Posts Tagged ‘Texas’


Exoneration Anniversary: Megan Winfrey and Victor Larue Thomas!

Taylor Thornton — April 17, 2018 @ 10:48 AM — Comments (0)

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Happy Exoneration Anniversary Megan Winfrey!!

In 2008 Megan Winfrey was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the 2004 murder of Murray Burr in Coldspring, Texas. Her conviction was based on circumstantial evidence, primarily scent evidence from bloodhounds employed by the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Department who allegedly “alerted” to Megan as well as her brother and father. In February of 2013 Megan Winfrey was acquitted when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the dog scent evidence was insufficient. Megan was released on April 17, 2013 when the state was denied their petition to retry her. Happy 5 years of freedom Megan Winfrey!

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Happy Exoneration Anniversary Victor Larue Thomas!!

Victor Thomas was sentenced to three life terms on June 15, 1986 for the beating and raping of a worker during the robbing of a convenience store in Waxahachie, Texas. Thomas’ conviction rested on his identification by the victim and her testimony in court. After writing numerous letters from behind bars trying to get help, state District Judge Gene Knize took notice of Victor. Judge Knize appointed Victor an attorney, asked the Ellis County District Attorney’s Office to re-investigate the case, and asked for DNA testing. DNA testing excluded Victor from being the attacker and he was released in June of 2001. Finally, Texas Governor Rick Perry pardoned him on April 17, 2002. Happy 16 years of freedom Victor Larue Thomas!!

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Exoneration Anniversary: Darryl Adams and Ronald Eubanks

Taylor Thornton — February 08, 2018 @ 12:00 PM — Comments (0)

Happy Exoneration Anniversary to Darryl Adams and Ronald Eubanks!

On August 12, 1992, Darryl Adams and Ronald Eubanks were woken from their sleep on the street near a Salvation Army shelter by a police officer around 2 a.m. The officer had been sent over by a citizen who reported seeing a woman being raped nearby. Upon the officer waking the two men and the woman sleeping close by, the woman had initially denied being raped. But, once pulled away from the two men she told officers that Adams had, in fact, raped her and that Eubanks had attempted to as well. The two were arrested and charged with aggravated sexual assault.

A month later, both men pled guilty to the charge in Dallas County Criminal District Court. They were each initially sentenced to 10 years of probation. But after being charged with a burglary Adams had his probation revoked and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Eubanks had his probation revoked as well and was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being caught using marijuana.

The co-defendants sought DNA testing over the next 20 years. Finally, with the help of the Innocence Project of Texas, a series of DNA tests were performed. A test of the rape kit done in 2014 uncovered a male DNA profile that did not match Adams nor Eubanks. Adams’ and Eubanks’ lawyers subsequently sought to vacate their convictions by filing similar state law petitions.

Adams’ writ was granted and petition vacated in March of 2016 by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the same occurred for Eubanks in December of 2016. One year ago today, on February 8, 2017 the prosecution dismissed the charges against Adams and Eubanks.

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Alfred Dewayne Brown Determined Ineligible for Wrongful Conviction Compensation by Texas Comptroller

Alejandra de la Fuente — October 09, 2016 @ 1:00 PM — Comments (0)

In April, the state of Texas announced that Alfred Dewayne Brown, who requested nearly $2 million in compensation for his wrongful conviction, does not qualify as an exoneree who is eligible to receive money. State Comptroller Glenn Hegar explained that Brown was never formally determined to be “actually innocent” of the crime for which he was convicted and therefore, under Texas law, he does not meet the mandatory requirements for compensation. Air Jordan 6 Femme The law currently states that exonerees are eligible for compensation if they are granted a full pardon based on innocence, if they are ruled “actually innocent” by a court, or if their case is dismissed and are certified as “actually innocent” by a prosecutor. Air Jordan 2 Homme Brown was convicted of capital murder for the fatal shooting of Houston Police Officer Charles Clark in 2003, who, along with store clerk Alfredia Jones, was killed during a check-cashing store robbery. Brown has maintained his innocence, however. His conviction was overturned on this day last year because the defense did not receive, as required by the rules of evidence, phone records that could have supported his alibi. The case was sent back to a lower court for a new trial, but the Harris County District Attorney’s Office determined that there was not enough credible evidence to retry Brown, and dismissed the charges. Houston Police Officers’ Union officials remain confident that Brown is the prime suspect, but stated that too much time has passed and too many witnesses have recanted to proceed with a new trial. Ray Hunt, the union’s president, claimed that the compensation law was not written for instances in which witnesses are scared to or will not testify, but is rather intended for situations where the wrongfully convicted were cleared because of DNA or other such evidence. Nike Free Rn Flyknit homme He went on to say that union lawyers determined Brown is not eligible for compensation after reviewing the law. adidas stan smith femme bleu The entire situation has stressed the union, which, hoping to gather information that could secure a conviction for Clark’s death, put up another billboard offering $100,000. nike air zoom pegasus 34 femme Brown’s attorneys intend to fight for compensation for the more than 12 years Brown spent on death row, and the case will probably end up back in court in order to determine the legal definition of “actual innocence.” Brown submitted a request in February for state money that exonerees usually receive to the Comptroller of Public Accounts, who serves as the chief accountant and treasurer for the state and is responsible under law for determining eligibility in cases like these. nike air max zero femme Attorney Neal Manne, upon receiving written notice of the rejection, was surprised by the comptroller’s decision to ignore the Texas Supreme Court. nike internationalist femme He claimed that the letter ignores both current state law and the right to compensation as clearly stated by the Texas Supreme Court. Using a similar case in which another former inmate received state money, Brown’s attorneys plan to appeal to the state office and even file a lawsuit, if need be, to force them to compensate Brown. Adidas Stan Smith Femme They are relying on Billy Frederick Allen’s case, in which he spent nearly 26 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit. An appeals court ruled that the requirement for determining “actual innocence” was satisfied because of how strong the newly discovered evidence was in Allen’s case. The controversy over the compensation law is not new, as state lawmakers have already changed it to allow other high-profile exonerees to receive compensation. The law was changed to make Anthony Graves, perhaps Houston’s most popular exoneree, eligible for compensation by allowing prosecutors to certify that he was “actually innocent.” Graves was convicted of capital murder in 1992 for killing six people and spent 20 years wrongfully incarcerated, 12 of which were on death row. Brown’s attorneys think he is eligible for two types of compensation, one of which includes a lump sum of $973,589 based on a rate of $80,000 a year for his time spent in prison. Nike Homme The other involves the distribution of monthly payments in the same amount total for the remainder of Brown’s life. Brown could receive a total of $1.9 million for the 12 years he spent behind bars. Brown received the support of Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis, who stood beside him when he announced in February that he would be seeking compensation for his wrongful conviction.

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Harris County’s Conviction Integrity Unit’s Drug Crime Exonerations

Alejandra de la Fuente — March 01, 2016 @ 4:00 PM — Comments (1)

A few weeks ago, the National Registry of Exonerations released their annual report detailing the exonerations that occurred in 2015. A detailed summary of that report can be accessed here. One part of the report was designated to prosecutorial offices’ Conviction Integrity Units (CIU), which aim to prevent, identify, and reverse wrongful convictions. CIUs have helped exonerate 151 people since 2003. One CIU in particular stood out in the registry’s 2015 exoneration report—the one in Harris County, Texas.

Of the total 151 CIU exonerations, Harris County (HC) was involved in almost half of them. In addition, HC’s CIU boasts 73 drug crime exonerations since mid-2014. Those drug crimes included possession or sale, and the exonerations occurred after lab tests proved the the purported drugs did not contain illegal substances.

Last year, there were 51 exonerations in drug cases, and HC’s CIU was responsible for 82% of them. Of the 47 people convicted for drug possession, a whopping 42 of them were from HC. All of HC’s CIU exonerations in 2015 involved drug-conviction guilty pleas, which brings to attention an important aspect.

Inger Chandler, the deputy district attorney that took over HC’s CIU in 2014, found that forensic crime labs gave the lowest priority to cases in which defendants pled guilty. Most labs are backlogged, and therefore felt no urgency to test the samples in those cases. In response to her findings, Chandler implemented new procedures hoping to combat the problem. One of these procedures is to test drug evidence in the order that it arrives. If the tests prove there are no illegal substances present, the public defender’s office is notified so they can file a writ to have the conviction reversed. Nicholas Hughes, the assistant public defender that handles most of the cases, gives priority to any cases in which someone is currently serving a sentence.

Another important factor that came to light in these cases is the field test used by law enforcement to test drugs. The test kits contain chemicals that change color upon contact with illegal substances. However, these field tests are known to be unreliable, generating positive results for illegal substances for items such as Jolly Rancher candy and soap. Out of the 73 drug crime exonerations in HC, these shoddy field tests were responsible for 39 of the charges.

The biggest question raised by the record high number of drug crime exonerations in HC relates back to guilty pleas and why defendants pled guilty in the first place. Chandler explained that defendants might have thought they were in fact possessing illegal drugs, when in reality the drugs they purchased were actually fake. Another reason may be due to the fact that prosecutors consider crimes such as drug possession low priority, and therefore can avoid wasting their time on them by offering defendants plea deals. Because many defendants cannot afford private attorneys or do not wish to spend years of their life behind bars attempting to prove their innocence, oftentimes they think plea deals are their best option.

In addition to Chandler’s procedural fixes, the HC District Attorney’s Office has also made efforts to prevent this issue. In February of last year, they upgraded one of their policies to no longer offer plea deals to defendants facing jail time for drug possession until the forensic lab returns complete results.

Unfortunately, CIUs have experienced some setbacks. Many district attorneys’ offices do not care to be bothered with reopening these cases. In addition, some jurisdictions destroy evidence once a defendant has pled guilty. Despite these circumstances, CIUs have and will continue to do great work in helping to exonerate innocent people.

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Texas Forensic Science Commission’s Recommends Ending Use of Bite-Mark Testimony

Alejandra de la Fuente — February 23, 2016 @ 4:00 PM — Comments (0)

What we know scientifically continuously changes as new research and advancements in technology become available. One area of interest that was once heavily relied upon in criminal trials has recently been called into question. After a six-month investigation, the Texas Forensic Science Commission (TFSC) recently concluded that criminal trials should cease using bite-mark identifications because the technique’s validity cannot be scientifically established. The commission’s chairman, Dr. Vincent Di Maio, stated that criminal cases should not permit bite-mark testimony because it does not meet forensic science standards. The Texas Legislature created the TFSC in 2005 with the purpose of investigating forensic evidence that is possibly being misused.

During bite-mark testimony, dental experts claim that they can identify marks on victims as those left by teeth and that those supposed bite-marks on a victim can be matched to the dental impressions of a known suspect. The commission, whose findings will be presented in a written report to the Teaxas attorney general, is the first of any official state or federal bodies to recommend the exclusion of this type of testimony. Although it is not legally binding, the recommendation may prove to be extremely significant, and legal experts believe it may have wide-reaching effects on criminal trials nationwide. The recommendation could assist trial judges in deciding whether to allow bite-mark testimony, and may also help defense lawyers prevent wrongful convictions when prosecutors insist on using this  unvalidated science in their quest to convict.

In addition to their investigation and conclusion about bite-mark testimony, the commission also began sorting through decades of past trial records. They intend to identify cases that relied heavily upon bite-mark testimony, and therefore should be reopened. According to Dr. Di Maio, although they have not determined in which cases bite-mark testimony was a critical aspect, this type of testimony was involved in 35 convictions that they have identified thus far. He went on to state that the TFSC would alert convicted individuals and defense lawyers who may want to pursue new trials or exoneration at the appropriate time.

Relied upon for decades and used in hundreds of convictions across the country, forensic dentistry specialists used bite-mark testimony to “reliably” match a suspect’s tooth patterns to marks on a victim. As this type of testimony has been increasingly called into question, it has been used less often in recent criminal proceedings and DNA testing has exonerated several people whose convictions were based on bite-mark testimony. In addition, new studies revealed that wound patterns from the same teeth can differ and change shape over time because human skin is very malleable. In fact, in one study that was presented to the TFSC, even a panel of leading forensic dentists could not agree whether human teeth caused the alleged bite marks in the photographs they studied.

The commission hopes that with their new recommendation, researchers will eventually establish thorough principles for identifying human bite marks. They also hope the criteria will include when bite marks can be used in investigations, such as to exclude a person from suspicion or say that they cannot be excluded, rather than to prove one individual left the wounds.

The Innocence Project of Florida is challenging a conviction of a client who was induced into pleading, in part, on problematic bite-mark evidence that the original expert how now recanted. In fact, a battery of forensic odontologists have concluded that the supposed bite-mark purportedly left by our client on the victim’s shoulder was not even a bite-mark at all. Yet, the State continues to oppose relief for our client and is relying on the bite-mark evidence in their attempt to preserve this wrongful conviction.

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Exoneree Compensation Across the United States

Alejandra de la Fuente — October 03, 2014 @ 3:17 PM — Comments (0)

A Planet Money story from NPR that we missed last summer (June 2014) entitled, “When Innocent People Go to Prison, States Pay,” provides an excellent overview of compensation for wrongfully convicted exonerees in all fifty states.

Twenty-one states provide no money — though people who are exonerated can sue for damages. Twelve states and the District of Columbia award damages on a case-by-case basis. Another 17 states pay a fixed amount per year of imprisonment.

Amounts vary from $80,000 per year behind bars in Texas, to $5,000 per year in Wisconsin. Florida and six other states match federal compensation of $50,000 per year.  Not that any amount could make up for the horror and humiliation of being an innocent person wrongfully convicted and imprisoned, but it is something — especially considering that very few exonerees get any sort of an apology from the state.

Even more appalling, as this article notes, is the fact that states are willing to pony up some limited annual compensation in order to prevent innocent exonerees from suing for much greater amounts.  Many states require exonerees to give up the right to sue as a condition of receiving compensation.

At the Innocence Project of Florida our concern is that our state’s compensation law has a loophole known as the “clean hands” provision.

961.04 Eligibility for compensation for wrongful incarceration.A wrongfully incarcerated person is not eligible for compensation under the act if:

(1) Before the person’s wrongful conviction and incarceration, the person was convicted of, or pled guilty or nolo contendere to, regardless of adjudication, any felony offense, or a crime committed in another jurisdiction the elements of which would constitute a felony in this state, or a crime committed against the United States which is designated a felony, excluding any delinquency disposition;

(2) During the person’s wrongful incarceration, the person was convicted of, or pled guilty or nolo contendere to, regardless of adjudication, any felony offense; or
(3) During the person’s wrongful incarceration, the person was also serving a concurrent sentence for another felony for which the person was not wrongfully convicted.

So not only will a prior felony of petty theft or possession of marijuana make any exoneree, no matter how unjustly he or she was treated, ineligible for compensation, but if the inmate gets caught up in something while in prison–say badly injuring another inmate who has attacked or tried to rape them, they are also ineligible for compensation in the State of Florida.

In the best of all possible worlds, as Voltaire would say, states would show some recognition of and remorse for their mistakes that led to wrongful convictions and incarcerations of innocent men and women.  Instead, states begin by putting up roadblocks to protect their convictions, right or wrong, issue no apology to the men and women whose lives they have ruined, and then provide limited compensation to spare them from multi-million dollar lawsuits  And Florida adds another insult to the injury with its “clean hands” provision.  We ask the convicted to show recognition and remorse for what they have done; it is only fair to expect the states to do likewise.

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Wrongfully Convicted Texas Man Exonerated

Alejandra de la Fuente — August 06, 2014 @ 3:58 PM — Comments (0)

Michael Phillips’ 24-year nightmare is finally over. In 1990 in a Dallas motel room, a young white woman was brutally raped by a black man wearing a mask. At the time of the assault, Phillips was sleeping in his own room at the motel, but that fact proved inconsequential. Police dragged him out of bed at gunpoint, he was then“identified” in a police lineup, and  convicted of a crime he did not commit. He then spent the next 12 years of his life paying the price of a crime committed by another man. Worst of all, he was unable to be with his father when he died, simply because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But this was just the beginning of his hardships.

Michael Phillips was released from prison in 2002. However, that was hardly an improvement in his life. Yes, he may had been physically freed, but according to the State of Texas, he was still a convicted rapist. Not just any rapist, but a black man who raped a 16-year-old white girl. He was forced to register as a sex offender and to live with the intense social stigma associated with that title. There was now nowhere he could go where he would not be looked upon as a monster. His life was effectively ruined. This is the quiet tragedy of a false conviction: not only was Phillips wrongfully incarcerated in prison for 12 long years that he can never reclaim, but he then had to live as an ex-con/sexual predator once freed. His wrongful conviction did not just rob him of the the time he served, it stole a quarter-century of this innocent person’s life. Whatever possible future Michael Philip was heading toward in 1990, it was destroyed by the very justice system that was supposed to protect him. Phillips life will forever be defined by a series of tragic mistakes, oversights, and possible prejudice.

On July 24th, 2014,  Michael Phillips was at long last exonerated by a Dallas judge. After 24-years of prison, 24-years of shame, and after living decades of injustice, Mr. Phillips’ is finally recognized as the innocent man that he always was. Unfortunately, Phillips is now a 57-year old in a wheelchair slowly dying from Sickle Cell Anemia. He will never get his life back. Yes, the state will give him some money to compensate for their mistake, but money will not buy back one second of Mr. Philips’ life. People are only given one precious life to live in this world. Our legal system cannot continue to play so lightly with human lives. These are not mistakes which can be fixed. Mr. Philips is human being, and while his life may have been broken by an unfortunate series of events, he still has to keep on living it. This is the core reason why the post-conviction innocence movement is so critical. We cannot keep allowing innocent lives to be wrecked because of mistakes.

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The Changing Nature of Exonerations

Alejandra de la Fuente — March 11, 2014 @ 12:49 PM — Comments (0)

Across the country the “face of exonerations” are changing, and changing quickly. Last year in the United States there were 83 exonerations. Only 13 of these were based on DNA evidence. Ultimately, DNA is useful in only 5-10% of all cases, usually the ‘who dunnit’ type cases. Surprisingly, women make up the fastest growing population in prisons, and most cases involving female crimes are not DNA case, according to an article by TIME Magazine.

So what can we do to help the other 90% of cases?

Well, Texas has taken on this problem by passing legislature recognizing faulty forensic evidence as a basis for post-conviction release.

In Chicago, a federal judge issued a ruling finding “actual innocence” in a case based on shaken baby syndrome. Without the presence of DNA evidence, Jennifer Del Prete proved that it was impossible a jury could have found her guilty of murdering the child in her care. This has developed the idea that shaken baby syndrome is “more of an article of faith than a proposition of science”, according to U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly. Del Prete has not yet been exonerated, but it is likely she will be. When this happens her case is expected to follow in the footsteps of the non-DNA exonerations we had in 2013.

Recognizing the fact that not all wrongful conviction cases involve DNA, everyone in the criminal justice process must understand that wrongful convictions involve misidentifications, false confessions, and invalid forensic science, and be open to other avenues to prove actual innocence. While many states have taken this first step, there are also many who haven’t.

Check out this article from TIME Magazine by Deborah Tuerkheimer, Professor of Law at DePaul University College of Law, that goes more in-depth on this particular exoneration topic and was used as a resource for this blog post.

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Hank Skinner Continues to Languish on Texas’ Death Row

Alejandra de la Fuente — September 30, 2013 @ 2:01 PM — Comments (5)

A man has waited on death row in Texas for his exoneration for twenty years. Hank Skinner was convicted of murdering his then girlfriend, Twila Busby, and her two adult sons in January of 1993. The police failed to investigate another potential suspect, Twila’s uncle, who had a history of violent activity and molestation. At the trial, there was little mention of exculpatory evidence due to the fact that Skinner was at the scene of the murder. Upon his conviction, the jury recommended the death penalty. Skinner has been languishing on death row in Texas for twenty years all the while maintaining his innocence.

Now thanks to DNA testing Skinner may have a shot at regaining his freedom. Twila Busby’s uncle had often worn a jacket that was similar to the jacket found next to her body. Upon testing some hair on the jacket and in Twila’s hand it was found that the hairs belonged to her uncle. The District Attorney had made a promise to Hank Skinner that DNA testing would be allowed and taken into account though upon the test results being revealed the D.A was reticent to fulfill that promise.

After years of appeals and Skinner’s lawyers unsuccessfully fighting his case, Hank was to be executed, though at the last minute the state of Texas issued a stay of execution. Just one year later, the courts ruled that he would have access to the biological evidence in his case and justice would be served. Unfortunately for Hank and conveniently for Texas the original jacket that had already been tested was lost. However the hairs were still available. DNA testing on the hairs excluded Skinner and revealed a potential match to Twila’s uncle.

Hank SkinnerWhile the legal wrangling and testing has been going on, Hank was living on death row. Spending the majority of his days in a cramped small cell eating terrible food has begun to take its toll. Hank Skinner was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis recently and is back on death row while a resolution to his case is pending. What’s worse is that Twila Busby’s uncle, the only other suspect in the case, has been deceased for years and his body must be exhumed for Hank Skinner to be freed.

We all hope that Hank Skinner can stay healthy enough to see his family and friends again. More information about Hank Skinner’s case can be found at The Huffington Post and HankSkinner.org.

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Solitary Confinement: Re-assessing, Re-evaluating, Re-thinking

Alejandra de la Fuente — July 27, 2012 @ 4:27 PM — Comments (1)

Note: This is the first of a three-part series on solitary confinement.

Dr. Craig Haney, the nation’s leading expert on inmate mental health, and a professor of psychology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, recently testified before a U. S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights on the effects of solitary confinement upon prisoners. Inmates in long-term confinement, according to Haney, suffer mental breakdowns from the lack of human contact that can lead to a multitude of mental, physical and emotional conditions, including psychosis, mutilations and suicide. Solitary confinement for most inmates, Haney testified, “precipitates a descent into madness” and can cause “profound, psychological damage.”

The increase in solitary confinement in the United States (since the late 1970s), according to statistics provided by Haney, is the result of the “confluence of three unfortunate trends”: mass imprisonment, the shift in responsibility for housing the mentally ill to the nation’s prison systems, and the abandonment of the notion of rehabilitation. Haney, who is also chair of UCSC’s Legal Studies program, estimated that 80,000 of the nation’s 2.3 million inmates in prisons and jails are in long-term solitary confinement. A great number of inmates have spent the majority of their prison sentences in solitary confinement, a legal and administrative practice that separates designated inmates from the prison’s general population.

Professor Haney was invited to testify by Subcommittee chairman Senator Richard “Dick” Durbin, D-Ill, at the first-ever hearing on the constitutional, fiscal, and public safety consequences of solitary confinement. Since 1971, Haney has conducted groundbreaking research into the effects of solitary confinement upon prisoners. His work has been cited in numerous scholarly journals and publications. Since 1971, he has been a leading proponent of mental health issues affecting prison inmates.  As a graduate student, he was one of the principal investigators in an academic undertaking that became known as the “Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE).” He and fellow researchers placed a group of psychologically healthy college students in a prison-like environment, randomly assigning half to the position of prison guards; the other participants were designated as prisoners.

The researchers in the SPE carefully monitored participants’ behavior during the designated period, eventually ending the experiment, however, upon their observation that the otherwise “psychologically healthy volunteers in the simulated prison [setting] rapidly deteriorated into mistreatment and emotional breakdowns.” Thus began Haney’s prolific research into the effects of solitary confinement upon prisoners who have been incarcerated for extended periods of time. Since the SPE, Haney’s work has extended into the effects of capital punishment as well. In 2011, his research was cited numerous times in the majority opinion when the United States Supreme Court upheld a ruling ordering California to release 46,000 prisoners in an effort to relieve the state’s overcrowded prisons.

While a great portion of Haney’s testimony before the Subcommittee centered upon the effects of solitary confinement, he also addressed the state of  prisons’ mental health workers, individuals who are assigned the task of treating inmates who have mental health issues.  Oftentimes the workers are (themselves) stressed and too overburdened to render effective care with respect to noticeable improvements in inmates’ mental health issues. Such inadequate  healthcare not only harms prisoners, Haney testified, it also “endangers the public once those prisoners are released” from prison. Without adequate mental healthcare as well as available, external counseling, prisoners, once released from the confines of a structured environment, are oftentimes present and “untreated” in the public domain.

Many times, according to statistics  provided during the hearing, non-treated inmates (or inadequately treated inmates) commit crimes which cause their return to the familiar, institutional environment of incarceration. A vicious cycle of re-institutionalization becomes, in many cases, the norm. An overburdened healthcare system speaks not only to an inadequate system of governance–as it relates to prison reformation–it also articulates a much broader statement in terms of the responsibilities of government in being fiscally accountable to those who work in conditions as presented in California’s (and other states’) prison facilities.

Haney’s testimony before the Subcommittee concluded on multiple points of note. According to Haney, we put “far too many people in prison, we pay far too little attention to what happens to them while they’re there, we keep them there for far too long, then we disregard what happens to them when they try to make the difficult transition to come out into the free world.” In April 2012,the National Academy of Sciences appointed Haney to a panel to study the causes and consequences of high rates of incarceration in the United States.

Others testifying on issues related to solitary confinement included the Honorable Charles Samuels, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons; Christopher Epps, Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections; and former inmate Anthony Graves, who was released from Texas death row in 2010, after spending 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Ten of the 18 years Graves spent on death row were in solitary confinement. He is the founder of “Anthony Believes,” an organization dedicated to the health and well-being of individuals consigned to death row and solitary confinement. His front-line advocacy has garnered national attention on issues related to solitary confinement and prison reformation.

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