Prisoners

Image of Attica uprising
ASSOCIATED PRESS/ New York State Special Commission on Attica

Forty-five years ago, New York state police raided Attica Prison, a maximum-security institution in a small town in upstate New York. The standoff and takeover led to the deaths of 39 men in what has become known as the "Attica Prison Uprising." Scholar and historian Heather Ann Thompson considers the uprising to be both one of the most important civil rights events of the 20th century and a pivotal moment in criminal justice history.

A drawing of Alabama.
Julienne Alexander / Criminal

Convicted criminals can sit on death row for many years after the crime scene is cleaned up and packed away.

In this week's Criminal Podcast, host Phoebe Judge interviews attorney and activist Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama, a state with one of the highest execution rates in the country.

Stevenson started out at Harvard Law School, but was ambivalent about his career choice until an internship sent him to Atlanta to inform an inmate that his execution date wouldn't come within a year.

Concertina wire surrounding a prison
Kate Ter Harr / Flickr Creative Commons

Note: This is a rebroadcast from earlier this year.

A recent report by Human Rights Watch documents widespread abuse of mentally ill inmates in prisons across America. The abuses include dousing with chemical sprays, being shocked with stun guns and strapping inmates to beds for hours at a time.

A picture of corn rows.
Huw Williams / Wikipedia

Inmates at seven North Carolina prisons have grown 16,250 pounds of fresh produce for local food banks and soup kitchens since the Combating Hunger program launched last spring.

The initiative is a partnership with the nonprofit Harvest Now, which has helped set up similar programs in other states.

North Carolina Public Safety Department Spokesman Keith Acree says this will allow nearby charities to provide more nutritious food to people in their communities.

Concertina wire surrounding a prison
Kate Ter Harr / Flickr Creative Commons

    

A recent report by Human Rights Watch documents widespread abuse of mentally ill inmates in prisons across America. The abuses include dousing with chemical sprays, being shocked with stun guns and strapping inmates to beds for hours at a time.

A picture of a gavel on a document.
Brian Turner / Flickr Creative Commons

An atheist group filed a federal lawsuit to compel the North Carolina Department of Corrections to make space available for group studies by atheists in the same way it does for religious inmates.
 

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, was brought by Kwame Teague, an inmate being held for life on a 1996 first-degree murder conviction. Teague has requested space for a study group since 2012.

New Right: Judge Or Jury

Nov 5, 2014
Picture of gavel
Flickr.com

State voters passed a constitutional amendment that would give people accused of a felony a choice to have a judge hear their trial rather than a jury of their peers. The amendment was approved with about 54% of the vote. 

Up until last night's vote, North Carolina stood alone in refusing to allow that choice.  The option will only be available to persons not facing the death penalty. 

When a family member is sentenced to time in prison, they who family can feel like they are "doing time."
http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/D/bo5485741.html

Anyone familiar with the American criminal justice system has likely heard the expression, “When a person gets sentenced to prison, the whole family serves the time.” 

Prison cell
DOliphant via Flickr

This November voters in North Carolina will decide whether people accused of felonies should have the opportunity to decide whether they want a judge or jury to decide their case. Jeff Welty, an associate professor in the School of Government at the University of North Carolina, has been studying the potential implications this constitutional amendment may have on the state.  He talked with Phoebe Judge.

Conversation highlights:

Why has it taken North Carolina so long to address the issue?

Youth Radio: Dads In Prison

Aug 18, 2014
Aysia Evans and her father
WUNC

The following is from WUNC's Youth Radio project reporter Chelsea Korynta.

When I was 15, my father was sentenced to three months in prison. I was one of the 2.7 million Americans under 18 with a parent who’s incarcerated. In 2013, Sesame Street even created a series of videos starring a Muppet named “Alex,” whose dad is in jail.

Concertina wire surrounding a prison
Kate Ter Harr / Flickr Creative Commons

The number of people in North Carolina returning to prison after their release is on the decline. In fact, a new report released just this month shows that North Carolina has had one of the biggest drops in recidivism in the country.

State lawmakers have overridden the governor's veto of a bill that waters down the Racial Justice Act. The Act, passed in 2009, allows death row prisoners to challenge their sentences based on statistical evidence of discrimination. The new bill will limit the time frame and scope of statistics that inmates can use to challenge their sentences. Republican House Majority Leader Paul Stam thinks that's reasonable.

Republican legislative leaders are expected to try to override the governor's veto of a measure that would water down the Racial Justice Act. The Act, passed in 2009, allows death row prisoners to appeal their sentences using statistical evidence of discrimination.

Governor Bev Perdue has vetoed legislation that would roll back the Racial Justice Act.

A bill that would strip away much of the state's landmark Racial Justice Act passed a state House panel today.