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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by David Reutter

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 ...

BOP Ad-Seg Rules Create a Liberty Interest

by David M. Reutter

The Eleventh Circuit court of Appeals has held that BOP administrative segregation policies create a liberty interest. The Court reversed a Georgia federal district court's order granting prison officials' motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

The lawsuit at issue was filed by Salvador Magluta for events that occurred while he was a pre-trail detainee at the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta (USP). Magluta was indicted by a grand jury in the Southern District of Florida in April 1991 on twenty-four drug trafficking and conspiracy charges. Magluta was arrested in October 1991 and placed in federal custody. Prior to his trial and eventual acquittal in 1996, Magluta was held in three different federal facilities _ first in Miami, then in Talladega, and later in USP.

Magluta filed his Bivens action while a pretrial detainee in 1994, alleging he was placed in "administrative segregation" _ the "hole" _ in conditions constituting solitary confinement for more than five hundred days in USP, and this lengthy and harsh pretrial detention was done at the direction of and with the knowledge of the ...

Florida's Private Prison Industry Corporation Under Siege

by David M. Reutter

As early as 1980, drugstore mogul Jack Eckerd was convinced a private company could provide higher profits to Florida if it ran the state's Prison Industries. After Eckerd's lobbying of the Florida Legislature, that Legislature enacted laws to create Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises (PRIDE) as a private, non-profit corporation to lease and manage the state prison industries program. A December 2003 special report by the Florida Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) concluded PRIDE has failed to explain its corporate structure or protect state interests while PRIDE's Directors appear intent on ensuring they personally profit.

Florida Law establishes that PRIDE's mission is to: provide education, training and post-release job placement to prisoners to help reduce recommitment; enhance security by reducing prisoner idleness and providing an incentive for good behavior in prison; reduce costs to the state by operating enterprises primarily with prisoner labor while not unreasonably competing with private enterprise; and rehabilitate prisoners by duplicating, as nearly as possible, the activities of a profit-making enterprise.

Ostensibly to help PRIDE carry out its stated mission, it was granted sovereign immunity, which shields it from liability in ...

Qualified Immunity Denied to Supervising Driver's License Examiner in Oklahoma Prisoner's Rape

by David M. Reutter

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a state driver's license examiner who exercised supervisory control over a prisoner acted as a state actor and can be held liable for raping her. Pamela Smith, a former prisoner of Oklahoma's Tulsa Community Correction Center (TCCC), brought this action. TCCC prisoners are required to participate in the prisoners' works program. Smith was assigned to perform janitorial services at the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (DPS) at the Tulsa Northside Center.

TCCC trained two DPS employees, Ed Spencer and defendant Don Cochran, in the supervision of prisoners. Spencer would pick Smith up at TCCC each work day and return her to TCCC. While Spencer was the supervisor of two DPS Centers, Cochran normally supervised Northside. So, supervision of Smith was Cochran's responsibility.

DPS was allowed to use TCCC prisoners to perform DPS work, but TCCC retained "full jurisdiction and authority over discipline and control of prisoners." Prisoners were prohibited from using alcohol or drugs, engaging in sex, receiving visitors, using the telephone, or leaving the DPS facility except to return to TCCC. Any violation was to be reported by the supervisor to TCCC.

During ...

Public and Press Have First Amendment Right to Access Court Docket Sheets

by David M. Reutter

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has held that the public and press enjoy a qualified First Amendment right of access to court docket sheets. This case was filed by the Hartford Courant and The Connecticut Law Tribune, challenging the Connecticut state court system's practice of sealing cases and hiding their existence from the public and press. PLN previously reported the filing of this action. [PLN, December 2003, pg. 1].

Between 2002 and 2003, the newspapers learned that, over the prior 38 years, the Connecticut state court system had adjudicated what appeared to be thousands of cases where sealing procedures prohibited court personnel from allowing the public to access the files in those proceedings and, in certain comparatively rare instances, from acknowledging the existence of these case altogether.

Some of the cases were sealed pursuant to a variety of statutory authorizations, including those directed at protecting juvenile offenders or involving bar grievance procedures. On February 9, 2003, The Hartford Courant published an account that insinuated that judges selectively sealed divorce, paternity, and other cases involving fellow judges, celebrities and wealthy CEOs at the behest of these prominent individuals.

The Connecticut General Assembly began an investigation ...

Exculpatory Evidence Must Be Disclosed at Prison Disciplinary Hearing

Exculpatory Evidence Must be Disclosed at Prison Disciplinary Hearing

by David M. Reutter

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a prisoner is entitled to receive exculpatory evidence in a prison disciplinary hearing when a liberty interest is implicated. This habeas corpus proceeding was brought by Clyde Piggie, a prisoner at Indiana's Maximum Control Facility. After the district court denied the petition, Piggie appealed.

Piggie sought relief from three convictions of insubordination by the prison's disciplinary team. On two consecutive days, Piggie refused to obey an order by defying an order to cuff up and return his food tray. On the second day, Piggie was also charged with battery for pushing a guard during a cell extraction. Piggie was found guilty of all charges. A loss of telephone and recreation privileges for 60 days was imposed on the two refusing to obey charges; the battery conviction resulted in loss of 180 days good time credits and demotion in his good time earning class.

The district court held the loss of privileges did not implicate a liberty interest protected by due process, and Piggie received all process due on the battery charge. On appeal, Piggie challenged only ...

Private Capitol Punishment: The Florida Model

by Ken Kopczynski, 111 pp. 2004, Authorhouse, softbound

Reviewed by David M. Reutter

As the prison industrial complex has expanded, the privatization of prisons has increased. The pages of PLN have chronicled the mental and physical abuse, as well as medical neglect, suffered by those warehoused in privatized prisons. Private Capitol Punishment: The Florida Model provides a view of the other side of the coin: It details the escapades of officials employed by the State of Florida to oversee and monitor the state's private prisons.

Private Capitol Punishment is the true story of Ken Kopczynski's experiences in exposing the corruption and politics of Florida's private prison industry. While the officials Kopczynski exposed oversaw Florida's private prisons, he uncovered that they were players profiting from the worldwide push to privatize prisons.

The author, Ken Kopczynski, is a Legislative and Political Affairs Assistant for the Florida Police Benevolent Association (FPBA), the union which represents guards working for the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC). He also is the Executive Director of the Private Corrections Institute (PCI), established to educate the public about the for-profit private prison industry ( All profits from Private Capitol Punishment go to PCI ...


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