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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Derek Gilna

Federal Prisoner’s Death at FCI Pekin Triggers FBI Investigation

The November 13, 2009 death of Adam Montoya, a prisoner at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Pekin, Illinois, resulted in an investigation by the FBI.

The Associated Press (AP) reported that “an autopsy concluded that the 36-year-old inmate suffered from no fewer than three serious illnesses – cancer, hepatitis, and HIV.”
According to the findings of the coroner and pathologist who examined Montoya, however, the only medication in his body at the time of death was a “trace” of Tylenol.
“He shouldn’t have died in agony like that,” said Coroner Dennis Conover. “He had been out there long enough that he should have at least died in the hospital.”

By “out there,” one can only assume Conover was referring to the fact that Montoya had been in the custody and control of the Bureau of Prisons and its medical staff, who are required to provide prisoners with medical care.

Montoya, whose cause of death was internal bleeding that resulted from a burst spleen, exhibited symptoms of cancer and hepatitis that would have been hard to miss – including dramatic weight loss, a swollen abdomen and yellow eyes, according to the coroner. His father, Juan Montoya, stated that his son “consistently ...

Study Finds Discriminatory Jury Selection in Southern States

A study by the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit legal organization based in Montgomery, Alabama, has found widespread discrimination in jury selection in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee. The discriminatory practices appear to be most prevalent in serious criminal cases, including capital cases.

The study, published in August 2010, “uncovered shocking evidence of racial discrimination in jury selection in every state. We discovered majority-black counties where capital defendants nonetheless were tried by all-white juries. We found evidence that some prosecutors employed by state and local governments actually have been trained to exclude people on the basis of race and instructed on how to conceal their racial bias.”

The Civil Rights Act of 1875 outlawed race-based discrimination in jury selection, but the Equal Justice Initiative found that “135 years later illegal exclusion of racial minorities persists.” Although the U.S. Supreme Court limited the discriminatory use of peremptory juror strikes in Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), the court’s refusal to apply its ruling retroactively resulted in the execution of death row prisoners convicted by all-white juries where jurors were excluded on the basis of race. Other condemned prisoners still ...

Kentucky Jail Under Investigation After Prisoner Dies; Sexual Abuse, Financial Mismanagement Also Alleged

The Big Sandy Regional Detention Center, a jail in Paintsville, Kentucky, became the focus of a Kentucky State Police investigation after the death of a prisoner in March 2009. Additionally, a jail guard was accused of sexual harassment and later indicted. Those incidents followed allegations of financial mismanagement related to a stalled jail expansion project, and in May 2010 the jail’s administrator and the former chairman of the board that oversees the facility were indicted.

Big Sandy prisoner Sherry McFaddin, who was serving a 90-day sentence for theft, died on March 27, 2009 after she contracted a respiratory illness while held at the jail. Her relatives filed suit in February 2010, alleging that jail guards and medical staff failed to give her proper care, resulting in her death.

Also in February, the jail authority board voted to fire guard Doug Muncy as a result of sexual misconduct allegations. Prisoner Emeral David May submitted a letter stating that Muncy approached him at about 2 a.m. one day and repeatedly asked him to “close his eyes and hold out his hand,” whereupon Muncy put his penis in May’s hand.

The next day May told other guards about the incident ...

UNICOR-Made Military Helmets Recalled, Production Suspended

The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting an investigation into military contracts issued to ArmorSource, an Ohio company, and then subcontracted to Federal Prison Industries (FPI), commonly known as UNICOR, following the recall of 44,000 potentially defective combat helmets. According to U.S. Representative Chris Carney, “FPI has not met protective standards, nor has it met required deadlines in its production of these crucial helmets ... and we can’t wait any longer to protect our troops.”

The 44,000 helmets, which were recalled on May 14, 2010, were part of a 600,000 helmet contract for the U.S. Army and 100,000 lightweight helmets for the U.S. Marine Corps. The contracts are now in question as a result of the recall, as the helmets failed ballistics testing.

At around the same time that Rep. Carney added an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Bill that would force UNICOR to submit to competitive bidding, UNICOR suspended helmet production and agreed to waive preferential status that gives it the right of first refusal on U.S. government contracts. “Our military men and women deserve only the best equipment and it has become clear that Federal Prison Industries cannot ...

Kansas No Longer a Leader in Post-Release Prisoner Programs

The Kansas program that as recently as two years ago was cited as a model for reintegrating prisoners into society after their release no longer exists, according to state Rep. Pat Colloton, who heads the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice.
Despite hard statistics that showed recidivism rates for parolees dropped to 2.2 percent in 2007, the number of parolees re-convicted for felonies fell 36 percent, and the state’s prison population and new prison admissions had declined, the reentry program fell into disrepair.

This occurred despite Congress’ enactment of the much-heralded “Second Chance Act,” which purported to help states provide funding for substance abuse, education, family reintegration and transitional housing for released prisoners. The reality is that many states, like Kansas, have not increased their halfway house bed space or programs to properly utilize the new funding, which Rep. Colloton estimated at $54 million.

While other states are taking radical measures to release prisoners early in response to serious budget deficits, Kansas has claimed it cannot do likewise due to stricter sentencing laws. The state has cut $25 million from its corrections budget since 2008, according to Kansas Secretary of Corrections Roger Werholtz.

As a result, even ...

Federal Rapid REPAT Program Not Working in Rhode Island

A federally-funded program designed to help states remove illegal immigrants held in state prison systems if they agree to immediate deportation from the U.S. has had no impact in Rhode Island, according to Steve Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union.

The Rapid REPAT (Removal of Eligible Parolees Accepted for Transfer) program, administered by the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), although successfully utilized in other states, has had dismal results in Rhode Island. A year-and-a-half after the state signed up for the program, not one illegal immigrant had been deported early.

Many states facing large budget deficits, such as California and Illinois, have used financial concerns to justify early releases for certain prisoners who had not completed their full sentences. According to ICE, the REPAT program has saved some states millions of dollars and has resulted in thousands of immigrant prisoners being deported and returned to their home countries.

To qualify for REPAT, illegal immigrants must have already been convicted in state court and held in custody. They must have received final orders of deportation, which they agree not to contest. Additionally, they must waive any appeals they might have related ...

Political Patronage Scandal Rocks Massachusetts Probation Department

A May 2010 investigative report in the Boston Globe took the Massachusetts Probation Department to task for bypassing qualified candidates for available job positions, instead employing at least 250 friends, relatives and financial backers of politicians and top court officials. According to the Globe, “[r]eports of irregularities in the [hiring] process are legion ... the children of influential people who got jobs even though they didn’t make the list of finalists, friends and allies hired on an ‘acting’ basis without a formal hiring process, [and] job applicants with no political ties who find their interview evaluations inexplicably changed to reduce their overall ranking.”

Singled out for specific criticism was Probation Commissioner John J. “Jack” O’Brien, who was selected for his position in 1997 by Chief Judge John J. Irwin, Jr. instead of highly-regarded probation expert Ronald P. Corbett, Jr. Judge Irwin, now deceased, had indicated that he wanted a streetwise commissioner and selected O’Brien, who was then in charge of a program where probationers could go for drug testing and educational services. Shortly after O’Brien took office, he hired two of Irwin’s relatives.

Passed over for promotion once O’Brien became commissioner was Deirdre I ...

Former Utah Prison Guard Ordered to Pay Over $1.4 Million for Raping Prisoner

U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups, in a February 2010 decision, ordered former Utah State Prison guard Louis Poleate to pay $435,332.50 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages to prisoner Priscilla Chavez for a rape that occurred in September 2001. Poleate had already served ...

New Jersey Prison Supervisory Officials Found Liable for Prisoner Abuse Claims

Three prison officials were found liable in abuse claims stemming from a month-long lockdown at Bayside State Prison following the killing of prison guard Frederick Baker in 1997, according to former federal judge John W. Bissell, named as Special Master by the U.S. District Court of New Jersey to investigate 200 allegations of abuse. Bissell’s conclusion, reached after extensive fact-finding and review of the prisoners’ complaints, was entered in April 2010.

Previously, federal juries awarded three Bayside prisoners monetary damages totaling more than $300,000, and in the past year Bissell awarded 23 other prisoners an additional $117,000, all of which must be paid by the State of New Jersey. [See: PLN, Feb. 2005, p.28; Nov. 2003, p.10].

In his April 2010 report, Bissell determined that “William Fauver, Gary Hilton and Scott Faunce bear supervisory liability for the claims proven before me resulting from the lockdown at Bayside State Prison for the period July 30, 1997 through September 3, 1997.” Bissell further wrote that he was “satisfied that the lockdown at Bayside, both as designed and thereafter implemented, violated the Eighth Amendment rights of inmates.... The lockdown and all ... its features was indeed a ‘policy ...

Native American Firms Reap Large Profits from Immigrant Detention Contracts

Native American companies, many of which have no experience in prison management, are earning large sums of money as conduits for Department of Homeland Security contracts which are then subcontracted out to other firms.

Although apparently legal under current laws and regulations, the practice raises issues of accountability due to a growing number of incidents at such subcontracted detention facilities, according to the Americas Program of the Center for International Policy (CIP).
Tom Barry, a CIP senior policy analyst, states that this “lack of accountability and transparency and irresponsible profiteering are problems that are also prevalent in the very heart of Homeland Security operations ... largely outsourced using highly questionable bidding and contracting processes.”

Under current federal law and Department of Homeland Security regulations, Native American companies are favored recipients for immigrant detention contracts, and they reap large profits by assigning those contracts to non-Native American firms. One of the major Native-owned corporations that has received such contracts is Doyton Ltd., which holds the contract for operational, transportation and food services at the 800-bed El Paso Service Processing Center in El Paso, Texas.

According to CIP, “Doyton is one of twelve original Alaskan Native Regional Corporations created as part of the ...


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