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Articles by Matthew Clarke

North Carolina Prisoners at Deadliest Federal Prison File Suit on COVID-19 Response

With 27 ...

CoreCivic Sued Over Prisoner Who Committed Suicide in Tennessee Prison

Montana Supreme Court: Jail’s Blanket Strip Search Policy Violates Law

Over Half the Prisoners Test Positive for COVID-19 at Arizona Prison

NBA Owner Capitalizes on Mass Incarceration; Players Silent

NBPA members went on a three-day playoff strike in August 2020, triggered by the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin, who was left paralyzed, shot seven times as he leaned into a car. The strike resulted in an agreement between the league and players to establish a social-justice coalition and associated advertising with a focus on civic engagement, ballot access and reform of police and the criminal justice system. Franchises that own their own arenas pledged to “work with local elections officials to convert the facility into a voting location for the 2020 election.”

Yet the players and league were strangely silent about one of the owners exploiting incarcerated individuals for profit.

As reported in The American Prospect, Tom Gores, the owner of the Detroit Pistons NBA franchise, is a billionaire who founded Platinum Equity, a private ...

Another Prisoner’s Needless Death, Another Lawsuit at LaSalle-Run Texarkana Jail

The Texas Commission on Jail Standards has cited the jail and its operator numerous times for noncompliance in connection to the deaths of multiple prisoners, yet LaSalle continues to be awarded the contract, and little has changed.

Holly Barlow-Austin, 46, was arrested for a probation violation on April 5, 2019. She required medication for HIV, depression and bipolar disorder, as well as a medication to prevent a potentially deadly fungal infection due to her highly compromised immune system. During intake, her blood pressure was 118/73, her other vitals were normal, and she was able-bodied, hydrated and well nourished. She informed LaSalle medical staff of her medication needs.

Jail staff failed to provide the needed medication and on April 8, 2019, Barlow-Austin’s husband brought her prescription medications to the jail ...

$5.9 Million Settlement in Death of Transgender Prisoner at New York’s Rikers Island

Layleen Xtravaganza Cubilette-Polanco, 27, a member of the prominent drag-scene ballroom group House of Xtravaganza, was arrested on misdemeanor prostitution and drug possession charges in 2017. She was sent to a diversion court, but missed court dates, resulting in a bench warrant being issued for her arrest. In 2019, she was arrested for assaulting a taxi driver.

Her alleged behavior motivated arresting officers to take Polanco to Bellevue Hospital for psychiatric evaluation. She was admitted and held for three days, and prescribed the anti-seizure medication Keppra upon discharge. She was taken to arraignment where a judge ordered her released on the assault charge. But he served the outstanding bench warrant and set bail at $501, an amount she could not afford.

Polanco was booked into RMSC, where she told staff she had a seizure disorder. ...

$177,500 Settlement in Lawsuit Over Five Louisiana Prisoners Pepper-Sprayed While Handcuffed

by Matt Clarke 

Thanks to a public records request by The Associated Press, news broke in March 2020 that Louisiana-based private prison firm LaSalle Management Company had settled for $177,500 a lawsuit over a 2016 incident in which five prisoners were pepper-sprayed while handcuffed and kneeling.

Adley T. Campbell, Darin Washington, Sidney Stephens, Jareth Vinet, and Jimmy Klobas were incarcerated at the LaSalle-operated Richwood Correctional Center in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana, when they were taken out of a dormitory, strip-searched and questioned whether their tattoos were gang-related. After they put their clothes back on, they were handcuffed and taken to a location known as the “White House,” where they were accused of being gang members, forced to kneel, and sprayed in the face with a chemical agent, which the documents called “mace” but was most likely pepper spray.

With the assistance of lawyers including Savannah, Georgia, attorney David J. Utter, the men filed a federal civil rights action in 2017, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against LaSalle, its insurers, and several of its former correctional employees, including Captain Roderick Douglas, 37, Sergeant Demario Shafer, 33, Lieutenant Christopher Loring, 35, and guards Quintal Credit, 26, and David Parker, 27. The ...

Fifth Circuit Reinstates Texas Jail Suicide Lawsuit

A passerby told City of Kemah, Texas Police Officer Marcus Way that a man, later identified as Chad Ernest Lee Silvis, 26, was threatening to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge. Way reported a possible “jumper” on his police radio. Officers James Melton and Ruben Kimball, along with dispatcher Anna Maria Whelan, heard the broadcast. Way, Kimball and Melton met at the bridge and, after conversing with Silvis, Melton managed to forcibly pull him off the bridge railing. They took him to the city jail and watched while he was booked.

Kimball prepared a cell and gave Silvis a blanket. Way told Kimball to take his shoes. After he was booked, Way, Kimball, Melton, and Whelan all observed Silvis in his cell with the blanket.

Silvis was disruptive, yelling for medical help, banging his hands against the cell door and shouting that he ...

Third Circuit Reinstates Claims by Immigration Detainee in GEO-Operated Prison Seeking to Marry U.S. Citizen

Brian A. Davis, an immigration detainee being held at a Pennsylvania private prison that houses foreign nationals awaiting deportation or deportation proceedings, sought permission to marry his U.S. citizen fiancée, Fredericka K. Bedford. They complied with the prison’s regulations, which exceeded the BOP’s, but permission was denied.

The couple filed a federal civil rights lawsuit pursuant to Bevins, 42 U.S.D. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985(3) and 2000d, and other state and federal laws, alleging they were denied their constitutional right to be married because of unlawful discrimination. The district court adopted without analysis a magistrate judge’s report recommending dismissal of all claims. The report reasoned that GEO employees were not federal actors and the two federal officials who were sued were not properly served.

On appeal, the Third Circuit held that the district court erred when it failed to undertake the required two-step process to determine whether ...