Prison News

Trapped…10 Months Becomes 10 Years

A news feed earlier today describes a system gone awry. James Ward, a 31 year old inmate, seems to be stuck in the UK’s prison system. James has regular contact with BBC Radio 4 Today. As recent as this morning reporter Zoe Conway, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-36410539,
reported on the circumstances surrounding Mr. James Wards incarceration.

James first entered the UK’s prison system in 2000-2006 after a physical dispute with his father and the family dog. James had been a troubled teen and the family was fed up with his actions. The police were summoned and James was taken away for a 1 year sentence, hopeful that he would learn something and change his behavior.

Ten years later, James is still in jail. Almost at the end of his sentence, James set the mattress in his cell on fire. He was determined by the parole board that he was possibly unsafe in public. He was sentenced another 10 months in prison. How can this happen?

In 2003 the then government body in the UK established the IPP, Imprisonment for Public Protection. This program was geared towards 900 inmates that consisted of violent offenders and sexual offenders. These inmates were not given a life sentence, but they also were not given a concrete release date, called indeterminate imprisonment. The idea was to monitor their behavior while serving their sentence to determine if any changes were made and the could at some point return to public and not be a harm to you and I. Unfortunatly this system somehow began to encompass a high proportion of all inmates, including someone convicted a stealing a cell phone, and James Ward.

James parents are worried that prison life has taken the ultimate toll on their son. They fear to receive that call that James has taken his own life. Remember he is only 31 years old.

Defense Rests For Nine Officers Accused In Brutal Beating Of Inmate

Lawyers for the Riker’s Island prison guards accused of brutally beating an inmate in 2012, maintain that the guards were fearful for their lives, according to a report in the New York Times.

In closing arguments, the defense portrayed Jahmal Lightfoot as a violent criminal who had to be restrained after repeated orders to drop a weapon were ignored. On Monday, the defense rested without calling additional witnesses or hearing testimony of the nine current and former officers.

“Lightfoot is lying. He has changed his story numerous times,” said Raymond Aab, defense lawyer Eliseo Perez Jr. From the beginning, lawyers have stated that the officers were only performing their duties and violated rules no rules or laws.

Lawyers sought to discredit Lightfoot by showing videotaped footage of the incident and inconsistencies in his sworn testimony.

Prosecutors insist that Lightfoot was unarmed when the attack took place and the weapon was planted. They went on to say that members of an elite correction squad, led by Perez and Gerald Vaughn, ordered the beating because the inmate portrayed himself as tough.

Lightfoot sustained serious injuries to both eyes and still suffers headaches and other medical issues, according to hs testimony. He was sentenced to Rikers Island after being convicted of a purse snatching in 2010. He has since been released from prison.

Critics maintain that this is a textbook case of the problems seen inside of Rikers Island. “Violence and corruption is the norm at this institution,” said Bronx DA Darcel D. Clark. “Crimes committed by guards is our number one priority at this point.”

While Perez and Vaughn both retired in 2013 and 2014 respectively, the other seven officers were suspended. They were ultimately reinstated and placed on jobs that required no inmate contact.

In an unrelated protest outside the courthouse, gatherers demanded the shutdown of Rikers Island.

Can the Prison Industry Accurately Predict Future Inmate Population

Major attention is currently being given to a system that the United States prison industry has been using to determine the future inmate population. The system is controversial because it is used to label individuals as future criminals based on indicators such as personal background and family status. Although these indicators have been statistically proven to correlate to crime rates, critics argue that it is unfair and unjust to use them to predict a potential inmate count for American correctional facilities. The system has been implemented into the structure of the United States prison system for a number of years.

The system for predicting the inmate population of correctional facilities was initially introduced into the program as a means to predict the average yearly incarceration rate of the facilities. The system has now been effectively turned into an income producing model for most prisons and is used as a means to help find and convict criminals. The problem with this model, according to prominent researchers, is that it unfairly targets specific groups of people as more likely to commit crimes than other people, and thus makes it more likely that these people groups are stopped by police and arrested for crimes.

Because of this line of reasoning, a serious question regarding this inmate prediction system. Critics have inquired as to how much the correlation between the background of individuals and their likelihood to engage in criminal activity is affected by the fact that investigators often use this system to make arrests and pinpoint suspects. If the system does affect the correlation, critics are right to demand that the system be corrected in order to reflect more current behavior patterns and information about the circumstances that lead to an individual’s participation in criminal activities. More information about this subject can be found here.

Senator Pushes For Harsher Prison Terms

During President Obama’s two consecutive terms, the American people have heard a new tone towards American prisons. The tone is often that we are locking up too many people, prison’s aren’t working, the system is flawed, and a general disdain for the way we currently decide who to punish, how to do so, and how long they will serve. It’s a popular argument, and it’s rare that we hear a differing side, but one Republican lawmaker takes a different stance and he’s voicing his opinion.
Tom Cotton, Republican Senator, makes the claim that the claim that too many criminals are being jailed and the implication that there is an over-incarceration going on in the country ignores one basic fact. The majority of crimes go unsolved because the criminal is never identified or arrested, let alone convicted and jailed. He claims this shows we have an under-incarceration problem. He also has some numbers to back his claims siting reports that go back decades that brought us the three-strikes rule, mandatory minimums, and racist disparities in drug crime punishments under Clinton’s 1994 crime bill. These outdated policies, he claims, are making the problem worse. He goes on to outline how newer legislation to restore voting rights is not helping the crime problem, simply helping the Democrats win votes in an article available¬†here.
Cotton is pushing for stronger prison terms for those who are deemed violent criminals, which is the majority of United States Inmates. Anyone who commits a crime with a gun in their possession is labeled a violent offender weather they used the gun or any violence or not. He has successfully made the Judiciary Committee undercut their own legislation and produce a new Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act that greatly differs from the previous bill.
For now, Cotton will continue his stance to incarcerate those who commit crimes, not worrying about how many felons the US has in their care versus other countries. He sees it simply, in an old timey fashion, criminals broke a law and they should be punished. If the US has more people breaking laws, then we have more people in jail, and that is how it should be. Currently, there are far to many breaking the law and punishment is deserved in a hope to deter them from breaking more laws in the future.