D & L Futch

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Research Foundation




The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) released some fundamental statistics in America's Cradle to Prison Pipeline in October 2007, providing the following statistics: 

    • An African-American boy has a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison in his lifetime, compared to 1 in 17 for his Caucasian male counterpart.
    • Homicides among African American males, between the ages of 15-19 years of age, represent one of the leading causes of death.
    • 59% of African American males in their early 30s, who dropped out of school, had prison records.  

    This picture reflects incarceration over education in America.  The school-to-prison pipeline refers to the policies and practices that push our nation's school children, especially our most at-risk children out of classrooms and into the criminal justice system. 

    Even the most chronic or hardened inmates have basic rights that are protected by the U.S. Constitution. If you are facing incarceration, or if you have a family member or friend who is in prison or jail, you should know about inmates' rights.

    The rights of inmates include the following:

    • The right to humane facilities and conditions
    • The right to be free from sexual crimes
    • The right to be free from racial segregation
    • The right to express condition complaints
    • The right to assert their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act
    • The right to medical care and attention as needed
    • The right to appropriate mental health care
    • The right to a hearing if they are to be moved to a mental health facility

    The Right to Humane Facilities and Conditions

    Pre-trial detainee must be housed in humane facilities; they cannot be "punished" or treated as guilty while they await trial.

    Inmates also have the right to be free, under the Eighth Amendment of "cruel and unusual" punishment; the term noted by the Supreme Court is any punishment that can be considered inhumane treatment or that violates the basic concept of a person's dignity may be found to be cruel and unusual. For example, an inmate held in a 150-year-old prison infested with vermin, fire hazards, and a lack of toilets would exemplify a constitutional violation.

    The Right to be Free from Sexual Crime

    An inmate cannot be subjected to sexual crimes including sexual harassment. The Prison Rape Elimination Act protects prisoners.

    The Right to be Free from Racial Segregation

    Inmates cannot be racial segregated in prisons, except where necessary for preserving discipline and prison security.

    The Right to Express Complaints

    Inmates can complain about prison conditions and have a right of access to the courts to air these complaints.

    The Right to Assert ADA Rights

    Disabled prisoners are entitled to assert their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure that they are allowed access to prison programs/ facilities that they are qualified and able to participate in.

    The Right to Medical Care/Attention

    Inmates are entitled to medical care and attention as needed to treat both short-term conditions and long-term illnesses. The medical care provided must be "adequate."

    The Right to Appropriate Mental Health Care

    Inmates who need mental health care are entitled to receive that treatment in a manner that is appropriate under the circumstances. The treatment must be "adequate."

    The Right to a Hearing

    Inmates are entitled to a hearing if they are to be moved to a mental health facility. However, an inmate is not always entitled to a hearing if he or she is being moved between two similar facilities. A mentally ill inmate is not entitled to a full-blown hearing before the government may force him or her to take anti-psychotic drugs against his or her will. It is sufficient if there is an administrative hearing before independent medical professionals.

    Limitations on Inmates' Rights

    Inmates retain only those First Amendment rights, such as freedom of speech, which are not inconsistent with their status as inmates and which are in keeping with the legitimate objectives of the penal corrections system, such as preservation of order, discipline, and security. In this regard, prison officials are entitled to open mail directed to inmates to ensure that it does not contain any illegal items or weapons, but may not censor portions of correspondence which they find merely inflammatory or rude.

    Inmates are entitled, under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution, to be free from unauthorized and intentional deprivation of their personal property by prison officials. However, Inmates do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their prison cells and are not protected from "shakedowns," or searches of their cells to look for weapons, drugs, or other contraband.

    Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA)

    Under the PLRA:

    • Prisoners must exhaust internal prison grievance procedures before they file suit in federal court.
    • Prisoners must pay their own court filing fees, either in one payment or in a series of monthly installments.
    • Courts have the right to dismiss any prisoner's lawsuit which they find to be either "frivolous," "malicious" or stating an improper claim. Each time a court makes this determination, the case can be thrown out of court and the prisoner can have a "strike" issued against them. Once the inmate receives three "strikes," they can no longer file another lawsuit unless they pay the entire court filing fee up front.

    Note: If the inmate is in risk of immediate and serious physical injury, the three strike rule may be waived.

    • Prisoners cannot file a claim for mental or emotional injury unless they can show that they also suffered a physical injury.
    • Prisoners risk losing credit for good time if a judge decides that a lawsuit was filed for the purpose of harassment, that the inmate lied, or that the inmate presented false information.

    Inmates' Rights: Consider Talking to an Attorney Today

    Incarceration presents many challenges. If you or someone you know is facing time in prison or county jail, then you need to know about inmates' rights. To find out about whether specific rights have been violated, such as inadequate medical care or blatant acts of abuse, you should speak with a civil rights attorney right away.


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    From August 21st to September 9th, prisoners across at least 17 states refused work, boycotted commissaries, and participated in other forms of protest as part of a nationwide prison strike. The strike was called by inmates and endorsed by a number of outside organizations, such as the National Lawyers Guild and local chapters of Black Lives Matter, Democratic Socialists of America, and the Green Party.

    The strikers' demands included a number of improvements and reforms: better conditions; the end of prison slavery, racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials, as well as racist "anti-gang" measures; the repeal of legislation preventing prisoners from filing lawsuits against their facilities (Prison Litigation Reform Act), restricting or abolishing parole (Truth in Sentencing Reform Act), and mandating minimum sentences (Sentencing Reform Act); widespread access to rehabilitation programs; and the reinstitution of Pell grants and felon voting rights.

    The strike's success is difficult to gauge. Even in the most restive of times, passing information between the "inside"—the world within prison—and the "outside" is challenging, as every legal channel is monitored by prison authorities and every illicit channel is furtive by nature. Additionally, state and federal departments of corrections seek to minimize any acknowledgement of inmate organizing so as to staunch its spread and to repress prisoners with impunity, making those departments unreliable sources.

    That being said, strike organizers have confirmed that authorities have jammed cell phones in South Carolina; put facilities on lockdown in New Mexico; moved participants into isolation in Ohio, Indiana, and Texas; and punished suspected leaders in Ohio, Florida, and Texas.

    The strike was timed to resonate with the history of slavery and incarceration in the United States, as well as to draw attention to recent tragedies. Its start marked the anniversary of the 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner, who attempted to ignite a revolution to end slavery by traveling from plantation to plantation, freeing slaves and killing their masters, but was caught and executed by a white militia. 

    August 21st is also the anniversary of the death of incarcerated organizer George Jackson, who was killed by San Quentin Prison guards while attempting an escape in 1971. The strike's end, on Sunday, September 9th, coincided with the anniversary of the 1971 Attica Prison uprising, in which a thousand inmates took control of their facility to bring attention to its deplorable conditions and were ruthlessly attacked by police, who killed 33 prisoners. The strike was also meant to bring attention to a riot aggravated by guards and administrators at South Carolina's Lee Correctional Institution last April, which left seven inmates dead.

    A number of groups were essential to organizing the recent prison strike. Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, a collective of incarcerated prisoners' rights advocates, was the primary inside organization, articulating strikers' demands and reporting on strike activity. On the outside, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, a prison union, served as one of the main support groups, ferrying messages between inmates at different institutions, mailing prisoners strike literature, organizing solidarity actions, and fielding media requests.

    Pacific Standard spoke with former inmate and IWOC spokesperson Kevin Steele during the strike about how it was organized, strikers' demands, and the connections between incarceration and capitalism.

    Arvind Dilawar is a contributing writer at Pacific Standard.

    Our goal here at the D&L Futch Research Foundation is to educate you regarding matters of the law that relate to your individual situations. 


    Lady Justice

    Let’s now find out some interesting facts about Lady Justice:

    1. In her right hand, Lady Justice is seen to have a sword that faces downwards. This sword represents punishment. This sword is held below the scales to show that evidence and court are always held before punishment.

    2. Since the 16th century, Lady Justice has often been depicted wearing a blindfold. The blindfold represents objectivity, in that justice is or should be meted out objectively, without any fear or favor, regardless of money, wealth, power, or identity; blind justice and impartiality. The earliest Roman coins depicted Justitia with the sword in one hand and the scale in the other, but with her eyes uncovered. Justitia was only commonly represented as “blind” since about the end of the fifteenth century.
    The first known representation of blind Justice is Hans Gieng’s 1543 statue on the Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen (Fountain of Justice) in Berne. Instead of using the Janus approach, many sculptures simply leave out the blindfold altogether. For example, atop the Old Bailey courthouse in London, a statue of Lady Justice stands without a blindfold; the courthouse brochures explain that this is because Lady Justice was originally not blindfolded and because her “maidenly form” is supposed to guarantee her impartiality which renders the blindfold redundant.
    Another variation is to depict a blindfolded Lady Justice as a human scale, weighing competing claims in each hand. An example of this can be seen at the Shelby County Courthouse in Memphis, Tennessee.

    3. In her left hand, Lady Justice holds balance scales, which represent the weighing of evidence. When taken with the blindfold, the symbolism is that evidence must be weighed on its own merit.

    4. Toga -The Greco-Roman garment symbolizes the status of the philosophical attitude that embodies justice.

    Question: Does lady justice really represent what is going on in the current judicial system across the USA...the Land of the Free?


    According to a new report, while the overall number of inmates in the U.S. is declining, some states are still seeing their prison populations rise.

    The incarceration rate in America continues to decline overall, but not in every state. While 30 states saw a decline in their prison populations in 2017, as many 20 states saw a rise; in 10, incarceration numbers peaked. That's according to a recent report from the Vera Institute of Justice, based on information collected from states and the federal Bureau of Prisons.

    The overall number of incarcerated individuals per 100,000 people dropped by 2 percent in 2017 from the previous year; the total prison population fell to the lowest level since 2004. Those numbers are driven by the significant drops in the number of people held in federal prisons (3 percent), and in large state prison populations of Illinois, Maryland, and Louisiana (more than 5 percent). Yet, states like Tennessee and Utah actually went the other way, gaining 6.6 percent and 4.9 percent more prisoners between 2016 and 2017.

    The states with the biggest declines provide interesting case studies for criminal justice reform. Maryland is among the states with a low incarceration rate, and it saw its prison population fall the most—by almost 10 percent. Likely, this was a consequence of a 2016 law that sought to reduce sentences for non-violent offenders and prioritize rehabilitation and other treatments over incarceration. In 2017, the state also reformed its bail system, reducing the number of defendants it incarcerated because they couldn't afford to pay, which may have contributed to the overall decline in numbers.

    Louisiana, on the other hand, has the highest incarceration rate in the country. But it experienced a 5.4 percent drop in just one month, November of 2017, when the state instituted a prison policy overhaul and released 1,900 incarcerated people early.

    Tennessee and Kentucky are pretty high up there when it comes to incarceration rates, and also saw some of the largest increases in their prison populations. In recent years, Tennessee's prisons have been bursting at the seams, thanks to aggressive policing, long sentences, and fewer incidents of parole, among other reasons.

    One zip code in North Nashville has been the incarceration epicenter: At 14 percent, this majority-black neighborhood has the highest incarceration rate of similarly populous zip codes in the country. Although a conversation about criminal justice reform has started to take place in Tennessee, it doesn't seem to have made a dent in the bloated and steadily growing prison population so far.

    What's concerning for criminal justice advocates is that attitudes at the federal level have also shifted in the last year. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has directed prosecutors to dole out tougher sentences and has scaled back policing reform. So while the data don't show it yet, it's possible that the nationwide gains made in decreasing mass incarceration may start to disintegrate in the future.

    "If history is any lesson, it is that changes in prison populations are contingent on a range of political and public choices," Vera researcher Oliver Hinds said in a statement. "So we can't predict whether there will be a further prison drop."

    This story originally appeared on CityLab, an editorial partner site. Subscribe to CityLab's newsletters and follow CityLab on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering urban demographics, inequality, and culture. Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.