Madness: In Florida prisons, mentally ill inmates have been tortured, driven to suicide, and killed by guards

Eyal Press, Madness: In Florida prisons, mentally ill inmates have been tortured, driven to suicide, and killed by guards. The New Yorker, 2 May 2016. Eyal Press won the “June [2016] Sidney Award for exposing horrific abuses of mentally ill prisoners in the Transitional Care Unit of the Dade Correctional Institution (DCI) in Florida for the New Yorker. Press’ reporting showed that TCU inmates were routinely subjected to physical and sexual abuse at the hands of prison guards. Several prisoners were scalded with steaming water from a hose. One such treatment proved fatal, burning the inmate so badly that the skin peeled off his corpse at the slightest touch. Psychiatrists and technicians who tried to report the abuses also faced retaliation from the guards. After questioning restrictive policies, one psychiatric technician was repeatedly abandoned by guards to face dangerous patients alone. ‘The result was pervasive, lethal abuse: inmates beaten, tortured and killed, sometimes directly in front of health care professionals, who then pretended they saw nothing,’ said Press in an interview for Hillman’s Backstory feature. ‘Much of what takes place in jails and prisons is veiled from scrutiny, which makes abuse and corruption more likely.'”

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Not So Securus: Massive Hack of 70 Million Prisoner Phone Calls Indicates Violations of Attorney-Client Privilege

Jordan Smith and Micah Lee, Not So Securus: Massive Hack of 70 Million Prisoner Phone Calls Indicates Violations of Attorney-Client Privilege. The Intercept, 11 November 2015. “An enormous cache of phone records obtained by The Intercept reveals a major breach of security at Securus Technologies, a leading provider of phone services inside the nation’s prisons and jails. The materials — leaked via SecureDrop by an anonymous hacker who believes that Securus is violating the constitutional rights of inmates — comprise over 70 million records of phone calls, placed by prisoners to at least 37 states, in addition to links to downloadable recordings of the calls. The calls span a nearly two-and-a-half year period, beginning in December 2011 and ending in the spring of 2014.”

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The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration

Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration. The Atlantic, October 2015. “American politicians are now eager to disown a failed criminal-justice system that’s left the U.S. with the largest incarcerated population in the world. But they’ve failed to reckon with history. Fifty years after Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s report ‘The Negro Family’ tragically helped create this system, it’s time to reclaim his original intent.”

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Failure Factories: Five elementary schools in Pinellas County, Florida

Cara Fitzpatrick, Lisa Gartner and Michael LaForgia, Failure Factories. Tampa Bay Times, 14 August 2015. Five-part series. “How the Pinellas County School Board neglected five schools until they became the worst in Florida. First they abandoned integration. Then they failed to send help. Now, five once-decent schools in St. Petersburg are among the very worst in the state.”

Winner of the 2015 IRE [Investigative Reporters & Editors] Medal for Investigative Journalism. “Judges’ comments: With its deep reporting, clear writing and detailed data analysis, the Tampa Bay Times shamed and embarrassed Pinellas County school leaders for completely failing black children in the district. This story is the epitome of why desegregation was ordered in 1954 – to level the educational playing field for black children. In a few short years after the Pinellas district abandoned integration, its schools again became havens for the haves and have nots. One expert said what school leaders did was nothing short of ‘educational malpractice.’ Unqualified teachers churned through the schools, leaving in their wake students who couldn’t read or write. The schools became dangerous battlegrounds for bullies and sexually-aggressive children. One young girl, so traumatized by daily life at a place that is supposed to be safe, lay down in the road, hoping to be run over by a car. Reforms are now underway because of the impressive commitment by the newspaper to right an alarming wrong.”

Winner of the 2015 George Polk Award for Education Reporting. “… a deeply researched series that traced the decline of black student achievement in Pinellas County to a 2007 school board rezoning decision that effectively re-segregated five schools. After spending 18 months analyzing data on black student performance and behavior, interviewing hundreds of students and teachers from the affected schools and gathering documents from the 20 largest school systems in Florida, Times reporters demonstrated that black students had the least qualified teachers, attended school on the most violent campuses and were far more likely to be suspended for minor infractions. After the series ran U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan flew to St. Petersburg to meet with black families, accusing the district of ‘education malpractice.’ ”

Winner of the 2015 Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism.

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A Dream Undone: Inside the 50-year campaign to roll back the Voting Rights Act

Jim Rutenberg, A Dream Undone: Inside the 50-year campaign to roll back the Voting Rights Act. The New York Times Magazine, 29 July 2015. “On the morning of his wedding, in 1956, Henry Frye realized that he had a few hours to spare before the afternoon ceremony. He was staying at his parents’ house in Ellerbe, N.C.; the ceremony would take place 75 miles away, in Greensboro, the hometown of his fiancée; and the drive wouldn’t take long. Frye, who had always been practical, had a practical thought: Now might be a good time to finally register to vote. He was 24 and had just returned from Korea, where he served as an Air Force officer, but he was also a black man in the American South, so he wasn’t entirely surprised when his efforts at the registrar’s office were blocked.

Adopting a tactic common in the Jim Crow South, the registrar subjected Frye to what election officials called a literacy test. In 1900, North Carolina voters amended the state’s Constitution to require that all new voters “be able to read and write any section of the Constitution in the English language,” but for decades some registrars had been applying that already broad mandate even more aggressively, targeting perfectly literate black registrants with arbitrary and obscure queries, like which president served when or who had the ultimate power to adjourn Congress. “I said, ‘Well, I don’t know why are you asking me all of these questions,’ ” Frye, now 83, recalled. “We went around and around, and he said, ‘Are you going to answer these questions?’ and I said, ‘No, I’m not going to try.’ And he said, ‘Well, then, you’re not going to register today.’ ”

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Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department, United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division

United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department, 4 March 2015. “Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs. This emphasis on revenue has compromised the institutional character of Ferguson’s police department, contributing to a pattern of unconstitutional policing, and has also shaped its municipal court, leading to procedures that raise due process concerns and inflict unnecessary harm on members of the Ferguson community. Further, Ferguson’s police and municipal court practices both reflect and exacerbate existing racial bias, including racial stereotypes. Ferguson’s own data establish clear racial disparities that adversely impact African Americans. The evidence shows that discriminatory intent is part of the reason for these disparities. Over time, Ferguson’s police and municipal court practices have sown deep mistrust between parts of the community and the police department, undermining law enforcement legitimacy among African Americans in particular.”

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Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror

Equal Justice Initiative, Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror. Equal Justice Initiative, 10 February 2015. “The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) today [10 February 2015] released Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror, which documents EJI’s multi-year investigation into lynching in twelve Southern states during the period between Reconstruction and World War II. EJI researchers documented 3959 racial terror lynchings of African Americans in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia between 1877 and 1950 – at least 700 more lynchings of black people in these states than previously reported in the most comprehensive work done on lynching to date.” Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror: Report Summary. “For a copy of the full-length report, please e-mail EJI at or call 334.269.1803.”

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Undue Force (Used by the Baltimore Police Department)

Mark Puente, Undue Force. The Baltimore Sun, 28 September 2014. “The city has paid about $5.7 million since 2011 over lawsuits claiming that police officers brazenly beat up alleged suspects. One hidden cost: The perception that officers are violent can poison the relationship between residents and police.”

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The Case for Reparations

Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Case for Reparations. The Atlantic, 21 May 2014. “Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.”

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A Star Player [Jameis Winston] Accused, and a Flawed Rape Investigation by the Tallahassee Police Department and Florida State University

Walt Bogdanich, A Star Player Accused, and a Flawed Rape Investigation. The New York Times, 16 April 2014. “Early on the morning of Dec. 7, 2012, a freshman at Florida State University reported that she had been raped by a stranger somewhere off campus after a night of drinking at a popular Tallahassee bar called Potbelly’s. As she gave her account to the police, several bruises began to appear, indicating recent trauma. Tests would later find semen on her underwear. For nearly a year, the events of that evening remained a well-kept secret until the woman’s allegations burst into the open, roiling the university and threatening a prized asset: Jameis Winston, one of the marquee names of college football. Three weeks after Mr. Winston was publicly identified as the suspect, the storm had passed. The local prosecutor announced that he lacked the evidence to charge Mr. Winston with rape. The quarterback would go on to win the Heisman Trophy and lead Florida State to the national championship.”

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