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

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

A Paradigm Shift: Prison Re-Entry Council Project

Maureen MurdockCriminal Justice System7 Comments

Last October, Salinas Valley State Prison in Soledad, California hosted the first “Council” with inmates in this level IV facility. SVSP houses some of the most dangerous inmates in California. Yet, in spite of its population, six Native Americans, four African Americans, an inmate from Honduras and a pre-op transsexual met together with a couple of Council leaders for a … Read More

Two Faces of Prison

Maureen MurdockArt and Creativity, Criminal Justice System8 Comments

Yesterday I received my weekly email bulletin from San Quentin. A prisoner who was serving a life term with the possibility of parole, Thomas Curby Henderson,  “fell” off a fourth-story tier (imagine a catwalk 4 floors up) in the infamous West Block of the prison last Tuesday. “Fell” is a euphemism for “was thrown off.”  Who pushed him to his … Read More

When Did We Lose Our Humanity?

Maureen MurdockCriminal Justice System7 Comments

Prisoner in solitary confinement

Just imagine what it’s like to be entombed day and night in a 7 ½ by 12 foot cement box commonly known as solitary confinement. In spite of the fact that the California prison Hunger Strike has been in effect since July 8th and has been covered by the New York Times and Los Angeles Times and NBC to name … Read More

Why is this Mother Telling Us this Story?

Maureen MurdockMental Illness10 Comments

Several of you have asked when my book is coming out. At first, I did not find a publisher interested enough in mental illness and addiction in the family to publish it. It just isn’t sexy. One New York editor, in rejecting the book wrote, “I wondered why [this mother] was telling us this story.  The scope of this book … Read More

Mental Illness is Not Going to Go Away

Maureen MurdockMental Illness3 Comments

Mental illness is not going to go away; in fact there is an increase in the number of people suffering from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Some 30% or more Americans—that’s almost one in three– are diagnosed with at least one mental illness in their lifetimes.