Masai Stewart, Mentally Ill Prisoner, Put In Solitary Confinement Despite New York Law

Categories: Prison

Derek Purdy via Flickr
Over the last eight years, 23-year-old Masai Stewart has been hospitalized for mental health issues 13 times. But his problems started at least seven years earlier. When he was eight years old, doctors gave him the first of what would become a long list of diagnoses: ADHD; PTSD from childhood abuse; Bipolar disorder; Bipolar disorder with pyschotic features; even delusional disorder, although they weren't 100 percent sure of that one, according to his mother, Tama Bell.

More »

Environmental Activist Daniel McGowan, Jailed for Blogging, Is Suing the Bureau of Prisons

Photo by Brandon Jourdan courtesy of Daniel McGowan
Daniel McGowan, the environmental activist and former member of the Earth Liberation Front who spent five and a half years in an extreme prison isolation unit, is suing the federal Bureau of Prisons for violating his right to free speech. McGowan, a New York native, was imprisoned in a highly restrictive Communications Management Unit in Terre Haute, Indiana in 2007, after being convicted of burning down two Oregon lumber mills on behalf of the ELF in 2001, an action that was deemed an act of domestic terrorism. (McGowan says he left the ELF soon after the second arson). After his release in December 2012, he was sent back to New York to begin his probation at the Brooklyn Residential Reentry Center, a halfway house near his home in downtown Brooklyn. But in April 2013, when he wrote a blog post for the Huffington Post about his time in the CMU, the Bureau of Prisons and the "reentry manger" in charge of the Brooklyn RRC reacted very, very poorly.

More »

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.

More »

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

Photo by Matt Meyer via Justice for Lynne Stewart.
Stewart embraces a supporter as she arrives at LaGuardia airport on January 1.
A former New York attorney dying of cancer in a federal prison in Texas has been released on compassionate grounds and allowed to return home. Lynne Stewart, now 74, was known for defending politically radical defendants, including Omar Abdel-Rahman, better known as the the "Blind Sheikh," a leader of Egypt's militant Islamist group Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, who helped plan the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Stewart was convicted in 2005 of supporting terrorism and conspiring to defraud the government after issuing two press releases on Abdel-Rahman's behalf. She was sentenced to ten years, which she's been serving at FMC Carswell, a military base and women's prison in Fort Worth.

Stewart has had breast cancer since 2009; this summer, as her condition grew more serious, she asked the federal government to set her free to die at home. That request was denied. But on December 31, as the New York Times was first to report, Bureau of Prisons director Charles E. Samuels filed his own motion with Judge John Koeltl to allow Stewart compassionate release, given that her life expectancy is now less than 18 months.

More »

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.

More »

Robert Whitfield, Rikers Guard on His Way to Prison, Shopped Around For Inmate Willing to Bribe Him

On Tuesday, Robert Whitfield, a former Rikers prison guard, was handed a lengthy sentence for accepting a bribe from a drug dealer. Whitfield, 51, was arrested in 2011, after an investigation by the New York City Department of Investigation and the DEA's New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force found that he had brokered a deal to take six and a half pounds of cocaine in exchange for promising to help shorten the drug dealer's sentence. But it turns out that Whitfield had been looking around for a while for someone who was willing to bribe him. He was indiscreet about it. One of the inmates he approached promptly went to the authorities, and as a result, has received a shortened prison sentence. That inmate was in prison for possessing large amounts of drugs. Life is funny, isn't it?

More »

Piper Kerman Says 'Orange Is The New Black' Prison in Danbury, Connecticut Plans to Transfer Female Inmates to Alabama

Categories: Prison

Orange Is The New Black, everyone's new favorite show, is based on a true story. Officer Porn-stache, Big Red the prison cook, and Piper Chapman, the sweet, yuppie purveyor of artisan bath products-turned-convicted felon--they're all modeled after real people.

Lichfield Correctional Facility, the federal prison where they reside--that's based on a real place too, except the prison where the real Piper served her time is actually in Danbury, Connecticut.

More »

Daniel McGowan, Put in an Extreme Prison Isolation Unit for Writing Things, Loses Lawsuit Against Bureau of Prisons

Photo courtesy of Family and Friends of Daniel McGowan
A New York environmental activist stuck in an extreme isolation unit for writing letters and publishing articles -- and then re-jailed for writing about being put in that isolation unit in the first place -- has had his lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Prisons dismissed, a development he calls "gross and unjust."

We've written before about Daniel McGowan, a 39-year-old environmental activist from Rockaway Beach, Queens who was once affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front, a group he says he left in the summer of 2001. He spent five and a half years in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, convicted of arson and conspiracy to commit arson, for trying to burn down two Oregon lumber yards in 2001, actions for which the ELF as a group claimed responsibility.

More »

Daniel McGowan Forbidden From Publishing Articles Without Permission

Support Daniel McGowan Facebook Group
Daniel McGowan has been forbidden from publishing anything without the permission of the Bureau of Prisons.
After more than seven years, the stack of dehumanizing and seemingly unconstitutional interactions between Daniel McGowan and the American prison system is now piled so high it is teetering over into a recursive mess of bleak and Kafkaesque absurdity.

Last Monday, McGowan published a piece on the Huffington Post that laid out much of his situation to date. After years in prison for his role in environmentally motivated property destruction that was prosecuted as acts of terrorism, he wrote, he was finishing up the remaining months of his sentence in a halfway house in Brooklyn.

More »

Bloomberg to Pass New Law to Keep NYC the Most "Immigrant-Friendly" City in the U.S.

Today Mayor Bloomberg will sign off on two hefty pieces of immigration legislation that will maintain New York's reputation as one of the most immigrant-friendly cities in the nation.

The two laws, which passed 40-7 in City Council at the end of February, are a reaction to Secure Communities, the highly controversial federal solution to immigration-enforcement that expanded to New York last May. Under that plan, the fingerprints of anybody passing through local or state jails are sent to the Department of Homeland Security and run through its database. If a match is found showing that a suspect is an illegal immigrant or is a non-citizen with a criminal record, a "detainer" will likely be issued, requesting that the police hold the person until he or she is handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

More »