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Articles by Dale Chappell

San Diego County Targets Reporter Who Exposed Sky-High Jail Death Rate

by Dale Chappell

When the widow of a prisoner who committed suicide at a San Diego County jail filed suit claiming staff had been made aware of the jail’s high death rate due to a reporter’s local news reports, the county went after the journalist instead of trying to address the problem.

Although Los Angeles County’s jail population is three times larger than San Diego’s, the death rate in San Diego jails is higher. Much higher. Between 2007 and 2012, 60 prisoners died in San Diego County’s jail system – including 16 suicides. In fact, none of the 10 largest jails in the state had a higher death rate.

The county has been hit with multiple lawsuits over prisoner deaths and paid out millions of dollars in two lawsuits in 2017. The county was well aware it had a problem with high death rates in its jail system.

When former U.S. Marine Kristopher Nesmith’s widow sued in 2017 over her husband’s death by suicide at a San Diego jail, part of the evidence cited in the lawsuit was a San Diego CityBeat article titled “60 Dead Inmates” by Kelly Davis, an award-winning journalist who exposed the problem of the ...

Louisiana Jail Settles with DOJ Over HIV Discrimination

by Dale Chappell

The Union Parish Detention Center (UPDC) in Farmerville, Louisiana reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in March 2018 to stop discriminating against HIV-positive prisoners, plus the parish agreed to pay $27,500 to one detainee held in segregation for six months due to his HIV status.

UPDC staff confined the prisoner with HIV to his cell and posted signs on his door while jail employees deliberately told other prisoners about his HIV status, exposing him to harassment and potential harm, the DOJ found. The Department of Justice is authorized to investigate complaints under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12134. Those who are HIV-positive are considered to have a disability under the ADA.

The agreement requires the UPDC to stop segregating prisoners with HIV and to afford them the same benefits as other prisoners, including equal housing, recreation, commissary services and access to dayrooms, televisions and phones. The UPDC is also required to assign an ADA coordinator and to report its enforcement of the agreement to the DOJ. Further, all UPDC staff must receive annual HIV training.

According ...

Oregon County Pays $2.85 Million for Dehydration Death of Mentally Ill Jail Prisoner

by Dale Chappell

Lincoln County, Oregon agreed to pay $2.85 million to settle a wrongful death suit filed by the family of a 55-year-old mentally ill prisoner who died of dehydration at the county jail.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in 2016, claimed that jailers had violated Bradley Thomas’ civil rights when they were “deliberately indifferent” to his serious medical and psychiatric needs following his arrest on March 23, 2015. Jail staff knew Thomas; he had been hospitalized due to his mental illness while in custody previously. This time was no different. According to intake reports, Thomas was exhibiting signs of severe mental illness, including hearing voices and seeing visions.

Despite recognizing that he had serious mental health problems, jail staff did nothing about it, Thomas’ attorneys alleged. The day after his arrest, Thomas was certified as mentally ill; the next day, a Lincoln County mental health investigator declared him a danger to himself and others, and unable to provide for his basic personal needs. That same day, Thomas was disciplined for “defiance toward staff” and failing to follow “the simple rules” of the jail. At least four other disciplinary reports would follow, for failing to keep his ...

Maine: Superior Court’s Dismissal for Lack of Jurisdiction Not Supported by the Record

by Dale Chappell

A sua sponte dismissal for lack of jurisdiction by a state Superior Court was improper, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court held on April 19, 2018, when the record was “otherwise devoid” of any indication the Superior Court lacked jurisdiction in the case.

Steve Anctil, a state prisoner ...

Despite Lack of FCC Action, States Can Still Make Prison and Jail Calls Affordable

by Dale Chappell

Although prison phone service providers and law enforcement officials won their lawsuit to block the FCC’s $.11-per-minute cap on intrastate (in-state) prison phone calls [see: PLN, July 2017, p.52], states can still lower the rates – to even below $.11 per minute – and some have ...

Federal Compassionateless Release

by Dale Chappell

For thousands of federal prisoners who have filed for compassionate release after the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) expanded eligibility criteria in 2013, the response has been a familiar and consistent refrain: “Denied.” Over the following four years, just six percent of compassionate release requests were ...

Ex-Prisoner Awarded $150,000 after 'Savage Beating' Arranged by Guards

by Dale Chappell

Sussex County, New Jersey, has agreed to pay a former prisoner $150,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging guards at the Keogh-Dwyer Correctional Facility (KDCF) – the county’s jail – put a “hit” on him and had him beaten.

After Robert Woodruff was convicted of burglary and ...

“Egregious” Lack of Care by Jail’s Medical Contractor Leads to $1 Million Settlement

by Dale Chappell

An “egregious” lack of medical treatment that resulted in the death of a jail prisoner led Albany County, New York and its private health care contractor to settle a lawsuit filed by the prisoner’s family for over $1 million.

Mark Cannon died in 2014 after he suffered ...

Indiana’s SOMM Program Declared Unconstitutional by Federal Court

by Dale Chappell

Indiana’s Sex Offender Management and Monitoring (SOMM) program violated the Fifth Amendment by compelling prisoners to incriminate themselves or face longer prison terms, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana held on September 28, 2017.

The ruling was entered in a class-action suit ...

A&E Reality Show Puts Undercover Volunteers, Hidden Cameras in Jails

by Dale Chappell

A group of people who had neither been arrested nor convicted of a crime nevertheless spent two months in county jails – as part of a reality show with hidden cameras, in order to expose the harsh experience of life behind bars.

The revealing program, called “60 ...