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Articles by David Reutter

Tattoo Recognition: Law Enforcement’s Newest Identification Tool

by David Reutter

New technology is giving law enforcement agencies the ability to identify people by taking a photo of their tattoos; it can also group people with others who have the same type of body art.

Federal researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have launched a program to accelerate tattoo recognition technology. In 2014 and 2015, the Institute initiated its Tatt-C program, which stands for Tattoo Recognition Technology Challenge.

The project started with an FBI database containing 15,000 images of prisoner tattoos. The biometric database was shared by NIST with 19 participating organizations: five research institutions, six universities and eight private companies; the objective was to use their algorithms to create a database for law enforcement officials.

Five tests were involved in the Tatt-C project. The first was determining if an image contained a tattoo. With a reported 90% accuracy rate, it is evident that technology is already highly sophisticated. The highest result came from biometric technology company MorphoTrak.

Next, the participants were asked to match images of the same person’s tattoo. Overall, they reported more than 95% accuracy. MorphoTrak reported an accuracy rate of 94.6%, while Purdue University reported 91.6%.

Another ...

Abuses at Louisiana Jail Investigated, Ten Deputies Plead Guilty

by David M. Reutter

A federal investigation into the abuse of pretrial detainees at Louisiana’s Iberia Parish Jail resulted in guilty pleas by ten sheriff’s deputies. A trial is pending for an 11th deputy who did not plead guilty, Mark Frederick. Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal was also charged but acquitted at trial in November 2016.

Ackal, who was elected to a third term in 2015, denied any wrongdoing, pointing the finger at a group of rogue deputies whom, he claimed, operated beyond his control and lied to supervisors to conceal their misconduct.

The probe of Sheriff Ackal and the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office thinned the ranks of the already small law enforcement agency. The ten former deputies who pleaded guilty to federal charges included the jail’s warden and assistant warden; the investigation stretched back to 2008, during Ackal’s first term in office, and more than 100 criminal cases involving the deputies who were charged have been tossed out.

During the sheriff’s trial, deputy Jason Comeaux, who pleaded guilty to several charges including conspiracy and deprivation of rights, said he and other deputies were protected by Ackal and directed to use excessive force against residents of majority-black neighborhoods in an ...

Nearly $57,000 Attorney Fee Award in Tennessee Public Records Case

by David Reutter

The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County was found to be in willful noncompliance with the Tennessee Public Records Act. It was order to pay $56,884.55 in attorney fees and expenses as a result.

Plaintiff Bradley Jetmore filed suit against the two counties, claiming ...

Notice of Sex Offense Admission Requirement Not Required to Find Florida Probationer Violated Treatment

by David Reutter

The Florida Supreme Court held a defendant may be found guilty of violating probation for failing to admit to engaging in sexually deviant behavior during a sex offender program.

Warren Staples entered a “best-interest” guilty plea to one count of traveling to meet a minor. As part of his plea, he was sentenced to six days time served and five years of sex offender probation that required him to actively participate in and successfully complete a sex offender treatment program. As he went through the program, he was informed he would have to admit to sexual misconduct, an admission he did not even make in court.

Staples’ failure to make such an admission resulted in termination from the program and a probation violation finding for failure to successfully complete the program. Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal affirmed that finding. See: Staples v. State, 5th D.C.A (Fla. 2014), No. 5D13-3573.

The Florida Supreme Court recognized “The admission requirement not as a probation condition on its own but as an internal, program-specific requirement that may or may not cause an offender to violate the ‘successful completion’ condition of sex offender probation.” It also rejected ...

Vermont Prisoner’s Ex Post Facto Challenge to Program Change Fails

by David Reutter

The Vermont Supreme Court held that statutes and policies that do not retroactively after or limit the Vermont Department of Corrections (VDOC) discretion over a prisoner’s treatment programming and early release, their application did not result in a longer sentence than under the prior statutes and policies. As such, the Court found an Ex Post Facto Clause violation did not ensue here.

Dennis K. Chandler pled guilty to one count of aggravated sexual assault, one kidnapping count, and one count of burglary. That 1997 plea resulted in a twenty-five to sixty year prison sentence. At sentencing, VDOC said its goal would be to get Chandler into sex offender treatment program and for release at the minimum incarceration date in 2013.

Subsequent to the conviction, the Vermont legislature altered the parole and basic furlough statutes. Those changes compelled VDOC to create a three-tiered classification system. The result for Chandler was that he was placed in a classification level that focused on “long term confinement” and made him ineligible for treatment programming until conclusion of his minimum sentence. That classification was later changed, and he was placed in a middle tier allowing programming.

Chandler challenged the new policies under ...

$200,000 Settlement in City Counsel’s Refusal to Film Meetings

by David Reutter

The City of Cumming, Georgia, agreed to pay $200,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging it prohibited a citizen from filming a City Council meeting.

Nydia Tisdale attended an April 17, 2012, Cumming City Council meeting with a plan to video record the proceedings to part on ...

Federal Prisoner Sexually Assaulted By Guard Receives $150,000 Settlement

by David Reutter

The Bureau of Prisons paid $150,000 to settle a prisoner’s Federal Tort Claim Act action that alleged she was sexually assaulted by a guard.

The plaintiff, identified as V.O.M. to protect her identity was imprisoned at the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky.   ...

Federal Jailhouse Snitch Testifies Against Former Prison Doctor at Bond Hearing

by David Reutter            

Federal prosecutors used the testimony of a jailhouse snitch at a bond hearing to argue a doctor charged with tax evasion and fraud should be denied bond because he is too dangerous to release.

Dr. Erik Von Kiel was arrested in February 2004. In July, he had a hearing to request release on a $250,000 bond. Federal prosecutors presented the testimony of his cellmate, Matthew Althouse, to contest the release.

Althouse is serving a seven-year federal sentence for a 2009 bank robbery. He became Von Kiel’s cellmate after Von Kiel’s arrest. The charges contend Von Kiel claimed he was living as a minister under a vow of poverty to avoid paying $257,000 in taxes between 2008 and 2012 and $161,000 in student loans. Von Kiel’s paycheck from Primecare, a prison medical contractor, was deposited into an account controlled by Utah-based religious medical society International Academy of Lymphology. The academy would then transfer an identical amount into an account held by Von Kiel. A grand jury also charged Von Kiel with lying on application to obtain financial aide for his four oldest children and trying to claim social security ...

Local Entities Tax-Exempt Bonds for Facilities to House Federal Prisoners under IRS Review

by David M. Reutter

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is auditing dozens of tax-exempt bond-financed jail deals. The audits are looking into whether the bonds are no longer tax-exempt and are taxable private-activity bonds.

In recent years, many local governments have made investments into the prison industry. Typically, such deals involve a promise to taxpayers that their taxes will not raise when a needed renovation of a jail or the building of a new one is approved. The promise is made on the premise of issuing tax-exempt bonds that will be paid by revenue received from housing federal prisoners.

Counties who venture into the industry have built extra cells onto their jails, and they count on contracts with the U.S. Marshall’s Service or Federal Immigration officials to fill those cells. The federal government pays more to house tis prisoners than states or local governments.

Texas’ Willacy County built a $7 million jail in 2004 by issuing bonds bearing 7.5% coupons on maturities of 2029 that yields 7.75%, says the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board’s Emma website. With its heavy concentration of private jails and prisons, Willacy County’s seat, Raymondville has garnered the nickname “Prisonville.”

Most of those ...

Alabama’s Culture of Prisoner Abuse Reaches to the Top

by David Reutter

Alabama’s prison system has such an engrained culture of abusing prisoners that guards and administrators need not fear serious career consequences; in fact, they can expect to be promoted with abuse flags in their files.

That culture was highlighted in an investigative report by The report was based upon “hundreds of personnel documents” obtained from the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC), whose overcrowded prison system is under scrutiny by federal officials. PLN has previously reported on a federal probe at ADOC’s Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women [See: PLN, Sept. 2003, p.31].’s report contained reported incidents in current ADOC warden’s file. Amongst rose was Carter Davenport, the warden at St. Clair Correctional Facility, ADOC’s second-most-violent prison.

Carter, a 24 year veteran, rose up the ranks as a guard. He was a captain at Tutwiler and was Deputy Warden at Camden Community Based Facility before becoming Warden at Easterling and Fountain Correctional Facilities. He became warden at St. Clair in 2010.

That year, St. Clair reported 23 assaults. In 2013, there were 101 assaults reported at the prison. ADOC attributes the rise in assault reports to a 2009 policy change that includes all prisoner-on-prisoner ...


Freebird Publishers



Prisoner Education Guide side



Freebird Publishers




Prisoner Education Guide side