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State of Washington Settles in Damages Claim Brought by Prisoner

The State of Washington reached a settlement of $11,000 and appropriate dental care in February 2004 with Patrick J. Hoffman, a prisoner at Stafford Creek Correctional Center, Intensive Management Unit. Hoffman was housed at Walla Walla State Prison serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole when the issues under contention arose.

Under Washington State statute, prisoners serving sentences without the possibility of parole are not required to participate in educational or self-help programs. Hoffman avers that this is the issue central to his argument with the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC).

Throughout the term of Hoffman’s incarceration, DOC personnel attempted to enroll him in various educational and self-help classes. He steadfastly refused. Hoffman maintained that DOC personnel informed him that his refusal to participate in those classes was the basis of his transfer from Walla Walla to the intensive management unit. He further contended that he was threatened twice with bodily harm and death for that same reason. He was placed in administrative segregation for the same reason under color of another, totally unrelated incident that did not in any way involve him. He lost all his “custody status” points for the same reason, also under color the same unrelated incident. He was denied access to video tapes that would prove him innocent of the unrelated incident. And, collaterally he was denied adequate dental care after his relationship with DOC staff became adversarial.

Throughout his battle with the DOC, Hoffman’s wife, Penny Hoffman, assisted him in filings, obtaining counsel, etc. Patrick and Penny Hoffman brought suit against the State, the DOC, and various John Does who worked for the DOC in a complaint for damages alleging the above issues. The State settled on February 4, 2004, giving the Hoffmans $11,000.00, the return of his “custody status” points, and dental care commensurate with his needs. No provisions were made for attorney fees, and costs were incurred by neither party. The video tape issue was dropped and neither side was named the prevailing party. See: Hoffman v. DOC, Thurston Co. Superior Court, Washington Case No. 02-2-02191-1.

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Related legal case

Hoffman v. DOC