Prisoner Uprising

A private corporation that runs a prison in Arizona where the state of Vermont sends some of its prisoners tried to keep secret an uprising by the Vermonters. The prisoners broke TVs and microwave ovens to protest harsh conditions in the prison. It is more difficult for the prisoners' family and friends to visit them in Arizona then if they were kept in a prison in Vermont. Experts say this means it will be harder for them to find jobs and a place to live when they get out. Ultimately, they are more likely to end up in jail again. As of 2011, imprisoning people cost Vermont taxpayers more than $58,000 per year per inmate.

The USA has about 2.2 million people in prison or jail. That is a 500 percent increase over the past 30 years. (The nation's population increased 34 percent in the past 30 years.)

African Americans and Latinos are much more likely to be in prison in the USA than white people. That's according to this web page, published by lawyers in Northampton:

www.prisonpolicy.org/graphs/raceinc.html

No other nation on earth incarcerates such a high percentage of its people. As of 2008, the USA had about 751 people in prison or jail for every 100,000 in population. "England's rate is 151; Germany's is 88; and Japan's is 63." That's according to "U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations," an article by Adam Liptak that appeared in the New York Times on 4/23/2008.

According to the New York Review of Books, "Now and then a book comes along that might in time touch the public and educate social commentators, policymakers, and politicians about a glaring wrong that we have been living with that we also somehow don’t know how to face. 'The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness' by Michelle Alexander [published in 2010] is such a work."

On the book’s web site, she lists groups that work to reduce the number of prisoners in the USA:

www.NewJimCrow.com/take-action

The book "Guns, Germs, and Steel" by Jared Diamond explains why the average black person is much poorer than the average white person. Rich people can afford better lawyers.

In 2012, a judge ordered John Grega released from prison in Springfield, Vermont, near Brattleboro, after 18 years in prison for a murder that he probably did not commit. The murder happened in 1994 in Dover, Vermont, which is also near Brattleboro. Grega’s lawyer is Ian Carleton of Burlington, Vermont.

As of 2000, there were about 200,000 wrongfully convicted people in prison in the USA. That's according to the book “Actual Innocence” by New York Times columnist Jim Dwyer and two other authors.

Hundreds of prisoners in the USA have been proven innocent using DNA. These people served an average of 13 years in prison before being freed. Seventeen of the people who were freed had been sentenced to death but were freed before the government could execute them. This data is from www.InnocenceProject.org.

About half the people in U.S. prisons are there for non-violent crimes, mostly related to drugs.

As of 2010, there were 665 Vermonters at private prisons in Kentucky and Arizona. The prisoners were sent there by the state of Vermont. The prisons are owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). To boost profits, CCA and other prison corporations lobby for harsher punishment for possession of drugs. These corporations pay their CEOs millions of dollars a year.

The uprising by Vermonters at the Arizona prison happened in August but only recently became public. "If this had happened in Vermont, we would have heard about it," Suzi Wizowaty told the Seven Days newspaper. She is a member of the Vermont legislature and she runs a group that works to reduce the number of people that Vermont imprisons. The group's web site is:

www.VermontersForCriminalJusticeReform.org

Comments

Stand Up for True Justice!

Vermont journalist Eesha Williams is truly one of the best. This story is one of the best examples of investigative journalism that I have ever read.

Vermonters in the 1990s saw through the incarceration binge that followed the crack cocaine epidemic, itself reportedly fueled by rogue elements within the CIA plus organized crime, and which led to the 'mandatory minimums' sentencing policies and laws which nearly eliminated any judicial discretion in sentencing and put people away behind bars -- warehoused them -- for a long, long time. In some state, there are even 'three strikes you're out' laws that cause people to be sentenced to life in prison for crimes as trivial as stealing a slice of pizza -- yes, my readers, it's stranger than fiction, but it is real life in Amerika under the crinimal INjustice system that we have today.

It is immoral and unconscionable for corporations to be set up to make people rich off other peoples' suffering, but that is what has happened with corporations like Corrections Corporation of America and Wackenhut which build prisons on speculation to house the overflow from the states' mandatory minimums burdened systems. And yes, my fellow Vermonters, our Green Mountain Boys (and girls) are being warehoused far, far away; too awfully far for family members to visit them.

True justice is Restorative Justice, justice that restores equity and helps with the healing of both victims and offenders. Restorative Justice is the law of the land in Vermont since the mid-1990s. Yet the incarceration binge has not let up either here or across the USA. Finally, we are realizing we cannot keep building new prisons and, in effect, throw peoples' lives away by locking them up. Minor, victimless crime, plus crimes committed in desperation by hungry and impoverished people are becoming, in effect, death sentences for a large percentage of our population; people who are much more often racial and ethnic minorities than the 'good ol boy' whites who can afford classy lawyers to defend them.

Make your thoughts known and your opinions heard. I am a voice within the Democratic Party for change toward Restorative Justice and away from the laws and policies that have sent millions to prison, many of them on a ghetto-to-prison pipeline that, for poor kids, offers no practical alternative whatsoever. Back me up, please, by speaking to other officials of your political party, whatever it is. Current policies and laws are morally unconscionable and economically untenable. Vote for change! Stand up for true justice!

Thank you for this comment.

Thank you for this comment. Sorry for taking so long to post it -- I'm out of town this weekend. If you can please post your real name, town, and contact info, I would appreciate it. Thanks again.

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