Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for September 7th, 2020

Labor Day post on the cost to workers of not have a strong union

leave a comment »

Kevin Drum explains the dollar significance of that chart in a brief post.

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2020 at 5:11 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, GOP, Unions

A Weapon for Extortion Long Ignored in Alabama Prisons: Cellphones

leave a comment »

Serge F. Kovaleski and Dan Barry report in the NY Times:

If a single inmate could reflect Alabama’s dysfunctional prison system, it might be a tall man with a walled right eye and a drug-addled past, trying to survive at a violent penitentiary with a thriving shadow market in contraband.

His name was Joseph Michael Wood, and he was doing life at the St. Clair maximum-security prison for a couple of inept armed robberies. But he made the best of it, taking courses in everything from anger management to engine repair and proudly sending each certificate of completion to his mother.

He also used cellphones, which are banned in prison, to beg her and other relatives incessantly for money. His family often heard other voices in the background, instructing him on what to say.

It’s a matter of life and death, he would implore. You don’t know what it’s like in here.

A relative finally ended what was clearly extortion. “I told everybody to stop sending money,” a cousin, Steven Davis, recalled. “He might get beat up, but they will stop when they know they can’t get any more money.”

One night in July 2017, after two pleading calls from his imprisoned cousin, Mr. Davis refused to answer a third. Soon after, the family received another call, this time from the prison chaplain. Mr. Wood had been strangled in his cell. He was 33.

“I just screamed and screamed,” his mother, Angela Wood, recalled.

“I was worried people were going to start blaming me,” Mr. Davis said. “But I never heard a word.”

The authorities have not established a connection between the killing of Mr. Wood and the extortion of his family. But his case reflects how the longtime indifference of the Alabama Department of Corrections — including its failure for many years to crack down on cellphones, which seem almost as easy to obtain behind bars as at a Best Buy — had terrifying consequences for those beyond the prison walls.

Inmates have used contraband phones to issue threats, demand money and transmit photographic evidence of what happens when payment is not made. Their boldness seems boundless: Even the chairman of the State Senate’s judiciary committee has received threatening calls and text messages from Alabama inmates.

In a lawsuit filed against corrections officials last summer, Ms. Wood said her son would call from the prison 200 miles away to say he was being threatened with assault “if he did not pay the inmates certain sums of money.”

Mr. Wood would “frantically beg” his mother to send the funds, the lawsuit says. He repeatedly told prison officials about the lax security in the unit where he was housed, and eventually murdered.

Jeff Dunn, the state corrections commissioner, said in an interview this year that he was frustrated by the continuing problem of illicit cellphones in Alabama prisons. But he said their proliferation reflected an “unfortunate nexus” of factors: not enough corrections officers guarding too many inmates in old facilities with too many blind spots.

“It makes it exceptionally difficult for our correctional officers to be everywhere all the time,” Mr. Dunn said. “And so these types of things, we freely admit, go on.”

Mr. Wood was killed in a closely monitored cellblock, yet it was more than two years before another inmate was charged with his murder. The authorities blamed the delay on a long wait for forensics results.

Mr. Wood’s cousin, Mr. Davis, questioned how cellphones could be so common in prison.

“With no cellphones, there would be no extortion,” he said. “They can literally take a picture of a loved one beaten up and say: ‘This happened today. And it will be worse tomorrow.’”

Prisons overrun by phones

“Go ahead and put your cellphones up, so’s we don’t have to go and take ’em.”

That call went out whenever corrections officers conducted their sweeps, according to Bobby Monaghan, who spent a decade at the St. Clair prison in Springville before his assault conviction was vacated in 2018.

Mr. Monaghan, 55, and others described a nerve-jangling dystopia behind bars, in which street gangs — sometimes in tandem with corrupt officers — controlled the sale of smuggled contraband, including drugs and phones.

If the loved ones of an inmate targeted for extortion will not pay, then that prisoner is “going to get stabbed up,” Mr. Monaghan said. “That’s just how the Alabama prison system works.”

The Justice Department agrees. In a bluntly critical report last year, the federal agency accused the state of “deliberate indifference” by failing to address problems that jeopardize inmate safety, including overcrowding, understaffing, the smuggling of contraband and extortion.

Alabama is not alone in having troubled, violent prisons, or in struggling to stop the illegal use of cellphones. But the state has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, and its prisons are antiquated and short-staffed, creating danger for employees and inmates alike.

Mr. Dunn, who became corrections commissioner in 2015, did not dispute many of the systemic issues cited by federal investigators. Alabama’s prisons are near 160 percent of capacity, the department said, and most of its facilities have less than half the necessary staffing.

But Mr. Dunn said that he and the governor, Kay Ivey, who took office in 2017, were determined to end the decades-old culture of indifference they inherited. He noted that the state recently raised the salaries of its corrections officers — they now make an average of close to $50,000 a year — and said it was putting into place a plan for long-term change.

“We need to shift from warehousing inmates to rehabilitating individuals,” he said. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2020 at 11:27 am

Coffee fragranced morning shave

leave a comment »

Despite the size of the knot on the Omega 20102, I had no problem in loading it fully using the shave stick: plenty of soap was scraped off by my two-day stubble to make a generous amount of fine-grained, thick, and fragrant lather — Mama Bear notes:

Our Turkish Mocha has a creamy top notes of milk, cardamom, cocoa, and a touch of nutmeg. The alluring, complex blend winds down to heady scents of vanilla and honey rum, and of course, Turkish Coffee. Just imagine yourself in a small corner alley coffee shop in an exotic locale and inhale! If you’re a coffee lover, you won’t be disappointed by this fragrance. It’s decadent!

My trusty Merkur white bakelite slant did its usual superb job, and a good splash of Sprng-Heeled Jack provided a good coffee finish. The week begins! — and with a holiday, always a bonus.

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2020 at 8:49 am

Posted in Shaving

%d bloggers like this: