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Articles by Kevin Bliss

New York Jail Accused of Discrimination by Female Prisoners

n March 2020, the Oneida County Correctional Facility in New York was accused of discrimination against the women who are housed there. Two months prior to that, all the women were moved from pods that offered the same privileges as men to two wings of a unit last used for disciplinary segregation.

The reasons stated for the move by county Sheriff Rob Maciol were a declining female population and a state order requiring the separation of “at-risk” women from the general population.

Guards came into the women’s pod on January 22 and told them to pack their property. Prisoners stated that they were then moved to an older section of the jail that still had the surfaces “covered with toilet paper, feces, and urine.”

It contained a closed-in recreation yard that they were given access to only one hour per day, smaller living spaces with no privacy for the toilets; tainted water; only one shower, and no access to video-chat services on facility tablets.

Upon entering Henry Block unit, the women were split up. Those considered to have medical or mental health issues or guilty of serious offenses were housed in Henry Left and all the others ...

$12.5 Million Settlement for Oklahoma Prisoner’s In-Custody Death Riled Sheriff’s Race

Sheriff Jody Helm, Deputy Darrell Momsen and their fellow candidate Cory Rink all promised more training and transparency. Helm was appointed after the April 2018 death of acting Sheriff Rick Fagan, who had been tapped for the job when former Sheriff Jerry Niles went on administrative leave during the investigation into Huff’s death.

Niles and his daughter-in-law, Jennifer, the jail’s former administrator, together with Turn Key Health Clinic employee Lela June Goatley, allegedly left Huff in a restraint chair for two-and-a-half days without access to medication or medical treatment. The 58-year-old, who had been arrested on a public intoxication charge, died on June 8, 2016, of chronic alcoholism. Jennifer Niles, along with jailers Shawn Caleb Galusha and John Robert Markus, later pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter charges and served 55 hours in jail.

Huff’s arrest on June 4, 2016, was not his first visit to Garfield County Detention Center ...

Report: New Jersey Women’s Prison Promoted Culture of Abuse

After years of allegations of sexual assault against prisoners, the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ and the USAO initiated an investigation April 26, 2018 under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA). The Act was designed to protect prisoners from facilities exhibiting a pattern or practice that resulted in violations of the prisoners’ civil rights. The report investigated 70 separate instances of alleged sexual abuse at EMCFW over several years, with many guards and employees being charged, suspended or fired. Between 2016 and 2019, seven EMCFW guards and “one civilian employee” had been convicted or pleaded guilty ...

Offensive Facebook Posts Cost Wisconsin Warden His Job

Schneiter posted two memes on Facebook last July, which were reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. One compared a Muslim woman and child, both in black burkas, to bags of trash. The other equated the flying of the gay pride rainbow flag with the flying of the Confederate flag. After the newspaper story was published, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes tweeted that Schneiter should not have compared Muslims to garbage and that he was the one who had “to be taken out.”

Schneiter, represented by attorney Nate Cade, said the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation did not establish just cause to fire him. Its investigation into the incident was not thorough, objective or fair, he said, and the postings did not represent his personal views. He claimed he was simply stimulating discussion and debate on the topics. He pointed to his posting of the gay pride flag at the Kenosha Correctional Center in response to Governor Tony Ever’s declaration of June as Pride Month as evidence in support of ...

Mental Health and Prison Systems in Major Need of Reform

Bao said that although driven by noble ideas, governments failed to replace mental health institutions with an immediate effective alternative, resulting in conditions that contributed to higher incarceration rates. People with mental illness are 4.5 times more likely to be arrested than others and their proportional presence in prisons has exceeded the rate of the general population by a factor of somewhere between three and six. In addition, prisons and jails do not have the mental health facilities or personnel necessary to properly treat these individuals. Bao called this a pseudo-criminalization of illness.

The report stated that the system provoked great ethical concerns. The Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights Director Scott Allen described it as counter-therapeutic. He said, “This is the wrong environment to try and treat people with mental illness. Very likely isolating people from their outside community and confining them to ...

Consultants Advising Rich on Prison Life

Weinstein, 67, joins a number of others with the financial means to hire prison experts prior to serving time, including Bernie Madoff, Martha Stewart, Michael Vick and many of the “Varsity Blues” parents charged in a 2019 college admissions bribery scandal. But unlike them, Weinstein is headed for state prison, which is potentially known to house more violent individuals in less accommodating living conditions than those in federal lockups.

Rothfeld, 45, served two years in prison in 2015 for an $11 million securities fraud. He says he started his firm to help others navigate what he calls “the journey” from living free to incarceration. But his is not the only prison consulting firm.

Others include White Collar Advice, founded by Justin Paperny after his 2009 release from federal prison for securities fraud; Wall Street Prison Consultants, founded by Larry Levine in 2006 after he finished a federal prison sentence for racketeering, securities fraud, obstruction ...

Prison Art is Rehabilitation

The charity and social enterprise has worked with around 7,000 prisoners and ex-prisoners worldwide in creating art in all manner of mediums: embroidery, quilting, and furniture and needlepoint wall hangings. It has created pieces that now hang in Kensington Palace and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Arts patron Agnes Gund of America has collected many of these works made by prisoners to use in her Agnes Gund’s Art For Justice Fund. She is attempting to help fund criminal justice reform organizations by obtaining the works so she can resell them to institutes such as Drawing Center, Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum and the New Museum. Some of contemporary arts big names, such as Ai Weiwei, Wolfgang Tillmans, Annie Morris, Carolina Mazzolari and Idris Kahn, have collaborated in creating these different forms of art.

Beginning in March 2020, Sotheby’s featured eight pieces from Fine Cell Work up for silent auction.

The organization also helps place ex-prisoners with jobs ...

Court Orders South Carolina Prisons to Move Forward with Hepatitis C Treatment

“This action today is going to save 1,184 lives,” attorney Reuben Guttman argued to Seymour during the hearing.

He represented Bernard Bagley and Willie James Jackson, two prisoners who joined a lawsuit originally filed against the state Department of Corrections (DOC) in March 2018 by prisoner Russell Geissler, who was represented by Christopher Bryant. Geissler’s complaint was about lack of HCV treatment, while the others’ complaint was about HCV testing. The two complaints were combined in a class-action granted in December 2018. [See PLN, June 2019, p.44.]

Chronic HCV causes liver inflammation, scarring (fibrosis) and decreased liver function. It can lead to liver disease, cancer, internal bleeding and even death. The acceptable standard of care for prisoners is across the board testing and treatment with direct-acting antiviral (DAA) drugs, which have been proven to provide a 95 percent cure rate. Moreover, DAA drugs, which may have cost upward of $80,000 per patient a few years ago, now only cost ...

Kansas Leads Country in Female Incarceration Rates

A report put out by the Prison Policy Initiative and the American Civil Liberties Campaign for Smart Justice in October 2019 collected what sparse data existed in gender-specific statistics and evaluated and presented them in a format that reflected female prison population trends and their effect on society.

Statistics were gathered from a number of government agencies and broke down the number of females held in facilities across the United States by offense. The report stated that it “answers the questions of why and where women are locked up.”

The report showed women’s incarceration rates growing twice as fast as men’s within the last 20 years. Most states do not have the capacity to house all of these women in their prisons, so more and more are being held in county jails than in prisons. There were 231,000 women incarcerated in America: 53% White, 29% Black, 14% Hispanic, 2.5% American Indian and Alaska Native, 0.9% Asian, and 0.4% Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. Of those, 114,000 are in jails, either ...

Captain at Jail Where Epstein Died Offered New Position of Authority; Warden Remains on Desk Duty

Darden, 48, was a jail captain at the BOP’s Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in New York City when billionaire Jeffrey Epstein reportedly committed suicide in his cell on August 10, 2019, after a high-profile arrest for sex trafficking involving underage girls.

Kerri Kulec, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), said MCC guards Tova Noel and Michael Thomas — who worked under Darden — were placed on administrative leave following Epstein’s suicide, during which they were allegedly asleep on the job and later falsified records to cover up the fact.

Three days after Epstein’s death, U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced that the BOP would transfer MCC Warden Lamine N’Diaye to a leadership position at FCI Fort Dix. But in January 2020, citing “serious questions that must be answered,” Barr stopped the transfer while the FBI and DOJ’s inspector general continued to investigate Epstein’s suicide.

In a November 2019 interview, Barr admitted that the ...