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Articles by R. Bailey

$3.279 Million in Costs and Fees Awarded in Wrongful Death Suit Involving Epileptic Prisoner

by R. Bailey

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988, a federal district court was asked to resolve an attorney fees dispute as part of a settlement in a prisoner’s wrongful death case.

Robert Awalt died while in the custody of a jail in Grundy County, Illinois. His wife, Elizabeth Awalt, had already contacted the jail upon his arrest and advised them that Robert needed epileptic medications and 24-hour observation.

However, when Robert pleaded for medical assistance, the officers taunted him and told him “you’re in jail, deal with it.” They left him unattended and later found him unconscious after swallowing a sock during one of his seizures. He died on September 20, 2010 due to asphyxiation.

Elizabeth filed a wrongful death suit in federal court. The jail settled prior to trial. Dr. Stephen Cullinan – who had been implicated in the deaths of other prisoners in multiple states and agreed to the suspension of his medical license in 2014 – reached a separate settlement after his first trial ended in a hung jury. [See: PLN, April 2015, p.40]. The jail’s medical providers, Correctional Healthcare Companies, Inc. (CHC) and Healthcare Professionals, Ltd. (HPL), settled soon thereafter.

The ...

$375,000-plus Settlement in Wrongful Death Suit Against Jail

by R. Bailey

 A family’s wrongful death lawsuit filed against a Nisqually tribal jail operated by a sovereign Indian tribe was settled for $375,000, plus an undisclosed amount paid by the tribe.

Andrew Wrestling, 19, was arrested by police officers from the City of Yelm, Washington, for being a ...

Va. court finds prison employees met reasonable suspicion burden in visitor strip search

by R. Bailey

A Virginia federal district court granted the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) summary judgment in a lawsuit alleging constitutional violations occurred when a visitor was strip searched.

Angela Calloway sued VDOC under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, alleging Fifth and Fourteenth amendment violations and state law ...

Missouri Sheriff Who Vowed to Clean Up Crime Faces Criminal Charges, Lawsuits

by R. Bailey

In March 2018, a federal grand jury returned an 11-count indictment against Mississippi County, Missouri Sheriff Cory Hutcheson. Hutcheson, 34, already faced robbery charges as well as a wrongful death suit filed by the mother of a prisoner who died at the county lockup.

At the request of Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, a judge revoked Hutcheson’s peace officer license in May 2017 – just over a year after he was elected sheriff, vowing to clean up crime in the southeastern county of 14,000 people. Prior to taking office, Hutcheson served as a sheriff’s deputy overseeing the local jail.

The federal indictments, all for identity theft, stemmed from a 2014 incident in which Hutcheson forged documents so he could illegally “ping” the cell phones of a judge, five state troopers and the then-sheriff, in order to track their whereabouts. By the time he was arrested, Sheriff Hutcheson was also wanted for state charges, including first-degree robbery and assault.

Those charges resulted from a March 2017 incident at Joyce’s Beauty Shop in East Prairie, where Hutcheson’s sister-in-law had worked until she left to open her own salon. The shop owner demanded the return of appointment calendars and ...

Louisiana’s Rejection of $3.5 Million Prison Tracking Software to be Reconsidered

by R. Bailey

An audit recommended replacing outdated data management software used by Louisiana’s prison system with a previously-rejected upgrade, if the new system could be salvaged. The upgrade would help implement the Justice Reinvestment Act (Act), which was designed to reduce Louisiana’s prison population by 10 percent and its corrections budget by $262 million over the next decade.

The Act was signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards on November 1, 2017 in an attempt to reduce the state’s extremely high incarceration rate and associated costs, by granting early release, parole or probation to more prisoners and by instituting other reforms.

The governor’s spokeswoman, Shauna Sanford, asserted the Act was “an opportunity to effect real change for ... citizens and communities.”

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator opposed the Act. Landry accused the governor of continuing to pursue policies that “don’t make our state safer or benefit our hard-working taxpayers,” while Prator cited inaccurate tracking data as proof the new law was enacted too soon.

Sheriff Practor relied on an October 25, 2017 audit of the Louisiana Department of Corrections (DOC) to support his opposition to the Act. The Louisiana State Auditor ...

CCS Seeks to Hide Internal Review in Jail Detainee’s Death; $180,000 Settlement

by David Reutter and R. Bailey

Correct Care Solutions, a for-profit company that provides medical services at correctional facilities, contested the release of documents concerning the death of Dino Vann Nixon at the Forsyth County Jail (FCJ) in North Carolina.

Upon being booked into FCJ on drug trafficking charges on July 11, 2013, Nixon informed jail officials that for years prior to his arrest he had been taking several prescription drugs, including Xanax, a benzodiazepine.

Correct Care, however, refused to provide that medication or the Ambien and Vicodin Nixon had been prescribed by an outside doctor. Rather, the company’s healthcare staff said he had to take what they had on hand.

Nixon’s condition deteriorated over the next three weeks as he suffered the effects of cold-turkey benzodiazepine withdrawal. Dr. Alan Raymond Rhoades, Correct Care’s medical director at FCJ, wrote that between July 18 and August 3, 2013, Nixon was doing well; however, his medical records indicated otherwise according to a lawsuit filed by his widow.

“Defendants acted like Mr. Nixon was faking his symptoms,” the suit stated. “Defendants were dead wrong. Mr. Nixon died.”

The complaint alleged he suffered “confusion, lack of sleep, tremor, bizarre and unusual behavior ...

$10 Million Class-action Lawsuit Against Virginia Jail Results in $725,000 Settlement

by R. Bailey

A class-action complaint against the Central Virginia Regional Jail (CVRJ) has ended with a $725,000 settlement. The lawsuit alleged that jail staff violated detainees’ Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and subjected them to excessive pain and suffering by refusing to enforce written policies and placing cost savings above the provision of proper medical care.

Sherry Lynn Thornhill filed the complaint, which sought $10 million in damages, following the August 9, 2014 death of her son, Shawn Christopher Berry, 37. Berry had been arrested two days earlier on charges of contracting without a license, financial exploitation, possession of heroin with intent to distribute and failure to appear.

Berry and his girlfriend both advised CVRJ staff of his daily use of heroin and consumption of a fifth of liquor. He also disclosed that he had a history of withdrawal that led to a hospital stay during his last incarceration.

Despite those disclosures, when Berry began going through withdrawal and started vomiting and experiencing stomach pain during his first day at the jail, CVRJ staff refused to follow written policies and procedures for medical treatment.

The policies required staff to conduct a Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment (CIWA), contact a ...

Solitary Instead of Treatment of Mentally Ill Prisoner Costs New Mexico Jail $2 Million

by R. Bailey

New Mexico’s Otero County Board of County Commissioners agreed to pay a former Otero County Detention Center (OCDC) pretrial detainee $2 million to settle a civil rights lawsuit that alleged punishment without due process.

The suit claimed that OCDC had a policy or practice of placing mentally ...

Pay for prison labor ‘unfair’ to inmates and business

by R. Bailey

Black lawmakers criticized the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDOC) prison service program for exploiting and even possibly enslaving prisoners with a traditional work program that pays from $6.75 to $24.25 every two weeks.

Senator Karl Allen called it “shameful.”

However, the truth is ...

Changes Affecting Exercise of Discretion for Parole Did Not Create Ex Post Facto Violation

The Vermont Supreme Court denied prisoners’ Ex Post Facto violation claims, holding that there was no sufficient evidence showing that the enactment of new policies and statutes worked to prohibit their parole release.
According to the U.S. Supreme Court, “Retroactive changes in laws governing parole of prisoners, in some ...