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JPI Daily News Digest 1/7/2013

National: The Prison Population is Dropping. Can You Guess Why? (Mother Jones)
Keith Humphreys has a nomination for the most underreported public policy story of the past year: The continuing decline in the number of Americans who are behind bars or on probation/parole. Alex Tabarrok illustrates the trend with the chart on the right.

National: Nationwide PLN Survey Examines Prison Phone Contracts, Kickbacks (Prison Legal News)
An exhaustive analysis of prison phone contracts nationwide has revealed that with only limited exceptions, telephone service providers offer lucrative kickbacks (politely termed “commissions”) to state contracting agencies – amounting on average to 42% of gross revenues from prisoners’ phone calls – in order to obtain exclusive, monopolistic contracts for prison phone services.

National: FCC Proposal: Limit Burden on Families From $1.2B Prison Phone Biz (ColorLines)
On December 28th, 2012, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed rules that could result in lower phone rates for prisoners and their friends and family members. The proposed rules would expand regulation of a roughly $1.2 billion market dominated by just two companies. The agency unveiled the proposed rules to seek comment to establish interstate rate benchmarks, caps on rates and the end of exclusivity agreements with prisons.

PA: Prison Phone Calls, Financial Burden To Prisoners’ Families, Get FCC Review (CBS)
The Federal Communications Commission is currently soliciting public comment on a proposal to reduce the cost of phone calls prisoners make to their families in another state. Currently, the families of prisoners who make calls pay two separate charges: a set-up fee and a per-minute rate, which limits the amount of contact prisoners have with their families.

HI: Juvenile Injustice (Honolulu Weekly)
A recent study finds that native Hawaiian youth are twice as likely to end up in the juvenile justice system (JJS) as any other ethnic group. And with youth employment at lower rates in 2011 than at any time during the prior decade, the problem may get worse.

FL: Prison Health Care Privatization Contract Signed (North Escambia)
The state’s efforts to privatize prison health care services across roughly the southern third of Florida is moving ahead, a Department of Corrections spokeswoman confirmed Thursday.

FL: Drug court gives offenders a second chance (St. Augustine Record)
There is perhaps no more convincing advocate for the work of St. Johns County Adult Drug Court than Judge Wendy Berger.Berger, who was the drug court judge from 2005 to 2012, is not known for being soft on criminals. She is now on the appellate court.

FL: Juvenile Sentencing Remains An Issue (The Ledger)
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down laws requiring automatic life sentences without parole for juvenile killers is presenting some thorny legal issues for Florida judges.

MT: Program aims to break cycle of recidivism, offer hope for female inmates (Billings Gazette)
Lisa Hammond won't let her past define her. Her life has included an alcoholic father, an abusive stepfather, several failed marriages, drug addiction and the loss of custody of her three children. In 2005, she was convicted of two felony drug charges after months of recurring jail stints. “I re-offended over and over again,” Hammond said. “I didn’t know how to cope with life, and I used drugs and alcohol to numb the pain and escape reality.”

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