Federal inmates arriving at Bureau of Prisons facilities from areas affected by the Zika virus are not routinely tested for the transmissible disease before joining the general prison population, notes a recent USA Today article that examined Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) documents included interviews with agency staff. The paper noted hundreds of federal prisoners…Read More
By Christopher Zoukis The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched a statewide probe on whether conditions in Alabama’s 14 prisons for men violate the rights of inmates. The investigation is under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, which allows action against jails or prisons that show patterns or…Read More
By Christopher Zoukis Every year, the American Library Association declares the final week of September “Banned Books Week,” commemorated in many libraries with displays designed to highlight often-overreaching censorship of school and public libraries. This year, however, a far-flung wave of stories in many publications highlighted a different sort of book banning – that enforced…Read More
By Christopher Zoukis In announcing a Data-Driven Justice (DDJ) initiative on June 30, the Obama White House said it will assemble a coalition of state and local governments, non-profit groups, corporations, universities and foundations, to use sophisticated data analysis to help reshape criminal justice practices in ways to reduce the numbers of Americans behind bars.…Read More
In an alarming reminder of how closely some industrialized countries teeter on the edge of Draconian, the State Duma of Russia has introduced a law which effectively sanctions the abuse and killing of inmates. The “sadists’ law,” as it’s come to be known, has passed the preliminary stage, and would “allow prison guards to ‘use…Read More
Pelican Bay “Special Housing Unit” 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…Read More
This past week saw the handing down of an important ruling in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the rights of prisoners; specifically a prisoner’s right not to be sexually abused by prison officials. If you’re questioning how this could even have been a question before the Supreme Court, don’t worry, you’re not alone.…Read More
The escapes and ultimate death and capture of inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat, respectively, were supposed to have prompted a clean-up in the Clinton Correctional Facility. There were suspensions, leaves, and retirements aplenty as myriad failures in prison protocol were revealed. The FBI also launched an investigation into the facility’s operations over accusations of…Read More
By Christopher Zoukis A few weeks ago I wrote about the passing of a landmark revision to the United Nations’ “Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.” In it, I questioned why the United States, a key player in the revision process, had remained so quiet since the announcement, positing that the silence was in…Read More
A North Carolina prisoner with a history of mental illness who was found dead in a transport van after being transferred to another prison died due to dehydration, according to the North Carolina Medical Examiner’s Office.
However, the state pathologist who conducted the autopsy on Michael Anthony Kerr, 54, said records provided by the Department of Public Safety were so scanty and incomplete that she was unable to determine whether his death was accidental, a suicide or a homicide.
Prison records indicate that Kerr was held in solitary confinement for 35 days prior to his death and had spent the last five days of his life handcuffed and largely unresponsive. Prison officials repeatedly turned off the water to his cell because he had flooded it, and put him on a diet of milk and nutraloaf. The milk was later ordered withheld.
“They treated him like a dog,” said Kerr’s sister, Brenda Liles.Read More