Tag Archives: prison

Even as Many Eyes Watch, Brutality at Rikers Island Persists

From the New York Times

On Sept. 2, four correction officers pulled Jose Guadalupe, an inmate classified in medical records as seriously mentally ill, into his solitary-confinement cell at Rikers Island and beat him unconscious.

A little over two months later, three guards wrestled another inmate, Tracy Johnson, to the floor, pepper-sprayed him in the face and broke a bone in his eye socket. Then, on Dec. 9, yet another group of officers beat Ambiorix Celedonio, an inmate with an I.Q. of 65, so badly that, as surveillance footage later showed, he had bruises and scratches on his face and blood coming from his mouth.

The brutal confrontations were among 62 cases identified by The New York Times in which inmates were seriously injured by correction officers between last August and January, a period when city and federal officials had become increasingly focused on reining in violence at Rikers.

It was in August that the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan issued a damning report about brutality at the jail complex and threatened to sue the city unless conditions there improved. And in November, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared that ending pervasive violence at Rikers had become a top priority for his administration.

But The Times’s examination makes clear that the violence has continued largely unabated, despite extraordinary levels of outside scrutiny, a substantial commitment of resources by Mr. de Blasio and a new team of high-ranking managers installed by the correction commissioner, Joseph Ponte, who took over the job in April.

This reminds me of the many conversations I had about jail with former inmates.  The stories are not all that dissimilar.  

Also: Some architects are wondering if the design of prisons themselves make them more violent.

Today, prison design is a civic cause for some architects who specialize in criminal justice and care about humane design. There is a lot of research documenting how the right kinds of design reduce violence inside prisons and even recidivism. Architects can help ensure that prisons don’t succumb to our worst instincts — that they are not about spending the least amount of money to create the most horrendous places possible, in the name of vengeance — but promote rehabilitation and peace.

How a Convicted Murderer Prepares for a Job Interview

The challenges those that have been incarcerated having in finding a job

In prison Angel thought that it wouldn’t be too hard to find a job once he got out. He believed he had come a long way. At eighteen he hadn’t been able to read or write. He wet his bed and suffered from uncontrollable outbursts of anger. At forty-seven he had studied at the college level. He told me he had read several thousand books. He earned numerous certificates while incarcerated—aVocational Appliance Repair Certificate, a Certificate of Proficiency of Computer Operator, a Certificate in Library Training, an IPA (Inmate Program Assistant) II Training Certificate, and several welding certifications—but in the outside world these credentials counted for little.

“Irrelevant,” Angel said. “They might as well be toilet paper.”

“The smartphone is the most lethal weapon you can get inside a prison”

Despite being illegal, smart phones are everywhere in U.S. prisons.

Cellphones are prohibited in all state and federal prisons in the United States, often even for top corrections officials. Punishment for a prisoner found with one varies. In some states, it is an infraction that affects parole or time off for good behavior. In others, it results in new criminal charges.

President Obama signed a law in August making possession of a phone or a wireless device in a federal prison a felony, punishable by up to a year of extra sentencing.

Still, they get in. By the thousands. In the first four months of 2010, Federal Bureau of Prisons workers confiscated 1,188 cellphones, according to Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who sponsored the federal measure. In California last year, officers discovered nearly 9,000 phones.

Payments for cellphones range from $300 to $1,000, depending on the type of phone and the service plan. Monthly fees are generally paid by inmates’ relatives. Phones are smuggled in by guards, visitors and inmates convicted of misdemeanors with lower security restrictions.

But that is not the only way. In South Carolina, where most prisons are rural and staff members have to pass through X-ray machines and metal detectors, smugglers resort to an old-fashioned method — tossing phones over fences.

They stuff smartphones into footballs or launch them from a device called a potato cannon or spud gun, which shoots a projectile through a pipe. Packages are sometimes camouflaged with a coating of grass, which makes them hard for guards to detect. The drops are coordinated through texts or calls between inmates and people outside, said Jon Ozmint, director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, which confiscates as many as 2,000 cellphones a year.