Department of Justice Announces New Standards for Initiative on Executive Clemency

By Christopher Zoukis /

On April 23, 2014, Attorney General of the United States, Eric H. Holder, Jr. announced a new initiative intended to encourage appropriate candidates to petition for executive clemency from the President of the United States.

The initiative comes amid public statements by Holder and other top federal officials suggesting President Barrack H. Obama may eventually issue hundreds, if not thousands, of commutations to federal prisoners, mostly for non-violent drug offenders sentenced under now mostly discarded sentencing policies that affected a disproportionate number of minorities.

The April 23, 2014 announcement has prompted the Department of Justice (DOJ), through the Federal Bureau of Prisons, to set forth specific standards for the new initiative, and announces the formation of the Clemency Project 2014, a consortium of defense attorneys and non-profit organizations who have volunteered to assist some candidates for clemency advance their petitions.

The Criteria for Clemency

While the Constitution accords the President the authority to bestow clemency on anyone, the 2014 initiative is targeted at clemency for a specific profile of offenders.  According to a Federal Bureau of Prisons announcement made on May 5, 2014, it invites petitions from “non-violent federal inmates who would not pose a threat to public safety if released.”  The announcement stated that the initiative is limited to inmates who:

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Female Prisoners in Kansas Make Dentures for Low-Income Patients

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy

The women of Topeka Correctional Facility in Topeka, Kansas are an interesting sort.  While some sweep, mop, wipe down tables, or engage in wholesale janitorial work assignments, a special group of 8 female prisoners make dentures for low-income patients through an innovative partnership between the Kansas Department of Corrections, Kansas Correctional Industries, and the Southeast Kansas Education Center at Greenbush.

Founded by the Delta Dental of Kansas Foundation, in 2007, the dental technician program employs 8 female prisoners at Topeka Correctional Facility, all of which were specially selected by prison administrators for program placement.  These female prisoners make dentures for Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved (KAMU) patients.

The process is complex.  The KAMU clinics make an impression of the patient’s mouth.  This impression is then sent to the female prisoner dental technicians at the Topeka Correctional Facility, who create a wax and plastic teeth mold of the impression.  This temporary mold is then returned to the KAMU clinic to ensure that the fit is perfect.  Once approval is granted, the mold is sent back to the prison, where the female prisoner dental technicians use plastic teeth and hard acrylic to craft the final set of dentures.  These are then delivered back to the KAMU clinic for delivery to the eagerly awaiting patients.

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Bamboo School for Children to be Built in Nepali Prison

By Christopher Zoukis Incarcerated parents in Nepal’s Birgunj prison are celebrating as plans have been made to create a school inside the prison facility for their children to attend.  The school will be located inside the Birgunj prison, which is located roughly 300 kilometers south of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.  Photo courtesy In

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The Snow Continues and the Yard Remains Closed

By Christopher Zoukis  Day Two of the Arctic Snow Bombardment — at least, that’s how it probably seems for the birds — has left icy snow covering the ground.  All last night, pigeons displaced due to the snow, huddled together wherever they could find a dry spot out of the wind.  Many congregated under outdoor

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The Cost of Recidivism: Victims, the Economy, and American Prisons

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy

In the criminal justice community we often hear about recidivism.  This is the relapse of former prisoners or probationers back into crime.  The reason we focus so much on this topic is because it is a measure of our success.  None of us teach prisoners or promote prison reform solely because we find it interesting: we do so because we aim to make a difference in our students and the world around us.  And recidivism rates are our measuring stick.  The lower the rate, the more successful we have been.  The higher the rate, the more work there is that still needs to be done.

Recidivism is a problem.  It’s a big problem.  The fact is, most prisoners will fail unless they are provided with meaningful educational, vocational, and rehabilitative programming.  This isn’t a surprise considering that an internal revision needs to take place in order for a person to change their ways.  This is true regardless of whether the person has a damaged character or not.  So, we must strive to find ways to implement such meaningful and transformational programming, and we must obtain the funding required to start and sustain such essential programs.

Since we so often cover the benefits of educating America’s incarcerated class, it would be useful to touch upon the other side of the issue today: the negative effects of recidivism upon the various criminal justice stakeholders.  This way the discussion here at Prison Education News is that much more rounded and complete.

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Inmates Helping Inmates

By STAN STOJKOVIC  Image courtesy

MILWAUKEE — IT’S the singular guest at a prison who receives a standing ovation from inmates. I’ve heard of only two: Johnny Cash and Percy Pitzer, a retired warden who in 2012 started a nonprofit corporation to award college scholarships to children of inmates.

I sit on the board of Mr. Pitzer’s group, called the Creative Corrections Education Foundation. I recently went with him to visit some of the inmates at the Milwaukee County House of Correction. It was morning and many were still on their thin mattresses — sleeping, reading, crocheting, playing cards — as he began a day of speeches.

He started in H6, a 60-bed women’s dorm. “Good morning, ladies. I’m Percy Pitzer, from Beaumont, Texas,” he began. He told them that he had made a living for his family by working for the Bureau of Prisons, and that he and his wife wanted to give back. So he’d kick-started a scholarship fund with $150,000 of his own money. But he wanted it to become an inmate-funded venture, and said it would not work without their help.

“Will you help me with the price of a candy bar a month?” he asked.

His audience probably had a sense of the odds working against their children. Close to seven million children in the United States have a parent involved in some form of correctional intervention — jail, prison, probation or parole. More than two million have parents behind bars. The impact is largely focused on minority communities. Families of inmates are left with very little on which to survive, and so the cycle of poverty and crime goes unbroken. According to the American Correctional Association, up to 50 percent of incarcerated juveniles have an incarcerated parent.

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Traumatic Brain Injury Rate High Among Prisoners

By Matt Clarke

Studies have shown that the prevalence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) among adult prisoners is more than seven times higher than among non-incarcerated adults.

Traumatic brain injury occurs when a person suffers a disruption of brain function due to an injury – such as an impact from an accident, playing sports or an assault. The most common form of TBI is a concussion.

Medical researchers have discovered that minor TBIs, previously believed to be inconsequential and transient, can result in lasting disabilities. They also discovered that the injuries caused by TBIs are cumulative, in that a series of minor TBIs can lead to major impairment.

Most people who suffer the most minor form of TBI, a concussion, will recover more or less fully within a year. For the 15% who do not, persistent symptoms may include headaches or increased irritability that interferes with everyday functioning.

Sometimes TBI results in behavioral issues that are a direct consequence of the impact that caused the injury. For example, in a vehicle accident or assault, the impact is often to the top front of the head just above the frontal lobes, which regulate behavior. Frontal lobe TBI also can be caused by the brain impacting the skull inside the head, such as during a sudden acceleration or deceleration. This type of injury can result even when the head is not hit directly.

Around 8.5% of the non-incarcerated adult population in the United States has suffered a traumatic brain injury; 2% currently suffer from some form of disability due to past TBI.

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Inmate Funded Educational Scholarship Kicks Off Dec. 5

By Carolyn Bucior

An inmate-funded scholarship will be jointly announced by the Milwaukee House of Correction, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Helen Bader School of Social Welfare, and Creative Corrections Education Foundation at an event Thursday, Dec. 5, 3-4 p.m. at the Milwaukee County House of Correction, 8885 S. 68th St., Franklin.  Image courtesy

Current inmates at the House of Correction have already pledged $400 per month to the scholarship, joining inmates in New Mexico and Texas. (That pledge amount will likely grow.) Their contributions will provide educational scholarships for children of inmates in Milwaukee County and surrounding areas.

The hope is obvious: for inmates’ children not to follow a life of crime. “We’re trying to break the cycle by supporting the education of prisoners’ children,” says Stan Stojkovic, dean of the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare. According to the American Correctional Association, up to 50 percent of incarcerated juveniles have an incarcerated parent.

The scholarship fund is the brainchild of Boscobel, Wis., native Percy Pitzer, retired warden of Oxford Federal Prison and founder of the non-profit Creative Corrections Education Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to support equal opportunities for students whose parent or guardian is incarcerated or paroled and to stop second-generation crime.

A total of 31 $1,000-scholarships have been awarded thus far in 2013, and Pitzer anticipates awarding nine more by year’s end.

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Federal Bureau of Prisons Population Report: December 26, 2013

By Christopher Zoukis

Below is the latest prison population report from the Bureau of Prisons.  The report details each prison, including private prisons, operated under the umbrella of the BOP.  The report provides the name of the facility, location, and current population.  Total population numbers for the various types of facilities are stipulated at the end of the report.


Population of all BOP Institutions


Facility                State        Population

ALDERSON FPC WV         1145

ALICEVILLE FCI   AL           934

ALICEVILLE-CAMP            AL           254

ALLENWOOD LOW FCI   PA          1316

ALLENWOOD MED FCI   PA          1312

ALLENWOOD USP            PA          1052

ASHLAND FCI     KY           1227

ASHLAND-CAMP              KY           304

ATLANTA USP    GA          1951

ATLANTA-CAMP               GA          557

ATWATER USP   CA          1480

ATWATER-CAMP              CA          147

BASTROP FCI      TX           1156

BASTROP-CAMP               TX           198

BEAUMONT LOW FCI     TX           2005

BEAUMONT MED FCI     TX           1734

BEAUMONT USP-CAMP                TX           571

BEAUMONT USP              TX           1484

BECKLEY FCI        WV         1642

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