News from the Associated Press - February 20, 2014

Associated Press
February 20, 2014

NY judge signs deal reforming solitary confinement

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York judge has approved a deal between the state's prison system and civil liberties lawyers to reform solitary confinement.

Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin signed the agreement Wednesday.

It calls for immediate changes to prevent children, pregnant inmates and the developmentally disabled from facing extreme isolation.

The New York Civil Liberties Union said the agreement means New York state becomes the largest prison system in the United States to ban the use of solitary confinement as a disciplinary measure against prisoners under age 18.

NYCLU Senior Staff Attorney Taylor Pendergrass says the steps are just the start of a two-year reassessment of how the state uses solitary confinement.

A message requesting comment from the state attorney general was not immediately returned.


NY AG's bill aims to help wrongfully convicted

NEW YORK (AP) — New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is proposing legislation to help those wrongfully convicted of a crime file claims against the state.

Schneiderman outlined his plan Wednesday at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan.

He says current law hinders those who were wrongfully imprisoned and then had their convictions overturned.

The attorney general said they must be allowed to put their lives back together again.

The Unjust Imprisonment Act would strip away restrictions that block lawsuits by people seeking financial damages after being coerced into false confessions or exonerated by DNA evidence.

It would also increase the amount of time those wrongfully convicted have to file a claim from two years to three.

The bill must pass the state Legislature to be enacted into law.


Pa. Marcellus Shale production increases

PITTSBURGH (AP) — State regulators report that Marcellus Shale natural gas production in Pennsylvania topped three trillion cubic feet in 2013. That's more than double the previous year's production, and the energy equivalent of over 500 million barrels of oil.

The Department of Environmental Protection reported the production figures. The data is submitted by energy companies and sometimes contains errors, but the report of 3.1 trillion feet for total 2013 production is very close to independent estimates.

The Marcellus Shale is a gas-rich formation deep underground that extends across several states, but most of the current production is in Pennsylvania.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the Marcellus Shale now provides about 18 percent of the nation's natural gas, but that figure includes some West Virginia production.


Pa. governor seeks US approval of Medicaid plan

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Gov. Tom Corbett is seeking federal approval for his plan to bring billions of federal Medicaid expansion dollars to Pennsylvania to extend health insurance to half-a-million working poor.

The Corbett administration said it submitted the plan Wednesday to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The administration issued a draft plan in December, but Public Welfare Secretary Beverly Mackereth says it's backing off demands that enrollees search for work and pay premiums instead of co-pays in the first year as a condition of getting coverage.

Corbett, a Republican, refuses to expand Medicaid, which he calls inefficient. Rather, he wants to use the Medicaid expansion dollars to subsidize private insurance for newly eligible adults.

Corbett's been criticized for not moving to draw down Medicaid expansion dollars when they became available Jan. 1.


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