Prisons

Prisons
12:21 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

Life Means Death For Thousands Of PA Prisoners

Credit Illustration by Anita Dufalla / PublicSource

Death in prison is not rare.

In Pennsylvania, one in 10 inmates is sentenced to life in prison. Because state law gives them no possibility of parole, nearly all of more than 5,300 inmates serving life terms will eventually die inside prison walls.

“They have no choice but to age and die in place,” said Julia Hall, a criminal justice professor and gerontologist at Drexel University.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:58 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

Meet etta cetera, the Woman Who Married Pittsburgh

etta cetera, a performance artist, political and social activist, married the city of Pittsburgh at Point State Park last May in front of a crowd of supporters.
Tom Jefferson performanceheartist.wordpress.com


"Today I promise, in order to form a more loving union, I will fight for justice, I will work toward peace, I will mobilize in defense of the commons, I will promote the general welfare of all life, and weave the braids of liberation to my movement for the future generations " - etta cetera

When 90.5 WESA Weekend Host Liz Reid found out she'd be filling in as host of Essential Pittsburgh, she took to her Facebook page and asked followers who they'd like to hear interviewed on the show.

Overwhelmingly, people wanted to hear a conversation with etta cetera, a prison justice activist and performance "heartist" who married the city of Pittsburgh earlier this summer. Etta joins us to talk about why she married the city and how it ties in with her advocacy and prison justice work.

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Healthcare in Prison
2:37 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

Study: PA Per-Inmate Health Care Cost Down, State Bill Up

When most Pennsylvanians are incarcerated, the Department of Corrections must foot the bill for their health care costs.

That’s according to Susan Bensinger, Deputy Press Secretary, who said the department works to pay that bill in a way that provides community-standard care for the inmates while utilizing taxpayer money in the most efficient way possible.

A study released Tuesday by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation suggests that the department has been successful in that mission.

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Essential Pittsburgh
7:06 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

State Corrections Secretary Says When Sentencing, We Need to Consider the Offender

John Wetzel, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
Credit Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

John Wetzel, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, is responsible for the state prison system, from inmates, to employees, to a budget of nearly $2 billion. And he's trying to take a holistic approach to the corrections system.

With more than 20 years of experience in the corrections industry, he's part of a sentencing commission that's developing tools to help trial judges better assess the risks and needs of offenders.

He says the key to that assessment is looking at the root causes of crime.

"Based on the number of prior arrests, the age of the offender, based on a bunch of other factors, we can predict the likelihood that the individual will commit another crime."

By looking at these "criminogenic needs," or needs that lead to crime, and by using cognitive therapy and other programming, Wetzel says offenders can learn to make better decisions, think differently and reduce their likelihood to commit future crimes.

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Chautauqua Institution Lectures
3:17 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

The Innocence Project's Nina Morrison Describes Wrongful Convictions

Nina Morrison, senior staff attorney at the Innocence Project, speaks on her organization's work to exonerate the innocent and reform a system responsible for many unjust imprisonments by telling the story of Michael Morton, who was wrongfully incarcerated for 25 years.

Essential Pittsbrugh
2:15 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Proving Personalized Support for Probationers Reduces Prison Reentry

The fact that our prisons are overcrowded is not news. But how do we help formerly incarcerated people re-enter society and prevent them from becoming repeat offenders?

One solution could be taking place at the Allegheny County probation office day reporting centers. They focus on medium, and high risk offenders in order to identify services and supervision that can be most helpful.

Ron Seyko is the probation office director for Allegheny County. He said the job of the probation office is to motivate individuals to get training and life skills that will help them become contributing members of society.

When it comes to the day centers, he says there’s a body of research supporting their efforts. When compared with probation offices that don’t have reporting centers the numbers are compelling.

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Prisons
12:38 pm
Sun March 2, 2014

More Than 81,000 Children Have a Parent in Prison in PA

Kayla Bowyer, who was paired with a mentor through Amachi Pittsburgh because her mother was incarcerated, now works for the organization.
Credit Emily DeMarco / PublicSource

When she was a baby, Kayla Bowyer of Pittsburgh was adopted by her grandparents because her mother was in and out of Allegheny County Jail.

Her grandfather died when she was 10 and her ‘Grams' had to go to work to support Bowyer, her younger brother and three cousins.
 

Though the presence of adults in her home changed, she was not alone.

In 2004, she and her brother were matched with Yolanda and Ron Bennett through Amachi Pittsburgh, a nonprofit organization that pairs mentors with children of an incarcerated parent.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:03 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Reducing Mandatory Prison Sentences

Credit Martin / flickr

In an effort to mitigate overcrowding in American prisons, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has proposed the Smarter Sentencing Act, which would reduce sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

Critics of the bill say these sentences are necessary because they provide prosecutors the leverage to seek cooperation from criminals.

Angus Love of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project explains this overpopulation is due in part to the residual effects of the government’s “war on drugs” as well as a shift in case management and the way sentences are given. 

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Prison Safety
2:10 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

DOJ Closes Investigation of Western Penitentiary

The U.S. Department of Justice has concluded its two-year investigation of physical and sexual abuse at SCI-Pittsburgh.

“The safety and security of inmates charged to our custody is very important to us, and we do take it very seriously,” said Susan McNaughton, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections spokeswoman. “So we worked cooperatively with the Department of Justice on a number of issues and actually have made so much progress that they’ve decided now to go ahead and close their investigation.”

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Education
3:30 am
Mon September 23, 2013

Report: Higher Graduation Rates Equal Lower Crime Costs

Pennsylvania could save as much as $737 million in annual crime costs if the male high school graduation rate increased by 5 percent. That’s according to a report released by the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Nationally, annual savings could total $18.5 billion.

Research from the Department of Justice shows that 67 percent of inmates in state prisons, 56 percent of federal inmates and 69 percent of inmates in local jails did not complete high school.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:26 pm
Mon June 3, 2013

Federal Investigation of State Prison's Treatment of Inmates with Mental Illness

How many PA prisons have been holding mentally prisoners in solitary confinement?
Credit Jenn Vargas / Flickr

 

  

The US Department of Justice released a report last Friday stating that a Pennsylvania State prison violated the civil rights of inmates with serious mental illness and/or intellectual disabilities.

The investigators found that the Cambria County prison they investigated placed mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time as a way of "warehousing" them.

The percentage of prisoners on the state's mental health roster has increased by more than 50 percent, since 1999, accounting for more than 20 percent of all inmates in the PA prison system.

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State Government
3:30 am
Mon May 20, 2013

Pennsylvania to Sell Two State Prisons

Pennsylvania could save a projected $5.2 million a year in maintenance costs with the proposed sale of 13 surplus properties. The Department of General Services will present its plan in the next few weeks to Gov. Tom Corbett to sell off surplus land and buildings.

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Essential Pittsburgh
1:30 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

A Dialogue On The Death Penalty With Sister Helen Prejean

Sister Helen Prejean shares her experience working with inmates on death row
Credit Rodef Shalom Congregation

Sister Helen Prejean, has been an advocate for the abolishment of the death penalty, and a spiritual advisor for death row inmates and their families for decades.

Her bestselling book, Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States inspired an Oscar nominated film of the same name. This week, Sister Helen comes to Pittsburgh's Rodef Shalom Congregation to speak about capital punishment and the nation's criminal justice system.

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