Picking Up the Tab

A new report says state jails in Texas are ineffective, expensive, and actually result in higher recidivism rates than Texas prisons.The report from the Texas Public Policy Foundation suggests taxpayers are getting a bad deal on their tax dollars and public safety.The report's author, Jeanette Moll, says through the research they have found state jails have become a costly substitute for prisons."These facilities were actually exceeding the expenses, and had higher recidivism rates than prisons, that adds up to a pretty bad deal for Texas taxpayers," said Moll

How much does incarceration cost?

Federal prison: The federal prison system's budget in fiscal year 2014 is $6.9 billion, which represents one-quarter of the budget of the Department of Justice. The average cost of incarcerating a federal prisoner in 2012 was $29,027.46, or $79.31 per day.

State prisons: A 2012 study by the Vera Institute of Justice found that the true cost of prisons in 40 states, including things like hospital services and retirement benefits for staff, ran to $39 billion a year.

That comes out to an average cost of $31,286 per inmate. New York led the states with a cost of $60,076 per inmate; Kentucky spent only $14,603.

In 2009, the Pew Center on the States calculated the average daily cost of prison, probation and parole across 33 states, and found that prison cost an average of $78.95 per inmate per day, while parole cost $7.47 and probation cost $3.42:

Graph courtesy vox.com

Graph courtesy vox.com

Federal Bureau of Prisons Considering Law Library Expansion: eDiscovery Materials To Be Included in Suite of Services for Inmates

Image courtesy dataplusconsulting.com

Image courtesy dataplusconsulting.com

By Christopher Zoukis

In a move that might prove extremely useful to federal prisoners, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has published a solicitation notice for "inmate electronic discovery," or "eDiscovery," seeking information relating to support services, hardware, and software that would allow prisoners to view electronic discovery documents used in court litigation.

The formal Request for Information issued by the Federal Bureau of Prisons' Information Technology Planning and Development Branch specified that the project is merely in the planning stage, and that no formal bids would be accepted yet.

At present, BOP inmates have access to a LexisNexis legal database that includes court decisions, BOP regulatory documents, and several treatises.  The "TRULINCS Electronic Law Library" is a stand-alone system with no connection to the Internet or court databases (i.e., PACER, the federal court's public access system).  As such, in most cases when a BOP inmate is involved in criminal or civil court litigation, only paper case-related documents are available to him or her.

Allowing inmates to access systems like PACER through a secure network like TRULINCS would not only permit inmates better access to the courts, but would also have several other benefits, such as eliminating the substantial expense of requiring government agencies and other litigants to serve inmates with discovery documents and other media in paper form (with the related mailing costs).  Such a system would also improve security, less inventory concerns, and reduce expenses for the BOP.

To learn more about this developing story, read the FCW's article "Bureau of Prisons mulls eDiscovery computers for inmates" or the actual "Request for Information."

This video outlines the basic concepts and practices associated with electronic discovery including the basic discovery process, the e-discovery IT reference model, and the e-discovery maturity model.

FCC Regulations On Exorbitant Prison Phone Rates Ineffective: Prison Phone Providers Still Cashing In

Image courtesy gimby.org

Image courtesy gimby.org

By Christopher Zoukis

The families of the more than two million men, women, and children behind bars in America found something to cheer about earlier this year, when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set new caps on interstate rates for telephone calls from prisoners, an effort spearheaded by <Prison Legal News>'s tireless advocacy.  Whereas contract providers like Global Tel Link and others charged up to $20.00 or more for a 15 minute phone call from prison, the new FCC prison phone rates are capped at 24 cents per minute for prepaid calls, and 25 cents a minute for collect calls.

While the FCC rates have been a boon to federal prisoners' families hundreds or thousands of miles away from their incarcerated loved ones, the FCC's ruling on such calls does not even cover an even larger segment of the market: the in-state calls made by state prisoners.  Now, in New Jersey, a local call might cost a prisoner as much as $8.00, when a long-distance call might cost $3.00.

FCC Interim Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn has called for additional review of this truck-sized loophole in the new regulations, and said that the FCC has the "duty and the authority to act under the [relevant] statute if the states do not."  Her agency is presently calling on the states to do just that, voluntarily.  In response, Alabama recently moved to cap its in-state prison phone rates at 25 cents a minute.

To learn more about this developing story, read the National Journal's article "Despite New Rules, Prisoners Still Paying Big to Call Home."

Unfair and overpriced phone rates are making communication between millions of inmates and their families difficult. And that hurts not just them, but society at large. Jacob Soboroff is joined by guests Ava DuVernay, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Steven Renderos, Alex Friedman, Amir Varick Amma and Bethany Fraser to discuss.

Thousands Await Clemency for Drug Sentences

Today -- July 18, 2014 -- an important vote will occur. The United States Sentencing Commission will vote on the 2 Point Reduction Law, which potentially may reduce the sentences of many federal inmates. 

In late December, the president commuted the prison sentences of eight inmates. The inmates that were spared were convicted of nonviolent drug crimes under harsh mandatory minimum sentences created by the "War on Drugs." While the rare act of mercy is welcome news for advocates of sentencing reform, it may not go far enough. Correspondent Liz Wahl reports on how thousands of inmates remain behind bars who would be free under current drug-sentencing laws.

Ninth Circuit Revives Prison Trust Account Seizure Claim; Disputed Ownership Requires Due Process Protections

Image courtesy www.conlawelements.com

Image courtesy www.conlawelements.com

By Prison Legal News

In an unpublished ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a federal district court’s sua sponte dismissal of a California prisoner’s claims that prison officials improperly removed money from his trust account without adequate due process protections.

California state prisoner Anthony Brazier filed a federal civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that prison officials deprived him of due process when they seized erroneously-issued tax refund checks from his prison trust account. The district court dismissed the complaint sua sponte on initial screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

On de novo review, the Ninth Circuit held that dismissal without leave to amend was improper. Citing Sanders v. City of San Diego, 93 F.3d 1423 (9th Cir. 1996), the Court of Appeals explained that “the procedural protections of the Fourteenth Amendment apply to protect a significant property interest even if there is a dispute over ownership.”

As such, the Court remanded the case “for the sole purpose of allowing Brazier to amend his due process claim ... to allege that Brazier did, in fact, have an ownership interest in the tax refunds credited to his inmate trust account.” However, in the absence of such an allegation, “Brazier’s claim must fail.”

The appellate court upheld the dismissal of claims against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as barred by the Eleventh Amendment. It also affirmed the dismissal of individual capacity claims which did not allege personal involvement of individual prison officials. See: Brazier v. California Department of Correction & Rehabilitation, 523 Fed. Appx. 477 (9th Cir. 2013).

Following remand, on August 7, 2013, Brazier moved to withdraw his consent to proceed before a magistrate judge; his motion was denied in a tersely-worded order, with the court noting that he had “not shown good cause to withdraw his consent.” The case remains pending with Brazier filing a motion for summary judgment in March 2014.

(Reprinted with Permission from Prison Legal News)