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Articles by Dale Chappell

Seventh Circuit Grudgingly Affirms Summary Judgment in Illinois’ Prisoner’s Suicide Lawsuit

But Highlights Negligence of DOC and Wexford Health Staff

by Dale Chappell

Hinting that “another area of law” may provide relief, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on August 9, 2021, affirmed summary judgment of a lawsuit filed against the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC) and its ...

Third Circuit Revives Pennsylvania Prisoner’s Lawsuit Over Censorship of Incoming Mail Containing Key Evidence

by Matt Clarke and Dale Chappell

On August 9, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed the dismissal of a prisoner’s lawsuit alleging his due-process and access-to-courts rights were violated when the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) failed to notify him it had censored a letter ...

BOP Trust Fund Accounts Reportedly Shield Prisoners from Payment Obligations

by Dale Chappell

Imagine being able to “hide” your money in an account where the government supposedly has no access to it and cannot force you to pay any court-ordered financial obligations, such as child support or restitution to victims of your crimes. That’s what critics are saying federal prisoners ...

Will Federal Prisoners on Home Confinement Have to Return to Prison?

by Dale Chappell

The million-dollar question lately has been whether the thousands of federal prisoners released on home confinement to reduce prison crowding would have to return to prison once the pandemic is over. While it’s not looking so good for those sitting at home waiting for the answer, let’s take a look at how things got to this point and what some of the experts are saying.

It was a smart move: release low-level, non-violent federal prisoners to home confinement in order to reduce the population of the 122 federal prisons in the wake of COVID-19 spreading among staff and prisoners at a steady pace. But the move was made possible only after Congress created the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which expanded the authority of the U.S. Attorney General to allow the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to release prisoners to home confinement, no matter how much time they had left to serve. Prior to the CARES Act, the BOP could release prisoners to home confinement only during the last six months or ten percent of their sentences, whichever was less.

But the CARES Act contains some tricky language. It says that the BOP ...

Eleventh Circuit Upholds Immunity of Federal Prison Guards Under FTCA, Even for Blatant Unconstitutional Acts

by Dale Chappell

In a move that surprised few, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit went against the grain of almost every other court and held on June 9, 2021, that the discretionary function exception, which grants immunity to federal employees when they injure someone while exercising their discretion on the job, applies even when the employee violates someone’s constitutional rights, no matter how blatant.

It’s a case that’s disturbing but shows the disregard for human life that prison officials have for prisoners. About six years ago, Mackie Shivers was sleeping when his “cellie,” Marvin Dodson, attacked him with a pair of scissors, stabbing him in the eye. Shivers wound up losing that eye. But it could have been prevented, he said, because he repeatedly told staff about his cellie’s violent actions and how he feared for his safety. Both men were in the U.S. Penitentiary at Coleman in Florida, with Shivers serving a mandatory life sentence after losing a drug case at trial. Dodson was also serving a drug sentence and had been deemed a safety risk because of his numerous violent acts while in prison. Somehow the two men lived together for eight months until ...

Seventh Circuit: Local Rules Requiring Specific Filings to Summary Judgments Should Not be Used as a Sanction

by Dale Chappell

Providing an example of how the rules apply to everyone—even pro se prisoners—the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld the motion of summary judgment (MSJ) by the district court in denying a prisoner’s federal civil lawsuit claiming bad medical care at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility.

Somehow, Victor Robinson was given the wrong medication and afterwards he passed out and hit his head. How this happened was even more troubling since Robinson wasn’t even on medication. Still, staff directed him to take this medication and he followed their orders. After he was rushed to a local hospital with a closed head injury, he sued prison officials in federal court for “deliberate indifference” to his medical needs. After screening under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the district court allowed three claims to proceed and ordered prison staff to respond to the lawsuit. That’s where things went south for Robinson.

Prison staff filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the district court to grant judgment in their favor because Robinson’s claims were deficient. Basically, they said that he failed to allege claims that could meet the strict standard for deliberate indifference. Part of the reason staff’s ...

Eighth Circuit Holds Lack of “Clearly Established” Law Requiring Staffer to Notify of Prisoner’s Suicide Risk Prevented Damages

by Dale Chappell

Finding that qualified immunity prevented a lawsuit against a jailer who failed to notify a receiving jail that a prisoner was at-risk for suicide and he killed himself at that jail, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed the denial of summary judgment to ...

EPA Slams GEO Over Disinfectant Use at Private Prison, Federal Court Issues Preliminary Injunction to Stop It

by Dale Chappell

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a report and warning in March 2021 to GEO Group for misuse and abuse of a disinfectant at its ICE Processing Center in Adelanto, California. The report says that GEO was applying HQD Neutral in a manner that was in violation of ...

Tenth Circuit Rejects Government’s Appeal Over Recorded Attorney Calls and Visits at Private Prison in Leavenworth

by Dale Chappell

Over five years ago, federal prosecutors in Kansas used recordings of attorney visits and phone calls to obtain convictions in numerous criminal cases. The recordings were made by a private prison in Leavenworth owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA, which has since changed its name to ...

Federal Judge Rejects BOP’s Attempts to Keep Videos of Force-Feeding Prisoners at ADX Secret

by Dale Chappell  

A federal judge has rejected attempts by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to keep videos of staff force-feeding a prisoner on a hunger strike at the Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) in Florence, Colorado, after the BOP had claimed a “law enforcement” exception under the Freedom of ...