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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by R. Bailey

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An audit recommended replacing outdated data management software used by Louisiana’s prison system with a previously-rejected upgrade, if the new system could be salvaged.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 ...

$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 ...

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 our U.S.C.A. 13th amendment does still allow slavery for criminals, and some Florida P.R.I.D.E. workers expressed to this writer that they preferred to earn 25 cents to 55 cents per hour than to work as the majority of prisoners do — for free.

Chad Galloway, vice president of Adventure Golf Carts, and others challenged the pay scale as “unfair” because it forces a private company paying at least minimum wage to compete against a company paying 35 cents to $1.80 per hour. It's “no competition at all.”

When SCDOC director Bryan Stirling read the complaint against the disparity, he informed the companies using prison labor that they would have to apply to operate under Prison Industry Enterprises (PIE) and pay prisoners $7.25 to $8.30 per hour, or not use prison labor.

While Stirling also praised the prison work ...

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 instances, may be violative of [Ex Post Facto],” if the changes created “a sufficient risk of increasing the measure of punishment …” However, a speculative or attenuated possibility of increased punishment is not “sufficient” proof.
Kirk Wool and Bernard Carter claimed that the 1999 enactment of 13 V.S.A. §5301(7) and the 2009 enactment of Vermont’s Department of Corrections ("DOC") three-tier directives eliminated DOC’s discretion to place them in treatment programs and increased the sentences before they could be paroled.
The Vermont Supreme Court denied the claims on several basis. Both prisoners’ claim arose from aggravated sexual assaults committed in 1992. The programs and early release furloughs being denied were created in 2001 and 2005. The review had to be conducted regarding conditions that existed in 1992. The court held that the department’s authority over programs and classification were the same as they were in 1992, so ...

Criticism of Commission-based Phone Contract at Pennsylvania County Prison

by R. Bailey

Prisoners and their families in York County, Pennsylvania are outraged that Global Tel*Link (GTL), one of the nation’s largest prison and jail telephone service providers, has contracted with the York County Prison under a “commission” arrangement that provides kickbacks to the county through inflated phone rates.

At least 11 states have prohibited telecom companies from paying commissions to their departments of corrections, since commission-based contracts result in higher rates that are an unfair burden on prisoners’ family members. [See: PLN, Dec. 2013, p.1]. Pennsylvania state prisons charge $0.06 per minute for phone calls.

Records obtained by The York Dispatch, as reported in September 2017, indicate the $0.25 per minute charged by GTL at the York County Prison, “plus various billing fees,” would amount to $900,000 in annual commissions for the county – all paid for by prisoners and their family members. Aleks Kajstura, with the Massachusetts-based Prison Policy Initiative, called those rates “unreasonable.”

Notably, high prison and jail phone rates are being charged in a market where non-prison telecom companies provide flat-rate unlimited calling, texting and emails for about $40 a month. In response to pressure from prisoners’ rights advocacy ...

911 'swatting' prank excuses officer's fatal shooting

By R. Bailey

A Kansas district attorney ("DA") determined that a Wichita SWAT team acted reasonably when it fatally shot an innocent, unarmed father in his own home while responding to a “swatting” or 911 prank call made from Los Angeles, California.

The FBI reportedly responds to almost 400 swatting pranks per year. On December 28, 2017, Andrew Finch, a 28-year-old Wichita father of two, lost his life due to such a prank.

Tyler Barriss, a 25-year-old Los Angeles man, made a swatting call to the Wichita Police Department (WPD) 1,400 miles away and reported that, as a resident of that address, he had just murdered his father and was holding his mother and brother hostage at the home.

Barriss was no stranger to swatting; in fact, his online username was “SwauTstic,” and he had a history of swatting and false bomb threats. He had chosen Finch’s address simply because it had appeared in an online game called End of Duty. Neither he nor Finch was connected to the game.

Although the call could have been identified as an out-of-state call, the absence of policies and procedures to verify the caller’s ID and validity of an emergency allowed ...

Alaska high court: Verbatim record may satisfy written record requirements in disciplinary decisions

by R. Bailey

The Alaska Supreme Court held that a prisoner’s federal due process right to receipt of a written statement explaining what evidence and reasoning were relied on in imposing disciplinary action may be satisfied by attaching a “verbatim record” of the proceedings as long as that record can be reduced to writing.

Matthew Pease-Madore, a prisoner in the Alaska Department of Corrections (“DOC”), appealed his disciplinary convictions rendered on 11 infractions, including two November 2014 threats of future harm and one disorderly conduct.

Pease-Madore argued that the DOC violated his federal due process rights when it failed to attach a written explanation of its decision per Wolff v. McDonnell 418 U.S. 539, 564 (1974) requirements. He did not seek to show prejudice or even controvert the evidence. He argued that the DOC only attained a “verbal record” of the proceedings to comply with state due process rights provided in McGinnis v. Stalens, 543 P.2d 1221 (Alaska, 1975).

He asserted that McGinnis predated an additional requirement, or the “verbatim record” could not satisfy the “written record” requirement. 

The Supreme Court found his reasoning to be incorrect. It held that the reasons for the written requirements were to ...


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