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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Monte McCoin

Massachusetts County Faces Lawsuit Over Phone Fee Kickbacks

by Monte McCoin

On May 2, 2018, attorneys with Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts, the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), the Legal Services Center at Harvard Law School and the law firm of Bailey & Glasser LLP filed a lawsuit against Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson and Securus Technologies, Inc., alleging the county jail’s phone contract with Securus constitutes an illegal kickback scheme.

“The excessive costs that are imposed on families by these payments are unlawful attempts to exploit vulnerable Massachusetts prisoners by commercializing their contact with the outside world,” said NCLC attorney Brian Highsmith.

According to court documents, between August 2011 and June 2013, Hodgson’s office collected $1.7 million in commission kickbacks from Securus. The telecom company paid the Sheriff’s Office a lump sum of $820,000 to cover 2016 through 2020.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs claim Hodgson and Securus are violating state consumer protection laws.

“What consumers are being charged has no relationship to the actual cost of providing phone service,” said Bonnie Tenneriello, a staff attorney with Prisoners’ Legal Services. In comparison to a call from a Massachusetts state prison at $0.10 per minute with no fee for the first minute, a ...

Growing Number of Local Jurisdictions Reject Correctional Privatization

by Monte McCoin

On May 8, 2018, the City Council in Tucson, Arizona passed a historic resolution by unanimous vote that prohibits “contracting with private, for-profit prison companies like GEO Group or CoreCivic (formerly CCA) for jail operations.” City Councilmember Regina Romero, who spearheaded the passage of the resolution alongside Tucson Vice Mayor Paul Cunningham, noted that “Profit should never be motivation for our justice system.”

The Tucson resolution closely followed a similar measure passed in December 2017 by the Board of Supervisors in Pima County, Arizona, and appears to follow a growing trend among municipalities to reject correctional privatization.

King County, Washington was one of the first jurisdictions to ban privately-operated facilities; the county passed legislation in August 2017 that prohibits contracts between the county and private prison firms to house either adult or juvenile detainees. [See: PLN, Sept. 2017, p.29]. And in April 2018, the Indianapolis City-County Council proactively prohibited privatization of the city’s yet-to-open new criminal justice center and jail with an ordinance that also dissolves the city’s current contract with CoreCivic when the old jail closes.

“No function of our government is more serious than when it deprives people of liberty,” said ...

Virginia: Former Assistant Warden Gets Suspended Sentence for Trading Privileges for Sex

by Monte McCoin

On March 19, 2018, former Indian Creek Correctional Center assistant warden Clyde Alderman, 68, entered an Alford plea to three misdemeanor counts of solicitation. By entering the plea, Alderman, without admitting guilt, agreed that prosecutors had enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt he had repeatedly given special privileges to a prisoner in exchange for oral sex. He had originally been indicted in October 2017 on three felony counts of carnal knowledge of a prisoner.

A stipulation of evidence included with court filings detailed three occasions between December 2016 and June 30, 2017 when prosecutors said Alderman granted a male prisoner special employment and housing assignments after calling him to his office to perform sexual favors.

Although it was unclear whether Alderman was allowed to retire from his $67,756 per year Department of Corrections position or if he was terminated, Gregory Carter, a DOC spokesman, confirmed to the Richmond Times-Dispatch that Alderman’s last day at the prison was July 5, 2017.

According to Alderman’s attorney, Andrew Page, the former prison official took the plea “because he did not want to put his family through the hardships associated with a three-day jury trial.” The reduced ...

Alaska Jail Recorded Attorney-client Conversations for Four Years

by Monte McCoin

On January 15, 2018, the Anchorage Daily News reported that, from 2012 to 2016, confidential conversations between criminal defendants and their attorneys were routinely recorded by a long-abandoned audio monitoring system in a visitation room at the Anchorage Correctional Complex (ACC).

Clare Sullivan, deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Corrections (ADOC), explained that recording equipment was installed in the room at the request of the FBI in 2012, specifically to monitor interviews with suspected serial killer Israel Keyes – a high-profile prisoner who later committed suicide. After Keyes’ death, according to Sullivan, jail staff “simply forgot about” the recording devices, which continued to capture audio continuously, taping over old files every 30 days until the system was “rediscovered” and disabled four years later, in November 2016.

“Once it was discovered that the recordings potentially contained audio, the criminal investigators immediately segregated those recordings, did not listen to them, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office immediately alerted counsel for the Department of Corrections, who removed that capability,” said Anchorage District Attorney Rick Allen’s office.

Erin Gonzalez-Powell is one of many outraged regional defense lawyers who remain skeptical that the practice has, in fact, ended. “If [the ...

Former Prosecutor and Director of Tennessee DOC Sentenced to Prison

by Monte McCoin

On March 30, 2018, D. Michael Dunavant, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, announced that Quenton Irwin White, who previously served as U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee during the Clinton administration and also as head of the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) between 2003 and 2005, had been sentenced to prison for stealing from clients he represented as a private attorney between 2013 and 2016.

“Mr. White used his privilege to practice law and a position of fiduciary trust to commit crimes of fraud and dishonesty that victimized vulnerable black farmers and their families for his own selfish personal gain,” Dunavant stated.

White pleaded guilty to keeping settlement funds intended for the estates of three black farmers who had won a class-action lawsuit for racial discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The district court ordered him to pay $141,000 in restitution to the victims and serve two years of supervised release after serving one year and a day in federal prison.

White was disbarred by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2016 due to the scandal; he had previously been the subject of controversy when he ...

North Carolina Prison Guard Beaten, Stabbed; Sources Say His Past Brutality Made Him a Target

by Monte McCoin

Brent Soucier was hired as a prison guard by the then-North Carolina Department of Correction in 1997. Only four months earlier, he had been fired from his job as a guard in Vermont after being convicted of assault for holding a cocked semi-automatic handgun against a man’s head so hard that it made his ear bleed. A 2013 lawsuit previously reported by PLN included allegations levied against Soucier by eight prisoners at the Central Prison, who claimed he beat them while they were handcuffed in areas not covered by video cameras. [See: PLN, Apr. 2018, p.14].

According to court records cited by TV station WRAL, Soucier, 44, has been named in at least six federal lawsuits that claim he violated prisoners’ rights. Two of those cases are pending, three were dismissed and a sixth settled. In one of the pending cases, Soucier is accused of “attacking inmates in full restraints, breaking their arms, punching them in the face, and pretending the inmate provoked the assault.”

On June 19, 2018, Soucier, who is currently employed as a unit manager at the Central Prison, was beaten and stabbed with homemade weapons by prisoners Jaquan Lane, 23, and ...

Tennessee Jailer Convicted of Official Misconduct, “Extreme Provocative Contact”

by Monte McCoin

PLN previously reported the January 2016 grand jury indictments of former Morgan County, Tennessee jail guard Joe D. Shoffner, Jr. and fellow jailers Garren Austin Luke Cooper and Michael Alan Lloyd for their roles in an incident in which a prisoner was assaulted. [See: PLN, April 2016, p.63].

Shoffner, Cooper and Lloyd had been investigated by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation after information developed that the trio had improperly tried to restrain a prisoner on December 12, 2015, and the incident escalated to an excessive level of force. In addition to Shoffner’s felony official misconduct charge, all three guards were initially charged with assault. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss the counts against Cooper and Lloyd in an August 2016 plea deal, leaving Shoffner alone to face criminal charges stemming from the incident.

On February 9, 2018, jurors wrapped up a two-day trial by convicting Shoffner of both felony official misconduct and a reduced single misdemeanor count of “extreme provocative contact” against a prisoner. No details about his March 2018 sentencing were available. 



Florida: DHS Snitch Busted for Trying to Sell Informant Status to Federal Prisoner

by Monte McCoin

On February 26, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Darrin P. Gayles sentenced a former confidential informant for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to a year in prison and a year of supervised release for obstructing justice. In exchange for a cash payment, the informant had offered to sell informant status and the possibility of a sentence reduction to a federal prisoner for cooperating in an investigation.

Miguel Rodriguez-Sierra worked as an informant for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office in Miami from 2003 until May 2016. He admitted in December 2017 to plotting to sell information to an unidentified federal prisoner who had no role in or knowledge of a specific drug trafficking operation, with the expectation the false information would lead investigators to offer the prisoner a reduction in his federal prison term.

The prisoner instead reported Rodriquez-Sierra’s offer and agreed to cooperate with agents from DHS, ICE and the FBI. During the course of the investigation between November 2015 and November 2016, investigators documented two separate $5,000 payments made to Rodriguez-Sierra through an undercover officer who claimed to be an associate of the prisoner.

Benjamin G. Greenberg, U.S ...

Oregon: Former Clackamas Deputy, Probation Officer Sentenced for Child Rape

by Monte McCoin

On March 23, 2018, Clackamas County Circuit Court Judge Michael Wetzel sentenced a former county deputy and probation officer to 35 years and one month in prison for repeatedly sexually abusing two young girls, separately, between 2004 and 2012.

Gordon Mead, 69, worked as a Clackamas County deputy between August 1975 and February 1982 before transferring to the county’s parole and probation office. State records show he resigned from that position in May 2001.

According to court documents, in November 2015 one of the victims, then 12 years old, told her parents and then police that Mead had begun molesting her when she was five. She directed investigators to a second victim whom Mead began to abuse at age seven. That girl confirmed the allegations. A third alleged victim testified during a pre-trial hearing that she, too, had been raped by Mead in the mid 1980s at age nine, but had been too afraid to tell anyone.

Mead was indicted for first-degree rape, first-degree sexual abuse and first-degree sodomy of the two initial victims, but was not charged for raping the third victim. 



Idaho Prisoner Swallows Razor Blade to Force Corizon to Provide Medical Care

by Monte McCoin

Jason Monteleone, with the Boise law firm of Johnson and Monteleone, called the medical neglect that his client, Gary L. Merchant, 65, received from Idaho’s prison medical care provider, Corizon Health, “egregious” in a federal lawsuit filed on December 26, 2017.

“The initial medical opinion that’s been obtained demonstrates not just reckless behavior but deliberate indifference,” Monteleone said. “I do a lot of correctional medical cases, and I’ve not seen one this bad.”

Merchant, who had made “at least five written requests and, in total, over a dozen requests” to get medical attention for a worsening infection in his left leg, resorted to desperate measures to force Corizon officials to transport him to a hospital for treatment. He swallowed a small pencil-sharpener razor blade.

Merchant was finally sent to St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with “severe sepsis and septic shock.” Doctors immediately attempted surgical intervention but were unable to save the leg and had to amputate it above the knee. Turning their attention to the swallowed razor blade, medical staff performed a colostomy to remove the blade and a damaged section of Merchant’s intestines.

The lawsuit demands a jury trial ...


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