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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Matthew Clarke

U.S. Businesses Lobby Government to Curb Federal Prosecutors

by Matthew T. Clarke

U.S. businesses and Wall Street investment companies have begun a campaign to get the Justice Department to reign in federal prosecutors in business crime cases. The effort by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Securities Industry Association and Bond Market Association focuses on prosecutors pressuring companies to waive attorney-client privilege and stop paying the attorney fees of employees under investigation.

In 2002, largely in response to the Enron and other U.S. corporate scandals, Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act stiffening penalties for business fraud. In 2003, then-Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson issued a memorandum containing guidelines for prosecutors considering indicting a company. The guidelines grant leniency to companies that cooperate with prosecutors. In the memorandum, waiver of attorney-client privilege by a company is considered a sign of cooperation while protecting culpable employees by paying their legal bills is a sign of non-cooperation.

An indictment alone can bring down a company, as it did with Arthur Anderson LLP, an accounting firm associated with the Enron scandal which went from 85,000 employees to bankrupt following its indictment. The now-defunct company was eventually vindicated on appeal, but that did nothing to change the companys dissolution.

Some federal ...

Unique Texas Sexual Predator Civil Commitment Has Successes/Failures

by Matthew T. Clarke

Texas has a unique form of civil commitment for sexual predators which allows outpatient treatment and requires most of the civilly committed to live at a halfway house. A committed mans recent escape from a Dallas halfway house brought the Texas model into question.

Seventeen states have laws that allow for civil commitment of sexual predators after they complete their prison sentences. Sixteen of them lock up the committed people with little or no treatment. Texas took another route.

The concept of civil commitment of sexual predators originated in Washington State in 1990. As of December, 2004, 3,493 people had been civilly committed as sexual predators nationwide. 66 of them came from Texas. 427 civilly committed sexual predators (CCSPs) have been released from civil commitment nationwide. None of them were from Texas. 30 of the Texas CCSPs have been returned to prison for violations of the strict civil commitment rules. Violation of civil commitment rules is a third-degree felony in Texas. No Texas CCSP has committed a sex offense after being civilly committed.

Texas began its civil commitment program in 2001. It provides sex offender therapy for CCSPs and requires that they be closely monitored ...

Supreme Court: No Exclusionary Rule for Vienna Convention Violations

by Matthew T. Clarke

On June 28, 2006, the Supreme Court held that violations of the Vienna Convention on Consular Notification (Convention) do not require exclusion of evidence from a criminal trial and are subject to procedural default rules.

Moises Sanchez-Llamas, an Oregon state prisoner and a citizen of Mexico, was arrested following a shootout with police. During police questioning, he made incriminating statements. Mario Bustillo, a Virginia state prisoner and a citizen of Honduras, was arrested and charged with murder. Neither was notified of his Convention rights, including the right to have his countrys consulate notified of his arrest and detention.

Sanchez-Llamas filed a pretrial motion to suppress his statements. The motion was denied. He was convicted and lost his state appeals. The Oregon Supreme Court held that the Convention did not create rights enforceable by an individual. He then appealed to the Supreme Court.

Bustillo was convicted of murder. He then filed a state petition for a writ of habeas corpus arguing for the first time that his Convention rights had been violated. The state court dismissed the petition as procedurally barred because he failed to raise the claim at trial or in direct appeal. The Virginia Supreme ...

European Court of Human Rights Voids UKs Blanket Bans On Prisoner Voting

European Court of Human Rights Voids UKs Blanket Bans On Prisoner Voting

by Matthew T. Clarke

On October 6, 2005, the European Court of Human Rights issued a Grand Chamber Judgment holding that Britains blanket ban on incarcerated prisoners voting in elections violated Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Article 3). The court, which was specifically set up in 1950 to enforce individual rights under the convention, is independent of the European Union.

On February 11, 1980, John Hirst, a British national, pleaded guilty and was convicted of manslaughter on the ground of diminished capacity. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, but released on parole on May 25, 2004. Several years prior to his release, Hirst began proceedings in the High Court, claiming that his disenfranchisement under section 3 of the British Representation of the People Act of 1983, violated his right to vote under the European Convention on Human Rights. This blanket ban on voting rights for incarcerated prisoners affected around 48,000 other similarly-situated prisoners. The ban did not include pre-trial detainees, those imprisoned while on remand, those imprisoned for contempt of court, or those imprisoned for failing to pay a ...

BOP Transfers Unescorted Prisoners On Civilian Buses, Some Escape

by Matthew T. Clarke

In a little-known program, the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has been allowing unescorted prisoners to transfer between prisons using Greyhound and other civilian buses. Not surprisingly, some never show up at their destination.

The program is considered a form of furlough by the BOP, related to the Voluntary Surrenders program that allows a newly-convicted person to voluntarily show up at the prison of assignment if permitted or ordered by the sentencing judge.

The prisoner being transferred is required to sign a letter promising show up at the destination and being threatened with an additional five years of incarceration if they dont. The program was established in 1996 as a cost-cutting measure. Since then, tens of thousands of prisoners have been given bus rides under the program.

The BOP says it limits the participants to appropriate prisoners. This means non-violent, low-security prisoners being transferred from a federal correction facility (prison) to a federal prison camp or halfway house. The BOP web site says the prisoners must have less than two years remaining on their sentences, but a BOP assistant warden said that ten years was the actual limit.

The program was recently thrust into the limelight ...

Alleged Attacks Plotted By New Folsom Prisoners Uncovered

by Matthew T. Clarke

A federal grand jury has indicted four men--two of whom have been prisoners at the California State Prison-Sacramento (New Folsom Prison)--with conspiracy to levy war against the United States, to possess and use firearms in the furtherance of violence, and to kill U.S. and foreign officials. The six-count indictment stems from the alleged plot to attack around two dozen targets in southern California, including National Guard recruitment centers, Israels El Al airline facilities, the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles and. several area synagogues. The attacks were planned to begin on September 11, 2005, with an assault rifle attack on a recruitment center and were to peak during the Jewish High Holy Days in October.

The master planner behind the plot is allegedly New Folsom prisoner Kevin Lamar James, 29. James arrived at New Folsom in 1996. There he joined the largest Muslim group in American prisons, the Nation of Islam (NOI). NOI is currently led by Louis Farrakhan and is known for his anti-Semitic and inflammatory rhetoric and for the groups adherence to the teachings of black separatist Elijah Muhammad. Finding NOI, which opposes armed struggle, too mainstream, within a year of arriving at ...

Non-Sex-Offender Parolee Entitled to Due Process Before Being Treated As Sex Offender

by Matthew T. Clarke

The Fifth Circuit court of appeals held that a parolee who has never been convicted of a sex offense is entitled to a due process hearing prior to being required to register as a sex offender and attend sex offender treatment as a condition of parole.

Tony Ray Coleman, a Texas state prisoner, was on parole for burglary of a habitation when he was indicted for aggravated sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child by contact. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of misdemeanor assault and his parole was revoked. Later, he was released on mandatory supervision. However, without giving him advanced notice or a hearing to contest the conditions, the parole panel required him to register as a sex offender and attend sex offender therapy. Coleman registered, but failed to attend therapy and was revoked for that reason.

Coleman filed a pro se federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus alleging that his procedural and substantive due process rights were violated when the parole panel required him to register as a sex offender and participate in sex offender therapy even though he had no sex offense conviction. The district court ...

Texas Federal District Judge Throws Out VitaPro Convictions

by Matthew T. Clarke

In another bizarre twist to an already bewildering prosecution history, on September 9, 2005, Texas federal district judge Lynn Hughes, by judicial fiat, acquitted Andy Collins, the former executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), and Yank Barry, the Canadian ex-con owner of VitaPro, of the bribery-related charges a jury convicted them of four years ago. Collins and Barry were never sentenced. VitaPro manufactures a soy-based protein meat substitute that was purchased by TDCJ and fed to prisoners.

In 1995, George W. Bush was governor of Texas and TDCJ was in the middle of a multi-billion dollar rapid expansion phase that more than quadrupled its prisoner capacity to 150,000 in seven years. To facilitate the rapid expansion, special emergency purchasing contracts that sidestepped the state bidding requirements were authorized. Thus, under then-TDCJ executive director Collins, multi-imillion-dollar no-bid contracts were allowed. VitaPro received a $33.7 million no-bid contract to supply its inedible meat substitute to TDCJ kitchens.

Amidst the then-breaking prison procurement scandal, the freshly-retired Collins gave an interview published in the May 1996 issue of Texas Monthly magazine. In the interview, Collins stated that people well above him in the state ...

Illinois DOC Seeks to Block Ex-Wardens Benefits

Illinois DOC Seeks to Block Ex-Wardens Benefits

by Matthew T. Clarke

On September 13, 2005, the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC) filed an appeal of a workers compensation arbitrators decision to grant ex-prison warden William Barham permanent total disabilities benefits. Barhams injuries stem from a fatal one-vehicle accident for which he was convicted of reckless homicide and aggravated DUI and sentenced to four years in prison. Killed in the wreck was prison employee Jerry Isom. After Barham had served about 15 months of prison time, a state appellate court overturned the conviction. [PLN, Aug. 2004, p. 18]. Barham, 52, then filed for the disability payments of $863.45 per week for the rest of his life.

The disability case went to arbitration. The arbitrator ruled that the intoxicated Barham was performing a work-related activity when he wrecked the car on October 14, 2000. In addition to the $863.45 per week for life, Illinois was ordered to pay $42,000 in medical expenses and $863.45 per week for the 158 weeks from the day following the accident until Barham achieved maximum medical improvement for a total back payment of $178,425.

Prior to the accident, Barham had used a ...

Houston Grand Juries Mostly Law-Enforcement

Houston Grand Juries Mostly Law-Enforcement and Government Employees

by Matthew T. Clarke

Ever since a ruling by the U. S. Supreme Court in Smith v. State of Texas, 311 U.S. 128, 61 S.Ct. 164, 85 L.Ed. 84 (1940), grand juries have been required to represent a broad cross-section" of the community.

Apparently, in Harris County, Texas, it is sufficient for grand juries to represent a broad cross-section of law enforcement and other government employees. Furthermore, only one in eleven grand jurors were Hispanicand most of them were non-voting alternate jurorsin a county that is one-third Hispanic.

There are two methods of grand juror selection used in Texas. A state district judge can appoint three to five commissioners who select another fifteen to forty residents. A state statute requires that the residents represent a broad cross-section of the population of the county, considering the factors of race, sex and age." From the residents selected, the judge selects twelve grand jurors and two nonvoting alternates. The other method is to select qualified residents randomly from the regular jury pool and have them constitute the grand jury. The commissioner method is used in Harris County. Of the five largest Texas ...


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