A Life Sentence For Pot? Not if Beth Curtis Can Help It

by Daniel A. Rosen | 79-year-old Beth Curtis has been nicknamed the "Mother Theresa of Pot Prisoners" for good reason. The self-described "incessant nag" has lobbied for years on behalf of those sentenced to life for marijuana offenses. She founded the website LifeforPot.com in 2009 to advocate for clemency for her brother John and people … Continue reading A Life Sentence For Pot? Not if Beth Curtis Can Help It

Justice Delayed in California Jails

by Daniel A. Rosen | In the most comprehensive accounting to date of California's pretrial detention population, a recent CalMatters investigation found 8,600 inmates who'd been jailed for more than a year, and 1,300 jailed longer than three years without being tried or sentenced. More than a quarter of those 1,300 have actually been incarcerated … Continue reading Justice Delayed in California Jails

Financing for New Alabama Prison Construction Scuttled After Backlash

by Daniel A. Rosen | The construction of two massive new prisons in Alabama, to be built privately but leased and operated by the State corrections department, has hit financial roadblocks that may lead to the plan's demise. As of May, 2021, every element of the financing for the two new mega-prisons slated to hold … Continue reading Financing for New Alabama Prison Construction Scuttled After Backlash

Architects Question Whether Building “More Humane” Prisons is Possible

by Daniel A. Rosen | Does more fresh air, sunlight, and space for rehabilitative programs mean a prison or jail is more humane? That's the question many architects are struggling with as expensive new facilities are built around the country. Architecture and design may be able to play a key role in criminal justice reform … Continue reading Architects Question Whether Building “More Humane” Prisons is Possible

Louisiana Law School Counts Deaths Behind Bars Because State Won’t

by Daniel A. Rosen | At jails, prisons, and detention centers across Louisiana, in-custody deaths are not always made public. The state doesn't have a requirement to officially report on deaths behind bars, unlike many other states. As a result of this knowledge gap, the Loyola University law school has undertaken an effort to do … Continue reading Louisiana Law School Counts Deaths Behind Bars Because State Won’t

Illinois First State to Abolish Cash Bail

by Daniel A. Rosen | Illinois has become the first state in the country to completely eliminate the use of cash bail. The bill signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker in February of 2021 was the result of a years-long effort by over 100 reform organizations, legislators, and the House Legislative Black Caucus to end a … Continue reading Illinois First State to Abolish Cash Bail

Massachusetts Medical Parole Avoids In-Custody Deaths From Covid

by Daniel A. Rosen | Joseph Messere, a 68-year-old prisoner in Massachusetts, was just days away from death last December when his attorney got a phone call from state officials. The Parole Board and state corrections agency told David Apfel "we really want your client released as soon as possible." It was a remarkable change … Continue reading Massachusetts Medical Parole Avoids In-Custody Deaths From Covid

Virginia Settles Two Lawsuits Over Misuse of Solitary Confinement

by Daniel A. Rosen | The Commonwealth of Virginia recently settled two outstanding lawsuits alleging the abuse of solitary confinement. Taken together, the payouts cost the state's taxpayers over a quarter million dollars. In a year when Virginia's General Assembly made progress on other justice issues - abolishing the death penalty, legalizing marijuana, and restoring … Continue reading Virginia Settles Two Lawsuits Over Misuse of Solitary Confinement

Alabama Jails and Inmates Facing COVID-Related Challenges

by Daniel A. Rosen | Like local jails and prisons across the country, Alabama's carceral system is being sorely tested by COVID-19 - and inmates are paying the price. For weeks, Dylan Garrard fell asleep on a thin foam mat on the floor of his jail cell, next to a toilet. The two bunks in … Continue reading Alabama Jails and Inmates Facing COVID-Related Challenges

Hundreds of Virginia Inmates Await Parole Consideration Under New Law

by Daniel A. Rosen | In 1995, during a tough-on-crime era across the country, Virginia abolished parole entirely, along with several other states. But it wasn't until 2000 that jurors sentencing defendants were told of that change. As a result, jurors may have recommended more prison time, incorrectly believing offenders would only serve a fraction … Continue reading Hundreds of Virginia Inmates Await Parole Consideration Under New Law

ICE Holding Cuban Detainee for 11 Years and Counting Following Florida Prison Release

by Daniel A. Rosen | Heriberto Delvalle's story sounds like a Kafka novel, but it's sadly true. After serving his 15-year sentence for attempted murder in a Florida state prison, he was detained by federal immigration officials, and remains there to this day - almost 12 years later. The 70-year-old Cuban man has now spent … Continue reading ICE Holding Cuban Detainee for 11 Years and Counting Following Florida Prison Release

The Prison Music Project Brings Inmates’ Stories to Life in Song

by Daniel A. Rosen | Folsom Prison was once the setting for an iconic musical performance, when Johnny Cash first played live there in 1968. Now, Folsom inmates are performing their own songs, and telling their stories with help from the Prison Music Project. The "Long Time Gone" album was released in the summer of … Continue reading The Prison Music Project Brings Inmates’ Stories to Life in Song

Medical Copays Suspended in Several States Due to COVID-19

by Daniel A. Rosen | In most states, inmates pay an average of $2 to $8 copays for medical appointments, lab tests, and medication. But as prisons across the country have become COVID hotspots, some corrections departments are waiving the fees to encourage inmates to seek treatment for virus symptoms. Most states say they charge … Continue reading Medical Copays Suspended in Several States Due to COVID-19

Missouri Inmate Pled for Release Before Dying of COVID

by Daniel A. Rosen | Waylon Young Bird, a 52-year-old federal prisoner with serious kidney disease, wrote over a dozen letters to the judge that sentenced him asking for compassionate release. He died of COVID-19 in early November of 2020, a week after his last plea was written. "I'm afraid I may be infected by … Continue reading Missouri Inmate Pled for Release Before Dying of COVID

First Ex-Offender Elected to Washington State Legislature

by Daniel A. Rosen | On election day in November, 2020 Washington attorney and former inmate Tara Simmons became the first person convicted of a felony elected to the state's legislature. Prior to the election, she said she was running to help give people "a first chance so they won't need a second chance later … Continue reading First Ex-Offender Elected to Washington State Legislature

The Allure of Kosher Meals in NY Prisons

by Daniel A. Rosen | According to a recent story in Tablet, as many as seven percent of inmates in New York's prison system are identifying as Jewish, primarily so they can receive kosher meals. If that's accurate, there are twice as many Jews as Nation of Islam members locked up in New York. This … Continue reading The Allure of Kosher Meals in NY Prisons

Federal Judge Dismisses Arizona Woman’s Wrongful Conviction Suit

by Daniel A. Rosen | Ex-death-row inmate Debra Milke's civil suit against Arizona authorities claiming wrongful conviction was dismissed by a federal judge because she repeatedly destroyed documents relevant to her case. Judge Roslyn Silver harshly criticized Milke in her ruling, saying the destroyed records would have addressed the main issue at the heart of … Continue reading Federal Judge Dismisses Arizona Woman’s Wrongful Conviction Suit

New Mexico Lawyer Fights to End Solitary Confinement

by Daniel A. Rosen | An attorney with a small private practice in Albuquerque has blazed an unconventional path to reformng the use of solitary confinement in New Mexico. According to a recent profile in Rolling Stone magazine, Matthew Coyte has successfully sued local corrections departments over abuses of the practice, and he's won millions … Continue reading New Mexico Lawyer Fights to End Solitary Confinement

Florida Jail Administrators Fired After Woman Gives Birth in Cell

by Daniel A. Rosen | A jail inmate in Broward County gave birth in her cell recently, with staff ignoring her pleas for help until just prior to delivery. Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony fired two top administrators at the jail just 24 hours after learning of the incident. It's the second time in two years … Continue reading Florida Jail Administrators Fired After Woman Gives Birth in Cell

Nevada Stops Taking Inmates’ Money for Restitution

by Daniel A. Rosen | Nevada state officials recently suspended a Department of Corrections policy that used a victims' bill of rights to take up to 80 percent of funds sent to inmates by family members. Marsy's Law was approved by Nevada voters in 2018 as an amendment to the state constitution. It's a nationwide … Continue reading Nevada Stops Taking Inmates’ Money for Restitution

Overtime Payouts in CA Prison System Approach $500 Million in 2019

by Daniel A. Rosen | The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation paid out almost half a billion dollars in overtime in 2019, nearly twice what it paid in regular salaries. Responding to a public records request from CalMatters, CDCR provided salary data on regular and overtime pay for the last two years. Uniformed correctional … Continue reading Overtime Payouts in CA Prison System Approach $500 Million in 2019

Teen Spends 17 Months In Mississippi Jail Without Indictment

by Daniel A. Rosen | A sixteen-year-old in Mississippi has spent almost a year and a half in an adult jail without being indicted. And his case is by no means unique; thousands more in the state are caught in the same circumstance. There are no laws in Mississippi limiting the amount of time defendants … Continue reading Teen Spends 17 Months In Mississippi Jail Without Indictment

St. Louis Corrections Officer Has History of Taser Abuse

by Daniel A. Rosen | A captain with the St. Louis County Justice Center is under investigation for potentially inappropriate use of a Taser in several recent cases. In May, a Taser was employed to subdue a woman in crisis with a history of mental illness. In June, the same captain used a Taser to … Continue reading St. Louis Corrections Officer Has History of Taser Abuse

ICE Detainees Pepper Sprayed Over Hunger Strike

by Daniel A. Rosen | Migrants in ICE custody in New Mexico were attacked with pepper spray in May to end a days-long hunger strike. The detainees, housed at a private facility run by CoreCivic in Torrance County, were protesting the food quality and lack of protection from COVID-19. "Suddenly they just started gassing us. … Continue reading ICE Detainees Pepper Sprayed Over Hunger Strike

Pepper Spraying Mentally Ill Jail Inmates Conformed to Rules, Says Maine DOC

by Daniel A. Rosen | Two pepper spray incidents in early 2019 at Maine's Cumberland County Jail raised questions of propriety and led to a review by the State Department of Corrections. In each case, the Maine DOC concluded that jail staff followed "expected practices" when subduing the inmates with chemical irritants. Both inmates were … Continue reading Pepper Spraying Mentally Ill Jail Inmates Conformed to Rules, Says Maine DOC