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June 2014 Archives

No Air Conditioning during the Summer- Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

Texas inmates sue over lack of air conditioning

By Emma Lacey-Bordeaux, CNN

(CNN) -- Claiming that even the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is air conditioned, prisoners in Texas have filed a federal lawsuit over soaring temperatures in state prisons that they say have killed at least 12 prisoners in the last three years.
The suit, filed by the Texas Civil Rights Project and the University of Texas School of Law Civil Rights clinic on behalf of the prisoners, isn't seeking monetary damages. It seeks cooler temperatures for the prisoners. Eighty-eight degrees to be exact. The lawsuit, broadly concerned about the lack of air conditioning across state facilities, centers on a facility in Navasota, Texas, known as the Wallace Pack Unit. Located about 70 miles northwest of Houston, the facility houses about 1,400 men. As of January, the compliant said, 114 men over the age of 70 were housed there. They have no air conditioning, and the windows which do open provide little relief, the suit claims, leading to temperatures inside that often exceed those outside. And outside it's hot. The suit cites internal data from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice which found that over the past three years the mercury topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit. "Stainless steel tables in the inmate dormitories become hot to the touch" the complaint reads and "prisoners have to lay towels down on the table to rest their elbows while sitting." In addition to the older inmates, the complaint said a number of men have various underlying medical conditions that make them especially vulnerable to heat stroke, like 69-year-old Marvin Yates, who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and hypertension. "I don't know if I will make it this summer. The heat and humidity are so bad inside I have trouble breathing," said Yates, one of three named plaintiffs, in a press release announcing the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges some 20 deaths since 1998 and details names, ages and internal body temperatures of the victims, including cases where the body temperature recorded was well over 100 degrees. One man, 45-year-old Rodney Adams, died one day after his arrival. His internal temperature registered 109.9. There is air conditioning in some parts of the facility. The law library, education building and visitation center all are equipped with air conditioning, according to the complaint, but the inmates are "rarely allowed" in these areas. The complaint also said that the warden's office and other administrative buildings have air conditioning. County prisons also have air conditioning. Texas statute mandates those jails keep temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees inside, but the state system, according to the complaint, has no such requirement. The lawsuit alleges the conditions violate federal law and the inmate's constitutional rights against cruel and unusual punishment. Men treated worse than pigs? The lawsuit alleges that hogs on Texas Department of Criminal Justice property receive better treatment than the prisoners. "TDCJ policy requires temperatures be kept no higher than 85 degrees to ensure 'pig comfort,'" the suit said, adding that the department begins "to cool the pigs when the temperature goes above 74 degrees to keep the pigs 'comfortable.'" Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said the department couldn't comment on pending legislation. But he did spell out what the agency does to "mitigate temperature extremes." The agency provides water and allows for additional showers "when feasible." Clark also said the staff is trained to identify "offenders susceptible to heat-related issues." Guards not immune But according to the complaint the staff may also need to identify heat-related issues for one another, since they also have to go into the hot rooms of the prison. "The correctional officer's union has made numerous public requests for the prison housing areas to be air conditioned," the complaint said, detailing one female guard who suffered heat exhaustion and dehydration. The plaintiffs said the situation has led to the correctional officer's union lending public support to the suit. Clark said the department doesn't have the money to make changes, conceding "a detailed cost analysis has not been done." 

Cannibalism and murder: Grusome Crime Highlights Mental Health Concerns in Our Country

Tennessee man accused of chopping up woman and eating her remains

By Greg Botelho and Suzanne Presto, CNN It wasn't enough for Gregory Scott Hale to kill his victim, authorities say. He also chopped off her head, her hands, her feet. Buried her torso in a burn pile outside his south-central Tennessee home. And -- by his own admission -- ate some of her remains, according to the affidavit filed against him. According to the same document, Hale confessed to the killing of the 36-year-old woman, identified as Lisa Hyder by Capt. Frank Watkins of the Coffee County, Tennessee, Sheriff's Department. "Lisa was a sweet girl, a very pretty girl," her friend and neighbor Vicki Keenan told CNN affiliate WSMV. "... It's got to be a very sick mind to do something like that." There's no indication Hale and Hyder knew each other before she was killed, apparently on Friday, said Watkins, who added that authorities don't have any reason yet to believe Hale had done this before. Authorities learned about the apparently random crime on Sunday and arrested Hale a day later. The affidavit says after killing her, the 37-year-old man put her slashed-off head and hands in a plastic bucket. Her feet and other cut-off body parts went into another bucket. It was not known who, if anyone right now, is legally representing the accused. Numerous CNN calls placed Tuesday to his relatives and associates were not immediately returned. Hale is being held in Tennessee on $1.5 million bond related to charges of first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse. His next scheduled court date is June 23. 

Data surveillance centers- Are they violating your right to privacy?

Data surveillance centers: Crime fighters or 'spy machines?'

By Thom Patterson, CNN (CNN) -- Some residents of Oakland, California, fear their community is creating a monster.
The city calls it the Domain Awareness Center, but opponents call it a "spy machine" and a potential "tool of injustice." Known as "the DAC," it's a proposed central surveillance facility where authorities can monitor the Port of Oakland and the city's airport to protect against potential terrorism. But the broader issue of centralized data surveillance poses serious privacy questions for millions of people in cities around the globe. In March, more than 100 worried Oakland residents waited past midnight to complain about it during a City Council meeting. Standing at the mic, Maya Shweiky, a self-described public school teacher and Muslim, warned lawmakers their proposal would be used to "discriminate against minorities and perpetuate racial, religious and political profiling." While the council voted on the proposal, rowdy protesters began chanting, "No! No! No! No!" Council members have proposed expanding the DAC to add live, 24/7 data streams from closed circuit traffic cameras, police license plate readers, gunshot detectors and other sources from all over the entire city of Oakland. The danger, say opponents, is putting all these data resources into one place. "If you need to go to four different locations to track someone's movements across town, you're not going to do it unless you have a good reason," said Linda Lye of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. "But when you can do it with the press of a button because it's all at your fingertips, you'll end up doing it based on your idle curiosity." That, Lye said, creates a situation ripe for abuse. Oakland represents just one battleground in a fiery debate about how cities should be using so-called "Big Data," especially aggregated video and other types of surveillance. City closed-circuit TV cameras performed famously when they helped identify suspected terrorists in London in 2005 and in Boston last year. But the issue has progressed far beyond the power of a few hundred video cameras and streetlight posts. Community surveillance 2.0 is now all about huge data mash-ups and incredible software that quickly sorts through mountains of information. Bottom line: A relatively small number of people have easy access to data that can track your whereabouts. In many cities, cameras mounted on police patrol cars gather video of millions of license plates. That data that can be used to track vehicles, possibly yours. Add traffic cameras to the mix. Then include cameras at bus stops, airports and train stations. How about cameras owned by schools and private security companies? The key to using all this information is the data-mining software that can easily and effectively rifle through it. Cities leading the way in video data collecting include London -- an early and strong adopter of widespread camera surveillance. The UK reportedly has 5.9 million CCTV cameras nationwide. For every 11 British citizens, there's one CCTV camera, according to Salon. Nice, France, has been expanding its surveillance center, which is projected to eventually count one camera for every 500 residents. As Rio de Janeiro hosts the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, the city plans to make heavy use of its IBM-designed Operations Center, which combines video and other data from 30 agencies including traffic cameras, subways and even weather satellites. The network includes more than 550 cameras, 400 employees and 60 different layers of data streamed from citywide sensors. Mayor Pedro Junqueira says the center helps emergency teams warn residents in landslide-prone areas when to evacuate during heavy rainstorms. The center also takes credit for a rapid response to an emergency after a truck toppled a pedestrian bridge, blocking lanes on a major highway. Traffic was back to normal within nine hours. In New York, a company called Placemeter is using feeds from hundreds of traffic video cameras to study 10 million pedestrian movements each day. It's using that data to help businesses learn how to market to pedestrian consumers. Placemeter also says it wants to use the data to help consumers with information such as when to visit your neighborhood coffee bar when the line is shorter. Placemeter says it doesn't store the video, nor does their analysis involve facial recognition. Lessons from Boston Last year's Boston bombings investigation showed how fast police were able to sift through mountains of surveillance data. After London's terrorist attacks in 2005, it took thousands of investigators weeks to painstakingly analyze all the CCTV footage. Eight years later in Boston, the FBI was able to release blurry images of two suspects in just three days. But the facial recognition data tools used in the Boston probe wasn't perfect. Images of the two suspects were available in public data bases, but the computers that searched that data missed them, CNN's Tom Foreman reported last year. Security analysts widely admit facial recognition technology is not yet good enough to spot a suspect in a crowd. Studies trying to determine the crime-fighting effectiveness of cameras have been inconclusive. According to the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queen's University in Ontario, urban surveillance systems have not been proved to have any effect on deterring criminals. But a study from the U.S. Justice Department says it depends on the circumstances. Sometimes cameras can be a "potentially useful tool for preventing crimes" the study says, "when actively monitored." Meanwhile, U.S. communities are taking steps to make their surveillance more robust. -- Chicago: When the transit authority put more cameras in rail stations, crime went down, according to CNN affiliate WGN. -- Dayton, Ohio: Police plan a new crime fighting strategy that includes 27 video cameras placed downtown, according to the Dayton Daily News. -- Sacramento, California: The sheriff has asked homeowners and businesses to register their security cameras on the department's website. Investigators would contact camera owners located near crime scenes to search their video for potential evidence, according to CNN affiliate KCRA. Even in tiny Chadbourn, North Carolina -- population about 2,000 -- CNN affiliate WECT reports they're talking about putting a camera down at the local Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Cities looking for guidelines aimed at safeguarding surveillance centers from privacy abuses might look to The European Forum for Urban Security, which suggests putting systems into place that include mechanisms for transparency, independent oversight and accountability. Privacy safeguards are being put in place in Menlo Park, California, where leaders recently passed a law requiring all data captured by automated license plate readers to be destroyed after six months unless it's part of an investigation. The whole issue is "very explosive" and the Oakland City Council recognizes this, said the ACLU's Lye. At the March meeting, after so many residents expressed their concerns, the council voted to curtail the scope of the DAC, limiting surveillance to just the port and the airport. The vote was 5-4. "There will be efforts in the future to expand the DAC to include city-based surveillance systems," Lye warned. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has promised to look into what privacy safeguards might be needed before trying again to expand the scope of the surveillance center. Quan, who favors the DAC, told the San Francisco Chronicle: "This is obviously an issue that is splitting the country."

Sex Sting Operations are not as Open-and-Shut as Law Enforcement Would lead You to Believe

Online sex predator sting nets 24 arrests in Lee County


Josue Cardosa arrived at a house Monday, expecting to meet 14-year-old "Liz," the girl who posted an online personal ad titled "Get Me Pregnant W4M." As Cardosa, 22, of San Carlos Park, would learn after deputies rushed and handcuffed him, finding a condom in his pocket, "Liz" was an undercover agent and the real poster of the perversely titled personal. Cardosa and two other south Lee County residents were among the 24 men arrested in the past week as part of an online sexual predator sting disclosed Tuesday by the Lee County Sheriff's Office. Between May 27 and Monday, investigators say the two dozen men arrived at an undisclosed location, expecting to meet teenage girls, only to find deputies ready to make an arrest. Those from south Lee County were Cardosa; 30-year-old Jose Pacheco, of San Carlos Park; and 20-year-old Caleb Barnhouse, of south Fort Myers. Lee County sheriff's officials said the sting, three months in the making and titled "Operation Safe Summer," used online ads, chat rooms and social media sites to locate men looking for sex with underage girls. In each case, online and text conversations turned sexual and a meet-up was arranged. When the men arrived, deputies initiated the takedown. "We not only search for people out there on the streets, but we're on the Internet, the phone lines, everywhere we need to be to catch predators," Lee County sheriff's Lt. Jeff Dektas said. Sheriff's officials called the online and text messages "very graphic," with the suspects describing "horrible" acts they intended to commit. Online sex stings have become commonplace across the country in recent years, aimed at taking potential predators offline. In October 2012, "Operation Spiderweb" netted 40 arrests, at least 31 of which resulted in convictions or plea agreements. (Resolutions for two of the 30 cases couldn't be found.) Among those successfully prosecuted: Alain Guevara, of Lehigh Acres, serving a 3 ½ year prison term; Gary Hall, of Cape Coral, scheduled for release from prison in 2019; and William Nockengost, of Cape Coral, early in a 19-year sentence on solicitation and attempted sexual battery charges. But online sex predators stings haven't been without legal challenges, evidenced by the seven men arrested by Lee County deputies in "Operation Spiderweb" who were acquitted by a jury, had their charges dropped or were never formally charged. In one case, prosecutors dropped charges after it became clear a Collier County man didn't know the age of the teen he was supposedly soliciting. In another case, law enforcement offered to give a defendant gas money to meet them, leading to accusations of entrapment, a motion to dismiss and, ultimately, the dropping of charges. Danielle O'Halloran, a Fort Myers-based lawyer who represented one of the seven defendants, said "there were some problems and issues with the police work" in "Operation Spiderweb" that led to the legal issues. "Law enforcement is making a movement to get these sex predators off the street, and everybody should appreciate that. I appreciate that," O'Halloran said. "However, you should make sure you're protecting the rights of people who aren't doing anything illegal online. You have to look at these cases very closely, and I think it's not as open-and-shut as law enforcement would lead you to believe." Lee County Sheriff's Office spokesman Tony Schall noted law enforcement's burden to make an arrest is probable cause, while prosecutors face the higher burden of "beyond a reasonable doubt." "Would we like to see 100 percent prosecuted? Of course," Schall said. "But we respect what they move forward with and what they don't." Regardless of legal outcomes, the recent arrests are a reminder of the potential dangers lurking online, sheriff's Lt. James Amrich said. "The best advice to give is as a parent, you need to monitor what your children are doing, both on their smartphones and other media devices," Amrich said. 

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