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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Rick Anderson

Long-Term Illinois Prisoners Rarely Released by State Parole Board

by Rick Anderson

The more a certain group of Illinois prisoners age behind bars, the less likely they are to be released, according to a study released last year by the non-partisan, not-for-profit group Injustice Watch.

The study, using Prisoner Review Board records and other documents, revealed that several board members – who receive annual salaries of at least $85,900 – are highly unlikely to grant parole for the roughly 120 prisoners who remain incarcerated for crimes they committed more than four decades ago.

That was before Illinois law was amended in 1978 to essentially abolish parole. Still, parole exists even if the board is unusually stingy about granting it.

There are two types of parole, discretionary and mandatory, which differ in how release is granted. Discretionary systems leave the decision to a parole board while a mandatory system requires automatic early release under pre-established conditions.

Illinois and 15 other states, along with the District of Columbia, have discontinued parole in most cases. The debate continues over whether the discretionary or mandatory system works better, and factors differ from state to state.

According to a review by Restore Justice Illinois, there is wide variation in how the systems operate ...

Female Prisoner Wore Wire to Take Down Rikers Island Guards, Wins $425,000 Settlement

by Rick Anderson

A female prisoner in New York who wore a wire to help bust three Rikers Island jailers who sexually abused her has received a $425,000 settlement from the city. 

The trio of guards – David Johnson, Steven Santiago and Nana Osei – reportedly abused prisoner ...

One in 55 Adults on Probation or Parole, Study Finds

by Rick Anderson

The number of people on probation and parole increased 239 percent from 1980 to 2016, according to a September 2018 report by the Pew Research Center. That spurred a dramatic rise in the per capita rate of people under community supervision, which grew to one out of every 55 adults in the United States – nearly two percent of the adult population. 

Despite a steady 11 percent decline in the community supervision population since reaching its peak in 2007, the 4.5 million people currently on parole or probation is more than double the 2.2 million prisoners serving time in state and federal prisons and local jails. 

The policies, rules and regulations governing supervised release vary widely from state to state, researchers noted, as do the per capita rates. In Georgia, for example, one of every 18 adults is on community supervision, while in New Hampshire the rate is one of every 168.

“This massive scale has too often prevented the community supervision system from effectively delivering on its mission to promote public safety through behavioral change and accountability,” said Jake Horowitz, director of Pew’s public performance project. 

Although roughly half the ...

Appeals court rules in favor of Latino denied guard job in California prison

by Rick Anderson

Victor Guerrero, wrongly denied a chance to apply as a California prison guard after disclosing he had once used a false Social Security number to obtain a job, can now seek additional damages from the state, an appeals court ruled Nov. 7, 2018.

 Guerrero had already won a ruling that state prison officials had discriminated against him based on his national origin. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, U.S. District Judge William Alsup awarded Guerrero $140,000 in lost pay and $1.4 million in attorneys’ fees and costs in 2016.

 He also ordered the state to reconsider Guerrero’s job application. He was accepted and now has worked as a guard at a Central Valley prison for 2½ years, his lawyer said.

 Guerrero also sought damages under California law for the emotional harm caused by the rejection of his application. He filed a separate suit in San Francisco Superior Court, but it was rejected. The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco disagreed and reinstated the suit.  

 Guerrero was brought to the United States from Mexico by his parents in 1990 at age 11, the Chronicle said. Needing a job at age 15 to ...

Head of Nashville’s Correct Care Solutions arrested for DUI

by Rick Anderson

Jerry Boyle, CEO of Correct Care Solutions, was arrested for driving under the influence on June 16, 2015, after police found him in the parking lot of the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

 According to a police report obtained by the Daily News Journal, officers were alerted by other drivers in the area who noticed Boyle allegedly driving erratically, almost hitting other cars and ending up smacking a concrete island.

 Boyle, co-founder of Correct Care Solutions, which provides health care to prisons, psychiatric hospitals and recovery centers, said he was coming from downtown Nashville and was trying to get home to nearby Brentwood.

 When police approached his car, they noticed the smell of an intoxicant, the report stated.

 After failing to complete a field sobriety test, Boyle was arrested and charged with driving under the influence. He posted $1,500 and was released. The outcome of the case was not immediately available, a county circuit court spokeswoman said.

 Sources: Murfreesboro Daily News Journal, Murfreesboro Police, Rutherford County Circuit Court.


California Prisons Struggle with Environmental Threats from Sewage Spills, Contaminated Water, Airborne Disease

by Rick Anderson

"When I walk into my cell and see a [toilet] bowl full of brown water, I’m reminded of my status in the world; I’m reminded of my value. All the pious talk in the world about rehabilitation doesn’t change this ugly reality.”

That was lifer Kenneth E. Hartman describing what some days are like at the California State Prison LAC in Lancaster, a maximum-security facility about 70 miles north of Los Angeles.

It’s crowded there, and the prison’s operations and sewer system are bearing the effects of more than 3,400 prisoners in a facility built to hold 2,300. Some newcomers bunk in the crowded gymnasium where beds are pushed together dormitory-style in long vertical rows and prisoners, unlike those in cells, have to line up to use the bathroom facilities.

California’s prison population peaked at more than 175,000 in 2006, roughly double the system’s intended capacity. Critics blamed the overcrowding on the state’s hard-line, 1990s policies which, over the years, increasingly saw incarceration and lengthy sentences as the best answers to rising crime: Lock ‘em all up, a majority of legislators believed.

With prisoners sleeping in hallways, gyms and program rooms, then-Governor Arnold ...

Registration, Tracking of Sex Offenders Drives Mass Incarceration Numbers and Costs

by Rick Anderson

The September 1988 rape and murder of 29-year-old Diane Ballasiotes in Seattle, Washington, followed by the 1989 rape and sexual mutilation of a 7-year-old Tacoma boy, were the seedlings of today’s nationwide sex offender registry laws – a 50-state network that tracks over 805,000 registrants and whose usefulness as a crime-prevention tool has been questioned and criticized.

Other cases from that same era – including the widely-reported 1989 kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling in Minnesota, which was solved only late last year – led to a series of 1990-2000 state and federal statutes that established central registries for sex offenders, as well as residency restrictions and civil commitment laws.

Attorneys and advocates for change wonder how many of the nation’s more than 805,000 registered sex offenders are in prison or jail on any given day just for violating registration requirements – which are technical violations rather than sex crimes, and did not even exist before 1990. And how much does that, and registry enforcement efforts, add to the rising costs of tracking and monitoring sex offenders? In Palm Beach County, Florida, one officer said 20 deputies are assigned full time to ...

Greenwashing Washington State’s Prison System in a River of Sewage

Greenwashing Washington State’s Prison System in a River of Sewage

by Rick Anderson

Greenwashing: When an agency or company spends more on marketing and public relations to promote the perception they are environmentally conscious than they spend on implementing environmentally conscious practices and policies.

In 2005, embarking on a new-found interest in creating more environmentally friendly prisons, the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) built what it claimed was the nation’s first correctional building to achieve a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold rating. There was a lot of back patting and official ring kissing. The 10,000-square-foot Jimmie Evans Training Center at the Monroe Correctional Complex (MCC) north of Seattle includes prisoner classrooms and a computer lab. Built to conserve energy, the training center featured waterless urinals and a rainwater system used to flush low-flow toilets. Almost a century old, the prison was going green and this time it wasn’t from moss.

The Monroe complex, which houses 2,400 male prisoners in separate reformatory, mental health, sex offender and minimum-security units, also got a new LEED-certified maintenance building that year. It was built with recycled construction materials and relied on more natural lighting from windows and skylights ...

In Washington State Prisons, Negligent Health Care Turns Illness into a Death Sentence

In Washington State Prisons, Negligent Health Care Turns Illness into a Death Sentence

Ricardo Cruz Mejia went to prison a murderer, he left a victim.

by Rick Anderson

Ricardo Cruz Mejia’s final days began with a stomach problem. It was October 2010. After the 26-year-old Walla Walla State Penitentiary prisoner discovered blood in his stool, he signed in at the prison infirmary. A test and exam turned up a severely inflamed colon. The onetime Latino gang member from Skagit County, doing 34 years for seven felonies including murder, was given hydrocortisone enemas and tabs of prednisone, used to treat inflammation. The prison medical staff also gave him sulfasalazine for abdominal pain.

In November, Mejia, a stocky, tattooed prisoner with a closely shaved head, began to experience other symptoms – headaches, sore throat, then vomiting. He also had begun to develop a rash, for which he was given penicillin, though it didn’t seem to help.

In the ensuing days, he became a familiar figure to infirmary nurses. From December through the first week of January 2011, he showed up at the infirmary 14 times. Nurses doled out a topical cortico-steroid for skin inflammation and tried other drugs to ease his symptoms ...

Unreported Jail Deaths: There have been two apparent suicides, one of which remains a mystery.

By Rick Anderson

Gas-station robber Ronald Ray Hicks went to sleep in his King County Jail bunk just before 10 p.m. July 25 and never woke up. His cellmate noticed Hicks still lying on his left side on the lower bunk, facing the wall, as the downtown jail was stirring at 7 a.m. The cellmate touched Hicks' ankle, then shook his shoulder. Hicks, 43, who had been on suicide watch in the past, was dead.

Though cause has yet to be determined, authorities think he may have intentionally overdosed on a drug illegally imported into the jail. Hicks had been convicted in 2003 for a poorly planned holdup of an Issaquah gas station—nabbed after running out of gas 200 yards away. For his third felony, he received a life sentence under the state's "three strikes" law. A week before he apparently committed suicide in his two-man cell last month, he learned his appeal was rejected.

Unreported until now, Hicks' death is considered the jail's first of 2005. "We've had no other jail deaths since the first of the year," says Maj. William Hayes, spokesperson for the county's Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention ...


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