Sunday, April 29, 2007

For $82 a Day, Booking a Cell in a 5-Star Jail

It appears that the latest trend in corrections is providing a better class of jail cell for those who can afford to pay. Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times reports that a number of California jails offer "pay-to-stay" where, with court permission, one can lay down cash to get a cleaner, quieter and more private cell:

Many of the self-pay jails operate like secret velvet-roped nightclubs of the corrections world. You have to be in the know to even apply for entry, and even if the court approves your sentence there, jail administrators can operate like bouncers, rejecting anyone they wish.

"I am aware that this is considered to be a five-star Hilton," said Nicole Brockett, 22, who was recently booked into one of the jails, here in Orange County about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles, and paid $82 a day to complete a 21-day sentence for a drunken driving conviction.

Ms. Brockett, who in her oversize orange T-shirt and flip-flops looked more like a contestant on "The Real World" than an inmate, shopped around for the best accommodations,

"It’s clean here," she said, perched in a jail day room on the sort of couch found in a hospital emergency room. "It’s safe and everyone here is really nice. I haven’t had a problem with any of the other girls. They give me shampoo."

For roughly $75 to $127 a day, these convicts — who are known in the self-pay parlance as "clients" — get a small cell behind a regular door, distance of some amplitude from violent offenders and, in some cases, the right to bring an iPod or computer on which to compose a novel, or perhaps a song.

Many of the overnighters are granted work furlough, enabling them to do most of their time on the job, returning to the jail simply to go to bed (often following a strip search, which granted is not so five-star).
Still, a pay-to-stay cell will not be confused with the Ritz-Carlton, or even Motel 6:
The cells at Santa Ana are roughly the size of a custodial closet, and share its smell and ambience. Most have little more than a pink bottle of jail-issue moisturizer and a book borrowed from the day room. Lockdown can occur for hours at a time, and just feet away other prisoners sit with their faces pressed against cell windows, looking menacing.

Ms. Brockett, who normally works as a bartender in Los Angeles, said the experience was one she never cared to repeat.

"It does look decent," she said, "but you still feel exactly where you are."


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Comments Policy

The purpose of this site is to provide information and assistance to those working or interested in detention ministry. The purpose of comments here is to allow response, discussion and mutual assistance within the community of such persons online. But all communities have explicit and implicit rules to ensure their survival. The role of establishing and enforcing these rules is the job of yours truly, the Editor.

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News: 4/28/2007 (Weekend)


Opinion: 4/28/2007 (Weekend)


Friday, April 27, 2007

Chaplain expected riot at Indiana prison

Cara Reiter of NewsLink Indiana reports that this week's riot at New Castle Correctional Institution came as no surprise to Chaplain Michael Osborne:

"Everybody saw it coming, everybody from the top down to the lowest, and they pretended it wasn’t going to be there because what do you do?" Osborne said. "There was even a mock demonstration last week, and it didn’t even make the news because nobody was injured."

About 2 p.m. Tuesday, inmates at the New Castle prison rioted by burning mattresses and gathering outside the walls. The conflict is being blamed on tension between inmates from Indiana and a group that had been transported in from Arizona.

The Arizona inmates came to New Castle in spring, after Gov. Mitch Daniels agreed to accept 1,260 of them for $29.4 million.

Arizona inmates started to arrive at the facility on March 12. When they did, items such as tobacco, pornography and DVD players were confiscated. All of these had been allowed in Arizona.

As of Tuesday, the facility housed 630 Arizona inmates, all of whom were separated from Indiana inmates by a $97,000 fence installed prior to their arrival.

Osborne said he doesn't feel safe at the prison, where he volunteers as a way of doing "penance" as a recovering alcoholic.

"Have you heard the dribble that was on the news?" he said of the riot coverage. "They are making it sound like someone fell down and has scraped their knee. They are saying this is no big event. This is just a little uprising and it was no big deal. Only by the grace of God did the people not die today. Next time they will."


Time Running Out For 'Safe Surrender'

A program called "Safe Surrender", based at an Indianapolis church, is coming to an end this week. Its intention was to offer a safe place for nonviolent offenders to turn themselves in:

About 200 people have taken advantage of the program, in which people wanted for nonviolent felony and misdemeanor warrants can go to Messiah Missionary Baptist Church to report to authorities.

The church has been converted into a neighborhood community corrections center, complete with courtrooms and public defenders.

The program, which runs until 5 p.m. Friday and again on Saturday, could be the last chance for some of the 25,000 wanted individuals to turn themselves in and have a chance for a break.

The U.S. Marshals Office said those who don't take advantage of Fugitive Safe Surrender will be targeted in a warrant sweep and lose an opportunity for leniency.
(WRTV Indianapolis)


News: 4/27/2007 (AM)


Thursday, April 26, 2007

News: 4/26/2007 (PM)


Outside lawyers hired for probe of anti-Islamic tracts at jail

Suzan Clarke of the Lower Hudson Journal News continues her reporting on the case of a Rockland County jail chaplain accused of handing out tracts that insult Muslims. The investigation will be handled by outside attorneys:

Local Muslims called for the Rev. Teresa Darden Clapp's dismissal after they learned of allegations she distributed booklets that condemned Islam and contained derogatory depictions and descriptions of Allah and the Prophet Muhammad, including characterizing Allah as an "idol" and devil and Muhammad as a criminal and a "religious dictator."

Last week, the county's Law Department referred the investigation into the chaplain's actions to outside attorneys to maintain the integrity of the investigation and avoid any possible conflict, Rockland County Sheriff James Kralik said yesterday.

"Whatever my part in it, it's going to be totally impartial, I can guarantee that," he said. "This is going to be something that we're going to take a good, honest look at. When we have conclusions, they'll be based on fact."

The attorneys, Kevin J. Plunkett and Darius P. Chafizadeh of Thacher, Proffitt and Wood in White Plains, are expected to have some answers soon, Kralik said.

"We'll hope to have something by next week, but I'm just going to wait until they do it right, that's the most important thing," he said.

Clapp was suspended with pay April 12. She will continue to be paid until the investigation indicates otherwise, Kralik said.


Church leaders see opportunity in proposed prison facility

Joan Gandy of the Natchez Democrat interviews local clergymen on a proposed commercial facility for federal prisoners in their area. Fr. David O’Connor, pastor at St. Mary Basilica and Assumption Catholic Church, responded that prisons are a part of society and must be accepted as such:

“It’s an amazing opportunity for ministry, as well," O’Connor said. "I’ve been to Woodville many, many times. Those people need ministry in a big way. We can help them find direction with their lives." O’Connor referred to the federal prison built in Wilkinson County near Woodville, where several Natchez churches have regular ministries among the inmates.

The Wilkinson County facility is a Corrections Corporation of America prison. CCA is seeking a site to build a prison in Natchez, estimating that it will house 1,500 mostly nonviolent inmates.The prison is estimated to be a $90 million construction project. When completed, it would employ about 300 people.

O’Connor said the jobs are important. "If a prison brings jobs to the community, I’m in favor of that," he said. The Rev. Steve Pearson, pastor at Community Chapel Church of God, agreed. "I’m for the prison for several reasons — first of all, for all the job opportunities," he said. "The economic opportunity is tremendous, and it’s long term." Pearson also believes a community that has a prison has a chance to offer special ministries within the prison.


NZ government asks for review of communion wine ban

New Zealand government leader are seeking a way out of the controversy caused recently when prison officials there banned communion wine for Catholic inmates, based on a new law:

From 1999 Catholics were granted an exemption to bring communion wine into prisons, but that was recently revoked as it was deemed to be inconsistent with the new Act.

The ban has outraged Catholics, who say it is a denial of religious freedom.
Public Prisons Service head Harry Hawthorn told the NZ Catholic newspaper the Act allowed no discretion.

But Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor today said he had been told legislative change was not necessary to achieve a solution.

NZPA understood a possible solution was Catholic priests being allowed to bring communion wine into prisons and drink it to celebrate mass, so long as prisoners did not partake of the wine.

"The ban is clearly an unintended consequence of the Act. I understand a legislative change is not required and I hope we can continue to accommodate the invaluable services of the church through the prison system," Mr O'Connor said.


News: 4/26/20007 (AM)


Opinion: 4/26/2007


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

When true love knows no boundaries

Lisa Britton of the Baker City Herald reports on weddings in Oregon prisons, in particular Powder River Correctional Facility:

Two couples — Baley and Manning, and Veronica Barnett and Timothy Bender — said their "I dos" Monday. Inmate weddings are held twice a year, on the fourth Mondays in April and October.

"There's usually at least three who request weddings, but they usually don't follow through," said Roger Haefer, chaplain at PRCF.

On Monday, 67 inmate marriages were performed across Oregon, said Aleca Nelson, public information officer at Two Rivers Correctional Institution in Umatilla.
To be eligible, inmates must submit a "request for marriage" form for approval at least six weeks prior to the marriage date.

The inmate marriage policy for the Department of Corrections reads: "An incarcerated inmate may be permitted to marry someone of the opposite sex, including another inmate, provided that the marriage is legal, would not present a threat to the safe, secure and orderly operation of a Department of Corrections facility, and would not jeopardize public safety."


News: 4/25/2007


Opinion: 4/25/2007


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

News: 4/24/2006 (PM)


Legal pressure for jail baptisms

According to a Liberty Counsel press release, the Curry County Detention Center (New Mexico) will now allow a local ministry to baptise six inmates in a portable pool:

The prison ministry of the Sixteenth & Pile Church of Christ contacted Liberty Counsel for assistance after Warden Leslie Johnson and county officials refused to permit baptism by immersion at the local detention center. The ministry offered to provide a mobile baptismal tank in a secure area of the facility and to pay any additional security costs. Ministry leaders also advised the warden that a prison ministry in neighboring Portales, New Mexico, had utilized a similar procedure without incident.

Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter to the warden and the county explaining that failure to allow the baptisms violated the inmates' constitutional right to free exercise of religion and also violated the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000. The county continued to emphatically refuse to allow the baptisms, until the prison ministry warned the warden that it was serious about pursuing the matter further and advised the county that a federal lawsuit by Liberty Counsel was unavoidable.
H/T to Religion Clause


Parishioner provides job training to the incarcerated

Well, it's not what one might think of first regarding prison ministry, but Bob Mattucci credits his Catholic faith as the foundation for his work teaching inmates plumbing. Claudia Mathis of the (Syracuse) Catholic Sun (New York) writes that Mattucci worked as a plumber for 22 years, then became a vocational education teacher. His intention was to create a program for local schools to fill in the gap formed as plumbers retired without replacements:

Mattucci said he got into the corrections field by accident. After being marketed, his program was rejected by all of the public school vocational education programs in the Syracuse region. But Mattucci was determined to find a way to put his training program into practice. After researching education in correctional facilities, Mattucci learned that there was a void in education programs in the corrections system and that educating the inmates could reverse the likelihood of re-incarceration.

Mattucci contemplated what a plumbing curriculum could potentially offer to the incarcerated individuals. His training program was designed to foster success and focus on motivation, decision-making, respectful environment and teamwork as a foundation for change. He saw his program as an experience that might motivate those in prison to contribute to society in a positive way. Tim Gangemi, a fellow parishioner at St. Margaret’s, thinks Mattucci’s training program is a wonderful idea. "I also think some of the other skilled trades like carpentry and masonry should be taught to the inmates," he said.

Taking into consideration the many barriers associated with working within the prison system, Mattucci developed a plan for three phases of inmate education that would build the students’ commitment and responsibility over time while rewarding them with immediate successes in the classroom. Phase I consisted of an eight-session program while in prison; phase II included a 42-session program for after they were released and phase III included admission to a plumber’s union as second-year apprentices.

Convinced of the value of his training program, Mattucci persisted, presenting his program to the education coordinator at the Onondaga County Department of Correction facility in Jamesville, N.Y. in 2000. Mattucci taught the training program in the evening at the Jamesville facility from 2000 to 2002.
(via Catholic Online)


News: 4/24/2007 (AM)


Opinion: 4/24/2007


Monday, April 23, 2007

News: 4/23/2007 (PM)


Prisoner free exercise decisions

Howard Fineman has his weekly list of recent prisoner free exercise decisions posted -- always a must read for detention ministers.


Pa. state prison populations growing old

There are a number of significant challenges currently to corrections work in general and detention ministry in particular. One is the growing number of older inmates. Mark Houser of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports on the case of 76 year old Marilyn Devine, convicted of bank robbery:

Across the country, prisons house more elderly inmates than ever before. Pennsylvania incarcerated a record 606 inmates ages 65 or older in 2006, up from fewer than 200 in 1990, according to the state Department of Corrections.

And with 5,500 inmates ages 50 to 64 -- baby boomers behind bars -- the state's prisons are set to grow even grayer in the next decade.

Cases such as Devine's bedevil legal experts and policy makers, who want to temper mercy with justice.

Raymond Devine, 79, said putting his wife behind bars "would be a disaster for both of us."
His wife pleaded guilty to using an unloaded pistol last year to rob a bank because her son threatened suicide unless she gave him money. The charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 34 years. Many, including members of a committee reviewing the state's policy on elderly prisoners, would like to see a suspended sentence. Others disagree:
Scott Thornsley, the Mansfield University of Pennsylvania criminal justice professor who headed the state committee, said Devine's age shouldn't entitle her to a "get out of jail free" card.

"I know full well that she could die in prison, and that's unfortunate. But we must have consequences," Thornsley said.

The consequences for aged inmates can be acute.

"Prisons primarily have always been built for younger inmates, for the sturdy and the strong, with concrete and steel. And now you're seeing inmates that are frail, in wheelchairs and in walkers, needing oxygen. Prisons really aren't prepared to deal with that, nor is society ready to pay for this cost," said Ronald Aday, a Middle Tennessee State University professor and author of "Aging Prisoners: Crisis in American Corrections."

A combination of factors is at work, Aday said. A growing senior population in society means more potential elderly criminals. Mandatory sentences and a waning use of medical parole keep old inmates in jail who in the past might have been released, Aday said.


Authorities fear prisoners plotting jail break during prayers

There is some controversy today in Australia over prison authorities breaking up what is described as a plot to escape under the guise of an Islamic religious group. Bassam Hamzy has been moved from the Super Max facility at Goulburn jail to another high security facility, and contact with him has been restricted. The 12 prisoner group had been nicknamed the "Super Max Jihadists" due to their putting pictures of Osama bin Laden on their walls, shaving their heads and growing long beards. This move is not meeting with universal approval, however.

Paula Kruger of Australian (ABC) radio's The World Today reports that Hamzy is serving time for murder:

PAULA KRUGER: While at Goulburn's Supermax gaol, he became a religious leader and converted more than a dozen high-security prisoners to Islam. The New South Wales Minister for Justice John Hatzistergos says prisoners embracing religion doesn't usually cause alarm.

JOHN HATZISTERGOS: Indeed, a lot of inmates find religion when they come to prison, and in many ways we support that because that could assist them in their rehabilitation, and also assist them in dealing with their incarceration.Where we do draw the line is where that conversion or where that taking up, embracement of a religion is really just a camouflage for other activities which threaten the good order and security of the system.

PAULA KRUGER: According to prison authorities, suspicion was raised after Bassam Hamzy became a very influential religious figure, and was getting money from the outside to pay other inmates to pray. An investigation also found there were plans for an escape.

JOHN HATZISTERGOS: This case had been monitored for quite some time. A lot of intelligence was gathered and other law enforcement authorities were called in to assist. And the monitoring has enabled us to piece together what appears to be a carefully orchestrated plan.
Kruger also presented an opposing viewpoint:
PAULA KRUGER: . . . Brett Collins is a spokesperson for Justice Action, a group that monitors abuses of authority. He says he doubts the high level of risk these prisoners are said to pose.

BRETT COLLINS: Look, what's happening at the moment is an attempt to frighten the public. I mean, it's all a big lie they parade, you know, 10 photos and they say that they've ... it's the greatest threat that they've ever encountered. They're a danger to people.Now, that's ridiculous. It's intended to frighten us and to justify what they're doing inside the prisons. Every now and then they parade whoever is inside the gaol, whether it's Ivan Milat or these boys, and they say, "Look how dangerous they are and look how we're protecting you".I mean, the truth of it is that they've spent $70-million on an institution for just 37 people. A massive amount of money and to talk about escape is just ridiculous. I mean, they haven't even got any natural air or sufficient light. So, to talk in terms of needing, you know, greater security all these ... well, there's a concern ... what should be concerning to us is quite wrong.I mean, to be quite honest, if these people had converted to Christianity, they'd be probably seen on their way to release, probably allowed out. But because its Islam, they're seen as extremely dangerous, and look, these are all the buttons they're trying to trigger in the public and that's all we're seeing and I hope that the public can see that.


News: 4/23/2007 (AM)


Opinion: 4/23/2007


Sunday, April 22, 2007

When actions defy logic

In the NZ Herald, Jim Hopkins examines current crime issues in light of the experience of his father, a prison chaplain:

Prison chaplains were a novelty 45 years ago and Dad was one of the first. Being your standard, smug adolescent, convinced that age and incompetence were synonymous, I didn't appreciate how fit he was for the job.

I do now. He knew what it was to be a prisoner. He'd been one. An army padre during World War II, he was captured after choosing to stay with wounded soldiers in Crete and spent the next four years as a prisoner of war.

In 1945, with thousands of others, many weak and ill, he'd been marched across Germany, away from the Russians. When soldiers died on the side of the road, he was there.

When men said they couldn't keep going, he told them they could. When there was bread to break, he broke it.

Not that I heard about that from him - or very little, anyway. It was other people - some at the prison - who remembered those things.

But they were experiences which helped him to help those who were Her Majesty's unwilling guests at Paparua.

Forty-five years ago there wasn't a mighty task force of highly trained Corrections staff assiduously overseeing the William Bells and Graeme Burtons of this world. There wasn't much of anything, really.

When inmates convicted of serious crimes neared the end of their 10, 15 or 20-year sentences, the thought occurred that a little reintegration might be advisable.

So, at weekends, prisoners convicted of assault, burglary, rape, manslaughter or murder would arrive to mow the lawn, dig the garden, repair a fence then - often with surprising diffidence and timidity - join us for a meal.

Sometimes, Dad would tell us something of their crime and its causes. Talking to violent offenders, he'd noticed a pattern. Nearly all of them had, as children, been regularly beaten, often with wood or lengths of wire.


Inmate therapy program tackles mental health issues

Nicole Formosa of the Summit Daily News profiles a pair of mental health professionals, Storm Johnson and Susan Toys, who are volunteering to provide basic therapy at the Summit County Jail:

In 2005, more than half of all prison and jail inmates had a mental health problem, including 479,900 people locked in local jails, according to a Bureau of Justice report.

From what Johnson's seen, most often, people living with diseases like depression, bipolar disorder and post traumatic stress syndrome self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, then wind up behind bars because of DUIs, drug possession charges or violence-related crimes.

"There isn't anybody in our group who has not admitted to substance abuse - period," she said.

The inmates sober up while serving time, but fall back into the same habits upon release and usually end up with a new jail sentence."They go from 90 days to 180 days to 240 days," Johnson said. "They never seem to get out of the system once they're in it."

"It's a serious problem, and it's a serious problem everywhere because there aren't enough mental health resources," said Summit County Jail Capt. Dave Suter.

Without funding available, volunteer work is pretty much the only option to address the issue.

Johnson, who has 25 years experience in the therapy field and runs a private practice locally, started the pro bono mental health therapy support group in January with hopes to steer inmates toward a better track in life. Toys, a therapist who relocated to the county from Louisiana about 18 months ago, signed on in February.

The idea stemmed from Johnson's experience working with police on a similar program when she was living in Chicago. With the help of Colorado West Mental Health, Johnson wrote a proposal and presented it to Sheriff John Minor, who's spoken often about the need to get proper treatment for people suffering with mental illnesses and prevent them from landing in the jail.
The program includes referrals to low cost therapy options upon release.


Opinion: 4/22/2007 (Weekend)


Friday, April 20, 2007

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Call for inquiry over communition wine in prison

The issue of communion wine in prisons is causing controversy in New Zealand. Political party leader Peter Dunne is calling for a human rights investigation of a prison adminstration decision to bar communion wine:

Harry Hawthorn, the head of the Public Prisons Service, confirmed that Communion wine cannot be taken into prisons and said the department has "no discretion" in allowing an exemption to the Corrections Act 2004.

The Act prohibits unauthorised items, including "any drug, alcohol, or other intoxicating substance", from being taken into prisons.

"The last thing Parliament had in mind when passing the legislation in 2004 was banning the celebration of Mass in prisons, and it is stretching logic and common sense beyond any reasonable bounds to imply otherwise," Mr Dunne said.

"The Bill of Rights upholds all New Zealanders' rights to freedom of worship, wherever they may be, and to deny prison inmates the opportunity to go to Mass if they wish is a denial of their basic human rights."

Said Mr Dunne: "I will be raising the matter with the Human Rights Commission. If this decision is allowed to stand it will make a complete mockery of the recent statement on supporting religious diversity."
(New Zealand Press Association)


Suffering witness to faith, says jailed Vietnamese priest's brother

A Perth man whose brother, Fr Nguyen Van Ly, was recently sentenced by a Vietnamese court to eight years for political activities, says that the dissident priest has converted many people to Catholicism, including prisoners and guards, during his many years in prison.

'He has said that going to jail, for him, is a chance to convert people and baptise them,' Fr Ly's older brother Nguyen Hoang An told the Perth Record.

Vietnamese prisons do not allow inmates to be visited by priests, An told The Record through an interpreter. An has lived in Australia since 1983 but speaks little English.

An said that during Fr Ly's long years in jail he has converted many prisoners and prison guards to the Catholic faith.

Fr Ly, who has already spent 14 years in Vietnamese prisons - much of it in solitary confinement, was recently sentenced to eight more years in jail.

Fr Ly and four pro-democracy lay Catholic activists were jailed after speaking against Vietnam's one-party government.

Though there has been speculation about the mental effect such intense incarceration might have had on Fr Ly, An said his brother is mentally strong and that his frequent prayer to God while in jail acts as a preventative against mental deterioration."
(Catholic News)


Prison ministers take the word behind bars

Raymond Cordani writes in the Florida Catholic about the work of the Diocese of Orlando Criminal Justice Office, which coordinates prison and jail ministries in that nine county area. The office trains volunteers that visit facilities:

Seminarian Ben Lehnertz had never visited the inside of a correctional facility. He spent the first half of the summer teaching Bible camp to students at San Pedro Center in Winter Park. After Bible camp ended, he shifted gears into prison ministry when he was assigned to aid Connelly at the Coleman Correctional Complex.

Lehnertz recalled visiting the prison and said the setting reminded him of the movie "The Shawshank Redemption," but the prisoners he met contradicted his image of men and women behind bars.

"The group came in. They were smiling. They shook my hand. They were easy to talk to. I thought they would be socially inept, but it really allowed me to see them as people, not as objects or animals. They’re not caged because they’re bad people. They’re good people who have done bad things."

Lehnertz said a prisoner told him, "God wants me here for a reason." Afterward, the seminarian figured out what it was: to save the prisoners from themselves.
For Lehnertz, working with prisoners made him realize how important it is to reach out as a priest. Ministering to felons offered him a broader perspective of the church and his role as a future priest.

"The duty of the priest is to go beyond the parish," he said. "When a priest is ordained, he’s not just given the people of the parish. He’s given the people in the area. It’s allowing me to see the boundaries are bigger than I thought. The parish is much bigger than the four walls of the church."


News: 4/19/2007 (PM)


Creative Rehabilitation

Programs in California prisons include training in creative arts, with a rehabilitative purpose. Erin Harrington of City on a Hill Press writes of Kenny Hill, who for many years taught guitar making to prisoners:

“It makes the environment more humane,” Hill said of arts rehabilitation programs. “It gives the participants something to focus on.”

The course is a part of the Arts in Corrections Program (ACP), a rehabilitative art program instituted in each of the 32 California state prisons. Santa Cruz jails also hold art workshops similar to the Arts in Corrections program, with the purpose of providing a venue for dialogue and creative development.

Research shows that the ACP has been beneficial to prisoners. According to a study conducted by San Jose State Professor Lawrence Brewster, the ACP has had a drastic impact. His findings showed that for prisoners who were involved in the program, there was a 75 percent reduction in disciplinary write-ups (based on a period from the three months before a person is imprisoned to the three months after leaving the prison). As well as a decrease in write-ups, 63 percent of prisoners in the program were less likely to re-offend after two years than the average inmate.
According to Hill, it is essential that the rehabilitation programs continue to exist, even if solely to keep the prison environment stable for inmates and employees.
“Although the idea of prison is to make your life miserable for the time you’re in prison, it actually makes prison a more functional environment for everybody,” Hill
explained. “Prison is a world unto itself. One of the things that I think people on the outside don’t understand is that that world needs to function fairly smoothly.”

Despite proven rehabilitative qualities, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) decided that, because of a lack of funding, the ACP simply had to be cut. Along with arts programs in Santa Cruz jails, the ACP now has to rely entirely on outside funding in order to keep creativity and expression alive within prison walls.


News: 4/19/07 (AM)

H/T to Corrections Connection




Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A convict turned crusader

Anna Maynard in the Ashburton Guardian (New Zealand) writes about Jackie Katounas, who spent most of her adult life in and out of Australian prisons. When she returned to New Zealand, she was arrested for recieving property stolen from someone she knew.:

"I had been completely oblivious to the fact that I was hurting people before. You just do it (the crime) and get over it."

Ms Katounas went to see the victim and he extended his forgiveness to her.This had been unexpected and caused her to think about her life and who she was. That introspection saw her make a positive change, towards working as a facilitator for restorative justice.

Now, Ms Katounas likes to be up front about her past so as not to cause confusion while she educates people on restorative justice and her part in it. In 2003, she became the Restorative Justice Services manager for Prison Fellowship.

Because of her own past experiences, Ms Katounas is passionate about her job."I just love it, absolutely love it. It’s my very purpose for getting up in the morning. You never know what the day’s going to bring."

She mentors facilitators throughout New Zealand and supervises the implementation of the Sycamore Tree programme - a restorative justice programme of organised meetings between victims and offenders- throughout 14 prisons. "It’s quite magic really. I'm not the process, I'm just guiding it," she said.

She said the meetings are usually more for the offender, as apologising is the start of change. "Forgiveness doesn’t delete the event. I think there’s a song about how saying sorry is the hardest thing."


Counselor touches lives behind jail bars

Lisa Roose-Church of the Livingston Press & Argus (Michigan) profiles Dawn Gaden, the newest mental health professional at Livingston County Jail:

Once in private practice, Gaden, a mental health professional, has been working with Livingston County Jail inmates since March. A typical day includes interacting with any inmates on suicide watch and taking referrals from the jail's medical staff who are seeking psychological evaluations of inmates.

Over the long run, Gaden will help the jail create more social programs for its inmate population, such as anger management counseling, in an effort to help reacclimate an inmate to the county when released. She also provides inmates resource referrals, such as housing.

"I see her having an impact on the whole community," said sheriff's Lt. Tom Cremonte, jail administrator. "This is a big thing for the department, and you will see some good things happening."

Gaden earned a bachelor's degree from Michigan State University and a master's from Oakland University. She is a nationally certified counselor, certified in complementary medicine and wellness or a holistic approach to wellness.

She has worked with children using creative play and art therapy techniques, as well as with adults, individuals and couples.

"People are interesting to me," Gaden said. "The way we think; the way we do things; how we cope. I enjoy helping people find new ways to cope.

"When we begin to feel hopeless, there is a light that, indeed, we have choices and control over our own lives," she added. "Knowing what to do when your thoughts consume you ... gives you clarity."


News: 4/18/2007 (AM)


Opinion: 4/18/2007


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

News: 4/17/2007 (PM)


Baptism at Monroe County Jail

Adam Bennet of the Monroe News (Michigan) writes of a group of women baptized last Friday at the Monroe County Jail. One was 23 year old Lindsey Enbody, who was pushed to change by grief over the death of her mother last year and the emptiness of a six-month stint in jail:

"I'm ready," she said. "I was ready to give my life over to God and this is a new start."

Set in a stuffy jail classroom with a horse trough filled with water, Ms. Enbody and 17 other women received the religious rite during the ceremony. Set in a stuffy jail classroom, the women one by one were dipped under the water by jail ministry volunteer Sharon Henscheid.

A member of Solid Rock Church of Dundee, Ms. Henscheid ministers to the female inmates each Friday night. She said the ministry has been a calling for her and a guiding light for the women that have landed in jail for their troubled pasts.

But the stigma that comes with a criminal record doesn't keep the women from wanting and needing a better way in life, she said. "You can't think of it like that," Ms. Henscheid said. "They are people that need to find God's grace."


News: 4/17/2007 (AM)


Opinion: 4/17/2007


Monday, April 16, 2007

San Quentin education work results in award

Jody Lewen has only been out of college a few years, but she already making a big difference in the lives of prisoners at California's San Quentin Prison. She is director of the Patten University extension site at the prison, a unique program for California that allows prisoners to get an Associate of Arts degree in liberal arts. For that work Lewin will receive next week UC Berkeley's Haas Public Service Award.

While studying for her Ph.D. in rhetoric at Berkeley in 2002, Lewen became a volunteer instructor with the AA-degree college program at San Quentin. After years of immersion in literary theory, working behind bars at first came as a shock to her.

Subconsciously, she says, she expected the prisoners to be callous if not sadistic — yet inside San Quentin's gates she met intelligent, compassionate, and funny men.

It was this contrast that has inspired Lewen's efforts to not only provide quality education behind bars but to work with diverse interest groups toward genuine reform of California's prison system — which with nearly 173,000 inmates has the largest state prison population in the nation (with the highest post-release recidivism rate).

"Changing the criminal justice system has everything to do with how we perceive criminals,' Lewen says. 'We tend to oversimplify people in prison as evil incarnate, but they are human beings with complex, diverse histories, characters, emotions, and thoughts. They may seem like an abstraction, but they deal with the same life issues we do."

Lewen faces a litany of daily obstacles in her work: a shoestring budget, space constraints, heavy dependence on donated books, and a history of antagonism between key groups she interacts with, such as the prison guards' union and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

"Historically, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association has not engaged in significant dialog with other interest groups," says Chuck Alexander, executive vice president of the CCPOA. "Thanks solely to Dr. Lewen and her zeal for an improved correctional system, we now meet regularly."
This free program enables prisoners (68 so far, come June) to earn a degree. The program was created after a 1994 congressional act excluded prisoners from receiving Pell Grants, the program is funded through the Prison University Project, which Lewen founded and directs.(UC Berkeley NewsCenter)


News: 4/16/2007 (PM)


Recent RLUIPA and free exercise cases

Professor Howard Friedman this morning has some interesting information on recent free exercise cases on his essential (to those in prison and jail ministry) blog Religion Clause. He features this quote from Wisconsin federal district judge Barbara Crabb's recent decision in Perez v. Frank, where a Muslim prisoner sucessfully claimed that various corrections officials had prevented him from freely practicing his faith. Crabb analyzes the difference between claims based on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) and the free exercise religion clause of the First Amendment:

Although both the free exercise clause and RLUIPA protect religious "exercise," each defines religious exercise in a slightly different way. Under RLUIPA, a "religious exercise" is "any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief."... In other words, RLUIPA protects individual acts of piety, regardless of their centrality. By contrast, the free exercise clause is concerned with the macrocosm of belief: so long as a believer's ability to freely practice his faith (rather than engage in all possible expressions of his faith) is not substantially burdened, the free exercise clause is not violated (hence the requirement that a belief be "central" before it can fall within the ambit of the free exercise clause....

Despite the technical differences between the types of religious exercise protected by each law, courts frequently fail to differentiate between the central practices protected by the free exercise clause and the wider variety of practices protected by statutes such as RLUIPA. The reason for this is fairly apparent. Courts are poorly positioned to decide which religious practices are "central" to any given faith tradition or any given believer; therefore, increasingly free exercise jurisprudence has emphasized deference to individuals' professed beliefs, so long as there is no reason to doubt their sincerity.....

So what, then, is the practical difference between a free exercise claim and a claim arising under RLUIPA? It appears that the answer is "not much," at least insofar as the "substantial burden" requirement is concerned.
Professor Fineman also lists recent prisoner free-exercise cases of particular interest.


Priest urges prisoners to make Easter commitment to reject violence

Helping prisoners confront the violence they may have individually caused is a basic part of prison ministry. But some ministers, such as Father Francisco Barreto, also have to deal with the results of violence arising from social or political conflict:Father Barreto is the face of the Catholic Church's prison ministry for men in Catholic-majority Timor Leste (East Timor). He is a familiar visitor at the small, damp Indonesian-built facility in Becora, Dili, where prisoners are cramped four or five to a cell.

Many of them have been convicted or charged with violence and possession of weapons in civil unrest last year, when 'easterners' and 'westerners' battled with machetes, guns, and bows and arrows on the streets of the capital.

Father Barreto told the men gathered in the prison chapel, where he offers Mass every Sunday, that it is important especially during Easter to reflect, confess and forgive.

According to the priest, the judicial process is slow and many of those charged are awaiting trial. One such prisoner is Luis Viegas, 36, who was detained nearly a year ago during the unrest that erupted in April. He told UCA News after the Mass that he missed celebrating Easter with his family.

H/T to The Indian Catholic.


Chains of Love

Siobhan O'Connor writes in GOOD Magazine about the problems facing marriages with prison inmates, and efforts to strenthen inmate marriages:

Faith-based groups have been doing similar work in prisons for decades. Sometimes called Marriage Encounters, these weekend marriage seminars are hosted by several guards, the prison chaplain, and volunteer instructors, like Wayne and Marcia Kessler in Las Vegas. "The first thing we do," says Marcia, "is teach about talking on a feeling level and how feelings are different from thoughts and judgments. That no feeling is right or wrong. Anger isn’t wrong, but smacking someone is."

The programs implemented in Oklahoma, a pioneering state for prison marriage classes, are a different animal altogether. Based on curricula co-created by Howard Markman, a researcher at the University of Denver, these classes are by and large the same as marriage classes offered to non-inmates. In five years, more than 1,000 Oklahoma inmates have voluntarily participated, many of them with their wives. "Inmates tell me they love the program because it actually allows them to do something for their marriage," says JoAnne Eason, the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative’s vice president of special projects. "There is so little they can do for the marriage while they are incarcerated. They look at it like, I want my relationship to last. I know most relationships do not last through incarceration, and so if there is something I can do to make this last and if my partner is really willing, then I want to do this.’" Some studies cite a prison divorce rate as high as 80 percent within the first year.

While data is still being evaluated, Markman says, "So far, [inmates] are happier with their relationships, handle conflict better, and are seemingly extending some of those conflict-management skills to other aspects of their life inside prison. … I certainly think overall the goal is that we will be able to reduce the recidivism rate if we do this on a large scale."

"We are not out there encouraging people to go out and get married," says Eason. "If we can help people who were married when they came in or want to get married, and this is the most important thing to an inmate to avoid recidivism, that sounds like a good thing." Few would disagree that reducing the country’s recidivism rate should be a national priority; the issue, rather, is how the government attempts to do that. For the marriage initiative’s critics, the issue isn’t Should inmates get married, but Should the government be spending taxpayer dollars teaching them, and tens of thousands of non-incarcerated men, to listen and talk better? A recent report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicated that marriage classes in prison are still a contentious issue, and many women feel there are more immediate changes—cheaper phone calls, longer visits, better access to information—that would make their lives and marriages a whole lot easier.
H/T to BOP Watchdog.


News: 4/16/2007 (AM)