Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Prisoner Re-entry (HBO) – Published on Nov 8, 2015


Former offenders face enormous obstacles once they leave prison. John Oliver sits down with Bilal Chatman, an ex-prisoner, to discuss the challenges of reentering society.

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The biggest prisoner release in US history, explained – Updated by Dara Lind on November 1, 2015, 2:42 p.m. ET


Between October 30th and November 2nd, the government is releasing 6,000 federal prisoners — the biggest prisoner release in United States history.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at Nov 2, 2015 1.53

This wasn’t sudden: The release has been in the works for more than a year, and was actually delayed so the federal government would have time to review individual prisoners’ cases and build up its capacity to help ex-prisoners reenter society. And ironically — even though it’s happening at a time when elected Democrats and Republicans alike are making efforts to reduce mass incarceration, especially for drug crimes — neither Congress nor the White House deserves credit.

An independent federal commission has already been working to guide judges toward shorter sentences for drug offenders. This fall’s prisoner release is a matter of fairness: the result of the commission’s decision that just because someone was sentenced to a long prison term during the peak of the tough-on-crime era, he shouldn’t automatically have to serve more time than he’d get if he were sentenced today. It’s also a reminder that people throughout the criminal justice system are taking a hard look at incarceration and trying to reduce it — and that the biggest changes aren’t necessarily the highest-profile ones, or the most politically contested.

The beginning of a process that could release more than 40,000 prisoners

The 6,000 prisoners getting released between October 30 and November 2 are all serving time for federal drug crimes.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress (as well as the Obama administration) have stressed in recent years that too many people are going to federal prison for too long for nonviolent drug offenses. Both the House and Senate have introduced bills this summer to tackle one of the causes: mandatory minimum laws that require judges to sentence drug offenders to a certain amount of time. But mandatory minimums aren’t the only factor in determining how long someone goes to prison for; the exact sentence is set by a judge, with the assistance of federal sentencing “guidelines” that recommend a sentence within a certain length (based on the seriousness of the crime and the offender’s criminal history).

Article continues:

http://www.vox.com/2015/10/7/9470683/prisoners-released-early

Is The War On Drugs Working? – The People Speak – Vice News Published on Oct 30, 2015


VICE News traveled around the world speaking to people about what they think about the war on drugs.

Find out what people from Washington, DC to Bangkok, Thailand had to say about about the global approach to narcotics.

Watch the People Speak on immigration – http://bit.ly/1OdnuwP

It’s Not Easy Giving Gifts to an Ex-GITMO Detainee (Extra Scene from ‘Life After Guantanamo’) – Vice News Published on Oct 29, 2015


What happens after detainees are released from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility? The answer to that question has, for the most part, been shrouded in secrecy.

When five former Guantanamo detainees were resettled to Kazakhstan in late December 2014, a senior official in the Obama administration was quoted as saying the ex-captives were now “free men”. But what does that actually mean? VICE News traveled to Kazakhstan to find out.

Abdul Mohammed Rahman, also known as Lotfi Bin Ali, was captured in 2003 and recommended for release or transfer out of Guantanamo as early as 2004. Joint Task Force-Guantanamo determined that he posed a “low risk” due to his medical condition, noting his severe heart condition and chronic breathing and sleeping problems. Twelve years later, he was resettled to Kazakhstan.

In this extra scene, VICE News visits Lotfi Bin Ali in the remote city of Semey, where attempts to deliver gifts are met with suspicion and hostility from local authorities.

Watch “Guantanamo: Blacked Out Bay” – http://bit.ly/1Lis61W

Will Potter: The secret US prisons you’ve never heard of before – Filmed August 2015 at TED Fellows Retreat 2015


Investigative journalist Will Potter is the only reporter who has been inside a Communications Management Unit, or CMU, within a US prison. These units were opened secretly, and radically alter how prisoners are treated — even preventing them from hugging their children. Potter, a TED Fellow, shows us who is imprisoned here, and how the government is trying to keep them hidden. “The message was clear,” he says. “Don’t talk about this place.” Find sources for this talk at willpotter.com/cmu

“Freedom” in Kazakhstan (Excerpt from ‘Life After Guantanamo’) – Vice News Published on Oct 23, 2015


What happens after detainees are released from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility? The answer to that question has, for the most part, been shrouded in secrecy.

When five former Guantanamo detainees were resettled to Kazakhstan in late December 2014, a senior official in the Obama administration was quoted as saying the ex-captives were now “free men”. But what does that actually mean? VICE News traveled to Kazakhstan to find out.

Abdul Mohammed Rahman, also known as Lotfi Bin Ali, was captured in 2003 and recommended for release or transfer out of Guantanamo as early as 2004. Joint Task Force-Guantanamo determined that he posed a “low risk” due to his medical condition, noting his severe heart condition and chronic breathing and sleeping problems. Twelve years later, he was resettled to Kazakhstan.

In this excerpt, we meet another former Guantanamo Bay detainee who was also resettled in Kazakhstan. Like Lotfi, Sabri al Qarashi was resettled in remote Semey and has also had problems accessing health care.

Watch “Guantanamo: Blacked Out Bay” – http://bit.ly/1Lis61W

The Government Just Made Prison a Little Less Terrible – —By Madison Pauly | Thu Oct. 22, 2015 5:14 PM EDT


Bastiaan Slabbers/iStock

For the families and friends of inmates, hearing the sound of a loved one’s voice can be an unaffordable luxury, with phone companies sometimes charging up to $14 per minute for calls from correctional facilities. The Federal Communications Commission took a step to change that today, voting to approve new rules on the rates companies can charge for inmates’ in-state calls.

The rules close a loophole created in 2013, when the FCC limited rates on interstate calls to 21 cents per minute but did not regulate in-state calls. The commission will now cap the cost of prepaid in-state calls from state and federal prisons at 11 cents a minute. County jails will use a tiered system, with calls from the smallest jails costing the most (22 cents a minute) and calls from the biggest jails costing the least (14 cents a minute).

The new rules also ban companies from charging a flat rate for calls, phase down collect call rates, and eliminate most of the add-on charges like payment and billing fees, which right now can bump up the cost of a call by 40 percent. Additionally, the rules increase the access to calling services for people with hearing or speech disabilities.

Industry giants like GTL and Securus have fought the move, and many have introduced exorbitantly priced video visitation services that have replaced in-person visits in some places.

“This system has preyed on our most vulnerable for far too long,” FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn told the Washington Post. “Families are being further torn apart and the cycle of poverty is being perpetuated.”

http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/10/fcc-caps-rates-prison-phone-calls