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January 28, 2014

"Alabama Looked The Other Way As Prison Staff Habitually Raped Women, Demanded Sexual Favors, DOJ Finds"

We should not have men working as prison guards over female prisoners. It always leads to the worst kind of abuse. Alabama Looked The Other Way As Prison Staff Habitually Raped Women, Demanded Sexual Favors, DOJ Finds | ThinkProgress
A Department of Justice report has found that the state’s rampant abuse violates the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, and calls on Gov. Robert Bentley (R) to make immediate changes or face a lawsuit. “Tutwiler has a history of unabated staff-on-prisoner sexual abuse and harassment,” the report said. “The women at Tutwiler universally fear for their safety. They live in a sexualized environment with repeated and open sexual behavior…” After interviewing “administrative staff, security staff, medical and mental health staff, facilities” and reviewing internal policies and instructional content, the DOJ concluded that the maximum-security facility grossly violates prisoners’ rights, by inflicting physical and mental harm. Staff members habitually rape and sodomize inmates, women are also called derogatory names, and are often watched while they shower or dress. In many cases, women provide sexual favors in order to escape punishment. Staff members also withhold privileges and personal items, including clothing and hygiene products, unless the inmates perform sexual acts. For instance: …Officer B solicits and receives oral sex from prisoners in exchange for gifts or new uniforms and underwear. He has a reputation for being aggressive and threatening, and one prisoner described him as a “sexual predator.” In 2012 and 2013, several women reported that he touches prisoners inappropriately, licks his lips at them, and watches them shower at the Tutwiler Annex. Altogether, 36 percent of all staff members were involved in some form of sexual abuse, creating a “toxic environment.” Of 223 letters from prisoners, 25 percent of them described sexual misconduct, and 55 percent mentioned “vile and degrading language directed at prisoners.” Nevertheless inmates are hesitant to report the systemic abuse because of backlash for filing complaints. In cases when women did speak up, they “were placed in segregation with limited or no access to a telephone, visitors, or programs for an extended time period,” forced to undergo polygraph tests to determine if they were lying, and “verbally harassed” by staff members.

January 25, 2014

How the NYPD uses civil forfeiture laws to literally steal millions from the people they are sworn to protect

The late Gary Willis, the excellent reporter from the Sac Bee, once did a giant expose on how the LAPD used targeted civil forfeiture to fund their pensions, fill their gyms with the latest gear, and generally pay for themselves. You could say they were saving taxpayers money or you could say they were acting like highwaymen and thugs. How The NYPD's Use Of Civil Forfeiture Robs Innocent New Yorkers: Gothamist
In the middle of the night in March of 2012, NYPD officers burst into the Bronx home of Gerald Bryan, ransacking his belongings, tearing out light fixtures, punching through walls, and confiscating $4,800 in cash. Bryan, 42, was taken into custody on suspected felony drug distribution, as the police continued their warrantless search. Over a year later, Bryan's case was dropped. When he went to retrieve his $4,800, he was told it was too late: the money had been deposited into the NYPD's pension fund. Bryan found himself trapped in the NYPD's labyrinthine civil forfeiture procedure, a policy based on a 133-year-old law which robs poor New Yorkers of millions of dollars every year; a law that has been ruled unconstitutional twice. "They do this all the time, to so many people I know," Bryan, a bartender of 21 years, told us in the office of the Bronx Defenders. Before the raid, he had planned on using the cash to take his girlfriend on a cruise. "A lot of people, when they get arrested, they know that their money is just gone, and they know that the police are taking it to enrich themselves." Civil forfeiture, the act by which a municipality can seize money during an arrest, has always been a controversial weapon of law enforcement. The practice became more prevalent in the 1980s, when jurisdictions around the country began pursuing cases involving money in both civil and criminal court in an effort to fight organized crime and deprive criminals of their income, even if they couldn't imprison them. This summer The New Yorker published a sprawling investigation on how cities use the practice to bolster their cash-strapped coffers by seizing the assets of the poor, often on trumped up charges. The same is true in New York City, where the civil forfeiture process has long been used by the NYPD to seize money from those least likely to be able to get it back. "It's very difficult for the victims of civil forfeiture, most of whom are from a lower socio-economic class, to do anything in the court system, much less win a civil forfeiture case," said attorney David B. Smith, the nation's leading expert on forfeiture law.