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Articles by David Reutter

Georgia: Dozens of Indictments for Prison Contraband Smuggling

The Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) has had a rough couple of years. Through several rounds of law enforcement stings and federal indictments, scores of prison employees, prisoners and outside collaborators have been charged for their alleged roles in schemes to smuggle and benefit from a lucrative trade in contraband. This black market, asserted federal authorities, traded in liquor, tobacco, illicit drugs, prescription drugs and, perhaps most importantly, cell phones. According to authorities, cell phones have been integral in the commission of fraud and identity theft, as well as in the orchestration of other criminal activity from behind prison walls.

In February 2016, the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia announced indictments related to illicit contraband smuggling against 46 active and former GDC guards, two outside collaborators and one prisoner. The indictments included charges related to the importation of contraband into nine GDC facilities around the state.

The FBI, based on long-term investigations that resulted in the indictments, alleged that several GDC officers had essentially rented out their law enforcement credentials, taking thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for facilitating and protecting drug deals – actions the guards undertook while in uniform or ...

Youths Still Dying in Florida Juvenile Detention Centers from Abuse, Neglect

Detention centers operated by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) have become infamous over the years for incidents of abuse and neglect inflicted on youths held by the agency. The DJJ operates 21 detention centers and 56 residential facilities throughout the state – several of which have been scenes of misconduct, homicide and negligent deaths.

One of those recent deaths exposed allegations that guards put bounties on youths’ heads, resulting in assaults by other juvenile offenders.

On August 28, 2015, the day after he was booked into the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center, Elord Revolte, 17, was jumped and severely beaten by 15 to 20 other prisoners. The reason for the attack was uncertain.

A DJJ incident report stated that immediately after the incident, Revolte was assessed by facility medical personnel. The next day, according to the report, he was “vomiting and complained of nausea.” The report continued, “[he] was taken to medical and assessed by the facility nurse, who made a decision to send him out as a precaution.” There was a delay in transporting him to a local hospital, where he died a short time later.

A Miami Herald reporter learned that guards were ...

Michigan Prison Officials Held in Contempt for Violating Ramadan Order

A Michigan federal district court twice found state prison officials in contempt for failing to comply with its orders regarding the provision of “adequate nutrition during the Islamic Month of Ramadan.” As a result, they were ordered to pay monetary damages.

The orders came in a lawsuit filed by four Michigan prisoners who alleged violations of their rights under the First and Eighth Amendments, as well as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).

The plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction on June 14, 2013, requesting that they receive adequate nutrition during the 2013 Ramadan observance, during which devout Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown. The court denied the motion, but later clarified its order to require prison officials to provide fasting prisoners with at least 2,350 calories per day during Ramadan. Prior to the end of the month-long religious observance, the prisoners moved for contempt due to prison officials’ failure to provide the required calorie count. Although the defendants argued they had supplied an average of 2,350 calories per day, the court order specified a minimum 2,350 calories per day. Thus, the district court ordered the defendants to pay each plaintiff $200 in ...

Florida’s Civil Commitment Center a “Living Death Sentence”

According to state officials, the Florida Civil Commitment Center (FCCC), which holds up to 720 residents billed as the worst sexual predators in the state, is necessary to ensure public safety. For Correct Care Recovery Solutions, a spin-off company of the GEO Group, one of the nation’s largest private prison contractors, it’s the source of $272 million in revenue.

Twenty states have laws that allow for the involuntary and indefinite civil commitment of sexually violent predators (SVPs), but only Florida has turned the operation of its commitment center over to a for-profit contractor.

“Florida is the only state whose entire SVP program is being run by a private company,” said Shan Jumper, president of the Sex Offender Civil Commitment Programs Network. “A few other states contract out pieces of their operations (psychological treatment or testing, community release supervision) to private companies.”

Moreover, Florida involuntarily commits more people than any other state (California ranks second). A new law that increases the pool of offenders Florida can consider for civil commitment will likely increase the number of FCCC residents. To accommodate the anticipated influx, state officials are considering adding a new wing at FCCC or converting a prison to handle ...

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 18 ...

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 $100 ...

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 ...

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 ...


 

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