September Policy Updates

September News

By Cary Holley

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[image provided by the NonProfit Quarterly]

Now that the 2018 Prison Strike has effectively come to a close, it is very likely that the public will lose interest in the story and move on to new causes per usual. University of Michigan Professor Heather Ann Thompson strongly urges against this proclivity in her Huffington Postpiece from earlier this week. Especially considering the history of violent reprisals that have followed several prison strikes in the past, Thompson emphasizes how essential it is to continue to monitor prison conditions after the strike buzz naturally dissipates. [1]

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[image provided by @btbphilly]

In other news, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections implemented a controversial policy in late August that prohibits inmates from receiving direct mail. [2] In an apparent effort to curb drug smuggling, prison staff now copy all correspondence in front of inmates and then keep the original copy in the facility for a designated period of time before discarding it. [2] As a result, organizations such as Books Through Bars can no longer donate various pieces of literature to incarcerated individuals. Several civil rights organizations, including the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union, claim that the policy violates attorney-client confidentiality. [2] To find out about action that you can take against this policy, check out Books Through Bars’ Take Action page on their site: http://booksthroughbars.org/takeaction/. Moreover, incarcerated individuals in Pennsylvania state facilities were subjected to another constraining policy around the same time: in late August, facilities were put on lockdown following the outbreak of a mysterious illness that affected several staff members. [3] While the health emergency shutdown ended earlier this month, the direct mail restriction continues to prevent certain Pennsylvanians from having the opportunity to read and engage with loved ones on the outside with the dignity of privacy.

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[image provided by The Intercept]

Although Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner stands out for his revolutionary policiesthat aim to curb mass incarceration, it is essential to critically evaluate all of his work and notice any shortcomings. Earlier this week, the Pennsylvania ACLU published a critiqueof Krasner’s attempts to limit the especially egregious civil asset forfeiture practices in Pennsylvania. ACLU Staff Attorney Molly Tack-Hooper writes: “It’s a sign of progress that Larry Krasner has pledged to diminish the use of civil asset forfeiture. But with the infrastructure of forfeiture still intact, and no policy prohibiting its use by the office, a future district attorney could simply ramp up its use again.” [4]

 

Sources:

[1] Thompson, Heather Ann. “The National Prison Strike is Over. Now Is The Time Prisoners Are Most in Danger.” The Huffington Post. 25 September 2018.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-national-prison-strike-is-over-now-is-the-time_us_5ba93ae9e4b0a111fd642f5f

[2] Melamed, Samantha. “After Pa. prisons crack down on books to stop drug smuggling, Twitter calls BS.” The Philadelphia Inquirer. 18 September 2018.

http://www2.philly.com/philly/news/pennsylvania-department-corrections-doc-legal-mail-smart-communications-books-aclu-20180918.html

[3] Hermann, Adam. “Pennsylvania state prisons placed on indefinite lockdown after recent rash of staff illnesses.” Philly Voice. 29 August 2018. https://www.phillyvoice.com/pennsylvania-prisons-lockdown-mystery-illnesses-staff/

[4] Tack-Hooper, Molly. “The Reports of Civil Asset Forfeiture’s Death in Philadelphia Have Been Greatly Exaggerated.” ACLU. 26 September 2018.

https://www.aclu.org/blog/criminal-law-reform/reforming-police-practices/reports-civil-asset-forfeitures-death

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