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University of Iowa News Release

June 15, 2006

Law Student Contributes To Prison Conditions Report

University of Iowa law student and Iowa City native Robin Dull was part of a team of researchers that concluded America's prisons are dangerous places that often produce inmates who are greater dangers to society when they come out of prison than when they were sentenced.

The report, "Confronting Confinement," was presented to Congress last week by the Vera Institute of Justice's Commission for Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons. Dull worked for the commission during the summer of 2005, between his first and second years at the UI law school, and helped the commission collect information for the report.

Dull said much of his work was helping to coordinate the second of four public hearings, held that summer in Newark, N.J., for which he worked to solicit written testimony and vet potential witnesses. He also drafted background memos that were used to write portions of the final report, including the sections that addressed mental health care in prisons, violence reporting and the Prison Litigation Reform Act.

In addition, Dull participated in several roundtable events in Washington, D.C., that brought together corrections staff, civil rights activists, religious organizers and others involved in prison conditions work.

Dull is a 1995 graduate of City High School. He worked for the Prisoners' Rights Project of the Legal Aid Society in New York City before enrolling at the UI law school, and he will continue his prisoners' rights work later this summer with an internship at the Southern Center for Human Rights. The Atlanta-based organization works on the death penalty, prison conditions and other criminal justice issues confronting poor people.

The 20-member commission was chaired by former U.S. Attorney General Nicholas de B. Katzenbach and John J. Gibbons, former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The report addresses dangerous conditions of confinement -- violence, poor health care, and inappropriate segregation -- that can also endanger corrections officers and the public; lack of political support for labor and management; weak oversight of correctional facilities; and serious flaws in the available data about violence and abuse.

The commission also identified promising practices and strong leadership that contradict the notion that violence and abuse are inevitable features of life behind bars in America. The commission made 30 recommendations for reforming America's prison system.

"For the vast majority of inmates prison is a temporary, not a final, destination. The experiences inmates have in prison -- whether violent or redemptive -- do not stay within prison walls, but spill over into the rest of society. Federal, state, and local governments must address the problems faced by their respective institutions and develop tangible and attainable solutions," said Sen. Tom Coburn, M.D., R-Okla., chair of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Corrections and Rehabilitation that heard testimony from the drafters of the report.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010, tom-snee@uiowa.edu.

WEB LINKS: For more information on the Commission for Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons and to download a copy of the report: http://www.prisoncommission.org/report.asp