For Blacks Facing Parole in New York State, Signs of a Broken System

Michael Winerip, Michael Schwirtz and Robert Gebeloff, For Blacks Facing Parole in New York State, Signs of a Broken System. Part 2. The New York Times, 4 December 2016. “An analysis by The New York Times of thousands of parole decisions from the past several years found that fewer than one in six black or Hispanic men was released at his first hearing, compared with one in four white men. It is a disparity that is particularly striking not for the most violent criminals, like rapists and murderers, but for small-time offenders who commit property crimes like stealing a television from a house or shoplifting from Duane Reade — precisely the people many states are now working to keep out of prison in the first place.”

Update: Michael Schwirtz, Michael Winerip and Robert Gebeloff, Governor Cuomo Orders Investigation of Racial Bias in N.Y. State Prisons. The New York Times, 5 December 2016. “Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced on Monday that he was ordering an investigation into racial bias in the state prison system after an investigation by The New York Times found that black inmates were punished at significantly higher rates than whites, sent to solitary confinement more often and held there longer. “I am directing the state inspector general to investigate the allegations of racial disparities in discipline in state prisons and to recommend appropriate reforms for immediate implementation,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement issued on Monday, calling the report “disturbing.””

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The Scourge of Racial Bias in New York State’s Prisons

Michael Schwirtz, Michael Winerip and Robert Gebeloff, The Scourge of Racial Bias in New York State’s Prisons. Part 1. The New York Times, 3 December 2016. “The racism can be felt from the moment black inmates enter New York’s upstate prisons. They describe being called porch monkeys, spear chuckers and worse. There are cases of guards ripping out dreadlocks. One inmate, John Richard, reported that he was jumped at Clinton Correctional Facility by a guard who threatened to “serve up some black mashed potatoes with tomato sauce.””

Update: Michael Schwirtz, Michael Winerip and Robert Gebeloff, Governor Cuomo Orders Investigation of Racial Bias in N.Y. State Prisons. The New York Times, 5 December 2016. “Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced on Monday that he was ordering an investigation into racial bias in the state prison system after an investigation by The New York Times found that black inmates were punished at significantly higher rates than whites, sent to solitary confinement more often and held there longer. “I am directing the state inspector general to investigate the allegations of racial disparities in discipline in state prisons and to recommend appropriate reforms for immediate implementation,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement issued on Monday, calling the report “disturbing.””

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Innocents: El Salvador, where pregnant women have more to fear than Zika

Rachel Nolan, Innocents. Harper’s, October 2016. “There are six countries in the world that prohibit abortion under all circumstances, without exceptions for victims of rape or incest or for cases in which the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother: El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Nicaragua, Malta, and Vatican City. In the United States, even the most fervent antiabortion groups maintain that women who have abortions are victims, instead directing their attacks at doctors. Earlier this year, when Donald Trump suggested that if Roe v. Wade were reversed, women who choose to terminate a pregnancy should be subject to “some form of punishment,” he was denounced across the political spectrum.

That scenario already exists in El Salvador, a country of 6.3 million, where an active medical and law-enforcement system finds and tries women who are suspected of having had abortions. Public prosecutors visit hospitals to train gynecologists and obstetricians to detect and report patients who show “symptoms of abortion.” Doctors are legally obligated to be informants for the police.”

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A blind eye to sex abuse: How USA Gymnastics failed to report cases

Marisa Kwiatkowski, Mark Alesia, and Tim Evans, A blind eye to sex abuse: How USA Gymnastics failed to report cases. IndyStar, 4 August 2016. “USA Gymnastics has failed to report to police many allegations of sexual misconduct by coaches. That allowed predatory coaches to continue working with children for years after the organization was warned.”

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Busted: How a $2 Roadside Drug Test Sends Innocent People to Jail

Ryan Gabrielson and Topher Sanders, How a $2 Roadside Drug Test Sends Innocent People to Jail. ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine, 7 July 2016. “This story was co-published with The New York Times Magazine…. Tens of thousands of people every year are sent to jail based on the results of a $2 roadside drug test. Widespread evidence shows that these tests routinely produce false positives. Why are police departments and prosecutors still using them?”

Update, August 2016: Sidney Awards, Ryan Gabrielson and Topher Sanders Win August Sidney for Exposing Faulty Roadside Drug Tests that Send Innocent People to Jail.

“Ryan Gabrielson and Topher Sanders of ProPublica win the August Sidney for “Busted: How $2 Roadside Drug Tests Send Innocent People to Jail.”

“The story, co-published with the New York Times Magazine, found that faulty roadside drug tests send thousands of people to jail every year. These tests are so unreliable that they are inadmissible in court, yet motorists plead guilty based on tests that can be tripped false positive by dozens of common, legal chemicals, including household cleaners.

A false positive test for crack cocaine turned Amy Albritton’s life upside down. The 43-year-old property manager had no criminal record until a particle on the floor of her car falsely tested positive for crack cocaine. Follow-up tests pegged the substance as food debris, possibly a breadcrumb.

There’s no way to know how many wrongful convictions arise from false roadside results, but as Gabrielson noted in an interview with the Backstory, “even the smallest of false positive rates would produce hundreds annually.””

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Inside the Deadly World of Private Prisoner Transport

Eli Hager and Alysia Santo, Inside the Deadly World of Private Prisoner Transport. The Marshall Project, 6 July 2016. This story was produced in collaboration with The New York Times. “Every year, tens of thousands of fugitives and suspects — many of whom have not been convicted of a crime — are entrusted to a handful of small private companies that specialize in state and local extraditions. A Marshall Project review of thousands of court documents, federal records and local news articles and interviews with more than 50 current or former guards and executives reveals a pattern of prisoner abuse and neglect in an industry that operates with almost no oversight.”

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My four months as a private prison guard

Shane Bauer, My four months as a private prison guard. Mother Jones, July/August 2016. David Uberti writes in Columbia Journalism Review that Shane Bauer’s exposé of the conditions at Winn Correctional Center, a private prison in Louisiana, “confirms many of our worst fears about the private prison industry. Corporate hunger for profits led to a woeful lack of resources in the cell blocks that Bauer patrolled. Inmates lived in squalor and were denied health care for serious sickness. Prison officials resorted to the use of force in lieu of proper staffing. Low wages begat a constant turnover among employees. It was a bad dream for prison guards like Bauer and a hopeless nightmare for the men behind bars.”

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Panama Papers Show How Rich United States Clients Hid Millions Abroad

Eric Lipton and Julie Creswell, Panama Papers Show How Rich United States Clients Hid Millions Abroad. The New York Times, 5 June 2016. Financial transactions “for a stable of wealthy clients from the United States are outlined in extraordinary detail in the trove of internal Mossack Fonseca documents known as the Panama Papers. The materials were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and have now been shared with The New York Times. In recent weeks, the papers’ revelations about Mossack Fonseca’s international clientele have shaken the financial world. The Times’s examination of the files found that Mossack Fonseca also had at least 2,400 United States-based clients over the past decade, and set up at least 2,800 companies on their behalf in the British Virgin Islands, Panama, the Seychelles and other jurisdictions that specialize in helping hide wealth…. For many of its American clients, Mossack Fonseca offered a how-to guide of sorts on skirting or evading United States tax and financial disclosure laws.”

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The Bank Robber: The computer technician who exposed a Swiss bank’s darkest secrets

Patrick Radden Keefe, The Bank Robber: The computer technician who exposed a Swiss bank’s darkest secrets. The New Yorker, 30 May 2016. “A few days before Christmas in 2008, Hervé Falciani was in a meeting at his office, in Geneva, when a team of police officers arrived to arrest him. Falciani, who was thirty-six, worked for H.S.B.C., then the largest bank in the world. He was on the staff of the company’s private Swiss bank, which serves clients who are wealthy enough to afford the minimum deposit—half a million dollars—required to open an account…. As the Swiss police escorted him from the building, he insisted that he had done nothing wrong.”

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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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