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Articles by David M. Reutter

Fourth Circuit: Three Tasings in 70 Seconds May Constitute Excessive Force

by David M. Reutter

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a grant of summary judgment to guards who tased a prisoner three times during a 70-second period. In its May 10, 2019 ruling, the appellate court also found error in the district court’s dismissal of a defendant for failure ...

Michigan Prisoner Prevails in First Amendment Retaliation Case; $30,000 in Damages and Attorney Fees

by David M. Reutter

A Michigan federal district court has awarded $18,325.28 in attorney fees and costs in a prisoner’s civil rights action, which followed a jury verdict on First Amendment retaliation and conspiracy claims that totaled $11,500.

Prisoner Arthur L. Campbell was housed at the Mound Road Correctional Facility ...

Hepatitis C Treatment Ordered in North Carolina Prisons

by David M. Reutter

A federal district court in North Carolina has ordered expanded hepatitis C (HCV) treatment in a class-action suit brought by three state prisoners. The court’s entry of a preliminary injunction on March 20, 2019 enjoined the NC Department of Public Safety (DPS) from enforcing its existing ...

$157,000 Settlement in Michigan DOC Employee Discrimination Case

by David M. Reutter

The Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) agreed to pay $157,500 to settle a lawsuit alleging it had discriminated against a female prison guard.

Merrianne Weberg, 58, began working for the MDOC in 1992 and was promoted to sergeant in 1995 while at the Western Wayne Correctional ...

Arkansas: Private Prison Contractors Cited for Ethics Violations

by David M. Reutter

The Arkansas Ethics Commission (AEC) issued letters of caution to four companies that provide corrections-related services, for failing to report contributions to the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association.

The companies, Tech Friends, Inc., City Tele Coin Co., Justice Solutions and Correct Solutions, LLC, agreed with the AEC’s August ...

Three Louisiana Prisoners Cleared in 1994 Rape of Another Prisoner

by David M. Reutter

After 25 years of proclaiming their innocence in a rape case, three Louisiana prisoners accepted plea bargains that cleared their way for release. The plea offer came after the victim recanted his testimony in April 2018.

While serving a year-long sentence for burglary, Byron Morgan, who ...

Infamous Louisiana Sheriff on His Way Out

by David M. Reutter

I’m done. I’m beat up. I’m tired,” Iberia Parish, Louisiana Sheriff Louis Ackal, 75, said in November 2018, upon announcing his decision not to seek re-election. However, his words more accurately described the detainees at the Iberia Parish Jail and citizens in his community who were ...

Class Certified in Lawsuit Challenging Missouri Parole Violation Procedures

by David M. Reutter

In January 2019, a Missouri federal district court certified a class in a lawsuit alleging the state incarcerates thousands of people without providing due process before depriving them of their liberty interest during “sham” parole violation proceedings. The class could number up to 15,000.

PLN previously ...

Pennsylvania DOC’s New Mail Policy Robs Prisoners of the Personal Touch; Lawsuits Over Legal Mail Settle

by David M. Reutter

Last year the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PDOC) implemented a policy that prohibits prisoners from receiving original correspondence from their family members and friends. The policy went into effect in September 2018 in response to a 12-day statewide lockdown the prior month after an “unprecedented number of inmate and staff exposures to unknown substances.” [See: PLN, Dec. 2018, p.1].

Prison officials claimed those substances were synthetic drugs, such as fentanyl or K2, sprayed onto letters sent to prisoners. Toxicologists raised serious doubts as to whether that was correct, however, and the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that some experts believed “one likely diagnosis for the staff illnesses may be ‘mass psychogenic illness’ – that is, a sort of contagious hysteria fueled by fears of dangerous exposure.”

Regardless, the PDOC enlisted a Florida company, Smart Communications, to handle incoming correspondence. The new mail policy involves a “scan-send-print-deliver” service that requires prisoner mail to be sent to Smart Communications’ location in Florida. The company then opens the mail and scans it, and it is printed at the prison and delivered to the prisoner.

According to Claire Shubik-Richards, executive director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, prisoners have complained about not ...

Right to Speedy Trial Not Triggered by Placement in Administrative Segregation

by David M. Reutter

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a prisoner’s placement in administrative segregation while under investigation for a new crime does not trigger his right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment or the Speedy Trial Act.

Before the appellate court was the appeal of James Bailey-Snyder, who was found by guards at FCI-Schuylkill to be in possession of a seven-inch plastic shank. He was placed in the Special Handling Unit (SHU) while the FBI investigated. Ten months later, Bailey-Snyder was indicted on one count of possession of a prohibited object in prison.

He moved to dismiss the June 2016 indictment, arguing violations of his speedy trial rights. The Pennsylvania federal district court denied the motion. A jury found Bailey-Snyder guilty despite his argument that two guards had planted the shank in order to capitalize on the BOP’s “incentive programs for recovering contraband.” He was sentenced to 30 months in prison consecutive to his underlying conviction, and appealed.

On May 3, 2019, the Third Circuit found that Bailey-Snyder’s speedy trial argument was one of first impression. At issue was whether he was entitled to dismissal of the charge because the 10 months and ...