California allows 47 biological men to transfer to women’s prison—approve no requests of biological women to move to the men’s estate

Since California’s Transgender Respect, Agency and Dignity Act came into effect in 2021, permitting transgender inmates to be housed in facilities in line with their gender identity, 47 biological males have been permitted to transfer to women’s prisons while none of the 12 requests by biological females to transfer to a men’s facility have been granted so far.

Democratic California Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 132 was enacted in January 2021, granting biological male criminals the right to request transfer to women’s prisons based upon a self-declared female gender identity, as well as the right for these males to request to be searched by female prison staff.

The law applies to both male and female inmates alike, but the flow of transfers has so far only gone in one direction. On the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) website, it states that as of Feb. 26, 2023, 349 people housed in male institutions have requested to be housed in a female institution. 47 were approved for transfer, 21 were denied, and 35 changed their minds. The remaining requests are being reviewed.

However, 12 individuals housed in a female institution have requested to be housed in a male institution. None have yet to be approved, but all the requests are under review.

In 2022, the CDCR commissioned The Moss Group, a Washington-based criminal justice consulting firm, to provide long-term policy recommendations to “ensure successful continued implementation of SB 132.”

Keep reading

No, Trading Flesh for Prison Time Is Not “Bodily Autonomy”

YOUR LIVER OR your liberty? Choose one.

This is the proposition that a bill in the Massachusetts House of Representatives puts to people locked up in the commonwealth: Donate bone marrow or an organ or two, says HD 3822, and the Department of Correction will cut 60 to 365 days off your sentence. The bill is sponsored by four Democrats.

Everything is wrong with this proposal except its intentions: to shorten transplant waiting lists and reduce state prison populations. Or so I assume. The 370-word text does little more than establish a Bone Marrow and Organ Donation Program within the Department of Correction and a committee to work out the details. There is not even a perfunctory assurance of informed consent. With any luck, the bill will flutter to the bottom of some committee’s docket.

But HD 3822 is more than a piece of legislative slapdashery. It hints at the ways policymakers think about people and bodies and the calculus that determines which bodies deserve respect and care and which do not.

Keep reading

As Temperature Drops, Incarcerated People Brace for Dangerously Cold Conditions

“The cells don’t have any heat. So, they’re sleeping with their clothes on,” a woman named Regina told Truthout of her son’s experience in Hill Correctional Center in Illinois in early December. “They’re not heating the tiers. There’s no heat in the day room. There’s no heat outside the showers.… The water is cold. You can let it run for a little while and you may get a little warm. But it’s not enough.”

Regina has felt the cold in the prison firsthand. “It’s even cold in the visitor’s room,” she said. “I don’t have any hair right now, because I have cancer. So, I wear a head wrap or a hat, but I can’t wear it in there. Because you can’t have anything on your head.” She wrote three letters to the warden requesting a medical exemption, but never heard back. “So, I go in there with nothing on my head,” she said. “My head is freezing. But I want to see my son.”

As people across the country brace for upcoming cold weather, many of those set to suffer the most are incarcerated in prisons and jails. Each winter, people in old, drafty facilities shiver for months in their cells, struggling to function and fearing for their health. They have no control over cell temperature, and often little access to warm clothes or extra blankets. Inevitably, some outdated heating systems across the country will fail, leaving people in dangerously frigid temperatures.

“This speaks to a much larger issue of the infrastructure, in general, of our prisons,” Jennifer Vollen-Katz, executive director of the John Howard Association (JHA), an Illinois-based citizen correctional oversight organization, told Truthout. “In Illinois, we have many really old, decrepit facilities that are unsafe, and frankly, unfit for human habitation.”

Both JHA and the Chicago-based Uptown People’s Law Center (UPLC) receive letters every winter from people incarcerated in dangerously cold prisons in Illinois. UPLC Executive Director Alan Mills told Truthout that complaints come most frequently from the state’s three maximum-security prisons, the newest of which was built in the 1920s. “They are long past their design life,” he explained. “These are 100-year-old buildings, which have been heavily and hard used, and not maintained.… They haven’t had an HVAC system that works, in any sort of modern sense, installed in any of these prisons. So, it’s too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.”

Keep reading

Brittney Griner freed in prisoner swap for ‘Merchant of Death’ Viktor Bout

WNBA star Brittney Griner was released from a Russian prison Thursday as part of an exchange for notorious international arms dealer Viktor Bout, almost ten months after she was arrested on drug charges at a Moscow airport.

“She’s safe, she’s on a plane, she’s on her way home,” President Biden said in remarks from the White House, where he was joined by Griner’s wife, Cherelle. The two spoke with the Phoenix Mercury center over the phone, according to senior White House officials.

“She’s on her way home, after months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under intolerable circumstances,” Biden said. “Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones and she should have been there all along. This is a day we’ve worked toward for a long time. We never stopped pushing for her release.”

Keep reading

Cartel hitman who decapitated enemies has gone missing from a US prison

A cartel leader and hitman fond of videotaping torture sessions and decapitating likely dozens of enemies has gone missing from a federal prison in Florida, where he was serving a 49-year sentence.

As of November, Edgar Valdez-Villareal, a Mexican American cartel leader, had been mysteriously removed from the federal Bureau of Prisons website. He is now listed as “not in BOP custody” even though his release date is not until July 27, 2056.

Valdez-Villareal, 49, is known by his underworld moniker “La Barbie,” and headed up the Los Negros, an enforcement group of the Beltran Leyva cartel — one of Mexico’s most ruthless underworld groups. At one point, he was a top lieutenant for the Sinaloa Cartel, run by convicted drug dealer Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman-Loera.

Valdez-Villareal grew up in Laredo, Texas, and was given his nickname from a high school football coach because his blue eyes and light complexion made him look like a Ken doll, according to a report.

“We called him Ken Doll, mostly because his hair was blond and kinky like the doll’s,” a friend from United High School told Rolling Stone in 2011. “The coach upped the ante to Barbie, and it took off like wildfire.”

Keep reading

Black Market in Broad Daylight

Operating in the shadows is easy in the United States secondary food market, as few question what happens to food that exceeds its expiration date in leading supermarket chains across the nation. Well, truth be told, expired food gets reprocessed, repackaged, relabeled, and resold to institutions, discount retailers and restaurants.

With scant regulations in place for repurposed food, and institutional purchasing specifications silent, food liquidators underbid their competitors and win contracts nearly every time. In the secondary food market, you get what you pay for, and never has the saying “garbage in, garbage out” been more appropriate.

No matter how much hot sauce or gravy is added as camouflage, spoiled food products are unfit for human consumption and cause foodborne illness. Here, what you don’t know can kill you.

In its most recent public report posted on its website, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that, each year, roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. However, “recent” is a misnomer here as the CDC’s report is shamelessly outdated by more than ten years. It was issued in January 2011.

Considering that food poisoning is an embarrassing indicator that reveals in its gory horror the systemic corruption of what turns out to be an unregulated food market, it is highly probable that there was undercounting back in 2011—especially in institutional settings. And it is more than likely that things are even worse in 2022.

When oversight agency reports are no longer published, it is clearly because industry statistics and agency performance metrics do not look good. Cover-ups at the federal level are routinely done by appointing incompetent or industry-compromised agency heads, and by defunding key reporting departments, and reducing analytic staff positions and field inspectors.

Despite oversight agency neglect, both schools and prisons have been independently studied for foodborne illness outbreaks. While these reports/articles are also outdated, their shallow analysis remains current. The accepted prevailing narrative blames foodborne illness outbreaks on food handlers that failed to follow U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) protocols for cleanliness and neglected to maintain the proper temperatures for food storage and service.

While not to detract from standards set by the USDA, there are no reports that expose the lethal dangers of the secondary food market. Moreover, unlike the primary food market, these repackaging facilities are not inspected, despite their erroneous claims of USDA or FDA certifications.

A media spokesperson for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) explained that “the FDA doesn’t oversee meat and poultry, only dairy products.” And that “expiration dates are not regulated, only food safety.”

This is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, food that is spoiled, contaminated, or toxic but within its expiration date is unquestionably unfit for human consumption. On the other hand, expiration dates are necessary as packaging, coloring and processing conceal food quality from consumers, as well as purchasing agents and food handlers.

When a food product’s expiration date is concealed by repackaging and relabeling, all food safety bets are off. The reselling of expired food is a black market in broad daylight.

Keep reading

Warden accused of running ‘rape club’ at prison where Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman served time

A male warden is on trial for allegedly running a “rape club” at the California women’s prison where Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman and Allison Mack all have served time.

In what has been called a shocking abuse of power, Ray J. Garcia, 55, was the top official at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin when the FBI allegedly caught him with naked pictures of inmates in their cells on his government-issued phone in 2021.

At the opening of his trial on seven counts of sexual abuse conduct involving three female inmates, the court heard how the alleged incidents by Garcia and his staff were so open that inmates referred to it as “rape club.”

Four other prison officials have also been charged with sexual abuse, two of whom have already pleaded guilty.

An inmate named Melissa, whose last name was withheld, testified that Garcia told her repeatedly he “wanted to f—k” her and showed her naked pictures of himself “all the time,” according to reports.

Prosecutors said Garcia digitally penetrated Melissa and forced her to touch his penis between 2019 and 2021. The incidents took place in the prison bathroom and cell, where Garcia allegedly would insert “half-eaten, sucked-on” candy canes into her vagina.

Keep reading

California Releases Thousands of Convicted Pedophiles Within a Year of Conviction

California has released thousands of convicted pedophiles after spending only a few months in prison.

Such pedophiles have been convicted of “a range of horrific acts, including raping kids under 14,” according to the study investigation conducted by the U.K. Daily Mail.

More than 7,000 persons convicted of “lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years of age” have been released in the same year they were convicted. Convicts who committed even more heinous crimes, such as sodomy and rape of children, also served short sentences.

“Thousands of child victims are being denied justice and George Gascón and his group of radical prosecutors can [sic] care less,” Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami, who serves in the Complex Child Abuse Unit and whose outspokenness about DA Gascón contributed to a recall effort, told the Daily Mail.

Some short sentences include 365 pedophiles convicted of continuous sexual abuse of a child — all of whom spent fewer than 12 months in prison. Thirty-nine cases were convictions for sodomy with a child under the age of 16, while there were three cases of kidnapping a child under the age of 14 “with intent to commit lewd or lascivious acts.”

Former Los Angeles sex crimes prosecutor Samuel Dordulian told the outlet that the statistic was “frightening for society,” adding that “statistics clearly show that pedophiles don’t get reformed. They’re going to come out and they’re going to commit again.”

According to the data from the Megan’s Law database, one pedophile convicted of “continuous sexual abuse of a child” spent only two days in a county jail before being released on a five-year probation.

As the Daily Mail points out, he now lives one block from a daycare and three blocks from an elementary school.

According to further analysis of the data, of the 54,986 sex offenders in the database, 76 percent are pedophiles. On average, each pedophile served just two years and ten months in prison.

Dordulian explained that California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is in part responsible for such lenient sentencing and treatment, as he attempts to artificially reduce the state’s prison population.

Keep reading

Four States Voted to End Slavery — But Not Louisiana. Here’s Why.

Voters in Vermont, Tennessee, Oregon and Alabama amended their state constitutions to abolish slavery and indentured servitude this week — but a similar initiative failed in Louisiana, garnering embarrassing headlines for a former slave state that remains infamous for modern mass incarceration and forced prison labor.

Louisiana voters rejected an amendment to the state constitution aimed at outlawing slavery and involuntary servitude on Tuesday, underscoring the challenges faced by a growing movement to abolish slave wages and coerced labor inside prisons nationwide. Activists campaigning to end prison slavery say the vote was mired in confusion and misinformation after Rep. Edmond Jordan, a Black Democrat and sponsor of the amendment in the state legislature, advised voters to reject its compromise language and send it back to the drawing board.

However, Amendment 7’s passage would have been at least a symbolic victory for formerly and currently incarcerated organizers in a state known for the Louisiana State Penitentiary, home to the notorious Angola prison farm located on a former antebellum plantation. Activists cite Angola as a well-known example of “modern-day slavery,” although coerced and extremely low-paid prison labor is pervasive far beyond rural Louisiana.

“We knew the amendment didn’t go far enough, but we need to start somewhere,” said Morgan Shannon, director of partnerships at the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, in an interview. The social justice group is one of several that campaigned in support of the amendment.

Keep reading