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A Pennsylvania prison gets a Scandinavian-style makeover – and shows how the US penal system could become more humane

A pilot project at a Pennsylvania prison is trying out lessons from Scandinavia that could offer some ideas for reforming US prisons.

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Prisoners and staff share responsibility for taking care of the fish tank at the 'Little Scandinavia' housing unit in a Pennsylvania prison. Commonwealth Media Services

The United States has the largest number of people incarcerated in the world – about 25% of all people imprisoned worldwide are in American prisons and jails.

Overcrowding, violence and long sentences are common in U.S. prisons, often creating a climate of hopelessness for incarcerated people, as well as people who work there.

Additionally, correctional officers, often challenged by long shifts, worries about their own safety and stressful working conditions, have a life expectancy that is on average a decade less than the general population.

Some advocates have called for diverting people away from prisons, especially low-risk individuals. Others encourage shorter sentences and earlier releases.

But reform efforts could also extend to changing the prison environment itself.

We are American and Norwegian criminologists. While trying to better understand our countries’ justice systems, we have spent significant time in correctional facilities across Scandinavia and the U.S. There, we often try to identify overlooked similarities within these very different places – and ways they could learn from each other.

A recent collaboration between correctional services in Pennsylvania and several Scandinavian countries presents an opportunity to test these ideas. One Pennsylvania prison unit we are researching adapts elements from Scandinavian prisons, and offers a window into what drawing from other penal systems might look like in the U.S.

A man in a green outfit walks past a large mural of a world in an indoor hallway.
This remodeled prison unit in Pennsylvania is home to 64 male residents. Creative Commonwealth Media

Prisons in Scandinavia

Correctional systems throughout much of Scandinavia are guided by a general set of philosophical principles. In Sweden, these standards emphasize rehabilitation and encourage meaningful change, so incarcerated people can lead a better life.

In Norway, core values of safety, transparency and innovation are considered fundamental to the idea of creating normality in prison, the feeling that life as part of a community continues, even behind walls and bars.

Adhering to these principles means that, in some cases, incarcerated people can wear their own clothes, work in jobs that prepare them for employment and cook their own meals.

Prisons in Scandinavia are also small, with some housing roughly a dozen people – which is possible, given relatively low incarceration rates in the region.

In most cases, people in prison in Norway have access to many of the same social and educational services and programs as people who are not incarcerated.

Many prisons, especially in Norway, are designed in a fundamentally different way than in the U.S. Proximity to nature is often considered, for example. Cells in Norway are also for a single person – not multiple people, as in most cases in the U.S. Norway, perhaps unsurprisingly, has attracted many international visitors who come to observe their prison system.

Importantly, correctional officers have at least a two-year, university-level education and are directly involved in rehabilitation and planning for the incarcerated person’s re-entry into the world outside of prison. In the U.S., most officers receive just a few weeks of training, and their work focuses mostly on maintaining safety and security.

It is also worth noting that recidivism rates in Scandinavia are low. In Norway, it has been reported that less than half of people released from prison are rearrested after three years. In Pennsylvania, that figure is closer to 70%. The implications for correctional systems are profound.

Norway and the US

There are, of course, other fundamental differences between the Scandinavian countries and the U.S.

Norway, like the other countries in the region, is much smaller than the U.S., in both population and geography. Crime rates are lower there than in the U.S., and social support systems are more robust. Gun violence is also almost unheard of.

In Norway, the longest prison sentence in most cases is 21 years – with most people serving less than a year. In Pennsylvania, life sentences are not uncommon, and many crimes – including nonviolent ones – can results in decades of imprisonment.

Despite this, the two systems may not be completely incompatible, at least not when the goal is to reform the prison environment.

The Scandinavian Prison Project

In State Correctional Institution Chester, known as SCI Chester, a medium-security prison located just outside of Philadelphia, a correctional officer-guided team has worked since 2018 to incorporate Scandinavian penal principles into its own institution. Based on their direct experiences, the correctional officers and facility leaders sought to reconsider what incarceration could look like at SCI Chester. This initiative has uniquely focused on developing a single housing unit within the prison.

In 2019, the group, which also included outside researchers and correctional leaders, spent weeks visiting a range of facilities across Scandinavia, and the officers worked in Norwegian prisons alongside peer mentors.

In March 2020, six men in SCI Chester – each sentenced to life in prison – were selected to participate in the project as mentors. They then moved on to the new housing unit, which had come to be known as “Little Scandinavia.”

In early 2022, the researchers and correctional leaders returned for a follow-up visit to several prisons in Sweden. Though delayed by the pandemic, 29 more residents of SCI Chester were selected from the prison’s general population to join the Scandinavian-inspired housing unit that May.

With single cells, a communal kitchen, Nordic-like furnishings and a landscaped, outdoor green space, Little Scandinavia looks unlike any other U.S. prison. Plants grow throughout the common areas. A large fish tank, maintained by staff and residents, is the centerpiece of an area designed to encourage people to gather.

A grocery program allows all of the residents to purchase fresh foods – a rarity in prison – and work directly with staff to send orders to a local store.

Each day, residents are expected to go to work, treatment or school, all within the prison.

Importantly, the correctional officers overseeing Little Scandinavia have received a range of training to facilitate communication with their assigned residents.

Drawing from Norway’s model, there is also a uniquely low ratio of trained staff to incarcerated men – one officer for eight residents, compared with the typical average of one staff member for 128 residents.

Although the community is still evolving, there have been no acts of violence, as some speculated would happen – even with access to kitchen equipment.

An overhead shot shows an open looking common room with some people in green prison uniforms sitting and standing.
Little Scandinavia has other features, like couches and a shared kitchen, that are designed to give prisoners a sense of autonomy over their space. Creative Commonwealth Media

Learning from Little Scandinavia

As part of our research, we are examining correctional staff’s first-hand experiences with this international project.

Some analyses have shown that a Scandinavian approach, focused on normality and reintegration, can be potentially good for correctional officers, boosting their morale, independence and well-being.

Incarcerated people have also reported feeling safer and having more positive relationships with staff and other people living in the prisons. They also indicated greater satisfaction with their access to food and the reintegration support available to them.

SCI Chester shows that it is, in fact, possible to adapt Scandinavian-style penal philosophies and incorporate them into a Pennsylvania prison. This effort is a pilot, however, with significant costs, foundational support from committed leaders, and in partnership with many outside experts.

It remains to be seen how these efforts will play out in the long term. Data from this project, and rigorous research on other efforts, can inform conversations about what the future of prison reform in the U.S. could look like.

After all, as they say in Norway, a prison is responsible for enabling the people who are incarcerated to return to society as good neighbors – a fact that, in most cases, is as true in Philadelphia as it is in Stockholm or Oslo.

Jordan M. Hyatt and Synøve N. Andersen have received funding from Arnold Ventures, The Scandinavian-American Foundation, and the Nordic Research Council for Criminology (NsFK).

Synøve Nygaard Andersen does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Bolsonaro Indicted By Brazilian Police For Falsifying Covid-19 Vaccine Records

Bolsonaro Indicted By Brazilian Police For Falsifying Covid-19 Vaccine Records

Federal police in Brazil have indicted former President Jair…

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Bolsonaro Indicted By Brazilian Police For Falsifying Covid-19 Vaccine Records

Federal police in Brazil have indicted former President Jair Bolsonaro for falsifying his Covid-19 vaccine card in order to travel to the United States and elsewhere during the pandemic.

Federal prosecutors will review the indictment and decide whether to pursue the case - which would be the first time the former president has faced criminal charges.

According to the indictment, Bolsonaro ordered a top deputy to obtain falsified Covid-19 vaccine records of himself and his 13-year-old daughter in late 2022, right before he flew to Florida for a three-month stay following his election loss.

Brazilian police are also waiting to hear back from the US DOJ on whether Bolsonaro used said cards to enter the United States, which would open him up to further criminal charges, the NY Times reports.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly claimed not to have received the Covid-19 vaccine, but denies any involvement in a plan to falsify his vaccination records. A previous investigation by Brazil's comptroller general concluded that Bolsonaro's vaccination records were false.

The records show that Bolsonaro, a COVID-19 skeptic who publicly opposed the vaccine, received a dose of the immunizer in a public healthcare center in Sao Paulo in July 2021. [ZH: hilarious, Reuters calling the vaccine an 'immunizer.']

The investigation concluded, however, that the former president had left the city the previous day and didn't leave Brasilia until three days later, according to a statement.

The nurse listed in the records as having applied the vaccine on Bolsonaro denied doing so and was no longer working at the center. The listed vaccine lot was also not available on that date, the comptroller general's office said. -Reuters

"It's a selective investigation. I'm calm, I don't owe anything," Bolsonaro told Reuters. "The world knows that I didn't take the vaccine."

During the pandemic, Bolsonaro panned the vaccine - and instead insisted on alternative treatments such as Ivermectin, which has antiviral properties against Covid-19. For this, he was investigated by Brazil's congress, which recommended that the former president be charged with "crimes against humanity," among other things, for his actions during the pandemic.

In May, Brazilian police raided Bolsonaro's home, confiscating his cell phone and arresting one of his closest aides and two of his security cards in connection to the vaccine record investigation.

Brazil's electoral court ruled that Bolsonaro can't run for public office until 2030 after he suggested that the country's voting system was rigged. For that, he has to sit out the 2026 election.

Tyler Durden Tue, 03/19/2024 - 11:00

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This gambling tech stock is future-proofing the world’s casinos

Supported by the universal thrill of a quick payout and the need for leisure, gambling stocks make a compelling case for long-term returns.
The post This…

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Supported by the universal human thrill of a quick payout, and the need for leisure and entertainment to bring enjoyment to adult life, casinos will remain essential spaces for people to dream and play for the foreseeable future, making gambling stocks a prospective space to look for long-term returns.

According to Research and Markets, the global casino industry was valued at US$157.5 billion in 2022, and it will grow to US$224.1 billion by 2030 at a compound annual growth rate of 4.5 per cent. This trend includes:

Approximately 100 million gamblers in the United States, who generated US$66.5 billion in revenue in 2023, a 10 per cent gain from 2022, which itself was a record year A little fewer than 20 million gamblers in Canada, who generated about C$15 billion in revenue in 2023 A global addressable market of thousands of casinos, and more than 4.2 billion people who gamble at least once every year, according to a 2016 study by Casino.org

The main challenge with attracting these billions through casino doors is they sway heavily toward middle age. The mean age of U.S. casino visitors has hovered around 50 for the past decade, with a similar trend across the world, forcing casinos to attract younger, tech-savvy customers, many with less gambling experience, to continue growing profits for their stakeholders over the long term.

Investors seeking exposure to a leadership position in building the bridge between casinos and the next generation of gamblers should evaluate Jackpot Digital (TSXV:JJ). The Vancouver-based company is a manufacturer of dealerless electronic table games that deliver immersive experiences tailored to the digital age, while earning casinos attractive returns on investment.

The gambling technology stock benefits from no direct competition in the dealerless poker space, with orders spanning North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, a long-established presence with major cruise ship brands, such as Carnival, Princess Cruises and Holland America, and a growing land-based presence with orders or ongoing installations across 12 U.S. states. Its highlight partnership to date is a master services agreement with Penn Entertainment, the country’s largest regional gaming operator with 43 properties across 20 states.

Jackpot Digital’s differentiated technology and well-rounded management team are at the heart of its success in landing several blue-chip casino gaming companies as customers.

Jackpot Blitz

The gambling technology stock’s flagship product, Jackpot Blitz, is a dealerless poker table featuring three of the world’s most popular variations – Texas Hold’ em, Omaha, and Five-Card-Omaha – brought to life through slick 4k graphics on a 75-inch touchscreen, and offered in three formats – pot-limit, no-limit and fixed-limit – designed to attract a diversity of revenue from casual to experienced players.

Spokesperson and NFL championship-winning coach Jimmy Johnson explains the benefits of the Jackpot Blitz. Source: Jackpot Digital.

The table also comes equipped with house-banked mini-games, including blackjack, baccarat and video poker, as well as side bets on the main poker game, such as Bet the Flop, all of which keep players engaged and entertained between, and even during, poker hands. The stunning Jackpot Blitz machine also offers multi-venue “Bad Beat” jackpot functionality, allowing casinos to offer a “Poker Powerball” with massive Jackpots, further enhancing the attractiveness of Jackpot Blitz to new players.

It’s by striking a balance between the needs of the modern gambler, and efficiency and profitability that in-person operators couldn’t hope to match – unless they ordered the machine for themselves – that Jackpot Digital has earned itself the top spot in dealerless poker.

Player benefits

When a veteran or novice gambler takes a seat at the Jackpot Blitz, his or her experience begins with an easy-to-use interface, laid out in a modern and stylish design, programmed to respond to hand gestures that bring real casino play into the digital age, including card bending and chip jingling.

Source: Jackpot Digital.

The table’s intuitive controls, combined with instant payouts and its dealerless nature, translate into faster game play, which maximizes playing time and player excitement, while minimizing human error and the intimidation new gamblers might feel about approaching an analog poker table. The gambling technology stock’s in-house development team is also constantly working on new games to keep content fresh, with a special focus on bringing international games and regional versions of poker to casino audiences in Asia, South America and the Indian subcontinent.

As hands are laid down and pots pile up, players can also track game stats in real time, which inform future strategy and enhance the thrill of the moment with an added element of competition.

Operator benefits

From an operator’s perspective, a floor of automated gaming tables can meaningfully and instantly reduce casino staff expenditures and management pain points, while avoiding wage inflation, labour shortages and supply costs.

The Blitz is no slouch on revenue either, dealing more hands per hour, resulting in higher revenue and higher profitability, which is further enhanced by onboard side bets and mini-games that can be played while players are engaged in a poker hand.

The Jackpot Blitz’s economics are attractive to operators thanks to its ability to accommodate non-stop play, while monetizing downtime through side games and bets. While a human dealer must spend time shuffling, interacting with players, and consulting with colleagues, the Jackpot Blitz can accept wagers 100 per cent of the time, making sure gamblers get the action they came for and operators see a return on their investment.

Source: Jackpot Digital.

Beyond gaming revenue, casinos are further incentivized to onboard the Jackpot Blitz because of its fully customizable advertising functions, including logos, card backs, chips and felt colors, all of which bolster casino culture and enable the pursuit of revenue from third-party advertising partners.

The Blitz ties its value proposition together by generating automatic reports – including demographics and consumer behaviour through a rewards card system – and plugging directly into most back-end management systems, saving casinos the hassle of manual tracking, while also minimizing tampering, money-laundering and theft through the use of isolated servers.

Whether it’s streamlining the player experience or putting automation at the service of operators’ bottom lines, Jackpot Digital’s flagship product is positioned to create value, and plenty of it.

Jackpot Digital’s path to profitability

After existing as an exclusively cruise-ship-based operation since 2015, Jackpot Digital suffered a steep decline in revenue during the COVID pandemic, falling from C$2.18 million in 2019 to C$0.42 million in 2021.

Management quickly pivoted in the face of uncertainty, redesigning the Blitz to execute on a land-based expansion strategy – backed by Gaming Labs International certification in fall 2023 – which is bringing about a successful turnaround after the re-emergence of the casino business. Revenue more than tripled to C$1.43 million in 2022, and reached C$1.57 million through three quarters of 2023, with the company expecting to ramp up significant recurring revenue after it installs several dozen machines currently in its backlog.

The Jackpot Blitz electronic gaming table in action. Source: Jackpot Digital.

The first installation of land-ready Jackpot Blitz machines is now completed at the Jackson Rancheria Casino in California, as the company announced today. The three-machine installation marks a new era of growth for the company, having announced 25 Blitz deals since November 2021 (slide 12), with many more across Canada and the United States in the works, in addition to a strong pipeline in Asia and Europe.

“Jackpot Digital could be a profitable company right now if it only focused on care and maintenance of the revenues it currently generates. But that’s not why we’re here,” Mathieu McDonald, Vice President of Corporate Development at Jackpot Digital, said in a recent interview with Stockhouse. “We intend to scale up to many multiples of the tables we have out right now, with the potential for up to 2,000 tables over the next three to five years.”

According to McDonald, the company is fielding three to five inquiries per week about the Blitz from casinos around the world that recognize the machines’ first-mover advantage in dealerless poker and potential expansion into other games in need of automation.

Jackpot Digital’s ambitious plan of action is supported by a management team of proven gambling, finance, advertising and legal professionals, many of which have been serving Jackpot stakeholders for more than two decades.

A long-tenured management team

The management team behind Jackpot Digital is led by Jake Kalpakian, who has served as president and chief executive officer since 1999, including under the gambling technology stock’s former incarnation as Las Vegas From Home.com Entertainment Inc. Kalpakian brings more than 30 years of experience managing small-cap publicly listed companies, granting him a steady hand when it comes to maneuvering through the volatility of the economic cycle.

Kalpakian’s efforts are supported by three directors whose well-rounded expertise positions Jackpot Digital for long-term sustainable growth:

Gregory T. McFarlane, a director at Jackpot Digital since 1999, previously ran an independent advertising firm and holds a degree in mathematics from the University of Toronto. McFarlane is also a co-founder of the popular Control Your Cash personal finance website. Chief financial officer Neil Spellman, a director at the company since 2002, boasts an almost two-decade track record as vice president at Wall Street firm Smith Barney, where he developed a multi-industry understanding of the journey to profitability. Finally, Alan Artunian, a director since 2017, currently serves as CEO of Nice Guy Holdings, a corporate and legal consulting company advising clients across a diversity of sectors.

Guided by a strategic management team, and benefiting from a macro-trend toward casino automation, Jackpot Digital is on course to ride a wave of millions of gamblers looking for an elegant, tech-informed alternative to traditional in-person play.

A multi-bagger opportunity

The Jackpot Digital opportunity sets up savvy investors who recognize the soundness of the company’s value proposition. The tremendous risk/reward value of Jackpot Digital gives investors the opportunity to ride the macro-trend toward casino automation, as deals for the Blitz keep pouring in, the company adds games to its portfolio, and the global casino industry adds hundreds of billions in revenue through this decade.

Join the discussion: Find out what everybody’s saying about this gambling technology stock on the Jackpot Digital Bullboard.

This is sponsored content issued on behalf of Jackpot Digital, please see full disclaimer here.

The post This gambling tech stock is future-proofing the world’s casinos appeared first on The Market Online Canada.

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Gates-backed PhIII study tuberculosis vaccine study gets underway

A large study of an experimental vaccine for the world’s biggest infectious disease has finally kicked off in South Africa.
The Bill & Melinda Gates…

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A large study of an experimental vaccine for the world’s biggest infectious disease has finally kicked off in South Africa.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute (MRI) will test a tuberculosis vaccine’s ability to prevent latent infections from causing potentially deadly lung disease. Last summer the nonprofit said it would foot $400 million of the estimated $550 million cost of running the 20,000-person Phase III trial.

It’s a pivotal moment for a vaccine whose origins date back 25 years when scientists identified two proteins that triggered strong immunity to the bacterium that causes tuberculosis. A fusion of those proteins, paired with the tree bark-derived adjuvant that helps power GSK’s shingles shot, comprise the so-called M72 vaccine.

Thomas Scriba

After decades of failures in the field, the vaccine impressed scientists in 2018 when GSK found that it was 54% efficacious at preventing lung disease in a 3,600-person Phase IIb study.

But the Big Pharma decided that a full-blown trial was too expensive to conduct on its own. Gates MRI stepped in to license the vaccine in early 2020, right before the Covid pandemic shifted global vaccine priorities towards the coronavirus, further stalling the tuberculosis shot.

“There’s been frustration that it’s taken so long to get this trial up and running,” Thomas Scriba, deputy director of immunology for the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative, told Endpoints News last summer.

At last, the vaccine is getting a chance to prove itself in a bigger study. If successful, it could lead to the first new shot for tuberculosis in over a century.

Emilio Emini, CEO of the Gates MRI, told Endpoints that the initial results may come in roughly four to six years. “Hopefully this will galvanize a refocus on TB,” he said. “It’s been ignored for many, many years. We can’t ignore it anymore.”

A substantial impact

Even though an existing vaccine helps protect babies and children against severe tuberculosis, the bacterium responsible for the disease still causes roughly 10 million new cases and 500,000 deaths each year.

Emilio Emini

By vaccinating adolescents and adults who test positive for infections but don’t have symptoms of lung disease, the Gates MRI hopes the shot will help prevent mild infections from becoming severe ones, curtail transmission of the bug, which is predominantly driven by people with lung disease, and reduce deaths.

“The impact would be substantial,” Emini said. But he cautioned that the biology behind mild and severe diseases is still mysterious. “The reality is that no one really knows what keeps it under control.”

The study, which will take place at 60 sites across seven countries, will include some people who are not infected with tuberculosis to ensure that the vaccine is safe in that broader population.

“Having to pre-test everybody is not going to make the vaccine easy to deliver,” Emini said. If the vaccine is ultimately approved, it will likely be used in targeted communities with high tuberculosis, rather than across a whole country, he added. “In practice, you would immunize everybody in those populations.”

Emini described the Gates MRI’s rights to the vaccine as “close to a worldwide license.” GSK retained rights to commercialize the vaccine in certain countries but declined to specify which ones.

A spokesperson for GSK said that the company “has around 30 assets under development specifically for global health … none of which are expected to generate significant return on investment.”

“It is not sustainable or practical in the longer term for GSK to deliver all of these alone. So we continue to work on M72, but in partnership with others,” the spokesperson added.

If the shot works, Emini said that the Gates MRI will sublicense it to a manufacturer that will be responsible for making and marketing the vaccine. The details are still being worked out, he noted.

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