Money in jail…

Sept 5, 2019

The Guardian (UK) – Richard Davies
From pecan pralines to ‘dots’ as currency: how the prison economy works

From the Guardian’s long reads, this article introduces a convicted murderer’s career as a “prison journalist,” an inmate, Wilbert Rideau, who made himself known in professional journalism circles through his contribution to the Angola Prison publication Angolite.  Rideau, now free, writes about the prison economy and how it works and attracted Guardian writer Davies who says:  “My hunch was that I would find examples of simplistic barter; what I discovered was an innovative, complex and modern system of hidden trade that offers an important lesson about the way economies work.” The article illustrates the parameter and the complexities of running a prison economy.

Gotham Gazette Opinion (New York) – Steven Zeidman
Depraved Indifference and Second Look Sentencing

Pointing to the number of people in jail (2.3 million presently in the US) this link raises the question about how many violent criminals convicted of serious violent crime are also mixed in with those unreasonably sentenced for less, and sometimes, minor crime incidents.  Zeidman centers the argument around a legal term: “depraved indifference” and raises issues around what it means and whether there is an application to imprisonment for extremely long terms.  “The law says you are guilty of depraved indifference murder if you engage in conduct that creates a grave risk of death and are aware of and consciously disregard that risk. We know the grave risk, indeed the likelihood, of death in prison for people serving life sentences. According to a report by New York’s Department of Corrections, the average age of death for those who died in state prison of natural causes was 57.” (US) – Craig Bannister
Bernie Sanders’ ‘Prisoner Bill of Rights’ Guarantees Free Phone Calls, Video Chats, ‘Living Wage’

The use of a document like proposed here for inmates may be helpful as a statement of some fundamental principles but also needs to be seen as transitory and en route towards the recognition of full access to all human rights.  Sanders is looking towards prisoners’ access to phone and video conferences and to a fair wage for work as well as political rights to vote both in and once out of prison.  Also writ large in the proposal is an end to solitary confinement and full health care – medical and mental.  These issues, and others at the link, are part of a healing approach rather than a punitive approach to crime.

The Marshall Project – Kimberly Malone
What I Learned When I Googled My Students’ Crimes – “I wondered if I knew more of their history if I would still view them the same way.”

Here something to make you pause: What would you say to your first class on spirituality with a group of inmates from Sing Sing Prison in New York?  What would you say to yourself preparing that class and en route to the first class.  The 12 inmates were agreed that it was getting increasingly difficult to get around the ‘prison politics.’  First assignment: “What is the state of your soul in prison?”  A dominant theme for the answer:  “And the majority of them pondered whether they had a soul at all, or if their souls had been damaged, permanently or otherwise.”  The four month midpoint for the class prompted Malone to attempt to arrive at a sense of who these men were in usual circumstances.

CBC News – Evan Dyer
MMIWG final report quietly altered after CBC inquired about errors

There are apparently statistical errors in the printed version of the report from MMIWG, discovered by CBC and acknowledged by changes in the official report.  The one acknowledged error to date involved the percentage of Indigenous women who are homicide victims.  At this stage, the assessment seems to be that the substance of the report is correct even if there are some statistical mis-interpretations.

CBC News – Associated Press
6 weeks into its gun buy-back program, New Zealand encountering some challenges

A proposal to limit access to firearms by a program to buy back guns from current owners is operating in New Zealand, initiated by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and focused especially on military assault weapons.  No one knows how many there are in the country.  So far about 15,000 such rifles have been turned in at a cost of $27 million (CDN); the estimated final budgeted cost is at $200 million (NZ dollars).  The deadline for compliance with the ban is Dec. 20.

CBC News – Meghan Grant
‘We don’t have a word for crime’: New Calgary Indigenous Court to follow peacemaking approach

Judge Eugene Creighton, a member of the Blood Tribe First Nation, a former corrections officer, probation officer and lawyer, will preside over Calgary’s Indigenous Court, which will meet weekly and focus mainly on bail and sentencing using a restorative justice model.  The judge adds nine years in a residential school to his credentials and helped the design and implementation of the model.