Prison Legal News:
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Volume 18, Number 7
In this issue:
- The New Asylum: Supermax as Warehouse for the Mentally Ill (p 1)
- $27,500 Settlement for Rape of Four Women Prisoners in Pittsburgh Jail (p 7)
- From the Editor (p 8)
- Delaware Forced to Clean-up Medical Care by DOJ Settlement (p 8)
- Delaware DOC Still Defends Abysmal Medical Care, Prisoners Still Die From Medical Neglect (p 10)
- Florida Boot Camp Death Results in Manslaughter Charges Against 7 Guards and Nurse; Civil Claims Settled for $7,425,000 (p 11)
- Colorado Settles Class Action Prison Disability Discrimination Suit For Over $3 Million (p 12)
- BOP Settles “Terrorism” Classification Privacy Act Suit for $3,000 (p 14)
- Washington State’s Federal Oversight of Sexually Violent Predators Ended (p 15)
- Seminole County Jail Settles Strip Search Suits; Judge Removed From Bench (p 16)
- $13,655,940 Award For False Massachusetts Rape Conviction (p 16)
- Arkansas Ups Work-Release Fees to Pay for Guard-Drivers (p 17)
- Texas County Jail Settles Sex Assault Suits For Undisclosed Sum (p 18)
- North Carolina Women Prisoners Work Call/Bulk Mail Centers For Slave Wages (p 18)
- Prison Skin-Art Pared From Canadian Budget (p 18)
- California Ban On Hardcover Books Held Unconstitutional (p 19)
- Florida Newspaper Revokes Permission to Post Article Critical of Judge (p 20)
- Florida Eliminates DNA Testing Deadline (p 20)
- Prisoner’s Death Following Failure To Give Intake Medical Examination Settled By Los Angeles County For $700,000 (p 20)
- Texas Prison Chief Escapes Sex Charges, Convicted of Lesser Offenses (p 21)
- $5 Million Jury Award Against Doctor in Death of Michigan Prisoner (p 21)
- California Lifers’ Parole Reversals Tossed by Two State Appellate Courts (p 22)
- MTC Stiffs Guards and Other Employees $169,105 (p 22)
- Move From Texas Legislator To Lobbyist Poses Ethical Question (p 23)
- Satellite Surveillance Approved For Wisconsin Sex Offenders (p 24)
- Drunk PA DOC Attorney Charged in Hit-and-Run (p 24)
- Tennessee DOC’s Double Standard (p 26)
- Louisville, Kentucky, Settles with Wrongly Imprisoned Man for $3.9 Million (p 27)
- Temporary Restraining Order Suspends California’s Sex Offenders’ Housing Banishment Law (p 27)
- $9,063,000 Jury Award For Illinois False Rape Conviction (p 28)
- More Settlements and Verdicts in New Hampshire False Disciplinary Charge Case (p 28)
- Federal Court Continues To Enforce Decade-Old California Prison Guards’ “Code-Of-Silence” Ruling (p 29)
- Arizona Enacts Three Strikes Law, Again (p 29)
- Los Angeles County Pays Informant $80,000 For Failed Witness Protection (p 30)
- Three Failures To Segregate Vulnerable Jail Prisoner Costs Los Angeles County $44,000 (p 30)
- San Francisco Civil Grand Jury Cites Continuing Jail Deficiencies (p 30)
- New York City Settles With Stabbed Riker’s Prisoner For $40,000 (p 30)
- $30,000 Settlement For Woman Raped By Missouri Jail Prisoner (p 31)
- $90,000 Awarded for Broken Hand During NY Prison Job Assignment (p 32)
- Governor’s Task Force Recommends Changes in Florida’s Prison System Mission (p 32)
- California DOC Chief Health Care Official Ousted (p 33)
- Michigan Prisoner Boycotts Rape Trial, Still Acquitted (p 33)
- $2 Million Settlement in Montgomery County, NY Strip Search Suit (p 34)
- Oklahoma Escapee Who Fled With Warden’s Wife Sentenced to Maximum, Then Dies (p 34)
- Pennsylvania DOC Settles Religious Dietary Suit (p 34)
- Escape From TransCor Van Not a Crime in Montana (p 35)
- Retroactive Application of Missouri Sex Offender Registration Law Banned (p 36)
- Policy of Hiring Trained Medical Professionals Does Not Immunize County from Municipal Liability in Wrongful Jail Death; Case Settles for $475,000.00 (p 36)
- Washington Supreme Court Reverses Parole Denial (p 37)
- California Prisoner Permitted to Challenge Oppressive Prison Conditions Absent Physical Injury; Ruling Later Voided (p 38)
- Fifth Circuit: No FLSA Minimum Wage for Texas Prisoners (p 38)
- Illinois Administrative Remedies Exhausted When Prison Officials Lost Grievance (p 39)
- Tennessee Parole Rules-Changes as Applied to Old Lifer May Violate Ex Post Facto (p 40)
- Eighth Circuit Upholds Arkansas Sex Offender Registration/Residency Restrictions (p 40)
- Texas Court Ordered to Accept Prisoners’ Correspondence (p 41)
- News in Brief: (p 42)
- Federal Court Awards Illinois Prisoner $7,116 in Fees, Costs (p 44)
The prison industry, like any other, has its fashions. And in the 1990s, "supermax" prisons were a raging fad. According to Chase Riveland, former secretary of corrections in Washington and Colorado, [t]hey have become political symbols of how "tough" a jurisdiction has become. In some places, the motivation to build a supermax has come not from corrections officials, but from the legislature and, in at least one instance, the governor.2
By one count, more than thirty states, as well as the federal Bureau of Prisons, were operating a supermax facility or unit by 1999.3 Not all jurisdictions use the "supermax" terminology; terms such as "secured housing unit" (?SHU?), "special management unit," "intensive management unit," and "control unit" are also used to designate these facilities.
What exactly is a supermax prison? There is no single definition, and one supermax may differ from another in physical configuration or operational details. But the essence of supermax confinement is extreme social isolation, enforced idleness, and deprivation of virtually all meaningful environmental stimulation. Riveland sums up supermax confinement as "locking an inmate in an isolated cell for an average of twenty-three hours per day with limited human interaction ...
by David C. Fathi1
In May 2006, Allegheny County began settling a series of federal civil rights lawsuits brought under 42 U.S.C. §1983 by ...
There have been settlements in four separate lawsuits involving the Allegheny County (Pennsylvania) Jail. The suits alleged that seven Allegheny County Jail guards sexually assaulted four women prisoners.
The new site is much easier to use and navigate and is more user friendly. PLN staff have spent much of the past month loading thousands of documents on to the site to provide widespread dissemination of information about prison and jail issues, conditions and struggle. There is a modest subscription fee to the website ($9.95 a month, $69.95 a year), but free, no obligation 15 day trial subscriptions are available and it helps off set the costs of maintaining such a comprehensive and extensive site.
We already have the most complete listing of prison and jail related verdicts and settlements anywhere. If prisoners somewhere won a case we want to know about it. For older cases, even if we cannot publish it in PLN we can still include it in our database. If you have won or settled a case anytime within the ...
We recently relaunched the Prison Legal News website. Like our previous website, this one contains all articles that have ever appeared in PLN, all copies of PLN in a searchable database format, in PDF format, thousands of court cases, briefs, pleadings, settlements, reports, publications, links to hundreds of other websites and a lot more.
After a nine-month investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a report finding prisoners in four Delaware prisons ?suffer harm or are placed at the risk of harm from constitutional deficiencies in certain aspects of the medical and mental health care services, including suicide prevention.? It was also announced the DOJ and state of Delaware entered into an 87 point agreement to cure those deficiencies.
PLN reported in its December 2005 cover article that the privatized health care within Delaware prisons was killing and maiming prisoners. The story and events that followed came as the result of investigative reports by Delaware?s News Journal.
That investigative reporting sparked a public outcry that included marches on the Governor?s mansion and the DOJ?s investigation of civil rights violations, begun in March 2006. All through the ordeal, the Delaware Department of Correction (DDOC) remained in denial, but did hire its own experts.
The DOJ found constitutional violations at the Delaware Correctional Center (DDC), the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution (HRYCI), the Sussex Correctional Institution (SCI), and the Delores J. Baylor Women?s Correctional Institution (BWCI). The John L. Webb Correctional Institution was given a clean ...
by David M. Reutter
We previously reported upon the atrocious, and at times non-existent, medical and mental health care being provided to DDOC prisoners. See PLN, December 2005, pg. 1. The reports by The News Journal culminated in an agreement between the DDOC and U.S. Department of Justice to enact constitutional health care, which meets "general accepted professional standards." See accompanying story in this issue.
That agreement and accompanying findings have been stated to be a road map for the nearly dozen lawsuits against DDOC for prisoner deaths and injuries caused by the inept care provided by Correctional Medical Services (CMS) and its previous medical contractor, First Correctional Medical. Taylor's testimony comes in one of many wrongful lawsuits.
His statements show he had no grasp at all on the state of medical care provided, not a clue of how many prisoners died under his watch, failed to investigate complaints sent to ...
After media reports detailed incidents showing prisoners within the Delaware Department of Corrections (DDOC) were being maimed or dying because of deplorable medical care, Stan Taylor, DDOC's Commissioner, charged the reports were "sloppy reporting." Taylor's testimony in prisoner civil rights actions demonstrates that Taylor is guilty of sloppy administration.
After two autopsies and an 11-month investigation, aggravated manslaughter charges were issued in the death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson at a Florida boot camp. Anderson?s death at the Bay County Sheriff Office?s boot camp in Panama City on Jan. 5, 2006 caused a public outcry after the ...
The Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) has settled a class action disability discrimination suit over accessibility inside its state prisons for prisoners with impairments in mobility, hearing, sight and for diabetics. Over $3 million will be spent on accessibility renovations and $252,300 in awards, fees and costs. Individual claims ...
Plaintiff William Francis fought for more than 12 years to have what he claimed was erroneous information linking him to "terrorism" removed from his prison file. His persistence ultimately paid off. On August 18, 2006, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP ...
BOP Settles "Terrorism" Classification Privacy Act Suit for $3,000
by John E. Dannenberg
After thirteen years of oversight, the U.S. District Court (W.D. Wash.) dissolved its injunction that had taken over control of Washington State's sexually violent predator (SVP) treatment program. District Judge Ricardo Martinez stated in his March 13, 2007 order that Washington State had finally complied in principle with the predators' constitutional rights.
In 1990, Washington State became the first state in the nation to enact civil commitment procedures to detain SVPs after they had served their criminal terms. The purpose was allegedly to "treat" these prisoners in a mental health setting, so as to engender their safe release to society. Richard Turay, one of the first to be committed to the "Special Commitment Center" (SCC), filed suit in 1990 in an unsuccessful challenge to the SVP commitment concept. However, District Judge William Dyer ruled in 1994 that SCC was in reality only another prison, and ordered Washington State to refashion it into the mental health facility it should have been. The court's injunction required hiring and training competent therapists, implementing a treatment program that included the SVPs" families, developing individual treatment programs ...
Washington State's Federal Oversight of Sexually Violent Predators Ended
The suit was filed after the plaintiffs were arrested for failure to appear on traffic violations. Seven of the lead plaintiffs were ...
A settlement has been reached in a class action lawsuit involving persons arrested in open court and illegally strip searched upon arrival at Florida?s Seminole County Jail.
On October 4, 2006, a federal court in Massachusetts awarded $13,655,940 to a man falsely convicted of rape.
Eric Sarsfield was living in Marlborough, Massachusetts in July 1987 when Ms. Toni Gustus was raped in the same community. Gustus reported the crime and forensic ...
by Matthew T. Clarke
Kenneth Stumbaugh, 45, went missing from Little Rock on October 8, 2006. The van he was assigned was found the next day in a grocery store parking lot near the work site he was supposed to drive to. He surrendered to Missouri law-enforcement officials a week later. The Benton work-release program began using guards to drive prisoners on October 10, 2006.
Three months earlier, prisoner-drivers Tab Delancey, 41, and Clifton Sanders, 24, drove away from the Benton work-release program. They were recaptured in Ocala, Florida, about two weeks later.
The fee increase is expected to generate $348,000 in annual revenue from the approximately 500 prisoners involved in work-release programs, enough to pay for ten guards. Prisoners gross about $250 per week at the state?s current $6.25 minimum wage. About half ...
On October 27, 2006, the Arkansas Board of Corrections unanimously voted to increase the daily fees charged prisoners participating in the work-release program from $15 to $17. The increase is to be used to pay for guards to drive the prisoners to and from their work sites. The reason for the change is that three prisoner-drivers absconded--with the state-owned vans they were assigned to drive--within three months.
Plaintiff Leticia Vaquera, 33 at the time of the settlement, claimed she was raped in 2001 by a guard while imprisoned at the jail for violating her probation on a state drug charge. According to Vaquera the alleged rapist guard ordered her to clean the medical room. As she was folding clothes on the examining table, she claimed, the guard entered the room and locked the door behind him. Vaquera said he came up behind her, pulled down her pants, and raped her.
Afterward the guard laughed and ordered her back to her cell, telling her she better not tell anyone. Vaquera showered and returned to her cell where she laid on her bed and cried as the guard listened to her on the intercom ...
On December 22, 2006, Goliad County, Texas, agreed to settle with a prisoner who claimed she was raped by a guard at the county?s jail in September 2001. Under the agreement the county will pay a confidential amount to the victim and the Sheriff will make improvements to the jail?s existing policies. This settlement was concurrent with another lawsuit against the county alleging sexual assault against the same defendants, including the alleged rapist.
The call center answers phones for 1-800-VISITNC and 1-800-BYTRAIN. It is located in a modular unit in the 34-acre compound of this 1,300-bunk prison. The same modular unit contains a state tourism classroom. Another modular unit next door holds the bulk mail processing facility.
The call center operates on two shifts of nine prisoners 24 hours a day and only closes for Christmas. Most of the women in the call center have sentences in excess of ten years to keep the turnover rate low. The majority of them were convicted of either first- or second-degree murder of a spouse or boyfriend.
Call center operators use a heavily firewalled computer to gain limited access to a few tourism sites. Each week, the call center handles at least 1,200 calls. That averages to ...
For slave wages, prisoners incarcerated at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women are working for the North Carolina Department of Commerce, processing bulk tourism mailings and manning a 24/7/364 call center that also acts as the backup for the governor?s office in states of emergency. The call center?s jobs are the highest paid at the prison. They start at $1 per day.
In 2005, $350,000 in startup funds plus $600,000 for operating costs were allocated to implement a safe-tattoo program in six federal prisons. [See: PLN, August 2006].
During its one year of operation, prisoners lined up to pay $5.00 apiece for sanitary tattoos using clean needles. But after the pilot program ended on September 30, 2006, the government announced in December 2006 that it would discontinue the project.
?Our government will not spend taxpayers? money on providing tattoos for convicted criminals,? said Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day. ?We have programs that talk about the risks of unsafe tattoo practices,? he said.
The cost of the safe-tattoo initiative may also have been a deciding factor; the Canadian Taxpayers Federation estimated it would cost $5.8 million per year to expand the program to all 58 federal prisons plus an additional $2.6 million in start-up expenses ? which is a lot of red ink.
But at least one person felt that action is better than talk. Joanne Csete, executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS legal network, stated the ...
An innovative plan to prevent the spread of communicable diseases in Canadian prisons has been axed by Canada?s Conservative government.
The U.S. District Court (N.D. Cal.) held that the policy by California?s Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) Security Housing Unit of banning prisoners? possession of hardcover books violated their First Amendment rights. During the course of litigation, PBSP capitulated and amended its policy ...
by John E. Dannenberg
The attorney group, the Justice Advocacy Association of Broward, had received DBR?s permission to post a lengthy 1996 profile of Ross, which had originally been printed in the newspaper. DBR suddenly rescinded that permission without explanation. With the paper?s recent designation as the publication of record for the Broward County Court, it appeared that DBR was covering its flank and playing politics.
To be designated as the official newspaper of record, Chief Judge Ross had to grant his approval. The article in question revealed that the get-tough-on-crime Ross was himself charged in 1969 with felony breaking and entering a business, and misdemeanor counts of assault and battery and resisting arrest without violence. The felony charge was later reduced to petty larceny. Ross never has named his partner in the beer keg heist that resulted in the charges, saying he hates snitches.
The article also depicted Ross as being obsessed with weight lifting, political connections ...
Shortly after the Miami Daily Business Review (DBR) was designated as ?the record newspaper for Courthouse publications,? the DBR revoked permission for an unflattering article about Broward County?s Chief Judge Dale Ross to be posted on a defense attorney group?s web blog.
That law comes on the heels of numerous prisoners being released from death row and imprisonment on lesser sentences for crimes they did not commit.
Previously, a four-year deadline had been imposed by law. The Florida Supreme Court extended that deadline, which was to expire in October 2005, until July 1, 2006. In the spring of 2006, lawmakers in Florida made a decision to eliminate deadlines for DNA testing.
The new law allows prisoners, regardless of whether they entered a plea or went to trial, to seek DNA testing at any time. While the new law applies to those convicted prior to enactment, it may severely limit DNA testing in cases where a plea is entered after July 1, 2007.
After that date, the judge must go through a plea colloquy that covers DNA testing, prohibiting later testing unless it is proven lawyers withheld knowledge about DNA evidence. This could affect innocent prisoners who accepted plea bargains by being bullied, threatened, or given bad legal advice.
Source: Associated Press; Florida House Bill 61.
During its 2006 Legislative session, the Florida Legislature enacted a law that eliminates deadlines for when prisoners can request DNA testing.
by John E. Dannenberg
The Los Angeles County Claims Board settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $700,000 in December 2006 that resulted from a jail prisoner dying after not being given ...
Prisoner's Death Following Failure To Give Intake Medical Examination Settled By Los Angeles County For $700,000
In June 2004 the former prison chief was indicted on three counts of sexual assault, faced up to 20 years in prison for each count, and would have had to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
But Buentello was able to work a deal and eventually pleaded guilty to a felony charge of unlawful restraint and five misdemeanor counts of official oppression. In exchange the three sexual assault charges were dropped.
Buentello had originally been accused of what prosecutors called a pattern of sexual harassment ?involving inappropriate comments, touchings and intimidation to several individuals? who were female TDCJ employees.
He received five years deferred adjudication for the felony charge, a year?s probation on each of the misdemeanors and a $7,000 fine. The ex-prison chief must also receive psychiatric counseling and sexual therapy evaluations ...
On March 31, 2006, in a Walker County courthouse, Salvador ?Sammy? Buentello pleaded guilty to a felony charge of unlawful restraint and five counts of official oppression. Buentello, 50, had been the assistant director of gang affairs for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) until he was forced to retire in May 2004 after being accused of sexual misconduct.
Ozy Vaughn was a Michigan state prisoner who suffered from chronic schizophrenia. In January 2002, he was incarcerated in the residential treatment program at Riverside Correctional Facility. On Friday, January 25, 2002, psychiatrist David Moskowitz, M.D., an independent contractor for psychiatric care, prescribed him psychotropic medications to control his schizophrenia.
Vaughn was moved to an observation cell where he began sweating profusely and vomiting throughout the weekend. Around noon on Monday, a nurse finally reported the vomiting. Vaughn was diagnosed with heat exhaustion and adverse reaction to the medication; he was moved to another cell, where he died of dehydration and gastroenteritis the next morning.
Vaughn?s estate filed suit alleging Moskowitz had failed to examine Vaughn before prescribing the medications and had relied on untrained staff to make diagnoses and prescribe medicines. He also allegedly failed to examine Vaughn on Monday after having been informed of his condition, instead relying on social workers and guards to handle the medical problem.
On June 14, 2006, after more than a ...
A federal jury awarded $5,000,000 to the estate of a deceased state prisoner who died after a prison psychiatrist prescribed him psychotropic medication without conducting a proper evaluation.
by Marvin Mentor
An infirm, 82-year-old lifer's reversal by Governor Schwarzenegger of the Board of Parole Hearing's (BPH) grant of parole was itself overturned by the California Court of Appeal. The Second Appellate District found there was a lack of "some evidence" that the crimes were "atrocious," and rejected the Governor's contention that the prisoner's late acceptance of responsibility justified denial of parole. Separately, the Governor's reversal of a first-degree murderer's BPH grant of parole was rejected by the First Appellate District. In both cases the California Supreme Court denied petitions for review and requests for depublication.
Wen Lee pled guilty in 1989 to second degree murder and attempted premeditated murder, with two firearm enhancements. He was sentenced to concurrent terms of 17 years to life for the murder and 7 years to life for the attempted murder. In 2005 the BPH found him suitable for parole, noting his psychological reports of "little risk of recidivism" and "very low risk of violence in the community." The Governor reversed the BPH, citing that Lee's crimes were "atrocious" and beyond "the minimum necessary to sustain ...
California Lifers' Parole Reversals Tossed by Two State Appellate Courts
MTC employs more than 2,000 workers at 24 Job Corps Centers and six prisons around the nation. The company was the target of an investigation ...
Prison guards are among the 393 employees of Management and Training Corporation (MTC), a company that shorted $169,105 in wages for work performed.
Allen has since overcome his financial woes working as a lobbyist for some of the same companies that solicited his support as a politician. These companies have boosted Allen?s income to somewhere between $230,000 and $484,000 a year.
Equally surprising are the alliances Allen has made in his transition form lawmaker to lobbyist. Jeff Heckler once served as treasurer for the Austin conservation group Save Our Springs (SOS). In 2003 Allen supported House Bill 2130 which would have undermined water quality controls for both the city of Austin and the nearby Sunset Valley community. SOS was instrumental in defeating the bill. The group pressed state lawmakers to oppose the move, by Chevron Corp., to transport gas, through an old pipeline, over the city?s watersheds. As a lawmaker Allen joined a losing effort to oppose SOS. Now Allen and Heckler have teamed up in a variety of causes and Sunset Valley employs both Heckler and Allen as lobbyists in their behalf.
Asked in ...
After serving 12 years in the Texas Legislature state Representative Ray Allen resigned citing financial difficulties. ?I simply cannot afford to serve on a $600-a-month salary with no other source of income,? said Allen.
Governor Jim Doyle signed a bill on May 22, 2006 that requires GPS monitoring for certain child molesters. The vote to implement lifetime tracking was approved by a unanimous vote of 90-0 in the state senate. What cannot be agreed on is how much the program will actually cost or how many people will be tracked.
The Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel website posted figures, on September 17, 2006, giving a two year cost of $3.5 million to track 875 paroled prisoners. On September 19, 2006 the same website posted a two year cost of $23.7 million to track over 1,500 parolees for the first two years.
Author of the bill, Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, says that the cost of implementing the bill has been ?clearly over inflated.? Suder says that the GPS system can also be used to handle other departmental duties which will save the state money. He also recommends that those being tracked be charged with some of the cost.
?There?s a cost for having additional monitoring and housing individuals who are deemed sexually violent, but ...
Tracking sex offenders just cost Wisconsin taxpayers millions of dollars and ensures that citizens will pay millions more every year.
After the collision Farnan did not stop. Instead, he crossed the road and drove over some shrubs before continuing down Route 15. According to one witness Farnan then exited at State Hill Road, ran a stop sign and almost hit another vehicle.
A second witness followed Farnan to the Camp Hill State Correctional Institution, where he parked his car and managed to pull some of the branches out from underneath it. Farnan called his wife to come get him and then returned to the scene almost an hour later. After inquiring about the occupants of Hughes? vehicle, Farnan told police he did not initially realize that he had hit anyone.
Farnan was arrested after he staggered so badly that he could not complete the field sobriety test. Police ...
Michael Farnan, 40, chief counsel for the Pennsylvania DOC, resigned from his job after he was involved in a hit-and-run accident in his state car. Farnan had been drinking heavily when he ran into the back of Tamara Hughes? minivan on November 8, 2006. Hughes, seven months pregnant, was returning home from the hospital after receiving an ultrasound. She was accompanied by her mother, Cindy McGee, her three children and a friend.
by Greg Bowers
The Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) applies a double standard to ethical violations committed by its employees and those committed by prisoners. TDOC staff who commit ethical violations are typically reassigned. Even when fired, they have been rehired days later.
Prisoners, on the other hand, are fired from their institutional jobs and classified to higher security levels for minor lapses.
Daniel D. Erickson, 45, is an attorney serving an eight-year prison sentence for attempting to hire a hit man to kill his wife. On March 1, 2005, while in a work-release program, Erickson landed a job with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) as an administrative services assistant. His job was to determine whether policies were followed and he was one of several people to sign off on purchase orders. Erickson had an annual salary of $26,000 -- exceptional for that job classification.
TEMA is part of the Tennessee Military Department, headed by state National Guard Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, Jr. On February 23, 2005, Gen. Hargett won an exemption to pay guidelines for Erickson by contacting Personnel Commissioner Randy Camp and extolling Erickson's Juris Doctorate degree, real estate law practice ...
Tennessee DOC's Double Standard
William Gregory, now 59, was convicted in 1993 of raping one woman and attempting to rape ...
A man who spent seven years in prison for a rape he didn?t commit will receive $3.9 million from the city of Louisville, Kentucky, according to a February 12, 2007 settlement agreement.
by John E. Dannenberg
The U.S.D.C. (N.D. Cal.) issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on November 8, 2006, the same day California voters approved state Proposition 83 (?Jessica's Law?), which suspended that portion of the new law (Penal Code § 3003.5) that banned registered sex offenders from residing within 2,000 feet of a school or park frequented by children.
Former sex offender John Doe, whose behavior for the past 20 years since his release from prison was unblemished, filed suit claiming that PC § 3003.5, as applied to him, amounted to punishment for a past crime, in violation of the Ex Post Facto Clause of the U.S. Constitution. He further alleged the new law violated his Fourteenth Amendment protection of liberty and property rights, because he would be irreparably harmed when forced to move from his home.
The court found that Doe's record as a law-abiding, productive member of the community and his liberty/property interests outweighed any public interest in immediate enforcement of PC § 3003.5(b) and (c) during pendency of his litigation, and that he had demonstrated a ...
Temporary Restraining Order Suspends California's Sex Offenders? Housing Banishment Law
On October 23, 2006, a federal jury in Illinois awarded a man who had been falsely convicted of rape $9,063,000.
On September 19, 1989, Alejandro Dominguez was a 16-year old living in an apartment complex in Waukegan, Illinois, when Lisa Kraus, 33, a resident ...
by Matthew T. Clarke
These cases stem from the actions of guard Cesar Rivas, who claimed nine prisoners surrounded and threatened ...
A federal jury in New Hampshire has awarded a total of $150,000 to two former prisoners in the continuing saga of false disciplinary charges by a guard at the Hillsborough County Jail.
The United States District Court (N.D. Cal.) reviewed progress on its 11-year-old federal court remedial action to eliminate a pernicious code-of-silence by prison guards (most notably at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's (CDCR) supermax Pelican Bay State Prison). There, investigations of excessive use-of-force complaints against prisoners had been stifled by administration policies grounded in collusion between the Director of Corrections and the prison guards' union (CCPOA). Specifically, the court reviewed an August 22, 2006 report by Special Master John Hagar as to suspected retrenchment after the prior decade of agonizingly reticent progress towards court-ordered compliance, and made further orders.
The court's initial order in this matter, in 1995, found unabashed complicity between top CDCR officials and the CCPOA that literally nurtured the insidious twin events of guard brutality against prisoners and officially-sanctioned cover-up by staff. Culminating in both criminal convictions and court remedial orders, the 1995 smack-down was nonetheless vigorously resisted by CDCR staff. Special Master John Hagar, along with the state's lately reinvigorated Inspector General, maintained strong watchdog supervision of the court's orders.
In his most recent report, Hagar complained of ...
Federal Court Continues To Enforce Decade-Old California Prison Guards' "Code-Of-Silence" Ruling
The law applies to any person convicted of a violent felony with two previous violent felony convictions from separate incidents. The law does prohibit inclusion of convictions on the same day or from the same series of an incident. It includes as violent felonies crimes of murder, assault, rape, arson, and robbery. It also counts convictions from another state within a fifteen year period, excluding incarceration time.
The most famous three strike law is California?s, which requires a life sentence for conviction of any three felonies. By 2004, nearly 43,000 California prisoners (more than one quarter of the states entire prison population), were serving sentences under that state?s three-strikes law. Washington state enacted the first three strikes law in 1993. Arizona had previously enacted a three strikes law, as ...
The Arizona Legislator and Governor have continued exploiting the ?get tough on poor criminals? bandwagon, enacting SB 1444, in April, 2006, a law that requires a life sentence for any person convicted of a third violent felony. That law prohibits ?suspension of sentence, probation, pardon, or release on any basis except that the person may be eligible for commutation after the person has served at least thirty-five years.?
Shane Wilson was housed in the K-10 protective-custody module at the L.A. Main Jail ...
The County of Los Angeles (L.A.), California paid $80,000 in January 2007 to a prisoner for the injuries he suffered when attacked in a supposedly witness-protected section of the L.A. County Jail.
Anthony White was first assaulted on January 6, 2005 by ...
On November 21, 2006, Los Angeles County paid a thrice-injured jail prisoner $44,000 to settle a tort claim for the injuries he sustained on three occasions when he was placed in general population housing and beaten by other prisoners.
In November 2005, the jurors of the San Francisco Grand Jury inspected city and county jails and found longstanding unremediated problems of inadequate budgets, staffing shortages, overcrowding and high (40%) recidivism rates. The Jury recommended that overcrowding and physical plant problems be promptly cured, staffing of the Sheriff?s Department be increased and that a coordinated approach to post-release prisoner services be undertaken to reduce recidivism.
The Jury?s data collection came from reviews of prisoner grievances, meal menus and prisoner orientation handbooks, followed by a one-day inspection of seven of the ten facilities. Jurors were served a prisoner lunch and interviewed random prisoners at each lockup. They noted that the jails housed 2,200 prisoners, of whom 55% were African-American, 21% Latino, 19% Caucasian and 5% Asian. 87% were male. 75% were unsentenced, of whom half were released within 96 hours on recognizance or bail. 25% of the population were convicted offenders serving less than 15 months.
Many of the facility problems earlier ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge were soon to be alleviated at County Jail # 3 in San Bruno, when a new jail opens in July 2006. This will also relieve overcrowding in ...
by John E. Dannenberg
On August 17, 2006, the City of New York paid $40,000 to settle with a prisoner who was stabbed while imprisoned at the Riker's Island Correctional Facility.
Plaintiff Melvin Grady claimed that while imprisoned at Riker ...
New York City Settles With Stabbed Riker's Prisoner For $40,000
Tracy Mundy, 24, a former Jefferson County Jail prisoner, was asleep in her bunk on October 13, 2003, when ...
In May, 2006, Jefferson County, Missouri, settled a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by a female prisoner who was allegedly raped by a male prisoner a guard placed in her cell.
While a prisoner at New York?s Bayview Correctional Facility, Jeanette Perez was required to assist moving a full garbage dumpster as part of her work detail. When trying to move that dumpster on July 2, 1999, Perez and another female prisoner, both of whom were ...
by David M. Reutter
Recognizing that 90% of all Florida prisoners will eventually be released into society, former Governor Jeb Bush commissioned the Ex-Offender Task Force (Task Force) on February 7, 2005 to report on how the state can improve the effectiveness "in facilitating the re-entry of ex-offenders into their communities so as to reduce the incidence of recidivism." The preliminary result is a comprehensive report issued in November 2006, which makes recommendations that are a drastic change from how Florida prisons are now operated.
The Task Force found that recidivism not only creates new victims, it's a huge burden on taxpayers. Currently, 44% of all Florida prisoners have been there before. It costs $148 million to house those recidivists for their first year. Compound that with an average 4.6 year sentence, and the bill comes to $6.76 billion. That money could be better spent on "anti-crime" strategies, the Task Force concluded.
The first step in achieving a reduction in recidivism must start upon entry into prison. The report recommends the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) revise its mission statement to address successful reentry. To assess performance in reaching ...
Governor's Task Force Recommends Changes in Florida's Prison System Mission
Dr. Peter Farber-Szekrenyi, who was hired in November 2005 to head CDCR?s Division of Health Care Services, was castigated for his awarding a contract to Florida firm Medical Development International (MDI) without the knowledge of Sillen. Rumors were that Farber-Szekrenyi had a financial interest in MDI, creating a conflict of interest. Another high-level appointed CDCR healthcare official, Darc Keller, was discovered during an Inspector General investigation to have had a $10,000 - $100,000 investment in a subsidiary of MDI. MDI, and its subsidiary, provide outpatient physician billing and scheduling services in a pilot project at two southern California prisons. However, Keller stated that he had divested himself of this stock before Farber-Szekrenyi signed the MDI contract. Nonetheless, Keller resigned February 23, 2007.
On February 16, when Sillen learned of the stealth contract, he took away Farber-Szekrenyi?s healthcare responsibilities and cut his pay 37% to $211,140. By March 5, the storm caught up with Farber-Szekrenyi, whom Governor Schwarzenegger asked to immediately resign. ?Nobody understands why it happened,? Farber-Szekrenyi said. ?But ...
The top California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) health-care official, a gubernatorial appointee, was forced to resign by the federal court appointed healthcare Receiver, Robert Sillen.
The alleged sexual assault occurred in a 12 man cell at Michigan?s Macomb County Jail. The victim, a 19-year-old man who has a mental disability and was in jail for cutting his father with a knife, claimed Floyd forced him to engage in oral sex and touched him with his penis.
Floyd was in jail awaiting trial for the kidnapping of one woman and rape of another woman when the jail charges arose. He fired several court-appointed lawyers and requested to represent himself. Although he did attend jury selection, he put his head down on the defense table for a short period.
As trial was about to begin, Floyd refused to sit down. He told Judge James Biernat, it?s ?your trial.? After he was escorted from the courtroom, Floyd refused to dress in civilian clothes or return to the courtroom.
?Mr. Floyd felt he could not get a fair trial ...
Facing a sexual assault trial of a fellow prisoner is a pretty serious felony, making one think they would want to be present during the trial. Feeling he could not get a fair trial, Charlie Lee Floyd, 46, boycotted that trial. Despite his absence, the jury acquitted Floyd.
This is a class-action civil rights lawsuit brought in federal district court pursuant to 42 U.S.C ...
On September 22, 2006, a federal judge entered an order approving the preliminary settlement of a suit against Montgomery County, New York, over its county jail strip search policy, for $2 million.
When Randolph F. Dial escaped from the Oklahoma State Reformatory in August 1994, he set off a search not only for himself, but also for the deputy warden's wife, Bobbi Parker. In April 2005, they were discovered living together in a trailer on a chicken farm in East Texas.
Ever since that discovery, officials have been trying to piece together the details of their relationship. At his February 28, 2007, sentencing for escape, Dial said, "I took her with me."
"Did she help you or assist you?" asked assistant district attorney, Eric Yarbough. "I don't know," Dial responded. He then acknowledged the couple drove off in Parker's van. To follow-up questions, Dial responded, "I don't remember."
For the 1994 escape, Dial, 62, was sentenced to the maximum of seven years. When he escaped, he was serving a life sentence for murder. "He'll never live to see daylight out in the world again," said Dial's lawyer, Jim Hines.
Ms. Parker, 44, returned to her husband, Randy Parker, after she and Dial were found. Randy, who now serves as facility security operations director ...
Oklahoma Escapee Who Fled With Warden's Wife Sentenced to Maximum, Then Dies
Pew claimed that while imprisoned in the Restrictive Housing Unit, prison officials refused to provide peanut butter or any other substitute to prisoners who, like himself, could not eat pork for religious reasons.
In his lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Pew contended that prison officials interfered with his religious rights under the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RULIPA). Pew further asserted a claim under the Eighth Amendment arguing that the prison?s failure to provide him with a pork substitute rendered the meals nutritionally inadequate and thus amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
The Court dismissed Pew?s Eighth Amendment claim after finding that he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). Specifically, the Court held, Pew had not individually listed the prison officials in his grievance against whom he subsequently filed suit.
The DOC settled Pew?s remaining claim by agreeing to provide him with ?three nutritionally balanced ...
On December 26, 2006, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) agreed to provide substitute meals to state prisoner Alfonso Pew whenever pork is served.
On January 11, 2006, a Montana state district court set aside two prisoners' convictions for escape and acquitted them after holding that no evidence had been presented that they were in the custody of a peace officer, a requirement for the crime of escape in Montana.
William Leonard Brown and Brian Joseph Holliday, Montana state prisoners, were being transported by employees of TransCor, Inc., a private company owned by Corrections Corporation of America that transports prisoners under contract with the Montana Department of Corrections, when they fled from the TransCor van. The TransCor employees were not peace officers.
A jury convicted Brown and Holliday of felony escape. They then filed a motion seeking to set aside the verdict and be declared not guilty by the court. The basis of the motion was that state law defined escape as knowingly or purposely eluding official detention. Section 45-7-306, MCA.
Official detention is in turn defined as "placement of a person in the legal custody of a municipality, a county, or the state as the result of the actual or constructive constraint or custody of a person by a peace officer pursuant to arrest, transport, or court order." Section 45-7-306(1)(a)(ii ...
Missouri's Supreme Court has held that the state's "Megan's Law" cannot be retroactively applied to persons convicted prior to January 1, 1995. The ruling affects about half of the people previously required to register as sex offenders, but allows information about their convictions to be published.
Before the Court was the appeal of 11 John and Jane Does, who challenged Missouri's sex offender registration law on several grounds. That law "imposes registration and notification requirements on persons committing crimes listed in 1994 Mo. Laws 1131, Section 566, certain other sexual crimes, and certain crimes that are not inherently sexual in nature but the legislature believes to be associated with a risk of sexual offenses against minors, such as child kidnapping." Those with multiple or aggravated offense convictions and sexually violent predators must register for life, all others for 10 years.
The Court held the law does not violate the ex post facto provisions of the U.S. or Missouri Constitutions or the respective procedural or substantive due process clauses.
The Court, however, accepted the plaintiffs' position that the law violated Missouri's constitutional provision "that no … law … retrospective in its operation … can be ...
The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held that where a Los Angeles County Jail prisoner died of allegedly deficient medical attention, the county?s defense of relying upon the professional discretion of medical doctors to automatically immunize the county from municipal ?policy? liability in ...
by John E. Dannenberg
The Court found that the Board had ignored evidence at Richard Dyer?s December 4, 2002 parole hearing and had based its decision to deny him parole on ?speculation and conjecture.? The Court found this to be an abuse of discretion and remanded the case to the Board for reconsideration.
Dyer, a Washington State prisoner, was convicted in 1982 of two counts of first degree rape. He received two concurrent life sentences and has been in prison ever since.
Dyer has undergone numerous psychological exams during his incarceration. The early ones were all negative. But he availed himself of every self-help program he could take, and his attitude and behavior have been exemplary, according to his prison counselor.
Ironically, the one program he can?t get into is sex offender treatment. From the beginning Dyer has vehemently denied committing the crimes for which he?s spent almost two-and-a-half decades behind bars. Because he won?t say he?s guilty, he can?t get into the sex offender treatment program.
Even so, Carson Carter, a ...
In a shocking five-to-four decision, the Washington Supreme Court, for the first time ever, reversed a parole denial by the state Indeterminate Sentence Review Board (Board).
The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reversed a U.S. District Court (N.D. Cal.) ruling that had misinterpreted 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e) to require physical injury in order to gain relief from unconstitutional prison conditions. While not a ruling on the merits, the decision permitted the prisoner to seek limited damages; however, that appellate decision was later superseded.
James Myron, a prisoner at a Blythe, California state prison, sued prison officials on six complaints of ?oppressive conditions? of confinement. The district court had dismissed two of the claims because Myron demonstrated no physical injury resulting from ?overcrowding.? While affirming the district court on the bulk of its dismissal order, the Ninth Circuit reversed in part, relying upon Oliver v. Keller, 289 F.3d 623, 630 (9th Cir. 2002) to interpret § 1997e(e) to permit nominal and punitive damages.
Myron also complained of his restrictively high security classification level, but the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court?s dismissal of this claim, holding that no liberty interest attached to that classification. Similarly, the Ninth Circuit ruled that Myron?s limited law library hours during a lockdown did not impinge upon a federally ...
by John E. Dannenberg
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) did not apply to Texas prisoners working in Texas state prisons.
Douglas Loving, a Texas state prisoner, filed a civil rights suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that, under the FLSA, he was entitled to minimum wage for his work as a "drying machine operator" in a state prison. With very few exceptions, Texas prisoners are not paid for their labor but are required to work as unpaid slaves of the state. The district court dismissed the suit as frivolous and for failure to state a claim. Loving appealed.
The Fifth Circuit noted that, whereas it had previously held that a jailer was not a FLSA employer of a jail prisoner privately employed outside the jail in a work-release program, and prisoners working inside a prison for a private employer were not FLSA employees of the private company, it had never addressed whether prisoners working for the state in a prison were employees for FLSA purposes.
The Fifth Circuit joined every other circuit that has addressed the issue in holding that state prisoners doing prison work are not employees of the prison pursuant ...
On March 15, 2002, Joseph Dole assaulted an Assistant Warden. Prison guards retaliated by placing him on suicide watch and beating him. A nurse reported the beating to Internal Affairs (IA), which initiated an investigation. The State Police also investigated the incident. Dole cooperated in both investigations.
The case was referred for prosecution but the State?s Attorney declined to prosecute, despite finding the allegation of staff abuse to be credible. Based on the IA investigation the guards were disciplined for excessive force and failure to report violations.
On April 15, 2002, Dole completed a timely grievance concerning the use of excessive force. He placed the grievance in an envelope addressed to the Administrative Review Board (ARB) and gave it to guards for mailing. ?This was the only procedure ? available to him to mail his grievance.?
When Dole did not receive a response, he wrote to the ARB inquiring about the status of his grievance. The ARB stated it had no record ...
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held that an Illinois prisoner ?took all steps necessary to exhaust? his administrative remedies when prison officials misplaced his timely grievance and did not instruct him to re-file an ?untimely grievance.?
Joseph Dyer III was originally sentenced to death, a punishment later commuted to life imprisonment when Tennessee?s death penalty was declared unconstitutional. He was denied parole in 1993 and again in 1998, notwithstanding a clean in-prison record. He complained that his 1998 denial was based, at least in part, upon the 1998 statutory change in the parole board?s discretion from ?shall? to ?may? (Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-3614 (1974) versus Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-28-117(a) (1998)). His legal challenge was that the change was not merely ?procedural? in nature but actually increased his punishment.
Dyer, proceeding in pro per under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, had been denied relief in every state and federal court below the Sixth Circuit. One Circuit judge would have granted Dyer ...
The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held that a double-murderer convicted in 1975, serving life in Tennessee, was entitled to the benefit of 1974 parole rules which conditionally provided that ?... such prisoner shall be allowed to go upon parole,? and therefore the parole board?s 1998 denial using its new rules version, which states ?... may be allowed to go upon parole,? could violate ex post facto principles as applied to him.
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a civil rights challenge to provisions of the Arkansas Sex Offender Registration Act, Ark. Code Ann. § 12-12-901 et seq., and to a criminal statute that makes it a Class D felony for some sex offenders to live within 2,000 feet of a school or daycare center. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-14-128.
Arkansas requires its Sex Offender Assessment Committee to assign one of four risk levels to registered sex offenders (RSOs) -- low risk, moderate risk, high risk and sexually violent predator. The assigned risk level (ARL) determines the amount of community notification required. It is a Class D felony for RSOs in the two highest ARL categories to live within 2,000 feet of a school or a daycare center.
Donald Weems and Michael Briggs are Arkansas RSOs who were assessed high risk levels by the Committee. Weems had been convicted of indecent exposure. After assessment, he received a letter from the Little Rock police chief telling him his residence was in violation of the 2,000-foot rule and ordering him to move. Briggs was convicted of first-degree rape in Maryland and moved to his mother?s ...
by Matthew T. Clarke
In a bizarre case, a Court of Appeals in Texas had to order a state district court to accept correspondence from prisoners.
Felix DeLeon, a Texas state prisoner, filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas (CCA) seeking an order instructing the District Clerk of Lynn County to accept his correspondence. DeLeon had attempted multiple times to file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the 109th Judicial District Court, but each time the mailing had been returned with "refused" marked on it.
The district clerk explained to the CCA that three or four years earlier the clerk's office had begun a practice of refusing mailings from prisoners that had not been screened for anthrax. The CCA quickly concluded that DeLeon had a constitutional right (of access to courts) and a statutory right to file his habeas corpus applications under Article I, Section 12 of the Texas Constitution and Article 11.07(3)(b) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Thus, the clerk had a duty to accept the application when it arrived in the mail. Therefore, the CCA conditionally granted ...
Texas Court Ordered to Accept Prisoners' Correspondence
Florida: On June 20, 2006, Nelson Mompierre, 43, a park ranger at the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park was arrested by FBI agents on claims that he solicited, and received, bribes from work release prisoners that he was supervising. This included demanding $80 from a prisoner to visit with his girlfriend at the park; threatening to expel a prisoner from work release unless he was paid $2,500. A female FBI agent posed as a prisoners? wife and gave Mompierre $500 to keep a prisoner in the work release program and gave him additional money as he demanded it. As part of his duties, every weekday Mompierre would pick up several prisoners from the South Florida Reception Center to work at the park.
Georgia: On May 13, 2006, Eric Horton, a guard at the Clayton county jail was charged with grabbing the genitals of three male prisoners at the jail during a search and allowing his hands to remain there ?for an ...
California: On April 20, 2007, John Whittle, a former guard at the Mule Creek State Prison was sentenced to two years in prison for smuggling methamphetamine to prisoners in exchange for five thousand dollars worth of bribes.
Plaintiff David Williams filed suit against prison personnel under 42 U ...
On August 18, 2006, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois awarded $7,116.35 in attorney?s fees and costs to a state prisoner who prevailed in his civil rights claim against prison officials.