Critics Seek Outside Monitoring Of Prison Abuses


Independent monitoring of prison conditions could help prevent abuse behind the walls, critics told a prison conference yesterday near Washington, D.C. Don Spector of an 11-lawyer Prison Law Office near California’s San Quentin Prison that represents inmates said his agency serves as a “de factor external monitor” that continues to find “shocking” cases. Elizabeth Alexander of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project agreed that outside monitors were needed, saying, “I have never known a state that has effective self-monitoring.” Howard Kieffer, a California lawyer who runs an Internet list called BOP Watch, tracking the federal Bureau of Prisons, suggested that federal judges should appoint “masters” to oversee problems in penal institutions within their jurisdictions.

The topic was one of seven major ones considered at a two-day National Debate on Prisons and Punishment sponsored by the American Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology. Among others who spoke on the prison-monitoring issue, Chuck Kehoe, former president of the American Correctional Association, said credible outside watchdog grops like the Illinois-based John Howard Association can provide useful information, but “people in the criminal justice system don’t like people looking over their shoulders.” Art Leonardo of the North American Association of Wardens and Superintendents said it would be a “big mistake [for states] to sop self-monitoring” of prisons, which he said can identify important issues before they turn into crises.


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