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Articles by Derek Gilna

COVID-19 Cases Soar at Federal Prisons in California; Half at Lompoc Have the Coronavirus

As of May 12, 2020, the number of COVID-19 infections had exploded at a trio of federal prisons in southern California, placing one at the top of all 142 facilities operated by the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Lompoc, located in Santa Barbara County, holds 1,162 low-security prisoners, of whom 911 had tested positive for the novel coronavirus that causes the disease. That was the highest number of cases in any BOP prison. Another 16 positive cases have also been reported among prison staff. So far just 25 prisoners and 3 staff members had developed symptoms and recovered. None had died.

But at the adjacent U.S. Penitentiary (USP) Lompoc, there had been two prisoner deaths. The medium-security facility holds 1,044 prisoners, of which 114 had tested positive for coronavirus, along with 22 staff members.

The virus had also hit FCI Terminal Island in San Pedro in Los Angeles County. Of the 1,042 low-security prisoners there, 702 had tested positive for the virus, along with 15 staff members. There have been seven deaths, all among prisoners.

Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, whose staff began testing for the virus at FCI Terminal ...

Prison Officials Limit Prisoner Communications During COVID-19 Crisis

Prisoners struggling to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic — often without masks, sufficient cleaning supplies or the ability to social distance — are crying for help to the outside world by any means possible. Some prison authorities have responded by cutting off their access to phones and email.

At the San Diego County Jail, prisoners held up a homemade sign that said, “We Don’t Deserve 2 Die,” during a prisoner’s video chat. Three of those prisoners were sent to solitary confinement shortly thereafter.

In the Pine Prairie, Louisiana ICE detention center, contact between prisoners and members of the media via video chat included inmate complaints about the lack of protective equipment and the possibility of conflict between prisoners and staff. The result? Future video contacts were canceled by the institution.

On the federal level, those suspected of being infected with COVID-19 are often quarantined in special housing or solitary, during which time they are often without access to anything but irregularly delivered mail from the U.S. Post Office.

At the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), California facilities at Terminal Island and Lompoc, where over half of the prisoners tested positive when the Los Angeles County Board of Health ...

Minnesota Sheriff Hit with Attorney Fees Award in Civil Rights Case

by Derek Gilna

Martin County, Minnesota Sheriff Jeffrey Markquart has been ordered to pay $6,075 in attorney fees to former prisoner Erik Daniel Christianson in a federal civil rights action where the district court found Christianson was the “prevailing plaintiff.” 

As noted in the court’s July 19, ...

Lawsuit Against New York Jail, CCS Survives Motion to Dismiss

by Derek Gilna

A federal civil rights complaint brought by the estate of deceased Monroe County, New York pre-trial detainee Pedro Sanchez, Jr. has survived a motion to dismiss filed by the county jail’s medical provider, Correct Care Solutions (now known as Wellpath), and several of the company’s medical staff, ...

PLRA Attorney Fee Award Discussed after Oklahoma Jail Prisoner Awarded $35,001

by Derek Gilna

James Jordanoff, a former pre-trial detainee at the Cleveland County Detention Center in Oklahoma, won a $35,001 judgment following a jury trial based on a First Amendment retaliation claim against ex-guard Josh Coffey. 

The May 9, 2018 judgment included $1 in nominal damages plus $35,000 ...

Two-Year Investigation, Litigation and Settlement Ends Segregation, Mistreatment of LGBTQ Prisoners at California Jail

by Derek Gilna

A federal class-action lawsuit against the sheriff of San Bernardino County, California, that alleged LGBTQ prisoners were confined in an “‘Alternative Lifestyle Tank’ at the West Valley Detention Center ... to which all inmates who self-identify as gay, bisexual, and/or transgender ... [were] automatically transferred and isolated ...

Wisconsin Pays Largest Civil Rights Settlement in State’s History –$18.9 Million – for Juvenile Offender’s Suicide Attempt

by Chad Marks and Derek Gilna

Sydni Briggs was 16 years old in July 2015 when she was remanded to a Wisconsin state youth prison for breaking into a store and stealing alcohol. She found herself alone in a cell at the Copper Lake School for Girls on November 9, ...

Human Rights Watch 2014 Report Set Goals to Reduce Human Costs of Excessive Incarceration

by Derek Gilna

 The nonprofit Human Rights Watch in 2014 published a 21-page report, “Nation Behind Bars: A Human Rights Solution,” which outlined the problems caused by mass incarceration and offered suggestions on how to reduce prisoner counts without endangering public safety.

This report helped set the stage for future ...

GEO Group, CoreCivic Face Class Actions Alleging Prisoner ‘Slave Labor’

by Derek Gilna

GEO Group, the Florida-based private prison behemoth, and Tennessee corporation CoreCivic, are the targets of several lawsuits alleging that “voluntary” work programs at their facilities violate state minimum-wage laws, as well as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and other labor protection statutes. These lawsuits alleged that many ...

New Jersey DOC Settles Sexual Abuse Suit, but More Cases are Pending

by Derek Gilna

The New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC) agreed to settle a federal complaint that alleged multiple civil rights violations at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women. That same facility, located in Hunterdon County, is also the subject of several lawsuits in state court raising similar allegations, ...