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Violence, Abuse, and Overcrowding in U.S. Prisons Turned Out to be Rampant

In California, attorneys have accused staff at the Los Angeles County Jail of holding mentally ill detainees in chairs for days at a time. In West Virginia, inmates at the Southern Regional Prison sued the state, claiming their food contained urine and semen. In Missouri, detainees at the St. Louis Prison staged multiple riots last year, and a security guard at the overcrowded Harris County Jail in Houston, Texas, said she and her co-workers started to work with knives. broke out.

And while New York City’s infamous Rikers Island prison complex has grabbed media attention for its soaring death toll, rural and urban prisons from Tennessee to Washington to Georgia are faring less. It’s not going well.

In other words, American prisons are a mess.

“It’s hard to believe, but it seems like prisons have gotten worse than usual over the past few months,” said David Fati, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prisons Project. . “In the 30 years he’s worked in this field, I don’t remember ever seeing so many large prisons with complete meltdowns.”

Several Lockups denied claims that conditions were deteriorating or did not respond to requests for comment. I acknowledged problems such as high rates.

A spokeswoman for the New York City Department of Corrections, which runs Rikers, said in a statement: “We are working hard to stem the ramifications of years of mismanagement and neglect within the city’s prisons. “It takes concerted effort, transparency and time to turn around our prisons.”

Unlike prisons, most prisons are locally funded and managed, so the problems you face can vary greatly from county to county. Atlanta’s Fulton County Jail has a crumbling infrastructure, Seattle’s King County Jail has brown and murky drinking water, and Houston is overcrowded due to the backlog of the court system.

‘Not really safe’

But more than a dozen employees, detainees and experts interviewed by The Marshall Project and The Associated Press highlighted two problems seen in prisons across the country.

“Our prison facilities are full. ‘It’s really not safe.'”

Overcrowding and understaffing are two problems that have plagued prisons across the country for years. Even before the pandemic, many facilities were in disarray. However, in the months since the COVID-19 outbreak, the number of people in local lockups has plummeted. People are staying home and committing less crime. The police didn’t make that many arrests. The court reduced bail. And prisons allow more people to go home early. Nationwide, the number of people in prison had fallen by about 25% by the summer of 2020, according to data compiled by the Federal Office of Justice Statistics.

But as concerns about the virus faded, so did many of the measures designed to combat it, and prison populations soon began to grow. Others were so overcrowded that inmates were forced to sleep on floors, underground tunnels, or common areas with no toilets.

“It’s crowded, so everyone is nervous,” one man detained in Los Angeles wrote in an affidavit filed as part of a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. “Some of the toilets are not working so the place smells of urine and excrement. People chained to chairs pee on the floor because deputies won’t take the chains off.” You may.”

I realized that some prisons should use isolated cells to isolate potentially ill prisoners. Houston prison officials say this means that cells that once housed two of him or three of her may now only hold one of him, and a prisoner with a record of violence. He said detainees cannot be easily separated from the general population.

However, the increased number of detainees did not increase the number of guards. Much like state prisons, many community prisons have seen an increase in officer vacancies, even in facilities that appear to be fully staffed. The Citi, a New York non-profit news agency, reported last year that more than 1,000 Rikers Island security guards were complaining of illness every day, as policies allowing unlimited sick leave were so often abused.


“The events that led to the big resignation also happened in prison. It was a depressing time, and a lot of people got sick,” former New York City prison warden Vincent Schiraldi said in an interview.

The Guards Union disputes that members abuse sick leave, and they are legally absent from work, often due to injuries or exhaustion on the job. As many as 800 employees were still out of prison at one time, he said.

With fewer police officers, the remaining staff are often forced to work longer hours, such as second, third and even fourth shifts. Guards in Cleveland said they didn’t have time to eat, and some prison officials in Houston reported urinating in bags when they couldn’t find someone to replace them at their posts.

Decreased numbers of prison staff can also make life worse for detainees. Fewer workers will be released from cells, taken to court, taught educational programs, and tended to for their most basic needs.

Staffing issues are especially dangerous when it comes to health care, according to Andrea Armstrong, a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans who studies prisons and prison deaths.

“We are seeing an increase in prison mortality, the type of death that could have been avoided if access to emergency care had improved,” she said.

Despite consensus among experts that the situation is worsening with many lockups, there is far less agreement on a solution. necessary, but some inmate advocates point out that a more lenient bail policy could reduce the number of people in prison who cannot afford to pay for their freedom. There is

In the meantime, researchers say they need better information from prisons to be able to gauge the extent of the problem.

“There’s very little data out there,” said Michele Deitch, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies prisons and prisons. “We literally have no way of comparing facility safety or hazards.”

Lack of data leaves experts questioning how much of the current increase in alarms actually reflects changes in prison conditions, and how much of it is a result of increased attention from the media and the public. He said it is difficult to determine the extent of

But they say the growing concern has not led to a better situation so far.

https://www.voanews.com/a/us-jails-found-rife-with-violence-abuse-and-overcrowding/6821676.html Violence, Abuse, and Overcrowding in U.S. Prisons Turned Out to be Rampant

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