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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Derek Gilna

Pennsylvania Officials Link Halfway House Payments to Recidivism Rates

Community corrections centers, also known as halfway houses, receive a great deal of money to help prepare prisoners to reenter society. Unfortunately, according to a recent study in Pennsylvania, the state’s 38 halfway houses with 4,313 beds have not been particularly successful in that mission, as prisoners assigned to the facilities are more likely to return to prison than those released on parole directly to the street.

State officials think they have found a solution to that problem. According to a February 2013 announcement by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, the state’s contracts with privately-operated halfway houses will be renegotiated to directly link pay with performance. If the recidivism rate of prisoners released from halfway houses declines, those facilities will receive higher payments.

Previous recidivism statistics indicate that about 40% of Pennsylvania prisoners return to prison within three years after their release. Now, however, when the state measures recidivism, it counts arrests as well as re-incarcerations, bringing the total recidivism rate to almost 60% according to a report released on February 28, 2013.

“We call it the Department of Corrections, and apparently, it’s not correcting anything,” noted Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning.

Bret ...

Delaware Court Decides Financial Dispute Involving Prison Healthcare Company

A complaint brought in the Court of Chancery of Delaware to appraise the value of a prison healthcare company inadvertently shed light on the big business of providing contracted correctional services.

Certain shareholders of Just Care, Inc., a privately-held Delaware corporation, filed the complaint to determine the fair value of the company in an appraisal action following its acquisition by GEO Care, Inc. (formerly a subsidiary of private prison firm GEO Group). According to the complaint, GEO Care “provides government out-sourced services specializing in the management of correctional, detention, and mental health and residential treatment facilities” in the United States and abroad.

One of the disputes in the case was the value of projected cash flows from payments anticipated from the states of South Carolina and Georgia, both of which had business relationships with Just Care. At the time of the merger, Just Care operated a single facility – the 374-bed Columbia Regional Care Center in Columbia, South Carolina, which provides medical services to prisoners and detainees from South Carolina, Georgia, the U.S. Marshals Service, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Georgia had not finalized plans with the company to build a facility in that state; Just Care had hoped ...

DC Circuit Affirms Order Denying FOIA FBI Disclosure to Kentucky Prisoner

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has affirmed the district court denial of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request of prisoner Benny Lee Hodge,
who had sought document disclosure from the FBI of 569 pages of “a complete and thorough search of all filing systems and locations for all records” the FBI had accumulated in its investigation of him.

The FBI released only 361 pages, and exerted exemptions under FOIA Exemptions 3, 7(C), and 7(D) as to the rest. At the district court level and on appeal, Hodge had asserted that the FBI’s search was inadequate, and that it was not entitled to the aforementioned exemptions.

The court ruled that exemption 3 was proper, in that it was related to grand jury proceedings, and exempted under Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Exemption 7(C) was sustained because it was classified as “records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes …(which) could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” Finally, Exemption 7(D) was upheld, based upon the fact that it constituted information obtained during the course of an investigation which “could reasonably be expected ...

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Denies Prisoner's Habeas Petition Challenging Calculation of Sentence

Prisoner Isaac Leigh Hunter appealed from the district court's denial of his application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Hunter was seeking relief from a decision of the BOP to "deny him credit, through a nunc pro tunc order, against his federal sentence for time served in Texas state custody on unrelated state convictions," according to the Appellate Court's opinion.

Hunter had been arrested by Hillsboro, Texas Police in 2003 after being charged with retaliation, and again arrested thereafter for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He went into state custody at that time. After a search warrant had been obtained, a subsequent search of Hunter's residence disclosed 19.51 grams of crack cocaine. He was then indicted in United States District Court for the Western District of Texas on a charge of possession with intent to distribute more than five grams of crack cocaine. According to the opinion, "Hunter pleaded guilty to the single federal charge and was sentenced to eighty-seven months imprisonment on that charge on February 11, 2004. The district court judge was silent as to whether the federal sentence was to run concurrently with or consecutively ...

Wisconsin Prisoner's Pro-Se AEDPA Action Dismissed, Reversed and Remanded

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin's denial of a pro-se application for a writ of habeas corpus by prisoner Stanley E. Martin, Jr., was reversed and remanded by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals based upon "an improper interpretation of the relevant sections of the Antiterrorism & Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. Sec 2244(d)(1)."

The State of Wisconsin in 1996 had petitioned a state court to have Martin civilly committed under Wis. Sta. Sec.980.06, for any person (1) "has been convicted of a sexually violent offense"; and (2) "is dangerous because he or she suffers from a mental disorder that makes it likely that the person will engage in one or more acts of sexual violence." The statute provides that the person be held "until such time as the person is no longer a sexually violent person," that they must be reexamined at least once a year, and the committed person may petition for discharge at any time.

After three unsuccessful challenges in state and federal court to this commitment, Martin filed his fourth, alleging that the state's reliance upon two earlier convictions was unfounded. The state court denied this petition in 2008, and the habeas action followed, arguing the "State's reliance on his earlier convictions violated his plea agreements and his constitutional rights." The district court, in a sua sponte order, suggested his petition was untimely based upon AEDPA's ...

EEOC finds BOP Workplace Retaliation Widespread

A U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) Office of Federal Operations (OFO) has issued a report that finds that a culture of "widespread retaliation" exists against employees who file EEOC complaints. The November 2010 report, which was compiled over a three-year period, and incorporated survey forms sent to all Federal Bureau of Prison (BOP) employees, found that serious issues, indicating an "environment of intimidation,” are pervasive within the BOP.

BOP prisoners have often complained of retaliation after filing administrative complaints and federal civil rights lawsuits regarding their grievances. This OFO study is the first to indicate that BOP employees are themselves often subject to harassment after they complain of EEOC violations. Approximately 10% of the BOP's 35,000 employees responded to the survey, and dozens more were confidentially interviewed at three institutions by EEOC personnel.

The BOP Central Office staff in Washington, D.C. took issue with many of the EEOC's initial findings, and requested additional time to respond to the study, delaying its release, but the EEOC noted that the "BOP generally does not dispute the existence of troubling retaliation issues or that the draft recommendations we shared were sound and would be useful once ...

Wisconsin Prisoner's Pro-se AEDPA Action Rejected by Seventh Circuit

In an appeal from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, Ronald Romanelli, a prisoner at the Columbia County Jail, was unsuccessful in convincing the Seventh Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals to overturn a district court jury verdict failing to grant him relief for alleged violations of his civil rights, for denial of medical care.

The decision, published on August 11, 2010, upheld the district court's denial of the prisoner's motion for court-appointed counsel, and its decision to allow impeachment evidence based upon his prior felony convictions.

The prisoner had claimed that Dalia Suliene, a jail physician, and Christopher Kuhl, a jail Sergeant, "violated his right to receive acceptable medical care during his pretrial detention at Columbia County Jail... (and that they) "were deliberately indifferent to what Romanelli considered serious medical needs, particularly with respect to his needs for Crohn's disease treatment and replacement eyeglasses." The jury, after a trial in which Romanelli represented himself, returned a special verdict finding that neither of the alleged health concerns constituted a serious medical condition. The only two issues raised on appeal were the district court denial of the three pre-trial motions for ...

New Hampshire Supreme Court Affirms Order of Superior Court Denying His Motion to Amend the Conditions of His Suspended Sentence

In an opinion issued on September 17, 2010, the State Supreme Court in New Hampshire upheld the Superior Court's denial of defendant Jonathan A. Perfetto's motion to amend the conditions of his suspended sentence.

Mr. Perfetto had previously pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography in 2002, and as part of his plea agreement, was sentenced to three to seven years of imprisonment in state prison, and four consecutive suspended sentences of three and one half to seven years each. The defendant completed his sentence and was freed in October of 2008. Because of his desire to attend meetings at the Manchester South Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses while supervised by an elder of the congregation, but where children would be regularly present, the defendant sought to modify the conditions of his suspended sentence. The trial court denied this request without a hearing.

Defendant raised arguments on appeal that his 1st Amendment right to religious freedom was being violated, along with Part I, Article 5 of the New Hampshire Constitution. The Supreme Court, in denying his request and upholding the decision of the trial court noted that "to remain at liberty under a suspended sentence is not a ...

Seventh Circuit Affirms Imprisonment Does Not Promote Correction and Rehabilitation

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the above-guidelines sentence wherein the sentencing judge stated he wanted the defendant to "get mental health treatment." In so ruling, the Seventh Circuit followed the case of Tapia v. United States, 131 S.Ct. 2382 (2011), which stated that "imprisonment is not an appropriate means of promoting correction and rehabilitation." 18 U.S.C. Sect. 3582(a) requires a sentencing judge to not increase the length of the defendant's prison term in order to facilitate the defendant's rehabilitation or correction.

Kubeczko had pleaded guilty to mail fraud in cashing his deceased mother's benefit checks from the Civil Service Retirement Fund. His guidelines sentencing range was 21 to 27 months, but the judge sentenced him to 30 months.

At sentencing he had already served 10 months in pre-trial detention, so that he would have been released in 17 months. Instead, the judge sentenced him to 30 months, because she believed he needed treatment "for mental illness and alcohol dependence, which would require at least 18 months. Defendant had conceded he suffers from mental illness and alcohol dependence.”

In vacating and remanding the District Court's decision, the Appellate Court noted that ...

Idaho Supreme Court Denies Bail Bondsmen Damage Claims

In a recent decision, the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho has ruled against Allied Bail Bonds, Inc., who had appealed a lower state court decision denying it relief for several claims, including the alleged breach of a prior settlement agreement.

According to the decision, Allied had initially brought suit against the Sheriff of Kootenai County, alleging that certain practices of the Sheriff interfered with the conduct of its business. An agreement was entered into by the parties, whereby the Sheriff "was required to inform (prisoners) of their bail bond options." In 2007, Allied filed the lawsuit currently before the court, alleging a breach of that settlement agreement.

Idaho law requires the filing of a surety bond, pursuant to Idaho Code Section 6-610, and the lower court ruled that Allied had to comply with this requirement before the suit could go forward. The lower court then held that since Allied failed to post the proper bond and sureties, as required, the suit must be dismissed. A second lawsuit filed by Allied was also dismissed, this time for failure to properly comply with the notice requirements of the Idaho Tort Claims Act (ITCA), Idaho Code Section 6-901. Attorney’s fees ...


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