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Articles by Derek Gilna

Two California Prisoners Die as a Result of Doctor’s Negligence

A Costa Mesa, California doctor’s negligence contributed to the deaths of two prisoners and near-blindness of a third, according to a December 2010 announcement by the state’s medical board. Dr. Allan J.T. Yin, 74, was placed on 35 months probation as a result of incidents that occurred ...

Juvenile Justice Expert Condemns Rhode Island’s Jailing of Students for Minor Offenses

Attorney John J. Wilson, a Department of Justice lawyer for almost 31 years, and the author of federal regulations for the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, has condemned the practices of Rhode Island Family Court magistrates, who have locked up dozens of juveniles for non-criminal offenses. According ...

Mississippi Governor Grants Early Release to Scott Sisters

In a recent resolution to a celebrated Mississippi civil rights case, in which sisters Gladys and Jamie Scott each served 16 years of a life sentence for their part in a 1993 armed robbery that netted as little as $11, both were freed on January 7, 2011. Their release, however ...

Study Highlights the Burden of Fees, Debt Collection on Criminal Defendants

In an October 2010 report examining the fifteen states that have the highest prison populations, the Brennan Center for Justice found that the practices of imposing new “user fees” on criminal defendants, raising the amounts of existing fees, and intensifying the collection of fees and other forms of criminal justice ...

Colorado Officials Lead Efforts to Modernize Afghan Prisons

Bill Zalman is the leader of a team of prison officials from Colorado that has been tapped to help train the wardens of Afghanistan’s prisons in modern correctional practices.
The head of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David T ...

Florida: Woman Settles Lawsuit Against Sheriff’s Officers for $67,500 after Arrest While in Premature Labor

In June 2010, Melanie Dawn Williams, who had been arrested by officers after allegedly running a red light on her way to the St. Vincent’s Medical Center emergency room in Jacksonville, Florida when she was in premature labor, accepted a settlement in her lawsuit instead of going to trial ...

New Research: Why Innocent People Confess to Crimes They Did Not Commit

A September 2010 article in the New York Times highlighted an interesting phenomenon that has become more evident in an era where DNA evidence is available to help conclusively prove guilt or innocence – the fact that many people confess to crimes they did not commit, and serve lengthy prison terms as a result. Now, due to numerous real-life examples and research by experts, it is recognized that such confessions occur much more frequently than originally presumed.

Peter J. Neufeld, co-founder of the New York-based Innocence Project, said the new research is dramatic. “In the past, if somebody confessed, that was the end. You couldn’t imagine going forward.” Neufeld noted that rather than focusing on whether confessions were physically coerced, one should also “look at whether they are reliable.”

According to records compiled by Professor Brandon L. Garrett of the University of Virginia Law School, since 1976 at least 40 people have given confessions that were later shown to be false by DNA evidence. Prof. Garrett observed that it has been known for some time that the mentally impaired, mentally ill, young, and easily led can often be coerced into confessions, but cited the example of Eddie J. Lowery to ...

Ohio Governor Spares Death Row Prisoner, Cites Problems with Evidence

Kevin Keith, 46, on Ohio’s death row for murdering two women and a 4-year-old child, and scheduled for execution on September 15, 2010, was spared by Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. In commuting the death penalty portion of Keith’s sentence on September 2, Governor Strickland stated, “This case is ...

BOP’s Furlough Notification Policy Not to be Addressed for Seven Years

A September 2010 report by the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice cast light on deficiencies with the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) furlough policy, and in doing so inadvertently highlighted the power of the federal prison employees’ union to delay changes in BOP policies ...

Ninth Circuit Holds Private Prison Companies Can Be Sued Under Bivens for Violating Federal Prisoner’s Rights

On June 7, 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that Richard Lee Pollard, a prisoner in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) at the Taft Correctional Institution (TCI) in California, could assert a Bivens claim against employees of a private prison ...