Prison Inmates Suffer High Rate of Sexual Abuse by Staff

The Obama administration announced new regulations intended to reduce prison rape recently. This CBS News piece seems to bury the lede:

Just about the same number of former inmates were victimized by facility staff as were victimized by other inmates. About 27,300 — 5.4 percent — reported incidents with other inmates, while 23,300 — 5.3 percent — reported incidents that involved facility staff. Of the former inmates who reported incidents with staff, 6,300 — or 1.2 percent — of the former inmates said they had unwilling sex or sexual contact with staff, while the rest said they “willingly” had sexual contact with the staff member.
Any sexual contact between staff and inmate is officially classified as nonconsensual. Prisons uniformly forbid inmate-staff sexual contact.

CBS: White House steps up efforts against prison rape
The way the story presents the numbers is a bit confusing. To say that inmates are victimized as much by staff as other inmates might be overstating the issue since all sexual contact, consensual or not, is considered abuse. However, that’s 1.2% of the total population surveyed who have had unwilling sexual contact with staff – not 1.2% of the 5.3% who reported sexual contact with staff. That puts the number of unwilling contact at 27% of total staff sexual contact. If we don’t count willing contact, then prisoner are still much more likely to be sexual abused by other prisoners, but we can still see that there is a significant amount of abuse happening on the part of prison staff.
(via Jesse Walker, who unburied the lede)

Colton Harris-Moore Pleads Guilty, Looking at 5.25 – 6.5 Years in Prison

Colton Harris-Moore

The U.S. government now owns the story of Colton Harris-Moore, the gawky delinquent thief and burglar who will cool his heels in prison while a movie about his exploits as the “Barefoot Bandit” appears headed for a theater near you.
The 20-year-old Harris-Moore pleaded guilty to seven federal felony charges Friday in a plea agreement that recommends he serve between 5 ¼ and 6 ½ years in prison to resolve the federal aspects of his two-year crime spree, including the thefts of two airplanes and a boat and being a fugitive in possession of a firearm.

Seattle Times: ‘Barefoot Bandit’ pleads guilty to 7 federal charges, forfeits possible profits
He’s also up on 30 state charges in four counties.

Chinese Prisons Forcing Inmates to "Gold Farm" in Online Games

Gold farming

As a prisoner at the Jixi labour camp, Liu Dali would slog through tough days breaking rocks and digging trenches in the open cast coalmines of north-east China. By night, he would slay demons, battle goblins and cast spells.
Liu says he was one of scores of prisoners forced to play online games to build up credits that prison guards would then trade for real money. The 54-year-old, a former prison guard who was jailed for three years in 2004 for “illegally petitioning” the central government about corruption in his hometown, reckons the operation was even more lucrative than the physical labour that prisoners were also forced to do.

The Guardian: China used prisoners in lucrative internet gaming work

Virginia Rastafarians Get Their Own Prison

Dreadlocked Rasta
The story is a little confusing, but the AP is reporting that several Rastafarians in the Virginia prison system are being moved to their own prison. The Rastas have been held in solitary, sometimes for years, for refusing to cut their hair. Presumably, they are in prison for more than their growing their hair out, they’re just in solitary because of their hair. There are as many as 50 Rasta in Virginia currently in solitary for this reason. The Rastas will now live two to a cell, but “they will not have all the privileges of inmates in general population.”
AP: New prison for Va. Rastafarian inmates
(Thanks Mark!)

American Conservative: Hispanics don't commit more crimes than whites

American Conservative - His-panic

The evidence presented here powerfully refutes the widespread popular belief that America’s Hispanics have high crime rates. Instead, their criminality seems to fall near the center of the white national distribution, being somewhat higher than white New Englanders but somewhat lower than white Southerners. Taken as a whole, the mass of statistical evidence constitutes strong support for the “null hypothesis,” namely that Hispanics have approximately the same crime rates as whites of the same age.
We must bear in mind that most Hispanics are still of very recent immigrant origins and thus are considerably poorer than the average American. There actually does exist a connection between poverty and crime, even if liberals make such a claim, and since today’s Hispanic population has roughly the same crime rate as far more affluent whites, there is every reason to expect that this crime rate will drop further as Hispanics continue to move up the economic ladder. As the American Enterprise Institute’s Douglas Besharov pointed out in an important but insufficiently noticed October 2007 New York Times column, the last decade or two have seen an extremely rapid economic advance for most of America’s Hispanic population. 10 This rise may be connected with the simultaneous and unexpectedly rapid drop in urban crime rates throughout the country.

Read More – American Conservative: His-Panic
Via Radley Balko who notes:

For a magazine co-founded by anti-immigration paleocons Pat Buchanan and Taki Theodoracopulos, the story risks alienating a hell of a lot of the magazine’s readers.

See also Balko’s article “The El Paso Miracle.”

Study: States can't afford death penalty

according to a new report that concludes that states are wasting millions on an inefficient death penalty system, diverting scarce funds from other anti-crime and law enforcement programs.
“Thirty-five states still retain the death penalty, but fewer and fewer executions are taking place every year,” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. “But the overall death row population has remained relatively steady. At a time of budget shortfalls nationwide, the death penalty is turning into an expensive form of life without parole.”
His group commissioned the study released Tuesday.
A privately conducted poll of 500 police chiefs released with the report found the death penalty ranked last among their priorities for reducing violent crime. Only 1 percent found it to the best way to achieve that goal. Adding police officers ranked first.

CNN: Study: States can’t afford death penalty
(via Bill)
Governments have been maintaining other policies that not only can they not afford, but are amoral – for example, the drug war. This hasn’t stopped them yet. Still, one can hope this report will lead to some reversal of policy.

Netherlands to close prisons for lack of criminals

The Dutch justice ministry has announced it will close eight prisons and cut 1,200 jobs in the prison system. A decline in crime has left many cells empty.
During the 1990s the Netherlands faced a shortage of prison cells, but a decline in crime has since led to overcapacity in the prison system. The country now has capacity for 14,000 prisoners but only 12,000 detainees.
Deputy justice minister Nebahat Albayrak announced on Tuesday that eight prisons will be closed, resulting in the loss of 1,200 jobs. Natural redundancy and other measures should prevent any forced lay-offs, the minister said.
The overcapacity is a result of the declining crime rate, which the ministry’s research department expects to continue for some time.

NRC: Netherlands to close prisons for lack of criminals
(via Cryptogon)
1. If certain politicians and pundits are to believed, The Netherlands has been experiencing a crime epidemic as the result of rampant immigration. Could it be that this was only xenophobic scare mongering?
2. What would happen in the US if prison populations were to decline? Also, since the US has been experiencing overall reductions in crime over time as well, why is our prison population not decreasing? What is the key difference between the US and the the Netherlands in this regard?
Update: I forgot to give link back to Cryptogon early. Many apologies.

America's Most Common Torture: Solitary Confinement

The expanding torture scandal has left the American public horror-struck at how casually the Bush administration and its employees countenanced torture techniques like sleep deprivation, waterboarding and stress positions. However, another form of torture was not just used on detainees, but is being used on at least 25,000 Americans right now.
That’s the number of people currently held in long-term solitary confinement in the United States, living for years in 80-square-foot concrete cubes lit by round-the-clock fluorescent light, with little or no human contact. The U.S. is alone among developed countries in using long-term solitary confinement on a regular basis.
Academic scientific analysis of solitary confinement is still in its early stages, but the results are obvious, and echo the experiences of Americans who’ve been held in solitary confinement by terrorists or as prisoners of war. Human beings evolved to be social creatures. Solitary confinement drives us mad. spoke with psychologist Craig Haney of the University of California, Santa Cruz, an expert on long-term solitary confinement. Asked if it’s torture, Haney replied, “For some people, it is.”

Wired: Solitary Confinement: The Invisible Torture
(via Disinfo)