You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘BBC’ tag.

Benjamin Schreiber, not pictured, is serving a life sentence for bludgeoning a man to death in 1996.

A court in the US has refused to release a convict who argued that he had completed his life sentence when he briefly “died”.

Benjamin Schreiber, 66, was sentenced to life without parole in Iowa for bludgeoning a man to death in 1996.

He said his sentence ended when his heart stopped during a medical emergency four years ago, even though he was revived.

But judges said Schreiber’s bid – while original – was “unpersuasive”.

They said that he was “unlikely” to be dead, as he had signed his own legal documents in the case.

In 2015, Schreiber developed septic poisoning as a result of kidney stones. He had to be resuscitated by doctors in hospital, but fully recovered and was returned to prison.

In Schreiber’s claim, filed last year, he said that he had been resuscitated against his will, and that his brief “death” meant that his life sentence had technically ended.

The district court ruled against Schreiber – a decision his lawyer took to the state’s court of appeal.

On Wednesday, the appeals court upheld the lower court’s ruling. It added that his sentence would not end until a medical examiner formally declared him dead.

A women smiles as she hugs a young girlSome inmates were met with emotional embraces from their friends, family and children

Nearly 500 prisoners have been freed in the US state of Oklahoma in what is said to be the largest such release in US history.

The 462 inmates – jailed for low-level, non-violent crimes – had their sentences commuted.

Oklahoma residents voted in 2016 to reduce simple drug possession and minor property crimes to misdemeanours.

The state’s incarceration rate is one of the highest in the US, which leads the world in number of jailed citizens.

Earlier this year, Oklahoma lawmakers passed a measure with bipartisan support to make it easier to review the sentences of inmates whose crimes would be classified as lesser offenses if charged today.

How did families react?

Scenes from the mass release on Monday showed people embracing amid tearful reunions outside the prisons.

Brody Whisenhunt – whose mother Robin Whisenhunt was among those released – sobbed as he told NBC News: “I miss my mom more than anything, and just to have her back is great.”

Like many of those released, Whisenhunt had been jailed for simple drug possession.

Before 2016, simple drug possession and minor property crimes were classified as felonies in Oklahoma.

Governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican, told about 70 women freed at one prison that it was “the first day of the rest of your life.”

How many sentences were commuted?

Sentences were commuted on Friday for a total of 527 inmates.

On average, those who have had their sentences commuted were incarcerated for three years, with 25% of them women.

Oklahoma has also taken measures to help the freed inmates with re-entry into society, including ensuring they are released with a state-issued driver’s licence or identification card.

The state’s Department of Corrections also held transition fairs to connect inmates with social services they might need upon release.

There have been bipartisan efforts across the US to send fewer citizens to prison for non-violent, low-level offences.

Last year, the US Senate passed a sweeping criminal justice reform bill that included reducing mandatory penalties for some drug-related crimes.

Protesters attend at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, 2 FebruaryThe protesters included relatives of inmates who have not heard from them in days

Friends and relatives of inmates stuck in cells without power or heat at a prison in New York have held a protest against their detention conditions.

Protesters outside the Metropolitan Detention Center, a federal facility in Brooklyn, chanted: “Where is the heat”?

Many inmates have not been able to contact the outside world for days, following a partial power failure.

Members of Congress who visited the prison on Saturday described the situation there as a “nightmare”.

How bad are the conditions?

“It is like living in a closet without lights,” said Representative Nydia Velázquez, a Democrat whose district includes the prison.

She said temperatures in some cells were as low as 49 F (9.5C).

Outside of the Metropolitan Detention Center, 2 FebruaryThe Metropolitan Detention Center houses more than 1,600 inmates

Jerrold Nadler, another US House member for New York, condemned the authorities’ “total lack of urgency and concern”.

He told the crowd outside the prison – which houses more than 1,600 inmates – that power was unlikely to be restored until Monday.

The protesters carried signs reading “Shut it down”, “Torture at the MDC”, “United in outrage” and “Turn up the heat”.

One tweeted that the prisoners were banging windows as the demonstrators were gathering outside.

What are authorities saying?

Officials say the failure was the result of a fire that destroyed an electrical panel. The fire melted a switch designed to turn on a back-up generator.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons said officials were “working to restore power as expeditiously as possible”, adding: “Inmates have hot water for showers and hot water in the sinks in the cell. Essential personal hygiene items and medical services continue to be provided.”

The bureau also said that the building had emergency lighting.

In a tweet late on Saturday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio condemned the federal authorities and said the city was providing blankets for the prisoners.

24 January 2019

Jay-Z and Meek Mill launch Reform AllianceJay-Z and Meek Mill have partnered with the owners of the New England Patriots and Philadelphia 76ers, among others, to launch the Reform Alliance

Jay-Z, Meek Mill and sport and business leaders have pledged $50m (£38m) to reform the US criminal justice system.

The Reform Alliance, which was inspired by Meek Mill’s recent stint in prison for a minor probation violation, hopes to free one million prisoners in five years.

The owners of the New England Patriots and Philadelphia 76ers, Robert Kraft and Michael Rubin, are co-founders.

Reform says it wants to help people who are “trapped in the system”.

The group’s “mission” is to “dramatically reduce the number of people who are unjustly under the control of the criminal justice system, starting with probation and parole”.

“To win, we will leverage our considerable resources to change laws, policies, hearts and minds,” it says.

More than six million people can currently count themselves as part of the “correctional population” of the USA – which includes people in prisons and local jails, but is mostly made up of the more than four million people on probation or parole, according to Bureau of Justice statistics.

Probation is often given as a sentence instead of time in prison and can include conditions like being on a curfew or going to rehab.

Parole is when an inmate is released early from prison with similar conditions to probation.

Meek Mill has experienced all three: probation, parole and jail.

The Reform Alliance says his case is an example of the “devastating and long-lasting effects” that can occur after one interaction with the criminal justice system.

The rapper was arrested in 2007 – he says wrongfully – for drug and gun charges, aged 19.

He was sentenced in 2009 to between 11 and 23 months in county prison, but was released on parole after five months and put on house arrest.

It was during this time he started to make his name nationally as a rapper, signing to Rick Ross’s label and releasing a string of hugely successful mixtapes.

Before long he was a platinum-selling artist.

But a parole violation for suspected cannabis use resulted in a ban on touring, and then after failing to get his travel plans approved by the court Meek was sentenced to prison again in 2014.

Examples of parole violations that can land people back in prison range from being late to appointments with parole officers or missing a curfew, to things more specific to the crime that was committed – like failing to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

“When you talk about these so-called technical violations, it’s not technical to the kid who can never see her mum again because she showed up late for a meeting. That’s not technical, that’s devastating for that individual child,” Reform Alliance CEO Van Jones said.

Violations over the next few years resulted in his probation period being extended – it now lasts up until 2023 – as well as the five months in prison which ended in April 2018 and birthed the #FreeMeek movement.

It’s people with a similar story to Meek’s, that have been “caught up on probation and parole”, that Reform says it wants to focus on first.

‘If someone commits a crime they should go to jail’

“Being from the environment I’m from, I don’t even think it’s possible for you to be an angel,” Meek said as the organisation was announced in New York.

“You grow up around murder on a daily basis, you grow up in drug-infested neighbourhoods.

“And every time I started to further my life with the music industry, there was always something that brought me back to ground zero,” he said.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, who attended the event, said he was a supporter of criminal justice reforms that are “fair, help our system work better and smarter, and save crucial taxpayer dollars while balancing public safety and victim concerns”.

Across the US, roughly a third of people on parole are black, according to Bureau of Justice statistics – something Jay-Z raised at the event.

“We want to be very clear. If someone commits a crime they should go to jail. But these things are just disproportionate and the whole world knows it,” he said.

Jay-Z has been vocal about Meek’s case, writing in the New York Times while he was imprisoned.

“On the surface, this may look like the story of yet another criminal rapper who didn’t smarten up and is back where he started,” he wrote.

“What’s happening to Meek Mill is just one example of how our criminal justice system entraps and harasses hundreds of thousands of black people every day.

“I saw this up close when I was growing up in Brooklyn during the 1970s and 1980s. Instead of a second chance, probation ends up being a land mine, with a random misstep bringing consequences greater than the crime. A person on probation can end up in jail over a technical violation like missing a curfew.”

 

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 220 other followers

Political Prisoners

Welcome to the blog from inmates of Maine's jails and prisons.

In collaboration with the Holistic Recovery Project, the Political Prisoners Blog provides a prisoner's view into what's happening at Maine's correctional facilities.

Only your vigilance on the outside can guarrentee that justice goes on on the inside.

If you'd like to contact one of our inmate bloggers, send us an email.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support.