Athletes Use Unique Position to Call for Criminal Justice Reform

June 22, 2018 | Angus Love | The Legal Intelligencer

An ancient Chinese philosopher once opined that he wished to live in interesting times, and we certainly have that opportunity. One would think a mature society would look to elder statesmen and women, the professional class, esteemed academicians and leaders of the business community for guidance and wisdom in serious matters impacting our society. Due to a moral vacuum of our leadership, it has been left to athletes to speak up about social unrest. Unfortunately we seem to be an entertainment-driven culture, with a reality television star with a dubious business background (five bankruptcies and numerous litigation failures) to be our leader.

Our 45th president, Donald J. Trump, has created such a moral vacuum. While he brags about molesting young women, paying off porn stars and Playboy Bunnies, fathers five children with three different wives, and is a compulsive liar; he seems to lack a true moral compass. Despair seems rampant as suicides are up 25 percent in recent years and opioid deaths were up 21 percent last year. Thus it is left to those in the entertainment sector to respond to the vacuum. Oddly enough athletes have stepped up to challenge—especially those concerning the criminal justice system. In the area of criminal justice, Trump’s own problems aside; he urges police to rough up suspects, brands immigrants as criminals as his Attorney General Jeff Sessions calls for a return to the failed drug war, marijuana prohibition and harsher prison sentences. All of these measures fall most heavily on people of color and the poor.

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Philly prison guard gets jail time for assaulting inmate

June 14, 2018 | Samantha Melamed | The Philadelphia Inquirer

Because of the hazards they face from inmates, it’s exceedingly rare for prison guards to be sentenced to time behind bars.

But on Thursday, Common Pleas Court Judge Anne Marie Coyle made an exception for Milton Gibbs, a former Philadelphia correctional officer who a jury found dragged, punched, and kicked inmate Brandon Kulb, knocking him unconscious, and then falsified a report on the June 2016 incident.

The judge sentenced Gibbs to a jail term between 45 days and 23 months, plus four years’ probation, and required he attend anger-management counseling and provide community service. The sentence was to be served on at least 15 consecutive weekends. At Gibbs’ request, the judge allowed him to serve his time in the Bucks County Correctional Facility.

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Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary 'worst inmates' to transfer out later this year

June 11, 2018 | John Beauge | PennLive

LEWISBURG - The mission of the Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary is about to change after nearly a decade of housing the worst of the worst inmates who have created problems in other prisons.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has announced it is transferring the special management unit from Lewisburg to a high-security prison in Thomson, Ill. The first transfers are expected to take place late this year.

Special management inmates are locked in their cells 23 hours a day, eat their meals there and are escorted to recreation pens.

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As Graterford inmates move to new prison, prospect of sharing cells worries some

May 21, 2018 | Aaron Moselle | WHYY Public Media

SCI Phoenix – the biggest and most expensive state prison in Pennsylvania – is slated to open in Montgomery County next month about a mile from the aged facility it’s replacing.

The $400 million facility, originally scheduled to open in 2015, is considered a major upgrade from Graterford Prison, the Depression-era jail.

But former inmates and advocates continue to be concerned the short move could lead to an uptick in violence if inmates with their own cells at Graterford suddenly have to share at Phoenix — and can’t adjust.

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'I felt like a caged animal.' Pa. woman claims jail illegally shackled her during labor

May 10, 2018 | Philadelphia Daily News | Samantha Melamed

Athena Remlinger was supposed to go to court on Oct. 17, 2017. She expected to be sentenced to time served on charges that she participated in a robbery. It was a relief: She was pushing nine months pregnant, and wanted to be home from jail in time to give birth.

Instead, her public defender told her the court date was canceled. The Lebanon County Correctional Facility had decided to induce labor two weeks early — for staffing reasons, she claims she was told.

Though Remlinger pleaded with correctional, and then medical, officials to let her carry her baby to term, they took her to Hershey Medical Center, shackled her to a rocking chair, and gave her Pitocin, a drug that induces labor, she claims in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for Pennsylvania’s Middle District.

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A federal jail in Philly was blocking kids from seeing their fathers - until now

April 29, 2018 | Samantha Melamed | The Philadelphia Inquirer

Last October, Dayna Walter despaired that her 2-year-old son was beginning to forget who his father was.

“When you’re far away from someone and can’t visit, it puts a strain on everything. You rely a lot on love and hope to get you through. You keep pictures around of him so his son can see his face and recognize when he’s talking on the phone.”

Her son’s father, Keith Campbell, had been prevented from seeing his child by a policy at the Federal Detention Center (FDC) in Philadelphia, where he’s been for the last year awaiting trial. The policy, which bars unaccompanied minor children, also excludes visitors who are not immediate family, including unmarried partners. That meant Walter couldn’t visit; consequently, there was no one to bring her son.

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‘This is not ordinary’: 5 inmate suicides in 3 months at Graterford

April 5, 2018 | Nina Feldman | WHYY Public Radio

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is under pressure to act after five inmates at Graterford Prison have died by suicide in the last three months.

“This is not ordinary, this many incidents and this short a time,” said Pennsylvania DOC Secretary John Wetzel.

The latest inmate, 58-year-old Roland Alston, died by suicide last week at the Montgomery County facility where Alston had been serving a life sentence since 1984.

Read more and listen to the radio piece here →