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Prison Legal News: February, 2001

Issue PDF
Volume 12, Number 2

In this issue:

  1. Bag'm, Tag'm and Bury'm; Wisconsin Prisoners Dying for Health Care (p 1)
  2. WA Law Libraries Threatened; DOC Proposes Budget Cuts (p 8)
  3. Food Strike Puts Washington DOC on Spin Control (p 9)
  4. From the Editor (p 10)
  5. Fraud Charged by Washington DOC Whistleblower (p 10)
  6. $330,000 Verdict in MI Beating (p 11)
  7. $4,500 Verdict in NY Hernia Suit (p 11)
  8. WA DOC Whistleblowers Speak Out: Is Anyone Listening? (p 12)
  9. CA Medical Lab Faked Prison Tests (p 14)
  10. AZ Prisoners Can't Access Internet, But the Net Accesses Them (p 15)
  11. $5,500 Awarded in NY Unlawful Imprisonment Suit (p 16)
  12. $160,000 Verdict in NY Diabetic Cyst Suit (p 16)
  13. $115,000 Settlement Where Guards Fed NY Prisoner Ground Glass (p 16)
  14. The Prison Payoff: The Role of Politics and Private Prisons in the Incarceration Boom (p 17)
  15. MO Prisoner Awarded $130,000 in Retaliation and Haircut Claims (p 17)
  16. Ohio Abandons Private Food Service Experiment (p 17)
  17. Tide Turns Against Prison Privatization (p 18)
  18. SC Jail Escape Kills One (p 19)
  19. IL Prison Phone Ruling Published (p 19)
  20. OH S.Ct. Strikes Down Bad Time Law (p 19)
  21. News in Brief (p 20)
  22. Work Stoppage at Idaho CCA Prison (p 21)
  23. No Qualified Immunity for Alabama Blanket Strip-Search Policy (p 22)
  24. Yeskey Dismissed on Remand (p 22)
  25. Mentally Ill Prisoners in the New Jersey Prison System (p 22)
  26. Louisiana Abandons Private Juvenile Prisons (p 24)
  27. $7,500 Paid to Settle Delay of Legal Property Suit (p 25)
  28. Louisiana Abandons Private Juvenile Prisons (p 25)
  29. A.I. Reports on US Compliance with UN Convention Against Torture (p 26)
  30. $8,000 Awarded in NY Chair Collapse (p 26)
  31. Ninth Circuit Requires Evidentiary Review Before Terminating Old Consent Decree Under PLRA (p 27)
  32. $7,500 Award in NY Window Injury (p 27)
  33. $1.75 Million Verdict in Juvenile Death Suit (p 27)
  34. $30,000 Awarded to NY Prisoner Slashed in Attack (p 28)
  35. BOP Prisoners' Convictions for Destroying Military Factory Upheld (p 28)
  36. $49,999 Settlement in CA Sex Extortion Suit (p 29)
  37. Conditions Claims Viable in WA PRP (p 29)
  38. Failure to Exhaust Requires Hearing Before Dismissal (p 30)
  39. Leave to Amend Complaint Improperly Denied (p 30)
  40. $158,500 Awarded in NY Slip and Fall (p 31)
  41. Summary Judgment Reversed on Diabetes Claim (p 31)
  42. Book Review: Doing Time: 25 Years of Prison Writing (p 32)

Bag'm, Tag'm and Bury'm; Wisconsin Prisoners Dying for Health Care

[The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (www.jsonline.com) published an investigative series titled: "Wisconsin's Death Penalty," by Mary Zahn and Jessica McBride, October 22-24, 2000. Wisconsin doesn't have capital punishment, but the Journal Sentinel revealed the routine "execution" of state prisoners by a Department of Corrections health care system ...

WA Law Libraries Threatened; DOC Proposes Budget Cuts

On December 5, 2000, deputy DOC secretary Eldon Vail informed the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) executive staff and administrators of the DOC's 2001-03 biennium budget reduction package. The state of Washington has recently been subjected to conflicting ballot initiatives, which restrict state spending, eliminate car tabs as a ...

Food Strike Puts Washington DOC on Spin Control

Prison food sucks. That's no big secret. And it should come as no surprise that for any given meal only a fraction of prisoners may bother to show up at the chow hall. Turkey A'la King? Good luck! But when 640 out of 700 prisoners fail to attend ...

From the Editor

From The Editor


Paul Wright

For the past five years, the January issue of PLN has contained our annual index. We decided to discontinue the practice last year because as PLN grew so did the index. It has gotten to the point that an annual index takes up most of ...

Fraud Charged by Washington DOC Whistleblower

An employee of the Washington Department of Corrections Office of Correctional Operations contacted the state auditor's office in August 1997 pursuant to the State Whistleblower Act. The unnamed whistleblower [we'll call him/her "Doe"] told the auditor that the DOC used improper and illegal methods to award a ...

$330,000 Verdict in MI Beating

On October 8, 1999, a federal jury deliberated four hours before returning a $330,000 verdict in favor of Richard Johnson. Johnson, a Michigan state prisoner, had been imprisoned at the Ionia Correctional Facility. While being moved to a different cell, Johnson was shoved from behind by a prison guard ...

$4,500 Verdict in NY Hernia Suit

On November 16, 1999, the New York court of claims awarded New York state prisoner Justo Lopez $4,500 for a hernia he developed while assigned to do work beyond his physical capacity. Prior to his incarceration Lopez had been shot several times, as a result his abdominal wall was ...

WA DOC Whistleblowers Speak Out: Is Anyone Listening?

Hollywood has glamorized whistleblowers as selfless, dedicated employees with the public interest at heart. It has also implied that when government or corporate employees expose wrongdoing there is someone there to investigate their claims. A veteran investigative journalist writing for the American Journalism Review, who has worked with whistleblowers on ...

CA Medical Lab Faked Prison Tests

A scandal has unfolded wherein a contract medical laboratory faked critical test results of at least 4000 state prisoners in 11 California prisons between 1995 and 1996. Moreover, a search of prisoners' medical records uncovered at least 650 cases, where, as of four years later, no retest was documented, a ...

AZ Prisoners Can't Access Internet, But the Net Accesses Them

A state law that went into effect July 18, 2000 makes it a Class 1 Misdemeanor for Arizona prisoners to "send mail or receive mail from a communication service provider or remote computing service." The law imposes penalties for any prisoner that "corresponds or attempts to correspond with a communication ...

$5,500 Awarded in NY Unlawful Imprisonment Suit

On May 4, 2000, the New York court of Claims awarded Allen Israel $5,600 in damages after New York parole officials wrongfully violated his parole. Israel had a maximum parole expiration date of April 12, 1996. His parole was later revoked due to a traffic offense but no new ...

$160,000 Verdict in NY Diabetic Cyst Suit

On January 11, 2000, the New York court of claims awarded $160,000 to diabetic New York state prisoner Daniel Brill. In 1996 while at the Mid-State Correctional Facility Brill sought treatment for an infected cyst. Brill was eventually hospitalized and treated with IV antibiotics and ultimately required extensive surgery ...

$115,000 Settlement Where Guards Fed NY Prisoner Ground Glass

In September 1999, New York prison officials settled a lawsuit by prisoner Teno Gee for $115,000 in damages. Gee was the chairman of the Inmate Liaison Committee at the Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock. In that capacity Gee had caused a number of policy changes in the prison ...

The Prison Payoff: The Role of Politics and Private Prisons in the Incarceration Boom

A report published by the Western Prison Project and the Western States Center. The report concludes that private prison corporations exert increasing political influence at the state level. Private Prisons are also playing a key role in the Grafting of harsh criminal justice legislation that is designed to improve their ...

MO Prisoner Awarded $130,000 in Retaliation and Haircut Claims

On February 4, 2000 a federal jury in the Eastern District of Missouri awarded $130,000 in damages to Jerry McCrary. McCrary, who is black, filed suit claiming that while imprisoned at the Potosi Correctional Center in Missouri on August 16, 1992, he was severely beaten by white prisoners during ...

Ohio Abandons Private Food Service Experiment

In October 2000, the Ohio prison system decided to abandon its controversial two-year pilot project to privatize the food service at the Nobel Correctional Institution (NCI).

In October, 1998, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DORC) awarded a two-year contract to ARAMARK Correctional Services, a private company in Oakbrook ...

Tide Turns Against Prison Privatization

North Carolina, Georgia, Utah and Louisiana are among states that experimented with private prisons and because of problems encountered have eliminated them altogether or scaled back plans for future privatization.

North Carolina officials converted both of the state's private prisons to public operation, and banned future "spec" prison development ...

SC Jail Escape Kills One

Eight prisoners sought to escape from the Richland county jail in South Carolina on the night of September 17, 2000. The jail houses mostly pretrial detainees from Columbia, South Carolina and Richland County. The escape attempt resulted in a guard's death but no one actually left the jail's ...

IL Prison Phone Ruling Published

In the June 2000, issue of PLN we reported that a federal district court in Illinois had dismissed a class action lawsuit challenging the phone rates charged to consumers who accept phone calls from prisoners in Illinois prisons and jails. The court's ruling is published at: Arsberry v. Illinois ...

OH S.Ct. Strikes Down Bad Time Law

The Ohio Supreme Court found a state statute, RC 2967.11, which allowed prison officials and the Ohio Parole Board to try: convict, and add time to Ohio prisoners' sentences for criminal infractions occurring during the prisoners' stated prison terms, violated the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers and was ...

News in Brief

News in Brief:


Australia: On November 15, 2000, Russell Briggs, the administration and finance officer at the Fulham private prison in Sale was fired for sexually harassing, intimidating and bullying four female prison employees. The prison is operated by Australasian Correctional Management; a subsidiary of U.S. based Wackenhut Correctional ...

Work Stoppage at Idaho CCA Prison

Five weeks after it opened, the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC), went on lockdown following a non-violent protest by prisoners there. Corrections Corporation of America operates the $50 million 1,250-bed prison.

In early July 2000, CCA began moving Idaho prisoners from its New Mexico facilities. According to prison officials, the ...

No Qualified Immunity for Alabama Blanket Strip-Search Policy

A federal district court in Alabama held that a County Sheriff was not entitled to qualified immunity for a policy of strip-searching all jail admittees, regardless of personal circumstances.

DeAngela Wilson, an 18-year-old high school student, was arrested at a drivers' license checkpoint for driving under the influence of intoxicants ...

Yeskey Dismissed on Remand

In the September, 1998 issue of PLN we reported Pennsylvania DOC v. Yeskey, 118 S.Ct. 1952 (1998) in which the United States supreme court held that prisons and jails are included in the coverage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, (ADA) 42 UJ.S.C. S 12131-12165. The district ...

Mentally Ill Prisoners in the New Jersey Prison System

Two hundred prisoners filed a class action suit against the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC) in 1996. A court order issued as a result of that suit mandated an investigation to "assess the mental health services in the... NJDOC with emphasis on those institutions and housing units where the ...

Louisiana Abandons Private Juvenile Prisons

The state of Louisiana agreed to a settlement in federal court September 7, 2000 designed to radically alter the way it operates its juvenile prisons. The agreement was intended to settle several lawsuits against the state, including one by the U.S. Dept. of Justice, which charged that teenage detainees ...

$7,500 Paid to Settle Delay of Legal Property Suit

On September 27, 1999, District of Columbia federal judge Stanley Sporkin entered judgment on a settlement for $7,500, plus $47.81 in interest, in a lawsuit involving the shipping of a D.C. prisoner's legal property from a Washington state prison to a D.C. prison. Edward Ashford ...

Louisiana Abandons Private Juvenile Prisons

The state of Louisiana agreed to a settlement in federal court September 7, 2000 designed to radically alter the way it operates its juvenile prisons. The agreement was intended to settle several lawsuits against the state, including one by the U.S. Dept. of Justice, which charged that teenage detainees ...

A.I. Reports on US Compliance with UN Convention Against Torture

In May 2000, a United States government delegation appeared before the UN Committee against Torture in Geneva to present its first report on the implementation of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention against Torture). When the government had presented its case ...

$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 ...

Ninth Circuit Requires Evidentiary Review Before Terminating Old Consent Decree Under PLRA

by John E. Dannenberg

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's termination of prospective relief under two long-standing consent decrees at San Quentin State Prison and remanded with directions to hold evidentiary hearings to evaluate the ongoing need, if any, to protect against ...

$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 ...

$1.75 Million Verdict in Juvenile Death Suit

On February 9, 2000, a federal jury in Macon, Georgia held that Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice employees were liable for the death of a 15 year old female juvenile prisoner who was given Tylenol to treat a serious brain injury and who later died from lack of treatment.

Latasha ...

$30,000 Awarded to NY Prisoner Slashed in Attack

On September 15, 1999, the New York court of claims awarded $30,000 in damages to New York state prisoner Mario Vasquez. In 1995, Vasquez was slashed in a stairwell at Collins Correctional Facility by two knife-wielding prisoners. The day before the attack, Vasquez was involved in a fistfight with ...

BOP Prisoners' Convictions for Destroying Military Factory Upheld

In October, 1995, riots broke out in more than a dozen federal prisons after Congress voted down sentencing guideline commission rules that would have equalized the penalties for possession of crack and powder cocaine. [PLN Jan. 1996] As is historically the case, the government has harshly punished the rebellious prisoners ...

$49,999 Settlement in CA Sex Extortion Suit

On February 1, 2000, San Bernadino County, California settled a lawsuit with Jeffrey Darr for $49,999. Darr filed suit claiming that county sheriff deputy James Wiebeld (now promoted to detective) had framed him on methamphetamine manufacturing charges, for which he spent three years in jail awaiting trial, so Wiebeld ...

Conditions Claims Viable in WA PRP

A Washington state appeals court held that conditions of confinement claims are cognizable under the state's Personal Restraint Petition (PRP) system. In doing so, the court upheld a ban on a sex offender's correspondence with his 11-year-old niece.

Robert Arseneau was convicted of first-degree incest for raping his ...

Failure to Exhaust Requires Hearing Before Dismissal

The court of appeals for the Second Circuit held that a prisoner's failure to exhaust administrative remedies was not grounds for dismissal for failure to state a claim. The court also held that pro se prisoner litigants must be given an opportunity to contest dismissals for failing to exhaust ...

Leave to Amend Complaint Improperly Denied

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit held that a district court erred in refusing to allow a pro se prisoner to amend his complaint. Fred Bennett, a California state prisoner, filed suit against various prison officials. The district court dismissed the complaint with leave to amend so Bennett ...

$158,500 Awarded in NY Slip and Fall

On September 22, 1999 the New York court of claims awarded former New York state prisoner Lourdes Fischer $158,500 in damages for injuries she suffered when she fell from a ramp at the Albion Correctional Facility and landed face first on a concrete parking pad. The state was found ...

Summary Judgment Reversed on Diabetes Claim

The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed a lower court's grant of a summary judgment in favor of a doctor and a deputy sheriff on a pre-trial detainee's §1983 claim that they were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs.

Floyd Roberson, a prisoner in Missouri ...

Book Review: Doing Time: 25 Years of Prison Writing

Fyodor Dostoevsky's old adage about measuring a civilization by reviewing its prisons if followed in the U.S. context is a condemnation of this nation's own version of the gulag archipelago. A cross-section of prisoner's writings submitted to the PEN writing contest for the past quarter century ...