On November 12, 2019, after years of appellate delay, the United States Supreme Court cleared the way for a civil lawsuit on behalf of the parents and survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. By denying a request for review[1] by the manufacturer of the gun used in the mass shooting, the court gave breath to a faltering civil lawsuit first filed in January 2015.

The Sandy Hook school shootings occurred on December 14, 2012, at the hands of a disturbed twenty-year-old gunman who that morning had shot and killed his mother, the owner of the gun. …


California has done what the federal government refuses to do: stop the incarceration of inmates for private corporate profit. With the passage of Assembly Bill (AB) 32, signed into law on October 11, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom fulfilled his January 7, 2019, inaugural address promise to fight against over-incarceration and overcrowding in California’s prisons and to “end the outrage of private prisons once and for all.”

AB 32 adds section 5003.1, which says that on or after January 1, 2020, the California Department of Corrections shall not add or “renew an existing contract with a private, for-profit prison facility…


Collateral consequences of a criminal conviction arise at the time of reentry. The consequences are postsentence civil penalties with no relationship to a sentence imposed by a judge. Convictions involving drugs can have life-restricting consequences that affect the fundamental necessities of life — such as getting a job, housing, and further education. Collateral consequences can be devastating. They convert newfound freedom into a life sentence of legal obstacles and financial hardships that can make reentry a setup for recidivating back to prison.

Reentry is a fragile adjustment period for people returning to freedom. The prospect of reentry is the dream…


Words are a part of language lawyers contort in the game of advocacy. Words are important when legislatures write bills that eventually become laws. Laws can be worded in ways that make all or some of their elements vague, ambiguous, or otherwise murky on intent. Loopholes live in the spaces that shroud legislative intent. The remedy is the time consuming and costly petition of the courts for the translation of legalese into English.

I get that legal games will always surround our judicial system. The law is not a finite science that produces repeated results when like ingredients are added…


Before July 1, 2019, California law forbade police departments from sharing information about officers’ criminal backgrounds. The ACLU Center for Advocacy & Policy reports that “the majority of other states recognize that disclosure of records of [officers’] critical incidents is a basic element of peace officer oversight — peace officer disciplinary records are available to the public in some form in 27 states.” But in California, prior to a new law effective July, 1, all disciplinary actions against sworn police officers had to be kept secret.

The prohibition included situations such as evidence being planted on innocent people, sexual assault…


The subject matter for a prison reform blog can come from anywhere, even a piece of junk mail. Usually, junk mail letters are instantly recognized as trash. However, some give enough compelling information on the outside to warrant being opened — so you can confirm its irrelevance.

I recently received a piece of enigmatic junk mail from an unknown sender: Department of Consumer Notices. It was addressed to me and had a sentence above my name stating, “Credit to the Account of: Mark Roseman.” My attention was piqued. The yes/no debate in my head decided on yes — open it…


You spend years, even decades, in prison, knowing you’re innocent. Your conviction locks up your life and smothers your senses and ambitions. The quality of your life is limited — but you’re innocent!

We’ve all seen reports about inmates’ being released from prison after exhaustive appeals and serving long stretches in confinement. Most are DNA exonerations, based on science, that rip through veils of falsehoods with verifiable evidence.

There are many causes of wrongful convictions, all equally devastating, and they highlight how the criminal justice system can be wonky. …


Common prison reform necessarily highlights the federal government’s smothering of inmates’ constitutional rights. The age-old patterns of violations of incarcerated persons are examples of legislative bullying designed to protect the security of prison officers and staff at the expense of inmates’ basic rights. Because prison communication to the outside is designed to hide behind the security of guards and staff,[1] the residual effect is but a hazy view into the lives of those held in the clutches of mass incarceration. …


Senator Bernie Sanders recently announced a sweeping plan to allow incarcerated people to vote. According to Business Insider, Sanders said in April that “he supports voting rights for all US citizens, even if they’re ‘terrible people.’” But, is voting really what incarcerated people want? Not likely.

Inmates I associated with during my two-year term in a California prison showed me they saw government as the enemy and believed safety is in numbers and might is right. Inmates’ interest in casting their votes in a system that suppresses them, and which they don’t understand, is a non sequitur.

I experienced the…


Let’s take a simple test about the scope of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution (ratified in 1865).

True or false: the Thirteenth Amendment prohibiting slavery applies to all people.

The correct answer is false.

The thirty-two-word Amendment states the following:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to its jurisdiction. (Emphasis added)

The exception for criminals remains unchanged to this date, meaning that slavery is appropriate as punishment for a crime. Inmates in all state and federal…

Mark Roseman

Retired attorney, formerly incarcerated person, prison reform author, blogger, and educator

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