By Chris Zoukis Tobacco use and secondhand smoke kill over 480,000 people in the United States annually. The mortality rate of smokers is three times higher than those who have never smoked, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and smoking reduces an average smoker’s life expectancy by 10 years compared to non-smokers.…

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When Americans think of prison censorship, images of prison guards throwing away letters come to mind. So too do images of books and publications like Prison Legal News being rejected for being a “threat to the good order, orderly operation, and security of the institution,” which covers about any number of theoretical penological objectives. And…

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A 2013 study found that the grievance system utilized by the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) appears to have become an important tool to defuse prisoner complaints, supporting the belief that the failure of BOP officials to adequately respond to grievances contributes to higher levels of violence in federal prisons.

The research study determined that another benefit of the BOP’s grievance system is deflecting or reducing potential litigation. Indeed, many federal court decisions have been decided in the BOP’s favor based upon prisoners’ failure to exhaust administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act.

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Several hundred District of Columbia prisoners incarcerated since 1985 won a victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals on September 12, 2014 when that court reinstated their class-action lawsuit against the government.  The suit contests application of changes to parole guidelines in 2000 that had the effect of adding six to 18 years to some…

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Ray Nagin, the ex-New Orleans mayor who used taxpayers’ dollars for his own lavish living, will surrender to the Federal Bureau of Prison on September 8, 2014, for service of a ten-year term of imprisonment. Once, Nagin had earned $400,000 a year as a member of Cox Communications.  His new budget will consist of 12…

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In a move that might prove extremely useful to federal prisoners, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has published a solicitation notice for “inmate electronic discovery,” or “eDiscovery,” seeking information relating to support services, hardware, and software that would allow prisoners to view electronic discovery documents used in court litigation. The formal Request for Information issued…

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By Christopher Zoukis / BlogCritics.org

The room is dark and the crowd eagerly awaits.  Large speakers are held on stands several feet high, and yellow caution tape crosses the room separating the audience from the band.  The feeling is of a 90s dive bar, some place you would go to hear Greenday or another punk band back in their infancy.  But this is no dive bar; the floor is too dingy and the room too cold.  And there are no tempting groupies or hipsters.  There is no alcohol — at least none that is visible to the prison guards strategically placed around the event.  This is a prison rock concert at FCI Petersburg, a medium-security federal prison in Petersburg, Virginia.

Come 2:00 PM on this rainy Saturday afternoon, the stage clears and the members of Libertine gain the blocked-off performance area.  An area also occupied by several pieces of indoor recreation equipment.  Sangye and Terry pick up the battered guitars, Darryl his microphone, Trevor his drum sticks, and Patt his bass.  All of the equipment is the property of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, not the prisoner musicians.  Nevertheless, they play it like they stole it: hard and loud.

The air is not tense, but expectant.  For years, the members of Libertine have been bringing down the house for their incarcerated audiences and fans.  While other groups play music (some better than others), Libertine makes beautiful, jarringly loud, skillful, and soulful music.  And they do so in the typically violent punk fashion of yesteryear.  At this moment they are not prisoners or musicians, they embody the rock gods of days gone by, before the indie labels died and Clear Channel ruled the airwaves.  The audience is diverse but oddly in synch.  In a word, the relationship and the exchange from band to fans is true; hyperbole has been left by the wayside, replaced with absolute honesty and integrity in a land of convicts and gangsters.

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