Friday, September 28, 2012

New Mexico Public Regulations Commission passes Inmate Phone Resolution to the FCC

Media literacyFollowing is from the Media Literacy Project

Another victory in an eventful week of prison justice work in New Mexico and nationwide

On the heels of a historic meeting and passage of a prison phone rates resolution to the Federal Communications Commission, New Mexico can be proud that the Public Regulations Commission made a statement on behalf of New Mexican families today.

The New Mexico Public Regulations Commission (PRC) passed an inmate phone resolution requesting the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) take action on the Wright Petition (Docket 96-128) to protect consumers of inmate telephone services. Commissioner Jason A. Marks initiated discussion and action on the resolution by putting it on the agenda at today’s Open Meeting.

This comes less than 24 hours after an historic meeting between the name sake and plaintiff of the petition, 87 year-old Martha Wright, and the FCC in Washington, DC. In the nine years since this case was first filed against the Corrections Corporation of America, yesterday was the first time Wright had an opportunity to share her personal story with the FCC in person. This long overdue meeting was facilitated by the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice and Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Met), of which Media Literacy Project is the New Mexico anchor organization.

Momentum has been building since Friday, when the Consumer Advisory Committee to the FCC (which includes Mag-Net members Media Literacy Project, Native Public Media, and Center for Media Justice) passed a prison phone rates resolution to protect the families of inmates from predatory practices.

Some phone companies get away with as much as $15 for a 15 minute call in American jails, prisons, and immigration detention centers. This burden rests on the families of America's roughly 2.3 million inmates. This practice does not only harm the inmates and their families that are struggling economically; it hurts communities. In 2010 Congress was briefed on the impact that familial communication and connectivity has on recidivism.

Though New Mexico is one of nine (including the District of Columbia) states that does not receive “kickbacks” from phone companies that profit off of exorbitant prison phone rates, we do have families with loved ones incarcerated in faraway states.

PRC Commissioner Marks said all of the commissioners were extremely supportive. “We were all in agreement,” said Marks. “They were all like, ‘Well, there shouldn’t be fees like that. Maybe, at most, some sort of percentage would be fair.’”

Media Literacy Project Executive Director Andrea Quijada emphasizes the impact of the PRC’s resolution. “In a state where thousands of our loved ones are incarcerated,” says Quijada. ”Media Literacy Project applauds our Public Regulation Commission’s effort to keep our families strong and connected.”

Read the NM PRC resolution in its entirety at the bottom of the MLP press release at our website.

September 28, 2012 at 09:17 AM in Prisons, Corrections, Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 15, 2010

11/15: Community and Resistance Tour at ABQ Center for Peace and Justice

The Community and Resistance Tour featuring Victoria Law and Jordan Flaherty will stop in Albuquerque on Monday, November 15, at 6:30 PM at the Albuquerque Peace and Justice Center located at 202 Harvard SE. The Tour seeks to communicate about current  struggles for justice and liberation, from nooses hung in the northern Louisiana town of Jena to women organizing inside prisons, from resistance to school privatization to the BP Drilling Disaster. The Tour also seeks to connect communities of liberation, and to build relationships  between grassroots activists and independent media.

This Tour is for anyone interested in the issues of health care, education, criminal  justice, housing, or the ways in which systems of racism, patriarchy and other forms of oppression intersect with these struggles. For more information about the tour visit the webpage or the Facebook page.

About the Presenters:

VICTORIA LAW is a writer, photographer and mother. After a brief stint as a teenage armed robber, she became involved in prisoner support. In 1996, she helped start Books Through Bars-New York City, a group that sends free books to prisoners nationwide. In 2000, she began concentrating on the needs and actions of women in prison, drawing attention to their issues by writing articles and giving public presentations.

Since 2002, she has worked with women incarcerated nationwide to produce Tenacious: Art and Writings from Women in Prison and has facilitated having incarcerated women's writings published in larger publications, such as Clamor magazine, the website Women and Prison: A Site for Resistance and make/shift magazine. Her book Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women (PM Press 2009) is the culmination of over 7 years of listening to, writing about and supporting incarcerated women nationwide and resulted in this former delinquent winning the 2009 PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award.

JORDAN FLAHERTY is a journalist and community organizer based in New Orleans.  He was the first journalist with a national audience to write about the Jena Six case, and played an important role in bringing the story to worldwide attention. His post-Katrina writing in ColorLines magazine shared a journalism award from New America Media for best Katrina-related coverage in the ethnic press, and audiences around the world have seen the news segments he’s produced for Al-Jazeera, TeleSur, GritTV and Democracy Now. His new book, FLOODLINES: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six will be released this summer from Haymarket Press.

November 15, 2010 at 11:43 AM in Books, Events, Justice, Minority Issues, Prisons, Corrections, Women's Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 12, 2010

State Auditor Balderas Announces Special Audit of NM Corrections Department

State Auditor Hector Balderas today released a statement announcing a special audit of the New Mexico Department of Corrections. Balderas said the special audit will target potential abuse of the procurement process by certain vendors who were awarded large government contracts by the Department. Allegations pertaining to questionable transactions were brought to the Auditor’s attention by Department management and a tip reported through his Fraud Hotline.

“After analyzing information on this case over recent months, I have determined that taxpayer dollars are at risk and an immediate special audit is warranted,” Balderas said. “Unlawful profiteering on the backs of New Mexico’s taxpayers will not be tolerated.”

Balderas said he looks forward to continuing to work closely with appropriate officials at the Department of Corrections during the course of the special audit. The Office of the State Auditor has designated an audit team from the State Auditor’s Special Investigations Division to conduct the special audit. A completion date has not been made public.

November 12, 2010 at 10:41 AM in Government, Hector Balderas, Prisons, Corrections | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

NM Rep. Moe Maestas, House Candidate Joel Davis Speak Out For Innovative Approach to Budget Challenges

MoeMaestas State Rep. Moe Maestas, D-House District 16 (right), and Democratic candidate for Representative in House District 44, Joel Davis, held a joint press conference yesterday afternoon at the Metropolitan Courthouse in downtown Albuquerque. They discussed the fiscal problems facing the State of New Mexico -- and how innovative thinking and collaboration can produce effective solutions.

JoelDavis120 First off, Davis (left) pointed out that, “most of the fiscal problems are related to the downturn in the local and national economies." In other words, New Mexico is suffering from the same kind of budget shortfalls being encountered in virtually every state in the union. The solution? Thinking out of the box on ways we can more effectively utilize the funds we have.

Treatment vs. Incarceration
Maestas and Davis explained how an important piece of legislation, which passed the New Mexico House this past February by a margin of 34-31, could help do just that. Unfortunately, HB 178, sponsored by Rep. Maestas and known as the Substance Abuse & Crime Prevention Act, never got a vote in the Senate as time ran out on the session.

That's sad, because passage of the legislation could result in significant budget savings -- money that could be used to support other critical law enforcement functions that are now suffering from damaging funding gaps. The legislation would provide nonviolent drug offenders with an opportunity to receive treatment rather than incarceration -- avoiding the high costs associated with jail and prison time. Rep. Maestas says he'll reintroduce the bill in the 2010 legislative session.

“This bill, if enacted, would free up approximately $20 million that could more effectively be allocated for prosecutors who already have scarce resources to combat violent crime,” Rep. Maestas said.

Just the Facts, Ma'am
Here are some eye-opening facts on this issue cited by Maestas and Davis:

  • Non-violent offenders make up more than 60% of the prison and jail population. Non-violent drug offenders make up about 25% of all offenders behind bars.
  • While the overall population of the United States increased by 33% since 1980, the prison population has increased by more than 350%.
  • The average annual cost to incarcerate an individual in New Mexico State prisons is $30,000/per year; the average cost in a New Mexico detention facility is $20,440.
  • The average annual cost of substance abuse treatment in New Mexico is $1,295 per person.

Why Davis Supports the Bill
Davis said he supported the treatment option legislation before he was a candidate for the House because of its potential to save the state money. Now, one of the primary focuses of his campaign is on coming up with better ways to spend state dollars and more equitable ways to distribute the burden of taxes.

“As Moe stated, we need to look at more innovative ways to solve our problems with shrinking revenue and the need to better serve our citizens. The Substance Abuse & Crime Prevention Act is one of those measures.”

A Personal Perspective and Lessons Learned
Davis explained that he also has a personal perspective on the issue.

“I was an assistant DA in Sandoval County. I understand the need to be tough on violent crime. I also understand that part of correcting bad behavior is to offer hope for a more productive life if you get your act together. And that is not something I just read in a book or heard someone say -- I know it from personal experience," he said.

“When I was a young man, a young Marine," Davis continued, "I saw all the hard work and pride I put into my first three and a half years of service to my country go down the drain because I experimented with marijuana -- and shortly after that I got a DWI. But because of my family and the values I was taught, I realized that if I owned up to my mistakes -- made no excuses and took my medicine -- I could get my life back on track."

“That was almost fifteen years ago," Davis explained. "I went back to college. I studied hard. And then I applied to Law School. Studied hard again for three years and then took the Bar -- and I passed. I got on with my life because some people cared and helped direct me. It was tough, but it paid off."

“I have never forgotten those lessons, Davis said. "And I think more people today need to know that there is always a solution to problems ... there is always a way to correct bad behavior ... correct mistakes."

According to Davis, "Rep. Maestas' bill is one way we can help some people start down the road to recovery and becoming active, responsible members of their community. And what is also encouraging is that we can save money at the same time ... despite what the obstructionists and naysayers would have you believe."

“It is easy to say NO to everything ... it doesn‟t require any work or any serious thought. But some of us feel it is about time legislators start coming up with answers and solutions, not just excuses and slogans," Davis said.

Creating An Ongoing Opportunity for Brainstorming
Maestas and Davis want to begin a discussion now on potential ways to address the shrinking resources in state government -- including trying to reapportion some resources, save on others and provide equitable new sources of income for necessary state services. The two Dems said yesterday's press conference was the first in what they hope will be a series of press conferences and meetings held over the next few months. 

Joel and Moe are offering an open invitation to participate to those who are already serving in the state legislature and those running for the House. They stressed the importance of bringing ideas to the table now -- rather than waiting until January when everyone's backs will once again be against the wall.

The idea is to provide an opportunity for lawmakers and House candidates to offer ideas to be batted about, debated and amended. It's all about making an effort at being positive and proactive in trying to solve our problems -- instead of just copping out, throwing up our hands and complaining.

My Take
I gave Rep. Maestas major props for having the courage and smarts to introduce an excellent treatment option bill at this year's session -- and for having the fortitude to push on and get it passed by the House. Now we know that if we make sure Moe gets reelected in District 16, and we work hard to help Joel Davis grab the seat in District 44 from Republican Jane Powdrell-Culbert, the legislation will come up again with an even better chance of passing. And that's just the start of what could be one of the most important and ground-breaking legislative sessions in many years -- IF we hang onto power and capture even more seats.

I think we can all agree that we need more legislators like these two Dems -- who are willing to fight for the people and speak out on innovative ways to address the many challenges we face. The same old, same old just isn't a viable option anymore. But if we want "more and better Dems," as the saying goes, we have to support the candidates who are willing to step up to the plate and advocate for fresh, effective and inherently Democratic approaches to governing. We can start by volunteering and/or donating some bucks to the campaigns of Moe and Joel. Time's a'wasting.

July 15, 2010 at 03:05 PM in 2010 NM Legislature Races, Crime, Drugs, Alcohol, Economy, Populism, Law Enforcement, Legal Issues, NM Legislature 2010, Prisons, Corrections, Taxes | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, July 01, 2010

7/1-7/2: NM Legislative Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee to Meet at Capitol

New Mexico's Legislative Courts Corrections and Justice Committee will meet in Room 322 of the State Capitol in Santa Fe at 10:00 AM on Thursday and Friday, July 1–2, 2010. Time for public comment will be allowed each day. This week the Legislative Council voted to approve webcasting of Interim Committee meetings, so a live audio feed of this meeting will be available during the meeting at the Legislature's website.

The Interim Committee will hear reports from the cabinet secretaries of both the Corrections Department and Children Youth and Families Department on a number of areas, including the impact of budget cuts. The Executive Director of the New Mexico Sentencing Commission will report on the inmate population forecast and provisions for reducing the population.

Co-Chair, Sen. Peter Wirth (D–Santa Fe–25), stated, “The committee will hear testimony on two high-profile bills from the 2010 session which did not pass: treatment in lieu of incarceration (HB 178) carried by Rep. Moe Maestas, and certification of reserve police officers (HB 185) carried by Rep. Bill Rehm. The Committee also will have an update on the Cambiar New Mexico juvenile model and a report from Secretary Joe Williams on Corrections Department issues, including private prison monitoring and costs.”

For more information and the most current committee agendas and calendars, please go to the Committee's web page.

July 1, 2010 at 11:54 AM in Children and Families, Crime, Justice, Law Enforcement, NM Legislature 2010, Prisons, Corrections | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 07, 2010

ACLU Santa Fe to Host Al Bronstein, Director Emeritus of National Prison Project

From ACLU New Mexico:
The Northern Regional Office of the ACLU of New Mexico will be hosting a community meeting with Al Bronstein, founding Executive Director of the ACLU National Prison Project. Mr. Bronstein was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for his contributions in the development of prisoners’ rights and correctional case law. He has been listed numerous times as one of the one hundred most influential lawyers in America by the National Law Journal and has argued numerous cases in federal trial and appellate courts as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. During the mid 1960s, Mr. Bronstein litigated civil rights cases in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.

The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 16, 2010, at 3:00 PM, at the Santa Fe Public Library-Community Room located at 145 Washington Street in Santa Fe. This is an opportunity for the community to hear from Mr. Bronstein about his efforts in prisoners’ rights and work as a member of the Assembly of Delegates, World Organization Against Torture (Geneva). For more information, contact the ACLLU Northern Regional Office in Santa Fe at (505) 982-8181.

March 7, 2010 at 09:36 AM in Civil Liberties, Events, Prisons, Corrections | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

ACLU Files Suit Against Private Prison in Clayton, New Mexico

Today, the ACLU of New Mexico sued the Geo Group corporation and several employees of New Mexico’s newest private prison in Clayton, New Mexico alleging violations of the rights of seven inmates to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Click for a copy of the complaint (pdf).

According to an ACLU press release, the lawsuit stems from a December 10, 2008 incident at the Northeast New Mexico Detention Facility in which all seven inmates were locked in a cold shower room with little or no clothing for five hours. When the inmates were showering, the prison had gone on “lock-down” because of a disturbance in another area of the prison. Some of the seven inmates were almost to their cells when they were forced back in the shower room.

While locked in the shower, prison personnel teased and taunted the inmates for the five hours. One female prison guard also videotaped them, laughing and dancing at the inmates, all of whom were male. Tear gas used to control the disturbance elsewhere in the prison drifted into the shower room. One of the inmates who suffered from asthma requested to be let out of the shower room to get his inhaler because of the gas, but his request was ignored by guards.

Claiming they couldn’t find the keys, after five hours the guards forced the inmates to crawl out of the shower through a filthy, cinderblock-size hole in the shower wall. Several of the inmates developed skin conditions because of the incident, which went untreated for weeks by the prison.

“New Mexico has one of the largest percentage of inmates housed in privately-run prison facilities in the country,” said Bryan J. Davis, a Cooperating Attorney for the ACLU of New Mexico. “These prisons go up, the employees don’t receive adequate training, and the inmates suffer the consequences. It’s irresponsible on the part of the private prison companies and the State that contracts with them.”

Filed in federal court, the lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages against the private prison company and its employees. The case was brought by Bryan J. Davis of Davis & Gilchrist, P.C., an ACLU-NM Cooperating Attorney; George Bach and Brendan Egan, ACLU-NM Staff Attorneys; and Phil Davis, ACLU-NM Co-Legal Director.

June 17, 2009 at 04:41 PM in Civil Liberties, Prisons, Corrections | Permalink | Comments (2)