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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by David Reutter

Who’s Monitoring Prison Medical Contract Requirements in New Jersey? No One

Who's Monitoring Prison Medical Contract Requirements in New Jersey? No One

by David Reutter

PLN subscribers often read reports about the effects of privatized prisoner health care and the spread of privatization to prison and jail systems throughout the nation. These real-life stories of prisoner deaths, maimings and suffering occur even when the corrections agency has a contract that describes the services to be performed and, often, ways to determine performance standards and impose penalties for failure to meet those standards. In the face of grossly deficient health care despite such oversight, one is led to ask: Who is overseeing the provision of privatized prison medical services?

That question was recently answered as it relates to the contract between the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC) and Correctional Medical Services (CMS) for prison dental care. The New Jersey Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that the NJDOC's Assistant Commissioner of Administration (ACA) was responsible for overseeing CMS's compliance with its contract.

The OIG found that despite the ACA's knowledge that CMS had missed contract deadlines for provision of services, the NJDOC did not impose penalties on the company. In other words, no one took any remedial ...

Overdetention: When Completing a Prison Sentence Just Isn’t Enough

Overdetention: When Completing a Prison Sentence Just Isn't Enough

by David M. Reutter

One of the most basic functions of a prison system is releasing prisoners when their sentences expire. In April 2007, the Massachusetts Department of Correction (MDOC) admitted its system for determining sentence expiration dates was a "mess," resulting in 14 known cases of prisoners being held beyond when they should have been released. The MDOC is not the only prison system with such problems.

The length of overdetentions in the MDOC ranged from one day to four years. The most egregious case involved prisoner Rommel Jones. Since the 1980s, Jones has been in and out of prison due to theft-related charges to feed his drug addiction. In 1988 he received a 20-year prison sentence and a concurrent 10-year term.

Over the next ten years Jones was paroled three times, once for six years, but was returned to prison. His parole violations were usually for drug possession. Jones had another problem that contributed to his being unable to cope with society: He heard voices and had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.

In May 2005, while incarcerated, Jones heard a voice that told him he was going home ...

Transsexuals Treated Poorly in New York Prisons

by David M. Reutter

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) has issued a report on the treatment of transgender and intersex people in New York state men?s prisons. That report finds that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) prisoners experience assault, denial of urgently needed medical care, and placement in gender inappropriate facilities.

The report is based upon interviews with twelve current and former prisoners and ten advocates working outside of prisons. It found that as a group, transgender and gender non-conforming people are disproportionately poor, homeless, criminalized, and imprisoned.
?Discrimination against transgender people in housing, employment, healthcare, education, public benefits, and social services is pervasive, pushing transgender people to the margins of the formal economy,? states the report. As such LGBT youths and adults run away from hostile families and engage in illegal or criminalized activities to survive, placing them at a higher risk for arrest and entanglement in the criminal justice system.

Not only are they arrested for sex work, drug sales, and theft, but LGBT people are often arrested for other ?poverty-related activities including loitering, turnstile jumping, or sleeping outside.? This is enhanced, according to the report, by police profiling that targets LGBTs.

Once arrested, LGBTs ...

Broward County, FL Sheriff Resigns, Pleads Guilty to Federal Corruption Charges

by David M. Reutter

Facing an imminent federal grand jury indictment, Florida?s Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne took preemptive action by agreeing to plead to lesser charges and resign as Sheriff. PLN has previously reported the state and federal investigations into Jenne?s personal corruption that was made possible by his position as head of the Broward County Sheriff?s Office (BSO). [See: PLN, June 2007, p.12].

Those investigations, which began in 2005, focused on cozy relationships between Jenne?s security consulting businesses that used BSO equipment and manpower. Federal authorities, however, were more focused on Jenne?s failure to report income from those enterprises. A federal grand jury issued subpoenas for over 20,000 BSO documents and took testimony from a dozen BSO employees.

Along the way the IRS joined the investigation. An IRS agent testified in August 2007 about Jenne?s receipt of over $100,000 from contractors with the Sheriff?s office, without reporting those funds on his income tax returns. According to court records the unreported income included $20,000 in loans from a BSO vendor paid through Jenne?s secretaries; $10,000 in consulting fees from another BSO vendor in 2002; a $8 ...

Florida's Parole Commission Slows Restoration of Felons' Civil Rights

by David M. Reutter

In April 2007, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and his Cabinet made it easier for some felons to regain their civil rights, including their right to vote. The new rules automatically restore rights to non-violent offenders and provide quicker reviews for other felons.

The new rules create three categories for rights restoration. There is automatic restoration for non-violent offenders who have completed all terms of their sentence, including payment of restitution. Then there are violent offenders who committed crimes ranging from aggravated stalking and computer pornography to manslaughter, who require an investigation and clemency board approval. Lastly, a full investigation and clemency review hearing is required for those convicted of murder and sex offenses.

Offenders are screened by two state agencies, the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) and the Florida Parole Commission (FPC). Under Florida law, the FDOC must assist prisoners with civil rights restoration upon release. [See: PLN, March 2003, p.35]. The FDOC has identified 298,000 ex-prisoners who are potentially eligible for restoration of rights under the new rules. On a regular basis the FDOC compiles a list of the 3,000 people released from prison each month who are entitled to restoration reviews ...

Food Deprivation & Pink Clothing Imposed for Violating South Carolina Prison Rules

by David M. Reutter

South Carolina?s Commissioner of Corrections, Jon Ozmint, has embraced hardcore disciplinary methods to deal with prisoners who violate prison rules. Such punishments include depriving prisoners of food and requiring them to wear pink outfits.

The food deprivation has taken on a new twist. Rather than withholding food as a form of discipline, which is legally questionable, Ozmint has construed such sanctions to be a voluntary act by the prisoner. ?Our rule is simple ? any inmate is allowed to decline the opportunity (to eat, exercise, shower or have visits) by failure to comply with our reasonable requirements,? Ozmint wrote in a November 2006 e-mail to wardens and prison officials. ?Eating is a voluntary activity and any inmate may refuse to eat.?

Tyger River Correctional Institution prisoner Darrell Hunter found himself on the list for ?voluntary refusing? to eat due to his refusal to shave with a razor. Medical records indicated that Hunter, 26, was ?being denied any meals? for not shaving.

Hunter?s medical report stated, ?Note in log book on 11-2-06 from Capt. Alexander that inmates not in compliance with the grooming policy were not to be given a tray.? Hunter denied he was on ...

Utah Prisoner Kills Guard During Escape While on Medical Transport

by David M. Reutter

On June 25, 2007, a Utah state prisoner shot and killed a prison guard while escaping from a hospital where he had been taken to receive an MRI. The escape occurred at the University of Utah?s Orthopedic Clinic in Salt Lake City.

Prisoner Curtis Allgier, 27, was transported to the clinic to receive treatment for lower back pain. ?After Allgier was treated and was changing back into his prison clothing, he attempted to escape,? a booking statement from the Salt Lake County Jail said. ?Officer Stephen Anderson then attempted to prevent the escape.?

Apparently, Allgier wrestled Anderson?s gun away from him and shot him in the head, killing him. Anderson, 60, was a 22-year veteran of the Utah Department of Corrections (UDOC). Allgier fled out the clinic?s front door with a gun in his hand; he carjacked a Ford Explorer, forcing the occupants out.

He then drove to a friend?s house and changed clothes. Salt Lake Police familiar with Allgier anticipated the move, and converged on the area. As they arrived Allgier was leaving, which caused a crash among three police cars trying to stop him. Allgier then led police on a ...

$195,000 Paid to Family of Slain Florida Prison Guard

by David M. Reutter

The Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) has agreed to pay $195,000 to the family of murdered prison guard Darla Kay Lathrem, 38. PLN previously reported the incident. [See: PLN, April 2006, p.42].

Lathrem was killed during a failed escape on June 11, 2003. She ...

No Criminal Wrongdoing Found in Overpayments to Florida Private Prisons

by David M. Reutter

In May 2007 the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) issued a 22-page report which found that $12.7 million in overpayments to the state's private prison contractors did not result from an intent "to steal or defraud." PLN previously reported on this investigation, which was ordered by Gov. Charlie Crist after the overpayments were discovered by state auditors. [See: PLN, June 2007, p.32; Nov. 2007, p.38].

The private prison contractors involved, GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut Corrections) and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), were under contracts supervised by the state's Correctional Privatization Commission (CPC). The Florida legislature created the CPC in 1993 to oversee limited privatization of the state's prisons. The commission was abolished in 2004 after numerous scandals; one of its executive directors was fined by the state Ethics Commission, while another is serving time in federal prison for embezzlement of CPC funds.

The FDLE report found that the legislature had reviewed the contracts and annual budgets, so nothing had been hidden. "There was no evidence that the budget requests were fraudulent or incomplete," the report stated. Nor was there any evidence "that any group or individual ever solicited or ...

BOP Byline Prohibition Unconstitutional

by David M. Reutter

A Colorado federal district court has held the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) regulation that provides a prisoner may not "publish under a byline" violates the First Amendment. The Court's order prohibits the BOP from punishing any prisoner for violating that regulation.

The Court's order comes in an action filed by Mark Jordan, a prisoner at the BOP's Administrative Maximum Unit in Florence, Colorado. The regulation at issue, 28 C.F.R. §540.20(b), provides that "the inmate may not act as reporter or publish under a byline." The BOP punished prisoners publishing under a byline in the "news media," which is defined as newspapers, news magazines, national and international news services, and TV and radio news programs.

Jordan, a prolific writer who has written and submitted for publication manuscripts, essays, letters to the editor, fiction and nonfiction, was found by BOP officials to have violated the byline rule when an article in Off! magazine appeared with his byline. As a result, he was found guilty in a disciplinary hearing of "Unauthorized Contact with the Public." He was infracted again when Off! published another article, but this time under Jordan's religious birth ...


 

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