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Articles by Anthony Accurso

NY State Prisons Finally Stop Using Faulty Drug Testing Equipment; Class Action Lawsuit Filed by Victims

Nadezda Steele-Warrick, a prisoner at Albion Correctional Facility, was on the right track. After her 2015 conviction for assault, she had been a model prisoner, obtaining her GED, securing a spot in preferred housing, and working as a teacher’s assistant and exercise coach. She even earned her way into a family reunification program, which allowed her husband and son to stay with her overnight in private settings. She’d passed random drug screenings throughout her nearly four years in prison, and the reunification program rules required testing just before and after such visits.

During a day off from teaching classes in April 2019, Steele-Warrick was reading a book in her cell when guards informed her that her second drug test came back positive. At her disciplinary hearing, her husband testified that he did not see her use any drugs during their visit. She was found guilty of the violation and spent 11 days in a disciplinary Keeplock cell. She didn’t have access to hygiene items except during the one hour per day she was allowed out of her cell.

She was denied visitation with her family until her release in May 2019.

It turns out that she ...

Funding and Leadership Failures Result in Less Criminal Justice Data

Several late or missing reports from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) highlights a trend toward less reporting and accountability by the federal government.

The Crime and Justice Research Alliance, a nonprofit group that advocates for more funding for and access to criminal justice data, sent a letter on October 18, 2019 to the Department of Justice expressing concern about the federal government’s failure to post research data critical to assessing trends in crime, policing and prisons.

This data is critical for nonprofits and legislators when proposing policy initiatives based on trends and issues arising in a criminal justice context.

 “How can lawmakers and policy experts engineer legislation to address a problem across several distinct political and bureaucratic regimes if they have no idea what they’re dealing with in the first place?” asked Pacific Standard magazine.

Several important data sets have yet to be released or were significantly delayed. These include the Survey of Prison Inmates, the BJS Background Checks for Firearms Transfers Report Series, and the Deaths in Custody Reporting Program (DCRP). The DCRP data is especially important since its data includes information on suicides of people in custody, a number that was increasing ...

The Ongoing Push to End Outrageous Prison Phone Charges

Groups in several states are drawing increased attention to the high cost of jail and prison phone rates, and pushing to reduce or eliminate such charges. HRDC, the publisher of PLN, has been a leader in this movement since 1992 and founded the Prison Phone Justice Campaign in 2012 to end the financial exploitation of prisoners and their families.  It has achieved significant reductions in the cost of prison and jail phone calls. But much more is still needed. PLN has reported extensively on this issue over the past 28 years.

Unless someone has been through the criminal justice system themselves, or tried to stay in contact with a family member or friend in jail or prison, they are unlikely to be aware of the $1.75 billion industry that gouges consumers by providing phone services to prisoners.

There are few providers for inmate calling systems, though the two largest providers, Securus and Global Tel*Link, form a virtual duopoly in the market. Securus has contracts with about 3,400 prisons and jails in the United States, and Global Tel Link has over 2,400, according to a December 31, 2019 story from NBC News.

These companies “negotiate” ...

California Exonerees Not Quite Innocent Under the Law

Many prisoners who get their convictions overturned, especially after serving lengthy prison terms, rightly expect to be compensated when they prove they never should have been prosecuted. However, exonerees in California often face a difficult battle for compensation, made all the more challenging by homelessness.

Glenn Payne is one of many persons whose conviction was overturned after serving prison time for a crime he didn’t commit. Payne spent 13 years in prison for a 1991 child molestation conviction that was overturned because the hair identification evidence linking him to the crime was discredited. At age 55, he’s regaining peace of mind as a free man who no longer has to register as a sex offender.

The state of California has laws in place to govern claims for compensation for those subjected to wrongful convictions. Payne doesn’t qualify, though, because his lawyers did not submit evidence that he was innocent of the crime by the end of the two-year filing deadline. Such a hurdle can be nearly impossible to overcome, especially in cases like Payne’s where the evidence was destroyed prior to his release.

Of the 76 former prisoners who have filed for compensation since 2006, the ...

Suicide or Murder? Jeffrey Epstein’s Death Still Drawing Attention to Bureau Inadequacies

by Anthony W. Accurso

Months after the August 2019 death of Jeffrey Epstein, rumors and theories are still circulating that cast doubt on the cause of death.

The 66-year-old billionaire became the center of the nation’s attention after he was arrested July 6, 2019, on new charges of sex trafficking ...

$2 Million Settlement After Woman Dies While Jailed for Unpaid Traffic Tickets

by Anthony W. Accurso

A woman was booked into jail in Mineral County, Nevada on traffic violations, and died days later due to medical neglect.

Kelly Coltrain, 27, was visiting her family in July 2017 to celebrate a family reunion and her grandmother’s 75th birthday. After the celebrations, she was pulled over for speeding in Mineral County. Discovering that she had unresolved traffic violations in another county, deputies booked her into the Mineral County Jail (MCJ). Her bail was set at $1,750.

Coltrain initially refused to answer questions about her next of kin and medical conditions during the intake process. After learning the amount of her bail, she informed Sgt. Jim Holland that she was drug-dependant and had a history of seizures.

Despite a jail policy that required prisoners with a history of seizures to be reviewed by hospital staff prior to being admitted to the facility, MCJ placed Coltrain in a “max” cell where she was to be checked at least every 30 minutes. It was later determined that deputies rarely checked on her, instead preferring to watch her on video camera – which was also a violation of established jail policy.

Four hours after she was booked, Coltrain ...