mass incarceration

A report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio says nearly one in eight bills introduced by state lawmakers either creates a new crime or expands sentences. But the leader in the Senate is pushing back on claims that lawmakers are to blame.

Once again, the ACLU of Ohio is pushing for criminal justice reform with a new report on what it calls the “Statehouse to prison pipeline”. 

Ashoor Rasho has spent more than half his life alone in a prison cell in Illinois — 22 to 24 hours a day. The cell was so narrow he could reach his arms out and touch both walls at once.

"It was pretty broke down — the whole system, the way they treated us," says the 43-year-old Rasho, who has been diagnosed with several mental health conditions, including severe depression, schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder.

The warden at the women's prison in Iowa recently instructed her corrections officers to stop giving out so many disciplinary tickets for minor violations of prison rules, like when a woman wears her sweatshirt inside out or rolls up her sleeves.

It's a small thing. But it's also part of a growing movement to reconsider the way women are treated in prison.

When Monica Cosby, Tyteanna Williams and Celia Colon talk about the years they spent as inmates at women's prisons in Illinois, their stories often turn to the times they would be disciplined for what seemed like small, even absurd things.

Cosby was playing Scrabble in her cell once when a guard asked what she was doing. She responded sarcastically: "What does it look like I'm doing?" He wrote her up for "contraband" (the Scrabble set) and for "insolence."

voting booths
John Minchillo / Associated Press

While many Ohioans are enjoying picnics, parades and fireworks, community activists are hustling to meet the July 4 deadline for getting their ballot issue in front of voters.

DAN KONIK / Statehouse News Bureau

The Ohio House has followed the Senate's lead in overwhelmingly approving a measure meant to lower the state’s prison population and send non-violent offenders to treatment programs instead.

The number of people incarcerated in American prisons is the lowest it's been in decades. But a new report from The Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit research group that wants to limit mass incarceration in the United States, tells a more complex story.

A federal judge has declared unconstitutional Florida's procedure for restoring voting rights to felons who have served their time.

In a strongly worded ruling seen as a rebuke of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is the lead defendant in the case, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said the disenfranchisement of felons who have served their time is "nonsensical" and a violation of the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Updated at 7 p.m. ET

Prosecutors in San Francisco will throw out thousands of marijuana-related convictions of residents dating back to 1975.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said Wednesday that his office will dismiss and seal 3,038 misdemeanor convictions dating back before the state's legalization of marijuana went into effect, with no action necessary from those who were convicted.

Prosecutors will also review up to 4,940 felony convictions and consider reducing them to misdemeanors.

voting booths
John Minchillo / Associated Press

Ohio-based community activists cleared one hurdle in their campaign for the “Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation” amendment.

Filmmaking and Art by Inmates Behind Bars

Sep 4, 2017
Alex Van / Pixabay

An innovative project worked with incarcerated women at the Dayton Correctional Institution to write and direct their own short films. The shorts will be shown next month at the Wexner Center. Today we'll look at programs aimed at creating self-expression for those behind bars and the effects the programs have. 


What's Next for the ACLU?

Jun 7, 2017
Michael Hanscom / Flickr

The American Civil Liberties Union has a long history of defending individual freedoms — whether the cause is popular or controversial — and even when it puts the ACLU on the same side with organizations they frequently oppose.

 Last week, for example, the ACLU called foul when the Portland mayor canceled a right-wing gathering.   Coming up, the national president of the ACLU talks about their priorities for the next few years. 

There are a handful of proposals at the Statehouse that attempt to cut down on prison time in favor of rehabilitation. Supporters believe this reduces Ohio’s overcrowded prisons and reduce repeat offenses. One group is trying to bring the voice of victims into the conversations.

The Washington, D.C., jail has big metal doors that slam shut. It looks and feels like a jail. But down a hall in the medical wing, past an inmate muttering about suicide, there's a room that looks like an ordinary doctor's office.

"OK, deep breaths in and out for me," Dr. Reggie Egins says to his patient, Sean Horn, an inmate in his 40s. They talk about how his weight has changed in his six weeks in jail, how his medications are working out and whether he's noticed anything different about his vision. Egins schedules an ophthalmology appointment for Horn.

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