“Jonathan Wall, a 26-year-old cannabis entrepreneur, has been confined at a federal supermax facility in Maryland for nearly 20 months, awaiting a May 2 trial that could send him to prison for life. Wall is accused of transporting more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana from California, where cannabis is legal for recreational use, to Maryland, which allows only medical use.
Wall’s case illustrates the draconian penalties that can still be imposed on people for selling pot at a time when most states have legalized marijuana businesses. As far as the federal government is concerned, all of those businesses are criminal enterprises. But depending on how federal prosecutors choose to exercise their discretion, selling pot can make you millions of dollars as a state-licensed supplier, or it can send you to prison for decades.”
“Over the last year and a half, thousands of low-risk inmates were given the chance to serve the remainder of their sentences on home confinement. The move was meant to curb coronavirus transmission rates in overcrowded prisons. But the trial period has been viewed as a successful tactic beyond that of a COVID mitigation measure; of the approximately 4,500 released due to COVID, just three have reoffended, two of whom committed nonviolent crimes, according to Michael Carvajal, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).”
“The average annual price for a prisoner at home is $13,000; for an inmate at a correctional institution, it is almost 3 times higher at $37,500.”
“A federal judge in August sentenced Daniel Hale to 45 months in federal prison for informing the American public about secret drone killings by the U.S. military.
Hale is a former Air Force intelligence analyst who shared classified documents with reporter Jeremy Scahill. Those documents, published in 2015 at The Intercept and in a book called The Assassination Complex (Simon & Schuster), revealed that secret drone assassinations in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia had likely killed untold numbers of innocent people, a fact the U.S. government had concealed.”
“Hale’s sentence is an example of how the federal government misuses laws meant for spies who reveal classified information to our country’s enemies. Too often, it punishes citizens who reveal the government’s true behavior to their fellow Americans.”
“Kevin Strickland, Christopher Dunn, and Lamar Johnson all have something in common: they all have spent decades in the Missouri prison system, they all maintain their innocence, and the cases that led to their convictions have all fallen apart. Yet the men remain behind bars with no release in sight despite various government actors suggesting they should have their verdicts overturned.
It’s hard to cook up a more nightmarish scenario.”
“The fates of Johnson and Strickland are in the hands of Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who insists on Strickland’s guilt and says that Johnson exhausted all his appeals.
If Schmitt does not petition for their verdicts to be overturned, it would be up to Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, to issue executive clemency. Parson yesterday released a list of pardons that included Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who attracted national media attention after waving their guns at Black Lives Matter protesters in St. Louis.
In the spirit of forgiveness and redemption, their pardoning makes sense; his failure to also pardon Dunn, Strickland, and Johnson does not. If Parson wants to make a point about prosecutorial overreach, he should grant mercy to prisoners incarcerated for crimes the government concedes they did not commit.”
“Convicted of white-collar crimes in 2013, the former investment broker was serving the remainder of his sentence on home confinement when authorities from a Newport News, Virginia, halfway house called to check in. He missed those calls, and for that, he has been sent back to federal prison for more than four years—despite the fact that electronic monitoring surveillance shows he was in his house that evening.”
“The former broker, who is currently expecting a daughter in September with his fiancée, served the bulk of his 13-year and eight-month sentence though May of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a wave of releases for certain prisoners. On May 31 of this year, unable to reach him via phone, the halfway house attempted to activate an alert on his ankle device. That function was down, according to the Press.
So an employee from the institution called the Norfolk police, who paid Martinovich’s house a visit. The officers mistakenly believed the residence to be the halfway house itself, so after arriving around midnight and knocking gingerly—failing to wake up and speak with Martinovich—they left the premises.”
“Even still, the government officials confirmed that the monitoring showed Martinovich was where he was supposed to be—his house. The device was not altered or messed with, per evidence from the FBP. But the agency proceeded with its conclusion regardless: He had “escape[d],” and thus deserves to spend years more behind bars after the government has already concluded he is not a threat to society.
Such punitive measures seem almost fantastical. Yet Martinovich has company. Gwen Levi attracted significant public attention last month after she, too, was deemed to have “escaped”—after attending an in-person word processing class. During the session, she missed a call from officials and was subsequently sent back behind bars. Levi, who was originally imprisoned on drug charges, was ultimately set free after a public outcry, though it remains to be seen if Martinovich will be lucky enough to witness the birth of his daughter.”
“a federal judge affirmed that Jake Angeli, the Capitol rioter known as “Q Shaman,” should be granted his request for organic food while being held in a Washington, DC, jail, citing his religious beliefs. It is puzzling that Angeli’s accommodations were met, not only because the DC jail found no research to show that an organic diet was a tenet of Shamanism — but also because it’s deeply hypocritical given the treatment of so many Muslim prisoners in this country who are denied, among other things, halal food. This demonstrates how so many white practitioners of faith are not just immune to discrimination, but are even awarded favors when it comes to treatment in prison.”
“The largest women’s prison in the country subjects incarcerated women to pervasive and frequent sexual assaults, violating their Eighth Amendment rights, the Justice Department concluded in a scathing and graphic report”
“”Incidents of staff sexual abuse of prisoners at Lowell are varied and disturbing,” the report says. “Some staff abused prisoners through unwanted and coerced sexual contact, including sexual penetration, and groping. Prisoners were forced or coerced to perform fellatio on or touch the intimate body parts of staff. In other instances, staff demanded that prisoners undress in front of them, sometimes in exchange for basic necessities, such as toilet paper.””
“For prison advocates and families of incarcerated women at Lowell, the report has been overdue for years.
“The families of women incarcerated at Lowell have literally been begging for years for someone—anyone—to listen to their allegations of rampant sexual abuse,” says Greg Newburn, Florida director of policy for the criminal justice advocacy group FAMM. “The conditions there are beyond horrifying, and yet for years their cries for help were ignored.”
Newborn says the report only underscores the need for independent oversight of prisons.
“Anyone who bothered paying attention knew this was happening, and nobody did anything about it,” he says. “How many women have to be sexually assaulted in prison before our leaders act?””
“After more than a year of warnings that Alabama’s gore-soaked prison system violates the Constitution, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the state on Wednesday for its failure to prevent violence and sexual assault against incarcerated men.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division alleges in its civil rights complaint that Alabama’s prison system for men is overcrowded, unsanitary, and that it is deliberately indifferent to the frequent and often deadly assaults against inmates, violating the Eighth Amendment and the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.”
“The report, which clocks in at more than 130 pages, is based on surveys, interviews with prisoners and experts, and a review of state policies. It reveals some sobering figures. Three out of every four prison survey respondents said they’d been served spoiled or rotting food in prison, while more than nine out of 10 prisoners surveyed said they weren’t provided with sufficient food while incarcerated.
It concludes that food served to incarcerated people “and the conditions under which it is served are harmful to physical and mental health and can erode self-esteem, with immediate and long-term impacts.”
The report also notes the COVID-19 pandemic has made lousy prison food even worse.”
“There’s no good reason to wait to implement these and other necessary changes—which can help reduce waste and fraud, lower recidivism rates, and improve human rights, health, and dignity.”
“More than 7,500 Americans died in jail during the last decade, and two-thirds of them were never convicted of a crime. Those are the stunning topline numbers from an investigation that Reuters published in October.
Anyone who has paid attention to the issue has known for a long time that jail deaths from neglect and occasional malevolence are a nationwide problem—especially when jails become the de facto solution to mental health and drug addiction crises. Last summer, for example, Reason reported on the story of 46-year-old Holly Barlow-Austin, who suffered from medical neglect for months at a Texarkana, Texas, jail before being transferred to a hospital and eventually dying of sepsis due to fungus, cryptococcal meningitis, HIV/AIDS, and accelerated hypertension.”
“Of the 7,571 jail deaths Reuters identified, most were due to illness. But “more than 2,000 took their own lives amid mental breakdowns, including some 1,500 awaiting trial or indictment,” it reported. “A growing number—more than 1 in 10 last year—died from the acute effects of drugs and alcohol. Nearly 300 died after languishing behind bars, unconvicted, for a year or more.””
“We can’t solve a problem we can’t see or measure. The Justice Department needs to release the full data it collects on jail deaths, while states and counties must hold law enforcement leadership accountable for the lives under their lock and key.”