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Tag: Mass Incarceration

Shipping Inmates Out of State

A recent article from The Marshall Project discusses the hardships that families go through as states are shipping parts of their inmate populations to other states in an attempt to alleviate overcrowding in their correctional facilities. The four states that currently engage in this practice are Hawaii, California, Vermont, and Arizona, and the U.S. Virgin Islands send their prisoners to U.S. states as well.

The portions of the inmate populations from these states that get shipped away end up in areas in Michigan, Arizona, the Mississippi Delta, Florida, Virginia, and Texas. According to the article, “often, the best-behaving prisoners — those with no disciplinary record, escape history or medical issues — are the most likely to be sent far from home,” usually ending up in “facilities run by for-profit companies such as Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group.”

This is an issue for families of the inmates who want to visit their loved ones, only to have to pay travel fees to the out-of-state facilities that are anywhere from $1000 and up (usually for those who are from Hawaii, at least).

The sign outside of a Corrections Corporation of America location. Inmates who are shipped out of state are often housed at CCA private prisons.

The sign outside of a Corrections Corporation of America location. Inmates who are shipped out of state are often housed at CCA private prisons.

This practice also has important ramifications for the facilities in the towns and cities to which these inmates are sent. The article states:

When the people of Lake County, Mich., the poorest county in that state, learned that their local prison might reopen to accept inmates from Vermont, many were thrilled. The state representative there and the executive director of Michigan Works, a jobs program, both sent letters to Vermont officials pleading for the contract to be signed.

Now that the facility has opened for business, Lake County Commissioner Dan Sloan said unemployment has plummeted from double digits to about 7 percent in less than a year. “We’re seeing more use of our facilities, gas stations, retail, everything,” he said.

In Sayre, Okla., where California sent hundreds of inmates until last year, City Manager Guy Hylton said that having prisoners from out of state “was a miracle for a town like ours, there’s no other way to put it. Commissary purchases were one of our largest sources of sales tax, and the utilities that the prison paid for were like…having a whole other city here in our city.”

While this practice has rejuvenated the economies of several of the towns and cities where these inmates are now being shipped, this has not been the case across the board. The article discusses a specific example at a prison in Mississippi, stating that “for those living in the Delta’s poverty, the prison has been a false promise. ‘That prison should be to the Delta region what Toyota is to North Mississippi: a big economic deal,’ said Johnny B. Thomas, the mayor of Glendora, a nearby town. ‘But the corporation is taking all the proceeds while our children’s schools are falling down.'”

There are currently over 7,200 inmates that are sent to correctional facilities outside of their states, but a few other states are also considering adopting this practice (Washington state and North Dakota, to name two), so this number could easily rise in the coming months. States engage in this practice because it essentially “solves” two problems at the same time: shipping inmates out of state helps alleviate overcrowded prisons in-state and it is also less expensive.

The article goes on to break down the differences in cost between sending an inmate out of state versus housing them in a facility in state:

Hawaii pays CCA about $70 a day to house each inmate at Saguaro, compared with an average of $140 a day for an inmate at any of the four prisons back home. In Vermont, an out-of-state prison bed costs about $62 per day; in-state, the price tag is $162. For the U.S. Virgin islands, the choice is between as little as $67 on the mainland, versus $150 on the islands. (California’s complicated budget picture makes it more difficult to make a similar comparison.)

Even though states are saving money by engaging in this practice, it is the families of inmates who are shipped out of state that are paying the consequences.

To read the full article, entitled “The Prison Visit That Cost My Family $2370,” click here.

The featured photo for this article is of the town of Eloy, Arizona, where Saguaro Correctional Center is located. Saguaro is where many of Hawaii’s inmates who are shipped out of state are housed. Photo taken by Raquel Baranow in 2009.

ASPIREist Features Clint Smith

ASPIREist is a new half-hour reality feature news show. Each episode has three features ranging a wide variety of topics. The purpose of the show, according to its website, is to “empower 21st century viewers to take action on issues that matter.” Each feature ends with a way for the viewer to take action about that particular issue.

The first episode features Clint Smith, a researcher of the intersections between race, education, and incarceration from Harvard University. His feature called “The New Jim Crow,” like the Michelle Alexander book, focuses on issues similar to what Bryan Stevenson talks about in Just Mercy. He talks about the the racial inequality in the criminal justice system, children in prison, and the greater problem of mass incarceration. View the feature below.

One of the show’s other personalities is Shiza Shahid, a previous Go Big Read speaker. To view her features, visit the ASPIREist YouTube page here.

For more information about ASPIREist, click here.

Nixon’s “War on Drugs” was Founded on Racism

Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative have focused their work on the unequally high incarceration rates of African Americans. They argue the criminal justice system favors white people, especially in regard to drug offenses. Now there is proof that the criminal justice system’s drug policy’s were formed with exactly that in mind.

David Baum recently published  and article called “Legalize It All: How to Win the War on Drugs” in Harper’s. For the article he references a 1994 interview with John Ehrlichman, Richard Nixon’s domestic policy chief. In the interview Ehrlichman says:  “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” In other words Nixon and his advisors had an idea of how devastating thier policies would be to the African American community. The Equal Justice Initiative explains that the legacy of those policies are mass incarceration of black people and deepening institutionalized racism in the country.

To read more about this click here.

To read “Legalize It All: How to Win the War on Drugs” click here.

#WeAreHere and #JusticeReformNow

Musical artist, Alicia Keys, recently spoke at a Capital Hill briefing about the state of mass incarceration in the United States. She started a new campaign, #WeAreHere for #JusticeReformNow, with her organization, We Are Here, and Cut50, a bipartisan initiative to cut the U.S. prison population by 50% over the next ten years.

According to the Upworthy article “Alicia Keys released a beautiful video to get 1 million signatures for prison reform” by  Erica Williams Simon, Keys and her partner organizations are asking for the reformed laws to do three things. First, send fewer people into a broken system. Second, invest in education, rehabilitation, and treatment, rather than incarceration and punishment. And third, address economic, civil, and social barriers to re-entry.

To raise awareness and bolster action Keys created the video below.

To read the Upworthy article “Alicia Keys released a beautiful video to get 1 million signatures for prison reform” by Erica Williams Simon, click here.

To read about #cut50 click here.

To learn more about the We Are Here organization, click here.

Bryan Stevenson on The Laura Flanders Show

Bryan Stevenson was recently featured on The Laura Flanders Show, which is a weekly interview-based show hosted by Laura Flanders.

Flanders and Stevenson discussed the extremely high rates of mass incarceration in the United States and possible solutions to this issue, among other things, during Stevenson’s interview. Flanders in particular focused on the issue of isolation and how it relates to mass incarceration and our criminal justice system.

Watch the video of the interview below.

To watch the full interview, click here.

To read Laura Flanders’ “System Overhaul: Stop Isolating Prisons” click here.

Understanding the Legacy of Racial Injustice

This week, on July 7th, the Equal Justice Initiative released an animated film Slavery to Mass Incarceration. The film is narrated by Just Mercy author Bryan Stevenson and features art from Molly Crabapple. In just under six minutes Stevenson and Crabapple tell the story of how the enslavement of African people has evolved to mass incarceration of African Americans today. The film points out that an African American person is six times more likely to be sentenced to prison for the same crime as a white person. And that one in three black men born today can expect to spend some time in prison. With this film EJI hopes to engage people in the conversation about this injustice in the United States and help move the country forward.

Slavery to Mass Incarceration was created as a part of Equal Justice Initiative’s Race and Poverty Project. As EJI explains, the Race and Poverty project “explores racial history and uses innovative teaching tools to deepen our understanding of the legacy of racial injustice.”

Watch the film below.

To read more about EJI’s Race and Poverty Project click here.