TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 24

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. A bipartisan plan in North Carolina shrunk prison population and cut costs while the crime rate continued to fall. Can it serve as a model for other states?

By the Justice Center at the Council of State Governments

2. In international development, the massively scaleable transformative idea is usually too good to be true.

By Michael Hobbes in the New Republic

3. Net Neutrality could have a big impact on the future of healthcare, from telemedicine to electronic medical records.

By Darius Tahir in Modern Healthcare

4. Today’s renewable energy technologies won’t save us from climate change. We need new ideas.

By Ross Koningstein & David Fork in IEEE Spectrum

5. We must understand and counter the major trends fueling the ranks of Islamic radicals.

By Maha Yahya in the National Interest

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 29

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Community colleges should lead the way in preparing America’s workforce, and states need to join the effort.

By Matthew Dembicki in Community College Daily

2. To bring Asian-American communities to the ballot box, we must overcome cultural barriers, and that starts with language.

By Akiko Fujita at the World

3. We should be honoring, not quarantining, health care workers who put their lives at risk to fight Ebola abroad.

By by Jeffrey M. Drazen, Rupa Kanapathipillai, Edward W. Campion, Eric J. Rubin, Scott M. Hammer, Stephen Morrissey, Lindsey R. Baden at the New England Journal of Medicine

4. Prison officials should judge inmates by their actions, not the color of their skin.

By the Editorial Board of the Los Angeles Times

5. Deliberate efforts to welcome and nurture immigrant families can help reverse the trend of shrinking rural populations.

By the Rural Family Economic Success Action Network

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME portfolio

A Cold Place, With No Curves: Life Inside Belgian Prisons

“My goal was to show the reality of these places, without the photographic clichés,” says Belgium photographer Sebastien Van Malleghem, who, for the past three years, has gained access to and photographed everyday life inside his own country’s prisons.

“These [penal] universes have been photographed many times before, but I was more interested in the psychological oppression created by these places,” Van Malleghem tells TIME. “Being locked up is a form of punishment, but once you’re inside you realize it’s just the beginning. There are many other forms of punishment—psychological and emotional ones. Once you’re in this box, they put you into another smaller box where your movements, your spirit and your ideas are confined.”

The 28-year-old photographer’s curiosity towards his country’s penal system came after four years spent following police officers for his Police project. “I wanted to start a story on justice and violence in Belgium, and I felt that the first step would be to follow the police.”

Van Malleghem readily admits that, as a younger man, he was attracted to this world of violence. It’s only after he finished that earlier project that he shifted his focus to another form of violence—namely, “a social violence; the one embodied in the relationship between a state, which is represented by these policemen and prison guards, and citizens. I wanted to see how a government sentences its own people.”

Gaining full access to these prisons, however, proved difficult. “It took me six to eight months to get permission from the Belgian government,” says Van Malleghem. “Once I received that general authorization, I still had to approach and convince prison directors to open their doors to me.”

Most prisons couldn’t afford to dedicate resources for Van Malleghem’s project beyond just a few hours. “I had to be followed by a guard,” he notes. But, in some cases, the photographer was able to spend up to three months in the same place. “For some directors, my work represented a way to raise awareness about the state of their prisons,” he adds. “With the economic and social crises, the Belgium government doesn’t really have the budget to help renovate these prisons, some of which were built in the 1800s.”

Once inside, Van Malleghem faced yet another hurdle: convincing inmates to let him photograph them. “In the beginning, it’s always a little bit tense,” he explains. “When you get in, people check you out. They try to define you. Are you working for the prison? Are you a psychological resource? What can you bring them? Are you a potential danger?”

All of these questions are asked with a stare. “They don’t say a word. It’s your role to come forward and explain the project, and when they realize that this work will really talk about them and the conditions they’re in, most of them welcome you. It’s like anywhere else: you have to break the ice once or twice, but when they realize that you keep on coming back, the ice has melted.”

At one point, Van Malleghem arranged to spend three days locked up in his own cell, in an attempt to understand how it really felt to be behind bars. “Everything is sanitized, everything is cold. You’re surrounded by grey concrete. It’s all straight lines and straight angles,” he tells TIME. “In fact, you never see something round. You never see curves. Everything is square. Everything is awful.”

For Van Malleghem, this environment is counter-productive to the process of rehabilitation. “I don’t think it helps reform these prisoners. On the contrary, I can understand, if you’re a young detainee, how this experience would foster a form of aggression toward an entire system.”


Sebastien Van Malleghem is a freelance photographer based in Belgium. His first photobook, Police, is available on his website.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent


TIME justice

The Surprising State Leading the U.S. in Prison Population Growth

Furniture Makers Prison
A New Hampshire prison inmate works in the wood shop inside the prison in Concord, N.H., April 18, 2013. Jim Cole—AP

Live free or be incarcerated

In the past two decades, New Hampshire’s crime rate has remained steady. It has one of the lowest violent crime rates in the U.S., and the state’s population has only grown by about a fifth.

But over that period, the number of state and federal inmates in New Hampshire has almost doubled. Its main prison in Concord is routinely overcrowded. And last year, the prison population grew at a faster rate than any other state in the country.

As the number of incarcerated Americans inched up for the first time in four years, the prison population in small, largely rural New Hampshire grew faster than any other state. The 8.2% increase in the Granite State topped second-place Nebraska’s 6.8% rise and far outpaced the 0.3% national increase in the number of inmates, according to figures released Sept. 16 by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Many state experts and public officials trace the rise not to a spike in crime or a recent population boom, but to the alteration of a bill initially designed to reduce New Hampshire’s prison population. In 2010, the state adopted a law that freed all inmates who had served 120% of their minimum sentence. If an inmate was sentenced to 5-10 years, for example, he or she would automatically be released by the sixth year. It also required prisoners to walk free when they were within nine months of their maximum sentence. Within a year of the law’s enactment, almost 300 prisoners were released as a result.

The bipartisan effort was meant to cut a prison population that had been growing for decades. According to the New Hampshire Department of Corrections, state prisoners increased from 287 in 1980 to 1,250 by 1990 and 2,847 by 2008. A policy called Truth in Sentencing, which reduced early releases for inmates based on good behavior, contributed to that growth. The Justice Reinvestment Act, as the 2010 law was known, undid many of those guidelines.

“It was a wholesale change to the department of corrections,” says Dennis Delay, an economist at the New Hampshire Center of Public Policy.

But the political timing was terrible. The law became effective in October 2010—one month before local elections—and it became an easy target for candidates seeking to look tough on crime, says Donna Sytek, chairman of the New Hampshire Adult Parole Board. It didn’t help that the first few inmates released under the program were violent criminals and rapists, raising the specter that dangerous people were being returned to the streets.

“It was initially embraced by everybody, Democrats and Republicans,” Sytek says. “But it became a political football.”

The following year, the state legislature effectively gutted the bill. Instead of mandatory release nine months before the end of a maximum sentence, for instance, inmates were now just granted a parole hearing. The state’s prison population has swelled ever since. In 2013, New Hampshire had 3,018 inmates.

Experts cite other factors contributing to the increase, such as the state’s gradual population growth and judges handing down stiffer sentences for drug crimes. But the change to the 2010 law appears to be the main culprit.

“I can tell you that many New Hampshire stakeholders are extremely concerned that the current prison population exceeds its capacity,” says Ted Kirkpatrick, a professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire. “I am uncertain, however, what will come out of that concern.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 13

1. True rehabilitation: We can reform prisons and reduce recidivism if we treat prison labor less like modern-day slavery and more like on-the-job training.

By Beth Schwartzapfel in American Prospect

2. Drones are a powerful military and civilian tool. Reforms are desperately needed if the U.S. wants to stay at the top of the drone food chain.

By Missy Cummings in Wired

3. Liberia’s fragile democracy may fall victim to the Ebola virus outbreak.

By Ashoka Mukpo in Al-Jazeera America

4. Mayors need the partnership and protection of a UN for big cities to test new solutions and spread innovation.

By Richard Florida in Citylab

5. The biggest barrier to nonprofit innovation isn’t the lack of money. It’s knowing the right way to scale up and spend big infusions of cash.

By Mathu Jeyaloganathan Ivey Business Review

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Race

Study: Little Progress for African-American Men on Racial Equality Since 1970

Rates of incarceration and unemployment remain high

In recent years, the U.S. has celebrated the 50th anniversaries of the March on Washington, the Civil Rights Act and a number of other landmark accomplishments considered pivotal in making the U.S. a better place for African Americans.

But despite a deep reverence for those accomplishments, a new study suggests that African-American men today face such high levels of unemployment and incarceration that they are in little better position when compared with white men than a half-century ago.

The working paper, by University of Chicago researchers Derek Neal and Armin Rick, is based on preliminary findings and has not yet been peer-reviewed.

“The growth of incarceration rates among black men in recent decades combined with the sharp drop in black employment rates during the Great Recession have left most black men in a position relative to white men that is really no better than the position they occupied only a few years after the Civil Rights Act,” the study reads.

The study uses census data to show that more than 10% of black men in their 30s will be incarcerated at some point during a calendar year. This number was around 2% for white males of the same age group.

The study attributes the corrosive impact of incarceration on the African-American community, at least in part, to the institution of more punitive criminal-justice policies.

African-American men also appear to face a more difficult employment situation. More than a third of African-American men between the ages of 25 and 49 lacked employment in 2010.

“The Great Recession period of 2008–2010 was quite bleak for black men,” the study reads. “Recent levels of labor market inequality between black and white prime-age men are likely not materially different than those observed in 1970.”

[FiveThirtyEight]

TIME Crime

Man Visiting Jail Gets Trapped for 30 Hours

He escaped after breaking a sprinkler head

A man visiting his son in Chicago’s Cook County Jail ended up a prisoner himself—trapped alone in a maximum security visitor’s room for 30 hours, according to media reports. The man, who has not been identified in the press, was rescued when he broke a sprinkler head.

“We’re tremendously sorry for what this man went through,” Cara Smith, the jail’s executive director, told the Chicago Tribune.

The man, who set foot in the jail on Saturday afternoon for his weekly visit with son, was directed to an unfamiliar area and entered the wrong room, which was closed so contractors could add security cameras. When two steel doors closed behind him, he was trapped with little recourse. He banged on the steel doors, but he could not be heard on the other side.

“There’s about two feet of cement and two steel doors between him and the outside,” Smith told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Finally, the man broke off a sprinkler head to prompt a fire department response and attract the attention of jail officials. Firefighters rescued him around 1:30 a.m. on Monday, according to the local ABC affiliate.

The man, who has not been identified, left the jail in good spirits and appeared to forgive the error, jail officials told the Tribune. He was treated in a local hospital for injuries to his hand sustained as he broke the sprinkler.

“We’re been looking at how and why and what went wrong,’’ Smith told the Tribune. “Multiple things obviously failed including a contractor leaving a door open while they did work in our jail. It was a perfect storm of circumstances that led to this horrible incident.’’

[Chicago Tribune]

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 Prisons

California to Investigate Illegal Sterilization of Female Inmates

The state auditor's report demands that health agencies look into the violations

An investigation of the California prison system revealed troubling numbers of female inmates who had been sterilized without their consent, in addition to many other breaches of protocol.

A report released on Thursday by the California State Auditor examined 144 cases of tubal ligations (more commonly referred to as having one’s “tubes tied”) performed on imprisoned women over the course of eight years.

“Some of the inmates were sterilized unlawfully, and there were certain safeguards that were designed to limit those occurrences, and those failed,” Margarita Fernández, the auditor’s chief of public affairs, tells TIME.

Among the 144 cases, 39 sterilizations were performed without the inmate’s lawful consent. In another 27 cases, the inmate’s physician did not sign the form that confirmed two key components of consent: first, that the patient was mentally competent and understood the lasting effects of the procedure, and second, that the required waiting period had been satisfied.

State law requires that at least 30 days and no more then 180 days must pass between the inmate signing over their consent and undergoing the procedure. In some cases, this waiting-period window was not observed properly, Fernández said. One sterilization took place 196 days after consent was given.

The auditor called on the Medical Board of California to investigate the 39 cases in which consent was not obtained, and asked the California Department of Health to investigate physician and hospital practices. The move comes after the Center for Investigative Reporting broke a story that reported over a hundred cases of unlawful sterilization.

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