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Articles by Derek Gilna

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 irs.gov, 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 ...

Rikers Island Death Case Against City of New York Settles for $5.5 Million

Eva Luckey, a prisoner at Rikers Island, New York, jailed for petit larceny, died in April 2002, because of negligence on the part of jail staff to provide her with the prescription medication needed to control her asthma, and failed to perform CPR on her when she went into respiratory distress.

The December 2019 settlement ended a multiyear legal odyssey, which initially saw the medical providers found guilty of negligence for failure to prescribe needed medication, but also the dismissal of Section 1983 civil rights and negligence claims against other defendants. Luckey’s attorney, Richard Gross of the New York law firm of Rubert & Gross, P.C., appealed, and the court reinstated the dismissed counts, setting the stage for the settlement.

As noted by Prison Legal News in April 2015, the appellate court’s decision found that New York could be held liable for failure “to protect decedent from reasonably foreseeable harm in providing emergency medical assistance once ...

Federal Judge Rules Prisoners Eligible for $1,200 Stimulus Checks; Must Apply by October 30

by Derek Gilna

In a clear victory for prisoners and their families, a federal judge has ordered the U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to make stimulus payments previously denied to people in prison and jail. Affected individuals must apply no later than October 30, 2020 for ...

BOP Inspector General Rips State for Failure to Control COVID-19 at Lompoc in California

The 36-page, July 23, 2020 report found that continuing medical staff shortages and failure to follow BOP national guidelines for detection and treatment of COVID-19 put the Lompoc prison complex in a state of crisis, which had been beginning to abate in summer.

After two guards apparently introduced the virus into the prisons in February or March of 2020, it spread rapidly, and at one point over 75% of the prisoners at the FCI were found to be infected. According to a previous story in Prison Legal News [PLN, June 2020, p.32], “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 … the highest number of cases in any BOP prison.”As of mid-July, more than 1,000 inmates had tested positive and four had died.

All of this came after March 2020 when Attorney General William Barr directed the BOP ...

DC Federal Court Enters Partial Preliminary Injunction Against District Jails For COVID-19 Deficiencies

However, the court concluded, “the Court finds that some of the relief requested by Plaintiffs, such as the immediate release of inmates and the appointment of a downsizing expert, is inappropriate at this time on the current factual record.”

The court had initially ordered the jail “to provide a list of the names of the approximately 94 prisoners who had been sentenced to misdemeanors and who could be released; the numbers of people who had been tested for COVID-19 and a break-down of the identities of those individuals ... and the results of those tests; the date on which Defendants began testing people coming into the jails; the number and a breakdown of the results of COVID-19 tests which had been done on those who were incarcerated prior to the date on which Defendants began testing all incoming inmates; (and) all relevant ...

Damage to South Carolina Prisons Shifts Prisoners to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

Speaking on condition of anonymity to spare loved ones retaliation from the BOP, the family members were highly critical of the decision, arguing that it put prisoners at risk. Heightening their anxiety was the ever-present risk of COVID-19, which has made all prisoner transfers problematic, and even before the storm, the virus had forced the federal prison system to end all in-person visits. Inquiries to the BOP by family members as to their family member’s whereabouts went unacknowledged and unanswered.

BOP staff was also concerned about the abrupt transfer to a prison that was already short on staff. Union national president Shane Fausey of Employees Council 33 said ...

How Kamala Harris’ Orange County, California “Snitch” Scandal Investigation Imploded

by Derek Gilna

Kamala Harris, the Democratic nominee for vice president, has long touted her law enforcement background in winning election to the offices of district attorney, California attorney general, and U.S. senator. But, serious questions have been raised about an investigation her office launched in 2015 regarding corruption in the Orange County jail.

That investigation quietly ended without any charges filed against law enforcement personnel who perjured themselves and compromised many criminal trials, resulting in numerous retrials and dismissals, as detailed by the Los Angeles Times in a January 20, 2020 story.

“Though the scandal sparked a U.S. Department of Justice investigation and led to retrials for dozens of defendants, including convicted murderers, the unexplained conclusion of the state inquiry has stirred frustration that many key players will escape accountability, the Times said.

The investigation began after a public defender probed the Orange County Sheriff’s Office practice of placing prisoner informants, or “snitches,” in cells with individuals already charged with serious crimes, hoping to elicit an unguarded confession.That violated theirconstitutional right to have an attorney present while being questioned.

Orange County public defender Scott Sanders uncovered this clearly unconstitutional practice as he reviewed discovery records given to him ...

Bloomberg Allies Make $20 Million Push to Help Enfranchise 30,000 Florida Ex-Felons

Computer scientist Robert Montoye noted in a New York Times opinion piece Sept. 21: “Because of an 11th Circuit appeals court ruling on Sept. 11, an estimated 774,000 Floridians who have already served their time in jail or prison are not eligible to vote in the 2020 election until they pay the fines and fees associated with their sentences.”

The funds will flow to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), run by former felons, Bloomberg said. “The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and no American should be denied that right,” he said. “Working together with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, we are determined to end disenfranchisement and the discrimination that has always driven it.” NBA star LeBron James is one of the major backers of the Coalition.

The money will aid tens of thousands of ex-felons who have served their sentences and had debt of less than $1,500, allowing them to cast ballots ...

Williams & Connolly, HRDC Win Censorship Case Against Virginia Regional Jail, $210,000 in Attorney Fees

PLN won the right to deliver its materials to prisoners, plus monetary damages, and on August 24, 2020 was awarded substantial attorney fees. HRDC sued after jail authorities blocked the delivery of prisoner books, educational material, and all magazines, including PLN’s magazine and prisoner support materials.

 In its August order, the judge noted, “In this suit..., I previously granted summary judgment for the plaintiff on its First Amendment claim against the jail authority and on its due process claim against both defendants.”

“In summary,” the court continued, “I held that the Jail Authority had violated HRDC’s First Amendment rights by (1) prohibiting inmates from receiving books except those preapproved by the Jail Authority; and (2) prohibiting inmates from receiving any magazines. I further held that the Jail Authority and Superintendent Stephen Clear had violated HRDC’s due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by rejecting or confiscating HRDC’s mailings to prisoners ...