Earlier this week, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced that the federal government will be halting its use of private prisons. Although very few federal prisoners are held in private prisons compared to at the state level, this is still an important symbolic decision in response to a recent Office of Inspector General (OIG) report that found less safety and weaker security in privately run prisons than public ones.
Although the libertarian instinct might be to criticize this decision—why should the federal government have a prison monopoly?—it’s worth recognizing that private incarceration facilities have long been mismanaged and fraught with problems, with disastrous consequences for inmate quality of life. This is a step in the right direction: towards the proper and humane treatment of inmates, and away from punitive experiences and over-incarceration.
Private prisons began in the 1980s, largely as a response to the War on Drugs and subsequent overcrowding. Since private prisons are profit-motivated, their operators (in theory) have incentives to run them well while keeping costs as low as possible.
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Clergy for Prison Reform, a group of faith leaders from throughout the state, recently released a policy platform concerning pending legislation related to criminal justice. The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi fully supports its platform.
Rather than measuring success by projecting reduced costs, CPR is speaking from a moral platform that demands immediacy. CPR’s moral authority is important because it humanizes incarcerated individuals, their families and their communities, and we hope that serves as an important reminder to lawmakers that inconvenient topics shouldn’t be set aside for next session. Justice delayed is, in fact, justice denied.
Read the rest on Jackson Free Press, here.
Advocate Bryant Jackson-Green was interviewed on Public Affairs TV with Jeff Berkowitz, where he argued for libertarian reforms to the criminal justice system.
Watch his appearance here!
The jails at New York City’s Rikers Island have rightly been the focus of intense scrutiny in the last two years.
And while reformers have taken a step in the right direction, far more must be done to address a key driver of the disturbing facts behind the jail’s reputation as the “dumping ground” for the city’s mentally ill.
News outlets have called Rikers a “house of horrors jail” where “medieval levels of violence” are “meted out with startling ferocity.”
An investigation by US Attorney Preet Bharara found systemic abuse. The scrutiny culminated this year in a class-action lawsuit, Nunez v. United States, brought by the Legal Aid Society and the Department of Justice.
The parties agreed to a settlement that includes significant reforms, requiring the adoption of a new use-of-force policy that requires federal administrative monitoring, a pilot program for prison-guard body cameras and more surveillance in general.
Unfortunately, these changes aren’t enough. What’s missing are systemic reforms like comprehensive medical care and mental-health-policy changes.
Read the rest on the New York Post here.
Last week the Baltimore Sun reported that Governor Larry Hogan has ordered the immediate closure of the scandal-plagued Baltimore City Detention Center. A 10 year plan to close the facility had already been laid out by Governor Martin O’Malley. But Hogan’s plan will see the problematic, expensive institution closed by the end of the month.
This is a major victory for those seeking to reform the state’s notorious criminal justice system.
Professional, non-corrupt staff, and well-maintained facilities are basic features for any sound criminal justice system. But the Baltimore City Detention Center fails on both counts.
The jail’s facilities are old and ill-maintained. The complex dates to the Civil War era, although it has been renovated multiple times. Its ceilings are leaky. Its toilets and plumbing fixtures often broken.
Read the rest on Watchdog here.