Prison Legal News:
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Volume 18, Number 3
In this issue:
- “To Get Stuff and Sell It for As Much As We Can Get”: Federal Prison Industries and Electronics Recycling (p 1)
- ARE YOU IN A PRISON WORK PROGRAM HANDLING TOXIC ELECTRONICS? (p 8)
- From the Editor (p 12)
- Maryland Man Awarded $6.4 Million For False Imprisonment, Police Misconduct (p 12)
- Joe Arpaio: America’s Toughest Sheriff or Most Corrupt? (p 14)
- California DOC Wage Audit: Guards Overcharged State $12 Million for Union Business Leave (p 17)
- Florida Warden Susceptible to Liability in Valdes’ Murder; Suit Settles for $1,169,923.42 (p 18)
- Prisoners Sell Art Through Prison Art Gallery (p 19)
- Hawaii Settles DOJ Suit Over Unconstitutional Juvenile Facility (p 20)
- Cunningham v. California: Who’s Covered and Who’s Not? (p 20)
- HIV in Prison Is Lower Than Believed (p 21)
- China’s Death Penalty On Wheels (p 22)
- Sheriff’s Deputies Charged in Prisoner’s Death; Both Get Prison Time (p 22)
- Ninth Circuit: California Lifers Have A Liberty Interest In Parole (p 23)
- California DOC Federal Receiver Is Granted First Waiver of State Law (p 24)
- North Carolina Enacts Innocence Inquiry Commission (p 24)
- Three Work-Release Van Drivers Escape from Arkansas Prison; Practice Discontinued (p 26)
- PHS Loses $707 Million FDOC Contract Rebid; State Adopts Hybrid Model of Prison Health Care (p 26)
- California Inspector General Assesses DOC’s Compliance With Past Audit Recommendations (p 28)
- Hawaii Juvenile Gay Bashing Enjoined (p 28)
- Bernard Kerik Pleads Guilty; Has Name Removed From New York City Jail (p 30)
- Alabama Spends $500,000 to Vaccinate State Prisoners (p 31)
- Maricopa County, Arizona, Abandons Restraint Chairs Following Deaths, Multimillion Dollar Payouts (p 32)
- Vermont, the Last State to Pass Sex Abuse Laws (p 32)
- New York HCV Treatment Suit Not Mooted by Equivocal DOC Concession; Class Certification Granted (p 33)
- Georgia County Pays $5.1 Million for Community Service Turned Deadly (p 34)
- Many U.S. Prisoners Mentally Ill, Few Receive Treatment (p 34)
- Federal Court Restrains Los Angeles County Jail Overcrowding (p 35)
- New Jersey Phone Rates Out of Control (p 36)
- $205,000 Settlement in Massachusetts Strip Search Suit (p 36)
- US Settles Prisoner’s UNICOR Whistleblower Suit for $6,000 (p 37)
- Appeals Court Reverses Summary Judgment of Washington Phone Suit (p 38)
- Pennsylvania Work-Release Program Criticized (p 38)
- Fahrenheit 451 on Cell Block D (p 39)
- California DOC Ordered to Comply with Overdue Suicide Prevention Measures (p 39)
- Texas Prisoners Face Mandatory Testing For HIV (p 40)
- $275,000 Paid In Excessive-Force Michigan Jail Death Lawsuit (p 40)
- Grievances Must Identify Defendants Later Sued (p 41)
- Colorado Prisoners Caging Prisoners (p 41)
- News in Brief: (p 42)
- Wyoming Federal Court Awards Attorney $18,000 for Compliance Monitoring (p 44)
by Aaron Shuman
In recent months, UNICOR Recycling has experienced a number of challenges in its efforts to build the infrastructure of U.S. electronics recycling into the infrastructure of federal prisons. In September 2006, the federal Office of Special Counsel named Leroy Smith, the former health and safety manager at the federal prison in Atwater, California, Public Servant of the Year for his whistle blowing efforts regarding toxic conditions for workers in UNICOR Recycling.
In October, four organizations Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, Prison Activist Resource Center, the Computer TakeBack Campaign, and the Center for Environmental Health released a report on UNICOR Recycling, accompanied by a protest in Austin, Texas, at E-Scrap, the North American conference for electronics recycling. Attendees at the conference were greeted by caged protesters in orange jumpsuits, using hammers to dismantle electronics and computer monitors, next to printed quotes from incarcerated workers such as, "We was getting showers of glass and the whole chemicals out of the tube. We was cutting ourselves. I only went to the hospital twice, but one of them was a serious injury ...
"To Get Stuff and Sell It for As Much As We Can Get": Federal Prison Industries and Electronics Recycling
1. Do you wish to keep your identity anonymous?
2. Are you currently working in a work program in electronics?
3. Work: Recycling, Manufacturing, Repair or other: Where: Federal, State, County or Other Prison.
4. If you are working in a Federal Prison, are you working for UNICOR?
5. What is the name of the facility you are in?
6. How long have you worked in this program? from (mo./yr.) to (mo.yr.)
7. Do you ...
At Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition and the Prison Activist Resource Center we have been working to end the exposure to toxics of people working in electronic recycling programs in prison, particularly in UNICOR work programs within the Federal Prison System. Sworn statements from people in prison have played a vital role in advancing our understanding of how electronic waste is recycled in prison. We suggest that after returning this form, you file any complaints you may have within your prison?s internal administrative remedy process, in order to preserve your ability to sue. Please take a moment to fill out this survey and return it to our legal support: Michael Couzens, Attorney at Law, P.O. Box 3642, Oakland, California 94609.
While the suit was pending, the number of Kansas prisoners who subscribe to PLN have dropped from 52 to 35 as a result of these policies. Both Don and I testified on behalf of PLN to the effect that these policies violate the rights of both prisoners and publishers such as PLN. The court has asked for additional briefing and indicated it would issue an opinion shortly. The case was previously dismissed sub nom Zimmerman v. Simmons, 260 F.Supp.2d 1077 (D. Kans. 2003) which was reversed and remanded for trial sub nom Jacklovich v. Simmons, 392 F.3d 420 (10th Cir. 2004). The ...
This editorial is being written in Wichita, Kansas on February 14, 2007. For the past two days PLN?s executive director, Don Miniken, and I have been attending the bench trial before USDC Judge Monte Belot in Prison Legal News v. Werholtz. PLN filed the lawsuit in 2002 challenging the Kansas Department of Corrections ban on gft subscriptions, the arbitrary $40.00 limit it imposes on publication purchases per month, the lack of due process notice to publishers when it censors mail sent to its prisoners and prohibiting prisoners at level one from receiving publications.
On August 30, 2006, a jury in Prince George?s County, Maryland, awarded $6.4 million to a man who was wrongfully imprisoned for the brutal rape and murder of his wife. During trial the jury heard compelling evidence indicating that County Police Department detectives lied about the suspect?s ...
by Alex Friedmann
Joe M. Arpaio, the head lawman over Maricopa County, Arizona, bills himself as "America's Toughest Sheriff." While "toughest" may be subject to debate (literally -- in September, 2006 Arpaio debated L.A. County Sheriff Leroy Baca over who ran the strictest jail), there is little doubt that Sheriff Joe enjoys nationwide notoriety.
When most people hear Arpaio's name they think about the austere conditions at his infamous outdoor tent city jail: Prisoners forced to wear pink underwear and striped uniforms; temperatures of 100 degrees and above; no coffee, smoking or pornographic magazines allowed; chain gang work crews; and two meals a day that cost only $.30 per prisoner, with an emphasis on green bologna. Sheriff Joe likes to boast that he spends twice as much on meals for the dogs and cats he keeps in an air-conditioned rescue center. Most recently Arpaio removed Kool-Aid from the jail's menu.
When criminal justice advocates hear Arpaio's name, however, they think about someone who has little respect for civil, and human, rights. Consider the prisoners who have been killed or injured in the sheriff's lock-ups. In January ...
Joe Arpaio: America?s Toughest Sheriff or Most Corrupt?
Under California?s Ralph C. Dills Act (Government Code §§ 3512-3524), labor unions representing state agencies such as the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) must be provided reasonable time off for a reasonable number of union representatives to conduct union business on the job site, without loss of compensation. California?s prison guards, represented in Bargaining Unit 6 (BU6), negotiated for five categories of such union-business leave in their 2000-2006 contract.
The largest category, ?Release Time Bank,? permits the approximately 30,000 union members to donate some of their personal leave hours (e.g., vacation) to a ?bank? that can be drawn down by union representatives ...
California?s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the state Legislature?s watchdog over prison operations, reviewed guards? use of leave for union-related business and found that California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) accounting controls were so loose as to put in grave doubt the validity of $12 million of such charges between 2000 and 2006. Corrections Secretary James Tilton, himself a former business manager in CDCR, admitted the problems described in the OIG?s June 2006 Special Report into Management of Union Leave Time by CDCR and promised a 10-point remedial plan.
by David M. Reutter
While former Florida Department of Corrections director James Crosby was never charged in the murder of Florida death row prisoner Frank Valdes, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held that ...
Florida Warden Susceptible to Liability in Valdes' Murder; Suit Settles for $1,169,923.42
The Prisons Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC that promotes arts and education in prisons as well as alternatives to incarceration.
Prisons Foundation Director, Dennis Sobin, is a former prisoner who spent 11 years behind bars. ?There is a need for people on the inside to be recognized for the art they create in prison. Art humanizes prisoners ? it encourages them not to give up,? Sobin believes.
The Prison Art Gallery is located a few blocks from the White House at 1600 K Street NW, Suite 501, Washington, DC and is open seven days a week. Last year 302 prisoner artists sent artwork or crafts, and 83 sold at least one work. The Prisons Foundation promotes its artwork very enthusiastically. A few prison artists have been very popular ? selling every single piece of artwork at the gallery and art shows the foundation sponsors ...
Creating art can expand our human experience and help us grow. For prisoners, having contact with the outside world is crucial because many are in a place where educational programs, letters or visits are rare or non-existent. The Prisons Foundation strives to make things better for the prisoners who want to express their creativity.
On August 16, 2004, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) launched a year-long investigation of conditions, policies and practices at HYCF. On August 4, 2005, the DOJ issues a report declaring ?a state of chaos? at HYCF.
The DOJ Report made detailed findings concerning HYCF conditions, policies, and practices. Major constitutional deficiencies were found, including: the failure to protect wards from self-harm, staff violence, and youth-on-youth violence; excessive use of disciplinary isolation; lack of adequate supervision; and an inadequate grievance system.
?Security staff? received no training in over five years and have no rules to guide their decisions,? according to the DOJ. The ?most fundamental problem? was ?the absence of policies and procedures to govern the facility.? Investigators found that ?staff and administrators were either unaware of the existence of any policies or procedures or were cognizant of their existence yet ignorant of their content.?
?HYCF?s grievance system is dysfunctional.? Complaints were difficult to file, responses were rarely received and were intimidated and retaliated against. One administrator ...
The State of Hawaii settled a suit brought by the United States government, resolving a suit over unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the Hawaii Youth Corrections Facility (HYCF) in Kailua, Hawaii.
by Kent Russell
On January 22, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Cunningham v. California, __ S.Ct. __, 2007 WL 135687 (No. 05-6551), holding that California?s determinate sentencing law, which allows CA judges to impose upper-term sentences (i.e., the highest of the three possible sentences which can be imposed for any given offense) on the basis of factors found by the judge rather than by the jury, is unconstitutional. The purpose of this commentary is to concisely explain to prisoners whether or not they have a chance for getting any sentencing relief under Cunningham.
First off, it must be said that Cunningham is still so new that the California Supreme Court has not yet provided any guidance at all as to how this case will actually be interpreted in practice. Also, it's at least possible that California may set up a procedure to enable prisoners to get Cunningham sentencing relief without having to go to court to get it. In the meantime, though, prisoners who are trying to decide whether or not they are covered by Cunningham should consider the following:
~ Because Cunningham applies only ...
Cunningham v. California: Who's Covered and Who's Not?
The study dispelled the myth that prisons are a breeding ground for HIV.
?The popular assumption is that prison is a very good place to contract HIV infection,? said Richard Tewksbury. ?Both inmates and society as a whole have long held the belief that transmission is common among prison inmates.?
Tewksbury has extensively studied HIV-prevention strategies and is a professor and the University of Louisville. He says that ?the interesting thing about this study is that it directly contradicts? the myth.
CDC spokeswoman Terry Butler agrees with this assessment. ?Media coverage of this issue over the past several years has been characterized by misperceptions that HIV transmission in prison is widespread.? Butler says that this viewpoint persists despite a lack of evidence to support it.
Georgia has the fifth largest prison system in the U.S. with about 45,000 men and women. The study shows that over 90% of those with HIV were already infected when ...
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a study showing that the spread of HIV in prison is extremely low. Of 856 males in Georgia?s prisons who tested positive for HIV in 2005, only 76 acquired the virus inside prison.
by Gary Bunter
China's death penalty has gone mobile. Death vans are now replacing firing squads as the preferred method of execution.
In the past, condemned prisoners were executed publicly in prisons or court buildings. Kang Zhongwen, designer of the Jinguan Automobile death van, says that his vehicles "deters others from committing crime and has more impact" because executions are carried out closer to the communities where the crimes are committed.
Kang says that the switch from firing squads to lethal injection is proof that China "promotes human rights now."
Amnesty International researcher Mark Allison suggests another reason for the switch.
"We have gathered strong evidence suggesting the involvement of (Chinese) police, courts and hospitals in the organ trade."
Despite bans on organ trading and stringent standards for transplants suspicion still surrounds China's complicity in trafficking illegal organs.
"Given the high commercial value of organs, it is doubtful the new regulations will have an effect," says Allison.
Although mobile executions are video and audio taped and telecast live to law enforcement officials, outsiders are denied any access to the deceased. Even relatives are not allowed to view the corpses before they are ...
China's Death Penalty On Wheels
by Gary Hunter
Jail guards Ronald Eugene Parker and Brandon Gray Huie were charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of a prisoner in North Carolina's Davidson County jail, and both received prison terms.
Carlos Claros-Castro, 28, a native of Honduras, was arrested on January 6, 2006 after he was involved in an auto accident. He was charged with driving while impaired, leaving the scene of an accident and other vehicular offenses.
On January 7, Claros-Castro became agitated for some unknown reason at the Davidson County jail and removed his clothes. He was handcuffed and placed in a restraint chair for four hours, then returned to a cell. At some point Claros-Castro obtained a fiberglass mop handle from a jail trustee, which guards wanted to remove. Brandon Huie responded first and became engaged in a physical confrontation with the combatant prisoner.
When he called for help, Parker, a large man who stands over six feet tall, came to Huie's aid.
The two wrestled with Claros-Castro and used an ASP baton, tear gas and Taser on him.
"The inmate was clearly having some kind of ...
Sheriff's Deputies Charged in Prisoner's Death; Both Get Prison Time
Brian Sass was convicted in 1988 of second degree murder, gross vehicular manslaughter, hit and run death, causing injury while under the influence and felony drunk driving. His prior record included seven DUI convictions. At his initial parole hearing in 1996, and again in 1999 and 2000, Sass was found unsuitable. The BPT found that Sass? commitment offense combined with his prior record demonstrated that he was still an unreasonable risk of danger to society if released, notwithstanding his clean record and substance abuse programming in prison.
Sass unsuccessfully sought habeas corpus relief in the state courts and the U.S. District. In the latter, Sass was denied relief when the court ruled that In re Dannenberg, a state court ruling interpreting Penal Code § 3041, had determined that California lifers have no liberty interest ...
The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals crushed a determined attempt by the California Board of Prison Terms (BPT-- now called the Board of Parole Hearings) to transmogrify the California Supreme Court?s decision in In re Dannenberg, 34 Cal. 4th 1061 (2005) to stand for the proposition that California?s lifer parole statute, Penal Code § 3041, does not confer a liberty interest in parole.
The federal court Receiver for healthcare in California state prisons (see: PLN, Mar. 2006, p.1, Federal Court Seizes California Prisons? Medical Care; Appoints Receiver With Unprecedented Powers) surmounted his first statutory bureaucratic obstacle to gaining constitutional healthcare. On October 17, 2006, U.S. District Judge Thelton E. Henderson ordered waivers of seven sections of the California Government Code and one state regulation so as to permit the Receiver to promptly hire and fire medical staff within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), setting new salary schedules as needed to gain qualified personnel.
The CDCR healthcare Receiver moved for the waiver on September 12, 2006 to remedy a staffing crisis that was continuing to result in CDCR prisoners unnecessarily dying from inadequate healthcare. The court responded to repeated reports by the Receiver that CDCR healthcare ?was plagued by? a lack of qualified doctors and nurses, a void tied directly to the non-competitive pay scales for these professionals. Doctors? salaries were 20-40% below market, and nurse salaries up to 57% below market. The result was a vacancy rate in CDCR?s 33 prisons ranging from a low of 20% to a high of 90%. Moreover ...
by John E. Dannenberg
by John E. Dannenberg
On August 3, 2006, North Carolina Governor Mike Easley signed into law H-1323, a bill creating an eight-member Innocence Commission wherein prisoners who have exhausted their court appeals but still claim they were wrongly convicted may reopen their convictions by offering new evidence not previously considered at trial. There is no time limit for this process. The Commission is the first of its kind in the U.S. and is modeled after a system begun in 1997 in the United Kingdom. Prisoners whose claims gain at least five votes from the Commission that the evidence shows a potential for proving innocence will have their cases forwarded to a panel of three state Superior Court judges. To overturn a conviction, the panel’s decision must be unanimous.
North Carolina’s conscience was rattled by the recent exposé of the wrongful convictions of Darryl Hunt (found innocent based upon DNA evidence after doing 18 years on a murder conviction) and Alan Gell (released from death row based upon evidence prosecutors deliberately withheld at his trial). Earlier, Ronald Cotton served 10 years on a life-plus-54-year rape conviction before being cleared by DNA testing in 1995, while Lesley Jean was DNA-cleared after ...
Arkansas was one of the few states that, until recently, allowed unsupervised prisoners to transport other prisoners to and from free-world jobs.
?We can?t do it without allowing some inmates to hold positions of responsibility and trust,? said DOC spokeswoman Dina Tyler. The expense of requiring a guard for each van trip was cost prohibitive and would place additional strain on an already short-handed system.
Delancey and Saunders were scheduled to pick up prisoners working at an Affiliated Foods warehouse that Sunday. Instead, the pair abandoned the vans; they were spotted two days later at a lumberyard in Little Rock.
Delancey was serving a 20-year sentence for second degree murder, while Saunders was serving 14 years for burglary and theft. Both would have been eligible for parole in just over a year.
It had been more than ten years since a van driver escaped from an Arkansas work-release program, and this was the first work-release escape in 2006. Several other states had discontinued the practice of using prisoner drivers long ago.
Dorinda Carter, spokeswoman ...
Two prisoners escaped from Arkansas? Benton Unit prison on July 9, 2006. Tab Delancey and Clifton Sanders were drivers in the prison?s work-release program.
On September 20, 2006, Tennessee-based Prison Health Services (PHS), a for-profit prison medical care contractor [see: PLN, Nov. 2006, pp.
1-10], exercised an escape clause just ten months into its ten-year $645 million contract to provide medical services to 25% of Florida?s prison population. The company claimed it was losing money on the contract to supply health care to 18,000 prisoners in south Florida facilities.
When the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) rebid the contract on October 20, 2006, PHS won again ? but now with a bid for $707 million.
Low-bidder Wexford Health Services protested the contract award, citing its bid of $689 million and FDOC?s recently-announced $696,000 fine against PHS for performance deficiencies during the company?s initial contract period.
PHS spokeswoman Martha Harbin blamed the company?s higher second bid on faulty data provided by the state during the 2005 bidding process. PHS?s bid had provided for 95 hospitalization days per month per 1,000 prisoners, which was fully five times what FDOC had projected in its request for bids. PHS?s actual experience during the initial ten months of the contract, however, was 200 hospitalization days per month ...
by John E. Dannenberg
by John E. Dannenberg
California's Inspector General (IG), Matthew Cate, who has oversight responsibility over the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), issued an exhaustive 363 page Accountability Audit reporting the degree of compliance with 22 earlier separate IG audits with recommendations to CDCR made between 2000 and 2004. Cate reported that of 394 recommendations in the 22 audits, 241 (61 percent) had been fully implemented, 53 (14 percent) had been substantially implemented, and 39 (10 percent) had not been implemented. [The balance of 16 (4 percent) were no longer applicable.] But the numbers don't tell the whole story. To address the remaining deficiencies, the IG had to issue 91 new recommendations.
The report separately scored two "respondents," individual prison staff/management and departmental-level (Sacramento) personnel. It found that the former were "highly responsive," while the latter failed to correct three of the most troubling and long-standing problems: overhaul of CDCR's antiquated Information Technology (IT) system, substandard medical care and inadequate preparation of prisoners for release. [Since this audit was published in April 2006, CDCR's health care system was seized by the federal courts ...
California Inspector General Assesses DOC's Compliance With Past Audit Recommendations
The Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility (HYCF) is a secure juvenile detention facility ?existing in a state of chaos? in Kailua Hawaii. See Companion Story: Hawaii Settles DOJ Suit Over Unconstitutional Juvenile Facility.
HYCF prisoners identified as, or perceived to be, LGBT were subjected to pervasive verbal abuse by staff and other prisoners. They suffered actual and threatened physical and sexual assaults based on their actual or perceived LGBT status. Staff were aware of the abuse but took no steps to remedy the problem. Prisoners who were targets of abuse were placed in isolation for their ?protection.? HYCF lacked a functioning grievance system, preventing youth from complaining of the abuse they endured.
Three LGBT wards of HYCF brought a class action suit in federal court, alleging that HYCF conditions deprived them of due process and equal protection of the law, access to counsel, and violated the Establishment Clause.
Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction, asking ?the court to require defendants to refrain from harassing, abusing, discriminating against or isolating ...
A federal court in Hawaii issued a preliminary injunction, prohibiting harassment, abuse, discrimination and isolation of juvenile detainees who are, or are perceived to be, lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT).
Former New York Police Chief Bernard B. Kerik, proclaimed hero of 9/11, fell to his lowest point yet after pleading guilty to two unclassified misdemeanor charges on June 30, 2006.
Kerik, also a former Director of the New York Department of Corrections, admitted to improperly accepting $165,000 worth of remodeling at his apartment, nearly free of charge, from Interstate Industrial Construction Company. Interstate is suspected of having ties to Italian American organized crime; Kerik reportedly vouched for the company when it was seeking government contracts.
Kerik further admitted to failing to report a $28,000 loan from real estate developer Nathan Berman. Authorities suspect the loan was used to purchase the apartment.
Following the misdemeanor convictions, Kerik will pay a $200,000 fine as part of an agreement with the Bronx district attorney's office.
As an almost immediate response to Kerik's admission of guilt, Mayor Bloomberg ordered Kerik's name removed from the New York jail once named in his honor. At 1:00 a.m. laborers assembled, under cover of darkness, to remove the signs displaying Kerik's name. The Manhattan Detention Complex (MDC), aka "The Tombs," assumed its old moniker.
"People were looking for ...
Ordinarily, adults are not vaccinated for Hepatitis A and B. State Health Officer Donald Williamson says that prisoners were targeted for treatment because of high drug use and sexual activity in prison.
?You have a population that is at high risk of being infected living with a group that is at high risk of being exposed,? he said.
Governor Bob Riley did not officially approve the expenditure. House Budget Director John Knight, D-Montgomery, initiated the program with $500,000 in discretionary money assigned to the DOC. A record amount is also allotted to next year?s vaccination program.
Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithCline lobbied for the vaccination program. They will now administer the vaccine.
Source: Montgomery Advertiser
The Alabama DOC has launched an innovative program to vaccinate prisoners for Hepatitis A and B. Hepatitis is a disease that damages the liver with the potential to be fatal. Alabama optimistically hopes to inoculate over half of its prisoners during the next year at a cost of one-half million dollars.
On August 21, 2006, Arpaio told The Arizona Republic that the jail?s restraint chairs have been replaced by restraint beds. The so-called ?safe beds? contain shackles for the prisoners? hands and feet. According to Arpaio, the beds are a safer alternative. Jerry Sheridan, chief of custody for the Sheriff?s Office, said the beds will only be used as a last resort. He said padded cells called ?safe rooms? will be used first.
At least three prisoner deaths have been linked to the use of restraint chairs at the jail. Two spawned lawsuits that resulted in multimillion dollar payouts. In March 2006, a federal jury awarded $9 million to the parents of Charles Agster III, who died after being strapped into a restraint chair at the jail in 2001. In 1996 the county paid $8.25 million to settle in the death of Scott Norberg, who also died in a restraint chair. Autopsies revealed that the men, both of whom had methamphetamine in their systems, died of positional ...
After three prisoner fatalities and two wrongful death payouts totaling $17.25 million, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, has finally discontinued the use of restraint chairs in county jails.
Amnesty International has pushed for the measure since 1999 when 14 states still were without laws protecting prisoners from sexual assault by their captors. By 2001, only six states including Vermont had failed to adopt some measure of reform.
?This is a significant victory, one that proves that lawmakers in Vermont understand that no woman deserves sexual abuse or unwanted sexual advances regardless of whether she?s serving time,? said Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International U.S.A. (AIUSA).
Joshua Rubenstein of AIUSA explains that, like statutory rape, sex between guards and prisoners cannot be consensual because the ?imbalance of power? is too great.
?There are all manner of ways in which a guard can pressure an inmate,? he said.
Corrections Commissioner Robert Hoffman agrees. ?Given the power imbalance...[t]here really can?t be legitimate consent,? he says.
The new law makes sex between prison and jail employees and prisoners a felony offense. But AIUSA officials point ...
On May 23, 2006, Vermont became the fiftieth and final state to outlaw sex between detention facility employees and prisoners. The proposed measure had been under debate for five years before Governor James Douglas finally signed the bill into law.
The United States District Court (N.D. N.Y.) rejected the New York Department of Corrections' (NYDOC) attempt to moot a class action claim filed by HCV (Hepatitis-C) infected prisoners who had sued to receive treatment for their deadly disease. The principal roadblock to treatment had been a Chief Medical Officer (CMO)-instigated rule that no HCV sufferer would begin the combination antiviral therapy unless and until he had completed a six-month NYDOC substance abuse (ASAT/RSAT) program. The "Catch-22" was that because there was a waiting list in the thousands for ASAT/RSAT, only 2% of HCV-positive prisoners actually received antiviral treatment from the 6-12% medically appropriate candidates of the 9,000 known NYDOC HCV victims.
Prisoners Robert Hilton and Louis Vasquez sued Dr. Lester Wright, NYDOC's CMO, for cruel and unusual punishment, claiming he had arbitrarily denied them medically needed HCV antiviral treatment. Hilton and Vasquez were not the first to make such claims, however. Wright had lost cases previously in federal court (Johnson v. Wright, 412 F.3d 398 (2nd Cir. 2005); McKenna v. Wright, 386 F.3d 432 (2nd Cir. 2004)) and in state court (Domenech v. Goord, 797 N.Y ...
by John E. Dannenberg
Vince Currid, 22, had been sentenced to 40 hours of unpaid slave labor, euphemistically referred to as community service, after being placed on probation for driving under the influence (DUI). County officials assigned Currid to work on the back of a garbage truck, but they gave him no training and failed to provide appropriate job-related equipment, including rain gear and boots. On October 22, 1999--his very first day at work--Currid fell from the rear of the vehicle while working in the rain. He suffered a fatal head injury.
?He was there to do 40 hours of community service, but they turned his 40 hours of community service into a death sentence,? said Sam Starks, one of the attorneys representing the family.
Furious at the way county officials acted both before and after the tragedy, the jury took less than four hours to reach the verdict. ?It was disgusting--they were arrogant, walking around like, ?this couldn?t possibly be our fault. We do this all the ...
On August 21, 2006, a Georgia state court awarded $5.1 Million to the family of a college student who was killed when he fell from a DeKalb County garbage truck while performing community service.
The numbers are disturbing. Overall, the report reveals that 64% of the nation?s 747,000 jail prisoners, 56% of its 1.5 million state prisoners, and 45% of its 156,000 federal prisoners had been treated for or exhibited signs of a mental disorder in the previous year. Even so, just 1 in 3 state and federal prisoners--and only 1 in 6 jail prisoners--received mental health care while imprisoned.
This lack of treatment has predictably adverse consequences. The report found, for instance, that mentally ill prisoners were 2 to 3 times more likely to be injured in a fight during their imprisonment. They were also disciplined for rule violations at a significantly higher rate than other prisoners.
The findings are ?both a scandal and national tragedy,? said Michael J. Fitzpatrick, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. ?The study reveals that the problem is two to three times greater than anyone imagined.? Fitzpatrick further said ...
Nearly half of the nation?s 2.3 million prisoners suffer from some sort of mental disorder, according to a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released in September 2006. Yet fewer than a third of those receive any treatment.
On October 27, 2006, the U.S. District Court (C.D. Cal.) issued an ?Order to Show Cause (?OSC?) re Issuance of Preliminary Injunction or Temporary Restraining Order,? plus imposed initial restraints, regarding the ongoing unconstitutional overcrowding at the Los Angeles County Main Jail (MCJ). These conditions were traced to the unending influx of new pre-trial detainees into the Inmate Reception Center (IRC). Because the court?s prior order to reduce overcrowding in specific areas in the MCJ had simply pushed the 500 excess prisoners back into the IRC, the court came to the conclusion that it now had to attack the unconstitutional conditions at the IRC.
On its MCJ tour on May 10, 2006, the court observed ?clear evidence of overcrowding.? It rose to the level of unconstitutionality in the following areas: cells designed for two prisoners contained four (leaving them no place to stand up in the cell, and where they were kept 24/7, less 3 hours per week exercise time); cells designed for four prisoners contained six. The court found conditions ?inconsistent with basic human values.?
On its second tour on September 14, 2006, the court found these MCJ conditions remedied, but ...
by John E. Dannenberg
New Jersy jails and prisons have long been criticized for the outrageous cost of prisoner-to-family phone services. Its rates are among the highest in the nation.
"[Prisoner's] families overpay enormously," said prisoner advocate Bonnie Kerness. "New Jersey is particularly egregious because the charges don't even go to the welfare of inmates. They benefit the State's Treasury Department."
Kerness, a member of the American Friends Service Committee, calls the phone rates morally unjustifiable.
Under the current system, phone payments are divided between the phone companies and the state entities that control the prisons and jails.
County and state governments controlling the lock-ups receive as much as 40% commission from phone services so there is little incentive to lower rates.
"It's outrageous," Said Arniotis. "I wish someone could do something about it."
State officials feel differently. "It's nice and refreshing to give back and offset some of the burden on taxpayers," said Morris County Jail ...
Two calls a week from her incarcerated son costs Marjorie Arniotis over $150 per month. Lorraine Green pays around $200 a month to talk to her imprisoned son and was paying more until one of her sons was acquitted in January 2006.
Lead plaintiff Charles Ryan IV was arrested ...
On December 27, 2006, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts agreed to pay $205,000 to settle a class action lawsuit alleging hundreds of arrestees were illegally strip searched at the Hampshire Jail and House of Corrections between January 18, 2002 and November 7, 2002.
On October 27, 2006, the United States paid $6,000 to settle with a federal prisoner who claimed he was fired from his UNICOR job in retaliation for filing safety complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
US Settles Prisoner's UNICOR Whistleblower Suit for $6,000
In 2000, Sandy Judd, Zuraya Wright and Tara Herivel filed suit against five phone companies--Qwest, Verizon, CenturyTel, AT&T and T-netix--in King County Superior Court. They contended they were not provided with rate information before choosing to accept calls from prisoners in several Washington prisons.
The trial court dismissed Qwest, Verizon and CenturyTel, holding they were exempt from the disclosure requirements. As for AT&T and T-netix, the trial court referred two issues to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) to determine whether the remaining companies were "operator service providers" (which are required to provide disclosure), and whether they had violated WUTC disclosure regulations, which are based on state law.
The companies moved for dismissal in the WUTC. The administrative law judge (ALJ) determined, however, that issues of material fact existed that precluded summary judgment. The ALJ further held that she could not decide the issues because such a determination was outside the superior court's narrow referral. The WUTC affirmed.
A Washington appeals court has overturned a lower court's grant of summary judgment to telephone companies in a lawsuit alleging they failed to disclose rates to recipients of prisoner-initiated phone calls as required by state law.
Businessman Lewis Knepp employs work-release prisoners. He tells how one of his employees, who earns $10 an hour and takes home $317 a week has $257 garnished from his wages to pay for mandatory state programs.
?These guys are set up to fail,? says Knepp. ?There?s such a weight on them that they can?t possibly survive.?
Prison warden Robert Karnes disagrees. ?It makes no sense to put somebody in jail, and they?re not paying on the fines they?re incarcerated for.?
Karnes says the program has the additional benefit of keeping prisoners in touch with their community. He points out that 120 of Lebanon County?s 900-plus prisoners are part of the work-release program. He also says that they are enjoying a privilege the rest do not qualify for.
Prisoners are also paid to work on county-owned properties and even in the prisons. Karnes says the program is mutually beneficial since prisoners perform janitorial, food, laundry and landscaping services for the prisons.
?For me to contract that out, they?re saving a lot of ...
Some citizens of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania feel that county work-release prisoners are forfeiting too much of their salary to a greedy judicial system.
By Evan R. Seamone, Esq., Reprinted from Yale Law & Policy Review, Vol. 24, No. 1 (2006), pp. 91-147.
Reviewed by John E. Dannenberg
Attorney Evan R. Seamone wants to promote justice by raising the stature of jailhouse lawyers nationwide. He proposes having a mini-Bar examination to certify them in an effort to fight back against the debilitating effect of the U.S. Supreme Court?s decision in Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343 (1996).
Lewis pitilessly declared that prisoners have no constitutional right to a law library to prepare pleadings for their liberty; they only have the right of ?access to the courthouse steps? to file what predictably follows -- inartful and ineffectual petitions. While the Lewis court did allow that one could seek damages for denial of access to the courts after having thus suffered an irreversible loss (e.g., time bar, procedural bar or insufficient pleadings), the ?Catch-22? is that damages for one?s now unredressable wrongful incarceration are barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) [damages unavailable unless and until one first overturns the conviction]. In sum: prisoners who get no law library rot in prison and can?t sue. Absent an omnipresent pro bono bar, Seamone envisages salvation only in the form of ?professional? jailhouse lawyers.
Following Lewis, several states literally dumped their prison law libraries. Iowa prison guards threw them all into the prison yard. Arizona officials disbanded 34 prison libraries. Idaho sold all of its law library books in a lot for $100 on e-bay. Author Seamone likens this to the epic novel Fahrenheit 451 wherein the government outlawed reading materials. The Lewis court left all prisoners to the wiles ...
[Certified Jailhouse Lawyer Program Proposed]
The June 9, 2005 order had commanded CDCR to (1) within 30 days, submit a plan for dealing with the hazard of large-mesh ventilation screens in segregation cells were mental health prisoners were housed; (2) within 60 days, develop and implement a policy that ?establishes clearly and unequivocally a requirement for custody staff to provide immediate life support ... until medical staff arrives;? (3) provide the court?s Special Master with all Suicide Reports and staff performance reviews in such incidents; (4) Within 90 days, involve the Health Care Services division of CDCR in promulgating suicide prevention, and (5) within ...
On February 13, 2006, The U.S. District Court (E.D. Cal.) entered a remedial Stipulation and Order to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to force CDCR to implement the cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) policy that the court had previously ordered on June 9, 2005. CDCR?s failure to comply with the earlier order of the court only frustrated the 16-year-old civil rights case (Coleman v. Schwarzenegger, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Cal.) No. CIV S-90-0520 LKK JFM P) that had directed improvements in CDCR?s mental health care program to quell the unacceptably high prisoner suicide rate.
The bill for mandatory testing, passed in May 2005, was sponsored by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston.
?We need to overcome our discomfort and attack the problem, because it is costing lives inside and outside prisons,? said Sen. Ellis.
The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) manages healthcare for 80% of Texas prisoners. From January through November 2006, 63,669 prisoners received HIV tests and 546 tested positive. Each initial positive test is confirmed by three follow-ups. The test results are confidential except to the prisoner and medical staff, pursuant to state law.
Dr. Susan Okie, in an article in the Jan. 11, 2007 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, estimated that up to 25% of all HIV-positive persons pass through U.S. prisons. She suggested the distribution of condoms would reduce the spread of HIV.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said the state will never consider condoms as an option.
?We don?t encourage any kind of sexual activity in the prisons, be ...
From January to May 2006, 480 Texas prisoners tested HIV-positive upon their release from prison. Testing for the virus has now become mandatory in Texas before a prisoner can be released.
On May 25, 2006, Kent County, Michigan agreed to settle a wrongful death lawsuit for $275,000 brought by the family of a Grand Rapids man who died of a heart attack suffered after struggling with arresting police. County officials denied any liability, but paid off ...
by John E. Dannenberg
Christopher Bell, a prisoner at Ohio?s Trumball Correctional Institution, filed a civil rights action alleging he was subjected to retaliation for filing grievances, and for failure to protect him from violence by other prisoners. The defendants, Warden Khellah Kunteh and guard Carl Shaffer, moved to dismiss the failure to protect claim because Bell had not exhausted administrative remedies. The district court granted the motion and Bell appealed.
The Sixth Circuit stated a prisoner?s grievance ?must identify each defendant eventually sued.? Additionally, ?a prisoner must have alleged mistreatment or misconduct on the part of the defendant in his grievance.? The appeals court said this was not a particularly strict standard. It ?is sufficient for a court to find that a prisoner?s [grievance] gave prison officials fair notice of the alleged mistreatment or misconduct that forms the basis of the constitutionality or statutory claim made against a defendant in a prisoner?s complaint.?
Bell?s complaint named Kunteh ...
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed in part and reversed in part an Ohio federal district court?s dismissal of a prisoner?s complaint for failure to comply with the exhaustion requirement of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA).
Andy Klinkerman, Correctional Industries manager, says, ?Because there are no steel cell manufacturers in the region ? They are all back East ? we (Colorado Department of Corrections) will have substantial savings by making our own cells for the new prison.?
Freemont?s prison metal shop has been refurbished to tackle their latest project. The most notable addition is an enormous powder coat paint oven capable of holding an entire cell.
The metal shop has also employed 40 more prisoners increasing their total workforce to 100 men. Incentives for prisoners to cage their colleagues include vocational welding certificates, safety training and $85 per month.
?That may not sound like much money but an inmate can live like a king on $85 a month,? says Klinkerman.
Prisoners have already begun to fabricate the 948 cells. Klinkerman estimates that once construction begins builders will be able to set up to 200 cells per week ...
Colorado State Penitentiary II (CSP-IT) is slated for construction in early 2007. It will hold the state?s most dangerous prisoners locked down for 23 hours per day. Ironically, the 948 pre-fab cells will be built by prisoners in the Freemont prison facility located about a mile down the road.
Austria: On November 3, 2006, Muradif Hasanbegovic, 36, escaped from the Karlau prison by wrapping himself in a box used by the prison work shop to make parts for lamp posts and he was loaded onto a delivery truck by other prisoners and he escaped once the truck left the prison. Prison warden Franz Hochstrasser told media ?This sort of thing is not supposed to happen. Guards need to count prisoners at the end of working hours.?
Cambodia: On November 1, 2006, Donald Ramirez, 50, a 25 year veteran San Francisco police officer being held in the Phnom Penh jail on charges ...
Arizona: On December 22, 2006, Yuma state prison captain Wiliam Kangas, 52, was sentenced to 100 years in state prison after a jury convicted him of possessing child pornography. The crime was reported to police by a fellow Arizona Department of Corrections guard who was repairing Kangas? computer and found the child pornography. Kangas is best known as the defendant in the seminal court access case of Gluth v. Kangas, 951 F,2d 1504 (9th Cir. 1991). Mr. Kangas has not expressed whether his views on court access or prison reform have changed since that case was decided.
In August 2003 Carbon County officials ...
On March 9, 2006, the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming awarded $16,200.50 in enhanced fees plus $2,105.28 in costs to an attorney for time spent monitoring compliance with remedial measures at the Carbon County (Wyoming) Jail.