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Articles by David Reutter

Michigan Jails Strip Policy Unconstitutional; Guards and Get Qualified Immunity, County Liable

Michigan Jails Strip Policy Unconstitutional; Guards and Get Qualified Immunity, County Liable

by David M. Reutter

A Michigan federal district court has held that the practice of removing the clothing of unruly pretrial detainees and keeping them naked in the hole, violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, but held the defendants were entitled to qualified or absolute immunity in their individual capacity.

This action was brought by 22 former detainees of the Saginaw County Jail, suing Sheriff Charles Brown, various individual guards, and Saginaw County. The suit challenged the Jails practice of holding uncooperative and disruptive detainees in administrative segregation cells; and jail personnel would take all of the clothing from such detainees so that they were naked for the time they spent in administrative segregation.

The policy of removing clothes was applied without regard to the nature of the offense for which the detainees were held and in the absence of any individualized suspicion of drugs, weapons, contraband, or threat of suicide. Here, each of the plaintiffs were held on misdemeanor charges.
If a detainee failed to comply with orders to remove his or her clothing prior to placement in the administrative segregation cell, force was administered to remove ...

Florida DOC's Copy Cost Assessment Rule Declared Invalid

by David M. Reutter

Florida's First District Court of Appeal has held the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) does not have legislative authority to support its rule regarding the amount prisoners are charged for photographic copying services, authorizing deductions from prisoners' accounts for copying services, and imposing liens on prisoner accounts to cover such costs.
Florida prisoners Glenn Smith and Thomas P. Wells, Jr. sought a declaratory judgment holding that Rule 33-501.302 of the Florida Administrative Code, which outlines costs charged to prisoners for photocopying services, exceeded the Legislature's grant of rule-making authority to the FDOC. The circuit court entered summary judgment upholding the validity of the challenged portions of the rule.

The First District Court of Appeals found that from the time the copying service rule was originally promulgated, it mandated that all prisons provide prisoners copying services, it designated the type of materials that could be copied by prisoners, and it established a set fee to be paid by prisoners for copying services. The set fee charged is fifteen cents per page for standard sized papers, or more, if the copies require special equipment or paper.

While Florida agencies have rule-making authority, a proposed or ...

New York Jail Detainee Awarded $233,000 in Damages and Fees for Excessive Force Claim

by David M. Reutter

A New York federal district court reduced a jurys damage award in a prisoners civil rights action alleging excessive force by guards. The total award came to $165,000 and $68,000 in attorney fees and costs.
This action was brought against New Yorks Nassau County ...

Private Prisons Bilk $13 million From Florida; State Awards More Contracts

by David M. Reutter

Florida's Correctional Privatization Commission (CPC) consistently failed to safeguard the State's interests in its role as steward of privately operated correctional facilities," causing Florida's taxpayers to pay $12.7 million in questionable and excessive of cost. That conclusion was arrived at in a scathing report of the CPC by Florida's Inspector General.
The audit, issued on June 30, 2005, comes a year after the Florida Legislature abolished the CPC and turned its operation and management of private prison contracts over to the Department of Management Services (DMS).

Florida contracts with two vendors to operate five prisons in the state. Gadsden, Bay, and Lake City prisons are operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) while GEO Group, formerly Wackenhut Corrections, operates Moore Haven and South Bay prisons. Combined, these prisons warehouse 5,290 male prisoners.

The audit said that CPC records and contract documentation showed CPC consistently made questionable contract concessions to the vendors." That statement comes as no surprise to those familiar with the cronyism and infestation of the CPC by those who are in the vendors' pockets. That story as told in Private Capitol Punishment: The Florida Model, by Ken Kopczynski ...

Privatized Medical Services in Delaware Kill and Maim

by David M. Reutter

Anthony Pierce was serving a 14 month sentence for parole violation of a burglary charge at Delaware's Sussex Correctional Institution when he discovered a marble-sized lump growing on the back of his head. A prison doctor employed by the Delaware Department of Corrections' (DDOC) medical contractor, Correctional Medical Services (CMS), said the lump was most likely a cyst or an ingrown hair.

Seven months later, the lump had become ten inches in diameter, or like a second head. The growth caused Pierce to be known by cellmates as the "brother with two heads." In August 2001, CMS' medical director, Dr. Keith Ivens, stabbed the bulging tumor five times with an 18-gauge needle, withdrawing a bloody fluid, which he emptied into a trash can rather than send to a lab for analysis.

"Despite the size and rapid growth of Pierce's lump," CMS medical staff ordered no tests or treatment. They just allowed it to grow unhampered. An autopsy report after the 21-year-old Pierce's death determined his lump was cancerous and he died from a brain tumor due to osteoscarcoma of the skull.

"That boy was growing another head," said Michell Thomas, a former CMS ...

PLN Loses Florida Writer Pay Ban/Censorship

Lawsuit: Appeal Pending

by David M. Reutter

A Florida federal district court has held that PLN has not suffered, and is not currently suffering, a significant First Amendment injury from Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) rule, policies, or procedures that ban compensation to prisoner writers and caused the impoundment of PLN for ad content.

As previously reported, PLN filed suit against the FDOC after it began impounding and banning PLN from receipt by Florida prisoners because it contained advertisements for three-way calling and pen pal services. PLN also challenged FDOC's rule that prohibits prisoners from establishing or engaging actively in a business or profession while incarcerated. See: PLN, February 2004, pg. 27; February 2005, pg. 11.

The matter proceeded to a bench trial on June 6-8, 2005. PLN was represented at that trial by Randall Berg and Cullin O'Brien from the Florida Justice Institute and Mickey Gendler of Seattle. PLN alleged violations of its First Amendment rights, seeking declatory and injunctive relief.

The Court's July 28, 2005, order granting a directed verdict to the defendants first addressed FDOC's banning of PLN by prisoner subscribers due to content of certain advertisements. PLN, further, asserted that the FDOC ...

Court Holds Temperatures on Florida's Death Row Constitutional; Class Action Exhaustion Explained

By David M. Reutter

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a Florida District Court's order denying that prisoners' cell temperatures on Florida's death row constitute cruel and unusual punishment. This civil rights action was filed by Jim E. Chandler and William Kelley, prisoners on death row at Union Correctional Institution's Northeast Unit (UCINU).

Shortly after the action was filed, the District Court on December 4, 2000, certified a class consisting of, all persons who are assigned to [U.C.I.N.U.] or who in the future will be assigned to that unit." After the court convened a bench trial, which included the court visiting UCINU, it denied relief on the merits. The prisons then appealed.
Before the Eleventh Circuit turned to the merits of the claim, it addressed the class exhausting their administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation and Reform Act (PLRA). The record shows that Chandler exhausted all three levels of the grievance process provided by the Florida Department of Corrections.

The Eleventh Circuit held that when one or more class members has exhausted his administrative remedies with respect to each claim raised by the class." The PLRA is satisfied because vicarious exhaustion" occurred ...

Florida's Law Libraries Provide Adequate Access to Courts Under State's Constitution

Florida's Law Libraries Provide Adequate Access to Courts
Under State's Constitution

By David M. Reutter

Florida's First District Court of Appeal has held that Article I, § 21 of the Florida constitution requires the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) to provide more affirmative assistance to prisoners in the preparation and filing of litigation papers than does the federal constitution. The court, however, held the assistance FDOC provides does not significantly impede the prisoner's access to courts.

This class action suit, filed by five Florida prisoners, alleged that their right to court access under § 21 was violated by FDOC's actions of: (1) removing reference books and form pleadings from the state's prison law libraries; (2) limitation of access to legal materials through inter-library loans; (3) restriction on the hours and means of access to prison law libraries and restrictions on the use of those libraries and restrictions on the use of those libraries for drafting legal pleadings and legal mail; (4) elimination of access to computers, word processors, and typewriters for preparation of legal pleadings and legal mail; (5) reduction in the availability of prisoners' research aides to assist prisoners; (6) undue interference with prisoners attempting ...

Vermont DOC Settles PLN Writer's Suicide Suit for $750,000

On October 14, 2004,the estate of PLN contributing writer James Quigley sued the Vermont Department of Corrections (V.D.O.C.) and several V.D.O.C. employees, alleging their mistreatment of Quigley resulted in his suicide death. Four months later the state settled the suit for $750,000. In previous issues, PLN reported Quigley's death and two reports sanctioned by the commonwealth of Vermont into V.D.O.C. and a rash of prisoners' deaths. [See: PLN, January and September 2004]

On the 118th day of retaliatory and unjustified solitary confinement, Quigley hanged himself on October 7, 2003, at the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans. The lawsuit filed in Vermont Federal District Court in Burlington, alleged that Quigley's confinement was the result of retaliation for filing grievances and lawsuits against V.D.O.C. conditions. The suit, further, alleged that Quigley's confinement conditions constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Moreover, Quigley was deprived of adequate medical and mental health care, the suit charged.

The civil rights lawsuit was filed on behalf of Quigley's mother, Claire Quigley. The lawsuit was filed days after Ryan Rodriguez, a 25-year-old-man awaiting trial, was taken off life support ...

Florida's Faith-Based Programs Under Watchful Eyes

by David M. Reutter

With budget cuts eliminating its substance abuse programs and most educational programs in its prisons, the State of Florida is turning to religious groups to rehabilitate its prisoners. Since 1995, Florida's prison population has exploded from 62,000 prisoners to its current population of 80,000 which nets the Florida Department of Corrections (F.D.O.C.) a $1.7 billion annual budget. Over that same period, FDOC's substance abuse programs have been eliminated despite the fact that at least 80% of all Florida prisoners have substance addictions. Moreover, despite the fact prisoners have a median educational grade of 6.5, basic education and vocational programs have been cut as FDOC adjusts to representing 8.0% of the states budget compared with 8.6% in 1997-98. That has resulted in money flowing from religious groups to the state.

At a December 12, 2003, White-House sponsored news conference in Tampa, which was organized to highlight President Bush's attempts to give religious organizations a greater role in solving social problems, Florida Governor Jeb Bush announced the FDOC would house 800 prisoners at Lawtey Correctional Institution (L.C.I.) that volunteered for the faith-based program.

To ...


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