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Prisoner Education Guide

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 minor in possession of alcohol and for spitting on a customer at a gas station customer.

Within 24 hours of his arrival at the Nisqually Corrections Center, Wrestling died from a cardiac dysrhythmia, “a ‘familiar, readily recognized, and easily treatable’ heart condition,” wrote University of Washington medical professor Richard Cummings in a report for the lawyers.

“If it were not for unreasonable neglect of the staff of the Nisqually Corrections Center, Andrew Wrestling would be alive today and would enjoy a normal life span,” Cummings wrote.

Another expert also cited a failure by jail staff, according to The Seattle Times. “'I have rarely, if ever, seen such a blatant violation of basic corrections standards of care, both on an individual and institutional level,’ wrote Arthur Wallenstein, director and jail administrator for King County’s Department of Adult Detention from 1990 to 1999 during a career of more ...

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 claims for assault, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Specifically, she alleges that while visiting prisoner Travis Talbert on July 16, 2016, she was subjected to an involuntary strip search without reasonable suspicion.

As the case only involved state actors, the court applied a Fourth Amendment standard of review because the Fifth Amendment only applies to “action of the federal government.” To survive under the Fourth Amendment, Calloway had to show the defendant did not have “reasonable suspicion” for the strip search.

The court found the defendants met their burden. Talbert had previously been convicted of a disciplinary action for attempting to introduce contraband, and they had current information that he was “moving” contraband into the prison during visits. The guard who was watching the visit on video found the movements and behavior of Calloway and Talbert appeared suspicious before ordering the search.

The court disagreed that ...

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 ...


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