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Articles by Christopher Zoukis

More Legal Cases Involving Transgender Prisoners in Multiple States

by Christopher Zoukis

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), about 34 percent of transgender people held in prisons or jails reported being subjected to at least one incident of sexual violence while incarcerated. That’s eight times the rate for prisoners overall – and a large number of the 3,200 transgender prisoners the BJS counted in 2012.

In most jails and prisons, self-professed gender identity is not considered when determining whether to place a prisoner in a men’s or women’s facility. This leads to situations like that of Jane Doe – a 52-year-old Massachusetts prisoner who filed a November 2017 lawsuit challenging the Department of Correction’s policy in that state, which placed her in a prison for males despite the fact that she transitioned to female more than 40 years ago.

Lawsuits like Doe’s – along with a recent increase in political pressure – have coincided with incremental changes in the way the needs of transgender prisoners are addressed by prison officials. [See: PLN, June 2018, p.54].

Connecticut recently enacted what might be the most sweeping changes to the way transgender prisoners are treated. SB-13, which went into effect on July 1, 2018, gives those prisoners the ...

Ninth Circuit: Prisoner’s Disciplinary Appeal Exhausted Claim of Having to Work on Religious Holiday

by Christopher Zoukis

On May 18, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a district court’s order dismissing a prisoner’s complaint for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The Ninth Circuit held the prisoner’s claim, which alleged a violation of his right to religious liberty under the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), could proceed.

Michael Ray Fuqua, a Christian prisoner held in an Arizona state prison, was scheduled to work in the kitchen on September 24, 2014, a religious holiday. When he learned of the schedule, which would require him to work on the Feast of Trumpets, he wrote a letter outlining his concerns and offering to switch shifts or pick up other shifts to cover the day off. Fuqua tried to give the letter to Sergeant Starnes, who told him “we don’t do that shit here” and refused to accept the letter.

The day before the holiday, Fuqua spoke with kitchen manager Clark about the issue. Clark told him to “do what you have to do,” but warned that Fuqua “will not have a job here” if he didn’t show up on the religious holiday. The day ...

Rhode Island: Life-sentenced Prisoner is “Civilly Dead,” Cannot Pursue Tort Claim

by Christopher Zoukis

The Rhode Island Supreme Court, citing an antiquated law that declares life-sentenced state prisoners legally “dead in all respects,” affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of a prisoner’s negligence claim for damages suffered when he was attacked by another prisoner.

Dana Gallop was convicted of first-degree murder and multiple other crimes stemming from the shooting death of Anthony Parrish in December 2008. He received two life sentences plus 45 years.

Prior to Gallop’s conviction, while he was being held as a pretrial detainee at the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI), he was attacked by fellow detainee Ian Rosado in April 2010. According to a negligence suit later filed by Gallop, jail guard Matthew Galligan knew of Rosado’s plans and abandoned his post for 18 minutes so the attack would not be witnessed or interrupted. Gallop was left with lacerations and permanent scarring to his face.

The day before the trial in Gallop’s lawsuit, the superior court judge sua sponte raised the issue of Rhode Island’s “civil death” statute, G.L. 1956 § 13-6-1, and the defendants moved to dismiss on those grounds. The court granted the motion and Gallop appealed to the Rhode Island Supreme Court, which upheld ...

New York: $100,000 to Settle Suit over Rape of Trans Prisoner Held in Men’s Prison

by Christopher Zoukis

The New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a male-to-female transgender prisoner who was raped while housed in a men’s prison. The February 5, 2018 settlement included no admission of liability.

LeslieAnn Manning is a 51-year-old transgender woman. She was imprisoned at the New York State Sullivan Correctional Facility in 2013 when she was brutally raped by a fellow prisoner while working on a job detail. Manning, who suffers from myriad health problems, did not immediately report the assault. She did, however, save the clothes she was wearing.

After alerting prison officials of the incident, the clothes were tested and Manning was taken to a hospital. Medical professionals confirmed she had been raped and collected DNA. The perpetrator was identified and disciplined by prison officials while Manning was placed in “protective custody” (segregation), allegedly for her safety.

In January 2015, Manning filed suit in federal court. She alleged that Superintendent Patrick Griffin, Captain Stephen Urbanski, educator Peter Cohen, Sergeant Brian Barlow and guard Daniel Ladenhauf were deliberately indifferent to her safety and subjected her to cruel and unusual punishment. According to her complaint, prison ...

New Jersey County Pays $95,000 to Female Lawyer “Wanded” Between Legs at Jail

by Christopher Zoukis

Bonita Bourke is a 56-year-old attorney and former president of the Warren County, New Jersey Bar Association. She regularly visits clients at the Sussex County jail, and as with all visitors to the facility, must pass through security before entering. One day in August 2014, Bourke said a guard took the screening procedure too far: she was forced to spread her legs while the jailer thrust a metal detecting wand under her skirt.

During the humiliating public search, Sussex County jail guard Long allegedly used his wand to lift Bourke’s skirt so he could move the device further up towards her crotch. Long told her to “spread your legs.” Bourke said she became visibly upset, but Long continued the search. He later apologized as Bourke left the facility, but she claimed she became “anxious and disoriented” and “vomited on the side of the road” while driving back to her office.

Several months after the incident, Bourke filed suit against Long, the sheriff and the county; she argued that the search amounted to an illegal assault and battery, and that Long’s conduct constituted sexual harassment and discrimination. She also said the county and sheriff were negligent and ...

Black Liberation Army Members Convicted of Murdering Cops Granted Parole

by Christopher Zoukis

Herman Bell served 46 years behind bars in New York. The 70-year-old was convicted of the 1971 murders of two NYPD officers, and received a sentence of 25 years to life. Denied parole on seven previous occasions, Bell, who long argued he was a political prisoner, was granted parole and released from the Shawangunk Correctional Facility in April 2018.

The reaction to the Parole Board’s decision was swift and severe. New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch said “[i]t should be clear to any reasonable person that no one believes that cold-blooded cop-killers like Herman Bell should ever be released from prison.”

He was wrong, though. Some people do believe that even murderers like Bell should have the possibility of redemption and release. They include the state lawmakers who created the indeterminate sentencing scheme in New York, the judge who sentenced Bell and the two of three Parole Board members who voted to grant his release.

“If rehabilitation is a goal of incarceration, we should applaud the parole board’s decision to release a person whose institutional record warrants it,” stated Lisa Packard, managing attorney for the Office of the Appellate Defender ...

Private Prison Company Pays to Play; Federal Election Commission Fails to Act

by Christopher Zoukis

GEO Group, one of the nation’s largest for-profit prison companies, donated $225,000 to the pro-Trump Super PAC Rebuilding America Now during the 2016 election cycle. Within a few months after President Trump’s inauguration, in April 2017, GEO was awarded a $110 million federal contract to build a 1,000-bed immigration detention facility.

The Campaign Legal Center, a non-partisan public interest watchdog organization that monitors elections for violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), recognized the particular stench that accompanies improper political influence. So the group filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), alleging GEO Group had violated the FECA by making donations to the PAC while holding federal contracts – which is prohibited. That was on November 1, 2016. Since then the FEC has utterly failed to act.

Therefore, on January 10, 2018, CLC filed suit against the FEC in federal court. The complaint seeks to require the agency to do its job, which is to enforce the FECA.

CLC’s lawsuit over GEO Group’s PAC donation is straightforward. Federal law prohibits a federal contractor, such as GEO, from “directly or indirectly ... mak[ing] any contribution of money or other thing of value ... to ...

Solitary Confinement Reforms Sweeping the Nation but Still Not Enough

by Christopher Zoukis

Solitary confinement is “worse than any torment of the body” – so said famous British author Charles Dickens. French historian Alexis de Tocqueville, who toured American prisons in 1831, added that solitary “devours the victim incessantly and unmercifully; it does not reform, it kills.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled on the constitutionality of “administrative segregation,” a common form of solitary confinement, though in his concurrence to the majority opinion in Davis v. Ayala, 135 S.Ct. 2187 (2015), Justice Anthony Kennedy revealed his revulsion at the long-term use of solitary in correctional facilities. “The human toll wrought by extended terms of isolation long has been understood, and questioned, by writers and commentators,” he wrote. [See: PLN, Nov. 2015, p.28].

“We’re talking about putting someone in a room the size of a parking space,” agreed Robert T. Gonzales, chair of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Disability Rights. “This is inhumane.”

Yet the use of security housing units and restrictive housing units within U.S. prisons remains widespread, affecting as many as 80,000 to 100,000 prisoners according to a 2015 report by the Arthur Liman Public Interest ...

Top Federal Death Penalty Lawyer Demoted, Reassigned

by Christopher Zoukis

Kevin Carwile, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) attorney in charge of the agency’s death penalty prosecution unit, has been demoted over allegations that he fostered a “sexualized environment” in his workplace.

The New York Times reported on the accusations against Carwile on March 31, 2018 ...

Rikers Island Beat Down Suit Settles for $165,000, but Victim Won’t See a Penny

by Christopher Zoukis

On October 30, 2012, several guards at the Rikers Island jail complex in New York City used batons to beat handcuffed prisoner Gabino Genao, 31, into unconsciousness. In the wake of that incident, guards Moises Simancas, April Jackson and Tyrone Wint resigned, pleaded guilty to criminal charges ...