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JULY 21, 2011: Peg's Blogs on Hiatus...

As many friends and regular readers know, I've been dealing with a lot in my personal life, lately, while my workload has continued to grow. Rest assured that I'm in the best of company, and getting by with a little help from my friends. Still, I need to take a break and focus on centering myself. That means this site will be neglected even more than it has been.

Until I'm able to get a grip on blogging regularly and thoughtfully again here (or until someone else steps in to anchor the site), I encourage people to check out Carl Toersbijns' blog (he's a former Deputy Warden for the AZ Department of Corrections, and while not an abolitionist, he's a strong advocate for the prisoners with mental illness, and for broad-based prison reform in AZ). You may also want to drop in on Middle Ground Prison Reform's site for news.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reinforcing or Abolishing Children's Prisons: Reauthorizing the JJDPA

I received the following action alert in my box last night from Act For Juvenile Justice. I think the group was formed specifically to organize and lobby people to reauthorize the JJDPA.


Reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act Now!

Congress has just 13 days to move forward fundamental federal juvenile justice legislation that will protect our most vulnerable children. Help keep children out of adult jails, end the over-incarceration of youth of color in the justice system, and devote more resources to effective juvenile justice programs that protect our young people and keep our communities safe.

Reauthorization of this important law is nearly 4 years overdue and Congress is scheduled to adjourn on October 8, leaving just 13 days for them to act.

Children and teens already caught up in the system can't wait another day.


Urge Congress to pass a reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act this year by signing the petitions below:

· Sign the House of Representatives Petition

· Sign the Senate Petition

Help us reach our goal of over 15,000 signatures by the end of September by forwarding this Action Alert to your networks.

Learn more by visiting


It's a pretty compelling email. I think almost everyone working on reforming the face of American of juvenile justice is pretty much on board with this - all their websites are screaming for us to update and renew the JJDPA, anyway. I've been caught up in a lot of other stuff lately, though, and I have to admit that I don't know enough about what's being included in the JJDPA and what's being left out yet to argue for it (not without qualifiers, at least).

Bottom line: I want to get rid of the prisons we put children into. For all I know, this act will just ensure we depend on them for at least another generation or two.

So, do your own digging if you're in a hurry to take a stand on this thing. There's info below about the different aspects of the JJDPA. As I research it more over the next few days, I'll try and introduce different perspectives, in addition to forming and articulating my own..


From the Center for Children's Law and Policy:

Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA)

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act is the single most important piece of federal legislation affecting youth in juvenile justice systems across the country. It is the primary vehicle through which the federal government sets standards for state and local juvenile justice systems, and provides direct funding for states, research, training and technical assistance, and evaluation. Since the original enactment of the JJDPA in 1974, the periodic reauthorizations have been very contentious, as the Act's opponents have sought to weaken its protections for youth, reduce prevention resources, and encourage the transfer of youth to the adult criminal justice system.

CCLP Publications

  • Juvenile Justice: Lessons for a New Era [download]
    Executive Director Mark Soler and Senior Staff Attorney Dana Shoenberg have published an article that outlines how new research and experience should guide juvenile justice policy and practice reforms in several areas. Marc Schindler, Interim Director of the Washington, DC, Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, co-authored the piece, which appears in Volume 16 of the Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy.
  • Fact Sheet: Community-Based and Home-Based Alternatives to Incarceration [download full version] [download short version]
    This fact sheet reviews the types of community-based and home-based alternatives to incarceration, their successes, and how the reauthorized JJDPA should encourage those placements.
  • Fact Sheet: Protection of Incarcerated Youth [download]
    The JJDPA currently does not address conditions and practices in juvenile facilities. This fact sheet suggests how the JJDPA can be strengthened through new provisions that bar dangerous practices and encourage states to reduce and eliminate the use of those practices.
  • Fact Sheet: Disproportionate Minority Contact [download]
    This fact sheet addresses how the DMC core requirement should be strengthgened in the reauthorized JJDPA and provides examples of jurisdictions that have achieved DMC reductions in recent years through targeted reforms.
  • Potential for Change: Public Attitudes and Policy Preferences for Juvenile Justice Systems Reform [download]
    This CCLP report contains new polling data on Americans attitudes about youth, race and crime, revealing strong support for juvenile justice reforms that focus on rehabilitating youthful offenders rather than locking them up in adult prisons. The public also believes that African American and poor youth receive less favorable treatment than those who are white or middle class.

  • Locking Up Kids Is Not the Answer [download]
    Executive Director Mark Soler co-authored an op-ed in the Contra Costa Times, entitled Locking Up Kids Is Not the Answer, that explains why the JJDPA's treatment of status offenders makes sense for youth involved in the juvenile justice system - particularly female youth.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

the Desaparecidos of 9/11

A friend passed these lyrics on to me today in remembrance of those most forgotten from the tragedy on 9/11/2001. Grief was spoken in our country in many languages that day - and it was silenced by fear. Still is.

This is for the families of the Desaparecidos everywhere.
Liberty weeps for you, too. May you someday safely bring your loved ones into our light.

Peggy Plews
Arizona Prison Watch


If I Give Your Name

by Emmas Revolution

Mi esposa, my wife, worked on the 80th floor
The company had hired illegals before
She got the job by word of mouth
That’s the way in the north when you’re from the south
They say 3,000 but the counting’s not done
Mi esposa está muerta
Three thousand and one

I have no papers, I have no rights
All my days end in sleepless nights
Missing you, silently
If I give your name
Will they come after me?

Mi hermano, my brother, the elevator man
A doctor in our country but you take what you can
I saw the photos in Union Square
But I could not leave his picture there
They say 3,000 but that’s not true
Mi hermano no volverá
Three thousand and two

Mi hija, my daughter, went in early that day
She had always been that way
Her daughter asks, "Where did she go?"
How to tell her, I don’t know
They say 3,000 but that can’t be
Perdí a mi hija
Three thousand and three

Mi padre, my father, I have no words
I tried to find you when I heard
They gave some ashes to families
But I’ll only have the ones I breathe
They say 3,000 there’s so many more
Three thousand and four

Mi esposa, my wife. Will they come after me?
Mi hermano, my brother. Will they come after me?
Mi hija, my daughter. Will they come after me?
Mi padre, my father. If I give your name,
Will they come after me?

Youth on Fire: Heroin and Hep C everywhere.

I read this last night and wept. This thing is going after our kids with a vengeance. It's already bigger than AIDS. What's it going to take for us to step up the to fight with everything we've got? How will kids get help while they still have hope if they're too afraid of arrest?

We can't just keep throwing addicts into prison and leaving them to die there, but in America, chains and cages for our people seem to be all we're willing to invest our resources in. How is that either good public health policy or justice?


Hepatitis C Spikes Among Young Heroin Users

Sep. 9, 2010, 6:27 AM

BOSTON — Heroin, a drug that claims nearly two lives in Massachusetts every day, killed a young woman in Cambridge late last month. She had just turned 18 when she overdosed alone in a bathroom.

“It was a real tragedy, it always is,” says Michael May, the outreach coordinator at Youth on Fire, a teen drop-in center in Cambridge. “She was really young, had been using for a long time and was a pretty key fixture in the community around here.”

May worked with the girl he can’t name and worries that the epidemic he fights every day is gaining steam.
“This summer has been very intense for heroin use in this area,” May says. “And we’ve been getting a lot of kids who, rather than a slow progression into injection drug use, have kind of jumped right into it.”

Needle Use On The Rise

This signals trouble for diseases transmitted through needles, which are also on the rise. The Department of Public Health says infection rates for Hepatitis C in 15- to 25-year-olds have almost doubled since 2002. But there’s no money in this year’s budget for Hep C prevention or to treat new patients.

Hepatitis C is passed through blood in needles, on cotton and on other equipment drug users share. It is 10 times more infectious through a needle stick than HIV. If untreated, Hep C inflames, scars and can ruin your liver.

Dan Church, an epidemiologist at the Department of Public Health, says a spike in Hep C among young heroin users is an urgent matter.

“It’s very alarming to see these numbers of cases with a disease that we really have not seen in this age group for quite some time.” So I think it’s very important that we start thinking about how we can prevent Hepatitis C and provide them education so they will not continue to transmit this disease unknowingly to other people,” Church says.

That is happening. Heroin users and counselors say Hep C is everywhere.

“Once I found out about Hep C, it was just like, yeah, everyone has Hep C,” says Gabe, a 23-year-old who fears arrest if he gives his last name. He started shooting heroin nine years ago but says he only uses occasionally these days.

Gabe does not have Hep C. He tries to keep a few clean needles on him as he moves between Boston and his other home base, Chicago, hopping freight trains, but it doesn’t always work out.

“I’ve definitely gone back and grabbed my old needles off the ground; I don’t know if someone used them, or somebody else’s got dropped there,” Gabe says.

“I generally kept them hidden in one spot but sometimes, you know…”

In Cambridge, and in the the state’s three other needle exchange programs, counselors work Hep C into their prevention talks even though state funding was eliminated this year. May, from Youth on Fire, has a list of precautions he urges users to take. But he knows they may not stick to them in the heat of the moment.

“If somebody’s in a hurry, if they’re sick, it’s just now, now, now,” May says, “and then after they get well is when the rational thinking comes back into play.”

What’s also scary, May says, is that many users aren’t too worried about Hep C.

Johnny, a 24-year-old who also won’t give his last name because he worries about being apprehended by police, sleeps in the woods and hangs out at “Youth on Fire” during the day. He has Hep C.

“It just makes you tired, that’s it. I mean, people can live with it for the rest of their lives right and not die,” he says.

Johnny may be able to manage Hep C with a good diet, rest and no drugs or alcohol. But even if he gets worse, he says he won’t seek treatment because “I heard it makes people really sick and it can kill you.”

Treating Hep C

Hepatitis C is difficult to treat. The drugs won’t kill but they can make patients feel like they have the flu on and off for six months to a year and are only effective in 30 to 40 percent of cases. But on the medical side, things may be looking up.

“We’re really on the dawn of a new era of treatment for Hep C,” says John Ward, director of the division of viral hepatitis at the Centers for Disease Control. “The drugs we have now aren’t specific for the virus.”
Ward says new drugs that are specific to Hep C could be on the market next year.

“When those [new drugs] come on, it will probably double the likelihood of being cleared of this virus and having to go through about half the weeks of treatment,” Ward says.

Ward is understandably excited about better treatment options. In addition to the new wave of young people infected with Hep C, one in 30 Baby Boomers have it, according to the CDC. They could have been infected through a blood transfusion if it occurred before 1992 or in a non-licensed tattoo parlor, but the main way people get Hep C is through intravenous drug use. Cynthia Jorgesen, who runs education and training programs at the CDC, says many people don’t want to recall a past that might have included Hep C.

“Because of that association with negative connotations,” she says, “a lot of people don’t assume they’re at risk because they’re not ‘one of those people.’ ”

Baby Boomers And Hep C

Sixty-five to 75 percent of Baby Boomers who have Hep C don’t know it. Ward says that’s because “they call Hep C the silent epidemic. You can live for decades and don’t know you are infected. The liver doesn’t complain much until it is very, very ill. So you don’t get sick often until it’s too late to help the liver.”

The CDC says death rates are expected to triple in the next 10 to 20 years if the Boomers don’t find out they have Hep C before they get seriously ill.

Most health insurance plans cover a Hep C screening if there’s reason to think you need one. The Department of Public Health is hoping word about Hep C will spread faster than the virus until there’s money again for prevention and new treatment.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

300 American Prisoners will be Raped Today.

Hey folks - Kids in detention and imprisoned youth are among the highest risk group for prison rape, so read this article then please head over to sign the petition to Holder at

----------------------From the New York Review of Books------------------

Prison Rape: Eric Holder's Unfinished Business

David Kaiser and Lovisa Stannow

A new report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) provides grim reaffirmation of something we already knew: sexual violence is epidemic within our country’s prisons and jails. According to the report, 64,500 of the inmates who were in a state or federal prison on the day the latest BJS survey was administered had been sexually abused at their current facility within the previous year, as had 24,000 of those who were in a county jail that day—a total of 88,500 people.

In fact, as we’ve explained before, the true national total is much higher. The BJS numbers don’t include thousands who we know are sexually abused in juvenile detention and other kinds of corrections facilities every year, nor do they account for the constant turnover among jailed detainees. Stays in jail are typically short, and several times as many people pass through jail in a year as are held there on any given day. Overall, we can confidently say that well over 100,000 people are sexually abused in American detention facilities every year.

As appalling as this figure is, mere numbers can obscure what is at issue here. So consider the case of Scott Howard. Scott was a gay, non-violent, first-time inmate in a Colorado prison when he was targeted by members of the “2-11 crew,” a white supremacist gang with over 1,000 members in prisons throughout the state. For two years he was forced into prostitution by the gang’s leaders, repeatedly raped and made to perform oral sex. Even after he told prison staff that he was being raped and needed protection from the gang, Scott was told that nothing could be done unless he named his abusers—even though they had threatened to kill him if he did. Because Scott is openly gay, some officials blamed him for the attacks, saying that as a homosexual he should expect to be targeted by one gang or another. And by his account, even those officers who were not hostile didn’t know how to respond to his reports, because appropriate procedures were not in place. They failed to take even the most basic measures to protect him.

Ultimately, despite his fear, Scott did identify some of the gang members who had raped him. Not only did the prison authorities again fail to respond, they later put Scott in a holding cell with one of his previous assailants on the day he was to be released from state custody. Again, he was beaten and forced to perform oral sex. Scott had a civil lawsuit settled in his favor recently, winning financial damages and seventeen policy changes that will now become mandatory in the Colorado prison system. Otherwise, however, nothing about his story is unusual.

In 2003 Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), legislation that, among other things, called into being the bipartisan National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC), a panel of experts charged with devising national standards for the detection, prevention, reduction, and punishment of sexual abuse in detention. But the implementation of these standards is now being held up, because, as Attorney General Eric Holder has explained, according to PREA the new rules should not “impose substantial additional costs compared to the costs presently expended by Federal, State, and local prison authorities.”

Last September, the Justice Department commissioned Booz Allen Hamilton to study what it would cost to implement the NPREC standards. Unfortunately, the results of that study are too flawed to be of much use. Even more concerning is that Mr. Holder has commissioned no study of the benefits of reducing prisoner rape; nor, apparently, does he plan to. Yet as a brief submitted to the Department of Justice by New York University Law School’s Institute for Policy Integrity makes clear, “substantial additional costs” can only be understood in relation to the standards’ projected benefits. Moreover, Mr. Holder is legally obligated to analyze the costs and the benefits of the new standards together: he cannot give greater emphasis to one half of the calculation than the other. By failing to perform proper analysis, the Attorney General is delaying the reform mandated by a unanimous Congress in passing PREA—and he has already missed his statutory deadline for issuing a final rule on the standards by more than two months.

Prisoner rape is far more a legal and moral issue than a financial one. Since cost considerations are impeding reform, however, it is worth taking a closer look at the true financial implications of sexual abuse behind bars. There are at least two ways in which the Department might try to estimate the value of reducing sexual abuse in detention. One—called “contingent valuation,” and used frequently by environmental economists—seeks to assign dollar-values to goods not traded in the marketplace. Using its techniques, a recent study concluded that the public values the prevention of a single incident of rape or sexual assault at $237,000, a greater worth than it places on preventing any other kind of crime except homicide.

Alternately, the Justice Department can try to quantify particular, identifiable savings and benefits of preventing prisoner rape, and weigh them against particular, quantifiable costs. The costs (no matter how benefits are measured) are the investments needed by corrections systems to comply with the recommended standards, divided by the Department’s estimation of the percentage by which the standards will actually reduce sexual abuse in detention. As for the benefits, a partial list of those to be considered might begin with the medical cost of treating rape victims, which must be shouldered by corrections systems. This is much more expensive in the prison setting than in the general community, because inmates must be transported to often-distant hospitals and escorted the whole time by security staff. And it is a cost that must be paid, not for every victim of prisoner rape, but for every instance. We can deduce from the new BJS study that victims of sexual abuse in detention suffer an average of three to five incidents apiece.

The Washington Department of Corrections estimates that the cost of providing mental health treatment for victims of prisoner rape or sexual assault—which is different from immediate medical care—is approximately $9,700 per victim. Neither category of care includes treatment for HIV, Hepatitis C, and other sexually transmitted infections, which are of course spread by prisoner rape and also impose great costs on prison health services. Making our prisons and jails safer should have a positive effect generally on the mental health problems that are endemic there. And reducing prisoner rape would also lower the number of suicides and unwanted pregnancies in our prison systems.

Quite apart from the horror it inflicts on the victim, failing to protect an inmate from sexual abuse contributes to the substantial legal costs our prison systems face. While it is extraordinarily difficult for an incarcerated victim to bring a civil lawsuit—the 1996 Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) was enacted with the explicit purpose of limiting prisoners’ ability to be heard in court—prisons have still had to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and fees to inmates who can establish that officials were “deliberately indifferent” in failing to protect them.

When inmates do report sexual abuse in prison, they are often put in “administrative segregation,” isolated housing that can entail being locked alone in a tiny cell for up to twenty-three hours a day. While this is purportedly done to protect them from more assaults, such housing is also used for punishment: inmates in solitary confinement are denied many programs and services, and the extensive isolation often causes or exacerbates mental and emotional problems. It is also enormously expensive. In California, for example, it costs an additional $14,600 per year to house a prisoner in administrative segregation.

Prisons and jails in which sexual abuse is widespread have been shown to be more dangerous than others generally. At such facilities, violence of every kind, importation of contraband, and other problems tend to flourish. Facilities with less sexual abuse thereby have lower overall security costs and fewer security breaches. When prisons are safer for inmates, they are also safer for corrections staff. The various measures called for by NPREC’s standards—among them better surveillance technology and external oversight—will provide a wide range of benefits for the facilities in which they are implemented, going far beyond the reduction of sexual violence.

Preventing prisoner rape will also help inmates successfully re-enter their communities when they’re released from prison (as almost all will be, eventually). Not only will recidivism be decreased and the enormous costs of re-incarceration lowered, this will lower the costs of disability payments, public housing, and other government-subsidy programs. As we know from our extensive work with survivors of prisoner rape, former inmates who have not been sexually abused are far more likely to become members of the legitimate workforce and pay taxes. Severe financial, emotional, and social burdens are removed from the families who support former inmates if their loved ones are released from prison without the lasting trauma of sexual abuse. And the children who depend on those former inmates will also do better. Today, more than a million children in this country have at least one incarcerated parent.

Testifying before a House subcommittee, Attorney General Holder said, “We want to effect substantive, real change, so that the horrors that too often are visited upon people in our prisons [are] eliminated…. It is something that I think needs to be done, not tomorrow, but yesterday.” That was on March 16. In mid-August a Department spokesman said that the Attorney General would send a proposed rule on the standards to the White House Office of Management and Budgets “in the fall.” Even then, however, it will take months for another layer of review. If well over 100,000 inmates are sexually abused every year, that is something like 300 every day, or even more. Since Attorney General Holder said that change needed to come “yesterday”—five months ago now—more than 40,000 people have been sexually abused in detention. Good corrections officers are doing what they can, but they are desperate for the support that binding national standards would give them. It is time for Mr. Holder to act.

August 26, 2010 2:15 p.m.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Stop the Militarization of the DREAM ACT Petition

Hey All -

Here's a new petition from addressing some of the problems with the proposed DREAM Act. I was surprised to find it. Please take a close look and see if it's something you can support. If so, please follow the link at the bottom, sign and pass it on; there are only 499 signatures so far.

Stop the Militarization of the DREAM Act!

The DREAM Act has been promoted as a chance for many undocumented youth to gain "legalization." It has been touted as an education bill. However, college attendance rates are low for many undocumented immigrants, especially latino/as. Little is done to help undocumented youth go to college. Therefore, this will force many youth to choose the military option as their only choice for legalization. We believe this is immoral and an unfair choice.

If you believe that the DREAM Act is flawed because the only two options are college or the military. If you want to see the military option removed from the DREAM Act, please sign our petition


Though the DREAM Act provides a pathway to legalization for some youth by going to college, we believe that high school graduation rates and the resources available for our communities to obtain a higher education will give an unfair advantage to military recruitment. That is, we believe that the DREAM Act will cause a de facto draft. The military will prey upon the fact that the vast majority of undocumented youth will not go to college. It will prey upon undocumented youth because the DREAM Act does little to help youth go to college. While there may be youth who do in fact benefit, we believe that the cost of sending thousands of undocumented youth to war is an unfair, immoral and unjust price to pay.

That is why we urge you to remove the military component of the DREAM Act and replace it with 910 hours of community service or employment. The 910 hours of community service was actually in the original DREAM Act. We believe the service component was removed to force more youth to “choose” the military option.

Further, we applaud the youth who put their lives on the line and risk deportation in their struggles to pass the DREAM Act. We simply wish to push the DREAM Act in a more just direction, a direction which will not victimize immigrants in the US and civilians in countries which the US attacks.

We also recognize that the DREAM Act does not address our fundamental demand of LEGALIZATION FOR ALL. The DREAM Act does not stop the separation of families. The DREAM Act does not stop deportations. The DREAM Act does not stop the terrorism that occurs in our communities and our families everyday.


1) The original DREAM Act already had the community service component. We simply wish this component to be re-added and replace the military component.

2) Military contracts are never for two years. They are always substantially longer. The DREAM Act is deceitfully worded to make the public believe that two years of military service is enough. Military contracts are generally for eight years.

3) The military will prey upon undocumented youth because less than 30% of latino/s have ever been even one day to college*

4) Only 11% of latino/as have a college degree. *

5) While latino/as are not the only immigrants affected, it is latino/a blood which will be spilled, because we have the lowest high school and college graduation rate of any group in the US *

6) What kind of “choice” will youth have with these statistics? It is not a real choice. It is an illusion that it is a real choice. The youth could also “chose” to return to their country of origin, but we refuse that as a viable option as well. This is their home and the youth wish to stay here, the land which they recognize and call home.

7) The DREAM Act doesn’t help youth graduate high school. If a single piece of legislation could help the horrendous high school graduation rates for minorities in the US, a bill would have been crafted years ago. Education disparities are complex issues that would be difficult to fix with simple legislation. After decades of disinvestment, it will take years or decades to fix our education system.

8) The DREAM Act doesn’t help make going to college easier. States don’t have to give undocumented students in-state tuition, and only 11 do. The DREAM Act doesn’t give students this benefit. It also makes federal assistance out the question. Pell grants are probably the single greatest thing that could truly help college attainable.

*- these are figures from the latest available US Census -,_Statistics,_and_Research1_EN.asp?SnID=2

------------------SIGN THE PETITION--------------------