Georgia Juvenile Court Judge Calls for the Tearing Down of Juvenile Jails
Date:  07-27-2017

Report underscores the correlation between environmental justice and criminal justice
From Earth Island Journal:

Matthew Morgenstern is his Hodgkin’s lymphoma was caused by exposure to toxic coal ash from the massive dump right across the road from SCI Fayette, a maximum-security prison in LaBelle, Pennsylvania, where he is currently serving a 5 to 10 year sentence. “In 2010 and until I left in 2013, the water always had a brown tint to it. Not to mention the dust clouds that used to come off the dump trucks … which we all breathed in…. Every single day I would wake up and there would be a layer of dust on everything,” he writes from inside the prison. When Morgenstern was sent back to SCI Fayette in 2016 after he violated parole, he found that the dust issue had abated a bit — work at the dump has been stalled for a year due to litigation, but the water still runs brownish and sometimes has “a funky smell.” He says he knows that the environment in and around the prison is still “messed up” and he’s concerned that his immune system, already weakened from fighting and overcoming cancer, won’t be able to withstand another onslaught of toxic exposure. “I myself have no doubt that if I’m kept here at Fayette, I will once again become sick,” he writes.

Likewise, in Navasota, Texas, Keith Milo Cole and John Wesley Ford, aging prisoners at the Wallace Pack Unit, worry about how their prolonged exposure to arsenic-laced water and extreme heat during summer months may have affected their health over the long term. Like Morgenstern, Cole says the water at his unit was brown until a federal judge ordered the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) to provide the prisoners safe drinking water. “It used to be where you could take a white wash rag and put it in the sink and water would run on it about 10 or 15 minutes, and it would actually turn brown,” says Cole, who is serving a life sentence.

Farther west, in California, Kenneth Hartman was nearly 30 years into a life sentence when he contracted valley fever in 2008 at the California State Prison in Lancaster. The infection, caused by inhaling a soil-dwelling fungus, can be devastating. Though it is often mistaken for the common flu, it can kill people or leave those infected with lifelong symptoms. “The intensity or severity [of my symptoms] kept increasing to the point that I clearly remember thinking, If I get any sicker, I’m going to die,” Hartman says, writing from Lancaster where he is still incarcerated. “My physical strength was near to zero.… I had a persistent dry cough, severe night sweats, and bouts of vertigo that rendered me practically immobile.” Continue reading >>>