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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: November, 2004

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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 other, Michael Kasperzak, left the unit at 11:40 to cover a chow line elsewhere. J-1 is a protective custody unit, and the men who live there take their meals in their cells. At the end of lunch, they come out of their cells to return their food trays and then they go back and lock in. The men returned their trays. One or two spoke briefly with Lonergan about arranging afternoon recreation and then went to their cells. As the doors slid shut, a man named Joseph Druce slipped into cell 2 and waited for the lock to click. Cell 2 was the "home" of a defrocked priest named John Geoghan.

Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center (SBCC) is the newest prison in Massachusetts. Located about 45 miles north and west of Boston, SBCC shares the ominous sterility of the hundred or so other "supermax" barbed-wire blockhouses constructed all across America in ...

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 support to continue our work. From September 15, 2004, through January 15, 2005, we have a matching grant campaign where a PLN donor will match all donations and grants made to PLN, dollar for dollar if made by non prisoners and two dollars per dollar donated if made by prisoners. We are still very short of our goal; if you have not yet donated please do so now. You can also consider making monthly donations via credit card and prisoners are welcome to donate new, unused stamps or embossed envelopes. Don't wait until the last minute to donate! To receive the full $25,000 matching grant, readers must donate that amount.

In addition to publishing this magazine each month, PLN's other projects include investigative journalism to research and disseminate stories on prisons and jails that otherwise would not be published. This includes working with other publications and organizations ...

$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 U.S.


I've never seen the TV show, Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, but I love the way the title promises to simplify a daunting task. With that goal in mind, this Habeas Hints column presents eight simple rules for improving the quality of your habeas corpus petition.

1. Start out with the supporting facts.

Most prisoner petitions I see are loaded with case citations but are short on specific facts which would persuade the reader that the petitioner was wrongly convicted. In my judgment, this is the opposite of the way a petition should be drafted. The main purpose of a habeas corpus petition is to tell the judge why your case is one of the very few that should be granted habeas relief from a conviction and sentence that have already been upheld in 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 United States pushed boot camps as a means of reducing recidivism, prison populations, and operating costs while at the same time getting tough on criminals. By 1995, there were 75 adult boot camps, 30 juvenile boot camps, and 18 local jail boot camps operating in various State and local jurisdictions throughout the United States. As the name implies, prison boot camps are detention facilities that use in-your-face military-style training to correct offender behavior. These camps force vigorous physical exercise, drill and ceremony, manual labor, and other physical exercises on prisoners leaving them little free time. Strict rules and intense verbal tactics designed to break prisoners' wills combined with the military-style training were thought to lead to improved behavior and attitudes and, consequently, reduced recidivism. To reduce prison populations, boot camp prisoners were given shorter sentences in exchange for successful completion of the program.

The NIJ study, led by Dale G ...

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, were denied their "street time" credits under § 508.283(c), Texas Government Code, the law enacted in 2001 to allow the limited restoration of "street time" credits to prisoners convicted of non-violent offenses who had successfully been on parole for more time than the remaining portion of their sentences. Both filed state petitions for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to Article 11.07, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, seeking credit for "street time" on parole.

The problem for Spann was ambiguous wording in the statute which allowed the "remaining portion" of the sentence to be calculated as either the entire sentence remaining on the date he was released on parole or the amount remaining on that date minus the time actually spent on parole. The Court of Criminal Appeals held that to interpret the "remaining portion" as all the time remaining on the sentence on the date the prisoner ...

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 before the typewriter policy took effect.

Larry McClintick is a prisoner at Ohio's Madison Correctional Institution (MaCI). He has been there since 1988. In 1993, he purchased an electronic typewriter with a five page memory. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DORC) policy 205-01 defines contraband as "[a]ny item not permitted by law or expressly prohibited by [DORC] and/or institutional policy." On January 4, 2002, DORC Policy 112-12 took effect, stating in part, "Inmates are not permitted to receive or utilize a personal computer, electronic personal information manager, peripheral device or typewriter (with memory storage capacity), outside of an educational, vocational, or work environment."

MaCI officials confiscated McClintick's typewriter in February 2002 because of the new policy. McClintick exhausted his administrative remedies seeking return of his typewriter but was unsuccessful. He then filed a motion for writ of mandamus in the Madison County Court of Appeals ...

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 be responsible for distorting how the debate is framed.

The Assembly wanted to reduce a broad range of drug sentences while the Senate wanted to focus only on the most extreme sentences. This article examines the district of another member of the Senate's delegation to the conference committee, Crime Committee Chair Senator Michael Nozzolio.

The 54th District Seneca Falls Republican explained the Senate's perspective at the start of the meetings: "Our focus is on the victim, not the drug dealer." The Assembly members took the opposite approach, arguing that drug crimes are victimless crimes and should have sentences shorter than those imposed for violent acts.

An analysis of Senator Nozzolio's district suggests that his opposition to a thorough repeal of the Rockefeller Drug Laws may not lie just in ideology but in an obscure Census quirk that counts prisoners as if they were residents of the prison ...

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 Gatesville, Texas. In February 2001, Hart worked in the prison's Food Service Department under Kenneth. G. Hairston, Food Service Manager. In anticipation of an on-site audit by inspectors from the American Correctional Association, Hairston instructed Hart to lie to inspectors about the sanitation of pots and pans.

In response, Hart sent a "Letter of Resolution" to Hairston where he complained of the improper instruction to lie to inspectors. Thereafter, Hairston filed a disciplinary report against Hart charging him with "knowingly making false statements for the purpose of harming another person." The prison's disciplinary court punished Hart with 27 days of commissary and cell restriction. Hart then filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that prison officials retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment right to file a grievance. Prison officials moved for summary judgment for failure to state a claim on which relief could ...

$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 McIntyre, a pro per Nevada prisoner incarcerated at Warm Springs Correctional Center in Carson City, sued NDOP Director Robert Bayer to recover interest earned on McIntyre's individual trust account taken in violation of both Nevada statute NRS § 209.241 and the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment. The U.S. District (D. NV) rejected the claims because the statute of limitations to challenge § 209.241's constitutionality had expired two years after it was enacted in 1995. McIntyre appealed and the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded. See: McIntyre v. Bayer, 182 F.3d 926 (9th Cir. 1999)(unpublished). On remand, the district court nonetheless concluded that the taking was not unconstitutional, and McIntyre again appealed.

The Ninth Circuit noted that the intervening decision in Brown v. Legal Foundation of Washington, 123 S.Ct. 1406 (2003) now required a determination whether any "just compensation" was due; the event of "taking ...

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 isn't surprising that a high-powered politically-savvy corporation wants in on the action. The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nations' largest owner and operator of private prisons, is trucking out a new product line with a little help from its fundamentalist friends: Prison Conversions to Christ.

Over the past few years, high-profile prison conversions to Christ _ like Carla Faye Tucker and David Berkowitz, also known as the "Son of Sam" _ captured the attention of fundamentalist Christian leaders and the mainstream media.*

While high-profile prison conversions may play well in the media, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is casting its lot with your everyday prisoner, entering into partnerships with several Christian fundamentalist evangelical organizations that are increasingly active inside America's prisons.

According to company records, the Nashville, Tennessee based company is the sixth largest corrections system in the nation, behind only the federal government and four ...

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, 67 percent of the artists sold at least one work, 4,191 people walked through the gallery, each artist received a packet including responses in the visitors' book and reviews, each prison received an hour and a half video including the opening reception and a view of each work of art. 6 annual exhibitions by incarcerated youth. 25 portfolios of writing and art created through one-on-one work with incarcerated youth. 36 formerly incarcerated adults and youth linked up with community arts mentors. These are some of the accomplishments of the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) and of the incarcerated with whom they have collaborated since January 1990, when the first theater workshop began at the Florence Crane Women's Facility in Coldwater, Michigan.

PCAP is based at the University of Michigan. Most members enter through one or more of three courses: Janie Paul's Art 454 (art workshops in prisons ...

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 interest portion were large enough to surpass his pro rata costs.

Paul Schneider and fourteen other California prisoners sued in federal district court in 1997 under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to recover interest earned on their Inmate Trust Accounts (ITA). They alleged that the California regulations authorizing automatic transfer of any ITA interest to the Inmate Welfare Fund [a funding pool used to benefit prisoner activities pursuant to Calif. Penal Code § 5006] was an illegal "taking" of private property for public purposes in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, which the district court rejected. Schneider v. California Department of Corrections [CDC], 957 F.Supp. 1145 (N.D. CA 1997) (Schneider I).

On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reversed, and remanded for interest/costs determinations. See: Schneider v. California Department of Corrections, 151 F.3d 1194 (9th Cir. 1998) (Schneider II); PLN, April, 1999, p.26. The district court, satisfied ...

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 the failure to comply resulted from the "derelictions of duty in every branch and at every level of county, city and state government." The court issued orders to enforce compliance with constitutional requirements concerning the housing of prisoners and their treatment in a safe and humane manner while in the jail.

The court previously found that prisoners must sleep in plastic, molded pallets on the floor (stack a bunks) or on inferior and often filthy mattresses on the floor, some on picnic tables and some directly on the floor when the number of prisoners exceeds the number of beds above the floor, as frequently occurred. As remedial steps to cure this constitutional violation, the court ordered: (A) The sheriff to contract for and utilize space in Marion County Jail II so long as Jail I is over capacity, which requires emergency funding to continue; (B) Failure to acquire legislative funding ...

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 is serving a term of imprisonment may request DNA testing by writing a letter to the state Office of Public Defense. But the law has a sunset clause. Those who do not request the testing by the end of the year may permanently lose access to the evidence. Starting next year, local jurisdictions will not be required to maintain biological evidence taken in the investigation of criminal cases.

The Innocence Project Northwest provides indigent Washington prisoners pro bono representation for the purpose of requesting DNA testing. If your case has biological evidence that could prove your innocence, write to: IPNW, William H. Gates Hall, University of Washington School of Law, Box 353020, Seattle, WA 98195-3020.  Please provide as much detail as possible about the case, explaining clearly the link between the biological evidence and your innocence. If possible, please try to include your cause number and a list of the ...

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 unarmed man was never given the chance to surrender, even though he sought to do so.

The Escape and Shooting

Harold McCord Jr., 36, was no doubt thinking about his future as he sat in a Pierce County courtroom for a brief hearing on June 23, 2003. Convicted a month earlier in the kidnapping and assault of his girlfriend at a Tacoma bus stop, McCord, who had previous convictions for robbery in 1988 and 1991, had been sentenced on June 13 to life in prison without parole under the state's "three-strikes" law.

As the hearing ended around 10 a.m., McCord bolted from the courtroom. One of the courtroom officers chased McCord into the hallway and tackled him. As they fought, McCord pulled out a fake gun, which had been made from cardboard, toilet paper and black ink, and held it to the officer's head.

"Two other officers ...

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's courtroom. The seven men, now deathly silent, tried to read their faces. The jurors did not look at them.

No easy matter, deciding whether to put someone behind bars. Particularly in this case. The seven defendants Mike LaVallee, Rod Schultz, Robert Verbickas, David Pruyne, Ken Shatto, James Bond and Brent Gall know all about prison and the terrible things that can happen inside.

They used to work there.

Known collectively as the Cowboys, the group was accused of being part of a sprawling conspiracy among rogue prison guards to systematically beat and abuse prisoners at the high-security federal penitentiary outside Florence, Colorado. Most of the incidents occurred inside the Special Housing Unit, or SHU, a prison within a prison, where gung-ho guards squared off against some of the most disruptive, defiant prisoners in the entire federal system.

According to prosecutors, the Cowboys selected prisoners who "needed to be taught ...

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 Texas state prisoner Guadalupe Guajardo under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 33 years ago. The suit resulted in TDCJ's adoption of the court-approved Correspondence Rules regulating virtually every aspect of prisoner mail, Guajardo v. Estelle, 568 F.Supp. 1354 (S.D.TX 1983). In 1997, TDCJ filed a motion to terminate under the PLRA. The district court held a non-evidentiary hearing which the parties agreed to. It found that the consent decree provided greater relief than the minimum necessary to correct the constitutional violation and that the prisoners had failed to prove an on-going constitutional violation showing prospective relief was necessary or that the existing consent decree was narrowly drawn and the least intrusive means to correct individual constitutional violations as required by the PLRA. In September 2002, the district court issued a 54-page memorandum terminating the prospective relief in the consent decree. [PLN June, 2003, p. 26].

The ...

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) had summarily dismissed six state prisoners' claims that because prisoners of color were disproportionately convicted of infamous crimes in Washington, their ensuing disenfranchisement under state law violated Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) (42 U.S.C. § 1973). The district court had found no violation of Section 2, reasoning that the result complained of was only coincidental and not in itself the result of express racial animus. The Ninth Circuit now reversed and remanded on appeal.

Muhammad Farrakhan and five other Washington state prisoners sued under the VRA, challenging Washington's disenfranchisement law as both violative of federal law and the United States Constitution. Article VI, Section 3 of the Washington State Constitution provides that "[a]ll persons convicted of an infamous crime ... are excluded from the elective franchise." The disenfranchisement continues until a certificate of discharge issues (Revised Codes of Washington (RCW) § 9.94A.637) but ...

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 Act. FCCC is a state institution that indefinitely holds sex offenders who have completed their prison sentences, but purportedly require additional treatment to keep them from re-offending.

While it is deemed a civil treatment facility, FCCC is located inside the barbed wire fences of a former state prison in Arcadia, Florida. It is the only facility in Florida designated to house and provide treatment services for men confined under Florida's Sexually Violent Predator Act.

Florida Statute §§ 394-910-394.931 provides for Florida's Department of Children and Families (DCF) to involuntarily detain and civilly commit persons judicially determined to be a "sexually violent predator." To be confined under the Act, an individual must be found to have a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in acts of sexual violence if not confined to a secure facility for long-term control, care, and treatment.

Once committed ...

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 the U.S. in Iraq. See: Saleh v. Titan Corp., USDC SD CA, Case No. 04-CV-1143R (NLS). The suit was primarily filed under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. It reveals a troubling trend toward privatizing the extraction of information from people being detained by the U.S. government at overseas prisons.

Privatizing Interrogation

Since 2001, the government has increasingly privatized the collection of intelligence. Previously the domain of a few high-technology companies that aided in the collection of information using sophisticated electronic and space-based technology, the private information gathering industry has ballooned into a multi-billion dollar a year monster in which a few huge companies have devoured most of the smaller firms and expanded their contracts to include interrogation of prisoners and the provision of interpreters for government interrogators. Two of these firms are at the heart of the suit.

Between ...

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 to society ... This book should be a wake-up call for federal, state and local governments across America." - Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA)

Alan Elsner, a National Correspon-
dent with Reuters News Service, has 25 years experience in journalism, covering stories ranging from the 9/11 attacks on America and the crisis in the Middle East, to the 2000 presidential election and the end of the Cold War.

In Gates Of Injustice, he brings his journalistic expertise to bear on the horrific conditions in America's prisons. In sparse, no-nonsense language, he relates personal stories of the suffering endured by America's prisoners. Mr. Elsner spent over two years researching this book, interviewing hundreds of prisoners and their loved ones, prison guards, lawyers and lawmakers. The result is a tightly woven portrait, shining a spotlight behind the walls and razor wire.

Even long-time readers of PLN will be shocked at the ...

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 disclplinary reprimand imposed after prison authorities intercepted a letter to Harr's parents in which he described a [guard] in derogatory terms."

"After the circuit court issued its order overturning the disciplinary action taken against Harr, he filed a request for fees and costs totaling $609.18." This was costs of $209.18 and `invested hours of legal research and briefing, approximately eight hours at $50.00 per hour' of $400.00. He also sought a stipulation from the State for $500.00 in punitive damages in lieu of filing a § 1983 lawsuit."

The circuit court agreed with the State that Wis. Stat. § 814.25(2) of the WPLRA precluded the court from granting the request, and denied Harr's motion. Six months later, Harr sought reconsideration, relying on State ex rel. Lindell v. Litscher, Case No. 02-CV-1272, wherein another branch of the court held that § 814.25(2) was ...

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 several times by a fellow resident while confined in Hillcrest. "the last attack took place on the night after S.J. had informed a Hillcrest employee about the assaults." His assailant ultimately admitted to attacking S.J. and was adjudicated a delinquent.

S.J. sued Hillcrest, its superintendent and Hamilton County, alleging that defendants violated his constitutional rights by failing to investigate and prevent sexual abuse and failing to adequately train Hillcrest employees.

"The defendants moved for summary judgment on the basis of sovereign immunity, arguing that Hillcrest is an arm of the State& because it was created by state law and is overseen by the juvenile court." The district court disagreed, and denied the motion.

Defendants then filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, requesting that the district court revisit its sovereign immunity holding in light of the unpublished decision in Oswald v. Lucas County Juvenile ...

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 statute.

In 2002, Sidney R. Hertz was serving 40 years in an Alaska prison on a 1984 murder conviction. In February, 2002, Hertz filed the most recent of his many suits for post-conviction relief, pursuant to AS § He claimed that the Alaska Department of Corrections (DOC) violated his rights by denying him adequate medical care and adequate litigation supplies, as well as subjecting him to disciplinary sanctions in retaliation for his filing lawsuits.

On the state's motion, superior court judge Peter A. Michalski summarily dismissed the case. Hertz appealed to the state court of appeals.

The appellate court first found that AS § 12.72 et seq. gave it jurisdiction to decide only suits challenging prisoners' convictions and sentences, but not challenges to prisoners' conditions of confinement.

Next, the appellate court found that any appeal of a superior court's ruling of a DOC disciplinary ...

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 office at the Center and then coerced her into having sex with him. Rubin was fired by Cornell shortly after the assault was reported.

Alaska: On September 26, 2004, an MD-82 transporting 112 Alaska state prisoners to a Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) operated prison in Arizona aborted its take off when the plane lost power and veered off the runway at the Anchorage airport due to engine damage. On September 27, 2004, a Boeing 727 transporting the same group of prisoners to Arizona aborted its flight to Arizona when, at 20,000 feet, the crew realized the windshield of the plane was cracked. Both planes are owned and operated by the Department of Justice and the U.S. marshals service which the Alaska DOC hires to transport its prisoners. Alaska prison officials said it was a "little odd" to have these problems on consecutive days but expressed full confidence ...

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 prison in Texas City, used a fake badge to accost prostitutes in downtown Galveston in 1997. After telling them he was a cop he demanded oral sex. During the trial on one such episode, testimony from the victims of two other similar crimes was introduced. Page was convicted, but the court of appeals overturned the conviction holding that there was no need for the extraneous offenses because identity was not at issue and therefore they were too prejudicial to be admitted as evidence. [PLN May 2003, p.24].

The Court of Criminal Appeals held that since Page had raised the issue of identity in his cross-examination of the victim when her memory, character, veracity and estimation, of Page's weight in the initial police report were attacked. Therefore, the extraneous offenses were admissible on the issue of identity under Rule 404(b), Texas Rules of Criminal Evidence. The judgment of ...


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