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Articles Tagged with prisoners rights

A recent Supreme Court decision will make it more difficult for those convicted of crimes to appeal the outcome of a trial on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel. The measure was decided in favor of the states in a 6-3 decision. However, the dissenting justices did not mince words when describing the decision. Judge Sotomayor called the decision “perverse.” Judge Clarence Thomas who wrote the prevailing opinion said the federal government should have minimal right to “relitigate” cases years after juries rendered a decision.

Understanding the Legal Issues

The Sixth Amendment guarantees every citizen who is charged with a crime an attorney to represent them. It is assumed that this attorney is competent, can follow the case, and is providing their client with the best possible representation under the circumstances. If they fail to do this, then the defendant can appeal a conviction on the basis that their lawyer did not represent them to the best of their ability. In these cases, the court must render a decision on whether or not a similar attorney in the same position would have taken a better approach and whether or not that approach would have made a significant difference over the outcome.

Now for some good news. Chicago introduced an anti-violence program geared toward inmates who were convicted of violent crimes. While this does not sound like the kind of measure that would produce positive results, the data would indicate otherwise. According to the latest data, those who took part in the READI program were 67% less likely to be involved in a subsequent gun crime and 20% less likely to be the victim of gun violence. 

What does the data say? Well, even as gun violence and crime rates spike throughout the city of Chicago, those who participated in the READI program showed dwindling rates. Those who attended the program had an average of 17 raps on their sheet and many of them had been the victims of gun violence before. Overall, 2500 men were selected for READI Chicago. When compared against a similar group of 2500 men who did not partake in the program, the crime rates were massively lower. The intensive 18-month program was targeted to at-risk males in the Chicago area. The names were drawn algorithmically but focused on those who had violent histories.

Why is This Program Succeeding?

According to a recent opinion piece by the Daily Mail, “woke” bail reform is putting murderers back on the streets of Chicago. This is not strictly true. In 2020, when the jails and prisons were overcrowded with suspects awaiting charges, it became more routine to release individuals on ankle monitors. However, it is true that reforms in the way we do bail are impacting how it functions and who qualifies.

To be sure, Illinois is not woke when it comes to bail reform. Some states have moved to do away with the cash bail system, and we will get into their reasons why below. However, Illinois is not one of them so the idea that Chicago is putting murderers out on the streets at a greater rate than say, New York or Los Angeles is false. One of the reasons why Chicago takes it on the chin when it comes to these sorts of accusations is that we have a large Black population, a history of political corruption, and a reputation for organized crime. However, we are no more woke than, say, Birmingham, AL when it comes to our bail system. 

COVID releases, overcrowding, and ankle monitors

Over the last year and a half (during the COVID pandemic) there has been a 30% increase in the use of ankle monitors to keep track of criminal defendants. The issue was related to the COVID pandemic and the ability of the prisons to keep prisoners safe from the infection. Prisons and jails tend to be rife with infections, and keeping infections at bay can be costly and difficult. Meanwhile, counties and prisons are responsible for inmates and can be held liable for failing to ensure their health and safety. 

During the pandemic, Cook County opted to place more individuals on ankle bracelets than keep them in holding centers. Many have been on ankle monitors for over a year while awaiting something to happen. Part of the problem is that those released on ankle monitors have already paid hefty bail prices meaning that they will be taxed doubly for the same crime. It is not surprising that the majority of those facing this problem are Black. However, a growing number of defendants on ankle monitors are also accused of violent crimes, occasionally murder. This ensures that no matter what side of the aisle you fall on, you can recognize the inherent shortcomings in this process.

Ankle Monitors, House Arrest, and County Jails

Criminal justice is a complex issue, and it is no secret that innocent people are convicted every day while guilty ones go free. Furthermore, the role that prisons and prisoner health plays in the process of criminal justice is a controversial one. 

Every prison has a duty to the inmates to ensure that their basic needs are met. This means that they remain healthy, fed, and in a sanitary environment. When prisons cannot do this, they are liable to the families if prisoners die under their watch. Families file wrongful death lawsuits against prisons all the time. While prisoners do not make ideal plaintiffs, the government is not an ideal defendant, either. 

So what happens now that you have a pandemic going on? Well, some of those awaiting trial have already been released to their families (depending on the charges) while others, who are considered low-risk, are also being released.

There has been a great deal of discussion recently over the role bail plays in American society. Political pundits who are rallying against bail reform cite instances of re-offense while the suspect is awaiting charges for another crime. Political pundits in favor of bail reform argue that the system is patently unfair and individuals charged with nonviolent crimes rot in jail for a year while the wheels of justice slowly turn.

Now, one charity is being scrutinized by the media after providing bail to inmates who then turned around and offended again.

Habitual Criminal Activity

Those who are in prison awaiting trial for crimes for which they have been accused are considered innocent until proven guilty. Yet the law has a vested interest in holding some detainees until trial—especially if they are considered either flight risks or a danger to the community. 

Despite that, one Chicago criminal defense attorney was able to get over a dozen Chicago inmates released amid the COVID-19 epidemic.

Prisons and Jails are Responsible for Inmate Safety

marco-chilese-2sMbKyQvom4-unsplash-copy-200x300Both Harvey Weinstein and R. Kelly have filed motions with the court for temporary release during the coronavirus outbreak citing health hazards. Weinstein and Kelly are both older with Weinstein being the more vulnerable of the two due to a recent surgery and more advanced age. Both were denied bail by the courts. 

But can others be expected to get their bail denied during the COVID-19 outbreak? 

The Virus is a Problem for Prisons

javier-villaraco-235574-copy-300x225Some people are arguing against what they perceive to be unnecessary censorship by the authorities when writing prison rules. The department of corrections in Chicago has very strict rules for what can be brought into its prisons. The reasons for this range from security to discipline. In any case, some prison authorities believe that being sent to prison should always be a form of punishment rather than allowing the convict to have any form of pleasure, however small it may be.

There are those who come from a human rights perspective who argue that prisoners do not lose their fundamental rights just because they are incarcerated. They argue that unless there is clear evidence of an illegal activity or a security risk, the prisoners should be able to access media materials. Of course that is a complicated system when dealing with offenders such as those facing weapons charges and sex offenders who may use the access to the media in order to continue committing crimes.

Lawsuits Against the Prison Service in Chicago

elliott-stallion-105205-copy-300x200Many people in Chicago, Illinois want to know if they can vote in the state if they are already imprisoned or held for a felony conviction. This query is generally made during election time. A lot of people are not cognizant of the laws when it comes to voting from jail.

In the United States, the voting rules for incarcerated individuals differ from one state to the other, which adds to the confusion. This is why it is imperative that people educate themselves about the rules. There are specific rules regarding voting after a felony conviction in Illinois.

What is the Law in Illinois?

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