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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by David Reutter

Grand Jury Report, Four Nebraska Jail Guards Indicted in Prisoner’s Death

by David M. Reutter

Finding there was probable cause that four guards at Nebraska’s Omaha Police Detention Unit (OPDU) failed to render medical care to a prisoner which contributed to his death, a Douglas County grand jury indicted the guards on charges of official misconduct – a Class II misdemeanor. The grand jurors also found the city culpable, calling the situation at the jail “inadequate,” “irresponsible” and “appalling.”

The grand jury was convened to look into the death of Alexander Simoens, who was arrested on September 7, 2007 on suspicion of felony driving during suspension. Simoens, 47, did not exhibit or indicate any medical problems upon arrest and said he was not taking any medications.

After being booked into OPDU, however, Simoens began moaning, begging for help for stomach pain and vomiting blood. Jail employees ignored his pleas and refused to provide medical care. Guard Joachim Dankiw, a 17-year veteran, reportedly told Simoens to “Go ahead, lay down and die.”

It was not until September 9, when Simoens lost consciousness after writhing in pain in his cell, that an ambulance was finally called. By then it was too late. Simoens died two days later. The grand jury found the cause ...

Georgia Sheriff, Judges, Other Officials Face Misconduct, Criminal Charges

In November 2007 a federal grand jury issued an indictment charging Clinch County, Georgia Sheriff Winston C. Peterson, 62, with perjury, using forced prisoner labor and extorting former jail prisoners.

Peterson’s indictment marked the second time in the past year that a Georgia Sheriff was charged while in office. Berrien County Sheriff Gerald W. Brogdon pled guilty last August to a charge of illegal sale of a firearm to a felon. On April 10, 2008 he was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay a $2,000 fine.

Peterson had been Clinch County Sheriff since 1988. In 2000, he began charging prisoners at his jail $18 a day for room and board. From November 30, 2000 to November 21, 2004, Peterson collected about $30,000 from 475 prisoners. The funds were remitted to the County Commission.

Prisoners who were unable to pay the fees were forced to sign promissory notes before release; those notes stated they could be re-incarcerated for failure to pay. County officials agreed on April 14, 2006 to refund the jail fees plus pay $30,000 in attorney fees to settle a federal lawsuit brought by two former prisoners. See: Williams v. Clinch County ...

Nevada Prisoner Health Care So Atrocious, Prisoners Volunteer for Execution to Avoid Suffering

by David M. Reutter

“It is my opinion that the medical care provided at Ely State Prison amounts to the grossest possible medical malpractice, and the most shocking and callous disregard for human life and human suffering, that I have ever encountered in the medical profession in my thirty-five years of practice.” – Dr. William Noel

The above quote comprises the conclusion of Dr. Noel in a report for the National Prison Project of the ACLU. In preparing that report, Dr. Noel examined 35 prisoner medical files from Nevada’s Ely State Prison (ESP), which is more than 250 miles outside Reno, Las Vegas. ESP houses Nevada’s death row. That fact, critics charge, may be the reason behind the atrocious healthcare at the facility.

Dr. Noel’s report details the death of one prisoner that resulted from a failure to render any meaningful treatment. In several cases, Dr. Noel found it simply astonishing the prisoners were still alive in light of a “system that is so broken and dysfunctional that … every one of the prisoners at [ESP] who has serious medical needs, or may develop serious medical needs, is at enormous risk.”

Anti-death penalty advocates point to the number of ...

Eight Guards, Nurse Acquitted in Florida Child’s Beating Death

by David M. Reutter

An all white Florida jury acquitted eight former boot camp guards and a nurse of manslaughter in the death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson.
PLN previously reported upon the beating and dragged death of Martin while the nurse stood idly by watching. See: PLN, July, 2007.

After a three week trial, the jury rendered its verdict in 90 minutes.
The evidence included a videotape of the guards applying punches, pressure grips, and kneeings while they dragged Martin around the boot camp’s exercise yard. When Martin fell out, the guards forced him to inhale ammonia capsules in an attempt, they say, to revive him. All the while, the nurse just stood by watching.

Because the incident was captured on video, the central theme at trial was what caused Martin’s death. The defense argued that Martin died because of an undiagnosed sickle cell trait, which is a usually harmless blood disorder that can hinder blood cells’ ability to carry oxygen during physical stress. The prosecution argued the guards suffocated Martin by covering his mouth and forcing him to inhale ammonia.

Both sides had something to latch onto during trial. The first autopsy conducted by Dr. Charles ...

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 MySpace.com, 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 ...

 

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