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Articles by David Reutter

Michigan's Prison Health Care System Found Contemptuous

by David M. Reutter

"Step on a man's foot once, and a polite apology will do. Do it twice, and a profuse apology is in order. Do it thrice, and you have left the land of apology and entered the arena of self-defense." That saying is the beginning of ...

Michigan's In-Cell Restraints Considered Torture; Injunction Issued

by David M. Reutter

A Michigan federal district court has held that the use of in-cell restraints for punitive reasons constitutes torture. In reaching that conclusion, the Court reopened its previous judgment concerning mental health claims and issued a preliminary injunction.

The Court's ruling comes in the Hadix case, a longstanding prison conditions suit dating back to 1980 that involves several prisons operated by the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC). In January 2001, the Court terminated enforcement of the mental health provisions of an earlier consent decree. The case has generated dozens of rulings and published opinions.

After the August 6, 2006 death of Timothy Souders, whom the Court identified only as T.S., the Plaintiffs moved to reopen the terminated decree provisions, arguing that Souders'death and the deaths of other prisoners were attributable to delays or malfeasance in the provision of mental health care. [See related article in this issue of PLN, Michigan Prisons: Another Failure in Privatized Prisoner Health Care].

The first two sentences of the Court's order, written by U.S. District Judge Richard A. Enslen, set a somber tone: Say a prayer for T.S. and the others who have passed. Any earthly ...

Florida's Prison Industry Practices Tightening

by David M. Reutter

Three years after its scathing report on the corporate nepotism that was lining the pockets of administrators of Florida's Prison Industries and Diversified Enterprises (PRIDE), Florida's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accounting (OPPAGA) has issued a progress report. The fiascos revealed by the OPPAGA?s 2003 report on PRIDE were the subject of PLN?s January 2005 cover story Florida's Private Prison Industry Under Siege.

That 2003 report revealed that rather than bring profits to the state for operation of its prison industries; PRIDE's directors and corporate officers had inflated their pay and created corporations to suck the profit out of PRIDE. For instance, PRIDE's chief executive officer and president received $276,000 and $232,000 as annual salary. Moreover, they, with the Board of Directors created Industries Training Corporation (ITC) to fulfill many of PRIDE's missions.

Those board members also created other non-profits, for which they sat on the boards of for additional pay and compensation, that served PRIDE. After the scandal was exposed, PRIDE severed ties with ITC and its umbrella of corporations. The newest report from the OPPAGA reveals that cost PRIDE $19 million in ...

PLN Uncovers Secret Sweetheart Settlement Between PRIDE and Former Board Members

by David M. Reutter

In its continual effort to expose corruption within prisons, PLN has uncovered the confidential settlement between Florida?s Prison Rehabilitation Industries and Diversified Industries (PRIDE) and the corporations spawned by its former directors? corporations.

Our January 2005 cover article detailed how PRIDE corporate executives and directors ...

ABA Recommends Congress Repeal Portions of PLRA

by David M. Reutter

The American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section has issued a report that “urges Congress to repeal or amend specified portions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA).” That report was sent for approval and action by the ABA’s House of Delegates in February 2007, which approved it. 

The report began by noting the PLRA, which had far-reaching implications, did not receive in-depth review by Congress, but “was inserted and approved as a rider to an omnibus appropriations bill.”
There are several reasons “the PLRA is of especial concern to all who believe in the need to the Constitution and other legal requirements,” the report said.

First, the PLRA creates for prisoners “formidable, and often insurmountable obstacles to seek redress from courts the violation of their federally secured rights." Without access to the courts, the legal rights accorded prisoners are ephemeral and unenforceable meaningless words and empty promises.

Next, the PLRA contravenes the basic premise “that it is important for prisoners to have ready access to the courts to enforce their legal rights as it is for everyone in our country.” Third, prisoners are isolated from public view, in part because ...

Florida Warden Susceptible to Liability in Valdes’ Murder; Suit Settles for $1,169,923.42

Florida Warden Susceptible to Liability in Valdes' Murder; Suit Settles for $1,169,923.42

by David M. Reutter

While former Florida Department of Corrections director James Crosby was never charged in the murder of Florida death row prisoner Frank Valdes, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held that ...

New York’s Prison System Infested With Drugs

New York's Prison System Infested With Drugs

by David M. Reutter

The most glaring result of America's war on drugs has been the explosion of the nation?s prison population. Over 75 percent of all prisoners are either doing time for drug related offenses or were under the influence of drugs when they committed their crimes. When that statistic is considered, it seems that keeping drugs out of jails and prisons would be a top priority.

Yet, New York's jails and prisons are infested with drugs. They enter the system in various ways: through food packages, contact visits, and from guards seeking to make extra money. "We've heard from some it's even easier [to get drugs in prison than on the streets], and there's less chance of getting caught," said Erie County, New York, Deputy District Attorney Molly Jo Musarra.

The statistics certainly show that more drugs are within New Yorks prison system than other states'. Random drug tests in New York prisons are 10 times more likely to be positive than those in Pennsylvania.

Because New York does fewer random tests than other states, critics say that number may be conservative.

The drug ...

The Warehousing of New Hampshire’s Mentally Ill

The Warehousing of New Hampshire's Mentally Ill

by David M. Reutter

Despite over 30 years of litigation, mentally ill prisoners at the New Hampshire State Prison (NHSP) are still not receiving care to treat their conditions. In fact, with NHSP adopting the trend of locking prisoners down in Special Housing Units (SHU), NHSP's mentally ill are probably worse off than when litigation started, if that?s possible.

Challenges to NHSP's overall conditions of confinement began when prisoner Jaan Laaman brought suit in federal court in 1975. Relevant to this article, the Laaman action culminated in a 1990 Consent Decree that became a settlement agreement ratified in April 2001 after the original decree was vacated under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, see: Laaman v. Warden, New Hampshire State Prison, 238 F.3d 14 (1st Cir. 2001). That agreement solely focused on the care of mentally ill prisoners and how that care would be delivered. Any violation of the agreement was to be enforced via actions in the state courts.

As so often happens in prison litigation, NHSP and state officials failed to comply with the agreement. By 2004, several NHSP prisoners were forced to bring an action in ...

Cleaning up Mississippi’s Supermax: Conditions Suit Settled

Cleaning up Mississippi's Supermax: Conditions Suit Settled

by David M. Reutter

A class action lawsuit filed on behalf of prisoners at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman charged that the totality of conditions are so "hellish" that it makes "Unit 32 the worst place to be incarcerated in Mississippi, perhaps the nation." The suit forced prison officials into a consent decree to upgrade Unit 32's conditions.

Unit 32 is a supermax facility that comprises five buildings, housing around 1,000 men. It imposes forced lockdown of 23 to 24 hours a day in total isolation. Many prisoners have been there for years. Often, they are confined for arbitrary reasons such as being HIV-positive, have special medical needs, are severely ill, or have requested protective custody. Generally, prisoners are not given advance notice or an explanation why they have been placed in Unit 32, nor do they receive information on how they can be removed from there.

With enforced idleness and isolation being imposed, the mentally ill regress, making the unit into a miniature hell. Those prisoners scream, moan, curse, make animal noises, engage in maniacal laughter, and have hallucinatory ravings. This prevents those holding onto their sanity from ...

Florida DOC’s Policy Prohibiting Release of Sex Offenders Without Address Unconstitutional

Florida DOC's Policy Prohibiting Release of Sex Offenders Without Address Unconstitutional

by David M. Reutter

In October, 2005, a Florida Circuit Court has held that a Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) policy that requires a sex offender to provide a physical address or face indefinite imprisonment is unconstitutional.

Christopher A. Daughtry was convicted on June 23, 2000, of lewd or lascivious assault upon a child. He was sentenced to a split sentence of seven years imprisonment to be followed by five years of sex offender probation. Daughtry reached the end of his term of imprisonment on August 6, 2005. Before he was physically released, the FDOC performed a warrantless arrest for a purported violation of probation. The stated basis for the arrest was Daughtry's failure to provide an address where he would reside when released to probation.

Under Florida law, sex offenders with a victim under eighteen years of age are prohibited from "living within 1,000 feet of a school, day care center, park, playground, or other place" where children regularly congregate. Florida law also requires FDOC to report information concerning sex offenders, including an offender's intended residence if known, to the Florida Department of Law ...


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