Archive for Humane Exposures

New Jersey Weighing Bill to Streamline Parole, Create Inmate Re-entry Plans

cellCertain low-level inmates in New Jersey would be guaranteed parole at their earliest eligible date if they met specific requirements while in prison, should a proposal in the state Legislature become law. Corrections officials would also help inmates develop a “re-entry plan” while still incarcerated, a sort of road map for life on the outside after they are released.

“It will change the entire culture of corrections in our society,” said Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Hudson, who sponsored the bill, “so that a prisoner comes out of prison as a better person than when they went in.”

Many offenders sentenced to prison can be released early for good behavior under the supervision of a parole officer. But in New Jersey, it is common for inmates to “max out” their sentences and be released without supervision, as opposed to getting out of jail early on parole.

According to an analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts in 2014, the state had the ninth-highest “max-out” rate in the nation, with 41 percent of inmates serving their maximum possible prison sentences. That was nearly double the national average of 21 percent of inmates who served their maximum sentences.

Under the bill, inmates would be released on parole as soon as they became eligible if they met certain conditions: a) They had not been convicted of a violent crime, b) they had not committed any serious disciplinary infractions in the previous five years, c) they had completed rehabilitation programs and d) crime victims had been notified.

Release on so-called “administrative parole” would not require a hearing before the state parole board.

Research has supported the idea that inmates released on parole are less likely to commit subsequent crimes than convicts who serve their maximum prison sentences and get released without state supervision.

New Jersey parolees released in 2008 were 36 percent less likely to return to prison within three years of release than ex-prisoners who served their full sentences, according to Pew.

Roseanne Scotti, state director of the New Jersey Drug Policy Alliance, said:

Longer sentences actually increase the chance that someone will commit another crime. People who ‘max out’ have much higher rates of recidivism than people who are released and have supervision in the community to provide them support in terms of re-integrating.

Under the bill, a new Division of Reentry and Rehabilitative Services would be created within the Department of Corrections to inform inmates about available programs and services and help each inmate create an individualized re-entry plan. Parolees would also be awarded credits for good behavior that would reduce the length of their post-incarceration supervision.

Lesniak said the changes would save taxpayer money, allow the state to close several prisons and enhance public safety. “This is what corrections ought to be about,” he said.

The full Senate has already passed the legislation, which is now awaiting a vote in an Assembly committee.

© Humane Exposures / Susan Madden Lankford

Negative Impacts of Intimate Partner Violence on Kids

One in three women and one in four men

Photo by Susan Madden Lankford

Photo by Susan Madden Lankford

have been victims of (some form of) physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime, according to a 2010 report by the CDC.

Abusive tendencies are far more reaching than the visibility of physical harm. Put-downs, controlling who a partner sees or what he/she does, telling a partner what to wear, limiting a partner’s activities, accusations of bad parenting and threats to take away the children are ways that a perpetrator plays upon the emotions of his or her victim.

The often overlooked victim of domestic violence or intimate partner violence is the child. Incidentally, some contend that domestic violence relates to a husband/wife while IPV encompasses any intimate relationship.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquent Prevention reports that one in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year. They may be exposed to the violence, or hear the sounds of screams and tears, smashed furniture or glass; they may see the subsequent injuries, or perhaps be assaulted themselves.

The impact on a child goes far beyond the moments of violence. Children exposed to intimate partner violence may see their parents’ bruises or other visible injuries, or bear witness to the emotional consequences of violence such as fear or intimidation without having directly witnessed violent acts.

David Finkelhor, a sociologist from the University of New Hampshire, collaborated with experts in 2003 to write, “Children’s Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey.” The publication stated that children who grow up with violence in the home learn early and powerful lessons about the use of violence in interpersonal relationships. The authors comment that all too often, children who are exposed to violence undergo lasting physical, mental and emotional harm. They may be more prone to dating violence, delinquency, further victimization and involvement with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

Finkelhor and his co-authors add that being exposed to violence may impair a child’s capacity for partnering and parenting later in life, continuing the cycle of violence into the next generation. These children are at greater risk for internalized behaviors such as anxiety and depression and for externalized behaviors such as fighting, bullying, lying or cheating.

They also are more disobedient at home and at school, and are more likely to have social competence problems, such as poor school performance and difficulty in relationships with others. Child witnesses display inappropriate attitudes about violence as a means of resolving conflict and indicate a greater willingness to use violence themselves.

The American Academy of Pediatrics took a bold stand in 1998 declaring that “The abuse of women is a pediatric issue.” In its 1998 Report from the Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, the AAP stated that children whose mothers are being assaulted are also likely to be victims. Studies indicate that child abuse occurs in 33 to 77 percent of families in which there is abuse of adults.

Intimate partner violence also affects parenting, according to the OJDDP. The emotional consequences of being injured, harassed or terrified may be significant for the parent who is victimized. That parent may be less attuned to children’s needs or less emotionally available to the children. However this does not mean that victims of intimate partner violence are inherently abusive or neglectful of their children. Parents who batter are generally less involved with child rearing, more likely to use physical punishment and less able to distinguish or recognize the child’s needs as separate from the parent’s needs.

© Humane Exposures / Susan Madden Lankford

Housing First Preferable to Tiny Houses, Homeless Camps, Consultant Tells Sonoma Co.

Many of Sonoma County, CA’s key efforts J1031-4-11_RenderingSmaimed at addressing the local homeless crisis, including transitional housing, sanctioned homeless camps, tiny homes and safe parking sites, will do little to alleviate chronic homelessness, said Iain De Jong, an internationally recognized advocate for the homeless, during a recent conference on homeless solutions. De Jong, president and CEO of Canada-based OrgCode Consulting Inc, which works with nonprofits on strategies and planning, challenged local government officials and homeless services providers to stop trying to “fix people” and simply house them.

“Homelessness has never been ended by a hut, or a campground or a safe parking spot. Never,” he said, speaking at a “Summit on Homeless Solutions” organized by the Santa Rosa Homeless Collective, a local consortium of homeless service providers and local government agencies.

At its core was the “housing first” model, an approach that seeks to provide permanent housing to homeless people as quickly as possible, and later provide support services as needed. Under the model, homeless people with the gravest needs are prioritized first for services, and no conditions are placed on them, such as requirements that people remain clean, sober, compliant and agreeable before they are granted housing.

De Jong, a champion of the housing first model, said programs aimed solely at preventing homelessness and teaching homeless people the life skills necessary to manage their housing are a waste of time.

“That doesn’t end homelessness. All it does is take resources and time away,” he said, adding that such programs must be part of an independent, permanent housing program and have that as the ultimate goal. “We have to focus on what works, and we have to stop confusing being busy with being effective.”

Organizers of the conference said they welcomed the opportunity to rethink the effectiveness of local homeless programs.

“He’s challenging our assumptions,” said Santa Rosa City Councilman Tom Schwedhelm, a member of the Santa Rosa Homeless Collective.

Schwedhelm said those involved in finding solutions to the local homeless crisis are questioning the effectiveness of their programs, while examining the systems in place that are barriers to change.

“I’m hoping we as a city can be a leader in this,” working alongside the county and local service providers, Schwedhelm said.

Supervisor Shirlee Zane said she didn’t “disagree with him on most of the things he said” and noted that the county has adopted a housing first approach to homelessness. She defended the county’s project to build a cluster of a dozen homes, to be named Veterans Village, as a permanent housing plan.

Zane said the county was also a key partner in the opening last year of the Palms Inn, a former motel converted into 104 permanent housing units for chronically homeless people and homeless veterans. The program is regarded as a prime example of the housing first model.

Zane said that the safe parking and sanctioned homeless encampments are emergency responses to homelessness and not regarded as permanent housing solutions. She said she would like to see the county enforce its housing first policy with local homeless service providers that receive county funds.

© Humane Exposures / Susan Madden Lankford

States Must Move Funding from Correctional Facilities to Community-Based Treatment

Erica Webster, the communications and policy analyst at the Center of Juvenile and Criminal Justice in San Francisco, wrote this important article.


Erica Webster

From its peak in 1996 to the most recent national data available for 2014, the U.S. juvenile arrest rate has fallen by 65 percent overall. In New York City, juvenile arrests fell by 51 percent from 2011 to 2015. In Texas, from the peak in 1994 to 2014, juvenile arrest rates for violent offenses dropped by 74 percent. In California, the nation’s most populous state, a recent report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice found that felony arrest rates of youth and young adults (19-24) dropped 42 percent from 2010 to 2015. Plus, these massive downward trends in California’s juvenile violent felony arrest rates are expected to continue through 2020.

While researchers are unsure why youth arrest rates have dropped so dramatically, it is clear by the parallel decreases in youth imprisonment that incarceration is not the reason. As the national juvenile arrest rates have fallen in recent decades, so too has incarceration of youth in the United States.

The 40-plus percent decrease in California’s youth arrest rate occurred when the number of youth in correctional facilities plunged 96 percent, from 1996 to 2015. The District of Columbia and 44 states saw decreases in youth incarceration from 1997 to 2010, with almost 20 states, including California and New York, seeing 40-plus percent decreases in youth incarceration.

These trends are being reflected in the adult criminal justice system too. A study from The Pew Charitable Trusts found that from 2008 to 2013, most states reduced incarceration rates and experienced decreases in crime.

Data and research reports have shown us that mass incarceration is not causing the decrease in crime, but in fact yielding diminishing returns. An abundance of research has shown that incarceration has detrimental effects on the more than 90 percent of young people in the juvenile justice system who have experienced trauma or struggle with mental health problems.

Rather than continuing to heavily invest in a system that has been proven not only ineffective crime reduction strategy, but that also repeatedly subjects youth to neglect, maltreatment and outright abuse, the nation and its states must invest in local alternatives to incarceration, community-based services and preventative measures.

Some states have already begun this effort. Recently, California (Proposition 47) and Oklahoma (State Questions 780, 781) enacted initiatives that reduced minor drug possession and petty theft offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, thus reducing sentences and state incarceration, and allowing the states to reinvest savings into substance use treatment and mental health care.

This reinvestment, will address the cause of problematic behavior rather than punishing public health emergencies.

New York City also recently implemented a measure in 2012 (“Close to Home”) to reduce incarceration of youth in distant, secure facilities upstate in favor of less restrictive, smaller facilities closer to young people’s families and communities. While recent declines in overall out-of-home placements may be attributed to continuing decreases in youth crime rather than the new program, Close to Home adheres to juvenile justice best practices, which find that small, nonsecure facilities close to a youth’s community allow for increased therapeutic success, rehabilitation and prosocial development.

Positive trends in youth crime and incarceration have mirrored improvements measured for other key indicators, including health, income, and education.

From 2008 to 2013, the number of high school students who did not graduate on time decreased by 28 percent; and from 2008 to 2014, the share of children without health insurance decreased by 40 percent, teen and child death rates dropped about 17 percent and teen birth rates decreased by 40 percent.

These positive youth trends, combined with the plummeting arrest rates and decreased need for incarceration, have established that juvenile justice systems across the country have an opportunity to change. Spending more than $7 million dollars per day to incarcerate youth in residential facilities to the detriment of youth well being and overall public safety should be a mistake of the past.

Instead, state and local systems must reinvest in greater access to health care, education, mental health and substance addiction treatment for youth at the community level. Decades of youth incarceration have shown us that imprisonment is not a solution to the obstacles faced by youth; now we have the opportunity to try something new.

Tulsa’s Resonance Center Served 800 Women Last Year Through Inmate Re-entry and Diversion

Oklahoma has long led the nation in female incarceration. Executive Director Deidra Kirtley speaks about how the services at Tulsa’s Resonance Center for Women are helping build female offenders for success after incarceration.

When we were first established

Take 2/Photo from Resonance Center

Take 2/Photo from Resonance Center

40 years ago, Resonance was more of a listening center. A lot of women weren’t comfortable talking about certain issues, and Resonance was a very safe place for them to go and just talk. It didn’t necessarily involve drug abuse or alcohol addiction, but it was talking about any issue that was troubling them. 

As the community grew and our organization grew, we narrowed our focus to women who are involved in the criminal justice system. We identified a real gap in the community. The majority of our women have some sort of childhood or adulthood trauma, whether that’s sexual abuse, domestic violence or substance use. I would 60 to 70 percent of the women we serve who are incarcerated have charges dealing with substance abuse. Incarcerated women get stuck in a cycle, and it’s very difficult for them to get back out.

A woman with an addiction problem who is incarcerated still comes out with an addiction problem. Incarceration is not helping these women move forward in their life. We help them get their lives back on track.

The length of a woman’s stay here varies, depending on the program. On the diversion side when women come to us in lieu on incarceration, it’s all outpatient work for two to three years before they graduate. We’ll see them all the time on the front end, and as they progress we see them less and less.

Our re-entry program at Turley Residential Center is an 8-week program, and then out at Eddie Warrior Correction Facility it is 16 weeks. The time spent with us really depends on the woman we’re serving, where she’s referred from and what correctional facility she’s in.

Since so many women have a hard time finding a job, we most recently opened a restaurant in Downtown Tulsa called Take 2, our Resonance Cafe. When some of our women are released, they can come work at the restaurant. It’s not really to groom them for food service as much as it is about work ethic and working on soft skills. Having that extra six months on staff, making sure their needs are met, and making sure they’re staying on track is huge. Right above the cafe is also a 2,500-square-foot loft with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Transportation is such a big issue, but when they come work for us they live upstairs and don’t need a car. Our case managers meet with them and have house meetings once a week. They’re in group therapy and relapse prevention. We try to do everything we can to surround them with positive role models and support groups. The goal for them is to stay about six months before we springboard them to a better job. We just launched Take 2 in March 2016, and we’re really excited about it.

Our biggest goal for this coming year is focusing on the criminal justice reform that is taking place in Tulsa. We want to make sure we’re keeping the same programs we have, but making them stronger and adding more classes.

We also want to focus more around Take 2 and trying to employee more women. We’re growing it incrementally. So our first goal for that is for our restaurant to be self-sustaining by year one, which is March 2017. It costs about $400,000 for us to have the restaurant and employ former offenders and be able to house them. We’ve also started our box lunches and we’d eventually like to start offering breakfast.

All nonprofits need donations. Many of our clients have had their driver’s license taken away, and if you lose your ability to drive, you’re dependent on public transit. It’s pretty hard if you have to take kids to child care or drop them off at someone’s house to then ride the bus to come to us. We’re always working to help women get their driver’s licenses back, but it’s really expensive. All of that requires help from us financially. Support in that area is always needed, but the ultimate goal is to take a few barriers away from these women so that they can find a job.

It’s important to have these women surrounded by their peers. A lot of the women we work have a long history of drug and alcohol abuse, and they have a lot of shame about that. They have shame knowing they probably weren’t the best parent or a good employee or they weren’t a good daughter or sister. For them to sit around and talk in groups and support each other really helps heal that. Even with our restaurant Take 2, when these women live and work together there forms a really strong support system.

© Humane Exposures / Susan Madden Lankford


NC’s Guilford County Jails Offering Wide Range of Inmate Programs

Operators of Guilford County jails are trying to reduce chances of inmates returning to the facilities by offering inmates access to multiple programs, such as anger management and parenting classes.

Guilford Co. Det. Ctr.  Photo from Google Maps

Guilford Co. Det. Ctr.
Photo from Google Maps


Gene Williams, the director of High Point Jail Ministry, which serves both Guilford County facilities, said he’s been focused on easing re-entry for inmates for 2½ years. The programs include religious, educational and life skills.

Inmates can take classes to improve themselves, satisfy orders from a judge or to earn perks in the jail. As part of a trial program in the High Point jail, they can earn points using tablets to take self-directed educational, finance, job training and other classes, then spend those points using the tablets to listen to music, watch television or make phone calls.

Inmates can also learn computer skills, math, English or work toward a GED. Men can learn parenting and fatherhood skills. Women can study women’s health issues, such as osteoarthritis and reproductive and urinary tract problems. Fitness and nutrition information is available, as are classes to help inmates learn how to manage anger.

A number of nonprofit organizations offer programs in the jails. The programs offered have been requested by inmates. They also are carefully vetted to be certain they won’t cause a problem inside the jail or teach inmates how to break the law. Maj. Chuck Williamson, commander of the department’s Court Services Bureau,  says:

We kind of manage them, because we have to schedule them and assure they have the appropriate pieces. They are usually outside providers who provide services on the outside, who come in and do the same thing here.

If someone comes in with a lesson plan they present to us that is going to make the inmate a better person, then we’ll bring them on. That’s really what it’s about: helping inmates get better in all phases of life.

Williams relies on research to help choose programs beneficial to inmates. He said major risk factors for criminal activity include antisocial values, antisocial peers, personality traits, family dysfunction, low self-esteem and substance abuse. Offenders often have a sense of entitlement and self-justification, he said. They blame others for their situations and often consider themselves the victims.

Bible study programs help offenders gain new attitudes and values. Imams go to the jail regularly to lead prayers for Muslim inmates. The tablets offer courses on other religions, including Judaism.

Some traditional programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, are also available at the jails. A program called Reading Connections is intended to help improve adult literacy and Toastmasters is intended to help improve public speaking.

The jail recently started a mental health counseling program with the support of Sandhills, a publicly funded organization intended to help people of central North Carolina receive care for mental health, substance abuse and intellectual and developmental disabilities.

A large portion of the jail population uses various levels of mental health services, including many of them who aren’t displaying any negative behaviors, Williamson said. “They just need support,” he explained. “They take medications and they need counseling.”

Williamson said that at any given time up to 40 percent of people in the jail may ask for some sort of mental help. “A lot reach out for minor depression and ask for counseling,” he said.

In June 2015, Guilford’s commissioners joined hundreds of other counties throughout the country and passed a resolution to join the Stepping Up Initiative, which is aimed at helping to reduce the number of people with mental illness cycling through the jails. The initiative focuses on the behavioral health of people in jails.

The center is funding two projects within the initiative. One increases behavioral health services in the Guilford County Detention Center. The other is used for assessments and referrals to community services after inmates’ release from jail.

The center provides a psychiatric nurse practitioner for 20 hours per week and a mental health counselor for 36 hours per week. They work evenings and some weekends to provide behavioral health services. They are available for counseling and services at the jail seven days a week. And they are on call 24-hours-a-day in case an inmate has a crisis.

Center staff have provided hours of consultation for jail and court staff involved in mental health and drug treatment courts to develop plans for care once offenders are released.

Another program is aimed at Guilford County Schools students who miss class time while in the jail. For some students, the system will send in a teacher to continue their education while they are incarcerated.

“The idea is that when they get out, they walk right back into the classroom, if that’s possible,” Williamson said.

The Prodigal Son program connects selected inmates with a drug treatment program after release. Eight people entered it last year.

In the program, the county pays for beds for a set period of time at Caring Services. The nonprofit organization provides housing and other support services for recovering alcoholics, addicts and their families. Candidates for Caring Services have substance abuse issues that are the primary concern that needs to be addressed to prevent recidivism.

“Their charges may not be serious enough to send them to the Department of Corrections,” Williamson said. “But they still need services.”

The jail is also testing new programs.

In August, the High Point jail started testing the use of computer tablets for running programs. They are provided by Pay Tel Communications, the vendor that provides phone services for inmates, according to Pay Tel President Vincent Townsend.

The program is operated by Edovo (Education Over Obstacles), whose mission is to reduce recidivism by providing technology-based education and rehabilitation to inmates.

On the tablets, inmates can choose from a number of different classes offered on a private server — employment, finance, math, English, family skills, anger management or even success in court appearances. The last teaches inmates how to appear and behave in the courtroom.

In the first week of August, 95 inmates spent 8,751 hours working on educational programs on the tablets, according to jail data. During the second week, 99 inmates burned 6,263 hours working educational programs.

“Anger Management” and “Math — Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication and Division” were the top-viewed apps, each having 27 inmates start the course.

For every hour of education the inmates undertake, they receive points to spend on watching movies, listening to music or doing other activities on the tablets.

“It’s helping guys think about stuff from a different perspective,” Townsend said. “We think the tablet has a huge potential as a tool.”

Technicians are testing the jail in Greensboro to determine where best to place networking links, so the program can operate there. A goal is to have the tablets working in both jails before February.

“It’s really become a popular piece for the inmates,” Williamson said. “Now, we’re doing site surveys to see what kind of networking we’ll have to do to get it up and running here.”

© Humane Exposures / Susan Madden Lankford


San Diego’s Deadly Homelessness Crisis Deepens as Police Criminalize People, Confiscate Tents & Belongings

Rapidly rising numbers of people are living—and dying—on the sidewalks, parks and canyons of San Diego County. San Diego has the fourth-largest homeless population in the country—behind New York, Los Angeles and Seattle–8,741 across the county and 1,162 living outdoors downtown—a 43 percent increase in a single year. In San Diego, 16% of the homeless

Photo by Susan Madden Lankford

Photo by Susan Madden Lankford

are veterans, more than any other city in the top 10.

Living on the street is deadly. One study puts the average life expectancy at 42 years for the chronic unsheltered homeless, compared to nearly 79 for the general population.

Seven people have died in the four months since the opening of Alpha Square, a new building in San Diego’s East Village with 203 permanent apartments for the most damaged people from the streets. None died from violence or overdose.

Three myths about San Diego homeless are that they’re mostly mentally ill, that they’re largely transplants seeking warm weather and that they are too shiftlless to go into shelters.

But the current national estimate today is that the percentage of chronically homeless adults with serious mental illness is close to 30 percent.

The Regional Task Force on the Homeless estimates that 70 percent of San Diego’s unsheltered homeless population became homeless in San Diego and that just 24 percent became homeless elsewhere before coming here. A VA think tank tracked more than 113,000 veterans who accessed the agency’s homeless services and found just 15 percent moved across large geographic areas during a two-year period.

And many people do want to get in shelter but can face weeks-long waits and seemingly complex sign-up processes to get into those beds. The latter can be enough to discourage some people. More crucially, shelters aren’t always inviting places for the homeless. Many are uncertain the resources being offered will work for them.

Some shelters have rules that frustrate homeless people. They can’t drink or must abide by a curfew. Or they can’t sleep beside their partners or bring their pets. Forced to choose between a roof and their closest companions, many choose their companions.

Why does San Diego have such an acute homelessness crisis? Something is deeply wrong. Unemployment has been falling since 2010. Public funding has poured into local homeless programs by the hundreds of millions each year. Government seems to have turned the problem over to private entities, and they appear to be struggling.

They problem is greatly enhanced because the city chooses to criminalize homelessness and send the police and other agencies to confiscate their tents, blankets and possessions while sweeping them from areas tourists will notice.

A caravan of police cars with flashing lights rolled up on 17th Street east of Petco Park on a recent Monday morning. Officers and city environmental service workers were conducting what’s become a weekly ritual: moving the homeless off the sidewalk. About 160 people live on the street there, and they knew the cops were coming. The city posted warning signs days in advance. The sweeps have occurred every Monday for months.

“This is where I stay. I’m homeless,” said a man who goes by the name Brother Shine. He said he has lived on 17th Street and the surrounding blocks in San Diego’s East Village for 10 years.

When the police and city workers moved in around 7 a.m., Shine and his homeless neighbors piled their blankets, tents, mattresses and clothes into carts. They pushed with one hand and used the other to balance buckets and containers on top of their overflowing loads. One woman wheeled a beige couch. A man lugged his gas barbecue. Some pulled pets on leashes.

“I do it every Monday,” said Shine. “I gotta clean up every Monday and come right back like I’ve been doing. It’s just a hassle.”

The homeless headed to the Neil Good Day Center on 17th near K Street. The center operates during daytime hours and is partly funded by the city. It provides bathrooms, and has mail and laundry services for people who live on the streets. On Mondays, the center’s patio is filled with stuffed carts.

“We’re not roaches or ants. We’re human just like them,” said Steven Hillard, who has been homeless for 15 years. “Do they gotta come with five or six police cars with their lights on, like it was a crime scene?”

While the sidewalks are cleaned up, Hillard said, the day center provides a safe spot for a few hours until the police and city crews leave.

By late afternoon, the homeless return. They wheel their belongings back and settle in for another week.

Advocates for the homeless say the weekly sweeps are an effort to hide the city’s downtown homeless problem before out-of-town tourists arrive. One says, “We know we need more permanent housing. We need more affordable housing. But we also need supportive services to match up with the housing, and we need a better way to connect people up with the resources available.”

Approximately 8,700 people experience homelessness, across San Diego County. Those who have continued exposure to outdoor elements like extreme heat, hypothermia, and frostbite, are at increased risk for developing health conditions, and such conditions can be life threatening. In an effort to lessen the health impacts of exposure during inclement weather, 2-1-1 San Diego provides emergency shelter information and referrals to partner agencies who can accommodate the immediate severe weather housing needs for the homeless.

During unusually hot, cold or wet weather, inclement weather response agencies are been activated. Inclement Weather Hotel/Motel Vouchers are also available.

Women Occupy San Diego is circulating a petition calling upon Mayor Faulconer to confront the nightmare of homelessness. They are demanding Emergency Humanitarian Action to stop criminalizing homeless people in San Diego. Over 500 people have signed the petition.

© Humane Exposures / Susan Madden Lankford


Black Kid 24 Times More Likely to Be Sentenced to Confinement in Racist New Jersey System

“Youth prisons are failing our children in this state,

Photo by Susan Madden Lankford

Photo by Susan Madden Lankford

but particularly our children of color,” explained Andrea McChristian from the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. If you take a look inside New Jersey’s juvenile justice system you’ll see the racial disparities laid bare: 75% of incarcerated kids are black. That gap among races is the third-highest in the country.

McChristian continues:

The research shows that a black kid in New Jersey is 24 times more likely to be sentenced  to confinement than a white child. And this starts at arrest where black kids are more likely to be arrested. They’re less likely to be diverted and they’re more likely to end up in our state’s youth prisons.

It’s a trend that’s existed for decades, and while the issue is getting more attention these days, the stats remain the same, according to a new report by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. McChristian is its lead author.

She said:

It’s not because black kids are somehow more criminally culpable than white children. Actually, there are few differences between black kids and white kids in terms of delinquent behavior, in terms of committing status offenses — which are offenses that are only criminalized if you’re a minor, like underage drinking. So this is actually about policy.

Fred Fogg is the regional director of operations for New Jersey and Delaware at Youth Advocate Programs. He works to engage kids and their families in community-based alternatives to jail time. At around $75 a day, those alternatives run at just a fraction of the cost of full-time confinement which can hit above $500 a day — nearly $200,000 a year per person.

Fogg said, “Most of the youths that are incarcerated are for nonviolent offenses.”

Fogg says alternative programs that keep kids in the community cut down recidivism rates. As it stands now, three out of four kids are re-arrested. Nearly half land themselves back in jail within three years.

“White youth involved in juvenile justice issues tend to have better access to diversion programs than African American youth,” Fogg said.

The number of incarcerated kids in New Jersey has fallen by half over the last two decades as some offenders found their way to diversion programs. But according to the report, that just widened the gap between black and brown and white.

Kathy Wright of the New Jersey Parents Caucus asks:

When we look at young black boy or a young Latino boy. What do we think about them? Do we really believe that the prison is the best place for them to be in? Is that where we are truly going to rehabilitate them?

McChistian added:

We need to start realizing that these are children. That the research has show that the adolescent brain is still developing and that deviant or anti-social behavior peaks at age 16 and 17 and then declines as a child matures, but we aren’t thinking that. We aren’t thinking that OK locking a kid away who is honestly going to age out of this type of behavior, doesn’t make sense.

Fogg said:

They’ve gone in these facilities as children and they’re coming back chronologically as adults, but they’re not developing into men in correctional facilities. They’re on pause for the most part.

With a new administration taking shape, McChristian expects reform at the federal level to come slowly. Instead, her organization is looking toward local and state level policy changes which have proven effective, in New Jersey, when it comes to bail reform and reentry initiatives.

© Humane Exposures / Susan Madden Lankford

ACLU Urges Denver Police to Cease Taking Blankets From Sleeping Homeless Persons


Photo by
Susan Madden Lankford

The ACLU of Colorado sent a letter to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and the Denver City Council responding to widely-circulated videos showing Denver Police taking blankets, tents and survival gear from people experiencing homelessness as “evidence” of violations of the Denver camping ban, which criminalizes sleeping outside with a blanket, sleeping bag, or any other form of cover or shelter.

The letter demands that the City immediately (1) direct its police officers to cease confiscation of blankets and other survival gear possessed by people experiencing homelessness, (2) suspend enforcement of the Denver Urban Camping Ban through the winter months, using that time to explore alternative approaches to homelessness that do not criminalize people for having nowhere they can afford to live and (3) end the coordinated sweeps of people experiencing homelessness, whether they are conducted through police, public works, private security, all of the above, or any other means.

ACLU of Colorado Executive Director Nathan Woodliff-Stanley wrote in the letter:

It is not an inherent crime to sleep outside, and many people right now have no other viable option. Denver’s shelters are simply unable to serve all people in the Denver area experiencing homelessness, even in the short term, much less as a long-term solution. Until real solutions become Denver’s priority, the city’s ongoing policing-first approach to homelessness is a cruel waste of funds, curtailing fundamental constitutional rights, causing deep human suffering, and endangering lives.

On July 1, CBS4 Denver reported that the City of Denver paid Custom Environmental Services, Inc., an outside contractor, from a fund that included private charitable donations – most notably, donations made through meters around the city and at Denver International Airport – for work crews to confiscate the possessions of unhoused people during controversial anti-homeless sweeps initiated by Mayor Hancock.

Woodliff-Stanley wrote:

While Denver is home to many people of good will who value freedom, compassion, and care for all people, especially those in the most vulnerable circumstances, the City of Denver’s record on the treatment of people experiencing homelessness is abominable. From the inappropriate use of a Homeless Services Donations Fund to forcibly move, harass, and take the property of unhoused persons to increasingly aggressive sweeps of people experiencing homelessness, ratcheting up arrests of people whose only crime is to have nowhere to live, and now the use of police resources to confiscate blankets and survival gear on bitter cold nights, the City of Denver is exhibiting a level of cruelty that should bring deep shame to Mayor Hancock and other city officials.

© Humane Exposures / Susan Madden Lankford

Many Failures at Darwin, Australia Correctional Center for Men and Women–After 2 Years

A leaked report into the two-year-old Darwin correctional center, which was sat on by the previous government and then only partially released by the current one, has reportedly revealed details of rampant failures in the $1.8 billion Australian dollar, 1,000-bed facility.

A leaked copy of the report by the former head 46467aa995b6fe5ad949b57f872d27d2of Queensland corrective services Keith Hamburger details inadequate construction and operation of the Northern Territory prison. which opened in 2014.

Hamburger’s review reportedly reveals prisoners had time-limited showers and at one point were rationed to three toilet flushes a day for men and four for women.

Female prisoners were denied the same rehabilitative and medical services the men received, according to the report, largely because their prison had been placed within the grounds of the men’s facility.

It was also overcrowded, reaching a total in May of 141 women in a space designed for just 76, the report said.

“Co-correctional facilities usually provide inequitable access by female prisoners to medical, programs and industries – and this has proven to be the case at [Darwin correctional precinct],” Hamburger wrote.

The inadequate design of the prison also meant work and education programs were only able to be delivered to about half of the inmates.

The current department was working towards a recommissioning of “the daily structure of what happens within”, and said there were moves to restart plans from their previous time in government, including a culturally appropriate work camp in the Barkley region and a low-security facility in Katherine.

Minister for justice Natasha Fyles was questioned about concerns the prison does not allow for significant cultural needs and taboos for the 86% of the population who are Indigenous. She said it was:

a sad indictment on the Northern Territory that we have to make sure our correctional facility is culturally appropriate, with such a high rate of Indigenous incarceration.

The work camp and other plans would support low-risk Indigenous inmates, and the NT government is working to address high incarceration rates.

The sewerage issues had been resolved, and the claims about toilet and shower rationing referred to a two-week period of heavy rain and flooding.

In October, the government released the executive summary of the long-awaited report, citing unspecified privacy issues. The previous government was widely criticized for going back on its word to release the report amid national outrage over abuse inside juvenile detention. Recently, Fyles said she would seek new advice on releasing a redacted version of the full report.

The executive summary itself revealed that Hamburger found the adult prison to be “not fit for purpose” and commissioned “under a flawed approach” by the former government in 2008.

© Humane Exposures / Susan Madden Lankford