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Articles by Mark Wilson

Indiana Prisoner Sues Prison Abolition Group, Wins $1,097 Default Judgment

by Mark Wilson

On July 28, 2022, an Indiana prisoner was granted a $1,097.00 default judgment against the nonprofit prison abolition group, Critical Resistance, in a state small claims action.

Defendant is a longtime prison abolition advocacy group with chapters in Oakland, Los Angeles, New York City and Portland. Founded ...

Eighth Circuit Affirms Denial of Qualified Immunity to Minnesota Jail Guard Accused of Grabbing and Squeezing Detainee’s Penis

by Mark Wilson

On August 24, 2023, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed denial of qualified immunity (QI) to a Minnesota jail guard in a prisoner’s claim that the guard grabbed and squeezed his penis during a strip search.

In December 2015, while incarcerated in the ...

Former Oregon Prison Nurse Gets 30 Years for Raping Prisoners

by Mark Wilson

Five years after Oregon prison officials and state prosecutors abandoned them, a group of state prisoners sexually assaulted by a prison nurse finally secured a measure of justice from federal prosecutors. On October 17, 2023, the federal court for the District of Oregon handed a 30-year federal ...

After Ninth Circuit Refuses to Compel Arbitration, National Class Certified in HRDC’s Challenge to Jail and Prison Debit Card Fees

by Mark Wilson

In a federal suit challenging excessive fees on jail and prison “debit release” cards, the federal court for the District of Oregon on July 13, 2023, certified a national class. The ruling follows another by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on December 22, ...

Seventh Circuit Revives Illinois Prisoner’s Claim Over Knee Surgery Delayed 29 Months

by Mark Wilson

On September 19, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed a lower court’s grant of summary judgment to Illinois prison officials accused of violating a state prisoner’s civil rights with a 29-month surgery delay.

Richard White injured his left knee while playing basketball ...

Fourth Circuit Reinstates North Carolina Prisoner’s Suit, Finding Grievance Procedure Availability an Open Question

By Mark Wilson

On December 27, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated summary judgment issued against a North Carolina prisoner for failing to exhaust his administrative remedies, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. Finding factual disputes regarding the availability ...

Congress Forces BOP to Upgrade Security Cameras

by Mark Wilson

“Broken prison camera systems are enabling corruption, misconduct and abuse” within America’s 122 federal prisons, declared U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), when Pres. Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D) signed Ossoff’s bipartisan Prison Camera Reform Act of 2021 into law on January 10, 2023.

When he introduced the legislation, Ossoff said that federal prisons “must be cleaned up and held to the highest standards,” so surveillance camera blind spots, lost footage and technical failures are simply unacceptable.

The federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has long been criticized for insufficient and malfunctioning security cameras. A 2016 report by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General found that BOP camera problems compromised investigations into staff misconduct and civil rights violations, as well as contraband smuggling, escapes and prisoner deaths.

Camera deficiencies took center stage in the suspicious 2019 suicide of billionaire financier and convicted child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein at the now-shuttered Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City. In March 2022, AP News reported that a lack of cameras in critical areas also permitted prisoner sexual abuse by staff at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California, which was so pervasive that the lockup became known as the ...

Oregon Will Hold Release Hearings for 73 Prisoners Sentenced to LWOP as Juveniles

by Mark Wilson

On October 6, 2022, the Oregon Supreme Court denied a petition for review from prosecutors seeking to stop the Governor and Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision (BPPS) from granting early release hearings to 73 prisoners who were sentenced to life for offenses committed as juveniles. See: Marteeny v. Brown, 370 Or. 303 (2022).

That left to stand a decision by the ­Oregon Court of Appeals on August 10, 2022, which in turn reversed a lower court’s order in favor of the prosecutors. Importantly, the Court made clear that prosecutors lack authority to bring suit on behalf of the state or its citizens.

As PLN has reported, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill (SB) 1008 in 2019, eliminating life without parole (LWOP) sentences for juveniles and granting a release hearing after 15 years of confinement to those then imprisoned on an LWOP conviction for a crime committed as juveniles.

However, the legislation did not apply retroactively to prisoners who committed their offenses before January 1, 2020. So on October 20, 2021, then-Gov. Kate Brown (D) used her clemency power to grant SB 1008 release hearings to 73 prisoners left behind by the law.

Attorney Kevin Mannix, who authored ...

Senators Slam “Egregious” Prisoner Sexual Abuse by BOP Employees

by Mark Wilson

“I was sentenced and put in prison for choices I made,” said Briane Moore. “I was not sentenced to prison to be raped and abused.”

She was testifying at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on December 9, 2022, about being repeatedly raped by a guard captain while incarcerated at a federal prison in West Virginia. As PLN has reported over and over again, Moore is far from alone.

The federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) confines nearly 160,000 prisoners nationwide. About 7% – 11,200 – of them are women, held in 27 lockups. A scathing report released by the Committee during that December 2022 hearing revealed that BOP employees have sexually abused prisoners in at least two-thirds of those facilities since 2012. The investigation also found “egregious abuse” suffered by some prisoners, lasting for months or even years.

It’s not just guards who show up to work looking for sex; some prisoners were abused by high-ranking BOP officials. The report also highlighted especially awful abuse at BOP facilities in New York and Florida, as well as California, where a scandal has turned the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Dublin into the “Rape Club.” ...

Minnesota Supreme Court Denies Qualified Immunity for Delayed Transfer of Sex Offenders

by Mark Wilson

On February 1, 2023, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that civilly committed sex offenders have a clearly established right to transfer to Community Preparation Services (CPS) within a reasonable time. What is reasonable under any given circumstances, however, is a fact issue to be determined in the first instance by the trial court, the high court added.

Minnesota is one of 20 states allowing civil commitment of sex offenders. Along with a wave of “tough on crime” laws passed about the same time, the state opened its high-security Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) in 1994 in Moose Lake.

About 93% of MSOP’s 741 residents were civilly committed after completing a prison sentence for a sex offense. The rest have been locked up with no clear path to release even though they have never been charged with a sex offense. The state has the nation’s highest per-capita sex offender commitment rate and one of the lowest release rates. In fact, during MSOP’s first two decades of operations, nobody was released. Those committed are essentially confined for life – about six times more likely to die there than be released.

Those confined call MSOP a “shadow prison” hidden from ...