They nearly beat the man to death.
In the Dodger Stadium parking lot, after a game against the San Francisco Giants, Marvin Norwood, 33, and Louie Sanchez, 31, knocked a man wearing a jersey of the opposing team to the ground. A witness heard his skull thud on the asphalt.
Bryan Stow lay on the ground helpless.
But his attackers kept up the assault. One repeatedly kicked the off-duty paramedic him in the head. He was lucky to survive. After arriving at the hospital, he was put into a medically induced coma. He’d stay in professional care facilities for two years. He could’ve stayed longer, but his insurance money ran out.
Now he lives at his parents’ house.
For the rest of his life, he will suffer brain damage and require caregivers. He was beaten so severely that, forever more, he’ll need to wear an adult diaper. “He has to be reminded why a plastic shunt juts from the base of his skull,” the Los Angeles Times reports. Yet the men who nearly beat him to death, when sentenced Thursday, got just four and eight years in prison. This despite the fact that both “had previous felony convictions, including one case each of domestic violence.”
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Kimberleigh Weiss-Lewit and eight other women made a makeshift circle in the middle of the cell.
“It’s just you, your baby, and your breath,” Kim said.
One woman got up and left for the yard. Two others drifted off soon after.
“Let’s try to connect and trust one another,” Kim said.
“You don’t trust anybody in here,” scoffed one of the remaining four mothers-to-be.
Weiss-Lewit says she has to remind herself, “My version of Rikers is not theirs.”
Entering any prison to help pregnant women prisoners relax always made her feel like she was walking on eggshells. A corrections officer stood at the door with a big smile and maintained it for most of the class, “Girl, you can do it!”
Read more. [Image: Susana Vera/Reuters]
An ex-con tries to bring mindfulness to a state penitentiary.
In two months, America will observe the 50th anniversary of one of its most dubious moments. On March 13, 1964, Catherine “Kitty” Genovese was brutally murdered in Queens, New York. What made her case infamous—legendary, even—was that nobody responded to her cries for help. “Please help me, please help me!” she cried, over and over, and at least 38 people in her neighborhood who heard those cries did nothing to help her. They did not call the police. They did not come to comfort her. They did not, they later said, want to get involved. “When good people do nothing” is a timeless moral question, indeed.
One could say the same thing about the citizens of the state of South Carolina, who stand condemned today by one of their own. On Wednesday, in one of the most wrenching opinions you will ever read, a state judge in Columbia ruled that South Carolina prison officials were culpable of pervasive, systemic, unremitting violations of the state’s constitution by abusing and neglecting mentally ill inmates. The judge, Michael Baxley, a decorated former legislator, called it the “most troubling” case he ever had seen and I cannot disagree. Read the ruling. It’s heartbreaking.
The evidence is now sadly familiar to anyone who follows these cases: South Carolina today mistreats these ill people without any evident traces of remorse. Even though there are few disputed material issues of law or fact in the case, even though the judge implored the state to take responsibility for its conduct, South Carolina declared before the sun had set Wednesday that it would appeal the ruling—and thus likely doom the inmates to years more abuse and neglect. That’s not just “deliberate indifference,” the applicable legal standard in these prison abuse cases. That is immoral.
Read more. [Image: SCDC/Trial Exhibit]
Colorado prison officials last week did a good thing—a very good thing. The Colorado Department of Corrections issued a memo to all state wardens telling them that inmates with “major mental illnesses” can no longer be sent to solitary confinement (what Colorado and other jurisdictions euphemistically call “administrative segregation”). Here is the link to the memo.
Read more. [Image: Rick Wilking/Reuters]
When the justices of the United States Supreme Court confer Friday morning to consider new cases they will have the opportunity to accept for review a dispute that tests not just the meaning of their own recent Sixth Amendment precedent but the viability of a major new policy initiative implemented this summer by the Justice Department to bring more fairness to federal sentencing while reducing the terrible costs of prison overcrowding.
In Gomez v. United States, a Massachusetts case, the justices have been asked to determine whether they meant what they wrote about juries and drug sentences in Alleyne v. United States, decided just this past June, and at the same time whether Attorney General Eric Holder meant what he said, in August, when he promised to curb the ways in which his federal prosecutors abuse “mandatory minimum” sentences in drug cases to obtain guilty pleas (or higher sentences).
The justices should accept this case for review. And the Court should affirm the just principle that a man cannot constitutionally be sentenced based upon charges that are not brought or upon facts a jury does not even hear. But even if the justices aren’t willing to muster up that level of indignation, they ought to at least take the opportunity to call out federal prosecutors for saying one thing in front of the microphones and another in court papers.
Read more. [Image: Stephen Lam/Reuters]
Marty Williams is serving life-without-parole at California’s maximum security New Folsom prison. “It’s not the place that you see in the movies,” Marty says in the documentary At Night I Fly, available this week on video on demand. His experience, he says, is not defined by gang wars and rape, as most media depictions suggest. Instead, “this place is about isolation. It’s about the closure of the mind and the heart.” Prison is not excitement and violence and television drama. Instead, it’s the stifling of all those things. It’s not a story, but the refusal of stories, of meaning, and therefore of hope.
At Night I Fly is in part about trying to give inmates stories. Much of the film focuses on an arts in corrections program, where 20 or so inmates participate in writing workshops by sharing poems and stories and songs. Mostly they write about their time in prison, though they also talk about other issues. One prisoner reads a short, doggerel, but nonetheless seethingly bitter poem about his abusive mother. Another performs a lascivious, a cappella reggae-inspired ode to black women.
"A recent report [PDF] from the Vera Institute of Justice explains that the differences are both philosophical and practical. ‘Resocialization’ and rehabilitation are central to the Dutch and German models, whereas the American model focuses on retribution and isolation from society. In Germany and the Netherlands, this means prison conditions are more humane, fines are preferred over incarceration, solitary confinement is rarely used, and sentences are far shorter than in the U.S.”
Read: Why America Has a Mass Incarceration Problem, and Why Germany and the Netherlands Don’t
At a time of overcrowded prisons, cost overruns, and serious allegations of abuse and neglect, the Senate Judiciary Committee plays patty-cake with the Bureau of Prisons chief.
Falsified logs. Lack of supervision of an inmate. Lack of adequate staffing. Lack of communication. This is almostprecisely what happened exactly one month earlier, in August, to Billy Slagle, the death row inmate who committed suicide just hours after his lawyers learned new information that might have spared him from execution. Here is the link to our Atlantic coverage of Slagle’s death. And here is the link to the “after-action” report in the Castro case.
What the two incidents tell us is that Ohio prison officials were unable or unwilling after Slagle’s death to implement policies and practices that ensured Castro’s safety—in other words, the reasonable recommendations contained in the Slagle “after action” plan were not put into place in time to spare Castro. They also show that the practice of falsifying records” was not limited to the state’s death row (remember, Castro was sentenced to life in prison). Since 2000, 88 inmates have committed suicide within Ohio’s prison system.
Read more. [Image: John Gress/Reuters]