Skip navigation

Prison Legal News: November, 2001

Issue PDF
Volume 12, Number 11

In this issue:

  1. Washington's Island of Deviant Doctors (p 1)
  2. Washington DOC Pays $24,697 in PLN Records Suit (p 3)
  3. Ex-Prisoner Awarded $2.7 Million on Remand in Medical Neglect Suit (p 7)
  4. Leg Amputation Caused by Improper Treatment Defeats Summary Judgment (p 7)
  5. From the Editor (p 8)
  6. Virginia Settles Juvenile Death Suit for $1.2 Million (p 10)
  7. Children Strip-Searched While Touring DC Jail (p 11)
  8. DC Prison Guards Smuggled Cash, Pagers (p 11)
  9. Hawaii Prison Doctors Denied Qualified Immunity (p 12)
  10. South Dakota Prison Conditions Class Action Settled (p 12)
  11. Blind Ohio Prisoner Spends Months in Strip Cell (p 13)
  12. Environmental Challenge Bars Construction of California Prison (p 14)
  13. Mississippi Taxpayers Fund Welfare Payments to Private Prisons (p 16)
  14. Prisoners Riot in Dartmouth Jail (p 17)
  15. Summary Judgment Denied in Oklahoma Jail Beating (p 18)
  16. $522,458 Rebate Ordered in California Prisoner Phone Overcharges (p 19)
  17. Notes from the Unrepenitentiary: A Matter of the Past (p 20)
  18. Colombian Rebels Attack Prisons, 140 Prisoners Flee (p 21)
  19. California Racial Segregation Case Reversed; Phone Claim Dismissed (p 22)
  20. Summary Judgment Granted for Forced Religious Substance Abuse Program (p 22)
  21. Cell Search, Property Seizure Suit Set for Trial (p 23)
  22. Jailhouse Lawyering Protected; Frivolous Claims Are Not (p 23)
  23. New Trial Ordered in Excessive Use of Force Suit (p 24)
  24. California Dials Wrong Number (p 24)
  25. Sandin Retroactive, But Not for Qualified Immunity; BOP Ad Seg Rule Creates Liberty Interest (p 25)
  26. Plug Pulled in California Prison (p 26)
  27. Book Review: Power, Politics, & Crime (p 27)
  28. Junking the Jurors (p 28)
  29. Alaska Supreme Court Reverses Former Prisoner's $2.4 Million Jury Award (p 29)
  30. News in Brief (p 30)

Washington's Island of Deviant Doctors

The McNeil Island Correction Center (MICC), located on McNeil Island near Steilacoom, Washington, has a long history of hiring misfits in its medical and psychological departments. In order to secure such a position it almost seems as though one must have drug or alcohol problems, a long history of incompetence ...

Washington DOC Pays $24,697 in PLN Records Suit

The cover story in this issue of PLN , "Washington's Island of Deviant Doctors," is the result of a lengthy investigation into the provision of medical care to prisoners and civil commitment "residents" at the McNeil Island Corrections Center (MICC) in Steilacoom, Washington. PLN reviewed thousands of pages of documents ...

Ex-Prisoner Awarded $2.7 Million on Remand in Medical Neglect Suit

On April 20, 2001, a Denver jury awarded former Colorado prisoner Arthur Nieto, 44, damages totalling $2.7 million in a medical neglect suit against Colorado prison officials and medical staff. In 1991, while imprisoned at the Delta County Correctional Facility, Nieto contracted a sinus infection. Despite repeated requests for ...

Leg Amputation Caused by Improper Treatment Defeats Summary Judgment

A federal district court in New York has ordered a new trial in a civil rights excessive use of force suit. Prisoner Milton Ruffin filed suit against Sullivan Correctional Facility guard Van Fuller for an incident that occurred on October 19, 1998. Ruffin was confined in the Special Housing Unit ...

From the Editor

The recent attacks of the World Trade Center towers (WTC) in New York City and the Pentagon have filled the news. Largely ignored by the corporate media has been the federal government's treatment of people convicted in previous Muslim terrorist attacks, such as the 1993 WTC bombing. It is ...

Virginia Settles Juvenile Death Suit for $1.2 Million

In early April 2001, the Virginia Attorney General's office announced it had agreed to settle a wrongful death suit for $1.2 million. In the December 1999 issue of PLN we reported the death of Wallace Dandridge, 16, a developmentally disabled child at the Oak Ridge Juvenile Correctional Center ...

Children Strip-Searched While Touring DC Jail

In April and May 2001, school children were strip searched while touring a jail in Washington, D.C. A lawsuit seeking $4 million for each of six girls and one boy is forthcoming.

D.C. schools routinely schedule these tours for children with behavioral problems. The goal is to scare ...

DC Prison Guards Smuggled Cash, Pagers

Ten Washington, D.C., prison guards were charged with conspiracy to smuggle cash and twoway pagers to prisoners in federal indictments unsealed April 31, 2001. The guards, nine of whom work for Corrections Corporation of America, a private company operating the Correctional Treatment Facility in Southeast Washington, were caught in ...

Hawaii Prison Doctors Denied Qualified Immunity

AU.S. district court found that Hawaii state prison physicians were deliberately indifferent to a prisoner's medical needs and were not entitled to qualified immunity. Raymond Kenney filed suit in state court alleging denial of medication to control his seizures while he was a Hawaii state prisoner. Kenney sued ...

South Dakota Prison Conditions Class Action Settled

The federal district court in South Dakota has dissolved a state prison conditions consent decree and approved a class action settlement, ending two decades of litigation.

State prisoners filed a §1983 suit challenging prison conditions, certified as a class action in 1982. The court found the conditions at the South ...

Blind Ohio Prisoner Spends Months in Strip Cell

Blind Ohio Prisoner Spends Months In Strip Cell

by Ronald Young

An investigation by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) revealed that a blind prisoner at the Orient Correctional Institution in Pickaway County was subjected to three months of continuous isolation in a strip cell.

Willie Thomas, a ...

Environmental Challenge Bars Construction of California Prison

by Rose Braz, Esq.

A Kern County, California, supperior court judge has barred the state from proceeding with plans to build a $335 million, 5,160 bed maximum-security prison slated for Delano. The groundbreaking ruling came in an environmental lawsuit filed by Critical Resistance, the National Lawyers Guild Prison Law ...

Mississippi Taxpayers Fund Welfare Payments to Private Prisons

Mississippi Taxpayers Fund Welfare Payments To Private Prisons

by Ronald A. Young

Mississippi taxpayers will pay about $6 million a year to private and regional prisons for "ghost inmates" under a bill the legislature approved on March 26, 2001. The Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) funding bill includes a provision ...

Prisoners Riot in Dartmouth Jail

On April 15, 2001, the scene at the Dartmouth House of Correction in Massachusetts could have been lifted straight from the pages of a medieval novel. Prisoners stormed the woodshop, armed themselves with boards, then set the shop afire. While one group laid siege to the courtyard another group scaled ...

Summary Judgment Denied in Oklahoma Jail Beating

A federal district court in Oklahoma has denied summary judgment against a pretrial detainee's failure to protect and deliberate indifference to medical needs claims.

On September 5, 1995, John Winton was booked into the Tulsa County Jail on shooting charges that were later dismissed. Twelve days later he complained ...

$522,458 Rebate Ordered in California Prisoner Phone Overcharges

The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) ordered MCI Telecommunications Corp. (MCI) to offset $522,458 in overcharges it made between June 14, 1996, and July 12, 1999, on MCI California Maximum Security Calls (i.e., California prisoner collect calls) by proportionately reducing the cost it charges for future such calls ...

Notes from the Unrepenitentiary: A Matter of the Past

In Charlottesville, Virginia, Mary Smith, a Black working class woman, got fired from her job at the University of Virginia Medical Center. So did eight other workers. They all had prior felony convictions. Ms. Smith's was for $200 of bad checks. Like four of those fired she had not ...

Colombian Rebels Attack Prisons, 140 Prisoners Flee

Prison escapes are common in Colombia. Prisoners often buy the help of guards and administrators and are often able to outgun their jailers. In the case that follows they had concerted help from the outside. It is not the first time that rebels outside have used such tactics to free ...

California Racial Segregation Case Reversed; Phone Claim Dismissed

Holding that the action was not time-barred and otherwise stated an actionable claim, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has reversed a lower court’s dismissal of a prisoner’s pro se action which claimed that California state prisons practiced racial segregation in housing prisoners. The Court upheld ...

Summary Judgment Granted for Forced Religious Substance Abuse Program

A New York federal district court has awarded summary judgment to a prisoner who held agnostic beliefs and was forced to participate in a prison religious-based substance abuse program. New York prisoner Troy Alexander sued officials at Cayuga Correctional Facility under 42 U.S.C. §1983.

Because Alexander had previosly ...

Cell Search, Property Seizure Suit Set for Trial

Cell Search, Property Seizure Suit Set For Trial

A federal district court in Delaware held that summary judgment was not appropriate to decide if a prisoner's cell had been illegally searched and his papers improperly seized. Michael Jordan, a Delaware prisoner, filed suits against three Delaware prison guards who ...

Jailhouse Lawyering Protected; Frivolous Claims Are Not

by John E. Dannenberg

The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that a prisoner could not maintain an access to the courts claim based on an action that has been dismissed as frivolous, but the plaintiff can proceed on a legal assistance retaliation claim. In doing so, the ...

New Trial Ordered in Excessive Use of Force Suit

A federal district court in New York has ordered a new trial in a civil rights excessive use of force suit. Prisoner Milton Ruffin filed suit against Sullivan Correctional Facility guard Van Fuller for an incident that occurred on October 19, 1998. Ruffin was confined in the Special Housing Unit ...

California Dials Wrong Number

by W. Wisely

In reaction to bad publicity, lawsuits, and legislative hearings following a record number of fatal shootings of unarmed male prisoners, staged fights, and the sexual abuse and medical neglect of women prisoners, California established the allegedly independent Office of Inspector General within the state's Youth and ...

Sandin Retroactive, But Not for Qualified Immunity; BOP Ad Seg Rule Creates Liberty Interest

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that a federal prisoner's due process rights were violated when he was placed in segregation without notice or a hearing and kept there for some 514 days. The Court also held that prison officials were not entitled to qualified immunity ...

Plug Pulled in California Prison

California is short on energy. The state has suffered repeated Stage Three power alerts and rolling power outages. Without authorization by the Legislature, the California Department of Corrections (CDC) may be trying to alleviate the crisis. And it seems at least one warden is locking his prisons down and shutting ...

Book Review: Power, Politics, & Crime

Book Review: Power, Politics, & Crime

by William J. Chambliss, Westview Press, 1999

Review by Rick Card

"There is ... a huge chasm," says William Chambliss in his book, Power, Politics, & Crime , "between the reality of crime, the public's perception of it, and the information being disseminated to the public by ...

Junking the Jurors

by Mumia Abu Jamal

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed&"

U.S. Constitution, 6 th Amendment

It has been almost two decades since a Philadelphia jury sentenced a youthful Donald Hardcastle to death. On a cold, wintry December day in 1982, a jury of grimfaced strangers convicted him of two counts of murder, arson and burglary.

Hardcastle, a dark-skinned North Philadelphian, had every reason to think of that tight-faced jury as a bunch of strangers, for few of them looked like him. They were mostly pink-complexioned, and from a part of the city where most of the residents were of a similar pinkish hue.

This was by design, not accident. For the lawyer for the State strove mightily to remove virtually every person of color from the jury panel (even at least one dark-skinned Italian, it seemed). Of her fifteen peremptory challenges used, twelve were for African Americans. That means roughly 87% of the government's peremptories were used against black persons, to remove them from the jury panel. Hardcastle's jury, who would choose liberty or death, was one that the Philadelphia DA's office officially purged of almost all blacks.

Hardcastle went to over five different courts in Pennsylvania's state courts, two PCRA petitions before the Court of Common Pleas, once to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, and twice to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, where he argued mostly one thing: the improper and racially discriminatory removals of a number of African-Americans from his jury panel. All were denied. After 1986, his argument was considerably strengthened by a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, called Batson v. Kentucky , where the majority declared it unconstitutional for the state to remove a potential juror on the basis of race. Hardcastle was elated, for although his trial was before the Batson case, the arguments were essentially the same. So he raised his claim in every court he could get it into.

For 15 years after the Batson decision, every court he went to spit on him, and he remained under the ever present threat of death. Time after time. No. Denied. Dismissed. Rejected. No. ( No, Nigger. ) He went before over 19 judges in almost 20 years and got spit on, every time.

Until now. In late June 2001, a federal judge found that at least half of his jury panel was removed in violation of the Batson decision, and granted habeas corpus relief.

What Judge John R. Padova found was that the DA's office engaged in "intentional discrimination" and used spurious reasoning to justify the removal of blacks from his jury panel. The Judge wrote:

"The Court also finds as fact based on the record that the prosecutor engaged in intentional discrimination with respect to the two jurors for whom no record-based potential reasons were found, Kim Richards and Lisa Stewart. Lisa Stewart testified that she was a housewife with one child living in West Philadelphia, and that she would follow the same law and weigh the evidence fairly. Several white female jurors who the prosecutor explicitly found acceptable also testified to being homemakers with children and living in Philadelphia. Kim Richards testified that she was a single, 26-year-old white female juror who had attended two years of college and worked as an accountant for an insurance company. The record reveals no credible basis other than race for distinguishing between Stewart or Richards and their respective white counterparts." Hardcastle v. Horn , No. Civ. A. 98-CV-3028, slip op. at 21; 2001 WL 722781 at 18, (E.D.Pa. June 27, 2001).

Was the twentieth ...

Alaska Supreme Court Reverses Former Prisoner's $2.4 Million Jury Award

The Supreme Court of Alaska reversed a jury verdict and a $2.4 million damage award in favor of a former prisoner who was injured when he fell down a stairway.

In February 1994, Carry Johnson was returning to his cell at the Ketchikan Correctional Center. As he reached the ...

News in Brief

Alabama: In April 2001, four unnamed guards at the Morgan County jail in Decatur were fired for leaving their posts on April Fools Day to play jokes on each other. The jokes included smearing shaving cream on each other, covering their cars with toilet paper and writing on each other ...