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Articles by Steve Horn

Opioid Epidemic Impacts Prisons and Jails

by Steve Horn

It has killed far more Americans than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, claiming over 200,000 lives since 2010 according to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse. It has swept the nation, from large cities to small towns in every state. A 2017 report from the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers put its estimated cost at $504 billion in 2015 alone.

“It” is the opioid epidemic, which has left a trail of addiction and death in its wake. As with crack cocaine and meth, opioid abuse has led to a new front in the so-called War on Drugs, filling prisons and jails with those who sell and use heroin, fentanyl and prescription meds such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.

While some of the people convicted of opioid-related charges face involuntary civil commitment or court-ordered drug treatment, most end up in prisons or jails where there is a general lack of substance abuse programs. Worse, some correctional facilities have banned medications that doctors and public health officials say could help treat opioid addicts who end up behind bars.

In addition, a black market has developed inside jails and prisons to provide opioids to incarcerated addicts, leading ...

New Study Finds Mass Incarceration Impacts Over Half of U.S. Families

by Steve Horn

new survey-based report published by a multi-university team of researchers, predominantly from Cornell University and, a group of advocates for criminal justice and immigration reform, has revealed that over half of all families in the United States have been impacted by mass incarceration.

Titled “Every Second: The Impact of the Incarceration Crisis on America’s Families,” the study, released in December 2018, paints one of the most comprehensive pictures to date of the far-reaching impact of our nation’s criminal justice system. The trend lines are even more dire for people of color. 

The report reveals some startling realities, including:

• The total number of people who have ever had an immediate family member incarcerated was an estimated 113 million, according to the study – about one in every two adults in the U.S. Around 6.5 million people “have an immediate family member currently incarcerated in jail or prison (1 in 38).”

• 64 percent of U.S. adults have had an immediate or extended family member incarcerated in jail or prison. Among them, 25 percent had a sibling incarcerated, 20 percent had a parent incarcerated, 12.5 percent had a child incarcerated and over 14 percent had ...

HRDC Files Public Records Suits, Argues GEO Group is a De Facto Public Agency

by Steve Horn

The Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), the parent organization of Prison Legal News, has filed lawsuits in Texas and Vermont arguing that the GEO Group – one of the nation’s largest for-profit prison companies – is a de facto public agency that should be required to comply with public records requests.

Filed in the 225th Judicial District in Bexar County, the Texas case – Human Rights Defense Center v. The GEO Group, Case No. 2018CI16343 – resulted from a request submitted by HRDC that asked for records pertaining to complaints, claims, verdicts and settlements involving GEO facilities in that state.

However, nearly nine months after the request was filed, and after HRDC submitted a follow-up inquiry regarding the status of its request, GEO Group had not responded. Consequently, HRDC filed suit on August 27, 2018.

In its complaint, HRDC argued that GEO Group is a “[g]overnmental body” under Section 552.003(1)(A)(xii) of the Texas Government Code, and thus should fall under the purview of the Texas Public Information Act. That statute defines a “governmental body” as – among other things – “the part, section, or portion of an organization, corporation, commission, committee, institution, or agency ...

Inspector General: California Prison Guards Violate Use of Force Policies Half the Time

by Steve Horn

report released in July 2018 by California’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that with respect to use of force incidents reported by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), guards abused their authority by misusing force about half the time. 

The 33-page ...

Vermont Prisoner Sexually Abused at Private Prison in Michigan Receives $750

by Steve Horn

Bernard Carter was incarcerated at the privately-operated North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin, Michigan when he alleged a prison nurse coerced him into sexually uncomfortable situations.

In a federal lawsuit, Carter v. GEO Group, U.S.D.C. (W.D. Mich.), Case No. 1:16-cv-00667-RHB-PJG, Carter laid out the facts in ...

California Prison Psychiatrists Blow Whistle on Poor Mental Healthcare, Falsified Records

by Steve Horn

The landmark case of Coleman v. Brown, a federal lawsuit that forced California to provide better mental health treatment for state prisoners, has taken an unusual turn after the state’s prison psychiatry chief blew the whistle about falsification of records related to mental health care in ...

Ohio County Jail Settles PLN Censorship Suit for $45,000

by Steve Horn

In response to a censorship lawsuit filed in 2017 by Prison Legal News’parent organization, the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), Greene County, Ohio agreed to settle the case for $45,000.

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio’s Western Division, the case ...

CoreCivic Bilked Rural Oklahoma Town, Forced to Pay Back Money in Lawsuit

by Steve Horn

Located in heartland America in an area historically dominated by the oil and gas industry, the small town of Sayre, Oklahoma recently found itself in the middle of a lawsuit against private prison operator CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America. And the township prevailed, obtaining ...

Voters Consider Criminal Justice-Related Issues in Midterm Elections

by Steve Horn

The November 6, 2018 midterm elections saw a slew of criminal justice-related issues on the ballot in jurisdictions across the country. 

In states ranging from Florida, Ohio and Colorado to Louisiana and Michigan, various criminal justice-oriented measures went up for a vote. The most prominent ...

Santa Clara County Settles Lawsuit, Makes Jails Handicapped Accessible

by Steve Horn

In November 2018, the parties in a class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California agreed to settle the case in the form of a consent decree. The suit centered around issues of accessibility for handicapped prisoners in Santa Clara County’s jail ...