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Articles by Matthew Clarke

$33,000 Settlement For Pro Se Arizona Prisoner Assaulted by Guard

In October 2019, Arizona settled for $33,000 a pro se federal lawsuit brought by a state prisoner who alleged he was assaulted by an Arizona Department of Corrections (DOC) guard while handcuffed behind his back.

According to court documents, DOC prisoner Shawn Michael Folta was incarcerated at the ASPC-Eyman Complex/SMU 1 Unit when guard Dustin Burke delivered a food tray to his cell that was missing its broccoli portion. Folta requested another tray, Burke refused and a heated verbal altercation ensued in which Burke allegedly threatened to “fuck him up.”

Folta asked to see a sergeant and Burke later returned to his cell, allegedly to escort him to the sergeant. After handcuffing Folta behind his back, Burke led him to a blind spot not covered by surveillance cameras where he allegedly attacked Folta from behind, kneed him in the face when Folta was on his knees while asking, “Who’s the punk now?” He slammed Folta’s head into a steel dinner cart, and punched him while he was on the ground.

Burke wrote Folta a disciplinary report for assaulting him. Folta complained that he did not assault Burke but rather was assaulted by the guard. A report of ...

Continuing Problems at Texas Jail Roil County’s Relationship with GEO Group

As previously reported in PLN, Florida-based GEO Group has had a litany of problems at the jail it operates for Liberty County, Texas. During a rocky 57-day stretch in mid-2019, there were prisoner escapes and suicides, discovery of contraband, guard theft of prisoners’ trust fund monies and maintenance problems that resulted in two failed inspections by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS). That led fed up county commissioners to seek a capacity reduction in their own jail – which would require GEO group to relocate prisoners and detainees at its own expense – while also requesting county staff to draft a Request for Proposal (RFP) to replace the privately-owned jail operator.

“It is concerning to us,” admitted County Judge Jay Knight. “The county is not responsible for the day-to-day operations of the jail, it’s GEO alone, but by statute, (county Sheriff Bobby Rader) is over the jail.”

The county owns the jail facility and is responsible for its maintenance. But no county employees are onsite because GEO Group is responsible for jail operations – a distinction that apparently left each party believing the other was liable for the jail’s many maintenance issues, which remained unresolved ...

Tenth Circuit Holds BOP’s Change in Policy and Delivery of Censored Issues at ADX Super Max Prison Moots PLN’s Lawsuit

On December 13, 2019, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court’s dismissal of a federal lawsuit brought by PLN against the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) over censorship of the magazine at the United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) in Florence, Colorado.

BOP regulations permitted ADX prisoners to receive publications without prior approval unless they were prohibited by statute or “detrimental to the [facility’s] good order, or discipline,” as determined by the warden. (28 U.S.C. § 540.70-.72.) The regulations required the warden to notify the prisoner and the publisher of the rejection.

Between January 2010 and April 2014, ADX staff rejected 11 issues of PLN, which contained the name of an ADX or BOP prisoner or staff member. PLN filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging the rejection for “name-alone content,” as applied to PLN, violated its First and Fifth Amendment rights and the federal Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The lawsuit requested only declaratory and injunctive relief.

In February 2016, the ADX changed its institutional supplement, requiring additional personnel — including the legal department — to review incoming publications. In March 2017, then-Warden Jack Fox examined the rejected PLN publications with ...

Sixth Circuit Holds Ohio Rule Requiring Merit Affidavit Inapplicable in BOP Prisoner’s Tort Action

On November 7, 2019, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that an Ohio rule requiring a person alleging medical negligence to include a medical professional’s affidavit stating the claim has merit cannot be applied to a federal prisoner’s legal action against the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).

While incarcerated at a BOP prison in Ohio, Dennis Gallivan had surgery. It did not go well, and he filed a lawsuit in federal court under the FTCA claiming medical negligence. He did not include a medical professional’s affidavit – a so-called merit affidavit -- stating that the claim had merit. Citing Ohio Civil Rule 10(D)(2), which requires a merit affidavit, the district court dismissed the case.

Aided by Washington, D.C., attorneys William T. Marks, Melina M, Meneguin Layerenza, and Aaron J, Marks, Gallivan appealed. The Sixth Circuit noted that, if the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require such a merit affidavit and those rules are valid under the Constitution and Rules Enabling Act, then federal rules, not Ohio Rule 10(D)(2), must be applied.

The Federal Rules do not require an affidavit to state a medical negligence claim. Rule 8(a) ...

$10 Million Post-Appeal Settlement in Oklahoma Jail Prisoner Death Suit

by Matt Clarke

After having most of its defenses rebuked by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, Tulsa County, Oklahoma, opted to settle for $10 million a lawsuit brought by the estate of a jail prisoner who died after police and jail personnel ignored obvious signs of suicidal intent and ...

$550,000 Settlement in Nationwide Class-Action Lawsuit Over High-Fee Debit Cards

by Matt Clarke

In September 20, 2019, an Ohio federal court granted preliminary approval of a settlement in a class action lawsuit against Stored Value Cards, Inc., doing business as Numi Financial, and Republic Bank & Trust over jails using their high-fee debit cards to return prisoners’ funds upon release ...

Report Decries Ongoing Inadequate Medical Care for Pregnant Arizona Prisoners

by Matt Clarke

ACLU and Prison Law Office attorneys representing Arizona state prisoners toured the Perryville prison for three days in April 2019, interviewing 25 women who had recently given birth or suffered miscarriages in prison. The report they gave the court describes “shocking and horrifying” stories of a “deficient” ...

Federal Court Orders Videophone Access for Deaf Prisoners in Colorado

by Matt Clarke

On September 18, 2019, a federal district court ordered the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) to provide access to videophones for all of its deaf and hard of hearing prisoners and prisoners who wish to communicate with people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The court ...

$2.5 Million Settlement Over Prisoner’s Restraint Death in Houston, Texas Jail

by Matt Clarke

The family of a man who died at a jail in Harris County, Texas while being subjected to a dangerous form of restraint settled for $2.5 million in a lawsuit they brought against the county and seven jail officials.

Kenneth Christopher Lucas, 38, was arrested on a ...

Neither Fines Nor Lawsuits Deter Corizon From Delivering Substandard Health Care

by Matt Clarke

In 2018, Corizon Health was the largest for-profit provider of prisoner health care in the country. It contracted with 534 correctional facilities in 27 states holding about 15 percent of the nation’s prisoners. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Corizon was sued for malpractice 660 times ...