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Articles by Jacob Barrett

Prisoner’s Experience in Solitary Wins PEN America Writing Award

by Jacob Barrett

Former prisoner Alex Tretbar won PEN America’s first-place award for poetry in September 2022 for his poem “Variations on an Undisclosed Location.” Tretbar, 33, penned the poem during his five-year incarceration with the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) at Deer Ridge Correctional Institution.

While incarcerated, Tretbar worked ...

Overdose Rate in New York Jails and State Prisons Double U.S. Average

by Jacob Barrett

According to an October 2022 report by the New York Attorney General’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI), the state’s prisons and jails have a drug overdose rate “double the rate for the overall United States population.”

Conditions in New York City’s Rikers Island have deteriorated to the ...

Oklahoma County Pays $1.1 Million After Jail Guards Fatally Beat Detainee

by Jacob Barrett

On September 1, 2022, the federal courtfor the Western District of Oklahoma granted dismissal to plaintiffs in a suit against Oklahoma County, after they agreed to a $1.1 million settlement in the death of a detainee killed by guards at the county jail in April 2017. According ...

California Appellate Court: State Prisoners Held in Jail and Those Held in Prisons Not Alike for Sentence Credits

by Jacob Barrett

On September 28, 2022, the Supreme Court of California declined to hear an appeal to a lower court’s decision that shrugged off differences in program credits available to state prisoners held in prisons and those held in local jails. That left standing a decision by the First ...

Telecoms Exploiting Legal Loopholes to Price Gouge Prisoners and Their Families

by Jacob Barrett

According to a report published by the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) on December 15, 2022, for-profit telecom companies are using loopholes in the law to price-gouge prisoners and their families on the cost of phone calls and video visits.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has slowly set ...

Seventh Circuit Says Medical Malpractice Is Not a Constitutional Violation

by Jacob Barrett

On June 27, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Illinois prison officials who delayed a prisoner’s appendicitis treatment until he needed emergency surgery. Incredibly, though acknowledging the treatment he received was subpar, the Court said it did not rise ...

New Mexico Supreme Court Rules Both Prisoners and Nonprofit Plaintiffs Subject to Requirement to Exhaust Administrative Remedies

by Jacob Barrett

On August 25, 2022, the New Mexico Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of a challenge to the state’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic in New Mexico prisons. Though not entirely agreeing with the lower court’s reasoning, the Court affirmed the result because none of the named prisoner plaintiffs ...

Washington Racks Up More Than $98 Million in Fines for Failure to Timely Hold Competency Hearings

by Jacob Barrett

In 2018, the State of Washington reached a settlement to reform its forensic health system. [See: PLN, Aug. 2017, p.22; May 2019, p.54.] As part of the settlement, the State agreed to follow the district court’s order “to achieve legislative changes to reduce the number of ...

En Banc Ninth Circuit Voids Portion of California Law Banning Private Federal Prisons in the State

by Jacob Barrett

On September 26, 2022, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit sitting en banc vacated a district court’s order denying a preliminary injunction to the federal government and private prison giant GEO Group, Inc. that would prevent California from enforcing a ban on all ...

Fired Pittsburgh Jail Guard Wins Over $850,000 in Retaliation Case

by Jacob Barret

In October 2022, a jury in the federal Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania awarded $400,000 in compensatory damages to former Allegheny County Jail (ACJ) guard Jeffery Kengerski in his federal employment rights case against jail officials.

Kengerski worked as a guard at the jail beginning ...