Archive for December, 2013

December 27, 2013

Inmates go from lockup to start ups.

Inmates go from lock-up to start-ups

SAN QUENTIN North of Silicon Valley on a rocky promontory overlooking San Francisco Bay stands California’s oldest jail.

Inmates below are minimize off from the innovation the close by large-tech market produces. They are not permitted on the Net, and most have never ever touched a smartphone or a pill.

But two technology veterans &mdash Chris Redlitz and Beverly Parenti &mdash are bringing the assure of Silicon Valley to San Quentin Point out Jail by creating a substantial-tech incubator right here known as the Final Mile. Its mission is to train inmates about technology so they can forge new life when they are launched from jail.

Above the system of 6 months, inmates are set by means of a business boot camp. They brainstorm a start off-up, produce a business plan and boil down their pitch to 5 minutes. On “Demo Working day,” every single inmate presents his thought to dozens of Silicon Valley investors and executives who crowd the jail chapel.

The inmates can not truly start these organizations from jail, but they are launched to a globe that would or else be shut to them. When paroled, Last Mile graduates are presented paid out internships at tech begin-ups.

5 graduates of the San Quentin plan are functioning in large tech. The program has been so effective that final month it expanded to the downtown Los Angeles Twin Towers Correctional Facility, in which fifteen inmates are taking element.

Tom Serres, founder and chief executive of, a group-funding start-up for political, social and charitable triggers in San Francisco, mentioned he experienced uncertainties about employing a felon. But those speedily vanished following meeting Heracio “Ray” Harts, he stated. Harts, forty, was launched in April after he served eighty one/two several years for manslaughter.

“This is a real prospect to aid someone who most certainly justifies the possibility to be a contributing member of modern society,” Serres stated.

Final February, Harts stood at the jail chapel lectern &mdash dressed in a jail-issued blue shirt and dim sweat trousers with the word “prisoner” stamped on the leg and his hair in braids &mdash pitching his concept to battle being overweight in reduced-revenue communities by turning empty lots into local community gardens and deserted buildings into health amenities. A mobile app would support men and women monitor their physical fitness development.

Nowadays Harts has earned a location at as a complete-time staff. Harts assists the Robert Redford Foundation, the Maker Education Initiative and the Delta Sigma Phi nationwide fraternity with their campaigns on the website. And he is speaking to Pittsburg, Calif., officers about beginning a health and physical fitness system in his previous hometown.

“I feel like I belong below,” mentioned Harts, sitting down in a brick-and-glass walled convention area at, in a North Confront fleece jacket, his hair neatly buzzed. “I’m an entrepreneur. I work in tech. This is my evolution.”

Like numerous who stay in wealthy Marin County, spouse and wife Redlitz and Parenti typically drove previous San Quentin but experienced never ever set foot inside of.

Then in 2011, a buddy asked Redlitz, a 57-yr-old entrepreneur and trader who runs the KickLabs accelerator system in San Francisco, to give a 30-minute discuss on entrepreneurship at San Quentin. He was apprehensive but decided to go.

For two hrs Redlitz fielded inquiries from inmates who he claims impressed him with their passion, drive and smarts.

“These were people who have taken duty for what they have done and are trying to carve a route again to society,” Redlitz mentioned.

California has one of the greatest jail populations in the United States, 2nd only to Texas, and 1 of the maximum charges of recidivism. Within three a long time practically two out of 3 ex-convicts dedicate yet another crime and stop up again in prison. Nevertheless the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spends just 4.3% of its virtually $nine-billion budget on rehabilitation.

“Those numbers really strike me,” Redlitz mentioned. “Putting my specialist trader hat on, which is a actually negative investment for taxpayers.”

So Redlitz and Parenti persuaded jail officers to allow them experiment with a new design for rehabilitation that combines job education, self confidence developing and a bridge to the technology industry.

With California dealing with a deadline to ease overcrowding by lowering its jail population, more prisoners are serving for a longer time sentences in county jails. “The objective is to offer the Final Mile in all of the L.A. County Jail facilities,” Redlitz stated.

This spring, Redlitz and Parenti program to launch the system within many a lot more prisons in California and a single in Michigan.

December 16, 2013

This is our permanent Go Fund Me Page for all donations for all our projects. No amount is too small so please consider making your end of year donations to

We officially delivered 4600 gift bags to the prisons and jails in Los Angeles County and to CIW. Another successful year for ACWIP. Thanks to everyone who made this possible.
Click here to support Action Committee for Women in Prison by Gloria Killian

This is now the official fund raising site for This site will be active for all our fundraising efforts. Please donate as no amount is too small.

December 12, 2013

Solitary Confinement for women

Women in Solitary Confinement: “The Isolation Degenerates Us Into Madness”
December 11, 2013 By Victoria Law 4 Comments
Central California Women’s Facility, where more than a hundred women are held in isolation.

Central California Women’s Facility, where more than a hundred women are held in isolation.

A mass prisoner hunger strike rocked California’s prison system this past summer, drawing international attention to the extensive use of solitary confinement in the United States. Increasingly, solitary is finding its way into the mainstream media and onto activist agendas. Nearly all of the attention, however, has focused on solitary confinement in men’s prisons; much less is known about the conditions and experiences inside women’s prisons.

During October’s legislative hearing on solitary confinement in California, lawmakers asked prison officials about women in solitary confinement. Officials from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) stated that 74 women were held in the Security Housing Unit at the California Institution for Women (CIW) and a handful of women were awaiting transfer from the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF). CDCR does not separate people in the SHU with mental illness from those without mental illness. CDCR officials did not address the number of people in the Administrative Segregation (or Ad Seg) Unit.

According to CDCR statistics, as of September 2013, 107 women were held in Ad Seg at CCWF, which has a budgeted capacity of 38. The average stay was 131 days. Twenty women had been there longer than 200 days, two had exceeded 400 days, and another two women had exceeded 800 days. At CIW, 34 women were in Ad Seg with an average stay of 73 days. Two women have exceeded 200 days.

Lawmakers’ inquiry prompted advocacy group California Coalition for Women Prisoners to send an open letter to Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner requesting that she investigate conditions of solitary confinement in women’s prisons. The group noted that, with the conversion of Valley State Prison for Women to a men’s prison and the transfer of several hundred women to California’s other two women’s prisons, the use of solitary confinement has dramatically increased.

To justify the increase, CDCR has cited “enemy concerns” or a documented disagreement between people that may have led to threats or violence. Those designated as having “enemy concerns” are locked in their cells 22 to 24 hours a day and lose all privileges. CDCR reports do not separate the number of people in Ad Seg or the SHU for rules violations versus those confined because of “enemy concerns.” The California Coalition for Women Prisoners has noted that many of these “enemy concerns” are based on incidents that happened years ago and may not be valid today.

Dolores Canales has a son who has spent thirteen years in Pelican Bay’s SHU. Canales has also had firsthand experience with solitary confinement. While imprisoned at CIW, she spent nine months in Ad Seg, where she was confined to her cell twenty-two hours a day. “There, I had a window. The guards would take me out to the yard every day. I’d get to go out to the yard with other people,” she recalled. But the isolation still took its toll: “There’s an anxiety that overcomes you in the middle of the night because you’re so locked in,” she described. Even after being released from segregation, Canales was unable to shake that anxiety. She broke into a sweat and panicked each time she saw a group of officers even though she had broken no rules. “I just can’t forget,” she stated years after her release from prison.

Although the spotlight on solitary has focused largely on California, every women’s prison has a solitary confinement unit. Florida’s Lowell Correctional Institution for Women has a Closed Management Special Housing Unit (CM SHU) where women are confined to their cells 23 to 24 hours a day. “There is no free movement or social interaction,” reported one woman. “We just sit locked in a concrete and steel room the size of a small residential bathroom.”

In Indiana, Sarah Jo Pender has spent nearly five years in solitary. “My cell is approximately 68 square feet of concrete with a heavy steel door at the front and a heavily barred window at the back that does not open,” she described. “Walls are covered in white; the paint chipped off by bored prisoners reveals another layer of primer white. No family photos or art or reminder notes are allowed to be taped to the walls; they must remain bare. Our windowsills would be a great place to display greeting cards and pictures, but those are off-limits, too… There is a concrete platform and thin plastic mat, a fourteen-by-twenty inch shelf and round stool mounted to the floor, and a steel toilet/sink combo unit. We get no boxes to contain our few personal items. Everything must fit on the shelf, bed or end up on the floor.”

Her cell is searched daily by guards although, like everyone else in the prison, she is strip searched any time she leaves the unit for a doctor’s appointment or a no-contact visit. When she is taken to the showers, she is handcuffed, then locked into a 3 foot by 3 foot shower stall with a steel cage door for a 15-minute shower. As is the case across the country, visits are conducted behind glass.

Pender was placed in solitary confinement after successfully escaping from prison in 2008. With the assistance of a guard, who had been having sex with her and several other women in the prison, she escaped. After 136 days, she was found, re-arrested and returned to prison, where she began her unending stint in solitary confinement. Because Pender is considered a high escape risk, the administration has taken steps to isolate her even within the segregation unit. “Other women could talk to each other through their doors, but they were instructed to never talk to me or else they’d be punished,” she recounted. “The male guards were never to speak to me unless there was a second guard present, and only to give me orders. Female guards only spoke when absolutely necessary, per orders, except they chatted freely with any other prisoner.”

As in many jails and prisons, those with mental health concerns are often placed in segregation. “One of them is going to be released to society this month,” Pender wrote. “She has been in solitary for six or eight months because she has repeatedly cut herself with razors, including her throat, several times. Their solution: lock her in a room and don’t give her a razor.” Another woman spent 2 ½ years in segregation, originally for disruptive behavior. Her stay was extended each time she hurt herself. “She cut her wrists in the shower, they found her, took her to the hospital, stitched her up, put her back in lock and wrote her up for self-mutilation. She ripped the stitches out and got another battery write-up. Threw a mop bucket at the sergeant for another assault write-up and was completely maxed out on her sentence, so they let her go home from solitary. She returned that same year with new charges. She never got therapy while here—or any mental health care that she obviously needed.”

While Pender did not enter with preexisting mental health concerns, years of little to no human contact has taken its toll. At times she feels lethargic and depressed. In 2010, she had a psychotic break, which lasted nine months. Since then, she has been on and off half a dozen kinds of psychotropic medications. “I didn’t need the meds for the two years I spent in godawful Marion County Jail, and didn’t need them for five years at Rockville prison,” she recalled. “But when you lock people in rooms for long periods of time, the isolation degenerates us into madness, or at least depression.”

Others with no preexisting mental health conditions have also been affected. “I watched a woman claw chunks out of her cheeks and nose and write on the window with her blood,” Pender said. “My neighbor bashed her head against the concrete until officers dragged her out to a padded cell. Two other women tried to asphyxiate themselves with shoestrings and bras.” In Florida, faced with the prospect of ten months in CM SHU, a woman attempted suicide. “I had hung myself and was quite dead when the guards cut me down. My heart must’ve stopped because of the loss of involuntary functions, but still they wrapped me in a sheet and rushed me to medical and succeeded in reviving me,” she recalled.

Despite being locked in a cell the size of a bathroom for the foreseeable future, Pender hopes the increased outrage about solitary confinement leads to concrete changes. What would she ask people to do?

They can help by contacting their legislators and judges about their views on long-term solitary confinement. They can help by supporting small groups of activists and organizations who are passionate about this topic. Many people don’t have the desire to donate two hours of their week or month to a group, but what about two hours of their monthly wages? Or the book of stamps and box of envelopes that has been collecting dust since email was invented? There are lots of ways to help change the system. Whatever you choose to do, just DO something. Just having conversations with others about the subject is doing something. Someone else might volunteer to type up and format a newsletter. Help design a website. Circulate the info. Make phone calls to organize events. Anything is better than turning the page to the next article and forgetting about us, leaving us alone in our cells.

December 12, 2013

Some states need to think about juvenile justice.

Getting it Right: Raising the Age and Justice System Reforms for Adolescents

David is sixteen years old and lives in a New York City homeless shelter with his mother. He has been arrested three times in the past year for possession of a knife, most recently after robbing another teenager of their iPhone. His living situation is dangerous and chaotic, and he keeps the knife, despite the arrests, primarily for his own protection. Because he is considered an adult by the New York State criminal justice system, he is facing time in an adult jail and could end up with a criminal record that will bar him from various housing, employment and public assistance benefits. He might be further blocked from accessing a variety of social services — such as educational, vocational and therapeutic programming — that would otherwise be made available to him through the juvenile justice system if he were just six months younger. He will eventually be released back into his community without any support, having been traumatized by the system and with significant new barriers to overcome if he is to reach his stated goals of finishing high school, going to college, getting a job and being a positive influence in his community.

It’s hard to imagine anyone arguing publically that this is how they would want their children to be treated should they at some point run afoul of the law. However, New York remains one of just two states nationally that prosecute sixteen and seventeen year-olds in adult criminal court, despite extensive research indicating that these practices are not effective at reducing criminality, do not act as a plausible deterrent and are unnecessarily expensive.

There is a consensus across the United States that the age of majority is eighteen years old. Society does not permit people younger than eighteen to vote, to serve on a jury, to buy tobacco or alcohol products, to serve in the military, to sign certain contracts, or to take part in a host of other rights and responsibilities granted to adults, because we have come to believe that young people lack maturity to make decisions that have long-term consequences. Similarly, 48 of the 50 states in the U.S. have set the age of criminal responsibility at eighteen; unfortunately New York, along with North Carolina, has been unable to bring its criminal justice system, as it pertains to adolescents, in line with the rest of the country, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and overwhelming social science research highlighting the inappropriateness of treating children as adults for the purpose of punishment.

It is not enough, however, to simply extend the application of the Family Court Act to older teenagers. The juvenile justice system has its own, well-documented warts; procedures there, while rehabilitative in name, may in fact be overly punitive in the context of older adolescents. A more nuanced approach that considers the unique developmental capabilities, life circumstances and needs of this age group is long overdue.

Every state has two distinct court tracks — one for juveniles and one for adults. According to the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, the two systems are primarily differentiated by philosophy — the adult system focuses on punishment and the juvenile system focuses on rehabilitation. Youth prosecuted as adults often face the same consequences as adults; they can be placed in adult jails and prisons, are subject to fines most cannot pay and are limited to adult interventions, typically without access to age-appropriate rehabilitative services. Meanwhile aspects of the juvenile system — such as parental obligations and school requirements — may be inappropriate for older adolescents, particularly on minor crimes.

Most sixteen and seventeen year olds who are arrested in New York State are involved only in petty crimes and violations. Out of the approximately 46,351 arrests last year, about three-quarters were misdemeanors and the most common disposition was a conditional discharge. Nationally, just 4.5% of under age-eighteen arrests are for violent offenses, with the vast majority being property crimes or non-index crimes such as vandalism, drug and alcohol use and breaking curfew.

Most young people, without any intervention, will grow out of these types of behaviors as they settle in to adulthood. Further, due to their still-developing brains and identity frameworks, many adolescents are incapable of internalizing punishment as a deterrent. Nevertheless, approximately 250,000 children and youth under the age of eighteen have cases adjudicated in adult U.S. courts each year. Nationally, 95,000 young people under the age of eighteen were held in adult jails or prisons — with the vast majority in county jails. According to Human Rights Watch, this practice is especially damaging to young people who are prone to psychological harm, depression and trauma, highly susceptible to physical and sexual assaults, frequently placed in solitary confinement for their own protection, and denied educational or vocational programming.

When young people leave the adult penal system, they may be saddled with an adult criminal conviction, which will make it harder to find a job, harder to get a college degree, harder to find housing and more likely that they will be pushed into quasi-legal or even criminal activities in order to support themselves. Youth sent through the adult system re-offend at a higher rate, re-offend sooner and typically go on to commit more serious crimes than their peers who are adjudicated in juvenile courts. The outcomes for teenagers arrested in New York and New Jersey are qualitatively different because of the age of jurisdiction.

Modern social science indicates that the adolescent brain continues to develop through the age of 25; decision-making, planning, setting long-term goals, and risk perception are among the last cognitive skills human beings learn. Behaviors legally considered delinquency, rule-breaking or even low-level crime, are indeed typical, natural aspects of the adolescent experience. Any parent can explain that teenagers are impulsive and susceptible to peer-pressure. Within the legal framework, considering these facts, the Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons (2005) established diminished criminal responsibility for those under the age of 18.

In many parts of the state, law enforcement and the court system — in practice — act on these understandings. Risky behavior — including minor rule-breaking and low-level crime — is not generally considered to be cause for criminal accountability among racially or socioeconomically privileged demographics. However the result of this discretion has left us with a criminal justice system with profound racial disproportionalities. While the disparities in drug law enforcement are perhaps the most researched and well-known, a large literature of self-report studies establishes that almost all adults engaged in some form of law-breaking during their teens.

Nevertheless, in New York State, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention reported that young people of color are arrested nearly twice as frequently as White youth, are detained six times more frequently and placed approximately four-and-a-half times more frequently. These disparities are evident in both the adult and juvenile systems. Black and Latino young people make up 88 percent of all arrested youth in New York City, 91 percent of all children in juvenile detention and 97 percent of all Office of Children and Family Services admissions.

Fortunately the politics around youth crime are changing. Now as much as 90 percent of the U.S. population understands that rehabilitative services and treatment for incarcerated youth prevents crime. Other states are on the move: between 2005 and 2010, fifteen states enacted laws to prevent young people from entering the adult system through legislation that limits housing young people with adults in prisons and jails; expands juvenile court jurisdiction to cover older teenagers; restricts transfers out of juvenile court; and considers developmental differences between children and adults in sentencing frameworks. Locally, a statewide Raise the Age Campaign, led by organizations such as the NAACP, Correctional Association, and the Children’s Defense Fund, is gaining traction. Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, Jonathan Lippman, has become an ardent supporter of similar adolescent justice reforms. Incoming Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has also supported change.

Innovation always costs money, but the experiences of other states indicate that long-term savings will more than make up for the upfront expenses. An analysis of Connecticut’s recent decision to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18, predicted a $3 benefit for every $1 in cost — primarily driven by gains to public safety. A 2011 cost-benefit study by the Vera Institute of similar reforms proposed in North Carolina, predicted $54 million in annual savings. Rhode Island lowered its age of adult jurisdiction from 18 to 17 in 2007, but after experiencing a spike in costs, raised it back to 18 after just four months. The state’s Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch said at the time: “It’s a gross failure of responsibility. It’s not saving money. It’s creating enormous questions and problems in the system, never mind ruining lives.”

December 11, 2013

Ryan Ferguson is free. If you can watch him on the Katie show today December 11, well worth it.

Ryan Ferguson, cleared of murder, eyes future career

Ryan Ferguson says his twenties are gone. The Missouri man, sent to prison for second-degree murder when he was 19 years old and freed just this year – close to a decade later – told the co-hosts of “CBS This Morning” that it is a challenge not to be bitter.
“There is no monetary value to 10 years of life,” he said. “My whole twenties are gone. And I can’t get that back. But I have a great family … We’re going to move forward together and do great things together.”
Ryan Ferguson home after almost a decade behind bars
Ferguson said he kept it together in prison by finding ways to contribute and by staying focused. “I coped by learning and educating myself every day. I went in as a 19-year-old child, basically, and I realized that I didn’t want to come out as a 19-year-old child – whether it was one year or five years or 100 years. I wanted to learn and grow.”
He worked out every day and educated himself. He even wrote a book about fitness.
Ferguson’s plan for the future – career, definitely. “I’m going to go- probably into law to some degree,” he said. “Talking to people, educating people about the justice system.”
He said it will take him some time to get there and it won’t be without challenges. “It’s a struggle to move forward knowing that, you know, I haven’t had a proper education,” Ferguson said, “and, you know, whenever people Google my name, obviously it comes up with, you know, the past decade of my life.”

But Ferguson is hopeful and said he focuses on the positive. “I really feel good about the future. I feel like I can move forward.”

December 2, 2013

Judge gets 28 years for selling kids into a private facility. Beyond belief.

Pennsylvania Judge Sentenced For 28 Years For Selling Kids to the Prison System
Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr Sentenced

Mark Ciavarella Jr, a 61-year old former judge in Pennsylvania, has been sentenced to nearly 30 years in prison for literally selling young juveniles for cash. He was convicted of accepting money in exchange for incarcerating thousands of adults and children into a prison facility owned by a developer who was paying him under the table. The kickbacks amounted to more than $1 million.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has overturned some 4,000 convictions issued by him between 2003 and 2008, claiming he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles – including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea. Some of the juveniles he sentenced were as young as 10-years old.

Ciavarella was convicted of 12 counts, including racketeering, money laundering, mail fraud and tax evasion. He was also ordered to repay $1.2 million in restitution.

His “kids for cash” program has revealed that corruption is indeed within the prison system, mostly driven by the growth in private prisons seeking profits by any means necessary.

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