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Prison Legal News: December, 2000

Issue PDF
Volume 11, Number 12

In this issue:

  1. Dying For Profits: CMS and the Privatization of Prisoner Health Care (p 1)
  2. CMS Fined Nearly $1 Million in Virginia (p 5)
  3. Fired Washington Parole Officer Wins $250,000 Settlement (p 6)
  4. Medical Claims Against CMS to be Refiled in State Court (p 7)
  5. CA Court Overrules Parole Denial (p 8)
  6. Controversy Surrounds Letourneau Tape (p 8)
  7. WA Civil Commitment Ruling Published (p 8)
  8. Perpetuating Crime, Consolidating Power (p 9)
  9. Actual Innocence--Five Days to Execution and other Dispatches From the Wrongly Convicted (p 10)
  10. Stun Gun Death in VA Prison (p 11)
  11. Alabama Officials Guilty in Phone Scam (p 12)
  12. Error to Dismiss Suit for Inability to Pay Filing Fee (p 12)
  13. PLRA Physical Injury Rule Does Not Apply to Mail Claims (p 12)
  14. Sandin Limits Property Interests (p 13)
  15. Pro Se Tips and Tactics (p 14)
  16. Dismissal for Texas Prisoner's Failure to State Facts of Prior Suits (p 16)
  17. Excessive Force Claims Require Administrative Exhaustion (p 17)
  18. Sexual Assault, Beatings State Claim (p 17)
  19. En Banc Sixth Circuit Addresses Mental Health Care (p 18)
  20. WA 35% Seizure Statute Ruled on by Ninth Circuit (p 19)
  21. Notes From the Unrepenitentiary: CA Prisoners Denied Medical Care (p 22)
  22. News in Brief (p 24)
  23. Death as a Salesman: Benneton Ad Campaign Comes to Death Row (p 26)
  24. Family Impact of Out of State Transfers Immaterial (p 26)
  25. Illinois Supermax Hunger Strike (p 28)
  26. Idaho Prisoners Can Sue for On-the-Job Injuries (p 30)
  27. False Evidence Meets Some Evidence Standard (p 30)
  28. Attorney Fees Awarded in Challenge to Nevada Shooting Policy (p 30)
  29. DC Circuit Revives Hewitt v. Helms (p 31)
  30. No Immunity for Private Prison Physician (p 32)
  31. PA Prisoner Awarded $300,000 in Guard Beating (p 32)

Dying For Profits: CMS and the Privatization of Prisoner Health Care

By Ronald Young

Marvin Johnson, a 28-years-old diabetic, required 100 units of insulin per day to stay alive. On the morning of July 27, 1995, he was arrested and jailed in Little Rock, Arkansas for driving an acquaintance's red Ford Escort without permission. Less than three days later, Johnson ...

CMS Fined Nearly $1 Million in Virginia

Correctional Medical Services (CMS) contracts with the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) to provide medical care to some of its 30,000 prisoners. In a 13-month period starting in January 1999 the VDOC levied nearly $1 million in fines against CMS for failing to live up to its contract, according ...

Fired Washington Parole Officer Wins $250,000 Settlement

Washington state parole officer Barbara A. Nelson was fired in 1998 after the state was hit for more than $6.4 million to pay off lawsuits alleging negligence for her failure to property supervise parolees. Three men whose cases Nelson handled killed three people, including a high school cheerleader, a ...

Medical Claims Against CMS to be Refiled in State Court

By Matthew T. Clarke

A federal district court in Illinois has dismissed the breach of medical care duty suit of a suicide prisoner's estate against Correctional Medical Services of Illinois (CMS), but encouraged the refilling of the suit in state court.

Ethel Hare was an Illinois prisoner at the ...

CA Court Overrules Parole Denial

By John E. Dannenberg

The CA Court of Appeals affirmed the Los Angeles superior court's ruling that there was "no evidence" to support the Board of Prison Terms' (BPT) parole unsuitability finding for a 2nd degree murderer and ordered the BPT to convene a new suitability hearing within 30 ...

Controversy Surrounds Letourneau Tape

A Washington DOC investigator allegedly left his job at the state women's prison in Purdy with a souvenir: a tape recording of Mary K. Letourneau talking on the phone with her attorney.

After starting a new job at the state Attorney General's office in 1998, the investigator played ...

WA Civil Commitment Ruling Published

In the September, 2000 issue of PLN we reported on a ruling by Judge William Dwyer of Seattle who held the Washington Special Commitment Center in contempt for failing to provide treatment and transitional release housing for civilly committed "sexually violent predators." The court's ruling was recently published at ...

Perpetuating Crime, Consolidating Power

Perpetuating Crime, Consolidating Power: The Race & Class Logic of Mass Incarceration

An Interview with Paul Wright

by Janet Stanton

Arthur Stamoulis's (Common Courage Press) audiotaped interview with Paul Wright offers the listener a concise overview of the most disturbing issue confronting our time--the mass incarceration and despicable treatment of ...

Actual Innocence--Five Days to Execution and other Dispatches From the Wrongly Convicted

By Barry Scheck, Peter Nuefeld, and Jim Dwyer

Review by Roger Hummel

Since 1963, at least 381 murder convictions across the nation have been reversed because of police or prosecutorial misconduct yet not one of the prosecutors who broke the law was ever convicted or disbarred.

Twenty-seven percent of those ...

Stun Gun Death in VA Prison

After being electrocuted repeatedly by a stun gun, Lawrence James Frazier was strapped to a bed where he lapsed into a coma and never recovered. During a struggle with guards, Frazier was electrocuted 3 times by an Ultron II stun device that delivers up to 50,000 volts of electricity ...

Alabama Officials Guilty in Phone Scam

A former Alabama state auditor, County commissioner and another man pleaded guilty in July 1999 to federal charges stemming from a prison pay phone scam operated in Alabama and Louisiana by Global Tel*Link, a Mobile-based company. Former state auditor Terry Ellis pleaded guilty to tax evasion. Former Mobile County ...

Error to Dismiss Suit for Inability to Pay Filing Fee

The court of appeals for the Fifth circuit held that it was an abuse of discretion for a district court to dismiss a prisoner's suit for failure to pay the initial assessed filing fee without first determining if the prisoner had the means to pay the assessed filing fee ...

PLRA Physical Injury Rule Does Not Apply to Mail Claims

The court of appeals for the Seventh circuit held that prefiling screening under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) applies to all prisoner lawsuits, regardless of their fee status and the PLRA's physical injury requirement does not apply to prisoners' First amendment claims. The court also held that the ...

Sandin Limits Property Interests

The court of appeals for the Tenth circuit held that Sandin v. Connor, 515 U.S. 472,115 S.Ct. 2293 (1995) applies to property interests asserted by prisoners, as well as liberty interests. In 1997 a guard at the Wyoming State Penitentiary (WSP) was killed by prisoners during an ...

Pro Se Tips and Tactics

By John Midgley

Many prisoners have difficulties obtaining good medical care. Often prisoners assume that every failure on the part of the prison system to provide adequate medical care is a constitutional violation that can be remedied in federal court, but this assumption is not correct. In this column, I ...

Dismissal for Texas Prisoner's Failure to State Facts of Prior Suits

A Texas state court of appeals has held that a prisoner's lawsuit may be dismissed as frivolous because the prisoner failed to list the operative facts of his previous lawsuits, identify the parties involved, and state whether the suit was dismissed as being frivolous.

Gregory Peck Samuels, a Texas ...

Excessive Force Claims Require Administrative Exhaustion

The court of appeals for the Sixth circuit held that prisoners filing suit seeking only money damages for excessive use of force by prison employees must exhaust their administrative remedies before they file suit.

Dwight Freeman, an Ohio state prisoner, filed suit seeking only money damages after a prison guard ...

Sexual Assault, Beatings State Claim

The court of appeals for the Second circuit held that a district court erred when it, sua sponte, dismissed a prisoner's claim that he was beaten and sexually assaulted by guards. The court also held that the lower court erred when it dismissed the suit under the Prison Litigation ...

En Banc Sixth Circuit Addresses Mental Health Care

By Matthew T. Clarke

Anthony Wade was a Michigan state prisoner who committed suicide by taking an overdose of anti-depressant Sinequan (Doxepine) pills. During the year Wade was in presentencing incarceration at the Wayne County Jail (WCJ), he suffered from depression and was prescribed Thorazine. Prior to his transfer to ...

WA 35% Seizure Statute Ruled on by Ninth Circuit

By Paul Wright

The court of appeals for the Ninth circuit upheld the constitutionality of a Washington state statute that allows the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) to seize 35% of all money sent to prisoners from sources outside the prison. Faced with a very limited challenge to the statute ...

Notes From the Unrepenitentiary: CA Prisoners Denied Medical Care

By Linda Evans

Once again the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) and federal courts have prevailed in their determination to suppress prisoners' human rights. Despite startling new evidence of records tampering, falsified medical test results, and medical neglect, U.S. District Court Judge Shubb has dismissed the Shumate v. Wilson ...

News in Brief

NEWS IN BRIEF:


AZ: On September 12, 2000, 20 Hawaiian prisoners at a Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) prison in Florence rioted and took a guard hostage. While complaining about the way their rice was cooked, prisoners took CCA guard Dean Goodwin hostage for 15 minutes. He was later treated ...

Death as a Salesman: Benneton Ad Campaign Comes to Death Row

By Dan Pens

In January, 2000, Italian fashion conglomerate Benetton Group kicked off a worldwide "issue advocacy" ad campaign titled "Looking Death in the Face." The ads, featuring images of death row prisoners, sparked outrage among U.S. death penalty advocates. Which is, of course, exactly what Benetton expected. The ...

Family Impact of Out of State Transfers Immaterial

The court of appeals for the Seventh circuit held that no due process right of minor children was violated when their imprisoned mother was transferred to a federal prison in West Virginia from a Wisconsin prison. Carin Froehlich is a Wisconsin prisoner with 3 and 5 year old children. As ...

Illinois Supermax Hunger Strike

By Dan Pens

Displaying remarkable solidarity while encaged under unimaginably oppressive conditions, more than half of the 273 prisoners at the Tamms Supermax prison in downstate Illinois began a hunger strike by refusing their breakfast on May 1,2000. Prison officials said 173 prisoners joined the action. Alan Milks, a ...

Idaho Prisoners Can Sue for On-the-Job Injuries

The Idaho state Supreme Court held that prison officials were not entitled to summary judgment in an action brought by prisoners for injuries sustained during participation in a prison work program.

Prisoners Mark Mead and Jeff Smith were injured in separate accidents while working in the wood shop at the ...

False Evidence Meets Some Evidence Standard

The U.S. court of appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that even dubious evidence satisfies the "some evidence" standard of proof in prison disciplinary proceedings. The court also held that due process does not include a right to submit further evidence on appeal in this context.

In June 1995 ...

Attorney Fees Awarded in Challenge to Nevada Shooting Policy

A federal district court in Nevada warded prisoners attorneys' fees and costs totaling $374,370.17 in an action challenging prison practices concerning the use of force and mental health services. Following the decisions, the Nevada Attorney General's office negotiated the award down to $299,500.

In 1994 prisoners ...

DC Circuit Revives Hewitt v. Helms

by Matthew T. Clarke

D. C. Circuit court of appeals has held that, when determining whether a prisoner's segregation involves a liberty interest, the conditions of the prisoner's segregation should be compared with the conditions prison officials exercising their discretionary authority routinely impose on similarly sentenced prisoners.

Donald ...

No Immunity for Private Prison Physician

The U.S. court of appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that a privately employed prison physician was ineligible to claim qualified immunity. Disputed material facts surrounding his response to a prisoner's serious medical condition also precluded summary judgment on the merits.

In June 1995, Fitzgerald Hinson was a ...

PA Prisoner Awarded $300,000 in Guard Beating

On February 29, 2000, a federal jury in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania awarded Pennsylvania prisoner Raymond Pryer $300,000 in damages for a beating he suffered at the hands of prison guards. On September 27, 1990, Pryer complained that a guard at the State Correctional Institution-Pittsburgh had squeezed his buttocks during a ...