Prisoners in Georgia are coordinating strikes with contraband cell phones and demanding better living conditions and payment for their work behind bars. The story comes right on the heels of stories about Justin Lee Walker, AKA “Jus N Walk,” the inmate who caused an uproar after a Facebook profile he updated from his BlackBerry was discovered in his cell at The Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite, .
The Georgia prison story ran in The New York Times Dec. 12. The reporter writes that this is the first time prisoners are known to have used technology to coordinate a movement behind bars.
Another story about the issue ran in Monday’s paper and on www.newsok.com. Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Justin Jones has said he advocates for cell phone jamming technology in prisons. But the Federal Communications Commission has pushed back.
Jones said cell phones cost from $300 to $700 behind bars. Keeping them out of prisons hasn’t been an easy task. He thinks the only way to keep cell phones out of prison is to make them useless.
Here is video from Newsok about Justin Walker:
Missouri judges now have more to consider when they sentence a criminal: the cost of the punishment.
This interesting article by Monica Davey of the New York Times discusses a controversial new rule in the Show Me State.
Supporters say it’s another tool for judges to more effectively weigh punishments. Critics claim there is no way to put a price tag on the cost of crime, particularly those it harms.
For someone convicted of endangering the welfare of a child, for instance, a judge might now learn that a three-year prison sentence would run more than $37,000 while probation would cost $6,770. A second-degree robber, a judge could be told, would carry a price tag of less than $9,000 for five years of intensive probation, but more than $50,000 for a comparable prison sentence and parole afterward. The bill for a murderer’s 30-year prison term: $504,690.
It’s an interesting approach and seems particularly up for discussion in a state that has the highest female incarceration rate in the country. Not to mention a state corrections department struggling to make things work on a severely trimmed budget.
Read the story here and share your thoughts.
It’s kind of like a dirty secret no one wants to spread: We’re making money off illegal immigrants.
I’ve heard it from reverends, lawmakers, attorneys and colleagues. “Just follow the money, Vallery.”
So I did.
I’m sure it’s upsetting to some. And the irony isn’t lost to the intelligent ones–We are making money off people many want out of here as quickly as possible.
The rate? About $54 a day (if they’re locked up on immigration-related charges) and $19 an hour for driving them to and from jails, according to county sheriff’s department officials. It results in millions in revenues for many counties in the state.
But at its purest form, this story was just way for me to shine a mirror on ourselves.
It’s a little more complicated, perhaps, than we’d like to think.
Immigration is a topic that brings with it a ton of emotion. Just mention the Arizona law over the dinner table and you’ll be hit with everyone’s perspective and the intensity of the feelings behind them. The divides are so intense we mince our words to walk more softly on the eggshells, or we throw it all out on the table for everyone to see.
I’ve brought this up before, but the debate is so heated, people even take issue with the nouns used to describe the subject:
Illegal immigrant. Alien. Undocumented worker. Criminal. Temporary worker. Refugee. The list goes on.
But I want to be very clear on what I report on in Monday’s paper. In 2009, the Oklahoma Criminal Illegal Alien Rapid Repatriation Act went into effect. When it did, state prison officials had one more way to address prison overcrowding and a means to identify and deport illegal immigrant convicts. These folks are in state custody, not locked up in a county or city jail because of they were driving without a license. Most of them were selling drugs, had felony alcohol-related convictions or had committed ‘nonviolent’ but still dangerous offenses.
So far, the state has transferred about 200 convicts to the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. We’ve saved millions of dollars doing this.
But there are some questions to be raised about this program and that’s why I chose to report on it. Some are coming back across the border after they’re deported. They will be even more of a burden on taxpayers: Reentry after removal has stiff consequences for felons and for good reason. If caught reentering, the returnees face a federal sentence of as much as 20 years. After that, the convict comes back to Oklahoma to finish the sentence being served at the time of their deportation.
Read up on more about the repatriation program in Monday’s edition of The Oklahoman. Also, check it out online at www.newsok.com/watchdog.
I’ve been thinking about starting an immigration-related blog, too. Shoot me an email or leave a comment if you’d be interested in reading something like this.
The Stonebriar neighborhood in northwest Oklahoma City is a quiet, family addition that looks like many other areas around Edmond–Brick homes around 2,00o square feet. Tall privacy fences. Perfectly manicured Bermuda grass.
Well landscaped lots (homeowners are required to spend no less than about $1,000 on flowers, grass, trees and shrubs).
Trash cans be kept out of sight unless it’s trash day.
Only ”for sale” or “for rent” signs can be posted in lots.
Home prices in the new neighborhood start at about $200,000.
Heather Drapeau didn’t mention being surprised by a request to remove several signs posted in the windows and on the fence around her home. She didn’t say if she’d read the homeowner’s association covenants, but she doesn’t see it as a neighborhood rules issue. She thinks her opinion is as valid and protected as her neighbors’ who she says display signs supporting the Edmond North high school Huskies. Drapeau says the neighborhood association looks the other way at those signs, but one of hers that says, ”For Peace Bring The Troops Home Now,” is inflammatory.
“They want this neighborhood to look like all of the other cookie-cutter neighborhoods around here,” Drapeau said.
“But I’m going to keep rattling my saber.”
The former military combat medic has promised to keep the signs up and has no issue going to court about it, she said.
We’ll keep an eye on this story and see how it turns out.
It’s been more than a month since my coworker Ron Jackson and I returned from an immigration fellowship hosted by the Institute for Justice and Journalism and the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.
The fellowship, called Immigration in the Heartland, was designed to immerse journalists in the issues, arguments, faces and facts surrounding the immigration debate in the country. We heard from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, lawmakers, community leaders, naturalized citizens and undocumented immigrants. We talked to lawyers, judges and talking heads. Husbands, single mothers and students attending school in south Oklahoma City.
Most of the week-long fellowship took place in Norman and Oklahoma City. But we also spent time at immigration court in Dallas and other federal offices.
One of the requirements of the fellowship is that the journalists produce stories on the issue. This weekend, Ron and I will publish the first group of what we plan to be a series of stories about immigration in Oklahoma.
As Oklahoman and Miss USA first-runner up Morgan Woolard said, “It’s one of the most hot button issues in our country today.”
My hope is these stories will educate and foster informed debate on the issue. Keep an eye out for the stories here on Newsok and in The Oklahoman.
A fellow reporter once told me when looking for a story I needed to find its heartbeat.
I thought I understood the concept of finding a face to show my readers, presenting someone or something that could stand as the life blood of a particular story.
But frequently, if not always, there are times when journalists learn details or encounter a set of circumstances that just won’t make it into the paper or on the website. And sometimes, the face and the heartbeat aren’t the same thing.
Last week, for example, I met with individuals who had insight into a story I was working on about a little girl who was killed in 2008. Most of them wouldn’t speak to me on the record, but their stories contributed to my understanding of the situation surrounding baby Davi-Angela Harber’s death.
One long conversation with a family member of Davi-Angela’s was particualrly striking. She was hard, when most people pushing 90 have softended somewhat. Her eyes pounced from moving car to walking pedestrian on the street, not paranoid, but keenly aware of everything around her.
She told me she looks sideways at the grade school kids that walk down her cul-de-sac. She said she always “packs protection.” In fact, as she sat next to me, she reached up to her chest and pressed around the outlines of where she was hiding a knife in her brazier.
This relative was one of many who saw but never reported Davi-Angela’s abuse. She thought holding a knife to Davi-Angela’s abuser’s neck would correct the problem.
Davi-Angel’s mother, DeAngela Barger, is currently jailed on a fist degree murder charge in connection with her daughter’s death. Regardless of her guilt, Oklahoma has laws on the book for reporting child abuse: If you see it, you’re supposed to call and report it.
In police reports and in conversations with me, several family members admitted they never called the police when they saw her kicked, punched and waylaid.
Davi-Angela was the face to my story, but this fact was the heart beat. One can only wonder how things might have changes if someone had spoken up for this little girl.
Any tips for us? Suggestions? Observations?
In July I posted a blog about a Craigslist rental scam that I encountered. It was a beauty—misspellings, suspicious details and the listing’s poster even asked me to send him money (overseas) before I viewed the house.
It was an obvious scam, but I wanted to put the emails out there so people could see how the bilkers work. You can see the old post here.
The point of this post is to bring attention to my scam savvy. This month, the Internet Crime Complaint Center sent out an intelligence note about the same scam:
Rental and Real Estate Scams Individuals need to be cautious when posting rental properties and real estate on-line. The IC3 continues to receive numerous complaints from individuals who have fallen victim to scams involving rentals of apartments and houses, as well as postings of real estate on-line.
Rental scams occur when the victim has rental property advertised and is contacted by an interested party. Once the rental price is agreed-upon, the scammer forwards a check for the deposit on the rental property to the victim. The check is to cover housing expenses and is, either written in excess of the amount required, with the scammer asking for the remainder to be remitted back, or the check is written for the correct amount, but the scammer backs out of the rental agreement and asks for a refund. Since the banks do not usually place a hold on the funds, the victim has immediate access to them and believes the check has cleared. In the end, the check is found to be counterfeit and the victim is held responsible by the bank for all losses.
Another type of scam involves real estate that is posted via classified advertisement websites. The scammer duplicates postings from legitimate real estate websites and reposts these ads, after altering them. Often, the scammers use the broker’s real name to create a fake email, which gives the fraud more legitimacy. When the victim sends an email through the classified advertisement website inquiring about the home, they receive a response from someone claiming to be the owner. The “owner” claims he and his wife are currently on missionary work in a foreign country. Therefore, he needs someone to rent their home while they are away. If the victim is interested in renting the home, they are asked to send money to the owner in the foreign country.
If you have been a victim of Internet crime, please file a complaint at http://www.IC3.gov/.
As tornado season approaches, insurance industry experts are encouraging homeowners to confirm that they have enough insurance to replace their homes should they be destroyed or damaged by severe weather.
“Reliable estimates reveal that between 50 and 70 percent of homeowners do not have sufficient insurance to rebuild their home in the event of a major storm,” said Jerry Johns, president of Southwestern Insurance Information Service.
Some of the issues to consider are increases in construction costs, any renovations or improvements to the home and local building codes, he said.
Consumers often confuse the market value of their home rather than replacement value, Johns explained. If a person does not have adequate insurance a company may pay only a portion of the cost of replacing or repairing damaged items.
Maintaining a current inventory of personal items in your home is highly recommended, Johns said. He suggests keeping a video taped or hand-written inventory that is kept in a safe place away from the home.
With the slew of recent vehicle recalls and heightened concerns about food and product safety, it’s important to note where to go when you have a complaint about something. (You could tell me, but I can only do so much).
Non-meat food (cereal, fish, produce, nuts, cheese):
Call: (301) 443-1240 (emergency); (800) 535-4555 (non-emergency)
Or the consumer complaint coordinator in your state.
Call: The health department in your state.
USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service
What: Meat, poultry or egg products
Call: (888) 674-6854