Skip navigation

Prison Legal News: July, 2001

Issue PDF
Volume 12, Number 7

In this issue:

  1. The Strangest of Bedfellows (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 4)
  3. Class Action Medical Neglect Suit Filed Against CDC (p 5)
  4. Wyoming Prison Officials Settle Poisoning and Medical Suits for over $200,000 (p 6)
  5. Pelican Bay Guard's Conviction Upheld (p 7)
  6. Virginia DOC Cuts Ties with CMS (p 8)
  7. Nineteen Killed in Brazilian Prison Rebellion (p 8)
  8. PLRA's Attorney Fee Cap Held Unconstitutional (p 9)
  9. New Jersey Prisoners' Disciplinary Convictions Reversed on Due Process Violations (p 10)
  10. CCA Medical Cost-Saving Contract Unconstitutional (p 10)
  11. Kentucky Judge Orders Hepatitis C Treatment (p 11)
  12. $235,000 Awarded to CCA Prisoner in Medical Suit (p 12)
  13. PLRA Limits Guard's Liability for Prisoner's Attorney Fees (p 12)
  14. BOP Imposter Scheme Discovered (p 13)
  15. Book Review: Capital Crimes (p 14)
  16. Washington Prisoners' Out-of-State Transfer Upheld (p 14)
  17. Defendants' Attorney Fee Award Must Be Supported by Record (p 15)
  18. PLRA Physical Injury Rule Applies to ADA Claims (p 15)
  19. Lack of "Volitional Control" Required for Civil Commitment of Kansas Sex Offenders; S.Ct. Grants Review (p 16)
  20. Massachusetts Disenfranchises its Prisoners (p 16)
  21. New Jersey Detainees Entitled to Medical Care (p 16)
  22. Arkansas Guards Indicted for Shocking Prisoners (p 17)
  23. Texas Prisoner Takes Hostages (p 17)
  24. Court to Determine if Louisiana Must Treat Male and Female Prisoners Equally (p 18)
  25. Detainee Entitled to Dental Care (p 18)
  26. New York Prisoner Wins $7,200 in Negligence Suit (p 18)
  27. $9.5 Million Awarded in Prisoner Van Fire Death (p 19)
  28. New York City Settles Black Panther Frame Up Suit for $890,000 (p 20)
  29. Trial Required in Arizona Uprising Suit (p 20)
  30. $1.4 Million Awarded to Raped Alaska Women Prisoners (p 21)
  31. Kansas Conditional Release Is Mandatory (p 21)
  32. Florida Religious Name Change Upheld (p 22)
  33. Non-Physical Damage Claims Barred Until Released (p 23)
  34. Retaliatory Infraction Creates Heck Exception (p 24)
  35. New York AG Turns on Client (p 24)
  36. Retaliation Claim Merits Factual Resolution (p 25)
  37. Private Jail Settlement Not a Consent Decree under PLRA (p 26)
  38. Constant Illumination States Eighth Amendment Claim (p 26)
  39. Georgia Parole Law May Violate Ex Post Facto (p 26)
  40. Oklahoma Good Time Rule Violates Ex Post Facto (p 27)
  41. BOP Medical Personnel Absolutely Immune from Suit (p 28)
  42. Book Review: The Perpetual Prisoner Machine: How America Profits From Crime (p 28)
  43. Trial Required in Oregon Law Clerk Retaliation Suit (p 29)
  44. Preliminary Injunction Granted in TB Hold Case (p 29)
  45. $250,000 Award to Beaten Texas Prisoner Upheld (p 30)
  46. Summary Judgment for Private Physician Reversed (p 30)
  47. News in Brief (p 32)

The Strangest of Bedfellows

In 1988, a Chino prison guard was killed when a juvenile prisoner he was escorting to a Los Angeles hospital for medical treatment tried to escape. Like other prison guards killed in the line of duty, the veteran officer left behind a grieving family. But unlike the others, his death ...

From the Editor

With this issue of PLN we are back on our normal publishing schedule. Readers should be receiving their copy of PLN around the first of the issue month.

A reminder to our prisoner readers, if prison officials censor your PLN subscription please let us know because PLN is usually not ...

Class Action Medical Neglect Suit Filed Against CDC

Alleging that the California Department of Corrections (CDC) violates the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment by providing seriously inadequate medical care to state prisoners, the Prison Law Office and the law firms Pillsbury Winthrop and McCutchen Doyle Brown & Enersen filed a class action lawsuit on April 5 2001 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco.

The case, Plata v. Davis, COI1351 MMC, seeks injunctive relief _ an order that the CDC improve its medical care system to meet the constitutional standard and monetary damages for the nine named plaintiffs. Once the case is certified as a class action the injunctive relief will apply to all state prisoners incarcerated in California's 33 prisons.

Marciano Plata, the lead named plaintiff, has had repeated problems obtaining adequate medical treatment, compounded by the medical staff's failure to provide a Spanishlanguage interpreter. In 1997 Plata fell while working at his prison job, injuring his right knee, back and head. An MTA examined him but did not provide any medical treatment or a doctor's referral, and Plata was then forced to walk unassisted back to his cell. He later fell two more times after repeated, unsuccessful attempts to obtain treatment for his painful injuries.

Almost two years after his original injury Plata finally had knee surgery. After his discharge from the hospital the same day he was forced to walk unaided back to his housing unit and as a result suffered severe pain and inflammation of his foot. Since the surgery Plata has not received any postoperative care or physical therapy, and he continues to suffer serious problems.

Ray Stoderd, another plaintiff, was prescribed methadone to ease his AIDS related pain. Despite the fact that methadone is a physically dependent medication which needs to be gradually discontinued, prison doctors at least eight times abruptly discontinued that treatment.

As a result Stoderd suffered withdrawal, an extremely painful condition, which involves uncontrolled shaking, vomiting, insomnia, headaches, dizziness, hot flashes, sweats, chills and loss of appetite. Inadequate pain management is a common complaint voiced by prisoners.

Plaintiff Paul Decasas has seizure disorder, which the CDC has continually failed to treat and monitor adequately. He was transferred from a medical facility even though he was still having frequent seizures. It is sometimes very difficult for him to obtain bite sticks even though he is always at risk for having a serious seizure and bite through his tongue

These plaintiffs represent only a few of the thousands of cases of substandard medical care to which prisoners are subjected. The lawsuit alleges that MTAs (the "gatekeepers" for prisoners' access to medical care) are inadequately trained to perform their duties and have conflicting custodial responsibilities, there are not enough qualified medical staff, medical records often are disorganized and incomplete, medical screening is inadequate, there are lengthy delays in accessing care, including delays to see a primary physician, to see a specialist, to obtain medical testing and to obtain treatment and that delays are compounded when prisoners are transferred to new institutions.

The complaint also claims that there are frequent failures to provide prisoners with medical care altogether, that emergency response is poor, that guards frequently interfere with the provision of medical care, that quality control procedures are deficient, that there is a lack of established protocols for dealing with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and particularly HIV and Hepatitis C, that the CDC is unable to recruit sufficient, competent medical staff and to retain hired staff, that necessary medical care is often denied based solely on a prisoner's expected release date, and that the defendants lack sufficient knowledge about the medical care system to properly monitor and improve the delivery of medical care.

The Prison Law Office has been litigating class action prison conditions lawsuits for over twenty years; including successfully challenging the CDC's treatment of ...

Wyoming Prison Officials Settle Poisoning and Medical Suits for over $200,000

Wyoming Prison Officials Settle Poisoning And Medical Suits for over $200,000

In August 2000, Wyoming officials agreed to settle two consolidated cases for $200,000 in damages, costs, and attorney fees. The cases were filed in a Wyoming federal District Court by the survivors of two prisoners who died ...

Pelican Bay Guard's Conviction Upheld

by W. Wisely

Jose Garcia was a guard at California's Pelican Bay prison. With his supervisor, Mike Powers, Garcia plotted with prisoner shotcallers to have convicted child molesters, sex offenders, and informants stabbed or beaten. The conspiracy ran from January 1994 to September 29, 1995, when Garcia was relieved ...

Virginia DOC Cuts Ties with CMS

Virginia DOC Cuts Ties With CMS

by Robert Durkee

After numerous allegations of inadequate medical care, pending prisoner lawsuits and nearly $1 million in state imposed fines, Virginia Department of Corrections decided to sever at least two of its contractual ties with Correctional Medical Services. "Starting Feb. lst [2001] the ...

Nineteen Killed in Brazilian Prison Rebellion

On Feb. 19, 2001, Brazilian authorities said they had regained control of 29 prisons in Sao Paulo state where some 25,000 prisoners had taken some 7,000 hostages in an apparently coordinated rebellion during the Sunday visiting day on Feb. 18. Some of the hostages were guards, but most ...

PLRA's Attorney Fee Cap Held Unconstitutional

by John E. Dannenberg

A federal district court in Wisconsin held that the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) cap on recovery of attorney fees in successful prisoner civil rights complaints violated Fifth Amendment equal protection principles and determined that $80,000 in attorney fees was proportionately related to the $40 ...

New Jersey Prisoners' Disciplinary Convictions Reversed on Due Process Violations

The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court reversed two separate prison disciplinary matters after finding that two state prisoners were denied due process protections limiting the use of confidential informants and confidential information.

Andrew Daley, a prisoner at East Jersey State Prison, was charged with planning an assault ...

CCA Medical Cost-Saving Contract Unconstitutional

A Tennessee federal district judge as found an incentives contract between the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and a private doctor unconstitutional and must be stopped. The contract provided for financial incentives for the physician to reduce costs, which motivated him to reduce medical services.

During a 21-month period ending ...

Kentucky Judge Orders Hepatitis C Treatment

A federal court in Kentucky has ordered the Kentucky Department of Corrections (KDOC) to provide hepatitis C treatment to a prisoner suffering from both hepatitis C and cirrhosis of the liver. In response, the KDOC has implemented a treatment plan whereby up to 1,000 prisoners may receive treatment. This ...

$235,000 Awarded to CCA Prisoner in Medical Suit

On March 23, 2001, a federal jury in Memphis, Tennessee, awarded Tennessee state prisoner Charles Degan $235,000 in damages in a medical neglect suit against Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the world's largest private, for profit, prison company.

In 1998 Degan's nose and jaw were broken in ...

PLRA Limits Guard's Liability for Prisoner's Attorney Fees

PLRA Limits Guard's Liability For Prisoner's Attorney Fees


by John E. Dannenberg

The US District Court, SD Ohio ruled that the Prison Litigation Reform Act's (PLRA) 150% cap restricting a prevailing prisoner plaintiff's attorney fees limited only how much the defendant was liable to pay, not ...

BOP Imposter Scheme Discovered

For more than a year, the BOP had an imposter in its midst officials discover last October. One man paid another to do his time and the BOP remained clueless until the imposter escaped.

After pleading guilty to a charge of receiving proceeds from a bank robbery, Dexter Mathis was ...

Book Review: Capital Crimes

by George Winslow, Monthly Review Press (1999), 360 pages

Review by Allen N. Huxley

Crime dominates the news, arouses fear and anger among the mass media-consuming public, and oils the rhetorical machinery of opportunistic politicians. Yet for all of the moralizing, finger pointing, and "get tough" policy making, few pause ...

Washington Prisoners' Out-of-State Transfer Upheld

The Washington Supreme Court held that the Department of Corrections (DOC) possessed statutory authority to transfer nearly 400 prisoners to an outofstate, private prison. In March of 1999, DOC transferred 254 prisoners to the Correctional Services Corporation run Crowley County Correctional Facility in Olney Springs Colorado [PLN, June 1999].

In ...

Defendants' Attorney Fee Award Must Be Supported by Record

The court of appeals for the Tenth circuit held that district courts who award civil rights defendants attorney fees must explain the basis for the award. G. Sam Houston is a Colorado prisoner convicted of assorted sex crimes against children. After pleading guilty to the criminal charges against him, Houston ...

PLRA Physical Injury Rule Applies to ADA Claims

The Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has held that the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) rule of requiring physical injury applies to damage claims brought under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Richard Cassidy, a blind Indiana prisoner, brought suit under 42 ...

Lack of "Volitional Control" Required for Civil Commitment of Kansas Sex Offenders; S.Ct. Grants Review

Lack of "Volitional Control" Required for Civil Commitment of Kansas Sex Offenders; S.Ct. Grants Review

The Kansas Supreme Court has held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires proof of a condition affecting "volitional control" before a sex offender can be civilly committed under Kansas' Sexually ...

Massachusetts Disenfranchises its Prisoners

Massachusetts Disenfranchises Its Prisoners

by Peter Wagner

On November 7, 2000, by a 2 to 1 margin, Massachusetts disenfranchised its prisoners with a constitutional amendment called Question 2. Question 2 marked the first time that the Massachusetts constitution had been amended to take away rights from a group of people ...

New Jersey Detainees Entitled to Medical Care

A federal district court in New Jersey held that material issues of fact precluded summary judgment on a former prisoner's claim that he was denied adequate medical care. The court also rejected defendants' claim of qualified immunity.

Dana Andrews, a former prisoner of the Camden County Corrections Facility, (CCCF ...

Arkansas Guards Indicted for Shocking Prisoners

Arkansas Guards Indicted For Shocking Prisoners

On February 7, 2001, criminal charges were filed in a federal District Court in Arkansas against 6 former guards who beat handcuffed prisoners and shocked them with a stungun and a cattle prod.

On January 7, 1998, two reportedly unruly prisoners at the Cummins ...

Texas Prisoner Takes Hostages

On January 5th at approximately 10:30 pm a Texas prisoner used a fake gun to back down an armed guard and hold an entire SWAT team at bay for over an hour. Dekenya Nelson used a hairbrush, soap, a deodorant bottle, and pages from the Bible to make a ...

Court to Determine if Louisiana Must Treat Male and Female Prisoners Equally

The court of appeals for the Fifth Circuit has held that the issue of whether Louisiana violated the Equal Protection Clause by treating female prisoners more favorable than male prisoners cannot be resolved at the motion to dismiss stage.

Roger D. Yates, Travis Carter, and George McGuffey are Louisiana state ...

Detainee Entitled to Dental Care

Detainee Entitled To Dental Care

A New York federal district Court ruled the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) must provide detainee Melvin Lloyd Richards immediate dental care or release him.

Richards was remanded to custody after convicted by a jury on January 17, 2000. Thereafter, Richards moved for bail, which was ...

New York Prisoner Wins $7,200 in Negligence Suit

New York Prisoner Wins $7,200 In Negligence Suit

On January 31, 2000, the Court of Claims in Binghamton, New York awarded $7,200 in damages to Kenneth Edmonds, who was injured in an accident while he was working on a prison work crew.

On July 8, 1994 Edmonds was ...

$9.5 Million Awarded in Prisoner Van Fire Death

$9.5 Million Awarded In Prisoner Van Fire Death

In late February 2001, Kathryn Catalano received a $9.5 million jury award in a Tennessee U.S. District Court. She sued after her father died in an extradition van fire. Federal Extradition Agency (FEA) is a private company based in ...

New York City Settles Black Panther Frame Up Suit for $890,000

On December 5, 2000, New York City officials agreed to settle Dhoruba alMujahid bin Wahad's wrongful imprisonment suit for $490,000 in damages, costs, and attorney fees.

Wahad, a former Black Panther leader, was convicted of attempted murder in 1973, after he allegedly machinegunned two New York City police ...

Trial Required in Arizona Uprising Suit

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a district court decision granting summary judgment to prison officials in a case involving the treatment of prisoners following a prison uprising.

In 1995 the Graham Unit of the Arizona State Prison in Safford, Arizona held 638 prisoners. One hundred prisoners ...

$1.4 Million Awarded to Raped Alaska Women Prisoners

$1.4 Million Awarded To Raped Alaska Women Prisoners

On January 22, 2001 an Anchorage, Alaska superior court jury awarded nearly $1.4 million to five women in a civil action arising from their being sexually assaulted by a guard at an Anchorage halfway house called the Cordova Center.

J ...

Kansas Conditional Release Is Mandatory

Kansas Conditional Release is Mandatory

The Kansas state court of appeals held that the parole hoard could not rescind parole revocation and convert it to a conditional release revocation. The court also held that the retroactive application of a rule governing withholding of good time credits violated ex post facto ...

Florida Religious Name Change Upheld

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal district court order requiring the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) to allow Muslim prisoners to use their religious name to obtain prison services. While incarcerated, Florida death row prisoner Kenneth D. Quince converted to Islam and obtained a legal name change ...

Non-Physical Damage Claims Barred Until Released

The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has held that a lawsuit which seeks damages for emotional and mental claims filed by a prisoner while confined are barred, but the same claim can be pursued if filed after release.

Eleven Georgia prisoners filed a lawsuit claiming that their federal ...

Retaliatory Infraction Creates Heck Exception

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held a prisoner may bring a 42 U.S.C. §1983 action upon a claim of retaliatory disciplinary action even when the underlying disciplinary action has not been overturned. Illinois prisoner Anthony Dewalt sued various officials at Dixon Correctional Center alleging constitutional ...

New York AG Turns on Client

A Court of Claims judge denounced a highranking lawyer in the Attorney General's office after she threatened and attempted to intimidate a claimant's expert witness_who happened to be the former New York State Commissioner of Correctional Services.

Former Commissioner Thomas A. Coughlin III was slated to be an ...

Retaliation Claim Merits Factual Resolution

An Arizona federal district court has held that a prisoner's claims that he was subjected to urinalysis, placed in administrative segregation, classified as a gang member and denied access to the law library as retaliation for filing civil actions against prison officials warranted proceedings beyond summary judgment.

Arizona prisoner ...

Private Jail Settlement Not a Consent Decree under PLRA

by John E. Dannenberg

The United States District Court, Eastern District of CA, held that a "private settlement" agreement to cap the El Dorado (California) County jail population was not a "consent decree" as defined in the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), and that it was therefore immune from attack ...

Constant Illumination States Eighth Amendment Claim

Pennsylvania state prisoner Lamont Harris filed a pro se petition for review, alleging that being forced to live in constant illumination 24 hours per day while in punitive segregation was cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Harris claimed that as a result of the constant lighting ...

Georgia Parole Law May Violate Ex Post Facto

The Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit held that a Georgia law changing the frequency between parole hearings may violate the ex post facto clause. Georgia prisoner Paul Harris claimed the retroactive application of Ga. Comp. R & Reg. r. 4753.05(2)(1986)(the regulation), which changes the frequency ...

Oklahoma Good Time Rule Violates Ex Post Facto

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held that an amended Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC) regulation that rescinded earned good time credits violates the Ex Post Facto Clause.

Prisoner Steve A. Smith filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus challenging the April 9, 1997 revision to OP060213, (the regulation ...

BOP Medical Personnel Absolutely Immune from Suit

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that medical personnel employed by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) are absolutely immune from suit.

Prisoner John Andrew Cuoco, a preoperative male to female transsexual, filed an action against various officials at the BOP facility in Otisville, New York. Cuoco named as defendants ...

Book Review: The Perpetual Prisoner Machine: How America Profits From Crime

by Joel Dyer, Westview Press, 2000 (318 pages)

Reviewed by Rick Card

An estimated 69 million people, or 44 percent of all households now own stock or invest in one of thousands of mutual funds. According to Joel Dyer, they are all "deriving at least a small portion of their ...

Trial Required in Oregon Law Clerk Retaliation Suit

A federal district court in Oregon denied, in part, prison officials' motion for summary judgment on a claim of retaliatory removal from a prison job. The court also rejected prison officials' defense of qualified immunity.

State prisoner Darrick Hunter was removed from his prison job as a legal assistant for ...

Preliminary Injunction Granted in TB Hold Case

A federal district court in New York granted a Rastafarian prisoner's motion for a preliminary injunction in an action challenging a prison policy compelling his placement into restrictive confinement for one year for refusal on religious grounds to submit to a tuberculosis (TB) test. The court held that the ...

$250,000 Award to Beaten Texas Prisoner Upheld

A $250,000 jury award to a beaten Texas prisoner and a courtordered award of $95,000 in attorney's fees were upheld on appeal to the Fifth Circuit who found that the amount of damages was reasonable and the trial court did not abuse its discretion by giving a ...

Summary Judgment for Private Physician Reversed

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court's grant of summary judgment to a private physician under contract with the county, holding that contract services provided to the county constituted state action. The court also held that qualified immunity was categorically unavailable to the physician.

Jerry Jensen ...

News in Brief

Alaska: On May 4, 2001, Anchorage superior court judge Elaine Andrews terminated the 20-year-old Cleary conditions case. Andrews ruled that the overcrowding and related problems that were at the root of the class action lawsuit have been resolved. Andrews said she would file an opinion addressing the constitutionality of the ...