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Don’t Celebrate Just Yet, The Private Prison Industry Will Still Thrive

On Thursday, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced in a memo that, over time, the DOJ will end its contracts with private prison companies that operate 13 facilities within the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). While this is a significant move given the times we live in, these contracts, with Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group Inc., only account for 7% of the industry’s revenue.

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Ava Duvernay’s New Documentary on Mass Incarceration Will Change The Game

Ava Duvernay’s documentary, The 13th, will be the opening film at the New York Film Festival’s (NYFF) 54th Festival. It’s the first non-fiction film to open the event in the NYFF’s history; if you haven’t already, let us toast to Duvernay’s #BlackGirlMagic. I want to take it a step further though, I want to uplift Duvernay’s message.

The documentary is appropriately titled to address the ironies between the 13th Amendment that simultaneously “abolished” slavery and also created mass incarceration over time.

A photo taken on August 4, 2015 shows the gangway at Clairvaux Prison in Ville-sous-la-Ferte, northwestern France, . AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI

President Obama Awards 12,000 Inmates With Pell Grants

One of the largest flaws with the U.S. prison system is that it’s either doing exactly what it was meant to do or is completely missing the point. Instead of rehabilitating prisoners so that they can pay for their crimes and rejoin society as productive individuals, they’re often stuck in a system that has no plans of letting them go.

To help end – or at least put some speed bumps in – the cycle, President Obama’s administration is making a higher education much more convenient for inmates in U.S. prisons. A new plan was introduced that will provide $30 million in pell grants for up to 12,000 inmates to take college courses. 

Josh Williams Ferguson

20-Year-Old Ferguson Protestor Serving 8-Year Prison Sentence

Josh Williams was one of the youngest participants during the 2014 protests in Ferguson, MO yet he’s serving one of the longest sentences tied to them.

Williams, 20, is currently five months into an eight-year prison sentence in Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, MO. According to the Huffington Post, he pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree arson, second-degree burglary and a misdemeanor for stealing in Dec. 2015. 

ANGOLA, LA - APRIL 23:  An inmate holds onto a fence during the Angola Prison Rodeo at the Louisiana State Penitentiary April 23, 2006 in Angola, Louisiana. The Angola Prison Rodeo, opened in 1965, is the longest running prison rodeo in the nation. The 10,000 seat arena was built entirely by inmate labor. The prison holds approximately 5,000 male inmates, 68 percent of whom are serving life sentences.

Former Black Panther, Albert Woodfox, Freed From Jail After 43 Years

A former Black Panther activist who was in solitary confinement for 43 years was freed from a United States prison after years of legal cases trying to prove his innocence.

Albert Woodfox was the last one of the “Angola Three” activists to be freed from jail; their case invoked many emotions out of activist groups, but anger was the one that presided the most.

Rape of Teen Inmates Is Prevalent

From Alternet:

A horrifying new story from the Marshall Project tells the story of John, a 17-year-old, 140-pound inmate in Michigan, who was raped by his 200-pound cellmate after being housed in an adult prison. It was not the last time he would be sexually assaulted. The piece is titled, “A Boy Among Men: What happens when you throw a teenager into an adult prison? Guess.”

John was repeatedly victimized, and permanently traumatized. His ordeal is not unusual for younger inmates, especially in states—and there are many of them—where strict laws have been passed to try juveniles as adults. The younger inmates become prime pickings for prison predators.

Twelve years after the passage of the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003, the horror of prison rape has not been eliminated. Inmates under 18 in adult prisons are said to be five times more likely to be attacked than their peers in juvenile facilities. Worse, prison guards are sometimes complicit in these rapes and are sometimes even the perpetrators.

Read more at Alternet

Photo: Screenshot/Youtube

Despite Law, Imprisoned Mothers Still Shackled While Giving Birth

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From the Guardian:

Imagine being pregnant and going into labor. Now imagine having handcuffs around your wrists attached to a chain, leading to a chain wrapped around your waist. Another chain leads from your waist to your feet, where cuffs keep them only inches apart. This is a practice known as shackling.

Across the United States, prison policy dictates that people be shackled whenever they are transported outside the prison. Many states make no exceptions for women in labor, childbirth or postpartum recovery.

In 2009, after extended advocacy and lobbying from prisoner rights organizations, New York passed legislation that bans the use of restraints on women during labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery. It largely bans the use of shackles on women who are taken to the hospital for a caesarean section or to be induced, as well as when women are returning to the prison from the hospital. But shackling continues to be a common reality for mothers who give birth while in New York state’s prison system.

Maria Caraballo was five months pregnant when she arrived at Bedford Hills, New York’s maximum-security prison for women. In February 2010, nine days after her due date, she was taken to Westchester Medical to be induced. She had learned about the anti-shackling law the month before and, as officers prepared to place her in the van, she told them it was against the law to shackle her. “You have no choice,” she said the officers told her. “If you refuse we’re going to write you up.”

Read more at the Guardian