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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by David Reutter

Florida Jails: State’s Largest Mental Health Providers

Florida Jails: State's Largest Mental Health Providers

by David M. Reutter

Florida's policy of allowing mentally ill citizens to languish without treatment until they have encounters with law enforcement has turned the state's county jails into the primary provider of mental health services. This has created fiscal and overcrowding problems, which in turn force mentally ill prisoners to live in punitive environments that worsen their condition.

According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), Florida is in a state of crisis, with 23 percent of prisoners held in county and city jails having a mental disorder. The actual number may be higher. Anywhere from 70,000 to 90,000 people with mental problems are arrested in Florida each year.

Despite that fact, Florida ranked 48th nationwide in per capita spending for mental health treatment. As with all crises, this one did not occur overnight. In fact, it is the culmination of policies implemented in the 1950?s to "deinstitutionalize" the mentally ill by closing psychiatric hospitals and discontinuing state-paid treatment and care.

Many mentally ill defendants are found incompetent to stand trial, which has caused a serious dilemma for Florida's Department of Children and ...

20 Florida Prison Officials Fired or Suspended After Prisoner Beating, Party

by David M. Reutter

Continuing his quest to clean up the chronically corrupt Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC), Secretary James McDonough fired or suspended at least 20 officials at Hendry Correctional Institution (HCI) for actions related to a prisoner beating.

Prior to McDonough taking FDOC's helm in February 2006, abuse of prisoners had become part of the department's culture under former Secretary James Crosby, who himself was sentenced to eight years in prison on bribery charges in April 2007.
The FDOC's abusive culture has even condoned murder, as when Florida death row prisoner Frank Valdes was brutally killed by guards who were later acquitted at trial.[See: PLN, Aug. 2002, p.12].

Retaliation for filing grievances or lawsuits is commonplace at FDOC facilities. Normally, the retaliation takes the form of a punitive job change or transfer to another prison; the latter punishment is termed "diesel therapy" because it involves riding numerous prison buses.

Charles Gundlah, a Vermont prisoner housed in Florida under the Interstate Corrections Compact, exhibited no fear of retaliation. He has filed over 250 grievances during his incarceration within the FDOC since 1998.

For unknown reasons, Gundlah was housed in a confinement unit at HCI ...

Florida’s Civil Commitment Center Exhibits Little Change Despite New Contractor

Florida's Civil Commitment Center Exhibits Little Change Despite New Contractor

by David M. Reutter

Despite recent scandals and a new private contractor, the Florida Civil Commitment Center (FCCC) is still a facility with little direction other than as a confinement center to warehouse sex offenders who have completed their sentences.

PLN has previously reported on the out-of-control, "free-for-all" atmosphere that reigned at FCCC. That article, published last year, detailed incidents of FCCC employees selling drugs, delivering contraband to facility residents, having sex with residents, and allowing residents to do as they pleased so long as they were "happy." [See: PLN, Nov. 2006, p.13].

Meanwhile, little treatment was being providing to the then 484 resident sex offenders. In fact, as of May 2005, only 35 percent of the residents were even enrolled in sex offender therapy programs. During Liberty's eight-year term of managing FCCC, only one resident obtained a recommendation from company staff that he should be released.

FCCC was ostensibly created to treat sex offenders after they were released from prison. From its establishment in 1998 under the Jimmy Ryce Act (FS 394.910), the facility was operated by Liberty Behavioral Health Corporation under an annual contract ...

Florida Homeless Sex Offender Ruling Reversed, FDOC Changes Policy Anyway

by David M. Reutter

Florida?s Fifth District Court of Appeals has reversed, on procedural grounds, an order by the Volusia County Circuit Court that enjoined the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) from engaging in the ?practice of automatically violating the probation of every sex offender who fails to give an address acceptable pursuant to Section 948.30(1)(6), Florida Statute (2005), at the time of a scheduled release from incarceration.? PLN reported the circuit court order. [See: PLN, Jan. 2007, p. 36].

FDOC?s policy was to violate, upon release, all sex offenders who failed to provide an address that was not ?within 1,000 feet of a school, day care center, park, playground, or other place where children regularly congregate,? maintaining that homelessness was not an excuse for noncompliance. The Fifth District Court said it was ?sympathetic? to the circuit court?s frustration with FDOC?s actions and to the notion of essential fairness in the lower court?s order.

Nonetheless, several procedural issues required the appellate court to reverse. ?First, the DOC was not a party to the proceedings and, evidently, no notice was given to DOC that such an order was within the contemplation of ...

Fulton County Jail Consents to Improve Dismal Conditions

The Fulton County Jail (FCJ) has entered into an agreement to correct the “dismal environmental conditions and poor maintenance” at the facility. A Georgia federal district court approved a consent order on February 7, 2006 to solidify the badly needed changes.

The FCJ comprises three facilities, holding 2,250, 200 and 100 prisoners. Each is badly overcrowded. The Court appointed an expert, Dr. Robert B. Greifinger of Dobbs Ferry, New York to tour FCJ and issue a report on conditions with recommendations to correct the problems found.

What Dr. Greifinger found frightened him. “Extremely tense. Each of my senses raising an alarm. Scary. With almost two decades of visiting inmate housing units, it was the first time that I declined to go in,” wrote Dr. Greifinger in a May 31, 2004 report. What Dr. Greifinger found on the fifth floor of FCJ was nothing that “came as a surprise to anyone” associated with this litigation.

The fifth floor unit was built for 108, or 200 double-bunked, prisoners. On Dr. Greifinger’s visit it held 59 on the North side, with 18 on the floor. The South side held 326, but had only 12 showers. While Dr.Greifinger’s May visit was ...

Prison Privatization Launders Taxpayer Dollars into Political Contributions

by David M. Reutter

If you know a company is not saving you money or performing its contractual obligations, why would you continue to use that company? The normal consumer would end the relationship quickly. When it comes to contracts for privatized prison services, the answer may lie in the laundering of taxpayer money through for-profit corporations into campaign contributions.

Politicians, however, ardently deny that political graft factors into their decisions to award lucrative privatization contracts for services normally reserved to the public sector. "It's outrageous even to imply or infer a connection and absolutely not true. State contracts are fully transparent and must follow strict procurement procedures," said Pahl Shipley, spokesman for New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (D).

While politicians are quick to justify their ethically-questionable actions, a little research and investigation usually reveals that someone is getting a raw deal. In the case of prison contracts, those who are supposed to benefit often suffer while the politically-connected companies hired to perform public services are the ones that benefit.

Buying Political Influence and Prison Contracts

The GEO Group, formerly Wackenhut Corrections, understands the connection between money in politics and procuring government contracts. The company hedges its bets both ...

Minnesota Prison Industries Managers Ride High on Prison Slavery

by David M. Reutter

A report by Minnesota?s Office of The Legislative Auditor (Auditor) has found conflicts of interest, the improper disposition of surplus property, and questionable contracting practices existed at MINNCOR Industries, Minnesota?s prison industry.

That special review came after former MINNCOR sales representative Larry Williams blew the whistle on the practices. After he was laid off in May 2006, Williams sued MINNCOR under whistle blower protection laws. His union, the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, says the report confirms Williams? allegations.

MINNCOR was created in the 1870?s to provide Minnesota prisoners an opportunity to work and acquire certain knowledge and skills prior to release. It currently operates in eight prisons, providing various products and services that are sold to state agencies, local units of governments, and businesses. Some of the services and products include custodial supplies, park and patio accessories, data entry, market research, laundry and sewing services, and office, library, and residential furniture. The Minnesota Department of Corrections (MDOC) oversees MINNCOR?s operation.

The Auditor?s first conclusion was that MDOC failed to adequately resolve a conflict of interest that it was aware occurred between three MINNCOR employees and ?a business partner.? The conflict ...

Delaware Forced to Clean-up Medical Care by DOJ Settlement

by David M. Reutter

After a nine-month investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a report finding prisoners in four Delaware prisons ?suffer harm or are placed at the risk of harm from constitutional deficiencies in certain aspects of the medical and mental health care services, including suicide prevention.? It was also announced the DOJ and state of Delaware entered into an 87 point agreement to cure those deficiencies.

PLN reported in its December 2005 cover article that the privatized health care within Delaware prisons was killing and maiming prisoners. The story and events that followed came as the result of investigative reports by Delaware?s News Journal.

That investigative reporting sparked a public outcry that included marches on the Governor?s mansion and the DOJ?s investigation of civil rights violations, begun in March 2006. All through the ordeal, the Delaware Department of Correction (DDOC) remained in denial, but did hire its own experts.

The DOJ found constitutional violations at the Delaware Correctional Center (DDC), the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution (HRYCI), the Sussex Correctional Institution (SCI), and the Delores J. Baylor Women?s Correctional Institution (BWCI). The John L. Webb Correctional Institution was given a clean ...

$90,000 Awarded for Broken Hand During NY Prison Job Assignment

by David M. Reutter

While a prisoner at New York?s Bayview Correctional Facility, Jeanette Perez was required to assist moving a full garbage dumpster as part of her work detail. When trying to move that dumpster on July 2, 1999, Perez and another female prisoner, both of whom were ...

Florida’s Broward County Jail: Abuse and Misconduct As Usual

Florida's Broward County Jail: Abuse and Misconduct As Usual

by David M. Reutter

Despite Florida's Broward County jail (BCJ) being under the supervision of a court-appointed monitor, recent incidents reveal prisoners are still at danger. BCJ has been under supervision since a 1994 consent decree that settled a conditions of confinement lawsuit filed over thirty years ago. See: Carruthers v. Jenne, USDC SD FL, Case No. 76-6086-CIV-WMH. "One would think that thirty years is plenty of time to get it right, but BSO [the Broward Co. Sheriff's Office] can't get it right. So the case goes on," said Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein.

The court-appointed monitoring did not help Dana Clyde Jones, 44, who was found lying in a pool of clotted blood on BCJ's seventh floor on December 16, 2005. As of June 2006 he remained hospitalized with extreme brain damage; he is not expected to recover. Jones suffered from severe mental illness and was jailed for punching his elderly mother.

"We want to determine first why a prisoner with a serious mental illness was housed where he was housed," said Eric Balban, a Washington D.C. attorney at the ACLU's National Prison ...


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