By Jean Trounstine and Christopher Zoukis It shouldn’t be surprising to hear federal prisoner and prisoner rights advocate Christopher Zoukis, who has written four books and produced countless articles for outlets such as the New York Daily News, Prison Legal News, and the Huffington Post, is under fire once again for his writing activities.…Read More
The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has dealt a blow to the constitutional rights of imprisoned writers. On December 11, 2012, after serving a lengthy sentence for arson-related crimes in connection with environmental activism, Daniel McGowan was released to the Brooklyn House Residential Reentry Center (RRC) to serve the remainder of his sentence.…Read More
By Christopher Zoukis Numerous federal prisoners have voiced strong condemnations of the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Charles Samuels, after Samuels told a Senate committee that the BOP does not use solitary confinement at a hearing on August 4, 2015. The inmates dispute Samuels’ comments as false, and part of a continuing pattern…Read More
Alleged mistreatment of a Pennsylvania inmate who refused to accept his new cellmate has given rise to a class-action suit over conditions at the prison. By Christopher Zoukis Sebastian Richardson is under 5 feet tall, but is having an oversized impact on the federal prison system, particularly the U.S. Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, home to…Read More
Solitary confinement remains one of the most archaic punishments in the prison arsenal. Given the advances in our understanding of mental illness and penal rehabilitation over the last thirty years, it’s shocking that it has taken as long as it has for California penitentiaries to come to the conclusion that completely isolating a prisoner for…Read More
By Prison Legal News The California Court of Appeal has held that documents in the possession of a prisoner who is providing legal assistance to another prisoner cannot be used to validate the first prisoner as an associate of a prison gang. In February 2009, California prisoner Robert Villa was placed in administrative segregation (ad…Read More
By Christopher Zoukis Rick Raemisch, Colorado’s new chief of the State Department of Corrections, decided that he wanted to better understand the experience of solitary confinement; so he decided to spend the night in segregation in one of the prisons he oversees. Raemisch had been on the job for seven months when he decided to…Read More
On the evening of May, 15, 2010, 17-year-old Kalief Browder had no idea his life was about to change. The chain of events that led to Browder’s bizarre life change began when he and his friend were walking through the Bronx coming home from a party and were stopped by police. Browder soon found himself surrounded by a police squad with a spot light blinding him. You would have thought he was being accused of murder, but in actuality he was framed for stealing a back pack.
The police informed Browder and his friend that a Mexican individual claimed they stole his back pack. Browder revealed to the police his personal items in the back pack he carried and insisted he did not steal the back pack. A police officer stepped away to speak with the alleged victim who was sitting in a police car. When he returned he informed Browder the accuser had changed his story to indicate his back pack was stolen a few weeks ago. Apparently, the information was enough to warrant a trip to the Bronx precinct. The police officer promised Browder his visit to the precinct would be short lived, but the nightmare was just beginning.
Browder was interrogated and strongly encouraged to take a plea deal if he wanted to go home soon. Browder adamantly refused to accept a plea bargain and insisted on his innocence. His friend was released, but Browder was retained because he was currently on probation for being present during an auto-theft and accident. Bail was set at $3000, which Browder’s family was unable to post.
Browder was soon on his way to Rikers Island. He was held without bail while the case literally crawled through the system. Browder was continually pressured to plea out, but he didn’t give in because he was innocent. Browder was adamant about getting a trial to prove his innocence, but every time he went before the judge the trial was delayed for various reasons. One of the main reasons for a trial failing to transpire was the overload of cases in the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, which was clogging-up the court system, making it impossible for a short staffed judicial system to deliver.Read More
Rick Raemisch, Colorado’s new corrections director, wanted to better understand the experience of solitary confinement – so he spent a night in segregation at a state prison.
Raemisch had been on the job for seven months when he decided to stay overnight in an ad seg cell at the Colorado State Penitentiary. “I thought he was crazy,” said Warden Travis Trani, who added, “I also admired him for wanting to have the experience.” Trani received only nine hours notice that his boss was arriving for an extended visit.
On January 23, 2014, just after 7:00 p.m., Raemisch, handcuffed and shackled and wearing a prison uniform, entered cell 22. He was classified as “RFP,” or “Removed From Population.” After being uncuffed through the food slot he was left alone in the 7-by-13-foot cell.
In an editorial published in The New York Times on February 20, Raemisch said the experience was challenging.
“First thing you notice is that it’s anything but quiet. You’re immersed in a drone of garbled noise: other inmates, blaring TVs, distant conversations, shouted arguments. I couldn’t make sense of any of it, and was left feeling twitchy and paranoid,” he wrote. “I kept waiting for the lights to turn off, to signal the end of the day. But the lights did not shut off. I began to count the small holes carved in the walls. Tiny grooves made by inmates who’d chipped away at the cell as the cell chipped away at them. For a sound mind, those are daunting circumstances. But every prison in America has become a dumping ground for the mentally ill, and often the ‘worst of the worst,’ some of society’s most unsound minds, are dumped in Ad Seg.”Read More