Death Penalty, Luxury Prisons, & False Convictions - The Point

 

Should the United States end the death penalty? How many false convictions come from eyewitness testimony, police lineups, and even DNA evidence? Finally, what can we learn from Norway's "permissive" prisons? Steve Oh (former prosecutor, and executive producer of The Point) leads this weeks panel to discuss these issues and more with Mike Farrell (actor/activist/writer, and president, Death Penalty Focus), Steve Ipsen (Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney), and Celeste Fremon (WitnessLA creator and editor, and author of G-Dog and the Homeboys). Special thanks to Barry Scheck (co-founder/Co-Director of the Innocence Project), and Brandon L. Garrett (professor at the University of Virginia School of Law) for sending in points.

Prison companies' profit motive sheds new light on Arizona's immigration law

From the Restore Fairness blog-

For months after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed off on the draconian immigration law, SB1070, protestors raged about the repercussions of a law that made it mandatory for police to stop and check the papers of anyone that they deemed “reasonably suspicious” of being undocumented. Human rights activists protested the inevitable implication of racial profiling that the law brought with it, while supporters of the law argued that it would be an effective solution to the immigration issue. When analyzing how the law came to be, the progressive media went to great lengths to highlight the direct links between those who drafted the law and “hate” groups the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FIRM) and white supremacist organizations. In all this, little was said about how the law came about in the first place.

A breaking investigation conducted by NPR and released today reveals that there is a more insidious motive behind the drafting of the Arizona law; one that leaves passionate rhetoric behind and focuses purely on profit. Based on the analysis of hundreds of thousands of campaign finance reports of people like Senator Russell Pearce, the legislator that was responsible for introducing SB1070 before the House of Representatives, as well as the corporate records of numerous prison companies, NPR has found deep financial ties between the drafting and introduction of the bill, and the private prison industry, that stands to benefit millions of dollars from increased immigrant detention.

The NPR investigation found that the seeds of the immigration bill were sown at a meeting of a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a semi-secret group that comprises of state legislators like Pearce, as well as the heads of big private corporations such as ExxonMobil and the National Rifle Association, and billion dollar companies like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison company in the United States. All of the 50 members present for the meeting in December, 2009 where Pearce first presented his idea for SB1070, voted to support it, and the exact “model bill” that he presented at the meeting became the law that Jan Brewer passed in April, 2010.

Once SB1070 was introduced in the House in January by Senator Pearce, it was backed by thirty six sponsors, most of whom had been present at the December meeting of ALEC. Almost immediately, thirty of the thirty-six sponsors received generous donations from all the big private prison companies, GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of America, and Management and Training Corporation. Further, it was clear that, if executed, this law would be hugely profitable for the prison companies. The records of CCA showed that prison executives were relying on immigration detention as their next big market.

Ties between the massive expansion of immigrant detention and the subsequent growth and profit for the largely privately run prison system are not new. What is even more disturbing is the concrete evidence that points to the lack of accountability that comes with this prison system that is increasingly dysfunctional, as well as a detention system that denies due process and fairness to hundreds of men, women and children.

Advocate groups such as the NDLON have called for a further investigation into the collaboration between private corporations and conservative politicians. Pablo Alvarado, the Executive Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network released a statement today saying-

We have done much to confront the hate within the recent immigration debate…but what this report brings to light is that behind the odious rhetoric there are corporations cashing in…These corporations and the politicians they fund are less concerned with borders than they are profit margins. We call on Russell Pearce to fully disclose his ties with those who may benefit financially from his initiatives and we ask that a deeper investigation be launched into the private interests gaining from the human rights crisis in Arizona.

Photo courtesy of npr.org

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org

 

Want to know what's wrong with the War on Drugs?

From the Restore Fairness blog.

It’s the first time that 1 in every 100 adult Americans is in prison, proof of an exploding prison system that states can ill afford and a movement away from rehabilitation programs. Even more disturbing are the racial disparities within the prison system. More than 60% of people in prison are racial and ethnic minorities which means 1 in every 36 Hispanic adults and 1 in every 15 black adults are in prison. How did this all happen? A change in laws and policies over the past decade have convicted more offenders, including non violent offenders, and put them away for increasingly lengthy sentences. For many, it is a system that is not providing the same returns in public safety in relation to this growth, and a rapid movement to change unfair laws has seen growing progress.

The 1980’s saw the “War on Drugs” launched in a big way. It was also the time for many federal policies that disadvantaged communities of color. One example: sentences for crack cocaine offenses (the kind found in poor Black communities) that were treated a 100 times more severely than powder cocaine offenses (the kind that dominates White communities).

Reform advocates say no other single federal policy is more responsible for gross racial disparities in the federal criminal justice system than the crack/powder sentencing disparity. Even though two-thirds of crack cocaine users are white, more than 80 percent of those convicted in federal court for crack cocaine offenses are African American.

The differences in sentencing were based on a myth that crack cocaine was more dangerous than powder cocaine and that it was instantly addictive and caused violent behavior, all of which has been disproved. What it’s actually led to is a costly system that focuses on low-level offenders and users instead of dealers and suppliers, imprisoning addicts that could benefit from rehabilitation programs. One analysis by Senator Richard Durbin, a Democrat of Illinois, estimates that an increased focus on community programs and an end to the sentencing disparity could lead to a savings of half-a-billion dollars in prison costs.

With mounting pressure on Congress to do away with legislation that has devastated communities, we are at an opportune moment to instill justice back into the system. While The House Judiciary Committee has already passed a bill that ends the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, the Senate Judiciary Committee will likely vote on a bill soon. Some Senators want to reduce the sentencing disparity instead of eliminating it but this watered-down compromise will do little to restore fairness. Let the Senators hear your voice.

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org

 

 

 

Folsom Embodies California's Prison Blues

Every once in a while, NPR (a pale shadow of its former self) hits one out of the park.

California's prison system costs $10 billion a year. Its crumbling, overcrowded facilities are home to the highest recidivism rate in the country. And the state that was once was the national model in corrections has become the model every state is now trying to avoid.
Laura Sullivan's report (listen and/or read) is too perfect to slice and dice, and too perfectly poignant not to share.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story .php?storyId=111843426

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Finding a Fair Solution for Youth Offenders

What certitude do we have as a nation that sees no opportunity for the light of goodness to shine on even the most stone covered seed? This question comes to mind amidst the recent decision by the Supreme Court to hear two cases on the sentencing of youth to life in prison without parole.

For more than 2,500 incarcerated youth in our country, our federal justice system and state courts around the country have left them shrouded in despair, sentencing them to life without any chance for ever seeing light beyond the pale concrete confines of prison.  There actions, indeed, deserve retribution. However, the complexity of adolescents makes it difficult to see any good in a sentence that denies a young person any opportunity for rehabilitation.

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