Phase Out Private For-Profit Prisons

Maureen MurdockCriminal Justice System4 Comments

On August 18th, the Obama administration said it would begin to phase out the use of private for-profit prisons to house federal inmates. The deputy attorney general, Sally Q. Yates said that private prisons do not save substantially on costs and provide fewer rehabilitative services like education and job training that reduce recidivism when inmates are released. From 1980 to … Read More

Drug Overdoses for Young Whites an Epidemic: Police Chief’s Solution

Maureen MurdockAddiction, Criminal Justice System13 Comments

young woman contemplating syringe

The mortality rates for heart disease, HIV and cancer have decreased for young whites aged 25-34 while drug related deaths due to both oxycontin and heroin have skyrocketed. At the same time, the death rate for young blacks due to overdoses is falling. Young whites death rates for overdoses for both illegal and prescription drugs are the highest since the … Read More

A New Lease on Life

Maureen MurdockCriminal Justice System7 Comments

In 1992, Rudolph Norris, 58, was convicted of possessing and selling crack-cocaine and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. 30 years. He would have received a greatly reduced sentence for the same non-violent crime today but his conviction came during the war-on-drugs debacle of decades past. According to federal data, roughly ½ of the 1.5 million federal and state … Read More

Report on Treatment of Mental Illness in Prisons by Human Rights Watch

Maureen MurdockCriminal Justice System, Mental Illness7 Comments

Life in Lockup graphic from Human Rights Watch

Those of you who have been reading my blog know that our prisons have become the largest mental illness institutions in the United States. An estimated one in five prisoners in the US has a serious mental illness including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, and major depression. I thought I had read everything about the despicable treatment the mentally ill receive … Read More

Site Unseen: Incarceration

Maureen MurdockArt and Creativity, Criminal Justice System7 Comments

Site Unseen: Incarceration is a gallery show curated by Sheila Pinkel, Emerita Professor of Art, Pomona College, to highlight the realities and challenges confronting incarcerated people. The exhibit at Los Angeles Valley College displays the work of 7 incarcerated individuals as well as 7 non-incarcerated people who use a variety of approaches to create consciousness about incarceration in the United … Read More

Criminal Justice Reform Draws Unlikely Bedfellows

Maureen MurdockCriminal Justice System5 Comments

"Solitary" by Brendan Murdock

Last week lawmakers lined up to promote their criminal justice reform bills at an event, which included both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and Piper Kerman, who wrote a memoir about her incarceration in a federal prison that inspired the groundbreaking Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.” Since crime is down and interest is high in decreasing the price tag … Read More

The Aftermath of California’s Prop. 47

Maureen MurdockAddiction, Criminal Justice System14 Comments

The passage of Proposition 47 in California reduced felonies for low-level crimes like drug possession to misdemeanors thereby decreasing prison time from several years to up to a year in jail instead. The intention of Prop. 47 was to use the money saved from incarcerating drug offenders to rehabilitating them in programs for both substance abuse and mental illness. Nearly … Read More

Prop 47: California Voters Address Prison Reform

Maureen MurdockCriminal Justice System10 Comments

California voters are about to cast a momentous vote for prison reform with the passage of Proposition 47 on Tuesday, November 4th. The initiative to reduce penalties for illicit drug use and petty theft is part of a multi-million dollar campaign to revise sentencing laws in California and across the nation. Prop 47 would reclassify possession of heroin, meth, and … Read More

New Treatment for Mentally Ill Inmates: Reduce Pepper Spray

Maureen MurdockCriminal Justice System, Mental Illness17 Comments

In an article in the Los Angeles Times, Paige St. John writes that California has decided to use special solitary confinement units to house mentally ill inmates as part of an attempt to comply with federal court orders to improve their care. Instead of using pepper spray to calm them down, isolation is the new treatment for the mentally ill. … Read More

Yoga and Addiction Recovery

Maureen MurdockAddiction, Criminal Justice System8 Comments

Prisoners doing yoga

I have been taking a yoga class in Santa Barbara from Mike Lewis, an instructor in recovery who also volunteers as a yoga instructor for inmates in the Santa Barbara County jail. As I have written before, Governor Brown has reduced the funding for rehabilitation classes in California’s jails and prisons so services such as yoga to help inmates deal … Read More

Deinstitutionalization Hasn’t Worked

Maureen MurdockCriminal Justice System, Mental Illness20 Comments

The recent mass killings in Isla Vista, CA by a man who suffered from mental illness has once again raised the issue of the insanity of deinstitutionalization of the severely mentally ill. Deinstitutionalization (releasing severely mentally ill from psychiatric hospitals) began in 1955 with the widespread introduction of Thorazine, the first effective antipsychotic medication. The widespread use of Thorazine moved the … Read More