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Prison Legal News: November, 2004

Issue PDF
Volume 15, Number 11

In this issue:

  1. A Death in Custody: Massachusetts DOC Wracked by Scandal (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 8)
  3. $15 Million Class Settlement In Sacramento Jail Strip-Search Suits (p 9)
  4. Habeas Hints (p 10)
  5. Study Shows Boot Camps Are a Failure (p 12)
  6. Wrongfully Convicted Pennsylvania Prisoner Settles for $2.3 Million; Forensics Expert Fired (p 12)
  7. Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Clarifies Law Crediting "Street Time" (p 13)
  8. Connecticut Settles Wrongful Death Lawsuit for $2.9 Million (p 14)
  9. Ohio Prisoners Not Entitled to Memory Typewriters (p 14)
  10. New York Prisoners Win Injury Awards, Lack of Expert Testimony Detrimental (p 15)
  11. Prison Town Legislators Represent Prisoners' Interests? Not Quite (p 16)
  12. Texas Prisoner's Retaliation Claim Survives Summary Judgment (p 16)
  13. $600,000 Settlement in California Prisoner Shooting Death (p 17)
  14. Nevada Trust Account Interest, Less Accounting Costs, Belongs To Prisoners (p 18)
  15. Prisons, Profits and Prophets (p 20)
  16. Michigan Prison Art Project (p 21)
  17. California Prisoner Trust Account Interest Recoverable Only Upon Proof Of Individual Loss (p 22)
  18. Indiana Jail Held in Contempt, Sanctions Imposed (p 22)
  19. Last Chance For Washington Prisoners To Request Postconviction DNA Testing is December 31, 2004 (p 23)
  20. Washington Police Kill Unarmed Escapee in Botched Raid; Prisoner Also Killed (p 24)
  21. Cowboy Justice: BOP Guards Convicted (p 26)
  22. PLRA Fee Cap Upheld, Applied to Parole Case; Allows Fees-on-Fee Award (p 32)
  23. Fifth Circuit Affirms Termination of Guajardo (Texas Prison Mail) Suit (p 33)
  24. Challenge To Washington Felon Disenfranchisement Scheme Remanded For Racial Bias Test (p 34)
  25. Class Action Challenges Treatment of Florida's "Sexual Predator" Civil Detainees (p 35)
  26. No Restraint, No Consequences: Privatizing Overseas Intelligence Extraction (p 36)
  27. Gates of Injustice - The Crisis in America's Prisons (p 38)
  28. Wisconsin PLRA Fee-Limit Does Not Violate Equal Protection (p 39)
  29. Ohio County Juvenile Facility Not Immune from Suit in Rape Claim (p 40)
  30. Alaska Prisoners Cannot Challenge Conditions of Confinement Under State Post-Conviction Relief Statute (p 40)
  31. News in Brief (p 41)
  32. Texas Prison Guard's Sentence for Rape Reinstated (p 44)

A Death in Custody: Massachusetts DOC Wracked by Scandal

On August 23, 2003, the 26 men in Unit J-1 at SBCC, a "supermax" prison in Shirley, Massachusetts, were finishing lunch. It was just before noon. There was one guard in the unit, a prison guard named David Lonergan. Two guards were assigned to J-1 on that shift, but the ...

From the Editor

As this issue of PLN goes to press the 2004 presidential election is over. Regardless of who won, the need for PLN and the news and work we do will remain and undoubtedly increase given that both major party presidential candidates promise more repression and police power.

We need reader ...

$15 Million Class Settlement In Sacramento Jail Strip-Search Suits

The Sacramento California Sheriff's Department agreed to a record $15 million settlement on June 4, 2004 to resolve federal and state lawsuits for damages and injunctive relief regarding illegal strip-search practices at the Sacramento County Jail. The suits stemmed from a policy of mixing felony and misdemeanant detainees together ...

Habeas Hints

This column is intended to provide "habeas hints" to prisoners who are considering or handling habeas corpus petitions as their own attorneys ("in pro per"). The focus of the column is habeas corpus practice under the AEDPA, the 1996 habeas corpus law which now governs habeas corpus practice throughout the ...

Study Shows Boot Camps Are a Failure

Study Shows Boot Camps are a Failure


A June 2003 study published by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, shows that boot camps are failures in reducing recidivism and prison populations.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, lawmakers throughout the ...

Wrongfully Convicted Pennsylvania Prisoner Settles for $2.3 Million; Forensics Expert Fired

A wrongfully convicted ex-prisoner who spent 15-years in a Pennsylvania prison got modest compensation from the government that imprisoned him by winning a $2.3 million settlement in the lawsuits he filed. In Washington state, a forensic scientist was fired after his unprofessional testimony led to the wrongful conviction of ...

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Clarifies Law Crediting "Street Time"

by Matthew T. Clarke

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has recently clarified the meaning of the recent statute allowing the award of parole "street time" credits for prisoners convicted of non-violent crimes.

Lucian Lee Spann and Andrew Michael Marby are Texas state prisoners who, after having their paroles revoked ...

Connecticut Settles Wrongful Death Lawsuit for $2.9 Million

Connecticut Settles Wrongful Death Lawsuit For $2.9 Million

by Michael Rigby

On April 4, 2002, the State of Connecticut agreed to settle for $2.9 million a lawsuit arising from the wrongful death of Timothy Perry, a mentally ill man who died after being forcefully restrained by prison guards ...

Ohio Prisoners Not Entitled to Memory Typewriters

The Ohio Supreme Court, affirming an appeals court decision, held that Ohio prisoners have no right to typewriters with more than one line of memory and that prison officials were justified in confiscating a prisoner's typewriter that had a five-page memory capacity, even though the typewriter was purchased years ...

New York Prisoners Win Injury Awards, Lack of Expert Testimony Detrimental

New York Prisoners Win Injury Awards, Lack Of Expert Testimony Detrimental


by Michael Rigby

In two separate cases, New York courts of claims awarded $3,500 to prisoners pursuing pro se personal injury claims against the state. As these cases illustrate, expert testimony is not always necessary to prevail on ...

Prison Town Legislators Represent Prisoners' Interests? Not Quite

On June 7, 2004, talks between the New York State Senate and the Assembly on how to best reform the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws broke down. Publicly, the dispute is over ideological disagreements, but an obscure Census quirk that counts prisoners as residents of the prison's legislative district may ...

Texas Prisoner's Retaliation Claim Survives Summary Judgment

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth. Circuit reversed a district court's dismissal of a prisoner's complaint that prison officials retaliated against him for exercising his right to file a grievance.

Robert Hart, 38, is a prisoner at the 2,800-man Albert Hughes State Prison near ...

$600,000 Settlement in California Prisoner Shooting Death

$600,000 Settlement In California Prisoner Shooting Death

by Marvin Mentor

California Department of Corrections (CDC) officials settled a wrongful death complaint for $600,000 brought by the survivors of Octavio Orozco, a prisoner at Pleasant Valley State Prison (PVSP) in Coalinga, who was killed by a single shot to ...

Nevada Trust Account Interest, Less Accounting Costs, Belongs To Prisoners

In two separate decisions, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals determined whether the Nevada Department of Prisons (NDOP) procedure of reallocating interest earned on prisoner trust accounts constituted an unconstitutional "taking" in violation of the Fifth Amendment or violated due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Jerry ...

Prisons, Profits and Prophets

The nation's largest private prison corporation is joining forces with conservative faith-based ministries

by Bill Berkowitz

In an era where the Bush Administration touts faith-based organizations as engines of individual and social transformation, and is actively recruiting and funding religious organizations to deliver a bevy of social services, it ...

Michigan Prison Art Project

176 original plays created by prisoners in 18 Michigan prisons, another 107 in 4 juvenile facilities. 39 readings of original work in the prisons, 16 in the juvenile facilities, 40 anthologies. 9 Annual Exhibitions of Art by Michigan Prisoners: in the most recent, 205 artists exhibited 343 works of art ...

California Prisoner Trust Account Interest Recoverable Only Upon Proof Of Individual Loss

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held that prisoners have nothing to recover in a claim for interest on their common trust account when the state's costs to administer the account exceed the interest generated, but an individual prisoner might have such a claim if his personal ...

Indiana Jail Held in Contempt, Sanctions Imposed

An Indiana federal district court held that the sheriff of Marion County was in contempt of court for failing to comply with the court's previous orders relating to conditions at the County's jail. While the court held that punitive sanctions would not be imposed at this time because ...

Last Chance For Washington Prisoners To Request Postconviction DNA Testing is December 31, 2004

Washington state prisoners who believe DNA evidence may prove their innocence must file a request for postconviction DNA testing by December 31, 2004. Starting January 1, 2005, a defendant must raise DNA issues at trial or on appeal.

Under RCW 10.37.170, any person convicted of a felony who ...

Washington Police Kill Unarmed Escapee in Botched Raid; Prisoner Also Killed

Washington Police Kill Unarmed Escapee In Botched Raid; Prisoner also Killed


By Michael Rigby

One day after he used a fake gun to escape from a courthouse in Tacoma, Washington, a "three-strikes" prisoner was killed by police in a bungled raid that left one officer wounded. Family members allege the ...

Cowboy Justice: BOP Guards Convicted

by Alan Prendergast

The seven men sat around the defense table Tuesday afternoon, June 24, 2003, murmuring quietly to each other and exchanging hearty good-luck handshakes with their attorneys. The tension was thick, anticipation high.

Shortly after 4 p.m., the jurors filed into U.S. District Judge Wiley Daniel ...

PLRA Fee Cap Upheld, Applied to Parole Case; Allows Fees-on-Fee Award

The Eleventh Circuit Court held the attorney fee cap of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) applies to parole cases and is constitutional and allows a fees-on-fees award. Georgia prisoner Coleman Jackson filed a joint motion for habeas corpus and complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Jackson alleged the ...

Fifth Circuit Affirms Termination of Guajardo (Texas Prison Mail) Suit

By Matthew T. Clarke

On March 16, 2004, the Fifth Circuit issued a per curiam opinion affirming the district court's termination of the 20-year-old consent decree which had regulated prisoner mail in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ).

The case involves a class-action civil rights suit initiated by ...

Challenge To Washington Felon Disenfranchisement Scheme Remanded For Racial Bias Test

by John E. Dannenberg

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held that the broader "totality of the circumstances" standard must be used rather than just a narrower statistical burden when testing for racial bias in a prisoner voter disenfranchisement complaint. The U.S. District Court (E.D. WA ...

Class Action Challenges Treatment of Florida's "Sexual Predator" Civil Detainees

by David M. Reutter

A federal class action has been filed in the Federal District Court in Ft. Myers by eight residents of the Florida Civil Commitment Center (FCCC), seeking to enforce their rights to mental health services and treatment under the United States Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities ...

No Restraint, No Consequences: Privatizing Overseas Intelligence Extraction

by Matthew T. Clarke

The Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based nonprofit legal center, helped Iraqi prisoners file a class-action lawsuit against private "interrogation services" contractors Titan Corporation and CACI International Incorporated alleging that Iraqi citizens being held without charges were horrifically abused and murdered while falsely imprisoned by ...

Gates of Injustice - The Crisis in America's Prisons

by Alan Elsner, FT Prentice Hall, 256 pp., hardcover

Review by Tom Murlowski

"Alan Elsner's powerful book demonstrates that our $40 billion corrections system for both adults and juveniles is badly broken. Our jails and prisons and penitentiaries are failing us at enormous cost in money and in danger ...

Wisconsin PLRA Fee-Limit Does Not Violate Equal Protection

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that the Wisconsin Prison Litigation Reform Act's (WPLRA) prohibition against the recovery of costs and fees by prevailing prisoners does not violate equal protection.

Daniel Harr, a prisoner of Wisconsin's "Supermax prison successfully pursued a common law certiorari action to overturn a ...

Ohio County Juvenile Facility Not Immune from Suit in Rape Claim

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a county juvenile detention center was not entitled to sovereign immunity. S.J., an Ohio juvenile, was referred to the Hillcrest Training Center (Hillcrest) which is a county juvenile facility created pursuant to Ohio Rev. Code § 2151.65. He was sexually assaulted ...

Alaska Prisoners Cannot Challenge Conditions of Confinement Under State Post-Conviction Relief Statute

The Alaska court of appeals has dismissed a prisoner's suit challenging the conditions of his confinement in an Alaska prison under AS § 12.72.020(c), Alaska's post-conviction relief statute. This ruling came after the court found that it was without jurisdiction to decide the case under that ...

News in Brief

News in Brief:


Alaska: On August 4, 2004, Charles Rubin, 41, the manager of the Cordova Center, a half way house in Anchorage which is operated by Cornell Corrections, a private, for profit prison company, was arrested in charges that he lured a 23 year old female prisoner into his ...

Texas Prison Guard's Sentence for Rape Reinstated

Texas Prison Guard's Sentence For Rape Reinstated


The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has reinstated the sentence of a Texas prison guard who had impersonated a police officer, using a fake badge to coerce women into sex acts.

Charles Melvin Page, a former guard at the TDCJ women's ...