Category Archives: Corrections

Abolishing Immigration Prisons

Source: César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, Boston University Law Review, Vol. 97, No. 245, 2017

From the abstract:
The United States has a long and inglorious history of coercive state practices of social control that are motivated, explicitly or implicitly, by race. From chattel slavery to modern incarceration, state actors have regularly marginalized, demonized, and exploited people racialized as nonwhite. Immigration imprisonment—the practice of confining people because of a suspected or confirmed immigration law violation—fits neatly into this ignoble tradition. The United States’ half million immigration prisoners, who are overwhelmingly Latino, were almost all pushed and pulled to leave their countries of origin in part by policies promoted or supported by the United States. Yet, once here, Latin American migrants are relegated to a legal system that treats them as confineable based merely on their status.

Even worse is that the practice of immigration imprisonment, as designed and operated, has stripped migrants of their inherent dignity as humans and has instead commodified them into a source of revenue. For immigration prisoners, the prison operates as a means of segregation and stigmatization: immigration prisoners are segregated from the political community and perceived to be dangerous. For other migrants who, for the time being at least, avoid imprisonment, the prison symbolizes the state’s brute power. For the vast network of interested parties who have invested deeply in immigration imprisonment, the prison marks the location of production. Paid according to the number of people locked up, private prisons and local governments profit from human bondage. Meanwhile, opportunistic politicians reap political rewards by pointing to barbed wire perimeters and sizeable prison populations as evidence of their efforts to protect the nation.

This Article is the first to argue that immigration imprisonment is inherently indefensible and should be abolished. The United States should instead adopt an alternative moral framework of migrants and migration that is grounded in history and attuned to human fallibility. Doing so will help discourage harmful immigration rhetoric steeped in myths of migrant criminality and will foster better understanding of migrants and their reasons for coming to the United States.

States Perform

Source: Council of State Governments, 2017

States Perform provides users with access to interactive, customizable and up-to-date comparative performance measurement data for 50 states in six key areas: fiscal and economic, public safety and justice, energy and environment, transportation, health and human services, and education. Compare performance across a few or all states, profile one state, view trends over time, and customize your results with graphs and maps.

What everyone should know about their state’s budget

Source: Urban Institute, 2017
[tool was funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation]

State and local governments educate schoolchildren, train the future workforce, care for the sick and elderly, build roads, patrol neighborhoods, extinguish fires, and maintain parks. In short, they’re pretty important. But few Americans understand where their state and local tax dollars go and to what effect. It’s not just the amount of money spent that matters, it’s why that money is spent the way it is.

Through this web tool, we aim to fill that knowledge gap. The tool allows users to get under the hood of their government and understand not only how much a state spends but also what drives that spending.

To do this, we apply a basic framework to all major areas of government spending. The framework says that state spending per capita is both a function of how many people receive a service and how much that service costs the state for each recipient. ….

…In this tool, you’ll see the spending per capita breakdown for all states and the District of Columbia across all major functional categories. It allows you to see how each state ranks, and you can sort by any factor you choose. (One frequent outlier is DC; though included in the rankings, it often functions more like a city than a state) We’ve included some annotations to guide you along the way. By exploring the tool, you’ll gain a sense of how much each state spends on any given area and why states spend what they do. ….

Past Due: Examining the Costs and Consequences of Charging for Justice in New Orleans

Source: Mathilde Laisne, Jon Wool, and Christian Henrichson, Vera Institute of Justice, January 2017

From the overview:
In 2015, government agencies in New Orleans collected $4.5 million in the form of bail, fines and fees from people involved in the criminal justice system and, by extension, from their families. Another $4.7 million was transferred from the pockets of residents to for-profit bail bond agents. These costs have become the subject of considerable public attention. Because many “users” of the system have very low incomes or none at all, there is growing concern that charging for justice amounts to criminalizing poverty, especially when people who can’t pay become further entangled in the justice system. In 2015, the city spent $6.4 million to incarcerate people who couldn’t pay bail or conviction fines and fees. By focusing on bail decisions and fines and fees assessed at conviction, Past Due, and its accompanying technical report, reveals the costs and other consequences of a system that tries to extract money from low-income people and then jails them when they can’t pay.
Related:
Technical Report
Summary

State Expenditure Report (Fiscal 2014-2016)

Source: National Association of State Budget Officers, 2016

Overview:
This annual report examines spending in the functional areas of state budgets: elementary and secondary education, higher education, public assistance, Medicaid, corrections, transportation, and all other. It also includes data on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and on revenue sources in state general funds.

– The total state spending growth rate slowed in fiscal 2016, following a 10-year high in fiscal 2015.
– Medicaid continued to increase as a share of total state spending, while K-12 remained the largest category from state funds.
– Transportation led the way in spending growth from state funds in both fiscal 2015 and fiscal 2016, while Medicaid experienced the largest gains from all funds.
– Revenue growth slowed considerably in fiscal 2016 as states saw weaker collections from sales, personal income, and corporate income taxes.
Related:
Summary
Archives

Cycle of Crisis

Source: Megan O’Matz, Sun Sentinel, December 15, 2016

In Florida, the soaring number of forced hospitalizations of mentally ill reveals a broken health care system failing those who need it most…..

….The government closed or downsized many of the facilities, and efforts shifted to enable the mentally ill to live in the community, in their homes or elsewhere, with the help of local professionals. But the government never allocated enough money for services or housing. Now people with mental illness are confined in jails, cast adrift in the streets, or left to the care of families without the means to support them. There’s not enough help between a short hospitalization or being sent to a state mental institution such as Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee, the state’s largest….

Related:
Dying for help
Source: Megan O’Matz, Sally Kestin and John Maines, Sun Sentinel, December 15, 2016

Families struggle with severely mentally ill relatives, then become victims of their violence. Florida’s health care system is too stressed to prevent the tragedies. ….

…. No government agency monitors the tragedies. But a six-month Sun Sentinel investigation determined that people with mental illness have killed or brutally assaulted at least 500 loved ones in Florida since 2000. During that time, Florida’s spending on mental health programs has declined significantly: When adjusted for inflation, the state last year spent one-third less per capita on mental health and drug treatment than it did in 2000, according to a Sun Sentinel analysis of data. ….

…. Jailing a mentally ill inmate in Florida costs up to three times more than treatment. One successful statewide program that provides social workers to visit the mentally ill, ensure they take their medication, go to the doctor and have adequate housing, costs $35 a day. By comparison, it costs $121 a day to house a person with mental illness at the Broward County Jail. ….
Related:

Punishing Poverty: The high cost of probation fees in Massachusetts

Source: Wendy Sawyer, Prison Policy Initiative, December 8, 2016

From the introduction:
In Massachusetts, probation is a much bigger part of the correctional control “pie” than incarceration in prison or jail. Almost three out of four people under state correctional control are on some form of probation. If you are one of these 67,000 people, the state tells you probation is “an opportunity for you to make positive changes in your life,” allowing you to remain in the community, work, and be with family and friends instead of serving time in jail or prison. While this may sound like a great deal, it comes at a price.

Probation service fees in Massachusetts cost probationers more than $20 million every year. People are placed on one of two tiers of probation: supervised and administrative, and they are currently charged $65 and $50 per month, respectively. With an average probation sentence of 17-20 months, a Massachusetts resident sentenced to probation is charged between $850-$1,300 in monthly probation service fees alone — on top of many other court fines and fees.

Probation fees are relics of the 1980s. A result of “tough on crime” politics and a misguided attempt to plug a budget in crisis, probation fees do nothing to further the mission of probation services in Massachusetts. In fact, they work against probationers who struggle to meet the demands of their probation and the needs of their families. With money tight in the Commonwealth again, lawmakers may be tempted to hold on to probation fees for the revenues, but this policy is fiscally shortsighted and morally bankrupt.

A group of state lawmakers and judges has recently called for re-evaluation of court fines and fees, suspecting that these costs unfairly impact the poor and make it harder for people to succeed. This report analyzes state probation and income data to confirm those suspicions, and argues that the state should reverse its outdated and counterproductive policy.

Staff Satisfaction, Ethical Concerns, and Burnout in the New York City Jail Health System

Source: Ramneet Kalra, Sarah Glowa Kollisch, Ross MacDonald, Nathaniel Dickey, Zachary Rosner, Homer Venters, Journal of Correctional Healthcare, Vol. 22 no. 4, October 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article reviewed a program evaluation conducted among correctional health care staff in New York City (NYC) using a 68-question electronic survey to assess satisfaction, attitudes, and beliefs in relation to ethics and burnout of health care employees in NYC jails. Descriptive statistics were tabulated and reviewed, and further assessment of burnout and ethics was performed through group sessions with participants. This evaluation has led to changes in agency policies and procedures and an emphasis on the human rights issue of the dual loyalty challenges that the security setting places on the overall mission to care for patients.

Race and Punishment in American Prisons

Source: Jeremiah C. Olson, Journal of Public Admin Research and Theory, Volume 26, Issue 4, October 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
American prison staffs face the difficult challenge of maintaining order in an often overcrowded, potentially dangerous environment. Prison staffs are given wide discretion over treatment decisions inside prisons, including the decision to punish prisoners. Staffs are forced to make quick decisions in an uncertain environment and are likely to use commonly understood heuristics to simplify their decision-making. These heuristics include stereotypes regarding race and criminality. This article uses data on nearly 11,000 prisoners to examine the determinants of one of the harshest punishments available, the use of solitary confinement in American prisons. Consistent with the broader literature on race and criminal justice, I find that black inmates report higher rates of placement in solitary confinement than white inmates.

As Alabama cuts mental health care, sheriffs say jails overwhelmed

Source: Lee Roop, al.com, August 8, 2016

The state has closed three psychiatric hospitals since 2012 for financial reasons, cutting the number of beds for patients from 740 to 268 — a drop of 64 percent. …. Without available beds, sheriffs talk of searching for charges to find a way to house potentially dangerous individuals. …. “In Alabama, if you (want to) protect someone from themselves, you charge them with harassment and put them in jail,” agreed Baldwin County Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack. But jails are not hospitals, deputies aren’t nurses and this temporary solution often creates new problems for all involved. …. Al.com surveyed 40 out of 67 sheriffs or their chief deputies. Most report a growing problem and lack of training or services. See the percentages for each question below. ….