Prisoner Visitation and Support (PVS) is the only nationwide, interfaith visitation program with access to all federal and military prisons and prisoners in the United States.  Sponsored by 35 national religious bodies and socially-concerned agencies (consisting of Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and secular organizations), PVS seeks to meet the needs of prisoners through an alternative…

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Last Christmas didn’t look promising for two young brothers whose lives consisted of living on the streets, drug deals, and gang initiations. Up until nine months ago, the brothers whom we will call Troy and Devon only had a 10th-grade education and no hope for the future. As a consequence of having a mother hooked…

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By Rhonda Turpin During the month of December, everyone in the U.S. prison system can receive free photos of your friends and loved ones. How is that possible? The founder of the discount prisoner phone service, TELEPIGEON, left prison after serving seven years for selling drugs, with a plan. Telepigeon propelled him to millionaire status. …

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Image courtesy theguardian.comBy Christopher Zoukis  

No one needs convincing that prison is probably a lonely place, filled with hostile guards and dangerous inmates.  At least from the Hollywood point of view, the only comfort for most convicts is a letter from home or the occasional visit from family or friends.  Sadly, though, a new study indicates that many prisoners do not even have the solace of visitors from outside, and that the average inmate receives only two visits during their entire length of incarceration.

Prisoner Visitation’s Connection to Recidivism

Consistent with previous research, a recent study published in the journal Crime and Delinquency indicates that Florida prisoners who regularly receive visitors do better during their stay behind bars and upon re-entry into the community than those who don’t receive frequent visits.  “Visitation helps individuals maintain social ties during imprisonment, which, in turn, can improve inmate behavior and reduce recidivism,” the authors of the study wrote.  “Not being visited can result in collateral consequences and inequality in punishment.”

Those Who Receive Few to No Visits

Necessarily implied by the study’s findings is that many prisoners receive no visitors at all.  Those who are older, black, or have been incarcerated numerous time had the fewest visitors.  White, Latino, younger, and newly incarcerated inmates received the most visits.  Economic status and the length of a prisoner’s sentence did not factor into the likelihood of visitors.

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By Prison Legal News  Photo courtesy of www.txprisonmuseum.org

If a Texas state prisoner dies or is executed, relatives or friends can pick up the body. If they don’t, he or she is buried in the largest prison graveyard in the United States – the Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery in Huntsville, Texas. Such burials occur around 100 times each year.

Named after an assistant warden at the Huntsville Unit who helped clean and restore the 22-acre graveyard in the 1960s, the cemetery is still associated with the prison unit known as “The Walls” for its 19th century brick walls. The warden or assistant warden from the facility attends each funeral.

A prisoner’s body may be unclaimed for a number of reasons. There may be no surviving friends or relatives, but a more likely explanation is that the friends or relatives are too poor to afford the burial expenses.

“I think everyone assumes if you are in a prison cemetery you’re somehow the worst of the worst,” said Indiana State University assistant professor of criminology Franklin T. Wilson, who is writing a book about the Byrd cemetery. “But it’s more of a reflection of your socioeconomic status. This is more of a case of if you’re buried there, you’re poor.”

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“Who are you?  Who or what defines you?”  There is no other soul exactly like you existing on this place and space we occupy which we know as Planet Earth.  You are unique.  No one sees your view of the world in the manner that you do.  They cannot.  They are not looking at the…

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By Dianne Frazee-Walker

Most people can remember when Christmas meant getting up at dawn and running to the Christmas tree in our pajamas excited to see what was under the tree and in the stockings hanging on the mantel.

For children who have parents who are incarcerated, Christmas is not filled with visions of lollipops dancing in their heads; in fact, December 25th is just another day without their parents and can be even more depressing than any other day of the yeImage courtesy www.oklahomawomenscoalition.org ar.

Children who are missing a parent because they are spending time in prison are not only left to deal with loneliness they feel from having an absent parent, but also face ridicule and stereotyping. Many of these lost children are told they are going to turn out just like their parent that is incarcerated.

New Hope, a program created about 20 years ago by the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma is taking a more positive approach for addressing the needs of children who have at least one parent in prison. Instead of reminding children they have no chance of turning out to be productive citizens, they are encouraged to pursue an education. The children are led down a different path than their parents followed.

On Dec. 21, New Hope hosted a Christmas party at Trinity Episcopal Church in Tulsa. Children whose holidays would have been filled with sadness gathered around a table arranged with decorative trimmings and assembled their own wreaths.   

The church hall was filled with fun, playfulness, and laughter.  Toys, gifts, and food were plentiful. The kids were entertained by making their own reindeer and treats.

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By Prison Legal News

If a Texas state prisoner dies or is executed, relatives or friends can pick up the body. If they don’t, he or she is buried in the largest prison graveyard in the United States – the Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery in Huntsville, Texas. Such burials occur around 100 times each year.

Named after an assistant warden at the Huntsville Unit who helped clean and restore the 22-acre graveyard in the 1960s, the cemetery is still associated with the prison unit known as “The Walls” for its 19th century brick walls. The warden or assistant warden from the facility attends each funeral.

A prisoner’s body may be unclaimed for a number of reasons. There may be no surviving friends or relatives, but a more likely explanation is that the friends or relatives are too poor to afford the burial expenses.

“I think everyone assumes if you are in a prison cemetery you’re somehow the worst of the worst,” said Indiana State University assistant professor of criminology Franklin T. Wilson, who is writing a book about the Byrd cemetery. “But it’s more of a reflection of your socioeconomic status. This is more of a case of if you’re buried there, you’re poor.”

Although Texas prison officials have only been able to verify 2,100 prisoner burials at the graveyard, Wilson, who recently photographed every headstone in the cemetery, estimated the number was over 3,000.

 

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By Dianne Frazee-Walker

Following the aftermath of the third media worthy shooting in Colorado, the time has arrived for shedding light onto positive news in Colorado.

According to the news media, the federal government is taking a more serious look at how mental illness is connected to violent crimes. Gun control news has accelerated. However, it is evident that stricter gun control laws are not the only answer to this festering problem.  

Colorado recently added their eighth mental illness pilot project to their judicial system. Currently, there are approximately 300 similar projects across the nation.

Leave it to Aspen, Colorado, the innovative ski resort town burrowed in the Rocky Mountains to launch a program designed for mentally ill offenders.

It is no surprise the glitzy town of Aspen would offer such a lavish solution to a problem narrowly addressed within the criminal justice system. Aspen locals have historically nick named the Aspen jail the “Club Med” of the correctional system.

The Wellness Program, generated earlier this year has evolved over the past several months.

The motive of the program is to provide appropriate sentencing alternatives for mentally ill offenders, sentencing alternatives which reduce recidivism rates.  

For people with mental illness, jail rarely is the proper place to get needed treatment, but that is often exactly the place where they repeatedly end up.

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By Christopher Zoukis

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has decided to deny “compassionate release” to Lynne F. Stewart, a polarizing defense attorney who represented reviled clients like mafia hit man Salvatore Gravano and terrorist Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman.*1 Ms. Stewart was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison in 2010, after the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that her original term of 28 months was too lenient (Ms. Stewart had said in an interview that she could do the 28 months “standing on her head,” and the government then appealed).  Her sentence was for smuggling secret messages to Sheik Rahman’s radical followers in Egypt.  That was then, this is now.

Now, Ms. Stewart is a 73-year-old federal prisoner, incarcerated at Federal Medical Center Carswell, and dying of cancer.  In July 2012, FMC Carswell medical staff located a mass in her left lung, which was eventually determined to be cancer, a recurrence of a successful battle against the disease in 2005.*2  Since then, the cancer has spread to her lungs, lymph system, and bones.  The metastatic cancer is spreading and is undisputedly killing her, even if the Federal Bureau of Prisons disputes how quickly she will die.

According to the New York Times, “The release of a dying [federal] inmate must follow a request by the Bureau that seeks a compassionate release from a judge.”  The judge must then grant the release.  This authority is not granted to the U.S. District Court without a referral from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  The New York Times continues, “In weighing the issue, the Bureau considers the inmate’s condition and whether the inmate could pose a threat outside prison[.]”  New regulations now expand the guidelines for compassionate release to those with a “terminal, incurable disease [and an inmate] whose life expectancy is 18 months or less.”  This is an expansion from the previous 12 month range.  The Federal Bureau of Prisons must find “extraordinary and compelling” circumstances to grant the compassionate release request.

In April, Ms. Stewart filed her compassionate release request with the prison administration at FMC Carswell.*3  In May the compassionate release request was recommended for approval by the FMC Carswell warden, the first step in the compassionate release process.  In June, the request was subsequently denied by the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Central Office, on the basis that her body was responding to the cancer treatments and the Bureau’s estimation that she would not die within 18 months.

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