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Articles by Monte McCoin

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...