To settle a lawsuit by inmates, the state of Texas will install air conditioning in a notoriously hot prison. The air conditioning will go into the housing areas of the Wallace Pack Unit, where temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees in the summer. Inmates argued that high temperatures amount to cruel and unusual punishment.
Three inmates have killed themselves within two and one-half weeks in Georgia prisons. The corrections department says it is “developing an awareness campaign for use in communicating to the offender population.”
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) believes that a “prison reform” bill can pass Congress this year with White House support, even if it does not include reductions in mandatory minimum sentences.
The Justice Department’s National Institute of Corrections reported glaring procedures in North Carolina prisons were employees were killed during an escape attempt. The state took action involving three top employees pending an internal investigation.
As predicted, President Trump cited prisoner reentry in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, but it was only a one-line mention. “This year we will embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance,” the president said.
The shift will occur as the U.S. Bureau of Prisons expects a 12 to 14 percent reduction in staffing levels. “This is catastrophic for the safety and security of our institutions,” said a union official.
It was a formal reversal of President Obama’s policy to close Guantanamo. The detention center, which President George W. Bush opened after Sept. 11, 2001, reached a maximum population of 680 in 2003. Bush transferred about 500 out before he left office. Obama transferred 197 detainees out, leaving 41, including five cleared for release.
The sentencing overhaul championed by Gov. Bruce Rauner has already cut inmate numbers by 7,000. But reforms at the county level, influencing who goes to prison in the first place, have been a critical ingredient in the state’s success—and could be a model for jurisdictions elsewhere.
Twenty leading parole and probation administrators say the nation’s community corrections system has become “too big to succeed.” They endorsed a report by the Columbia Justice Lab released Monday showing that nearly five million Americans are under some form of post-incarceration supervision with proportionally little support for rehabilitation programs.
The federal government agreed to a $20 million settlement and to make 20 pages of procedural changes at its prison complex in Coleman, Fl., after complaints from employees. A current worker there says sex misconduct by inmates remains a serious problem.