Articles by Brian Sonenstein

Montana legislature debuts bill prohibiting solitary confinement for minors, seriously mentally ill

A bill introduced in the Montana House of Representatives this week would curb the use of isolation in state prisons. The Montana Solitary Confinement Reform Act (or House Bill 490) was introduced by Democrat Jenny Eck and would ban solitary confinement for people under the age of 18 and those with severe mental illness. It would also introduce due process and appeal measures for inmates facing solitary and require weekly mental health evaluations for isolated inmates. Over much of the past [Continue reading]

Former Corizon doctor accused of molesting scores of prisoners served with two new lawsuits

With the filing of two new lawsuits in New Mexico this week, Dr. Mark E. Walden stands accused of sexually assaulting scores of prisoners while working for inmate healthcare contractor Corizon Health Services inside two different GEO Group for-profit prisons in the state. Filed on February 13th and 16th, the lawsuits are the sixth and seventh to be brought against Dr. Walden in the past three years, and raise the total number of Walden’s alleged victims to around 50. Walden is accused of [Continue reading]

Report: Incarcerated people more likely to suffer from chronic illness and infectious disease than public

The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics released a new report (PDF) this month on the health of incarcerated people in state and federal lock-ups from 2011-12. The study focused on both prisoners (i.e. people serving longer sentences) and jail inmates (i.e. people awaiting trial or serving shorter sentences), and found they were not only more likely to have had chronic medical conditions and/or infectious disease than the general population, but were also often denied prescription medication [Continue reading]

New wrongful death lawsuit raises more questions about coming Rikers Island reforms

On February 11th, the Associated Press reported that the mother of deceased Rikers Island inmate Quannell Offley was suing New York City for her son’s wrongful death. The lawsuit is one of many facing the city over Rikers Island and comes after months of reports detailing abuse and neglect by the city’s prison staff. According to the lawsuit, Offley told prison guards on multiple occasions that he wanted to kill himself after being placed in solitary confinement. His final threat [Continue reading]

Ohio quietly recommends new contract with troubled private food contractor Aramark

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) has recommended the state sign a new two-year contract with the for-profit food vendor, Aramark. The ODRC did not announce the recommendation, which was actually completed last year. The Associated Press got wind of it only after “a records request said the prisons department was satisfied with Aramark’s performance and wanted to renew despite issues with the contract.” Those “issues” refer to the [Continue reading]

Corizon Health Services could (and should) lose its $1.2 billion contract with Florida

Florida’s new corrections secretary, Julie Jones, is threatening to toss out Corizon Health Services’ $1.2 billion contract with the state if they refuse to negotiate a new deal “with an eye to enhancing prescription drug delivery, mental health services and nursing care [including] requiring more registered nurses to be on hand rather than less-skilled staffers.” The nation’s largest for-profit healthcare provider in prisons was also recently accused of [Continue reading]

In New York City, ending youth solitary confinement comes with a complicated price tag

Under Mayor de Blasio’s new preliminary budget, 282 correction officers would be brought on to oversee New York City’s juvenile prisoners as funding for staff and alternative programming doubles to $25.3 million in 2016 — the year NYC is scheduled to end solitary confinement for 18-21 year olds. The mayor’s proposal, which arrives amid a federal lawsuit and several bombshell investigations concerning conditions in the city’s jails, also includes: Funding [Continue reading]

Conflict of interest brewing as Ohio confronts prison overcrowding

Ohio’s prison system is facing a severe overcrowding crisis. With facilities hovering around 130% capacity, prison chief Gary Mohr considered declaring an overcrowding emergency for the first time in the state’s history. This would have granted early release to prisoners nearing the end of their sentences, but those plans were inexplicably scuttled less than a month ago. It was unclear what the alternative strategy would be until Governor John Kasich released his budget [Continue reading]

Report: Corizon’s “flagrantly inadequate, substandard and dangerous” care killed Rikers inmate Bradley Ballard

The New York State Commission on Correction released a new report this week, detailing the findings from its investigation into the horrific and preventable death of mentally ill black inmate, Bradley Ballard. Ballard was left in his cell for six days straight in September, 2013. Guards shut the water off to his cell for over four days, and not once during that time was he treated for his schizophrenia and diabetes. On the rare occasion that he was seen by a medical worker, their talks [Continue reading]

Emergency early release taken off table as Ohio considers options for prison overcrowding

As prisoners, advocates and journalists warned of deteriorating conditions in Ohio’s prisons over the past year, the inmate population slowly crept back up to around 30% over capacity. During that time, prisoners in the buckeye state were fed spoiled, inedible meals by the food contractor Aramark, sometimes tainted with maggots. They also suffered abuse and abysmal conditions at private prisons operated by Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), bad enough to inspire a 14-hour peaceful [Continue reading]
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