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Prison Legal News: July, 2004

Issue PDF
Volume 15, Number 7

In this issue:

  1. Abu Ghraib, USA (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 6)
  3. Washington DOC Fined $60,000 for Bogus Water Pollution Reports (p 7)
  4. Thirty Three Years after Attica: Many more Blacks in prison, but not as guards (p 7)
  5. Is It Criminal to Be a Muslim Civilian or Military Prison Chaplain? (p 8)
  6. Supreme Court Holds Guantanamo Detainees Can Challenge Detention (p 9)
  7. Virginia Prison Drives Women to Depression and Suicide (p 10)
  8. California Agrees to Provide Kosher Prison Diet Program (p 11)
  9. Tennessee Prison Audit Blasts DOC, CCA and CMS (p 12)
  10. Oklahoma Man Misidentified as Pedophile Awarded $3.7 Million (p 13)
  11. Overcrowding Forces Alabama Prisoners Into Private Prison Web (p 14)
  12. Arizona Prisoners Seize Tower; State Officials Point Fingers (p 16)
  13. BJS Looks at Probation, Parole in 2002 (p 17)
  14. Texas Jury Awards BOP Prisoner $4 Million for Rape by Guard (p 18)
  15. $3 Million in Settlements for Wrongful Illinois Convictions (p 18)
  16. Record Number of "Lifers" Now in U.S. Prisons (p 19)
  17. Florida Jail Pays Prisoner's Family $2.5 Million in Methadone Withdrawal Death (p 20)
  18. BJS Finds Low Recidivism among Released Sex Offenders (p 20)
  19. New York Prisoner Awarded $800,000 for Undiagnosed, Untreated Throat Cancer (p 21)
  20. $1.5 Million Verdict in NYC Jail Medical Malpractice Death (p 22)
  21. Arizona Prison Director Has Poor Track Record (p 22)
  22. Private Probation Companies Prove Corrupt in Tennessee (p 23)
  23. Controversy and Lawsuits Surround South Texas Private Prison Deals (p 24)
  24. Warden Sentenced for Stealing Dali Painting From Rikers Island Jail (p 25)
  25. California Class Action Lawsuit Targets Unauthorized Prison Phone Charges (p 26)
  26. Court Vacates Connecticut Jury Award of $30,000 for Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies (p 26)
  27. Wisconsin Contract for Faith-Based Program Does Not Violate First Amendment (p 27)
  28. Washington State Prison Continues To Pollute Local Environment Despite Repeated Citations (p 28)
  29. Michigan Supreme Court Allows Seizure of Prisoner's Pension Despite ERISA (p 30)
  30. Failure to Treat Transsexual for Self-Mutilation States Claim (p 31)
  31. Section 1983 Complaint Dismissed as Mixed Petition, But Amendment Allowed (p 31)
  32. Oklahoma "Civil Death" Statute Does Not Preclude Prisoner Tort Actions (p 32)
  33. Counsel Appointed to Brief Questions of PLRA Total Exhaustion and Sandin Confinement Conditions for Atypicality (p 32)
  34. No PLRA Fee Cap When Injunctive Relief Obtained (p 33)
  35. Sanctions Against Ohio Paralegal Firm Upheld (p 34)
  36. Qualified Immunity Test Hinges Upon SHU Sentence Imposed, Not SHU Time Served (p 34)
  37. Oregon Trial in Prison Did Not Violate Constitution (p 35)
  38. Interest on Legal Financial Obligations Not Dischargeable in Bankruptcy (p 36)
  39. California Sex Offender Prison Classification Label Approved for Dismissed Charge (p 36)
  40. No Qualified Immunity in Civil Commitment Phone Monitoring (p 37)
  41. Prisoner Allowed to Amend Retaliation, Legal Mail Complaint (p 37)
  42. Challenge to State Parole Revocations Must Be Brought Under § 2254 (p 38)
  43. District of Columbia May Be Liable for Prisoner's Inadequate Medical Care (p 38)
  44. Ninth Circuit Dismisses California's Motion To Exclude Female Prisoners From Medical Suit (p 39)
  45. Florida Prisoner Awarded Costs in Successful Records Request Litigation (p 40)
  46. Fifth Circuit Vacates $70,000 Award Against Texas Prison Officials (p 40)
  47. No Summary Judgment for Ohio Guards Who Used Excessive Force, Case Loses At Trial (p 41)
  48. News in Brief (p 42)
  49. Michigan Grievances Exhausted Upon Fair Notice of Claim (p 44)

Abu Ghraib, USA

When I first saw the photo, taken at the Abu Ghraib prison, of a hooded and robed figure strung with electrical wiring, I thought of the Sacramento, California, city jail.

When I heard that dogs had been used to intimidate and bite at least one detainee at Abu Ghraib, I ...

From the Editor

The month of June saw the media and
the Bush administration in a massive love fest over the death of Ronald Reagan. While it is generally considered bad form to speak poorly of the dead, like much of American domestic and foreign policy, there are winners and losers in all ...

Washington DOC Fined $60,000 for Bogus Water Pollution Reports

The Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) has fined the state Department of Corrections (DOC) $60,000 for falsifying water pollution reports. The fine was levied after the DOE discovered that officials at the McNeil Island Correction Center (MICC) near Steilacoom, Washington had filed numerous false wastewater reports.

Larry Altose ...

Thirty Three Years after Attica: Many more Blacks in prison, but not as guards

by Peter Wagner and Rose Heyer

In September 1971, thousands of prisoners at Attica prison in rural New York State rebelled, taking control of D-yard. Sixty-three percent of the prisoners were Black or Latino, but at that time there were no Blacks and only one Latino as guards. Seventy percent ...

Is It Criminal to Be a Muslim Civilian or Military Prison Chaplain?

by Matthew T. Clarke

It may not yet be criminal to be a Muslim prison chaplain, but they are certainly being singled out and subjected to a heightened level of scrutiny in the New York, federal and military prison systems. This point was driven home by the arrest on September ...

Supreme Court Holds Guantanamo Detainees Can Challenge Detention

On November 10, 2003, the U.S Su-preme Court agreed to consider whether 16 detainees who are suspected of al-Qaeda or Taliban connections can challenge their detention in U.S. courts. The court will not decide whether the detention of the two Britons, two Australians, and twelve Kuwaitis is legal ...

Virginia Prison Drives Women to Depression and Suicide

Overwhelming depression drove Shawana West to hang herself when she learned that she was being placed in the Structured Living Unit (SLU) at Virginia's Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women. While the attempt was unsuccessful it did not fail to make a statement.

What kind of prison strikes this kind ...

California Agrees to Provide Kosher Prison Diet Program

by John E. Dannenberg

The California Department of Corrections settled a prisoner civil rights complaint on November 12, 2003 by agreeing to accord approved kosher-observant Jewish prisoners a Kosher Diet Program (Program). The Program provides guidelines for foods used, for preparation methods, and for sanitation and safety. Additionally, it promulgates ...

Tennessee Prison Audit Blasts DOC, CCA and CMS

A Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) performance audit for the years 1997-2002, released by the state comptroller's office in September 2003, reveals problems with prison staffing, pre-release preparation, and numerous instances of contract violations by private prison contractors.

A major problem revealed by the audit is the retention of ...

Oklahoma Man Misidentified as Pedophile Awarded $3.7 Million

Oklahoma Man Misidentified As Pedophile Awarded $3.7 Million

by Michael Rigby

A jury has awarded $3.7 million in damages to an Oklahoma man who was falsely labeled a sexual predator after NewsOK.com, a Web site operated jointly by The Daily Oklahoman and Oklahoma City television station KWTV ...

Overcrowding Forces Alabama Prisoners Into Private Prison Web

Court orders have forced Alabama to reduce the number of prisoners in its county jails and send half of its prison population to two other states. Until recently the Alabama Department of Corrections (DOC) had crammed 28,000 prisoners into cell-space designed to hold half that many.

On June 27 ...

Arizona Prisoners Seize Tower; State Officials Point Fingers

On February 1, 2004, the longest prison hostage drama in U.S. history ended peacefully as two Arizona prisoners released their final hostage, descended from their surveillance tower stronghold, and surrendered to an army of state and local police ringing the compound. The 15-day ordeal at the Arizona Prison Complex-Lewis ...

BJS Looks at Probation, Parole in 2002

By the end of 2002, more than 6.7 million adults were incarcerated, on probation, or parole. This amounts to 3.1% of all adults in the United States, or about 1 in every 32 U.S. adults under correctional supervision. This is according to an August 2003 report released ...

Texas Jury Awards BOP Prisoner $4 Million for Rape by Guard

DNA evidence and a powerful will to fight helped former federal Texas prisoner Marilyn Shirley win a sexual assault conAviction and a $4 million civil decision against a guard who raped her while she was being held in the Carswell federal prison camp in Fort Worth, Texas.

The June 2 ...

$3 Million in Settlements for Wrongful Illinois Convictions

by Matthew T. Clarke

On June 17, 2003, Illinois passed a state budget that includes around $1.5 million in settlements for wrongly convicted former prisoners, including Rolondo Cruz and Aaron Patterson, former death row prisoners pardoned by former Governor George Ryan. Chicago approved a separate $1.5 million settlement ...

Record Number of "Lifers" Now in U.S. Prisons

Record Number of "Lifers"
Now in U.S. Prisons

A new national study by The Sen tencing Project released on May 11, 2004, finds that a record one of every eleven (9.4%) prisoners in the United States is now serving a life sentence. The number of "lifers" nationwide 127 ...

Florida Jail Pays Prisoner's Family $2.5 Million in Methadone Withdrawal Death

On May 23, 2001, Karen Johnson, 43, literally died of medical neglect while being held prisoner in the Orange County Jail in Orlando, Florida.

In July, 2002 PLN reported how Johnson desperately pleaded with her captors to continue her methadone medication. She offered to pay for treatment with her insurance ...

BJS Finds Low Recidivism among Released Sex Offenders

Contradicting popular perceptions, a November 2003 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, found that violent sex offenders released from prison are less likely than non-sex offenders to be rearrested on any charge, and that approximately 1 in 20 released ...

New York Prisoner Awarded $800,000 for Undiagnosed, Untreated Throat Cancer

New York Prisoner Awarded $800,000
for Undiagnosed, Untreated Throat Cancer

On September 30, 2003, a state court of claims in Albany, New York, awarded state prisoner Ronald Zacchi $800,000 for the pain and suffering he experienced as a result of the prison medical staff's failure to diagnose ...

$1.5 Million Verdict in NYC Jail Medical Malpractice Death

A jury awarded $1.5 million on January 23, 2004 for the wrongful death of a 37 year-old mother of six who died on September 30, 1998 in a New York City (NYC) jail holding cell from improper medications given her. Liability was split 60% percent against Long Island College ...

Arizona Prison Director Has Poor Track Record

A federal judge in Missouri has refused to accept sworn testimony from Arizona Department of Corrections (ADOC) Director Dora Schriro, adding yet another chapter to Schriro's continuing saga of security lapses, deceit, and disappearing evidence.

Before signing on as director of the ADOC in June, 2003, Schriro weathered a ...

Private Probation Companies Prove Corrupt in Tennessee

Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft claimed private probation companies have "created a nightmare" in the Memphis, Tennessee probation system. Judge Craft, who is also chairman of the Private Probation Services Council, said that probation companies currently charge probationers fees "that frankly are not justified" and use probationers for "pet projects ...

Controversy and Lawsuits Surround South Texas Private Prison Deals

by Matthew T. Clarke

Cotulla, a south Texas town known or the illegal drug-sting convictions of a quarter of its African-American citizens, now has a new claim to infamy -- private prison scams. Cotulla, population 3,000, is the county seat of LaSalle County. In June, 2000, self-proclaimed and unlicensed prison ...

Warden Sentenced for Stealing Dali Painting From Rikers Island Jail

by Matthew T. Clarke

A former Rikers Island deputy warden was sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison after admitting that he, a former assistant deputy warden, and two former guards stole a rare Salvador Dali painting valued at $250,000 from its display case at Rikers Island jail ...

California Class Action Lawsuit Targets Unauthorized Prison Phone Charges

A lawsuit currently pending in a California state court claims that certain providers of prison telephone services have improperly charged for collect calls from correctional institutions that were not authorized or accepted by the called party. The lawsuit, Condes v. Evercom Systems, Inc., Alameda County (California) Superior Court Case No ...

Court Vacates Connecticut Jury Award of $30,000 for Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies

by David M. Reutter

A Connecticut federal district court vacated a jury award of $30,000 because the prisoner plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies. Connecticut prisoner Lori Hock sued guard Paul Thipedeau for violating her Eighth Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment.

By sending letters ...

Wisconsin Contract for Faith-Based Program Does Not Violate First Amendment

Wisconsin Contract for Faith-Based Program
Does Not Violate First Amendment

by Bob Williams

A Wisconsin federal district court has found that a state Department of Corrections (WDOC) contract with a faith-based addiction recovery program does not violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment. This decision was later affirmed by ...

Washington State Prison Continues To Pollute Local Environment Despite Repeated Citations

by John E. Dannenberg

Toxic and hazardous waste from Walla Walla State Penitentiary (WSP) continues today to pollute City of Walla Walla air and public water resources, notwithstanding fourteen years of administrative litigation stemming from citations and fines levied by the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) against the Department ...

Michigan Supreme Court Allows Seizure of Prisoner's Pension Despite ERISA

by Matthew T. Clarke

The Supreme Court of Michigan (SCM) upheld a court's ordering a prisoner to have his pension benefits deposited in his prisoner account so that the state can seize a large portion of it to reimburse incarceration costs.

The Michigan State Treasurer filed a complaint in ...

Failure to Treat Transsexual for Self-Mutilation States Claim

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held the failure of prison officials to treat a prisoner for self-mutilation states an Eighth Amendment claim. The civil rights action was filed by Virginia prisoner Ophelia Azriel De'Lonta, who suffers from gender identity disorder (GID) (also known as gender dysphoria or transsexualism ...

Section 1983 Complaint Dismissed as Mixed Petition, But Amendment Allowed

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a complaint that contains issues that were not administratively exhausted may be dismissed, but the plaintiff should be allowed to amend his complaint to include only those issues that were exhausted.

This civil rights action was filed by a prisoner at the ...

Oklahoma "Civil Death" Statute Does Not Preclude Prisoner Tort Actions

Oklahoma "Civil Death" Statute Does Not
Preclude Prisoner Tort Actions

The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that a state statute declaring all persons serving a felony sentence to be "civilly dead" does not preclude them from filing a civil action against a third party. The Court's decision overturns a contrary ...

Counsel Appointed to Brief Questions of PLRA Total Exhaustion and Sandin Confinement Conditions for Atypicality

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that counsel be appointed to New York prisoner Jose Ortiz to brief the court on whether the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) requires total exhaustion and whether Ortiz's confinement conditions establish aytpicality under Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 115 S ...

No PLRA Fee Cap When Injunctive Relief Obtained

by John E. Dannenberg

The Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals held that in prisoner 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights lawsuits where both injunctive relief and damages are won (hybrid cases), attorney fee reimbursement for achieving the injunctive portion of the relief cannot be restricted under the 1996 ...

Sanctions Against Ohio Paralegal Firm Upheld

The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part a federal district court's sanctions against National Legal Professional Associates (NLPA) and its leader for unauthorized practice of law.

NLPA is a paralegal service that markets directly to criminal defendants. Its founder and president ...

Qualified Immunity Test Hinges Upon SHU Sentence Imposed, Not SHU Time Served

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that the amount of time a prisoner is sentenced to a Special Housing Unit (SHU) rather than the amount actually served is the determining factor to make a qualified immunity analysis under Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 115 S.Ct. 2293 ...

Oregon Trial in Prison Did Not Violate Constitution

Oregon Trial in Prison Did
Not Violate Constitution

In two opinions issued the same day, the Oregon Court of Appeals held that holding criminal trials of prisoners in a courtroom inside a prison did not violate the Oregon or United States Constitutions.

Gary Cavan, a prisoner at the Snake River ...

Interest on Legal Financial Obligations Not Dischargeable in Bankruptcy

Interest on Legal Financial Obligations
Not Dischargeable in Bankruptcy

The Washington Court of Appeals held that interest which accrues statutorily on legal financial obligations (LFOs) is not dischargeable in bankruptcy proceedings.

In 1992, Carol Cunningham was convicted of various drug charges and ordered to pay $910.00 in LFOs. She ...

California Sex Offender Prison Classification Label Approved for Dismissed Charge

California Sex Offender Prison Classification Label
Approved for Dismissed Charge

by John E. Dannenberg

The California Court of Appeals upheld the California Department of Corrections (CDC) regulation permitting administrative labeling of state prisoners as sex offenders even where there had been only an earlier arrest or detention for such an ...

No Qualified Immunity in Civil Commitment Phone Monitoring

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment granted by the U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, to officials at the Special Commitment Center (SCC) for sex offenders at McNeil Island, Washington. This case is part of ongoing litigation. against the SCC, about which PLN ...

Prisoner Allowed to Amend Retaliation, Legal Mail Complaint

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated a district court's dismissal of a prisoner's § 1983 lawsuit which complained of prison officials who interfered with his legal mail and retaliated because he filed grievances.

While Robert Davis was a prisoner at New York's Woodbourne ...

Challenge to State Parole Revocations Must Be Brought Under § 2254

Challenge to State Parole Revocations Must be Brought Under § 2254

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that state prisoners challenging parole revocation decisions in federal court must do so under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, rather than 28 U.S.C. § 2241. The court also held that the one ...

District of Columbia May Be Liable for Prisoner's Inadequate Medical Care

District of Columbia May Be Liable
for Prisoner's Inadequate Medical Care

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, reversing and remanding the district court, held that a D.C. prisoner incarcerated in a Virginia state prison stated a claim for relief when he alleged that ...

Ninth Circuit Dismisses California's Motion To Exclude Female Prisoners From Medical Suit

Ninth Circuit Dismisses California's
Motion To Exclude Female Prisoners
From Medical Suit

by John E. Dannenberg

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed on jurisdictional grounds the California Department of Corrections (CDC) officials appeal of the U.S. District Court's order denying the officials' motion to ...

Florida Prisoner Awarded Costs in Successful Records Request Litigation

Florida Prisoner Awarded Costs in Successful
Records Request Litigation

by David M. Reutter

Florida's First District Court of Appeals has held that a prisoner who successfully challenges a public agency's failure to produce public records is entitled to recover all reasonable costs of the litigation. Florida prisoner Dale ...

Fifth Circuit Vacates $70,000 Award Against Texas Prison Officials

The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has vacated and remanded the jury verdict in a Texas prisoner's failure-to-protect suit because the prisoner had not provided evidence supporting a jury finding of deliberate indifference against prison officials. The jury had awarded the prisoner $30 in compensatory damages and ...

No Summary Judgment for Ohio Guards Who Used Excessive Force, Case Loses At Trial

No Summary Judgment for Ohio Guards Who Used
Excessive Force, Case Loses At Trial

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed a district court's grant of summary judgment favoring certain prison guards who used excessive force and reversed the lower court's exclusion of the ...

News in Brief

California: On April 11, 2004, Matthew Jacquot, 28, a guard at the Orange County jail, was arrested in San Diego on felony vandalism, battery and being under the influence charges after he ran into a Seven Eleven store, broke doors, ripped out a sink and overturned display racks in a ...

Michigan Grievances Exhausted Upon Fair Notice of Claim

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a district court erred when it found that a Michigan prisoner failed to exhaust available administrative remedies and dismissed his § 1983 action on that basis.

Michigan prisoner Ronnie Burton brought suit against two nurses and the Health Unit Manager, alleging inadequate medical ...