Entries in Prison (4)


Prison Inmate Gives Obama a Run for His Money in West Virginia

Kevin Lamarque-Pool/Getty Images(CHARLESTON, W.Va.) -- Keith Judd might have a future in presidential politics, provided he gets out of prison first.

Judd, who is currently serving time in a Beaumont, Texas, federal jail, collected 40 percent of the vote Tuesday in the West Virginia Democratic presidential primary.

The outcome was probably not so much a referendum on how much West Virginian Democrats like Judd, who was convicted of making threats at the University of Mexico 20 years ago, than how much they dislike President Obama, who wound up winning the primary with 60 percent of the vote.

Obama lost the state to Republican nominee John McCain in 2008 and the campaign expects he won't win West Virginia this November when Mitt Romney becomes his opponent.

Judd got on the ballot in West Virginia by paying a $2,500 entry fee and filing a notarized certification of announcement.  However, he'll have no delegates representing him at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., this September because no one filed to become one for the inmate.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Supreme Court Orders California to Slash Prison Population

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A bitterly divided Supreme Court on Monday upheld a lower court ruling that California must reduce its prison population by at least 30,000 to alleviate overcrowding.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by the four liberal members of the court, acknowledged that the order is "unprecedented" in its "sweep and extent" but said that the crowded conditions amounted to violations of prisoners' constitutional rights against cruel and unusual treatment and must be remedied.

Kennedy noted that at the time of the court order, California's correctional facilities held 156,000 inmates, nearly double the number they were designed to hold.

"The medical and mental health care provided by California's prison falls below the standard of decency," Kennedy wrote. "This extensive and ongoing constitutional violation requires a remedy, and a remedy will not be achieved without a reduction in overcrowding."

Kennedy said the order gives the State of California the power to choose how to reduce its prison population, but said the progress should be monitored by the three-judge panel that issued the original order.

"Absent compliance through new construction, out-of-state transfers or other means...the state will be required to release some number of prisoners before their full sentences have been served," he said.

The majority acknowledged that if the state is able to "reveal targeted and effective remedies" that will end the constitutional violations it may not have to significantly decrease the general prison population.

Kennedy said that the state could ask for an extension of the original two-year deadline to five years, but that the state should begin to devise a system to select prisoners "least likely to jeopardize public safety."

The controversy around California's overcrowded prisons arose in 2009 when a panel of three federal judges ruled that conditions violated prisoners' constitutional rights against cruel and unusual punishment. The panel based its decision on the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) passed by Congress in 1996, which allows federal courts, in certain circumstances, or order caps on prison populations.

California appealed the decision to the Supreme Court arguing that the three-judge panel had no jurisdiction to rule on the issue and that it didn't give California a reasonable amount of time to comply with previous court orders directed at remedying the problem.

Carter G. Phillips, an attorney representing California, called the order "extraordinary and unprecedented" and said that it would force the state to release thousands of prisoners. He said that the state was making progress in improving prison conditions on its own and that the federal court should not interfere with the state's progress.

The case stems from two separate lawsuits that had been winding their way through California courts for years, challenging the health care available in the prison system. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Supreme Court to Release 1 to 4 Opinions Wednesday

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Wednesday marks the last day of oral arguments at the Supreme Court and the first day of the justices’ annual behind-closed-door scramble to finish drafting all outstanding opinions by the final week of June. As things stand now the last day of the term will be sometime during the week of June 27.

The justices will release anywhere between one and four decisions on Wednesday.

Here are some of the more interesting cases:

Violent Video Games:  The Court will decide whether states can forbid the sale of violent video games to children. At issue is a California law, never allowed to go into effect, that provides for up to a $1,000 fine to retailers who sell violent video games to minors. The law defines the games as depicting “maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being.” The video game industry argues that the law violates free speech and that parents should be left to decide what their children buy. Americans spend more than $10 billion a year on video games.

Prison Overcrowding: The state of California is arguing that a federal court order mandating the state to reduce the prison population by 40,000 over two years is too drastic a measure that will endanger public safety. The case stems from two lawsuits that have been wending their ways through the courts for years challenging the health care available in the overcrowded prison system.

Arizona immigration: The Chamber of Commerce and immigration groups have come together to challenge the constitutionality of the Legal Arizona Worker’s Act that severely sanctions employers for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. The case is being carefully watched as a possible precursor for another controversial Arizona law requiring police to ask for papers from anyone they think might be in the country illegally.

Walmart: The Court will decide whether to allow one of the largest employment discrimination cases in history to go forward.  The case stems from a suit filed by six women who say they had been paid less than men in comparable positions despite having higher performance ratings and greater seniority.

Material Witness statute: Nearly eight years ago Abdullah Al-Kidd, an American citizen and former football player at the University of Idaho, was arrested by the FBI and held for 15 days because of his connections to a suspected terrorist. Al-Kidd was never charged with a crime and is now seeking to sue former Attorney General John Ashcroft, arguing that he was improperly detained. The U.S. government, representing Ashcroft, argues he should receive immunity from such suits. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Should Cash-Strapped States Compensate Exonerated Felons?

Dick Luria/Photodisc(NEW YORK) -- One year after DNA evidence exonerated Alan Northrop, who had served 17 years in prison for a rape and kidnapping he didn't commit, he's still waiting for the state of Washington to compensate him for its mistake.

"It's really great being out, but I'm struggling too," Northrop said in an interview. The 46-year-old father of three left prison with little money, no job and stunted emotional and technical skills. And even though he's found work at a metal fabrication shop, he says he's barely making ends meet.

"They just let you go and that's that. No apology. No nothing," he said. "They need to make it right. It doesn't matter what the state deficit is. These are innocent lives that have had a lot of years taken away and they need to make it right so we can get going again."

Northrop's case is among a skyrocketing number of wrongful convictions of the innocent discovered over the past decade with the evolution of reliable DNA testing technology, experts say.

Now, many states, which face looming budget deficits and competing fiscal priorities, are grappling with how to respond to the trend.

Between 1989 and 1999, there were 66 exonerations by DNA evidence alone, according to figures compiled by the National Innocence Project, a legal advocacy group. In the decade since, there have been 203 more.

Twenty-three states, including Washington, don't offer any financial compensation for the wrongfully incarcerated. In the 27 states that do, the reparations vary widely.

Texas, which has the most thorough compensation program in the country, awards $80,000 for each year of wrongful incarceration, plus $25,000 per year spent on parole or as a registered sex offender. The state also provides an annuity and support services.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire offers a maximum $20,000 for the entirety of a wrongful conviction. Utah awards the monetary equivalent of the average annual salary of the state's non-agricultural worker. And Montana only provides the wrongfully incarcerated with educational aid.

President George W. Bush signed into law in 2004 a requirement that wrongfully convicted federal inmates should receive up to $50,000 per year spent behind bars, or $100,000 per year if the time was spent on death row.

Advocates for the exonerated want those figures to be a minimum level of compensation in states nationwide.

A 1996 study by the Ohio State University Criminal Justice Research Center estimated that about 10,000 people in the United States are wrongfully convicted of serious crimes every year, largely because of eyewitness misidentification.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio