Yet another chilling story, this time from Florida’s Dade Correctional Institution, An Inmate Dies After Being Locked in a Scalding Shower for Two Hours. His Guards Won’t be Charged. The brutality and inhumane treatment is shocking, but what’s worse is the lack of accountability and proper oversight.
On February 15, 2017, the Washington Post reported on an incident inside Montgomery County Jail in Dayton, Ohio on yet another shocking occurrence of police misconduct. In a video released by an activist, a detainee Charles Wade is being pepper sprayed at point-blank range while fully restrained in a chair. Mr. Wade filed lawsuit.
NPR North Carolina ran a story about prison oversight featuring Prof. Michael B. Mushlin of Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University who has been tirelessly advocating for meaningful prison oversight. The level and extent of brutality occurring behind the walls of many prisons is unimaginable, and the fact that many if not all of the incidents go unreported, un-investigated, and unpunished makes these situations even more dire.
- Brian Mann, Reports of Prison Guard Brutality in New York Draw a Harsh Spotlight, NPR North Carolina (Oct. 20, 2016).
- Michael B. Mushlin, What’s Going on in Our Prisons?, N.Y. Times (Jan. 4, 2016), at A19.
- Michael B. Mushlin, Written Testimony on Correctional Oversight of the NYS DOCCS, Hearing Before the State Assembly Standing Committee on Correction (Dec. 2, 2015).
- Michael B. Mushlin, “I Am Opposed to This Procedure”: How Kafka’s In the Penal Colony Illuminates the Current Debate About Solitary Confinement and Oversight of American Prisons,93 Or. L. Rev. 571 (2015).
The public is interested in prison life. Television shows such as “Oz” and “Orange is the New Black” purport to depict life behind walls. Maybe these shows will alert the public to the scale of the correctional system, but they will do little to sensitize viewers to the hardships to families imposed by a prison sentence. Right now, there are 70 correctional facilities across New York state, housing approximately 70,000 offenders. Many prisoners are parents. The New York State Department of Corrections publishes a handbook for visitors to encourage families to stay connected.
The hope is that family support will help prisoners transition upon release. But, in reality most correctional facilities are located in upstate counties – ensuring a difficult and expensive trip for families who live downstate. Prisoners become more isolated and removed from society without community connection. Children of inmates also suffer being separated from their parents. Organizations to support children of incarcerated parents try to assist. See: the Children of Prisoners Library.
This year Assembly Bill A-02308-2013, if enacted, would establish a pilot project in which inmates who are parents of minor children would be placed in the correctional facility located closest to the residence of their children. A small step in the right direction.