Articles Tagged with prisoners rights

The San Diego County prison has reported the highest death rate when compared to all other large counties in the state. This led the Democratic Party of San Diego County to request that the Joint Legislative Audit Committee do a review that will look at deaths that took place in the prison system during the last 15 years. What the DPSD is seeking to achieve is answers as to why the prison system in San Diego County has seen such a large number of deaths and what is being done to address the problem.

Specifically, the lawmakers who made the audit request are inquiring about:

  • How the San Diego Sheriff’s Department has acted to lessen incidents of death.
  • What the demographics of the deaths are and if minorities are dying at a higher rate than other groups.
  • What the sum total was that the county paid to families that took legal actions as a result of death.
  • Examine practices and funds used for the Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board.

The Sheriff’s Department has accepted the review and is in full cooperation with it.

How Did the Request for the Audit Come About?

The San Diego Union-Tribune did a write-up about the deaths that were occurring in the prison system entitled “Dying Behind Bars.” This article was used by the lawmakers to justify their request for an audit. According to the article, the San Diego County prison system is the sixth-largest in the state of California but has the most deaths. Deaths and suicide are markedly high for inmates in this specific system. 

It was found that the prisons were mismanaged in terms of how inmates were treated and what services to which they had access. The article showed that several individuals who died from suicide could have been saved if the suicide-prevention methods were improved and strengthened. Likewise, inmates who had illnesses were not given the quality healthcare they needed. 

Potentially preventable deaths present a real tragedy caused by an ill-prepared prison system. This loss of life was also very costly. The prison system had to pay millions of taxpayer dollars to settle legal challenges that resulted.

The next panel of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee will meet sometime this summer. This is when the request for the audit will be seen and if approved, findings would likely be made available by 2022 or earlier. Continue reading

Citizens of the United States, both those who are unencumbered by the criminal justice system and are free and those who are serving time behind bars after a criminal conviction, have rights. Being arrested, charged, and then convicted of a crime in California is never the intended outcome for a defendant, yet convictions happen every day. Jail time as a consequence of a conviction is also common, but serving time does not make you less of a human or a citizen of the country. You still are entitled to basic rights under the United States constitution.

If you do not know what your rights are, you will have a much harder time understanding situations in which you may not be treated equitably. Understanding your rights can help you keep the dignity you are entitled to as well as protect you from inhumane abuse. David M. Boertje is a San Diego criminal defense attorney who offers experienced and skilled legal counsel and defense to individuals who are arrested for crimes in San Diego. A conviction can have many life-long negative implications. Having the most proficient legal defense supporting you is important to improving the chances that you see the best outcome possible, including avoiding having to spend time in jail.

What Rights Do You Have While You are Serving Time in a California Jail?

An arrest is a suspicion of a crime, not a confirmation of one. When you enter the criminal justice system, you are innocent until proven guilty, and you should be treated like this. When it is proven that you committed a crime, you will face punishment for that offense. If your penalty includes jail, while you are behind bars you are afforded the following protections:

  • You can not be treated in a cruel and depraved way.
  • You must be granted access to services and resources that are available to support a disability or illness if you have one.
  • You have the ability to connect with and use the court system if you need to, so if you have a complaint you are allowed to voice it.
  • You do not lose due process while in the prison system. For example, if it is alleged that you committed a crime while you were incarcerated you can use witnesses and other evidence to defend yourself. You will not be granted professional legal representation, but you have the right to fight back against the accusations.
  • You must be able to get the treatment you need for physical and mental issues.
  • You must not be discriminated against.
  • You have the right to practice your religion without obstruction and if you do not have a religion, you cannot be forced to partake in religious practice.

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The United States offers its people the most freedom and liberty of any country in the world, yet, despite this, the prison population is larger here than in all other countries. For a country that is forward-thinking and home to laws that are not draconian by any means, it does not seem logical that there are so many people incarcerated. In 2016, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that approximately 2.2 million adults were locked away in jail. 

When a person is locked up, many times, they are not serving their time alone. Often, inmates leave behind loved ones that have to also endure the distance apart and manage the emotional toll of the situation. In some instances, the inmate was the sole means of financial support for their loved ones and while they are behind bars, their loved ones suffer that loss. There are several implications that come along with a prison sentence, and the effects are far-reaching. In many instances, a jail term affects more people than just the inmate themselves.

Why are America’s Prison Populations So Big?

America’s struggle with prison reform has gotten more attention in recent years. There are many factors that are being evaluated to determine what the best approach would be when it comes to using prison in a reasonable manner and when the prison is not the right approach to a specific case. There are many reasons why so many people are housed in the U.S. prison system, but the following three issues are the most pervasive:

  • The United States has made a concerted effort to fight the “War on Drugs” for close to 50 years since President Richard Nixon declared it in 1971. Federal dollars were funneled to drug control agencies and assistance was plentiful for other efforts the country made in trying to control the problem. Federal prisons are more than half-full of people serving time simply because they were associated with controlled substances in some capacity. Unfortunately for those individuals jailed because of their addiction, jail is not a remedy nor a cure and these individuals are being immensely underserved by the system.
  • Recidivism rates are high when a criminal record is a permanent blemish on a person’s history that follows them around for the rest of their life. A person with a criminal history has to work much harder to live a lawful life and get ahead because they are significantly limited in their opportunities. It is also a barrier for an ex-con to establish new, healthy relationships with others.
  • Those living at the lowest economic levels are at increased risk for exposure to criminal activity and to engage in criminal activity. For instance, in the United States, if your income level is under the Federal poverty level the risk for violent victimization is more than 50% higher than those that have higher income levels. When urban poverty is assessed, individuals living in these conditions are the most vulnerable to violent aggression as well as overall crime.

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An inmate at the Donovan Correctional Center in California died on Friday, July 10. Details as to how and why the inmate passed have not yet been released. An investigation into the death is currently underway. One of the responsibilities of the Office of the Inspector General is to ensure that there is fair management, oversight, and transparency with regards to practices and procedures with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. 

Who is Incarcerated in California State Prisons?

According to data released by the Public Policy Institute of California, there have been approximately 115,000 inmates serving time in California’s prisons since 2017. Out of all of the state-owned prisons, 37% are over capacity. African Americans represent a majority of the prison population in California. The information released by the PPIC indicates that 28.5% of the population is made up of African-American males. Imprisonment of African Americans is 10 times that of their white counterparts. This is also the case when it comes to the female population. In the female prison system, 25.9% of the female inmates are African American. This means that African-American women are imprisoned at a rate five times higher than white women.

Over 81% of the inmates who are imprisoned in the California correctional system were born in the United States, while 13% were born in a foreign country. The diverse population has at least one thing in common, which is that they are aging. During the period from 2000 to 2017, the number of prisoners who were aged 50 or older skyrocketed to 19% of the population. While this time period showed an increase in the aging population, it also reported a decrease in younger inmates aged 25 and below. When looking at all of this information combined, the average age of a male in California state prisons is 40, while the average age for women is just below that at 38.

There are many prisoners who will be released after they serve about half of their four-year sentences, but a greater number of inmates will be serving time far beyond this amount of time. While the types of crimes that cause an inmate to be imprisoned are diverse, the most common offenses that brought people to be incarcerated in California state prisons in 2017 included:

  • Assault
  • Weapons offenses
  • Robbery

All of these offenses are considered serious violent crimes by the state.

Do You Need a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney?

If you have been arrested for a crime in California, you may be facing some amount of jail time. Spending time behind bars is not only difficult, but having this blemish on your record can negatively affect your life and the opportunities available to you after your release. It is important to fight your charges, and the California criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of David M. Boertje have the experience you need to help you reduce potential jail time or even eliminate it altogether. Continue reading

The holidays can be stressful for your loved ones sitting behind bars. This is a time when they feel like they have been forgotten because they cannot physically be with you and other family members. Cheer them up with a criminal jail visit. With these strategies, you can make your jail visitations go smoothly for all parties involved.

Take Time to Plan the Visit

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’s website has plenty of information regarding visitation, how to book the reservations, the types of visits available, required identification needed for the visit, and visiting hours.

A new proposed bill in the state of California, A.B. 2466 now sits on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for his approval. The bill would redefine who is entitled to register to vote, with the intent of restoring voting rights for the many ex-offenders within the state.

Today, racial minorities remain disproportionately excluded from voting as a result of the documented bias in drug law enforcement and sentencing. The “war on drugs” and subsequent decades of mass incarceration have blocked millions of people out of the electoral process. In California prisons, three out of every four men are either African American, Latino, or Asian American. African Americans, who comprise less than 7% of California’s voting-age population, currently represent 28% of those who cannot vote because of felon disenfranchisement.

Voting rights in the rest of the country depends on the state law. For example, two states, Maine and Vermont, allows felons to vote while behind bars. Fourteen states restore voting rights after a prisoner has been released from prison.

Arrested for stealing $5.05 worth of candy and soda, a 24-year-old man from Portsmouth, Virginia, Jamycheal Mitchell, has allegedly been starved to death by prison guards. Mitchell has been repeatedly diagnosed with psychotic and delusional disorders, has allegedly been left to starve in squalid prison conditions. His aunt, Roxanne Adams, has filed a lawsuit against the prison.

It is reported that his medical records show that he died of a “heart condition “accompanying wasting syndrome of unknown etiology.” The lawsuit alleges that “jail staff had allegedly denied him many meals, cut off the water to his cell and left him naked with no bedding or shoes as he smeared feces on the window of his urine-covered cell.” He had lost 40 pounds in his time in Hampton Roads Regional Jail, and was “nearly cachetic.” The lawsuit also alleges that inmates pleaded with guards to help Mitchell, to no avail.    

The 112 page complaint identifies 39 defendants, including the Hampton Roads Regional Jail, the state Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services and the private prison health care firm, NaphCare. Adams is demanding a jury trial and $60 million in damages for wrongful death. The prison is not commenting on the suit.

Ammon and Ryan Bundy have filed for an administrative hearing over what they claim are ‘deplorable and unconstitutional’ conditions. According to the document filed by their attorneys, the Bundys argue that their first amendment rights are being violated because they are not free to assemble nor practice their mormon religion by engaging in religious activities or wear religious garments. They further allege that they are “being denied access to materials and resources reasonably required to defend their respective cases.” Perhaps more surprisingly, the Bundys are also alleging a violation of the second amendment rights because guns are not allowed in jails for prisoners. According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, they are considering suing the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office to get possession of their weapons.

Rights of Prisoners

It is obvious that prisoners have fewer rights and freedoms while incarcerated. Some rights, however, are still guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The eighth amendment prohibits conditions for prisoners that would be considered “cruel and unusual” punishment, although that term was not clearly defined at the time of the Constitution’s signing. Generally, any type of treatment that would reasonably be considered inhumane and in violation of basic human dignity would violate constitutional law.

Prisoners are also supposed to enjoy certain first amendment protections, such as the freedom of religion. However, they do not have the same level of rights as free citizens. Rights such as ‘protesting’ or ‘assembling’ may be restricted under Rational Basis Review. This just means that there is a “valid, rational connection” between the prison regulation and the legitimate government interest put forward to justify it. Such regulations are not considered unconstitutional as long as the regulations apply to all inmates in a neutral fashion.

Lastly, all inmates at the state and federal level have the right to:

  • Be free from sexual harassment and assault;
  • Be free from racial segregation (unless deemed necessary for the safety of prisoners); and
  • Receive adequate medical care.  

Unfortunately many of these freedoms are violated regularly. Continue reading

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