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Articles by David Reutter

CCS Seeks to Hide Internal Review in Jail Detainee’s Death; $180,000 Settlement

by David Reutter and R. Bailey

Correct Care Solutions, a for-profit company that provides medical services at correctional facilities, contested the release of documents concerning the death of Dino Vann Nixon at the Forsyth County Jail (FCJ) in North Carolina.

Upon being booked into FCJ on drug trafficking charges on July 11, 2013, Nixon informed jail officials that for years prior to his arrest he had been taking several prescription drugs, including Xanax, a benzodiazepine.

Correct Care, however, refused to provide that medication or the Ambien and Vicodin Nixon had been prescribed by an outside doctor. Rather, the company’s healthcare staff said he had to take what they had on hand.

Nixon’s condition deteriorated over the next three weeks as he suffered the effects of cold-turkey benzodiazepine withdrawal. Dr. Alan Raymond Rhoades, Correct Care’s medical director at FCJ, wrote that between July 18 and August 3, 2013, Nixon was doing well; however, his medical records indicated otherwise according to a lawsuit filed by his widow.

“Defendants acted like Mr. Nixon was faking his symptoms,” the suit stated. “Defendants were dead wrong. Mr. Nixon died.”

The complaint alleged he suffered “confusion, lack of sleep, tremor, bizarre and unusual behavior ...

Alaska Supreme Court Reverses Disciplinary Case Where Prisoner Not Allowed to Call Witnesses

by Matt Clarke and David Reutter

On April 27, 2018, the Supreme Court of Alaska held that a prisoner had been improperly denied his right to call witnesses at a prison disciplinary hearing, and his failure to raise that issue during administrative appeals did not waive the issue.

Scott Walker, an Alaska state prisoner, began working as an orientation assistant in the Special Management Unit at the Goose Creek Correctional Center in October 2013. He wrote up an outline of orientation topics and awaited further instructions. Ten months later, Criminal Justice Technician Brooke Baumgartner met with Walker and learned he had continued to be paid but had not actively worked in nine months. He told her he had tried to inform four officers about the payroll mistake, but could only name two.

He also said he had sent several “Request for Interview Forms” to prison employees addressing the situation. Such forms are returned to a prisoner’s file after they are received by staff.

Baumgartner did not find any of the forms in Walker’s file, and one of the two staff members Walker named said he never mentioned the payroll error. The payments to Walker while he wasn’t working were estimated ...

Contraband Found in Prisoner’s Rectum Supports Conviction

by David Reutter

In December 2017, a Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed a conviction for possession of contraband by a state prisoner. The court rejected the prisoner’s claim that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction, as testimony presented at trial indicated the contraband had been retrieved from the prisoner’s rectum.

While at SCI Fayette, guard Albert Wood observed a prisoner hand something to prisoner Edwin Greco Wylie-Biggs while they were transitioning from the cell block to the dining hall. Both were taken to another area for a strip search.

As part of the search, Wylie-Biggs was required to bend over and spread his buttocks. When he did so, a “clear plastic bag containing a small blue balloon could be seen sticking out of his rectum,” the court wrote. The bag was removed and the substance it contained subsequently tested positive for synthetic marijuana, known as K2.

A jury found Wylie-Biggs guilty of possession of contraband and he was sentenced to three to six years in prison, run consecutive to his prior sentence. On appeal, he challenged the sufficiency of the evidence against him. The Superior Court rejected his claim and affirmed the conviction and sentence. See: Commonwealth v ...

Public Outcry Forces Florida DOC to Back Down on Limits to In-Person Visitation

by David M. Reutter

Following an onslaught of pressure from the public and action by the Florida legislature’s Joint Administrative Procedures Committee (JAPC), the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) was forced to withdraw a rule proposal to reduce in-person visitation time by half.

At an initial April 3, 2018 public hearing on the proposal, more than 100 people showed up to speak against the rule change. Prison officials had announced the hearing just a week earlier by filing a notice in the Florida Administrative Register.

“I really don’t want my visits or anyone’s visits to be taken,” said 11-year-old Cody Calhoun, who told prison officials he would be “devastated” if the change went into effect.

“Why would you even take [visits] away?” he asked. “I mean, they’re already having a bad enough time in prison. Why would you make it worse? Please. I need to see my dad on the weekends.... I love playing with him and it brings me closer to him.”

The FDOC, however, refused to back down.

“No one would argue that visitation isn’t valuable, that the family connections aren’t important, that having those connections contributes to the reduction of recidivism,” said FDOC ...

CoreCivic’s Actions Against Sexual Harassment Compel Reversal of Jury Verdict

by David Reutter

 The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a Georgia federal district court’s grant of judgment of law for Corrections Corporation of America, now known as CoreCivic, in a lawsuit alleging it failed to take prompt remedial action against sexual harassment.

Felecia Wilcox worked for CCA’s federal prison ...

Sixth Circuit: § 1983 Actions Classified as Personal Injury Claims

by David Reutter

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held on January 22, 2018 that civil rights actions brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 are considered personal injury claims. With that principle established, the Court found that such a claim can survive a plaintiff’s death and allow for ...

PLRA’s Administrative Remedies Requirement Tolls Limitations Time but Not Accrual Time

by David Reutter

In February 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Prison Litigation Reform Act’s administrative exhaustion requirement justifies the tolling of the statute of limitations, but not the creation of a new accrual time.

Arizona prisoner Angel Soto filed suit over an April 2010 incident ...

Jail’s Failure to Protect Juvenile from Sexual Assault Supports $25,000 Verdict

by David Reutter

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a $25,000 verdict in a civil rights action alleging the sheriff in Tulsa County, Oklahoma was deliberately indifferent to conditions that resulted in a 17-year-old prisoner being repeatedly sexually assaulted by a guard.

The lawsuit concerned events that occurred ...

Prison Grievance Coordinator’s Responses Rendered Administrative Remedies Unavailable

by David Reutter

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that an Indiana federal district court erred in dismissing a prisoner’s civil rights action for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The Court held the record indicated the prisoner was prevented from filing a grievance due to mixed or improper instructions ...

New Orleans Parish Court System has Unconstitutional Funding Practices

by David M. Reutter

In December 2017, a Louisiana federal district court declared that the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court (OPCDC) had violated the constitutional rights of defendants by jailing them for failure to pay fines and fees without first determining their ability to pay. The federal court further found ...