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Articles by David Reutter

$200,000 Settlement in City Counsel’s Refusal to Film Meetings

by David Reutter

The City of Cumming, Georgia, agreed to pay $200,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging it prohibited a citizen from filming a City Council meeting.

Nydia Tisdale attended an April 17, 2012, Cumming City Council meeting with a plan to video record the proceedings to part on ...

Federal Prisoner Sexually Assaulted By Guard Receives $150,000 Settlement

by David Reutter

The Bureau of Prisons paid $150,000 to settle a prisoner’s Federal Tort Claim Act action that alleged she was sexually assaulted by a guard.

The plaintiff, identified as V.O.M. to protect her identity was imprisoned at the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky ...

Federal Jailhouse Snitch Testifies Against Former Prison Doctor at Bond Hearing

by David Reutter            

Federal prosecutors used the testimony of a jailhouse snitch at a bond hearing to argue a doctor charged with tax evasion and fraud should be denied bond because he is too dangerous to release.

Dr. Erik Von Kiel was arrested in February 2004. In July, he had a hearing to request release on a $250,000 bond. Federal prosecutors presented the testimony of his cellmate, Matthew Althouse, to contest the release.

Althouse is serving a seven-year federal sentence for a 2009 bank robbery. He became Von Kiel’s cellmate after Von Kiel’s arrest. The charges contend Von Kiel claimed he was living as a minister under a vow of poverty to avoid paying $257,000 in taxes between 2008 and 2012 and $161,000 in student loans. Von Kiel’s paycheck from Primecare, a prison medical contractor, was deposited into an account controlled by Utah-based religious medical society International Academy of Lymphology. The academy would then transfer an identical amount into an account held by Von Kiel. A grand jury also charged Von Kiel with lying on application to obtain financial aide for his four oldest children and trying to claim social security disabilities benefits due ...

Local Entities Tax-Exempt Bonds for Facilities to House Federal Prisoners under IRS Review

by David M. Reutter

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is auditing dozens of tax-exempt bond-financed jail deals. The audits are looking into whether the bonds are no longer tax-exempt and are taxable private-activity bonds.

In recent years, many local governments have made investments into the prison industry. Typically, such deals involve a promise to taxpayers that their taxes will not raise when a needed renovation of a jail or the building of a new one is approved. The promise is made on the premise of issuing tax-exempt bonds that will be paid by revenue received from housing federal prisoners.

Counties who venture into the industry have built extra cells onto their jails, and they count on contracts with the U.S. Marshall’s Service or Federal Immigration officials to fill those cells. The federal government pays more to house tis prisoners than states or local governments.

Texas’ Willacy County built a $7 million jail in 2004 by issuing bonds bearing 7.5% coupons on maturities of 2029 that yields 7.75%, says the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board’s Emma website. With its heavy concentration of private jails and prisons, Willacy County’s seat, Raymondville has garnered the nickname “Prisonville.”

Most ...

Alabama’s Culture of Prisoner Abuse Reaches to the Top

by David Reutter

Alabama’s prison system has such an engrained culture of abusing prisoners that guards and administrators need not fear serious career consequences; in fact, they can expect to be promoted with abuse flags in their files.

That culture was highlighted in an investigative report by The report was based upon “hundreds of personnel documents” obtained from the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC), whose overcrowded prison system is under scrutiny by federal officials. PLN has previously reported on a federal probe at ADOC’s Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women [See: PLN, Sept. 2003, p.31].’s report contained reported incidents in current ADOC warden’s file. Amongst rose was Carter Davenport, the warden at St. Clair Correctional Facility, ADOC’s second-most-violent prison.

Carter, a 24 year veteran, rose up the ranks as a guard. He was a captain at Tutwiler and was Deputy Warden at Camden Community Based Facility before becoming Warden at Easterling and Fountain Correctional Facilities. He became warden at St. Clair in 2010.

That year, St. Clair reported 23 assaults. In 2013, there were 101 assaults reported at the prison. ADOC attributes the rise in assault reports to a 2009 policy ...

Report Finds Alabama Prisons Are Deliberately Indifferent to Prisoner’s Medical Needs

by David Reutter

Alabama prisoners live in “human warehouses” where “systemic indifference discrimination and dangerous – even life-threatening – conditions are the norm.” That factual finding was drawn in a 2014 report that followed an investigation by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP).

The 23 page report compiles the findings of SPLC and ADAP after they inspected Alabama’s 15 prisons, interviewed over 100 prisoners, and reviewed thousands of pages of medical records, depositions, media accounts, and the policies and contracts of the Alabama Department of Correction (ADOC) and two major contractors.

The result is “one inescapable conclusion,” that Alabama’s prisons violate federal law protecting people with disabilities and the U.S. Constitution’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment.” The report’s three sections focus on the inadequacy of medical staff that leads to treatment delays, the systematic failure in mental health care, and the violation of the rights of prisoners with disabilities.

As of March 2014, ADOC held 25,055 prisoners. “Yet, there are only 15.2 doctors and 12.4 dentists for this city behind bars,” states the report. “A doctor’s average caseload is 1,648 patients and a dentist’s ...

Alabama Guard Shortage Results in Huge Overtime Pay

by David Reutter

Alabama paid $20.8 million in overtime to guards for staffing of its prisons in calendar year 2013. That is an increase of an average of $13 million over the previous for years.

From 2000 to 2012, Alabama’s prison budget swelled from $173.5 million to $373.5 million. Despite that increase, prisons remain understaffed as a result of attempts to cut budgets. A hiring freeze has hampered efforts to increase the number of guards in the work pool.

According to Kristi Gates, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC), a minimum of 2,350 to 2,400 guards are required to staff ADOC’s prisons. For the fiscal year ended in September, ADOC averaged only 2,150 guards in is workforce.

The shortage has forced ADOC to offer overtime to guards who volunteer to fill empty slots. That has created a windfall of earnings for some guards.

Irvin Harris, a guard at Kilby Correctional Facility, was ADOC top earner from 2009 to 2013, earning $492,752.08 over that period. Close behind were guards Lercy Jamison, Jr., ($461,964.59) and Samuel E, Johnson, III ($406,085.47). Over that five year period ...

Guard’s Lethal Scalding of Prisoner Unresolved after Two Years

by David Reutter

More than two years after prisoners Darren Rainey’s dead body was removed from the shower in the mental health unit at Florida’s Dade Correctional Institution (DCI), no official cause of death has been ruled and the case sits dormant in law enforcement files.

Rainey, a mentally ill prisoner, was moved at 7:38 P.M. on June 23, 2012, from his cell to the shower as punishment for defecating in his cell and refusing to clean it up. The escorting guard, Roland Clark, locked Rainey into the shower.

According to grievances obtained by The Miami Herald through public records requests, prisoner Harold Hampstead reported witnessing Rainey’s death. He said he was subject to a searing hot shower for the duration of the time in shower, and that other prisoners had been subject to scalding hot showers as punishment. “I can’t take it no more, I’m sorry. I won’t do that again,” Hampstead wrote he heard Rainey scream over and over. “I then seen [sic] his burnt dead body go about two feet from my cell door on a stretcher.”

Hampstead wrote that he and other prisoners heard Rainey start screaming at ...

Mother Jones Reporter Discovered Working in CCA Prison

by David Reutter

Private prison operator Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) recently made a statement to Mother Jones magazine in response to the discovery of reporter who had been employed at one of its prisons in Louisiana. The operation was uncovered when a reporter was arrested after being spotted outside the perimeter of Winn Correctional Facility.

Winn Parish Sheriff Cranford Jordan’s office was called at approximately 9:30pm on March 13, 2015, by guards at the CCA-operated prison. The guards had spotted someone on prison grounds via a light from a cellphone. The person left in a rental car when guards tried to stop him.

The car was tracked to Mother Jones senior producer James West. Monica Bauerlein, co-editor of Mother Jones, issued the following statement, “James West was stopped by police while doing newsgathering in a public place and arrested when he refused to show the contents of his camera.” Jordan said West did not carry media credentials and had a camera-equipped drone with him.

Then, on March 17, a guard resigned his position at the prison after being a no-show for two days. The guard, who had been employed at the prison since December, was Shane Bauer ...

Pennsylvania Sees Rash of Corrupt Guards

by David M. Reutter

Between 2012 and 2014, at least 14 Pennsylvania jail and prison guards were arrested. Most of the arrests stem from corrupt acts while on duty, and the seriousness of the acts ranger from tawdry to downright predatory and reprehensible.

Contraband has always been an issue for houses of incarceration. Guards who bring contraband items have varying motives to violate policy to smuggle it for prisoners.

According to Chester County Prison guard John W. Feister, pity led him to bring a cellphone to pretrial detainee Travis S. McNeal. “He felt sorry for (McNeal), so he gave him a cell phone,” said Feister’s attorney Edward Gallen.

Feister was from out-of-state and said he could not afford to make collect calls to his family. Jail officials received an anonymous call advising that a detainee had been seen on a cell phone. After the phone and its charger were found in McNeal’s cell, he showed his gratitude by telling officials that Feister, who had been terminated a month earlier for being absent from his post, brought him the phone. Feister pleaded guilty to giving a telecommunications devise to an inmate and received a three to 12 month prison ...


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