“But what is needed is more transparency, not less. The general public needs to understand what happens inside prisons – the good, the bad and the ugly – and to open a genuine dialogue around why, for the most part, prisons don’t work and, in many respects, represent the very antithesis of blind justice. Meanwhile, those inside prison need to know that they are not unspeakable, unacceptable or unseeable. They are real people, with feelings and voices and hopes and dreams, stuck in a pseudo-Victorian merry-go-round that is equal parts prison, madhouse and workhouse.”http://theconversation.com/inside-view-prison-crisis-will-continue-until-we-hear-inmates-stories-83735

State spending on colleges and universities has remained roughly flat, in inflation-adjusted dollars, since 1990. But spending on prisons has nearly doubled. There are now 18 states where taxpayers spend more on jails and prisons than they do on colleges and universities.

Surprise! Surprise! Illinois made the list!

Wonder Why Illinois is the first and only state to be at Junk Bond Status?

Illinois is currently one of the top 15 states in the nation when it comes to costs per prisoner for those who are incarcerated within the state. This is not one of the top 15 lists any state wants to be on. The amount of money spent on crime prevention seems to be lost on politicians who continue to push the agenda that everyone who commits a crime needs to be incarcerated. The numbers are really staggering when you put those figures into dollars and cents.

http://www.chicagonow.com/chicagos-real-law-blog/2017/06/it-costs-more-to-house-a-prisoner-in-illinois-than-to-send-them-to-depaul/

 

 

This is a copy of a recent article on prisons today:

In 2015, the National Lawyers Guild adopted a resolution calling for the dismantling and abolition of all prisons. As an organization, we recognized mass incarceration in all of its iterations—policing, violence, incarceration, forced labor, privatization and capitalism—as a crisis that we must resist in all of our work. Sharlyn Grace, then NLG Co-executive Vice President explained: “Calling for the abolition of this profit-motivated system that is designed to maintain racial and economic inequality while relying on individualized punishment as a primary response to social problems falls directly within our mission of protecting human rights over property interests.”

In the resolution, we commit to supporting grassroots organizing efforts, policy initiatives, and litigation that promotes or moves toward abolition, including the rights and organizing of prisoners, the de-funding and closure of prisons, redirection of prison and policing budgets into social services and re-entry support, legalization of drug use and sex work, release of prisoners serving life without parole and other inhumane sentences, decreased use of solitary confinement, and efforts to prevent construction of new prisons.

Over the past two years, we deepened this commitment by centering our jailhouse lawyer members, providing legal support to the National Prison Strike, organizing actions and events at law schools to call for an end to mass incarceration, and building with allied organizations such as Critical Resistance and Black and Pink to consider and address the inherent contradictions involved in working within the legal system towards a world without prisons. During this time, the problem of mass incarceration in the United States became a mainstream conversation often directly tied to its history of slavery and colonization. Racist policing came to the fore with the Black Lives Matter Movement and President Obama finally called for an end to the use of private prisons. However, mass incarceration continues to be a critical point of struggle in which the NLG works to intervene in various ways.

One aspect of the NLG’s mass incarceration work on a national scale is our connection with “jailhouse lawyers”, which refers to prisoners who learn to advocate for themselves and assist other prisoners in legal matters relating to their sentence, to their conditions in prison, or to civil matters of a legal nature. This is evident through a few different facets. One is our Prison Law Project, which sends out Jailhouse Lawyer Handbooks to prisoners upon request. Another is the work of our Mass Incarceration Committee, which has a group of volunteers who respond to all letters we receive from jailhouse lawyer members ranging from basic legal research to providing case law that is otherwise inaccessible on the inside. We maintain a website and include the column “Beyond Bars” in Guild Notes to highlight the voices of our jailhouse lawyer members, through letters they send describing what it’s like to do legal work behind bars and all the obstacles incurred in the process.  Finally, for the past two years, we have supported recently released jailhouse lawyer members through our Haywood Burns Fellowship Program.

We know that with every victory we have achieved over the decades, backlash can be expected. In 2017, we are facing an entirely different political landscape. Donald Trump was elected on a racist “law and order” campaign platform and immediately ordered a Muslim ban on entry to the United States, mandatory deportation for immigrants charged with minor quality of life offenses, the reinstatement of stop and frisk policing, and three executive orders protecting police officers. One of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ first actions was repealing the Department of Justice’s private prisons memo, as well as threatening to rollback protections for trans and gender non-conforming prisoners.

These are certainly scary times to organize and advocate, yet simultaneously we have seen the power of our communities to come together to resist this administration through a multitude of different strategies. From the mass mobilizations to shut down airports and demand the release of folks being held after the immigration ban to the wave of prisoner strikes and riots to cities committing to continue to provide safety and support to trans and gender non-conforming students in their school districts, we can see that people are ready to fight and resist this administration at every turn.

While we may feel fear, grief, anger and despair at the current conditions we are facing on our political landscape, now is the time for us to practice everyday abolition strategies as we continue to challenge the current fascist regime. This political moment is moving multiple movements into more conversation and strategic alignment, as we all face direct attack. The NLG has experienced a huge increase in donations and members since Trump was elected, demonstrating that there is still a broader commitment to social justice and finding solutions to ending mass incarceration.

 

 

 

Criminalization of Mental Illness Ought to be a Crime

 

A lack of mental health treatment options is a major contributing factor in the mass incarceration of people with mental illness in Massachusetts and across the country. The Treatment Advocacy Center in 2014 found data that “there are now 10 times more individuals with serious mental illness in prisons and jails than there are in state mental hospitals.

In a report from the Brennan Center for Justice, December, 2016
“Nearly 40 percent of the U.S. prison population — 576,000 people — are behind bars with no compelling public safety reason

This report finds the following: • Of the 1.46 million state and federal prisoners, an estimated 39 percent (approximately 576,000 people) are incarcerated with little public safety rationale. They could be more appropriately sentenced to an alternative to prison or a shorter prison stay, with limited impact on public safety. If these prisoners were released, it would result in cost savings of nearly $20 billion per year, and almost $200 billion over 10 years. This sum is enough to employ 270,000 new police officers, 360,000 probation officers, or 327,000 school teachers. It is greater than the annual budgets of the United States Departments of Commerce and Labor combined.33 • Alternatives to prison are likely more effective sentences for an estimated 364,000 lower-level offenders — about 25 percent of the current prison population. Research shows that prison does little to rehabilitate and can increase recidivism in such cases. Treatment, community 8 | Brennan Center for Justice service, or probation are more effective. For example, of the nearly 66,000 prisoners whose most severe crime is drug possession, the average sentence is over one year; these offenders would be better sentenced to treatment or other alternatives.34 • An estimated 212,000 prisoners (14 percent of the total population) have already served sufficiently long prison terms and could likely be released within the next year with little risk to public safety. These prisoners are serving time for the more serious crimes that make up 58 percent of today’s prison population — aggravated assault, murder, nonviolent weapons offenses, robbery, serious burglary, and serious drug trafficking. • Approximately 79 percent of today’s prisoners suffer from either drug addiction or mental illness, and 40 percent suffer from both.35 Alternative interventions such as treatment could be more effective sanctions for many of these individuals.

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