by Ed Lyon
Some youthful offenders in Texas will soon be moved to a former death row wing in the Ellis Unit in Huntsville.
Children ages 14 to 17 who are certified as adults, tried and sentenced to prison for committing crimes, take part in a Youthful Offender Program (YOP). The female YOP is administered at the Hilltop prison in Gatesville. Until recently, the male YOP was administered at the Clemens prison in Brazoria County.
Despite a statutory requirement for YOPs to be separate from adult areas, an adult and adolescent prisoner were found to have had sex at Clemens in 2017. This sparked an investigation that resulted in staff changes. Although prison officials deny this was the catalyst, the all-male YOP is being moved to the Ellis prison in Huntsville, the location of the sprawling 104 prison units’ main headquarters.
An entire three-tier cellblock has been refurbished and modified for self-contained living with its own dining area. Two meeting rooms and a small infirmary are air-conditioned. Fans are provided in the remaining areas, and televisions are by the two-person cells. Day-room windows that are normally open to other areas of the prison have been painted over with murals. The ...
by Ed Lyon
On May 1, 2010, Pedro Temich was arrested in Meriden, Connecticut. He was taken to jail, where video cameras recorded officer Evan Cossette pushing Temich, who was handcuffed and not resisting. Temich fell, hitting the back of his head on a concrete bench.
Cossette then entered the cell several times, placing the unconscious Temich in different poses instead of providing medical assistance, which he was able to do as a first responder. He removed the handcuffs from Temich before EMTs arrived. Temich was later treated for a skull fracture; it took 12 staples to close his scalp laceration.
During an internal affairs probe, Sgt. Leonard Caponigro found no evidence in the video footage to substantiate Cossette’s claim that Temich, who is 5’1” tall, was preparing to head-butt the 6’1” tall officer, or that Tamich was combative at any time. Caponigro’s report concluded that Cossette had violated the department’s use of force policy.
On August 31, 2010, Deputy Police Chief Timothy Topulos issued Cossette a letter of reprimand on a lesser charge. Cossette’s father was Meriden’s police chief at the time.
Federal prosecutors charged Cossette for his use of force against Temich and with obstructing a federal investigation ...
by Ed Lyon
In December 2017, a Texas State Bar committee issued a scathing report concerning the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), which oversees the State Counsel for Offenders (SCO) – an agency that provides legal representation for prisoners in certain cases.
SCO attorneys represent prisoners accused of committing crimes while incarcerated, those facing civil commitment proceedings, reviews and releases for those already civilly committed, immigration removal proceedings, prisoner exchange programs and occasional assistance in some post-conviction cases. The SCO is not allowed to assist in civil rights cases or those involving prison policies and procedures, fee-generating cases and certain other issues. The agency’s counterpart is the Special Prosecution Unit (SPU), which prosecutes prisoners accused of crimes committed while in custody and represents the state in civil commitment hearings.
Both agencies are overseen by the Texas Board of Criminal Justice (TBCJ), which also oversees the TDCJ’s sprawling prison system of more than 140,000 prisoners. The State Bar committee report found that funding for the SPU was as much as 40% higher than for the SCO, and 20% higher if the SPU’s juvenile offender division was excluded. The SPU, though funded and supervised by the TBCJ, is overseen by ...
by Ed Lyon
When Wilson County, Kansas Sheriff Pete Figgins instituted a postcard-only correspondence policy at the county jail, prisoners were only allowed to send and receive letters to and from attorneys. No notice was provided when mail was rejected under the new policy.
In April 2016, the ACLU Foundation ...
by Ed Lyon
On December 7, 2017, Ryan Partridge, a mentally ill prisoner, sued the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office and other county employees, claiming they failed to provide him with adequate mental health care and abused him. The 31-year-old, who suffers from psychosis, eventually gouged out his own eyes; in response, he said jail staff beat him into submission. That incident represented a culmination of the jail’s failure to protect Partridge from himself.
Partridge is a Boulder, Colorado native. Extremely intelligent, he left high school early, earned a G.E.D. and began taking college classes. However, in 2014, his parents noticed that he was exhibiting signs of mental illness. He told his mother he was “losing it.” His parents had him committed for a 72-hour observation once when he became paranoid, verging on psychotic. They called police several times when his psychoses grew increasingly violent and he soon became a well-known prisoner at the county jail, circulating in and out on charges of loitering, trespassing and mischief.
Jailed for a misdemeanor probation violation in February 2016, jail staff documented a marked deterioration in Partridge’s mental state. He said he wanted to remove his eyes and struck his head ...
by Ed Lyon
A tide of complaints has surfaced around Florida-based Trinity Services Group, one of the largest food service providers to correctional facilities in the nation. At issue is the provision of adequate, nutritious and healthy meals, since one study has found prisoners are six times more likely to contract a food-borne illness than non-prisoners. But prison safety is also a factor, considering that prisoners sometimes riot or protest due to poor food.
For example, describing their watered-down meals as “soupy,” hundreds of Michigan prisoners at the Kinross Correctional Facility staged a hunger strike in March 2016 to protest the substandard food served by Trinity. Other strikes followed the next month, involving prisoners at the G. Cotton Correctional Facility and the Chippewa Correctional Facility. Another on May 24, 2016 involved over 700 prisoners at the Marquette Branch Prison.
The protests failed to improve Trinity’s food service, however. A riot broke out at the Kinross prison in September 2016, in which poor food was a factor. Late in 2017, officials found maggots in three separate incidents at the Cotton facility, where prisoners also complained about “crunchy dirt” in potatoes. [See: PLN, Feb. 2017, p.48].
After switching in 2015 from Aramark ...
by Ed Lyon
California is getting serious about reversing its long history of mass incarceration. From a 2008 state supreme court ruling that abolished parole denials based on the seriousness and nature of the offense to a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision ordering California to reduce its prison population, the pendulum is slowly swinging toward a more balanced justice system.
Under Governor Jerry Brown, a “realignment” policy has been implemented which diverts certain state prisoners to county jails and supervised release programs. Proposition 47, passed by voters in 2014, reduced penalties for certain crimes – notably theft and drug offenses. [See: PLN, Sept. 2016, p.42]. Proposition 57, enacted in 2016, increases the number of prisoners eligible for parole [see: PLN, Jan. 2017, p.12], and in April 2017 state officials announced new guidelines to implement provisions of that ballot initiative.
One example of Proposition 57 in action is Kao Saelee, who was 17 when he participated in a gang-related shooting that killed one child and injured two others. He served 10 years of a life term and was recently recommended for parole.
“It used to be, you could ask a life term inmate if they had ever known ...
by Ed Lyon
The City of Adelanto in San Bernardino County, California owns a detention center – not a prison – according to Pablo Paez, a spokesman for the GEO Group, a private prison firm. “The ICE Processing Centers operated by our company are very different than local jails and prison facilities and we strongly reject that [prison] characterization,” he said.
GEO Group operates the facility for the city, which in turn is paid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house detainees waiting for asylum and deportation hearings – proceedings that can drag out for years.
GEO receives up to $112 per day per detainee, and described Adelanto as a “state-of-the-art, culturally responsive residential center” with “artificial soccer fields, flat-screen televisions and modern classrooms with up-to-date technology.” The 409,000 square foot “not a prison” is surrounded by barbed wire fences.
Adelanto also offers “around the clock medical care,” according to GEO.
But in April 2015, Sergio Alonso Lopez died after being taken to the infirmary when he began vomiting blood. The following month, Vicente Caceres-Maradiaga died en route to a hospital from “acute coronary syndrome.” On December 23, 2015, Jose Azurdia-Hernandez had a fatal ...
by Ed Lyon
Antonia Barrone of Albany, New York posed as an attorney from September 2012 to April 2017. She went by various male aliases, including Mario Vrendenburg, Antonio Barrone, Mario Stacchini, Mario Helems and Mark Vredenburg, and primarily targeted prisoners seeking legal representation for parole denials.
She defrauded over 400 people in ten counties and received over $23,000 in fees doing business through the New York State Prisoner Assistance Center (aka NY Parole Aids) and Stacchini & Barrone, a fictional law firm operated from her home.
New York’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision has been reviewing each of Barrone’s prisoner victims “on a case-by-case basis,” yet spokesman Pat Bailey said none of the prisoners represented by Barrone were granted parole. The number of parole denial appeals she filed was not disclosed.
Barrone was involved in a police chase on Interstate 787 in 2016, achieving speeds over 100 mph. Attempting to exit the highway, she hit another vehicle and a utility pole.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a civil suit against Barrone over her false representation that she was an attorney and her unauthorized practice of law. In August 2017, a judgment was entered against ...
by Ed Lyon
Data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), released in an August 2017 report, found that female prisoners are nine times more likely to have HIV than non-incarcerated women. With the total HIV-positive female population being 0.14 percent in the U.S., this means approximately 1.3 percent of incarcerated women in state and federal prisons have HIV, based on 2015 data.
A wider gap exists for HIV rates among women in jails. There are over 3,200 city or county-run jails in the United States. One study of jailed women’s health records in New York City showed nine percent of those who were newly-incarcerated were HIV positive – almost seven times higher than women in state and federal prisons, based on data from 2009 to 2010. Black women held in jails “are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with HIV as white or Hispanic/Latino women,” according to the CDC.
The CDC and BJS data found that most female prisoners with HIV were infected before their incarceration. “Jails and prisons are places where a disproportional number of HIV-infected women ...