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News stories tagged with "prison"

Jeff in class. Photo: Natasha Haverty
Jeff in class. Photo: Natasha Haverty

Alternatives to Incarceration: One man enters the system

When Governor Nelson Rockefeller pushed through his landmark drug laws in New York forty years ago, he argued that any alternatives to his new tough on crime zero tolerance approach had failed:

"I was on this kick of trying to get the addict off the street, into treatment. Now this was a beautiful concept, except it just didn't happen to relate to the realities because the pushers keep finding new people. And I have to say that as far as I am aware, there is no known, absolute cure for addiction."

But in recent years, those Rockefeller Drug Laws have gone through a series of reforms. These days, cash-strapped states like New York are struggling to reduce inmate populations so that they can close expensive prisons. Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to mothball two more correctional facilities downstate this year.

And reducing the number of people behind bars means experimenting with diversion programs for non-violent drug offenders: States are offering counseling programs, rehabilitation and therapy, and opening alternative, "drug courts." The goal is to battle drug addiction without incarceration.

This week, as part of our Prison Time Media Project, Natasha Haverty follows the journey of one man through a system that's trying to turn away from mass incarceration. Here's part one of her three-part series.  Go to full article
George Prendes, outside the apartment he lived in before he went to prison, on 107th Street and Central Park West.
George Prendes, outside the apartment he lived in before he went to prison, on 107th Street and Central Park West.

Fifteen years behind bars under Rockefeller drug laws

Imagine for a moment the dumbest thing you've ever done in your life. The worst mistake, the biggest lapse in judgment. Now imagine that that one blunder cost you fifteen years of your life.

This week, we're launching our Prison Time Media Project, exploring the legacy of the Rockefeller drug laws.

The controversial sentencing rules created by Governor Nelson Rockefeller 40 years ago sent tens of thousands of men and women to prison, with many serving 15 to 25 years behind bars.

George Prendes was one of those people.  Go to full article
Richard Stratton hopes to run for governor in 2014. Photo provided by Richard Stratton.
Richard Stratton hopes to run for governor in 2014. Photo provided by Richard Stratton.

Former "High Times" editor plans 2014 run for governor

A former editor of High Times magazine who once did federal prison time in the Adirondacks wants to run for governor in 2014.

Richard Stratton filed initial paperwork with the New York State Board of Elections earlier this month. He hopes to win the Republican line and take on Governor Andrew Cuomo.

An author, filmmaker and activist, Stratton says his time in prison has helped shape his views on prison reform and drug laws.  Go to full article

Malone prison singled out in report on "extreme isolation"

A report released this week by the New York Civil Liberties Union calls for major reforms to the state prison system that would reduce the number of inmates held in solitary confinement or isolation.

According to the study, roughly 8% of state prisoners are being held in special isolation cells. Roughly a third of those solitary confinement cells, known as "special housing units," are located here in the North Country.

Critics say the use of solitary confinement by prison guards has spiraled out of control.  Go to full article
NYCLU says this kind of solitary confinement cell is widely used in New York's prisons, including Upstate Correctional Facility in Malone (Source: NYCLU)
NYCLU says this kind of solitary confinement cell is widely used in New York's prisons, including Upstate Correctional Facility in Malone (Source: NYCLU)

Report blasts NY prisons for use of solitary confinement

The New York Civil Liberties Union says New York's prison system is using solitary confinement as a punishment far too often.

Last year, inmates in the state system were placed in "solitary" more than 13,000 times, according to a new study produced by the NYCLU.  Go to full article
Lunchtime in the mess hall. Photo: Natasha Haverty
Lunchtime in the mess hall. Photo: Natasha Haverty

Special report: A look inside Moriah Shock Prison

Two years ago, Moriah Shock Prison near Port Henry was next on the list of correctional facilities New York State wanted to close. Camp Gabriels near Saranac Lake and the Summit Shock Prison near Albany had already been shut down, and the prisons in Lyon Mountain and Ogdensburg were also on the chopping block.

But the local community and Essex County officials rallied enough support to keep Moriah open. Today, 188 men live on the spartan campus, set in a former mining facility at the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains.

Corrections officers and some inmates at Moriah Shock say the prison's program offers a fresh start to men willing to work hard. But a quarter-century after the state's "shock" program was created, the question of whether it really works remains unresolved.

[CORRECTION: Martin Horn was misidentified earlier as former commissioner of New York's Department of Corrections. He is former commissioner of New York City's Department of Correction and Department of Probation, and headed Pennsylvania's Department of Corrections.]  Go to full article
The new St. Lawrence County jail. Photo: smrtinc.com
The new St. Lawrence County jail. Photo: smrtinc.com

St. Lawrence County's new jail already full

Three years ago, St. Lawrence County finished work on a state-of-the-art jail that cost taxpayers more than $30 million. It was needed because the old jail on Court Street was outdated and overcrowded.

Today, that new jail is full. And people in the justice system aren't quite sure what to do except wait for the crime rate to go down.  Go to full article
This was done in the darkness of night...Our only hope is for the governor of the State of New York to veto the lines.

Redistricting heats up over "secret" 63rd seat

Things got a little heated yesterday at a meeting of a legislative task force on redrawing new district lines--The Senate Democrat's representative complained he'd been left in the dark about the creation of 63rd Senate district by Republicans.

Senator Martin Dilan condemned parts of the process so far as a "farce" and "waste of money." In Albany, Karen DeWitt has the details.  Go to full article
State Senator Betty Little (R-Queensbury)
State Senator Betty Little (R-Queensbury)

Judge's inmate tally decision to shake up North Country legislative districts

A state Supreme Court judge issued a ruling late Friday that could dramatically reshape North Country political boundaries. The decision affects the way prison inmates are counted as state Assembly and Senate districts are drawn up.

In that process, some communities, including Malone, Ogdensburg and Watertown, will lose a significant portion of their population. Brian Mann has our story.  Go to full article

Inmate tally continues to stump New York redistricting plan

Deliberations over drawing new legislative and congressional districts are continuing in Albany and one of the k ey sticking points is the way prison inmates are counted.

Democrats pushed through a measure two years ago that calls for the inmates to be counted in the districts that they're sent from.

North Country state Senator Betty Little, a Republican, stands to lose as many as 11,000 constituents under that change and has sued to reverse the decision.

As Karen DeWitt reports legislators are also struggling the details of a system for determining where inmates should be counted if the Democratic plan survives.  Go to full article

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