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Prison Legal News: December, 2002

Issue PDF
Volume 13, Number 12

In this issue:

  1. Medical Care Still Deficient in Texas Prisons (p 1)
  2. Pro Se Tips and Tactics (p 6)
  3. Ohio Prisons Make Almost $5 Million in Improper Food and Education Payments (p 8)
  4. Correctional Medical Services Pays Out Another $1 Million in 1997 Ohio Escape, Murder (p 9)
  5. HUD Leases Must Evict Innocent Tenants for "Any" Drug Activity (p 10)
  6. Unnamed Class Members Can Object to Settlement (p 10)
  7. Jail Over Detention From Lack of Release Policy Actionable Under Section 1983 (p 10)
  8. Complaint Needs Only Short, Plain Statement of Claim (p 10)
  9. Good Time Allowed on Washington Weapon Enhancements (p 12)
  10. From the Editor (p 13)
  11. Colorado Sex Offenders Freed from Mandatory Parole (p 14)
  12. Private Employer Must Pay $841,000 Back Wages to 167 California Prisoners (p 16)
  13. Texas May Not Revoke Parole Without a Hearing (p 16)
  14. Washington Gift Publication Ban Not Clearly Unconstitutional Before Crofton (p 17)
  15. Louisiana Sheriff Pays $1.35 Million Settlement in Death of Diabetic Prisoner (p 18)
  16. Prisoner Allowed Discovery in Mail Destruction Case (p 18)
  17. 2003 Political Prisoner Calendar Available (p 19)
  18. Fatal Overdoses: Drugs and Death in Prison (p 20)
  19. Georgia Supreme Court Bans Use of the Electric Chair (p 20)
  20. Ex-Georgia Sheriff Convicted in Ambush Killing of Successor (p 21)
  21. Prisoner's Medical Information Privacy Right Established in Third Circuit (p 22)
  22. The Unmourned Death of Felony Murder by Assault in Washington (p 22)
  23. Alaska Prison Design Case Settles for $1 Million (p 23)
  24. Washington DOC Pays $2,306.22 in Prisoner PDA Suit (p 24)
  25. Dismissal of Legal Mail and Retaliation Claims Reversed (p 24)
  26. Furniture Makers Challenge UNICOR (p 25)
  27. Son of Sam II Law Enacted in California (p 26)
  28. California's "Son of Sam" Law Held Unconstitutional (p 26)
  29. Washington Sex Offender Community Placement Dilemma (p 27)
  30. Summary Judgment Denied on New York Medical Isolation Conditions (p 28)
  31. Florida Prisoner Sues for Contracting HIV (p 28)
  32. Texas Cannot Use Enhancement to Deny Mandatory Supervision (p 29)
  33. Failure to Treat Ruptured Tendon; Qualified Immunity Denied (p 29)
  34. News in Brief (p 30)

Medical Care Still Deficient in Texas Prisons

Deficient medical care at the unit level has Texas prisons incubating a new, more virulent strain of HIV. Dr. William Obrien is one of the most noted doctors on staff with the University of Texas Medical Branch. (UTMB) Over a year ago he discovered that "patients in the Texas prison ...

Pro Se Tips and Tactics

The Supreme Court recently decided a case that may affect where you want to file a lawsuit against state defendants. There are some circumstances in which you may want to file your claims, including your federal claims, in state court.

1. The Lapides Case

The recent case is Lapides v ...

Ohio Prisons Make Almost $5 Million in Improper Food and Education Payments

After receiving an anonymous tip about billing irregularities, the Ohio State Auditor conducted a special audit of the two state prisons: the Noble Correctional Institution (NCI) at Caldwell and the Belmont Correctional Institution (BCI) in St. Clairsville.

Released in November, 2001, the auditor's report showed that NCI's private ...

Correctional Medical Services Pays Out Another $1 Million in 1997 Ohio Escape, Murder

The family of Charles Dials, who was carjacked and killed by prisoner Alva Campbell during an escape attempt in April 1997, was awarded a $1 million default judgment against CMS in Franklin County (OH) Common Pleas Court on March 6, 2002. This verdict comes after CMS and Franklin County have ...

HUD Leases Must Evict Innocent Tenants for "Any" Drug Activity

HUD Leases Must Evict Innocent Tenants for "Any" Drug Activity

Four tenants of Oakland Housing Authority (OHA), public housing subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), faced eviction proceedings from their apartments because of the "drug-related criminal activit[ies]" of their children or grandchildren. OHA ...

Unnamed Class Members Can Object to Settlement

Robert Devlin, a pensioner and unnamed class member in a class action suit involving his company pension, attempted to intervene to block a proposed class settlement. The Maryland Federal District Court barred intervention as untimely and accepted the settlement. Devlin appealed, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding ...

Jail Over Detention From Lack of Release Policy Actionable Under Section 1983

An Indiana county jail's lack of policy for the eventual release of detainees arrested pursuant to a Body Attachment raised sufficient facts to defeat the sheriff's motion for summary judgment, thus allowing an overdetained prisoner's civil rights complaint to proceed to trial.

Shakidi Johnson was arrested pursuant ...

Complaint Needs Only Short, Plain Statement of Claim

Akos Swierkiewicz, a 53 year old Hungarian working for Sorema N.A., sued the company under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed, and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed ...

Good Time Allowed on Washington Weapon Enhancements

The Washington Supreme Court recently held that prisoners are entitled to good time credits for time served in presentence detention, even if they receive a firearm or other deadly weapon sentence enhancement following conviction. Understanding the Court's ruling first requires a brief discussion of Washington's firearm and deadly ...

From the Editor

This is the last issue of PLN for the year. We would like to thank all of our readers for your continued support which makes PLN possible. PLN's office staff notes that many readers send letters to our office that do not have the author's name and address ...

Colorado Sex Offenders Freed from Mandatory Parole

In one of the most criticized and widely reported rulings in Colorado history, the state Supreme Court has held that the state's mandatory parole laws do not apply to sex offenders whose crimes were committed on or after July 1, 1993, but before November 1, 1998. Shock waves rippled ...

Private Employer Must Pay $841,000 Back Wages to 167 California Prisoners

( A San Diego California Superior Court judge ordered CMT Blues, a garment manufacturer, to pay 167 prisoners it had employed at the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility state prison to pay $841,000 in back wages for the workers' underpaid overtime, late wages and for their unpaid 30 day training ...

Texas May Not Revoke Parole Without a Hearing

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has held that the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole's (BPP's) policy of revoking the parole of a parolee in an Intermediate Sanctions Facility (ISF) without a hearing was unconstitutional.

Kevin Todd Catham, a Texas state prisoner, was granted parole in 1999 ...

Washington Gift Publication Ban Not Clearly Unconstitutional Before Crofton

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that prior to its opinion in Crofton v. Roe, 170 F.3d 957 (9 th Cir. 1999) it was not clearly established that prison bans on gift publications were unconstitutional.

In 1996 a federal court in Washington state issued two unpublished opinions holding ...

Louisiana Sheriff Pays $1.35 Million Settlement in Death of Diabetic Prisoner

On January 6, 2002, Orleans Parish criminal sheriff Charles Foti agreed to pay $1.35 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of a diabetic female prisoner who died at the parish prison in April 1999.

JoAnn Johnson, who was diabetic, was arrested in April 4, 1999 on ...

Prisoner Allowed Discovery in Mail Destruction Case

The Second Circuit court of appeals has reversed summary judgment in a case involving the destruction of legal materials in a package mailed to a prisoner to allow the prisoner discovery to determine the name of the person who received the package at the prison.

The mother of Nathaniel Jackson ...

2003 Political Prisoner Calendar Available

As 2002 ends, the need for a calendar for the coming year becomes more apparent. Activists in Canada have published the Free Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War 2003 Calendar. The eye catching and well designed calendar is filled with slick graphics and plenty of information of leftist and nationalist ...

Fatal Overdoses: Drugs and Death in Prison

On April 27, 1997, at Ohio's Trumbull Correctional Institution, Daniel Ray Williams died by lethal injection. Williams, then 37, was not on death row; the lethal injection was a self-administered dose of heroin. Robert Baksi, a Trumbull prisoner who reportedly had a beef with Williams, had delivered a "hot ...

Georgia Supreme Court Bans Use of the Electric Chair

In a 4-to-3 decision, the Supreme Court of Georgia upheld a trial court and ruled that death by electrocution violated the state's constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment. The high court ordered that all future executions in Georgia will be carried out by lethal injection.

Considering the question ...

Ex-Georgia Sheriff Convicted in Ambush Killing of Successor

Former Georgia Sheriff Sidney Dorsey was convicted on July 10 for ordering the assassination of his political rival, a man who defeated him for sheriff in the 2000 elections.

Dorsey was convicted of first-degree murder for the slaying of Sheriff-elect Derwin Brown. Brown ran against Dorsey in the 2000 elections ...

Prisoner's Medical Information Privacy Right Established in Third Circuit

by Matthew T. Clarke

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has established that prisoners have a right to privacy in their medical information albeit not to the same extent as a free citizen. However, the Third Circuit dismissed the case due to qualified immunity as the right was ...

The Unmourned Death of Felony Murder by Assault in Washington

by Suzanne Lee Elliott and David B. Zuckerman

For at least 36 years, Washington has permitted defendants to be convicted of felony murder in the second degree when the underlying felony is assault. Prisoners rightly complained that this led to absurd and unfair results. Every homicide involves an assault. Why ...

Alaska Prison Design Case Settles for $1 Million

In August, 2001, the state of Alaska settled a lawsuit involving faulty prison design which resulted in serious injury to a prisoner for $1,000,000. In February, 1994, Carry Johnson was returning to his cell at the Ketchikan Correctional Center in Alaska. When he reached the top of the ...

Washington DOC Pays $2,306.22 in Prisoner PDA Suit

On October 17, 2001, the Washington Department of Corrections ("DOC") agreed to settle a suit filed against it pursuant to Washington's Public Disclosure Act ("PDA") for $2,306.22. The PDA, like its federal counterpart the Freedom of Information Act, requires all state agencies to disclose documents requested by ...

Dismissal of Legal Mail and Retaliation Claims Reversed

by Matthew T. Clarke

The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has reversed the district court's dismissal of claims that prison officials violated a prisoner's right of access to courts and retaliated against him for litigating against them.

William R. Cody, a South Dakota state prisoner, filed ...

Furniture Makers Challenge UNICOR

The Coalition for Government Procurement brought charges against the Federal Prison Industries alleging nine violations of the Administrative Procedures Act between 1991 and 1995. Legislation on this topic had been pending for several years. On August 18, 2001 the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan heard ...

Son of Sam II Law Enacted in California

Son Of Sam II Law Enacted in California

In a legislative move designed to circumvent a recent California Supreme Court ruling holding that California's "Son of Sam" law (which prohibited prisoners from profiting from their crime stories) was unconstitutional, Senate Bill 1887 was passed and signed into law effective ...

California's "Son of Sam" Law Held Unconstitutional

by John E. Dannenberg

The California Supreme Court overturned the state law confiscating a convicted felon's profits derived from any form of expressive material that recounted the exploits connected with his/her conviction. Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Simon & Schuster, Inc. v. Members of N.Y ...

Washington Sex Offender Community Placement Dilemma

When "high-risk" sex offenders are released from Washington State prisons their pictures, names, addresses, and offenses are broadcast on the local news. Armed with that information, angry neighbors often drive them from the communities they're released to. With no one willing to hire them and no place to live ...

Summary Judgment Denied on New York Medical Isolation Conditions

A New York Federal District Court has denied summary judgment on claims that a prisoner's First Amendment right to free exercise of religion was violated by heightened restrictions in medical isolation and a denial of a vegetarian diet.

As a form of protective custody, Lawrence Davis refused to give ...

Florida Prisoner Sues for Contracting HIV

by David M. Reutter

Florida prisoner Richard James Randles filed simultaneous state and federal lawsuits alleging guard B.D. Hester ordered him, on three separate occasions, to clean up blood from other prisoners who had accidentally wounded themselves or attempted suicide at the Zephyrhills Correctional Institution medial/psychiatric ward. Randles ...

Texas Cannot Use Enhancement to Deny Mandatory Supervision

The Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas has held that the fact that a felony has been enhanced to a higher degree felony cannot be used to deny a prisoner mandatory supervision release (MSR).

Nathaniel Elbert Coleman, a Texas state prisoner, was convicted of drug possession and retaliation, enhanced by ...

Failure to Treat Ruptured Tendon; Qualified Immunity Denied

A federal district court in New York has denied prison officials' motion to dismiss a prisoner's complaint alleging denial of medical treatment of his ruptured Achilles tendon. While playing basketball on May 3, 1997 at Sing-Sing Correctional Facility, prisoner Saufuddin Abdul-Samad injured his ankle, was examined by a nurse ...

News in Brief

California: On April 1, 2002, 30 prisoners at the Pelican Bay State Prison were involved in a riot. Eight Asian and Native American prisoners attacked 20 white prisoners. One prisoner suffered a superficial stab wound and other participants received minor injuries. The riot was halted by guards using pepper spray ...