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Articles by David Reutter

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 ...

Pennsylvania Policy Requiring Control Number for Qualification as Legal Mail Unconstitutional

Finding that no legitimate penological interest existed to support a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PDOC) policy that required a PDOC-issued control number be included on correspondence for it to qualify as legal mail, a Pennsylvania U.S. District Court issued an injunction prohibiting enforcement of the policy.

Prior to October 2002, any mail that indicated it was from a court, attorney, or otherwise marked as legal mail was opened in a prisoner’s presence. The new policy, however, gave no regard to the source listed on the return address. Instead, prison officials relied only on whether there was a control number on the envelope when determining if the mail should be opened in the prisoner’s presence.

There are two methods by which a PDOC prisoner can receive legal mail. One allows for legal correspondence to be hand-delivered unsealed, which provides for inspection, sealing and then delivery to the prisoner without further interference by prison staff. The other method is via postal mail.

When legal mail is sent through the postal service, the new PDOC policy required that it include a control number issued by the office of Chief Counsel. To obtain such a control number, the sender had to ...

Florida’s Felon Disenfranchisement “Mess”

Since George W. Bush won the 2000 presidential election by prevailing in Florida by a razor-thin margin of 537 votes, intense scrutiny has been focused on Florida’s election laws and procedures.  Civil rights activist have kept the focus on the disenfranchisement of felons, which it has been estimated to reach 600,000 persons in Florida alone.  Blacks represent the highest proportion of the disenfranchised.  They are also usually Democrat voters.

Florida is one of seven states that bans felons from voting.  Florida’s ban has been enforced by election supervisors using a list of felons supplied by the state when purging voters from the rolls.  For the 2000 election, Florida contracted with Atlanta based DBT, which was later bought by ChoicePoint, to compile the felons list.  A day after the elections, voters caused an uproar because that list caused a larger number of non-felons to be prohibited from voting at the same time felons were allowed to vote.

In July 2004, ChoicePoint spokesman Chuck Jones said state election officials were advised in 1998 that the list to purge felons from voter rolls would have a glitch.  The glitch involved Hispanics not appearing on the list if they identified themselves ...

Ruling in Execution Records Limits Virginia FOIA Disclosures

The Virginia Supreme Court issued a ruling in death penalty public records case that could “become a license to withdraw records,” said Megan Rhyne, Executive Director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government.

The ruling reversed a Fairfax County Circuit Court’s order that ordered full disclosure of “the detailed floor plan of the execution chamber (C-Unit) at Greenville Correction Center, the detailed diagram of the control panel and wiring for the electric chair, the manufacturer’s installation and instruction manuals for the electric chair”, and redacted portions of the current and prior execution manuals.

It was acknowledged by The Virginia Supreme Court that legislative preference is for “openness”, but it also found there is an exemption of certain documents, such as engineering and architectural drawings, of governmental buildings to protect security.

The court adopted the standard of other jurisdictions, requiring the circuit court to accord “substantial weight” to The Virginia Department of Correction’s (VDOC) determinations.

“Once satisfied that proper procedures have been followed and that the information logically falls within the exemption clause, courts need go no further to test the expertise of the agency, or to question its veracity  when nothing appears to  raise the issue of ...

Start-Up Apparel Company Rests Its Fortunes on Back of Prisoner Labor

A new company, Tight Lines Y’all, has started operations thanks to the availability of prisoner labor to produce its signature items. When Terry Lewis became inspired to start a company he faced the usual obstacles of needing a location and employees.

Prison Industries, a division of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDOC), offered an avenue for eliminating those obstacles. It would provide labor in a prison building to produce Tight Lines Y’all “3N1” bow ties, which is made from three separate pieces of material and can be tied in a multiple of ways to produce the look of different ties.

To do business with Prison Industries, companies cannot have a current operation in the United States. “We are not going to let them close down a business to come to us,” said Phil Burckhalter, director of Prison Industries. We are looking for someone to grow their business or bring back a phase of their business that is outside the United States.”

They also welcomed start-ups such as Tight Lines Y’all, which founder Terry Jones says allowed him to save 25 percent in labor. “It was a good fit for me,” he said. “I wouldn’t have ...

New Law Allows for Release Consideration for Kentucky Prisoner after 54 Years

A new law is giving the hope of parole to aged Kentucky prisoner s. Amongst those is prisoner Willie Gaines Smith, who has served 54 years in prison.

Kentucky legislators approved a program that allows Kentucky Corrections Commissioner LaDonna Thompson to make a decision, which the parole board must follow, on which prisoners will be released. The program allows aged prisoners who are not sex offenders or on death row and are considered to be low risk to qualify for release.

The law is purely about the economics of housing aged prisoners. Kentucky pays millions of dollars annually to house infirm prisoners, and the new program looks to shift that financial burden onto the federal government, who would pay private nursing homes through Medicaid to care for prisoners released on medical parole.

Smith has been in prison since August 31, 1960, for a murder and robbery he committed. In 1963, Smith was deemed insane. That diagnosis is a major contributing factor in his continued imprisonment. His co-defendant, Hassie Cane Martin, was paroled in 1981.

His mental infirmity should not be a disqualifier for parole, says one attorney. “Why has he served 54 years? Having a mental illness does not make ...

Florida Prison Food Contractors Charged With Theft

Florida authorities have charged three people with stealing $1.5 million from the state prison system through a food procurement contract.

In 2008, the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) signed a contract with US Foods for the company to handle FDOC’s food vendor program. Thomas J. Tomblin Jr., 63, was named as US Foods project manager, which required him to identify and vet potential vendors and act as the point of contact between the company and FDOC.

According to an arrest affidavit, Tomblin had become friends with Tyrone and Christy Walker after years in the food supply business, the relationships resulted in the Walkers paying Tomlin $15,700 a month “to initially promote and then protect MSF (M&S Foods) contract with USF (US Foods).”

The Walker’s business, M&S Foods, was picked by Walker to provide the meat to Florida prisons after the FDOC signed the October 23, 2008 contract with US Foods. M&S Foods contracted on November 11th, 2008, with Southeastern Protein Purveyors in Georgia to manufacture, package, and ship meat with M&S Foods’ label to Florida prisons.

The Walkers initially charged .01 cents per pound as a brokerage fee, but they increased ...


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