“Conditions behind bars” Screening visitors: Prisons profit by stopping family visits

,,,,Conditions behind bars

Screening visitors

Prisons profit by stopping family visits

No touching allowed

“I KNOW that my son is moving and talking on the other side of the screen, but when the video freezes you have to start the conversation all over again,” one mother says. She is in Rhode Island; he is almost 2,000 miles away, in jail in Hays County, Texas. “The picture is grainy and I can never see how he really is,” she explains, “but these sessions mean a lot because I’m so far away.”

A new study by the Prison Policy Initiative finds that families with relatives in 511 lockups across America are in a similarly bleak situation. Some 386 jails—about 12% of the total—offer “video visits”. Peter Wagner, one of the study’s authors, calls the spread of these services “a scandal” that remains “totally off the radar”.


The option of a video visit might be useful for loved ones who live far away, so long as in-person visits are also allowed. But many prisons offer screen time instead of face time, arguing that prisoners do not need the latter since they can have the former. What is more, kiosks for calls are in public spaces, meaning that inmates have to be careful what they say. And calls are costly: $29.95 for 20 minutes of talk in Wisconsin’s Racine County, for example. Securus, a large firm providing communications services to 2,200 lockups, typically charges a dollar a minute for a video call (see chart).

Five of the seven main companies that run video chats, including Securus, require a chunk of time to be bought in advance of a scheduled call—irritating if glitches ruin a session, as they often do. Before May 2014, when Clark County, Nevada revamped its Renovo video system, more than half of its average of 15,000 monthly video visits were cancelled after technical problems.

Most jails let relatives make a few free video calls if these are conducted within the prison itself. But travelling a long way, only to sit behind a computer screen, is time-consuming and frustrating. And in-person visits ought to be encouraged: just one can reduce the likelihood of an inmate reoffending by 13%, according to a study in 2011 by the Minnesota Department of Corrections. Incredibly, 74% of jails have banned visitors from seeing inmates after introducing video services. Securus has even demanded it. (The firm did not return requests for comment.)

Complications may arise from all this. Lawyers may claim that communicating with their clients only through video calls is a violation of due process, says Patrice Fulcher of John Marshall Law School. The possibility of recording such conversations could also lead to the leaking of privileged information. “This whole situation exploits people on the inside and their families on the outside,” Ms Fulcher says. “It’s like we’re serving the sentence with them,” says the mother from Rhode Island.

Darren Krieghauser, an executive at HomeWAV, a company which provides video services to 50 lockups, disagrees. He says inmates have managed to get married and see their newborn children using his company’s terminals. He stresses that the question of whether or not to allow in-person visits “is completely up to each individual jail”.

Often, though, officials prefer to stop them. First, they get nervous when prisoners leave their cells. Second, jails may receive a commission from the money made using off-site video calls (typically, 20% from Securus and 10% from JPay, another provider). However, sheriffs hoping to fill up county coffers this way may well be disappointed. Securus estimated that Hopkins County, Texas would scoop $455,597 over five years from its 70% cut of earnings from both video visits and phone calls. But in the 2014 fiscal year the county pulled in less than half of what it had expected. Often the cost of installing the video equipment has to be recovered first, meaning that some chokeys will see no cash from video calls for years to come.

The scandal has attracted scant attention from politicians. In theory, the Federal Communications Commission could cap the cost of video calls, but it is up to state lawmakers to insist that prisoners are allowed to meet their loved ones in the flesh.

Still, even as one part of the criminal-justice system profits from misery, another abuse may be abating slightly. On January 16th Eric Holder, the soon-to-retire attorney-general, said he would curb joint federal-state “civil forfeiture” actions. This is when the police seize houses, cars, money and other assets that they suspect are the proceeds of crime, without having to prove it. Cash from auctioning these assets often goes to pad police budgets and pay for new kit—a clear conflict of interest, civil libertarians complain. More than 15,000 such seizures occurred in 2010, generating $2.5 billion. Many states will continue to allow them, arguing that they are a useful tool for hobbling drug dealers. ….


Texans against the Nazis

Texans against the Nazis

Texans against the Nazis

Mario Ovalle reports from Rockwall, Texas, on an counter-protest mobilized to confront an anti-immigrant demonstration organized by neo-Nazis.

Texas anti-racists take a stand against the neo-NazisTexas anti-racists take a stand against the neo-Nazis

SOME 100 people mobilized to the town of Rockwall, Texas, northeast of Dallas, on November 8 to confront an anti-immigrant rally held by the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM).

The NSM has its roots in a 1967 split from the American Nazi Party (ANP) following the murder of ANP founder and former Navy commander George Lincoln Rockwell. In recent years, the NSM has grown following the decline of the National Alliance and the Aryan Nations after the death of the organizations’ leaders in 2002 and 2004. The NSM is now the largest neo-Nazi organization in the U.S. according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, with its own presidential candidates and 61 chapters in 35 states. …


Texas Wants to Execute Man Who Killed Home Intruder Who Turned Out to Be SWAT Member

Texas Wants to Execute Man Who Killed Home Intruder Who Turned Out to Be SWAT Member

Marvin Louis Guy

Jail Photo

Attempting to serve a search warrant by entering a house through a window got Killeen, Texas, Police Detective Charles Dinwiddie shot in the face and killed last May.  It was yet another SWAT raid organized for a purpose other than the reason they were invented. The police had a search warrant looking for narcotics at the home of Marvin Louis Guy, 49. They decided to serve this warrant at 5:30 in the morning and without knocking on his door. He opened fire on them, killing Dinwiddie and injuring three others. …




505. Hinrichtung in Texas seit 1976 „Auf geht’s, Wärter!” BILD.de Gefängnis dokumentiert: Was sagen Straftäter im Angesicht des Todes?

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505. Hinrichtung in Texas seit 1976„Auf geht’s, Wärter.
Ich bin bereit“

Gefängnis dokumentiert: Was sagen Straftäter im Angesicht des Todes?

Todesstrafe in Texas: Das sagen Verurteilte vor ihrer Hinrichtung

Der Mörder Arturo Diaz wählte sechs Wörter, um sich von der Welt zu verabschieden. „Auf geht’s, Wärter. Ich bin bereit“, sagte er. Dann wurde er mit einer Giftspritze hingerichtet. Es war die 505. Hinrichtung in Texas seit 1976 – in keinem anderen US-Staat werden mehr Todesurteile vollstreckt.

Die texanische Gefängnisverwaltung hat die letzten Worte der Hingerichteten gesammelt. Es sind Botschaften verurteilter Verbrecher – an die Familien der Opfer, die eigenen Angehörigen und die Welt. Viele von ihnen nutzten diese letzten Worte, um ein letztes Mal ihre Unschuld zu beteuern. Andere, um der Familie Mut zuzusprechen oder dem Sportverein Erfolg zu wünschen.

So feuerte Jesse Hernandez – der seinen eigenen Sohn (11 Monate) mit einer Taschenlampe erschlagen hatte – von der Todesliege ein letztes Mal sein liebstes Football-Team an: „Go Cowboys!“ Charlie Brooks jr., der 1982 als erster Texaner nach Wiedereinführung der Todesstrafe hingerichtet wurde, wandte sich an Allah. „Mom, ich liebe Dich“, sagte Michael Perry unter Tränen. Und Alvin Goodwin sagte einfach nur „Auf Wiedersehen“ – auf Irisch.

BILD zeigt in einer großen Grafik alle 505 Todeskandidaten und ihre letzten Worte. http://www.bild.de/bild-plus/news/ausland/todesstrafe/in-texas-die-letzten-worte-der-hingerichteten-32583538,view=conversionToLogin.bild.html

The Horror Every Day: Why Police Brutality Goes Unpunished

English: A 1952 Ford Customline patrol car tha...
English: A 1952 Ford Customline patrol car that was in use by the Houston Police Department (HPD). It is now on display at the Houston Police Museum in Downtown Houston. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Horror Every Day: Why Police Brutality Goes Unpunished

An investigation into the Houston police department reveals why officers rarely face the consequences of beatings or shootings.

December 13, 2013 |

The following story first appeared in the Texas Observer.Check out their website for more great stories.

Sebastian Prevot watched helplessly as three police officers advanced on his wife. Prevot was handcuffed and bleeding in the back of a cop car. Half of his left ear dangled where it had been torn from his head. The Houston Police Department doesn’t deny that its officers gave Prevot these injuries during a late-night arrest in January 2012. The only dispute is whether he earned them.

This Report has more than 10 pages, please read them here:  http://www.alternet.org/horror-every-day-why-police-brutality-goes-unpunished?ak_proof=1&akid=.224675.FhtIlQ&rd=1&src=newsletter936586&t=3

Analysis: Wrongful convictions sharpen focus on death penalty


Analysis: Wrongful convictions sharpen focus on death penalty

        Maggie Clark, Pews/Stateline Staff Writer     10:14 a.m. EST November 13, 2013

For people wrongly convicted and sent to prison for crimes they did not commit, the opportunities for justice are few and far between.

“There have been no consequences for the prosecutor in my case,” said Anthony Graves, a Texas man who was exonerated three years ago after serving more than a decade on death row for a murder he did not commit.

“He’s never been in front of any board and is free to do whatever he wants, even though the court cited egregious misconduct in his handling of my case,” said Graves, who now advocates for criminal justice reform. Graves spoke Tuesday on a panel of experts at an American Bar Association conference in Atlanta. Earlier in the meeting, former President Jimmy Carter called on the lawyers’ association to campaign to end the death penalty.

Since 1989, 1,241 people have been wrongfully convicted and later cleared of all charges based on evidence that they were innocent, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, a project of the law schools at the University of Michigan and Northwestern University.

In another case of misconduct mentioned by the panel, the prosecutor was disciplined. Texas prosecutor Ken Anderson deliberately withheld evidence proving that a Texas man, Michael Morton, did not murder his wife. He will serve 10 days in jail for contempt of court for withholding evidence and serve 500 hours of community service. He will also give up his law license. Morton served almost 25 years for the murder he did not commit. …

Please, read article here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/11/13/stateline-death-penalty/3515071/

Texas prosecutor to serve 10 days for innocent man´s 25-year imprisonment


Texas prosecutor to serve 10 days for innocent man‘s 25-year imprisonment

Ken Anderson, former prosecutor and state judge, won the 1987 conviction of Michael Morton for murder despite evidence
   Associated Press in Georgetown
Anderson accepted the plea deal in the same Williamson County courthouse where he later spent 11 years as a state judge. He resigned in September. Photo: AP

A former Texas prosecutor who won a conviction that sent an innocent man to prison for nearly 25 years agreed Friday to serve 10 days in jail and complete 500 hours of community service.

Ken Anderson also agreed to be disbarred and was fined $500 as part of a sweeping deal that was expected to end all criminal and civil cases against the embattled ex-district attorney, who presided over a tough-on-crime Texas county for 30 years.

Anderson faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted of tampering with evidence in the 1987 murder trial of Michael Morton, who wrongly spent nearly 25 years in prison…..

Read more, please: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/08/texas-prosecutor-ken-anderson-michael-morton-trial

Execution drugs mixed by US pharmacies draw death row challenges

Execution drugs mixed by US pharmacies draw death row challenges

Oct. 13, 2013 at 10:55 AM ET

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Several U.S. states are turning to lightly  regulated pharmacies for lethal injection drugs, prompting a host of court  battles and at least one stay of execution because of concern tainted or impure  drugs could inflict cruel and unusual punishment on inmates.

The  scramble for alternative supplies comes as major pharmaceutical companies,  especially based in Europe, have clamped down on sales of drugs for executions  in recent years in order to avoid association with the punishment.

Missouri on Friday abandoned a plan to use the anesthetic propofol to  put an inmate to death after the German maker of the drug, Fresenius Kabi,  discovered that some had been sold to the state for executions, and suspended  shipments to a U.S. distributor in retaliation.

Cut off from traditional  sources of drugs, at least five states where the death penalty is legal — South  Dakota, Texas, Ohio, Georgia and Colorado — are looking to “compounding”  pharmacies, which typically mix drugs for prescriptions and are mostly exempt  from federal oversight and face widely varying scrutiny from states.

Tainted drugs from a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy caused an  outbreak last year of a rare type of meningitis that killed more than 50 people  and sickened more than 700 in 20 states, according to the U.S. Centers for  Disease Control and Prevention. The resulting outcry has sparked a drive in  Congress for a larger role by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has  warned of “special risks” from compounding pharmacies.

No judge appears  to have ruled that an execution was botched from compounded drugs. But death  penalty opponents have filed a flurry of lawsuits seeking to halt executions  using them.

They say the use of compounded drugs runs the risk of  violating the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which forbids states from  inflicting “cruel and unusual punishment.”

“You don’t have a high level  of assurance that the drug is pure and potent,” said Sarah Sellers, a  pharmaceutical consultant who testified twice about the risks of compounders  before the Massachusetts Legislature after the meningitis outbreak. “When used  in executions, they are a real concern. It could take longer to die, there could  be unnecessary suffering.”

Compounders and prison officials reject that  view, saying the industry does good work, and that executions happen too fast  for tainted drugs to mar the process.

A spokesman for the compounding  industry, David Ball, said he was aware of only three pharmacies that had  supplied compounded drugs for lethal injections, and that the industry in  general was of “high quality.”

“No compounding pharmacy that I know of  is actively seeking this business,” he said. “Every pharmacist that I know chose  their profession in part out of a desire to help people, and that is what they  focus on in their work.”

The results of the court challenges have so far  been mixed. In their biggest success, a Georgia judge in July granted a stay of  execution for death row inmate Warren Lee Hill. Among the reasons Fulton County  Superior Court Judge Gail Tusan cited were questions whether Georgia’s lethal  injection drug was “somehow contaminated or improperly compounded.” The state  Supreme Court is considering the case.

Other judges have allowed  executions to go ahead. In a case brought by three Texas death row inmates,  among them Michael Yowell, challenging the use of the drug pentobarbital from a  compounder, a judge said he was not persuaded.

“Pentobarbital will kill  Yowell in five to eighteen minutes and his consciousness will be diminished  almost immediately; therefore, infections like meningitis will not hurt him  because they require weeks to incubate,” wrote U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes.

Yowell was executed on Wednesday, the first Texas inmate put to death  using the compounded drug.

Compounding pharmacies combine or alter drugs  mostly to fill individual prescriptions for patients.

The FDA, which  regulates drug manufacturers, does not approve the products of compounding  pharmacies, which are licensed through state pharmacy boards.

An FDA  study found the potency of compounded drugs can vary widely from that listed on  the label, and the agency has cited numerous cases of contamination from such  operations.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on September  28 to give the FDA more authority over compounding pharmacies, although the  measure is unlikely to become law soon because of the political gridlock in  Washington over the budget, national debt and health reform.

In response  to concerns about the quality of drugs, Texas had an independent laboratory,  Eagle Analytical Services, test the state’s compounded pentobarbital used in  executions and it was 98.8 percent pure, court documents in the death row  inmates case showed.

“Thousands of individuals use compounded drugs each  day,” said Jason Clark, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.  “The quality and potency of the compounded pentobarbital will not differ from  the pentobarbital that is manufactured by a pharmaceutical company.”

LIFTING SECRECY The scramble for new sources of execution drugs  has been accompanied by an effort to shield the process from scrutiny, which  advocates for death row prisoners find troubling.

“The lack of  transparency around the form and source of the drugs puts our clients at an  unjustified risk of being executed with drugs that either will not work as  planned or will cause excruciating pain and suffering,” said Bryan Stull, a  lawyer specializing in capital punishment for the American Civil Liberties  Union.

Court challenges and media scrutiny have been more successful in  prying information about the compounded drugs from state authorities than in  delaying executions.

South Dakota had refused to identify where it got  the drugs that it used to execute an inmate last year. A judge on September 30  ordered the state to turn over some information to him, although he said the  identity of the compounding pharmacist need not be disclosed publicly.

Earlier this year, Colorado officials turned to compounding pharmacies  to seek out sodium thiopental, a common execution drug until major drug  companies two years ago refused to supply it. The information was disclosed in a  letter sent by the Colorado corrections department to compounding pharmacies  that became public in a lawsuit filed in May by the ACLU.

Ohio, which is  running out of usable drugs for executions, announced on October 4 that it would  allow the purchase of drugs from compounding pharmacies if needed.

Texas, which executes more inmates than any other state, stirred debate  over whether it had promised secrecy to a supplier, when it identified the  compounder earlier this month.

On October 2, in response to a media  public information request, the state criminal justice department said it had  purchased pentobarbital for executions from Houston-based Woodlands Compounding  Pharmacy.

Two days later, the owner of the pharmacy sent a letter to  Texas corrections officials saying he wanted the drugs back because the company  had been subjected to public criticism.

“It was my belief that this  information would be kept on the ‘down low’ and that it was unlikely that it  would be discovered that my pharmacy provided these drugs,” owner Jasper Lovoi  said in the letter, which was disclosed in documents as part of a federal  lawsuit filed against the state by three death row inmates.

The Texas  Department of Criminal Justice said it had purchased the drug legally and had no  intention of returning it.

Copyright 2013 Thomson Reuters.

A north Texas young lady said she was ordered to strip and jailed over an overdue traffic ticket


Texas woman stripped and jailed over unpaid traffic ticket

By Travis Gettys

A north Texas woman said she was ordered to strip and then jailed over an overdue traffic ticket.

Sarah Boaz said she was cited in August for running a stop sign, but she later lost the ticket and failed to pay her fine.

She said she knew that was wrong, but she was still surprised Wednesday morning to find a Richland Hills city marshal waiting outside her home with an arrest warrant….read more, please: