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Articles by David Reutter

Five Wrongfully Convicted North Carolina Men Receive Almost $8 Million

Five former prisoners who were wrongfully convicted in a home invasion murder have received settlements and compensation totaling nearly $8 million following a botched investigation and misconduct by the sheriff’s office in Buncombe County, North Carolina.

Three masked men entered the Fairview home of Walter R. Bowman on September ...

Pennsylvania: $99,000 Settlement for 22 Years in Solitary Confinement

A Pennsylvania federal district court held that general issues of material fact required a jury to determine whether a prisoner’s Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when he was held in solitary confinement for over 22 years. Before going to trial, however, the case settled for just under ...

Krome Detention Center has Long History of Detainee Abuse

Immigration reform was a recurring theme in the recent presidential election. The national debate has focused on what should be done with the millions of undocumented immigrants who reside in the United States, but as events at the Krome Service Processing Center in Miami, Florida indicate, the spotlight should be on how immigrants are treated while in custody.

Krome has a long and infamous history of mistreating the people it holds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). As reported by the Miami Herald in October 2015, the detention facility houses around 600 foreign nationals awaiting deportation or asylum hearings. Before being used to hold immigrants, Krome operated as a Cold War-era air defense base.

The most recent abuses at Krome can be attributed to a privatization contract that began in 2008. The contract paid $4 million per month to Alaska-based companies Akal and Doyton, Ltd. to manage the facility. [See: PLN, Nov. 2010, p.38].

“That’s when a lot of corrupted stuff started going on,” said Linda Booker, who worked at Krome for a dozen years.

Physical abuse by guards is a common problem. One incident reported by the Miami New Times involved a detainee with mental health problems ...

Model Mental Health Care Diversion System Started by Miami Judge

Thanks to the efforts of Florida Eleventh Circuit Court Judge Steve Leifman, Miami-Dade County is leading the way in how police and the courts deal with the mentally ill. As PLN has reported over the years, jails and prisons are the largest providers of mental health care in the U.S. [See, e.g.: PLN, June 2016, p.14].

In Miami-Dade County there are about 175,000 adults with serious mental illnesses; the county has the highest ratio of residents with severe mental health problems of any urban area in the nation. Yet only 24,000 receive care from the public mental health system.

Police encounter mentally ill people on a regular basis, and all too often the results are tragic. From 1999 through mid-2016, more than 25 people with mental health problems have died in Miami-Dade County as a result of interactions with police officers.

Dealing with the mentally ill is a national dilemma. In 2014, an estimated 1.5 million people with serious mental illness were arrested. While in many cases their offenses were directly related to their mental health condition, they were treated as criminals. As a result, people with mental illness often land in jail rather ...

Deaths Due to Neglect in U.S. Jails Reflect Nation’s Values

While brutality and murders committed by police officers – particularly against unarmed black men – have gained increased public attention over the past few years, the deaths of people in jail due to the negligence or deliberate indifference of corrections staff rarely register even a blip on the public’s radar. Such apathy reflects poorly on our values as a nation.

“[I]t’s crucial that the lives of those behind bars be taken into account,” wrote Truthout news analyst William C. Anderson, when reporting on deaths in Alabama county jails.

The ubiquity of cameras, in both cell phones and video security systems, as well as police body cams, has helped raise awareness of police brutality and shootings. In jails, surveillance cameras, if present at all, often fail to record abuse by jailers, which tends to occurs in areas not being filmed, or the cameras “malfunction” on a questionably regular basis. Even more rare is video of sick prisoners who are neglected and left suffering within their cells. Such cases often involve prisoners who are unruly due to their malady, or intoxicated or undergoing withdrawal from drug use.

Sheneque Proctor, 18, may have fit both profiles when she was placed in Alabama ...

Mississippi: Hinds County Jails in Crisis, Face Mandated Reforms

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a letter in May 2015 that described the findings of an investigation which concluded two jails in Hinds County, Mississippi were violating prisoners’ rights. The county has since entered into a settlement agreement that implements a number of reforms in its jail system.

Specifically, the DOJ investigation found that Hinds County had violated prisoners’ rights by “(1) failing to provide conditions of confinement that offer reasonable safety and protection from violence, and (2) holding prisoners in the jail beyond their court ordered release dates.”

The DOJ focused on conditions at the Hinds County Adult Detention Center in Raymond and the Jackson City Detention Center in Jackson. Both facilities are operated by the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office. The Raymond jail has 594 beds and the Jackson facility contains 192 beds.

“Hinds County Adult Detention Center and the Jackson City Detention Center are facilities in crisis,” said Vanita Gupta, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. “Making these facilities safe will require broad systematic reforms and a commitment to improve staffing and operations.”

Federal investigators found that “grossly deficient staffing is the most immediate problem facing the jail ...

Too Little, Too Late: Prosecutor Remorseful for Sending Innocent Man to Death Row

The district attorney who prosecuted Glenn Ford, a Louisiana man exonerated after spending 30 years on death row, called capital punishment “an abomination that continues to scar the fibers of this society.” That statement was made in a column expressing remorse for his role in convicting an innocent defendant.

Ford, 64, was charged with the November 5, 1983 murder of a Shreveport jeweler during a robbery. In late 2013, credible evidence came to the attention of prosecutors “supporting a finding that Glenn Ford was neither present at nor a participant in the robbery and murder of Isadore Rozeman.” He was released from prison on March 10, 2014 and given a $20.04 debit card by prison officials.

Under Louisiana law, Ford was entitled to $330,000 in compensation for his wrongful conviction. However, a state court judge denied compensation, stating Ford likely had a role in the robbery that resulted in Rozeman’s death as he was in possession of items taken during the robbery.

“I can take no comfort in such an argument,” wrote A.M. “Marty” Shroud III, the lead prosecutor at Ford’s trial, in a March 2015 column published in the Shreveport Times. “As a prosecutor ...

Cost of Incarceration Assessment Handcuff Poor Releasees

The imposition of cost of incarceration fees upon released prisoners is a “permanent financial sentence” that overwhelms those trying to successfully integrate into society.

Fees for room and board are authorized in at least 43 states.  “We’re seeing it all over, medical co-pays, cost of incarceration claims, you name it”, said Randall C. Berg, Jr., executive director of the Florida Justice Institute.

Prisoners who are hit with such fees are often shocked when the bill comes before them.  In Florida, cost of incarceration fees have been on the books for decades.  The statute sets the costs at $250,000 for persons sentenced to life and $50 per day for all other sentences.  The cause of action to seek such claims was subject to the statute of limitations for civil claims, but in recent years Florida’s legislature eliminated any limitation on the state to seek incarceration costs.

In most cases, a Florida prisoner will not be assessed cost of incarceration.  The likelihood of such an assessment, however, increases significantly when a prisoner pursues litigation against the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC). 

Jeremy Barrett, 36, sued FDOC a month after his release from a three year sentence, claiming negligence for ...

Reforms at New Orleans Jail Slow to Materialize; Death Reporting Problematic

Federal monitors overseeing implementation of a consent decree concerning conditions at the Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) in New Orleans said they were “very concerned” about the lack of progress in implementing the agreement’s provisions. Forty-nine prisoners died at OPP between April 2006 and November 2016, including several deaths that were not accurately reported, and problems have persisted at a new jail that opened after OPP closed last year.

As previously reported by PLN, after Sheriff Marlin N. Gusman, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and attorneys from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) finished haggling over costs and funding in a class-action lawsuit, a consent decree was reached in June 2013 to partially settle the case. The agreement required prompt action to reform unconstitutional conditions related to medical care, suicide prevention and safety measures, staffing and classification of pre-trial detainees. [See: PLN, June 2014, p.44; March 2010, p.30].

Under the agreement, Gusman was to hire a consultant, restructure OPP’s human resources department and hire a new human resources director; the Sheriff’s office was also required to hire a classification manager and a staff member to develop new policies and procedures at OPP, and purchase and install $70 ...

Tennessee District Attorney Ends Sterilization in Plea Bargains; Prosecutor Fired

The District Attorney for Davidson County, Tennessee has banned the practice of seeking sterilization as part of plea bargains in criminal cases. The policy was implemented after an assistant prosecutor refused to discuss a plea unless a mentally ill defendant agreed to be sterilized.

When Glenn Funk, who had worked as a criminal defense attorney for 25 years, was elected as District Attorney in September 2014, there were concerns as to how well he would perform his duties. His involvement in the case of Jasmine Randers in early 2015 fulfilled his campaign promise to take a direct and active role in prosecutions.

Randers, 36, had suffered from mental health issues since the age of 15 and was hospitalized numerous times. “Treatment” for her condition mainly took place in America’s most populous de facto mental health facilities: jails.

When a dirty, disheveled and pregnant Randers arrived at the Nashville International Airport on October 9, 2012, she was on the run from a Minnesota commitment order. She spent the next 30 days at a Nashville mental health facility before her mother came to pick her up. Hours after they arrived home, Randers hopped on a Greyhound.

She traveled to Nevada, Utah ...


 

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