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Prison Legal News: October, 2005

Issue PDF
Volume 16, Number 10

In this issue:

  1. Modern Slavery In North Carolina: Another Peculiar Institution (p 1)
  2. Problems Mount In Maryland Prisons (p 6)
  3. Bringing Down The Brotherhood (p 8)
  4. California County Jail Quietly Settles (p 15)
  5. From the Editor (p 16)
  6. Guards Rape, Sexually Harass and Smuggle at Colorado Prisons (p 18)
  7. Oklahoma Civil Action Timely (p 20)
  8. Pennsylvania Control Unit Newspaper, Magazine and Photo Ban Invalidated; Supreme Court Grants Review (p 21)
  9. Grand Jury Finds Criminal Conduct In Chicago Jail Prisoner Abuse Scandal (p 22)
  10. Rape Behind Bars: Bureau of Justice Statistics Issues First Report (p 24)
  11. Massachusetts DOC Denies Two, Approves One, Same-Sex Marriages (p 25)
  12. U.S. Finally Outlaws Execution of Children (p 26)
  13. Raped New York Prisoner Awarded $25,000 (p 27)
  14. California Lifer Claims Parole (p 28)
  15. NY DOC Agrees to Comply with A.D.A. (p 28)
  16. Prisoners Faced Violent Hazing In Troubled Pennsylvania Jail (p 29)
  17. Titan Pays $28.5 Million After Pleading Guilty to Three Felonies (p 30)
  18. Suit Implicates Washington DOC In Near-Fatal Collision, Drug Use Suspected (p 30)
  19. Report Details General Decline In Death Penalty Statistics For 2003 (p 31)
  20. Reliance Solely On Guard's Version of Incident Improper (p 32)
  21. Illinois Jail Conditions Suit Nets $150,000 Attorney Fee Award (p 32)
  22. An Expensive Way to Make Bad People Worse:An Essay On Prison Reform from an Insider's Perspective, by Jens Soering, Lantern Books, 2004, $12, 113 pages (p 33)
  23. Accounting Errors Plagued California Criminal Justice Agency (p 34)
  24. Parole Officers Not Absolutely Immune For Conduct Distinct From Parole Decisions (p 34)
  25. Nevada Supreme Court Clarifies Personal Injury Exhaustion Requirements (p 35)
  26. Denial of New Jersey Work Credits Violates Equal Protection (p 36)
  27. PLRA Attorney Fee-Award Criteria "Directly Incurred" and "Degree Of Success" Explained (p 36)
  28. Tennessee Pretrial Jail Credit Mandatory, Not Waivable (p 37)
  29. Sexual Predator Civil Commitment Detainee May Not Be Housed In Punitive Segregation (p 38)
  30. Damages Denied To Bilingual Iowa Prisoner Prohibited From Writing Family In Spanish (p 38)
  31. First Circuit Upholds Order Privatizing Prison Health Care In Puerto Rico (p 40)
  32. News in Brief: (p 41)
  33. California Family Visiting Appeal Denied (p 44)

Modern Slavery In North Carolina: Another Peculiar Institution

by Michael Rigby

Jean Valjean went to prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's seven hungry children. It was only the first of many injustices the protagonist in Victor Hugo's biting social commentary, Les Miserables, would endure. For the next 19 years he labored ...

Problems Mount In Maryland Prisons

by Michael Rigby

Even as the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) reels amid mounting criticism over pervasive violence, inadequate medical care, overcrowding, understaffing, and other systemic deficiencies, new tremors continue to rattle the division. Eight guards accused of beating a prisoner to death have been fired ...

Bringing Down The Brotherhood

by Alan Prendergast

Inside the feds' war on the deadliest prison gang: 16 murders. 21 death-penalty cases. Snitches galore.

A wide red line runs across the floor of the visiting room like a clown's grin, separating the guard post and the civilian exit from the rest of the place ...

California County Jail Quietly Settles

Substandard Healthcare Suit For $1.75 Million

Santa Clara County, California has quietly paid a settlement of $1.75 million to settle a federal claim by county jail healthcare workers about being retaliated against and demoted for having complained about substandard healthcare practices they observed in the jails. County officials ...

From the Editor

This issue of PLN sees the addition of Andrea Cavanaugh as a quarterly columnist for the magazine. Andrea is the media coordinator of Stop Prisoner Rape, a non profit advocacy organization in Los Angeles which seeks to eliminate the sexual assault of prisoners. I have been on the advisory board ...

Guards Rape, Sexually Harass and Smuggle at Colorado Prisons

by Matthew T. Clarke

There are new troubles at several prisons in Colorado. At a 250-bed GRW-run private prison in Brush, a tiny town 91 miles northwest of Denver, the newly-resigned ex-warden and two guards have been indicted in relation to felony sexual contact with eight female prisoners. A guard ...

Oklahoma Civil Action Timely

Under Mailbox Rule

The Oklahoma Court of Appeals held that the prison mailbox rule applies to prisoner filings of civil actions. It also held that the trial court violated District Court rule 13(f) when it ruled on a summary judgment motion without giving the prisoner time to file a ...

Pennsylvania Control Unit Newspaper, Magazine and Photo Ban Invalidated; Supreme Court Grants Review

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court's decision upholding a Pennsylvania prison policy prohibiting a class of segregated prisoners from possessing newspapers, magazines and photographs. The U.S. supreme court granted review in the case on November 14, 2005.
In 2000, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC ...

Grand Jury Finds Criminal Conduct In Chicago Jail Prisoner Abuse Scandal

As previously reported in PLN, the Cook County Jail has been the scene of controversy involving the wanton beating of prisoners by an elite squad of guards known as the SORT team. [PLN Feb. 2004, May 2005, p. 39]. An investigatory Grand Jury in Chicago has found felony criminal conduct ...

Rape Behind Bars: Bureau of Justice Statistics Issues First Report

by Andrea Cavanaugh

The numbers only begin to tell the story.

In July, 2005, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics released its first-ever report on the prevalence of prisoner rape. A survey of U.S. prisons, jails, and youth facilities found that there were 8,210 allegations of sexual ...

Massachusetts DOC Denies Two, Approves One, Same-Sex Marriages

Massachusetts DOC Denies Two,
Approves One, Same-Sex Marriages

by Matthew T. Clarke

The Massachusetts Department of Corrections (DOC) has denied the request of two civilly-committed sex offenders to marry. It also denied a similar request by two other male prisoners, but approved a request by a female prisoner and a ...

U.S. Finally Outlaws Execution of Children

by Marjorie Cohn

Today, the Court repudiated the misguided idea that the United States can pledge to leave no child behind while simultaneously exiling children to the death chamber.

Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director, Amnesty International
Until March 1, 2005, the United States was the only nation in the ...

Raped New York Prisoner Awarded $25,000

On August 17, 2004, a New York court of claims awarded $25,000 to a state prisoner who was raped in the shower.

While imprisoned at the Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, Donald Ramos received a series of letters from another prisoner who was known to be a sexual predator ...

California Lifer Claims Parole

Chair Fisher Is Biased

While most of California's lifers face a mere 99% chance of being denied parole, murderer Linda Ricchio's odds appear far worse. Her victim, Ronald Ruse, was the brother of newly appointed (and confirmed) Board of Prison Terms (BPT) Commissioner Susan Fisher. Fisher, it turns ...

NY DOC Agrees to Comply with A.D.A.

The New York City Department of Corrections (NYDOC) on Rikers Island has entered into a voluntary compliance agreement that requires it to comply with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). A NYDOC prisoner filed a complaint with the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, causing that ...

Prisoners Faced Violent Hazing In Troubled Pennsylvania Jail

by Michael Rigby

At least 50 prisoners entering Pennsylvania's Somerset County Jail over a 2-year period were beaten as part of a violent hazing ritual that went unchecked by jail authorities. This combined with serious overcrowding and a history of poor performance has placed the jail in danger of ...

Titan Pays $28.5 Million After Pleading Guilty to Three Felonies

Titan Pays $28.5 Million After
Pleading Guilty to Three Felonies

by Matthew T. Clarke

On March 1, 2005, Titan Corp., the largest private supplier of translators for the U.S. military, pleaded guilty to three felony charges and agreed to pay $13 million in criminal fines and settle a ...

Suit Implicates Washington DOC In Near-Fatal Collision, Drug Use Suspected

A woman critically injured in a collision caused by an employee of the Washington prison system--reassigned to his home because of suspected drug use--has sued the state Department of Corrections (DOC) for endangering the public.

Barbara Starkel was returning home from work on November 21, 2003, when an oncoming car ...

Report Details General Decline In Death Penalty Statistics For 2003

For most of the nation, 2003 was a year of declining death penalty statistics. That year, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report, the number of death sentences imposed fell to a 30-year low, while the number of completed executions also declined slightly.

During 2003, 144 prisoners were ...

Reliance Solely On Guard's Version of Incident Improper

In an unpublished decision, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the summary judgment dismissal of a prisoner's civil rights action against Michigan prison guards holding that the district court had erroneously relied on the guards' version of disputed fats.

Robert L. Johnson, a Michigan state prisoner ...

Illinois Jail Conditions Suit Nets $150,000 Attorney Fee Award

An Illinois Federal District Court has awarded attorneys representing prisoners at the Winnebago County Jail (WCJ) $150,000 in attorney fees and costs. This class action suit alleged the conditions at WCJ were unconstitutionally deficient in numerous respects.

The suit alleged system-wide problems of overcrowding, double and triple bunking of ...

An Expensive Way to Make Bad People Worse:An Essay On Prison Reform from an Insider's Perspective, by Jens Soering, Lantern Books, 2004, $12, 113 pages

An Expensive Way to Make Bad People Worse:An Essay On
Prison Reform from an Insider's Perspective, by Jens Soering,
Lantern Books, 2004, $12, 113 pages

reviewed by Stephen Healy and Peter Wagner

When Virginia lifer Jens Soering released his second book, An Expensive Way to Make Bad People ...

Accounting Errors Plagued California Criminal Justice Agency

A defunct California agency charged with distributing grant money for crime prevention and victim aid may have cost the state millions in federal funds due to poor accounting practices, state auditors said on February 2, 2005.

Lawmakers knew something was wrong at the Office of Criminal Justice Planning (OCJP) two ...

Parole Officers Not Absolutely Immune For Conduct Distinct From Parole Decisions

by John E. Dannenberg

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that California Department of Corrections (CDC) parole officers were not absolutely immune from suit by a former prisoner who alleged he was re-incarcerated because the officers falsified his records in a conspiracy to cause his wrongful detention ...

Nevada Supreme Court Clarifies Personal Injury Exhaustion Requirements

The Nevada Supreme Court held that state prisoners seeking compensation for personal injuries are not required to allege exhaustion of their administrative remedies, nor does the failure to exhaust administrative remedies deprive the trial court of subject matter jurisdiction.

Thomas Cotton, Wilbur Lewis Jr., and Aries Mosby, prisoners at the ...

Denial of New Jersey Work Credits Violates Equal Protection

A New Jersey appellate court held that denying work credits to prisoners serving concurrent New Jersey sentences in other states violates the equal protection clause of the New Jersey Constitution.

On February 11, 1978, Charles VanWinkle began serving a seventeen and one-half to thirty-five year sentence in Pennsylvania. Pursuant to ...

PLRA Attorney Fee-Award Criteria "Directly Incurred" and "Degree Of Success" Explained

PLRA Attorney Fee-Award Criteria "Directly Incurred" and "Degree Of Success" Explained

by John E. Dannenberg

After a successful jailhouse lawyer retaliation suit (see: PLN, March 2003, p.20, $90,169 Plus Injunction In California Retaliation Suit), California prison official defendants appealed the award of post-Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) attorney ...

Tennessee Pretrial Jail Credit Mandatory, Not Waivable

The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals reversed a defendant's convictions, holding that the trial court should not have accepted [his] plea agreement waiving pretrial Jail credit and that the trial court erred in denying the defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty pleas.
On May 10, 2002, Richard Filauro ...

Sexual Predator Civil Commitment Detainee May Not Be Housed In Punitive Segregation

by John E. Dannenberg

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held that a California sexual predator civil commitment detainee, while awaiting commitment proceedings, is entitled to conditions of confinement that are not punitive.

Oscar Jones was a California parole violator whose original commitment offenses made him a candidate ...

Damages Denied To Bilingual Iowa Prisoner Prohibited From Writing Family In Spanish

by John E. Dannenberg

The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held that an Iowa prisoner was not entitled to damages when he challenged a policy requiring prisoners to correspond only in English because he had not identified cost free alternatives to the policy. A prison mail policy prohibited ...

First Circuit Upholds Order Privatizing Prison Health Care In Puerto Rico

The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals held that an order governing the privatization of health care in Puerto Rican prisons was valid and did not violate the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA).

This case is the latest iteration in a Byzantine class action lawsuit that has dragged on ...

News in Brief:

Arizona: On October 4, 2005, three prisoners escaped from the tent city jail in Phoenix. Two of the three escapees were recaptured a day later driving a stolen car. The third escapee was captured two days after escaping. The men climbed over electric fences and razor wire to escape.

Arizona ...

California Family Visiting Appeal Denied

The California Court of Appeal affirmed the denial of a state prisoner's quest for injunctive and declaratory relief that would have invalidated the 1996 amendments to the Department of Corrections' (CDC) family [overnight] visiting rules excluding him from participation. The case had received much publicity in prisoner newsletters and ...