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Articles by David Reutter

Seventh Circuit Protects Guards Who Allegedly Failed to Protect Wisconsin Prisoner

Before the court was the appeal of prisoner Daniel A. Schillinger, who was confined at Wisconsin’s Secure Program Facility when he was assaulted on September 17, 2015. While on the recreation yard, a prisoner named Terry approached Schillinger as he was playing chess.

Terry made threats and demanded Schillinger buy canteen items for him.

Guards Randy Starkey and Josh Kiley approached and asked, “Are you guys horse playing or are you for real?” Terry responded, “No, it’s all good.”

As the recreation yard was closing, Starkey and Kiley asked Schillinger if he was going to be okay. He responded he didn’t know because Terry made threats and he did not trust him. Another prisoner overheard Starkey say that he thought there was going to be a “rumble.”

When Schillinger arrived at ...

Fourth Circuit Holds South Carolina DOC Lawyers Entitled to Qualified Immunity

The Court’s August 20, 2020, opinion was issued in an appeal brought by former prisoner Marion K. Campbell, who was convicted in December 2011 of distribution of cocaine. He alleged Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment violations from a memorandum written by Chris Florian, SCDC’s deputy general counsel who interpreted the state’s Omnibus Crime Reduction and Sentencing Reform Act of 2010. Florian concluded the Act made prisoners who committed a “no parole offense” were now eligible for parole, but they were still required to serve 85% of their sentence if they were not granted parole. That interpretation was approved by David Tatarsky, SCDC’s general counsel.

Prisoner Michael Bolin challenged the memo. The South Carolina Administrative Law Court endorsed Florian’s interpretation of the Act. The South Carolina Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that under the Act an offense under S.C. Code Section 44-53-375(B) is no longer a “no parole offense.” That meant persons convicted of those offenses were eligible for work and good time credits. See: Bolin ...

Animal Shelters Provide Cooler Temperatures Than Florida Prisons in Summer

With the heat of summer’s arrival, Florida prisoners endure living in outdated infrastructure. The Florida Department of Corrections (FDC), in a July 14, 2020 email to prisoners, said it “is making efforts to ease the negative impact of extreme heat in the coming months.” That email was sent shortly after Gov. Ron DeSantis eliminated funding for a prison modernization plan.

To assure prisons can endure hurricanes and heavy use, they are made of concrete and steel, which makes them heat sinks. “Prisons are mostly built from heat-retaining materials, which can increase internal prison temperatures. Because of this, temperatures inside prisons often exceed outdoor temperatures,” said Alexi Jones, a policy analyst with Prison Policy Initiative. “Moreover, people in prison do not have the same cooling options that people on the outside do.”

Summer is the hardest time of year for Florida prisoners. With temperatures regularly in the low to upper 90s and heat indexes that well exceed 100 degrees, living and sleeping in a Florida prison tests one’s mettle to extremes that not even domesticated animals must endure.

Florida law provides that the purpose of prison is punishment, so amenities such as air conditioning are not politically ...

Report: Arkansas Let Asymptomatic Prison Employees Infected with Coronavirus Continue to Work

In late April 2020, prisoners at Arkansas’ Cummins Unit knew that the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, was spreading among not only the prison’s inmates but also its staff. But a prisoner identified as Marco was shocked to learn that the state Department of Corrections (DOC) was telling infected guards to report to work, according to a story in Mother Jones.

Despite offering median pay for guards that is higher than at least 12 other states – including every neighboring state except Texas – Arkansas reported 651 unfilled guard positions in March 2020, a vacancy rate of nearly 14 percent. That was at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, before the number of infected guards began climbing. As of August 7, 2020, it stood at 303, with 42 of those not yet recovered.

As he lay sick with the disease, Marco overheard a guard tell other prisoners that many of his coworkers had tested positive. The guard, who was passing out toilet paper and soap, said, “All of us got it, but they’re telling us to work anyway if we’re not showing symptoms.”

DOC spokesperson Solomon Graves confirmed the policy to Mother Jones, saying ...

$550,000 Settlement in Georgia Prisoner’s Starvation Death

Lucero entered the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDOC) weighing 250 pounds on November 4, 2015. His imprisonment put him into depression and on January 27, 2016, he weighed 203 pounds. His mental health continued to deteriorate, and in March 14, 2016, he requested care because he was hearing voices. Psychologist Victor Stevenson determined “mental health services” were “not warranted.”

At an April 28, 2016, “sick call,” Lucero weighed 180 pounds. He was finally sent to ASMP on May 19, 2016, and weighed 172 pounds. From that point on, until his death, medical providers recorded that Lucero was not eating, but they did nothing more.

Even as he lay in a catatonic state on June 19, 2016, nurses wrote that Lucero “refuses all interventions and meds.” The next day his weight was recorded as 145 pounds. He was placed, inexplicably, in solitary confinement on June 23 and no longer received daily medical checks.

Lucero collapsed into unconsciousness on June ...

Disabled Detainee at Cook County Jail Wins Class Certification in Lawsuit

a disabled prisoner at the Cook County Jail (CCJ) in Chicago, won class-action certification to represent all of the jail’s disabled prisoners housed in its Division 10 as he proceeds with a lawsuit alleging violations of federal laws protecting the disabled.

The ruling by Judge John Robert Blakey of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois allows Bennet to proceed with a 2018 suit filed against Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart, alleging that CCJ’s Division 10 failed to provide accessibility for disabled persons.

Bennett, an amputee, was housed with inmates in Division 10, all of whom need canes, crutches or walkers. His lawsuit alleges that Division 10 lacks grab bars and other fixtures needed for safe use of showers and bathrooms, resulting in a fall he took. The missing fixtures also constitute violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, the suit said.

Bennett initially sought to represent a class consisting of all detainees who need canes, crutches or walkers, but Judge Blakey denied that motion, ruling that the diverse types of apparatuses would prevent the formation of a class. Bennett then proposed an ...

Doctor at Florida Detention Center Spread COVID-19 to Prisoners

The doctor went to work on June 19, 2020. Within days, the number of detainees testing positive for coronavirus jumped from two to 20 to 178. Another 19 staffers also tested positive.

“We had done a great job up until, you know, we had one employee or contract employee not follow, you know, basic protocol and started this whole chain,” Williams said. “They were, at some point, symptomatic and didn’t report that. It was one of the health care workers in the jail. They, obviously, have since been removed and are no longer an employee of the health care provider.”

The Sheriff’s Office issued a statement that said it was a doctor who exposed detainees and staff to COVID-19. “When you contact trace it back, that seems to be the only point where, you know, there was a lapse in following the protocol.”

Prior to that exposure, the Sheriff’s ...

D.C. Appeals Court Mixed on Request for Records and Video

While held at FCI Gilmer in West Virginia, Michael Evans was stabbed multiple times with a Phillips-head screwdriver. The May 2, 2013, incident occurred in the dining hall. Evans sued under the Federal Torts Claims Act and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging the screwdriver was FCI Gilmer property and that guards failed to secure it. The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) disclaimed ownership, and the lawsuits were dismissed.

While those suits were pending, Evans submitted an FOIA request seeking records from 2003 to 2013 concerning receipt of tools at the prison and video from his assault. The BOP responded that it would cost around $14,320 to process the request.

Evans narrowed his request by including a picture of the screwdriver and asked to receive information related to it and to provide the video. BOP denied the request on grounds that the screwdriver was never its property and claimed exemptions that ...

$2.8 Million Settlement in New York Pretrial Detainee’s Suicide

The morning of January 23, 2013, started innocently for Franqui. He called friend Simon Earl with the desire to go over to his house to show off a 1972 Cadillac El Dorado he’d just purchased. Franqui popped the hood so Simon could look at the engine.

A half-hour after he arrived at 10:45 a.m., someone called the Suffolk County Police Department to report a suspicious vehicle. Officer Karen Grenia accelerated down Simon’s street and abruptly stopped her patrol vehicle at a 45-degree angle in front of Simon’s home. She exited the vehicle with gun drawn, ordering Simon “to get down on his knees, get down on the ground, raise his arms, and not move.” She gave Franqui inconsistent orders, telling him to get out of the car and then to put his hands on the steering wheel and not move them or she would shoot him.

Simon was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car once back-up arrived. No drugs or ...

Federal Judge: BOP Exercising “Reasonable Efforts” Against Coronavirus at NC Prison

BOP argued that it had stepped up sanitation, screening prisoners and staff and quarantining positive prisoners. Calling those “reasonable efforts” in “preventing unnecessary illness and death and slowing the spread of the virus,” Judge Louise W. Flanagan denied a May 26, 2020, petition the prisoners had filed seeking a writ of habeas corpus and a class-action request for declaratory and injunctive relief.

As of June 12, 2020, FCC Butner had reported positive coronavirus test results for 910 prisoners and 55 staff members. Since the pandemic reached the state in March 2020, 18 prisoners and a staff member have died from the disease. The majority of cases were at the prison’s low security complex, with 675 prisoners and 17 staff experience active cases. But at least two cases were reported in each of the complex’s four prisons.

Attorneys representing the plaintiffs argued that the 4,438 men at FCC Butner “are crammed into a space ...