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Prison Legal News: May, 2006

Issue PDF
Volume 17, Number 5

In this issue:

  1. Scandal, Suicides, Corruption and Abuse Abound at New York Citys Rikers Island Jail (p 1)
  2. New York Brutality Settlement Affecting Twenty Two Prisoners, Fourteen Units Settles for $2.2 Millio (p 4)
  3. New Yorks Top Cop Crumbles Under Personal Investigation (p 6)
  4. Former Florida Correctional Privatization Commission Official Pleads Guilty to Stealing State Funds (p 11)
  5. Fall Escapes Plague Local, State Agencies in Houston Area (p 12)
  6. From the Editor (p 12)
  7. Abu Ghraib: Enduring Symbol of Hated Regimes (p 14)
  8. Lawyers Bilk Cornell for Millions, San Francisco Jail Scammed (p 17)
  9. Report Details Suicide and Homicide Rates in Prisons, Jails (p 18)
  10. Four CCA Guards Indicted in Murder of Nashville Prisoner (p 19)
  11. Habeas Hints: Evidentiary Hearings (p 20)
  12. Banned From the Hood (p 22)
  13. Nearly 7 Million Under Correctional Supervision In U.S. (p 22)
  14. California DOC Bans Dying Parolee From His Familys Town (p 23)
  15. BJS Director Sacked For Telling Truth About Racial Profiling (p 24)
  16. Connecticuts Mistreatment of Mentally Ill Prisoners and Detainees Enjoined (p 24)
  17. West Virginia Prisoner Sued By Victims Mother Following $50,000 Award (p 25)
  18. California DOC Diverts $480,000 of Drug Treatment Money for Movie Studio (p 26)
  19. Sixth Circuit: RLUIPA Held Constitutional Under the Spending Clause (p 26)
  20. Robots Package Medications for Jails (p 27)
  21. Texas Prisoner Writers Retaliation Lawsuit Proceeds (p 27)
  22. $150,000 Paid to Indiana Juvenile Jail Detainee for Sexual Assault (p 28)
  23. Florida's Juvenile Justice: Convicted Sex Offender Rapes Disabled Youth in His Care (p 28)
  24. Sixth Circuit Reverses Judgment for EMSA Physician, Remands for Trial (p 29)
  25. Conviction Rates Low After DNA Match (p 30)
  26. BOP Sexually Explicit Materials Ban Requires Factual Development (p 30)
  27. Montana Awards New Prison Phone Contract (p 31)
  28. Jury Awards $858,200 in California Jail Suicide (p 31)
  29. New York Prisoner Awarded $2,760 for Improper Confinement/Denial Medical Care (p 32)
  30. Los Angeles County Jail Continues To Over-Incarcerate (p 32)
  31. Former Illinois Death Row Prisoners Malicious Prosecution Claim Rejected (p 32)
  32. Reproductive Rights in Theory and Practice: The Meaning of Roe v. Wade for Women in Prison (p 33)
  33. Neglected New York Prisoner Dies At Jail Following Heart Surgery (p 34)
  34. Arizona Prisoners Mortality Report Confidentiality Not Federally Protected (p 34)
  35. BOP Prohibition Against Stock Selling and Receipt of Book Infringes Constitutional Rights (p 36)
  36. U.S. Prison Population Hits Nearly 2.3 Million In 2004 (p 36)
  37. Laundry Slip and Fall Injury Reaps New York Prisoner $95,000 (p 37)
  38. PLRA Exhaustion Requirement Inapplicable to Suit Filed When Plaintiff Not Incarcerated (p 37)
  39. Buddhist Prisoner Properly Denied Vegan Diet Under First Amendment; Case Remanded for RLUIPA Claim (p 38)
  40. Seventh Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Retaliation Claim (p 38)
  41. California Guards Lose Appeals On Federal Conspiracy Conviction, Bail; Still Free (p 40)
  42. News in Brief (p 41)
  43. Native American California Prisoner Entitled to Religious Exception from Prison Hair Grooming Policy (p 41)
  44. News in Brief (p 42)
  45. Ninth Circuit Reverses Denial of IFP Status Under §1915(g); Defendants Bear Burden of Establishing I (p 44)

Scandal, Suicides, Corruption and Abuse Abound at New York Citys Rikers Island Jail

Scandal, Suicides, Corruption and Abuse Abound at New York Citys Rikers Island Jail

by Gary Hunter

When Rikers Island was purchased in 1884 it was only 87 acres. The city of New York made it a landfill and expanded it for the citys Department of Correction a fact that has ...

New York Brutality Settlement Affecting Twenty Two Prisoners, Fourteen Units Settles for $2.2 Millio

New York Brutality Settlement Affecting Twenty Two Prisoners, Fourteen Units Settles for $2.2 Million

by Gary Hunter

Settlement of a 4-year-old lawsuit, between brutalized prisoners and the guards who attacked them, was achieved on February 17, 2006. Most notable was the $2.2 million in damages that will be ...

New Yorks Top Cop Crumbles Under Personal Investigation

New Yorks Top Cop Crumbles Under Personal Investigation

by Gary Hunter

Given the controversy and corruption that currently surrounds virtually every aspect of the New York City penal process, its insightful to reflect on how one former New York top cop fared when his own affairs were placed under scrutiny ...

Former Florida Correctional Privatization Commission Official Pleads Guilty to Stealing State Funds

Former Florida Correctional Privatization Commission Official Pleads Guilty to Stealing State Funds

by David M. Reutter

The former Executive Director of Floridas now defunct Correctional Privatization Commission (CPC) has pled guilty to charges of fraud and money laundering involving almost $225,000 in state funds.
Alan Duffee headed the CPC from ...

Fall Escapes Plague Local, State Agencies in Houston Area

by Michael Rigby

During a two week period in late 2005, prisoners in the Houston area escaped from all levels of custody. One prisoner escaped from the city jail, another vanished from the back of a prison van, and a third--a twice convicted death row prisoner--walked unimpeded out of a ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

This issue marks the 16th anniversary of the founding of Prison Legal News. Since PLNs first issue was published on May 1, 1990 we have now published 192 issues. This is a significant accomplishment since most magazines in general measure their existence in the single digits of ...

Abu Ghraib: Enduring Symbol of Hated Regimes

Abu Ghraib, a 280-acre prison complex located 20 miles west of Baghdad, is a well known symbol to the Iraqi people. Abu Ghraib holds about 3,500 of the approximately 10,500 prisoners held by American forces in Iraq. All prisoners bound for the American militarys three long-term prisons are ...

Lawyers Bilk Cornell for Millions, San Francisco Jail Scammed

In an attempt to recoup millions of dollars, private prison operator Cornell Companies, Inc., has filed lawsuits against lawyers entrusted to oversee the companys funds for land deals.

Cornell, based in Huston filed the latest suit on August 26, 2005, in Houstons 333rd District Court against Locke Liddell & Sapp and David Montgomery, a partner in the firm, alleging malpractice, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and fraud.

The complaint alleges the defendants gave Cornell the green light to place $13 million into an account that was supposedly an escrow account. There was no escrow agent; there ...

Report Details Suicide and Homicide Rates in Prisons, Jails

Even though suicide and homicide rates among prisoners have been falling since the 1980s, thousands still die in U.S. prisons and jails every year. During 2001 and 2002, 5,824 state prisoners died in custody, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report released in August 2005. Another ...

Four CCA Guards Indicted in Murder of Nashville Prisoner

Four guards have been indicted for reckless homicide and aggravated assault in the July 2004 murder of a female prisoner at the Metro Detention Facility in Nashville, Tennessee, previously reported in PLN. [see PLN, Apr. 2005, p. 14]. The Metro facility is run by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA ...

Habeas Hints: Evidentiary Hearings

This column is intended to provide habeas hints to prisoners who are considering or handling habeas corpus petitions as their own attorneys (in pro per). The focus of the column is habeas corpus practice under the AEDPA, the 1996 habeas corpus law which now governs habeas corpus practice throughout the ...

Banned From the Hood

In Chicago, gang-leader parolees may be required to stay away from the turf of their gang as a condition of parole. Returning to the hood results in returning to prison. Other cities are using innovations such as gang-free safety zones and court orders prohibiting gang behavior by known gang members ...

Nearly 7 Million Under Correctional Supervision In U.S.

At yearend 2004, nearly 7 million adults were in prison, on parole, or on probation in the U.S.--2.5 million more than in 1990--according to a study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics released on November 2, 2005.
Put another way, roughly 1 in every 31 adults were ...

California DOC Bans Dying Parolee From His Familys Town

California DOC Bans Dying Parolee From His Familys Town

A terminally ill prisoner, paroled in February 2005 from one of a small northeast California towns two state prisons, was denied his request to live out his remaining days with his wife, a resident of that prison town (Susanville). Parole agents ...

BJS Director Sacked For Telling Truth About Racial Profiling

Lawrence A. Greenfield was the director of the Justice Departments Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), a low-profile government agency that employs some 50 people for the task of preparing reports on statistical analysis of criminal justice-related issues such as crime patterns, police tactics, drug use and prison populations. BJS is ...

Connecticuts Mistreatment of Mentally Ill Prisoners and Detainees Enjoined

Connecticuts Mistreatment of Mentally Ill Prisoners and Detainees Enjoined

by John E. Dannenberg

The Connecticut Department of Corrections (CDOC) entered into a settlement agreement in September 2005 that specified extensive changes to its policies for confining and treating mentally ill prisoners and detainees. In response to a 42 U.S ...

West Virginia Prisoner Sued By Victims Mother Following $50,000 Award

West Virginia Prisoner Sued By Victims Mother Following $50,000 Award

On August 16, 2005, state prisoner Mark Allen Harris was awarded $50,000 for facial injuries he sustained when he fell out of a jail van. Two days - later, the mother of Harriss 12-year-old niece, whom he was convicted ...

California DOC Diverts $480,000 of Drug Treatment Money for Movie Studio

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), while overrunning its 2005 $6.4 billion state budget by $543 million, nonetheless diverted $480,000 of unspent drug treatment money to a private foundation to create a movie studio.

The Amity Foundation, based in Porterville, California, had $3.75 million in ...

Sixth Circuit: RLUIPA Held Constitutional Under the Spending Clause

by John E. Dannenberg

The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, acting on remand from the U.S. Supreme Courts recent ruling (Cutter v. Wilkinson, 125 S.Ct. 2113 (2005); PLN, July 2005, p.30) (Cutter II) that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) was constitutional ...

Robots Package Medications for Jails

In a 21st Century move designed to both save $1 million per year and improve the accuracy of drug dispensing in county jails, Contra Costa County, California has hired robots to replace pharmacists and nurses in the packaging and dispensing of medications to prisoners in three of its jails.

By ...

Texas Prisoner Writers Retaliation Lawsuit Proceeds

Texas Prisoner Writers Retaliation Lawsuit Proceeds

by David M. Reutter

A Texas federal district court has granted in part and denied in part prison officials motion to dismiss Texas prisoners lawsuit alleging he was retaliated against for having articles published criticizing the Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Correctional Institutions Division (TCDJ ...

$150,000 Paid to Indiana Juvenile Jail Detainee for Sexual Assault

Following an Indiana federal district courts denial of summary judgment to the Marion County Sheriff, the Sheriff settled the matter by giving $150,000 to a pretrial juvenile detainee that was raped in the Marion County Jail (MCJ).

Seventeen-year-old Ryan Merriweather was arrested for armed robbery of a Chuck E ...

Florida's Juvenile Justice: Convicted Sex Offender Rapes Disabled Youth in His Care

Once again, Florida's Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is under close scrutiny for failing to protect a severely mentally disabled teenager from sexual abuse.

At the center of this scandal is Robert, an orphan with the mind of an infant. The 15-year-old wears diapers and plays with blocks. Guards ...

Sixth Circuit Reverses Judgment for EMSA Physician, Remands for Trial

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a grant of summary judgment to a physician employed by EMSA Correctional Care, Inc (EMSA) in an Ohio pretrial detainees inadequate medical care claim.

On October 5th or 6th, 1998, James Johnson II severely cut his hand after tripping on a concrete ...

Conviction Rates Low After DNA Match

For years now, the U.S. government and individual states have been pushing for wider DNA testing and bigger databases to make matches with crime scene evidence. The Bush administration proposed to spend $1 billion to expand testing. The question now is how effective is DNA testing in obtaining convictions ...

BOP Sexually Explicit Materials Ban Requires Factual Development

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals Reversed a district courts dismissal of a federal prisoners challenge to the Ensign Amendment, which prohibits federal prisoners from receiving sexually explicit materials.

The Ensign Amendment was first passed by Congress in 1997 and prohibits the use of funds appropriated for the United States ...

Montana Awards New Prison Phone Contract

The State of Montana has contracted with Public Communications Services (PCS), Inc. to provide phone services to prisoners in the Department of Corrections, according to a January 3, 2006 press release.

PCS holds itself out as a bargain for both the DOC and prisoner families, providing modern call-monitoring equipment--calls will ...

Jury Awards $858,200 in California Jail Suicide

On February 22, 2006, a federal jury sitting in Sacramento found San Joaquin County, and Dr. Robert Hart, MD., liable for the death of Maurice Shaw in August of 2000. Shaw, who suffered from schizophrenia, was arrested on a minor drug charge in May of 2000 and kept in solitary ...

New York Prisoner Awarded $2,760 for Improper Confinement/Denial Medical Care

New York Prisoner Awarded $2,760 for Improper
Confinement/Denial Medical Care

The New York Court of Claims in Rochester has awarded prisoner Patrick Vaughn $2,760 on his claim that he was unlawfully confined and that his medical condition was not properly addressed.

After a guard called him a ...

Los Angeles County Jail Continues To Over-Incarcerate

by John E. Dannenberg

After paying $27 million (up to $5,000 per plaintiff) to settle class action lawsuits in 1991 for failing to timely release prisoners from county jail (see PLN, Jan. 2003, p.14), Los Angeles (L.A.) County is still making similar mistakes and paying penalties. In ...

Former Illinois Death Row Prisoners Malicious Prosecution Claim Rejected

Former Illinois Death Row Prisoners Malicious
Prosecution Claim Rejected

A Chicago jury has rejected former death row prisoner Anthony Porters claim that Chicago police conspired to frame him for a double murder he did not commit. Porter was sentenced to death for the 1982 murders of Jerry Hillard and Marilyn ...

Reproductive Rights in Theory and Practice: The Meaning of Roe v. Wade for Women in Prison

Reproductive Rights in Theory and Practice: The Meaning
of Roe v. Wade for Women in Prison

by Rachel Roth

In 1973, when the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe v. Wade, there were about 14,000 women incarcerated in the United States; today, there are over 180,000 ...

Neglected New York Prisoner Dies At Jail Following Heart Surgery

Laura Woolseys biggest fear was dying in jail. But thanks to the inept care provided her at New Yorks Schenectady County Jail, that fear was tragically realized.

Woolsey, 39, died at the jail on August 3, 2005, three hours after complaining of chest pain. She had been returned to the ...

Arizona Prisoners Mortality Report Confidentiality Not Federally Protected

Arizona Prisoners Mortality Report
Confidentiality Not Federally Protected

by John E. Dannenberg

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals declined Maricopa County, Arizonas invitation to keep mortality reports on prisoners confidential.

Charles Agster was arrested and booked into the Maricopa County Jail in Phoenix, Arizona on August 6, 2001 ...

BOP Prohibition Against Stock Selling and Receipt of Book Infringes Constitutional Rights

BOP Prohibition Against Stock Selling and
Receipt of Book Infringes Constitutional Rights

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a federal prisoners suit seeking damages for the refusal to allow him to contact his stockbroker and buy a book on computer programming state a claim. Federal Bureau of ...

U.S. Prison Population Hits Nearly 2.3 Million In 2004

The U.S. reached a new milestone in 2004: the imprisonment of nearly 2.3 million citizens, according to a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released in October 2005.

On December 31, 2004, 2,267,787 men, women, and children were held in the nations prisons and ...

Laundry Slip and Fall Injury Reaps New York Prisoner $95,000

Laundry Slip and Fall Injury Reaps
New York Prisoner $95,000

A New York Court of Claims has awarded state prisoner Laurie Kellogg $95,000 for injuries sustained from a slip and fall accident in a laundry room at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility on November 7, 1999.

Kellogg was working ...

PLRA Exhaustion Requirement Inapplicable to Suit Filed When Plaintiff Not Incarcerated

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld an Iowa District Courts order denying a plaintiff in forma pauperis status, but reversed its order dismissing the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

Proceeding pro se, Steven R. Nerness filed a civil rights action against ...

Buddhist Prisoner Properly Denied Vegan Diet Under First Amendment; Case Remanded for RLUIPA Claim

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a prisoners First Amendment religious exercise right to practice Mahayana Buddhism was not violated by prison officials refusal to provide a vegan diet. The appellate court, however, reversed for consideration of the prisoners claim under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized ...

Seventh Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Retaliation Claim

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district courts dismissal of an Illinois prisoners retaliation claim.

On January 17, 2003, Illinois prisoner Robert Hoskins worked in the Dixon Correctional Center (Dixon) cafeteria when Food Services Supervisor Connie Lenear called him a racial epithet because he could not help relocate ...

California Guards Lose Appeals On Federal Conspiracy Conviction, Bail; Still Free

Two former California prison guards, who were convicted in federal court of conspiracy to violate the constitutional rights (18 U.S.C. § 241) of Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) prisoners, lost both the appeals of their convictions of denial of bail pending appeal. Despite having been convicted in 2002 and ...

News in Brief

News in Brief:

Arizona: In August Pima county jail officials ordered the mass drug testing of all 200 minimum security jail prisoners and 20% tested positive for the use of illegal drugs.

California: On October 3, 2005, Long Beach police shot and killed a parolee who fled from them while ...

Native American California Prisoner Entitled to Religious Exception from Prison Hair Grooming Policy

by John E. Dannenberg

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, applying the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person Act (RLUIPA) (42 U.S.C. § 2000cc, et seq.), held that the blanket three-inch hair length policy (for male prisoners only) imposed by the California Department of Corrections (CDC) was not the ...

News in Brief

News in Brief:

Alabama: On January 8, 2006, Arthur Lee Scruggs, 38, a prisoner at the Donaldson Correctional Facility, was killed by unspecified means in a fight with prisoners Michael Barnes and Gerald Henderson.

Arizona: In August, 2005, a massive drug sting by the FBI led to 16 guilty pleas ...

Ninth Circuit Reverses Denial of IFP Status Under §1915(g); Defendants Bear Burden of Establishing I

Ninth Circuit Reverses Denial of IFP Status Under §1915(g); Defendants Bear Burden of Establishing IFP Disqualification


In a case of first impression, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that defendants bear the burden of proving disqualification for in forma pauperis (IFP) status under the three strike rule of ...