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Articles by David Reutter

Delaware Forced to Clean-up Medical Care by DOJ Settlement

by David M. Reutter

After a nine-month investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a report finding prisoners in four Delaware prisons ?suffer harm or are placed at the risk of harm from constitutional deficiencies in certain aspects of the medical and mental health care services, including suicide prevention.? It was also announced the DOJ and state of Delaware entered into an 87 point agreement to cure those deficiencies.

PLN reported in its December 2005 cover article that the privatized health care within Delaware prisons was killing and maiming prisoners. The story and events that followed came as the result of investigative reports by Delaware?s News Journal.

That investigative reporting sparked a public outcry that included marches on the Governor?s mansion and the DOJ?s investigation of civil rights violations, begun in March 2006. All through the ordeal, the Delaware Department of Correction (DDOC) remained in denial, but did hire its own experts.

The DOJ found constitutional violations at the Delaware Correctional Center (DDC), the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution (HRYCI), the Sussex Correctional Institution (SCI), and the Delores J. Baylor Women?s Correctional Institution (BWCI). The John L. Webb Correctional Institution was given a clean ...

$90,000 Awarded for Broken Hand During NY Prison Job Assignment

by David M. Reutter

While a prisoner at New York?s Bayview Correctional Facility, Jeanette Perez was required to assist moving a full garbage dumpster as part of her work detail. When trying to move that dumpster on July 2, 1999, Perez and another female prisoner, both of whom were ...

Florida’s Broward County Jail: Abuse and Misconduct As Usual

Florida's Broward County Jail: Abuse and Misconduct As Usual

by David M. Reutter

Despite Florida's Broward County jail (BCJ) being under the supervision of a court-appointed monitor, recent incidents reveal prisoners are still at danger. BCJ has been under supervision since a 1994 consent decree that settled a conditions of confinement lawsuit filed over thirty years ago. See: Carruthers v. Jenne, USDC SD FL, Case No. 76-6086-CIV-WMH. "One would think that thirty years is plenty of time to get it right, but BSO [the Broward Co. Sheriff's Office] can't get it right. So the case goes on," said Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein.

The court-appointed monitoring did not help Dana Clyde Jones, 44, who was found lying in a pool of clotted blood on BCJ's seventh floor on December 16, 2005. As of June 2006 he remained hospitalized with extreme brain damage; he is not expected to recover. Jones suffered from severe mental illness and was jailed for punching his elderly mother.

"We want to determine first why a prisoner with a serious mental illness was housed where he was housed," said Eric Balban, a Washington D.C. attorney at the ACLU's National Prison ...

Private Prison Companies Bilk Florida Taxpayers Out of Millions

by David M. Reutter

From its inception, privatization of Florida prisons has been touted as a way to save taxpayers money. Yet, a 2005 audit by Florida's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) revealed that private prison vendors bilked taxpayers for $13 million. To add insult to injury, Florida's Department of Management Services (DMS) entered into a settlement with one of the companies to receive only pennies on the dollar in return.

Two private companies operate five Florida prisons. The GEO Group operates prisons in South Bay and Moorehaven while Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) runs prisons in Lake City, Panama City, and Quincy. GEO also has a contract to run the Graceville prison, which is under construction.

OPPAGA's audit revealed that over an eight-year period the companies received $4.5 million for unfilled jobs. GEO received an additional $5 million in cost-of-living salary adjustments that were never paid to employees. At its Quincy prison, CCA received $2.9 million more for facility maintenance than it spent.

The bulk of the blame for the overpayments has been laid at the feet of the Correctional Privatization Commission (CPC). From its inception, CPC was infiltrated by ...

Lawsuit Challenging BOP's Reporter/Writer Pay Ban Regulation Remanded to District Court

Lawsuit Challenging BOP's Reporter/Writer Pay Ban Regulation Remanded to
District Court

By David M. Reutter

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that it does not have
jurisdiction to hear an appeal of a partial judgment dismissing a statutory
vagueness claim when a statutory over breadth claim challenging the statute
is still pending.

This action was brought by Mark Jordan, a prisoner at the United States
Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum, in Florence, Colorado. Jordan was
challenging the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) regulations that prisoners may not
"act as a reporter" or "publish under a byline" (28 C.F.R. § 540.20(b)).

Jordan was infracted twice by BOP officials for publishing two articles in
OFF! magazine, a publication of Off Campus College at the State University
of New York. The first article, entitled "The Social Bonds of the
Have-Nots," criticized the criminal justice system and complained about
Jordan's conditions of confinement, including his treatment by BOP staff.
That article, which Jordan characterizes as an "experimental essay," was
published in the Spring 2001 issue of OFF! with Jordan's byline.

After that issue arrived at the prison, BOP officials took disciplinary
action against Jordan. He was found guilty ...

Michigan Prisons: Another CMS Failure in Privatized Prisoner Health Care

by David M. Reutter

Another state prison system that subjected itself to the experiment of privatized medical services has learned the same hard lesson suffered by other states: a trail of inadequate care that leaves prisoners dead or maimed. This time the Michigan prison system is under pressure by the mainstream media and the Governor's office to examine the health care provided to prisoners by Correctional Medical Services (CMS).

CMS is no stranger to PLN readers. In our December 2005 issue we detailed the inept and non-existent care provided to Delaware prisoners. While Delaware's experiment with privatized prison health care goes back 20 years, Michigan opened its prisons to HMO-style for-profit medical services in 1997, when it contracted with United Correctional Managed Care. CMS assumed the contract the following year; in 2004 the company's contract was renewed for three more years through April 2007.

Michigan's experiment is mainly isolated to what are known as the "Hadix prisons," so named after a lawsuit that has put prisons in the Jackson area under federal oversight for more than a decade (Hadix v. Caruso, USDC WD MI, Case No. 4:92-CV-00110-RAE). That lawsuit sought to improve medical care and ...

Florida DOC Clamps Down on Prisoner Writers

by David M. Reutter

In an effort to limit prisoners' free speech rights, the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) has taken steps to prohibit prisoners from engaging in a business or profession. For some years now, the FDOC has had on its books a rule that states: "No inmate may establish or conduct a business through the mail during his period of incarceration." See Chapter 33-210.101(7), F.A.C.

On two occasions, the FDOC has used that rule to press disciplinary action against PLN contributing writer David Reutter. On July 19, 2002, the FDOC charged that Reutter attempted to conspire with his sister to conduct a business after it learned Reutter had received payment from PLN for article submissions. The conspiracy was predicated upon Reutter sending his submissions to his sister to type. After serving 22 days disciplinary confinement, the Warden overturned the guilty finding on procedural errors.

Then, on September 9, 2002, FDOC officials again used that rule to charge Reutter with disobeying an order. This time, all appeals to the guilty finding and imposition of 30 days disciplinary confinement and 60 days loss of gain time were denied. That disciplinary report is now the subject of ...

Eleventh Circuit Holds RLUIPA Constitutional

By David M. Reutter

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held the Religious Land
Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) does not violate either the
Spending Clause, the Establishment Clause, or the Tenth Amendment of the
U.S. Constitution.

Georgia Prisoner Ralph Benning, who is a Torah observant Jew,"
filed a civil rights action alleging the Georgia Department of Corrections
(GDOC) refusal to provide him a kosher diet or to allow him to wear a
yarmulke at all times" inhibited the practice of his religion in violation
of RLUIPA. After his administrative remedies were denied, Benning filed
his lawsuit.

The GDOC responded by moving to dismiss on grounds that RLUIPA
exceeded the authority of Congress under the Spending and Commerce
Clauses, and violates the Tenth Amendment and the Establishment Clause.
The United States intervened to defend the constitutionality of RLUIPA.
The district court denied GDOC's motion GDOC filed an interlocutory appeal.

Under RLUIPA, no Government shall impose a substantial burden on
the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined in an
institution." The Act applies to any program or activity that receives
federal financial assistance" or affects commerce with foreign nations,
among the several states, or ...

Physical Injury Required for All Prisoner Suits Seeking Compensatory and Punitive Damages

Physical Injury Required for All Prisoner Suits Seeking Compensatory and
Punitive Damages

By David M. Reutter

In an unpublished opinion, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held
the PLRA bars compensatory and punitive damages in all prisoner cases that
fail to demonstrate a physical injury, regardless of the constitutional
right violated. Florida prisoner Mark Osterback filed a 42 U.S.C. §1983
action against prison officials and employees at the Gulf and Washington
Correctional Institutions.

The defendants confiscated and impounded two of Osterback's personal
outgoing letters in which he made vulgar and unflattering comments about
prison staff. He received two disciplinary reports (DRs) for disrespect to
officials expressed by means of words, resulting in thirty days confinement
and loss of sixty days gain time. Institutional officials denied
Osterback's grievance, but the Secretary of the Department of Corrections
overturned both DRs on appeal. The defendants then issued a third DR for
making obscene or profane statements in the first confiscated letter. After
being found guilty, the same sanctions were imposed against Osterback.
Again the Secretary overturned the DR. The first letter was returned but
the second was not.

Osterback's suit alleged violations of his First Amendment right ...

RLUIPA Kouplock Injunction Reversed; Deference to Prison Officials Required

By David M. Reutter

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed an Ohio federal district
court's temporary injunction that allowed a Native American Indian prisoner
to grow and maintain a kouplock. The district court, using RLUIPA as
authority, held that Ohio's prison regulations which prohibit hair
extending beyond the ears or shirt collar imposed a substantial burden on
the prisoner's religious exercise. See: Hoevenaar v. Lazaroff, 276
F.Supp.2d 811 (S.D. Ohio 2003)[PLN, May 2004].

Prisoner Cornelius Hoevenaar is a Native American of Cherokee ancestry
serving a life sentence. After he was imprisoned he began practicing his
native religion, which prohibits him from cutting his hair. He eventually
brought this action. Hoevenaar sought, and the district court granted his
request, to grow and maintain a kouplock (a two-inch-by-two-inch square
section at the base of the skull that is grown longer than the person's
remaining hair). After he prevailed, prison officials appealed.

The officials argued that Ohio's absolute ban on long hair: (1) promotes
security by preventing prisoners from hiding contraband in their hair, and
(2) prevents prisoners from quickly changing their appearance after a
prison-break by cutting their hair.

The district ...


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