What He Said, and What it Says About Us

By BitcoDavid

Texas – the state that’s turning execution into a pastime - publishes the last words of death row inmates. We got this story from an excellent piece in the Gray Lady. If you read it, pay particular attention to the comments section. We tend to forget that in America, most people view inmates with a mix of fear and hatred. I was really disturbed by the lack of empathy, sympathy or even basic compassion towards the condemned, in many of  those comments.

Texas' new and improved execution chamber - I guess it beats ol' Gruesome Gerty. Image Credit NYT

Texas’ new and improved execution chamber – I guess it beats ol’ Gruesome Gerty.
Image Credit NYT

Anyway, here’s the link to Texas’ page:

http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/death_row/dr_executed_offenders.html

They publish the race of each offender on the main page, and if you click the individual links, they cite the gender as well as the race and gender of the victim. It provides a fascinating insight into the Texas judicial system. This site is well worth bookmarking and studying thoroughly.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

Book Review: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

By Joanne Greenberg

English: Piper Kerman at the 2010 Brooklyn Boo...

Piper Kerman at the 2010 Brooklyn Book Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a memoir of fifteen months spent in Danbury Federal Prison work camp. In the range of prisons, this was the highest (best); the others were downhill from there. Piper had been a drug dealer, left the drug game, and ten years later was arrested in connection with a sweep arrest of her former gang members. This woman brought to her experience the absolute best possible strengths – she was healthy, young, attractive but not beautiful, cultured but not pretentious, and flexible.

The book reads well. The reader is brought into Piper’s  prison life as she goes through different levels of the experience, and the reader admires her ability to adjust to what are often uncomfortable but never horrific situations. Later, in jail, pending an appearance in court, things are not as manageable. The writing is smooth and interesting. I had some quibbles with her take on her fellow inmates. I don’t know of any group anywhere as comfort giving, stimulating, appreciative, or loving as how she describes her

fellow prisoners. The administration didn’t count at all. They appear and disappear in a mist with one or two exceptions that she managed to work around. The positive relations that she had with her fellow prisoners made me a little suspicious. I think she was using them to show how useless and ridiculous the modern American prison system is. I agree with her, but I can’t help feeling a little bit manipulated.

This book was highly recommended to me by a friend, and I haven’t had a chance to discuss it with her. I can see why the book would be very popular, because it strikes all the right notes. The prison system sucks, but ordinary people are the salt of the earth. As you already know, this is not the case. Most of the people I picked up when I was doing rescue just thought they were going someplace else. Occasionally, though, we got scuzzballs. I thing the police get bitter because of the scuzzball ratio and this influences their outlook.

The book can be purchased through Amazon.com as well as other outlets.

Joanne Greenberg was born in 1932, in Brooklyn, NY. She was educated at American University and received and honorary Doctorate from Gallaudet University – the world’s only college for the Deaf. She has written 2 books on the subject and has spent decades working with state mental hospitals for appropriate care for the mentally ill Deaf.

It’s Not All Bad

One such court in San Fransisco gives out candy when the perps show up for their hearings.
http://semiweeklyeats.blogspot.com/2012/06/candy-dish.html

ABC News reported on the growth and progress of Community Courts. I got the article from AnotherBoomerBlog – Marsha Graham. The idea, albeit quite new, is simply stellar. These are small local courts set up to deal with low level crimes – vandalism, drunkenness and prostitution.

Here’s the article link:

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/courts-handle-low-level-crimes-us-17301887#.UF97GWfi6Sq

Instead of dolling out jail time in an already overcrowded and broken penal system, these courts encourage things like community service for drug offenses and painting walls for taggers.

And unlike the thousands of specialized drug courts across America, community courts are designed to provide quicker, cheaper justice while improving life in specific neighborhoods or police precincts. Defendants perform community service in the neighborhoods where they broke the law. Taggers must paint over graffiti. And shoplifters are required to help distribute clothes to the poor.

Now, I don’t really get why somebody would want this painted over, but…
http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/09/14/tribute-to-graffiti-50-beautiful-graffiti-artworks/

So far, over a dozen states have adopted the Community court model. And the results are starting to roll in. 4500 defendants have been tried for low level crimes in San Fransisco alone – alleviating a some of the backlog being dealt with by the traditional courts in the area.

Police officers say that since sentences involve counseling and treatment – rather than incarceration – recidivism is decreased, and so is their workload.

Police Captain John Garrity, whose district is served by the Community Justice Center, says his officers can focus more on serious crime because the court gets the lower level offenders into social services, where they leave less likely to reoffend than they are from short jail stints.

The Midtown Community Court

The Midtown Community Court (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The point here is something that many of us have been saying for a long time. Treatment, therapy, social work and an ounce of compassion will inevitably do more for rehabilitation of offenders, than will harsh prison sentences, 3 strike laws and other even more draconian and cruel methods of punishment. As one who is no stranger to the criminal justice system – I can tell you – education and treatment go a lot further than steel bars and jump-suits.

Again, the link to ABC’s coverage:

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/courts-handle-low-level-crimes-us-17301887?page=2#.UF-B7Wfi6So

Not Providing Interpreters for Deaf Persons Can Result in Tragedy as Loss of Life as Well as Be Costly for Jail Systems

Shawn Francisco Vigil, died in prison. He was not provided an interpreter during the medical/psychological intake process, was placed in isolation and committed suicide.

Below, the link to the Denver Post‘s coverage:
http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_21565502/denver-settles-city-deaf-man-who-died-jail

Jail officials had housed Vigil in a special unit away from the general population and failed to do any “meaningful analysis of whether he posed a substantial danger to himself,” according to the lawsuit that was filed by Debbie Ulibarri, Vigil’s mother.

In recognition of their negligence, Denver has agreed to pay a settlement to Ulibarri’s family in the amount of $695,000.

The suit alleged the city did not adequately train staff, didn’t have proper accommodations for hearing impaired inmates, failed to provide a sign language interpreter and did not screen the inmate for mental health concerns.

Progress in California

Beautiful aerial of California’s infamous Folsom Prison. Image courtesy of
http://media.photobucket.com/image/folsom%20prison/ESE-PELON/folsom_state_prison.jpg?o=1

I got this in my e-mail a few days ago:

Dear David,

We have exciting news that you helped make happen!  Two important victories today in California -
 Senate Bill 9 and Assembly Bill 1270 took major steps forward in the legislature.

First, Senate Bill 9 just passed the state Assembly 41-34!

After six years of hard work by many organizations and dedicated activists like you, we are closer than ever to reforming life without the possibility of parole sentences for juveniles. 

What’s next?  The bill  – which passed the state Senate in June 2011 – goes back to the Senate to get agreement on new amendments made in the Assembly since the Senate’s vote. Then it’s on to the governor!

We will need your help again – stay tuned and we’ll let you know when to take action to let Gov. Brown know you want him to sign SB 9.

More good news: Assembly Bill 1270 – a bill to restore media access to prisons that allows journalists to interview specific prisoners – today moved out of the Senate Appropriations committee. It was approved by a vote of 5-2.  Now it moves to the full Senate for a vote. Once it passes the full Senate, it’s on to the governor!

There’s still time to sign and spread the word about our petition  .  We’ll be taking your signatures directly to Gov. Brown when the time is right.

Last week, we printed out your 2,500 signatures and personally hand-delivered them to every member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.  Your petition signature is also sent directly to your personal Assembly member and Senator via email, and they are taking notice.  Thank you for your support.

Kevan Insko

P.S. Our all new website and online Action Center is finally here!

This is exceptionally good news – if it goes through. First, it will stop the barbaric practice of doling out life sentences to children. Secondly and moreover to my mind, is that it will restore the rights of the Press to interview prisoners. This is critical. As citizens, it is our right, privilege and responsibility to oversee our judicial system – and we can’t do that without a vibrant and unrestrained free Press.

The infamous lime green gas chamber at San Quentin, where all of California’s death sentences are carried out. Today the room is used for lethal injections; California abolished execution by poison gas in 1995.
Image courtesy of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. but I got it from http://civilliberty.about.com/od/capitalpunishment/ig/Types-of-Executions/Gas-Chamber-Executions.htm

The School to Prison Pipeline Is Even Bigger for the Deaf

This is an article published in the New York Times. It states that children with disabilities are more likely to be suspended from school, than are non-disabled students. But, they didn’t need a study to prove this. They just needed to read DeafInPrison.com. We’re well familiar with both the school to prison pipeline, and the difficulties disabled students – in particular, the Deaf – are faced with. They are often disproportionately punished, in both schools and in adult life.

According to a new analysis of Department of Education data, 13 percent of disabled students in kindergarten through 12th grade were suspended during the 2009-10 school year, compared with 7 percent of students without disabilities. Among black children with disabilities, which included those with learning difficulties, the rate was much higher: one out of every four was suspended at least once that school year.

Want to read more? Here’s the link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/08/education/analysis-examines-disabled-students-suspensions.html?nl=todaysheadlines&adxnnl=1&emc=tha23_20120808&adxnnlx=1344434486-xodqHeoT4VfB4e3f4d4s1g

Too Many Prisoners – From Prisonmovement’s Weblog

Image courtesy of Prisonmovement’s Weblog

This is a reblog of an article that appeared in Prisonmovement’s Weblog, over the weekend. For those of you not familiar with them, here’s what they say about themselves:

Against the death penalty; the United States Criminal Justice System is flawed, broken, yet fixable; Prison Reform and Sentencing Reform should be major agenda’s for each state- we need to stop warehousing prisoners and ready those who are going to parole.
Inmate rehabilitation improves public safety and lowers prison costs.
“We have to care because we can’t afford not to”.

DeafInPrison.com loves Prisonmovement’s Weblog, and we hope you enjoy this post.

Here’s the link.

http://prisonmovement.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/too-many-prisoners/

 

 

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