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Why I Want to Bang My Head Against a Wall, Part 594292

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From an email from the Correctional Association’s Women in Prison Project to the Coalition for Women Prisoners:

In case you have not yet heard, for the first time in almost 30 years,
the New York City Board of Correction (BOC) has suggested changes to the
Minimum Standards, which are the rules governing conditions of
confinement in City jails. Some of the proposals include: increased
crowding, increased lock-in, use of jail uniforms for pre-trial
detainees, removal of the requirement to provide sufficient Spanish
language interpreters, and greater mail and phone restrictions.

Because that’s exactly what people detained in NYC jails, already pretty dismal places, need. Especially at a time when inmates have less power than ever to challenge the conditions of their confinement. Less help understanding the charges against them, less connection with their families, less space to sleep while they wait for hours and hours to see the judge. Having spent time at the court holding pens that the BOC oversees at the Manhattan and Brooklyn courthouses, it’s hard to imagine that people held there would have fewer rights. Already it’s a fight to get adequate food, access to a telephone, and personalized medical care. These new rules would apply both to Rikers Island, the city’s main jail, and other city jail facilities; sometimes, people who have not yet been convicted are held there. How’s that for innocent until proven guilty?

The proposed new minimum standards would, among other things, allow jail staff to listen in to telephone calls and screen inmate mail without a warrant and increase the number of people confined to their cells 23 hours per day.

In the comments to one of my earlier posts, people talked about the lack of political will to change systemic problems in the criminal justice system, like the use of eyewitness IDs or even the death penalty. This is just one small thing. Is the political will lacking even for this? Some days I think it might be.

That’s where the wall comes in.

But you can help prove me wrong. There’s an online petition. Go sign it.

Also at A Bird and a Bottle.

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