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Articles by Casey Bastian

Transgender Women in Illinois DOC Secure Injunction with Special Monitor

by Casey J. Bastian

Transgender women imprisoned in the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC) notched another victory in their legal battle for gender dysphoria treatment on December 13, 2021, when the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois agreed to appoint a Special Monitor to ensure the state ...

How Corrupt is Too Corrupt for Atlanta Federal Prison?

by Casey J. Bastian
The U.S. Penitentiary (USP) in southeast Atlanta, a federal complex that has been at the center of multiple scandals and allegations of corruption over the last decade, was “nearly vacant” at the end of August 2021, when press reports said that all but 134 of some ...

Indiana Supreme Court Denies Relief to Prisoner Whose Commissary Account Was Garnished

by Casey J. Bastian

On May 19, 2021, the Court of Appeals of Indiana refused to dismiss a lower court’s ruling against a state prisoner whose prison account was garnished by the state Department of Corrections (DOC) to satisfy a restitution sanction of over $8,000 for injuries a guard sustained ...

Federal Judge Springs Former PLN Editor from “Iron Man” Pretrial Detention Cell

by Casey J. Bastian

Saying the unduly harsh confinement conditions he’d endured for nearly two years—without ever being convicted of a crime—likely violate the Fourteenth Amendment, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee on November 23, 2021, granted a request for injunctive relief made by former PLN ...

New Illinois Law Allows Early Release for a Few Eligible Offenders

by Casey J. Bastian

In August 2021, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) signed House Bill 3665 into law, allowing for the early release of certain prisoners housed in the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC) who are either medically incapacitated or terminally ill.

Under the law, the definition of “medically incapacitated” ...

Too Many In-Custody Deaths of BOP Prisoners are Unnecessary and Preventable

by Casey J. Bastian

William Figueria was imprisoned at Butner, a federal facility in North Carolina. Figueria was 63-years-old, and was serving a 30-month sentence for Distribution of Cocaine Base. On April 20, 2020, Figueria died as a result of his significant underlying medical conditions which included chronic hepatitis C, ...

California Supreme Court: Prisoners Cannot Legally Possess Cannabis

by Casey Bastian

On November 8, 2016, California voters went to the polls to consider whether the Control, Regulate, and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act, known as Proposition 64 (Prop64), should be approved. Prop64 was easily passed with voters clearly supporting the legalization of recreational marijuana. Medicinal use in ...

Benevolent or Predatory?

Lake Ozark Politician Gives Women Prisoners Help, Gets Sex

by Casey J. Bastian

In 2015, Gerry Murawski was an elected city alderman for Lake Ozark, Missouri. Murawski was also engaging in questionable relationships with several young women. During the period of 2015-2016, Murawski would provide money and favors for at least four women who had been held in the local Laclede County Jail. The young women would give massages, companionship, and sex after they were released; one stated that she felt “obligated” to engage in sex acts with Murawski for the financial help he had provided.

This conduct would eventually lead to three separate investigations by local, state, and federal authorities. At one point, Murawski admitted to the FBI that a prostitute he solicited through Craigslist in 2015 had been only 16 at the time. Meeting an underage girl online and having sex with her at a Columbia, Missouri hotel did not lead to any criminal charges. In fact, not one of the three investigations resulted in any criminal charges against Murawski. It didn’t even hurt his political career. Murawski would be elected mayor of Lake Ozark in 2019.

Murawski was recently asked by local reporters with the news ...

Audit Reveals Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Chaplaincy Services Branch Critically Depleted

by Casey J. Bastian

The Office of the Inspector General completed an audit of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Chaplaincy Services Branch (CSB) in July 2021. The CSB is responsible for the BOP’s religious services nationwide. The program is intended to ensure that the constitutional right of prisoners to practice religion is protected. Almost 70 percent of the BOP prisoner population identifies with a particular faith group or tradition.

The audit revealed that the CSB is so depleted that a mere 236 personnel are serving more than 150,000 prisoners. This results in only eight of the 26 recognized faith groups being represented. The audit concluded that “a significant shortage in the number of chaplains and other chaplaincy services staff impairs the BOP’s ability to implement a safe and effective religious services program.”

The audit identified five key areas requiring improvement and policy updates to help ensure prisoners’ access to religious services as well as the safety and security of the institutions. As well as identifying the current deficiencies, the audit offered several recommendations to alleviate those problems. On May 21, 2021, the BOP adopted several of the recommendations while promising to implement those changes in a reasonable amount of ...

Massachusetts Department of Corrections Sued Over Use of “Fake” Drug Tests on Legal Mail

by Casey J. Bastian

The Massachusetts Department of Corrections (DOC) has been knowingly using drug tests described by plaintiff’s lawyers as “fake” on legal mail to both interfere with attorney/client communications and impose strict punishments without due process. These claims are the basis of a class complaint recently filed by affected prisoners and defense attorneys. “This flawed test has seriously harmed our clients, attorneys, and the attorney-client relationship, and the DOC should immediately stop using it,” said chief counsel Anthony Benedetti.

The tests in question are manufactured by Sirchie Acquisition Company (Sirchie) and distributed by Biotech, Inc (Biotech). The DOC acquired the tests for the purpose of preventing the introduction of contraband through the mail system; chiefly synthetic cannabinoids, which can be sprayed on paper and smoked. Sirchie manufactured the Narcotics Reagent Analysis Kit (NARK) 20023 test and claimed the tests use “crime lab accepted chemistry” designed to “function as a transportable narcotics laboratory.” The problem is that the NARK 20023 tests are fundamentally unreliable. One DOC employee stated that the tests result in false positives “up to 80% of the time.” In 2012, Sirchie issued its “Nark News” brochure that acknowledged it is “almost impossible” to develop a test ...