Skip navigation

Prison Legal News: November, 1999

Issue PDF
Volume 10, Number 11

In this issue:

  1. The Cultural Commodification of Prisons (p 1)
  2. New Jersey Guard Wins $3.75 Million Harassment Suit (p 5)
  3. From the Editor (p 6)
  4. New York City Arrestee Awarded $5.02 Million in Strip Search (p 6)
  5. PLN Sues Washington DOC over Censorship of Nazi Guard Exposé (p 7)
  6. California Changes Shooting Policy (p 8)
  7. $7,000 Award to Prisoner Shoved by Guard while Praying (p 8)
  8. No Privacy Rights for Sex Offender Registrants (p 9)
  9. CCPOA Pimping in the California State Assembly (p 9)
  10. Probable Cause Hearing Delay Actionable (p 10)
  11. Ex-Welfare Workers in Georgia Replaced with Prison Slaves (p 11)
  12. California Prison Legal Fund Broke (p 12)
  13. Nevada Guards Party with Inmate Welfare Fund (p 12)
  14. Prison Realty Stock Plummets; Shareholders File Suit (p 13)
  15. Corcoran Bad Apple Rehired (p 13)
  16. New York Retaliation Suit Nets $100,000 in Damages (p 13)
  17. California Governor Vetoes Parole Reform Bill (p 14)
  18. California Illegally Dumps Parole Records (p 14)
  19. Suicides at Connecticut Prison Raise Concerns about Mental Health Care (p 14)
  20. Prisoner Strip Search Warrants Fourth Amendment Analysis (p 15)
  21. Amended Complaint Filed Outside Limitations Period Relates Back (p 16)
  22. A Guide to the Prison Litigation Reform Act, by John Boston (Review) (p 16)
  23. California Visits Reinstated after Food Boycott (Letter) (p 16)
  24. $100,000 Settlement in South Carolina Jail Death (p 17)
  25. Heck Not Applicable to Ad Seg; Only "Available" Exhaustion Required (p 17)
  26. Retaliatory Acts Need Not "Shock the Conscience" to be Actionable (p 18)
  27. Sheriff Liable for Inadequate Staffing and Refusing Medical Treatment to Assaulted Prisoner (p 20)
  28. Second Circuit Discusses Heck and Edwards (p 21)
  29. Evidentiary Hearing Allowed in PLRA Consent Decree Terminations (p 22)
  30. West Virginia Supreme Court Upholds Computer Ban (p 22)
  31. Washington Felony Infraction Law Struck Down (p 23)
  32. Request for Telephonic Appearance Must Be Considered (p 24)
  33. BOP Violates Due Process in Ad-Seg, Transfer and Mail Suit (p 24)
  34. Trial Required in Jail Attack (p 25)
  35. Race Discrimination Claim Not Barred by PLRA Physical Injury Rule (p 25)
  36. News in Brief (p 26)
  37. PLRA Attorney Fee Cap Not Retroactive in Attorney Client Case (p 28)
  38. PLRA Attorney Fee Provision Not Retroactive in Jail Conditions Suit (p 28)

The Cultural Commodification of Prisons

Pop culture is about acculturation more than it is about culture. It is about defining the norms and parameters of society. Over one hundred years ago Karl Marx wrote about capitalism's ability to turn everything into a commodity. Commodities are items, whether goods or ideas, which can be bought ...

New Jersey Guard Wins $3.75 Million Harassment Suit

On May 27, 1999, a Burlington county jury in New Jersey ruled in favor of prison guard Robert Lockley Jr. and awarded him $3.75 million in damages. Lockley, 39, a guard at the Mid State Correctional Facility in Ft. Dix, New Jersey, filed suit claiming fellow guard Ronda Turner ...

From the Editor

Greetings and welcome to another edition of PLN. Five years ago my first editorial appeared in the October 1994 issue. Sadly, this will be my last. I am stepping down as co-editor, but will remain active with the PLN collective as a contributing writer.

In 1994 I was caged in ...

New York City Arrestee Awarded $5.02 Million in Strip Search

On May 6, 1999, a federal jury in Manhattan awarded $19,600 in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages to an arrestee who was strip searched in a New York City jail. In 1997 Debra Ciraolo, 43, an interpreter for the hearing impaired, was arrested after a domestic ...

PLN Sues Washington DOC over Censorship of Nazi Guard Exposé

PLN Sues Washington DOC over Censorship of Nazi Guard Exposé

On August 27, 1999, Prison Legal News filed suit in federal court in Spokane, Washington, seeking a court injunction to ensure the delivery of the May, 1999, issue of PLN to its Washington prisoner readers. The May, 1999, issue of ...

California Changes Shooting Policy

by W. Wisely

In the past ten years, California prison guards have shot and killed 39 prisoners, wounding over 200, with high powered rifles. Nearly all of the shootings involved attempts to break up unarmed fist fights--- a practice unique among all other prison systems in the nation. After a ...

$7,000 Award to Prisoner Shoved by Guard while Praying

$7,000 Award to Prisoner Shoved by Guard While Praying

A federal district court in New York has awarded $7,000 in damages to a muslim prisoner who, while he was praying, was shoved from behind by a guard.

Generoso Arroyo Lopez, a New York state prisoner, filed suit pursuant ...

No Privacy Rights for Sex Offender Registrants

The Third Circuit ruled that sex offenders required to register under "Megan's Law" have no protected right to privacy that would render unconstitutional the public dissemination of such information.

This is not the first time the 3rd Circuit has upheld Megan's Law. In E.B. v. Verniero, 119 ...

CCPOA Pimping in the California State Assembly

A self-proclaimed "whore" for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) in July 1999 helped kill Attorney General Bill Lockyer's proposed legislation for forming a state-level prosecutorial unit to investigate alleged crimes by state prison guards.

As it stands now, only local district attorneys (or U.S. Attorneys for ...

Probable Cause Hearing Delay Actionable

The court of appeals for the Seventh circuit held that the fact issue as to whether an arrestee's detention without a probable cause hearing resulted from the sheriff's deliberate decision not to monitor detainees brought to jail by outside agencies precluded summary judgement for the sheriff on an ...

Ex-Welfare Workers in Georgia Replaced with Prison Slaves

To save money, a South Georgia recycling plant fired 50 trash sorters, including 35 who had taken jobs to get off welfare, and replaced them with prison slave labor. The former welfare clients had been earning $5.20/ hour before they were laid off in December, 1998 because the "waste ...

California Prison Legal Fund Broke

by W. Wisely

The California Department of Corrections' $15.5 million legal settlement fund went broke in late March, 1999, three months before the end of the fiscal year, according to an article by Pam Podger in the May 27, 1999, edition of The San Francisco Chronicle Steve Fama, a ...

Nevada Guards Party with Inmate Welfare Fund

The Nevada state legislature made a bold move to "end inmate welfare as we know it" when it passed a bill (AB289) in 1999 stating that revenue from state prisons' Inmate Welfare Fund (IWF) can be used for employee perks. But the law breaks no new ground, rather it makes ...

Prison Realty Stock Plummets; Shareholders File Suit

Last May the price of shares in Prison Realty Trust Inc., the parent company of Corrections Corporation of America, fell almost 35% within a week after Prison Realty announced it would pay increased costs for building and marketing private prisons. Several investment firms downgraded Prison Realty's stock, which dropped ...

Corcoran Bad Apple Rehired

by W. Wisely

Bruce Farris, the former Corcoran State Prison associate warden fired for allowing guards to beat, kick, and stomp 36 black prisoners, was reinstated April 6, 1999, in a rare Personnel Board reversal of an earlier administrative judge's decision. Farris was fired after the busload of East ...

New York Retaliation Suit Nets $100,000 in Damages

On April 28, 1999 a federal jury awarded $25,000 in compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages to New York prisoner Ronald Maurer.

Three years earlier Maurer filed a pro se complaint claiming that he had been subjected to retaliation for trying to expose corruption at Sing Sing ...

California Governor Vetoes Parole Reform Bill

California Governor Gray Davis vetoed a bill that would have diverted "low-risk" parole violators into community-based programs rather than send them back through a "revolving door" to an already overcrowded state prison system.

Some critics call the veto quid pro quo for the $2 million donated to Davis' campaign last ...

California Illegally Dumps Parole Records

by W. Wisely

California Department of Corrections prisoncrats were caught illegally dumping confidential documents about parolees in a dumpster near the new Metreon entertainment center in San Francisco, according to Michael Taylor's June 19, 1999 article in the San Francisco Chronicle. Some papers, including arrest reports, and new addresses ...

Suicides at Connecticut Prison Raise Concerns about Mental Health Care

Suicides at Connecticut Prison Raise Concerns About Mental Health Care

In unrelated incidents, two women prisoners at the York Corr. Institution in East Lyme, Connecticut committed suicide within a ten-day period in March, 1999.

Linda Hogan was found hanging in her cell on March 11 and died the next day ...

Prisoner Strip Search Warrants Fourth Amendment Analysis

The court of appeals for the Fifth circuit held that a prisoner's Fourth Amendment claim alleging unreasonable multiple strip searches performed on him by a female guard were not frivolous, as would warrant dismissal under the PLRA. The court also held that the Fourth Amendment, rather than the Eighth ...

Amended Complaint Filed Outside Limitations Period Relates Back

A federal district court in Michigan held that an amended complaint using proper names for "John Doe" defendants, filed outside the statute of limitations was not untimely because the claims related back to the original complaint. The court also held that a genuine issue of material fact as to whether ...

A Guide to the Prison Litigation Reform Act, by John Boston (Review)

Review by Paul Wright

The passage of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) in 1996 has significantly changed many aspects of prison and jail litigation. The PLRA makes it increasingly difficult for prisoner plaintiffs to achieve meaningful or significant relief in the courts, either in the way of damages or ...

California Visits Reinstated after Food Boycott (Letter)

D.R., Vacaville, CA.


On December 17, 1998, an attempted homicide occurred in building 7 of Facility II of the Solano State Prison in Vacaville, California.

The incident involved two white prisoners who were celled together. All white prisoners were immediately placed on lock down and their visits were terminated ...

$100,000 Settlement in South Carolina Jail Death

On May 12, 1999, Spartanburg county in South Carolina announced it would pay $100,000 to settle a wrongful death suit filed by the estate of a prisoner. On June 7, 1998, John Pruitt, a detainee in the Spartanburg county jail, collapsed and died of a heart attack. Five hours ...

Heck Not Applicable to Ad Seg; Only "Available" Exhaustion Required

Heck Not Applicable to Ad Seg; Only "Available" Exhaustion Required

A federal district court in California held that the principles of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), do not apply to claims that do not involve deprivation of good-time credits. The court further held that purely monetary claims ...

Retaliatory Acts Need Not "Shock the Conscience" to be Actionable

by Matthew T. Clarke

The Sixth Circuit court of appeals, sitting en banc, has held that prisoners who claim retaliation for constitutionally protected activities are no longer required to prove the retaliatory acts "shock the conscience." Instead, they must prove that the retaliatory act would be sufficient to deter a ...

Sheriff Liable for Inadequate Staffing and Refusing Medical Treatment to Assaulted Prisoner

The Tenth Circuit court of appeals held that a sheriff may be liable for insufficient jail staffing and refusing medical treatment to a prisoner who was beaten by other prisoners.

Genaro Lopez was a prisoner in the Jackson County Oklahoma jail. The day he arrived at the jail and was ...

Second Circuit Discusses Heck and Edwards

No Bar to Prisoners Challenging Condition, not Duration, of Disciplinary Confinement


The Second Circuit court of appeals has held that prisoners who have no recourse under the federal habeas corpus statute may file a federal civil rights suit challenging their conditions of confinement due to prison disciplinary or administrative action ...

Evidentiary Hearing Allowed in PLRA Consent Decree Terminations

The court of appeals for the Fourth circuit reaffirmed that the Prison Litigation Reform Act's (PLRA) consent decree termination provisions are constitutional and also held that the PLRA provides no avenue for district courts to make after the fact findings to avoid termination. The court held that the state ...

West Virginia Supreme Court Upholds Computer Ban

In the February, 1998, issue of PLN we reported that the West Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC) had prohibited its prisoners from having personal computers in their cells. In the previous decade West Virginia, New Jersey, Wyoming, Alaska and a prison in Washington had allowed prisoners to own personal computers ...

Washington Felony Infraction Law Struck Down

A Washington state appeals court held that a state law allowing the felony prosecution of prisoners who are infracted in prison after having lost all good time credits violates the state constitution. The court also suggested that all Washington DOC infractions issued after 1995 may be invalid.

In 1995 the ...

Request for Telephonic Appearance Must Be Considered

The Idaho Court of Appeals held that a prisoner's due process rights were violated when a magistrate failed to consider his request to appear telephonically in a child support action.

In April, 1997, the Idaho Bureau of Child Support (Bureau) brought an action for the collection of child support ...

BOP Violates Due Process in Ad-Seg, Transfer and Mail Suit

A federal district court in Illinois held that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) violated a prisoner's right to due process when it placed him in administrative segregation (ad seg), transferred him to a different prison and denied him the ability to correspond with his son, who is also a ...

Trial Required in Jail Attack

A federal district court in New York held that a trial was required to resolve disputed issues of material fact where a jail guard was accused of assaulting a detainee. The court also held that the county could not be held liable for a single incident of violence by one ...

Race Discrimination Claim Not Barred by PLRA Physical Injury Rule

A federal district court in Missouri held that the physical injury rule of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) applied only to Eighth amendment claims and did not apply to a prisoner's equal protection claim of racial discrimination. The court's ruling is one of the most comprehensive discussions ...

News in Brief

Brazil: In early August four men armed with automatic weapons overpowered guards and broke into the Tremembe jail near Sao Paulo, and stole money that jail prisoners were planning to send home.

CA: In 1998 15 state prisoners were killed. Three were shot to death by guards, 12 were killed ...

PLRA Attorney Fee Cap Not Retroactive in Attorney Client Case

A federal district court in Colorado has held that the attorney fee cap in the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(d) does not apply to attorney fees accrued prior to the enactment of the PLRA, but does apply to fees accrued after the enactment date ...

PLRA Attorney Fee Provision Not Retroactive in Jail Conditions Suit

The court of appeals for the DC Circuit held that the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PRLA) provision, which caps attorney fee awards, applies to work performed after the act's effective date (April 26, 1996), even when the suit was commenced before then.

This case involves consolidated appeals in two ...