Archive for Humane Exposures

So far, 91 Mayors and 5 Governors Have Accepted Michelle Obama, H.U.D. and V.A.’s Challenge to End Vet Homelessness by 2015

homeless

Photo by Susan Madden Lankford

As of this writing, June 25, 2014, the Mayors or top local officals of 91 American cities have accepted the recent challenge by First Lady Michelle Obama, on behalf of her, the Veterans’ Administration and Housing and Urban Development to end Veterans’ homelessness by 2015. Also agreeing to work to end homelessness by former members of the US Armed forces are the governors of Colorado, Connecticut, Minnesota, Virginia and Puerto Rico.

These socially concerned mayors include those of 38 of the 50 most populous US municipalities. Unfortunately, 22 of the other biggest 50 cities have not yet committed to getting their vets off the streets and into housing. The laggards are: Los Angeles, San Jose, Austin, San Francisco, Charlotte, Ft. Worth, El Paso, Washington DC, Oklahoma City, Louisville, Portland, Albuquerque, Long Beach, Mesa, Virginia Beach, Colorado Springs, Omaha, Raleigh, Tulsa, Cleveland, Wichita and Arlington, TX. If you live in one of these burgs, feel free to urge your mayor to get on board.

The Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness is a fine way to solidify partnerships and secure commitments to end Veteran homelessness from mayors across the country.

Ending homelessness among Veterans cannot be accomplished by federal partners alone but will require the partnership and commitment of each community’s homeless response and housing system, including Veteran Service Organizations, community-based providers, faith-based organizations, public housing agencies, affordable housing operators and many more. Corporate and philanthropic partners can play an important role in rounding out the array of housing, services and jobs available to Veterans experiencing homelessness.

HUD offers mayors a “webinar” (online seminar) on housing placement and retention strategies for programs that serve Veterans who experience homelessness, as well as a webinar that shares advice from successful efforts on how to develop a comprehensive approach that effectively brings the resources available to Veterans in need, to improve housing and life outcomes.

Key strategies communities should implement to achieve the goals of ending homelessness among all Veterans include: Housing First, targeting of permanent supportive housing, providing rapid re-housing opportunities and using other community and mainstream resources.

A key strategy for ending chronic homelessness among Veterans is ensuring that your community is using Housing First approaches and effectively targeting permanent supportive housing opportunities, including those provided through the HUD–VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program, to chronically homeless and vulnerable Veterans.

Housing First is a proven method of ending all types of homelessness and is the most effective approach to ending chronic homelessness. Housing First offers individuals and families experiencing homelessness immediate access to permanent affordable or supportive housing. With no clinical prerequisites like completion of a course of treatment or evidence of sobriety and with a low-threshold for entry, Housing First yields higher housing retention rates, lower returns to homelessness and significant reductions in the use of crisis service and institutions than other approches.

Due to its high degree of success, Housing First is identified as a core strategy for ending homelessness in Opening Doors: the Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness and has become widely adopted by national and community-based organizations as a best practice for solving homelessness.

Phoenix has already made progress toward ending vet homelessness. Its Project H3 Vets Initiative was launched as a collaborative strategy to quickly house 150 of the most vulnerable veterans who were experiencing chronic homeless in Phoenix, using assistance provided through the HUD-VASH program and other resources. The Project H3 Vets Initiative is an extension of the Phoenix 100,000 Homes Campaign, Project H3: Home, Health, Hope. This public-private collaboration involved multiple government agencies and community partners. Based on the success of this initiative, an additional 100 HUD-VASH vouchers have been allocated.

Proposed New Hampshire Prison is Designed to Better Meet Women’s Needs

Maggots in my Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time

Photo by Susan Madden Lankford

After successfully creating one in Maine, architects in New Hampshire are working with the Department of Corrections to design a new $38 million state prison for 224 women, and unlike most women’s prisons around the country, these two facilities are designed for the particular needs of women inmates. Twelve years ago, the architect planning the New Hampshire facility designed the women’s unit at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham, Maine. That unit, which houses minimum- and medium-security inmates, is considered a national model for gender-responsive prison design.

For more than 20 years, feminist researchers and activists have been re-thinking treatment programs at women’s prisons, which too often merely replicated what was offered in larger men’s prisons.  Unlike male inmates, 90 percent of women who end up behind bars have histories of sexual and domestic abuse.  They’re also more likely to suffer from mental illness and addiction. So researchers began advocating a “gender responsive” approach to female incarceration: programs and officer training that take into account women inmates’ histories of trauma.

Fully 66 percent of women in the New Hampshire prison system are receiving mental health treatment, versus only 35 percent of the men. Nationally, 25 to 50 percent of female prisoners report childhood abuse. Last year 108 NH male prisoners struck staffers or injured other inmates–vs. zero female prisoners.

According to New Hampshire Deputy Commissioner of Corrections, Bill McGonagle:

Our new women’s prison’s housing units will look out over a large outdoor area with security fences concealed, so as you look around the courtyard, it won’t be obvious that’s where you are.

Women will have keys to their rooms, and in an open lounge area they can watch TV on upholstered couches with wood coffee tables. It is believed that soft materials and natural light are important aspects of making this a natural environment, so as opposed to the clanging metal doors in most prisons, this facility will have quiet wood doors, avoiding stress for trauma survivors.

The new environment will make it easier for prisoners to focus on anger management, personal healing and community college classes. Getting equal access to those kinds of educational opportunities brought about the building of this new women’s prison in New Hampshire in the first place.  The current women’s prison in Goffstown doesn’t have space for vocational or educational classes.

McGonagle believes that strengthening relationships among the inmates is one of the goals of the gender-responsive approach.  He hopes open spaces inside the building will encourage interaction. While routines at men’s prisons usually discourage inmates from interacting with each other, “women want to be more relational,” McGonagle says, “and their connections with other women  is one of their strengths.”

Alyssa Benedict, who consults with prisons on gender-responsive programming, warns:

A prison with more open spaces requires more and better-trained officers. You have to train your staff to understand female development, how they relate to each other, and how to as a staff member insert yourself in a skillful way to create safety.

The NH corrections department has requested increased personnel for the new prison, but that will be subject to future legislative budget debates. New Hampshire lawmakers funded the new women’s prison after decades of debate over parity for women inmates.  Previously, incarcerated women had lacked access to vocational classrooms, science classrooms, regular education classrooms and recreation.

Construction crews break ground on August 18, 2014, and the prison is slated to open in October 2016.

Many States’ Juvenile Justice Laws Trending Back in a Progressive Direction

trendsinJJreport[1]A jump in serious juvenile crime in the late 1980s and early 1990s led to state laws that moved away from the traditional emphasis on rehabilitation in the juvenile justice system toward tougher, more punitive treatment of youth. During the past decade, however, juvenile crime rates have declined, and state legislatures are rebalancing to yield better results for kids at lower cost.

Today, there is more and better information available to policymakers on the causes of juvenile crime and what can be done to prevent it. This includes im­portant information about neurobiological and psychosocial factors and the effects these factors have on development and competency of adolescents. The research has contributed to recent legislative trends to distin­guish juvenile from adult offenders, restore the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, and adopt sci­entific screening and assessment tools to structure decision-making and identify needs of juvenile of­fenders. Competency statutes and policies have be­come more research-based, and youth interventions are evidence-based across a range of programs and services. Other legislative actions have increased due process protections for juveniles, reformed de­tention and addressed racial disparities in juvenile justice systems.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has produced the report “Juvenile Justice Trends in State Legislation, 2001-2011” illustrating the trends in juvenile justice enactments over the past decade.

The report states:

Research shows that adolescent brains do not fully develop until about age 25, and the immature, emotional and impul­sive nature characteristic of adolescents makes them more susceptible to committing crimes. Studies also have shown that juveniles who commit crimes or engage in socially deviant behavior are not neces­sarily destined to be adult criminals. This research has provided the basis for widespread state legisla­tive policy reforms in juvenile justice systems.

Currently, 47% of states have outlawed execution of juveniles (and 53% have not!). In 2010, the US Supreme Court abolished life sentences without parole for youth convicted of crimes other than homicide. Twelve states currently forbid life sentences without parole or have no youths serving such sentences.

One trend over the past decade is raising the age of jurisdiction for juvenile courts. Thirty-eight states set the maximum age at 17, but 10 states still treat 16-year-olds as adults and New York and North Carolina can try youths of only age 15 as adults. Seven years ago Connecticut moved more than 10,000 cases a year from adult court to juvenile court by raising the age of jurisdiction from 16 to 18.

Ten states now address mental competency and insanity in their juvenile statutes. In 2005 Oregon allowed juvenile insanity defense. Georgia requires a youth be represented by a lawyer when being evaluated for competency. In 2010, Iowa required a legal proceeding be suspended if the child was ordered treatment in a mental facility.

In Michigan a juvenile court must appoint an attorney to represent an indigent youngster, and most states will appoint counsel for an indigent youth, but the way that is done, the fees and the application process vary from state to state.

A major trend over the past decade is prevention statutes that divert non-violent offenders away from prison. These tend to be evidence-based practices that clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of treating and rehabilitating a juvenile in the community rather than in the pokey. Multi-systemic therapy, family functional therapy and aggression replacement training are evidence-based interven­tions in place of incarceration today in Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington.

Pre-trial diversion programs, such as Redeploy Illinois have also proved effective. Savings from fewer commitments are returned to the communities for treatment programs. In 2011, Ohio law ruled that 45% of the savings from closing corrections facilities be invested in community services, and Texas tasked its Youth Commission with increasing community-based juvenile offender programs statewide.

More than 65% of the two million youngsters arrested each year suffer from some mental disorder, so state policies have begun to focus on proper screening, assessment and treatment of young offenders. Washington State set a small sales tax to fund therapeutic courts. Colorado now allows a 90-day sentence suspension for mental treatment. Minnesota and Nevada require statewide mental health screening for all in the juvenile justice system, and Texas now insists that probation departments do mental health and substance abuse screening.

State legislatures are now trying to deal with the over-representation of minorities in the juvenile justice system. And many states are making fresh efforts to deal with the 100,000 kids released from confinement each year. California and Washington have eased healthcare accessibility for re-entering youth.

In addition, 10 states increased the confidentiality of juvenile records. Delaware, North Carolina and Vermont established automatic destruction of non-violent juvenile records, and Colorado, Illinois, Ohio and Washington created procedures for requesting juvenile records be expunged.

Because young females are the fastest-growing part of the juvenile justice system, representing as much as 34% of the incarcerated population in some states, Hawaii, Minnesota, Connecticut, Florida and Oregon now require gender-specific juvenile programs.

Eleven American Cities with Shockingly High Homeless Populations

Humane Exposures: HUD Funds Five Homeless Shelters for Veterans

Photo by Susan Madden Lankford

According to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, there are an estimated 100 million homeless people worldwide, which is startling when you consider how affluent some parts of the world are. A recent article titled 25 Cities with Extremely High Homeless Populations listed 14 foreign and 11 US cities with way too many homeless people. Worst was Manila, where 70,000 children live by begging or peddling. The next worst foreign cities on the list in order are Moscow, Mexico City, Jakarta, Mumbai, Buenos Aires, Budapest, Sao Paulo, Athens, Rome, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Dublin and Lisbon. That list may be faulty, because it includes no African cities.  The worst American City is New York, followed by Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, San Diego, Tampa, Washington D.C., Chicago, Baltimore, Indianapolis and Denver.

 
As of 2013, the number of homeless people sleeping each night in the New York City shelter system was already over 60,000, 22,000 of whom were children. Currently 53,615 homeless men, women, and children bed down each night in the NYC municipal shelter system. Additionally, more than 5,000 homeless adults and children sleep each night in other public and private shelters, and thousands more sleep rough on the streets or in other public spaces. During the course of each year, more than 111,000 different homeless New Yorkers, including more than 40,000 children, sleep in the municipal shelter system. The number of homeless New Yorkers in shelters has risen by 73% since 2002. The homelessness crisis in New York is exacerbated by the lack of housing assistance initiatives provided by local authorities.

 
Los Angeles has one of the largest concentrations of homeless people in the United States: currently about 58,423 homeless people—a 16% increase from the 50,214 counted in 2011. Fortunately, these totals are way down from the 88,345 homeless counted in 2005.  Between 6,500 and 10,000 people in San Francisco are homeless at various times. And 3,000 to 5,000 of them refuse to live in temporary shelters provided by the government. Although San Francisco spends $165 million a year on services for the homeless, all that money hasn’t made a dent in the homeless population in at least nine years. In addition to the 6,436 homeless adults counted during one night last year, a separate daytime count found 914 homeless youth.

 
According to the 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, Seattle has a homeless population of 9,106. Among many health problems, diabetes is a common ailment among the homeless. Common causes of death among homeless individuals in the Seattle area include intoxication, cardiovascular disease and homicide—with the average age at death being 47. In 2007 there were 160 violent attacks against Seattle homeless people, with the most common reasons being race, religion or sexual orientation.

 
San Diego, with a population of 1,345,895 contains 8,520 homeless people in 2014—down 11.6% from 9,638 in 2012.  The opening of a transitional Connections Housing facility, as well as ex-Mayor Bob Filner’s push to increase funding for homeless shelters and encourage cooperation between various groups that aid the homeless, have all helped. The Serial Inebriate Program, a multi-agency effort intended to help homeless people deal with alcohol and substance abuse issues, placed 720 people in treatment and housing programs last year— an 84% increase from the arrangements made in 2012.

 
Lack of affordable housing and homeless shelters has contributed to the alarming number of 16,000 homeless people in the Tampa area. When Republicans held their 2012 convention in the city, CBS News reported that the Tampa-St.Petersburg area had the highest homelessness rate in the nation, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness: 57 homeless for every 10,000 residents.

 
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Government’s 2014 Point-in-Time Count of the homeless in the metropolitan Washington D.C. area (seven counties and the district) found 11,946 homeless individuals, up 3.5% from the previous year’s count. Last year, the city government began to provide shelter to its homeless population whenever temperature levels dropped below freezing. Those people who do not want to stay in temporary shelters are provided with a budget to stay in hotels.

 
The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless recently found that 21,000 Chicagoans lacked residences in the course of a year, and a 2005 University of Illinois report funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services found that as many as 25,000 Illinois youth are homeless. Research has shown that the “Housing First,” approach best remedies the factors that contribute to a household’s homelessness. Research also reveals that for some, lifelong support may be required to prevent the reoccurrence of homelessness, but that placing these people in housing is the most socially productive and cost-effective approach to the problem.

 
According to a 2011 study, there are about 4,088 homeless in Baltimore, many of whom are families with children. Today, the “Charm City” local government is making strides toward putting an end to this problem by creating projects aimed at providing affordable housing and health care.  There are as many as 2,200 homeless people every night in Indianapolis, which is equivalent to around 15,000 over the course of a year. Thought this city is known for its faith-based shelters, there are just not enough of them to provide a place for the entire homeless population. According to the 2012 Point in Time report from Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, Denver saw an increase in its homeless population from 411 to 964 between the years of 2011 and 2012.

Women’s Prisons Abuse and Overuse Solitary Confinement to the Severe Detriment of Many

 

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Photo by Susan Madden Lankford

An ACLU report released last month, “Worse Than Second Class: Solitary Confinement of Women in the United States,” states that women are affected by solitary confinement—which typically amounts to 22 to 23 hours alone in a cell the size of a large bathroom for weeks, months or years at a time—in distinct and often uniquely harmful ways.  Women are put in the hole for small things. It can be for something stupid, like stealing a tomato from the kitchen or having two blankets instead of one.

Poverty is the dominant reason women commit crime, whether it’s sex work, welfare fraud or a drug offense. In many cases, these are crimes of survival. In 2004, more than 90%  of imprisoned women reported annual incomes of less then $10,000 before imprisonment, and most hadn’t completed high school. When women do commit violent crimes, it’s typically to defend themselves against an abuser. As many as 90% of female prisoners are survivors of rape, domestic violence and/or other trauma.

Many are mentally ill, and even more are the primary caretakers of young children who depend on them. According to the ACLU, the number of children with a mother in prison has doubled in recent years.

Gail Smith of CLAIM, a Chicago organization that provides legal aid to prisoners on family law issues, says:

When a prisoner is in solitary, visits are more likely to take place through video conferencing, where the mother and child are in separate buildings. It is a terrible thing to have a child travel three or four hours to see their mom and not even be able to hug her.

If a female prisoner’s child is in foster care, as is the case 20% of the time, those women are required to demonstrate “reasonable progress” in order to prevent their child or children from being permanently taken away from them. Progress includes drug treatment, anger-management, parenting classes and survivor groups, all of which they are barred from while in solitary.

Terry Kupers, a California psychiatrist who focuses on the effects of prolonged isolation on prisoners, says:

There’s a causal development for many women prisoners between being separated from their children and depression and suicide. The general rule in psychology is that men get angry and women get depressed. This principle is taken to its extremity in solitary.

When a woman reports being raped by a guard, she is immediately placed in solitary confinement. Although this is ostensibly for her protection, it is in fact retaliation, designed to discourage women from reporting abuse in the first place. While in solitary, women are regularly supervised by male guards who can watch them showering, changing clothes and  using the toilet—a loss of privacy and bodily autonomy that can often be re-traumatizing. Cut off from lawyers and family, and isolated from the general prison population, women in solitary are often at even greater risk of being sexual assaulted by staff with total impunity.

According to the ACLU, 75%  of incarcerated women have mental illness. Sensory deprivation, the absence of human interaction and extreme idleness can lead to severe psychological debilitation, even in healthy, well-functioning adults—while people with mental illness more rapidly deteriorate.

Kupers adds:

People with a history of trauma and mental illness tend to have more ups and down emotionally. Eighty percent of incarcerated women have been sexually or physically abused, so the emotions that everyone has in solitary—anger, depression, anxiety, fear and paranoia—are going to be much, much stronger for them. In isolation, these emotions will magnify and just keep reverberating, with no one to talk to.

Placing women with mental illness in solitary confinement can amount to punishment for behavior beyond their control. Women with mental illness have a much harder time conforming their behavior to staff expectations. One women who gave an officer an exasperated look was thrown into solitary for “reckless eyeballing.”

Another woman was pregnant and struggling with mental illness. She had just gotten back from the hospital the night before and was completely exhausted. When the officer insisted she get up early for breakfast, she refused, so the officer shook her, insisting she get up. The women pushed back and ended up in solitary, where she had zero access to even basic prenatal care.
Widespread criticism of solitary confinement has led to congressional hearings in recent years and forced the federal Bureau of Prisons to embark on its first-ever internal review of the practice. New legislation was recently passed in New York and Colorado, limiting the use of isolation among some of the most vulnerable prison populations: juveniles and the mentally ill. Though critics largely see these changes as positive, many feel they don’t go nearly far enough.

Smith concludes:

In order to become more healthy, not just women, juveniles or the mentally ill but all prisoners need greater freedom to make new and better choices. Stuck in a cell by yourself 23 hours a day, this simply isn’t possible.

At Alabama’s Tutweiler Prison for Women, Where Guards Have Raped Beaten and Sexually Harassed Prisoners for 18 Years Without Reprisal, Justice Department Proposes 24 Urgently Needed Reforms

Tutweiler Prison. Photo from Wikipedia

On January 17, 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice released a report of the findings of its investigation into the allegations of ongoing sexual abuse of inmates by prison guards at the Julia Tutweiler Prison for Women in Wetumka, Alabama.  It found that the State of Alabama grievously violates the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution by failing to protect women prisoners at Tutwiler from harm due to sexual abuse and harassment from correctional staff.

The DOJ report stated:

Tutwiler has a history of unabated staff-on-prisoner sexual abuse and harassment. The women at Tutwiler universally fear for their safety. They live in a sexualized environment with repeated and open sexual behavior, including: abusive sexual contact between staff and prisoners; sexualized activity, including a strip show condoned by staff; profane and unprofessional sexualized language and harassment; and deliberate cross-gender viewing of prisoners showering, (and using the toilet).

Officials at the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) and Tutwiler have failed to remedy the myriad systemic causes of harm to the women prisoners, despite repeated notification of the problems and have demonstrated a clear, deliberate indifference to the harm and substantial risk of harm to women prisoners. They have failed to take reasonable steps to protect people in their custody from the known and readily apparent threat of sexual abuse and sexual harassment.

Officials have been on notice for over 18 years of the risks to women prisoners and, for over 18 years, have chosen to ignore them.  In 2003, Tutwiler deigned for 400 inmates, housed 992 women when a U.S. District Judge found that its overcrowded, underfunded conditions were so poor that they violated the U.S. Constitution. In 2012 the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a nonprofit that provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners, filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice saying that in interviews with more than 50 women, it found evidence of frequent and severe officer-on-inmate sexual violence.

 

In May 2013, Mother Jones magazine reported that Julia Tutwiler ranked as one of the 10 worst prisons in the United States. Despite years of complaints against Tutweiler and the DOJ investigation, appetite for costly reform appears minimal in Alabama, while conditions remain horrible and prisoners are still fearful.
The report continued:

For nearly two decades, Tutwiler staff have harmed women in their care with impunity by sexually abusing and sexually harassing them. Staff have raped, sodomized, fondled and exposed themselves to prisoners. They have coerced prisoners to engage in oral sex. Staff engage in voyeurism, forcing women to disrobe and watching them while they use the shower and use the toilet.
Prison officials have failed to curb the sexual abuse and sexual harassment, despite possessing actual knowledge of the harm, including a federal statistical analysis identifying sexual misconduct at Tutwiler as occurring at one of the highest rates in the country.

 

Of the 233 prisoner letters the DOJ investigation received, 44 alleged pervasive sexual abuse and harassment. Investigators received numerous reports of many staff engaging in prohibited sexual contact with prisoners. At least 36 of the 99 total employees were identified as having had sex with prisoners. If you include staff identified for other forms of sexual abuse and sexual harassment, the number of staff involved nearly doubles. In some cases, prisoners describe the misconduct as non-consensual, unwelcome and/or the result of physical force. In other cases prisoners were pressured into “consensual sex “ (still illegal) by threats or by promises of gifts or privileges,

Following the release of a damning 2007 report, ADOC officials failed to implement operational practices to address the issue of sexual abuse at Tutwiler. Instead, officials allow staff to continue to retaliate against women who made allegations relating to sexual misconduct. ADOC also failed to adequately respond to or investigate allegations and failed to properly discipline staff found to have engaged in sexual abuse or harassment. These actions and inactions, when combined with the various systemic deficiencies at Tutwiler, violate the law and foster an environment where additional sexual abuse can occur.

In both 2007 and 2013, sexual abuse at Tutwiler was woefully underreported. Many prisoners confirmed this, citing fear of retaliation as a reason for not reporting sexual abuse and harassment. EJI provided multiple examples of women who, after reporting sexual abuse, were placed in segregation with limited or no access to a telephone, visitors or programs, for an extended time. Prison officials treated these women with the presumption that they were lying, subjecting them to polygraph examinations as a prerequisite to investigating allegations. Staff verbally harassed them for reporting allegations of sexual abuse involving their colleagues.

The 2014 DOJ report observed that Tutweiler’s long and unabated history of staff sexual abuse and harassment is facilitated by a disciplinary system that fails to substantiate the conduct of, and discipline, sexual predators. Tutwiler fails to adequately manage and analyze existing data to identify potential sexual misconduct and problematic staff behavior. As a result, officers who are identified in several prisoners’ allegations are not flagged for further review and are less likely to be disciplined and prevented from further abuse. After the prisoners who file those reports see the officers remain on the unit, they decide that reporting is futile.

Staff and prisoners continued to engage in overt and inappropriate sexual behavior at Tutwiler within days of investigators’ recent arrival. This behavior underscores the need for numerous critical institutional reforms that will not only address the underlining causes of the harm, but also identify and implement sustainable reforms. To this end, the report concluded, ADOC must take on an active role in monitoring the changes made at Tutwiler, because it is no longer enough to delegate the changes to the Tutwiler officials without expansive oversight.

The report insists that order to rectify the deficiencies identified in this investigation, ADOC and Tutwiler should implement, at a minimum, the following 24 remedial measures:
1) Comply with all provisions of the National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape as promulgated by the United States Department of Justice;
2) provide multiple internal methods for prisoners to privately report sexual abuse and sexual harassment, allowing the resident to remain anonymous upon request;
3) protect all prisoners who report sexual abuse or sexual harassment or cooperate with sexual abuse or sexual harassment investigations from retaliation by other prisoners or staff, while designating which staff members or departments are charged with monitoring retaliation;
4) provide a method for staff to privately report sexual abuse and sexual harassment of prisoners;
5) ensure that an administrative and/or criminal investigation is completed for all allegations of sexual abuse and sexual harassment;
6) prepare a written report of its investigative findings for each investigation;
7) establish guidelines for timely and thorough investigations and develop a process for monitoring those timelines, while ensuring that investigations not solely rely on polygraph examinations and Tutwiler not require a prisoner to submit to a polygraph examination as a condition for proceeding with an investigation;
8) ensure that all allegations of sexual abuse or sexual harassment are properly labeled and tracked;
9) have a written policy mandating zero tolerance toward all forms of sexual abuse and sexual harassment and outlining their approach to preventing, detecting and responding to misconduct;
10) develop and implement a detailed policy on prevention, detection, reporting and investigation of sexual abuse, including prisoner-on-prisoner and staff-on-prisoner sexual abuse;
11) develop a written, institution-specific plan to coordinate actions taken in response to an incident of sexual abuse, among staff first responders, medical and mental health practitioners, investigators and facility leadership, including timelines and lists of whom staff should contact in specific situations;
12) implement policies and procedures that enable prisoners to shower, use the bathroom, and change clothing without non-medical staff of the opposite gender viewing them, and requiring staff of the opposite gender to announce their presence when entering a prisoner-housing unit;
13) implement policies and procedures regarding the management of LGBT and gender- nonconforming prisoners;
14) ensure that all newly admitted prisoners receive information in their native language, through a prisoner handbook and, at the discretion of ADOC and Tutwiler, an orientation video, regarding the following: facility rules and regulations, definitions of sexual abuse and sexual harassment, how to report misconduct, how to report sexual abuse and sexual harassment, the process for accessing medical and mental health care, the disciplinary process and how to access the grievance process once it is developed;
15) collect, consolidate, analyze, track and otherwise use its data, including incident reports and grievances, to identify sexual abuse and sexual harassment and problematic staff behavior;
16) develop and implement an adequate grievance process;
17) ensure that a prisoner who alleges sexual abuse or sexual harassment may submit a grievance without having to give it to a staff member who is the subject of the complaint; 18) ensure that Tutwiler develop, implement, and document a staffing plan, based on gender-responsive principles, that provides for adequate levels of staffing, and, where applicable, real-time video monitoring, to protect prisoners against sexual abuse;
19) develop a plan to recruit additional women correctional officers;
20) establish a policy to ensure that any employee, contractor or volunteer who is suspected of sexual abuse or sexual harassment does not interact with prisoners until an investigation is concluded;
21) provide appropriate orientation, basic and in-service training to all employees who may have contact with prisoners;
22) address architectural features that contribute to a lack of privacy for prisoners while showering or using the bathroom, and conduct an assessment to identify physical plant vulnerabilities, including blind-spots within the facility, that could contribute to sexual misconduct;
23) implement a gender-normed classification system specific to women prisoners at Tutwiler; and
24 implement a risk-assessment process that adequately identifies potential predators and victims.

In 29 States It’s Mandatory for Parents to Pay for their Kids’ Prosecution and Incarceration—and in 22 Others it’s Discretionary

Today, statutes in all states make it discretionary (in 22 states) or mandatorythumb_dollar_sign_BW[1] (29) for the court to require a parent or guardian to pay at least part of the support costs for a juvenile who is adjudicated delinquent and placed out of the home.  In evaluating an obligated party’s ability to pay, the court takes into consideration the family’s income, their necessary obligations, and the number of people dependent on this income.

Several states have proposed legislation on this issue. Arizona would add language that would allow the juvenile court to waive all or part of these support expenses if the court determined that extenuating circumstances existed. On the other extreme, Idaho proposed amending the parental support statute to state that the obligation of the parent or legal guardian to pay current and accrued amounts would continue until paid in full, regardless of the juvenile offender’s age. Finally, Utah has proposed a bill that would require the juvenile court to hold a hearing at the request of a juvenile’s parent or guardian on whether they should be required to pay child support for a juvenile being held in state custody.

In 57 of the 58 counties in California, the state with the highest population of incarcerated youth, young people’s families get billed a percentage of the counties’ costs for their prosecution, incarceration and probation.   In Alameda County, which includes Oakland and Berkeley, for suspects older than 16, the meter starts running even before indictment, with a $250 charge for the investigation initiated after an arrest. For a juvenile who’s been detained for the 23-day average time in Alameda County the total bill will be close to $2,000. In that county, the fee for investigations, accurate or not, is charged even if a suspect is exonerated.

 
Beth Colgan, of Stanford Law School, who’s written about the history of fees charged by the criminal justice system, which she says incur as much as 12% interest in some states, said:

We’re trying to get blood from a stone in many situations. Counties often spend a lot more money trying to collect the fees than they recoup. These fees can be detrimental to people’s ability to get back on their feet. One of the strongest arguments against these fees is that they perpetuate inequality and poverty in a way that might make many people uncomfortable.

In the 29 states that require courts to order payment from parents (including California), parents’ financial responsibility begins from the moment an arrest happens. In some cases, parents can negotiate certain fees if they can’t pay, but rules vary around the country. When the bills aren’t paid, officials can involve collections agencies, deduct from parents’ wages or take their tax refunds.

 
Zoe Mathews, a working single mother of three, says she can’t afford the payment arrangement determined by Solano County for $7,500 fees related to her deceased child’s time in detention and on probation. She’s tried to negotiate with the county to waive the fees, but the county would only lower the monthly payment. The phone calls from county bill collections agency stopped, but Mathews is now receiving letters threatening to garnish her wages if she doesn’t pay. Mathews calls the fees to juvenile offenders unfair “double-dipping, ” once an offender has served time.

Incarceration is supposed to rehabilitate you, and you’re paying your debt back to society, so then they’re going to charge you an additional per night stay? I don’t think that’s right at all.

New National Campaign for Youth Shelter Demands Feds Dramatically Accelerate Efforts to Cut Youth Homelessness

Photo by Susan Madden Lankford

Photo by Susan Madden Lankford

Advocates for homeless people and LGBT youth have teamed up to launch a national campaign demanding the federal government dramatically expand efforts to reduce homelessness among young people. The Ali Forney Center, a New York-based program that offers housing and other services to LGBT youth, and the National Coalition for the Homeless have formed the National Campaign for Youth Shelter. 

It is a collaboration that will build a grassroots campaign to demand a national response to youth homelessness. The campaign notes that each year as many as 500,000 youths up to age 24 experience homelessness while not accompanied by adults, but there are only about 4,000 youth shelter beds in the country.
Jerry Jones, National Coalition for the Homeless’s executive director, says:

It’s a particularly indefensible tragedy that young people are experiencing homelessness. It’s completely outrageous, and I think many people assume this is a problem that someone’s dealing with or that it’s not as large an issue as it actually is. There’s a sense of denial as a country in recognizing we’ve got tens of thousands of kids at any given point out there on the streets with nowhere to go.

Specifically, the National Campaign for Youth Shelter calls for a) A federal commitment to provide all homeless young people ages 24 and under immediate access to safe shelter; b) an immediate federal commitment to add 22,000 shelter beds for young people, as the federal government currently provides existing shelter beds through the underfunded Runaway and Homeless Youth Act; and c) a more accurate and comprehensive effort to count the number of young homeless people in the nation to determine the need for shelter beds over the next decade.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth are disproportionately represented among the population of young homeless people. In some parts of the country, up to 40% of young people who are homeless are LGBT, while only about 5% of the population is. In many cases, being LGBT is why they’re homeless, since their families have rejected them because of their sexual identity. The homeless young people are a largely invisible population, living on the streets, couch-surfing or sleeping in abandoned buildings. They tend to blend in with other teenagers and don’t want to identify themselves as being homeless. It’s very risky being homeless, because they are almost immediately exploited, or there are attempts to lure them into the sex industry. So most homeless young people try to mask their situation.
Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, a Washington-based alliance of organizations focused on needs of low-income and vulnerable people, says:

Making sure our youth can have a decent start in life must be seen as a national obligation. This important new campaign is bringing a shameful national failure to light, and has achievable goals that the public will demand as it learns how we have abandoned so many of our young people.
Lack of shelter for homeless young people reflects misplaced priorities in Congress, which has shown itself willing to hand hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to big corporations while being unwilling either to invest in preventing youth homelessness or to provide even basic shelter to hundreds of thousands of homeless youth.

The campaign has received endorsements and support from more than 30 organizations, including LGBT youth advocates and housing and anti-poverty organizations. It is unprecedented to have so many LGBT organizations join together with prominent national housing and anti-poverty organizations to fight for the humane treatment of impoverished youths. With all this support, the National Campaign for Youth Shelter should build a movement to finally prevent youths from being left to suffer homelessness without access to shelter. The campaign is going to hold rallies in New York City and Washington, DC, to launch the campaign as a priority within the LGBT movement. The New York City rally will be held on June 2.
In 2012, as part of existing federal efforts, The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness adopted the Framework to End Youth Homelessness which calls agencies and systems at all levels and the private sector to accelerate progress on the goal of ending youth homelessness by 2020. The framework describes a more coordinated way to approach the problem of youth homelessness, effective across different disciplines that work with this population.
To achieve the outcomes of stable housing, permanent connections, education and employment, and well-being, the framework focuses on two simultaneous strategies: improving data on youth homelessness and building capacity for service delivery. Improving data will provide a clearer understanding of the prevalence, characteristics, and needs of unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness. And building capacity for service delivery includes increasing our knowledge of effective interventions, scaling up the interventions shown to be most effective and a preliminary intervention model that communities can use to develop a systems approach to ending youth homelessness based on current evidence about what works.

In communities across the country, organizations, schools, researchers, philanthropic partners and young people are leading innovative efforts to address youth homelessness. A growing number of communities are using the federal framework and its preliminary intervention model to develop systemic and client-level responses to end youth homelessness.

New Female Federal Prisoners’ Advocacy Group Launches “End Mass Incarceration” Campaign

Photo by Susan Madden Lankford

A group Danbury, Connecticut female federal prisoners have taken a stand against mass incarceration and discrimination within the U.S. judicial system, rallying supporters to create change. Out of their efforts a new advocacy group, WomenOverIncarcerated.org, (WOI.org),
recently kicked off its “Enough is Enough: End Mass Incarceration” campaign. The organization is rallying for alternatives to lengthy sentences for nonviolent federal prisoners, urging people to sign an online petition at www.womenoverincarcerated.org  requesting Congress to reinstate federal parole and mitigate federal sentencing.

Last fall, after prisoner Jamila T. Davis received a letter of support for fairness in the justice system, regardless of race, gender or income level, from U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings, a group of white-collar offenders housed at the Danbury Federal Prison Camp For Women (featured in the hit Netflix show Orange Is The New Black), initiated a sentencing-disparity study. It revealed that these women received 300% harsher sentences than affluent white males who committed the same or similar white-collar crimes—and a shocking 480% harsher for African American females. (View this study at http://www.womenoverincarcerated.org).

 
To correct these injustices and reunite families, WOI.org is advocating for alternatives to lengthy prison sentences for nonviolent offenders, and the organization is urging Congress to reinstate federal parole. Unlike most state offenders, some of whom serve less than one-third of their time, due to the absence of parole, all federal prisoners serve 85% of their time, with no recourse. Consequently, the federal prison system is nearly 40% over capacity, and taxpayers are spending $6.1 billion to house nonviolent offenders.
Determined to change the common misconceptions and images of women behind bars, Danbury prisoners came together to create the 2014 WomenOverIncarcerated.org calendar, where each month features a different woman’s story. All women featured are serving lengthy sentences in federal prison, and two of them are serving life sentences for nonviolent offenses. The cost of incarceration to taxpayers, and the faces, backgrounds and stories of these women (many of whom are first-time offenders) have astounded calendar viewers.

 
Jamila T. Davis, a 36 years old federal inmate/author serving a 12 ½- year sentence for allegedly victimizing the now-defunct Lehman Brothers Bank, said:

It was important to me to help create a platform where women could share their stories. After writing my book The High Price I Had To Pay, based on my own case, I realized that the American people have no clue who we are and the type of sentences we are serving.
“While not one Wall Street banker is serving time for the events that spiraled the 2008 financial crisis, ‘small fries’ like me are serving big time! Many of us are women. I received a seven-times greater sentence than the two white males—a seasoned lawyer and banker—who instructed me on what to do. I felt my sentence was totally unjust, so I decided to speak out.

Women are not only punished for the crimes they committed, but they are also punished for entering the so-called ‘man’s’ world of business. The organization believes that President Obama, policymakers and judges should correct the unfair sentencing practices women encounter in the U.S. judicial system, or else our whole society will be negatively affected.

 
The U.S. female incarcerated population continues to grow at alarming rates, and more women are entering the country’s prison system annually than anywhere else in the world. The number of incarcerated women in U.S. prisons increased 646% between 1980 and 2010, rising from 15,118 to 112,797. Today there are more than 205,000 women incarcerated in state and federal prisons here. Most of them are mothers, and many are first-time offenders.

 
According to a study cited at womenoverincarcerated.org/facts/,  Out of the approximately 14,500 female federal prisoners in the U.S., many are serving lengthy sentences for federal offenses, while for comparable charges, state offenders are serving significantly shorter sentences. Contrary to popular belief, these women are not violent offenders who pose a physical threat to society. Most are nonviolent offenders who can be effectively rehabilitated through alternative means to incarceration.

 

These women have been ripped away from their children and families, causing psychological and financial hardships. Unlike state prisoners, female federal prisoners are often housed in states far away from their residences, and it is common for families to have to travel in excess of 500 miles to visit women in federal prison. As a result, many federal female inmates only get to see their children a few times each year, or if they lack the necessary finances, they don’t get to see their children at all. This vicious cycle of incarceration spirals an epidemic of youth vulnerable to criminal behavior, because of the lack of guidance and support from their maternal figures.

 
Tragically, female federal prisoners are simply being “warehoused” in prisons throughout our nation, without receiving adequate programming to foster true rehabilitation. Taxpayers shell out a hefty price to house these prisoners, and in many cases, we also pay for the care of their children. The average cost to house each woman is approximately $30,000 a year, not including medical expenses. The large overcrowded population of female offenders lack access to effective programming and often have insufficient healthcare. More than 57% of females reported abuse before admission to prison, but their special needs tend not be addressed.

 
Womenoverincarcerated.org believes:

Instead of locking mothers away and throwing away the key, at great expense to the general public, these women, of every demographic, deserve a second chance to restore their lives and correct their paths. There are more adequate solutions for rehabilitation than are currently available. These alternatives will save taxpayer dollars, and at the same time will offer female offenders an opportunity to become productive, contributing, members of society.

The organization has five primary goals: (1) To enlighten the general public about the alarming growth-rate of women in prison; (2) to focus light on the true personas of female prisoners, versus those created in movies and on television; (3) to assist in eliminating the stigma of being a “criminal” upon re-entry into society and the workplace, by changing the general public’s perception of women in prison; (4) to advocate for reform in the U.S. judicial system, and to support programs that truly rehabilitate and serve to help women; and (5) to support alternative sentencing for female offenders in order to stop the breakup of families, which is a severe consequence of female incarceration.

In First Eight Years, Redeploy Illinois Diverted 1,232 Youths from Prison, Saving State $60 Million

Wikipedia Juvenile Convicts_(1903)

Young convicts in 1903. Photo credit:Wikipedia

Redeploy Illinois, a nine-year-old program Juvenile-Justice-Program that currently gives 42 counties via 12 sites across the state money to treat delinquent youths in their home communities instead of state prison facilities, has, since its inception, saved the state $60 million in incarceration costs. State Department of Juvenile Justice data show the average cost to house a youth at Illinois state facilities was $111,000 a year, while serving him or her through the Redeploy program cost $7,000. Department Secretary Michelle Saddler says the program “gives youth a second chance” at becoming law-abiding citizens.

 
Administered by the Bureau of Youth Intervention Services, Redeploy Illinois is designed to provide services to youth aged 13 to 18 who are at high risk of being committed to the Department of Corrections. A fiscal incentive is provided to counties to provide services to youth in the juvenile justice system by building a continuum of care for them within their home communities. Based on individual needs assessments, counties link youngsters to a wide array of needed services and supports within the home community, including case management, court advocacy, education assistance, individual/family/group counseling and crisis intervention.

 
Research has found that non-violent youth are less likely to become further involved in criminal behavior if they remain in their home communities and if appropriate services are available that address underlying needs such as mental illness, substance abuse, learning disabilities, unstable living arrangements and dysfunctional parenting. Unfortunately, many Illinois counties lack the resources to effectively serve delinquent youth locally, and this plays a significant role in the court’s decision to commit a youth to a correctional facility. Fortunately, the funds provided to the dozen Redeploy sites fills the gaps in their continuum of services, allowing them to cost-effectively serve youngsters in their home communities and reduce the system’s reliance on corrections. Redeploy Illinois has been hailed as a model for the nation in efforts to reduce cruel, inefficient and ineffective juvenile justice systems.

 
A study released in March of 2010 by the Justice Policy Institute, reported:

Redeploy Illinois is an example of the kind of program other states should embrace as a way to reduce prison costs and prevent young offenders from falling into futures dominated by criminal behavior and incarceration.

This progressive effort to build on the work done in other states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, which successfully reduced juvenile incarceration rates through similarly structured programs, is paying off. Evidence increasingly supports the conclusion that Redeploy Illinois provides a significant return on investment in terms of financial and human resources. The Redeploy Illinois Annual Report  presents data, analysis, and findings substantiating this claim. In financial terms, the average annual cost to serve a youth in the Redeploy program in 2013 was approximately 6% of the annual cost to house him or her in the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ). In 2013 the average per-capita cost to house a youth at IDJJ was a reported $111,000. In 2013, 352 youth received full Redeploy Illinois program services, with an appropriation of $2,385,100. This equates to an annual Redeploy program cost per youth of $6,776.

 
In 2012, 238 fewer youth were committed to IDJJ because of the Redeploy Illinois program, saving Illinois taxpayers nearly $11.7 million. Through 2012, the Redeploy program has diverted 1,232 youth, saving the state a conservative $60 Million in unnecessary incarceration costs. From the human perspective, these 1,232 youth were given a second chance at becoming a contributing and law-abiding citizen of their respective communities. Beyond saving dollars, the program mends lives.

 
A commissioned report by Illinois State University found:

Parents and youth believe the program significantly improved family relationships, youth attitudes, communications with youth and offered opportunities for success. Youth coped with anger better, were more focused on positive goals and committed substantially fewer crimes. Further, probation staff, service providers and the judiciary all exhibited strong support for Redeploy Illinois.

An examination of the program’s first five years found that 73% of the 972 youth accepted into the program achieved a successful (66%) or neutral (7%) program discharge. Successful youth had a 27% lower recidivism rate than their unsuccessful counterparts. Of the 389 youth successfully completing the Redeploy Illinois Program, 61% of were not incarcerated during the three years following discharge from the program, compared to 34% of the unsuccessful youth. In addition, fewer than 13% of youth were terminated from the program because they had committed a new offense while in it.

 
More than 250 youths were served in the Restore Illinois program in 2013, but program officials fear budget cuts if the state’s income tax increase rolls back as scheduled in 2015.