Despite limited finances, Governor Tom Corbett is working on expanding prisons in Pennsylvania. Corbett’s administration plans a $400 million-plus project to build two new prisons in Montgomery County. Meanwhile, 23 Philadelphia public schools will be forced to shut their doors next year due to funding shortages. Are these really our priorities?
Decarcerate PA, a grassroots organization dedicated to ending mass incarceration in PA, won’t stand for it. The group is planning a 10 day, 113-mile march from Philadelphia to Harrisburg to protest, beginning on May 25th. Joined by others, including the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Students Union, and Human Rights Coalition, the group will hold rallies in towns along the way and end the march in Harrisburg on June 3, when the legislature begins discussing the budget.
According to Decarcerate PA, Corbett claims the prison population is declining, yet his proposed budget includes a $68 million increase for the Department of Corrections, in addition to the $400 million prison construction project. Seeking “a people’s budget, not a prison budget,” the group wants immediate cancellation of the construction, full funding for education, healthcare, and social services, and for the legislature to vote no on any budget that increases funding for the DOC. With so many groups protesting, hopefully Corbett and the legislature will come to their senses and give the state what it really needs – reinvestment in the community.
Just as a health crisis is emerging in California state prisons, the state’s governor is insisting that health in prisons has never been better.
The Internet exploded when news hit that Kiera Wilmot, a 16 year-old Florida girl, was arrested and expelled for a botched science experiment. She mixed a few chemicals to try something out for a science fair, and the bottle she was using exploded. No one was hurt and no property damaged. Yet authorities recommended that she be prosecuted for using a weapon on school grounds. Really. No, really really. Here's Kiera's story, and here are some of the hot-blooded reactions. It's the school-to-prison pipeline at work.
You'd think that after a couple of days, law enforcement officials would come to their senses and decline to press charges after all. But so far, that hasn't happened: Kiera Wilmot is still facing the possibility of prosecution as an adult -- potentially being marred for life with a criminal record despite having an exemplary behavioral and academic record. So...it's time to expedite the process.
Will you call prosecutor Tammy Glotfelty and ask her to drop the charges against Kiera Wilmot? Tammy's office number is (863) 534-4905. Call between 9a-5p ET so you're more likely to reach a real person. Please remember to be polite and respectful; that's important. Then email email@example.com to tell us what happened on the call!
If you want to do more than that one call, you can also call school superintendent John Stewart at (863) 534-0521 and ask him to reverse Kiera's expulsion. School is where the pipeline begins, after all. Again, please keep your call polite.
Only with your help can we chip away at the school-to-prison pipeline -- and, ultimately, at our nation's gross system of mass incarceration. Please use that voice of yours; America needs it.
UPDATE: All charges against Kiera Wilmot have been dropped. She is still expelled, though, so please keep calling the school superintendent!
Beyond Bars highlights stories of criminal justice reform all over the country, and sometimes we find reformers where we least expect them.
Time is running out for California Governor Jerry Brown to get real about mass incarceration. He has two weeks left to produce a plan to meet the prison population cap by the end of 2013.
What happens when private companies take control of prison operations? Check out the Lake Erie Correctional Institute in Ohio for the terrible truth. In 2011, responding to budget concerns, Ohio sold a state prison to Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the single largest private prison corporation in the country.
The Citizens Journalist Exchange reports that Peter B. Bensinger, an ex-DEA chief who lobbied Attorney General Eric Holder to nullify recent marijuana legalizations in Colorado and Washington, might have a major conflict of interest. As it turns out, Mr. Bensinger owns a drug testing company:
It turns out Peter B. Bensinger, who in the letter is representing the lobbying organization Save Our Society from Drugs, has a huge financial stake in preventing the legalization of cannabis. He is the founder and CEO of a drug testing company.
After Bensinger left the DEA he founded Bensinger Dupont Associates which according to their website handles large scale drug testing for corporations…
It should be noted that Bensinger’s partner, Dr. Robert DuPont, is a former White House drug czar. Both have been involved with lobbying groups like the Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association who were behind the Drug Testing Integrity Act of 2008 which made products that help people “defraud a drug test” illegal.
Now why would the CEO of a "large scale drug testing" company want to keep marijuana illegal? Maybe because he's addicted to a different type of green than the one he's lobbying to keep criminal. You can come to your own conclusions about the former White House drug czar being involved in this.
For more head over to CJE.
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In a bizarre story from the Boston Herald, a police officer fired for testing positive for cocaine claimed that he had not actually used the drug. Nope, he has a much stranger explanation for the incriminating results:
He brushed white powder off the seat of his cruiser, which he "assumed was confectionery powder from doughnuts." He also said he lived in a townhouse that shared a heating vent with neighbors who were crack smokers, records state.
Yes, this police officer really blamed his failed drug test on donut sugar and crackheads. Meanwhile, one of his peers who was also fired for cocaine claimed to have a "habit of putting drugs…from suspects in his pocket where he also kept cookies to eat."
Our petition to stop the GEO Group from naming the new football stadium at Florida Atlantic University now has more than 10,000 signatures. That’s a robust mass of people saying that public universities and abusive private prison companies shouldn’t mix.
Why does this matter?
Maybe it's better if you skip the venti caramel latte the next time you're craving a dose of caffeine and head to a local coffee shop instead. As it turns out, Starbucks is guilty of using prison labor to keep those corporate profits maximized:
"Starbucks subcontractor Signature Packaging Solutions has hired Washington prisoners to package holiday coffees."