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Articles by Dale Chappell

Connecticut DOC Settles Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit for $1.3 Million

by Dale Chappell

After misdiagnosing a prisoner’s skin cancer as psoriasis for years and refusing to perform tests when treatment was not working, the Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC) agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle the prisoner’s lawsuit.

While held at the Osborn Correctional Institution, state prisoner Wayne ...

Preliminary Settlement in Class-Action HCV Suit Against Pennsylvania DOC

by Dale Chappell

A class-action lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) over the lack of adequate treatment for prisoners with hepatitis C (HCV) survived a motion for summary judgment, and the parties have reached a preliminary settlement agreement.

Salvatore Chimenti, Daniel Leyva and David Maldonado filed suit in ...

Florida Prisoner’s Suit Proceeds Against Guards for Use of Force, Retaliation

by Dale Chappell

On March 14, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida ruled that a prisoner’s lawsuit against Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) guards could move forward, denying the FDOC’s motion for summary judgment.

Christopher Sanders filed suit in federal court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that FDOC staff violated his First, Fourth and Eighth Amendment rights when they retaliated against him after he filed grievances and his mother called prison administrators to complain.

In his detailed filings, Sanders stated in sworn declarations that staff continuously threatened him if he kept filing grievances, and denied him food and medical care. He argued that staff said they were going to “break” him of his “little habit” of filing grievances. The FDOC used cell extraction teams and excessive force to make their point, he added, even dragging him back into his cell for more beatings after he voluntarily left the cell when the extraction team arrived. He also alleged that guard John Green said he would keep receiving empty food trays until he stopped filing grievances. When Sanders alerted Assistant Warden Hope Gartman, he said she told him she didn’t care and it ...

Guards Face Federal Charges for Smuggling Drugs, Cell Phones Into Idaho Prisons

by Dale Chappell

The FBI arrested seven people, including five Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) guards, for conspiring to smuggle drugs, tobacco and cell phones into state prisons.
In January 2017, an undercover FBI agent approached an IDOC contract nurse who had previously been caught smuggling contraband. The nurse put the agent in contact with four guards who could help traffic contraband into IDOC facilities. Guards Richard McCollough, Eric Thompson, Timothy Landon and Robert Wallin all agreed to help with the scheme.

The guards wore their IDOC uniforms during the supposed drug deals to ward off suspicious cops. McCollough and Thompson even brought along their guns during some of the deals. The group intended to smuggle methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin into the prison system.

“The services provided by McCollough, Thompson and Landon included acting as security at what they believed to be drug deliveries and payment dropoffs, weighing drugs, counting money, preparing drugs for delivery, [and] transporting a load of drugs for the drug-trafficking organization,” said U.S. Attorney Bart Davis.

The FBI got involved when IDOC director Henry Atencio complained to the U.S. Attorney’s office that his employees were smuggling drugs. FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric ...

Connecticut Passes Law to Protect Women, Transgender Prisoners

by Dale Chappell

In May 2018, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed into law SB-13, a bill that will bring fairness and dignity to women and transgender prisoners, his office said.

The bill, which received unanimous votes in both chambers of the General Assembly, specifies that women prisoners will not be shackled during labor, and that the Department of Correction will establish child-friendly visitation policies as well as prenatal and parenting support for the nearly 80 percent of women prisoners who have minor children. Free feminine hygiene products will be provided by the DOC, and non-medical male employees will be restricted from viewing women prisoners while they dress or shower.

“All people deserve to be treated with dignity, empathy, and respect, and incarcerated women are no exception,” Governor Malloy said. “We are working every day to fix the haunting legacy of mass incarceration, and this is another step in the right direction.”

Incarcerated women are “trapped” in a system that was not designed for them, State Rep. Robyn Porter added. “Governor Malloy’s signing of this legislation not only gives these women a platform for successful reentry, but more importantly it restores them with the dignity and respect needed ...

Amid Scandal, Missouri Governor Issues Commutations and Pardons, Passes New Laws Before Resigning

by Dale Chappell

As his resignation was about to take effect late on June 1, 2018, scandal-plagued Missouri Governor Eric Greitens pardoned five convicted felons, commuted the sentences of four others and signed 77 new bills into law – including one that makes it illegal to post the same type of “revenge porn” that led to his own downfall.

Had he remained in office, Greitens may have become Missouri’s first governor to be impeached by the legislature, where he faced charges of official misconduct after a recording surfaced of a phone call he made to his hairdresser’s husband, claiming he had taken partially nude photos of the woman and threatening to release them if she exposed her 2015 affair with Greitens, who is also married. The new law that Greitens signed before leaving office makes it a crime to electronically transmit a compromising photo of a person without their consent.

An investigation by the office of Attorney General Josh Hawley also discovered that Greitens’ 2016 campaign illegally solicited contributions from people who made donations to a veterans charity the governor had started in 2007, called Mission Continues.

In April 2018, a St. Louis grand jury indicted Greitens on a felony ...

Ex-Washington Prison Superintendent Under Investigation for Misuse of Funds

by Dale Chappell

Douglas Cole, the former superintendent of the Cedar Creek Corrections Center in Thurston County, was quietly moved to another Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) position after a whistleblower exposed his alleged misuse of prison money.

An internal review found that about $145,000 of the prison’s purchases since July 2016 had been made without following the state’s guidelines for major expenditures. It was discovered that Cole would split up purchases to avoid having to get approval from the administration and to circumvent the bidding process.

The WDOC employee who outed Cole said she “became very concerned that what was being done was not right.” When she tried to get clarification on his purchases, she was reportedly intimidated by another prison employee.

Cole’s actions were “intended to hide/tuck money away to purchase goods without the proper approvals” and to purposefully avoid having to get administrative approval in order to bypass budget constraints, the internal review stated.

For example, a purchase of several furnaces for the prison was split into four billings; had they been billed together, approval from the WDOC’s central office would have been required. In another case, Cole bought $24,000 worth of mattresses ...

Florida District Court Allows Suit Against Prisoner Transport Companies to Proceed

by Dale Chappell

On July 30, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida denied a motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by Prisoner Transportation Services, LLC (PTS) and its subsidiary, U.S. Corrections, LLC (USC), in a lawsuit over inhumane conditions during the transport of more than 1,000 prisoners.

When Broward County, Florida filed charges against Jeffrey E. Groover, a federal prisoner housed at FCI Butner in North Carolina, the county contracted with USC to pick him up and extradite him to face the charges. During the 52-hour road trip, Groover was forced to sit in a “dog cage” as the van driver called it, which measured just 34 inches wide by 42 inches high. There was no air-conditioning and only one small vent. The van rarely stopped for breaks and Groover was allowed just one cup of water and some food every eight hours. After 24 hours into the trip, Groover suffered delusions and vomited. The driver gave him an extra cup of water. Due to the extreme heat, Groover had a heat stroke.

He filed a pro se lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in federal court against Broward ...

BOP’s Violation of Alcohol Policy Ends in Expungement, Reversal of Disciplinary Sanctions

by Dale Chappell

The Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) violation of its own alcohol policy prompted the expungement of disciplinary reports and reversal of sanctions imposed on two prisoners after they challenged their disciplinary convictions in court.

On March 11, 2017, guards at FCI Marianna in Florida conducted mass alcohol testing of an entire housing unit, supposedly based on information there was alcohol in that area. Guards went room to room and tested every prisoner, locking up those who tested positive for alcohol and charging them with a 112-series disciplinary violation.

Two of those prisoners were Jon Bartlett and Neal Jowers, who both tested positive for alcohol. Bartlett’s test showed a BAC level of 0.013, while Jowers’ was 0.008.

Placed in handcuffs, they were taken to segregation and, after a hearing before a disciplinary officer, were kept in segregation for 21 days plus the time they waited for the hearing. They also lost numerous privileges, including visits, commissary and their jobs, and were placed in “least preferred housing” – a three-man cell designed for only two – once they were released from segregation. They also were put on the BOP’s “hot list,” which requires more frequent random drug ...

New York’s Prison-to-Shelter Pipeline is Poor Option for Parolees

by Dale Chappell

Released from prison, many New York parolees – instead of getting back on their feet through re-entry programs – are heading to homeless shelters in New York City. Of approximately 9,300 prisoners paroled from state prisons in 2017, 54 percent (around 5,000) went directly to shelters – up from 23 percent just three years earlier.

Those 5,000 parolees represented about one in seven of the state’s 35,500 parolees and about one in five new arrivals at New York City homeless shelters last year. The state’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) does not track how long they stay there, but said the population is fluid enough that only about 1,600 parolees are in the city’s shelter system at any given time.

“It’s like living in a maze,” said Fred Henderson, who was released from prison in 2009. “The shelter system is worse than prison. At least in prison you know how long you’re gonna be in there and then you get released. In the shelter system, you’re allegedly free, but you’re not. It’s like doing another sentence.”

Henderson, 58, served 10 years for bank robbery at the state’s Franklin ...