TIME Courts

Supreme Court Ruling Won’t Stop Search for Execution Drugs

Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014 file photo
Sue Ogrocki—AP The death chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla, shown on Oct. 9, 2014. The Supreme Court upheld the state's lethal injection protocol on Monday.

States still have problems with controversial sedative

The search for more effective lethal injection drugs and execution methods won’t end following the Supreme Court’s decision on Monday upholding Oklahoma’s use of a controversial sedative, legal experts and death penalty opponents say.

In a narrow 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court found that Oklahoma’s use of midazolam did not violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, finding that a group of three Oklahoma death row inmates failed to prove that the sedative leads to a significant risk of severe pain. The sedative has been a drug of last resort for many states under pressure to carry out lethal injections, and it will likely still carry the stigma of being involved in three executions widely considered botched.

“Right now, if somebody offered something other than midazolam, states would jump on it,” says Richard Dieter, senior program director at the Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-death penalty organization. “They will definitely be looking around at other drugs, but the question is whether they’ll find anything.”

For years, states used barbiturates such as sodium thiopental and pentobarbital in lethal injections that would render an inmate unconscious before additional drugs were administered. But a nationwide drug shortage and pressure on overseas pharmaceutical companies supplying states with drugs led to a search for alternatives and combinations that had never been used before. Last year, the prolonged executions of Dennis McGuire in Ohio, Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma and Joseph Wood in Arizona all experienced serious problems involving proper sedation following the use of midazolam. Lockett’s execution was at the heart of the Supreme Court case, Glossip v. Gross.

Four states currently use midazolam, which has come under scrutiny from anesthesiologists for not being strong enough to knock out an inmate before other drugs that cause severe pain are injected.

“I think many states will still shy away from it,” Dieter says, referring to the sedative. “Most states don’t want to use it.”

There is some precedent for states tinkering with their protocols even after the Supreme Court upheld specific drug combinations. In 2008, the court ruled in Baze v. Rees that Kentucky’s three-drug protocol at the time was constitutional. But the court’s justices also wrote that it was possible for a lethal injection method to be deemed unconstitutional if there were alternatives available that were considered more humane. That pushed states to continue their search for other drugs and methods, something that could happen again following Monday’s ruling.

“Legally, the court has given its stamp of approval,” says Deborah Denno, a Fordham University law professor who studies capital punishment. “But as an ethical issue, there still appears to be problems in using it. All of its problems were discussed in the case. Many states just have to use it out of desperation.”

Following the ruling, Oklahoma announced that it would resume lethal injections, which were put on hold pending the Supreme Court’s decision. Florida has also lifted its stay of execution.

“I think this ruling will make states feel a little more comfortable moving forward with different drugs and different methods,” says Doug Berman, a law professor at The Ohio State University. “But states will still have their own challenges securing the drug, even though the constitutional issue is out of the way.”

Death penalty opponents, however, found one thing to applaud on Monday. In a lengthy dissent written by Justice Stephen Breyer and joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the justices called into question the entire death penalty system and whether it violates the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Breyer wrote that the delays involved in actually executing death row inmates along with the arbitrariness of sentences over the last few decades may have led to the practice of capital punishment in the U.S. to be unconstitutional.

Thanks to lawsuits and difficulties states have had obtaining drugs, the U.S. last year executed the fewest inmates in almost two decades. Only 35 death row inmates were executed in 2014, compared with 98 in 1999, and at least one anti-death penalty group looked to Monday’s decision as a potential harbinger.

“Justice Breyer asked, ‘How long are we going to have this conversation?’ By any measure, we’ve essentially abandoned the death penalty as a society,” says Diann Rust-Tierney, the executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, referring to the few executions that are now carried out in the U.S. “Some are clinging to this practice, but I’m convinced that the public won’t continue to support this.”

TIME Courts

Supreme Court Finds Oklahoma Lethal Injection Drug Constitutional

Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014 file photo
Sue Ogrocki—AP The newly renovated death chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla., on Oct 9, 2014.

The sedative was used in a series of executions widely considered botched

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Monday that Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol is constitutional, finding that the use of the sedative midazolam in a three-drug cocktail does not violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

The central issue in the case was whether the drug can be used in executions without violating the Constitution. Oklahoma was one of small number of states that incorporated midazolam into a new lethal injection formula after drugs for the established protocol became harder to acquire. The case was brought by Richard Glossip, a longtime Oklahoma death row inmate, and two other prisoners.

The court found that the inmates failed to prove that midazolam given in large doses leads to a substantial risk of severe pain and did not identify an alternative method of execution that significantly reduces that risk, a standard established in Baze v. Rees, a 2008 case in which justices upheld Kentucky’s three-drug combination.

In the majority’s ruling, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that “because some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution, we have held that Constitution does not require the avoidance of all risk of pain. … Holding that the Eighth Amendment demands the elimination of essentially all risk of pain would effectively outlaw the death penalty altogether.”

Following the ruling, Oklahoma announced it would resume executions, which were on hold pending the court’s decision.

“This marks the eighth time a court has upheld as constitutional the lethal injection protocol used by Oklahoma,” said Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt in a statement. “The Court’s ruling preserves the ability of the Department of Corrections to proceed with carrying out the punishment of death.”

In the last few years, the landscape has dramatically shifted as states have experimented with new drug combinations in response to dwindling supplies of drugs for established lethal protocols.

Last year, the executioners of three separate inmates—Dennis McGuire in Ohio, Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma and Joseph Wood in Arizona—appeared to experience serious problems in rendering those inmates unconscious. All three were given midazolam as part of the cocktail of drugs, raising questions about its effectiveness. A number of anesthesiologists have criticized states’ use of the drug, saying it’s not an appropriate anesthetic to use during an execution because it doesn’t induce a full state of unconsciousness, potentially leading to a painful execution that could be considered cruel and unusual.

In Lockett’s execution, which was at the heart of the case, the inmate apparently woke up during the procedure after officials had trouble securing an IV in Lockett’s arms. They eventually placed an IV in Lockett’s groin, where it become dislodged, allowing midazolam to leak into the inmate’s surrounding tissues instead of the bloodstream. The execution lasted almost 45 minutes.

Afterwards, Oklahoma suspended future executions and changed its lethal injection policies. Meanwhile, death row inmate Charles Warner and 20 other inmates sued the state over the practice. Warner was executed in January. Three other inmates, including Glossip, eventually brought the case before the Supreme Court.

In December, a district court concluded that midazolam rendered inmates “insensate to pain,” but the plaintiffs argued there was no evidence to support that and appealed.

The case ultimately turned on a very narrow question: whether midazolam sufficiently induced unconsciousness in which an inmate would not feel pain from two other drugs being administered, especially potassium chloride, which one inmate described during an execution as feeling as if he were on fire.

The prisoners were unable to convince the nine justices that midazolam was an inadequate drug for lethal injections or had a “ceiling effect” that rendered the drug ineffective in reducing pain at a certain point.

“Petitioners have not proved that any risk posed by midazolam is substantial when compared to known and available alternative methods of execution,” Alito wrote. “Second, they have failed to establish that the District Court committed clear error when it found that the use of midazolam will not result in severe pain and suffering.”

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, four states—Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Oklahoma—have used the drug during executions while five other states have proposed administering it.

Two justices—Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg—deviated from ruling on the efficacy of midazolam and instead wrote that capital punishment itself may be unconstitutional. In a lengthy 46-page dissent, the justices said that the death penalty’s arbitrary application and the significant delays between sentencing and execution may violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, and they called for the court to fully address its constitutionality.

TIME police

Baltimore Police Won’t Be Fully Equipped With Body Cameras Until 2019

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake holds a news conference on Wednesday, May 6, 2015 in Baltimore.  The mayor called on U.S. government investigators to look into whether this city's beleaguered police department uses a pattern of excessive force or discriminatory policing. Rawlings-Blake's request came a day after new Attorney General Loretta Lynch visited the city and pledged to improve the police department.  (Kim Hairston/The Baltimore Sun via AP)  WASHINGTON EXAMINER OUT
Kim Hairston—AP A new report suggests that Baltimore won't fully equip its police officers with body cameras for four years. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, shown here at a May 6, 2015, news conference, says she wants them implemented by 2016.

But Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says she wants them sooner

A body camera program for Baltimore police won’t be fully implemented for four years, it emerged Thursday, even as the city’s mayor pledges to equip officers with cameras by the end of 2016.

According to internal documents obtained by the Baltimore Sun, the city plans to fully equip the Baltimore Police Department with body-worn cameras by 2019, starting with a pilot program that includes 155 officers the first year and roughly an additional 2,500 the following three years.

But city council members on Thursday spoke out against the plan, saying the program needed to be finished sooner. “I don’t understand this haphazard approach of going so slow,” City Councilman Nick Mosby told the Sun. “Baltimore city needs body cameras. Four years is just too long.”

The mayor’s office, however, said that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is working to implement the cameras much sooner and wants to have officers fully equipped by 2016.

The city’s police department came under heavy scrutiny in March following the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old unarmed black Baltimore resident who was severely injured in the back of a police van. The Baltimore Police Department has paid out millions of dollars in settlements involving police misconduct in recent years.

In 2014, the Baltimore City Council voted to equip the city’s 2,800 police officers with cameras, but Mayor Rawlings-Blake vetoed the measure, saying the issue needed further study and developed a task force to look into the effects and logistics of body-worn cameras.

 

TIME faith

Noah’s Ark Theme Park Gets a Helping Hand From the Amish

noahs ark encounter park kentucky
Ark Encounter

Construction underway despite funding issues

An embattled ministry building a replica of Noah’s Ark in Kentucky is getting a boost, thanks to the Amish.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Amish communities in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania are helping Answers in Genesis—a non-profit Christian ministry that advocates creationism—build Ark Encounter, the multi-million dollar theme park that the ministry says will include a full-size replica of the Biblical ark.

The project, first proposed in 2010, experienced a setback late last year when Kentucky officials denied $18 million in tax incentives to the group. The state’s tourism board said the project had “evolved from a tourism attraction to an extension of AiG’s ministry” and that state incentives would violate the separation between church and state.

State officials cited the group’s hiring requirements, which mandated that future employees give a “salvation statement” and believe that God created the world. AiG sued the state, accusing it of discriminating against the group based on its religious views.

Still, construction is reportedly underway on the 510-foot-long ark even without the tax incentives with the help of a number of Amish workers, who are working on the ark’s wooden structure. AiG says any state incentives will go to future expansions of the park. It plans to open Ark Encounter in the summer of 2016.

TIME Demography

U.S. Steps Closer to a Future Where Minorities Are the Majority

Census finds the country's minority population has risen to 37.9%

Minority births in the U.S. are far outpacing deaths as the white population remains all but stagnant, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Thursday, driving the country closer to the point at which minorities outnumber whites.

The country’s minority population increased from 32.9% of U.S. residents in 2004 to 37.9% in 2014, according to the Census, and four states — Hawaii, California, New Mexico and Texas — along with Washington, D.C., are now majority-minority. Nevada, which has 48.5% minority population, is likely next.

Non-Hispanic deaths outpaced births in 2014 for a third year in a row, something University of New Hampshire demographer Ken Johnson says has never happened before in the U.S.

“We expected to see non-Hispanic white natural decrease in the future, but it wasn’t expected to start for another decade or so,” Johnson says, adding that the recession and low fertility rates have contributed to the dip. “The white population is considerably older than any other part of the population. This means it has higher mortality. Fewer women are in their prime child-bearing years.”

The slowdown in white population increases is coupled with minority births that are outpacing deaths by three to one. An estimated 95% of the country’s population gain – a 2,360,000 increase – came from minorities last year, while whites made up almost 80% of deaths. However, the non-Hispanic white population did see a bump thanks to 155,000 immigrants, mostly from Europe. The population for whites grew by just 94,000.

“Ironically, non-Hispanic whites are now more dependent on immigration for population increase than any other group,” Johnson says.

Demographers predict that the U.S. will be majority-minority for the first time by the mid-2040s. Millennials, meanwhile, who number 83.1 million, have now surpassed Baby Boomers at 75.4 million and are the most diverse generation in history. But Census numbers show that the generation after them will be the first to be majority-minority. More than half of all Americans aged five years or younger are non-white.

TIME States

Why Mississippi Is Unlikely to Redesign Its State Flag

Unlike in South Carolina, the political will isn't there

As South Carolina officials have united behind a push to remove a Confederate flag that flies in the state capital, focus has shifted to the last state that includes the controversial banner in its flag: Mississippi.

In the last few days, several prominent Mississippi legislators have supported a redesigned flag without Confederate symbols after the shooting in Charleston, S.C. that left nine people dead at a storied black church. The alleged shooter, Dylann Roof, was seen in several photos following the shooting posing next to the Confederate States of America flag.

“I believe our state’s flag has become a point of offense that needs to be removed,” Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn said in a statement. “We need to begin having conversations about changing Mississippi’s flag.”

Others, including Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, have signaled they’d be open to changing it, while Lt. Governor Tate Reeves appears willing to let the people decide in a future referendum. Democratic State Senator Kenny Jones says he is marshaling bipartisan support to pre-file legislation that will be taken up when the legislature is in session in January and will ultimately need two-thirds of the legislature to sign any change into law.

“In 2001, the conversation centered around the flag being disrespectful and appalling to African-Americans, but at the same time it was about the heritage to the white community,” Jones says. “Now, the conversation is different. Now it’s about how this symbol represents hatred, violence and bigotry. Now it’s about what can we do to make our state more progressive but in a bipartisan way.”

But changing a symbol that has flown in Mississippi for more than a century is a far greater challenge than removing one flag at the South Carolina statehouse. For one, there is little political will within the Republican-dominated legislature to do so, says John Bruce, a University of Mississippi political science professor. “The dominant thread of ideology in the Republican party in the state is to pick up the flag, wave it and say, it’s state’s rights,” Bruce says. “Not to say that that’s everybody, but the tenor of the party will not find it particularly objectionable.”

While several states still include remnants of Confederate symbols in their state flags, Mississippi is unique. The primary symbol on the flag is a smaller version of the Confederate battle flag, which to many black Americans recalls an earlier era of slavery and discrimination, but to some white communities symbolizes Southern heritage. Originally designed in 1894, the Mississippi flag came under scrutiny in 2001 during a referendum led by the Mississippi Economic Council, the state’s chamber of commerce, which argued that it hurt tourism and businesses looking to relocate to the state.

“The great argument we made from a business perspective was that if you were trying to introduce a product, would you make something that made 38% of your market uncomfortable?” says Blake Wilson, CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council, referring to the black population in the state. “It was a no-brainer from our perspective, but we probably misjudged the ability for business to influence the general public. The people in Mississippi were not ready to take that step.”

Two-thirds of Mississippians backed the old flag over one that had been redesigned without any Confederate symbolism. Ole Miss’s Bruce says that the alternative flag was not particularly well liked and that many Mississippians saw no threat from businesses that may not want to set up shop because of the flag. “I think the mood was, We’re a poor, agrarian state anyway,” Bruce says. “You can’t hurt us.”

And there’s little to suggest that much has changed since then. Only a handful of Mississippi’s 174 state legislators have signaled that they’ll consider even debating a motion to change it. The state’s 97 Republican legislators will likely be opposed to any change, and there’s still one important hold-out: Republican Governor Phil Bryant, who essentially warned legislators on Tuesday not to attempt to override 2001’s referendum.

“A vast majority of Mississippians voted to keep the state’s flag, and I don’t believe the Mississippi Legislature will act to supersede the will of the people on this issue,” Bryant said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.

Bruce, the Ole Miss professor, says that even with momentum in South Carolina and around the U.S. in support of removing that state’s Confederate flag, he believes there won’t be enough political support to change it in Mississippi, especially if the governor is opposed.

“We haven’t had the shock South Carolina has had,” Bruce says. “Changing the flag would likely take something that throws us into the national news with that symbol and that conversation that we can’t run away from.”

TIME Crime

Inside the White Supremacist Group that Influenced Charleston Shooting Suspect

Dylann Storm Roof appears by closed-circuit televison at his bond hearing in Charleston
Reuters Dylann Storm Roof appears by closed-circuit televison at his bond hearing in Charleston, S.C. on June 19, 2015

'Every other group in the United States has organizations and publications. We believe whites also have that right'

In 2012, the Council of Conservative Citizens started seeing a spike in traffic to its website. George Zimmerman was on trial for killing Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, after a confrontation in their Florida subdivision, and white supremacy organizations like the CCC had become vocal online defenders of Zimmerman’s innocence. Postings on the high-profile case attracted new visitors, and some of the curious became converts.

“When George Zimmerman was acquitted, white nationalists in the U.S. considered that to be a win for them,” says Stephen Piggott, who tracks white supremacist groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “The Council of Conservative Citizens’ website blew up. More people were going to the site, and Dylann Roof was one of those people.”

Since the Zimmerman trial, the CCC has been squarely focused on what it calls an epidemic of black-on-white crime. And when Roof Googled that phrase, he found the group’s website.

“I have never been the same since that day,” Roof wrote in a purported manifesto found online in the days after he opened fire at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C. and killed nine people. “There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders. I was in disbelief. At this moment I realized that something was very wrong.”

That moment apparently sent Roof on the road that ended in the massacre at the historic black church.

For years, CCC was one of the most prominent white supremacist organizations in the U.S. Today, however, the group exists primarily online. CCC started in the 1950s in Mississippi as the Citizens’ Councils of America (also known as White Citizens’ Councils), which formed to fight against the integration of public schools following the Brown v. Board of Education ruling.

The group’s influence dwindled as legal segregation was largely eliminated. In an effort to broaden its appeal, the group changed its name to Council of Conservative Citizens in 1985, according to Piggott. The messaging shifted, too. The group talked less about maintaining overt segregation and more about fighting interracial marriage and halting immigration.

Throughout the 1990s, a number of prominent southern politicians addressed the group. Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, former Arkansas governor and current Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and U.S. Rep. Bob Barr all spoke at CCC annual conventions. In 2013, the SPLC reported that Roan Garcia Quintana, who was a CCC member, was on South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s campaign steering committee. The governor later asked him to resign.

On Monday, the Guardian reported that CCC president Earl Holt III gave thousands of dollars to three current Republican presidential candidates. Senator Ted Cruz said that he would be returning the donations. Senator Rand Paul and former Senator Rick Santorum have not commented on the donations, according to the New York Times.

Today, the CCC holds few events but appears to have a small but dedicated following online. While the SPLC estimates its members at less than 1,000, the CCC says it’s “in the thousands.”

“Every other group in the United States has organizations and publications,” says Jared Taylor, a CCC member and spokesman. “We believe whites also have that right. This is considered normal and encouraged with every group except whites.”

Taylor says that CCC members had never heard of Roof and that he never attended a meeting. The group has condemned the shooting, but they stand behind Roof’s ideology.

“For a young man like Dylann Roof to be constantly reminded of the sins of his ancestors, that’s going to make people hopping mad,” Taylor says. “Many people are angry about the genuine facts of interracial crime in the United States, but that anger should not by any means be channeled into violence.”

The group is particularly focused on crime perpetrated by African-Americans against white people. A CCC blog post from January said there were 361 black-on-white murders in 2014.

But according to the most recent numbers by the FBI, a majority of homicides are committed by whites against whites. In 2013, the FBI found that of the 3,005 white individuals murdered that year, 2,509 of the offenders were white and 409 were black.

The deadly shooting comes at a time of upheaval for the CCC. Gordon Baum, the president who helped the organization transition from the White Citizens Councils in the 1980s while maintaining much of its membership, died in March. Earl Holt, a longtime member, took over in May. Kyle Rogers, the CCC’s webmaster and one of its younger leaders, deleted his Twitter account after the attack. The SPLC says Rogers, who had 40,000 followers, was key to the group’s online resurgence. But CCC may see a resurgence of interest after being named in Roof’s manifesto.

“There certainly could be a boost in their membership,” Piggott says. “Their name is getting out there more than it was. You’ll have people defending them who will potentially want to help out and join.”

TIME faith

Why Some Pastors Bring Their Guns to the Pulpit

Charleston Shooting
Stephen B. Morton—AP Police tape surrounds the parking lot behind the AME Emanuel Church as FBI forensic experts work the crime scene where nine were killed in Charleston, S.C., on June 19, 2015.

Advocates push for firearms in church following shooting in Charleston

When associate pastor Brian Ulch is preaching at Trinity Lighthouse Church in Denison, Texas, he’s armed with a Glock. It sits on his right side just under his suit jacket or dress shirt. And when he’s not preaching, he’s training other churchgoers around the state to protect themselves and others.

“We feel like we owe it to our congregation to engage any type of threat,” Ulch says. “If people aren’t willing to combat a threat, then they’re making themselves vulnerable.”

Since the shooting at a historically black church in Charleston, S.C., that killed nine people Wednesday, gun control is once again in the spotlight. But this time, some gun control advocates have focused on a lack of security at many places of worship around the country.

Concealed weapons are often banned at church, and some—most recently GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee—are calling for more security and more armed pastors and churchgoers. At least one business owner in Tulsa, Okla., has offered free gun training to local pastors.

Many pastors argue that arming congregants goes against religious teachings of non-violence and that guns have no place in a place of worship. Many states, including South Carolina, specifically prohibit guns in church. “The presence of a cross in our sanctuary reminds us that God’s response to violence is never greater violence,” Pastor Baron Mullis of Atlanta’s Morningside Presbyterian Church told WGCL-TV. “This is a place of peace. … This is not a place for guns.”

But increasingly, churchgoers are able to pack heat in the pews if they wish. A number of states have recently passed laws allowing concealed weapons in churches, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Illinois and North Dakota. Bryan Crosswhite, president of 2AO, an organization that advocates for Second Amendment rights, says that roughly 25 states allow concealed carry weapons in churches. But after the shooting in Charleston, his group is pushing for more states to open up their churches to firearms.

“Churches are often gun-free zones,” Crosswhite says. “That makes them a major target for those who go to worship. In most churches, the congregation has their back to the doors. People could walk right in and shoot so many people if you don’t have a plan in place.”

Several organizations specifically work with churches to arm congregants that volunteer to provide security. Chuck Chadwick, founder and president of the National Organization for Church Security and Safety, says that his organization has worked with thousands of churches since the group’s founding in 2005, including churchgoers who attend security seminars and pastors who go through gun training. “We train men and women to run toward the sound of gunfire,” Chadwick says.

NOCSSM has worked with churches around the country, but in Texas, where the organization is located, Chadwick says his group has trained hundreds of officers who are now deployed throughout the state. Since the Charleston shooting, Chadwick says he’s been getting flooded with calls from churches looking to boost their own security.

The shooting in Charleston has already reignited the push to allow guns in church, but it could potentially have a lasting effect on people of faith who no longer feel like their churches are sanctuaries from violence. Ulch, the associate pastor, doesn’t see it that way. “Personally, I would not attend a church if it didn’t have armed security,” he says. “There’s no other place where everyone is welcomed and people can come and go freely without question. I believe every ministry owes it to their people.”

TIME Crime

Privately-Run Prisons Hold Inmates Longer, Study Finds

Prisoners are incarcerated 4% to 7% longer

Privately-run prisons in the U.S. have become an increasingly popular way for states to cut costs, but a recent study finds that inmates actually stay longer in private prisons than in state-run correctional facilities.

A study by Wisconsin School of Business assistant professor Anita Mukherjee found that inmates held in private prisons in Mississippi from 1996 to 2004 served 4% to 7% longer than inmates serving similar sentences in public prisons. Mukherjee’s study, which is currently under review, appears to be the first to compare time served between public and private prisons.

The U.S. private prison industry is thought to be worth $5 billion a year, with facilities increasingly used by cash-strapped states dealing with overcrowded public prisons. In Mississippi for example, whose 20,000-strong prison population gives it one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, about 40% of inmates are housed in private prisons.

While it makes financial sense for a private prison to hold inmates for as long as possible, Mukherjee says the main reason behind the trend is more complicated than a privately run facility merely attempting to lengthen an inmate’s stay.

Parole boards, rather than the prisons themselves, are the ones that decide whether a prisoner should be released early. Mukherjee argues that private prisons do whatever they can to cut costs, including hiring less experienced guards that work for less pay and have high turnover.

Those inexperienced guards may be more inclined to hand out violations to inmates, she says, which is often the easiest way to maintain authority. Mukherjee found that inmates in private prisons were 15% more likely to get an infraction. And it’s those violations that a parole board looks at when deciding whether to release an inmate early based on good behavior.

Mukherjee says that the inmates in private prisons she studied received more infractions than those in public prisons, even though the parole board is the same for all state prisons. “Because they know they can’t just keep inmates longer, private prisons may be focusing on making it cheaper,” Mukherjee says. “And there are unintended consequences from that.”

 

TIME Crime

Old South African Flag Finds Second Life as White Supremacist Symbol

Photos of Charleston shooting suspect show him wearing African flags linked to white nationalism

The two African flags seen in Facebook photos of Dylann Roof, who allegedly shot dead nine people in a Charleston church on Wednesday, have long been discarded by their countries. But at least one has been resurrected by white supremacist groups.

Soon after Roof was named the chief suspect in the deadly shooting, Facebook photos began circulating of the 21-year-old wearing a jacket with two flag patches. One appeared to show the standard of the Republic of Rhodesia, the post-colonial name for Zimbabwe after its white prime minister declared independence in 1970. The other showed the flag of apartheid-era South Africa, which in the last half of the 20th century had institutionalized segregation imposed by minority white rule.

A civil rights group which monitors white supremacist groups says the latter flag, which South Africa dropped in 1994, has begun showing up in several white supremacist demonstrations in the U.S. and elsewhere over the last several years, oftentimes among protesters who make claims of white genocide in South Africa.

Stephen Piggott, a campaign coordinator at the Southern Poverty Law Center, says that the apartheid-era flag has recently appeared at rallies in the U.S. for a nationalist group called the South Africa Project, a group that raises awareness of alleged genocide against white farmers in South Africa.

It has also appeared at what are called “white man marches,” which have recently taken place in the U.K., and are centered around the “white genocide movement,” which attempts to maintain political and cultural white power around the world.

“The flag shows up at protests where there’s talk of white genocide, not just in South Africa,” Piggott says. “The last time we’ve seen the apartheid flag has been around the white genocide movement.”

Piggott says the SPLC has not seen the Rhodesian flag pop up at protests, but the website of at least one white nationalist group, the Council of Conservative Citizens, links to a site that sells the flags online. The site, South Carolina-based Patriotic-Flags.com, did not respond to TIME’s request for comment.

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