Skip navigation

Articles by Benjamin Tschirhart

“All Signals Blinking Red” at Federal Prison in West Virginia After DOJ Releases Report on Killing of Mobster “Whitey” Bulger

by Casey J. Bastian and Benjamin Tschirhart

Citing “bureaucratic incompetence,” as well as “flawed, confusing and insufficient” policies and procedures, a December 2022 report by a federal government watchdog attempted to answer the question: How did a notorious but elderly criminal end up transferred by the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to a new prison where he was murdered within 12 hours?

Yet mystery shrouds James “Whitey” Bulger’s death at the U.S. Penitentiary (USP) in Hazelton, West Virginia. The former Irish Mafia mob boss and leader of Boston’s “Winter Hill Gang” gained his nickname for his thick platinum hair and his notoriety for over 16 years spent as a fugitive on the FBI “most wanted” list. After his 2011 capture, Bulger was given two life sentences for crimes that included 11 murders.

In 2014, he was stabbed by another prisoner at USP Tucson. By 2018, he was 89 and confined at USP Coleman in Florida. His health seriously degraded in a series of cardiac events brought on by atrial fibrillation. After multiple hospital trips, he was left in a wheelchair, requiring frequent nursing care and daily medication. BOP classified him as Care Level Three on a four-level scale.

An altercation ...

L.A. County Jails: Leading in All the Wrong Ways

by Benjamin Tschirhart

Calling conditions in Los Angeles County jails “abhorrent,” attorneys representing a group of incarcerated plaintiffs appeared before a federal judge on April 19, 2023, asking him to hold the county in contempt of a recently granted injunction. That was after three detainee deaths in just nine days ...

Santa Clara County Sheriff Accused of Coverup After $10 Million Payout to Mentally Ill Detainee Who Severely Injured Himself During Jail Transport

by Benjamin Tschirhart

An October 2022 report by the Office of Correction and Law Enforcement (OCLE) in California’s Santa Clara County faults the county Sheriff’s Department (SCSD) for prematurely closing an investigation into the death of a mentally ill detainee during a transfer between county jails in August 2018. After ...

Second Circuit Takes Back $20,000 Emotional Damage Award from Former Federal Prisoner in New York

by Ben Tschirhart

On August 16, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the verdict of a federal jury, stripping $20,000 in damages awarded to a former federal prisoner in New York for mental and emotional injury suffered during confinement. In its decision, the Court made ...

California Makes Calls Free for State Prisoners and Juvenile Detainees, Prohibits Telecom Kickbacks to Prisons and Jails

by Benjamin Tschirhart

On September 29, 2022, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed S.B. 1008 into law, barring government agencies in the state from collecting any part of the revenue from providing calls in prisons and jails. It also makes calls completely free at state prisons and juvenile detention facilities. ...

$35,000 Awarded to Federal Prisoner in Kentucky Who Accused Guards of Using Excessive Force

by Benjamin Tschirhart

In July 2019, Jonathan Lee Smith was a prisoner at the U.S. Penitentiary near Kentucky’s Big Sandy River, when he got in a fight with another prisoner and guards responded. That led to allegations that two of them used excessive force against the prisoner: Lt. Terry Melvin ...

No More Second Chances for New York Jail Guard Convicted of Smuggling

by Benjamin Tschirhart

On April 5, 2022, a former jail guard in Buffalo pleaded guilty to a first-degree felony count of promoting prison contraband. Jason Stachowski, 48, had already resigned from the Erie County Sheriff’s Office (ECSO) on February 17, 2022, after investigators acting on an anonymous tip discovered that ...

No Pay for Iowa Prisoners Overdosed With COVID-19 Vaccine

by Benjamin Tschirhart

On October 3, 2022, the State Appeals Board of Iowa heeded the advice of the state Attorney General’s office and unanimously rejected the claims of a group of state prisoners overdosed with COVID-19 vaccine.

When prisoners at Iowa State Penitentiary (ISP) were given vaccinations for COVID-19 in ...

Suspended Colorado Work Release Program Exposes Companies’ Reliance on Low-Wage Labor

by Benjamin Tschirhart

Human resources manager Jeanette Carmack called them “really, really good guys”: nine prisoners from the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) who filled positions in the Public Works and Parks, Recreation and Golf departments at the city of Delta. That was until the Take TWO (Transitional Work Opportunity) ...

Despite Official Claims, Stopping Mail to Missouri Prisoners Has No Effect on Drug Overdoses

by Benjamin Tschirhart

The drugs are coming in the mail. Or so they say. There’s no question that the drugs are coming into Missouri state prisons; an average of 34 prisoner overdoses a month is a trend that officials can’t afford to ignore. Their answer? Restrict the freedoms and infringe ...