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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Matthew Clarke

Oklahoma is Number One ... in Incarceration Rates

by Matt Clarke

According to a June 2018 report by the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI), Oklahoma’s incarceration rate has surpassed not only that of every other state in the U.S., but also of almost every other nation. To calculate the rates, PPI totaled the number of prisoners in both ...

Hawaii Prison Guards’ Union Fights Policy of Denying Promotions

by Matt Clarke 

In Hawaii, the United Public Workers union represents around 13,000 state and county employees, including approximately 1,200 prison guards. The union has been engaged in a seven-year battle against the Department of Public Safety’s policy of denying promotions to guards who were ...

Texas Prison System Cuts Phone Rates Over 75 Percent; Rates Drop in Other States, Too

by Matt Clarke

In a monthly meeting held in the ballroom of an Austin hotel on August 24, 2018, the Texas Board of Criminal Justice – the agency that establishes rules by which the Texas prison and parole systems operate – voted unanimously to reduce the cost of phone calls ...

California: $1 Million Settlement in Suit Over Mentally Ill Jail Prisoner’s Suicide

by Matt Clarke

On December 28, 2017, the family and estate of a mentally ill prisoner who committed suicide while incarcerated at the Yuba County jail in California filed suit in federal court alleging violations of his civil rights. The case settled ten months later for $1 million.

Bertram Hiscock ...

Eighth Circuit: Severe Pain Caused by Actual Injury Satisfies PLRA Physical Injury Requirement

by Matt Clarke

On August 7, 2018, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held the physical injury requirement of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e), does not require a prisoner to show that deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs caused his injury ...

PREA Audit at Montana Women’s Prison Amid Sexual Misconduct Complaints

by Matt Clarke

A June 2017 audit at the Montana Women’s Prison (MWP) found the facility was not in full compliance with 20 of 43 standards promulgated under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), enacted in 2003. [See: PLN, Nov. 2017, p.1; Sept. 2013, p.1].

The prison, which ...

Aging Prison Population Finds Parole Elusive

by Matt Clarke

According to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Justice, about 11% of the state and federal prison population in 2016 was over age 55. Of those prisoners, numbering roughly 160,000, around 38,000 were 65 or older. The share of prisoners over age 50 is expected to swell from about 17% in 2013 to 33% by 2030.

States that have an even higher percentage of elderly prisoners include Massachusetts, where 17% of state prisoners are over 55. New York’s overall prison population fell by 17% between 2007 and 2016, but at the same time the number of prisoners age 50 or older rose by 46%, to include over 10,000 of the state’s more than 50,000 prisoners.

Older prisoners face unique safety hazards, plus other age-related problems – such as incontinence and dementia – are exacerbated in penal settings. They also require more healthcare services, which they have a constitutional right to receive under the Eighth Amendment. In Massachusetts, for example, the annual cost of caring for a single hospitalized prisoner is $283,000 – four times the cost of incarceration in a maximum-security facility.

The United States is not alone in ...

$5 Million Settlement in Lawsuit Over Preventable Death of New Mexico Jail Prisoner

by Matt Clarke

In January 2018, Cibola County, New Mexico agreed to pay $5 million to settle a lawsuit over the death of a jail prisoner who was repeatedly denied medical treatment despite vomiting and defecating blood.

Douglas Edmisten, 50, was arrested on misdemeanor charges and booked into the Cibola County Detention Center (CCDC). Shortly after 10 p.m. on July 7, 2016, he told jailers he had severe abdominal pain and was vomiting blood. He was ignored. Other prisoners began advocating for him; one even smeared blood that Edmisten had vomited on the pod’s windows to emphasize the emergency. Lt. Gilbert Gonzales told them to return to their bunks. Finally, at 10:54 p.m., medical staff member Casey Salvador escorted Edmisten to the jail’s infirmary.

Salvador was told about Edmisten’s abdominal pain and vomiting. She even observed one episode when he threw up blood. Salvador noted he had a pulse of 144 beats per minutes, which was a very elevated heart rate. She contacted RN Michael Hildebrandt, the jail’s Health Services Authority, and informed him of Edmisten’s condition. Hildebrandt told her to return him to his pod without treatment.

Edmisten continued to vomit blood and other prisoners continued ...

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 ...


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