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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Matthew Clarke

Ohio Prison Officials Announce Measures to Prevent Another Transport Bus Murder

by Matt Clarke

On June 8, 2018, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) announced new measures to prevent another murder from occurring on its transport buses.

Those measures included replacing a “significant number” of buses with new vehicles featuring factory-installed camera systems to monitor passengers and separate compartments for three security levels – including segregation compartments to isolate prisoners who pose “an extraordinary safety risk.” The ODRC also said it would increase training of transportation officers, expand random checks of restraints and add GPS tracking to its transport vehicles.

The new measures were spurred by the strangulation death of prisoner David Johnson, 61, by Casey Pigge, 30, on a bus traveling between Columbus and Ross County on February 1, 2017. The murder went unnoticed by guards and the ODRC has refused to release an internal report on the incident.

According to other prisoners, Pigge, who was restrained and sitting in the back of the bus, slipped off his belly chain, moved up three rows and wrapped the three-foot chain around Johnson’s neck. Witnesses said Pigge pulled so hard on the chain that Johnson was lifted out of his seat. After checking Johnson’s pulse to make sure he ...

Tenth Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Gang Member’s Failure-to-Protect Lawsuit

by Matt Clarke

On December 19, 2017, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of a federal civil rights suit brought by a prisoner who alleged Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) officials ignored his warnings that rival gang members intended to kill him, and his requests not to be housed with large numbers of the rival gang.

Terrance D. Wilson, a member of the Crips, is serving a 33-year sentence in the CDOC for the murder of a member of the Surenos, a rival gang. While in jail, Wilson learned that the Surenos, led by Christopher Green, were making shanks to kill him in retaliation. He was attacked three times while at the Larimer County Detention Center.

After arriving at the CDOC’s Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center, Wilson was assaulted by a Surenos member. He told intake staff about his problems with the rival gang and was transferred to the Limon Correctional Facility (LCF).

According to Wilson, soon after arriving at LCF he encountered Green, who was the Surenos’ local shot caller at that prison. He informed intake Lieutenant James Fox and Sgt. Steven Frank about “the issues” between him and Green. He also told his case manager ...

Defense Investigator Jailed for Initially Refusing to Testify in Death Penalty Case

by Matt Clarke

Greta Lindercrantz, 67, was jailed for contempt of court by Arapahoe County, Colorado District Judge Michelle Amico on February 26, 2018.

Lindercrantz, a Mennonite defense investigator, had refused to testify in a hearing for Colorado death row prisoner Robert Keith Ray. Lindercrantz was part of Ray’s defense team during his 2009 double-homicide trial; she cited religious opposition to capital punishment as her reason for refusing to answer questions posed by prosecutors in an appellate hearing on Ray’s claim that his attorneys had provided ineffective assistance of counsel.

“I feel like I’m having to choose between you and God,” she told the court. “I feel like I was handed a gun and I was told to point it at Mr. Ray, and the gun might or might not have bullets in it, but I’d have to fire it anyway. I can’t shoot the gun. I can’t shoot the gun.”

Mennonites oppose all forms of violence, including state-sanctioned violence such as the death penalty.

Less than two weeks later, on March 12, 2018, Judge Amico ordered Lindercrantz released from jail after she agreed to testify. A statement from Lindercrantz’s attorney, Mari Neuman, said she had changed her ...

Class-Action Status Granted in Civil Rights Suit Over Disenfranchised Indiana Jail Prisoners

by Matt Clarke

On May 17, 2018, a federal district court certified a class of Allen County, Indiana jail prisoners who were denied their right to vote in the November 2016 general election.

Ian Barnhart was held at the jail on misdemeanor charges from October 31, 2016 until December 15, 2016. He was registered to vote and wanted to vote in the 2016 election. He and other jail prisoners requested absentee ballots per the jail’s policy, but neither received absentee ballots nor were allowed to vote at a voting center a block from the jail.

Aided by Fort Wayne attorney David Frank, Barnhart filed a federal civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violation of his and other prisoners’ Fourteenth Amendment rights. He sought class certification.

The complaint alleged that over 75 percent of the 500 to 600 prisoners incarcerated at the jail on any given day were pretrial detainees and about 25 percent of the remaining prisoners were serving a misdemeanor sentence. Both groups were eligible to vote. The lawsuit accused Allen County Sheriff David Gladieux of systematically disenfranchising the approximately 300 jail prisoners who were both eligible and registered to vote in the ...

Polls Show People Favor Rehabilitation over Incarceration

by Matt Clarke

A recent poll found a majority of Americans – 67 percent overall – believe that building more prisons and jails does not reduce crime. Nearly as many – 62 percent – don’t believe that more prisons would improve the quality of life in their communities, either. The survey of attitudes toward incarceration, conducted for the Vera Institute of Justice between February 27 and March 5, 2018, showed a similar attitude among both urban and rural respondents, with 61 percent of the latter agreeing that more prison construction would not affect crime rates.

The results mirror the findings of a November 2017 survey conducted for the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice, which found a solid majority of Americans – 71 percent – agreed that incarceration for long periods is counterproductive to public safety due to the absence of effective rehabilitation programs in prisons.

In another poll for the Justice Action Network (JAN) published in January 2018, 85 percent of respondents supported making rehabilitation the goal of the criminal justice system rather than punishment.

The three surveys follow a March 2017 poll conducted for the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which reported 62 percent of respondents favored ...

Maricopa County, Phoenix Settle Lawsuit Over Mentally Ill Prisoner’s Death for $7.25 Million

by Matt Clarke

In April 2018, just weeks before a trial was scheduled to begin, the City of Phoenix, Arizona agreed to pay $250,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of a mentally ill prisoner who died at the Maricopa County jail after being mocked, beaten and ...

Alaska Supreme Court Reverses Disciplinary Case Where Prisoner Not Allowed to Call Witnesses

by Matt Clarke and David Reutter

On April 27, 2018, the Supreme Court of Alaska held that a prisoner had been improperly denied his right to call witnesses at a prison disciplinary hearing, and his failure to raise that issue during administrative appeals did not waive the issue.

Scott Walker, an Alaska state prisoner, began working as an orientation assistant in the Special Management Unit at the Goose Creek Correctional Center in October 2013. He wrote up an outline of orientation topics and awaited further instructions. Ten months later, Criminal Justice Technician Brooke Baumgartner met with Walker and learned he had continued to be paid but had not actively worked in nine months. He told her he had tried to inform four officers about the payroll mistake, but could only name two.

He also said he had sent several “Request for Interview Forms” to prison employees addressing the situation. Such forms are returned to a prisoner’s file after they are received by staff.

Baumgartner did not find any of the forms in Walker’s file, and one of the two staff members Walker named said he never mentioned the payroll error. The payments to Walker while he wasn’t working were estimated ...

Federal District Court Holds Ohio Prison Cannot Cut Rastafarian Prisoner’s Hair

by Matt Clarke

On May 14, 2018, Senior U.S. District Court Judge Patricia A. Gaughan ruled the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) could not enforce a grooming policy that required a Rastafarian prisoner to cut his dreadlocks.

The district court declared the grooming policy, as applied to the prisoner, violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), and enjoined prison officials from enforcing the policy against him.

Deon S. Glenn, 29, an Ohio state prisoner, filed a federal civil rights action alleging the ODRC’s enforcement of its grooming policy violated his rights under RLUIPA. Glenn is serving a lengthy sentence for murder and attempted murder at the Trumbull Correctional Institution, and is considered a “level 3” security risk with a prison disciplinary record of 39 rule infractions, including one for having a weapon and seven for contraband.

Glenn has been a practicing Rastafarian since 2012. One tenet of his faith is that he allow his hair to grow without being cut. His deadlocks extended about three inches from his scalp and were the thickness of a pencil at the time of the court ruling.

Ohio Administrative Code § 5120-9-25(D) prohibits ODRC prisoners from wearing ...

Denver Pays $100,000 to Settle DOJ Suit Over Failure to Accommodate Diabetic Deputy

by Matt Clarke

On May 15, 2018, the City and County of Denver, Colorado agreed to pay $100,000 to an unidentified deputy sheriff who was fired from his position at the Denver County jail after the Sheriff’s Department refused to accommodate his Type 1 diabetes, causing him to twice ...

Low Pay, High Staff Turnover Drive Texas Prison Guard Shortage

by Matthew Clarke

Of the 26,000 guards who work in Texas’ 104 state prisons, 28 percent left their jobs in 2017 – an increase from the prior year’s 22.8 percent turnover rate and “the highest in recent memory,” according to Bryan Collier, executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). The high rate of staff attrition was accompanied by an inability to fill 3,930 open guard positions, resulting in a peak vacancy rate of 15.22 percent in April 2018.

Statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) cast the TDCJ’s staffing problems in stark relief. Nationally, the unemployment rate was 3.8 percent in May 2018, while the job turnover rate was 4 percent. But some state prisons saw turnover rates as high as 59 percent.

The TDCJ breaks down its employment data by counties, not by facilities, and three counties had turnover rates exceeding 50 percent. Two were in the oil-rich Permian Basin near the New Mexico border, where an oil and fracking boom that began in 2012 has been competing for workers. Even as the boom abated in 2017, alternative employment opportunities – like a new cheese factory near ...


 

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