Archive for the ‘prison’ Category

family visits and inmates

April 22, 2007

A statewide task force, dubbed Operation Disarm, pools the talents and manpower of law enforcement agencies from across the state, including Det. Marc Gray, an 18-year veteran of the Dover Police Department.

Prosecution by the U.S. government has several advantages instead of cases heard in state or local courts, Gray said. As there are no federal prisons in Delaware, family members must travel out of state to visit inmates.

http://www.doverpost.com/pages/newsopdisarm.html

captivity over; Iran lost the most

April 5, 2007

Well, the British prisoners have been freed by Iran.

I did not follow all of the news reports very closely, but here is my country by country analysis:

*Iran’s government: There were many US citizens who thought that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a non-crazy and OK guy, and actually supported his resistance of American imperialism, hegemony, or whatever they want to call it; but he has now lost a lot of support from them because of the prisoner stunts that he seemingly ordered. Iran now will definitely get less support from anti-war people in the US should Bush order the US military to attack Iran.

(Interesting system we have here in the US. One man can seemingly order any employee of the US military to do anything at anytime.)

*England’s government: somewhat weak and ineffectual; seemingly with wimpy military personnel

*Iraqi government: seemingly weak and possibly lackadaisical in this situation

*US government: not really bellicose, but potentially a dangerous ally to have; it is also interesting to note how much the US media did not care about the story when they were first captured

UPDATES:

At Britain’s request, the two carrier groups, totaling 40 ships plus aircraft, changed their exercises to make them appear less confrontational, The Guardian said. London also asked Washington to tone down its rhetoric against Tehran, the newspaper added.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=20070408&articleId=5303

Overplaying the hurt factor when one’s own is aggrieved isn’t anything new – while part of the British public gaped in horror at the ‘torture’ that their 15 servicemen endured under Iranian capture, many were quick to point out that British servicemen in Iraq were never shy of using physical torture on their captives, either. At least all 15 British servicemen were released safe and sound – and few thousand quid richer. Baha Mousa was released in a body bag, and his murderers have yet to be brought to justice.

http://iam.subhumour.us/?p=2035

snitching

March 27, 2007

To be certain, the issue of snitching is neither restricted to nor rooted in hip-hop culture. Within most American communities, reporting other people’s bad acts is a practice that is strongly discouraged. Judaic, Islamic, and Christian laws all speak negatively about backbiting and gossip.

Prominent white Americans like New York Times writer Judith Miller, who recently came under attack from her neo-conservative comrades for failing to expose Lewis “Scooter” Libby, have paid dearly (multi-million dollar book deals notwithstanding) for their commitments to secrecy. Even the police, who are among the strongest opponents of the “Stop Snitching” movement, have a ‘blue code’ of silence that protects them from internal snitches. Nevertheless, the hip-hop community has absorbed the brunt of the public attack on snitching, with little effort given to examining the unique significance of snitching within urban communities.

While critics dismiss the “Stop Snitching” campaign as a rejection of civic responsibility that further verifies dominant public beliefs about the moral incompetence of the hip-hop generation, a closer analysis reveals a much more complicated set of issues that have gone unaddressed. In its a priori dismissal of the “Stop Snitching” campaign, the general public has failed to acknowledge the moral complexity and legitimacy of an anti-snitching position. In all fairness, this is partially the fault of the hip-hop industry itself, which has marketed “Stop Snitching” in ways that undermine any claims to moral authority by not placing any conditions or caveats on its pleas for silence. While it is certainly problematic to condemn all acts of communication with authorities, it is equally shortsighted and irresponsible to advocate an absolute pro-snitching position.

The act of snitching necessarily creates a social and ethical quagmire in which an individual must sacrifice one set of loyalties for another. More specifically, the potential snitch is forced to choose between competing ethical codes and social commitments when making their decision. Often, this process entails deciding between locally defined rules and larger, more official ones. For example, Lil’ Kim’s refusal to identify her crew members as assailants during a shootout at the Hot 97 radio station was an anti-snitching gesture that privileged her friendship bonds and street ethics over the established laws of the land regarding obstruction of justice. While it is tempting to condemn all such acts on moral or ethical grounds — in this case, arguing that Kim should have protected the interests of the assaulted and not those of the assailants — it is necessary to consider the validity and value of the particular rules and issues at stake on a case-by-case basis. It is also important to understand the various ways that snitching is considered and discussed within the context of hip-hop culture.

Dry snitching is one of the most common practices within contemporary hip-hop culture. The term emerged from prison culture to describe an inmate who, in an effort to avoid a confrontation, would talk loudly or otherwise draw attention to himself in order to attract a nearby correctional officer. This is done as a way of “snitching without snitching”. Dry snitching also refers to the act of implicating someone else, intentionally or unintentionally, while speaking to an authority figure. Dry snitches are typically considered to be weak, naive, passive aggressive, or self-centered, all of which present ethical and practical dilemmas that must be weighed when discussing the practice of snitching.

http://www.popmatters.com/columns/hill/060224-1.shtml

a stop-snitching creed

March 27, 2007

• Don’t snitch on others just to save yourself. “Stop snitching is for those guys out there … selling more drugs than Noriega, and their only out is to tell on somebody. … If a (criminal) wants to be a Good Samaritan, OK. But send (him) to jail. Don’t give him immunity to do what he wants on the street.”

• Stop Snitching doesn’t mean stop talking to police. “It’s always misconstrued by the public, or the powers that be, that we’re trying to intimidate the regular people or the law-abiding citizens. That’s not what it’s about. … If that is your only outlet, to call the police, that’s what you do.”

• But witnesses have no obligation to help police. “Do your job — you’re the police. … I’ve been wronged by the system. Do you think I would help the system? … Do cops snitch on other cops?”

• The authorities can’t protect witnesses. “What’s happening to the innocent witness? They get dead or … terrorized for life.”

• Sometimes you must right wrongs yourself. “I’m a man, and I can handle my own situations like a man. … I’ve done dirt. I’ll admit that. So I can’t run to the police.”

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-03-28-stop-snitching_x.htm

what “Stop Snitching” / “Stop Snitchin'” really means

March 27, 2007

Some criminal informers who are allowed to remain free commit more crimes; some return to crime after a shortened prison sentence; some frame others, or tell prosecutors what they want to hear. Boston defense lawyer Harvey Silverglate says the system encourages defendants “not only to sing, but to compose.”

According to a study by the Northwestern University Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, 51 of the 111 wrongful death penalty convictions since the 1970s were based in whole or in part on the testimony of witnesses who had an incentive to lie.

Alexandra Natapoff, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, says that, based on federal statistics, one of every four black men from 20 to 29 is behind bars, on probation or on parole, and under pressure to snitch. She estimates one in 12 of all black men in the highest-crime neighborhoods are snitching.

She says informers strain the social fabric of poor minority neighborhoods, where as many as half the young men have been arrested. “Every family gathering, every party, every backyard barbecue probably has someone who’s secretly working as an informer.”

This is the world Rayco Saunders inhabits. It’s filled, as he puts it, with “guys doin’ all this crime and not doin’ no time, because they’re telling on the next man.”

“If the word ‘snitch’ comes out of someone’s mouth, I go insane,” says Pellegrini, the Pittsburgh prosecutor.

Saunders says he hates snitching so much that he not only wears the T-shirts himself but has given them as gifts to friends and relatives. “They love the T- shirts,” he says. “It’s way overdue for somebody to step up and speak about these things that’s going on with these informants and these guys walking around here with immunity to do whatever they want to do.”

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-03-28-stop-snitching_x.htm

Perhaps the most dangerous form of snitching that takes place in urban spaces is wet (also known as hard) snitching. Unlike dry snitching, which maintains a degree of indirection and unawareness, wet snitching occurs when an individual acts as a government informant in order to eliminate or reduce his or her own legal liability. Given the nature of most commercial anti-snitching messages — for example, recent t-shirts contain quotes like “I’ll Never Tell” and “Niggas Just Lookin’ For A Deal” — wet snitching is both the most reviled and relevant form within hip-hop culture.

While informants have always played a critical role in the government’s surveillance, infiltration, and destruction of countless progressive social organizations, informants have become increasingly central to the prosecution of ordinary citizens. According to the United States Sentencing Commission, nearly 40 percent of drug trafficking prosecutions that resulted in sentences of 10 years or more (a population in which blacks and Latinos are grossly overrepresented) were directly connected to the contributions of informants. While at first glance this type of data may signal progress in the government’s ostensible war against crime, a closer look reveals both moral and practical shortcomings.

While the practice of snitching has drastically increased the amount of drug arrests and convictions, it has also undermined the overall well being of America’s most economically and politically vulnerable communities. According to Loyola professor Alexandra Natapoff, who published a groundbreaking 2004 article, “Snitching: The institutional and Communal Consequences”, mandatory (and, I would argue, race targeted) drug sentencing laws, combined with the reduction of judicial flexibility have created tens of thousands of snitches who are mainly operating within poor, crime ridden neighborhoods. While snitching does not only occur within black and Latino communities, such areas are particularly susceptible, since one out of every four black and one out of every eight Latinos between 20 and 29 are under criminal supervision at any time. Given this reality, it is not surprising that, according to Natapoff, one out of every four young blacks are under pressure to snitch at any time. It is also not surprising that one out of 12 black men currently function as snitches within their communities in exchange for reduced criminal liability and continued police “protection”.

At a moment when civil liberties are in jeopardy for all Americans due to the Patriot Act and sophisticated forms of domestic spying, the proliferation of snitches creates a new set of problems for ghetto denizens. Increased violence, sustained crime rates, growing distrust of fellow citizens (imagine going to the basketball court, barbershop, or the local bar knowing that one in twelve people in your community — and possibly that guy sitting right next to you — is a government informant), destruction of positive community-police relationships, and the invasion of privacy for law-abiding citizens are all consequences of the ghetto snitch industry. Instead of merely enabling the drug culture’s foot soldiers to “flip” on big bosses (the expressed governmental intent of wet snitching), the current system often allows everyone to trade information for leniency, not least because the government is drowning in overstocked dockets and the criminals are masterful manipulators of the truth.

Indeed, in addition to fracturing communities with their deeds, snitches are notoriously unreliable in their testimony. To satisfy the conditions of their agreements, settle personal scores, or support their own criminal activity (which must be sustained in order to continue procuring information for the government — how’s that for a catch-22?), snitches often manufacture stories and falsely accuse friends, family, neighbors, and rivals of criminal acts. According to the Northwestern University Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, nearly half of the nation’s wrongful death penalty convictions are due to the information provided by snitches.

It has become increasingly apparent that the practice of snitching is undergirded by tragically flawed public policies that have vicious effects on the stability and integrity of black and Latino communities. Given this reality, it is no wonder that many within the hip-hop community have openly rejected the practice of snitching. Unfortunately, the “no snitching” code, now appropriated as a fashion statement, has often been articulated without critical nuance and has resulted in an extremist position that betrays its own inherent complexity.

In order to fully understand the legitimacy of the “Stop Snitching” movement within hip-hop, it is important to make a distinction between snitching and witnessing. While witnessing can be rightly considered a necessary civic practice in order to create and sustain safe communities, snitching is itself an act of moral turpitude. While a witness is an asset to truth and justice, the snitch is motivated primarily or entirely by self-interest. While witnesses are committed to upholding social contracts, snitches inevitably undermine them. Given this distinction, it seems that the bulk of the public outcry in favor of snitching is actually a plea for witnesses.

In building their case, anti-snitching pundits often cite instances in which acts of random or unnecessary violence go unpunished due to the public’s refusal to act responsibly. A classic example of this “Bad Samaritan” behavior occurred in 1997 when seven-year-old Sherrice Iverson was molested and strangled in a Las Vegas bathroom stall by Jeremy Strohmeyer. Although Strohmeyer eventually confessed to the crime, police were unaided by his friend David Cash, who acknowledged witnessing the event but did not feel compelled to notify authorities.

While the public disgust and rejection of Cash’s acts were nearly unanimous, such examples often serve as straw arguments — even the most ardent anti-snitching voices would condemn Cash’s decision — that obscure more legitimate and commonplace moral dilemmas. For example, what should Cash have done if he had caught Strohmeyer stealing chips from the casino or smoking marijuana instead of assaulting the young girl? In this instance, the necessity of acting as a witness becomes more debatable. The potential reasons for this shift in sentiment are varied: a lack of deference for the particular laws that protect gambling establishments, a collective distrust of the particular casino or the casino industry, a lack of interest in punishing recreational drug use (they may smoke marijuana, as well), or fear of repercussions from the offender. For these and many other reasons, many people would opt to “mind my own business” under such circumstances. Like the hip-hop community, the larger American public makes decisions about snitching based on their own level of commitment to particular rules, laws, and groups, as well as their consideration of the particular stakes attached to intervening. We all make this decision to some degree or another, many times in our lives.

The most prominent critiques of the “Stop Snitching” campaign represent yet another failure of the general public to acknowledge the depth and truth-value of the hip-hop community’s social commentary. Upon closer examination, an anti-snitching posture is a response to a set of circumstances, some unique and others universal, that many members of the hip-hop generation face. Clearly, the complexity of these circumstances cannot be adequately addressed through an “either-or” position on snitching. By advocating snitching under all circumstances, we ignore the moral dilemmas that are part and parcel of the practice. Also, we ascribe a level of unearned trust and moral authority to formal institutions, such as the government, despite its consistent indifference to the well being of its most defenseless citizens.

Conversely, by not articulating the particular rules and conditions under which snitching is highly problematic, the hip-hop community creates the conditions for a fundamentalist reading of a “don’t talk to cops” social text. Surely this can lead to the type of moral irresponsibility and social decline that snitching advocates believe already exists. The solution, then, rests upon our ability to cease looking for simple answers to complex issues and begin the difficult work of open, engaged, and public dialogue about both snitching and witnessing.

http://www.popmatters.com/columns/hill/060224-2.shtml

The shirt wars, however, obscure the fact that there are different types of reluctant witnesses. There are the bystanders, who fear retaliation. There are the shooter’s crew, who are loyal to their friend. There are the victim’s crew, who often prefer to handle payback themselves.

Finally, there are the liars — criminals who allegedly bargain for lenience on their own offenses by testifying falsely against innocent persons. The shirtmakers claim that this is the type of snitching the shirt condemns. “We were thinking about how the legal system uses people to turn on each other in exchange for plea deals,” says Tangg. “How they give people a motive to lie.”

That’s also how the shirt was apparently intended when the mother of Joseph Cousin, who was on trial for the murder of 10-year-old Trina Persad earlier this year, infamously wore it into court one day. The key witness in the case, a 15-year-old male, admitted to stealing the car used in the crime, helping to plan the shooting, and acting as lookout. Homicide detectives let him off with no jail time, in exchange for testifying against Cousin. Cousin’s mother believes — rightly or not — that her son is innocent, and therefore that this witness is lying to save his own skin. (A mistrial was declared for unrelated reasons, and a retrial will be held next year.)

Tangg insists the shirt was not intended to intimidate witnesses at a trial. “In no way are we saying that people should not testify,” he says, adding that “there are places to wear the shirt, and court is not one of them.”

Most teens and young adults in Boston’s high-crime areas questioned by this reporter over the past year define snitching as agreeing to testify against a friend in exchange for a reduced sentence. Few think the shirts are a warning that bystanders will be shot for cooperating.

But neither O’Toole nor Menino seems to appreciate the enormous resentment and ill will that comes from the high-pressure deals for testimony that go on routinely inside the BPD walls, which pit friend against friend, and family against family. Individuals guilty of little or nothing get threatened with harsh charges if they don’t cooperate, while known criminals work deals that send them back to the streets.

Besides, the mayor’s righteous indignation over the “code of silence” in the streets looks awfully hypocritical: the same code exists within his police department, and he’s never complained publicly about that.

But perhaps most important, by grouping all witnesses together — and all of the shirts’ tens of thousands of wearers together (Tangg says roughly 25,000 to 35,000 have been sold in Boston and elsewhere) — Menino has drawn a line between “us” and “them” in exactly the wrong place. Menino, the Boston Police Department, and the district attorney need those bystander witnesses to side with the authorities against the relatively small number of violent criminals causing the trouble. Instead, Menino has effectively labeled hip-hop culture as the enemy of law enforcement.

According to reports, Menino had no idea that the people selling the shirt are popular local rappers and businessmen, as well as trendsetters of hip-hop fashion who are also responsible for the currently hot faux-bulletproof vests. Certainly nobody expects Tom Menino to have Tangg’s “Rap Star (All I Ever Wanted)” loaded on his iPod. But his unfamiliarity with the culture’s leaders only reinforced the distance between city authority and city youth as he rushed to demonize the shirts.

http://72.166.46.24/boston/news_features/top/features/documents/05133928.asp

Few law-abiding citizens would agree that legitimate witnesses to a crime should be intimidated into refusing to cooperate. Yet it’s also true that there is a long history of abusive law-enforcement practices, in which witnesses are pressured by police and prosecutors to “sing” their way to less severe punishments — not to mention those taught to “compose” false testimony. As a result of using some of those tactics on witnesses, Massachusetts has seen a rash of false convictions in recent years, particularly in Suffolk County (See “Let Us Now Praise Framed-up Men,” News and Features, April 9, 2004). Hence, there’s legitimate controversy surrounding the social benefits of “snitchin’,” where witnesses are subject to improper pressures and suggestions as to what they should be testifying.

http://72.166.46.24/boston/news_features/this_just_in/documents/05133511.asp

We rely on MySpace.com to help spread the Movement, which is one of educating people on the Snitching (Criminal Informant) aspect of the legal system and it’s effects on communities.
This page, this movement, and our website, StopSnitching.com, are in no way advocating Witness Intimidation. While the local authorities and the Government would like people to believe that Witness Intimidation is our goal… It is NOT.

http://www.myspace.com/stopsnitchingdotcom

400 vacancies?

March 3, 2007

DETENTION OFFICER: $17.32 – $20.69/hour to start. Phoenix, Arizona; Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Excellent benefits. No experience necessary. Contact 602-307-5245, 1-877-352-6276 or http://www.MCSO.org. 400 vacancies.

These ads are being run all over the US. The question is, why do they have four hundred vacancies?

California prisons

December 23, 2006

(I will edit this post and add comments later.)

With males vastly outnumbering females behind bars, prisons are typically designed and managed for violent men.

At a minimum, advocates want more female guards, to protect women’s privacy and dignity; more food for pregnant inmates; easier access to sanitary products; and regulations for visits that enhance, rather than discourage, the preservation of close family ties.

The California Legislative Women’s Caucus has made incarcerated women its top priority this year. In an unusual April fact-finding mission, four lawmakers visited Valley State, and two of them spent the night.

They went through processing as inmates do, minus the strip search, receiving bedrolls and cell assignments. They ate in the dining hall, slept on the thin mattresses and asked women about their problems and personal stories.

Some complaints mirrored those in men’s prison: Many inmates said they were hungry all the time and could not land spots in academic or job-training classes. What differed were complaints about medical care and concerns about children.

Measured on a per-inmate basis, the Corrections Department spends 60% more on healthcare for women than for men. Reproductive issues are cited as one reason, but women also arrive in prison with a greater incidence of HIV and AIDS and have more mental health needs. Some inmates told the legislators that they had not had a mammogram or Pap smear in years.

“The model for women in prison in California is wrongheaded,” said state Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough), who was joined on the sleepover by Assemblywoman Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge). “Most of the inmates we spoke to were in for DUIs and drug offenses…. Why are we spending billions upon billions to house these people in such a high-security environment?”

After years of protest from female inmates and their families, male guards may no longer conduct pat searches of women.

Dawn Davison, who runs one of the four California lockups housing women, called that a key achievement. Because more than half of female inmates have been physically or sexually abused, she said, they were traumatized anew when pat-searched by men.

As for their conduct once imprisoned, officials could find no record of a female prisoner in California killing another. By contrast, 14 male prisoners were killed by fellow convicts last year.

And although assaults and even small-scale riots are common in men’s prisons, fights among women are usually “nothing more than a lovers’ quarrel and a little slapping around,” Davison said. Attacks on staff by women, she added, rarely go beyond a kick delivered by an inmate resisting an order.

Arriving 7 1/2 months pregnant, she worried constantly about her baby’s health. She said she received iron pills and prenatal check-ups but always left the chow hall “starving.” The servings, she said, were too meager for someone eating for two.

Most upsetting, Foster recalled, was “the total lack of privacy from men,” who make up 75% of the correctional officers at Valley State.

Male guards were able to look down on women in the showers from a control room, she said, and mingled near the inmate reception area while female officers conducted strip searches, in which hand mirrors are used to search incoming inmates’ private parts for contraband. That was most humiliating, she said, for women who were menstruating.

“It’s all run by men. The doctors, the officers. There are men everywhere,” said Foster, of Redding. “You just feel violated all the time.”

Afterward, with an ankle fastened to the bed, she was allowed to spend a few days in the hospital bonding with her daughter, Olivia. Then it was back to the cellblock, where the pain of separation was enhanced by pain from breasts engorged with milk.

The prison, Foster said, crying as the memories washed over her, did not provide a pump.

California prison population:

Men: 93%
Women: 7%

Female inmates:
Number in California prisons: 10,800
Average time served: 14 months
Serving time for a nonviolent crime: more than 66%
Have been physically or sexually abused: 57%
Average age: 36 * With minor children: 64%
Babies born to inmates each year: about 300

Sources: California Department of Corrections, Little Hoover Commission

http://www.clientsystem.com/content/view/80/69/

prison attorney access

December 20, 2006

Miller attempted to interview Wolf on Aug. 5 at the federal detention facility in Dublin but was turned away by guards.

Wolf’s attorney, Jose Luis Fuentes, said jail officials also blocked him from seeing his client until Aug. 5.

Officials at the correctional facility said attorneys are allowed in seven days a week, as well as inmates’ immediate family.

He doesn’t know why Wolf’s attorney would have been turned away.

http://www.ap.org/foi/foi_081006a.html

health in supermax prisons

December 12, 2006

“It is a closed-off world designed to isolate inmates from social and environmental stimuli, with the ultimate purpose of causing mental illness and chronic physical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis,” he wrote in one letter to The Gazette of Colorado Springs.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/10/AR2006121000410.html

I do not think that his statement is true. He does know more about prison than I do, though.

just some female inmates

December 10, 2006

Maricopa County female inmates march for chain gang duty in Phoenix, Arizona in this file photo. Tough sentencing laws, record numbers of drug offenders and high crime rates have contributed to the United States having the largest prison population and the highest rate of incarceration in the world, according to criminal justice experts. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

maricopa-county.jpg

I realize that this may be a sexist comment, but the fourth and fifth prisoners look like some pretty tough females.