In the state of Michigan, Curtis Dawkins, prisoner and recent book author, could be forced to pay his dues of incarceration from the money received from his literary work.
Dawkins has been incarcerated for almost 12 years for murdering a man and has been writing a collection of short stories to pass the time. Before Dawkins was incarcerated, he was a writer earning his Master of Fine Arts degree. Most of the short stories in Dawkins’ The Graybar Hotel tell the life story of a prisoner, narrated in first person. The Graybar Hotel caught the attention of one of the top literary publishers in the United States, and offered Dawkins $150,000 to publish the collection of short stories.
But the offer has raised some serious questions. Some wonder if it is acceptable to support a person who was once involved in such an evil crime. Should inmates be allowed to receive money from stories about their prison life, which is a place intended for punishment?
Continue reading “In Michigan, A Prisoner Forced to Pay for His Own Incarceration”
In prisons throughout the United States, a total of somewhere around 80,000 prisoners are isolated from human contact for 22 to 24 hours a day. These prisoners are kept in very small cells—spaces of roughly 80 square feet. In the cell is a bed, a toilet, and very little else. Prisoners in solitary are fed three meals a day and are often allowed outside every day for an hour, with no contact with other prisoners. The practice, commonly known as “solitary confinement” has come to be known by a number of euphemisms, including “restrictive housing” and “segregation.”
Continue reading “Taking Stock of Solitary Confinement’s Mental Toll”
Untidiness, tattooing, insolence towards a staff member, “reckless eyeballing,” and possession of an excessive quantity of postage stamps. These are all behaviors that are officially punishable by “restriction to quarters” and “change of housing” in the US Federal Prison System, according to Quartz. Thus, you can be placed in solitary confinement for relatively innocuous infractions, and the clear potential for abuse of this practice is one reason why the use of solitary confinement to punish prisoners has recently come under intense pressure. New York reached a legal settlement in 2015 with the New York Civil Liberties Union regarding the aggressive use of solitary confinement in its prisons, and a multi-year process was begun to lessen the times people spent in solitary confinement and to improve conditions in solitary confinement units.
Continue reading “Evaluating Solitary Confinement: A Matter of Values”
For more than 60 years, the sprawling Utah State Prison sat nestled at the base of the Wasatch Mountain range in Draper, Utah. The prison was home to such notorious inmates as serial killers Ted Bundy and Gary Gilmore, and serial pedophile and cult leader Warren Jeffs. Utah was the first state to reinstitute the death penalty after the Supreme Court’s moratorium ended in 1973, and the state has since executed 51 people. In 2015, the Utah legislature made the decision to relocate the prison to West Salt Lake City. In its place, Draper Mayor Troy Walker proposed to house something that, as it turns out, struck Draper citizens as far more distasteful than even the prison—a shelter for the homeless.
Continue reading “Homeless in Utah, Desperately Seeking a Backyard”
On November 22nd, President Obama reduced the prison sentences of 79 drug offenders. This is the latest in a burst of clemencies he has awarded during his last year in office. Traditionally, there is a burst of clemencies towards the end of a president’s term, when there are fewer political hurdles and relationships to maintain, but this week’s sentence reductions bring Obama past the 1,000 clemency mark – more than the past 11 presidents put together.
Continue reading “Presidential Clemencies and the Role of Punishment”
The United States tends to exhibit a great nationalistic pride in its democracy. And so generally, we assume that any U.S. citizen over the age of 18 is eligible to vote. Yet this right can be taken away permanently if one is convicted of a felony, the most common of which being drug-related. Ironically, the United States, proudly deemed the “Land of the Free,” has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Yet it still may be shocking to consider that “[a]pproximately 2.5 percent of the total U.S. voting age population—1 of every 40 adults—is disenfranchised due to a current or previous felony conviction.”
Continue reading “Reconciling Democracy and Incarceration”