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Articles by Keith Sanders

No Summary Judgment for Private Transportation Company in Maryland Detainee’s Suit Alleging “Horrific” 2,000-Mile Journey

by Keith Sanders

Over nine days in December 2015, during transport from Maryland to South Carolina to face charges he skipped child support payments, William Karn endured a grueling trek stretching more than 2,000 miles while shackled to a metal bench in a van owned and operated by Prisoner Transport Services (PTS) and Brevard Extraditions.

Karn, who was arrested in Maryland’s Montgomery County on a warrant out of Horry County, South Carolina, spent much of that time in handcuffs so tight that he was left with injuries to his wrists, he said. He also alleged deplorable conditions inside the van, with discarded refuse, human waste and flies.

The trip could have been completed in eight hours, but it lasted many times that long, meandering across five states to pick up and drop off other detainees along the way. During one infrequent bathroom stop, Karn fell out and injured his shoulder. But transporting guards refused him medical attention he said. When a fight erupted in the van, all the detainees were sprayed with a chemical agent and not allowed to wash it off afterwards.

On September 16, 2016, Karn filed a federal civil rights action in the U.S. District Court for ...

California College Offers Housing, Services to Formally Incarcerated Students

by Keith Sanders

For decades, prisoners were not eligible for federal financial aid for college education. So when Congress passed the Second Chance Act in 2020, rescinding ineligibility for felons and prisoners to access federal Pell Grant funding for college, advocates, educators and those in prison who might benefit all rejoiced. From a small list of pilot sites, eligibility was set to be restored at lockups throughout the country on July 1, 2023.

“The expansion of the Second Chance Pell Experiment will allow for opportunities to study the best practices for implementing the reinstatement of Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated students, and will expand the geographic range of the programs,” the federal Department of Education said.

According to a 2018 report, less than 4% of prisoners obtain a postsecondary education, well below the national average of 29%. Nicholas Turner, president of the Vera Institute of Justice, estimates that over 765,000 prisoners will apply for Pell Grants once they become eligible this summer.

The former Pell Grant restrictions also affected prisoners after release. Some convictions, like drug crimes, kept released prisoners ineligible. So did prior default on student loans. Nevertheless, the fact that over 95% of individuals are eventually released from ...

New Report Pats BOP on the Back for Addressing Problems With Restrictive Housing, PREA

by Keith Sanders

In February 2023, the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) published a surprisingly positive assessment of restrictive housing and sex abuse in the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) – the same month that BOP announced it was closing its deadliest lockup, the Special Management Unit (SMU) at the U.S. Penitentiary in Thomson, Illinois. [See: PLN, Aug. 2023, p.16.]

The report satisfies one requirement of Executive Order 14074, which was issued by Pres. Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D) on May 25, 2022 – on the second anniversary of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police – attempting to alter criminal justice and policing practices in the U.S.

Specifically, Biden’s order mandated that Attorney General (AG) Merrick Garland determine whether DOJ and BOP had taken steps to ensure that restrictive housing in federal lockups is “used rarely, applied fairly, and subject to reasonable constraints.”

The new AG report first outlined BOP’s two main restrictive housing statuses: disciplinary segregation and administrative segregation. The former is defined as a “punitive housing status imposed as a sanction for violating a disciplinary rule,” while the latter refers to the use of restrictive housing for any non-punitive reason: investigative, protective, ...

Ohio Supreme Court Grants State Prisoner Another $1,000 for Denied Records

by Keith Sanders 

On March 15, 2023, the Ohio Supreme Court partially granted a writ of mandamus brought by a state prisoner, ordering Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Pavan Parikh to produce copies of court documents related to a 2001 case. The Court also awarded $1,000 in statutory damages to the prisoner, Kimani E. Ware, because the Clerk failed to provide the record within 10 business days of Ware’s request.

That brought Ware’s total haul to at least $5,000 from suing officials in the state for denying his records requests. The Court earlier granted him $3,000 in December 2022 for a similar denial by the state Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. [See: PLN, June 2023, p.58.] He was also awarded $1,000 in March 2021 for records denied by the City of Akron. See: State ex rel. Ware v. City of Akron, 164 Ohio St. 3d 557 (2021).

In this case, Ware sent a public records request to the Hamilton County Clerk in February 2021, pursuant to R.C. 149.43 of Ohio’s Public Records Act, seeking oaths of office for three judges, along with a docket sheet, a writ of mandamus, Motion to Dismiss and judgment filed on July 27, 2001. ...

Prisoner Who Reached $11,400 Retaliation Settlement with South Dakota Jail Tries Again with DOC

by Keith Sanders

On March 31, 2023, most of South Dakota prisoner Travis McPeek’s federal civil rights claims were dismissed against officials with the state Department of Corrections (DOC) – and he was barred from collecting damages on those that were not dismissed because he suffered no physical injury, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e.

McPeek may have expected lightning to strike twice, after winning an $11,400 settlement on earlier retaliation claims against the Yankton County Jail, where he awaited trial on aggravated assault charges that ultimately sent him to state prison.

He was indicted for that after a traffic stop in Tyndell on August 6, 2016, during which he drove over a policeman’s foot and got away. When he was arrested in Mesa, Arizona, on December 15, 2016, he was shot  multiple times with rubber bullets, leaving him with injuries that required hospitalization and medication.

During extradition to YCJ, he was held in various lockups, including Pennington County Jail in Rapid City. Arriving there on January 26, 2017, he was immediately placed in “administrative segregation” or “ad seg” – essentially solitary confinement – reportedly for medical reasons. But jail records later showed he ...

More Success for Medication-Assisted Treatment Programs in Prisons and Jails

by Keith Sanders

The opioid crisis has reached every segment of American society, from fentanyl-laced candy found in elementary schools to party-goers dying from innocent-looking pills that are really fatal fentanyl cocktails.

Opioid abuse killed over 80,000 people in 2021, pushing U.S. life expectancy to its lowest level in 25 years. Prisons and jails have not been spared; approximately two thirds of those incarcerated suffer substance abuse disorders.

The crisis has prompted some prison systems to think outside the box. Rhode Island’s Department of Corrections (DOC) became the first state prison system in 2016 to provide FDA-approved Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). Maine’s DOC followed suit the next year. California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) instituted its Integrated Substance Use Disorder Treatment Program in 2019, offering MAT for both alcohol and opioid abuse. Over the next three years, CDCR’s overdose rate plummeted 62% – while opioid overdose deaths nationwide increased almost 30% in 2021. [See: PLN, Dec. 2022, p.42.]

Such programs not only save prisoner lives but also taxpayer money through reduced recidivism. Yet according to the Jail and Prison Opioid Project, a nonprofit research organization, only 12% of U.S. jails and prisons provide MAT.

There is a widespread misperception ...

$15,001 Verdict Against Delaware Guard for Gaping Prisoner’s Butt During Strip Search

by Keith Sanders

On February 6, 2023, Judge Paul Wallace in Delaware Superior Court upheld a jury’s $15,001 award for damages against George Pyle, a guard with the state Department of Corrections (DOC), in a suit filed by Richard M. Chamberlain, a prisoner serving time at Howard R. Young Correctional Institution after a sixth DUI conviction in 2016.

Chamberlain, then 47, alleged in 2017 that Pyle snapped a pair of plastic gloves on his hands and leered, “It’s strip-search time!” The guard then took both hands to spread Chamberlain’s butt cheeks wide and search between them, while fellow guard Bernard Smith stood by watching.

For this humiliation, Chamberlain filed a complaint accusing the prison warden and his guards of conducting a strip search that was “harmful or offensive and unnecessary to enforce prison procedures.” Pyle denied inappropriately touching Chamberlain, but he added during trial that “if he did touch him, it was in accordance with prison rules.”

Pyle was represented by a state attorney who, unsurprisingly, argued the guard did nothing wrong; he simply told Chamberlain that it was time for a strip search, albeit with a smirking grin as he “snapped his gloves on.” Nevertheless, the guard’s actions, the ...

Study Shows COVID-19 Drove Prison Death Rates 50% Higher

by Keith Sanders

The COVID-19 pandemic is over but not forgotten. Highlighting the virus’s deadly toll on American prisoners, an analysis published by the New York Times on February 19, 2023, tracked the impact of the disease during its first year. The data reveal significantly higher rates of infection and mortality inside state and federal prisons, underscoring how they were unprepared and unequipped to effectively maintain the health and safety of those they incarcerated.

According to the report, 2020 was the deadliest year for prisoners. COVID-19 accounted for a 50% increase in prisoner deaths nationally that year, with six states showing a 200% increase. Overall, death rates from COVID-19 in America’s prisons were twice as high as the national average, as well. Roughly 6,180 prisoners died from the disease in 2020 alone, compared to just 4,240 prison deaths in 2019 from all causes.

That happened despite a decrease in America’s prisoner population by over 100,000, as lockdowns shuttered courts and slowed the inflow of newly convicted prisoners to a trickle.

An August 2022 report by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) counted over 1.6 million prisoners at risk of contracting COVID-19 when the pandemic hit: 181,300 in custody of ...

Wellpath Subsidiary Out of Australian Women’s Prison After Indigenous Prisoner’s Death

by Keith Sanders

On January 19, 2023, Corrections Minister Enver Erdogan announced that the Australian state of Victoria is booting the private healthcare contractor from the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre (DPFC). Effective July 1, 2023, Wellpath subsidiary Correct Care Australasia (CCA) will be replaced by the state-owned Western Health to provide healthcare. The change will affect not only the 538 women held at the prison but as many as 78 more held at the minimum-security Tarrengower prison, also in Victoria.

The announcement came just over three years after an indigenous prisoner was found dead in her cell at DPFC. Veronica Nelson died on January 2, 2020, after calling for help on the prison intercom system 49 times as she suffered from an undiagnosed medical condition and heroin withdrawal. After staff finally answered, a CCA doctor refused to send Nelson to a hospital, according to testimony from prison nurse Stephanie Hills.

Nelson was arrested on shoplifting and bail violation charges on December 30, 2019. An outside investigation conducted after her death found that no one checked on her as her symptoms worsened. A prison guard lied to Nelson “several times about calling for a nurse on her behalf,” the investigation found. ...

Four Escape Troubled Mississippi Jail After Fifth Circuit Postpones Federal Receivership

by Keith Sanders

Two of four detainees have been recaptured after escaping from jail in Mississippi’s Hinds County on April 29, 2023. The other two are dead. Meanwhile control of the Raymond Detention Center (RDC) remains in limbo after the U.S. Court of Appeals to the Fifth Circuit granted a last-minute injunction in December 2022 halting a federal takeover of the troubled lockup.

The four escapees got out through the jail’s roof, Sheriff Tyree Jones said. Dylan Arrington, 22, was then killed in a shootout with Leake County deputies, who found him inside a flaming Carthage home as it burned to the ground. He had been held at RDC on carjacking and weapons charges. After escape, on April 24, 2023, he is suspected of another carjacking during which Rev. Anthony Watts, 61, was fatally shot.

The corpse of a second escapee, Casey Grayson, 34, was found inside a pickup by a security guard at a New Orleans truck stop on April 30, 2023. Sheriff Jones indicated the death was a likely drug overdose. Grayson had been held at RDC since February 2022 on theft and drug charges.

A third escapee, Jerry Raynes, 51, was located on April 27, 2028, at ...