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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Matthew Clarke

Lawsuit Alleges Texas County Jailers Beat, Paralyzed Prisoner

by Matthew Clarke

A lawsuit filed in federal district court alleges guards at the jail in Milam County, Texas beat a compliant prisoner without any reason, causing him to become paralyzed, then “released” him while he was in the hospital so the jail wouldn’t have to pay his medical bills.

John L. Robertson, 41, was on probation for an assault charge when he asked his probation officer to help him find treatment for a drug problem. On June 20, 2016, he voluntarily entered the Milam County jail to await transfer to a drug treatment facility operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The transfer never happened.

According to court documents, on July 14, jailer Jonathan Mendoza ordered the prisoners in Robertson’s cell to go to the recreation yard. Some of the younger prisoners were delaying and saying they didn’t want to go, so Robertson told them they should stop wasting time and just do what they were told. Mendoza cursed at Robertson, saying he did not want him telling anyone else what to do.

After the prisoners returned from rec, Mendoza and jailers Cindy McBee and Joshua Hughes came to the cell. Mendoza cursed and threatened Robertson while he ...

Mother of Prisoner Who Died at Texarkana Jail Challenges $200,000 Settlement; Nurse Pleads Guilty

by Matthew Clarke

On November 11, 2017, notice of a $200,000 settlement was filed in a federal lawsuit over the death of a diabetic Texarkana jail prisoner who died after a nurse ignored her repeated requests for a blood sugar test. Soon thereafter the mother of the prisoner filed ...

New Rule Sparks Uprising at California Sex Offender Civil Commitment Facility

by Matt Clarke

On January 14, 2018, about 400 to 500 civilly committed sex offender “patients” met in the common area of California’s Coalinga State Hospital to protest a stringent new rule that went into effect that day. The rule banned the possession of electronic devices with Internet access or writable storage media, such as MP3 players, e-book readers, video games, flash drives and computer-like devices.

If a patient agreed to allow a device to be searched, it would be mailed to an address of the patient’s choosing. If no consent to a search was given, the device would be destroyed.

Hospital officials said the new rule was prompted by an epidemic of child pornography at the facility, which houses civilly committed sex offenders after they have completed their prison sentences. However, patients and their advocates claimed the rule was in retaliation for offenders at the facility influencing the outcome of a local election.

Supporting the patients’ version of events is the fact that only 18 of the hospital’s nearly 1,300 patients were charged with possession of child pornography between September 2016 and January 2018. Considering that about a sixth of the sex offenders housed at Coalinga State Hospital ...

Texas Uses Failed Private Prison to Hold Civilly Committed Sex Offenders

by Matt Clarke

In 2015, Texas converted its outpatient program for civilly committed sex offenders into a “tiered” treatment program, in which participants start out in a “total confinement facility” at twice the cost of the original program. The state awarded Correct Care Solutions a $24 million contract to provide housing and treatment at the Texas Civil Commitment Center (TCCC) in Littlefield, formerly a failed private prison known as the Bill Clayton Detention Facility.

Correct Care had just acquired GEO Care, a subsidiary of the GEO Group – a for-profit prison firm whose 2009 abandonment of the Littlefield facility had almost forced the city into default on its bonds. [See: PLN, Oct. 2013, p.45]. GEO Care had a poor reputation, having been sued multiple times for providing inadequate health care. The company was known for having cooked alive a Florida psychiatric hospital patient who was left in a scalding hot bath, and for providing such abysmal care at a Texas immigration detention center that it sparked a riot.

The state’s contract with Correct Care required it to hire about 100 employees to provide treatment and housing for 277 civilly committed sex offenders at TCCC, which it rented from Littlefield ...

Ohio Settles Suit Over Sexual Assault of Prisoner for $525,000

by Matt Clarke

In November 2017, Ohio state officials agreed to pay $525,000 to settle a lawsuit over the repeated sexual assault of a female prisoner.

Chesterland, Ohio attorney David B. Malik represented Dorothea Reynolds, who was incarcerated at the Ohio Reformatory for Women (ORW) in 2008 and 2009 ...

Nevada County Settles Lawsuit Over Jail Prisoner’s Death for $500,000

by Matthew Clarke

In September 2017, Washoe County, Nevada settled a lawsuit brought by the parents of a man who died after a struggle with deputies at the county jail.

Reno police arrested Justin Thompson, 35, and took him to a hospital for treatment of injuries he received in a ...

Fifth Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Federal Prisoner’s Retaliation, Conspiracy Claims

by Matthew Clarke

On November 15, 2017, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of a Louisiana federal prisoner’s claims that prison officials conspired to retaliate against him for filing a grievance regarding power outages at his facility.

Derrick D.L. Brunson’s grievance expressed safety concerns related to several power outages at the federal prison where he was housed. Counselor K. Nichols told him the grievance interfered with staff members’ duties, and was potentially threatening to prison safety. She reported it to her supervisors, including Captain Valle, and charged Brunson with a disciplinary infraction.

As a result, he was placed in a Special Housing Unit (SHU) for three weeks pending his disciplinary hearing. At the hearing, Brunson was found guilty and sentenced to seven days of disciplinary segregation and forfeiture of three months’ privileges. He filed a pro se federal civil rights lawsuit pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), alleging, among other claims, retaliation and conspiracy to retaliate against him for filing the grievance.

The district court dismissed all of Brunson’s claims on the grounds that the punishment was de minimus and insufficient to warrant a finding ...

Controversy in Utah Over Jail Deaths and Secret Jail Operating Standards

by Matt Clarke

In Utah’s local jails, a record number of deaths in 2016 caused both civil liberties groups and state legislators to question the standards under which the facilities operate. But there are no jail standards under state law, and the standards adopted by counties are kept secret by the company that developed them – a business founded by Gary DeLand, a former director of the Utah Department of Corrections (DOC), who claims the standards and results of compliance audits are his firm’s work product and thus exempt from public disclosure.

DeLand ran the Utah DOC from 1985 to 1992. During his tenure he supported radical measures such as using a hitching post on prisoners who refused to work. The DOC was known as a tough place to do time under DeLand, with numerous reports of abuse.

Lane McCotter succeeded DeLand as Utah’s prison director. They both later worked together in 2003 as paid consultants in the retrofitting of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, also training its staff. Afterwards, the U.S. military became involved in an infamous prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib when photos of prisoners being tortured and humiliated were released. DeLand and McCotter were ...

Dozens of Lawsuits Against Correct Care Solutions for Sometimes Fatal Denial of Medical Treatment

by Matthew Clarke

From 2014 through July 2018, at least 52 lawsuits were filed in federal court against Correct Care Solutions (CCS) – a private medical contractor based in Nashville, Tennessee – alleging failure to provide adequate medical care to prisoners in Colorado jails. Six of the cases involved fatalities ...

Los Angeles County Settles Lawsuit over Jail Prisoner’s Suicide for $1.7 Million

by Matt Clarke

On October 16, 2017, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a $1.7 million settlement in a lawsuit brought by the family of a man who committed suicide at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility (TTCF).

Eric Loberg, 48, displayed signs of acute psychosis when he ...


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