Dear UNSHACKLE friends,
I came across this article on a bill recently signed into law that amends Maine's policies around jails and state prisons to allow early release for people who are terminally ill.
I know that many of you on this list have done tremendous work around compassionate release guidelines and petitions in various states. Please let us know if there is any further update on this policy, particularly how 'those who might pose a risk of reoffending' is being defined/is traditionally defined.
All my best,
New Law Allows Some Terminally Ill Inmates to Leave Prison Early
August 14, 2009 Reported By: Anne Ravana
Today Gov. John Baldacci signed into law a bill that amends a few correctional programs. LD 1224, "An Act Regarding the Operation of County Jails and the State Board of Corrections," will allow terminally ill inmates to leave prison early if they do not pose a threat to public safety. And the law also expands domestic violence and sexual assualt victim notification requirements.
Originally Aired: 8/14/2009 5:30 PM Listen (Duration: 3:29)
Only about seven percent of Maine's jail and prison inmates are over the age of 55, but corrections officials say most of those older inmates are not in good health.
"We see every type of sickness coming through, I think known, to man and that's why our pharmaceutical bill runs about $15,000 a month," says Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross. "Hepatitis C is very common, alcohol problems, AIDS due to needle use, we have lots of problems with pharmaceutical abuse where people are coming in on many different types of drugs, and that combined with alcoholism, we have to try to get that person stabilized and off medicines that they're not supposed to be on."
Ross says he supports a new law that amends the state's home release program provisions, and allows some inmates to be released early into nursing homes or hospice care.
"There are those times when we have older individuals that have severe diseases that may succumb to those diseases, and the cost of keeping them in the jail or in the hospitals being guarded is astronomical," Ross says. "So there's no real good answer to this. I do support the new law if it's applied in a way that protects public safety, and you have people that are monitoring to make sure that the decisions are not purely financial and the risk to the community is the number one priority."
Under the law, which was amended in the last session of the Legislature, the home release program would not apply to inmates sentenced to life in prison or those who might pose a risk of reoffending, Ross says.
Many of the bill's provisions were recommended by the Board of Corrections, and Denise Lord, Associate Commissioner for the state Department of Corrections, says the bill brings more flexibility to the home release program.
"The early release programs that currently exist require prisoners to have served a certain portion of their sentence and to have a minimal amount of time left on their sentence before they're eligible for early release," she says. "For those prisoners who are severely medically incapacitated, those requirements go away."
Medically incapacitated, Lord says, means physically ill, not mentally ill. She says standards for release will be the same at all county jails and state prisons, and the new law leaves that decision to the sheriffs.
Sheriff Ross says there's always the question of how and where terminally ill inmates will be cared for after release, but the Volunteers of America, he says, have been a help.
"Here in Penobscot County we have a contract with Volunteers of America for release of inmates back into the community," he says. "And so that's a supervised community confinement program, basically, where we have somebody checking in on them. But we can set up conditions on inmates that are released to hospitals, or to homes and have them checked on by our VOA staff."
The Maine Department of Corrections says the state expects the percentage of inmates over 55 to grow in the coming years, and it's already higher than most states. Also in the new law is an expansion of the state's victim notification requirements. Now victims of Class D, or misdemeanor crimes, of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking may request notification when the offender is released from jail or prison.
Director of Project UNSHACKLE
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Retiring Arizona Prison Watch...
This site was originally started in July 2009 as an independent endeavor to monitor conditions in Arizona's criminal justice system, as well as offer some critical analysis of the prison industrial complex from a prison abolitionist/anarchist's perspective. It was begun in the aftermath of the death of Marcia Powell, a 48 year old AZ state prisoner who was left in an outdoor cage in the desert sun for over four hours while on a 10-minute suicide watch. That was at ASPC-Perryville, in Goodyear, AZ, in May 2009.
Marcia, a seriously mentally ill woman with a meth habit sentenced to the minimum mandatory 27 months in prison for prostitution was already deemed by society as disposable. She was therefore easily ignored by numerous prison officers as she pleaded for water and relief from the sun for four hours. She was ultimately found collapsed in her own feces, with second degree burns on her body, her organs failing, and her body exceeding the 108 degrees the thermometer would record. 16 officers and staff were disciplined for her death, but no one was ever prosecuted for her homicide. Her story is here.
Marcia's death and this blog compelled me to work for the next 5 1/2 years to document and challenge the prison industrial complex in AZ, most specifically as manifested in the Arizona Department of Corrections. I corresponded with over 1,000 prisoners in that time, as well as many of their loved ones, offering all what resources I could find for fighting the AZ DOC themselves - most regarding their health or matters of personal safety.
I also began to work with the survivors of prison violence, as I often heard from the loved ones of the dead, and learned their stories. During that time I memorialized the Ghosts of Jan Brewer - state prisoners under her regime who were lost to neglect, suicide or violence - across the city's sidewalks in large chalk murals. Some of that art is here.
In November 2014 I left Phoenix abruptly to care for my family. By early 2015 I was no longer keeping up this blog site, save occasional posts about a young prisoner in solitary confinement in Arpaio's jail, Jessie B.
I'm deeply grateful to the prisoners who educated, confided in, and encouraged me throughout the years I did this work. My life has been made all the more rich and meaningful by their engagement.
I've linked to some posts about advocating for state prisoner health and safety to the right, as well as other resources for families and friends. If you are in need of additional assistance fighting the prison industrial complex in Arizona - or if you care to offer some aid to the cause - please contact the Phoenix Anarchist Black Cross at PO Box 7241 / Tempe, AZ 85281. firstname.lastname@example.org
until all are free -
MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)
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