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Termination of Parental Rights and the Incarcerated Parent

The Missouri Supreme Court handed down on January 5, 2017 its decision in In the Interest of J.P.B. This is an important case for the termination of parental rights for incarcerated parents. J.P.B. provides guidance on bases for terminating rights and the limitations on constitutional and procedural rights for incarcerated parents facing termination.

No Right of Missouri Inmates to Divorce

While inmates nationwide have the right to marry under the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Turner v. Safley, (1987). Missouri inmates apparently do not have a constitutional right to divorce under a case handed down by the Missouri Supreme Court this week. In McNeal v. McNeal-Sydnor, No. SC94435 (Mo.banc, Sept. 8, 2015), the court upheld a dismissal of an inmate’s petition because he failed to appear in court at a hearing because he was behind bars.

City of Springfield sues Greene County Sheriff over Jail

cowThe City of Springfield filed suit today against the Greene County Sheriff’s Office over the housing of inmates for the city.  The three count Petition seeks declaratory judgment, injunction and specific performance. You can read the petition here.

The Jailhouse Lawyer’s Handbook

Anagoria, CC BY 3.0

Anagoria, CC BY 3.0

The Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Lawyers Guild publish  The Jailhouse Lawyer’s Handbook.  It is full of information for prisoners and families of inmates about the rights of the incarcerated and how to protect them.  How can we expect prisoners to emerge to be law-abiding citizens if their jailers are allowed to break the law?

Inmate Phone Calls and Reducing Recidivism

Public Domain

Public Domain

In a statement issued last week, the Federal Communications Commission paves the way to reduce the high cost of telephone calls from prison inmates to their social support network.  According to one report, a 15-minute call can run as high as $17.30 for some inmates.  Long distance interstate calls already have rate caps at $0.25/minute for collect calls and $0.21/minute for prepaid calls.  Capping in-state rates would save the social support network of inmates $128 million/year by some estimates.  Many lawyers, myself included, refuse to take calls from inmates, in part because of the expense.

Why should we care?

Communication between inmates and their social support network has been demonstrated to reduce recidivism.

Mass Incarceration: A “Holocaust in Slow Motion?”

In a recent article in the DePaul Journal for Social Justice, “A ‘Holocaust in Slow Motion?’ America’s Mass Incarceration and the Role of Discretion,” a former federal prosecutor and a sitting federal judge highlight the “stunning metrics of mass incarceration in America” and discuss the role of discretion of lawmakers, prosecutors and judges and make suggestions for how our system can be more fair and just.

The “land of the free” incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any country in the world.


Marine Perez, CC BY 2.0

The United States has less than 5% of the world’s population but nearly 25% of the world’s incarcerated population.  The U.S. has 2.2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons or jails.  The U.S. is the world leader in incarceration with a 500% increase over the past 40 years.  The number of people in federal prisons for drug offenses increased 1950% between 1980 and 2010.  Of all the inmates in federal prisons, nearly half are serving time for drug offenses.  One in forty-five children have a parent in prison and one in ten have a parent under correctional supervision, straining them financially, disrupting parental bonds, separating spouses, stressing the remaining caregivers, leading to a loss of discipline in households, and to shame, stigma and anger.

But we get a safer society with the bad guys locked up, right?

On average, a person can make roughly $11,000 more [illegally] from spending time in prison versus a person who does not spend time in prison.

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