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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Derek Gilna

Federal Magistrate Rules on Case Filed by State Prisoner Denied Delivery of Prison Legal News

A United States Magistrate in the State of Oklahoma has issued a Report and Recommendation regarding Oklahoma prison officials' motion for summary judgment seeking to dismiss an Oklahoma prisoner's civil rights and habeas corpus complaint filed based upon the denied delivery of Prison Legal News (PLN) and other publications. The magistrate also reviewed other legal claims founded upon due process grounds regarding conditions of confinement, alleged retaliation, as well as asking for declarative and injunctive relief, judicial notice of documents, and claims against prison officials in their official capacity.

The magistrate recommended that "Defendant's motion, construed as a motion for summary judgment...is granted in part and denied in part."

Plaintiff was a prisoner in the Davis Correction Facility in Holdenville, Oklahoma serving a life sentence for a first-degree murder conviction. He complained of "consistent delays over a two year period in the delivery of [PLN] ... and the denial of his February 2007 issue of PLN." He also alleged that other publications had been delayed, stating "that prison officials conspired to retaliate against him for exercising his First Amendment right."

The court noted that prisoners "have a First Amendment right to receive information while in prison to the ...

Second Circuit Denies Connecticut Student's §1983 Claim against School Officials

Second Circuit Denies Connecticut Student's §1983 Claim against School Officials

by Derek Gilna

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has upheld a district court order granting summary judgment to public school officials in Burlington, Connecticut, in which student Avery Donniger had claimed her First Amendment and equal protection rights had been violated. She had sought relief when school officials had prohibited her from running for Senior Class secretary in response to an off-campus internet blog she authored.

In deciding the case, the court ruled that Thomas v. Board of Education, 607 F.2d 1043 (2d Cir. 1979), was not applicable to her set of facts, where plaintiff had urged that Thomas stood for the proposition that "off campus speech could not be the subject of school discipline."

Plaintiff had attempted to schedule an event called "Jamfest," an annual battle-of-the-bands concert at Lewis S. Mills High School (LMHS), which could not be held in the auditorium due to the inability of the faculty supervisor to attend. The disgruntled students, including plaintiff, "sent a mass email alerting various LMHS parents, students, and others that 'the Central Office (had) decided that the Student Council could not hold ... Jamfest ...

D.C. Appeals Court Dismisses Prisoners' Privacy Claims in Photograph Retention Suit

Derek Gilna

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia turned aside an appeal by Keith Maydak, Ambrose Mitchell, Paul Lee, and Gregory Smith, who were federal prisoners, alleging violations by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the U.S. of 28 USC section 1331, and 1321, and Privacy Act claims under 5 U.S.C. section 55a (g)(I).

The prisoners alleged that the BOP had improperly carried out a policy of retaining duplicate prints of pictures taken and paid for by inmates paying $ 1.00 per photo. According to the decision, "until recently several prison facilities ... regularly obtained two copies ... retained the duplicate print ... (which) were reviewed ... for various purposes." They also alleged that this undisclosed retention of duplicate prints violated the Privacy Act.

The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Government, holding that 'prison officials' searches through boxes of unsorted photos did not constitute a 'system of records within the meaning of the (Privacy) Act.' The District Court also dismissed the Trust Fund claims.

The Appellate Court reversed this, but noted that since all appellants had been released from prison, their claims were now moot. The court also noted that questions ...

New Hampshire Supreme Court Reverses Dismissal of Indictments against Prisoner for Conduct Exposing Corrections Employee to Bodily Substances

By Derek Gilna

In a November 30 decision, the New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed a dismissal of indictments against Timothy Spade, a prisoner at the Hillsborough County House of Correction that charged him with several counts of aggravated assault under RSA 642:9,11, which prohibits any purposeful expulsion of urine or feces, done with the intent to "harass, threaten, or alarm."

The Superior Court had held that the language of the statutory phrase "come in contact with" was ambiguous as to the nature of contact in order to charge a person, interpreting it as requiring the substances to be thrown at or on corrections personnel. The Supreme Court reversed on appeal, finding that the "title of the legislation itself, described as an act 'making it a felony for inmates to harass corrections personnel and others by propelling bodily fluids,' reveals an intent to punish inmates who harass corrections department and law enforcement employees."

The dissent reasoned that the statute in questions "does not readily resolve whether merely causing a department of corrections employee to clean up a defendant's bodily fluids is sufficient to satisfy the 'contact' element of the statute" agreeing with the trial court, that "to be ...

Former Judges in “Cash for Kids” Scandal Sentenced

Two former Pennsylvania state court judges who were accused by federal prosecutors of running a multi-million dollar scheme to send juvenile offenders to privately-run prisons in exchange for bribes have been sentenced.

Former judge Mark A. Ciavarella, Jr., 62, who presided over the juvenile court system in Luzerne County, brought national attention to the “kids for cash” scandal and highlighted what many legal experts say is a dangerous practice in juvenile justice proceedings – children appearing in court and pleading guilty to crimes without representation by attorneys.

Prosecutors alleged that Ciavarella had sentenced thousands of juveniles to be confined in two private detention centers – PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care. He was paid almost $1 million for sending youths as young as ten years old to the facilities, many for first-time or minor offenses. The state of Pennsylvania has since expunged more than 5,000 juvenile criminal records in cases handled by Ciavarella. [See: PLN, June 2010, p.26; Nov. 2009, p.42; May 2009, p.20].

According to Laurence H. Tribe, a constitutional law expert, “It was a terrible lesson. It highlighted the dangers for juveniles who don’t know their rights, haven’t talked to a lawyer ...

ICE, CCA Settle ACLU Lawsuit Regarding Health Care for Immigration Detainees

A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that alleged deficiencies in health care at the San Diego Correctional Facility (SDCF) in Otay Mesa, California has been settled, according to a December 16, 2010 press release issued by the ACLU.

The suit named as defendants the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), a branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as well as officials and employees of ICE and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the private company managing SDCF.

Originally filed in 2007 by the ACLU, the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, and the law firm of Cooley LLP, the lawsuit alleged that detainees at SDCF were routinely subjected to long delays before receiving treatment, denied necessary medication for chronic illnesses and refused essential referrals prescribed by medical staff.

According to the ACLU, “the lawsuit specifically cited the cases of 11 detainees, including several whose bipolar disorders and depression went untreated, a man who was forced to wait more than eight months for eye surgery and nearly suffered permanent disfigurement, and detainees who never received medical attention despite suffering from a variety of maladies including Type 2 diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, abscessed and broken teeth, and ...

ICE, CCA Settle ACLU Lawsuit Regarding Health Care for Immigration Detainees

A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that alleged deficiencies in health care at the San Diego Correctional Facility (SDCF) in Otay Mesa, California has been settled, according to a December 16, 2010 press release issued by the ACLU.

The suit named as defendants the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), a branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as well as officials and employees of ICE and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the private company managing SDCF.

Originally filed in 2007 by the ACLU, the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, and the law firm of Cooley LLP, the lawsuit alleged that detainees at SDCF were routinely subjected to long delays before receiving treatment, denied necessary medication for chronic illnesses and refused essential referrals prescribed by medical staff.

According to the ACLU, “the lawsuit specifically cited the cases of 11 detainees, including several whose bipolar disorders and depression went untreated, a man who was forced to wait more than eight months for eye surgery and nearly suffered permanent disfigurement, and detainees who never received medical attention despite suffering from a variety of maladies including Type 2 diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, abscessed and broken teeth, and ...

$60 Million in Strip Search Settlements for Cook County Jail Prisoners

Two separate settlements totaling almost $60 million were approved between November 2010 and January 2011 for Cook County, Illinois jail prisoners who were strip searched before being released. Both settlements stemmed from federal court cases filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, one in 2004 and the other in 2006 ...

Illinois Federal Court Denies Prisoner Release Order at Cook County Jail

In a per curium decision, on January 11, 2011 a three-judge panel of federal judges of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois denied a request by the Sheriff of Cook County for entry of a prisoner release order pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3626. The Cook County jail, a 9,800-bed facility serving Chicago and the city’s suburbs, has been the subject of litigation since 1974 and the target of a Department of Justice lawsuit filed in 2008. [See: PLN, July 2008, p.26; Jan. 2009, p.16].

Cook County’s jail has been accused of conditions that violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, made applicable to the states through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Although there are convicted prisoners at the jail, most are pretrial detainees. Citing Minix v. Canarecci, 597 F. 3d 824 (7th Cir. 2010), City of Revere v. Massachusetts General Hospital, 463 U.S. 239 (1983) and Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 (1979), the court noted that previous consent decrees “have included prisoner release provisions premised on the belief that the jail’s chronic overcrowding was contributing to the ...

Treasury Department Finds Prisoners’ Fraudulent Tax Returns Taxing

Despite passage of the Inmate Tax Fraud Prevention Act of 2008, the Internal Revenue Service has been unable to curb alleged income tax fraud by prisoners, according to a report released by the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The report, dated December 29, 2010, found “significant problems still exist with internal revenue service efforts to identify prisoner tax refund fraud.” The report claims that fraud is “increasing at a significant rate,” and the number of false tax returns soared from 18,103 in 2003 to 44,944 in 2009 while fraudulent refunds in that same time period increased from $13.4 million to $39.1 million. Not addressed by the report is the number of fraudulent tax refunds claimed by non-prisoners; i.e., members of the general public.

The Inmate Tax Fraud Prevention Act “restricts the use of data by the Federal Bureau of Prisons to facilitate only administrative actions against the [prisoner] ... [including] revocation of privileges such as canteen privileges, outside visits, etc....” The Secretary of the Treasury is also obligated to “provide an annual report to Congress on the filing of false or fraudulent tax returns by Federal and State prisoners.” According to ...

 

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