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Articles by Bob Williams

Ninth Circuit Reverses Suit Over Fees Charged Prepaid Debit Cards Given To Released Prisoners

On March 16, 2020, the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded a lower court decision dismissing a suit brought by a released prisoner over the fees charged to use the release funds placed on a debit card. The Human Rights Defense Center represented the plaintiff in this case.

Danica Brown was arrested in Portland, Oregon on November 25, 2014, for participating in a public protest. She was carrying $30.97 in cash at the time. She was released about seven hours later, with the charges eventually dropped. Instead of releasing her cash back to her, the Multnomah County Jail gave her a Numi Financial prepaid debit card with a $30.97 balance.

On the Numi website, Brown discovered that to get her funds she could make a transfer to her bank but declined to do so, not wanting to release her bank account information. She also discovered a monthly fee of $5.95 but assumed it would apply only after 30 days. On December 1, 2014, Brown attempted a $15 purchase with the Numi card but was declined for insufficient funds. Earlier that day, Numi had deducted the $5.95 monthly service fee, leaving her short of the $15. Worse, they then ...

Safety at Any Price - Massachusetts Corrections Fiscal Failure

Safety at Any Price - Massachusetts Corrections Fiscal Failure

by Bob Williams

The guiding fiscal model of the Massachusetts criminal justice system for decades has been “safety at any price,” according to a December 2009 report by The Boston Foundation (Report). Analyzing corrections spending between 1998 and 2008, the report concluded that the massive growth in spending was driven neither by an equal growth in corrections populations nor by improved public safety (including reduced recidivism).

Nationally, corrections budgets have enjoyed a nearly 300 percent increase over the past 20 years as approximately one in 31 adults are under some form of correctional supervision in the United States. That’s 2.3 million people in prisons and jails and another 5 million on probation or parole—more than any other country in the world. In 1982, corrections budgets nationally totaled $9 billion. By 2007, they ballooned to $44 billion.

Between the nature of corrections and public fear, budgets have avoided deep cuts during lean economic times, and have received large increases during a normal economy. “Sentencing, parole and release policies often have been driven by headlines rather than by research into public safety and the reduction of victimization,” the Report concludes. The latest recession ...

Tenth Circuit: Heck Not Applicable To Diversions; Notice Required Before Statute Of Limitations Dismissal

Tenth Circuit: Heck Not Applicable To Diversions; Notice Required Before Statute Of Limitations Dismissal

by Bob Williams

In December 2009, the Tenth Circuit held that Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) did not bar § 1983 actions where pre-trial diversion agreements resulted in no underlying conviction that could be ...

No Rehearing For Disciplinary Actions Vacated On Substantive Grounds

By Bob Williams

In another unpublished decision, a unanimous Colorado Court of Appeals has held that if a prisoner's administrative disciplinary conviction is vacated on district court review, expungement and not a rehearing is mandatory if the reversal is on substantive and not procedurals grounds.

Mark Garcia was using the ...

Treatment Required For Prisoners Committing Sex Offenses In Prison

By Bob Williams

The Colorado Court of Appeals rejected a plea by a state prisoner to avoid Colorado's Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP) which the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) requires based on sexually based disciplinary infractions.

Timothy Reeves was classified an SI on the S1 S5 Sexual Violence Scale ...

Tenth Circuit Reverses Lawsuit on Hygiene Versus Court Access for Second Time

For the second time, the Tenth Circuit has reversed the dismissal of a pro se prisoner’s lawsuit alleging he was denied basic hygiene items when his available money was spent on court-related expenses.

Colorado state prisoner Michael Whitington filed a § 1983 complaint that accused the Colorado Department of Corrections ...

Shrinking Budgets Force States to Cut Corrections Spending

In a July 2009 report funded by the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States, author Christine S. Scott-Hayward examines how shrinking budgets are impacting state corrections policies and practices.

The story is in the numbers, and the numbers are staggering. More than one out of ...

Maryland: Parole Supervision Fee Likely Does More Harm than Good

In a 2009 report by the Brennan Center for Justice, a think tank and public interest advocacy group at New York University School of Law, the authors conclude that the state of Maryland’s assessment of a $40 monthly parole supervision fee is “a penny-wise, pound-foolish policy” that likely does more ...

One of Every 11 Prisoners Now Serving Life Sentence

In a July 2009 report by The Sentencing Project, a national non-profit organization engaged in research and advocacy on criminal justice policy issues, Ashley Nellis and Ryan S. King examine the consequences of the expanding use of life sentences in America and make recommendations for changes in law, policy and ...

Pennsylvania Contractor Prohibited from Using State and Federal Funds for Religious Purposes

Pennsylvania Contractor Prohibited from Using State and Federal Funds for Religious Purposes

by Bob Williams

Citizens in Bradford County, Pennsylvania filed a federal lawsuit against the County and state and federal officials after government funds allegedly were used for religious prosetylizing of jail prisoners. A consent order was entered that ...