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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by David Reutter

Florida Prison Still Beset by Contaminated Water

Despite spending millions of dollars on new wells and water treatment systems, the Martin Correctional Institution (MCI) in Indiantown, Florida is still unable to provide uncontaminated water to its 1,400 prisoners. The problem has the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) considering closing the facility.

MCI has a long history of water contamination. It became such a problem in 1999 that 700 prisoners were evacuated to the South Florida Reception Center Annex (SFRC). [See: PLN, May 2000, p.14]. Those prisoners were all from the open population units. Meanwhile, prisoners in segregation were left to languish on an 8-ounce cup of water every eight hours, and had to use portable toilets and shower units.

The water problems at MCI, however, go back much further than 1999. The prison was forced by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to build a new treatment plant in 1990. Still, in 1994 MCI was one of several prisons cited statewide for violating water quality standards for lead and copper. As recently as 2002, contaminants in the water at MCI were two to five times the maximum allowable levels.

To protect themselves from the hazardous effects of MCI’s water, prisoners developed their own methods ...

Washington Study Finds Higher Recidivist Rate Amongst Sex Offenders Recommended, But Not Committed, For Civil Commitment

by David M. Reutter

A report by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy concludes that sex offenders “who were referred for possible civil commitment have a much higher pattern of recidivism than the full population of sex offenders.” The report examined the recidivism of 135 sex offenders released between 1990 and 1999. Each had been referred by the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) for civil commitment, but a petition to declare the sexually violent predators was not filed.

In Washington State, an offender may be civilly committed if a jury finds that after service of a sentence for a crime of sexual violence the offender’s personality disorder or mental abnormality predisposes the person to commit sex acts that are likely to reoccur upon others.
[Editor’s Note: Readers should note that there is no such “mental abnormality”, or disorder, it is a term made from whole cloth to justify keeping sex offenders in prison for the remainder of their lives after they have completed their criminal sentences. The American Psychiatric Association routinely files amicus briefs with courts informing them of this fact, to no avail.] The study applied a routine six year follow-up period from the time of ...

Prison Doctors, Tainted by Regulatory Board Discipline, Administer Wisconsin Prisoner Care

by David M. Reutter

Whenever prisoners complain about inept healthcare, prison officials accuse them of being manipulating whiners, or assert they are being administered the ?community standard of care? by competent medical professionals. A review by The Capital Times has revealed that the community standard of care rendered to Wisconsin prisoners is often provided by doctors who have been disciplined by the Wisconsin Medical Examining Board (MEB).

Of the current 23 doctors employed by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (WDOC), four physicians, or 17 percent, have been disciplined by the MEB for incidents that occurred prior to their employment with the state prison system.

Since 2002, WDOC has had 37 different doctors in its employ. Of those, eight (22 percent) have been disciplined for incidents that occurred prior to or during their tenure with the department. In comparison, of the 23,000 licensed physicians in Wisconsin, only 1.5 to 2 percent have been disciplined by the MEB.

In its report, The Capital Times identified one WDOC doctor with a standard of care so disturbing that it unsettled his professional colleagues. Dr. Thomas Williams joined the WDOC in July 2004; the following year he was in charge of the infirmary ...

My Space Becomes “No Space” for Online Sex Offenders

My Space Becomes "No Space" for Online Sex Offenders

by David M. Reutter

After online social networking giant, under pressure, disclosed on July 24, 2007 that it had purged 29,000 sex offender profiles from its website, state Attorney Generals clamored for lists of those who had been removed while politicians began beating the drum of government regulation.

MySpace, a division of Fox Interactive Media Inc., which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's media conglomerate News Corp., has about 185 million registered users. In December 2006, the company hired Sentinel Tech Holding Corp. to build a database of the approximately 600,000 registered sex offenders in the United States. The database, and software to identify and remove sex offender profiles from the site, was launched in May 2007.

The information sought by the state Attorney Generals included the names, e-mail addresses and related information for MySpace members located in their states. Rather than automatically turn such information over to the authorities, MySpace initially required them to use legal processes such as subpoenas. The company has since caved in.

On January 14, 2008, MySpace and the Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking, which represents 49 states and the District ...

Buried Alive: Solitary Confinement in Arizona’s Prisons and Jails

Buried Alive: Solitary Confinement in Arizona's Prisons and Jails

Review by David M. Reutter

"There have been a couple of times that I've tried to end my life in here, but they keep reviving me and bringing me back. When I asked why, I was told, 'You're not going to die on us; we're not through punishing you.'"

That quote is part of the prisoner testimony in a report published by American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Arizona. The report is a critical evaluation of solitary confinement in Arizona prisons and jails.
The key findings are that prisoners in supermax units have higher rates of mental illness, those units damage prisoner's mental health, they do not reduce prison violence, and the units increase recidivism.

This report is a compelling presentation that is of interest to anyone in the nation with an interest in supermax confinement conditions and its effects. The uniqueness of this comprehensive report is that it is a compilation of governmental statistics and mainstream media investigative reports into the supermax phenomena. While the report focuses on the conditions of solitary confinement in Arizona, the material could be used to dissect any prison system's ...

As Connecticut's Prison Population Increases, So Does the Number of Imprisoned Mentally Ill

by David M. Reutter

Like other prison systems throughout the nation, Connecticut's is reaching peak capacity. In the midst of dealing with overcrowding and parole issues, the Connecticut Department of Correction (CDOC) must also determine how to handle a growing number of prisoners with mental health issues.

To readers of PLN, the increasing population of mentally ill offenders in America's prisons is nothing new. Even prison guards recognize the difference between treating mental illness and warehousing mentally ill prisoners. "We've become society's mental health provider," said Steve Curran, a guard at CDOC's Garner Correctional Institution (GCI) and Secretary of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1565.

After becoming CDOC's Commissioner, Theresa C. Lantz designated GCI as a facility to house mentally ill prisoners. Currently about 450 of GCI's 554 prisoners are classified as having mental problems. Yet, Lantz has insisted that she is "... not running a mental health hospital."

Curran observed that guards regard mentally ill prisoners as prisoners first, while the nurses "are treating them as clients and patients."
Recognizing that could pose a problem, Connecticut's 2006 General Assembly passed a bill that requires additional psychiatric training ...

Administrative Errors and Poor PHS Medical Care Precede Chronically Ill Vermont Prisoner's Death

by David M. Reutter

A Report by the Vermont Protection and Advocacy System (VP & A) has found breakdowns by staff of the Vermont Department of Corrections (VDOC) in its furlough procedure and troubling care provided by VDOC's medical provider, Prison Health Services (PHS). The July 2007 report focuses on the treatment of VDOC prisoner Michael Estabrook.

The subject of the report has been unable to read it. That is because while in custody of VDOC, Estabrook died at Fletcher Allen Health Care (FAHC) on March 7, 2006. The report is based upon Estabrook's medical and classification file notes. At the time of his death, Estabrook was 37 years old, divorced with two children.

In May 2004, he entered VDOC a very sick man. He suffered from a disabling disease called severe dilated cardiomyopathy, which is a condition that decreases the heart's ability to pump blood because the heart's main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, is enlarged and weakened. He also had congestive heart failure.

Recognizing his condition was "terminal and debilitating," VDOC around July 21, 2005, granted Estabrook a medical furlough because he was physically incapable of presenting a danger to society. His furlough, however, was ...

Florida Woman Sentenced to Probation for Unauthorized Practice of Law

by David M. Reutter

A Florida court has sentenced civil rights activist Nancy Jo Grant to 15 years probation, with no possibility of early termination, for practicing law without a license. Grant, 55, was also ordered to pay $30,315 in court fines by December 30, 2007, or her driver?s license will be suspended until the fines are paid in full.

A dental assistant who has no formal, training, Grant decided during a visit to her son in the DeSoto County Jail that some prisoners were not receiving proper legal representation. Grant formed the Florida Pro Se Bar Inc. to tackle the problem. That non-profit corporation presumably had the purpose to inform prisoners of their rights and to encourage pro se litigation.

Grant claimed many prisoners had been incarcerated without a hearing or a trial. She began ?preaching? to prisoners that their speedy trial rights were ignored and their constitutional rights violated. Grant began distributing an ?emergency motion for release? prepared by her paralegal friend, telling prisoners how to fill out the form and file it.

The 29 counts of unlicensed practice of law were predicated on Grant?s encouragement that prisoners fire their lawyers, either retained or public ...

Georgia’s Prison Health System Squeezed by Increasing Population, Decreasing Staff Budget

Georgia's Prison Health System Squeezed by Increasing Population, Decreasing Staff Budget

by David M. Reutter

With an increase in Georgia's prison population, the cost to provide medical care to prisoners has soared. Due to legislative budgetary restraints, the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) is finding it increasingly difficult to provide the required constitutional level of health care according to an August 2007 report by the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts Performance Audit Operations (Auditor).

The report was a special examination of GDC's health care system, which follows a 2004 program evaluation by the Auditor's office. The audit report found that GDC's Office of Health Services (OHS) had "developed an extensive management control system to effectively manage all aspects of physical, mental, and dental health care." While problems are bound to exist in a complex system, the report concluded that "the quality of the inmate health care system is threatened by decreasing staffing levels that are a result of budget constraints."

The Auditor's 2007 report found the GDC had significantly reduced OHS's staff, which adversely impacted OHS's ability to manage all aspects of prisoner medical care. One effect of the staff reduction ...

Philadelphia City Jails Under Federal Supervision, Again, Temporarily

by David M. Reutter

A Pennsylvania federal district court has held that the conditions of confinement in the intake units at Philadelphia?s local police districts, the Police Administration Building (PAB), the Philadelphia Prison System (PPS) and the Curran Fromhold Correctional Facility (CFCF) were unconstitutional due to overcrowding. Following the ...


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