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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by David Reutter

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 ...

Pennsylvania County Jail System Overcrowded, Under-Regulated

by David M. Reutter

Almost everyone with experience on the incarceration side of America's criminal justice system will tell you they would rather do time in prison than in a jail. The primary reason is that the overall conditions of confinement are better and less restrictive in prisons. The transient nature of a jail population makes it difficult for prisoners to improve conditions through legal challenges, as they are often released or transferred elsewhere before they can act; also, jails do not have the programs and resources available at prisons, which are designed for a longer-term sentenced population.

Most non prisoners have no concern for conditions in prisons or jails, assuming they will never be subjected to them. "I just did not care at all about what it was like. But when I went to prison, my whole view of prison and people in prison changed," said Joe Kramer, who served almost four months in Pennsylvania's Dauphin County Jail for assault and violating probation on a marijuana possession charge. "I still think about it to this day. I've had nightmares, and waking up in the middle of the night," he stated. The experience of incarceration in our ...

Michigan’s Solution to Prisoner Healthcare: Close the Prison

Michigan's Solution to Prisoner Healthcare: Close the Prison

by David M. Reutter

In December 2006, a federal district court found the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) in contempt in the long-running Hadix case, and ordered prison officials to submit a plan to ensure that prisoners receive adequate medical care [See: PLN, May 2007, p.7].

Two months later, in February 2007, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm announced the state's plan to solve the problem of federal oversight of MDOC healthcare: Close the prison under the court's jurisdiction -- the 1,400-bed Southern Michigan Correctional Facility in Jackson -- which would save the state $35 million in the process.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard A. Enslen responded by requiring the MDOC to submit a prisoner transfer plan within 45 days, prohibiting the closure of the prison until the court gave its approval. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the MDOC's request to stay the order, but required the district court to rule by May 9.

After the MDOC filed its transfer plan, the Hadix plaintiffs objected and the Office of the Independent Medical Monitor (OIMM) filed a special report. On May 4, 2007 the district court entered an ...

Arizona Jail Sex Results in Charges for Guards, Prisoner

by David M. Reutter

Sexual relationships involving guards and prisoners in Arizona jails have resulted in criminal charges on both sides of the bars.

An investigation at the Yuma County Jail snared three guards and four female prisoners. The guards, Justin Herrera, 26, Kenneth Smith, 34, and Jose Espinoza, 26, were charged on June 12, 2007 with unlawful sexual conduct. Herrera faces two counts while Smith faces three counts and a sexual assault charge.

Espinoza was initially charged with six counts of unlawful sexual conduct. After all three former guards were released on $25,264 bonds, Espinoza was rearrested and booked for sexual assault and kidnapping, too.

Those charges revolve around an incident where Espinoza allegedly coerced a female prisoner by lying about a visitor at the jail. Once he led her into a room without camera surveillance, he forced her to have sex. Espinoza's lawyer argued that while the prisoner opposed the sex, she didn't physically resist the guard's advances.

Three of the victims remain unnamed. The fourth, however, was identified because authorities claim she was not a victim but actively sought sexual relations with guards. Shannon Rose, 32, was serving a 315-day sentence at the ...

Former Florida Prison Officials Sentenced to Federal Prison

by David M. Reutter

Former Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) Secretary James Crosby and his protégé, Allen Clark, have been sentenced to federal prison terms for accepting kickbacks from profits generated from prison visiting park canteens.

PLN has previously reported on how prison officials' greed, corruption and brutality ran rampant under Crosby's reign as FDOC Secretary, which began in 2003 when he was appointed by then governor Jeb Bush. Prison guards sold, bought and consumed steroids, physically assaulted each other, hired "ringers" to play in the annual Secretary's Softball Tournament, and abused prisoners without fear of retribution. [See: PLN, Dec. 2006, p.1]. Crosby's appointment came as a promotion after death row prisoner Frank Valdez was beaten to death by guards at the Florida State Prison in Starke. Crosby was warden at the time.

While it has never been revealed exactly how federal officials became aware of Crosby and Clark's acceptance of kickbacks from American Institutional Services, a contract vendor, it has come to light that Clark secretly recorded conversations that implicated Crosby in the scandal. Both have been cooperating with prosecutors to implicate others in a wider investigation of current and former FDOC employees.

On ...

Overcrowded Washington DOC’s Solution: Ship ’Em Out of State

Overcrowded Washington DOC's Solution: Ship ?Em Out of State

by David M. Reutter

Overcrowding is pinching the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC). To alleviate that problem, the department ordered less than 100 community supervision violators released without a hearing -- but the resulting public outcry has the WDOC looking for additional beds, which will result in more prisoners being sent to out-of-state, for profit facilities.

To ease its burgeoning overcrowding problem, the WDOC has transferred over 1,000 prisoners out-of-state since 2003. The state is in the process of adding 2,900 prison beds by 2009; it is projected that an additional 4,455 beds will be needed.

The state's community supervision program, known as parole in other states, is causing the WDOC the greatest amount of criticism and directly impacts the need for more prison bed space. In 2006, more than 28,000 people were under active supervision by the WDOC. On average, 1,200 of those prisoners were returned to jail or prison for breaking their release rules. That number is expected to rise to 1,600 over the next two years. Some offenders are violated for committing new crimes; most, however, have technical violations such as ...

“Please Rip Us Off” Florida Officials Tell Private Prison Companies

"Please Rip Us Off" Florida Officials Tell Private Prison Companies

by David M. Reutter

Despite having ordered a criminal investigation into its private prison contractors, the Florida Legislature and Governor Charlie Crist have enacted legislation that specifies those same companies are the only ones that can bid on expanding current prisons or building new correctional facilities.

The criminal investigation, conducted by the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement (FDLE), resulted after two state audits found that Florida had overpaid the GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) more than $4.5 million for vacant job positions and maintenance that was never performed. GEO settled with the state for $402,541, literally pennies on the dollar, while as of September, 2007 the state was still negotiating with CCA over $3.6 million in payments. [See: PLN, June 2007, p.32]. The FDLE investigation found no criminal wrongdoing.

To address its continually burgeoning prison population, Florida is planning to build more beds. The state's 2007 budget calls for 384 new beds at a medium-security prison, which is estimated to cost between $15 and $20 million. The budget limits the prison expansion to companies that currently contract with the state, which are ...

Florida Supreme Court Enacts Rules Regulating “Super Sealing” of Court Records

Florida Supreme Court Enacts Rules Regulating "Super Sealing" of Court Records

by David M. Reutter

On April 5, 2007, the Florida Supreme Court implemented new rules that "provide a procedural vehicle for making circuit and county court records in non-criminal cases confidential." The rules were made to address "highly serious concerns" identified by mainstream media about hidden cases and secret dockets, sometimes called "super sealing."

The Court stated that the Florida Constitution mandates public access to court records, subject only to a narrow category of records where public access is automatically restricted by operation of state or federal law or court rule, such as in child dependency cases. "Otherwise, our rules strongly disfavor court records that are hidden from public scrutiny," the Court said. "The rules provide only a limited veil that is restricted to a second category of court records where a set of carefully defined interest are involved."

Instead, some courts were super sealing the divorce cases of local celebrities or the wealthy. To address this practice that was "clearly offensive to the spirit of laws and rules that ultimately rest on Florida's well-established public policy of government in the sunshine," the Court implemented strict procedures before ...

$1.6 Million Settlements by PHS and Hillsborough County in Death of Baby Born in Florida Jail

by David M. Reutter

Inadequate medical care by Prison Health Services (PHS) has resulted in yet another death and $1.6 million in settlements for the mother of a baby boy who was born over a cell toilet at Florida's Hillsborough County Jail (HCJ).

Incarcerated for prostitution, Kimberly Grey ...


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