Writer in 29th year of solitary confinement barred from reading his own book

Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing:

William “Billy” Blake is serving a 77-to-life sentence, and has been in solitary for 29 years, since he killed a guard in a failed escape attempt. He is one of the contributors to 2016’s Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement, a book he’s never seen, held or read….

Trump won tax breaks while donating tens of thousands to corrupt official

Trump gave at least $45,000 to the campaign of Alan Hevisi, a New York state comptroller who later went to prison for bribery. The donations coincided with a $500 million lawsuit Trump filed against the City of New York to reduce property taxes. Soon afterward, the city settled, saving Trump $97 million. (Christina Wilkie, The Huffington Post)

A Clinton-hater’s wise observation

I’m a Clinton supporter, as you know. But what may not be entirely clear is that I don’t just support her because the alternative is Trump.

That is a sufficient reason to support Clinton. That is a sufficient reason to support anyone. If the Democrats were running a chimpanzee against Trump, I’d support the chimpanzee.

And yet there’s more to it with me and Clinton. I think she’ll be a good president. Or, to be more precise, I think she has the POTENTIAL to be a good president. Maybe even one of our greatest Presidents, on a caliber with the Roosevelts and Harry S. Truman.

I got in a conversation with a Clinton-hater the other day, who declared that she is the most paranoid Presidential candidate since Richard Nixon, and her administration would quickly, like Nixon’s second term, become paralyzed by scandals of her own invention.

Since then, I’ve surprised myself to find I agree with my friend. She IS paranoid. Justifiably so, given her career of being dogged by Republicans who make up lies about her and spread them to millions of willing supporters. Republicans lied that she’s a closet lesbian, they lied that she murdered Vince Foster, they lied that she made money on insider real estate deals in Arkansas (in fact the Clintons LOST money). They lied that she faked being sick during the first Benghazi hearings, and they are lying now that she is faking being essentially healthy other than pneumonia that she’ll get over. Republicans lie that she has somehow coopted three Republican prosecutors who have cleared her of wrongdoing that would get anybody else thrown in prison. Etc. etc. etc. I’m sure there’s a list somewhere of all the Republican lies about Hillary Clinton.

And yet paranoia would be Clinton’s undoing. Even if it is justified.

There’s an old joke that goes: Are you paranoid if they really ARE out to get you? That’s supposed to be a rhetorical question, with the answer: No. Paranoia, according to the premise of the joke, is the DELUSION of persecution. No delusion, no paranoia.

But the reality is you can be both paranoid and persecuted. And that’s Clinton’s problem.

Federal Court Rules That Password Sharing Is Illegal Under Insane Ancient Law

There’s potential prison time for every millennial who shares his Netflix password and employee who asks a coworker to log in to his email. You can thank the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, passed before the Web was even a thing.

Brian Feldman reports for New York Magazine:

Punishment under the CFAA can be severe. Threatened with the prospect of years in jail for downloading millions of articles from JSTOR, the nonprofit digital library, cyberactivist Aaron Swartz committed suicide in 2013. This past spring, journalist Matthew Keys was sentenced to two years in prison for providing his Tribune Media log-in credentials to vandals who changed a Los Angeles Times headline for less than an hour.

Behind bars

Beatings. Stabbings. An Escape. My four months as a private prison guard.

Journalist Shane Bauer worked undercover as a guard at Winn Correctional Center, a privately run prison in Winnfield, Louisiana.

Guards are paid a starting salary of $9 per hour — a pittance even by Louisiana standards. As one prisoner notes, the only difference between the guards and prisoners is that the guards are only there 12 hours a day. Prison staff is kept short by the Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the facility for profit. The prisoners have a lot of time on their hands and many figure they have nothing to lose. That makes the power relationship between the two groups … complicated.

Conditions at the prison would brutalize anyone, whether they are a guard or a prisoner.

Bauer’s experience as a prison guard changed him, and not for the better.

Bauer’s article is long — it took me about four days to read — magnificent, and deeply disturbing. It’s an instant classic of journalism.

Mass incarceration is a blot on America’s claim to be the land of freedom, opportunity, and respect for civil rights.

Bauer:

In class that day, we learn about the use of force. A middle-aged black instructor I’ll call Mr. Tucker comes into the classroom, his black fatigues tucked into shiny black boots. He’s the head of Winn’s Special Operations Response Team, or SORT, the prison’s SWAT-like tactical unit. “If an inmate was to spit in your face, what would you do?” he asks. Some cadets say they would write him up. One woman, who has worked here for 13 years and is doing her annual retraining, says, “I would want to hit him. Depending on where the camera is, he might would get hit.”

Mr. Tucker pauses to see if anyone else has a response. “If your personality if somebody spit on you is to knock the fuck out of him, you gonna knock the fuck out of him,” he says, pacing slowly. “If a inmate hit me, I’m go’ hit his ass right back. I don’t care if the camera’s rolling. If a inmate spit on me, he’s gonna have a very bad day.” Mr. Tucker says we should call for backup in any confrontation. “If a midget spit on you, guess what? You still supposed to call for backup. You don’t supposed to ever get into a one-on-one encounter with anybody. Period. Whether you can take him or not. Hell, if you got a problem with a midget, call me. I’ll help you. Me and you can whup the hell out of him.”

He asks us what we should do if we see two inmates stabbing each other.

“I’d probably call somebody,” a cadet offers.

“I’d sit there and holler ‘stop,'” says a veteran guard.

Mr. Tucker points at her. “Damn right. That’s it. If they don’t pay attention to you, hey, there ain’t nothing else you can do.”

He cups his hands around his mouth. “Stop fighting,” he says to some invisible prisoners. “I said, ‘Stop fighting.'” His voice is nonchalant. “Y’all ain’t go’ to stop, huh?” He makes like he’s backing out of a door and slams it shut. “Leave your ass in there!”

“Somebody’s go’ win. Somebody’s go’ lose. They both might lose, but hey, did you do your job? Hell yeah!” The classroom erupts in laughter.

We could try to break up a fight if we wanted, he says, but since we won’t have pepper spray or a nightstick, he wouldn’t recommend it. “We are not going to pay you that much,” he says emphatically. “The next raise you get is not going to be much more than the one you got last time. The only thing that’s important to us is that we go home at the end of the day. Period. So if them fools want to cut each other, well, happy cutting.”

American prisons are doubling inmates in solitary confinement cells too small for both prisoners to stand up simultaneously

Many of these prisoners are mentally ill. Not surprisingly, murder rates are skyrocketing.

America prisons are doubling up solitary confinement cells, turning them into murder-boxes [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

An end to prisons

Electronic location monitoring using GPS is potentially more effective and humane than prison.

The US should:

  1. Move those imprisoned for offenses short of homicide or sexual assault to GPS-supervised house arrest as soon as is practicable, with a guaranteed, immediate prison stay for those who violate its terms.

  2. Reserve prisons for repeat offenders and those who’ve committed truly heinous crimes.

There are obviously other details to be worked out. You wouldn’t want people convicted of domestic violence to be sentenced to home confinement with their victims, for instance; in those cases, some kind of alternate housing would have to be offered to ensure separation.

But if successful, this plan could reduce admissions by at least half, probably much more. Hopefully, this will just be a temporary measure. In principle, it could get to the point technologically where house arrest becomes as hard to escape as prison is. At that point, abolishing prison outright starts to become imaginable. UK home secretary David Blunkett spoke too soon when he referred to electronic monitoring as “prison without bars,” but that dream is attainable. 

This could be a tough sell in the US. There’s an awful lot of money in the prison-industrial complex. And the American character has a brutal oppressive streak. We like to see people suffer.

Prisons are terrible, and there’s finally a way to get rid of them