Skip navigation

Articles by David Reutter

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Upholds Death Penalty Moratorium

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in early 2015; predictably, the move was lauded by opponents of capital punishment and despised by those in favor of the death penalty. State prosecutors petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to overturn the moratorium but were unsuccessful.

Governor Wolf’s decision to implement the moratorium on February 13, 2015 involved the case of Terrance Williams, who was convicted of murder and robbery in 1984 and sentenced to death. Having exhausted his appeals and facing execution, Williams was granted a reprieve by Wolf, who extended the reprieve to all death row prisoners. [See: PLN, Feb. 2016, p.44].

Wolf took office in January 2015 after defeating Governor Tom Corbett, a former prosecutor who signed 48 death warrants during his four-year stint as governor. During the gubernatorial campaign, Wolf had declared his support for a moratorium on capital punishment. Pennsylvania has not executed a prisoner since 1999 and carried out only three executions since 1978. There were 175 prisoners on the state’s death row as of November 1, 2016.

In announcing the moratorium, Governor Wolf noted that around 150 people sentenced to death have been exonerated nationwide, including three from ...

Class-action Certified in Challenge to Treatment of Mentally Ill Mississippi Prisoners

In September 2015, a Mississippi federal district court certified as a class-action a lawsuit challenging the treatment and conditions afforded mentally ill prisoners at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility (EMCF). The court further held that the plaintiffs’ mental health experts could testify as to the methodologies used to formulate their opinions.

The seven claims raised in the civil rights action seek to “eliminate the substantial risks of serious harm” that result from alleged inadequate medical and mental health care, unsanitary environmental conditions, use of excessive force by EMCF staff and use of solitary confinement. [See: PLN, Jan. 2014, p.24]. The facility is operated by private prison firm Management & Training Corp.; it was previously operated by GEO Group before the company discontinued its contracts in Mississippi in 2012. [See: PLN, Nov. 2013, p.30].

The defendants moved under Daubert v. Merrill Dow Pharms., 509 U.S. 579 (1993) to exclude the expert reports and testimony of the plaintiffs’ medical and mental health experts, Dr. Terry A. Kupers, Dr. Marc Stern, Dr. Bart Abplanalp and Nurse Practitioner Madeline LaMarre. Under Daubert, an expert’s opinion must be assessed to determine “whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is scientifically valid ...

Hungry Prisoners Dread Privatized Food Services

Privatizing prison and jail services has become a popular avenue for correctional bureaucrats to utilize in the never-ending battle to cut costs to accommodate shrinking budgets and larger populations

Food service is an essential, daily service that has been subject to privatization. The two biggest players, Aramark Correctional Services and Trinity Services Group, have been all too happy to provide this service. They charge jails and prisons as little as 75 cents to $2 per meal.

For some jurisdictions, that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings a year. Some report their costs being cut in half. While privatizing food services may save some money in food costs, little attention is placed on the service actually provided and whether prisoners are being properly fed.

Georgia’s Gordon County Jail contracts with Trinity to provided meals for its residents. It houses about 278 persons daily; between July to November in 2014, the jail received 85 grievances about food. One prisoner filed several grievances with a single word: “Hungry”.

Several prisoners claimed they had lost 20 or more pounds in a few months. The grievances were deemed as unfounded. Trinity has little regard for what prisoners think about the meals ...

Alabama Public Service Commission Enacts Prison, Jail Phone Reforms

Over the past several years, the Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) has issued a series of orders that revise an October 2013 order related to rule changes for Inmate Calling Services (ICS). The PSC issued its most recent directive in February 2016, adopting rate caps set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

For decades, phone calls made by prisoners have posed a financial hardship for their friends and family members who pay for the calls, while providing huge profits for the telecom companies that hold monopoly prison and jail ISC contracts. “Commission” kickbacks paid to the government agencies that award the contracts have helped drive higher phone rates. [See: PLN, April 2011, p.1].

The PSC’s new rules considerably change the ICS landscape in Alabama.

In February 2014, the FCC implemented interim interstate rate caps, causing several ICS providers to inform prison and jail officials that they were ending commission kickbacks for interstate calls. Before the rate caps, a 15-minute interstate call from a state prison in Alabama cost $17.30 while an intrastate (in-state) call cost $6.75. The FCC’s rate caps limited interstate collect calls to $0.25/min. and prepaid/debit calls to $0.21 ...

Federal Court Finally Ends Oversight at Fulton County Jail

Three years ago, the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) moved to dismiss its federal contempt of court proceeding that cited staff shortages, broken locks and an overcrowding problem that resulted in prisoners sleeping on the floor at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, Georgia. Since that October 2013 filing, the jail has “come into compliance” on two of the three issues, stated SCHR attorney Melanie Velez.

The county replaced all the faulty locks and outsourced prisoners to other facilities. This decreased the number of staff needed at the jail, but county officials acknowledged they still had to hire additional guards. The dismissal of the contempt proceeding required the county to submit a plan to address staffing needs, and the federal district court continued to monitor the jail.

The court had previously found inhumane conditions at the facility and approved a consent decree in 2006; those conditions included inadequate medical care, violence, severe overcrowding, understaffing and problems with the mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems. [See: PLN, Sept. 2007, p.36; March 2005, p.22].

The case was finally terminated on May 12, 2015 after 11 years of litigation and court oversight, at an estimated cost to county taxpayers of more ...

New Orleans Sheriff Ends Oversight of Electronic Monitoring Program

The Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office’s (OPSO) administration of New Orleans’ Electronic Monitoring Program (EMP) was an almost “total failure,” according to the city’s Inspector General, Ed Quatrevaux, who found deficiencies in the program compromised public safety and wasted money.

OPSO Sheriff Marlin Gusman took control of the EMP in 2010 despite having submitted a higher bid during a competitive bidding process. Prior to OPSO’s administration of the program, from 2007 to 2009 defendants subject to electronic monitoring were overseen by a private contractor, Total Sentencing Alternatives Program (T-SAP). T-SAP lost its contract following criticism that it failed to timely respond to violations.

OPSO’s management of the monitoring program came under scrutiny in September 2014 following the murder of Richard “Chris” Yeager, a Domino’s Pizza driver. Authorities put two teens with ankle monitors at the scene; one had missed curfew the night before by 90 minutes, and during that time committed a carjacking. A deputy never followed up on the curfew violation.

The Inspector General’s Office examined the EMP and issued its report in two parts. The first determined that “neither the City nor OPSD implemented effective financial controls or ensured the program’s ...

Termination of Consent Decree at Mississippi Prison Denied; Facility to Close

Ongoing violations of prisoners’ rights at the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility (WGCF) led a federal district court to deny the Mississippi Department of Corrections’ (MDOC) motion to terminate a consent decree. The evidence, the court held on June 10, 2015, painted “a picture of a facility struggling with disorder, periodic mayhem, and staff ineptitude which leads to perpetual danger to the inmates and staff.”

WGCF, which housed youthful offenders, was operated by Management and Training Corp., a private prison firm. PLN previously reported the court’s entry of a consent decree “to resolve the allegations in the Complaint related to the protection from harm and violence, excessive use of force, punitive isolation and inadequate medical care.”

The district court found the facility, managed by the GEO Group at the time, had “allowed a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate, the sum of which places the offenders at substantial ongoing risk.” [See: PLN, Nov. 2013, p.30].

Since the entry of the consent decree in 2012, riots occurred at WGCF in December 2013 and July 2014. The events of the July 2014 riot were captured on video, and the court said they “can best be described as ...

Prisoner’s Healthy Kidney Erroneously Removed; Surgeon Receives Probation

The California Medical Board placed a doctor on three years’ probation for removing the wrong kidney during surgery on a federal prisoner.

The unidentified 59-year-old prisoner, held at FCI Terminal Island, was diagnosed with a cancerous left kidney following a September 18, 2011 CAT scan. He was referred to Dr. Charles C. Streit at St. Jude’s Medical Center. Streit, who had been a physician and surgeon since 1973, specialized in urology. He examined the prisoner and scheduled surgery for February 7, 2012.

The standard of medical practice for the attending physician is to “preoperatively, positively identify, validate, and confirm the location and side of the patient’s disease process upon which the surgery is to be performed,” according to an accusation filed by the Medical Board. “Dr. Streit proceeded with surgery despite not having access to the patient’s medical records on the date of surgery. Lacking the chart, he had to rely solely on his personal recollection as to the location of the tumor.” The doctor also failed to “perform a preoperative renal ultrasound to confirm the location of the tumor.”

“It was our failure to follow our protocol regarding displaying the patient’s diagnostic images that ultimately ...

Correctional Medical Care Illegally Practiced Medicine in New York

The New York Attorney General found that Correctional Medical Care, Inc. (CMC) violated state law by engaging in the “corporate practice of medicine.” The finding resulted in a September 2014 settlement agreement that required the for-profit prison and jail medical care provider to restructure, hire an independent monitor and pay ...

Judge Denies Motion to Nullify Orleans Parish Prison Health Care Contract

The Louisiana federal district court overseeing the consent decree related to conditions at the Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) has denied a motion by the City of New Orleans to nullify a contract to provide prisoner health care at the facility. The motion was the latest skirmish between city officials and Sheriff Marlin Gusman.

As previously reported in PLN, the court approved a consent judgment on October 21, 2013 to address the “stark, sometimes shocking deficiencies in OPP’s medical and mental health care system.” [See: PLN, June 2014, p.44]. To meet his obligations under the consent decree, Gusman entered into a five-year, $83 million contract with Nashville, Tennessee-based Correct Care Solutions (CCS), a for-profit company.

The city argued in its motion that the contract’s “exorbitant price tag” was “financially crippling.” While city officials had expressed significant concerns about the “overall cost, per diem price offering, and annual expenditure inflation rates” during the vetting process, they had never argued prior to the motion to terminate the CCS contract that Gusman lacked the authority to enter into it.

“Moving forward, not backward, is the only acceptable path to the Court,” the district court stated in its May 29, 2015 order ...


Federal Prison Handbook



Prisoner Education Guide side



Advertise here




Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual