OUT-OF-STATE TRANSFERS OF PRISONERS POSE MORE PROBLEMS THAN SOLUTIONS, SAYS REPORT
The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice has released a new report on the fiscal downsides to transferring inmates to out of state prisons, and the negative effects it has on rehabilitation, prisoners’ families and children, and the community as a whole. Here are a few clips from the report:
Prior to the Supreme Court mandate, California had been addressing overcrowding concerns by utilizing out-of-state private prisons, the majority of which are operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). The temporary transfer of California inmates to other states began in late 2006, rose to a peak of 10,400 in early 2011, and declined to under 10,000 by mid-2011. Continued utilization of private out-of-state facilities is slated under the 2011-2012 budget to fall by nearly half by June 2012.
In light of California’s extensive budget crisis, in early 2012, CCA offered to purchase California state prisons and operate them through a 20-year management contract. In exchange CCA requested an assurance that the prisons would remain at least 90% capacity (CCA, 2012). California not only declined the offer, but CDCR released plans in April 2012, to return out-of-state inmates to state facilities and terminate its contracts with private out-of-state facilities by FY 2015- 16 (CDCR, 2012a). This proposal estimates savings of $318 million (CDCR, 2012a, p.28). In addition to cost savings, returning out-of-state inmates is a sound public policy decision. The purpose of this publication is to provide an overview of the effects of out-of-state transfers on inmates and families, to evaluate the potential public safety and policy merits of CDCR’s proposal.
…Housing inmates in-state increases the opportunity for family reunification and community-based programmatic engagement. Ultimately these connections enable offenders to more successfully reintegrate into society upon release, and have the potential to improve conditions within the facilities themselves. Thus, the practice of sending inmates to private out-of-state facilities creates significant barriers to achieving CDCR’s rehabilitation mandate.
Parental incarceration, along with the crimes and arrests that precede it, “cause chaos in the lives of these children, including traumatic separations and erratic shifts from one caregiver to another. Most children with incarcerated parents reside in poverty before, during, and after their parents’ incarceration” (Seymour & Hairston, 2001, p. 2). This in turn is an additional causative factor in delinquency. Children of incarcerated parents “experience a broad range of emotions, including fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, loneliness, and guilt. They may exhibit low self-esteem, depression, and emotional withdrawal from friends and family” (Seymour & Hairston, 2001, p.2). As a result, many of these children struggle both socially and academically.
These effects are exacerbated when a parent inmate is transferred to an out-of-state facility. In 2008, almost 1,707,000 children (2.3% of the children in the United States) had a parent in prison (Glaze & Maruschak, 2008). The stress of this impact on children is not only experienced in communities, but also in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. In California, decreased reliance on both out-of-state and private prisons will reduce the geographical barriers between inmates and their families, thus reducing the numerous collateral consequences of incarceration.
CONFUSED AFTERMATH OF SUPREME COURT DECISION TO BAN MANDATORY JUVIE LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE
SCOTUS’ recent ban on mandatory LWOP for juvie offenders leaves states scrambling to interpret the change, with decidedly uneven results.
The Crime Report has the story. Here’s how it opens:
The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision banning mandatory life without parole for juvenile criminals gave inmates like Christine Lockheart a glimmer of hope.
In response to the Court’s ruling, the Iowa Court of Appeals earlier this month overturned Lockheart’s mandatory life sentence for a murder committed when she was 17 and ordered a judge to hold a new sentencing hearing.
But less than a week later, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad commuted the sentences of all state prisoners serving mandatory life terms for crimes committed as juveniles, and instead gave them life with the possibility of parole after 60 years.
Lockheart’s lawyer says he plans to challenge Branstad’s order in court, arguing that it violates the Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama. That ruling said that sentencing judges should consider the individual circumstances of crimes committed by juveniles, including “how children are different, and how those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing them to a lifetime in prison.”
Lockheart’s case is among the first of what criminal justice experts say will be numerous and lengthy legal battles as courts and state legislatures across the country determine how to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling—and what to do with the estimated more than 2,000 prisoners currently serving mandatory life sentences for crimes committed when they were under the age of 18.
“This is very clean at the wholesale level and very messy at the retail level,” said Mark Osler, a professor at the University of St.Thomas Law School, in Saint Paul, MN. “It’s very clear from 10,000 feet that children are different.”
Osler, who specializes in sentencing law, added: “But with these 2,000 cases, it’s going to be pretty messy with a lot of different outcomes.”
FED. APPEALS COURT WILL TAKE SECOND LOOK AT MANDATORY DNA SAMPLING
A federal appeals court voted Wednesday to reconsider a law requiring police to take DNA swabs from anyone facing a felony charge.
SF Gate’s Bob Egelko has the story. Here’s a clip:
A panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco voted 2-1 in February to uphold the law, saying DNA sampling is an effective crime-solving tool that is no more invasive than fingerprinting. But the court said Wednesday that a majority of its judges had voted to set the ruling aside and refer the case to an 11-judge panel for a new hearing during the week of Sept. 17.
The law, part of a 2004 ballot measure, took effect in 2009. It requires police to swab an inner cheek of all felony arrestees for DNA and enter the information into a national law enforcement database.
Those who are not convicted of the charges within three years can ask a judge to remove their DNA from the database, but prosecutors can veto the request.
Opponents say the law allows authorities to retain genetic information, indefinitely, from innocent people, a procedure they describe as both intrusive and ineffectual.
The law is “an unprecedented expansion of the government’s power to collect DNA evidence and to DNA-profile individuals who have never been convicted of any crime,” attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union said in requesting a rehearing.
Supporters, including Attorney General Kamala Harris, say DNA from arrestees has been used to reopen numerous “cold cases.”