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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by David Reutter

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 ...

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 ...


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Prisoners Self Help Litigation Manual




Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual