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Articles by Matthew Clarke

Texas Court of Appeals: Decriminalization of Civil Commitment Conditions Violation Applies to Cases Pending on Appeal

by Matt Clarke

On November 16, 2016, a Texas court of appeals held that a legislative amendment that removed criminal penalties for violations of sex offender civil commitment supervision requirements applied to cases that were pending on appeal on the enactment date of the amendment.

Enrique Martinez, a Texas civilly committed sex offender, had been convicted of felony violation of the conditions of his civil commitment for violating the rules of the community residential facility where he was housed. One of his supervision requirements stated that he must obey all of the facility's rules. At that time, Section 841.085 of the Texas Health and Safety Code made any violation of civil commitment supervision requirements a third-degree felony. Martinez was convicted of two counts of violating that section and given two 25-year sentences. He appealed.

While his appeal was pending in 2015, SB 746 was enacted, amending Section 841.085 to eliminate the provision that made it a felony for a civilly committed sex offender to fail to follow civil commitment requirements. The act stated that it applied to all offenses committed before, on, or after the enactment date unless a final conviction existed on the enactment date.

The ...

Supreme Court Holds Demonstrators May Be Arrested for Trespassing Jail Grounds

by Matt Clarke

On November 14, 1966, the Supreme Court of the United States held that demonstrators may be arrested for protesting on jail property.

A group of about 200 students were protesting on a nonpublic jail driveway and adjacent jail grounds, blocking access to the jail. The sheriff told them they were trespassing on county property and ordered them to disperse. 107 did not and were arrested for "trespass with a malicious and mischievous intent."

32 who were convicted and whose convictions were upheld in the state courts petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. The court granted the writ, then upheld the convictions. The court noted that the jail was built for security purposes and was not open to the public, the trespass statute was not unconstitutionally vague, the doctrine of abatement did not apply, petty criminal statutes were not being used to violate minorities' constitutional rights and there was no evidence that petitioners were arrested or convicted for their views or objectives. See: Adderly v. Florida, 385 U.S. 39 (1966).



$6.5 Million Jury Award in Oklahoma Jail Rape Lawsuit

by Matt Clarke

A federal jury awarded an Oklahoma woman $6.5 million after she was sexually assaulted by a Hollis, Oklahoma assistant police chief while held at the Harmon County jail.

Tiffany Ann Glover, 33, filed a federal civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ...

Numerous Lawsuits Filed Against Corizon Nationwide; Company Loses Contracts

by Matt Clarke

Corizon Health is one of the nation's largest for-profit medical providers for prisons and jails. Recent lawsuits against the company, however, call into question the quality, and even the availability, of the healthcare services it is supposed to provide. Further, a former New Mexico prison employee has filed a whistleblower suit claiming she was fired in retaliation for raising concerns about Corizon’s provision of medical care to prisoners in that state.

In April 2017, the former behavioral health chief for the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) filed a lawsuit after she was placed on administrative leave and then terminated in November 2015. Dr. Bianca McDermott claimed she was fired for “various whistleblower activities” related to the NMCD’s contract with Corizon.

McDermott said she began raising concerns with her supervisors about the company’s contract in 2009. “Dr. McDermott was personally aware that Corizon was not providing all mental health care required under the contract, which meant that some portion of the [$200 million] NMCD paid to Corizon had not been earned,” according to her complaint.

She filed a qui tam action, which allows a private party to sue for fraud against the government, and made several public records requests. The state ...

Iowa Supreme Court Upholds Automatic Disenfranchisement for all Felony Convictions

by Matt Clarke

In a June 30, 2016 opinion, the Iowa Supreme Court held that all felonies were “infamous crimes” under the voter disqualification provision of the state’s constitution.

Kelli Jo Griffin was convicted of the class C felony of delivery of 100 grams or less of cocaine in 2008. At that time, Executive Order 42, which had been signed by then-Governor Thomas J. Vilsack, was in effect. The order restored the voting rights of persons who were convicted of a felony but had completely discharged their criminal sentence, including any terms of probation, parole or post-release supervision. Griffin’s attorney told her that she would have her right to vote automatically reinstated when she completed parole.

In 2011, then-Governor Terry E. Branstad signed Executive Order 70, which rescinded Executive Order 42. Unaware of that development, Griffin registered to vote and then voted after she completed her parole term in 2013. She was charged with perjury for registering and voting, but acquitted by a jury.

Griffin filed a petition in state court for a declaration that her offense did not disqualify her from voting and that state voter registration laws which exclude felons who have not had their rights restored violate ...

Nevada DOC Moves to End Discrimination against HIV-positive and Disabled Prisoners

by Matt Clarke

On June 20, 2016, Rebecca Bond, chief of the Disability Rights Section of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), sent the Nevada Attorney General a letter calling out the state’s Department of Corrections (DOC) for unlawfully discriminating against prisoners with HIV, mobility devices and other disabilities – including hypertension, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis – in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

A little over two weeks later, on July 6, 2016, the DOC announced it would no longer apply segregation policies that deny prisoners with HIV access to work programs where they could earn credits to reduce the length of their sentences.

Shortly afterwards, on July 21, DOC Director James Dzurenda announced that prisoners with HIV would no longer be segregated from the general prison population. He also announced other changes, including new protections intended to keep prisoners’ HIV status confidential, and training for both prisoners and prison staff about how HIV is transmitted.

The DOJ letter not only demanded that the DOC change its discriminatory policies and practices, but also to pay damages to prisoners who had been subjected to discrimination.

Faced with the threat of a federal lawsuit, Dzurenda stated the DOC ...

Policing for Profit: Law Enforcement Agencies Abuse Civil Asset Forfeiture

by Matt Clarke

While crime may not pay, policing can be very profitable when law enforcement agencies are allowed to seize assets not only from criminals but also people merely suspected of breaking the law. No criminal convictions – or even charges – are needed before property or money can be taken through civil forfeiture. That is because the property itself is “prosecuted” for having been used in a crime or obtained from the proceeds of illicit acts, and the owner has to prove the property is innocent.

The legal precedent for the modern era of civil forfeiture was the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bennis v. Michigan, 516 U.S. 442 (1996). The Court held in Bennis that the innocent owner defense in civil forfeiture cases was not constitutionally required by the due process clause.

Civil forfeiture existed long before that ruling, though, and has a history in maritime law, including piracy and customs enforcement, when the owners of vessels carrying contraband could not be brought before U.S. courts. Instead, law enforcement officials seized the ships and their illegal cargo. Forfeiture of assets due to criminal conduct was traditionally rare and required that the owner of the ...

Suicide at Texas Jail Results in Firings, Lawsuit, Investigation and Legislation

by Matt Clarke

On July 10, 2015, Sandra Bland was stopped while driving in Prairie View, Texas. The 28-year-old Illinois native was in the process of moving to Waller County when she was stopped by Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia, allegedly for changing lanes without signaling.

A verbal altercation ensued over whether Bland had to put out the cigarette she was smoking, and Encinia arrested her for allegedly assaulting him. Three days later Bland was found hanging in an isolation cell at a jail operated by the Waller County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO). Her death was ruled a suicide. [See: PLN, Jan. 2017, p.44].

In January 2016, a grand jury indicted Encinia for perjury after a review of his vehicle’s dashboard camera footage showed him reaching into Bland’s vehicle to pull her out and threatening her with a Taser – directly controverting his official report that she cooperated with his request to exit the car on her own before assaulting him. Encinia was fired shortly thereafter, and he and Waller County were sued by Bland’s family.

The county and Encinia’s former employer, the Texas Department of Public Safety, reached a $1.9 million settlement in September 2016. According to attorney ...

Ohio Closes Prison Farms, Auctions Equipment, Plans to Sell Farmland

by Matt Clarke

On April 13, 2016, Gary Mohr, Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC), announced plans to phase out farming operations at all ten of the state’s prison farms, and sell around 7,000 of the 12,300 acres of prison farmland.

Mohr’s announcement came just a little over a year after the ODRC requested and received $8.9 million from the Ohio General Assembly for improvements at the prison system’s farms. The closures will affect as many as 220 prisoners employed during peak periods; 72 staff positions will also be impacted.

The Ohio Civil Services Employees Association (OCSEA), which represents 30,000 state employees, including those whose positions at ODRC farms will be eliminated, said the closures would affect 56 farm coordinators who are union members.

“Unfortunately, we believe the impetus for this change is purely political,” said union president Christopher Mabe. “It has nothing to do with [ODRC’s] core mission of recidivism or safety. This is about dollars and cents for corporate interests.”

The Ohio prisons operating the farms include Chillicothe (1,809 acres), Mansfield (1,485 acres), Marion (995 acres), Pickaway (1,200 acres) and Southern Correctional Complex (578 acres ...

Wrongfully Arrested for Murder, Prisoner Dies in California Jail; Corizon Loses Contract

by Matt Clarke

When police were notified about the death of Terry Cameron, 58, in March 2016, they quickly arrested her husband, Melvin Stubbs, 65. Stubbs was a diabetic amputee who used a wheelchair. Nonetheless, police said there were signs of a struggle, Stubbs and Cameron both had defensive wounds, Cameron’s face was covered with a pillow and the answers that Stubbs gave during police questioning were inadequate – sufficient evidence to justify his arrest, they claimed. But ninety minutes after Stubbs was booked into jail he was dead.

The Alameda County Coroner’s Office later determined the cause of Cameron’s death was not homicide but rather acute bacterial meningitis.

“What they did to him was horrible,” stated Manuel Primas, Stubbs’ former brother-in-law. “His last thought must’ve been, ‘My wife just died and I’m in here for murder.’ And then he died. That’s a hell of a way to go.”

Oakland police said Stubbs had not been answering questions about Cameron’s death very well, “due to what looks like a medical condition.” The symptoms of meningitis, a contagious disease, include mental confusion. But it wasn’t until they received the coroner’s report on Cameron’s death that Stubbs’ behavior ...


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