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Articles by Jayson Hawkins

Bad Lawyering, Bankruptcy Torpedo Suit Over Delaware Prisoner’s Death

by Jayson Hawkins

After a long run of bad news,formerDelaware prison health care contractor Connections Community Support Programs (CCSP) caught a break when a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit involving a prisoner’s withdrawal death after a CCSP nurse lied about providing methadone. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit then affirmed that decision on April 4, 2023.

The suit was filed on behalf of Tiffany Reeves, 37, who died not long after her 2018 arrest for $177 in outstanding fines. The mother of three was on methadone while withdrawing from heroin. But a CCSP nurse at Sussex Correctional Institution (SCI), Erin Clark-Penland, failed to administer the medication, and she then attempted a cover-up with falsified records and false statements to law enforcement. She was convicted on misdemeanor record-tampering charges in August 2021. [See: PLN, Dec. 2021, p.61.] In October 2021, she received a six-month probated sentence, and her license was suspended for two years.

With the aid of Wilmington attorney Christofer Curtis Johnson of the Johnson Firm LLC, Reeves’ mother, Janice Grossnickle, filed suit in federal court for the District of Delaware, alleging her daughter’s civil rights were violated by CCSP; state Department of Corrections (DOC) Director ...

Senators Rail at DOJ Failure to Report In-Custody Deaths

by Jayson Hawkins

Congress has yet to demand systemic changes that could seriously reduce deaths in custody of law enforcement. This reluctance may stem in part from the fact that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) fails to accurately count the number of people who die in custody, despite being ordered by Congress to do so.

Congressional action on deaths in custody traces to passage of the Death in Custody Reporting Act (DCRA) of 2000. That law required DOJ to collect in-custody death data including gender, race, age, location and circumstances. States were compelled to comply if they wanted Violent Offender or Truth in Sentencing grant funding, which all states did. DOJ assigned the collection and compilation duties to its Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), and within a year, the first DCRA reports were issued. Even after the act expired in 2006, BJS continued this work.

In 2014, Congress reauthorized DCRA and expanded its mandates to include more detailed reports and the ability of the U.S. Attorney General to withhold Justice Assistance Grants from states that did not fully comply with data collection efforts. This last aspect of the revised law ran afoul of the BJS mandate to operate outside ...

“Slap On the Wrist” for California Bail Agents Who Hired Bounty Hunter Who Killed Their Client

by Jayson Hawkins

As of December 1, 2022, the CaliforniaDepartment of Insurance (DOI) had decided to let two bail agents keep their licenses, even though they hired a bounty hunter who broke into the home of one of their clients and fatally shot the man – who had no active ...

MTV Documentary Shines Light on Art Behind Bars

by Jayson Hawkins

Etymology, the study of word origins, provides insight into commonly used words. For instance, ‘cell’ and ‘hell’ share an ancient root meaning ‘hide’: A resident of either is unseen, hidden away from society and the realm of the living.

How apt then that artist Jesse Krimes entitled ...

Arizona Prisoner Condemned Again for Cellmate’s Murder

by Jayson Hawkins

On April 17, 2023, Arizona prisoner Jasper Rushing, 43, was again sentenced to death for the grizzly murder of his cellmate. He was first condemned for the killing in 2015, but the state supreme court tossed that sentence two years later because prosecutors failed to inform the ...

U.S. Response to Haitian Crisis: Fund More Prisons

by Jayson Hawkins

Haiti’s recent history reads like an endless tragedy of natural disasters and political upheavals. In between devastating hurricanes and earthquakes, a presidential assassination and gang wars paint a picture of a failed state. Violence regularly halts traffic in or out of the nation’s capital. Many residents rely ...

Former State Prison Guards in Georgia Sentenced for Prisoner Assaults and Cover-Up

by Jayson Hawkins

On September 28, 2022, four former guards at Georgia’s Valdosta State Prison were sentenced for beating a handcuffed prisoner and then attempting to conceal what happened. Sgt. Patrick Sharpe, 30, received four years for orchestrating the assault by ordering two subordinates, Jamal Scott, 35, and Brian Ford, ...

New Policy Banning Care Packages Makes Life Harder for N.Y. Prisoners

by Jayson Hawkins

To justify rules making life difficult for prisoners, officials often point to contraband — even when facts point in another direction. That was the case when the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) rolled out a new policy for prisoner packages in May 2022. ...

Settlement Reached in COVID-19 Class Action Against DC Jail

by Kevin W. Bliss and Jayson Hawkins

On April 12, 2022, the federal court for the District of Columbia approved a settlement agreement to resolve a class-action lawsuit which challenged conditions of confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic at the DC Jail. Like an earlier preliminary injunction (PI) issued in the ...

Advocates Insist Migrant Detainees “Don’t Have to Die” in Custody – So ICE Releases Them First

by Jayson Hawkins

After Kesley Vial, a 23-year-old Brazilian immigrant, hanged himself at the Torrance County Detention Facility in Albuquerque on August 24, 2022, his death became one of four reported for the year by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The agency has reported a total of 41 detainee ...