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incarceration

A file picture from Oct. 17, 2008, shows the 'B' cell and bunk unit of the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Ross Reynolds talks with Alissa Ackerman, assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Washington, Tacoma, about how private corporations that run prisons have been lobbying to increase the criminalization of immigration and what that means for the treatment of detainees.

On the list of activities for this summer camp: visiting Dad in a maximum security prison. The nonprofit group Hope House runs three camps to keep children connected with incarcerated dads who might not be close to home.

There are also plenty of arts and crafts, mosquito repellent and campfire songs.

Carol Fennelly founded Hope House in 1998, after a Washington, D.C.-area prison was closed, sending thousands of inmates to far-flung institutions. That made it difficult, and sometimes impossible, for relatives to visit.

In just a few years, Washington will need another 1,000 prison beds. There’s been talk of building a new state lock-up, but that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars at a time when the Supreme Court has said school funding must be the priority.

Washington’s prison system has announced a major policy change when it comes to inmates who harm themselves. The Department of Corrections said Thursday that it will no longer sanction inmates for cutting or other acts of self-injury.

Washington state’s prison system is projected to need 1,000 new beds by 2018. And that growth has Governor Jay Inslee concerned.

Suppose you spent five years in prison for a crime you didn't commit. How much does the government owe you?

Over the past few decades, the rise of DNA exonerations has made this a more pressing question. And many states have created explicit policies to answer it.

But those policies vary wildly from state to state.

Twenty-one states provide no money — though people who are exonerated can sue for damages. Twelve states and the District of Columbia award damages on a case-by-case basis. Another 17 states pay a fixed amount per year of imprisonment.

Stevan Dozier's crimes were violent purse snatchings. The final time, he hit his 69-year old victim in the face, knocked her to the ground and stole her wallet. As a result, Dozier was one of the first to be sentenced under the voter-approved "three strikes" law back in 1994.

KUOW Photo/Patricia Murphy

About 3.2 million people in the U.S. have hepatitis C, a highly contagious virus that can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Dr. Jody Rich, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at The Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University in Rhode Island, said prisons carry a heavy load of the disease, but they also have built in health care.

Flickr Photo/Asbestos Testing (CC-BY-NC-ND)

The State Department of Corrections has shut down a decades-old program staffed by inmates to remove asbestos from prison facilities.

The Department of Labor and Industries originally fined the DOC $141,000 after determining that inmate workers were exposed to asbestos dust, but the penalty was reduced to $70,500 in a settlement.

A new study by a UC-Berkeley graduate student has surprised a number of experts in the criminology field. Its main finding: Private prisons are packed with young people of color.

Flickr Photo/Still Burning (CC BY-NC-ND)

Health care enrollments so far have been focused on people without insurance. But there’s another population officials are trying to get covered – people locked up behind bars.

Flickr Photo/Still Burning (CC BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds talks with Cheryl Snow, one of the attorneys representing Rosemary Saffioti, about the lawsuit filed against the Snohomish County. In July 2012, Saffioti's 22-year-old son Michael died in the county jail after failing to receive proper medical care. Michael Saffioti died from a severe allergic reaction to dairy after consuming a meal that contained dairy.

Flickr Photo/htmvalerio

Someday in the not too distant future, social service programs in the Northwest could get funding from Wall Street.

In many prisons and jails across the U.S., punishment can come in the form of a bland, brownish lump. Known as nutraloaf, or simply "the loaf," it's fed day after day to inmates who throw food or, in some cases, get violent. Even though it meets nutritional guidelines, civil rights activists urge against the use of the brick-shaped meal.

Tasteless food as punishment is nothing new: Back in the 19th century, prisoners were given bread and water until they'd earned with good behavior the right to eat meat and cheese.

It’s no easy task to find doctors, nurses and other health care professionals to take a job in a prison. The stigma alone is a major barrier. Not to mention concerns about personal safety.

More prison beds, but no cost of living raises for school teachers are two takeaways after Washington Governor Jay Inslee proposed a modest update to the state’s two-year budget.

Alex Garland

Community activist Nestora Salgado lives in Renton, normally.

She grew up in Olinala, Mexico, and over the last few years she’s been returning frequently and getting involved in the community – so involved that she ended up running a legal community police force. Mexican law allows indigenous communities to form such groups.

Michelle Alexander's book "The New Jim Crow."

Ross Reynolds talks with Michelle Alexander, author of "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness", about the US criminal justice system and racial control.

Flickr Photo/Washington State Library

Ross Reynolds speaks with Jane Parnell, superintendent of the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor, about the DOC's new approach for female prisoners.

Flickr Photo/Still Burning (CC-BY-NC-ND)/http://bit.ly/1Svg0qt

A new federal report says overcrowding and under-staffing puts the health of Snohomish County Jail inmates at risk. The report comes after eight deaths at the Everett, Wash., facility in the past three years.

Flickr Photo/egwnd

Marcie Sillman talks with Kevin Bovenkamp, assistant secretary for the Health Services Division at Washington's Department of Corrections, about the new challenges prisons are facing with a rapidly aging population including elder care, hospice services and assisted living.

KUOW Photo/Patricia Murphy

For prison’s toughest inmates, the hardest yoga position is simply closing their eyes.

That’s because these men, housed at Monroe Correctional Complex north of Seattle, have been in solitary confinement, unable to communicate with each other. Until recently, they spent 23 hours a day alone in a cell, without books, without TV, without anyone to talk to. 

The Pierce County jail is facing a hefty 8 percent budget shortfall. So far, 30 jobs are slated to be lost and two jail units, which can house more than 160 inmates, are set to close. Officials say even with these reductions, the budget crises will not be fixed.

Ross Reynolds talks with Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor about how these cuts will affect the jail and public safety.

Best Of The Conversation: Feature Interviews

Aug 23, 2013
KUOW Photo

We talk to a lot of fascinating people on The Conversation: comedians, journalists, politicians, ex-felons, librarians, writers and even pirates. Today, we rebroadcast three interviews with some amazing individuals who have overcome hard times to pursue their dreams.

A federal review team is taking a close look at the Snohomish County Jail in Everett this week. The review comes after last month’s death of a jail inmate. It was the eighth such death since 2010.

Piper Kerman was a 24-year-old Smith College graduate in 1993, when she flew to Belgium with a suitcase of money intended for a West African drug lord.

This misguided adventure started when she began a romantic relationship with a woman who was part of what Kerman describes as a "clique of impossibly stylish and cool lesbians in their mid-30s." That woman was involved in a drug-smuggling ring, and got Kerman involved, too, though Kerman left that life after several months.

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

A new law that took effect this week in Washington allows people wrongfully convicted of crimes to sue the state for damages. Alan Northrop will be one of the first to file a claim.

Flickr Photo/Leonard Chien (Cc-BY-NC-ND)

Some prisoners in Washington state are currently serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for crimes they committed when they were under the age of 18. Is that just? Last year, the US Supreme Court ruled that a mandatory life-without-parole sentence for juveniles violates the Eighth Amendment. Ross Reynolds explores what Washington state must now do.

Ric Feld / AP Photo

Yesterday in Olympia the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would compensate people who served time in prison for crimes they didn’t commit and were exonerated of. The exonerated people would be given $50,000 for each year spent behind bars. This isn’t the first time this legislation has been proposed but it is the first time that it has bipartisan support. Ross Reynolds takes a closer look at the bill and who it's intended to help.

Researchers say the economic benefits of prisons often don't materialize for rural communities. That's according to a new paper by Northwest sociologists. In fact, they found communities with private prisons fare worse than they did before.

Washington State University sociologist Gregory Hook says rural areas that opt to build prisons, even courting them with tax breaks, have one main goal in mind: jobs.

“You know, you look across the way and you say 'Oh there's a prison. Fifty people have a job there. So that's 50 new jobs in my community.' … Only it's not.”

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