Tag Archive for: prison conditions



Memphis: Protests after Black man dies of injuries following MPD traffic stop.

Texas prisoners hunger strike to protest inhumane solitary confinement.

US, European firms supply Myanmar’s brutal junta.




Memphis: Protests after Black man dies of injuries following MPD traffic stop

On Jan. 7, Memphis police pulled over Tyre Nichols, 29, for reckless driving. What happened next is a little unclear. Authorities say that there was a “confrontation” between Nichols and the officers who approached him, after which Nichols ran away. There was then another “confrontation” before police managed to apprehend and arrest Nichols.

Following this confrontation, “the suspect complained of having a shortness of breath, at which time an ambulance was called,” police said, and Nichols was taken to an area hospital in critical condition. According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Nichols “succumbed to his injuries” three days later on Jan. 10, though the agency didn’t specify the nature of the injuries. Immediately following the incident, TBI opened a use of force investigation on Memphis PD.

Nichols’ family said he was “brutalized” to the point he was “unrecognizable“. Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, said Nichols suffered cardiac arrest and kidney failure because of a beating by officers. “When we got to the hospital, it was devastating,” Wells said. “All of that still should not occur because of a traffic stop. You shouldn’t be on a dialysis machine looking like this because of a traffic stop. That’s inhumane.”

Over the weekend, Nichols’ friends and family and other community members gathered to remember him and staged protests near the site of the stop. Nichols’ family have retained renowned civil rights attorney Ben Crump. Crump has represented bereaved families in numerous high profile incidents where Black people were killed by police or in racially-motivated attacks. Nichols’ family want a more answers about their son’s death and are demanding the release of police bodycam footage from the incident.

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Texas prisoners on hunger strike to protest inhumane use of solitary confinement

Prisoners in over a dozen state correctional facilities in Texas have been on hunger strike for nearly a week. Texas’ State Department of Criminal Justice says 72 inmates are on hunger strike, but outside organizers say it’s closer to 300. The prisoners, all men, are protesting the state’s overuse of solitary confinement and deteriorating conditions. Organizers say that staffing shortages throughout the prison system has created inhumane living conditions for solitary inmates.

In solitary, prisoners spend 22 hours a day alone in their cells. The nature of their confinement creates greater demands on staff who must closely supervise their time outside their cells, when they shower or have their one hour of recreation time each day. Inmates wrote a letter to state lawmakers stating that because of staffing cuts, these needs aren’t being met. At one facility, solitary inmates have only had outside recreation a handful of times in the last few years and guards find it difficult to allow the inmates to shower more than once a week.

Decades in solitary

The protesting inmates also want reforms to better govern how Texas prisons use solitary confinement. Prison officials say they use solitary confinement for inmates considered to be an escape risk or those who’ve exhibited violent behavior while in prison. But Texas also uses solitary confinement to isolate prisoners that are affiliated with certain gangs, even if they’ve not committed any other offense while incarcerated.

In order to leave solitary, gang members have to go through a program that requires them to snitch on fellow gang members, which places the inmates in mortal danger when they return to the general prison population. As a result, prisoners with gang affiliations could spend their entire sentences, years or even decades, in solitary. When they eventually return to society (as 80% of them will) the psychologically crippling effects of extended solitary confinement stay with them. Extended solitary confinement is known to cause long term effects such as PTSD, hallucinations and psychosis.

Texas is one of the last few states to place inmates in solitary based solely on gang affiliation. California ended the practice years ago following a weeks-long hunger strike involving hundreds of inmates and a class-action lawsuit.

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US, European firms supply Myanmar’s brutal junta

An independent group of international policy experts has found that companies from 13 countries are supplying Myanmar’s brutal military dictatorship with tools, machines and software that allows them to create weapons to use against the regime’s opponents. Several of these countries, including the US, Germany, and France, have imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s junta.

Myanmar’s military (known as the Tatmadaw) seized control of the country in February 2021. They imprisoned Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s elected president. After several prosecutions against her, the military-controlled courts have sentenced her to decades in prison, with more prosecutions to come. Much of the country’s other high-ranking civilian leaders are also in jail.

Opposition groups and ethnic minority militia’s in Myanmar’s border regions have engaged in all-out civil war against the Tatmadaw. The military have carried out numerous atrocities in an attempt to stamp out rebels, laying waste to entire villages. According to the Special Advisory Council on Myanmar, the companies from these 13 countries are supplying the Tatmadaw with hardware and services that enable them to wage war on their own people.

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Senate races to pass stopgap funding bill. Male prison employees have assaulted female prisoners in 2/3 US prisons. Peru declares police state to curb political protests.


Senate races to pass stopgap funding bill

As seems to happen every few months these days, Congress is scrambling to put together a must-pass funding bill. Before the end of this year, they hope to pass a full budget that will carry us to September 2023. However, House Republicans threatened to vote down the measure, which they claim is “trillions” in “wasteful spending” that they contend will drive up inflation. The entire proposal is $1.7 trillion which includes funding the massive $858 billion Pentagon budget which members of both parties enthusiastically passed last week. House Republicans want to put off passing the final bill until they take control of the chamber next month. At that point, they’ll have more leverage to chisel away at domestic spending.

Democrat and GOP leaders have said they have a “framework” for an agreement over the final bill. But the deadline to pass the budget to avoid a government shutdown is midnight on Friday. To buy themselves more time to work out the finer points of this “framework”, Congress is planning to pass a one-week continuing resolution, possibly as soon as today. The House has already voted on this one-week extension and it has headed to the Senate.

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Male prison employees have assaulted female-prisoners in two-thirds of US prisons

A bipartisan Senate inquiry has found cases of male prison employees assaulting female prisons in two-thirds of federal prisons. The scope of the inquiry covered the last decade. The inquiry examined the federal Bureau of Prison’s (BOP) internal affairs records and found a backlog of hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse of inmates by Bureau employees. 

Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA), who headed the Senate inquiry called its findings, “deeply disturbing”. The report shows that the Bureau of Prisons “is failing systemically to prevent, detect and address sexual abuse of prisoners by its own employees”. Ossoff pointed to a few particularly egregious examples. In one California prison, both the prison’s warden and its chaplain had assaulted female prisoners. Even the prison’s compliance officer in charge of enforcing laws against prison rape was abusing female prisoners.

Allegations of abuse are rarely met with any official action. Law professor Brenda Smith of American University points to the lack of independent oversight within the Bureau. “We have the people who are supposed to be being audited auditing themselves, essentially,” Smith says. Even in cases where the abuse is confirmed by some means, prison workers who’ve abused the female prisoners in their care face few if any official consequences. In one example cited by Ossoff, “several officers who admitted under oath to sexually abusing prisoners were able, nevertheless, to retire with benefits”.

Colette Peters took over as head of the Bureau of Prisons five months ago. Peters says she’s examining how wardens in women’s facilities are selected and supervised. She also says she plans to update camera systems in prison, as abusers often take advantage of surveillance blind spots.

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Peru declares police state over political protests

So far, at least 7 people have died in protests in Peru since the elected President Pedro Castillo was deposed and imprisoned last week. In response, the new government has declared martial law for the next 30 days. The declaration came from the council of ministers and it’s unclear if Castillo’s VP Dina Boluarte, who was sworn in as President last week, was involved.

The emergency declaration suspends the right to “personal security and freedom” and vastly expands the powers of police.  For the next month, Peruvians will have no freedom of assembly or movement. Additionally, police can now conduct searches of homes at will, without a court order. And the military will be helping the police to keep order.

Early last week, Castillo attempted to dissolve Congress as the body mounted its third attempt to impeach him since he took office in July 2021. Peru’s Congress has broad impeachment powers which it has increasingly weaponized in recent years to bring down Presidents with whom members have political differences.

Peruvian authorities are planning a hearing to decide whether to imprison Castillo for the next 18 months while they build a rebellion case against him. The protesters are demanding Castillo’s release, Boluarte’s resignation and immediate elections to replace members of Congress.

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Tick-borne Heartland virus found in 6 states. TX prison conditions violate human rights, Scottish judge says. 2 Brits home after years in Iranian prison.




Tick-borne Heartland virus identified in 6 states

The lone star tick is common in the eastern US and as far south as Mexico. In 2009, lone star ticks in Missouri were found to carry a disease since known as the Heartland virus. The symptoms of Heartland virus include fever, fatigue, decreased appetite, headache, nausea, diarrhea, and muscle or joint pain. Most cases are mild but severe cases can require hospitalization. However, a few older patients with underlying health conditions have died.

While lone star ticks are common in Mississippi, no cases of Heartland virus have yet surfaced in the state. But ticks carrying the virus have been found in neighboring Alabama as well as Missouri, New York, Illinois, Kansas, and Georgia. Lone star ticks also carry the bacterial diseases ehrlichiosis and tularemia. Ehrlichiosis has similar symptoms to Heartland virus, though its treatment differs. Tularemia’s symptoms include fever, skin ulcers, and enlarged lymph nodes.

Experts say it’s unclear if other ticks can carry Heartland virus or if people can contract the disease in other ways.

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Texas prison conditions violate human rights, Scottish judge says 

A judge in Scotland ruled against extraditing a Scottish man to the US who is accused of shooting an unarmed security guard in Austin, TX, in 2016. Daniel Magee, who at the time was 18 and a UT student, allegedly shot the guard who had kicked him out of a frat party. The guard suffered an injury to his foot but survived. Magee was arrested but released on bail and fled back to Scotland before he could be tried.

The judge did not comment on the merits of the case against Magee in his decision. However, he agreed with Magee’s attorney’s assertion that Texas prison conditions are so bad that they violate international human rights. Specifically, the judge cited conditions like overcrowding, bad food, inadequate medical care, and sweltering temperatures as inhumane. The widespread practice of forced unpaid labor by inmates and an over-reliance on solitary confinement as a form of punishment could also constitute human rights violations.

Magee’s attorney Paul Dunne also stated that, “Every other country in the developed world and even some dictatorships allow international inspectors into their prison systems to monitor them for conditions. That is a completely alien concept in America.” 

It is unusual but not unheard of for international courts to extradite prisoners to the US solely on the basis of its poor prison conditions.

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British woman home after 6 years in Iranian prison

British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is home with her husband and young daughter in the UK after 6 years as an Iranian political prisoner. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was returned to the UK yesterday after Britain agreed to repay a £400 million debt owed to Iran since the 1970s. Prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution which brought the Ayatollah to power, the Western-backed Shah of Iran had ordered military vehicles from Britain. That order went unfulfilled after the Revolution, but Britain never repaid the money.

Another British-Iranian prisoner, Anoosheh Ashoori, was also returned after 5 years in prison. Both he and Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been charged with plotting against the Iranian government. Ashoori is a retired civil engineer while Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a journalist and women’s rights advocate.

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