In this month's IAHR newsletter we will be featuring a call to attend a town hall meeting on Wednesday, February 2, action items on our legislation in Maryland and Virginia, a well done news article in the Washington Post on parole for lifers in Maryland, and an essay from the Prison Policy Initiative analyzing the data from a recent report from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).
Town Hall Meeting-February 2 at 6 p.m.
Virginia Residents: Support SB108
Maryland Residents: Support HB67
Second Chances for Lifers?
Deaths in U.S. Prisons Dramatically Increase
On Wednesday, February 2, at 6 p.m., IAHR is sponsoring a special virtual Town Hall Meeting. At the meeting Natasha White, Coordinator for the VA Coalition on Solitary, David Smith, IAHR Board Member, Kimberly Haven, IAHR’s Maryland Legislative Liaison, and Delegate Alfonso H. Lopez member since 2012 from 49th District will be making presentations. They will describe our legislation, the status of solitary legislation in the Virginia and Maryland Legislatures, and actions that you can take to support our advocacy. Please support our work by attending.
To receive the zoom link, please RSVP by clicking here.
IAHR is seeking signatories for a letter that will be sent to the Virginia House of Delegates' Speaker Todd Gilbert, Majority Leader Terry Kilgore, and to the chairman of House of Delegates Public Safety Committee, Tony Wilt. Speaker Gilbert and Chairman Wilt have the authority to move this legislation or bottle it up. We need to gather at least a 100 signatures to the letter before we send it to Speaker Gilbert, Leader Kilgore, and Chairman Wilt. Here is the letter. Click here to sign the letter.
Please sign the letter by Friday, February 4, 2022.
Dear Speaker Gilbert, Majority Leader Kilgore, and Chairman Witt:
I am asking you to support SB108 that will limit long-term solitary confinement in Virginia’s prisons to no more than 15 consecutive days within a 60-day period. According to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture isolating a person for more than 15 consecutive days for 20 plus hours a day is considered an act of torture. Moreover, many medical and psychological studies have shown that prolonged isolation can cause serious physical and psychological illness. In 2001-2019, there were 11 suicides per 100,000 incarcerated individuals in Virginia’s federal and state prisons. Furthermore, the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) settled two lawsuits in 2021 due to the harmful physical and psychological effects an incarcerated person suffered while in long-term isolation.
Not only is solitary confinement inhumane, but this practice is putting a dent in Virginia’s budget. Research shows that solitary confinement increases states’ budgets. Alternatively, those states which have limited this practice have saved significant amount of money. For example, as reported by ACLU in “Paying the Price for Solitary Confinement,” Mississippi saved $8 million each year after 2010 and Illinois saved $26 million after 2013. Similarly, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation budget in 2016-2017 was significantly reduced by $28 million. This research indicates that Virginia can also save money long-term once the use of solitary confinement is limited.
There are alternatives to solitary confinement that will not endanger staff or other incarcerated persons. Individuals who pose threats to others can be transferred to a different housing unit at the same security level or a higher security level prison. Individuals who fear for their safety can be transferred away from the person or group who are threatening them. Social programming and psychological therapy can be used to address behavioral concerns more effectively than by isolating incarcerated people in a cell the size of a parking space.
As a Virginia resident, I ask that you support SB108 to end torture in Virginia prisons. The bill mandates the implementation of social programming along with greater transparency. Passing SB108 will enhance public safety by improving the chances of incarcerated people to successfully reenter their community.
Please support SB108 when it comes before you.
Please sign the letter by Friday, February 4, 2022
For those who were not able to sign the petition, we are still collecting signatures. We will be sending the petition to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee soon. The more signatures the better!
All you must do is click here and add your name to our online letter. You will be adding your name as a signatory to the letter below. Please share this with your friends and family and on social media.
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The long shadow of ‘truth in sentencing’ politics in Maryland, where the vast majority of lifers are Black.
But Taylor never made it out. In 2020, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) rejected his release, overturning the decision of the 11-member parole board. No reasons were given.
Darryl Taylor seen at the Jesssup Correctional Institution in Maryland, where he has been behind bars since 2000 for a murder he says he did not commit. He was recommended for parole in 2019 but rejected by the governor. (Jene Traore)
“That was a crushing feeling,” Taylor, 50, said last fall from a medium-security prison in Jessup, Md. “You feel like you’re on the verge of having some sort of freedom, and they hand you a piece of paper that just says, ‘no.’ ”
For decades, politics has shaped the parole process for those serving life sentences in Maryland. In the heat of a tough-on-crime campaign in the 1990s, a governor declared that he would reject all “lifers” for parole even after parole commissioners had recommended their release. The policy, maintained by governors from both parties, left hundreds of prisoners with parole-eligible sentences — the vast majority of them Black men — to grow old and die in prison.
Between 1969 and 1994, Maryland paroled 181 lifers. In the following two decades, none.
Newly released data from 2020 show the impact of early-pandemic correctional policy choices and what kind of change is possible under pressure. But the data also show how inadequate, uneven, and unsustained policy changes have been: most have already been reversed.
by Wendy Sawyer, January 11, 2022
The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has released a lot of new data over the past few weeks that help us finally see — both nationally and state-by-state — how policy choices made in the first year of the pandemic impacted correctional populations. Unsurprisingly, the numbers document the tragedy of thousands of lives lost behind bars, and evidence of some of the policy decisions that contributed to the death toll. Drilling down, we also see a (very) few reasons to be hopeful and, for those of us paying close attention, a few notable improvements in what the BJS is able to collect and how they report it. Above all, we see how quickly things can change — for better or for worse — when under pressure, and discuss some of the issues and policy choices these data tell us to watch out for.
Key findings from the BJS reports Prisoners in 2020, Jail Inmates in 2020, and Probation and Parole in the United States, 2020:
- Prison, jail, and probation populations dropped dramatically from 2019-2020, but these drops were due to mainly to emergency responses to COVID-19, and correctional populations have already started rebounding toward pre-pandemic levels.
- Nationwide, states and the federal government actually released fewer people from prison in 2020 than in 2019. The decrease in the incarcerated population was not related to releases, but rather the 40% drop in prison admissions and 16% drop in jail admissions.
- Deaths increased 46% in prisons from 2019 to 2020, 32% among people on parole, and 6% among people on probation. Jail deaths in 2020 have not yet been reported.
- Even under the pressure of the pandemic, local jails held a larger share of unconvicted people than ever, and continued to hold far too many people for low-level offenses and technical violations.
- State and federal policy responses to the threat of COVID-19 to incarcerated people varied widely, with a few states appearing to basically ignore the pandemic altogether.