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Articles by David Reutter

Florida Spent $1.7 Million, and Counting, to Impede Felon Voting Rights

In November 2018, Florida voters overwhelming approved Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to felons, except those convicted of murder and sex offenses, “after they complete all terms of their sentences including parole and probation.”

Florida’s Republican Legislature responded to that public mandate by passing SB 7066. That law required felons to pay all court ordered fines, fees, costs and restitution associated with their convictions to be eligible to vote.

Legislators “knew going into the [2019] legislative session that they were going to be sued for it,”  said Leah Aden of  the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Gov. Ron DeSantis authorized $2.34 million in contracts with private law firms to represent the State in defending against that litigation, which resulted in a September 11, 2020, en banc decision from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals that reversed the district court’s judgment that found SB 7066 was an unconstitutional poll tax. 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS ...

Ankle Monitor Shortage at Chicago Jail Put Prisoner Releases During COVID in Limbo

Civil rights groups had filed a federal lawsuit on April 9, 2020 that sought the release of medically vulnerable people from the jail during the pandemic. A federal judge ordered Sheriff Thomas Dart to increase testing and keep detainees apart from one another. Dart appealed, and his motion to stay was denied. [See: Mays v. Dart, Case No. 20 C 2134, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Ill.)]

Reduction of the jail population came through electronic monitoring releases. The jail population dropped from 5,604 on March 1 to 4,281 on May 29. That increased the EM population from 2,417 on March 1 to 3,205. It was a move Dart criticized due to a lack of resources.

The surge in the need for devices caught sheriff officials off-guard. There were 10 detainees who could not be released on May 7 due to a shortage in ankle monitors, ...

Failed Michigan Jail Site to Host Innovation Center

As PLN reported, construction was halted in 2013 on the WCJ after it was discovered the project was running tens of millions of dollars over its $300 million budget. [See: PLN, April 2016, p.58.]

At least $150 million in 2010 bond funds were spent on the half-built jail. Since construction was halted, taxpayers paid nearly $1.2 million per month in costs for debt financing, security, and other fees related to the site.

In early 2018, the site was sold to Dan Gilbert, who owns the Rock Ventures development company, for $21.8 million. His company demolished the half-built jail with plans to build a soccer stadium if Major League Soccer awarded Detroit an expansion team. Instead, teams were awarded to Cincinnati and Nashville.

UM announced in October 2019 plans to partner with Gilbert and billionaire real estate mogul and UM alum Stephen Ross to build the $300 million Detroit Center ...

Second Circuit: Denial of Exercise Over Four Months Defeats Summary Judgment

Before the court was the appeal of New York prisoner Lionel McCray. Proceeding pro se, McCray alleged that while at Green Haven Correctional Facility (GHCF) in 2013-2014, he was on “keeplock” status, which allowed him out of his cell for one hour of daily exercise. GHCF had several outdoor exercise yards and one indoor gymnasium that was restricted to prisoners in other categories.

McCray alleged that in the winter of 2014, one or more of GHCF’s outdoor recreation yards was closed, which when combined with the prison’s maximum capacity population and the waist-high snow and ice accumulations that blocked access to exercise equipment, “prevented McCray from moving sufficiently freely to be able to exercise” for four months. McCray also alleged he was injured during a slip and fall on the ice.

After the district court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, McCray ...

Eleventh Circuit: Florida’s Treatment Plan for Hepatitis C-Positive Prisoners Constitutional

The court’s August 31, 2020, opinion was issued in an appeal brought by FDC. The appeal challenged a district court’s order requiring FDC to treat all HCV-positive prisoners with direct acting antiviral (DAA) drugs within two years of their diagnosis.

HCV attacks the liver, causing scarring or fibrosis that is scored from F0 to F4. The district court, after a five-day hearing in October 2017, granted a preliminary injunction that required FDC to treat prisoners with F2 (moderate fibrosis), F3 (severe fibrosis), and F4 (cirrhosis) with DAAs. (See PLN, December 2017, p.24.)

The district court subsequently granted the prisoner class motion for summary judgment that included, but expanded upon, its preliminary injunction. The permanent injunction required FDC to treat prisoners with F0 (no fibrosis) and F1 (mild fibrosis) with DAAs within two years.

On appeal, FDC conceded that chronic HCV is a serious medical need. The Eleventh Circuit began its analysis by pointing to ...

Sixth Circuit Reverses and Allows Ohio Prisoner’s Civil Rights Lawsuit to Proceed

The court’s July 7, 2020, opinion was issued in an appeal brought by prisoner Cecil Koger, who is a practicing Rastafarian. Between 2006 and 2018, Koger submitted numerous requests, appeals, and letters to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) asking for religious accommodations and exemptions. All were denied. He filed suit on November 16, 2017, alleging violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the First Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants.

Koger was subjected to four forced cuttings of his dreadlocks. but that was not at issue. Instead, the issue was the validity of ODRC’s grooming policy, which went into effect on October 22, 2018. That policy was in response to a declaration in Glenn v. Ohio Dep’t of Rehab. & Corr., 2018 WL 2197884 (N.D. Ohio 2018), which ...

Danish Funds Invest In American Private Prisons

A February 18, 2020 story by Danwatch, a Danish investigative website, uncovered three Danish pension funds that had invested into two of America’s biggest prison profiteers: CoreCivic and the GEO Group. PKA, Villiv, and Lærernes Pension are pension funds for Danish social educators, social workers, nurses, and medical secretaries.

PKA invested the equivalent of about $8.5 million in the two private prison companies. Lrernes Pension has invested about $1.1 million in CoreCivic, and Villi invested about $160,000 in the two companies.

The Denmark pension fund investments come as America’s largest pension funds and banks have increasingly divested themselves from these prison profiteers. Politically, the companies are becoming pariahs, as some state Democratic parties and political groups are refusing to accept donations from private prison companies.

American public opinion of private prison companies has been trending against the profiteers. The Obama administration issued an executive order to phase out federal use of private prisons, but that order was reversed by President Trump. Both CoreCivic and GEO Group ...

Wisconsin Supreme Court Reverses “Dangerousness” Finding in Involuntary Commitment of Schizophrenic Man

D.J.W. was subjected to a January 30, 2017 commitment order from the Langlade County Circuit Court to the custody of the County for six months. The court also ordered involuntary psychotropic medication and treatment. The County sought recommitment for one year as the expiration of the initial commitment period approached. Dr. John T. Coates was appointed to examine D.J.W. He and D.J.W were the only witnesses at the hearing.

The Circuit Court determined that D.J.W. was a danger to himself and was incapable of making an informed choice to accept or refuse medication. It granted recommitment and involuntary medication for one year. D.J.W. appealed.

The court of appeals affirmed, concluding the finding of D.J.W.’s dangerousness “was not clearly erroneous.” The Wisconsin Supreme Court granted D.J.W.’s petition for review.

In Wisconsin, involuntary commitment is regulated ...

Michigan Settles Sex Abuse Claims by 1,300 Former Juvenile Offenders Housed With Adults for $80 Million

On January 29, 2020, the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) agreed to pay $80 million to resolve a class action lawsuit filed by juveniles who were housed in adult facilities where they were allegedly subjected to sexual assault and other harms.

The action consolidated in state court numerous lawsuits filed against MDOC in both state and federal courts. The class included persons incarcerated in MDOC while younger than 18 at any time during the period from October 15, 2010 to February 24, 2020. All of these juveniles were charged, convicted, and sentenced as adults, and MDOC placed them in adult facilities upon receiving them.

The complaint contained allegations related to 12 “John Doe” prisoners, all of whom alleged they were anally raped or coerced to engage in anal or oral sex, sometimes by guards but most often by adult prisoners with whom the juveniles were housed and left to fend for themselves. The events they described read like lurid movie portrayals of new prisoners being “fresh meat.” [See PLN, April 2020, p.50.]

John Doe #2 reported a physical assault and sexual harassment while at Oaks Correctional Facility in 2011. He was placed in solitary ...

Eleventh Circuit Reinstates Pay-To-Vote for Florida Felons Who Completed Sentences

The court’s September 11, 2020, opinion was written by Chief Judge William Pryor. The case was before the court after Florida appealed U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle’s April 7, 2020, order that found Florida law constituted an “unconstitutional pay-to-vote system.” [See PLN, June 2020, p. 62.]

The controversy started when a 64.55% super-majority of voters in 2018 approved Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to people who had completed “all terms of sentence,” except those convicted of murder and sex offenses.

During its 2019 legislative session, Florida’s GOP-dominated legislature passed SB 7066. It defined that re-enfranchisement prerequisite to mean “any portion of a sentence that is contained the four corners of the sentencing document,” including “full payment of LFOs (legal financial obligations) ordered by the sentencing court as part of the sentence.” [See PLN, Oct. 2019, p. 58; Sept. 2018, p. 14]

The Eleventh Circuit divided its en banc majority opinion into three parts. The first addressed ...