Skip navigation
Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: January, 2006

View as PDF
Issue PDF
Volume 17, Number 1

In this issue:

  1. Texas Jails Troubled by Deaths, Negligence and Failed Inspections (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 8)
  3. Federal Judge Enforces "Valdivia Remedial Plan" for California Parole Violators (p 9)
  4. California Parole Board Lax In Contracting For Foreign Language Interpreters (p 10)
  5. Indiana State Courts Have Jurisdiction In Prisoner Phone Contract Case (p 11)
  6. Michigan's Dirty Little Secret: Sexual Abuse of Female Prisoners Pervasive, Ongoing (p 12)
  7. President Bush Orders Compliance With World Court Order, Withdraws From Optional Protocol (p 16)
  8. North Carolina Pays $43,500 to Women Strip-Searched By Prisoners (p 17)
  9. California's New Governor Has Paroled 102 Lifers, But Rejected Twice That Many (p 18)
  10. Private Prison Firms Stumble; Hire Former California Officials to Lobby for For-Profit Facilities (p 20)
  11. Texas State Auditor Questions Necessity of Prison Health Care Oversight Board (p 22)
  12. Death Penalty for Texas Prison Horses Stirs Controversy (p 23)
  13. New York's Sex Offender Treatment Program Enjoined; Stay Issued Pending Appeal (p 24)
  14. Ex-Prisoners Barred From Nursing in Texas (p 26)
  15. Texas Enacts Life Without Parole Law (p 27)
  16. Los Angeles County Jail Tests Prisoner Radio ID Tags (p 27)
  17. Lethal Injection Painful, Study Suggests; U.S. Supreme Court to Consider Issue (p 28)
  18. New York Jail Doctor Put on Probation After Wrong Prescription Kills Detainee (p 29)
  19. Suspicious Deaths And Beatings Allegations Still Plague Santa Clara County, California Jail (p 30)
  20. New Jersey Taxpayers Underwrite Unqualified, Unnecessary Prison Employees (p 31)
  21. GEO Group Buys Out Correctional Services Corporation (p 31)
  22. Judge Reduces Damage Award Against PHS In New York Jail Heart Attack Suit (p 32)
  23. Auditors Uncover Hidden Cash Accounts at Chester County, Pennsylvania, Prison (p 32)
  24. Federal Court Finds California Murder Paroles Blocked by Illegal No-Parole" Policy (p 33)
  25. Feres Doctrine Bars FTCA Actions (p 34)
  26. Class Action Suit Filed Against L.A. County Jail After 4,000 MRSA Infections (p 34)
  27. California's Preferential Bulk Price For Hepatitis-C Drugs Kept Secret (p 35)
  28. New Jersey Parole Officials Pay $50,000 for Delayed Release (p 35)
  29. New York: Wrongfully Imprisoned Man Settles For $5,000,000 (p 36)
  30. Los Angeles County Pays $60,900 To Settle Jail Detainee Rape Claim (p 37)
  31. Double-Celling Mentally Ill California Ad-Seg Prisoners Proves Fatal (p 38)
  32. Wisconsin Must Install Air Conditioning in Supermax (p 38)
  33. Hawaii Prisoner Injured In Fight Awarded $25,427 (p 39)
  34. 11th Circuit Finds S.Ct. Overruled Heightened Pleading Standard (p 40)
  35. Seventh Circuit Reverses § 1915(e)(2) Dismissal of Meritorious Complaint (p 40)
  36. News in Brief (p 41)
  37. Court Invalidates Mental Health Supervised Release Condition; Condition Impermissibly Delegates Judicial Authority to PO (p 44)

Texas Jails Troubled by Deaths, Negligence and Failed Inspections

For decades Texas jails have been cesspool's of misery, medical neglect, brutality and over crowding. Class action litigation in the 1970's alleviated some of the worst aspects of the Texas jail system and led to modest improvements. By the late 1990's the jail consent decrees and injunctions had been removed thanks to the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Within a few short years, Texas jails had reverted to their old ways.
Dallas County Jail has done it again. Less than a year after the James Mims debacle, which left the mentally retarded man without water for 11 days, Dallas jailers again deprived another prisoner of water for 4 days.
Gil Martinez, 30, was arrested for misdemeanor trespassing. Mr. Martinez, who has mental health problems, plugged up his toilet and flooded his cell to get attention. Jailers responded by shutting off the water.

According to Sgt. Peritz, the water in Martinez' cell was turned off on August 3, 2005 and no one noticed, until August 7, that it had not been turned back on. Policy implemented following the Mims incident requires that both a supervisor and the jail commander be notified before a prisoner's water is turned off ...

From the Editor

By now all subscribers should have received PLN's bi annual reader survey and fundraiser letter. We have not received that many responses back to the survey which may mean everyone is happy with PLN's content the way it is. If you have not yet returned it please do so. Among the changes we are planning to make if readers do not object, is move our coverage of suicide, crime victim, employee and juvenile litigation to our website where it can be accessed by interested parties there and leave our print pages open for more prison and jail related news and legal information. Let us know your thoughts on this.

PLN's website continues to grow as we add more cases, articles and news information to it on a daily basis. It is available to those with internet access and has been designed so the contents can be easily printed for mailing to prisoners. It contains a wealth of information on prisons and jails and detention facility litigation found nowhere else. In addition, PLN has launched its free list serv where we post news and court rulings about prisons and jails on a regular basis. Anyone can sign up ...

Federal Judge Enforces "Valdivia Remedial Plan" for California Parole Violators

Federal Judge Enforces "Valdivia Remedial Plan"
for California Parole Violators

On June 8, 2005, the United States District Court enforced its order in Valdivia v. Davis, 206 F.Supp.2d 1068 (E.D. Cal. 2002) [PLN, Jan.2003, p.16] and its March 9, 2004 Stipulated Permanent Injunction implementing the ensuing Valdivia Remedial Plan" (VRP) [PLN, Apr.2004, p.24], after California's Secretary of Corrections Roderick Hickman unilaterally announced (Hickman Memo) that effective April 11, 2005, California would no longer offer alternatives to re-incarceration for technical violators of parole.

In so doing, Hickman buckled under political pressure from the powerful prison guards union (CCPOA) and its puppet victims' rights organizations who, emboldened with six-figure CCPOA cash infusions, ran TV and billboard ads in central California claiming the VRP threatened public safety" and that all parole violators should simply be imprisonedeven if that meant violating their court-affirmed constitutional rights to prompt and fair parole revocation hearings.

The enforcement came swiftly after the prisoners' attorneys Donald Specter of the San Quentin, California, Prison Law Office (PLO) and Michael Bien filed a motion for enforcement and civil contempt against Hickman on April 13, 2005. The court addressed two areas of VRP non-compliance ...

California Parole Board Lax In Contracting For Foreign Language Interpreters

The watchdog California Office of Inspector General (OIG), when investigating the case of a foreign language interpreter who bilked the Board of Prison Terms (BPT) out of $11,862 in false claims, found the BPT's contracting and accountability procedures for such services woefully inadequate.

Between August, 2000 and June, 2003, Estella Gaines submitted 261 false claims allegedly for interpretation services at parole revocation hearings at R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility. The OIG found that Gaines had inflated travel expenses and the hours worked, and often double-billed. She pled guilty to violation of Penal Code § 487 (grand theft), and was sentenced to a 120 day suspended jail term, probation and an order for full restitution.

Worried how this crime could even occur, the OIG investigated BPT contracting practices for its interpreters. In fiscal year 2003-04, the OIG noted that interpreters were required in 911 of the 49,000 parole hearings (5,000 for lifers and 44,000 for parole violators), incurring $360,000 in billed costs among the 57 interpreters so employed.

After investigating parole records for R.J. Donovan as well as for the nearby Chula Vista Parole Revocation Unit, the OIG found first that the BPT's contracts ...

Indiana State Courts Have Jurisdiction In Prisoner Phone Contract Case

In a suit challenging excessive collect call rates charged to prisoners' families, friends and attorneys, the Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court's dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Chanelle Alexander and others (the Class) pay for collect calls from prisoners in Indiana's state prisons and county jails. On June 16, 2000, the Class filed a suit in state court claiming the state and the county sheriffs entered into contracts with telephone companies AT&T and Ameritech Indiana, respectively. The suit claimed (1) a breach of the common law duty of reasonableness; (2) the unauthorized taxing of a sum of money; (3) the unauthorized imposition of a licensing fee; (4) an unreasonable and unjust rate or service charge; (5) an unjust enrichment; (6) money had and received; (7) the combination to restrain and carry out restrictions on trade; (8) a combination to increase price; and (9) inadequate services and facilities to class members. In exchange for its contract, AT&T agreed to give the state of Indiana a 53 percent commission on long-distance calls from all state pay phones, including state owned buildings such as prisons. Ameritech Indiana agreed to pay Sheriff Jack Cottey a commission of 40 percent of the gross revenue from all jail calls plus a $262,000 signing bonus ...

Michigan's Dirty Little Secret: Sexual Abuse of Female Prisoners Pervasive, Ongoing

by Michael Rigby

Despite reports of sexual abuse dating back 20 years ... despite a tumultuous decade of lawsuits that cost millions of taxpayer dollars ... and despite a promise by state officials to implement sweeping reforms, the sexual victimization of women continues unabated in Michigan prisons, according to a five month investigation by the Detroit News.

Details of the investigation, published May 22-24, 2005, put in stark relief Michigan's ongoing failure to protect the state's 2,000 female prisoners from abuse by guards and other employees. Sexual misconduct complaints are routinely dismissed on dubious grounds. Investigations are often superficial and incomplete. And guards who sexually assault prisoners are rarely punished.

The victims have little recourse. Women who report predatory guards face punishment and retaliation. State lawmakers have exacerbated the problem by stripping prisoners of their right to sue, ensuring that guards--many of whom have lengthy criminal records--will continue to view female prisoners as their personal sex slaves. Faced with these hurdles, many women conclude there's only one way to end the abuse.

We're going to use this," guard Albert Moon told a terrified Tina McGraw as he showed her the first of two condoms plucked from ...

President Bush Orders Compliance With World Court Order, Withdraws From Optional Protocol

by Matthew T. Clarke

President Bush has ordered the states to comply with a March 2004 decision of the International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court. In that decision the World Court ruled that fifty-one Mexican national prisoners that are incarcerated on various death rows in the United States who had been denied their consular notification rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations be given a hearing on whether the denial affected their cases. [PLN, Sept. 2004, p. 12]. Bush's administrative decision was announced in a brief filed February 28, 2005, in the United States Supreme Court, in the case of one of the fifty-one Mexican nationals. One week later, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice announced that the United States was withdrawing from the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention, the enforcement mechanism that allows the World Court to rule on alleged violations of the treaty.

The Optional Protocol was proposed by the United States in 1963. It and the rest of the Vienna Convention were ratified by the Congress in 1969, making them binding international treaties. The rest of the Vienna Convention spells out the rights of citizens of a foreign country (including U ...

North Carolina Pays $43,500 to Women Strip-Searched By Prisoners

by Michael Rigby

The North Carolina Department of Corrections (DOC) has paid $43,500 to four women who were subjected to strip and body-cavity searches performed by other prisoners and to a fifth who was beaten when she refused to undress.

The assaults occurred in a disciplinary housing wing at ...

California's New Governor Has Paroled 102 Lifers, But Rejected Twice That Many

The good news is that as of September 30, 2005, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has approved 102 lifers for parole since taking office two years ago, a vast improvement over former Governor Gray Davis' record of paroling just eight lifers during his five years in office. The bad news is that Schwarzenegger has rejected twice that number of parole recommendations sent to him by the state's Board of Prison Terms (BPT), recently renamed the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH). The 102 lifers who have been paroled under Schwarzenegger's watch include some who have been ordered released by state and federal courts.

But even this good news" is muted by the stark reality that there are over 27,250 prisoners in California facilities serving indeterminate life sentences, many of whom are long past the maximum punishment set by the Board's own regulations, who collectively cost California taxpayers over $1 billion a year in incarceration expenses (only 3,168 California prisoners with life sentences are true lifers, serving life without the possibility of parole). California law provides lifers serving indeterminate sentences the opportunity to earn their release. Instead, says Keith Wattley, a staff attorney at the Prison Law Office ...

Private Prison Firms Stumble; Hire Former California Officials to Lobby for For-Profit Facilities

Private prison companies, which presently house only 2,550 of California's 165,000 prisoners, have hired a former county lawmaker, former CDC employees and the former state Finance Director in an attempt to expand into the $7 billion California corrections market. However, the powerful prison guards union (CCPOA), which represents state-employed (but not private) guards, is using its considerable swagger to beat back this assault on union jobs.

In 2004, Maranatha Corrections Corp., a faith-based private prison operator, was on the verge of losing an $8.1 million CDC contract for the 660-bed Victor Valley Community Correctional facility in Adelanto, San Bernardino County, in a dispute over $1.6 million in kickbacks collected from prisoner phone calls. (See: PLN, Feb. 2005, p.39.) After meeting with Maranatha on November 17 and December 13, 2004, CDC set a January 31, 2005 deadline to settle or terminate the contract.

But Maranatha had another option. San Bernardino County houses 5,500 prisoners in its jails but has to release around 700 per month early due to a lack of space. Maranatha quietly negotiated a $3.8 million annual contract with the county to lease bed space, rendering CDC's threatened termination moot ...

Texas State Auditor Questions Necessity of Prison Health Care Oversight Board

by Matthew T. Clarke

The Texas State Auditor's Office has released a report which scathingly criticized the Correctional Managed Health Care Committee (Committee) for failing to perform its contractual duties and having several conflicts of interest with the health care providers, concluding that the committee may no longer be necessary.

In 1994, the Texas Legislature implemented a managed health care plan for Texas prisons, essentially creating a HMO for the prison system, believing it would reduce the cost of providing prisoners medical treatment. The method of health care provision was direct, fixed-rate contracts with the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. This was later replaced with a two-tiered system of contracting whereby the prison system contracts with the committee for provision of health care services and the committee contracts with the health care providers. The cost of health care services for the approximately 150,000 Texas state prisoners in 2004-2005 was $300 million per year.

The structure of the committee virtually ensures conflicts of interest. It consists of two representatives from each university, two employees from the prison system and three public members. The committee also employed five full-time staff ...

Death Penalty for Texas Prison Horses Stirs Controversy

Between February 2003 and November 2004, the Texas prison system sold 53 horses to the Dallas Crown slaughterhouse in Kaufmann, Texas, for processing into meat for human consumption. This violates § 149.003 of the Texas Agriculture Code. The first offense is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and 30 day to 2 years in jail. Subsequent offenses carry two to five years in prison. The practice of selling horses for meat has stirred controversy throughout Texas and resulted in much criticism of TDCJ.
Horsemeat has become popular in Europe due to mad cow disease outbreaks. However, it is still illegal even if the horsemeat was intended for sales overseas, according to 2002 Texas Attorney General's Opinion No. JC-0539. The statute clearly forbids the sale of horsemeat for human consumption and the transfer of horses or horsemeat to a person intending to sale it for human consumption. Enforcement of that 1949 law has been temporarily enjoined by a federal judge hearing a suit brought by slaughterhouses.
Dallas Crown said it paid $400 to $500 for each horse. The horses were inspected by veterinarians from Texas A & M so they could be sold for slaughter. TDCJ has a ...

New York's Sex Offender Treatment Program Enjoined; Stay Issued Pending Appeal

by Bob Williams

The United States District Court for the Northern District of New York ruled that New York's program for treating convicted state sex offenders violates the Fifth Amendment's guarantee against compulsory self-incrimination and issued a preliminary injunction. The Second Circuit has issued a stay pending appeal.

In 2002, the United States Supreme Court issued its plurality decision in McKune v. Lile, 122 S.Ct. 2012, finding that a convicted sex offender's Fifth Amendment privilege against compulsory self-incrimination is not violated by a treatment program that requires admitting to all past sexual behavior whether or not charged for it. Lile faced only loss of privileges and transfer to a higher security facility, not the more serious consequences of an extended term of incarceration or loss of good time credits, nor was his release from prison affected. [See: PLN, Oct. 2002, P. 8.)

David Donhauser, a New York state prisoner, faced these more serious consequences when he refused to admit to unlawful sexual acts as part of New York's Sex Offender Counseling Program (SOCP). Donhauser had entered a plea under North Carolina v. Alford, 91 S.Ct. 160 (1970), which does not require admission of guilt ...

Ex-Prisoners Barred From Nursing in Texas

by Matthew T. Clarke

Recently, the Dallas Morning News (DMN) generated articles decrying the presence of convicted drug and sex offenders in the nursing profession.
Texas, like many states, has statutes denying ex-prisoners licensing in many state-licensed professions. In some professions, being convicted of a misdemeanor is sufficient cause for license revocation. In others, ex-prisoners are effectively barred from employment by laws requiring employers to perform background checks on potential employees.
The newspaper articles focused on drug and sex offenders. The reason they did this is because these offenses were the easiest to track--especially the sex offenders for which there exists a statewide registration database. The DMN compared the list of drug and sex offenders to the records of 500,000 nurses, about half of which held current licenses and the rest of which could renew their licenses if they paid delinquent fees or enrolled in nursing courses. The DMN found that, among the 500,000 names, were 31 registered sex offenders, 26 other felony sex offenders, and 142 felony drug offenders. Among these 199 drug or sex offenders, 58 were currently or had been previously incarcerated in a state prison. State law requires license revocation for felons who receive ...

Texas Enacts Life Without Parole Law

On June 17, 2005, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed into law legislation that allows Texas juries to sentence defendants to life without the possibility of parole in capital cases. Senate Bill 60 replaces the previous non-death-penalty option of 40 years without the possibility of parole with life without the possibility of parole. Thus, it represents an increase in the penalty for capital crimes.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, and had generated strong opposition from victims rights groups and district attorneys from the larger cities in Texas who believed that the life-without-parole option would make it harder to get juries to mete out the death penalty. The original version of the bill would have added life without parole as a third sentencing option, but, bowing to the political pressure of the district attorneys who claimed having three options would confuse jurors; Lucio revised the bill to make life without parole the only alternative to the death penalty in capital cases.

Texas is the 48th state to adopt a life-without-parole option, better known as death by incarceration. The law took effect September 1, 2005.

Source: Austin American Statesman.

Los Angeles County Jail Tests Prisoner Radio ID Tags

by John E. Dannenberg

The Los Angeles (L.A.) County Sheriff's Department will spend $1.5 million to install a computerized radio ID tag system in 2006 to monitor the location of 1,900 prisoners at the Pitchess Detention Center (county jail) in Castaic.

The radio-linked wristbands work inside the jail structure, pinpointing prisoners' location to within a few feet. Outside of structures, it will be necessary to utilize Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to monitor prisoner movement. A variant of the radio tag system permits locally transported control units to be taken to any remote locale, such as for work-release crews, to create a virtual" prison that is outside the walls. The technology had a pilot test at the minimum security unit of California's Calipatria State Prison. Calipatria's spokesman Lt. Ray Madden recounted an incident two years ago where investigators retraced prisoners' movements to prove that an unlikely suspect in a wheelchair was in fact the perpetrator in a stabbing incident.

L.A. County Sheriff's spokesman Marc Klugman anticipated expanding the system, manufactured by Arizona-based Technology Systems International (TSI), to cover 6,000 prisoners at the L.A. County Central Jail. Some 200,000 prisoners ...

Lethal Injection Painful, Study Suggests; U.S. Supreme Court to Consider Issue

by Michael Rigby

Hundreds of prisoners killed by lethal injectionthe preferred method of execution in 37 states and the federal Bureau of Prisonsmay have suffered agonizing deaths due to a routine failure to administer enough anesthesia, according to a recent study. Reviewing toxicology data from 49 executions, researchers in Virginia and Florida found that low levels of anesthesia in the bloodstream indicated the prisoners were conscious in 43 of the cases. The findings were published in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet on April 14, 2005.

Any suffering may not be apparent to observers, however, because prisoners are also paralyzed during the executions. Lethal injection involves administering three drugs: sodium thiopental to anesthetize the prisoner, followed by pancuronium bromide to induce paralysis, and potassium chloride to stop the heart.
For someone who is awake, lethal injection would be anything but painless. Administration of potassium chloride will cause nerve fibers to fire, and you really get a profound burning sensation," said Dr. Leonidas Koniaris, chairman of surgical oncology at the University of Miami and the study's lead author. An accompanying editorial in The Lancet noted that It would be a cruel way to die: awake, paralyzed, unable to move ...

New York Jail Doctor Put on Probation After Wrong Prescription Kills Detainee

by John E. Dannenberg

The former medical director for Rensselear (New York) County Jail was put on probation for three years by state health authorities for improper treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndrome that caused the death of a pre-trial detainee. Additionally, the director was permanently banned from practicing medicine at ...

Suspicious Deaths And Beatings Allegations Still Plague Santa Clara County, California Jail

by Marvin Mentor

Seven prisoner deaths and numerous reported police beatings between October 2004 and April 2005 at the Santa Clara County (SCC), California jail have local civil rights watchers calling for a grand jury investigation. Similar problems occurred at SCC in 1995 when they were studied by the County Board of Supervisors under the name Sudden In-Custody Death Syndrome," more candidly retitled Sudden Torture and Fatal Beating Syndrome" when reported in PLN (July 1996, p.16).

On March 28, 2005, Carlos Garcia died after guards from the SCC Department of Corrections (DOC) restrained him when he became ill in the booking area. He had been injured in an auto accident, but official reports rated him combative. One witness reported that the guards dog-piled" Garcia.
In October, 2004, 33-year old Scott Marino died when his family finally disconnected life support. Scott had been comatose for six weeks after SCC guards subdued" him for being unruly. Marino's family has filed a wrongful death suit alleging excessive force.

These deaths are mindful of the incident that led to the 1996 Board of Supervisors study, wherein prisoner Joseph Leitner suffered brain damage when guards restrained him by wrapping his head in a ...

New Jersey Taxpayers Underwrite Unqualified, Unnecessary Prison Employees

The New Jersey prison system is infested with parasitic employees--thrust upon the department by legislators and the governor's office--who bleed state taxpayers for more than $850,000 a year, Department of Corrections (DOC) commissioner Devon Brown has admitted.

The revelation came during a May 3, 2005, meeting of the Assembly Budget Committee as lawmakers grilled Brown about department spending, including free housing for some DOC officials. During the meeting, Brown told committee members the DOC has unwanted political patronage employees whose salaries total $867,000. Portrayed as unqualified" and unnecessary," Democratic Assemblyman Louis Greenwald asked for specific names.
Brown later provided a list of 14 employees. Most were reportedly hired after former governor James McGreevey took office in 2001, but one was identified by DOC spokesman Matt Schuman as having been hired in September 1996. The employees on the list held jobs ranging from chaplain and welder to assistant superintendent and division director, said Schuman. Their salaries ranged from $33,515 to $99,813 a year. After the meeting, committee Republicans called for acting Democratic Governor Richard Codey to investigate patronage in state agencies.

An official in Codey's administration said none of the employees on Brown's list ...

GEO Group Buys Out Correctional Services Corporation

In November 2005, GEO Group, the second-largest private prison company in the U.S., finalized its purchase of the Sarasota, Florida-based Correctional Services Corporation (CSC) for $6 a share -- a total of $62 million in cash -- and the assumption of $124 million of CSC's debt. GEO had previously announced a downward revision of its earnings forecast for the third and fourth quarters and 2005 overall. The closing price of CSC stock on July 14, 2005, the day CSC entered into an Agreement and Plan of merger with GEO, was $4.39 per share. Wall Street seemed undeterred by GEO's payment of a 37% premium for CSC stock, as the listed value of both corporations' stock rose significantly the day after the announcement of the buyout. GEO gained $0.62 to $25.93 a share while CSC gained $1.43 to $5.82 a share.

Under the buyout agreement, GEO will assume management of CSC's 15 adult correctional facilities with a total capacity of 7,500 beds. In a related transaction, CSC CEO James Slattery agreed to buy back the company's juvenile services division, Youth Services International (YSI), for $3.75 million and will continue to operate ...

Judge Reduces Damage Award Against PHS In New York Jail Heart Attack Suit

by John E. Dannenberg

In July 2005, a New York federal jury awarded $150,000 in compensatory damages and $632,988 in punitive damages to a jail prisoner who suffered permanent disabilities when treatment for his heart attack was delayed for three critical days by indifferent guards and medical staff ...

Auditors Uncover Hidden Cash Accounts at Chester County, Pennsylvania, Prison

An audit of the Chester County, Pennsylvania, Prison's finances uncovered hidden cash accounts used to collect $18,000 from prisoners between 1984 and 2003. All but $4,000 of the money had already been spent at management's discretion over the years," according to Ray E. White, Jr., acting Chester County Controller. The audit was of the prisoner trust fund, an account intended to hold money for prisoners to spend at the prison's canteen. In 2003, $1.1 million passed through the trust fund. It had a balance of $82,000 at the end of 2003.

The audit report was released just as Chester County District Attorney Joseph W. Carroll was scheduled to release initial findings of an investigation into inappropriate expenditures and lack of financial oversight at the prison that were discovered during a 2002 audit. The investigation reportedly failed to find any criminal wrongdoing. However, the release of the findings was delayed after the results of the 2003 audit were made public.

Prison warden John H. Masters claimed that the accounts were not hidden," but were part of a revolving fund to be used to pay for replacement of state property that is damaged by prisoners ...

Federal Court Finds California Murder Paroles Blocked by Illegal No-Parole" Policy

Federal Court Finds California Murder Paroles Blocked by Illegal No-Parole" Policy

by Marvin Mentor

On May 19, 2005, the United States District Court (E.D. Cal.) ruled that the California Board of Prison Terms (BPT), between 1992 and 1998, disregarded regulations ensuring fair hearings and instead operated under a sub rosa policy that all murderers be found unsuitable for parole." Adopting and affirming the December 22, 2004 Findings and Recommendations of U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Nowicki, Chief Judge Lawrence Karlton ordered the BPT to either release petitioner Melvin Coleman or, within 60 days, afford him a new parole hearing conducted by a board free from prejudice stemming from a gubernatorial policy against parole for murderers." (See: PLN, Apr. 2000, p.1, California's No-Parole Policy.)
Melvyn Coleman was convicted in 1974 of first degree murder, attempted second degree murder, robbery and burglary after shooting a couple who surprised him while he was burglarizing their home. He was sentenced to seven years to life. Despite repeated prison recommendations for parole, he has never been found suitable" for parole by the BPT. Coleman challenged the parole process as biased in a federal habeas corpus petition filed in 1996. He alleged that ...

Feres Doctrine Bars FTCA Actions

by Military Prisoners

The Unites States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held that the Feres doctrine, adopted by the United States Supreme Court in Feres v. United States, 340 U.S. 135 (1950), bars suits brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) by military prisoners.

Jeffrey Schnitzer was confined in the Unites States Disciplinary Barracks (USDB) in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, following court-marshal convictions for kidnapping, rape and murder.

During his confinement, Schnitzer was injured when a portion of a ceiling at the USDB collapsed on him " while he was watching television. The accident allegedly caused permanent injuries, including headaches, nausea, vision problems, a loss of manual dexterity and chronic pain. At the time he was injured, Schnitzer remained an active duty member of the U.S. Army.

Schnitzer brought an FTCA action for damages for the Army's allegedly negligent maintenance of the USDB facility." Applying the incident to service" test of Verma v. U.S., 19 F.3d 646 (DC Cir. 1994), the district court found that Schnitzer's injuries occurred incident to his primary military duty of confinement and thus were barred because the Feres doctrine applies to military prisoners" the court noted that ...

Class Action Suit Filed Against L.A. County Jail After 4,000 MRSA Infections

by John E. Dannenberg

A class action lawsuit against Los Angeles (L.A.) County and its Sheriff Leroy Baca was filed in 2004 in the United States District Court (C.D. Cal.) on behalf of an estimated 4,000 present and former L.A. County Jail prisoners who were infected there with MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus), a disfiguring and potentially fatal skin disease. Alleging cruel and unusual punishment from being forced to sleep on the Jail floor in unsanitary, vermin infested and unsafe conditions, the class seeks $4,000 per person in damages under California Civil Code § 52(b), general and punitive damages as proved under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and attorney fees and costs provided by law for injuries suffered from 2002 to the present.

Named plaintiffs Sammy Davis, Jr. and seven other L.A. County Jail prisoners sued after exhausting administrative remedies with the County under California Government Code § 910. Each had been forced to sleep on the floor for up to four months while incarcerated. In those conditions, they experienced the unsanitary experience of sleeping next to bathroom fixtures, being infested with vermin and gnats, all the while suffering from painful sores and boils of MRSA ...

California's Preferential Bulk Price For Hepatitis-C Drugs Kept Secret

The good news is that California's Department of General Services (DGS) negotiated a bulk discount price for the large quantities of pegylated interferon it buys for the treatment of Hepatitis-C infected prisoners, and will save the state $1 million on the $5.6 million expended last year. The bad news is that the pricing details are not being disclosed -- not even to curious taxpayers or state legislators.

According to DGS spokesman Matt Bender, the February 28, 2005 contract with Roche (the U.S. division of Swiss drug manufacturer F. Hoffman-LaRoche, Ltd.) was part of California's strategic procurement program that takes advantage of California's massive buying power. The new lower prices became effective April 1, 2005 and apply to the Department of Corrections, the Youth Authority, the Department of Mental Health and the California State University system.

Kathay Feng, director of citizens' oversight group Common Cause, argued that this use of public funds should he disclosed to allow local agencies to secure the same pricing afforded the state. DGS had conducted simultaneous renegotiations with two manufacturers, Roche and Schering-Plough, Inc. Citing irreparable harm," neither would discuss contract terms.

But the truth may yet emerge. The Sacramento Bee and ...

New Jersey Parole Officials Pay $50,000 for Delayed Release

On February 3, 2005, a New Jersey man settled his federal lawsuit against state parole officialswhom he claimed were responsible for his remaining in prison 11 months beyond his approved parole datefor $50,000.

Vincent Pannone was imprisoned on May 7, 1999, for theft by deception and credit card fraud ...

New York: Wrongfully Imprisoned Man Settles For $5,000,000

by Michael Rigby

A man who was wrongfully convicted of raping a 5-year-old girl has settled with the state of New York for $5 million, the largest such settlement in state history.

But no amount of money can atone for the seven years Alberto Ramos spent in prison with the ...

Los Angeles County Pays $60,900 To Settle Jail Detainee Rape Claim

Los Angeles County Pays $60,900 To Settle
Jail Detainee Rape Claim

Los Angeles (L.A.) County, California, paid $60,900 to a female detainee who was raped in her Century Regional Detention Facility (CRDF) cell by a male prisoner who was inadvertently admitted by a County Sheriff's deputy ...

Double-Celling Mentally Ill California Ad-Seg Prisoners Proves Fatal

When administratively segregated mentally ill prisoners were placed in the same cell at California State Prison, Los Angeles (LAC) in September, 2004, one strangled the other with a bed sheet. Upon investigating the death, the watchdog Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that there was no policy against such double-ceiling, but recommended that one be established.

Carjacker Frank Perez, age 30 and mentally ill, was placed in administrative segregation for unspecified reasons. Eddie Arriaga, age 27 and also mentally ill, who was pending parole in July, 2005 after doing five years for attempted robbery, had been placed in administrative segregation because he had destroyed another prisoner's television set. Perez admitted killing Arriaga, giving alternate reasons of making a hit for the Mexican Mafia or because Arriaga had poor hygiene. Both men had long histories of criminal violence and violence towards other prisoners. Although LAC officials erred by not filling out the required double-ceiling compatibility" form, they did not violate prison policy by placing them together.

The OIG questioned the wisdom of placing such known mentally ill and violent prisoners in double cell conditions, and recommended the prison alter its policy to single-cell such prisoners.

Arriaga's death was ...

Wisconsin Must Install Air Conditioning in Supermax

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court order requiring prison officials to take immediate steps to air condition the cells of Wisconsin's supermax prison.

In 2000, two prisoners confined in the Supermax prison in Boschobel, Wisconsin brought suit alleging that they were subjected to extreme temperatures in Supermax, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The prisoners were represented by the ACLU National Prison Project.

Physicians who evaluated the facility found temperatures could reach 125 degrees in the cells, posing a serious health risk to prisoners, according to David Fathi, a staff attorney with the Prison Project.

A plaintiff class was certified and the district court issued a preliminary injunction ordering in part, that prisoners particularly susceptible to elevated temperatures be immediately removed from supermax. Jones-El v. Berge, 164 F. Supp. 2d 1096 (W.D.Wis. 2001) [PLN, Apr. 2002, p.1].

Before trial, the parties entered into a consent decree wherein the Wisconsin DOC agreed to investigate and implement a means of cooling the cells during summer heat waves." The district court approved the agreement on June 24, 2002.

On October 10, 2003, prisoners moved to enforce various provisions of the consent decree, including the terms ...

Hawaii Prisoner Injured In Fight Awarded $25,427

On February 1, 2005, a Hawaii court awarded $25,427.00 to a prisoner who claimed he was assaulted by another prisoner.

Plaintiff Lael Samonte, 47, contended that while imprisoned at the Halawa Correctional Facility on May 22, 2002, he was attacked and knocked unconscious by fellow prisoner Jonathan Tagatac ...

11th Circuit Finds S.Ct. Overruled Heightened Pleading Standard

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that the heightened pleading standard is not applicable in a § 1983 action against a non-governmental entity that cannot raise qualified immunity as a defense" pursuant to Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 113 S.Ct. 1160 (1993), which the court found overruled Circuit precedent to the contrary.

Merri Elizabeth Passmore was confined at the Blount County Detention Center in Alabama from January 3, 2001 until January 9, 2001. Southern Health Partners, Inc. (SHP), a private corporation, contracted with the Sheriff of Blount County to provide medical care" to prisoners in the Detention Center.

While incarcerated [Passmore] repeatedly reported to SHP's employees that she had not urinated in several days, but was not given a urine test until January 7, 2001. SHP staff received a result of [Passmore's] test on January 8, 2001, acknowledging that she had an infection, but [she] was still not treated.

On January 9, 2001, Passmore became disoriented and was released on a recognizance bond and sent to the emergency room at a Blount County Medical Center." She was then transferred to another hospital where she went into a coma and died ...

Seventh Circuit Reverses § 1915(e)(2) Dismissal of Meritorious Complaint

by Bob Williams

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has reversed a Wisconsin Federal District Court's dismissal of a prisoner complaint the district court found to have probable merit but dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 191S(e)(2) screening because the judge felt the prisoner could not afford the litigation.

Wisconsin state prisoner Nathaniel Lindell filed a 62-page 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint alleging the state prison was preventing him from practicing his religion and also forcing him to participate in programs that violate his religious beliefs. Lindell is a follower of Wotanism (also called Odinism or Asatru) .

Chief district court Judge Barbara B. Crabb found that Lindell was indigent under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) and (b)(1) and had not collected the three strikes that would have prevented Lindell from proceeding despite his indigency. All that was left was for Judge Crabb to determine if the complaint was frivolous or malicious, failed to state a claim, or sought damages from an immune defendant. See: 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e),(g), and 1915A.
Judge Crabb, however, decided that she did not intend to allow [Lindell] to ...

News in Brief

News in Brief:

Alabama: On January 10, 2006, Ronald Hammonds, 35, a guard at the Federal Correctional Institution in Talladega was arrested in a Taco Bell parking lot by FBI agents on charges of supplying prisoners with marijuana.
Arizona: On December 31, 2005, Vincent Cannon, 23, a guard at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis was stabbed to death at a New Year's party after an argument with Jeremiah Sturmer, 26, escalated. Sturmer, described as a former prisoner, has been charged with first degree murder. Three other people were stabbed in the incident but they survived.

District of Columbia: On January 31, 2006, Simmie Bellamy, 27, attempted to escape from the D.C. jail as he was brought to attend a status conference at the courthouse on driving a stolen vehicle charge, by climbing underneath a different jail transport bus. He successfully evaded guards, climbed under the bus as the vehicle left the courthouse. A block from the courthouse he fell off the undercarriage of the bus and was run over by an airport van following close behind. He died instantly and caused a massive traffic jam.

Florida: On January 26, 2006, Jeffrey McCann, 30, a Pinellas county jail guard ...

Court Invalidates Mental Health Supervised Release Condition; Condition Impermissibly Delegates Judicial Authority to PO

Court Invalidates Mental Health Supervised Release Condition;
Condition Impermissibly Delegates Judicial Authority to PO

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals held that a Delaware district court improperly imposed a supervised release condition requiring mental health counseling. The court also held that the condition was invalid because it impermissibly delegated judicial power to the defendant's probation officer.

Calvin Pruden was convicted of federal firearms offenses and a Delaware district court sentenced him to 21 months in prison and 36 months of supervised release. Despite a lack of evidence that Pruden suffered from any mental health problems, the court imposed a supervised release condition that Pruden participate in a mental health treatment program at the discretion of his probation officer.

On appeal, the Third Circuit held that the mental health condition was invalid. Given the complete absence of facts that would indicate a need for this mental health treatment," the court could not find that his condition is reasonably related' to any of the allowable purposes of conditions unsupervised releases," under 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

The court also concluded that the condition is invalid because it delegates to Pruden's probation officer the decision whether to require mental health treatment ...


Federal Prison Handbook



Prisoner Education Guide side



Advertise here




Prisoner Education Guide side