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July 13, 2008

Two potent commentaries assailing mass incarceration

Two local Michigan papers have these two new potent commentaries assailing mass incarceration:

The start of the second piece sets out some data that reinforce my view that these topics ought to be much more prominent in year's election season:

U.S. taxpayers spend at least $60 billion a year on a growing body of state and federal prisons, county jails and local lockups.  With jail and prison populations that have increased nearly eightfold over the past 35 years, the United States has become the world's leading jailer.

More than one in every 100 U.S. adults is locked up -- and 5 million more are on probation or parole. At any given time, one in 32 adults is under the supervision of the criminal justice system.

Tough-on-crime policies, not increases in crime, are mostly responsible. Mandatory drug sentences, three-strike and so-called truth-in-sentencing laws, as well as high recidivism rates, have created our Incarceration Nation.  Even so, violent crime rates are higher than when the nation's prison building boom started more than three decades ago.

It's time to reverse failed sentencing policies, restore certain social and legal rights for ex-felons, and slow the revolving doors of the penal system with better re-entry, education and training programs.  Fully funding the Second Chance Act, which provides money for state and federal re-entry programs, would keep more ex-inmates out of prison.

Criminal justice reforms are critical to the health of the nation's cities, and they must become part of the next president's urban agenda.  Most of the more than 600,000 people a year leaving U.S. prisons and jails return to disadvantaged urban neighborhoods. They go home poorly educated, lacking job skills, and socially and legally disabled by felony records.

Going to prison has become a norm in certain big-city neighborhoods, even a rite of passage. While mass incarceration has aimed to reduce crime, it has actually increased it by breaking up social networks and removing financial and emotional support from families and communities. Nearly half of the 2.3 million adults locked up are African Americans, who make up less than 13% of the U.S. population.  A stunning one in nine black males between the ages of 20-34 is behind bars.

Felony convictions, whether or not they carried prison sentences, attach lifetime penalities to tens of millions of Americans. Roughly 1.8 million people in Michigan, for example, have criminal records, or nearly one in four adults.  Most are felony offenders, with all that entails for future prospects.  These staggering statistics hold true for the nation as a whole, with more than 55 million people with criminal records.

July 13, 2008 at 08:44 AM | Permalink


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I am just a citizen not a legal services professional. I am interested in the problems with "mass incarceration" because I personally experienced it. I am 53 and have no criminal record. Nevertheless, Judge Edward Nottingham imprisoned me for 5 months without accusing me of a crime. I was not even accused of contempt in the presence of the court. The first time was a hearing at the request of Faegre & Benson, which was representing Mutual Insurance Limited of Bermuda, which insured a newspaper I sued for knowingly republishing fraudulent information with the intention of hurting me. I was told in court that I was not allowed a lawyer or a jury trial or an evidentiary hearing. The judge refused to cite a law allowing him to jail me. He later issued a warrant for my arrest that was blank where the law was supposed to be. That was at the request again of Faegre & Benson for the stated reason that I had filed motions in other courts. The assistant U.S. attorney Robert Anderson appeared and said, "The government isn't a party to this". There was a public defender there and he said, “she’s not charged with a crime. The judge had not charged her with contempt or anything else.” Even so, the adjudicator, a court clerk not assigned to the matter who did not appear once in that court (the District of Western Wisconsin) the entire year ordered me held without charges and taken 1200 miles in chains. That time I was held without charges for 22 days.

The offense stated was that I engaged in civil litigation without a lawyer. I recently sued the employer of the lawyer who procured the arrests (Faegre & Benson). The D of MN dismissed my case for the sole stated reason that I was self-represented. FYI, not a single rule 11 c. 6 order was ever issued against me. I verified everything I ever filed in every court under penalty of perjury but was never accused of perjury or fraud.

Apparently there is some sort of plot among insurance companies to reduce claims payments by threatening people with jail if they represent themselves. Self-representation has grown by leaps and bounds in state courts and could do so in federal court also, which should be technically easier because of ECF and Pacer. The insurance companies want to stop that so they can sell insurance without paying claims. My claims defended by Faegre & Benson were insured by Mutual Insurance Limited of Bermuda, which does not have a NAI
C number and is not even supposed to be selling defamation insurance without one. In the states in which we litigated, the state insurance regulators have no record of Mutual Insurance Limited of Bermuda.

There are something like 2000 insurance companies based in Bermuda. There, management is not required to sign financial statements of insurance companies. Bermuda has very high illiteracy and a population of only 90,000.

You may consider my case to be unusual and maybe it is related to Judge Nottingham's use of prostitutes. However, my opinion is that crooks outside Bermuda run these 2000 insurance companies and that if I do not prevail in my current 8th Circuit appeal that there will be mass incarceration for the offense of self-representation. Basically the scheme will be to let pro ses file once, dismiss their case for "failure to state a claim" and then incarcerate or threaten to incarcerate them if they go to another court for relief. In my case, Faegre & Benson advertised that it was dismissed for statute of limitations reasons but a statute of limitations defense requires an Answer, which they did not file. Their client actually published fraudulent information only two months before I filed and the main article I complained about was printed exactly two years before I filed and I claimed special damages not just presumed damages and claimed the fraudulent publications as a conspiracy w government under 42 U.S.C. section 1983, which is a two year statute of limitations.

The insurance companies hire the same lawyers over and over again and these lawyers have virtually unlimited access to private interviews with federal judges. In my D of MN case, 08-cv-01064, local rules required Faegre & Benson to email a proposed order to the judge but they didn’t cc me and they refuse to this day to provide a copy of their email to the judge.

I filed a timely appeal to the 8th Circuit. I hope that you will wish me well. My statement of issues on appeal are “Must petitions presented by Wisconsin free citizens in the District of Minnesota be adjudicated without delay and in full conformance to law, even when the litigants are self-represented? Can U.S. citizens be legally incarcerated or threatened with a finding of contempt solely for petitioning a court while representing themselves?” It is 08-2494. I would appreciate any advice or help. I feel that the entire future of democracy is riding on my shoulders and I am afraid not only for my family and myself but for others that I will write without adequate clarity or will somehow be tricked out of a decision on the merits.

Posted by: kay sieverding | Jul 13, 2008 2:24:24 PM

Well good luck to you. And your own website too. Excellent. In my experience, anytime I mix Bermuda, judges and prostitutes, you're just gonna have to take what's coming your way. A rollercoaster you can't stop. It's like Caribbean karma. And all for a defamation claim.

Lady, you need a lawyer.

Posted by: babalu | Jul 13, 2008 9:40:25 PM

Here's one for everyone to get worked up about


Posted by: federalist | Jul 14, 2008 4:30:02 PM

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