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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: November, 2007

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Volume 18, Number 11

In this issue:

  1. Prison Drinking Water and Wastewater Pollution Threaten Environmental Safety Nationwide (p 1)
  2. Suit Over Death in Rockwall County, Texas, Settles for $100,000 (p 9)
  3. From the Editor (p 10)
  4. Texas Last State in Union to Get Prison Phones (p 11)
  5. Habeas Hints: Habeas Year in Review: 2007 (p 12)
  6. Dallas County Jail Deficient, Says 2006 Report; DOJ Files Suit (p 14)
  7. $56,000 Settlement for Torturous Eight Hours in New Jersey Jail (p 15)
  8. Arizona and Indiana Prisoner Uprising at GEO-Run Prison in Indiana (p 16)
  9. Innocent Indiana Man Awarded $9 Million for 20 Years Imprisonment (p 17)
  10. Federal Jury Awards $530,000 for Wrongful Death in Minnesota Jail (p 18)
  11. Five-Year Forecast: Prison Population Will Swell 13%—Triple America’s Growth Rate (p 18)
  12. Michigan’s Law Attaching Prisoner Retirement Benefits Trumped By Federal Law (p 19)
  13. Overcrowded Washington DOC’s Solution: Ship ’Em Out of State (p 20)
  14. MDC Brooklyn: Sex Scandal and 11 Staff Indicted for Beating Prisoners (p 22)
  15. Oklahoma Court Orders Sentenced Prisoners Transported to Prison (p 22)
  16. PHS Fails Benchmarks In NYC Jail Medical Contract; Fined $250,000 (p 23)
  17. Like America, Japan Allows Guards to Walk After Prisoner Abuse Convictions (p 24)
  18. Indiana DOC Agrees to Remove Mentally Ill Prisoners from Control Units (p 24)
  19. March Madness in Georgia Prisons (p 25)
  20. Rikers Island Diapered Mentally Ill in Segregation (p 26)
  21. Prisoners Died By the Thousands Between 2001 and 2004 (p 26)
  22. Reformed Dental Care Will Have Ohio Prisoners Smiling (p 27)
  23. Inadequate Medical Care Alleged at Alameda County, CA Jail – Four Prisoners Dead (p 28)
  24. U.S. Prison and Jail Population Continues Meteoric Rise (p 28)
  25. State Auditor Flunks California DOC For Failure To Make Prison Population Projections (p 30)
  26. Corruption in Awarding California DOC Medical Contract Exposed (p 30)
  27. Texas Jail Pays $200,000 to Settle Rape/Suicide Suit (p 31)
  28. California DOC Guards Win Injunction to Stop Prisoner Transfers Out-Of-State; Transfers Continue While State Appeals (p 32)
  29. California DOC Pays PLN’s Attorneys $320,000 In Fees/Costs Related To Mail Censorship Settlement (p 32)
  30. Cook County, Illinois, To Pay $4,575,000 for Nonconsensual STD Testing (p 33)
  31. $150,000 Settlement in Suit over Atlanta Prisoner’s Fall-Related Death (p 33)
  32. Utah DOC Audit: Ingrained Staff Cronyism Stymies Workplace Effectiveness (p 34)
  33. California DOC Contract Registry Pharmacist Accused of Diverting 93% of Referrals to His Own Corporation (p 34)
  34. New York High Court Invokes Due Process Rights for Civil Commitment of Alleged Sexual Predators (p 35)
  35. Pennsylvania Prison Legal Mail Policy Unconstitutional, Enjoined (p 36)
  36. California’s Prison Drug Procurements Separate from Other State Agencies (p 36)
  37. Federal Prisoner Beaten On Texas Recreation Yard Awarded $350,000 (p 37)
  38. California DOC Federal Healthcare Receiver Issues Master Remedial Plan (p 38)
  39. “Please Rip Us Off” Florida Officials Tell Private Prison Companies (p 38)
  40. Study on Barriers to Employment of Ex-Prisoners in Milwaukee Released (p 40)
  41. California Inspector General: $1 Billion In DOC Drug Treatment Program “A Complete Waste Of Money” (p 40)
  42. News in Brief: (p 42)
  43. Connecticut Strip Search Suit Settles For $2.5 Million (p 44)

Prison Drinking Water and Wastewater Pollution Threaten Environmental Safety Nationwide

by John E. Dannenberg

Aging infrastructure concerns are not limited to America's highways, bridges and dams. Today, crumbling, overcrowded prisons and jails nationwide are bursting at the seams -- literally -- leaking environmentally dangerous effluents not just inside prisons, but also into local rivers, water tables and community water supplies. Because prisons are inherently detested and ignored institutions, the hidden menace of pollution from them has stayed below the radar. In this report, PLN exposes the magnitude and extent of the problem from data collected over the past several years from seventeen states.


The Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) has been ignoring complaints of wastewater pollution from its prisons since 1991. Back then, the problem was limited to leaking sewage from the St. Clair prison. Although the Alabama Legislature promised to provide the $2.3 million needed to build a new wastewater treatment plant that would match St. Clair?s vastly expanded population, no money has been appropriated.

Today, the problem has grown statewide and includes pollution from ADOC's Draper, Elmore, Fountain/Holman, Limestone prisons and the Farcquhar Cattle Ranch and Red Eagle Honor Farm. The problem has drawn the ire of the private watchdog group, Black Warrior Riverkeeper ...

Suit Over Death in Rockwall County, Texas, Settles for $100,000

Rockwall County, Texas, and Lake Pointe Medical Center will pay $100,000 to settle a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the mother of a prisoner who died after being turned away from the hospital twice in 2004.

Sharon Mann claimed in her state lawsuit that jailers and hospital medical staff ...

From the Editor

This month's cover story is on what goes in and comes out of prisons in the way of water and sewage. While a lot of attention is paid to the more dramatic effects of prison overcrowding, such as violence, inadequate medical care, prisoners sleeping in gyms and store rooms, etc.; water and sewage are both elementary and basic yet all too often ignored. More importantly for organizers, unlike inadequate mental health care or prisoner on prisoner violence, this is an issue which affects the overwhelmingly poor, rural communities where most prisons are located.

One of the environmental impacts of prisons is where they are located. To my knowledge, no one has systematically examined the impact of building prisons in pristine deserts in Arizona, the mountain highlands of California, etc. When water is scarce and prisons need water, where is it going to come from? All too often, waste water treatment for prisons is ignored and raw sewage is discharged into nearby water bodies. A by product of many prison industries is that they become sources of toxic waste being emitted into the surrounding area such as industrial solvents, fuel, heavy metals, dioxins and more. At least one commentator, Jonathan ...

Texas Last State in Union to Get Prison Phones

by Matt Clarke

On May 15, 2007, legislation took effect that brought Texas into the fold of the other 49 states that have prisoner telephones in state prisons.
State Senator Letica Van de Putte filed SD 1580, authorizing the phones, which took effect Nay 15, 2007. State Representatives Terri Hodge (D-Dallas) and Pat Haggerty (R-El Paso) filed companion bills in the House. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and 142-1 in the House.
Governor Rick Perry, a strong opponent of prison phones, refused to sign the bill, but also did not veto it. Instead, he issued a statement of his concerns regarding the bill and directed the Texas Board of Criminal Justice "to develop stringent Guidelines that assure that pedophiles, predatory sex offenders, murderers, rapists, and other violent offenders - who have forfeited all rights to such privilege by the nature of their offenses - are not granted the phone privilege." How this is implemented remains to be seen.

Why did it take so long for Texas to catch up with the rest of the country? Official paranoia and the influence of "tough on crime" victims rights groups. The official paranoia was somewhat assuaged by the advent of new technology capable ...

Habeas Hints: Habeas Year in Review: 2007

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 on habeas corpus practice under AEDPA, the 1996 habeas corpus law which now governs habeas corpus practice throughout the U.S.

2007 looked like a promising year back in January, when the Supreme Court held in Cunningham v. California, 127 S.Ct. 856 (2007) that the 6th Amendment right to a jury trial is violated by a California sentencing scheme that allowed judges to impose upper-term sentences without a supporting jury finding via proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Unfortunately, as the year unfolded, Cunningham relief was going up in smoke. Meanwhile, an exhaustive study of the operation of AEDPA in the federal courts over the last decade confirmed what habeas corpus litigants had long suspected; that the chances of actually winning a non-capital habeas corpus case are ridiculously low. And, throughout the year, an ever more conservative U.S. Supreme Court was cutting back even further on the procedural rights of habeas corpus petitioners.

In this column, we'll take a look at what turned out to be a ...

Dallas County Jail Deficient, Says 2006 Report; DOJ Files Suit

Just over two years ago, the jail in Dallas County, Texas (DCJ) failed state certification inspections and came under fire for numerous high profile cases of prisoner deaths and neglect. A U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) report, issued on December 8, 2006, found that the facility was still deficient in the exact same areas. In September, 2007 the DOJ sued the county to force improvements in jail conditions and medical care.

Assistant Attorney General Wan J. Kim sent a copy of the 47-page 2006 report, which detailed numerous deficiencies at the jail, to then-County Judge Margaret Keliher. Judge Keliher commissioned the original internal investigation that revealed numerous problems at the jail. [See: PLN, Jan. 2006, p.1]

On November 28, 2005 the DOJ's Civil Rights division notified jail officials of their intention to inspect the facility. Two on-site inspections were conducted in early 2006, lasting a total of nine days. DCJ failed in every area.

The report began with the screening process used by the nation's 7th largest jail system. DCJ receives nearly 100,000 prisoners per year.
Inspectors found that most of those prisoners fail to receive adequate medical screenings when they arrive, which places all ...

$56,000 Settlement for Torturous Eight Hours in New Jersey Jail

In April 2007, the Borough of Bradley Beach, New Jersey, agreed to pay $56,000 to settle a federal lawsuit alleging multiple constitutional violations by a woman who spent eight hours in the Borough?s jail.

Plaintiff Aimee Sliker was arrested at the Bradley Beach police station on November 17 ...

Arizona and Indiana Prisoner Uprising at GEO-Run Prison in Indiana

by Matt Clarke

On April 24, 2007, about 500 Arizona and Illinois prisoners at a privately-run facility owned by the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC) participated in an uprising. The prison is operated by the Boca Raton, Florida-based GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut Corrections), a NYSE-listed company that manages 68 prisons in the United States, Australia, South Africa and the U.K.

The New Castle Correctional Facility (NCCF) was built by the IDOC in 2002, when the state's prison system was experiencing an overcrowding crisis and prisoners were being housed in county jails and exported to Kentucky.

Ironically the Indiana legislature, faced with an $800 million budget deficit, refused to appropriate operational funds for NCCF, making it impossible for the IDOC to staff the prison. The 2,416-bed medium-security facility remained empty until it became an issue in the 2004 governor's race. In September 2005 the IDOC entered into a $53 million contract with GEO Group to operate NCCF for four years, and Indiana's prisoners were brought home from Kentucky.

GEO also negotiated with California's overcrowded prison system to house prisoners at NCCF. A deal to transfer 1,260 California prisoners to the privately-run prison was announced ...

Innocent Indiana Man Awarded $9 Million for 20 Years Imprisonment

An Indiana federal jury awarded Larry Mayes $9 million for actions taken by police officers of Indiana's City of Hammond, which resulted in Mayes being convicted of a rape he did not commit. As a result of those actions, Mayes served almost 21 years in prison.

Mayes was arrested ...

Federal Jury Awards $530,000 for Wrongful Death in Minnesota Jail

On February 26, 2007, a federal jury in Minnesota awarded $530,000 to the family of a man who died in his cell after jailers and medical staff at the Washington County Jail repeatedly ignored his pleas for medical assistance.

Walter Gordon made a fatal mistake on January 2, 2004 ...

Five-Year Forecast: Prison Population Will Swell 13%—Triple America’s Growth Rate

Five-Year Forecast: Prison Population Will Swell 13%?Triple America's Growth Rate

The charitably funded Washington D.C.-based Public Safety Performance Project (PSPP), statistically analyzing prison population trends in all 50 states and the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), projected that between 2007 and 2011 the total prison population in the United States will grow by 192,023 to over 1.7 million men and women. This 13 percent increase (comprised of 12% for men and 16% for women) is three times the growth rate of the nation?s population. The U.S. will then have an incarceration rate of 562 felon prisoners per 100,000 population, or one out of every 178 Americans. (These figures are only for prisons, and do not include jails.)

Regionally, prison populations in the West, Midwest and South will lead the pack with up to 18% increases, while the Northeast will grow by only 7%. Growth rates will be highest in less-populated states: Montana, 41%; Arizona, 35%; Alaska, 34%; Idaho, 34%; Vermont, 33%; Colorado, 31%; Washington, 28%; Wyoming, 27%; Nevada, 27%; and Utah, 25%.

Incarceration rates (per 100,000 population) are spiking, too. Arizona?s will shoot from 590 to 747, while Nevada ...

Michigan’s Law Attaching Prisoner Retirement Benefits Trumped By Federal Law

Michigan's Law Attaching Prisoner Retirement Benefits Trumped By Federal Law

Michigan requires financially able prisoners to contribute up to 90% of monies received at their prison address to the state's coffers as an offset to the cost of their incarceration. Moreover, state law prohibits prisoners from maintaining bank accounts other than their prison accounts. A conflict arose, however, when a federally protected pension plan of Daimler- Chrysler Corporation (Chrysler) was ordered to deliver pension benefits to the prisoners at their prison address, without the prisoners' written authorization. The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held that federal law (Employee Retirement Income and Security Act) (ERISA) preempted all state laws that might attempt to attach these retirement funds. (This protection is called "anti-alienation.")

Four Michigan prisoners were ordered by state court action brought by Michigan's Attorney General to comply with the State Correctional Facility Reimbursement Act (SCFRA) and notify Chrysler of their prison address so that Chrysler could mail their pension checks there. One complied; the other three did not. Chrysler, in turn, responded in the matter of the remaining three that under their fiduciary responsibility to pensioners, they were constrained by ERISA to ignore all such ...

Overcrowded Washington DOC’s Solution: Ship ’Em Out of State

Overcrowded Washington DOC's Solution: Ship ?Em Out of State

by David M. Reutter

Overcrowding is pinching the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC). To alleviate that problem, the department ordered less than 100 community supervision violators released without a hearing -- but the resulting public outcry has the WDOC looking for additional beds, which will result in more prisoners being sent to out-of-state, for profit facilities.

To ease its burgeoning overcrowding problem, the WDOC has transferred over 1,000 prisoners out-of-state since 2003. The state is in the process of adding 2,900 prison beds by 2009; it is projected that an additional 4,455 beds will be needed.

The state's community supervision program, known as parole in other states, is causing the WDOC the greatest amount of criticism and directly impacts the need for more prison bed space. In 2006, more than 28,000 people were under active supervision by the WDOC. On average, 1,200 of those prisoners were returned to jail or prison for breaking their release rules. That number is expected to rise to 1,600 over the next two years. Some offenders are violated for committing new crimes; most, however, have technical violations such as ...

MDC Brooklyn: Sex Scandal and 11 Staff Indicted for Beating Prisoners

by Matt Clarke

On April 12, 2007, eleven guards at the federal Bureau of Prison's Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, New York " including a captain and three lieutenants" were indicted for abusing prisoners. At the same time, another scandal at the MDC involved a staff psychologist allegedly having an extramarital affair with a prisoner.

PLN has previously reported the abuse of prisoners by guards at MDC Brooklyn. [See: PLN, Sept. 2006, p.30; June 2004, p.19; and April 2004, p.21]. Unfortunately the brutality against prisoners continues, with many of the same guards participating. A federal indictment was handed down against Captain Salvatore LoPresti, Lt. Frank Maldonado, Lt. Kelly Tassio, Lt. Elizabeth Torres, and guards Scott Rosebery, Glen Cummings, Alfred Santana, Steven Peterson and three others stemming from assaults on prisoners which occurred on November 13, 2002 and April 11, 2006.

In the 2002 assault, the indictment alleged that LoPresti felt "disrespected" when prisoner Robert George refused to remove a t-shirt he had tied around his head. LoPresti and other guards beat George until a pool of blood and clumps of his dreadlocks were left on the floor. LoPresti, Tassio, Rosebery and two other guards then attempted ...

Oklahoma Court Orders Sentenced Prisoners Transported to Prison

The District Court for Oklahoma County, Oklahoma has ordered the County's Sheriff to transfer all prisoners awaiting transportation to the Department of Corrections (DOC) within 30 days and any prisoners sentenced after the Court's order are to be so transferred within 45 days of sentencing.

The Court's order came in a class action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to correct overcrowding at the Oklahoma County Detention Center (OCDC). The Court found that at no time has OCDC exceeded its maximum capacity of 2,890 prisoners. It has, however, overcrowded the section holding prisoners awaiting transfer to serve their prison sentences.

Holding prisoners for extended periods at OCDC after they were sentenced to prison without further charges pending is where the court found a serious problem. One-third of OCDC's prisoners, or 1,345, were awaiting transport to prison to serve their sentences. For prisoners, there is a huge difference in serving time at OCDC and prison.

The biggest difference is the effect on their release date. Oklahoma prisons utilize class levels that determine the amount of "earned credits" that reduce their sentence. To reach level 3, a prisoner must be incarcerated within DOC for three months while ...

PHS Fails Benchmarks In NYC Jail Medical Contract; Fined $250,000

Prison Health Services (PHS), nearing the end of its three-year $359.6 million contract to provide medical, dental, mental health and pharmaceutical services to ten of the eleven New York City jails, was audited by the State Comptroller's Office in June 2007. The 26 page audit report revealed that over 27% of the contract's performance benchmarks were not being met, leaving the 14,000 prisoners underserved. Oversight of the contract is performed daily by the City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). In 2005, DOHMH fined PHS $250,000 under the contract's liquidated damages provision, which amounted to about 5% of PHS's $4.75 million administrative fee on $102 million in services for that year.

While DOHMH reviews prisoner medical files daily, it reports on PHS's performance only quarterly. These reports are in reference to contract benchmarks for delivery care. The auditors found that over 27% of such benchmarks were not met in two consecutive evaluation periods, suggesting a failure to "get it" when dinged with the initial bad report. Overall, fifteen benchmarks were "not substantially met" in either the first quarter, second quarter or both, in 2005. These included intake examinations, mental health ...

Like America, Japan Allows Guards to Walk After Prisoner Abuse Convictions

The recent convictions and sentences given to several Japanese prison guards reveals the phenomena of allowing guards to walk even when they seriously injure kill prisoners is not limited to the United States.

In total, seven guards have been convicted by the Nagoya District Court of assaults on three prisoners in 2001 and 2002, killing two and seriously injuring the other. Each guard received a suspended sentence.

The first incident occurred in December 2001. That fatal assault occurred when three guards aimed a fire hose at a prisoner's bare buttocks. They seriously injured the prisoner's rectum and anus. He died of bacterial shock the next day. The guards were each convicted of the abuse, which occurred at the Nagoya Prison, but they received only suspended sentences.

The other death and injury came in two separate incidents, but resulted from the same type of abuse. The "guards illegally used a restraining device, comprised of a leather belt and handcuffs, to punish the prisoners, when it was only to be used to restrain violent prisoners."

The death of a 49-year old prisoner came after he was forced into the device and later died of a heart attack in solitary confinement ...

Indiana DOC Agrees to Remove Mentally Ill Prisoners from Control Units

The Indiana Department of Corrections (IDC) settled a class action lawsuit brought by mentally ill prisoners whose Eighth Amendment rights had been trampled since 1993 by IDC policy that placed them in long-term disciplinary housing instead of treating their mental illnesses. The settlement comes ten years after a Human Rights ...

March Madness in Georgia Prisons

by Matt Clarke

March 2007 was an unusually bloody month in Georgia prisons, with three murders of prisoners by other prisoners and one severe beating of a mentally ill, handcuffed prisoner by guards.

Since 2005 there have been five homicides in the Georgia Department of Corrections (DOC). Three of them occurred in March 2007, according to DOC spokesperson Yolanda Thompson. Thompson added that the murders, which occurred at different prisons, appear to be unrelated to each other or to a systemic problem in the DOC, such as understaffing.

On March 4, Douglas Wren was murdered at Costal State Prison; his death was followed by the killings of Robert Hollis at Georgia State Prison on March 11, and Paul William Phillips at Calhoun State Prison on March 27.
Phillips, 53, who was serving 60 years for aggravated child molestation, and another prisoner were attacked by a third prisoner at the 1,244-bed, Level 5 Calhoun State Prison. Level 5 indicates a close-security facility, one step below maximum-security. The other prisoner with Phillips was injured in the assault and required hospitalization. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) is investigating the incident.

As of April 2007 the DOC had 52,792 prisoners, including ...

Rikers Island Diapered Mentally Ill in Segregation

Prison officials in New York City have been charged in a lawsuit filed upon behalf of four mentally ill prisoners with depriving those prisoners of their basic human rights and placing them in diapers while in isolated segregation.

The prisoners, who were identified by their first names only, say they were targeted for revenge for an October 2005 clash in the mental health observation of the Anna M. Kross Center on Rikers Island. In that incident, a dozen prisoners and five guards were injured in a melee. One guard was slashed on the cheek with the sharpened face of a wristwatch.
Two guards and one prisoner are pending charges that range from assault to lying about the incident.

Many of the prisoners under observation and treatment owed "Bing Time," or punitive segregation, but were not placed in confinement because it would decompensate their mental health condition. After the October 5 incident, City prison officials made a decision to transfer prisoners who owed Bing Time to "no harm housing" (NHH).

With the assistance of its medical contractor Prison Health Services, the prisoners were labeled as "malingers" and "fakers." During October 2005, prison officials transferred, and in some cases, forcibly dragged approximately ...

Prisoners Died By the Thousands Between 2001 and 2004

by Michael Rigby

Elderly prisoners are more than twice as likely to die behind bars as those who are not in prison, a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) on prison mortality rates reveals. White and Hispanic prisoners were also slightly more likely to die than their non-incarcerated counterparts.

According to the report, released in January 2007, a total of 12,129 state prisoners died between 2001 and 2004.

Elderly prisoners were at exceptional risk of dying in prison. During the period examined "2001 through 2004" prisoners aged 55 to 64 died at a rate that was 56% higher than the general U.S. population.

The numbers detailed in the report are based on data collected under the Death in Custody Reporting Act of 2000 (PL 106-297).

Five states accounted for nearly half (41%) of all prisoner deaths during this period. Texas led with 1,582 deaths (and that number would be much higher if the report had included executions), followed by California (1,306), Florida (813), New York (712), and Pennsylvania (558).

Not surprisingly, the length of a prisoner's sentence directly affected mortality rates. For prisoners who served at least 10 years in (state) prison, the ...

Reformed Dental Care Will Have Ohio Prisoners Smiling

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) will hire dozens of dental health care providers, revise policies and procedures governing prisoner dental care, and implement oral health care education programs as part of a settlement agreed to in a larger class action lawsuit that alleged constitutionally inadequate health care in the Ohio prison system.

State prisoners Rodney Fussell, Gary Roberts, and James Love sued the ODRC in October 2003 alleging constitutionally inadequate health care.
In January 2004 the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio certified the case as a class action and appointed attorneys Alphonse A. Gerhardstein and David Singleton (an attorney with the Prison Reform Advocacy Center--now known as the Ohio Justice and Policy Center), to represent the prisoners.

In November 2005, after a jointly approved fact finding process undertaken by various prison health care experts, the ODRC agreed to implement reforms in more than 30 areas related to prisoner medical and dental care. Some of the more notable aspects included adding an additional 296 licensed medical personnel and 21 physicians; revising policies and procedures related to prisoner medical and dental care, along with training programs to keep staff informed of the new policies ...

Inadequate Medical Care Alleged at Alameda County, CA Jail – Four Prisoners Dead

Inadequate Medical Care Alleged at Alameda County, CA Jail - Four Prisoners Dead

Family members of prisoners who became sick or died at the Santa Rita jail in Alameda County, California have alleged inadequate health care following two deaths within a one-week period in 2006. There have been two other medically-related deaths at the facility this year, most recently in August 2007. Santa Rita has logged at least 21 prisoner deaths since 2003, not including nine suicides.

Jail officials note that the Santa Rita facility, which is the sixth largest county jail in the nation, is certified by the American Correctional Association. Despite this assurance, prisoners continue to die. The jail's private medical provider, Prison Health Services, has been the subject of numerous previous reports in PLN. [See, e.g.: PLN, Nov. 2006, p.1].

On September 4, 2006, three days after reporting to jail to serve a 26-day misdemeanor battery sentence, 18-year-old Tony Rounds died of a heart attack while doing pushups in the yard. His family alleged that jail staff did not use a defibrillator that was present for just that purpose, but only gave CPR. Strangely, one day after Rounds was taken to the hospital and put ...

U.S. Prison and Jail Population Continues Meteoric Rise

It?s beginning to sound a bit repetitive, but the nation?s prison population continues to grow exponentially. At midyear 2006, U.S. prisons and jails held 2,245,189 persons?a 2.8% increase over the previous year, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report released in June 2007.

Put another way, on June 30, 2006, 1 in every 133 U.S. residents was behind bars. This is one of the highest incarceration rates in the world.
State and federal prisons accounted for 70% of the increase in the imprisoned population. On June 30, 2006, 1,556,518 people were imprisoned in these facilities. That increase of 34,500 prisoners was the largest since midyear 2000.

Local jail populations also continued to grow, but at a slightly lower rate (2.5%) than the prison population. In actual numbers, U.S. jails held 766,010 prisoners on June 30, 2006. Between midyear 2005 and 2006 these jails operated at an average 94% capacity, though they tended to reach 100% capacity on peak days.

The two largest jail jurisdictions were Los Angeles County and New York City, with a combined total of 32,703 jail prisoners on June 30 ...

State Auditor Flunks California DOC For Failure To Make Prison Population Projections

In a March 2007 Letter Report to California's Governor and Legislature, State Auditor Elaine Howell reported that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) had failed to make meaningful progress in devising accurate prisoner population projections for California. Such projections are of paramount importance because they seriously impact CDCR's now $10.1 billion annual budget. The joint Legislative Audit Subcommittee had requested in 2005 that CDCR get a handle on its statistical projections, but the new Report shows that no real progress has been made.

CDCR claimed that it needed to first devise a newer Inmate Classification Scoring System (ICSS) to establish a data base for projections, yet had been unable to do so. It projected completion of such a data base by October 2007.

But the Auditor had requested more. She wanted CDCR to utilize expert statisticians to perform this complex mathematical work. CDCR asserted that it had looked in Sacramento at the California State University (CSU) and determined that because CSU did not offer courses in applied mathematics, it was presumptively unqualified in statistics. (As any mathematician knows, applied mathematics is far from being synonymous with statistics.) The Auditor determined that CDCR had failed, however ...

Corruption in Awarding California DOC Medical Contract Exposed

More details have surfaced in a conflict-of-interest scandal involving two California gubernatorial appointees involved in a $26 million no-bid contract awarded by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) for medical scheduling services. PLN previously reported that the chief of CDCR's Division of Health Care Services, Dr. Peter Farber-Szekrenyi, was forced to resign after the federally-appointed healthcare receiver, Robert Sillen, learned of the questionable contract. [See: PLN, July 2007, p.33].

The contract involved a three-year pilot program at two Southern California prisons to schedule health care specialists for priority medical visits. The contract was awarded to Medical Development International (MDI), a Florida-based firm that provides similar services to 27 federal Bureau of Prisons facilities.

MDI's scheduling efforts reportedly reduced CDCR's medical specialist backlog at the two prisons from 500 to zero. But it did so, in part, by not scheduling any such visits when the estimated cost of treatment would exceed $5,000. This amounted to making "medical decisions," which required a medical license, something MDI lacked. Accordingly, federal court Special Master John Hagar stopped all work by and payments to MDI, and Robert Sillen vowed to ban MDI from operating in California prisons. [See ...

Texas Jail Pays $200,000 to Settle Rape/Suicide Suit

Val Verde County, Texas and its contract Del Rio jail operator, GEO Group, Inc., agreed in March 2007 to pay $200,000 to the surviving family of a 23-year-old woman prisoner who, upon becoming depressed after being raped in the jail, hung herself with her bed sheet in July 2004 ...

California DOC Guards Win Injunction to Stop Prisoner Transfers Out-Of-State; Transfers Continue While State Appeals

The Superior Court of Sacramento County has granted a writ of mandate prohibiting the transfer of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) prisoners to out-of-state facilities to alleviate the prison system's chronic overcrowding crisis.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), the union that represents state prison guards, had sued in Superior Court challenging Governor Schwarzenegger's declared "state of emergency" as an improper use of power to overcome the normal illegality of such transfers. Prior to the writ's issuance, on February 20, 2007, some 354 "volunteer" prisoners had already been transferred to a Corrections Corporation of America facility in Tennessee.

In a rare case that put the guard union on the same side as prisoner advocates, the CCPOA fought to stem the flow of involuntary transfers to out-of-state lockups. The union argued that their members' safety was at issue, stating that guards could be injured when they had to extract and ship 8,000 angry prisoners for forced transfers. More likely, the union was (correctly) worried that this was a bargaining tactic by Gov.
Schwarzenegger in their contested labor contract negotiations: knuckle under or kiss your jobs goodbye. Out-of-state private prisons charge California less than one-half ...

California DOC Pays PLN’s Attorneys $320,000 In Fees/Costs Related To Mail Censorship Settlement

California DOC Pays PLN's Attorneys $320,000 In Fees/Costs Related To Mail Censorship Settlement

by John E. Dannenberg

In June, 2007, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and Prison Legal News (PLN) stipulated to a $320,000 settlement for attorney fees and costs associated with CDCR ...

Cook County, Illinois, To Pay $4,575,000 for Nonconsensual STD Testing

On July 10, 2007, Cook County, Illinois, agreed to pay $4,575,000 to settle a federal class action lawsuit that alleged prisoners were subjected to nonconsensual testing for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) during intake at Chicago?s Cook County jail.

Plaintiffs Robert Jackson, Joseph McGrath, and Derrell Smith claimed ...

$150,000 Settlement in Suit over Atlanta Prisoner’s Fall-Related Death

$150,000 Settlement in Suit over Atlanta Prisoner's Fall-Related Death

In November 2006, the family of a man who suffered fatal injuries when he fell over a railing on an upper floor of an Atlanta jail settled with the city for $150,000.

Decedent Todd Jones, 37, was arrested ...

Utah DOC Audit: Ingrained Staff Cronyism Stymies Workplace Effectiveness

by John E. Dannenberg

A December 2006 state audit of the Utah Department of Corrections (UDC) found that entrenched upper management personnel lacked vision and innovation, while they selectively allowed punishable staff "indiscretions" to be swept under the rug without consequences. This self-perpetuating chronic situation left UDC staff morale in a tailspin and the department in need of complete reformation at the top level, according to auditors. The audit also criticized lack of current training and "selective" case treatment by UDC Internal Affairs investigators.

UDC's current annual budget is $240 million. In 2006, UDC housed 6,400 prisoners who were supervised by 1,278 guards. A total of 2,457 staff positions were authorized but only 2,200 were filled. That the number of job vacancies wasn't larger is surprising, since UDC wages average only 82% that of county jails. UDC wages start at $12.14 per hour, compared with $14.73 for the counties.

But the most significant complaint among UDC employees focused on rampant staff acrimony that even extended beyond the workplace. Knowing this from prior reports, the auditors identified three areas of inquiry: (1) whether personnel practices evidenced favoritism; (2) whether unethical management behavior existed ...

California DOC Contract Registry Pharmacist Accused of Diverting 93% of Referrals to His Own Corporation

California's State Auditor has found that a pharmacist, who was contracted by three state prisons to select other pharmacists from a state-approved registry to perform services at the facilities, directed 93% of such referrals worth $1.1 million to pharmacists on his own firm's registry. Fees and costs gained from these "in-house" referrals earned him an estimated $220,000 over a one-year period.

David Elder, proprietor of D.F. Elder Pharmacy, Inc., was under contract for seven years to provide subcontracted pharmacists to three state prisons as needed. His task, essentially acting as a broker, was to select candidates based on lowest bid rates from among several registry lists approved by the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

Elder claimed that the use of his own company's registry had been approved by the late John Klavich, Chief Medical Officer at Corcoran State Prison, who died in a motorcycle accident in 2005. The Auditor's attention was drawn to the fact that Elder almost exclusively selected candidates from his own firm's registry list.

Of the $1.1 million in annual billings reviewed, approximately 20% was retained by his company, Elder admitted. Nonetheless, he denied any wrongdoing. "If ...

New York High Court Invokes Due Process Rights for Civil Commitment of Alleged Sexual Predators

The New York Court of Appeals reversed a ruling by the Appellate Division that had permitted sex offenders nearing the end of their criminal sentences to be summarily transferred to mental health facilities (e,g., civil commitment centers) without hearings. This was the second such ruling by the state?s highest court within a year; between the rulings, the New York Legislature filled the statutory void with new civil commitment hearing procedures.

Stephen Harkavy, Deputy Director of Mental Health Hygiene Legal Services, petitioned on behalf of dozens of New York state prisoners who had been involuntarily transferred to state mental health facilities at the end of their prison terms for sex offenses. They were placed either in high-security or low-security facilities without regard to their propensity for dangerousness, solely on a space-available basis.

The civil commitments were ordered by New York prison officials under pressure from former Governor George Pataki, who was determined to keep sex offenders confined after they finished their sentences even if the law had to be manipulated to do so. New York Supreme Court Justice Jacqueline W. Silberman stated Pataki?s actions were equivalent to an ?executive fiat.? [See: PLN, Mar. 2006, p.22]. The Appellate ...

Pennsylvania Prison Legal Mail Policy Unconstitutional, Enjoined

by Matt Clarke

On May 3, 2007, a federal court in Pennsylvania found unconstitutional the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) mail policy allowing legal mail to be opened outside the presence of prisoners if the pail does not display a prison-issued control number.

Derrick Dale Fontroy, Theodore B. Savage and Aaron Christopher Wheeler, Pennsylvania state prisoners, filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal district court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the DOC policy allowing mail from attorneys and courts to be opened outside of prisoners' presence if the mail doesn't display a prison-issued control number, DC-ADM 803, § VI.P.2b, violated their First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The DOC countered that the policy was necessary to prevent contraband from entering the prison.

The DOC issues attorneys a control number conditioned on them certifying they will not transmit contraband or anything other than "essential, confidential, attorney-client communication" through the mail. Courts are also issued a control number. Mail displaying a control number is opened in the prisoner's presence. Mail without a control number is treated as regular mail and opened outside the prisoner's presence in the prison mail room.

According ...

California’s Prison Drug Procurements Separate from Other State Agencies

California's Prison Drug Procurements Separate from Other State Agencies

California State Auditor Elaine M. Howle issued a June 2007 report to follow-up on her past recommendation to implement bulk procurement cost-savings in the state's contracts for pharmaceuticals. Since 70% of such drugs are purchased for adult and juvenile corrections use, Howle noted that if the federally-appointed receiver for correctional health care took over drug purchases for the prison system, it would leave the 30% of drugs procured for all other state departments at a bulk-pricing disadvantage.

Understandably the state wants the best value for its drug purchases, but how to accomplish that goal is an exercise in bureaucracy. For the period 2005-2007, the state negotiated two contracts that were estimated to save $7.8 million over prior contract provisions. One contract provides prescription medications to parolees, while the other deals with a vendor to centralize all state drug procurements.

An initial major task was to approve a state-wide drug formulary, which is a list of approved bulk-purchased pharmaceuticals and the standard uses for those drugs. The object of the formulary is to encourage competition among drug suppliers; approximately 780 drugs are now in California's formulary.

However, not ...

Federal Prisoner Beaten On Texas Recreation Yard Awarded $350,000

On March 12, 2007, a federal district court awarded $350,000 to a prisoner who was beaten by about 40 other prisoners on the recreation yard of a federal prison in Texas.

Plaintiff Luis Garza claimed that while on the recreation yard at the Bureau of Prison's Federal Correctional ...

California DOC Federal Healthcare Receiver Issues Master Remedial Plan

by John E. Dannenberg

"Good care is less costly than bad care." This maxim, from prison healthcare Receiver Robert Sillen, set the tone when he announced his master plan on May 10, 2007 to constitutionally repair the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's (CDCR) ailing healthcare system. In the 50 page plan to the federal court, Sillen detailed his objectives, including use of teams of medical experts traveling by chartered plane to prisons in medical crisis; reorganizing regions of CDCR's 33 prisons to 3-5 prisons, versus 11 now; creating quality control mechanisms; developing monthly medical score cards for each prison; converting medical records from paper to electronic; implementing human resource programs to hire essential medical staff; overhauling medical fiscal management practices; improving custody medical escort teams; and providing proper clinical space at all 33 prisons. Sillen boasted, "The plan is comprehensive, responsible and best of all, achievable. ... The new system will eliminate the unconscionable human suffering currently taking place in our prisons, and make California communities safer from disease as inmates revolve in and out of the institutions."

The plan expressly provides for specialty clinics, including pain management, chronic care, infectious disease/prevention; pre-natal care; telemedicine services; and ...

“Please Rip Us Off” Florida Officials Tell Private Prison Companies

"Please Rip Us Off" Florida Officials Tell Private Prison Companies

by David M. Reutter

Despite having ordered a criminal investigation into its private prison contractors, the Florida Legislature and Governor Charlie Crist have enacted legislation that specifies those same companies are the only ones that can bid on expanding current prisons or building new correctional facilities.

The criminal investigation, conducted by the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement (FDLE), resulted after two state audits found that Florida had overpaid the GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) more than $4.5 million for vacant job positions and maintenance that was never performed. GEO settled with the state for $402,541, literally pennies on the dollar, while as of September, 2007 the state was still negotiating with CCA over $3.6 million in payments. [See: PLN, June 2007, p.32]. The FDLE investigation found no criminal wrongdoing.

To address its continually burgeoning prison population, Florida is planning to build more beds. The state's 2007 budget calls for 384 new beds at a medium-security prison, which is estimated to cost between $15 and $20 million. The budget limits the prison expansion to companies that currently contract with the state, which are ...

Study on Barriers to Employment of Ex-Prisoners in Milwaukee Released

by Matt Clarke

In early 2007, the Employment Training Institute (ETI) of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee released a study assessing the legal and employment needs of ex-prisoners residing in Milwaukee County.

The study of 26,772 adults released from Wisconsin prisons since 1993 found that ex-prisoners faced significant hurdles to post-incarceration employment. This included persistent legal problems, low education rates, high recidivism rates and drivers license suspension or revocation. Some prisoners faced housing difficulties because their drug convictions made them ineligible for all federally subsidized housing. Those prisoners faced difficulties in obtaining additional education as their drug convictions rendered then ineligible for Pell grants to attend vocational education or college classes. Drug convictions also rendered some ex-prisoners ineligible for food stamps and other social assistance programs.

Prior ETI studies of other population groups showed possession of a driver?s license to be more important than education level in determining whether a person can attain and maintain employment. This is probably because 75% of the open jobs in Milwaukee were in locations not well served by public transportation. Therefore, ETI recommended that the prison system assess prisoners? driver?s license status when they arrive and initiate a license restoration initiative so ...

California Inspector General: $1 Billion In DOC Drug Treatment Program “A Complete Waste Of Money”

California Inspector General: $1 Billion In DOC Drug Treatment Program "A Complete Waste Of Money"

by Marvin Mentor

California's Inspector General Matthew Cate issued a scathing 52-page report in February 2007 which concluded that the $1 billion that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has spent on prisoner drug treatment programs since 1989 was a "complete waste of money." Cate determined that CDCR's in-prison substance abuse programs "have little or no impact on recidivism." One study showed that "treated" prisoners actually had a higher recidivism rate. Over twenty studies commissioned by CDCR since 1997, including with the University of California at Los Angeles, reported that the programs were failing. Nonetheless, CDCR allegedly did nothing to fix the problems, but instead expanded the programs while funding yet more studies.

Cate, who heads the non-partisan independent agency responsible for oversight of the state's correctional system, firmly believes in the concept of correctional drug programs. "Successful treatment programs could reduce the cost to society of criminal activity related to drug abuse, change lives, and help relieve the state's prison overcrowding crisis." In short, with the state facing potential federal court takeover of CDCR due to overcrowding, the ...

News in Brief:

California: On January 12, 2007, prisoners at Folsom State Prison gave 192 phone cards to the California National Guard which was purchased with money raised during a pizza fund raiser at the prison. Each card had 200 minutes on it and will be distributed to soldiers serving overseas. The irony that California prisoners, whose friends and families pay over $20 for a 20 minute phone call from their loved ones in prison, would donate phone cards to the soldiers who make possible the concentration camps at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib was apparently lost on the mainstream media.

California: On January 17, 2007, Laurence Moll, 57, a guard at Old Folsom State Prison, shot and killed himself after shooting and killing his girlfriend, Bonnie Lathum, 56, a nurse at the prison, and her daughter Teresa Contreras, 31.

Colorado: On September 28, 2007, Brad Sanchez, 31, a guard at the Huerfano County Correctional Center, a jail operated by Corrections Corporation of America, was arrested and charged with soliciting sex and sexually explicit photos from undercover policemen pretending to be a 14 year old girl.

El Salvador: On January 5, 2007, prisoners at the Apanteos prison rioted when a prisoner began arguing with ...

Connecticut Strip Search Suit Settles For $2.5 Million

The State of Connecticut will pay $2.5 million to settle a class action lawsuit that alleged the state maintained an unconstitutional practice of strip searching all incoming prisoners at the New Haven Community Correction Center (NHCCC).

Plaintiff Charles Campbell claimed that he was strip searched at the jail on ...


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