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Articles by David Reutter

Thou Shalt Not: Sexual Misconduct by Prison and Jail Chaplains

by David M. Reutter

Traditionally, the role of a chaplain in the correctional setting is to serve as a spiritual advisor to prisoners and help them meet the requirements of their religious faiths. Equally traditionally, chaplains have generally been from conservative mainstream Christian faiths and often proselytize among prisoners for those faiths.

There is some debate as to whether it is proper to have government-paid chaplains at prisons and jails, based on the premise that such arrangements violate the principle of separation of church and state. There is also dispute concerning whether chaplains – who are overwhelmingly Christian – can adequately address the religious needs of prisoners with many diverse faiths, including Islam, Judaism, Native American beliefs, Hinduism and Buddhism, among others, to say nothing of agnostics and atheists.

However, there is universal agreement that prison and jail chaplains should not abuse their role as spiritual leaders and use their positions of authority to fulfill their own deviant sexual desires. Such abuses do occur, albeit not with the frequency that other correctional staff victimize prisoners. [See, e.g.: PLN, May 2009, p.1].

While incidents involving sexual mis-conduct by chaplains are not common, they are indicative of a somber incongruity between the ...

Federal Court Finds Nation of Islam Publication Not Racially Inflammatory

by David M. Reutter

On March 31, 2010, a Louisiana U.S. District Court held that the denial of access to a religious publication based solely on the inclusion of a section called “The Muslim Program” was a violation of the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons ...

$35,000 Settlement in Indiana Jail Failure to Protect and Medical Care Suit

by David M. Reutter & Mark Wilson

Indiana’s Marion County Jail (MCJ) has paid $35,000 to settle a federal civil rights complaint that alleged deliberate indifference to a prisoner’s safety and serious medical needs.

The lawsuit was filed by Joseph R. Grieveson, a federal detainee incarcerated at MCJ from 2000 ...

$10 Million Settlement for Former Colorado Prisoner Cleared by DNA

by David M. Reutter

On February 16, 2010, Colorado’s Larimer County Commission approved a $4.1 million settlement with a former prisoner who served 10 years of a life sentence for a murder he didn’t commit. The settlement agreement covers employees in the Larimer County district attorney’s office, while claims against ...

Failed Extortion Scheme Led to Washington Prisoner’s Suicide Attempt, Lawsuit Says

by David M. Reutter

According to a suit filed on behalf of a Washington state prisoner who attempted to commit suicide, a guard at the McNeil Island Corrections Center retaliated against prisoners who failed to pay extortion fees.

Leon G. Toney was left in a coma and permanent vegetative state ...

Former Prisoner Accepts $179,000 for Wrongful Conviction Under New Florida Law

After initially declining to accept $179,000 under Florida’s Victims of Wrongful Incarceration Compensation Act, Leroy McGee agreed to receive compensation pursuant to that statute for serving 43 months in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

McGee, 42, was convicted of a 1991 gas station robbery. He had a time ...

Alabama’s Indigent Defense System “Perfect Storm” for Ineffective Assistance

by David M. Reutter

“Alabama’s right-to-counsel system has the ‘perfect storm’ of characteristics that virtually guarantee ineffective assistance of counsel to the poor,” observed David Carroll, research director for the National Legal Aid & Defender Association.

Carroll was referring to a system that gives state court judges unbridled discretion to ...

Pay-to-Stay Jails Unsuccessful in Ohio

by David M. Reutter

Part of the legacy of the punitive criminal justice philosophy of the 1990s is pay-to-stay incarceration, which involves jails charging prisoners booking fees and per-diem fees. [See: PLN, July 2010, p.10].

The rhetoric behind pay-to-stay programs is that it is wrong for criminals to be “rewarded” ...

Democratic Chairman’s Rhetoric Supports Restoration of Voting Rights, but Actions Speak Louder than Words

by David M. Reutter

Restoration of voting rights for former prisoners is a key issue for many members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), because ex-felons are disproportionately minorities and according to conventional wisdom, minorities are more likely to vote for Democratic candidates. It would be natural, therefore, for the ...

Justice Thomas’ Wife Creates “Nonpartisan” Political Organization

by David M. Reutter

Members of the judiciary have an ethical obligation to remain impartial. When it comes to the U.S. Supreme Court, such impartiality is crucial given the impact that the Court’s rulings have nationwide. For that reason the high court historically has remained nonpartisan and distanced itself from ...