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Prison Commission examines institutional causes of abuse and violence

The Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons is a national effort to gather evidence of the nature and extent of violence, sexual abuse, degradation, and other serious safety failures and abuses in prisons and jails throughout the United States.

Motivated by urgent concern for prisoners, corrections officers, and the public at large, the Commission has been holding public hearings around the country in 2005 to record testimony and receive other information.

On July 19, 2005 in Newark, New Jersey, Commissioners listened to mothers like Pearl Beale, testifying about the fatal stabbing of her son in an overcrowded District of Columbia jail while he was awaiting trial for nonviolent charges. "My son was handed a death sentence that was carried out prior to any trial or conviction. The day I buried him I was supposed to be taking him to court, not to a graveyard."

Additional testimony came from Gary Harkins, a corrections officer in Oregon for 25 years, and former New Jersey prisoner, Daud Tulam, who spent 18 of his 25-year sentence in isolation. Other witnesses included a Catholic nun who worked in New York State prisons for 32 years and observed severe medical abuses, and corrections administrators from three states (Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland) who face these challenges every day.

The Commission is a 21-member, non-partisan panel co-chaired by former United States Attorney General Nicholas de B. Katzenbach and the Honorable John J. Gibbons, former Chief Judge of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Members have pledged to work for one year to expose the most serious problems inside US correctional facilities and how they affect the incarcerated, the men and women who staff facilities, and society at large.

Online at, the Commission is staffed by the Vera Institute of Justice.

If you think you have a story the Commission should hear at a future Hearing, contact:
Jennifer Trone; (917) 535-4937, or Dwayne Lawler; (212) 222-4477,

Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons, 601 Thirteenth Street, NW · Suite 1150 South · Washington, DC 20005

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