Last updateFri, 10 Dec 2021 9pm

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Judging the Judges

There are more and more stories about judges making controversial and/or racist comments while in court or during speeches. When should these comments be considered in deciding if a judge can be impartial while on the bench or if these comments constitute judicial misconduct since the judge clearly has a bias.

The Intercept has a story on Judge Edith Smith, who has served as a judge since 1985. Over the course of her service, she has made statements such as: A sleeping lawyer isn't necessarily a bad criminal defense lawyer, there is a correlation between the decline of personal shame and bankruptcy filings and straying from religion is the cause of corruption in the legal system. None of those statements were enough to alarm legal ethicists, it was a speech given last year in which she used improper and racist comments to a group of law students that finally sparked an investigation.

Click here to read The Intercept article on Judge Edith Jones.


California Voters Approve Prop 47

Tuesday, November 4, 2014 voters in California approved Proposition 47. This means that nonviolent offenses will now be deemed misdemeanors instead of felonies. About 10,000 people currently incarcerated for things like shoplifting and drug possession could be eligible for early release from prison. The passage of Prop 47 will help California conform with the 2011 Supreme Court order on relieving overcrowded prisons.

Click here to read about more  of the benefits of Prop 47 in The Huffington Post.

Seattle Man Awarded $497,712

Brandon Olebar served 10 years for a crime he did not commit. Brandon is the first person to receive a financial award due to a new law passed by the Washington State legislature. The law compensates people who are wrongfully incarcerated.


For more on this story, click here.

Corrupt Philadelphia Judge

The FBI used an elaborate sting to catch a corrupt Philadelphia judge. Joseph Waters pleaded guilty to both mail fraud and wire fraud. This is a very interesting story you need to read to believe.


Click here to read more in The Daily News.

Prison Reform in California

Prison reform has begun in California:

The California Fair Sentencing Act makes certain that people who are convicted of certain offenses involving crack cocaine will no longer receive harsher punishments than people found guilty of the same crimes involving powder cocaine.

California has also passed SB 1135 to stop forced and unwanted sterilization of women prisoners.

Click here to read the Mother Jones article on Sentencing Reform in California.

Click here to read the Huffington Post article on Reforming Prisoner Sterilization

Privatizing Prison Money Transfers

Before privatization, it used to cost less than $2 to send a money order to someone incarcerated: A $1.25 processing fee from the post office and the cost of a stamp. So if you wished to send $50 it would cost you just under $52. A private company named JPay began administering deposits for inmates of the Virginia Department of Corrections, as well as other state prisons. Now, depending on what state you live in, it can cost a family member up to $72 to send that same $50 ($22 in processing fees and $50 to the inmate).

Click here for The Center for Public Integrity article.

Corporations Divesting From Prison Industry

The civil rights non-profit group, Color of Change, has been asking over 150 companies to divest from Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group, two of the largest for- profit prison companies. Scopia Capital Management, DSM North America, and Amica Mutual Insurance have finally agreed to remove $60 million in investments from these two companies.

For more on the divestment of private prisons, click here.

Police Misconduct Goes Unpunished

In New York each year, the Civilian Complaint Review Board investigates thousands of complaints from people who say they were shoved, choked, hit, or had guns waved in their faces by police officers. Most of these cases are just dismissed due to insufficient substantiated evidence, but in the 14% of cases where the board "substantiates" complaints, punishment is not guaranteed. The NYPD can choose to pursue an administrative trial, or it can do nothing at all. 

Click here to read more.

CA Prisons Expect To Show A Profit

The CA Prison Industry Authority expects its revenues to increase by 15.6% for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. The Prison Industry Authority uses prisoners to make items such as; furniture, pre-packaged meals, fire protection gear and modular buildings. Over 6,700 prisoners earning very little wages participate in their program. 

Click here to read the article.