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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: August, 2000

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Volume 11, Number 8

In this issue:

  1. Wackenhut Wracked by Sexual Abuse Scandals (p 1)
  2. $7,500 Award in NY Window Injury (p 3)
  3. Rockwall, TX Jailers Indicted in Sex-For-Contraband Case (p 3)
  4. Exhaustion Requirement Discussed, $86,250 Beating Award Upheld (p 4)
  5. $12,000 Awarded in NY Work Injury Suit (p 4)
  6. From the Editor (p 5)
  7. Sweeping ADA/RA Jail Settlement Benefits Hearing Impaired Prisoners (p 6)
  8. $14,950 Awarded in NY Window Frame Suit (p 7)
  9. BOP Settles Medical Death Suit for $700,000 (p 7)
  10. VA Warden Fired in Foodbank Theft (p 8)
  11. Sixth Circuit Terminates Glover v. Johnson (p 8)
  12. DOJ Sues Wackenhut Juvenile Prison (p 8)
  13. WA Class B Felonies Entitled to 1/3 Good Time Credits (p 9)
  14. Prison Protesters Arrested in DC (p 10)
  15. Washington Ends Prison Telemarketing (p 11)
  16. PLN Sues to Uncover Telemarketing Closure (p 12)
  17. Guard's Intentional Destruction of Typewriter States §1983 and Texas Tort Claims (p 13)
  18. America Behind Bars, video series from Deep Dish TV (p 14)
  19. WA Guard Discrimination Suit Settled for $250,000 (p 15)
  20. Notes From the Unrepenitentiary: Transcending Hell (p 16)
  21. SC Prisoners Settle Rape Suits (p 16)
  22. $2 Million Awarded in IL Medical Neglect Suit (p 17)
  23. $1.75 Million in Oregon Excessive Force Jail Settlement (p 17)
  24. Attorney Fee Award Against Prisoner Reduced (p 17)
  25. Political Prisoners in Spain (p 18)
  26. $800,000 Settlement in AZ Jail Restraint Suit (p 20)
  27. California Statute of Limitations Tolled (p 20)
  28. WA Court Costs Can be Remitted (p 21)
  29. One-Year NY SHU Atypical and Significant Hardship (p 22)
  30. $8,000 Awarded in NY Chair Collapse (p 23)
  31. CA 3 Strikers Entitled to Good Time (p 23)
  32. Right to Counsel Violated by Intrusive Guards (p 24)
  33. AL DOC Settles PLN Gift Subscription Lawsuit (p 24)
  34. One Dead, Thirty-one Hospitalized in TX Prison Riot (p 25)
  35. Jail Discrimination Violates Equal Protection (p 25)
  36. News in Brief (p 26)
  37. Ohio Prisons Change Birthing Policy (p 28)
  38. Escape Costs Private Transport Company (p 28)

Wackenhut Wracked by Sexual Abuse Scandals

Wackenhut Wracked By Sexual Abuse Scandals

by Ron Young

After a decade as a leading operator of corporate-owned prisons, Wackenhut Corrections has become a prisoner of its own problems.

In New Mexico, a 500-page legislative report written by five consultants calls for a near-total overhaul of state prison operations, including two run by Wackenhut. After an August 31, 1999, riot that left a prisoner and guard dead [see PLN Dec. 1999],Wackenhut was faulted for having inadequate and ill-prepared staff earning Wal-Mart wages. Four prisoners have died in Wackenhut prisons in Santa Rosa and Hobbs since their opening in 1998. Three were stabbed to death, and one fatally pummeled with a laundry bag containing two rocks. But it was the murder of guard Ralph Garcia last August 31 at the Santa Rosa prison that put Wackenhut on the hot seat.

In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., five guards at a Wackenhut work-release facility were fired or punished for having sex with prisoners in the summer of 1999. No charges were filed, but Sheriff Ken Jenne wants to renegotiate contract terms with Wackenhut. Wackenhut operates two medium-security prisons in Florida-one in South Bay and one in Moore Haven. In June 1999, the American ...

$7,500 Award in NY Window Injury

On November 8, 1999, the New York court of claims awarded $15,000 in damages to a New York state prisoner who cut his arm while opening a malfunctioning window. In 1990, Neil Henry, a prisoner at the Fishkill Correctional Facility in New York, cut his arm while opening a louvered window. Henry lost 25% of his blood volume and suffered artery and nerve damage as a result of the injury. Henry was later deported from the United States.

The court of claims awarded Henry $5,000 for past pain and suffering, $5,000 for a permanent scar and $5,000 for past limitations on the use of two fingers. The damage award totaled $15,00 but the court reduced the award to $7,500, finding Henry's negligence contributed to his injury. Henry did not seek damages for lost earnings or incapacity. See: Henry v. State of New York, Claim No. 81358. Court of Claims, NV, White Plains.

Source: NY Jury Verdict Reporter

Rockwall, TX Jailers Indicted in Sex-For-Contraband Case

Rockwall, TX Jailers Indicted In Sex-For-Contraband Case

Three Rockwall County, Texas jailers were indicted and all plead guilty after allegations that jailers gave drugs and alcohol to female prisoners in exchange for sex. A jail captain also resigned in lieu of prosecution.

One female prisoner was indicted for introducing alcohol into the jail in connection with a jailhouse sex-for-contraband trade that apparently has been allowed to flourish as long as two years. She pled guilty and received a 6-year prison sentence.

Sheriff Jacques Kiere is not under investigation, said Rockwall County Criminal District Attorney Ray Sumrow. Sheriff Kiere suggested that sex-for-contraband allegations are not as widespread as reported. He said the charges probably came from political foes. The sheriff faces two opponents in a re-election bid this year. He said the contraband probably came through trusties who helped build a 150-bed jail addition.

Sumrow said that the truth of prisoners' grand jury testimony against the jailers was backed by polygraph examinations and that investigators have other evidence. "I have done that on every witness," Sumrow said."The polygraphs have shown they are not deceptive."

WFAA-TV in nearby Dallas reported that during the last two years, at least ten Rockwall jailers ...

Exhaustion Requirement Discussed, $86,250 Beating Award Upheld

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the term prison conditions, as used in the Prison Litigation Reform Act at §1997e(a), includes claims of excessive force, thereby subjecting prisoner claims to the Act's administrative exhaustion requirement. The court also held that prisoner substantially complied with exhaustion requirements ...

$12,000 Awarded in NY Work Injury Suit

On June 28, 1999, the New York court of claims awarded Leon Bienkowski $12,000 for past general damages for injuries he suffered on a prison work detail. Bienkowski was a prisoner at the Elmira Correctional Facility in New York in 1996 when a spring loaded cylindrical plunger struck him ...

From the Editor

Remember that effective August 1, 2000, PLN's prisoner subscription rate will be $18 for 12 issues, and $9 for six issues. Prisoner subscriptions will be prorated at $1.50 per issue. Rates for non prisoners will remain the same, as those were raised two years ago.

The June and July issues of PLN were mailed later than usual due to some problems with our mailing list program and a transition in our desktop publishing system. We hope to be back on track with this issue. If you don't receive an issue of PLN, you should wait until at least the end of the calendar month in question before contacting PLN about it (i.e., wait until July 1 if you haven't received the June issue). More than likely the issue has been sent to you already.

The last few years have seen an increase in efforts by prisoncrats to censor PLN nationally. In this issue we note the settlement of PLN's suit against the Alabama DOC. We are in the process of filing suit against the Nevada and Wisconsin prison systems over statewide bans of

PLN in those states. We will report the details in an ...

Sweeping ADA/RA Jail Settlement Benefits Hearing Impaired Prisoners

by Matthew T. Clarke

A federal district court in California has approved a sweeping settlement of hearing impaired prisoners' claims in a civil rights, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Rehabilitation Act (RA) class-action suit against the Santa Clara County (California) Department of Corrections (DOC). In doing so, the court ...

$14,950 Awarded in NY Window Frame Suit

On September 17, 1999, the New York court of claims awarded the estate of Carmine Tarantino $14,950 for injuries Tarantino suffered at the Attica Correctional Facility when a window frame came loose and struck him on the head. Tarantino died of unrelated causes prior to the damages trial in ...

BOP Settles Medical Death Suit for $700,000

In February, 1999, the federal Bu reau of Prisons settled a medical neglect suit for $700,000. David Deen, a BOP prisoner, was 30 years old and confined at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia for five months. He was prescribed nitroglycerin for chest pains and anti depressants by ...

VA Warden Fired in Foodbank Theft

On October 13, 1999, Vanessa Crawford was fired as warden of the Pocahontas Correctional Unit. Two other unidentified Virginia DOC employees were also fired. The firings stemmed From the theft of food at the Central Virginia Foodbank (CVF).

CVF was started in 1995 as a joint public/private venture whereby women prisoners at Pocahontas would process tractor trailer loads of food for CVF. Crawford and the other fired DOC employees were stealing food from the program. News accounts did not list the amounts or value of the stolen property.

Virginia prisoner Vicki Depew claims she was retaliated against and transferred to a different prison after she exposed the theft of foodbank food by Virginia prison officials.

Source: Richmond Times Dispatch

Sixth Circuit Terminates Glover v. Johnson

In 1977, two groups of female prisoners of the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) brought two separate §1983 civil complaints against the MDOC and various staff alleging Equal Protection and First Amendment violations with regard to educational and vocational programming (female prisoners sought parity with male prisoners on these issues) and access to the courts. In 1979, the cases were consolidated, the issues tried and the prisoners prevailed. For the next 20 years the district court exercised jurisdiction over a significant aspect of the corrections system in order to monitor compliance with its remedial orders. (PLN has covered this case extensively. See PLN for 3/95, 10/96, 8/97, 12/98, 4/99 & 10/99)

In 1995, the district court denied a defense motion to terminate jurisdiction, finding that the defendants had failed to comply substantially with its remedial orders and plans. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit, while retaining jurisdiction, remanded with instructions to hold hearings to determine if the plaintiffs had achieved substantial parity with the male prisoners and to determine if female prisoners were being denied access to the courts. Following remand, the district court held hearings, following which it determined that the evidence demonstrated sufficient parity ...

DOJ Sues Wackenhut Juvenile Prison

In March, 2000, six teenage boys, brutalized by guards in a Wackenhut prison in Jena, Louisiana, were removed by the judge who sentenced them.

State Judge Mark Doherty of Orleans Parish Louisiana was so appalled by their treatment that he made a special trip to the Jena facility to check on the welfare of twelve other boys he had sentenced. He eventually released five more, describing Jena as "a place that drives and treats juveniles as if they walked on all fours."

One of those released was a 17-year-old whom a guard had pinned face down on the floor. The youth had recently undergone an operation for gunshot wounds to the stomach and was wearing a colostomy bag when the guard held him to the ground by placing a knee in his back.

Judge Doherty is not the only one taking action. On March 31, 2000, the Justice Department filed a federal lawsuit against the Jena Juvenile Justice Center. It is the first time the DOJ has sued a private prison company.

In this original action, U.S. District Judge Frank Polozola has been asked to add the Jena facility to a November 1998 lawsuit filed against the state of ...

WA Class B Felonies Entitled to 1/3 Good Time Credits

The Washington State Supreme Court has held: (1) a former statute placing cap on early release good time credits at 15% rather than 33% of total sentence for those "convicted of a serious violent offense or a sex offense that is a class A felony" applied only to serious violent offenses that are also class A felonies, and (2) retroactive application of amendments to the statute would violate the ex post facto clause.

James Smith and Derek Gronquist, two Washington state prisoners, filed separate personal restraint petitions asking the court to determine the applicability of former RCW 9.94A.150(1)(1996) to certain class B offenses. The court consolidated the petitions. The question under review was whether the Department of Corrections(DOC) erroneously applied the provisions of the statute when it capped petitioners' "earned early release time"(EERT) at 15 percent of their respective sentences. The court found the DOC was in error and granted the petitions.

Smith was convicted of attempted rape in the first degree, burglary in the first degree, and residential burglary. The sentences on the burglary charges have expired but Smith remains incarcerated on the attempted rape conviction. Gronquist was convicted of three counts of ...

Prison Protesters Arrested in DC

In a reprise of the 1999 Seattle World Trade Organization protests, thousands of activists gathered in Washington DC on April 9-17 to oppose annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the prison-industrial complex, and neoliberal economic policies.

Estimates of the number of demonstrators varied from 5,000 to 20,000 depending on who did the estimating. The total number arrested during the 8-day mobilization, a number more accurately estimated, approached 1300--more than twice the number arrested during the WTO Seattle protests.

Metro Police Chief Charles Ramsey's officers undertook preemptive strikes against potential protesters on grounds of what they might be planning to do. Such a strike occurred April 15th. International Action Center demonstrators protesting the prison-industrial complex and demanding a retrial for black activist Mumia Abu-Jamal, were marching peacefully but without a permit near the Justice Department. Ramsey's troops swept in, sealed off the area, and arrested everyone present including tourists and World Bank consultant Leon Galindo.

Most arrestees were released the following day. "I am now far more sympathetic with the demands of the protesters and just a tad more cynical about the establishment," said Galindo after his release.

April 17th, another 600 ...

Washington Ends Prison Telemarketing

By Paul Wright

On May 13, 1999, the Washington Department of Corrections ended its last remaining prison telemarketing program. As reported in the August, 1998, issue of PLN, prison telemarketing has had a controversial history in Washington prisons. In 1998 the Washington DOC ended its state run telemarketing operation at the Clallam Bay Corrections Center (CBCC) when it was discovered that Parker Stanphil, a serial rapist, was sending suggestive post cards to women who called 1-800 numbers for the state Environmental Department and the Parks and Recreation Department. Under these contracts with other state agencies, the DOC's Correctional Industries was responsible for the telemarketing operations.

When Stanphil's activities gained intense publicity, Ida Ballasiotes, the chair of the corrections committee in the state House of Representatives, called public hearings to demand an explanation. DOC secretary Joseph Lehman blamed the problem on CBCC superintendent Robert Wright and promptly fired him. The Correctional Industries manager in charge of the CBCC telemarketing operation, David Wattnem, was "reassigned" to other duties.

The closure of the CI telemarketing operation at CBCC did not affect the other prison based telemarketing operation, run by the Washington Marketing Group (WMG). WMG was a telemarketing company owned by ...

PLN Sues to Uncover Telemarketing Closure

The accompanying story on the closure of the Washington Marketing Group (WMG) operation at the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe, Washington, occured in May, 1999. Shortly after it occurred PLN editor Paul Wright filed a Public Disclosure Act (PDA) request with the Department of Correction's Correctional Industries (CI) seeking ...

Guard's Intentional Destruction of Typewriter States §1983 and Texas Tort Claims

A Texas state court of appeals has held that a guard's intentional destruction of a prisoner's typewriter states a claim under 42 U.S.C. §1983 and Texas tort law.

Robert Gordon, a Texas state prisoner, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state tort law after a guard knocked his word processing typewriter off a table during a cell search, damaging the typewriter. Before filing suit, Gordon properly exhausted his state remedies by filing prison grievances. The warden answered Gordon's grievance, stating that the destruction of the typewriter was accidental and the grievance procedure had no provision for the reimbursement of prisoners for accidental destruction of their personal property by a guard.

In the trial court, defendants moved to dismiss the suit, claiming that Gordon could not sue for intentional or negligent destruction of personal property under § 1983 so long as the state provided an adequate remedy such as the grievance system. The trial court then dismissed the suit without holding a hearing on the motion.

Following Lentworth v. Traham, 981 S.W.2d 720 (Tex. App.-Houston (1st Dist.] 1998), the court of appeals held that because he held no hearings on the ...

America Behind Bars, video series from Deep Dish TV

AMERICA BEHIND BARS, video series from Deep Dish TV

Review By Janet Stanton

No society since Nazi Germany has built so many prisons in such a short time. Each of those prisons is a school or a hospital that will never be built.

--Mike Davis

This quote, from the cover of oneof four videos in the Deep Dish TV series on prisons, America Behind Bars, underscores the perspectives on the U.S. criminal "justice" system developed in the series. The series is evidence that the independent media is rising to the monumental task of presenting an accurate/alternative view of the prison industrial complex (PIC) in contrast to the corporate news media.

The series is comprised of four videos which sketch the state of the U.S. "justice system": Lockdown USA, an overview of the prison-industrial complex and its effects; The Last Graduation covers the rise (Attica) and fall (Marist College, Green Haven, NY) of government-funded education programs for prisoners; Millions for Mumia documents his case, through his words and those of his supporters; and Critical Resistance documents the 1998 conference in Berkeley, California, hosted by Angela Davis.

(1) Lockdown USA is the only video of the series which explores ...

WA Guard Discrimination Suit Settled for $250,000

In the May, 1999, issue of PLN we reported the widespread racism among white prison employees in the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) and the resulting hostile work environment it created for minority employees as well as prisoners.

In July, 1998, black Clallam Bay Corrections Center guards Doris Washington, Charles ...

Notes From the Unrepenitentiary: Transcending Hell

Notes From The Unrepenitentiary: Transcending Hell

By Marilyn Buck

Nuh Albert Washington was a friend, brother and comrade to me and many others. He died this Spring. He was a Black Panther, a Muslim and a soldier of the revolutionary Black Liberation Army. He was a political prisoner, a hostage of the U.S. government's war against the Black Liberation movement. For 29 years.

Nuh was isolated from all other BLA prisoners; they were all held separated from each other. Those were torturous years of deliberate dehumanization. However, Brother Nuh didn't just survive, he maintained his integrity as well as his vision of liberation and justice. And he grew, like a sturdy oak tree; his growth fortified those prisoners on the ground with him.

His roots spread beneath and through the walls to other political prisoners as well as comrades, family and friends beyond the dungeons in the world.

Nuh was a man of wisdom and exquisite spirit. Witness Spiderman:

I have never been bitten by a radioactive spider
So I cannot climb walls
Or defeat a bunch of bad guys at once
But like Spiderman I have a sense of humor
Yet I'd give up some ...

SC Prisoners Settle Rape Suits

On October 16, 1999, an unidentified former woman prisoner settled a lawsuit for $115,000. The woman claimed that in 1995 while she was imprisoned at the Women's Correctional Center in Broad River, South Carolina, prison guard Anthony Green raped her and South Carolina prison officials then denied her ...

$2 Million Awarded in IL Medical Neglect Suit

On February 2, 2000, a federal jury in Illinois awarded $2 million in damages to a prisoner blinded through medical neglect by prison officials. The damage award is believed to be the highest in a prisoner civil rights case in Illinois.

Karl Williams, a prisoner at the Pontiac Correction Center ...

$1.75 Million in Oregon Excessive Force Jail Settlement

On March 29, 2000, the Klamath County Jail in Medford, Oregon, paid $1.75 million to settle an excessive force lawsuit filed by a former jail detainee. In 1997 Dana Lecomte was in the Klamath county jail on charges of driving with a suspended license. Jail guards claim Leconte was ...

Attorney Fee Award Against Prisoner Reduced

A federal court in Virginia reduced an attorney fees award against a prisoner who filed a factually frivolous suit from $28,719 to $900.

John McGlothin, a Virginia state prisoner, filed a civil rights suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the warden and chaplain of his prison, claiming Islamic prisoners were subjected to unconstitutional religious discrimination. Following an evidentiary hearing in which it became apparent that McGlothin could not prove the facts of his suit, the trial court denied relief. McGlothin appealed all the way to the Supreme Court and lost. The defendants then requested and were granted $28,719 in attorneys' fees. McGlothin appealed and the Fourth Circuit remanded the case to the district court, instructing it to apply the twelve factors in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, 488 F.2d 714 (5th Cir. 1974) as guidelines for the proper awarding of attorney fees.

On remand, the district court recalculated the award of attorney fees. Finding that many of the Johnson factors would only apply to a prevailing plaintiff, not to government officials defending themselves in a civil rights action, the district court nonetheless found that the fee award was reasonable for the two attorneys who had ...

Political Prisoners in Spain

Political Prisoners In Spain

By Julia Lutsky

Political prisoners exist in every country and every country denies their existence. Spain is no exception. It has seen three distinct waves of modern political prisoners: those who defended the popularly elected Spanish Republican Government against Francisco Franco's 1936-39 rebellion; those who opposed the resulting dictatorship which lasted until the generalissimo's death in 1975; and those who opposed the reforms carried out since that time as nothing more than window dressing.

At the end of 1974 there were about 2,500 Spanish political prisoners whose presence was consistently denied by the Spanish government. Immediately after the death of Franco, ETA (Basque) political prisoners went on a hunger strike to obtain their freedom; the government responded with a limited pardon of some 235 political prisoners and again claimed that since there were no "real" political prisoners there would be no more pardons: all the others were either guilty of common crimes or were terrorists. Most of those freed were reformists, i.e., those who would laud any so-called political reforms; revolutionaries remained behind bars. As a result, amnesty campaigns and petitions on their behalf continued. In 1976 a massive demonstration by some ...

$800,000 Settlement in AZ Jail Restraint Suit

In August, 1999, the Maricopa County board of supervisors, approved an $800,000 settlement for a pretrial detainee subjected to excessive force in the Maricopa County (Phoenix) Jail in Arizona. Richard Post, a wheelchair bound paraplegic was arrested and taken to the county jail.

Post claimed he was denied a ...

California Statute of Limitations Tolled

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has held that; (1) amended California tolling statute could be retroactively applied to former prisoner's claim; and (2) former prisoner was not entitled to equitable tolling.

David Fink, a former California prisoner, filed a civil complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in a federal district court seeking damages for alleged Eighth Amendment violations for inadequate medical treatment while he was incarcerated. He claimed that his leg was injured on September 2, 1993 after a prison guard beat him while he was handcuffed. He walked on the leg for eight weeks without crutches. On November 9, 1993, a prison doctor allegedly refused to treat his leg or to issue crutches. Fink was released from prison on August 27, 1996 and commenced his complaint on May 29, 1997.

A. Retroactivity.
The district court dismissed Fink's complaint as time-barred applying a 1994 California Civil Procedure Code, § 352.1, retroactively. As amended in 1994, § 352.1 limits tolling of limitations periods to two years for prisoners incarcerated for less than life. Before the amendment, imprisonment was considered a disability that tolled statutes of limitations for the entire person term. That provision ...

WA Court Costs Can be Remitted

WA Court Costs Can Be Remitted

Appeals, Division One, held that: (1) the State may be awarded costs under RCW 10.73.160 even if an indigent prisoner's appeal raises debatable issues; and (2) a defendant whose conviction has been affirmed may petition the sentencing court at any time for partial or complete remission of the obligation.

On February 16, 1999, the court affirmed Thomas Robert Nolan's conviction. On February 22, 1999, the State moved for an award, as prevailing party, under RCW 10.73.160. The State asked the court to order Nolan, an indigent prisoner, to pay $82 to the Snohomish County Prosecutor's Office for the cost of reproducing the State's appellate brief, and $3,328.80 to the Appellate Indigent Defense Fund to recoup fees for Nolan's court appointed appellate counsel. On March 2, 1999, the Court of Appeals Commissioner awarded costs to the State in the amounts requested. On April 1, 1999, Nolan moved to modify this ruling. Then on July 12, 1999, the State requested an additional $225 for appellate costs incurred after February 22, 1999.

Nolan argued that RCW 10.73.160 means that an indigent appellant in a ...

One-Year NY SHU Atypical and Significant Hardship

by Matthew T. Clarke

A federal court in New York has held that one year in SHU is an atypical and significant hardship pursuant to Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472 (1995). The court also held that a prisoner must exhaust state remedies with respect to medical indifference claims, but need not exhaust state remedies with respect to excessive use of force claims.

Melvin Wright, a New York state prisoner, filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that prison guards used excessive force on him, guards and nurses denied him medical treatment and a prison disciplinary official denied him due process in a disciplinary hearing. The prison officials filed a motion to dismiss the suit. The court denied the motion in part and granted it in part.

The court took the following facts set forth in the complaint as true: while he was recovering from surgery and still under the influence of anesthesia, Wright accidentally grabbed a nurse's hand, injuring her. A misbehavior report was filed against Wright for the hand grabbing incident. Wright was given a staff assistant to help defend himself and asked the assistant to get him information on anesthesia and interview ...

$8,000 Awarded in NY Chair Collapse

On November 24, 1999, the New York court of claims awarded $8,000 in damages to New York prisoner Troy Benjamin. In 1995 while Benjamin was a prisoner at the Collins Correctional Facility, the back of the chair he was sitting in fell off, causing him to fall backwards, separate ...

CA 3 Strikers Entitled to Good Time

The Supreme Court of California held that: a defendant sentenced under the three strikes law (Pen.Code § 1170.12) is entitled to presentence conduct credits under Pen.Code § 4019.

Otis Michael Thomas, a California prisoner, was found guilty of first degree residential burglary (Count 2, § 459), making a terrorist threat (Count 3, § 422), possession of a firearm by a felon (Count 4, § 12021, subd.(a)(1)), and false imprisonment of a hostage (Count 5, § 210.5). The jury found true the allegation that he was armed with a firearm in the commission of Counts 2, 3, and 5. The jury also found that the victim of the terrorist threat charge suffered reasonable sustained fear for her safety and that of her immediate family. As relevant to the case, the jury found he had previously been convicted of two serious felonies (§ 1170.12).

He was sentenced to three consecutive indeterminate terms of 25 years to life on Counts 2, 3, and 5 consecutive to a determinate term of 11 years for certain enhancements. Sentence on Count 4 was stayed. He was credited with 396 days served in jail prior to sentencing --- 264 days of actual custody, and 132 days of presentence ...

Right to Counsel Violated by Intrusive Guards

A federal district court ruled that a criminal defendant's right to counsel was violated by the refusal of guards to allow unmonitored communication between him and his attorney.

On January 26, 1990 David Lakin and four other prisoners abducted two guards while attempting escape from the State Prison of Southern Michigan. The would-be escapees shoved the guards into a state vehicle and raced away from the prison, with Lakin at the wheel. They were captured without incident after a short chase.

Five months later, to the day, a jury convicted Lakin and his cohorts of kidnapping, prison escape, assault of a prison employee and unlawfully driving away an automobile. Laken was hit with sentences totalling approximately 35-65 years, all to run consecutive to his prior


Before the commencement of trial, Lakin repeatedly expressed concerns to the court (mostly through letters) regarding his inability to confer privately with counsel. Lakin told the court that two armed guards stood in the room where he met with his court-appointed attorney. When Lakin asked the attorney to instruct the guards to stand outside the room, the attorney refused. Lakin also complained in letters to the court that his lawyer refused to accept ...

AL DOC Settles PLN Gift Subscription Lawsuit

On March 29, 2000, the Alabama Department of Corrections (DOC) settled a lawsuit filed by Prison Legal News and Alabama prisoner Aven Cotton. The Alabama DOC had previously required its prisoners to purchase books, magazines and newspaper subscriptions using funds from their prison trust fund accounts.

Gift books and subscriptions were censored at those prisons choosing to apply the policy (while the policy was statewide it was applied haphazardly) on the grounds that the prisoner did not purchase the items from their prison trust account. PLN was censored on this basis.

On May 13, 1999, PLN and Cotton filed suit claiming that the ban on gift subscriptions and books violated their First amendment right to free speech. The suit was later amended to include a claim by PLN that its due process rights were violated by the fact that it was never notified of the censorship, the reason for the censorship nor given an opportunity to appeal the matter.

Under the terms of the settlement, the Alabama DOC agree to amend Administrative Regulation 303 to allow prisoners to receive free and gift publications sent by vendors and publishers. The AR was also amended so that the publisher/sender of censored ...

One Dead, Thirty-one Hospitalized in TX Prison Riot

One Dead, Thirty-one Hospitalized In TX Prison Riot

A riot in a west Texas state prison Tuesday, April 25, 2000, has left one prisoner dead and thirty-one injured severely enough to require hospitalization according to National Public Radio. The riot, which had racial overtones, began in the dining facility of the 1,300-man minimum/medium-security Smith Unit while the evening meal was being served when a black prisoner began fondling himself while looking at a female guard. A Hispanic prisoner took offense and a fight ensued.

The fight in the dining facility was limited to the two participants. However, word of the altercation spread throughout the unit and several small fights later escalated into a riot in which over three hundred black and Hispanic prisoners, some of them armed with garden tools, met and fought on the yard. Guards fled the area and the fight went on for another five hours until the deployment of approximately three hundred guards and massive quantities of "a substance similar to pepper spray" dispersed the prisoners early the next morning. The prison's kitchen was gutted by fire during the night.

Fernando Trejo, 20, was killed by a blow from a pick ax taken ...

Jail Discrimination Violates Equal Protection

The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that different treatment of similarly situated prisoners because of their race, states an equal protection claim.

In 1998, Ricky L. Powells, a black prisoner, filed three separate lawsuits alleging that several defendants violated his rights during his incarceration at the Minnehaha County Jail. The actions were consolidated and dismissed pursuant to §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b)(1) for failure to state a claim. Subsequently, Powells filed two more complaints, which were dismissed under the "three strikes" rule when Powells failed to pay the filing fees. On appeal, the court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part.

In one of his initial complaints Powells alleged, inter alia, that guard #084 granted his white cellmate's request for an extra blanket and mattress while denying his request, even though they both followed the same procedure; that although he and another prisoner participated in the same conduct, guard Farinol, for racially discriminatory reasons, singled him out for placement in segregation; and, that guards Mison and Forrester opened his legal mail out of his presence.

The appeals court held that the first two allegations were of different treatment of similarly ...

News in Brief

CT: On June 1, 2000, a mattress fire at the Northern Correctional Tnstitution, a control unit in Somers that includes the state's

death row, left three prisoners and four guards injured. The guards were treated for smoke inhalation, one prisoner suffered burns and two others were treated for smoke inhalation. Fifty prisoners in the One East housing unit were temporarily moved to a different section of the prison.

Nicaragua: On May 30, 2000, the legislature granted amnesty to 110 of the country's 300 women prisoners to celebrate mother's day. Congressman Nelson Artola said: "We gave them their freedom because most were pushed toward crime by poverty and unemployment."

Brazil: On May 13, 2000, eight men armed with pistols and machine guns stormed a Sao Paulo jail and freed 144 prisoners. One policeman was shot in the legs and a guard was shot in the head during the attack. Police said the only prisoners who were not freed in the attack were eight in the jail's segregation unit. 19 prisoners were recaptured shortly afterwards.

TX: On May 31, 2000, Robert Earl Carter, 34, a former Texas state prison guard, was executed in Huntsville. Carter was convicted in ...

Ohio Prisons Change Birthing Policy

In January, 2000, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and corrections (DORC), announced it would change its policies for pregnant prisoners at the Franklin Pre-Release Center in Columbus, Ohio, which houses the state's pregnant prisoners. The policy change is a result of a lawsuit filed in 1999 by Sean Turner, who asked to see his wife Barbara Ann Turner, give birth to their child. A federal court issued an unpublished ruling allowing Turner to witness the birth of his daughter at the Ohio State University Hospital.

The policy change prompted by Turner's lawsuit is to allow a "birthing support person," the child's father or other loved one, to be present and help the pregnant prisoner give birth. DORC director Reginald Wilkinson also said an Ohio prison nursery is being planned for the women's prison in Marysville. Breast pumps for lactating mothers will no longer be considered "security risks."

Wilkinson told the media: "Anything we can do to prevent persons from future criminal behavior is our mission, and strengthening the family is one of the most powerful rehabilitative things we can do." Wilkinson did not say why, if that was indeed the case, it took losing a federal ...

Escape Costs Private Transport Company

A private prisoner transport company agreed to pay $50,000 to the state of North Dakota to defray the state's expenses for recapturing a prisoner who spent three months as a fugitive after escaping from one of its buses.

Convicted child killer Kyle Bell was being transported from North Dakota to Oregon by TransCor America, Inc. when he escaped October 13, 1999, while the transport bus was refueling at Santa Rosa, New Mexico. TransCor guards failed to notice his absence for nine hours.

Bell was recaptured January 9, 2000 after authorities received a tip from a Dallas couple about his whereabouts. The couple collected a $50,000 reward posted by the state for information leading to Bell's recapture.

The settlement which TransCor paid May 31, 2000, is less than half the $102,127 the state billed the company in January. That bill includes the $50,000 reward as well as the salaries of nine state employees involved in the search for Bell.

TransCor (a subsidiary of Corrections Corporation of America) initially offered to cover $10,000 of the $50,000 reward. Attorney General Heidi Heitcamp threatened to sue the company if the full $102,127 bill was not ...


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