Cecily McMillan Asks Corrections Commissioner to Address "Desperate" Situation for Rikers' Women

McMillan reading a statement at the Rikers gates after her release in July.
It seems pretty clear that the situation at Rikers Island, the jail that holds the vast majority of New York City's prisoners, is reaching some kind of critical mass. While no one has ever been under the impression that it's some kind of model facility, a recent, scathing series of reports has revealed just how bad things are: after a two year investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice found "rampant" use of excessive force by guards against adolescent inmates. Before that, in July of this year, an investigation by the New York Times found similar brutality committed by corrections officers against mentally ill inmates. Three guards have been arrested for allegedly smuggling drugs into the jail, with correction officials darkly hinting there may be more arrests to follow.

In the wake of all that, Cecily McMillan, former Occupy protester and brief one-time resident of Rikers, is urging Commissioner Ponte to address what she calls the "desperate" situation at Rikers, particularly for women.

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Occupy Protester Cecily McMillan on Rikers: "In Some Ways, I'm Treated Better Than Anyone Else In Here, Which is Horrifying"

Photo by Anna Merlan
McMillan with her lead attorney, Martin Stolar, during her trial.
After serving a little less than two months in jail, Occupy Wall Street protester and graduate student Cecily McMillan will be released from Rikers Island on Wednesday, July 2. As you might recall, the 25-year-old was found guilty in May of assaulting a police officer during a 2012 protest. She was sentenced to 90 days in jail and five years probation, with time off for the good behavior and time served. It seems safe to say that both McMillan and the city's Department of Correction will be happy to see her off the island, where, true to form, she's been protesting and organizing almost since the moment she arrived.

Rikers has been in an uproar lately, after two officers and 20 inmates were arrested as part of a corruption sweep. But none of them were in the Rose M. Singer Center, the jail unit where women are kept. McMillan and her fellow inmates didn't know about the arrests until relatively recently. The regular paper for the inmates is the Daily News; when they ran a cover story about the arrests last week, the paper arrived with the front cover torn off.

In a recent phone call, McMillan said her time at Rikers has been curious, a mix of special treatment that no other inmates receive and weird restrictions that seem tailor-made just for her.

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Former Hacker Hector "Sabu" Monsegur Gets Time Served After "Extraordinary" Cooperation With Feds

Screenshot via.
Monsegur in 2012.
In June of 2011, over the course of a single day, Hector "Sabu" Monsegur went from being one of the most prolific hackers affiliated with Anonymous and offshoot group Lulzsec to helping the FBI bring them down. In Federal District Court in Manhattan yesterday, Monsegur, who was potentially facing two years in prison for his own hacking activities, was sentenced instead to time served, in light of what court documents and Judge Loretta A. Preska called his "extraordinary" cooperation with federal authorities.

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New York Has Made Zero Progress in Changing the Laws That Put Teens in Adult Prisons

Image by Flickr user Casey Konstantin
In New York state, the idea that adults and teenagers don't belong in the same prisons goes back a long, long way. In 1824, thanks to the efforts of Quaker reformers, our state legislators created one of the earliest versions of juvie, called the "House of Refuge." It was meant for poor children and juvenile delinquents, in order to ensure they didn't wind up in the same place as adult criminals.

Since then, though, our progress has slowed a bit: New York state has one of the lowest ages of "criminal responsibility" in the country: Sixteen-year-olds here are automatically tried as adults even for nonviolent and misdemeanor crimes. Only one other state, North Carolina, does the same. That means each year, thousands of New York teenagers end up in adult jails and prisons, doing adult time. A new report shows that's increasingly uncommon elsewhere in the country; as it stands right now, we're lagging behind Colorado, Arizona, and Texas in changing our juvenile offender laws. Yes, Texas.

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Lynne Stewart, Dying Lawyer Convicted of Supporting Terrorism, Denied Compassionate Release

Image via Justice for Lynne Stewart
Stewart on New Years Day 2012, with husband Ralph Poynter.
After a hard-fought battle with the Bureau of Prisons, Brooklyn lawyer Lynne Stewart lost her bid for a compassionate release from jail. The 73-year-old was diagnosed with breast cancer even before she was jailed in 2009, and her condition continued to deteriorate.

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Dying Radical Ex-Attorney Lynne Stewart Says Decision to Keep Her Imprisoned is "Barbaric"

Image via Justice for Lynne Stewart
Stewart on New Years Day 2012, with husband Ralph Poynter.
Lynne Stewart is 73 years old, and, according to the people who know her, she's being eaten alive by breast cancer. "The spread of the disease is not only poisoning her body, but diminishing her mind," an acquaintance of ten years wrote recently. "While there is still a lot of determination in her voice, she cannot hold onto facts, and logical reasoning eludes her." The only question at this point is whether Stewart, a former New York attorney, will be allowed to die at home or be forced to remain behind bars in a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas, where she's lived for the past three years.

As Stewart's case winds through the courts, with another hearing due this Thursday, the debate over whether to free her has taken on a macabre tone. Should she go free at once, as her lawyers argue, because she's close to death? Or, as the Bureau of Prisons claims, is she likely to hang on through the rest of her prison sentence?

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Headless Body/Topless Bar Murderer Wants Out of Jail

Charles Dingle, now 53, the murderer behind the infamous New York Post headline "Headless Body in Topless Bar," wants out of jail and will ask a parole panel to free him this week from the Wende Correctional Facility near Buffalo, reports the Post via the comparatively dull headline, "'Headless Body in Topless Bar' killer seeks release from prison."

In 1983, Dingle committed the crime that spawned the headline(s) by killing Herbert Cummings, the owner of Herbie's (topless) Bar in Jamaica, Queens. He then took four women hostage, raped one of them, and forced one of the hostages, who was a mortician, to remove the bullet from Cummings' head and cut the head off with a steak knife.

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Prison Doesn't Mean You Have to Stop Looking for Love

Ageloff, from his Prison Inmates profile
Thank you, New York Post, for easing our transition into the post-holiday work week so warmly. For all of those single ladies bemoaning the lack of good men in the city, several hundred words have been devoted to the relationship-ability of 52-year-old Brooklyn man Roy Ageloff, who used to be a millionaire (and a free man) until he confessed to running "one of the biggest mob-linked stock frauds in U.S. history." One should always aim high, after all.

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Dora Schriro, Correction Commissioner, Sharply Increasing Solitary Confinement On Rikers

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The city jail system is sharply expanding its so-called Punitive Segregation Unit, or solitary confinement cells, reports Solitary Watch, a blog which reports on the nations penal system. By the end of the year, the number of punitive segregation cells will increase by 45 percent, from 681 to 990.

Ostensibly for housing troublesome inmates, but also used for teens, and mentally ill prisoners, the punitive segregation cells hold inmates for 23 hours a day. Inmates are sent there for violent incidents, but they can also be housed there for relatively minor infractions.

"Once the expansion is complete, New York City's island jail will have one of the highest rates of solitary confinement in the country," the article notes, going on to point out that academic research suggests that such confinement leads to psychological problems.

"States from Maine to Mississippi have taken steps to reduce the number of inmates they hold in isolation."

What's pushing the increase? Well, we're not sure, but DOC Commissioner Dora Schriro has been under fire from the correction unions over safety issues, staff cuts, and a big backlog in the punitive segregation wings.

Floating Art Project Accidentally Shipwrecks at Rikers

A floating dome made of umbrella spokes and empty soda bottles, bound on canoes from the South Bronx to Inwood, where it would have stayed in a monthlong exhibit, was shipwrecked on Rikers Island this week, causing a commotion among corrections officers, who immediately confirmed that no passenger was aboard and then lassoed and reeled it in and towed it with a truck. In the process, it was pretty much destroyed. DNA Info reports that Amanda Schachter, one of the architects of the "Harvest Dome," said it was "reduced to a pile of broken plywood and tangled metal."

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