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Articles by Matthew Clarke

$25,000 Federal Jury Award in Suit over Teenager Raped in Oklahoma Jail

by Matt Clarke

On March 2, 2016, a federal jury awarded $25,000 to a woman who had been repeatedly sexually assaulted by a Tulsa, Oklahoma jailer when she was a minor held at the Tulsa County jail.

LaDona A. Poore was 17 years old when she was incarcerated at ...

Fifth Circuit Upholds $2.85 Million Award in Suit over Jail Prisoner’s Death

by Matt Clarke

On November 29, 2016, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a jury award of $1.5 million for pain and suffering and $917,000 for wrongful death in a lawsuit brought by survivors of a prisoner who died after being held for four days in an ...

Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World, by Baz Dreisinger

Incarceration Nations by Baz Dreisinger (Other Press, 2016). 325 pages, $19.00 (hardcover).

When John Jay College of Criminal Justice Professor Baz Dreisinger began her two-year pilgrimage to prisons around the world, she probably told herself she was seeking the best practices in each penal system to help her understand what might be done to reform the mass-incarceration-driven justice system that prevails in the United States. It certainly seemed to come as a surprise when she concluded that reform may not be the answer at all – reform is too insufficient a concept, and wholesale replacement should be the goal.

That was not the only surprise Dreisinger confronted in her stirring hybrid of memoir and scholarly treatise, which never fails to portray the essential humanity of prisoners, victims and ordinary citizens in exquisite prose. Despite her expertise as a founder of John Jay’s Prison-to-College Pipeline program, which brings college classes into New York prisons and the formerly incarcerated into John Jay as students, Dreisinger was unprepared for the national philosophy of forgiveness and re-acceptance into the community practiced in Rwanda. A greater surprise: such compassion is even extended to the tens of thousands who took ...

Flooding Forces Evacuation of Over 4,000 Texas Prisoners

by Matt Clarke

Historic flooding along the Brazos River in southeast Texas last year forced the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) to evacuate three facilities near Rosharon that housed more than 4,000 prisoners.

The evacuations began on May 29, 2016, when the Stringfellow and Terrell Units were evacuated, according to TDCJ spokesperson Jason Clark. Those units contained around 2,600 prisoners, most of whom were sent to facilities north of Houston, about 100 miles away. [See: PLN, Nov. 2016, p.63].

An altercation occurred at the Luther Unit when, after the power failed, evacuated prisoners refused to return to their assigned areas. Guards deployed chemical agents on around 50 prisoners who failed to follow orders, Clark said. No guards were injured, he added, and there was “no public safety threat,” but three prisoners were taken to the hospital – one for stitches and two for unidentified reasons.

About 150 trustees were evacuated to the Ramsey Unit which is located on the same large prison farm complex as Stringfellow and Terrell. The current Ramsey Unit was built on higher land after the original flood-damaged Ramsey Unit was demolished. Ironically, the Stringfellow Unit was constructed on the flood-prone site of the ...

Stipulated Order Desegregates Arizona Prisons; $195,000 in Attorney Fees Awarded

by Matt Clarke

Decades after prisons in the Deep South were desegregated by the federal courts, a federal judge has approved a stipulated order desegregating housing and job assignments in Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) facilities. The February 5, 2016 order by U.S. District Court Judge Cindy Jorgenson also ...

Missouri Prisoners Vexed by Bills for Incarceration Costs

by Matt Clarke

Current and former Missouri state prisoners have been experiencing “sticker shock” as they are presented with bills for the cost of their incarceration.

The Missouri Incarceration Reimbursement Act (MIRA) has been around since 1988, but wasn’t seriously enforced until 2006. Under MIRA, prisoners can be billed for the full past and future costs of their incarceration if it is believed they have the ability to pay 10% of the cost of two years in prison (about $2,200 annually). The statute allows state officials to seize 90% of a prisoner’s assets or income stream to satisfy the debt. With the costs of incarceration so high, such debts can be significant. [See: PLN, April 2014, p.28].

A hypothetical prisoner serving a ten-year flat prison term would be liable for the entire cost of his incarceration – around $220,000 – should he have approximately $4,400 in assets. And state officials could move to collect the full amount even after he is released. Pensions and government benefits are not exempt, which can leave former prisoners with insufficient funds for housing or even food.

For example, when he was released after serving a four-month “shock” sentence for drunk ...

Denial of Summary Judgment Upheld in Prisoner’s Retaliation, Excessive Force Suit

by Matt Clarke

On July 29, 2015, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a federal district court’s denial of summary judgment to two U.S. Marshals who allegedly arranged to have a prisoner beaten at an Arkansas jail.

James Clayton Solomon was convicted of violating the terms of his federal supervised release and agreed to voluntarily surrender, but instead absconded. Before he fled, Solomon sent a letter to the federal court stating his hope that Chief Judge Jimm Larry Hendren of the Western District of Arkansas “dies a slow and painful death.”

Solomon was apprehended in California and transported to a federal facility in Oklahoma. U.S. Marshal Susan Jones and a contract guard transported him back to Fort Smith, Arkansas. During the trip, Jones showed Solomon a copy of his correspondence and informed him “he’d pay for writing that type of letter to the judge.”

As he was being transported from Fort Smith, the Marshals allegedly told him that he “should never have written that letter to the judge and they were going to make sure [he] was punished for that letter.” They also reportedly said he was being sent to the Benton County Criminal Detention ...

Former Texas Police Officer’s Sexual Assault Case Reversed After 21 Years

by Matt Clarke

Brian Edward Franklin was a Fort Worth, Texas police officer for more than a decade before he was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child and sentenced to life in prison in 1995. On April 6, 2016, the highest criminal court in Texas reversed his conviction, saying the state’s case against him relied on perjured testimony. The testimony in question was that of the alleged victim. The court noted that her perjury had caused other witnesses to give false testimony as well, depriving Franklin of due process.

The reversal allowed the state to prosecute Franklin again using the same indictment. However, there was no DNA or other forensic evidence to support the allegations of sexual assault. And since Franklin’s conviction was reversed based on perjured testimony – upon which the prosecution’s case rested – it would be extraordinarily difficult for prosecutors to win a conviction at a second trial.

On May 4, 2016, two days after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued its mandate reversing the case, Franklin appeared before state District Judge Wayne Salvant for a bond hearing. The bond was set at $10,000 and Franklin was released the next day.

In ...

Vigilantes Assault, Rob and Murder Registered Sex Offenders

by Matt Clarke

As repeatedly reported in Prison Legal News, for over a decade registered sex offenders have been targeted by vigilantes and assaulted, robbed and murdered due to their past crimes. And as noted in this issue’s cover story, that is part of the dark side of sex offender registries, which allow public access to offenders’ residential addresses and other personal information. Such information not only endangers registered sex offenders but also those who live with them and, in at least one case in Dallas, Texas, an innocent victim. That Dallas man, who was beaten with a baseball bat, had simply moved into an apartment recently vacated by a sex offender.

PLN believes these incidents are more widespread and occur with greater frequency than reported in the mainstream media. [See, e.g.: PLN, Sept. 2016, p.49; June 2015, p.63; Feb. 2013, p.50; April 2007, p.18].

In one of the earliest cases of registry vigilantism, two registered sex offenders who were living in the same home in Bellingham, Washington were murdered in 2005 by a man who gained access to their residence by claiming to be an FBI agent investigating threats made against sex offenders ...

$200,000 Settlement Over Oklahoma Jail Prisoner’s Death

by Matt Clarke

A $200,000 settlement in a lawsuit filed over the death of a mentally ill Oklahoma jail prisoner emphasizes what Oklahoma sheriffs have been saying for years: they are ill prepared to deal with the rapidly increasing number of mentally ill detainees in their jails.

Sheriffs in ...


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