prison reform

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Oklahoma now has the highest incarceration rate in the world, reports to The Tulsa World.

According to a new study, Oklahoma recently overtook Louisiana as the state with the highest per capita number of citizens in prison.

Gov. Jeff Colyer signed an executive order Wednesday supporting the "Ban the Box" initiative.

The new order requires state agencies to remove a checkbox from their job applications that asks whether someone has a criminal record.

KUT/Texas Tribune

Lambda Legal has settled with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in the case of Passion Star, a transgender woman who claimed prison officials didn’t protect her from sexual and physical abuse while incarcerated in male prisons.

From The Texas Tribune:

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The State of Texas may soon close some of its state-run juvenile prisons, reports The Houston Chronicle.

The juvenile prisons have been the focus of controversy in recent months, and the newly installed executive director of the beleaguered Texas Juvenile Justice Department hopes to change that image.

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According to the latest numbers for incarceration rates across the U.S., Oklahoma held the second highest per capita incarceration rate among all states.

As KFOR reports, in 2016 Oklahoma incarcerated 673 people per 100,000 residents. That lands the state second behind only Louisiana, which imprisons a staggering 760 per 100,000. By comparison, Texas imprisons 563 per 100,000 and Colorado imprisons only 356. The national average is around 400 per hundred thousand.

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Yesterday, HPPR reported a story about rampant abuse and neglect in Texas’s juvenile prisons.

Today, The Texas Tribune is reporting that inmates in more than 30 of Texas’s adult prisons may not have been provided with adequate heating during the brutal cold spell that recently blanketed the state.

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Child and civil rights advocates are urging Texas lawmakers to close the state’s juvenile prisons.    

The state has five remaining juvenile lockups, and according to a new report in The Texas Observer, these facilities may be doing more harm than good. The prisons house young inmates who have committed serious or violent offenses. Budget cuts have resulted in staff shortages at these facilities, and that means the juvenile offenders aren’t receiving the attention they need.

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Oklahoma’s prisons have long been overcrowded and underfunded. For example, the state’s three women’s prisons are at 129 percent of capacity.

To make matters worse, there is a shortage of corrections officers in the state.

Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh recently called the state prison system “a sinking ship.”

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The State of Oklahoma imprisons twice as many women as any other state, reports The Atlantic.

A recent documentary made by two filmmakers working on behalf of The Center for Investigative Reporting set out to uncover why Oklahoma has such a staggeringly high incarceration rate for women.

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The State of Oklahoma will not execute any inmates in 2017.

As KOKH reports, this year marks the third straight year that the death chamber has remained quiet in the state.

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Overcrowding in Oklahoma’s prisons is still a major problem as the dog days of summer approach, and state Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh says he’s expecting an uprising or other serious event at some point.

And a recent editorial in The Oklahoman insists Director Allbaugh isn’t being dramatic.

“It's going to happen one way or the other,” Allabaugh said. “You can't keep packing people into facilities that are decrepit and expect everybody to behave.”

Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

New criminal justice laws in Oklahoma, approved by voters last November, went into effect last week but as Oklahoma Watch reports, the laws are still shrouded in uncertainty.

Jerry Lara / San Antonio Express News

The State of Texas is putting the brakes on the idea of debtors jail, reports The San Antonio Express News. For decades, the Lone Star State has been tossing people in jail when they were unable to pay fines.

Last year, over half a million Texans served time for unpaid parking tickets and the court fines. But beginning in September, judges will begin considering the economic status of defendants before sending them to jail.

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A new report finds that the Texas prison populace has been growing smaller, ever since reforms were instituted ten years ago.

KFOR

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is growing  frustrated with the slow pace of criminal justice reform in her state.

As KFOR reports, last week Fallin lamented the fact that 10 separate criminal-justice bill had failed to make it to her desk.

STOCK PHOTO / NORMAN TRANSCRIPT

One prisoner of Kansas' El Dorado Correctional Facility, who has compared solitary confinement to the “gates of hell” is both praising and criticizing a move to limit the use of solitary confinement.

As The Topeka Capital-Journal reports, the state of Kansas has been reorganizing its largest facilities to curtail solitary confinement.

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The number of incarcerated inmates in Oklahoma has reached 62,000, reports The Norman Transcript.

The state’s prisons are currently at 109% capacity. Back in December the state of Oklahoma hit a new prison population record of 61,000. Now, in only four months, 1,000 inmates have been added to that record.

News Journal

Near the end of the Obama administration, prison reform advocates had grown cautiously optimistic that America’s pattern of incarcerating two million US citizens each year might be coming to an end.

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A bipartisan coalition of Texas lawmakers has proposed a series of reforms that would help poor defendants get out of jail, reports The Houston Chronicle.

Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman

The death of an inmate at the Clements Unit outside of Amarillo is being investigated as a homicide, reports The Amarillo Globe News. The prisoner was initially taken to the medical clinic after an altercation with his cell mate, but medics who treated the man later said they believed he had been the victim of starvation and neglect.

James Nielsen / Houston Chronicle

A database has been made public that reveals the files of over 5,000 people who have died in police custody in Texas, reports The Houston Chronicle.

This week Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office launched an online initiative known as the Custodial Death Report database. This makes readily available the files that a police agency creates when someone dies in custody.

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This week the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the death penalty in Texas. Since the U.S. made the death penalty legal again in 1976, Texas has been responsible for more than a third of the prisoners executed in America.

And, as The New Yorker reports, Texas has often put to death prisoners who would have been deemed exempt in other parts of the country due to intellectual disability.

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Last week, the Lone Star State concluded a record-breaking gap in executions, reports The Houston Press.

Before last Wednesday, the State of Texas had gone six months without putting anyone to death. That’s the longest stretch without an execution since 2008. Back then, a moratorium had been called while the U.S. Supreme Court considered the legality of lethal injections.

Mike Groll / AP photo

Each US state has its own policies for what books are allowed in its prisons. But, according to quartz.com, Texas goes farther than most in censoring what inmates have access to.

News on 6

Oklahoma continues to lead the nation in incarceration rates for women, reports News on 6.

As a matter of fact, the state appears to be leaving the competition in the dust. The state imprisoned women at a ten percent higher rate this year over last. And Oklahoma County imprisoned thirty-three percent more women this year than in 2015.

Gov. Mary Fallin has created a Justice Reform Task Force to examine state laws that lead to imprisonment.

Kansas Department of Corrections

A case disputing the constitutionality of solitary confinement in Kansas is moving forward, reports The Topeka Capital-Journal.

Austin American-Statesman

A Texas appeals court judge has questioned the fairness of the state’s life-without-parole sentences.

As The Austin American-Statesman reports, Judge Larry Meyers charged that no-parole sentences lack legal protections. The longtime Texas judge equated life-without-parole sentences to a slow-motion death penalty.

Judge Meyers was once a Republican, but is now a Democrat. He is the longest-serving member of the state’s highest criminal court.

New York Times

People in rural areas are now 50 percent more likely to go to prison than people in urban areas, reports The New York Times.

Rural Blog

In rural counties across the U.S., the number of women being incarcerated has significantly increased in recent years, according to The Rural Blog. Four out of five of those inmates are being imprisoned for nonviolent crimes.

David Pike / Valley Morning Star/AP

Private prisons are less safe and secure than Federal prisons, according to a new report by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General.

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