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Congressional Quarterly Report on Prison Reform, 2007

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Prison Reform
Are too many nonviolent criminals being incarcerated?


merica has more people in prisons and jails —
2.2 million — than any other country in the
world. And over the next five years, the number
of prison inmates is projected to grow three

times faster than the national population. Prison crowding in
California has become so critical that Republican Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger has tried sending inmates to other states. And in
Philadelphia a federal judge has called crowded conditions in city

Inmates are packed like sardines at the California
state prison in Los Angeles. An independent agency
says the state’s overloaded corrections system is
“in a tailspin that threatens public safety.”

jails inhumane, warning that prisoners might have to be released.
With the cost of housing prisoners projected to reach $40 billion


by 2011, alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent crimes are


being proposed, even by law-and-order prison officials and


politicians. Meanwhile, support is growing for more rehabilitation


programs in prisons as well as a bipartisan proposal to help ex-


inmates stay out of prison.


THE ISSUES ......................291
CHRONOLOGY ..................299
BACKGROUND ..................300
AT ISSUE ..........................305
OUTLOOK ........................306

CQ Researcher • April 6, 2007 •
Volume 17, Number 13 • Pages 289-312

BIBLIOGRAPHY ..................310
THE NEXT STEP ................311


CQ Researcher



• Should nonviolent drug
offenders be sent to prison?
• Should prisons provide
more rehabilitation programs?
• Should prisoners be better protected against rape?



Takeover at Attica
Prisoner takeover of New
York penitentiary triggers
a national debate about
prison policy.
Throw Away the Key
Being “tough on crime”
becomes popular after
serious crime doubles.
New Mexico Savagery
Prison riot reveals the folly
of ignoring danger signs.
‘Jungle Atmosphere’
Overcrowding affects
prisoner welfare.
Congress Gets Tough
Serious issues dominate
prisoners’ lawsuits.



South’s Incarceration Rate
Is Nation’s Highest
Northeast’s rate is lowest.


Inmate Population Soars
It reached more than
2 million in 2005.

California Crisis
The state has until June to
ease overcrowding.


A new bipartisan alliance
seeks to help prisoners
re-enter society.



No Paradigm Shifts
Most think it will take
decades to change U.S.
prison policy.


The Bleak World of
‘Supermax’ Prisons
Isolation leads to mental


Majority of Prisoners Committed Nonviolent Crimes
Fifty-three percent were sentenced for nonviolent offenses.


Sexual-Violence Allegations
Allegations rose at state prisons, dropped elsewhere.


Key events since 1971.


Brutality Revealed at Texas
Youth Facilities
Officials ignored widespread


Nearly 40 Percent of State
Prisoners Are Black
African-Americans make up
the biggest ethnic/racial group.


At Issue
Should Congress amend the
Prison Litigation Reform Act?



For More Information
Organizations to contact.


Selected sources used.


The Next Step
Additional articles.


Citing CQ Researcher
Sample bibliography formats.

Cover: AP Photo/California Department of Corrections


CQ Researcher




April 6, 2007
Volume 17, Number 13

STAFF WRITERS: Marcia Clemmitt, Peter Katel

Sarah Glazer, Alan Greenblatt,
Barbara Mantel, Patrick Marshall,
Tom Price, Jennifer Weeks

A Division of
Congressional Quarterly Inc.


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Prison Reform


ended up segregating gangaffiliated prisoners. 5
The California prison situam 4,000 men into an
ation represents an extreme
aging prison designed
version of what many prisfor fewer than half that
oners’-rights advocates and
number. Then leave them
law-enforcement officials call
with too much time on their
a national crisis created by the
hands, what with education
nation’s incarceration boom.
and job training programs all
The nation’s 2.2-million prison
but shut down. The outcome?
and jail population represents
More tension and conflict —
a 700 percent increase over
the last things a prison needs.
1970. With 727 prisoners per
Fights break out daily, says
100,000 Americans, the U.S.
Joseph Baumann, a veteran
incarceration rate is way ahead
correctional officer at the Caliof the rest of the world. Rusfornia state prison at Norco
sia, number two on the list,
and chapter president of the
imprisons 607 per 100,000. (See
California Correctional Peace
map, p. 292.) 6
Officers Association. “And if
And the overall trend is exit crosses racial or gang lines,
pected to continue, even though
there are 15 to 20 people inthe pace of growth is slowing
volved. We get those a couple
in many states, and some state
times a month.”
prison populations are even
Uplifting messages encourage Preston Townsend and
The Norco prison, a condeclining. The Pew Charitable
other participants in the drug-rehabilitation program at
verted World War II naval hosTrusts projects that over the
Northern State Prison in Newark, N.J. With the cost of
pital 50 miles southeast of Los
next five years the number of
housing prisoners projected to reach $40 billion in the
Angeles, bears the unintenfederal and state prisoners will
U.S. by 2011, alternatives to incarceration for
tionally ironic title of Califorrise by 13 percent nationwide
nonviolent crimes are gaining support along
with more funding for rehab programs.
nia Rehabilitation Center: A
— three times faster than the
stunning 70 percent of the
general population. 7
prisoners from Norco and California’s 32 standard for an emergency. But Superior
The racial-ethnic imbalance in the
other prisons wind up back behind bars Court Judge Gail D. Ohanesian con- nation’s incarcerated population rewithin three years of release. California’s cluded the prison system faces a “crisis mains a troubling reality. About 8
high recidivism rate — the national rate creating conditions of extreme peril.” percent of African-American men
is 52 percent — helps explain why its Only weeks earlier, an independent state ages 25-39 were in state or federal
oversight agency known as the Little custody in 2005, compared to 1.1 perprisons are so crowded. 1
California has more prisoners than Hoover Commission had reported that cent of white males and 2.6 percent
any other state — 173,000 — living the corrections system was “in a tailspin of Hispanic men. (See graph, p. 302.)
in facilities designed, by one calculation, that threatens public safety.” 4
“Imprisonment does more than reLong a hothouse of racial-ethnic flect the divides of race and class,”
for about 83,000 inmates. 2 “We have
the highest recidivism rate in the gangs such as the Aryan Brotherhood, writes Jason DeParle, a New York Times
country because there is no room for Black Guerrilla Family and the Mexi- reporter and author of a book on the
rehabilitation,” Republican Gov. Arnold can Mafia, the California prison sys- welfare system. “It deepens these diSchwarzenegger said in February, while tem racked up 316 disturbances in vides — walling off the disadvantaged,
announcing an order to move 5,000 2006, one of them a year-end battle especially unskilled black men, from
to 7,000 prisoners to other states with between about 1,000 Hispanic and the promise of American life.” 8
black inmates at the maximum-security
more room for the convicts. 3
Yet, while some traditional law-andOn Feb. 20, a state judge canceled prison at Chino. Los Angeles County order conservatives are calling for althe extraordinary move on the grounds jails, meanwhile, had so many violent ternatives to incarceration, others welthat Schwarzenegger hadn’t met the legal outbreaks last year that authorities come the steadily increasing prisoner
AP Photo/Daniel Hulshizer


Available online:

April 6, 2007


Incarceration Rate Is Highest in South
With 542 out of every 100,000 individuals in prison, the South has
the highest regional incarceration rate in the United States, followed
by the West. The Northeast’s rate is the lowest, slightly more than half
the rate in the South.
No. of Prisoners Per 100,000 Population, 2005























Ind. Ohio



Miss. Ala.











Source: “Public Safety, Public Spending: Forecasting America’s Prison Population
2007-2011,” Public Safety Performance, 2007; District of Columbia Sentencing and
Criminal Code Revision Commission

numbers and would even like to see
them accelerate.
“We’re not incarcerating everybody
who should be incarcerated,” says
David Mulhausen, a senior policy analyst specializing in criminal justice at
the conservative Heritage Foundation.
He cites the latest crime statistics from
the FBI: Violent crime rose 2.3 percent from 2004 to 2005, but police arrested suspects in only 45.5 percent
of those cases. 9 “There are people
getting away with a lot of crime. We
might need two-and-a-half million or
three million incarcerated.”
Prison-reform advocates say the growing crime statistics prove the nation’s
high incarceration rates — coupled with
a trend away from prisoner education/rehabilitation programs — are not
making society safer. “I agree [violent


CQ Researcher

criminals] need to be taken off the streets,”
says Jody Kent, public policy coordinator of the American Civil Liberties Union’s
National Prison Project. “But they should
be coming out so they’re no longer
dangerous. The system we have in place
hasn’t solved that problem.”
“Prior to the 1980s, rehab was a strong
component in correctional health thinking,” says M. Douglas Anglin, associate
director of the Integrated Substance Abuse
Programs at the University of California,
Los Angeles (UCLA). “Then you had a
huge philosophical shift. Rehab had
shown only marginal results, [so] the
thinking became, ‘Let’s throw a sentence
at people.’ ” 10
Congress and state lawmakers have
enacted a plethora of tough-on-crime laws
— such as minimum sentencing and
three-strikes laws — that ended up man-

dating incarceration even for nonviolent
drug users and low-level dealers.
“The idea became that if we put
enough people in prison we could solve
the drug problem,” says John Bradley,
the district attorney for Williamson County, in central Texas, and a strong advocate of punishment for criminals. “I think
we can say that’s a failed policy.”
Meanwhile, lawmakers cut funding
for drug and mental-health treatment
programs — both inside and outside
of prisons — despite the fact that addicts and the mentally ill make up a
disproportionate percentage of the nation’s inmates. 11
“Look at the people who are coming out of prison — drug-addicted, mentally ill, no stable housing — of course
they’re going to fail parole,” says
Michael Jacobson, who ran the New
York City jail system in 1995-1998 and
now directs the Vera Institute of Justice,
a New York-based nonprofit research
and advocacy organization. “The system
is set up for failure. The institutional
mind-set is, ‘We don’t have enough
money to deal with your issues, but we
have enough money to catch you.’ It’s
like shooting fish in a barrel.” 12
According to Steve J. Martin, an Austin,
Texas-based corrections expert who has
served as a court-appointed prison and
jail monitor throughout the country, most
incarcerated drug offenders “are inept
users,” who “deal some to feed their
habits.” Sophisticated drug distributors,
he says, make up a minority in prison.
“Those guys long ago perfected the use
of intermediaries to shield them,” says
Martin, a former general counsel of the
Texas corrections department who began
his career as a prison guard.
Drug incarceration has been slowing slightly in recent years from its
high point in the late 1980s and 1990s,
in part because states — including such
traditionally hardline jurisdictions as
Mississippi — have begun enacting a
variety of measures aimed at reducing time served by nonviolent drug
offenders. Since 1989, for instance, local

and state governments have established
about 1,000 “drug courts” to divert
those arrested for drug use or possession of small quantities from prison
to supervised treatment. 13
Stiff sentences remain in place for
a variety of other crimes, however,
notes Marc Mauer, director of The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit that advocates alternatives to imprisonment.
“Over the last decade or so, we
haven’t increased all that much the
number of people sent to prison,” he
says, “but, on average, they’re serving
more time than they used to.”
Meanwhile, there has been a growing movement to protect prisoners’ safety, partly because some prisoners have
been filing federal civil-rights lawsuits
claiming their rights were violated by
prison administrators who did not protect them from rape. (See graph, p. 297.)
“I’m really concerned when we have
people afraid of prison rape,” says Rep.
J. Randy Forbes, R-Va., ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee’s Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee. The Prison
Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA)
that he co-sponsored ratchets up rapeprevention measures in all prisons.
But Paul Wright, an ex-convict who
publishes the widely read Prison Legal
News, calls the PREA a step forward,
but not a big step. “It is tepid and weak”
and “does nothing for rape victims.” He
and other prisoners’-rights advocates want
Congress to amend the Prison Litigation
Reform Act (PLRA). Designed to block
“frivolous” lawsuits by inmates, the 1995
law prevents prisoners from asserting
their rights in federal court, critics say.
(See “At Issue,” p. 305.)
But looming above all policy debates
is the population surge, which channels
most prison resources into housing,
feeding and guarding prisoners — leaving too little, critics say, for programs
that help convicts turn their lives around.
“Our newer institutions,” says correctional officer Baumann, “are just

Inmate Population
Tops 2 Million
The number of jail and prison
inmates in the United States
has quadrupled since 1980.
No. of jail/prison inmates






Source: “Public Safety, Public
Spending: Forecasting America’s
Prison Population 2007-2011,” Public
Safety Performance, 2007

As prisoner advocates and state,
local and federal officials cope with
the burgeoning prison population, here
are some of the questions they are
Should nonviolent drug offenders
be sent to prison?
The so-called “war on drugs” has
served as a powerful engine of the prisoner population boom. Drug incarcerations jumped an extraordinary 1,000
percent between 1980 and 2005, according to Don Stemen, research director for the Center on Sentencing and
Corrections at the New York-based Vera
Institute for Justice. 14
In 2003, the last full year for which
detailed statistics are available, drug
offenders accounted for 55 percent of
federal prisoners — down from a high
of 60 percent in 1995 — and about
20 percent of state prisoners. 15
The slight drop in federal drug incarcerations reflects a growing debate
about the value of imprisoning and jailing people for minor drug offenses, es-

Available online:

pecially since about 74 percent of drugoffender inmates had no history of violence, according to The Sentencing
Project. In fact, in recent years many
states have been choosing to offer drug
treatment instead of incarceration for
low-level dealers and first- and secondtime drug users. 16
In 2000 California voters approved
the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act, which offers drug treatment rather than incarceration for firstand second-time drug offenders. And
over the past four years about a halfdozen states have enacted measures
that cut sentences for minor drug crimes
or allow drug prisoners to qualify for
early release. 17
But while the number of drug offenders behind bars isn’t skyrocketing
as in the recent past, it’s not declining
either, points out Mauer of The Sentencing Project. “One could say it would
be higher if we didn’t have drug courts
and other alternatives in operation,” he
says. “The other possibility is ‘net widening’ — are we bringing people into
the court system who previously would
not have been arrested or wouldn’t
have been candidates for prison sentences” because there’s now a drug
court option? “I think there’s a little of
both going on.”
Mauer argues nonviolent drug offenders should only go to prison if all
alternatives fail. “There should be a
presumption against it,” he says. “Anybody who tries to stop smoking
knows that you don’t succeed the first
time. We should understand [drug] addiction and relapse that way too.”
Increasingly, conservatives talk in similar terms. Still, prisoners’-rights advocates give first preference to keeping
nonviolent drug users out of prison,
while law-and-order forces favor tipping
the balance in favor of incarceration.
Rep. Forbes, a GOP leader on crime
legislation, opposes a hard-and-fast standard on nonviolent drug crimes. “I don’t
know if we can make a carte blanche
case that anybody who commits a drug

April 6, 2007



The Bleak World of ‘Supermax’ Prisons
Isolation leads to mental deterioration


heodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber, is in one, and terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui. Until his death, Mafia boss John
Gotti was a “supermax” resident, too.
Over the past two decades, a trend has swept the prison
world: locking away “the most dangerous” prisoners in ultrahigh-security facilities where they’re confined to their cells 23
hours a day, receive few visitors and are escorted by several
guards during their brief, solitary exercise outings.
Some 57 prisons in at least 44 states follow the ultra-isolation
“supermax” model. About 20 years ago, only one facility, the
federal penitentiary in Marion, Ill., was reserved for high-risk inmates like Gotti, who died of cancer in prison in 2002. 1
Supermaxes now hold about 25,000 prisoners, but a series
of court decisions has limited states’ power to decide who gets
sent to these institutions.
This year, the Indiana prison system settled a lawsuit with
prisoners represented by the American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU), agreeing to keep mentally ill prisoners out of the Secured Housing Unit — a supermax-like wing of one of the
state’s prisons. The settlement also calls for prisoners remaining
in the unit to get regular psychiatric assessments. 2 Virtually total
isolation and inactivity led four prisoners there to commit suicide, and others to hallucinate and mutilate themselves, the lawsuit claimed. 3
The U.S. Supreme Court had previously turned down a challenge by Ohio prisoners to the process used to assign them
to a supermax. In a 2005 decision, the court said a review
process ensured their due-process rights were respected. 4
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the court that supermaxes were developed largely as a way to isolate the leaders of murderous, highly organized prison gangs. “Gangs seek
nothing less than to control prison life and to extend their
power outside prison walls,” he wrote. 5

crime that happens to be nonviolent
shouldn’t go to prison,” he says. “It depends on whether they’re selling drugs
and the amount of drugs they sell. Certainly we want those people incarcerated because they are doing a huge
harm to society.”
Some prison experts agree that bigtime drug traffickers shouldn’t be confused with small-time dealers and users.
But they add that society is also harmed
when low-level drug offenders are incarcerated. “Some drug offenders actually come out of prison better adjusted to
the criminal lifestyle than they otherwise


CQ Researcher

Nevertheless, supermaxes haven’t proven to be a foolproof
anti-gang weapon. At the federal supermax in Florence, Colo.,
members of the fearsome Aryan Brotherhood actually recruited a guard into their organization. 6
Some supermax supporters have argued that prisoners left behind in conventional prisons are better off once the most dangerous inmates are shipped off to supermaxes. But prisoners’
rights weren’t high on the agenda when the supermax boom
took off. Criminologists Daniel P. Mears of Florida State University and Jamie Watson, a senior research specialist at the Travis
County, Texas, Juvenile Probation Department, reported in a study
that an unnamed government official had said supermaxes enjoy
unbeatable public appeal. “There is an appetite for punishment.
It taps into public fear without much cost and with a big political
gain. . . . There’s not a huge difference between the Democrats
and the Republicans on this issue.” 7
The burst of popularity for supermaxes reflected an old
trend, a prison expert has noted. “Typically, ‘new’ programs in
the field of corrections are not based on extensive research,”
wrote Chase Riveland, a former prison warden and Washington state corrections director, in a Justice Department-funded
study. “Some are born out of emerging needs; some are created in reaction to a crisis or emergency; others are the result
of political agendas. It would seem that the supermaxes have
emerged from a blend of these influences.” 8
Yet, Mears and Watson concluded in their study that the value
of supermaxes is largely untested. “The concern, then, is that decisions about whether to build or close supermaxes will rest primarily on ideological or personal views,” they write. “Advocates,
for example, can assume that supermaxes increase order, while
opponents can assume that they increase mental illness.” 9
The mental-illness issue runs through many of the legal restrictions on supermaxes. Apart from the recent Indiana settlement,

would be,” says Martin, the Texas-based
consultant on prison and jail management. “That’s the last thing you want.”
But law-enforcement officials warn
against assuming all nonviolent drug
criminals are not dangerous. In Philadelphia, accused criminals deemed nonviolent were released without bail in large
numbers under a federal court-imposed
ceiling on admissions to chronically overcrowded jails. In one 18-month period,
those released were rearrested for 9,000
new crimes including 79 murders, according to Assistant District Attorney
Sarah Hart of Philadelphia. “And we

saw people who were drug-addicted
being released over and over and over
again,” she said. “There are really very
significant public safety consequences
when you have wholesale releases without individualized review.” 18
Hart acknowledges that some convicts shouldn’t be locked up. “You try
to make sure you reserve expensive
resources for people who need to be
there,” she says.
David Rudovsky, a University of
Pennsylvania law professor representing Philadelphia prisoners in the latest
lawsuit challenging overcrowding,

AFP/Getty Images/Bob Daemmrich

a federal judge barred Cali1 For survey data, see Daniel P. Mears
fornia prison officials in
and Jamie Watson, “Towards a Fair and
Balanced Assessment of Supermax Pris2002 from shipping mentalons,” Justice Quarterly, June 2006, pp.
ly ill prisoners to supermaxes
232-270, court approval. That
anced.pdf; and Daniel P. Mears, “Evalsame year, the Connecticut
uating the Effectiveness of Supermax
prison system agreed to pay
Prisons,” Urban Institute, March 2006,
p. ii,
$1.8 million in settlements to
411326 _supermax_prisons.pdf. For dethe families of two supermax
The federal prison in Florence, Colo., is among more than
tails on Gotti, see Selwyn Raab, “John
50 prisons that follow the ultra-isolation “supermax” model.
prisoners, one of them a
Gotti Dies in Prison at 61,” The New
York Times, June 11, 2002, p. A1. For
mentally ill inmate who comdetails on Moussaoui, see Dan Eggen, “New Home is ‘Alcatraz of the Rockmitted suicide. And a federal judge in Wisconsin ordered the ies,’ ” The Washington Post, May 5, 2006. p. A6.
state to do a better job of identifying prisoners who would suf- 2 See Jon Murray, “Prison Pact a Win for Mentally Ill,” The Indianapolis Star,
Feb. 5, 2007, p. A1.
fer mental breakdowns if sent to a supermax. 10
3 See “Deal Would Move Mentally Ill Offenders Out of Supermax Units,”
An earlier settlement in Wisconsin led to relaxed conditions at
The Associated Press, Jan. 29, 2007.
one of the state’s supermax prisons, with inmates allowed to have 4
See Joan Biskupic, “High Court Upholds Ohio’s ‘Supermax’ Prison Policy,”
face-to-face visits from loved ones, and state officials prohibited, June 13, 2005,
from saying the institution housed the “worst of the worst.” 11
5 Quoted in ibid.
Psychiatric effects of supermax confinement have proved a
6 See David Grann, “The Brand: How the Aryan Brotherhood became the most
powerful legal issue, not only because of concerns about viomurderous prison gang in America,” The New Yorker, Feb. 16, 2004, p. 157.
lating the Constitution but also because supermax prisons in 7 Quoted in Mears and Watson, op. cit., p. 247.
at least 22 states release inmates directly to the street when 8 See Chase Riveland, “Supermax Prisons: Overview and General Considerations,” National Institute of Corrections, U.S. Department of Justice,” January 1999,
they’ve served their time. 12
“It’s common knowledge that many people come out of these p. 22, For Riveland’s professional background, see “Affidavit of Chase Riveland,” in Osterback et al. v. Michael W. Moore
places extremely damaged,” says ACLU attorney David Fathi, who et al., Case NO. 97-2806-CIV-HUCK,
has litigated against conditions in supermaxes in several states.
9 Ibid, p. 236.
Indeed, Riveland observed that helping supermax prisoners get
10 See Jenifer Warren, “Court Approval Needed to Use ‘Supermax’ Cells,”
ready for release ranks among the most difficult issues for prison
Los Angeles Times, Oct. 11, 2002, p. B10; “Connecticut to Pay $2 Million to
staff — because supermax confinement doesn’t make prisoners Settle Inmate Lawsuits,” The Associated Press, March 14, 2002; Richard W.
any less dangerous. “An approaching release date seldom, if ever, Jaeger, “Ruling May Shift Supermax Inmates,” Wisconsin State Journal, April
2002, p. B1.
changes the degree of threat to staff for the better,” he wrote. 16,
11 See Jaeger, ibid.
“Most often, inmates who are dangerous pose a greater threat to 12
Mears and Watson, op. cit., p. 251.
staff as the term of control by the agency decreases.” 13
13 See Riveland, “Supermax Prisons . . . ,” op. cit., p. 10.

agrees an across-the-board policy of
not incarcerating any drug offenders
wouldn’t work.
“Maybe somebody after four or six
drug arrests should go” to prison, he
says. “But as a general principle it’s a
huge waste of resources. If people are
looking to limit prison population, that’s
one part of the population that could
be targeted.”
Should prisons provide more rehabilitation programs?
In the 1970s state and federal lawmakers began to reject the convention-

al wisdom that prisons should offer vocational training and psychological counseling to help inmates build new, crimefree lives. Some social scientists helped
pave the way for the new doctrine with
research that seemed to prove that rehabilitation did not work (see p. 302).
Perhaps as a result, rehabilitation funds
have grown scarce in recent years, according to the Commission on Safety
and Abuse in America’s Prisons, formed
by the Vera Institute of Justice. “Along
with the dramatic rise in the prisoner
population, there has been decreasing
support from lawmakers for improving

Available online:

the education and skills of people in
prison,” said the commission. 19
A 2006 survey by the nonprofit Institute for Higher Education Policy found
that 41 states offered postsecondary programs to inmates in 1983, with nearly
5 percent of the national prison population participating. By 1997, 21 states
offered programs, and fewer than 2 percent of prisoners were enrolled. 20
The commission, other reform advocates and some law-enforcement officials cite the lack of improvement in
the nation’s recidivism rates as evidence
that prisons are not providing prisoners

April 6, 2007


Majority of Inmates Commit Nonviolent Crimes
Of 1.4 million inmates in state and federal prisons in 2003, more
than half committed offenses considered nonviolent.
No. of Prison Inmates, 2003
(by offense)








Total: 1,414,926
Source: Allen J. Beck and Paige M. Harrison, “Prisoners in 2005,” Bureau of Justice
Statistics, Department of Justice, November 2006

the tools needed to change the behavior that got them locked up in the first
place. “All the people we put in jail 10
years ago are now back, said Atlanta
Police Chief Richard Pennington. “They
come out of the system more hard-core
than when they went in.” 21
But funding for rehabilitation programs
remains a hard sell if the programs help
prisoners get a college education. In 1994
when federal lawmakers learned that
27,700 state and federal prisoners were
taking college courses from behind
prison walls using federal Pell grants —
which provide indigent students with up
to $4,000 a year to help pay for college
courses — Congress banned prisoners
from the program.
“The honest and hard-working are
being elbowed out of the way by criminals,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison,
R-Texas, who sponsored the ban. “Prisons exist for the protection of society,
not the comfort and convenience of
criminals.” 22
Some prison administrators, not generally considered a liberal interest group,
decried the result. “By making life tougher
for the average prisoner, they’re also


CQ Researcher

making it tougher for us to run the
prison,” said John Whitley, who had recently retired as warden of the Louisiana
State Prison at Angola. “They’re taking
away the one thing that keeps many
of these prisoners peaceful: hope.” 23
Advocates of educational rehabilitation like Vera Institute executive director Jacobson, who was trained as
a sociologist, say the research is “pretty conclusive” in showing that “the
more education you have when you
leave [prison], the better off you’re
going to be. It’s not in dispute.”
“You’ll be safer, and you’ll wind up
spending less money,” Jacobson continues, “because you’ll have fewer
people going back to prison.”
But Roy Pinto, vice president of the
Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers
Association, disputes Jacobson’s conclusion. “We tried that here in Pennsylvania,” he says. “We used to give them
Penn State degrees, but we had one of
the highest recidivism rates in the country. That ought to tell everybody something.” Pinto also serves as vice-chair of
Corrections USA, a federation of 20 correctional officer unions in 15 states.

Pennsylvania abolished college courses for prisoners in 1998. At the time,
400 of the state’s 35,075 prisoners were
taking college correspondence courses,
half the number that had been doing
so before the Pell Grant ban. 24
But Pennsylvania kept providing vocational and basic education courses
that could lead a prisoner to qualify
for a general education diploma, or
GED. “I think every state should do
that, because you’d be surprised at
how many people in prison can’t read
or write; if you can’t read or write you
can’t support yourself honestly,” Pinto
says. But, as for college, he says, “If
I’ve got to pay for my kid to go to
college, why should I be paying for
someone who couldn’t follow the law?”
That’s an appealing argument, education advocates acknowledge. But
they insist that it doesn’t settle the question. “Everybody in the United States,
should be able to have access to education — including people behind
bars,” says Jamie Fellner, director of U.S.
programs for Human Rights Watch, a
New York-based international investigative and advocacy organization that
has critically examined American penal
policy and prison conditions.
Fellner says Americans should “get
over the ‘We’re supposed to be punishing them,’ attitude,” because promoting a smoother re-entry into society
saves public money. “None of this is
about coddling.”
But many in the law-enforcement
community disagree. “Rehabilitation happens when people examine their lives,”
says Bradley, the Texas district attorney
and a prominent law-and-order conservative. “We can give them support, but,
fundamentally, all the choices that have
to be made are individual choices.”
Similar reasoning has led some state
governments to pick religious organizations to run rehabilitation programs
that take a “faith-based” approach to
helping convicts turn their lives around.
In past decades, the Nation of Islam
developed a reputation for working with

African-American prisoners; Malcolm X
was the organization’s most famous religious rehabilitation success story. 25
In this decade, Prison Fellowship
Ministries (PFM) has become the biggest
and best-known faith-based rehabilitation organization, with programs in 50
states and 110 countries. The evangelical Christian organization, praised by
President George W. Bush, was founded in 1976 by ex-Watergate felon Charles
W. Colson. Increasingly, PFM is turning
to private funding for its programs because courts have been frowning on
public funding for activities that require
acceptance of specific religious doctrines
as an integral part of the program.
U.S. District Judge Robert W. Pratt
ruled last June that the PFM-affiliated
InnerChange Freedom Initiative at the
Newton Correctional Facility in Iowa violated the constitutional ban on government preference for one religion over
another. He didn’t dispute that program
participants may have benefited, but he
cited testimony by prisoners of other
faiths, including a Catholic inmate, who
said they couldn’t reconcile the program with their own beliefs. “It cannot
be permissible to force taxpayers to
fund such an enterprise,” Pratt ruled.
InnerChange received $1.5 million in
public funding, which Pratt ordered repaid to the state. 26
InnerChange is appealing the ruling,
which came in a lawsuit by Americans
United for the Separation of Church
and State. 27
Advocates of Christian rehabilitation
say participants undergo a moral transformation that results in lower recidivism
rates. The programs produce “dramatic
results in changing the lives of hardened
criminals and stopping the revolving door
of crime,” said PFM president and former Virginia Gov. Mark Earley. 28
According to PFM, a 2002 study
showed faith-based prison programs produce significantly lower recidivism rates
than vocation-based programs — 16
percent vs. 36 percent, and a 2003 University of Pennsylvania study found that

Sexual-Violence Allegations Rise
Two years after the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act was enacted
— requiring collection of national statistics on the problem — state
prisons reported an increase of more than 1,000 allegations of
sexual violence between 2004 to 2005. Allegations declined at
federal and private prisons and jails, but experts say many rapes
go unreported. Only 15 percent of all 2005 allegations were
substantiated by correctional authorities.
No. of Sexual Violence Allegations












Local jails





Source: Allen J. Beck and Paige M. Harrison, “Sexual Violence Reported by
Correctional Authorities, 2005,” Bureau of Justice Statistics, July 2006

graduates of InnerChange in Texas were
50 percent less likely to be rearrested,
and 60 percent less likely to be re-incarcerated than a control group. 29
But skeptics point out that faith-based
rehabilitation programs often are the
only ones offering follow-up care and
job counseling for ex-inmates. They say
lower recidivism rates could be less the
result of the Christian message than the
influence of extra family time allowed
for participants or the fact that they are
handpicked for the programs.
In addition, Todd R. Clear, a professor of community justice and corrections
at John Jay College of Criminal Justice
in New York, noted that religious programs in Florida prisons revealed another advantage that faith-based rehabilitation often enjoys. The state has
“systematically over the last decade
made prison time nasty time,” he told
The Washington Post. “But then they say
private individuals can set up other types
of facilities with amenities that make

Available online:

much more comfortable places to do
time, and all you have to do is give
your life to Jesus Christ.” 30
On the non-religious rehabilitation front,
many law-enforcement officials, including
Texas District Attorney Bradley, would
like to see more money spent on drug
and alcohol treatment. “It’s the only form
of rehabilitation that has a provable track
record of success,” Bradley says. But legislators have been so stingy with funding that “most of the time prisoners get
paroled without having gotten treatment.”
The Vera Institute commission found
the same shortage of drug treatment
nationwide. “The wait for treatment
often outlasts a prisoner’s sentence,”
the commission said.
Martin, the Texas-based prison consultant, says prisoners often need both
types of rehabilitation programs. The
most effective tool against recidivism,
he says, is “real-world education —
giving them a skill — along with actual drug treatment.”

April 6, 2007


Based on his 35-year experience
with convicts and drug users, he says,
“education can open up a wonderful
world” for many. “Once they learn
they can read a sentence and comprehend it, it works miracles.”
Should prisoners be better protected against rape?
For decades, prison rape was the
crime that dared not speak its name,
at least in the halls of Congress and
similar venues. By contrast, books
and movies about prison frequently
depicted rape — especially of male
prisoners by fellow inmates — as an
inescapable part of prison life. “Oz,”
a former HBO TV series, was a particularily terrifying example.
Now, the secrecy and shame that
shrouded prison rape are eroding.
“My rectum bled for several days, but
I was too afraid to come forward, even
to see a doctor,” former prisoner T. J.
Parsell told the Prison Rape Elimination
Commission in 2005. “I was too terrified [that] I’d have to explain what had
happened. . . . Everyone knew that
snitches were killed.” 31
The unusual public hearing on
prison rape was mandated by the
Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA),
passed by Congress in 2003. The law
ordered the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics to conduct
annual reports on the frequency of
prison rape and in which institutions
it is most common. It also created the
nine-member Prison Rape Elimination
Commission to study the effects of
rape on individuals, prisons and society — including the impact of prison
rape in spreading HIV — and to devise standards on how to investigate
sexual assaults and protect inmates
from rape. 32
“Everyone has come to understand
that a prison sentence in the United
States should not include rape as added
punishment,” Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-Va.,
a co-sponsor of the bill, said after its
passage. 33


CQ Researcher

In the years leading up to the PREA
enactment, an uptick in the number of
middle-class drug prisoners — with friends,
relatives or parents on the outside —
played a role. “One medium that’s available to middle-class America is the Internet,” says Ron McAndrew, former warden of the Florida State Prison in Raiford.
“If they get a call from their son’s bunk
partner and he says, ‘They hauled your
son out of the dormitory last night, and
he was bleeding badly,’ they’ll be sending an e-mail the next morning saying,
‘I demand to know what’s going on.’ ”
Concern over prisons as a growing
source of HIV infection added to the
concern. And the simple overwhelming
force of numbers added to the ranks of
convicts, ex-convicts and others willing
to speak out about an ugly subject. A
groundbreaking, 378-page report by
Human Rights Watch in 2001 — “No
Escape: Male Rape in U.S. Prisons,” played
a role as well. 34
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ most recent report issued under
the 2003 law, 6,241 incidents of sexual
violence allegedly occurred in the nation’s prisons and jails in 2005 — up
from 5,386 in 2004. Investigators were
only able to substantiate 855 of the allegations, which ranged from rape to staff
sexual “misconduct” with an inmate. 35
The report found that allegations of
sexual violence had gone down at federal, local and private institutions since
2004 but had increased dramatically at
state prisons — from 3,172 to 4,341.
And that’s just the number of rapes
that get reported, the report said.
“Due to fear of reprisal from perpetrators, a code of silence among inmates, personal embarrassment and lack
of trust in staff, victims are often reluctant to report incidents to correctional
authorities,” said the report. 36
The report found that in substantiated incidents of inmate-on-inmate rape
the victim was placed in protective
custody 49 percent of the time, while
the perpetrators were arrested or
prosecuted 58 percent of the time. In

substantiated cases involving sexual
misconduct with a prisoner by staff,
the employee was discharged, fired or
resigned 82 percent of the time and
were arrested or prosecuted 45 percent
of the time.
Some states are stepping up antirape efforts. During training sessions
for prison staff in Pennsylvania, prisoner Keith DeBlasio, 39, told participants his HIV infection resulted from
rape at a federal prison in Milan, Mich.,
where he was serving time for interstate trafficking of forged securities and
fraudulent use of a credit card. “In
Pennsylvania, there’s a lot less of this
attitude of, ‘You brought it on yourself, or, ‘You’re not telling the truth,’ ”
DeBlasio says in an interview. “It’s a
really progressive system; I was amazed.”
Prison-reform advocates who hailed
enactment of the PREA, however, say
another federal law blocks prisoners’
and relatives’ attempts to sue prisons
for allegedly failing to protect inmates
from rape. The 1996 Prison Litigation
Reform Act (PLRA) bars prisoners from
filing federal lawsuits over prison conditions until available administrative
remedies “are exhausted” — legalese for
first going through all reporting and
grievance procedures. 37
Margo Schlanger, a law professor at
Washington University in St. Louis who
specializes in prisoner-rights law, says
the so-called exhaustion provision does
not take into account fear of retaliation.
“If you’ve been raped by a staff member, often the person you have to complain to is that staff member or their
shift supervisor,” she says. “And many
systems have tight [reporting] deadlines,
which can be as few as two days. When
people are traumatized, it often takes
them a while to be able to report.”
Hart of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, who helped draft the
PLRA, counters that the exhaustion requirement does not prohibit lawsuits. “It
just requires that you raise the matter
first with prison officials,” she says. “Prison
Continued on p. 300

1970s-1980s 1990s
Rehabilitation falls out of favor,
replaced by long sentences and
isolation from society.

Sept. 13, 1971
State troopers storm the New York
state prison at Attica to put down
an inmate takeover; 43 people are
killed, including 11 hostages. Inmates demanded better medical care
and food, among other changes.
Massachusetts and New York pass
tough new laws imposing mandatory-minimum terms for drug offenses and gun possession.
April 1974
Sociologist Robert Martinson challenges the value of prison rehabilitation programs.
Federal judge takes over Alabama
prison system, ruling its “rampant
violence and jungle atmosphere”
violate the constitutional ban on
cruel and unusual punishment.
Feb. 2-3, 1980
Inmates kill 33 fellow prisoners,
some identified as “snitches,” during
an uprising at the New Mexico
state prison at Santa Fe.
In the first of a series of measures,
the Sentencing Reform Act sets
tough federal sentencing guidelines
to reverse past “undue leniency.”
U.S. jail and prison population reaches 750,000, up from 330,000 in 1972.
First “drug court” opens in Miami,
offering supervised drug treatment
as an alternative to incarceration.

Surge in violent
urban crime during late-’80s
crack epidemic triggers wave
of harsh anti-crime laws including mandatory sentencing
and “three-strikes” policies.

U.S. Supreme Court upholds
Michigan law requiring mandatory
life sentence for possessing more
than 650 grams — nearly 23
ounces — of cocaine.
Voters in Washington and then California approve “three-strikes” laws
requiring up to life in prison for the
third serious offense — which can
include property crimes such as
burglary and car theft. Eventually,
26 states adopt such laws.
Congress bans Pell Grants for prisoners’ college courses.
Prison Litigation Reform Act restricts
prisoners’ federal civil rights lawsuits
to stop “frivolous” litigation.


States begin
promoting alternatives to incarceration.
California voters approve a law offering drug treatment instead of
incarceration to first- and secondtime drug offenders.
Federal judge prohibits California
from transferring mentally ill prisoners to “supermax” prisons,
where inmates live in virtually
total isolation.

Available online:

Congress passes and President
George W. Bush signs the Prison
Rape Elimination Act (PREA).
Bush calls for a “second chance”
for people released from prison.
Violent crime nationwide rises
2.3 percent over previous year. . . .
U.S. jail and prison population increases 700 percent since 1970, to
2.2 million inmates.
Congress defeats “Second Chance
Act” providing assistance to newly
released prisoners. . . . Federal
judge declares a faith-based prison
rehabilitation program unconstitutional.
Feb. 14, 2007
Pew Charitable Trusts project the
national prison population will increase by 192,000 inmates by 2011.
Feb. 18, 2007
Two Texas newspapers reveal systematic sexual abuse and brutality
— and official indifference — at
the state’s youth prisons.
Feb. 20, 2007
California judge concludes that
California prisons are in “crisis” but
rejects an attempt by Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger to transfer 5,000
to 7,000 prisoners out of state.
March 2007
Sentencing Project reports that
22 states have changed sentencing laws or parole-probation
procedures over the past two
years in order to lower incarceration rates. . . . “Second Chance”
bill reintroduced, approved by
House subcommittee.

April 6, 2007



Brutality Revealed at Texas Youth Facilities
Officials implicated in widespread abuses


evelations of staff sexual abuse and brutality at Texas
youth facilities have erupted into a full-scale scandal.
Accounts of beatings and rapes of young inmates have
surfaced along with clear evidence that authorities knew about
the assaults — as well as prisoner-on-prisoner violence — but
didn’t stop them.
Since the disclosures about Texas Youth Commission (TYC)
prisons began in February, Republican Gov. Rick Perry has fired
the agency’s executive director; two other high-level employees
were sacked; the commission’s entire board resigned and a youth
prison director has been arrested for lying to police. In addition,
as many as 1,000 youths could be freed if investigators find they
were wrongly blocked from release. Under Texas law, most young
people don’t serve fixed sentences and are released when they’re
deemed worthy of return to society. 1
The governor has appointed a former prosecutor to oversee
an investigation of the entire TYC system, which is responsible for
about 4,000 young people in 24 facilities for offenses ranging from
burglary and drug crimes to assault. The commission also contracts with private firms who run 19 other detention centers. 2
By late March, about 100 investigators reporting to the governor’s “special master,” Jay Kimbrough, had opened 1,100 investigations; 282 have been closed so far with no action. The
leading allegations include sexual misconduct between staff and
inmates, and staff-on-inmate violence. 3
While the conditions in Texas may be especially scandalous,
violence and abuse also have been surfacing in other states,

Continued from p. 298

officials want to know what’s going on
in their prisons. In a good correctional
system, grievances alert you to problems
early on so you can fix them.”
Prisoners’-rights advocates also complain that under another PLRA provision
prisoners must show proof of “physical
injury” before they can file a federal civil
action — even if they are charging mental or emotional injury suffered while in
custody. Not all courts require such a
showing in cases in which a prisoner —
for instance — does not allege he was
beaten to make him submit to rape.
But Federal Magistrate Judge John M.
Roper Sr., of Gulfport, Miss., invoked the
provision when he dismissed a lawsuit
last year by an ex-prisoner claiming he’d
been raped by a jail guard. “The pris-


CQ Researcher

shining a spotlight on youth detention institutions that tend to
be overlooked in discussions of national prison policy. More
than 109,000 youths were being held in detention facilities in
2003 (the most recent figures available). Because youth facilities generally embrace the doctrine of rehabilitation, episodes
of brutality and exploitation seem all the more shocking. 4
Over the past several months alone:
• Seven guards and a nurse from a now-closed “boot camp”
for young people in trouble in Panama City, Fla., were
charged in November with aggravated manslaughter on a
child. The 14-year-old victim died after he was beaten following his collapse during a run. The beating was videotaped. 5
• A 15-year-old inmate in Johnstown, N.Y., died on Nov. 18,
2006, after being restrained face-down by guards handcuffing him. A medical examiner ruled the death a homicide,
but a district attorney said the death was unintentional. 6
• Ohio youth officials in January settled a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of teenagers who said they were brutalized by guards in 2003-2004. One allegedly sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl on suicide watch; another allegedly
choked an 18-year-old boy into unconsciousness. 7
• The U.S. Justice Department sued Oklahoma in December
over conditions at a juvenile detention center near Tulsa
where allegations included sexual contact between detainees
and staff, staff-on-detainee violence and multiple suicide
attempts by detainees. 8

oner did “not make any claim of physical injury beyond the bare allegation of
sexual assault,” Roper wrote. 38
Thus, says Vera Institute Washington
director Alexander Busansky, “if you are
compelled to have sex with someone
but there’s no physical injury, you have
no redress.” Busansky, a former New
York City and federal prosecutor who
specialized in cases of excessive use of
force by police and corrections officers,
is helping draft the rape-protection standards being developed by the Prison
Rape Elimination Commission.
Still, Texas District Attorney Bradley
is skeptical about many prisoners’ rape
allegations. “Certainly there’s a fair number of people in prison who lie about
anything to get out or to sue somebody,” he says. “I see lots and lots of

perjury in affidavits to try to get sentences undone. I’ve prosecuted inmates
for that.”
Bradley says he does not excuse
rape, but “If you create a harsh environment, you’re going to have harsh
consequences. It’s not acceptable, but
it is a reality.”

Takeover at Attica


four-day prisoner takeover of the
New York state penitentiary at
Attica in 1971 led to a national debate

• Arkansas in November canceled a contract with a firm running a youth prison after learning that staffers were injecting
detainees with sedatives, often without prescriptions. 9
Steve J. Martin, a Texas-based prison consultant, sees a connection between treatment of juveniles and adults. “Many of us in
the business believe we’re in a mean season,” he says. “Whatever
happens in the adult system has a trickle-down effect. We demonize inmates, even the youth. And as you do, the measures which
you use to control them reflect that.”
In Texas, the Dallas Morning News and the Texas Observer, a muckraking bimonthly, broke the first stories on mistreatment of prisoners and officials’ failure to act.
State legislators leapt on the issue, obtaining testimony from
some of the key players, including a Texas Ranger who had
turned up evidence of crimes against youth during a 2005 investigation at the West Texas State School but couldn’t get a prosecutor to file charges. Brian Burzynski told a legislative committee he told a district attorney (D.A.) in 2005 that two senior staff
members of the facility were forcing male students into sex, but
the official took no action. And the state attorney general’s office said it couldn’t step in without a request from the D.A.
“I saw kids with fear in their eyes, kids who knew they
were trapped in an institution where the system would not respond to their cries for help,” Burzynski testified on March 8.
“I promised each of those victims I would do everything in
my power as a Texas Ranger to ensure justice would be served.
. . . I can only imagine what the students think about the

about prison policy. The uprising began
on Sept. 9, when about 1,200 of the
prison’s 2,245 inmates seized 39
guards and civilian employees — and
most of the institution itself. 39
The rebellion in the predominantly African-American facility came at a
time when black prisoners, especially
in California and New York, were becoming politically radicalized, seeing
their imprisonment as evidence of systematic repression of blacks. Ironically, the uprising followed a series of
liberalization efforts by a new prison
boss, who had expanded visiting and
mail privileges, provided pork-free
meals for Muslim prisoners and lessened censorship of inmates’ mail.
“His actions had angered many staff
members and raised inmates’ expecta-

ranger who was unable to bring them justice.” 10
The D.A., Randall Reynolds, recently offered an explanation for
failing to act. He blamed a “breakdown in communications.” 11

See Emily Ramshaw, “Hundreds May be Freed from TYC,” Dallas Morning
News, March 24, 2007, p. A1.
2 See Ralph Blumenthal, “Complaints Flood Texas Youth Hotline,” The New
York Times, March 26, 2006, p. A14; and Texas Youth Commission Web
site, See also Emily Ramshaw, “TYC director outlines
reforms,” Dallas Morning News, March 17, 2007, p. A1.
3 See Blumenthal, op. cit.; and Ramshaw, op. cit., March 24, 2007.
4 For youth detention statistics, see Howard N. Snyder and Melissa Sickmund, “Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National Report,” Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Department of Justice, March
2006, p. 197, For adult
statistics, see “Public Safety, Public Spending: Forecasting America’s Prison
Population 2007-2011,” Pew Charitable Trusts, February 2007, p. 29,
5 See Alex Leary, et al., “8 Charged in Teen’s Boot Camp Death,” St. Petersburg Times, Nov. 29, 2006, p. A1.
6 See Cassi Feldman, “States Facilities’ Use of Force is Scrutinized After a Death,”
The New York Times, March 4, 2007, p. 29.
7 See Carrie Spencer Ghose, “Ohio Youth Prisons to Offer Juveniles Access
to Attorneys,” The Associated Press, Feb. 3, 2007.
8 See Josh Rabe, “Feds Sue State Over Juvenile Site,” The Oklahoman,
Dec. 16, 2006, p. A18.
9 See Amy Upshaw, “Arkansas Fires Firm Running Youth Lockup,” Arkansas
Democrat-Gazette, Nov. 4, 2006.
10 Quoted in Emily Ramshaw, “Prisons Rife with Physical Abuse,” Dallas
Morning News, March 9, 2007, p. A1.
11 Quoted in Doug J. Swanson, “Youth Jail Sex Inquiry Revived,” Dallas
Morning News, Feb. 20, 2007, p. A1.

tions to a level that would be difficult
to meet,” historian Scott Christianson
wrote decades later. 40
During the takeover, a prisoner committee demanded 28 improvements in
prison conditions. Rebellion leaders
also insisted the warden be ousted and
that all prisoners participating in the uprising be granted amnesty and passage
to a “non-imperialistic” country.
New York Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller rejected all the demands, and ordered the State Police to retake the facility. On Sept. 13, a helicopter-supported
assault quelled the uprising; 32 prisoners and 11 hostages died; some inmates had been killed by other inmates. A prison official’s statement that
the prisoners had killed nine of the 11
hostages turned out to be false.

Available online:

A year after the uprising was crushed,
a state commission appointed by
Rockefeller concluded the police operation had been poorly planned and
was followed by organized, systematic beatings of prisoners — hundreds
of whom were made to crawl naked
over broken glass. More important from
a national perspective, the commission
said injustices and mismanagement that
gave rise to the rebellion weren’t confined to Attica.
“Attica is every prison, and every prison
is Attica,” the commission concluded. 41
After decades of lawsuits by prisoners and guards (and their survivors) who’d
been injured in the uprising or the police assault, or both, New York settled
the prisoners’ lawsuits with an $8 million payment to be divided among 500

April 6, 2007


Nearly 40 Percent of State Prisoners Are Black
African-Americans accounted for nearly 40 percent of the nation’s
1.5 million state prison inmates in 2005 — the largest ethnic/racial
group — followed by whites and Hispanics.




No. of Prisoners by
Race, 2005





Source: Allen J. Beck and Paige M. Harrison, “Prisoners in 2005,” Bureau of Justice
Statistics, Department of Justice, November 2006

prisoners and their relatives. U.S. District
Judge Michael Telesca of Rochester, N.Y.,
who divided the money, said prisoners
beaten during the retaking had been
treated “like garbage.” 42

Throw Away the Key


t a time when rising crime was
raising public fears, the Attica rebellion seemed to confirm the view
that prisoners were dangerous people
who should be dealt with harshly.
By the end of the 1960s, crime had
become a major political issue after
an uptick in crime accompanied the
decade’s social and political turbulence.
By 1975, the serious-crime rate had
more than doubled over the 1960 rate
— to 5.3 crimes per 100,000 population. 43 State and federal politicians
competed with one another to introduce ever-tougher proposals raising
sentences and building more prisons.
Meanwhile, politicians and officials
began discarding the idea that prisons
should aim to rehabilitate prisoners
through therapy by psychologists and
social workers. “There is little or no evidence that correctional ‘treatment’ pro-


CQ Researcher

grams will work,” Corrections Magazine,
a (now-defunct) publication reported in
1975, summing up the consensus at
the time among law-enforcement professionals. 44
Research by some academics — including some left-leaning ones — helped
propel this harder-nosed approach. In
1974, sociologist Robert Martinson of
City University of New York published
articles in both the influential neoconservative magazine The Public Interest
and in the liberal journal The New Republic. “The present array of correctional treatments has no appreciable effect — positive or negative — on the
rates of recidivism of convicted offenders,” he wrote in the latter. 45
Martinson, whose writings reflected
a left-liberal perspective, was writing
in the context of the “indeterminate”
sentencing that prevailed at the time.
In effect, many prisoners remained confined until they could show they had
been rehabilitated.
Five years later, Martinson changed
his mind about rehabilitation. “Some treatment programs do have an appreciable
effect on recidivism,” he wrote in a 1979
article in the Hofstra Law Review. Specifically, he said, “individual psychothera-

py, group counseling, intensive supervision and what we have called individual/help (aid, advice, counseling),”
proved effective in many cases. 46
But by that time, the law-and-order
policy shift had acquired unstoppable
momentum. “For far too long, the law
has centered its attention more on the
rights of the criminal than on the victim of the crime,” President Gerald R.
Ford said in a 1975 statement to Congress in which he urged enactment of
“mandatory minimum” sentences. “It is
high time we reversed this trend.” 47
Even before that, some states had
begun establishing mandatory minimum
sentences for some crimes, including
minor drug offenses. The most wellknown was New York’s Rockefeller Drug
Law of 1973. In Massachusetts, the 1974
Bartley-Fox Amendment mandated that
anyone possessing an unregistered handgun would serve a year in jail. 48

New Mexico Savagery


he Attica revolt had been marked
by a high level of prisoner organization and political consciousness.
Inmates prevented hostages from being
killed by other prisoners, and rebels’
demands — while unrealistic — were
rational and coherently explained. But
a takeover of the New Mexico State
Penitentiary at Santa Fe nine years
later showed no aims beyond killing
other prisoners. * 49
Prisoners tagged as informants —
“snitches” — were special targets,
though they accounted for only 13 of
the 33 prisoners killed during the Feb.
2-3, 1980, uprising. The other victims
seemed to have been targeted because
they’d made enemies over unpaid gambling debts and the like.
The organizers were hardened
troublemakers serving lengthy sentences who had been temporarily housed
* Some guards also were badly beaten but

AP Photo/The Daily Citizen/Philip Holsinger

in a lightly guarded dormitory while locked up for longer periods of time.
The overcrowding was affecting pristheir own high-security cellblock was
Then a crack-cocaine epidemic hit the oner health and welfare. Between
under repair. That fact came to light in nation’s cities in the mid- and late-1980s, 1982 and 1983, overcrowding forced
the weeks after rioting prisoners sur- sending crime rates soaring and driving prison officials and federal judges to
rendered, leaving the prison’s interior a a tough response from police, courts and free prisoners early, in some cases resmoldering ruin. Bodies lay in corridors; lawmakers. In 1986 Congress passed the leasing several hundred at a time in
the burned remains of one prisoner Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which — com- Alabama, Florida, Michigan and South
could be seen in the “protective cus- bined with new guidelines set by the Carolina. But prisons remained jammed
tody” cell where he’d been confined — National Sentencing Commission — re- past capacity in at least 40 states, with
for his own safety.
prisoners in 18 states
Documentary evisleeping on floors. 55
dence soon surfaced
In Alabama, the state
that some prison
prison system was
staff had predicted
under federal court suthe uprising — in
pervision for 13 years,
writing and in great
from 1976 to 1989, after
detail, down to the
a prisoner filed suit in
dormitory where it
1971 claiming that at least
started — less than
six men had died in the
a month before it
prison hospital because
started. And, just two
of improper treatment.
weeks before the
In 1976, U.S. District
uprising, national
Judge Frank M. Johnson
prison expert RayJr. assumed control of the
mond Procunier had
entire system after findwarned publicly that
ing the “rampant violence
overcrowding, unand jungle atmosphere”
Arkansas inmates being held for misdemeanors learn from Sheriff Pat
Garrett, right, they may be released early due to jail overcrowding.
derstaffing and misin Alabama prisons met
management had cre“any current judicial
ated a disaster waiting to happen. New sulted in sentences for crack trafficking definition of cruel and unusual punMexico officials, Procunier wrote, were that were three to six times longer than ishment.” 56
“playing Russian routlette with the lives for equivalent crimes involving cocaine
But Alabama was no exception.
of inmates, staff and the public.” 50
powder — a disparity that remains con- Court orders or consent decrees coverThough the New Mexico riot has troversial because crack is mainly used ing entire state prison systems, major
faded from the public memory, it is em- by African-Americans. 52 In 1991, the U.S. prisons or jails were in effect in nearly
bedded in the collective psyche of Supreme Court upheld a Michigan law every state by 1994, according to the
prison experts because of the powerful that imposed a life sentence without pa- ACLU National Prison Project. 57
lesson it teaches about the conse- role on anyone convicted of possessing
Court orders covering entire systems,
quences of ignoring danger signs.
more than 650 grams of cocaine. 53
with judges supervising efforts to bring
In penitentiaries, the population ex- institutions into compliance with humane
pansion put enormous pressure on standards of confinement, were in place
both inmates and administrators. By in Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, New
1980, the country was locking up 138 Mexico, Rhode Island, South Carolina,
n the 1980s, a tough-on-crime trend prisoners for every 100,000 people in Tennessee, Texas and Puerto Rico. 58
took hold around the country. Con- the national population. By Dec. 31,
gress passed the Sentencing Reform Act 1987, that rate had soared to 228.
of 1984, which established minimum
“Nationwide, we’re still putting about
ranges for sentences federal judges 720 more inmates in prison each week
were to follow in order to correct past than we’re releasing,” Allen F. Breed, of
n 1986 jail conditions in Philadelphia
patterns of “undue leniency.” 51
the National Council on Crime and Delinreached such a critical point that the
With state and federal sentencing quency, a liberal Oakland, Calif.-based city agreed with prisoners’ lawyers to
laws now in place, prisoners were being think tank, said in 1988. 54
a court-imposed “cap” on population.

‘Jungle Atmosphere’


Congress Gets Tough


Available online:

April 6, 2007


Whenever the number of prisoners exceeded 3,750, prisoners arrested for nonviolent crimes would be released automatically without bail. 59
The result, city officials said, was a
giant crime spree, with drug traffickers and other lawbreakers taking full
advantage of what amounted to a getout-of-jail-free card. 60 The Philadelphia district attorney’s office would
later help write and lobby for the Prison
Litigation Reform Act of 1995, which
set strict limits on judges’ power to
release prisoners. 61 Under the act, releases can only be ordered by threejudge panels, and only after — among
other things — “clear and convincing
evidence” that overcrowding violates
prisoners’ federal rights and that no
other measure can right the wrong. 62
Prison-reform advocates generally
didn’t object to the limitations, but provisions designed to limit prisoner lawsuits in federal court proved more controversial. In introducing the PLRA, Sen.
Robert Dole, R-Kan., complained that
prisoners were filing lawsuits over such
seemingly trivial grievances as “insufficient storage locker space, a defective
haircut by a prison barber . . . and
yes, being served chunky peanut butter instead of the creamy variety.” The
notion that trivial issues dominated
prisoner lawsuit filings was a persistent theme of the National Association
of Attorneys General, which led the
push for the PLRA. 63
But after analyzing the effects of the
PLRA on prisoners’ lawsuits, Washington
University’s Schlanger wrote in 2003 that
the four leading topics of correctionalconditions litigation in federal court were:
• Physical assaults (by correctional
staff or by other inmates),
• Inadequate medical care,
• Alleged due-process violations relating to disciplinary sanctions, and
• General living-conditions such as
nutrition or sanitation.
In other words, she wrote, they were
suing over “real hardships inherent in
prison life, not peanut butter.” 64


CQ Researcher

California Crisis


s California begins devising rescue plans for America’s biggest
prison system, official monitors are reporting that conditions there are even
worse than was previously thought.
For instance, the prison system’s drugabuse treatment programs add up to a
“$1 billion failure,” State Inspector General Matthew L. Cate reported in February. 65 Beyond wasting funds, the programs amount to “a missed opportunity
to change lives,” he said in a detailed,
51-page account of his office’s findings.
Among other specifics, investigators found
that ex-prisoners who had gone through
drug-abuse programs showed a greater
tendency to be back behind bars within a year of release than ex-prisoners
who hadn’t gotten any treatment. 66
“The entire $143 million California
spends each year for in-prison and aftercare substance abuse treatment combined appears to be wasted,” the inspector general reported. State
Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary James E. Tilton greeted Cate’s conclusions as largely accurate. 67
The report came on the heels of the
grim assessment by the Little Hoover Commission, which hit the news amid a series of events indicating a deepening of
the crisis enveloping the 173,000-prisoner system. 68 Two months before a state
judge rejected Schwarzenegger’s plan to
ship up to 7,000 prisoners out of state,
a federal judge gave the state until June
to show progress in easing overcrowding. Otherwise, said U.S. District Judge
Lawrence Karlton, he would set up a
three-judge panel to set a population
“cap” on the state’s prisons. 69 By March,
however, the legislature hadn’t taken action yet on major prison legislation.

Schwarzenegger has announced a $9.6
billion plan to add about 30,000 new
beds to prisons and 50,000 to jails, plus
medical and mental health facilities. He
also wants a commission to examine the
possibility of shortening sentences —
though he wants no changes in the state’s
1994 “three-strikes” law that requires prison
time on a third felony conviction. 70
The law does contribute to some
of California’s prison overcrowding,
though not as much as some had
feared. A national prison population
survey by the Pew Charitable Trusts
found that prosecutors didn’t always
apply it but sometimes used it as a
negotiating tool to pressure defendants
into pleading to lesser charges. 71
In any event, some of Schwarzenegger’s fellow Republicans are leery of
any suggestion that sentences be reduced. State Sen. George Runner says
Republicans worry formation of a
“sentencing commission . . . is code for
less time in prison.” 72
Meanwhile, a major force in California prison politics, the prison officers’
union, has backed a proposed $2 billion
bond issue to build an unspecified
number of small facilities for prisoners
in rehabilitation programs or about to
be released. Some of those “could be
up and running within a year,” says
Ryan Sherman, the union’s public affairs director. The union also wants the
state to build temporary housing for
low-security prisoners on the grounds
of existing prisons and construct new
prisons for maximum-security inmates.
The union has asked for pay hikes and
other personnel measures aimed at
restoring full staffing to the system —
now lacking nearly 4,000 guards. 73
Meanwhile, the union representing
about 14,000 prison support staff, such
as nurses, teachers and cooks, would
like to see more emphasis on adding
rehabilitation programs. “For every additional $1 spent to ensure that offenders
are rehabilitated before they return to
our communities the governor would
Continued on p. 306

At Issue:
Should Congress amend the Prison Litigation Reform Act?







eith was a securities dealer, Marilyn owned a car-repair
shop with her husband, TJ was in high school and
Hope was a college student. Each was the victim of a
violent rape. And federal law prevents them from filing suit to
be compensated for the trauma they endured. Why? Because
they were in prison when they were raped.
It is easy to scoff at the ridiculous claims of some prisoners,
like receiving chunky rather than creamy peanut butter or
being served cold food. However, when Congress passed the
Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) it not only cut off such
absurd claims but also eliminated many legitimate ones.
As a member of the National Prison Rape Elimination
Commission, I have heard heart-rending testimony from inmates who have been savagely raped and beaten. Most were
too traumatized and terrified to report it while they were in
prison. If their assailant were a correctional officer, they were
at risk of retaliation. If they were attacked by another inmate,
their life would be at risk for being a “snitch.”
Yet, the PLRA requires that inmate lawsuits be dismissed
unless they have exhausted their administrative remedies. In
most prisons, that means reporting the rape within 15 days;
in some, it’s as few as two days. Despite the physical and
mental trauma of being raped, the inmate must file a report
in a very narrow window of time.
The commission recently heard testimony that children in
the custody of the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) were repeatedly raped and molested by high TYC officials. How did
they get away with it?
One of the officials had a key to the complaint box and
simply threw away complaints that incriminated him and his
friends. The children had no chance to “exhaust” their administrative remedies because their rapist was the administrative
remedy. Under the PLRA, these children have no recourse in
federal court.
The PLRA can easily be amended to allow such legitimate
claims, while eliminating frivolous complaints. When the opponents offer up the old chestnuts about peanut butter and cold
food, please remember the children in Texas, plus Marilyn,
Keith, TJ, Hope and thousands of others raped in prison.
While Congress can never undo the horrors they endured, it
can give them access to the justice.


he American Bar Association (ABA) has passed a resolution
urging repeal of substantial portions of the Prison Litigation
Reform Act (PLRA). Congress should not adopt these misguided proposals. The ABA now proposes to:
Eliminate limits on prisoner releases — Under the
PLRA, a federal court cannot order prisoner releases if there is
a safer solution that makes the conditions constitutional. The
ABA wants to return to the pre-PLRA standards, making largescale prisoner releases easier. Under this old regime, Philadelphia suffered an unprecedented crime wave. In one 18-month
period, the city rearrested 9,732 defendants released by a federal judge, for new crimes including 79 murders, 959 robberies, 90 rapes and 1,113 assaults.
Discourage early resolution of prison problems —
The PLRA encourages prisoners to try to resolve disputes before filing lawsuits. If prisoners first use the prison grievance
process, they may later sue in federal court. If they don’t,
they may sue only in state court. This requirement (known as
exhaustion of administrative remedies) serves important policy
goals — it promptly alerts prison managers to problems so
harms can be mitigated and future problems prevented. It is
also an effective form of alternative dispute resolution that
saves taxpayers’ dollars and limited federal court resources.
Tie up federal courts with insubstantial claims — The
PLRA also prevents prisoners from tying up federal courts
with insubstantial claims. Instead, they must file these suits in
state courts. Limiting the availability of federal court suits is
not new. For example, a rape survivor cannot sue her attacker in federal court unless he lives in another state and the
value of her claims exceeds $75,000. Our overburdened federal
system already lacks the ability to handle many serious criminal
cases. Why should Congress make matters worse by turning
federal courts into small-claims courts for prisoners? And it’s
also hard to explain to crime victims why criminals should
get such preferential access to the federal courts.
Make taxpayers pay prisoners’ lawyers exorbitant
fees — In the United States, most litigants must pay their
own attorney fees. In prisoner civil rights cases, however,
taxpayers pay these fees. In such cases, the PLRA caps fees
at $138/hour. The ABA now wants taxpayers to pay these
lawyers at a stunning rate — up to $450/hour.

yes no


Available online:

April 6, 2007


Continued from p. 304

spend $250 to expand the current broken system,” said Service Employees
International Union Local 1000. 74
But some prison-system veterans
question whether California voters are
ready for a more rehabilitation-oriented approach. “I don’t see the governor having the intestinal fortitude to
build 500 classrooms and hire teachers,” says Baumann, the correctional
officers union chapter president at
Norco. “Nobody votes for that.”



prison construction boom in the
1990s saw the addition of 417 new
state and federal prisons. And the private corrections business experienced a
burst of activity as well. From 1995 to
2000 alone, the number of private prisons under contract to states or the federal government increased by 140 percent, to 264 in 2000, the last year for
which complete statistics are available.
During that period, the average daily
number of privately held prisoners rose
by 455 percent, to more than 91,000. 75
Conservatives and liberals who traditionally have been at odds over most
crime-and-punishment issues are forging
a new alliance to help prisoners re-enter
society. “There’s real consensus, with
support from both ends of the spectrum,” says Gene Guerrero, a senior policy analyst at the Open Society Policy
Center, a criminal-justice advocacy organization related to the New Yorkbased Open Society Institute established
by philanthropist George Soros. 76
Guerrero is helping coordinate support for a bill that would fund grants
to states and local governments for programs to help prisoners get back on
their feet. “We need to do as much as
we reasonably can to assure they don’t
return to prison,” Rep. Robert C. Scott,
D-Va., said during a markup session on
the Second Chance Act of 2001 in the
House Judiciary Committee’s Crime, Ter-


CQ Researcher

rorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee, which approved the bill on
March 27. The point, Scott said later, is
not to coddle them but to ensure that
“all of us are not victims” of ex-prisoners committing new crimes. 77
“It’s difficult to find anyone who’s
against it,” says Nolan Jones, deputy
director of federal relations for the National Governors Association, which
has thrown its weight behind the legislation. “There are certainly no organized forces against it.”
Nevertheless, an earlier version of the
bill didn’t survive the previous Congress
despite broad support. In 2006, Second
Chance legislation had backers ranging
from religious conservatives such as Sen.
Sam Brownback, R-Kan., to liberals including Sen. Joseph R. Biden, D-Del.
— both now candidates for presidential nominations. But in December the
Senate version was blocked by Sen.
Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a religious conservative who had first supported the
bill. He said it would duplicate existing
programs he insisted be eliminated as
the price of the new bill’s passage. 78
This year’s bill would authorize $382
million over two years for programs
including keeping convicts in touch
with mentors during incarceration and
immediately after and to assist with
housing, medical care and schooling
and job training.
The measure took its name from a
little-noticed passage in Bush’s 2004 State
of the Union address: “America is the
land of the second chance, and when
the gates of the prison open, the path
ahead should lead to a better life.” 79
Lawmakers have also been hearing
from people on the front lines of law
enforcement, who complain they have
to deal with a constant stream of newly
released inmates with few prospects for
building law-abiding lives. On Feb. 15,
Paul Logli, the state’s attorney in Rockford, Ill., and chairman of the board of
the National District Attorneys Association, surprised some of those attending
a House Crime subcommittee hearing

on youth gangs by saying he had all
the laws he needed.
What he needed most, he said, was
help in keeping young people out of
prison and from returning.
“We need to develop meaningful
re-entry programs so those . . . who
have already been convicted and sent
to prison can somehow be reintegrated back into our societies with a
chance to succeed,” Logli said. 80

No Paradigm Shifts


verwhelmingly, those in the corrections world see a future very
similar to the present. The consensus
holds true across the spectrum of political views and experiences.
“I don’t see anything that’s going to
change sentencing practices or management practices even though we are becoming more cost-conscious,” says Martin, the Texas consultant. U.S. incarceration
rates are so enormous that bringing them
down appreciably would require a major
reorientation of the entire criminal justice system, he adds. “That’s a paradigm
shift I don’t see in the offing in this country. It’s going to take decades of change.”
Schlanger, the Washington University prison litigation specialist, hopes
for “at least a plateau in the prison
population, and maybe even some
minor decarceration.” But after the huge
prison-building boom of the 1990s,
she says, “there’s not much reason to
empty them out. It’s a question of how
many more do you build.”
Law-and-order advocate Rep. Forbes
speaks in remarkably similar terms. “What
I hope we can do is bump that system
and make it more a more humane and
better system and ultimately get us to
where we want to be — less crime and
less victims,” he says, adding, “I don’t

think we’re going to have enormous
shifts and changes in 10 years.”
In Texas, District Attorney Bradley sees
little evidence that politicians are up to
the long-term task of reshaping sentencing and incarceration policy. “I don’t see
the long-term political will to get that
done,” he says. “When budgets get tight,
those are the kinds of things that get cut.
You won’t see a cut in the prison budget, but you will see a cut in treatment
programs. It’s the nature of that beast.”
Bradley bases his outlook on experience. “I saw them promise back in
1993 that we’d have 18,000 treatment
beds across the state. But that number
went down over the years, not up,” he
recalls. “Nor do I think that a better set
of legislative people will make a difference over the next 10 years.”
But others point to law-and-order
bastions like Mississippi trying to promote alternatives to imprisonment,
and hope that political resistance to
anything that could be depicted as soft
on crime may be weakening. “There’s
a tremendous opportunity to innovate,”
says Busansky of the Vera Institute.
Anyone looking for new approaches
to incarceration should look to the states
and localities rather than to Congress, he
says. “There’s more of an alignment between what good correctional management wants to do and what the public
wants,” he says. “At the grass roots, they
don’t want prisons and jails to be warehouses. They want them to be productively engaged in improving inmates’ lives.”
But in Philadelphia and the rest of
Pennsylvania, prisoners’-rights lawyer
Rudovsky predicts “more, rather than
fewer, prisoners. The murder rate is
going up, people are demanding more
police. I remain pessimistic.”
The public, says California’s
Schwarzenegger, is in a “state of denial” about prisons. “You talk about
prisons, people feel like, ‘OK, go out
and get the criminal and you send him
somewhere, but wherever that is, I
don’t want to look there, I don’t want
to know. That’s your problem,’ ” he

said recently. “When the people are not
excited about it, how do you make the
legislators excited about it?” 81
Even so, Busansky argues that the
pragmatic perspective he sees spreading
represents a citizen awakening, as well
as a slow erosion of the traditional political divide between prisoners’-rights
advocates and lock-’em-up conservatives.
“It’s not some tree-hugging group
of people who are going to bring the
change,” he says. “It’s people saying,
‘Why am I not feeling safer?’ ”


More than half of returning prisoners are sent
back for breaking parole, a proportion higher
than in states with looser parole supervision,
according to a study by a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation-funded
think tank. See Ryan G. Fischer, “Are California’s Recidivism Rates Really the Highest in the
Nation?” Center for Evidence-Based Corrections,
University of California, Irvine, September 2005, For more information
about the union, see California Correctional
Peace Officers Web site, For recidivism statistics,
see Patrick A. Langan and Daniel J. Levin, “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994,” Bureau
of Justice Statistics, June 2002, www.ojp.usdoj.
2 The California Correctional Peace Officers Association uses a design capacity figure of “about
80,000.” See “From Sentencing to Incarceration
to Release: A Blueprint for Reforming California’s Prison System,” California Correctional Peace
Officers Association, January 2007, p. 3,
_id=1&pagemode=view&inc=ccpoaDocsArch&pagetype=. California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office explains that that figure is based
on the system’s capacity for housing all prisoners in single cells or in single bunks in dormitories, though prisons throughout the country double-cell and double-bunk. By that standard,
California’s capacity is about 155,000. See “Adult
Corrections: Who is in Prison?” Legislative Analyst’s Office [California Legislature], Feb. 21, 2007,
p. D5, For comparative prison-

Available online:

jail population figures nationwide, see “Public
Safety, Public Spending: Forecasting America’s
Prison Population 2007-2011,” Pew Charitable
Trusts, February 2007, p. 29,
3 Quoted in Jordan Rau, “Governor Blames
Public Indifference for Prison Ills,” Los Angeles
Times, Jan. 18, 2007, p. B1, and Nancy Vogel,
“Thousands of Inmates to be Sent Out of State,”
Los Angeles Times, Feb. 3, 2007, p. B1.
4 Quoted in “Solving California’s Corrections
Crisis: Time is Running Out,” Little Hoover
Commission, Jan. 25, 2007, p. i, For
Schwarzenegger’s prisoner-transfer plan, see
Jenifer Warren, “Judge Rejects Gov.’s Inmate
Transfer Tactic,” Los Angeles Times, Feb. 21,
2007, p. A1; and “Ruling on Submitted Matter,”
California Correctional Peace Officers’ Association, et al., v. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger,
et al., Judge Gail D. Ohanesian, Superior Court
of California, County of Sacramento, Ca., Case
No.: 06CS0 1568.
5 On number of conflicts, see Warren, op.
cit. On disturbances, see Stuart Pfeifer, “Inmate’s Death is Ruled a Homicide,” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 12, 2006, p. B1. On Chino
disturbances, see Rong-Gong Lin II and Paul
Pringle, “Dozens Hurt in Prison Riot,” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 31, 2006, p. B1.
6 Statistics compiled in “Public Safety, Public
Spending,” op. cit, p. 1.
7 Ibid., pp. ii, 1, 9.
8 See Jason DeParle, “The American Prison
Nightmare,” The New York Review of Books, April
12, 2007, p. 33. For statistics, see Paige M. Harrison and Allen J. Beck, “Prisoners in 2005,” November 2006 (revised Jan. 18, 2007), Bureau of
Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, p.
9 See “FBI Releases its 2005 Crime Statistics,”
Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sept. 18, 2006,
10 Quoted in Marcia Clemmitt, “Prison Health
Care,” CQ Researcher, Jan. 5, 2007, pp. 1-24.
11 Ibid.
12 See “Confronting Confinement: A Report
of the Commission on Safety and Abuse in
America’s Prisons,” Vera Institute of Justice,
June 2006, p. 91,
13 For background, see Peter Katel, “War on
Drugs,” CQ Researcher, June 2, 2006, pp. 481504. For details on recent laws, see Ryan S.
King, “Changing Direction? State Sentencing Reforms, 2004-2006,” The Sentencing Project, March

April 6, 2007


14 See Don Stemen, “Reconsidering Incarceration: New Directions for Reducing Crime,”
Vera Institute of Justice, January 2007, p. 8,
15 For additional data, see “Prisoners in 2005,”
Bureau of Justice Statistics, November 2006, p.
10, Also,
Ryan S. King and Marc Mauer, “Distorted Priorities: Drug Offenders in State Prisons,” September 2002, pp. 3-4,
16 For details, see “California Proposition 36,”
Drug Policy Alliance,
html. For an assessment of the program’s results, see Douglas Longhore, et al., “Evaluation of the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act,” UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse
Programs, March 13, 2006,
17 For details, see Fox Butterfield, “With cash
Tight, States Reassess Long Jail Terms,” The
New York Times, Nov. 10, 2003, p. A1.
18 Hart wrote in an article that in 1993 and
the first part of 1994, police rearrested 9,732
defendants released because of the consent
decree. Apart from the 79 murders, they were
charged with 959 robberies, 2,215 cases of
drug-dealing, 90 rapes and other crimes. See
Sarah Vandenbraak [maiden name], “Bail,
Humbug! Why Criminals Would Rather Be in
Philadelphia,” Policy Review, Hoover Institution, summer 1995,
19 See “Confronting Confinement,” op. cit., p.
106. Among commission members were a former U.S. attorney general, a former federal prison
warden, a current corrections system director and
an ex-prisoner, along with other experts.
20 See Wendy Erisman and Jeanne Bayer Contardo, “Learning to Reduce Recidivism: A 50state Analysis of Postsecondary Correctional

Education Policy,” Institute for Higher Education Policy, November 2005, p. X;
21 Quoted in “A Gathering Storm — Violent
Crime in America,” Police Executive Research
Forum, October 2006, p. 9,
22 Quoted in Sheryl Stolberg, “School’s Out For
Convicts,” Los Angeles Times, Sept. 14, 1995, p.
A1. Statistic cited in Tamara Henry, “Pell’s prison
pullout,” USA Today, Dec. 15, 1994, p. D1.
23 Quoted in Garry Boulard, “Locked Education Door Raises Fears for Inmates,” Los
Angeles Times, March 7, 1995, p. A5.
24 Statistics cited in The Associated Press, “PA
Cutting College Classes for Inmates,” The
Philadelphia Inquirer, March 4, 1998, p. B5.
25 See Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (2001), (reprint).
26 Quoted in Peter Slevin, “Ban on Prison Religious Program Challenged,” The Washington
Post, Feb. 25, 2007, p. A13.
27 See ibid.
28 Quoted in “Statement by Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley on Today’s Verdict in Iowa Lawsuit Filed Against InnerChange Freedom Initiative,” June 2, 2006,
29 “Assessing the Impact of Religious Programs and Prison Industry on Recidivism,”
Texas Journal of Corrections, February 2002;
for more information, see
30 Quoted in Alan Cooperman, “An Infusion
of Religious Funds in Fla. Prisons,” The Washington Post, April 25, 2004, p. A1.
31 See Allen J. Beck and Paige M. Harrison
“Sexual Violence Reported by Correctional
Authorities, 2005,” Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report, July 2006, p. 1, www.ojp.”

About the Author
Peter Katel is a CQ Researcher staff writer who previously reported on Haiti and Latin America for Time and
Newsweek and covered the Southwest for newspapers in
New Mexico. He has received several journalism awards,
including the Bartolomé Mitre Award for coverage of
drug trafficking from the Inter-American Press Association. He holds an A.B. in university studies from the University of New Mexico. His recent reports include “The
New Philanthropy” and “War in Iraq.”


CQ Researcher


Quoted in Neely Tucker, “Reform Plan Targets Prison Rape,” The Washington Post, July 26,
2003, p. A10.
34 The report is available at
35 Ibid, p. 1.
36 Quoted in Beck and Harrison, op. cit., p. 2.
37 See Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995
[enacted 1996], Pub. L. No. 104-134,
38 See Hancock, et al., v. Payne, et al., United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, Southern Division, Civil
Action No. 1:03cv671-JMR-JMR, Jan. 4, 2006.
39 Unless otherwise indicated, this subsection
is drawn from Scott Christianson, With Liberty for Some: 500 Years of Imprisonment in
America (1998), pp. 269-273, and “Racial
Tensions in Prisons,” Editorial Research Reports, Oct. 20, 1971.
40 Quoted in Christianson, ibid., p. 270.
41 Quoted in “A Year Ago at Attica,” Time,
Sept. 25, 1972,,9171,903593,00.html. See also
David W. Chen and Randal C. Archibold, “Attica Siege Still Shadows Its Survivors,” The
New York Times, Jan. 9, 2000, p. A1.
42 Quoted in ibid.
43 FBI statistics compiled in Joseph Dillon
Davey, The Politics of Prison Expansion: Winning Elections by Waging War on Crime (1998),
pp. 118-119.
44 Quoted in “Reappraisal of Prison Policy,”
Editorial Research Reports, March 12, 1976.
45 See Robert Martinson, “Can Corrections Correct?” The New Republic, April 8, 1972, p. 13.
For discussion of Martinson’s ideas, see Rick
Sarre, “Beyond ‘What Works?’ A 25-Year Jubilee Retrospective of Robert Martinson,” [academic conference paper], December 1999,
46 Quoted in ibid.
47 See John M. Crewdson, “President Urges
Stiff new Laws on Violent Crime,” The New
York Times, June 20, 1975, p. A1.
48 For background on Rockefeller Drug
Law, see Katel, op. cit. See also Brian Forst,
“Prosecution and Sentencing,” in James Q.
Wilson and Joan Petersilia, eds., Crime
(1995), pp. 377-379.
49 Unless otherwise indicated, this subsection
is drawn from Michael Serrill and Peter Katel,
“New Mexico: The Anatomy of a Riot,” Corrections Magazine, April 1980, p. 7; and
Christianson, op. cit.
50 Quoted in Serrill and Katel, op. cit.

51 For details, see “Mandatory Minimum Penal-

ties in the Federal Criminal Justice System,”
United States Sentencing Commission, August
1991, p. ii,; for background, see Kenneth Jost,
“Sentencing Debates,” CQ Researcher, Nov. 5,
2005, pp. 925-948.
52 For background, see Margaret Edwards,
“Mandatory Sentencing,” CQ Researcher, May
26, 1995, pp. 465-488. For additional details
see “Final Report on the Impact of United
States v. Booker On Federal Sentencing,”
United States Sentencing Commission, March
2006, p. 126,
53 See Linda Greenhouse, “Mandatory Life
Term is Upheld in Drug Cases,” The New
York Times, June 28, 1991, p. A15.
54 Quoted in Peter Applebome, “With Inmates at Record High, Sentence Policy is Reassessed,” The New York Times, April 25,
1988, p. A1.
55 See “State Prisons Around Nation Scramble for Relief as Overcrowding Mounts,” The
New York Times, Sept. 29, 1983, p. A18; E.J.
Dionne, “Courts and Prisons: An Expanding
Role Sets Off Controversy,” The New York
Times, Jan. 1, 1982, p. B26.
56 See “U.S. Relinquishes Alabama Prisons,”
The New York Times, Jan. 15, 1989, p. A17.
57 For details, see Edward I. Koren, “Status Report: States Prisons and the Courts — Jan. 1,
1994,” The National Prison Project Journal,
winter 1993-1994, p. 3.
58 Ibid.
59 See Julia Cass, “Prison-Cap Control May
Revert to City,” The Philadelphia Inquirer,
July 6, 1995, p. A1.
60 See Vandenbraak, op. cit.,
61 See Joseph A. Slobodzian, “After Ruling,
Fears Rise Over Prisoners’ Rights,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 3, 1998, p. E3.
62 See “Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995,”
op. cit.
63 Quoted in “Changing Trends in Prisoner
Filings,” in “The Third Branch: Newsletter of
the Federal Courts,” December 1999,
64 See Margo Schlanger, “Inmate Litigation,”
Harvard Law Review, April 2003, pp. 1570,
65 See “Special Review Into In-Prison Substance Abuse Programs Managed by the California Department of Corrections and Reha-

American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project, 915 15th St., N.W.,
Washington, DC 20005; (202) 393-4930; Files lawsuits nationwide on behalf of prisoners claiming violations of constitutional rights.
Bureau of Justice Statistics, 810 Seventh St., N.W., Washington, DC 20531; (202)
307-0765; Justice Department agency compiles data on
crime and prison trends.
Corrections and Criminal Justice Coalition, 413 7th Ave. North, Surfside Beach,
SC 29575; (888) 315-8784; Provides daily updates on disturbances and
other events in prisons across the country.
The Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Ave., N.E., Washington DC 20002;
(202) 546.4400; Conservative think
tank that provides research and analysis on prison and crime.
National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, 1440 New York Ave., N.W.,
Suite 200, Washington, DC 20005; (202) 233-1089;
Created by Congress in 2003 to conduct research on sex crimes in prisons.
Prison Legal News, 2400 N.W. 80th St., Suite 148, Seattle, WA 98117; (206) 2461022; Posts news articles and lawsuit documents
from events and cases nationwide.
The Sentencing Project, 514 10th St., N.W., Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20004;
(202) 628-0871; Advocates changes in incarceration
policies and publishes detailed research on the effects of sentencing laws.
Vera Institute of Justice, 233 Broadway, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10279; (212)
334-1300; Conducts research and advocacy
on alternatives to existing penal and criminal-justice policies and practices.
bilitation,” Office of the Inspector General,
February 2007, p. 5,
66 Ibid., p. 1.
67 Ibid., pp. 2, Attachment A (department response).
68 See “Public Safety, Public Spending,” op. cit.,
p. 29.
69 See Jenifer Warren, “State ordered to ease
prison overcrowding,” Los Angeles Times,
Dec. 12, 2006, p. B7.
70 For details on Schwarzenegger’s proposal,
see “Governor’s Overcrowding Package is More
Balanced But Too Big,” Legislative Analyst’s Office, pp. D-52-81,
71 See “Public Safety, Public Spending,” op. cit.,
p. 8.
72 Quoted in Evan Halper and Jenifer Warren,
“Gov. Calls for Prison Growth,” Los Angeles
Times, Dec. 22, 2006, p. A1.
73 “From Sentencing to Incarceration to Release,” op. cit., pp. 6-9.
74 See “CDCR Reform for Safer Communities,” SEIU Local 1000, March, 2007, p. 4,

Available online:
75 “Census of State and Federal Correctional
Facilities 2000,” Bureau of Justice Statistics,
Oct. 15, 2003,
76 See “About OSI-Washington DC,” 2007,
77 Quoted in Colby Itkowitz, “Programs to Combat Recidivism Win Subcommittee’s Endorsement,” CQ Committee Coverage, March 27, 2007;
Colby Itkowitz, “In Tense Markup, Panel Endorses Anti-Recidivism Bill,” CQ Committee Coverage, March 28, 2007.
78 See ibid.
79 Quoted in Chris Suellentrop, “The Right
Has a Jailhouse Conversion,” The New York
Times Magazine, Dec. 24, 2006, p. 47.
80 See “House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime,
Terrorism and Homeland Security Holds Hearing on Preventing Youth and Gang Violence,”
Feb. 15, 2007.
81 Quoted in Rau, op. cit.

April 6, 2007


Selected Sources
Christianson, Scott, With Liberty for Some: 500 Years of
Imprisonment in America, Northeastern University Press,
A criminal-justice scholar surveys the history of American
incarceration and concludes it reveals truths about U.S. society
most people would rather avoid.
Elsner, Alan, Gates of Injustice: The Crisis in America’s
Prisons, Financial Times Prentice Hall, 2004.
A former Reuters correspondent investigates the U.S. prison
boom, urging greater public awareness of the conditions facing
the growing number of people living behind bars.
Jacobson, Michael, Downsizing Prisons: How to Reduce
Crime and End Mass Incarceration, New York University
Press, 2005.
The former head of New York City jails argues that mass
incarceration has proved a weak tool against crime and that
a new approach is required.
Wilson, James Q., and Joan Petersilia, eds., Crime, Institute
for Contemporary Studies, 1995.
A collection edited by two influential scholars of crime and
punishment includes an essay by Wilson, a conservatively
oriented emeritus professor of management at UCLA, arguing that large-scale imprisonment brings only modest reductions in crime.

Beiser, Vince, “A Necessary Evil? Pelican Bay State Prison
Houses ‘The Worst of the Worst’ in the Starkest Isolation
Imaginable,” Los Angeles Times Magazine, Oct. 19, 2003,
p. 12.
A veteran reporter examines the mental health damage that
can result from confinement in “supermax” conditions.
DeParle, Jason, “The American Prison Nightmare,” The
New York Review of Books, April 12, 2007, p. 33.
In a review-essay of three recent publications, a New York
Times reporter who authored a book on the welfare system
spotlights several authors’ conclusion that the prison boom
is deepening race and class divides.
Garvey, Megan, and Jack Leonard, “Why L.A. Jail Cells
Have Revolving Doors,” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 26,
2006, p. A1.
Two investigative reporters take a street-level look at the
constant recidivism at one of the country’s biggest jail systems.


CQ Researcher

Grann, David, “The Brand; How the Aryan Brotherhood
Became the Most Murderous Prison Gang in America,”
The New Yorker, Feb. 16, 2004, p. 157.
A spell-binding chronicle of the growth of a terrifying prison
gang that withstood authorities’ repeated attempts to crush it.
Greenhouse, Steven, “From Jail Cell to the Job Market;
Conservatives Back Work Programs for Ex-Inmates,” The
New York Times, Dec. 13, 2002, p. B1.
Efforts to help ex-inmates reflect an early sign of shifting
attitudes toward crime and punishment among conservatives.
Laughlin, Meg, “From Outside, He Pushes Prison Reform,”
St. Petersburg Times, Jan. 18, 2007, p. A1.
A veteran Florida journalist profiles Ron McAndrew, a former
prison warden who has become a vocal champion of rehabilitation and alternatives to prison.
Preston, Julia, “New York Deal Reduces Force by Jail
Guards,” The New York Times, March 1, 2006, p. A1.
A legal settlement between New York City and prisoners’rights lawyers sheds light on how discipline sometimes is
enforced behind bars.

Reports and Studies
“Confronting Confinement,” Commission on Safety and Abuse
in America’s Prisons, Vera Institute of Justice, June 2006.
A panel of former judges, law-enforcement officials and
prisoners’-rights advocates concludes that society at large
feels the repercussions of the violence and ill health plaguing prisons and jails.
“Public Safety, Public Spending: Forecasting America’s
Prison Population 2007-2011,” Pew Charitable Trusts,
February 2007.
Statisticians specializing in criminal-justice issues present detailed national and state-by-state analyses of prison and jail
population changes over the next five years.
Mears, Daniel P., “Evaluating the Effectiveness of Supermax
Prisons,” Urban Institute, March 2006.
A Florida State University criminologist notes a scarcity of
objective data concerning supermaxes, as well as many prison
administrators’ view that the ultra-high-security institutions
play a needed role in prison systems.
Mulhausen, David B., “Changing Crime Rates: Ineffective
Law Enforcement Grants and the Prison Buildup,” The
Heritage Foundation, Feb. 12, 2007.
A conservative analyst cites statistical analyses to show that
incarceration is an effective weapon against crime.

The Next Step:
Additional Articles from Current Periodicals
Greenblatt, Alan, “Felon Fallout,” Governing, March 2007,
p. 36.
Overcrowding is pushing prison reform to the top of states’
policy agendas.
Henderson, Nia-Malika, “Prisoners Sue City Over Jail
Crowding, Call for Use of Cap,” The Washington Post,
June 30, 2005, p. B4.
An advocacy group filed a lawsuit against the District of
Columbia government claiming that crowded conditions are
endangering inmates in the D.C. jail system.
Powers, Ashley, and Lance Pugmire, “Policy Will Jail Fewer
Suspects,” Los Angeles Times, Oct. 27, 2005, p. B3.
In an attempt to ease overcrowding, a California county
sheriff has stopped jailing nonviolent offenders if they
promise to appear in court.
Warren, Jenifer, “State Ordered to Ease Prison Overcrowding,”
Los Angeles Times, Dec. 12, 2006, p. B7.
A federal judge told the California state government to reduce
prison overcrowding within six months or face the prospect of
a court-imposed population cap.

Rehabilitation and Recidivism
“The Charm of Rehab,” The Economist, April 22, 2006.
Proposition 36 in California, which advocates treatment
over incarceration for drug offenders, has saved the state a
great deal of money since it took effect in July 2001.
Lee-St. John, Jeninne, “A Road Map to Prevention,” Time,
March 26, 2007, p. 56.
Rehabilitation of neighborhoods that produce prisoners — not
of prisoners themselves — is the best way to reduce recidivism.

Democratic Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley closed the state’s
aging prison in Jessup because of poor safety standards.
Martin, Mark, “Prison Emergency: Inmates to Be Sent Out
of State,” The San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 5, 2006, p. B2.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-Calif., plans to send some
inmates out of state in response to allegedly dangerous conditions in California prisons.
Slobodzian, Joseph A., “City Works on Jail-Suit Response,”
The Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 27, 2007, p. B3.
Attorneys for the city are working on how to respond to
a federal judge’s ruling that orders Philadelphia to improve
its prison conditions.

Sexual Assault
“When Rape is a Joke,” USA Today, Aug. 11, 2005, p. 10A.
Most sexual assaults in prison go unreported because inmates fear reprisals from their attackers and doubt that guards
will protect them.
Curtis, Kim, “Government Study Says Rape Rare in Prisons,” The Boston Globe, Jan. 18, 2006, p. A4.
A government-sponsored study concludes that rape and
sexual assault in prisons may be common in film and television, but not in the real world.
Thompson, Don, “Bills Targeting Inmate Rape, Condoms
in Prison Clear California House Committee,” The Associated Press, April 20, 2005.
Two bills that advanced in the California State Assembly
would require the distribution of condoms to inmates and
the prioritization of rape prevention by corrections officials.

Sample formats for citing these reports in a bibliography
include the ones listed below. Preferred styles and formats
vary, so please check with your instructor or professor.

Rakis, John, “How to Jam Prison’s Revolving Door,” The
Christian Science Monitor, April 6, 2005, p. 9.
Parole officials should be held more accountable for the
number of ex-felons who commit new crimes.


Safety Conditions

Jost, Kenneth. “Rethinking the Death Penalty.” CQ Researcher
16 Nov. 2001: 945-68.

“Hell on Earth; the Delights of Supermax Prisons,” The
Economist, April 2, 2005.
The Ohio State Penitentiary is one of the United States’
supermax prisons, intended to house the most dangerous


Helderman, Rosalind S., and John Wagner, “Jessup’s Doors
Slam Shut for Good,” The Washington Post, March 20,
2007, p. B1.

Jost, Kenneth. “Rethinking the Death Penalty.” CQ Researcher,
November 16, 2001, 945-968.

Available online:

Jost, K. (2001, November 16). Rethinking the death penalty.
CQ Researcher, 11, 945-968.


April 6, 2007


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