreading, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York held a press conference to announce the debut of a new hand sanitizer called NYS Clean. It will be produced by state prisoners paid approximately 16 cents per hour through CorCraft Products, ...

GEO Group, Largest Private Prison Contractor, Cranks Up Political Contributions During Trump Years

In August 2016, just after an Obama administration decision to stop contracting with for-profit private prisons sent its stock price tumbling, GEO Group, Inc., the country’s largest private prison contractor, donated $100,000 to a super PAC aligned with then-presidential candidate Donald J. Trump.

Through a wholly ...