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Articles by Michael Rigby

Report On Arizona Hostage Crisis May Never Be Released

A report on the 2004 hostage crisis at the Arizona Prison Complex-Lewis took hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars and more than three months to produce. But thanks to partisan politics and bureaucratic infighting, the report may never be released.

On January 18, 2004, two prisoners seized control of an ...

Federal Jury Awards $45,001 to Maryland Prisoner Assaulted By Guards

On October 22, 2004, a federal jury awarded a Maryland state prisoner $45,001 in damages after concluding that Institution (WCI) guards violated his civil rights by beating him while he was handcuffed.

The jury found guards Gary A. Knight and Robert Huff individually liable for assaulting Norman R. Willis, 37, ...

Wisconsin Appeals Court Orders Photos Delivered to Prisoner

On July 22, 2010, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, District IV, held that three prison employees – sued over their involvement in withholding pictures deemed pornographic by Department of Corrections policy – were entitled to qualified immunity. The court also held that four of the 15 contested photos were not ...

New York: Indigent Defendants' Suit Over Non-representation Ruled Justiciable

by Mike Rigby

On May 6, 2010, the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, held that indigent defendants in five New York counties who alleged they were effectively provided no representation at their arraignment and subsequent legal proceedings raised justiciable claims.

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. ...

Trial and Conviction in Washington Jailhouse Courtroom Overturned

by Mike Rigby

On May 27, 2010, the Washington State Supreme Court, sitting en banc, held that a trial and subsequent conviction that took place in a jailhouse courtroom violated the defendant's right to due process by eroding the presumption of innocence.

Defendant James Frank Jaime was charged with second ...

Scientific Advances in Arson Investigations Reveal Wrongful Convictions

by Mike Rigby

Current scientific knowledge is shattering the long-held traditional beliefs of arson investigators and exposing wrongful convictions in the process. Still, old-school fire inspectors, detectives and even some judges have been slow to embrace new scientific methods and findings related to arson investigations. In Texas, such reluctance led ...

Ninth Circuit Rules Right to Court Access Violated When Lockdown Prevents Prisoner from Researching Issues Related to Direct Appeal

by Mike Rigby

In an amended opinion filed on November 19, 2010, the Ninth Circuit reversed a district court’s dismissal of a prisoner’s claims that 1) his constitutional right of access of the courts was violated when, during the limited time period in which he could have appealed his criminal ...

Some Agencies Balk at Releasing Prison Phone Data

by Mike Rigby

It is common knowledge among PLN readers that prison and jail phone rates are priced far above those in the free world. But just how overpriced are they? What is the average kickback (commission) rate provided by phone companies, and how much in kickbacks is paid each year nationwide?

In an effort to obtain a comprehensive overview of the prison phone market, I was hired to help acquire phone contracts, rate information and commission data from all 50 state prison systems as well as the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and selected county jails. I requested the same data from all agencies yet the responses, and what was initially produced, varied widely.

Responses to the requests for phone data were varied, but the norm was a mixture of bureaucracy and indifference. I was often routed from department to department, from one person to another, before reaching someone who had the authority or initiative to provide the requested information.

For example, the Alabama Department of Corrections (DOC) readily produced its commission data, but obtaining the prison phone contracts from the uncooperative state purchasing department took multiple calls and emails to 5 different agency officials.
Actually obtaining copies of ...

Facebook Lands Prison Guards, Prisoners in Hot Water

by Mike Rigby

One downside of the information age is that both prison guards and prisoners have found themselves in trouble due to their accounts on Facebook, the Internet’s premier social networking site.

Three Nebraska prison guards were fired in March 2010 due to a Facebook post in which they gloated about abusing prisoners. [See: PLN, May 2010, p.50].

“When you work in a prison a good day is getting to smash an inmate’s face into the ground .... for me today was a VERY good day,” Nebraska Dept. of Corrections guard Caleb Bartels stated on his Facebook page. Two other prison guards, Shawn Paulson and Derek Dickey, posted responses supporting his comment. Dickey wrote, “very satisfying isn’t it!!!”

Prison officials confirmed that staff had used force against a prisoner at the Nebraska State Penitentiary on February 8, 2010, the date of Bartel’s Facebook post.

In a letter to Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, former State Senator Ernie Chambers said the “reprehensible misconduct” bragged about by the guards on Facebook made them unfit to serve. “Given the nature of their work and the power they exercise over inmates, they have shown themselves to lack fitness to hold employment,” Chambers wrote. ...

Federal Restitution Law Failing Crime Victims

by Mike Rigby

A federal law meant to ensure that victims of violence, fraud and other property crimes are compensated for financial loss does not work as intended.

According to the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (MVRA) passed by Congress in 1996, crime victims who suffer identifiable monetary losses are entitled ...