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Articles by David Reutter

Armor Correctional Health Services: A New Company Blossoming with Political Payback

by David M. Reutter

A recently-formed Florida prison healthcare corporation is blossoming with new contracts from county sheriffs who decided to change bidding requirements and in one case eliminate cost as a consideration.

The company, Coconut Creek-based Armor Correctional Health Services, is owned by Miami physician Dr. Jose Armas. In 2004 Armor had no track record, no active contracts and no sales. It now has over $210 million worth of contracts over a five-year period, including medical care for prisoners in Broward, Brevard and Hillsborough counties. Other contracts to treat prisoners in Martin and Lancaster counties are pending.

To obtain the contracts, some behind-the-scenes action occurred. In October 2004, Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne awarded Armor its first contract, worth $127 million, to provide services for the countys 5,000 prisoners. During the bidding process Jenne dropped a requirement that companies must have experience providing healthcare to prisoners. While no explanation was provided for that action, it was known that Armas, through his companies and associates, had been a major contributor to Jennes reelection campaign.

Upon obtaining the Broward contract after only three months in business, in May 2005 Armor sought and was awarded a five-year, $19.9 million contract ...

CCA Florida Jail Operations: An Experiment in Mismanagement

by David M. Reutter

After being in business for twenty-three years, one would think that Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) would have refined the art of running prisons and jails. Yet an examination of CCA's three jails in Florida reveals a pattern of gross mismanagement and substandard or indifferent care of prisoners on every level, which has resulted in injuries and deaths. Risks to the community abound in frequent escapes. Repeated suicides, beatings, rapes and misconduct by CCA employees have occurred.

CCA is the United States' largest operator or privatized prisons and jails. The Nashville-based company was founded in 1983 by Doctor Crants and Thomas Beasley, former chair of the Tennessee Republican party. CCA runs three state prisons and three county jails in Florida. The jails, which are the focus of this article, are located in Bay, Citrus and Hernando Counties. These counties sought privatization of their jails after buying into CCA's sales pitch that it could save taxpayers money.

Critics, however, claim that the savings come from hiring unqualified, untrained personnel at low wages, and by scrimping on services and security measures that the contracts require and prisoners have a constitutional right to receive. As the old ...

Youth Dies in Florida Boot Camp; Cause of Death Questioned

by David M. Reutter

For the fifth time in five years a juvenile has died in a Florida boot camp. A videotape of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson being counseled at a Bay County boot camp facility in Panama City shows guards abusing and battering him while he lays limp on the ground. A medical examiners autopsy, however, initially concluded that Martin died of complications from sickle cell trait. A second autopsy revealed he was suffocated to death.

Martin entered the boot camp, which is operated by the Bay County Sheriffs Office under contract with Floridas Department of Juvenile Justice, on January 5, 2006. He was sentenced to the one-year camp for grand theft after taking his grandmothers Jeep Cherokee from a church parking lot while she was at Sunday services. Martin and some friends later crashed the Jeep into a ditch. Despite the grandmothers plea to not press charges, state prosecutors went forward with the prosecution anyway, a decision that would later prove to be fatal.

The videotape of Martins death begins with the induction of Martin and several other youths into the boot camp on January 5. The video shows the youths standing against a wooden fence while drill ...

Legal Research Prohibition Upon Contract Attorney Denies Adequate Court Access

by David M. Reutter

An Iowa federal district court has held that the legal assistance program at Iowas Anamosa State Penitentiary (ASP) was an unconstitutional impediment to a prisoners access to the court because it did not provide a reasonable adequate opportunity to present claimed violations of fundamental constitutional rights ...

Florida Muslims Forced Shave Challenge Remanded

Florida Muslims Forced Shave Challenge Remanded

by David Reutter

Floridas First District Court of Appeal has reversed a circuit courts order denying a petition seeking to declare the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) shave policy unconstitutional when applied to Muslims.

Prisoner Akeem Muhammad, a Muslim, asserts that Islam commands male adherents to wear a beard the size of a fist or the next shorter length possible. FDOC rule 33-602.101(4), however, requires all prisoners to be clean-shaven and to submit to forced shaves if they refuse. When Muhammad refused to shave on religious grounds he was sentenced to 30 days disciplinary confinement, loss of gain time, and forced shaves. This sanction was upheld on administrative appeal and Muhammad was subject to forced shaves.

The Circuit Court denied Muhammads writ of mandamus on the ground that he should have sought declaratory relief, which the Circuit Court had denied in a previous suit as not being the proper remedy. The First District held this was error because Muhammads claim was clear and deserving of declaratory relief review.

In so holding, the appellate court ruled that courts have jurisdiction to consider challenges to FDOCs rule on religious grounds. Muhammad brought his claim ...

Former Florida Correctional Privatization Commission Official Pleads Guilty to Stealing State Funds

Former Florida Correctional Privatization Commission Official Pleads Guilty to Stealing State Funds

by David M. Reutter

The former Executive Director of Floridas now defunct Correctional Privatization Commission (CPC) has pled guilty to charges of fraud and money laundering involving almost $225,000 in state funds.
Alan Duffee headed the CPC from May 2002 until June 2004 when the Florida legislature voted to abolish the five-member panel and put the Department of Management Services in charge of administering state contracts with private prison companies.

According to the indictment, Duffee siphoned money from a major repair-and-maintenance fund that the state required prison management companies, including GEO Group and Corrections Corp. of America, to maintain for replacing or fixing equipment costing more than $5,000 that breaks down at the states five privately-operated prisons. The fund consisted of a percentage of monthly payments the Florida Department of Corrections made to the companies operating prisons in Bay and Gadsen Counties and at Lake City, South Bay and Moore Haven.

The indictment charged that Duffee did knowingly and willfully devise ... a scheme and artifice to defraud, and to obtain money and property, illegally from the prison maintenance fund. Duffee allegedly set up a bank account at ...

Texas Prisoner Writers Retaliation Lawsuit Proceeds

Texas Prisoner Writers Retaliation Lawsuit Proceeds

by David M. Reutter

A Texas federal district court has granted in part and denied in part prison officials motion to dismiss Texas prisoners lawsuit alleging he was retaliated against for having articles published criticizing the Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Correctional Institutions Division (TCDJ).
Prior to his February 21, 2005, release on mandatory supervision, William Bryan Sorens spent most of his 21 years in prison writing and selling articles for publications without interference from prison officials. That changed after Sorens published the first in a series of two articles critical of TCDJ.

The first article was to appear in the March 2003 edition of Playboy Magazine. The second article, titled Locked down and Locked out: An Inside View of Prison Censorship, was purchased by Penthouse Magazine for its April 2003 issue.

Prison officials charged Sorens with disciplinary infractions for having established an unauthorized business within TDCJ. After a sham disciplinary hearing on March 18, 2003, Sorens was found guilty, receiving 30 days of commissary and cell restriction, 180 days loss of good time, and reduction in class from state approved Trusty III to Line I.

Sorens then received several retaliatory job changes that did ...

Buddhist Prisoner Properly Denied Vegan Diet Under First Amendment; Case Remanded for RLUIPA Claim

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a prisoners First Amendment religious exercise right to practice Mahayana Buddhism was not violated by prison officials refusal to provide a vegan diet. The appellate court, however, reversed for consideration of the prisoners claim under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).

While a prisoner at Pennsyvanias SCI-Greene prison, Robert Perry DeHart filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit alleging that he began practicing Mahayana Buddhism in 1990. DeHart meditates and recites mantras for up to five hours a day. According to DeHarts self-taught understanding of Buddhist religious texts, he is not permitted to eat any meat or dairy products, nor can he have foods containing pugent vegetables such as onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives. As a result, DeHart became a vegetarian in 1993, declining food trays containing meat.

When he does accept food trays, DeHart eats only fruit, certain cereals, salads when served without dressing, and vegetables served with margarine. DeHart supplements his meals with items purchased from the commissary, including peanut butter, peanuts, pretzels, potato chips, caramel popcorn and trail mix. His requests that SCI-Green provide him
with a diet free of meat, dairy products ...

Michigan Jails Strip Policy Unconstitutional; Guards and Get Qualified Immunity, County Liable

Michigan Jails Strip Policy Unconstitutional; Guards and Get Qualified Immunity, County Liable

by David M. Reutter

A Michigan federal district court has held that the practice of removing the clothing of unruly pretrial detainees and keeping them naked in the hole, violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, but held the defendants were entitled to qualified or absolute immunity in their individual capacity.

This action was brought by 22 former detainees of the Saginaw County Jail, suing Sheriff Charles Brown, various individual guards, and Saginaw County. The suit challenged the Jails practice of holding uncooperative and disruptive detainees in administrative segregation cells; and jail personnel would take all of the clothing from such detainees so that they were naked for the time they spent in administrative segregation.

The policy of removing clothes was applied without regard to the nature of the offense for which the detainees were held and in the absence of any individualized suspicion of drugs, weapons, contraband, or threat of suicide. Here, each of the plaintiffs were held on misdemeanor charges.
If a detainee failed to comply with orders to remove his or her clothing prior to placement in the administrative segregation cell, force was administered to remove ...

Florida DOC's Copy Cost Assessment Rule Declared Invalid

by David M. Reutter

Florida's First District Court of Appeal has held the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) does not have legislative authority to support its rule regarding the amount prisoners are charged for photographic copying services, authorizing deductions from prisoners' accounts for copying services, and imposing liens on prisoner accounts to cover such costs.
Florida prisoners Glenn Smith and Thomas P. Wells, Jr. sought a declaratory judgment holding that Rule 33-501.302 of the Florida Administrative Code, which outlines costs charged to prisoners for photocopying services, exceeded the Legislature's grant of rule-making authority to the FDOC. The circuit court entered summary judgment upholding the validity of the challenged portions of the rule.

The First District Court of Appeals found that from the time the copying service rule was originally promulgated, it mandated that all prisons provide prisoners copying services, it designated the type of materials that could be copied by prisoners, and it established a set fee to be paid by prisoners for copying services. The set fee charged is fifteen cents per page for standard sized papers, or more, if the copies require special equipment or paper.

While Florida agencies have rule-making authority, a proposed or ...

 

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