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Prison Legal News: September, 2001

Issue PDF
Volume 12, Number 9

In this issue:

  1. Cowboys and Prisoners (p 1)
  2. 'No More Prisons' Graffiti Gets Public's Attention (p 3)
  3. Alabama Ends Chain Gang Experiment (p 4)
  4. From the Editor (p 5)
  5. Racist Knot of Florida Guards (p 6)
  6. Virginia Rent-a-Cell Program Expected to Net $100 Million (p 7)
  7. Suits Claiming Racial Discrimination Plague Florida Prisons (p 8)
  8. Private Prison Woes in Ohio (p 9)
  9. 'Invisible' Prisoner Gets $36,200 for Wrongful Imprisonment (p 10)
  10. Oklahoma Governor Takes Entrepreneur's Bribe (p 10)
  11. BOP Guards Smuggle Sperm (p 10)
  12. FPI Has Sovereign Immunity in Fraud Action (p 11)
  13. Washington Supreme Court Upholds 35% Seizure Law (p 11)
  14. New York Prisoners Prosecuted (p 12)
  15. No Workers' Compensation for Ohio Slave Laborers (p 12)
  16. Former BOP Prisoner Settles Medical Suit for $355,000 (p 12)
  17. CCA Gets Tangled in Financial Quagmire (p 13)
  18. Feds Tally the Death Penalty (p 14)
  19. Environmental Concerns Halt Construction of Pennsylvania Prison (p 15)
  20. Denial of Religious Diet Violates First Amendment (p 18)
  21. Legal Research: How to Find and Understand the Law (p 18)
  22. Summary Judgment Denied on BOP Excessive Force Claims (p 19)
  23. Virginia Excessive Force Claim Set for Trial (p 19)
  24. Snitch Culture: How Citizens Are Turned into the Eyes and Ears of the State (p 20)
  25. Failure to Protect Confidential Informant Not Deliberate Indifference (p 21)
  26. Rhode Island Prison Strip Searches Struck Down (p 21)
  27. $350,000 Verdict in Dirty Dancing Suit; Punitive Damages Vacated (p 22)
  28. Six Month Denial of Exercise Presents Section 1983 Claim (p 23)
  29. PLRA Does Not Apply to Habeas Corpus Actions (p 24)
  30. No Interlocutory Appeal for Good Faith Defense (p 24)
  31. Possibility of Life in Control Unit Doesn't Mitigate Death (p 25)
  32. PAMII Act Requires Release of Mental Health Records (p 26)
  33. Ninth Circuit Reverses Time-Barred Habeas Petition (p 27)
  34. Maryland Court Ruling on Tobacco Smoke Prompts Settlement (p 27)
  35. Ohio Death Row Prisoners Sue Over Last Words (p 28)
  36. Dismissal of Prisoner's Suit for Missing Evidentiary Deadline Reversed (p 29)
  37. News in Brief (p 30)

Cowboys and Prisoners

Trumpeted as the pinnacle of high-tech prison architecture when it opened in 1993, the Federal Correctional Complex in Florence, Colorado, contains two lower security facilities, one maximum security prison, and, since 1994, the Clockwork Orange inspired U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum. The steel and concrete citadels are rimmed by verdant ...

'No More Prisons' Graffiti Gets Public's Attention

It's spreading like wildfire, from New York to Seattle, Chicago to Dallas, and coming soon to an urban setting near you. It's the "NO MORE PRISONS" graffiti movement, a simple form of civil disobedience which requires only a can of spray paint and an unspoiled public canvas (such ...

Alabama Ends Chain Gang Experiment

A federal district court in Alabama has approved a settlement between Alabama state prisoners and the prison system, effectively ending Alabama's flirtation with chain gangs. The court also held that the practice of chaining prisoners to a "hitching post" is unconstitutional, cruel and unusual punishment.

Alabama state prisoners Michael ...

From the Editor

September, 2001, marks the 30th anniversary of the modern prisoner rights movement in the United States. In September, 1971, prisoners in Attica, New York, rose up to protest horrendous conditions. The uprising occurred after peaceful means of protest had failed and prisoners refused to be "driven like beasts" any longer ...

Racist Knot of Florida Guards

The fake hunting regulations prominently posted in a Calhoun Correctional Institution colonel's office read, "OPEN SEASON ON PORCH MONKEYS." The daily kill limit was ten according to the sign, Roy Hughes, a black guard, told the St. Petersburg Times December 19, 1999. Fifty-five percent of prisoners in Florida are ...

Virginia Rent-a-Cell Program Expected to Net $100 Million

Virginia Rent-A-Cell Program Expected to Net $100 Million

The state of Virginia will pocket an estimated $100 million in 2001 by warehousing out-of-state and federal prisoners for a fee.

About 10% of the Virginia jail and prison population is out-of-state or federal prisoners. During the year 2000, Virginia charged between ...

Suits Claiming Racial Discrimination Plague Florida Prisons

Citing incidents dating back to 1993, over 100 current and past employees are suing the Florida DOC for perpetuating a "long standing custom or policy of racial discrimination." What began as two law suits in December 1999 increased to four suits by March 2000, and now involves the Florida NAACP ...

Private Prison Woes in Ohio

Less than two years after it opened, the second privately operated prison in the state of Ohio is already in trouble. CiviGenics, a private prison company out of Massachusetts, has succumbed to pressure applied by the state employees union. On January 10, the director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation ...

'Invisible' Prisoner Gets $36,200 for Wrongful Imprisonment

A Mississippi man who was improperly jailed for nearly 10 months because of a "bureaucratic snafu" was awarded just $36,200 by a federal jury in Jackson, Mississippi in October 2000.

Joseph Jones, a Jackson mechanic, was stopped by a state patrol officer in June 1994, at which time the ...

Oklahoma Governor Takes Entrepreneur's Bribe

Oklahoma officials are investigating the propriety of $240,000 in cash gifts given to that State's governor, Frank Keating. Jack Dreyfus, an entrepreneur who hopes to convince Oklahoma prison officials to use Dilantin (a seizure medication) to control violent prisoners, made the gifts.

After receiving the cash from Dreyfus ...

BOP Guards Smuggle Sperm

In October, 2000, federal prison guards Troy Kemmerer and Todd Swineford were arrested and indicted for accepting money to help smuggle cryogenic sperm kits to a New York City fertility clinic.

The investigation began over two years ago when convicted hit man Kevin Granato sat in visitation at LSCI_Allenwood bragging ...

FPI Has Sovereign Immunity in Fraud Action

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has held that Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (FPI) is entitled to sovereign immunity in a qui tam suit brought under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729 et seq.

Gilbert W. Galvan, a federal prisoner, sued FPI, under the FCA ...

Washington Supreme Court Upholds 35% Seizure Law

Washington Supreme Court Upholds 35% Seizure Law; But Prisoners Entitled To Interest From Mandatory Savings Accounts

The Washington Supreme Court has declared RCW § 72.09.480 to be constitutional. The statute directs the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) to seize 35% of most funds received by its prisoners, including money ...

New York Prisoners Prosecuted

The prosecution of prisoners in Greene County New York is a high priority for District Attorney Terry Wilhelm. In the first nine months of his tenure, Wilhelm secured 23 indictments from the Greene and Coxsackie Correctional Facilities. His predecessor, Ed Cloke, prosecuted only 13 cases in the two previous years ...

No Workers' Compensation for Ohio Slave Laborers

An attempt by Ohio prisons to manufacture items for retail business had to be cancelled because it could not provide Workers' Compensation insurance for prisoners. State Inspector General Thomas P. Charles says the state is not at fault. Rather, the intervention of the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance has ...

Former BOP Prisoner Settles Medical Suit for $355,000

The federal government wrote Terry Dean Scearce a check for $355,000 in November, 2000, to settle his claim that he suffered a stroke in 1998 because prison officials did not give him the medicine prescribed to treat his high blood pressure.

Scearce, in his late 50's, was being ...

CCA Gets Tangled in Financial Quagmire

CCA Gets Tangled In Financial Quagmire

Corrections Corporation of America said it is contesting an $8.1 million request for payment from Merrill Lynch & Company related to its hiring of the investment firm in late 1999 for advice on a company restructuring.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, CCA also said its insurers have refused to cover damages from lawsuits by employees and prisoners that seek more than $50 million. The lawsuits include one brought by CCA employees in 1998 seeking more than $30 million related to a stock ownership plan and another by a woman demanding $20 million for an alleged assault by two former employees of CCA's TransCor unit. A third suit deals with a jury verdict of more than $3 million stemming from charges of mistreatment against juveniles at a South Carolina prison. All three cases were previously reported in PLN .

In the Merrill Lynch dispute, CCA, then called Prison Reality Trust, and a former sister entity, had both retained the investment firm as they faced problems raising money for growth and a looming deadline to pay a special dividend. CCA said Merrill Lynch claims last year's merger of the company and the affiliate constitutes a restructuring transaction that should have resulted in fees. But CCA said the claims are not valid and it would contest any legal action initiated by Merrill Lynch.

CCA let Merrill Lynch go in 2000, after two proposed transactions for investors to buy stakes in the company in exchange for a cash infusion fell apart. CCA then decided to merge with its affiliate unit on its own.

CCA also reached an agreement in October, 2000, to settle eight shareholder lawsuits for about $123 million. In the separate agreement, CCA is expected to give the plaintiffs an approximated 5 percent stake, or 17.2 million shares, in addition to any shares the plaintiffs already own. The company didn't admit any wrongdoing in connection with the lawsuits, which were combined from about 17 separate shareholder actions filed since mid-1999.

Terms of the settlement agreement call for plaintiffs to receive about $47.5 million in cash, and common stock valued at about $75.4 million by CCA. The company is required to pay additional cash or issue additional shares if its stock price doesn't hit $4.38 by August 31, 2001. The company's shares have recently been hovering around $0.80 to $0.90 per share. That's a major plunge from the per share high in the mid-$40 range back in 1998 when private prison company stocks were a hot Wall Street item.

Barry Holman, policy analyst with the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, a Washington, D.C. think tank promoting alternatives to prisons, said the state of the private prison industry shows "they haven't been successful at what they're doing, that they haven't done well from a financial savings standpoint, and they haven't done well from prisoner safety and public safety standpoints."

Sources: Bloomberg News ;The Wall Street Journal .

Feds Tally the Death Penalty

In December, 2000, the Bureau of Justice Statistics analyzed the United States' death penalty in a report titled "Capital Punishment 1999." It is an in-depth analysis of how the death penalty was applied in the United States in 1999, plus a preliminary execution report for 2000.

From 1998 to 1999 ...

Environmental Concerns Halt Construction of Pennsylvania Prison

Environmental Concerns Halt Construction Of Pennsylvania Prison

The wretched and overcrowded conditions at Washington, D.C.'s Lorton Correctional Complex have resulted in Congress giving the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) responsibility for housing all D.C. prisoners. Lorton, located in Fairfax, VA, must close by the end of 2001 ...

Denial of Religious Diet Violates First Amendment

The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that prison officials' denial of a religious diet violated the First Amendment by substantially burdening a state prisoner's religious beliefs.

Arkansas state prisoner Kelvin Love is a self-proclaimed adherent of the "Hebrew religion." His study of the Old Testament has ...

Legal Research: How to Find and Understand the Law

by Stephen Elias and Susan Levinkind

Legal Research does exactly what its title indicates; it explains how to find and understand the law. The book is written in easy to understand language, while imparting a vast amount of information in a comprehensive manner.

The book is broken down into sections ...

Summary Judgment Denied on BOP Excessive Force Claims

The Federal District Court in Kansas has denied summary judgment on a prisoner's claims of excessive force. The Court also held guards were not entitled to qualified immunity on these claims.

In 1997, Felmon Laury was placed in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) in the U.S. Penitentiary at ...

Virginia Excessive Force Claim Set for Trial

A federal district court in Virginia denied Deputy Sheriff F.C. Bruce's motion to dismiss a claim brought by Kelvin Watford in which Watford complained that Bruce assaulted him, resulting in "bruising, scarring, and swelling." The Court discussed " de minimis injury" and found that Fourth Circuit caselaw appeared to ...

Snitch Culture: How Citizens Are Turned into the Eyes and Ears of the State

by Jim Redden, Feral House, 2001, 235 pages

Snitch Culture is a timely examination of how personal and technological snitching is used by the state and by private organizations, in conjunction with informational databases, to obliterate the privacy of Americans. The author, Jim Redden, formerly published PDXS , a quasi-counterculture newspaper ...

Failure to Protect Confidential Informant Not Deliberate Indifference

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that the conduct of a county, when housing a prisoner with another prisoner against whom he had acted as a confidential informant, did not rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment violation.

Neville Rangolan and his wife Shirley brought suit ...

Rhode Island Prison Strip Searches Struck Down

The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has held that two Rhode Island Department of Corrections (RIDOC) policies routinely subjecting all males committed to the state prison to strip searches and visual body cavity searches are not reasonable under Bell v Wolfish , 441 U.S. 520, 559 (1979). This ...

$350,000 Verdict in Dirty Dancing Suit; Punitive Damages Vacated

AU.S. district court jury in Washington, D.C., awarded female D.C. Jail prisoner Sunday Daskalea $350,000 in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages against the District and the Department of Corrections Director, Margaret Moore, for Daskalea's having been sexually assaulted and forced by guards ...

Six Month Denial of Exercise Presents Section 1983 Claim

An Illinois federal district court ruled that a prisoner's claim that he was denied out-of-cell exercise during a six month prison lockdown "present[ed] a cognizable claim despite the penological justification proffered by the defendants." The Court also ruled that Defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity nor shielded ...

PLRA Does Not Apply to Habeas Corpus Actions

The Court of Appeals for the Sev-enth Circuit held that the requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) do not apply to properly characterized habeas corpus petitions under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2241, 2254, or 2255, finding that those actions are not "civil actions" within the meaning of the ...

No Interlocutory Appeal for Good Faith Defense

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that the requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) do not apply to properly characterized habeas corpus petitions under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2241, 2254, or 2255, finding that those actions are not "civil actions" within the meaning of the ...

Possibility of Life in Control Unit Doesn't Mitigate Death

Possibility of Life In Control Unit Doesn't Mitigate Death

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has held that the possibility of life imprisonment in a control unit is not a mitigating factor in a federal death penalty case.

Darryl Lamont Johnson, a federal prisoner, is allegedly a ...

PAMII Act Requires Release of Mental Health Records

A federal district court in Louisiana has held that federal law requires prison officials to release a prisoner's mental health records for investigation of claims of mistreatment.

Prisoner William Ford sent a letter to the Advocacy Center complaining that he has a history of mental illness for which he ...

Ninth Circuit Reverses Time-Barred Habeas Petition

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting en banc , reversed a district court's dismissal of a federal habeas petition as time barred, and remanded the case to the district court to develop the record regarding whether the prisoner was entitled to a finding of an "impediment" under 28 U ...

Maryland Court Ruling on Tobacco Smoke Prompts Settlement

A Maryland federal district court's ruling denying summary judgment in an "environmental tobacco smoke" (ETS) case has prompted the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DOPSACS) to ban tobacco, matches, and lighters at all Maryland state prisons, effective June, 2001, according to published reports. As quoted in ...

Ohio Death Row Prisoners Sue Over Last Words

An Ohio federal district court refused to dismiss a challenge to an Ohio policy prohibiting condemned prisoners from giving last statements. The Court also discussed the PLRA's administrative exhaustion requirements and mootness concerns.

Ohio Death Row prisoner Fred Treesh and another (unnamed) prisoner have challenged the State of Ohio ...

Dismissal of Prisoner's Suit for Missing Evidentiary Deadline Reversed

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has reversed the dismissal of a prisoner's pro se civil rights suit for missing a single pre-trial deadline. Bobby Ray Long, an Indiana state prisoner, filed a civil rights suit in federal court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that ...

News in Brief

Brazil: On June 29, 2001, former police colonel Ubiratan Guimaraes, 58, was convicted of killing 102 prisoners in 1992 when he commanded the police takeover of Carandiru Prison after an uprising by prisoners. Officially 111 prisoners were killed in the uprising, including 9 stabbed to death by other prisoners, but ...