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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: May, 2005

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Volume 16, Number 5

In this issue:

  1. PHS Medical Care at Rikers Fails in Evaluation (p 17)
  2. From the Editor (p 18)
  3. Court Orders Washington DOC to Stop Dragging Its Feet on Sex Offender Release Plans (p 18)
  4. Over 96% of CCA Donations Go to GOP (p 19)
  5. New York Appeals Court Upholds Former Senator’s Return To Rikers (p 21)
  6. " (p 22)
  7. Ohio Death Row Moving to Supermax (p 25)
  8. New York City Settles False Imprisonment Suit For $1.25 Million (p 31)
  9. Texas: "Prison-Rape Capital Of The Country" (p 33)
  10. Michigan's Restrictive Placement Of HIV+ Prisoners Enjoined; $2 Million Damages Awarded (p 34)
  11. $12,003.74 in Fees/Costs Awarded in Excessive Force Use; PLRA Fee Cap Inapplicable to Stipulated Set (p 35)
  12. Texas Prisoner Kills Prison Employee and Himself (p 35)
  13. Concentration Of Paroled Illinois Sex Offenders Stirs Controversy (p 36)
  14. Florida Jury Awards $3,000,000 for Medical Negligence Causing Prisoner's Death (p 38)
  15. Michigan Prisoner Awarded $376,525 For Back Injury Sustained In Crash (p 44)
  16. Vermont DOC Settles PLN Writer's Suicide Suit for $750,000 (p 48)
  17. Vermont DOC Settles PLN Writer's Suicide Suit for $750,000 (p 48)
  18. Qualified Immunity Granted to Doctor Who Failed to Order Interferon Treatments for HCV+ Prisoner (p 48)
  19. Texas: Prison-Rape Capital Of The Country (p 49)
  20. American Gulag: Inside U.S. Immigration Prisons, By Mark Dow University Of California Press, 413 pages, $27.50 (p 49)
  21. News in Brief (p 50)
  22. Los Angeles County Pays $300,000 To Settle Public Defender's Legal Malpractice (p 52)

PHS Medical Care at Rikers Fails in Evaluation

PHS Medical Care At Rikers Fails In Evaluation

by Paul Von Zielbauer

A recent evaluation of the company in charge of prisoner health care at Rikers Island, coming months after it was awarded a new $300 million contract, has found that it has failed to meet a number of the most basic treatment goals. City records showed that the company, Prison Health Services Inc., did not meet standards on practices ranging from H.I.V. and diabetes therapy to the timely distribution of medication to adequately conducting mental health evaluations.

The city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which oversees the company’s work at Rikers Island and at a jail in Lower Manhattan, found that during the first quarter of 2005, Prison Health failed to earn a passing grade on 12 of 39 performance standards the city sets for treating jail prisoners. Some of the problems, like incomplete medical records or slipshod evaluations of mentally ill prisoners, have been evident since 2004 but have not been corrected, according to health department reports.

Other problems identified in the department’s review, involving things as serious as the oversight of prisoners who have been placed on suicide watch, are more recent ...

From the Editor

The many duties I have as editor of PLN include doing a lot of the research for the news and legal stories that appear in PLN as well as coordinating PLN’s litigation efforts around the country, doing
advocacy on behalf of prisoners’ rights and administrative tasks related to the well being of PLN itself. All of which is fairly time consuming and exhausting. We are pleased to announce that effective September 19, 2005, we have hired Alex Friedmann as PLN’s associate editor to assist in both research and advocacy.

Alex is a former Tennessee state prisoner, skilled jailhouse lawyer and a long time prisoner rights advocate. While incarcerated Alex wrote regularly for PLN and since his release from prison has worked as a volunteer researcher for PLN. Alex is also one of the leading experts on the private prison industry in the US and has a wealth of knowledge and experience on that topic.
As associate editor Alex will now be doing a lot of the research for the news and legal stories that appear in PLN that I have been doing. We expect PLN’s already high quality to improve further. We are pleased and proud to ...

Court Orders Washington DOC to Stop Dragging Its Feet on Sex Offender Release Plans

Court Orders Washington DOC to Stop Dragging Its Feet
on Sex Offender Release Plans

by Hank Balson

The Washington Court of Appeals ruled in May that the state's Department of Corrections (DOC) has been illegally delaying decisions on early release plans for sex offenders, depriving certain prisoners of their earned early release credits without due process. The court held that DOC must act on proposed release plans in a timely manner, so as to ensure the inmate has a genuine opportunity to benefit from the earned early release credits.

Washington prisoners incarcerated for sex offenses are eligible to earn early release credits that may enable them to transfer to community custody prior to the completion of their maximum sentence. As such prisoners approach their earned early release date, they are required to submit a plan for transferring to community custody. DOC used to prohibit certain prisoners from submitting community custody plans if the state was considering referring them for possible civil commitment proceedings.

In 2002 the Washington Court of Appeals ruled that DOC could not deprive a prisoner of his earned early release credits solely because DOC was considering referring that prisoner for civil commitment under Washington's sex ...

Over 96% of CCA Donations Go to GOP

by Matthew T. Clarke

It is well know that large corporationsespecially those that are prone to feast at the government troughmake donations to political parties and candidates. Most companies like to hedge their bets, donating to both major political parties. Nationwide, Fortune 500 companies gave between 62 and 75 percent of the donations from their political action committees (PACs) to Republicans. Most of the rest went to Democrats. However Corrections Corporation of America's (CCA's) PAC gave over 96 percent of its $149,500 in political donations to Republicans according to Federal Elections Commission filings through August 2004.

The less than 4% Democratic donations included a total of $5,000 given to Tennessee Representatives Jim Cooper, Lincoln Davis, John Tanner and Harold Ford, Jr. Tennessee is CCA's home state. Most of the donations were made in states, such as Tennessee, Colorado, Georgia and Florida, where CCA runs private prisons.

Another nationally-known Tennessee-based company, FedEx, says that it gives about sixty percent of its donations to whichever party is in power. The other 40 percent is given to the opposition.

One exception to CCA's fund the Republicans" rule came in the closely-contested Washington state gubernatorial election. There CCA ...

New York Appeals Court Upholds Former Senator’s Return To Rikers

The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, First Department, has ordered former state senator Guy J. Velella and four others (the petitioners) back to jail. In reaching this decision the court found that the petitioners had been illegally released by New York City’s Local Conditional Release Commission (LCRC).

All 5 petitioners—including Velella and his co-conspirators, Manuel Gonzalez and Hector Del Toro—had been granted early release by the LCRC. Following a flurry of public criticism over Velella’s scandalous release, Mayor Michael Bloomberg fired the original board members and appointed new ones. On November 19, 2004, the newly reconstituted LCRC reversed the prior board and ordered all five petitioners back to jail.

Velella and the others challenged the decision. The LCRC’s ruling was upheld by a state supreme (trial level) court, and appeal was taken.

On December 20, 2004, a panel of five Appellate Division judges unanimously af?rmed. Petitioners Kamala Stephens, Carlos Caba, and Gonzalez, the court held, had not served the required 30 days in jail prior to being considered for release (Correction Law § 273[1]). As to Velella and Del Toro, the board had not waited the required 60 days after rejecting ...

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Ohio Death Row Moving to Supermax

By Bob Williams

In March 2005, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DORC) announced that Ohio’s 193 death row prisoners would be moved from the Mansfield Correctional Institute (MCI) to the state’s Supermax facility, the Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP), to save millions of dollars.

OSP warden Marc Houk claims the new environment will be less restrictive than normal OSP conditions and comparable to the current death row MCI conditions (where death row was moved to after the 1993 riots at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville). The proposed differences at OSP include dayroom access, interactions with other death row prisoners, outdoor exercise, more time outside OSP’s smaller cells, access to programs and religious services, and up to 15 visitors per month—all of which are denied other OSP prisoners.

ACLU attorney Staughton Lynd, counsel in the Supermax conditions case in the United States Supreme Court (see accompanying article “Supreme Court Finds Ohio Supermax Placement Policy Constitutional”), is not convinced the conditions will be similar. Lynd says the real reason for the move is to fill OSP which, as of June 7, 2005, held 269 prisoners with 235 vacant cells.

Lynd also states that the new ...

New York City Settles False Imprisonment Suit For $1.25 Million

On September 23, 2004, New York City agreed to pay $1.25 million to a man who was falsely arrested and imprisoned for 15 months.

Bernie Pollard, a 28-year-old construction worker, was arrested at his Brooklyn home on July 22, 1989, in connection with a woman's stabbing death.

In ...

Texas: "Prison-Rape Capital Of The Country"

Texas: "Prison-Rape Capital Of The Country"

by Michael Rigby

Despite reputed efforts by officials in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) to curb prison rapes, the number of reported sexual assaults has increased 160% in the past 4 years, from 234 in 2000 to 609 in 2004.

Some prisoner advocates say the problem is even more pervasive than statistics show. “I really have become convinced over the last three years or so that Texas is the prison-rape capital of the country,” said Margaret Winter, an attorney who represents two prisoners who sued TDCJ. “When prisoners report it, they are ignored, laughed at, and often punished.”

Many of the sexual assaults are perpetrated by guards. According to state records, since 2000 at least 129 Texas prisoners have reported being raped by guards or having sex with them.

One victim, Garrett Cunningham, 33, claimed that he was raped by former prison guard Michael Chaney, 53, near the showers at the Luther Unit in Navasota. Cunningham kept quiet about the 2000 assault because he feared retaliation. “He [the guard] told me he’d have me sent to another prison, where this would happen to me all the time from gang members,” Cunningham ...

Michigan's Restrictive Placement Of HIV+ Prisoners Enjoined; $2 Million Damages Awarded

by John E. Dannenberg

Winning a fifteen year state court battle, Michigan prisoners who tested positive for HIV (AIDS virus), and who were otherwise eligible to serve their time in community residential programs, camps or farms, gained the right to not be restricted from such advantageous placement solely because of ...

$12,003.74 in Fees/Costs Awarded in Excessive Force Use; PLRA Fee Cap Inapplicable to Stipulated Set

$12,003.74 in Fees/Costs Awarded in Excessive Force Use; PLRA Fee Cap Inapplicable to Stipulated Settlements


A federal court in New York awarded attorneys' fees of $10,858 and costs of $1,144.95 for a total of $12,003.74 against a guard in an excessive force ...

Texas Prisoner Kills Prison Employee and Himself

On October 21, 2004, a prisoner at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s 2,800-bed, maximum-security Connely Unit in Kenedy, Texas, killed a prison employee, then committed suicide.

Gary Laskowski, 38, a Texas state prisoner, had been serving a life sentence in TDCJ since 1988 for two counts of aggravated sexual assault from Nueces County. He worked as a janitor assisting the prison’s administrative staff and would have been eligible for parole in 2007. Laskowski had a “clean disciplinary record,” according to TDCJ spokesman Mike Viesca.

Rhonda Osborne, 33, had been a clerk at the prison for five years. She was attacked in a storage closet and died of asphyxiation according to preliminary autopsy results from the Bexar County medical examiner’s office.

Laskowski killed himself by cutting his neck and wrists.

Texas recently enacted new rules making it much more difficult for a prisoners serving time for sex offenses and capital murder to make parole and is applying them retroactively to all prisoners, regardless of when the offense occurred. Perhaps removing prisoners’ hope of making parole was not such a good idea after all.

Sources: Dallas Morning News, Associated Press.

Concentration Of Paroled Illinois Sex Offenders Stirs Controversy

Following news that a disproportionate number of paroled sex offenders were concentrated on Chicago’s South Side, Illinois officials instituted more rigid oversight of transitional group homes and returned 55 parolees to prison.

The Chicago Tribune reported on January 3l, 2005, that 10.5% (158) of the state’s 1,503 currently paroled sex offenders were placed in transitional group homes in poor African-American communities on Chicago’s South Side. In fact, five transitional homes are located in the area’s 60628 zip code, which includes the communities of Roseland, Pullman, West Pullman, and Washington Park. Community leaders and residents were outraged upon learning of the high concentration of paroled sex offenders in their neighborhoods. “They dump every damn thing here,” said Alderman Carrie Austin. “It’s a disrespect to our community.” No increase in crime has been reported and it is unclear if the sex offenders are from those neighborhoods before being convicted.

According to the Tribune, paroled sex offenders are placed in the group homes only as a last resort after prison officials have tried to locate family or other private housing. When released to one of these homes an offender must wear an electronic monitor at all ...

Florida Jury Awards $3,000,000 for Medical Negligence Causing Prisoner's Death

After a seven-day trial, a Florida jury awarded $3,006,200 to the plaintiffs in a lawsuit claiming medical negligence, causing the death of a Florida prisoner. This was brought by the estate of prisoner Clifford E. Jones, Jr., 35, against the Florida Department of Corrections and Dr. Galina Kats-Kagen ...

Michigan Prisoner Awarded $376,525 For Back Injury Sustained In Crash

A Michigan prisoner has been awarded $376,525 for back injuries sustained in a prison van crash. Lorenzo Johnson, a 40-year-old state prisoner, was being transferred from one prison to another when the van he was riding in hit a patch of ice on the highway, spun out of control ...

Vermont DOC Settles PLN Writer's Suicide Suit for $750,000

On October 14, 2004,the estate of PLN contributing writer James Quigley sued the Vermont Department of Corrections (V.D.O.C.) and several V.D.O.C. employees, alleging their mistreatment of Quigley resulted in his suicide death. Four months later the state settled the suit for $750,000. In previous issues, PLN reported Quigley's death and two reports sanctioned by the commonwealth of Vermont into V.D.O.C. and a rash of prisoners' deaths. [See: PLN, January and September 2004]

On the 118th day of retaliatory and unjustified solitary confinement, Quigley hanged himself on October 7, 2003, at the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans. The lawsuit filed in Vermont Federal District Court in Burlington, alleged that Quigley's confinement was the result of retaliation for filing grievances and lawsuits against V.D.O.C. conditions. The suit, further, alleged that Quigley's confinement conditions constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Moreover, Quigley was deprived of adequate medical and mental health care, the suit charged.

The civil rights lawsuit was filed on behalf of Quigley's mother, Claire Quigley. The lawsuit was filed days after Ryan Rodriguez, a 25-year-old-man awaiting trial, was taken off life support ...

Vermont DOC Settles PLN Writer's Suicide Suit for $750,000

On October 14, 2004,the estate of PLN contributing writer James Quigley sued the Vermont Department of Corrections (V.D.O.C.) and several V.D.O.C. employees, alleging their mistreatment of Quigley resulted in his suicide death. Four months later the state settled the suit for $750,000 ...

Qualified Immunity Granted to Doctor Who Failed to Order Interferon Treatments for HCV+ Prisoner

The Eight Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a doctor was not deliberately indifferent to a prisoner's medical condition by failing to order interferon treatments for his Hepatitis C virus (HCV). While imprisoned within the South Dakota corrections system, prisoner Jerry Bender tested positive for HCV. After his release from prison in February 2003, Bender sued Dr. Eugene Regier, a physician employed by the South Dakota Department of Health.

Regier's request for judgment was based on qualified immunity. The South Dakota district court denied that motion, holding Dr. Regier offered no evidence that he made a medical judgment to withhold interferon treatment.
In its opinion reversing that order, the Eighth Circuit detailed HCV treatment in general and the facts relevant to this case. The court noted that about forty percent of Americans infected with HCV reside in correctional institutions." By January 2002, a combination of pegylated interferon and ribavarin was available to treat HCV. That treatment costs $2,000 per month, involving a series of injections for six months to a year. Its success rate is only 40-50%.

Before beginning to treat prisoners in 1996, Dr. Regier practiced family medicine for thirty years. His treatment of Bender ...

Texas: Prison-Rape Capital Of The Country

Texas: Prison-Rape Capital Of The Country

by Michael Rigby

Despite reputed efforts by officials in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) to curb prison rapes, the number of reported sexual assaults has increased 160% in the past 4 years, from 234 in 2000 to 609 in 2004.

Some prisoner advocates say the problem is even more pervasive than statistics show. I really have become convinced over the last three years or so that Texas is the prison-rape capital of the country," said Margaret Winter, an attorney who represents two prisoners who sued TDCJ. When prisoners report it, they are ignored, laughed at, and often punished.
Many of the sexual assaults are perpetrated by guards. According to state records, since 2000 at least 129 Texas prisoners have reported being raped by guards or having sex with them.

One victim, Garrett Cunningham, 33, claimed that he was raped by former prison guard Michael Chaney, 53, near the showers at the Luther Unit in Navasota. Cunningham kept quiet about the 2000 assault because he feared retaliation. He [the guard] told me he'd have me sent to another prison, where this would happen to me all the time from gang members," Cunningham ...

American Gulag: Inside U.S. Immigration Prisons, By Mark Dow University Of California Press, 413 pages, $27.50

American Gulag: Inside U.S. Immigration Prisons, By Mark Dow
University Of California Press, 413 pages, $27.50

Reviewed by Ashley Makar


Mark Dow's American Gulag: Inside U.S. Immigration Prisons is an articulate call for public scrutiny, when 23,000 federal immigration detainees suffer in U.S. prisonsunder most Americans' noses, on a given day. With the Abu Ghraib atrocities in the international spotlight, Dow illuminates the lesser known, more mundane brutality that characterizes the domestic detention of non-American prisoners of the United States. Published in August, 2004, by the University of California Press, American Gulag provides a timely account of the excessive incarceration, without due process, of non-citizens that makes automatic, often long-term prisoners out of asylum seekers, undocumented aliens, criminals who have already served their sentences and terror suspects alike.

Probably the most thorough and comprehensive account of immigration detention in the United States available, American Gulag is an accessible treatise, a tremendous source of information for human rights advocates, journalists, immigration lawyers, and the general public. Most readers will be surprised to find that immigration detainees are being held not far from their backyardsin private prisons in their boroughs or in their county jails, often ...

News in Brief

News in Brief:

Arkansas: In April, 2005, an unidentified sergeant was fired by the state DOC after the February, 2005, death of Wrightsville Unit prisoner Victor Wright, 28, while on a work detail. Wright complained to the sergeant that he was not feeling well while on a work detail clearing weeds and chopping grass. Apparently the sergeant denied the prisoners water breaks and hurried them. Upon returning to the prison Wright went to the prison infirmary where he collapsed and died. The sergeant apparently violated prison regulations and then lied about it to investigators when questioned.

California: On April 11, 2005, federal prisoner Peter Scopazzi, 37, was in a fight with five other prisoners at the U.S. Penitentiary Victorville in Adelanto during which he was stabbed several times. Another prisoner was also hospitalized with injuries. On April 16 Scopazzi died. BOP officials had initially denied any altercation had occurred at the prison when contacted by media. Only later did they change their story and reveal the incident and injuries that ensued. No reason was given for the altercation. Scopazzi had been serving a 170 month sentence for possessing methamphetamine and a firearm.

California: On April 21, 2005, 75 black ...

Los Angeles County Pays $300,000 To Settle Public Defender's Legal Malpractice

by John E. Dannenberg

On October 4, 2004, the Los Angeles County, California Claims Board granted authority of $300,000 to settle a claim by a prisoner for legal malpractice on the part of the Public Defender, wherein the prisoner had been incompetently advised to plead guilty to a third strike" offense that had been committed before California's Three-Strikes law took effect.
Allen Rose was charged with assault with great bodily injury and making terrorist threats. He pled guilty to the assault charge and was sentenced to twelve years state prison, a term calculated to include enhancement under the second strike consequences of California's Three-Strikes law. That enhancement meant doubling of the underlying term and doing 80% of that time before being paroled.

After approximately eight years, Rose discovered that he had been illegally sentenced under the Three-Strikes law because his crime had been committed prior to its enactment. The habeas corpus petition he filed with the sentencing court was granted and he was released after serving eight years, three months.

In evaluating the County's exposure on Rose's subsequent claim for over-detention of 5 years, 8 months, county counsel advised the Claims Board that they believed ...

 

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