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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Monte McCoin

Florida: Federal Prison Guard Sentenced for Accepting Bribe

by Monte McCoin

Former FCC Coleman guard Albert Larry Harris, Jr., 27, was sentenced to 24 months in prison on February 15, 2018 after Senior U.S. District Court Judge James D. Whittemore accepted his guilty plea for taking a bribe as a public official.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Ocala, Florida, Harris provided tobacco and drugs to prisoners in exchange for large cash payments. He was arrested after he accepted a $5,000 bribe and 200 strips of Suboxone, a medication prescribed for opiate addiction and withdrawal, as well as for pain.

The investigation, conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General and the FBI, was initiated after three prisoners reported Harris’ misconduct. One of the prisoners set up a “drug deal” between Harris and an undercover agent; another reported that Harris had approached him in an attempt to locate a cocaine dealer. Authorities also traced money orders that Harris received in contraband transactions with other prisoners.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert E. Bodnar, Jr. 



California Attorney Specializes in Representing Prisoners Victimized by Fraud

by Monte McCoin

Peter Borenstein graduated from law school in 2014 with a burning passion for criminal justice reform ignited by his 20-year pen-pal relationship with a federal prisoner who had been a client of his father’s. He began volunteering at Francisco Homes, a halfway house, as a legal consultant to former prisoners who needed help with housing and employment issues, public assistance benefits or expunging their criminal records.

After a few months of working at the facility, Borenstein discovered a common theme among his clients: while they were imprisoned, someone they trusted had defrauded them by taking their money or property.

Following an initial success in the 2016 case of ex-prisoner Rodney Ficklin, who successfully sued his brother, Eddie, for transferring real estate out of Rodney’s name while he was incarcerated, Borenstein quickly carved a niche for himself representing people who were defrauded in a similar manner. He is now considered “the guy prisoners call when they’re betrayed from the outside.”

Borenstein said in a January 28, 2018 collaborative interview with The Marshall Project and, “You still have property rights in prison. You’re paying your debt to society with your liberty.” He added that long-term ...

Australian Woman Gives Birth in Cell After Guards Can’t Unlock the Door

by Monte McCoin

In January 2018, an unnamed prisoner at Western Australia’s Bandyup Women’s Prison was forced to give birth alone and crying for help while guards struggled to unlock the door to her cell.

Professor Neil Morgan, the Independent Inspector of Custodial Services, said, “This was potentially a dangerous situation of course with the birth, something could have happened to the mother or to the child.” He added, “This would have been highly traumatic for the woman herself, but it also would have been traumatic for those staff who wanted to render assistance and were unable to do so in the time they would have liked.”

Prison advocate Dorothy Goulding was angered that the prisoner, who was 36 weeks pregnant at the time of the delivery, went into labor without pain relief. “The dangerous situation of this can’t be too strongly emphasized, it could have had dire consequences,” she said. “The whole notion of someone giving birth alone in a cell is just appalling, it’s such huge risk for mother and child.”

A spokesman for the Western Australian Justice Department said the birth was “unexpected” and “extremely rare.” He stated, “Pregnant women are medically ...

U.S. Marshals Capture Fugitive Former Prison Guard After 10 Years on the Run

by Monte McCoin

William F. Lawrence, a former Utah Department of Corrections guard, apparently thought that hiding out in a tropical paradise would spare him from a prison term after he pleaded guilty to forcible sexual abuse in December 2007. Prior to his sentencing hearing, Lawrence fled Utah and resettled on Kauai, Hawaii, where he assumed the identity of “John Phillips” and lived quietly for over a decade.

After a cold case investigation put the U.S. Marshals on Lawrence’s trail, authorities were able to apprehend him as he lunched at a McDonald’s on the island on November 27, 2017. He was jailed in Hawaii pending extradition to Utah.

Both Lawrence’s initial crime and his subsequent flight from justice were influenced by his law enforcement background; he was arrested for using his badge to intimidate and coerce a woman to perform sexual acts with him. According to Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Derryl Spencer, “As a former law enforcement officer, Lawrence knew the strategies used to track down fugitives. He was able to elude law enforcement for years – until now.”

On April 23, 2018, Lawrence faced a judge in a Utah courtroom and was sentenced to zero to ...

North Carolina Fined $190,000 for Mismanagement of Prescription Medication

by Monte McCoin

On July 11, 2018, Robert Higdon, Jr., the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, announced that a $190,000 settlement had been reached with the state’s prison system over its failure to properly document the distribution of prescribed controlled substances at the Central Prison and the North Carolina Correctional Center for Women between 2014 and 2016.

In a press release, Higdon said federal investigators didn’t find evidence of criminal activity, but that it was unclear whether prison medical staff deliberately avoided paperwork to divert the drugs for illegal purposes or legitimately dispensed the medication but failed to properly document doing so.

“While no unlawful use of controlled substances was detected, the substandard recordkeeping provided fertile ground for improper diversion,” the release stated. “The handling of prescription controlled substances inside our prisons poses some unique challenges. And yet given the possibility of illegal diversion to inmates and others, scrupulous recordkeeping and tracking of controlled substances is essential.”

The National Commission on Correctional Health Care issued a position statement in April 2015 that recognized the prevalence of opioid abuse in prisons and jails as the third leading cause of death among prisoners, following ...

Florida Board Rules Convicted Prison Guard Can’t Collect Retirement Benefits

by Monte McCoin

PLN’s regular readers will recall our previous coverage of the arrests and convictions of three Ku Klux Klan members who formerly worked as prison guards at Florida’s Reception and Medical Center, who conspired to place a “hit” on a recently-released African American prisoner. David Elliot Moran, Charles Thomas Newcomb and Thomas Jordan Driver were each sentenced in 2017 to serve 12 years in prison in connection with the scheme. [See: PLN, Apr. 2018, p.48; Feb. 2016, p.1].

On July 8, 2018, Florida’s State Board of Administration (SBA) rejected Moran’s attempt to collect state retirement benefits despite his criminal conviction for conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Moran had claimed there was no connection between the murder-for-hire plot and his employment as a prison guard, but an administrative law judge disagreed in May 2018, and the SBA upheld that decision in response to Moran’s appeal.

“It might have been difficult for petitioner and his co-conspirators to carry out a murder or attempted murder of an inmate at the correctional facility at which they worked or had worked. However, just because the conspiracy to commit murder occurred off the employer’s premises, does not mean that forfeiture [of benefits ...

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 ...


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