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Articles by Derek Gilna

North Carolina Cancer Patient Dies From COVID-19 After BOP Denies Compassionate Release and Sentencing Judge Rejects Appeal

Salt Lake County, Utah, Settles Federal Civil Rights Wrongful Death Claim for $950,000

The settlement concluded a federal civil rights lawsuit, which had alleged that, ...

Federal Class Action Settlement Aims to Eliminate Horrific Conditions at Santa Barbara, California Jails in Three Years

$6 Million Payout in Montana Wrongful Conviction Case

Plaintiffs Paul Jenkins, Kenneth Jenkins and Crystal Combs alleged in the complaint that misconduct carried out by authorities in Ravalli, Jefferson, and Lewis and Clark counties resulted in “extensive injuries suffered by Mr. Jenkins and his children as a direct result of his wrongful conviction on 1994 charges of homicide, aggravated kidnapping and robbery in the murder of Donna Meagher.

The plaintiffs’ complaint accused defendants of violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, including, “Claim for Deprivation of Liberty Without Due Process of Law, Deprivation of Right to Fair Trial, Deprivation of Right to be Free From Reckless Investigation, Deprivation of Right to be Free From Use of Fabricated Evidence and Deprivation of Right to be Free From Law Enforcement Conduct Constituting Deliberate Indifference or Reckless Disregard for the Truth Under the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Deputies and investigators in those counties engaged in a fruitless investigation of the murder, before ...

Administrator of “Whitey” Bulger’s Estate Sues BOP Over His Murder

When the 89-year old, wheelchair-bound Bulger was murdered in federal prison in Hazelton, West Virginia, in 2018, it was a sadly predictable end to a life spent both dueling with law enforcement and also profiting from his association with its dark underbelly in Boston.

 Bulger, the acknowledged head of the feared Winter Hill Gang in South Boston in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, sparred with the rival Patirarca crime family for control of the rackets in that city, and was rumored to have cooperated with members of the FBI to undercut those rivals. His two alleged prison assailants had ties to the Patirarca organization, also referred to as the Italian Mafia.

The lawsuit was filed, “pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S. Ct. 1999, 29 L. Ed. 2d 619 (1971), against ...

Federal Judge Approves $25 Million Class Action Settlement Against Global Tel*Link

Under the terms of the settlement, individuals incarcerated in New Jersey prison and jails between 2006 and 2016 who used the GTL phone system, as well as individuals who received telephone calls through the company from New Jersey prisoners before June 2010 or in Essex County, N.J., before June 2011, would be able to file claims.

GTL also had been heavily criticized for requiring people receiving calls from a prisoner to make deposits into a company account and then keeping those deposits if the accounts became “inactive,” generally after the prisoner had been released. Plaintiffs had alleged in their initial complaint that, “Defendants fail(ed) to inform their customers that they will be charged a service or set-up fee ...

Fifth Circuit Order Denies Texas Prisoners Hand Sanitizer and Cleaning Supplies

According to the appeals court, “our conscribed role is not to assess whether prison officials could have done more to contain the virus—no doubt they could have. Nor is it to micromanage prison operations—that is left to the governor-appointed Board of Criminal Justice and to the Texas Legislature.” The court did note that 500 prisoners had been infected, and 20 had died. A certified class of affected prisoners had alleged  “violations of the Eighth Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act.”

The appellate court set aside a September 29, 2020 order by federal district court judge Keith Ellison, who wrote, “The Court acknowledges that (officials) have taken a number of steps to address the spread ...

COVID-19 Deaths in Jails, Prisons Exceed Number of Deaths by Execution From 1990 to Present

There the comparison ends. While executions come after the conclusion of formal legal proceedings, lengthy appeals and involve capital crimes, those who died of COVID-19 while incarcerated were often non-violent offenders, many already elderly, ill or medically compromised.

All COVID-related deaths are tragedies to the individuals and families personally impacted.

Also consider the suffering of prisoners who are forced to live in close proximity often without sufficient cleaning supplies, soap and personal protective equipment, in an environment where medical care is often an afterthought. A case of the virus will result in suffering generally alleviated only by Tylenol.

The entire purpose of prison is to confine, render powerless, and dehumanize those behind bars, and subject them to the whims of their jailors, who control every aspect of their daily lives. This level of control extends also to when — and if — they will be given medical treatment. However, prison staff have not gone untouched either, with ...

Federal Judge Rules Prisoners Eligible for $1,200 Stimulus Checks; Application Deadline Extended to Nov. 21 for Online Filing

The same court has also laid out detailed guidelines for the government to follow to ensure that the incarcerated are not misinformed about their right to the stimulus.

It also forced the IRS to extend its paper-filing deadline to receive stimulus requests, since most people behind bars don’t have access to a computer and can’t take advantage of a later deadline previously granted to online filers. Prisoners and detainees originally had until October 15, 2020 to file by mail but that was extended until October 30. The deadline to file online, using the portal at, is November 21.

In her original September 24 order, Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton of the 9th Circuit U.S. District Court certified a nationwide class of incarcerated individuals denied federal stimulus checks and granted them a preliminary injunction against the IRS and Treasury, stopping the agencies from blocking such payments and expediting previously denied payments.

Although many federal and state statutes bar current prisoners ...

Private Prison Industry Ramped Up Campaign Contributions, Favoring Republicans

With a sitting president who has campaigned against illegal immigration and in favor of strict enforcement of immigration laws, the industry clearly wants to maintain its profit stream from facilities holding immigration detainees.

However, whether or not President Donald Trump is reelected, or his Democratic challenger Joe Biden prevails [Editor’s note: This story is being written shortly before the election], the private prison concerns will not likely be going out of business any time soon, for a reason that transcends party politics: There is insufficient space in federal prisons or immigration-holding facilities to house all detainees. There also is no support in Congress for increasing bed space.

In a little-reported development, the Department of Justice quietly transferred the last immigration detainees from its prisons in 2018.

As a result, DOJ and immigration officials were left with no other option but to use private facilities to house them. Both major companies made ...