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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Matthew Clarke

$95,000 Settlement in Suit Over Idaho Jail Prisoner's Death

by Matt Clarke

In April 2016, a federal civil rights lawsuit against Canyon County, Idaho, over the death of a county jail prisoner due to denial of medical care was settled for $95,000.

Alfred Girrard Young, 46, was booked into the Dale G. Haile Detention Center in Canyon County, Idaho, to serve "discretionary jail time" for a violation of his probation on drug charges. Young, who was black and HIV-positive, had previously been incarcerated at the jail and previously been a plaintiff in a federal class-action lawsuit with the assistance of the ACLU that alleged jail officials retaliated against him for filing grievances about being given improper doses of his prescribed medication, Young v. Smith, U.S.D.C. (D. Idaho), Case No. 1:11-cv-00579-REB. That case has been settled.

Conditions of confinement at the jail had also been the subject of a previous ACLU-assisted federal class-action lawsuit alleging, among other things, overcrowding and inadequate ventilation allowing the buildup of "stale and foul air" and increasing the risk of "air-borne diseases, headaches, dizziness, and other physical and mental ailments." Davis v. Canyon County, U.S.D.C. (D. Idaho), Case No. 1:09-cv-00107.

Within a week of his latest ...

Settlement in Lawsuit Over Missouri Jail Prisoner’s Death

by Matt Clarke

The family of a prisoner who died at a Richland Heights, Missouri jail after untreated deep vein thrombosis caused a fatal pulmonary embolism has settled a lawsuit brought against the jail, two hospitals and hospital employees. The settlement was confidential but the city’s portion was released as ...

Ninth Circuit Orders Sealing of Court Documents that Reveal Informant

by Matt Clarke

On September 12, 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a federal district court’s denial of a defendant’s motion to seal all documents related to the lower sentence he received because he informed on a drug cartel.

John Doe is the pseudonym of a defendant who pleaded guilty to smuggling meth into the United States and received a five-level downward departure when he was sentenced in exchange for providing information about a drug cartel to federal prosecutors. According to a motion for downward departure filed by the government pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1, Doe supplied the names, addresses, phone numbers and physical descriptions of cartel members and informed the government of the presence of cartel members in court during one of his appearances, detailing their roles in the drug smuggling operation.

The motion described Doe’s information as generally reliable and accurate. It led to the arrest of at least one other cartel member; the motion also stated that, after Doe’s arrest, a cartel member told him, “Don’t play dirty with us because we know where your family is.”

Based upon that threat, the government filed a motion to seal the downward ...

$100,000 Settlement in Suit Over Hawaii Guard’s Sexual Assault of Prisoner

by Matt Clarke

The State of Hawaii and a former prison guard have each agreed to pay $50,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a female prisoner who was sexually assaulted.

Stormy Rae Smith was serving a five-year sentence at the Women’s Community Correctional Center in Honolulu for car ...

Lawsuits Filed Against GEO Group for Wage Violations at Detention Facilities

by Christopher Zoukis and Matt Clarke

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit in superior court against The GEO Group in September 2017, alleging the private prison contractor had violated the state’s minimum wage laws by paying immigrant detainees $1 per day to perform work at the company’s Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma.

NWDC houses up to 1,575 immigrant detainees until the resolution of their deportation cases; GEO has operated the facility under a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since 2005. The lawsuit demands that GEO pay the state minimum wage to detainee workers and divest any ill-gotten gains.

According to Ferguson’s suit, the company uses a “voluntary” work program at the facility that “rewards” detainee for their labor at a rate of $1 per day. In some cases, snacks and food are provided in exchange for work. ICE’s most recent National Detention Standards, released in 2011, require that detainees be paid at least $1 per day if they perform work at detention facilities. Ferguson argues that GEO Group must pay such workers the state’s minimum wage, which is currently $11 per hour.

“A multi-billion dollar corporation is trying to get away with paying ...

MacAuthur Justice Center Files Lawsuit Over Missouri Parole Revocations

by Matt Clarke

In August 2017, the MacArthur Justice Center (MJC) in St. Louis filed a federal civil rights suit against the Missouri Department of Corrections and its Division of Probation and Parole (Parole Board). At issue were alleged violations of the constitutional rights of parolees facing revocation hearings, which often resulted in their reincarceration.

Missouri has 15,000 people on parole, of whom 3,000 to 7,000 face violations and revocation hearings annually. Despite that large number of revocations, the suit notes, the Parole Board held just 250 revocation hearings in the three years between March 2014 and March 2017. MJC Director Mae Quinn called the situation in Missouri “horrific.”

“Here we are in the 21st century running an assembly-line parole violation system that just pushes people back into our prisons without any real legal protections,” she said. “And yet such practices were rendered unconstitutional 50 years ago.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has considered several cases involving parole revocation hearings, ordering states to establish procedures to protect the due process rights of parolees.

There must be both a preliminary hearing and a final hearing, at which evidence of the violation is presented. Parolees may ...

In the Eye of the Storm: When Hurricanes Impact Prisons and Jails

by Matt Clarke

Hurricanes and other major storms represent a significant threat to prisoners. Prisons and jails are often built on poorly-drained land located in flood plains or other environmentally-sensitive areas. Although meteorologists usually warn of hurricanes days or even weeks before they make landfall, prisoners cannot move themselves to higher ground and storms sometimes develop in unanticipated ways.

Corrections officials are faced with a difficult choice when warned of an approaching storm. They can stay in place, potentially exposing staff and prisoners to dangerous, even fatal conditions, or they can evacuate prisoners to a safer location. However, evacuation also has disadvantages – it is expensive and not without its own dangers as prisoners could try to escape. Also, if a detention facility is near a densely-populated area, transport buses can become mired in evacuation traffic, resulting in guards and prisoners having to ride out a hurricane while stalled on highways.

Even if an evacuation goes off without a hitch, prisoners may be housed in places not designed as living areas, such as gyms or chapels at other facilities. Those areas will not have adequate sanitation for such a large number of people, and the receiving prison’s medical, food, hygiene ...

Due Process Mandatory Before Texas Requires Sex Offender Registration for Crimes not Covered by Statute

by Matt Clarke

On August 8, 2017, a Texas federal district court determined that requiring a person on community supervision to register as a sex offender for a crime not covered by the Texas Sex Offender Registration Act, Art. 62.001 et seq., Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, without first ...

Indiana County Settles Jail Guard’s ADA/Discrimination Suit for $150,000

by Matt Clarke

In July 2017, an Indiana county settled a civil rights lawsuit brought by former jail guard Michael A. Jones that included claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The suit alleged the jail refused to accommodate post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from his finding a prisoner ...

Court Certifies Class of Missouri Prisoners Denied Hepatitis C Treatment

by Matt Clarke

On July 26, 2017 (two days before World Hepatitis Day), the ACLU of Missouri and the MacArthur Justice Center (MJC) announced the certification of a class of Missouri Department of Corrections (MDOC) prisoners who have been denied treatment for hepatitis C (HCV) under the prevailing standard of care.

With the assistance of ACLU attorneys Gillian R. Wilcox and Anthony E. Rothert, and MJC attorney Amy E. Breihan, three MDOC prisoners – Michael Postawko, Christopher Baker and Michael Jamerson – filed a class-action federal civil rights suit against state prison officials and Corizon, the MDOC’s for-profit health care provider, seeking treatment under the prevailing standard of care for prisoners infected with HCV. According to court documents, the standard of care endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control is treatment of all HCV-infected persons with direct-acting antiviral (DAA) drugs.

DAAs work quicker, cause fewer side effects and are more successful at treating chronic HCV infections than the previous treatment standard using interferon and ribavirin. They are also more expensive, a justification the MDOC uses to treat only a few HCV-infected prisoners. The additional cost is offset by a cure rate of over 90%.

Untreated HCV infections can cause liver ...


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