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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by David Reutter

Threats by Arkansas Prison Administration Warrants Transfer

by David Reutter

The Eighth Circuit of Appeals reversed and remanded a federal district court's denial of prisoner James Walker's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 petition seeking his transfer to a federal prison or some other state's prison because he had a reasonable fear that his life was in great danger if he continued to be housed in any Arkansas prison.

Walker was convicted and sentenced for the 1963 murder of an Arkansas policeman. Walker served almost 11 years as a model prisoner at the Tucker prison. He had enjoyed dozens of furloughs while there.

In 1974, apparently at the request of superintendent A.L. Lockhart of the Cummins prison, Walker was transferred to the Cummins prison, so that A.L. Lockhart could teach the "cop killing son of a bitch" a lesson.

In 1975, Walker was granted another furlough, but he did not return from that furlough. When he was arrested in California almost five years later, Walker filed a motion to block extradition asserting that he would be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment (loss of life) if he were forced to return to the Arkansas prison system.

His motion was denied, and he ...

Violation of State Regulation Not a Constitutional Violation

by David Reutter

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal district court's summary judgment granted in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 lawsuit. The suit was brought by the Simpson estate, against Sheriff Mark E. Gorbett and Deputies Lehman, Williams, York Tindell, and Harbaugh in their official and individual capacities. The suit alleged deliberate indifference resulted in the death of Dennis Simpson, a prisoner.

Simpson had been convicted of drunk driving and sentenced to serve three weekends in jail. When he reported to serve his second weekend, he registered a 0.23% blood alcohol content. He spend 13 hours in a holding cell until he was believed to be sober. He was then placed in a regular cell. Despite the fact that he weighed 368 pounds, he was placed on a top bunk because no bottom bunks were available. He later went into seizure-like convulsions, fell from his bunk, and died from head injuries.

The estate sued defendants because they failed to provide adequate medical care, constitutional condition of confinement, and adequate training. Deputies Lehman and Williams were dismissed from the suit because they were not involved, and that dismissal was not appealed.

The estate appealed ...

Ohio Supreme Court Holds That Longer Second Continuance on Parole Eligibility Is Not Proof of Punitive Action

by David Reutter

The Ohio Supreme Court held that an Ohio prisoner's mandamus, alleging that the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRS) failed to comply with its clear legal duty to properly assess his parole eligibility, lacked merit.

In 1995, Harold Stith was sentenced to serve 22 years to life in an Ohio prison. In 2010, the Adult Parole Authority (APA) conducted its first parole review and imposed a 29-month continuance of Stith's sentence. In 2013, the second hearing ended with a 59-month continuance. In 2015, Stith filed a writ of mandamus against the ODRS. He argued that the parole board failed to carry out its clear legal duty to provide him fair and meaningful consideration for parole.

In 2016, the Tenth District Court of Appeals dismissed the writ because Stith failed to state a claim for relief. The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal.

Stith argued that the 59-month continuance after the initial 29-month continuance was not "ethical, fair and/or just" but punitive. The Supreme Court held that there is no clear legal duty or right concerning the timing of parole hearing. Such timing is discretionary, and the fact that a second continuance was longer than ...

$5001 Jury Award to Illinois Prisoner in Harassment and Conspiracy Suit

by David Reutter

 

An Illinois federal jury awarded $50,001.00 in damages to the plaintiff in a lawsuit alleging First and Fourteenth Amendment violations related to abuse and harassment of the plaintiff.

On April 2, 2017, Craig A. Childress filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against several defendants for their on-going abuse and constant harassment. Allegations included violations of his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and conspiracy to deprive Childress of those same rights.

This notice documented a series of incidents to show a continuing pattern of abuse and harassment by employees of Rushville Treatment and Detention Facility. Childress is a spinal cord injured paraplegic with a flaccid neurogenic bladder due to an incident with law enforcement officials in 1996. And, as such, Childress requires special medical treatment for his condition.

On long van transportations, Childress averred he needs his hands free for self-catheterization. After repeated requests to this effect, he stated Shift Commander Sally Hougas called him to her office on June 20, 2012 to threaten him with assignment to temp management and confinement with a "black-box" if he didn't stop his complaining about being cuffed during these transportations.

When he and others ...

Testimony of Expert Witness Excluded

by David Reutter

A Louisiana federal district court excluded the expert testimony of Dr. David Thomas in a class action brought by Louisiana prisoners who alleged substandard medical care.

Joseph Lewis, Jr. sued the Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola) alleging violations of his Eighth Amendment rights and the American Disabilities Act and sought declaratory and injunctive relief.

The expert testimony of Dr. David Thomas was proffered as a defense to the plaintiff's allegations Dr. Thomas stated that he went to Angola where he spent a day interviewing staff and spoke to "over 100 inmates." Dr. Thomas stated that he personally reviewed the medical records of the named plaintiffs and other prisoners, the complaints and depositions of the litigation, and policies and procedures of Angola's medical care.

Dr. Thomas avowed that he would testify to the following expert opinions: 1) that incarceration facilities were primarily medical care; 2) it is not unusual for medical care of prisoners to be delayed or truncated due to security concerns; 3) Angola medical care is consistent with care in other facilities; 4) Each plaintiff's care needs to be evaluated to see if there is a nexus to warrant a complaint as a class, and ...

District Court Held IFP Not Available on Appeal of Third Strike

by David Reutter

The Third Circuit Court of Appeal denied an indigent prisoner's motion to proceed forma pauperis (IFP) on appeal from dismissal of a third frivolous civil complaint. The court held that the denial was mandated by the plain language of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). The court also held that a prisoner's side contention that his detention in the hostile and dangerous environment of prison is insufficient to qualify as an imminent danger or serious injury exception.

On September 17, 2015, Jason Parker, an indigent prisoner who had filed about 40 civil complaints in the Pennsylvania Federal District Court in about two years received his third qualifying dismissal of frivolous filings. He appealed to the Third Circuit and included an IFP motion and a motion arguing the imminent danger exception.

On March 24, 2016, a Third Circuit panel granted limited IFP solely to obtain counsel and address unanswered question from Coleman v. Tollefson, 135 S. Ct. 1759 (2015), asking, "whether the IFP statute affords a prisoner IFP status with respect to an appeal from a third qualifying dismissal under § 1915." The Supreme Court left that question unanswered because ...

Virginia Mentally-Ill Man’s Death by Deterioration in Jail Cell Exhibits Policy Failures

by David M. Reutter

The death of a mentally-ill Virginia man jailed on a misdemeanor and confined in isolation while awaiting transfer to a psychiatric hospital exhibits the folly of current policies in dealing with those who have psychological disorders and run afoul of the law.

Jamycheal Mitchell, 24, had struggled with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder for over a decade when he discontinued taking his medication in the months prior to his arrest on April 22, 2015. On that day, he went into a 7-Eleven and stole $5.05 worth of snack foods. [See: PLN, Feb. 2016, p.63].

At the time of his arrest, the 6 foot tall Mitchell weighed 180 pounds. Court records show that during an interview he waived his right to an attorney and appeared “confused." His $3,000 bond was revoked when the court ordered a competency evaluation. Mitchell was remanded to Hampton Roads Regional Jail (HRRJ), in Portsmouth, to await transfer to Eastern State Hospital (ESH).

ESH had no available beds, so HRRJ placed him in an isolation unit it used for prisoners with disciplinary or mental health issues. A psychologist evaluated Mitchell on May 20, 2015 and found his “thought processes were so ...

New Food Vendor, Same Old Problems in Michigan Prisons

A new food contractor maintained relative peace for the first few months, but in the face of poor meals, Michigan prisoners have staged a protest.

As PLN reported, the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) was forced in 2015 to end its contract with Aramark Correctional Services after several protests and complaints over food quality.  

The privatization quest continued as a means to save money.  When MDOC operated its kitchens, it had about 370 unionized state employees.  The Aramark contract allowed it to cut those employees, but it also brought in employees with an incentive to earn extra money due to the low pay scale Aramark offered.

In the less than two years it had the contract, 186 Aramark employees were terminated for inappropriate relations with prisoners, such as drug and cell phone deals and even sexual relations.  MDOC was also plagued with complaints about food quality and quantity.

The answer, MDOC surmised, was a new contractor.  Over the first eight months of its contract with Florida based Trinity Services Group, it seemed to be working.  Then, in March 2015, prisoners at two northern Michigan prisons protested.

About 1,000 of the 1,300 prisoners ...

Health Care Crisis Declared at Florida Women’s Reception Center; Voids Contract

by David M. Reutter

Florida’s Correctional Medical Authority (CMA) declared a health care emergency at the Florida Women’s Reception Center (FWRC).  The crisis at FWRC is just another red flag since Florida officials privatized it in 2013.

CMA conducted an audit of FWRC between September 15-17, 2015.  The number and seriousness of the deficiencies “could not be properly addressed with the standard corrective action plan process due to the lack of organizational structures apparent at this institution and an emergency notification was utilized," states the October 12 report.

“The [s]urveyors had difficulty getting the needed records for review.  When received, the records were disorganized, with necessary documentation frequently misfiled or missing altogether."

FWRC held 958 prisoners during the audit, and 558 of them were in a chronic are clinic that requires assessment every six months.  Another 119 require assessment every three months.   Several areas of physical health care were found to be deficient in their treatment.

Among them were “multiple examples” where prisoners were evaluated and treated less frequently than required by their assigned medical grade.  The surveyors found numerous instances of “delays in care were noted in consultation, follow-up for diagnostic services ...

Efforts to End “Scourge of Money Bail” Meeting with Success

By David M. Reutter

The initiative by Equal Justice Under Law to end the incarceration pending trial of persons too poor to post bail is reaping positive outcomes.  Each day, there are about 500,00 human beings who languish in an American jail due to their inability to post a money bond to meet the bail set by the court.

Despite the U.S. Constitution guarantees that all persons are innocent until proven guilty by a reasonable doubt, many jurisdictions have been implementing illegal debtor’s prisons.  They have extended their policies to set bail without regard to a person’s financial status.  “The result is pretrial detention based on wealth-status, not any meaningful assessment of flight risk or danger to the community”, says Equal Justice Under Law.

The non-profit launched its first challenge to money bail systems in January 2015, filing suit in an Alabama Federal District Court.  The case drew interest after the U.S. Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest in the matter.  “Bail practices that create a two-tiered system of justice by treating the indigent and the wealthy differently undermine fundamental fairness in our nation’s criminal justice system”, the Statement said ...


 

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