Northampton County, PA: Three-Pronged Strategy to Combat Recidivism

By Christopher Zoukis 

Not pleased with their perpetual need to keep expanding their prison’s capacity, local leaders and officials in Northampton County, Pennsylvania have been searching for a comprehensive strategy to reduce the county’s high levels of recidivism.  In 2012, the recidivism rate for inmates being released from Northampton County Prison was 58 percent, a full 18 points over the national average.   Image courtesy

Encouragement has come from an earlier initiative in the county, contracting with Community Education Centers to provide alcohol treatment programs and parenting classes, which demonstrated the success of initiatives of this sort, cutting the rate of recidivism in half for those inmates who completed the program.  For over a year, a working party has been looking into further measures to build on this success.

In March, the final report, authored by the county’s re-entry coordinator Laura Savenelli, was presented to prison officials, local community leaders, and mental health providers at a re-entry summit in Bethlehem, PA.  The group identified three key problems:

  • ·         Seventy percent of inmates have substance abuse issues, which need to be addressed.
  • ·         Many prisoners have mental health problems, with more than 20 percent taking psychotropic medication.
  • ·         There is a lack of classroom space for GED classes, and a need for better vocational training.

As in almost all prisons and jails, a large majority of Northampton County Prison’s inmates, almost three-quarters, have substance abuse issues.  For many non-violent offenders, drug treatment is a far more effective response than incarceration.  One proposal, therefore, is to establish a specific drug court to handle these cases, and to decide who would be better served by treatment than a term of incarceration.

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Prison News in Brief: Michigan through Texas

By Prison Legal News

Michigan Prison News

On August 6, 2013, a jury returned a not guilty verdict in the trial of Lansing jail guard David Gladstone, who was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery of a prisoner.  Although Gladstone was found not guilty, an internal investigation is pending to determine whether he violated any department policies or procedures.  Jail guard Gladstone had been suspended from the Lansing jail pending the outcome of the criminal charges.

New York Prison News

A violent, bloody brawl broke out among rival gangs — the Trinitarians and the Crips — at Rikers Island on August 22, 2013.  As many as 50 prisoners were involved in the melee, which was reportedly triggered over the use of a hot plate to cook a grilled cheese sandwich.  The fight lasted nearly an hour and eleven Rikers Island prisoners and a guard were injured.  In surveillance video, prisoners were seen attacking each other with mop handles and hurling chairs; one prisoner also threw hot water, and several suffered serious stab wounds.

Rhode Island Prison News

On July 18, 2013, Gaulter Botas, a former prison guard at the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institute, received an 18-month prison sentence.  Botas had assaulted prisoners by hitting one with a telephone book and another with a plastic clipboard, a package of paper, a bag of food, and his closed fist.  Four Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institute prisoners said they were assaulted by Botas and another guard, Kenneth Viveiros.  Botas’ conviction was upheld in April 2013 by the Rhode Island Supreme Court, and a superior court judge rejected his motion for a reduced sentence.  In 2006, Botas and Viveiros were among a number of prison guards named in a lawsuit alleging that they had made a prisoner eat his own feces; that suit settled for $120,000.

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The Ultimate Restitution

By: Jon & Michael Flinner

Prisoners are fated to spend their days in earthly purgatory, exiled from society by their own actions in most cases. It can be said that the population behind the walls and fences of the nation’s correctional facilities represent significant destructive forces, and through individual “deeds”, lives and property have been destroyed and or lost.

At the same time in the greater world, there’s an existential crisis looming for more than 100,000 Americans. These people live on “borrowed time”, clinging to life in the face of unspeakable pain and horror, simply waiting for the gift of a life-saving organ transplant.

The government has an absolute duty to protect its citizenry. After all, that’s the rationale for the imprisonment of so many, well…that and the concept of repayment of societal debt, rehabilitation, restitution, and punishment for transgression. The word “penitentiary” says it all — a place to learn penitence. Right?

Why then if the government protects its citizens and the objective of imprisonment is to shape positive outcomes in the prisoner, that with a population exceeding 2.3 million incarcerated, that those in the free world awaiting organ and tissue transplants are deprived willing donors?

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Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society Draws Attention to Prison Hunger Strike

Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society of Bahrain has called on the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights to intervene on behalf of the prisoners of Bahrain’s Dry Dock prison, who are currently engaged in a brutal hunger strike. According to the FARS News Agency, the prisoners at Dry Dock prison, all of whom are pre-trial,

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Thanks to All Loyal Prison Law Blog Readers

I’d like to take a quick moment to thank all of you loyal Prison Law Blog readers who have taken the time to buy a copy of my latest text, the Directory of Federal Prisons. And thank everyone doubly so who has gone the extra mile by posting a review to Amazon. Every review counts,

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Thanks to All Loyal Prison Education News Readers

I’d like to take a quick moment to thank all of you loyal Prison Education News readers who have taken the time to buy a copy of my latest text, the Directory of Federal Prisons.  And my double thanks to those who have gone the extra mile by posting a review on Amazon.  Every review counts,

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Sri Lanka Opens First Ever Prison School

On February 16, 2014, Sri Lanka opened its first prison school in the Watareka prison.  According to Chandrasiri Gajadeera, minister of rehabilitation and prison reform, the school will offer classes from the 9th grade through G.C.E. Ordinary level, the equivalent of a U.S. high school diploma. Students under the age of 30 who have passed

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How Much Money Should I Send My Incarcerated Loved One? An Interview With Prison Expert Christopher Zoukis

By Randy Radic

Christopher Zoukis, a 27-year-old federal prisoner, is the
author of Education Behind Bars: A Win-Win
Strategy for Maximum Security
(Sunbury Press, 2012), a contributing writer
for Prison Legal News, and a regular
commentator on prison matters in the penal press.  He has navigated the troublesome waters of
incarceration for the past 8 years, in both federal and state prisons and at
the medium and low security levels. 
Today I sit down with Mr. Zoukis to discuss the complex issue of
determining how much money family members and friends of the incarcerated
should send to those in prison.

Randy Radic: In
my duties as the senior editor at Middle Street Publishing and the chief editor
of the Prison Law Blog, I often receive inquiries from family members and
friends of the incarcerated concerning how much money is appropriate to send to
those in prison.  I find this question
hard to answer since it is so subjective. 
What are your thoughts on how much money is appropriate to send
incarcerated friends and family members?

Christopher Zoukis:
Subjective is most certainly the word here. 
The first two questions those outside of prison should ask are: What
prison system is their loved one or friend incarcerated within and what is the
allowable monthly or weekly spending limit at the prison (if any)?  This should be the starting point of any
determination on how much money is appropriate to send to an incarcerated loved
one or friend.

My experience is with the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the
North Carolina Department of Corrections. 
As such, I can provide specific information for these two prison
systems.  In the Federal Bureau of
Prisons, federal prisoners can spend $320 per month ($370 in November and
December) on commissary items.  This
doesn’t include over-the-counter medications, copy cards, or postage
stamps.  In the North Carolina Department
of Corrections, prisoners can spend up to $40 per week in the institutional

With these numbers in mind, anything up to $320 per month
for federal prisoners and $160 per month for prisoners in the North Carolina
Department of Corrections would allow them to live very comfortably.  This would easily place them in the top one
percent of those incarcerated within the respective prison systems.

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Prison Museums

The first people to visit Alcatraz Island were native peoples who arrived between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago. Two major groups lived around the bay: the Miwok, who lived north of the bay in present-day Marin County, and the Ohlone, who lived in the coastal areas between Point Sur and the San Francisco Bay.

Early use of Alcatraz by these indigenous people is difficult to reconstruct, since most of the tribes’ oral histories have been lost. Historians believe that Alcatraz was used as a camping spot and an area for gathering foods, especially bird eggs and marine life. One tradition implies the island may have been used as a place of banishment for tribal members who violated tribal law.  Alcatraz / Photo courtesy

By the time the first Spanish explorers arrived in 1769, more than 10,000 indigenous people lived around San Francisco Bay.

• On August 5, 1775, Spanish Lt. Juan Manuel de Ayala sailed his ship into San Francisco Bay and spent several weeks charting the harbor. During his surveys he described a rocky, barren island and named it “La Isla de Los Alcatraces” (Island of the Sea Birds). Historians debate which island Ayala actually sited, but the name eventually was given to the 22 acre rock today called Alcatraz.

• California became a possession of United States on February 2, 1848 in a treaty with Mexico that ended the Mexican War. A week earlier, on January 24th, gold had been discovered in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Within three years, the population of San Francisco would explode from around 500 to more than 35,000 as gold seekers poured into California.

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