TIME Prisons

Report: Georgia Prisons Rife With Brutal Violence

A report by a human rights organization finds that violence is on the rise within Georgia's prison system

A report released Wednesday found that Georgia’s prisons are beset with violence that is growing increasingly brutal.

Since 2010, Georgia prisoners have killed 33 other inmates and one officer, the report found. Created by the Southern Center for Human Rights, the report also found that Georgia in 2012 had more homicides in its prisons than some other states, including neighboring Alabama and South Carolina, did in the last 10 years.

That violence, the Center found, is getting worse. Three times as many prisoners were killed in Georgia’s prisons in 2012 than in 2002. According to the report, prisoners in Georgia are often left unsupervised, put in cells with faulty locks and given access to lethal weapons. One prisoner had to be airlifted to a burn center after he had bleach poured into his eyes and boiling water thrown over his face and genitals. Another lost three fingers to a fellow inmate who was in possession of a 19-inch knife at Wilcox State Prison. And just last week, a prisoner at Augusta State Medical Prison died after being stabbed.

Though the report acknowledges violence is a problem in all prisons, it finds that Georgia’s Department of Corrections “has shown a pattern of apathy in the face of security breaches and a failure to respond to known, dangerous conditions.” It also calls on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the problem and find a way to end the escalating violence.

TIME Capital Punishment

Another Missouri Inmate Scrambles to Halt Execution

Convicted killer Michael Taylor is shown in this Missouri Department of Corrections photo
Convicted killer Michael Taylor is shown in this Missouri Department of Corrections photo released on Feb. 25, 2014. Missouri Department of Corrections/Reuters

Death row inmate Michael Taylor is set to be executed on Wednesday with secretive lethal injection drugs

Missouri will execute death row inmate Michael Taylor early Wednesday morning using controversial lethal injection drugs, barring a last-minute decision by a federal appeals court to stay the execution.

Lawyers for Taylor, who pleaded guilty in 1991 to the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl in Kansas City, Mo., have filed numerous lawsuits in the last few weeks in an attempt to halt his execution, in part over claims that the planned lethal injection would be unconstitutional. A federal judge denied four motions for a stay on Monday, one of which involved the origins of the execution drugs the state plans to use.

(MORE: Missouri Denied Execution Drugs by Pharmacy)

“These are cop meth labs where they’re getting this poison from,” said John Simon, one of Taylor’s lawyers. “They don’t adhere to the same requirements of professional accuracy and reliability that the medications that you and I rely on have to meet.”

Like other states, Missouri has turned to largely unregulated compounding pharmacies to obtain execution drugs after pharmaceutical companies refused to sell them to departments of corrections.

A few weeks ago, Taylor’s lawyers sued The Apothecary Shoppe, a compounding pharmacy in Tulsa, Okla., after they discovered it planned to sell pentobarbital, a drug often used in lethal injections, to the Missouri Department of Corrections. Last week, the pharmacy agreed not to manufacture drugs for the state. Missouri officials, however, said they have back-up drugs available and can carry out the execution—but will not disclose from where the drugs were obtained.

(MORE: Ohio’s Lethal-Injection Experiment)

This is not Taylor’s first time facing imminent death by lethal injection. In 2006, Taylor was hours from being executed before a stay was issue by a federal court and upheld by the Supreme Court over questions about the state’s lethal injection protocol. The courts ordered that all Missouri executions be put on hold until the state could explain its procedures. Taylor’s execution date was eventually rescheduled. His lawyers are hoping for a similar outcome before his planned 12:01 a.m. execution on Wednesday.

TIME Prison System

Record Number of U.S. Prisoners Exonerated in 2013

Between 1989 and 2013, 1,281 people spent almost 12,500 years in jail for crimes of which they were wrongly convicted

The number of U.S. inmates exonerated after being falsely convicted of a crime hit a record high last year, according to a new study.

Eighty-seven were found in 2013 to have been wrongly convicted, according to a report out Tuesday by the National Registry of Exonerations, a joint project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern University School of Law.

Nearly half of those exonerated prisoners had been convicted of murder. About one-third of the exonerations involved cases in which no crime had occurred, the Registry found, and fewer convicts were exonerated through DNA evidence than in the past. That slow trend has been occurring for much of the last decade. The report also noted that 17 percent of those exonerated had originally pleaded guilty to crimes they hadn’t committed, specifically because those types of plea bargains can lead to reduced sentences.

Rob Warden, the co-founder of the Registry and executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, said the numbers reflect a noteable improvement in the criminal justice system. “First, the courts and prosecutorial apparatus are more willing to take these cases seriously than they once were,” he told TIME. “There was a time when you wouldn’t have gotten a court to look at a case where there was a confession. Now we know that false confessions happen quite regularly.”

Texas had the most exonerations with 13, followed by Illinois (9), New York (8), Washington (7) and California (6). Rounding out the top 10 were Michigan and Missouri with five a piece, and four each for Connecticut, Georgia and Virginia.

The Registry has 1,304 exonerations on its list dating back to 1989. Over the 1,281 documented between January 1989 and December 2013, 92 percent were men and 47 percent were black. Within that range, New York has had the most with 152, followed by California (136) and Texas (133). All together, the 1,281 defendants spent nearly 12,500 years in prison for crimes of which they were wrongly convicted.

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