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Articles by Derek Gilna

Sixth Circuit Upholds Denial of Interviews with Lucasville Prison Riot Participants

by Derek Gilna

The April 1993 riot at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville resulted in the deaths of one guard and nine prisoners. Journalists have long tried to interview some of the prisoners involved in that uprising, including Siddique Abdullah Hasan and Keith LaMar – both now on ...

Wisconsin’s Troubled Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls to Close in 2021, New Governor Says

by Derek Gilna

 The Wisconsin Department of Corrections youth facilities at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls, located in rural Wisconsin north of Madison, will both close in 2021, Governor Tony Evers said in a January 2019 speech, ratifying a recommendation by previous Governor Scott Walker ...

Federal Court Enters Nationwide Injunction Banning Separation of Immigrant Families

by Derek Gilna

A June 26, 2018, nationwide injunction by Southern District of California federal district judge Dana M. Sabraw, which ordered the Trump administration to cease separation of immigrant families, effectively ending the “zero tolerance” policy, continues in force while the federal government scrambles to organize an orderly mechanism ...

Prison Policy Institute Study Says Juvenile Justice System Problems Mirror Adult Issues

by Derek Gilna

The Prison Policy Institute (PPI) in 2018 published a study of the juvenile justice system, which concluded that it “mirrors” many of the same problems of the adult criminal justice system.
This study is important in that the average daily population of juvenile detainees averages 53,000 ...

Illinois Ends Medical Co-Pays for Prisoners, 
But DOC Healthcare Criticized

by Derek Gilna

In June 2018, Illinois lawmakers voted to end the practice of charging $5.00 co-payments to state prisoners for each medical visit – a disproportionate fee, since prison wages in the state range from $0.09 to $0.89 per hour. The move came shortly before the release of a scathing report that documented over a dozen preventable deaths among the 41,000 prisoners held by the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC).

The October 2018 report was prepared by court-appointed experts in a federal lawsuit, Lippert v. Ghosh. The experts said that compared to conditions when the case was filed in 2012, prison medical care is “either no better or in fact worse in 2018.” The suit was certified as a class-action in April 2017. [See: PLN, Feb. 2018, p.35].

Led by correctional health expert Dr. Mike Pusis, the report found that of 36 fatalities in the year ending June 1, 2014, more than one-third could have been prevented with adequate healthcare. The state chapter of the ACLU, which joined the case as a co-plaintiff in 2013, decried the unnecessary deaths.

“We knew four years ago that prisoners in Illinois were subject to needless pain ...

Vera Institute Announces Increase in Federal 
Funding to House Former Prisoners

by Derek Gilna

On August 30, 2018, the Vera Institute of Justice announced an expansion of federal assistance to provide housing for prisoners who are reentering society. The “Opening Doors to Public Housing Initiative,” a program funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), seeks to substantially increase the availability of post-release housing.

As noted by Margaret diZerega, project director at the Vera Institute of Justice, “All of society benefits when formerly incarcerated people are able to reintegrate safely and successfully back into the community.”

“By partnering with housing authorities, residents, law enforcement, and community partners, we can assess admissions policies for people with conviction histories and facilitate safe reentry,” she added.

Of the more than 600,000 people released from prison each year, and the 10 million who cycle in and out of local jails annually, a large number are freed with limited financial resources. If they lack family or friends to move in with after release, they require some form of housing in order to avoid homelessness. But in many places, the public housing authority (PHA) has restrictive policies that exclude people with criminal records.

The BJA’s new program is ...

New Mexico DOC Guards Receive $2.5 Million Settlement for Sexual Harassment

by Derek Gilna

Six female prison guards employed by the New Mexico Corrections Department (DOC) at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility (CNMCF) in Los Lunas entered into a $2.5 million settlement with the department in late January 2018, though the terms of the agreement were not made public until July.

The six guards – Mary Kennedy, Niadra Lemons, Allison Eastman, Antoinette De La Cruz, Benita Joe and Nicole Romero – filed a complaint in state court in 2015 that alleged a “culture of physical aggression and open, ratified sexual misconduct” at CNMCF.

The lawsuit accused 25 current and former male DOC employees of “unthinkable and constant sexually based violence and harassment,” alleging they urinated and masturbated in front of the plaintiffs, fondled and groped them, screamed sexist comments and obscene names, propositioned them, and sent unwanted sexual pictures and videos. Although their actions were known to supervisory staff, no remedial action was taken.

One of the plaintiffs said male colleagues phoned her repeatedly at work, demanding sex and calling her a “fucking bitch.” Another reported that on a dry-erase board, in clear view of supervisors, was written the phrase: “If you don’t swallow then you should ...

Audit Criticizes Milwaukee County Jail’s Contracted Medical Services

by Derek Gilna

In August 2018, a comprehensive audit report revealed that the private healthcare provider at Wisconsin’s Milwaukee County Jail and House of Correction (HOC) was not in compliance with the terms of a court-ordered consent decree requiring specific staffing levels for medical personnel. The time period under review coincided with the term of controversial sheriff David A. Clarke, Jr., who resigned in August 2017.

The audit, conducted by the Milwaukee County Office of the Comptroller, found the county jail system’s healthcare contractor, Miami-based Armor Correctional Health Services, never reached the staffing threshold needed to adequately treat and care for the 2,100 prisoners held at the jail and HOC.

The county is under a consent decree requiring it to maintain healthcare staffing levels at 95 percent. Instead, Armor’s overall staffing level averaged 89 percent for the 22-month review period, from November 2015 to August 2017. Understaffed positions included a psychologist, registered nurse and psychiatrist, the audit found. The company was fined for the shortfalls, but the report recommended increasing the fines.

Following the release of the audit, which was conducted at the request of Milwaukee County board chairman Theodore Lipscomb, Sr., he expressed his disappointment with Armor.

“The ...

Colorado County Pays $800,000 for Latest Excessive Force Settlement

by Derek Gilna

Philippa Grace McCully, a 21-year-old college student and cancer survivor arrested in 2014 for erratic driving that she blamed on a reaction to various prescription psychiatric drugs, was taken to a jail in El Paso, Colorado for processing.

There, the 100-pound, 5-foot-tall woman was slammed to the floor while restrained, resulting in serious injuries; she was then refused prompt medical treatment.

McCully filed suit and, in July 2018, received settlements totaling $675,000 from the jail and $125,000 from its medical provider, Correct Care Solutions, LLC.

According to McCully’s civil rights complaint, a sheriff’s deputy “grabbed [her] feet and brutally pulled Plaintiff’s legs out from underneath and behind her, causing Plaintiff to slam forcibly onto the cell floor, audibly hitting her head and knees against the hard concrete surface ... at the same time [another deputy] pulled Plaintiff’s legs out from behind her, [and] excessively forcefully shoved Plaintiff down hard by her left shoulder using his right arm, simultaneously restraining her arms from behind....”

McCully further claimed that she “suffered severe injuries, including but not limited to a fractured left knee, left knee hyperextension with bone contusion, left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) avulsion tear, torn left ...

Seventh Circuit: Illinois Prisoner Entitled to Retrial After Appointment of Counsel Denied

by Derek Gilna

On August 20, 2018, the Seventh Circuit granted a new trial to a prisoner whose multiple motions for appointment of counsel were denied in a federal lawsuit against guards employed by the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Fredrick Walker, incarcerated at the maximum-security Pontiac Correctional Center, claimed that on August 21, 2013, Timothy Price, a guard who was charged with delivering his meal, dropped his tray. After Walker objected to the lack of a replacement meal, he alleged that he was forcibly extracted from his cell, transferred to a more restrictive unit and beaten by other guards.

Walker filed a federal civil rights suit, alleging that “Officers Price, French, and Stahl violated his Eighth Amendment rights by using excessive force, failing to intervene to stop the use of excessive force, and exhibiting deliberate indifference” to his need for medical care. Walker informed the district court that he had mental health problems, little knowledge of the law or access to legal resources, and was being assisted by a “jailhouse lawyer who helped him with research and drafting” his pleadings.

His six requests for appointment of counsel over the course of the litigation were denied; the case eventually went to ...