The Prison Grievances blog has moved. Please visit the new, improved Prison Grievances at www.prisongrievances.com. And please change your bookmarks. All of the content from this blog is now at the new blog and this blog will no longer be updated.
Chicago is focusing on the release of Nicole Harris, who 'confessed' to killing her son after being held 27 hours by police. Today she is free, "after serving seven years of a thirty year sentence. Her conviction in the death of her son, Jaquari, was overturned by a federal appeals court last October and earlier this month the 7th Court of Appeals ordered Harris’s release." Meanwhile, her life, her family's life, and the taxpayers of Illinois have all suffered. Maybe it's time to stop rewarding police for confessions and instead reward them for mediations, truth, etc. http://wrongfulconvictionsblog.org/2013/02/26/coerced-confessions-obscure-justice/
Andre Thomas is making the news in Texas Tribune. He's on death row, except he's blind after gouging out both eyes and hears God telling him things--like to murder his wife and children, and pluck out his eyes. Texas Ct of Criminal Appeals said "Thomas is “clearly ‘crazy’ but he is also ‘sane’ under Texas law,” because a jury had concluded he knew right from wrong at the time of his crime. Yup. The answer to mental illness in the 60s was that communities would rush in and help all those kicked out of mental institutions. "In 1955, there were 500,000 patients in psychiatric hospitals nationwide, said Lynda Frost, director of planning and programs at the University of Texas at Austin’s Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. In 2000, there were 59,000." http://www.texastribune.org/2013/02/20/andre-thomas-mental-health-and-criminal-justice-co/
Bruce Western, Harvard Kennedy School Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, is highlighted both on the cover and the inside story on "The Prison Problem." "We may have skimped on welfare, but we paid anyway, splurging on police and prisons. Dollars diverted from education and employment found their way to prison construction." Perhaps this unusual coverage will help Harvard graduates better understand causes, conditions, and solutions to mass incarceration.
March/April 2013, The Harvard Magazine, p. 38-43
When you read that inmates have gone on a hunger strike, you have to know conditions are really, really intolerable. They know they'll be punished with solitary. What what has these inmates so upset? "Among other complaints, the hunger strikers at Pontiac (which is the oldest prison in Illinois and the eighth-oldest in the country) have stated that Plexiglas barriers placed on their cell doors, installed recently supposedly to increase security, are preventing their rooms from being heated. Inmates are protesting as well against a lack of necessities, such as the forms required for them to receive visits, legal-sized envelopes, cleaning supplies and hygiene products. Inmates have claimed that they are charged $5 to use items like nail clippers, and that these utensils are not sterilized between uses, even though some of the prisoners have communicable diseases." http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/02/19/pris-f19.html
Prison Grievances: when to write, how to write, offers both entertainment and education. In this section of the blog, I'll offer you pieces of the book so you can understand what all the tooting and rooting are about. It's a good book. 10/4/12. You can't write a grievance without understanding the Prison Litigation Reform Act. It requires, for instance, that you must first talk over your problem with a prison officer BEFORE you write the grievance (except in cases of injury or fear of death). That way, the officer has an opportunity to correct the problem before you take it to the Grievance Committee. 10/9/12. If the talk doesn't take care of your problem,then you MUST write a grievance. In Texas, that's a Step 1. In the federal prisons, the counselor will give you a BP 9. Answer all the questions. Be as specific as you can. Do NOT include legal jargon. 11/1/12. Make only one claim per grievance. 11/5/12. Do not repeat the grievance before the listed time is up. If it is an emergency, then go ahead! Otherwise, give the system time to respond. 11/14/12. If your problem is not resolved, and you see a flaw in the answer, then you can file a second grievance--but only about the problem in the answer: the reader got the facts wrong, the answer did not match your problem, etc. Do not write a second grievance that repeats your initial complaint--it won't get you anywhere. 1/20/13. If you get no response at all to a grievance, even after the allowed extension, then file the Step 2 with an explanation about the missing response. No, really, the main office is not under the control of the unit bosses (or Martians), and they will actually read your grievance. 2/14/13. Yes, a form-response is frustrating. It is difficult to balance the requirement to 'be specific' with the requirement 'keep it short with no attachments.' So your game plan: always include who-did what-to whom-when. Then mention the number of witnesses, for instance, but offer to discuss those details.
INFORMATION Behind the Walls. Jorge Antonio Renaud (University of North Texas Press, 2002). Should be required reading for families who need information on the practical aspects of prison life. With 24 chapters on elements of prison life (living quarters, craft shop, discipline), the book provides a comprehensive overview with marvelous concrete detail. I found the Apendices especially useful (custody level, medical/dental, libraray, commissary, recreation, good time, parole, officials, and resources). Do you know the difference between GP and PC? You will when you buy and read this book. Special mention: many formerly incarcerated have written about prisons; most can't write. Mr. Renaud was a journalist before his missteps, and the book is a delightful, easy read.
GRAPHIC NOVELS sentences: the life of M.F. Grimm. author Percy Carey, artist Ronald Wimberly (DC Comics, 2007). 5 Star, champagne flight best ever. The decline and fall of a former Sesame Street star is just as compelling as the edgy, unusual art. Although this book chronicles the life, the second life, the fall, and the eventual redemption of a rapper, prison conditions are always front and center. Would-be, wanna-bees need to read this graphic novel. If it doesn't spell out the consequences of fast money and bad decisions, then nothing will.
MEMOIRS Prisoner of Conscience: a memoir. Kenneth Kennon (XLibris, 2001). Could there be a more inlikely inmate than a Christian minister who was arrested for silently marching against the School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia? Rev. Kennon intended to protest; he did not intend to go to federal prison for 6 months. This almost-daily log of impressions, insight, and poetry can help families understand the long, long days, the daily insults, the joy of receiving mail. Unexpected humor both in the prison and in Rev. Kennon's writing is especially endearing: a transportation guard asked him what a prisoner of "con-science" is; he had seen posters the Reverend's friends held up as he walked through the gates. Perhaps any word that begins "con" catches the eye?
This box will have reviews of some of my favorite books, movies and whatever else I might discover. Please send me your favorites, and I'll review them!