The planned 19-day strike, the first such nationwide action in the U.S. in two years, appears to be gathering traction, according to unconfirmed reports. Organizers hope to bring to public attention the spate of deaths in custody as well as what they say are inhumane living conditions.
“I think the sentencing reforms are still controversial and divide Republicans. I just don’t see the wisdom of dividing Republicans on a contentious matter like that before the election,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas.
While the White House has embraced bipartisan legislation that would ease sentences and beef up prisoner re-entry and anti-recidivism programs, Attorney General Jeff Sessions says that will just create new victims. He has thrown his weight behind legislation to toughen and lengthen prison sentences.
Texas’ Harris County jail is considered a progressive example of being attentive to mental health needs, with a suicide rate below the national average. But the recent suicides of two inmates point to systemic gaps in how the jail system handles prisoners in solitary confinement.
The inmates say they are protesting exploitative labor practices in correctional facilities. “Every single field and industry is affected on some level by prisons, from our license plates to the fast food that we eat, to the stores that we shop at,” said spokesperson Amani Sawari, adding that Americans “need to recognize how we are supporting the prison industrial complex through the dollars that we spend.”
In a report issued Tuesday, the Prison Policy Initiative found that people who have been to prison are 10 times more likely to be homeless than the general public. Recommended policy initiatives include barring housing discrimination against returning citizens.
William Edwards, released from jail with a GPS tracking device that he has to pay for, is one of thousands of poor defendants left at the mercy of an ‘E-carceration” system increasingly run by for-profit services, writes an attorney who is leading a class action lawsuit combating the practice.
The “piecemeal” approach by state and federal court approach to addressing trial-level errors fails to account for the complex ways that seemingly independent errors interact with one another, writes a professor at the Northeastern University School of Law.