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Articles by Derek Gilna

Colorado Town to Pay $775,000 for Relying on Bogus Snitch

As a result of two federal lawsuits brought on behalf of eight plaintiffs, in October 2016 the Colorado town of Trinidad agreed to pay $775,000 to the victims of its police department’s incompetence and over-reliance on a snitch who was bent on fingering those she held vendettas against ...

Pennsylvania DOC Ordered to Evaluate Mumia Abu-Jamal for Hep C Treatment

Pennsylvania state prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, serving a life sentence for murder and diagnosed with hepatitis C, sued the state’s Department of Corrections (DOC) in federal court when he was refused treatment for that life-threatening disease.

On January 3, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Robert D. Marian granted Abu-Jamal’s motion for a preliminary injunction, ordering the DOC to let a doctor examine him within 14 days regarding his suitability for hep C treatment – an order which, given his diagnosis, effectively guarantees he will eventually receive medical care. Abu-Jamal, a well-known political prisoner who was successful in having his death sentence overturned, is a Prison Legal News columnist.

Incarcerated since 1981, Abu-Jamal filed suit in September 2016 seeking medical care after he began to exhibit symptoms of hepatitis C; however, the DOC maintained that he did not qualify for treatment. The latest generation hep C drugs cost around $84,000 to $90,000 per patient. Most medical experts agree that these drugs, including Harvoni and Solvaldi, are over 90% effective at curing hepatitis C. [See: PLN, Aug. 2015, p.22; July 2014, p.20]. Also named as a defendant in the lawsuit is the DOC’s private medical services ...

Riot at Private Prison in Arizona Prompts Review, Reforms and Change in Contractor

In July 2015, the privately-run Arizona State Prison Complex at Kingman (ASP Kingman) was rocked by a protracted riot in which 16 people – both guards and prisoners – suffered injuries. Following the disturbance, the state scrapped its contract with Management & Training Corporation (MTC) and handed operation of the prison to a different contractor.

The riot caused over $2 million in damage and forced the relocation of more than 1,000 prisoners to other facilities. Further, Governor Doug Ducey ordered the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) to review security procedures at five other private prisons in the state. [See: PLN, Dec. 2015, p.63].

The resulting report by state prison officials found that a “culture of disorganization, disengagement, and disregard of ADC ... policies and fundamental inmate management and security issues” had existed at ASP Kingman prior to the disturbance, and played a substantial role in the incident. The match that apparently ignited the riot came in the form of a fight between two prisoners that MTC staff failed to control.

The 183-page ADC report found that private prisons in Arizona, managed by the GEO Group, CCA (recently rebranded as CoreCivic) and MTC, were in substantial compliance with state regulations relating to prison ...

Studies on Financing of Judicial Campaigns Indicate Need for Reform

Several recent reports have examined the impact that skyrocketing campaign spending has on state court judicial elections, and whether the infusion of cash into such races is compromising judicial impartiality and integrity.

One study, “Bankrolling the Bench: The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2013-2014,” was prepared by three non-partisan organizations: Justice at Stake, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

The study noted that judges in 39 states are elected and the vast majority of legal matters are handled by state-level courts. As such, it sought to address the degree to which election funding has impacted judicial impartiality.

Speaking to the power of money in judicial elections, the report compiled spending data on every state appellate and supreme court electoral race in all 50 states, and came up with a not-so-surprising conclusion: candidates for judicial positions who spend more than their opponents win those elections over 90 percent of the time.

Another non-partisan report, “More Money, More Problems: Fleeting Victory for Diversity on the Bench,” released by the Center for American Progress (CPA) in October 2015, found much the same result, but noted that white judicial candidates had ...

PLN Exclusive! Wisconsin DOC Audit Reveals Contract Violations by Community Corrections Provider

Genesis Behavioral Services, a private company, contracts with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) to provide community corrections services to male offenders at a facility in Kenosha – including certified substance abuse, mental health, domestic violence intervention and cognitive intervention programs. However, a recent audit spurred by complaints from a whistleblower revealed that Genesis routinely violated the terms of its contract.

According to the DOC audit, released on January 10, 2017, Genesis operates a 20-bed residential facility called Options House, which is staffed by three counselors, five resident assistants and an office assistant. Genesis entered into a new two-year contract with the DOC to provide community corrections services on May 1, 2016.

Last August the DOC received “an unsolicited ten-page spreadsheet” from a resident “regarding the lack of programming, recordings and paperwork he had prepared relating to the daily operations” at Options House. The whistleblower provided “a daily account of activities that were not in compliance with the contract program schedule” from June 20 through August 9, 2016. Deficiencies at the facility included residents watching numerous movies unrelated to the curriculum, such as Independence Day, Happy Gilmore and Hunger Games; sessions beginning late or ending early; and some sessions not being ...

Three Reports Provide Data on Prisoners Held in “Restrictive Housing”

An October 15, 2015 report by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), covering the time period from 2011-12 – the most recent period for which statistics are available – indicated that on an average day, “up to 4.4 percent of state and federal inmates and 2.7 percent of jail inmates were held in administration segregation or solitary confinement.” Compiled from data taken from the National Inmate Survey, those figures were up only slightly from the prior survey, which covered 2008-09.

According to the BJS report, “nearly 20 percent of prison inmates and 18 percent of jail inmates had spent time in restrictive housing” at some point during their incarceration.

“Restrictive housing” is a term generally applied to solitary confinement and other forms of segregation that result in prisoners being held in their cells for 22-23 hours per day. The report also revealed that various categories of prisoners were much more likely than others to be confined in restrictive housing.

BJS statistician Allen J. Beck noted that “younger inmates, inmates without a high school diploma, and lesbian, gay, and bisexual inmates were more likely to have spent time in restrictive housing than older inmates, inmates ...

Michigan DOC Audit Reveals $3.4 Million in Overcharges by Aramark; Problems Persist Under New Contractor

Problems for Aramark and its prison food service operations continue to mount. Shortly after being taken to task and fined by at least two state corrections departments due to substandard food quality, understaffing and meal preparation areas contaminated by maggots, the company has been accused of overcharging the State of Michigan $3.4 million related to its contract with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC).

Aramark was the subject of a Prison Legal News cover story in December 2015 that highlighted problems in the company’s prison food service operations in Michigan, including maggot infestations in kitchen areas and an employee who served food to prisoners that had been thrown away because it was nibbled on by rats. Other Aramark employees were barred from state prisons due to misconduct that ranged from improper sexual relationships and smuggling drugs to an attempt to have a prisoner beaten by other prisoners.

Such incidents led Michigan officials to terminate Aramark’s prison food service contract effective September 2015.

According to the findings of a preliminary state audit released in December 2015, Aramark failed to properly implement the “MealTrac” system, which was designed to automatically count the number of meals served to prisoners for ...

Justice Department Inspectors Find Problems with BOP Reentry Programs

A report by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Justice, released in August 2016, faulted the quality and effectiveness of the Release Preparation Program (RPP) provided to federal prisoners by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The OIG identified “several weaknesses in the BOP’s implementation of its RPP that hinder the BOP’s efforts to successfully transition inmates back into the community.”

The report was the most recent in a series of reviews that have spotlighted the BOP’s inability to properly and efficiently create and administer programs mandated by Congress and the Department of Justice. Specifically, most of the investigative studies have focused on the BOP’s failure or unwillingness to compile and publicize statistics that indicate whether its programs are achieving the desired results.

According to the OIG, the weaknesses it identified “include the BOP’s inability to ensure that RPPs across its institutions meet inmate needs; the low level of RPP completion; the BOP’s lack of coordination with other federal agencies ... and the BOP’s inability to determine the RPP’s effect on recidivism.”

The study relied upon a review of RPP procedures at several federal prisons in California ...

Negative Report Foreshadows End of G4S Juvenile Operations in UK

Following a damning report, a private security company lost its contract to run a juvenile detention center in the United Kingdom, then later said it intends to sell off its UK-based juvenile operations.

Until May 2016, the Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre (STC), located in Northamptonshire, England, was operated by private contractor G4S. [See: PLN, July 2016, p.24]. Rainsbrook houses boys and girls aged 12 to 18, and is subject to oversight by the British government. In February 2015, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (OFSTED), in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice’s Inspectorate of Prisons and the Care Quality Commission, issued a report that slammed the facility as “inadequate.”

The heavily-redacted OFSTED report was released to Article 39, a children’s rights advocacy group, and made public by The Guardian in May 2015.

The Rainsbrook STC, which at the time it was inspected held 77 children, was accused of “serious incidents of gross misconduct ... by staff, including some who were in positions of leadership.... Poor staff behavior has led to some young people being subject to degrading treatment, racist comments, and being cared for by staff who were under the influence of illegal ...

Prisoner Deaths, Labor Conflicts Precipitate Loss of CA County Corizon Contract

In August 2016, the Alameda County, California Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to end its ties with Corizon Health, Inc., and awarded a contract for county jail medical services to California Forensic Medical Group (CFMG).

The contract, worth $135 million over a three-year period, was issued to CFMG over the protestations of Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern. As reported by local news outlet KTVU, Ahem had received more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from Corizon.

Corizon and Prison Health Services (which merged with Correctional Medical Services to form Corizon in 2011) had been contracted to provide medical care at two Alameda County jails since 1988. Precipitating the loss of the Alameda County contract were complaints of poor medical services, claims of negligent prisoner deaths and labor conflicts.

In 2010, the family of an Alameda County prisoner, Martin Harrison, allegedly the victim of inadequate medical care, received an $8.3 million settlement from Corizon and the county. According to the attorney representing Harrison’s family, the settlement was the largest of its kind in California history. [See: PLN, March 2015, p.54].

In a December 2, 2013 letter to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, Dr. Calvin Benton of Oakland ...


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