Saturday, May 9, 2015

Occupied


We jail everyone for everything and the jails are bursting at the seams. Great for the private companies that operate and manage the jails, for profit, brutal for those who languish inside, often awaiting trial which given that system is also delayed for years. So again, most of the people interned are there for minor offenses and in turn we are jailing immigrants and all of this costs the taxpayers money.

We can't imprison everyone for everything. We want to see people die in jail, if not by legal murder, old age and that too brings another set of problems as this article in the Marshall Project discusses.

This is from last year with regards to the prison population. Our county jail here is overflowing that the current City Attorney was going to release any low risk offenders and of course the requisite lobbying groups who claim they are outraged citizens stopped that. I can never actually find who these people are that are busy working 80 hour weeks and seem oblivious to most goings on in the city, who have little to no interest in the criminal justice system as effective (plenty here are otherwise oddly) and yet suddenly the are found and they manage to get their demands met. Interesting. I would like to meet them and have a jail off as we have had contentious public debates with regards to expanding out juvenile facility and few are quoted as thinking its good, just a note.

Prisons in these 17 states are over capacity
By Reid Wilson, The Washington Post, September 20, 2014 

The number of Americans in state and federal prisons has exploded over the last three decades, to the point that nearly one in every 200 people is behind bars. And though the rate of growth has slowed, and even declined over the last five years, the tough-on-crime policies and longer sentences that have sent prison rates skyward present a huge problem for states: Where do they put all those people?

That problem is especially acute in 17 states where the prison population is now higher than the capacity of the facilities designed to hold them. Those states, still recovering from a recession that decimated budgets, have to decide whether to build facilities with more beds, turn to private contractors, relax release policies — or simply stuff more prisoners into smaller spaces.

At the end of 2013, Illinois was housing 48,653 prisoners, according to data published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The state’s prison facilities are designed to hold just 32,075 prisoners, meaning the system is operating at 151 percent of capacity. North Dakota’s 1,571 prisoners live in space meant for 1,044 people, 150 percent of capacity.

Nebraska, Ohio, Delaware, Colorado, Iowa and Hawaii are all holding a prison population equal to more than 110 percent of capacity.

What scares states the most is the prospect of federal courts intervening and ordering new action. California has been under court order since 2009 to reduce its prison population, which is far beyond capacity. The state has spent billions housing inmates in county jails or sending them to facilities run by private for-profit companies.

“No state actively wants the federal courts to come in and take over operation of their state government functions,” said Adam Gelb, director of the Public Safety Performance Project at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The possibility of federal court intervention has spurred Alabama to begin reviewing its corrections procedures. A Justice Department investigation released in January found conditions at the state’s women’s prison violate the Constitution, and DOJ said it would look into conditions at other state prison facilities.

In June, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) launched the Justice Reinvestment Initiative to study the state’s criminal justice system and make recommendations for easing overcrowding. The state’s prison facilities are designed to house 13,318 inmates, though operationally the facilities can hold 26,145 people. The current prisoner population, 26,271 inmates, is 197 percent of the lowest possible capacity and 100.5 percent of the highest number.

Court intervention “has been a powerful motivator over the last couple of years for Alabama to tackle its situation, independent of all the in-state concerns with overcrowding,” Gelb said.

Next door Mississippi has a far lower prisoner population than Alabama, with just 15,591 inmates at the end of 2013. The Mississippi corrections department has enough space to house 25,691 inmates, meaning it is operating at just over 60 percent capacity, the second-lowest rate in the nation. Only New Mexico, where the prison population is at 51 percent of capacity, has a lower rate.

And below is this from the mornings New York Times.

Too Many People in Jail? Abolish Bail

By MAYA SCHENWARMAY 8, 2015
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Credit Pablo Delcán
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CHICAGO — HOW can we reduce the enormous populations of our country’s local jails?

Last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York unveiled a plan to decrease the population of the Rikers Island jail complex by reducing the backlog of cases in state courts. About 85 percent of those at Rikers haven’t been convicted of any offense; they’re just awaiting trial, sometimes for as long as hundreds of days.

Mayor de Blasio’s plan is a positive step. Yet it ignores a deeper question: Why are so many people — particularly poor people of color — in jail awaiting trial in the first place?

Usually, it is because they cannot afford bail. According to a 2011 report by the city’s Independent Budget Office, 79 percent of pretrial detainees were sent to Rikers because they couldn’t post bail right away.

This is a national problem. Across the United States, most of the people incarcerated in local jails have not been convicted of a crime but are awaiting trial. And most of those are waiting in jail not because of any specific risk they have been deemed to pose, but because they can’t pay their bail.

In other words, we are locking people up for being poor. This is unjust. We should abolish monetary bail outright.

Some will argue that bail is necessary to prevent flight before trial, but there is no good basis for that assumption. For one thing, people considered to pose an unacceptable risk of flight (or violence) are not granted bail in the first place. (Though the procedures for determining who poses a risk themselves ought to be viewed with skepticism, especially since conceptions of risk are often shaped, tacitly or otherwise, by racist assumptions.)

There is also evidence that bail is not necessary to ensure that people show up for trial. In Washington, D.C., a city that makes virtually no use of monetary bail, the vast majority of arrestees who are released pretrial do return to court, and rates of additional crime before trial are low.

In addition to being unjust and unnecessary, pretrial incarceration can have harmful consequences. Not only do those who are in jail before trial suffer the trauma of confinement, but in comparison with their bailed-out counterparts, they are also more likely to be convicted at trial. As documented in a 2010 Human Rights Watch report, the legal system is substantially tougher to navigate from behind bars. People in jail face more pressure to accept plea bargains — often, ones that aren’t to their advantage — than do those confronting their charges from home.

Those who spend even a few days in jail can lose their jobs or housing during that time. Single parents can lose custody of their children. By exacerbating the effects of poverty, and by placing people in often traumatizing circumstances, pretrial incarceration may actually lead to more crime.


Bail also raises issues of racial injustice. A number of studies have shown that black defendants are assigned higher bail amounts than their white counterparts. This discrepancy is compounded by the fact that black people disproportionately live in poverty and thus unduly face challenges in paying bail.

Other burdens of bail also fall harder on people of color. For instance, black mothers face a particularly serious risk of losing custody of their children while incarcerated, because they are excessively targeted by child protective services.

Jails disproportionately confine mentally ill people, too — rates of mental illness are four to six times higher in jail than outside — and people with mental health problems often live in economic circumstances that make it difficult to afford bail. A study released in February by the Vera Institute of Justice found that one-third of jailed people with mental illness were unemployed before being arrested.

Finally, monetary bail is at odds with the legal ideal of the presumption of innocence. If we want to grant people this presumption, we must not punish them before their trials.

There is no getting around it: We are incarcerating people for being poor, at great cost to actual human lives. We have to stop.

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