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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Matthew Clarke

Texas Court of Appeals Reverses Termination of Prisoner’s Parental Rights

Texas Court of Appeals Reverses Termination of Prisoner's Parental Rights

by Matthew T. Clarke

A Texas court of appeals held that when terminating a prisoner's parental rights the two-year period of incarceration used to justify the termination begins after the petition to terminate parental rights has been filed.

Eric Maiwald, a Texas state prisoner, was served with a petition initiated by his former girlfriend, Stacey Moon. Moon sought termination on four grounds based on Texas Family Code 161.001(C), (F), (H) and (Q): (1) knowingly engaging in criminal conduct resulting in incarceration and inability to care for the child for "not less than two years from the date of filing the petition," Subsection Q; (2) failure to support the child within the parent's ability for one year ending within six months of the date the petition is filed, Subsection F; (3) leaving the child in the possession of another without providing adequate support of the child and remaining away for at least six months, Subsection C; and (4) voluntarily and with knowledge of the pregnancy abandoning the mother beginning at the time of her pregnancy, Subsection H. The trial court terminated Maiwald's parental rights, finding ...

Refusal to Give Nitro Tablets to Prisoner With Chest Pain Actionable

by Matthew T. Clarke

The Fifth Circuit court of appeals held that a prisoner with a history of heart trouble who was denied any treatment for his chest pain could sue the nurse who denied him treatment even though he later received treatment and did not allege permanent damage.

John Edward Easter, a Texas state prisoner, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 after Gayla Powell, a prison nurse, refused to treat him for chest pain. Easter had a history of serious heart problems when he was taken to the prison infirmary suffering from chest pain and vomiting. A prison doctor prescribed oxygen and nitroglycerin with the instruction to ?dissolve 1 tablet under tongue every 5 minutes as needed for chest pain; after 3 tablets or 15 minutes call doctor if no relief has been obtained.? Fifteen minutes later, Easter felt better and returned to his cell.

Two days later, Easter again reported to the infirmary after experiencing twenty minutes of severe chest pain. Powell referred Easter to the prison pharmacy to have his nitroglycerin prescription refilled. However, the pharmacy was closed and, when he returned to the infirmary to request nitroglycerin, Powell accused him of being argumentative and ...

Nevada Psychological Review Panel Hearings Subjected to Open Meeting and Constitutional Due Process Requirements

by Matthew T.Clarke

In two related cases, the Supreme Court of Nevada held that sex offender certification hearings held by the Nevada Psychological Review Panel (PRP) were subject to the Nevada open meeting law (OML) and constitutional due process. The court also held that prisoners who were serving consecutive sentences and were being considered for parole from one sentence into another without the possibility of immediate release were not required to be certified before being granted parole.

Robert Leslie Stockmeier is a Nevada state prisoner who is serving two consecutive life sentences for sex offenses. In 2002 he became eligible to parole from one sentence into the other.

Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 213.1214 requires that sex offenders receive certification from the PRP that they are not a high risk to reoffend before they are released on parole. In 2002, the PRP gave Stockmeier notice of a hearing on his mental state. At the hearing, they met in closed session to hear the statement of Stockmeier?s victim. In addition to the details about the trauma and negative affect on her life the crime had, the victim described other instances of abuse which had not been previously alleged and ...

Accuracy of Sex Offender Registries Questioned By GAO

by Matthew T. Clarke

On August 30, 2006, the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that questions the accuracy of the sex offender registries being used by the states to track registered sex offenders (RSOs). The chief complaint was that the sex offender databases used to track RSOs depended upon the sex offenders self-reporting their addresses. Thus, if a RSO failed to report a move, the database became inaccurate and there was no systematic way to discover the inaccuracy. Since a RSO?s failure to report a change of address is a felony in most states, this also allowed the crimes to remain undetected.

Between 1994 and 2003, Congress enacted a series of laws that required sex offenders to register with law enforcement agencies and threatened the federal funding of any state that did not set up a sex offender registry. All fifty states now require registration of sex offenders. This led to about one out of every 754 people in the United States being required to register as a sex offender. This is 0.13% of the population of the United States--over 400,000 people nationwide. All RSO are registered in the FBI?s National Sex Offender ...

Prior Drug Use Stable Among State Prisoners, Rises For Federal Prisoners

by Matthew T. Clarke

In October 2006, the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice released a report on prior drug use among state and federal prisoners. The report compared the years 1997 and 2004. It showed that the percentage of state prisoners who used drugs prior to committing their crimes remained about the same while similar drug use for federal prisoners rose on all measures and, for the first time, 50% of federal prisoners reported using drugs in the month prior to committing their crimes.

In 1997, 45% of federal and 57% of state prisoners had used drugs in the month prior to their offense. 33% of state and 22% of federal prisoners were using drugs when they committed their crimes. By 2004, 50% of the federal prisoners reported using drugs in the month before their crimes while 26% reported using drugs while committing their crimes. In contrast, the state percentages for 2004 remained stable at 56% and 32%, respectively.

Prisoners with recent drug dependence prior to their crimes were also likely to have an extensive criminal history. Among state prisoners who were dependent or using drugs, 53% had at least three prior sentences to ...

Six Florida Federal Prison Guards Convicted, Sentenced On Rape and Corruption Charges

by Matthew T. Clarke

Five former prison guards convicted in federal court on criminal charges stemming from a sex-for-contraband scandal at the Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) in Tallahassee, Florida have been sentenced; four received prison terms.

When federal agents arrived at FCI Tallahassee on June 21, 2006, they expected to quietly arrest six federal prison guards on charges related to their having sex with female prisoners at the facility, usually in exchange for contraband such as jewelry, free-world bras, gum, perfume, makeup and cigars. Another aspect of the scheme involved prisoners? relatives mailing money orders to the guards to pay for the contraband. The guards listened in on the prisoners? phone calls and threatened any who tried to reveal the conspiracy.

Instead of an uneventful arrest, however, the federal agents became embroiled in a gun battle with one of the guards, Ralph Hill, who had smuggled a personal firearm into the prison. The gunfire left Hill and Special Agent William Sentner dead and a prison lieutenant wounded. [See: PLN Oct. 2006, pp. 12-13].

Five other guards, Gregory Dixon, Alan Moore, E. Lavon Spence, Alfred Barnes and Vincent Johnson, were arrested. Johnson, Barnes and Spence pleaded guilty to mail fraud on ...

Texas Prison System Faces Critical Guard Shortage

by Matthew T. Clarke

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is understaffed by 3,152 guards, a 12% deficit compared to full staffing. The shortage has grown each year from an average of 8.5% in 2004. Some prison units have very large staffing shortfalls, including Dalhart (37%), Smith (33%), Coffield (31%), Beta (31%) and Ferguson (28%). The TDCJ guard shortage is the highest of any prison system in the country; it compares with 9% in California, 4% in Florida and under 1% in New York.

Experts claim the shortage is caused by poor pay and the rural location of some prisons, which make it difficult to call on the large labor pools available in cities. While this may explain the difficulty that TDCJ has in recruiting new hires, interviews with numerous TDCJ guards who quit have revealed that the most cited reason for leaving was supervisors? poor management skills.

TDCJ?s guard turnover rate was 24% in 2006; 30,000 guards have been hired since 2001, but 31,000 have left TDCJ during that same time period.
Halving the turnover rate would eliminate the guard staffing shortage in a single year.

Some Texas legislators expressed concerns that the ...

$13,655,940 Award For False Massachusetts Rape Conviction

by Matthew T. Clarke

On October 4, 2006, a federal court in Massachusetts awarded $13,655,940 to a man falsely convicted of rape.

Eric Sarsfield was living in Marlborough, Massachusetts in July 1987 when Ms. Toni Gustus was raped in the same community. Gustus reported the crime and forensic ...

$9,063,000 Jury Award For Illinois False Rape Conviction

by Matthew T. Clarke

On October 23, 2006, a federal jury in Illinois awarded a man who had been falsely convicted of rape $9,063,000.

On September 19, 1989, Alejandro Dominguez was a 16-year old living in an apartment complex in Waukegan, Illinois, when Lisa Kraus, 33, a resident ...

Eighth Circuit Upholds Arkansas Sex Offender Registration/Residency Restrictions

by Matthew T. Clarke

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a civil rights challenge to provisions of the Arkansas Sex Offender Registration Act, Ark. Code Ann. § 12-12-901 et seq., and to a criminal statute that makes it a Class D felony for some sex offenders to live within 2,000 feet of a school or daycare center. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-14-128.

Arkansas requires its Sex Offender Assessment Committee to assign one of four risk levels to registered sex offenders (RSOs) -- low risk, moderate risk, high risk and sexually violent predator. The assigned risk level (ARL) determines the amount of community notification required. It is a Class D felony for RSOs in the two highest ARL categories to live within 2,000 feet of a school or a daycare center.

Donald Weems and Michael Briggs are Arkansas RSOs who were assessed high risk levels by the Committee. Weems had been convicted of indecent exposure. After assessment, he received a letter from the Little Rock police chief telling him his residence was in violation of the 2,000-foot rule and ordering him to move. Briggs was convicted of first-degree rape in Maryland and moved to his mother?s ...

 

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