Artificial intelligence putting innocent people behind bars; conservatives pushing back at redistricting efforts to not count prison populations in Virginia — your weekly justice news.
a fight for voter suppression: Politicians are suing the Virginia Redistricting Commission because of efforts to count incarcerated people at their last address, not the prisons where they reside. They charge that the redistricting will weaken the state’s rural and conservative areas. AP (August 16, 2021)
heat hazard: The inside of prisons can be brutally hot, especially during the summer, and the problem is only getting worse and prisons are unprepared, warns advocates. The heat is not only uncomfortable for incarcerated people, but often dangerous. Fast Company (August 17, 2021)
a losing battle: The Arizona Department of Corrections is trying to avoid going to trial by appealing a decision made last month that ruled prison officials had shown no effort to comply with obligations to improve the system’s health care. AP (August 17, 2021)
imperfect development: The Justice Department decided to allow local police on federal fugitive task forces to release body-camera footage to the public. While the rule only applies to Marshals Service task forces, it will hopefully increase transparency and improve accountability for those officers. NBC News (August 19, 2021)
predictable: After a lockdown in early 2020, Souza-Baranowski Correctional Facility in Lancaster, Massachusetts faced a wave of excessive force allegations. State legislators have been pushing for prison reforms while the DOC has urged people to ignore the accusations. The Boston Globe (August 16, 2021)
computer calamity: Large amounts of evidence from criminal cases in Dallas County have been lost because of an incorrect online data transfer. The lost police investigative files may extend to four of the surrounding counties. The Dallas Morning News (August 17, 2021)
cruel and unusual: Zachary Swain, who is incarcerated at Maine State Prison, has been held in solitary confinement for most of his time behind bars. Solitary often amplifies mental health problems and it has been no exception for Swain. Experts are pushing for a more therapeutic treatment. Bangor Daily News (August 17, 2021)
critical instruction: After Elijah McCain’s murder, the Aurora, Colorado issued a comprehensive investigation of the city’s police department. Investigators noted that force is used disproportionately against Black men, among other concerning trends, and gave the department multiple recommendations. The Denver Post (August 16, 2021)
county corruption: Mike Blakely, former Limestone County, Alabama sheriff, was found guilty of theft and abusing his position of power. Prosecutors are recommending a three-year sentence in jail, as well as $14,000 in restitution and fines., County coroner Mike West is now interim sheriff. AL.com (August 16, 2021)
grave risks: Michael Williams was imprisoned in Cook County Jail for almost a year due to an artificial intelligence algorithm that suggested he killed a man. Though he was released because of inadequate evidence, Williams’ story underlines the hazards of putting AI in charge of justice. AP (August 19, 2021)
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