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Prison Legal News: January, 2008

Issue PDF
Volume 19, Number 1

In this issue:

  1. The Poisoned Pen of Fort Lyon Prison (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 10)
  3. Food Deprivation & Pink Clothing Imposed for Violating South Carolina Prison Rules (p 10)
  4. Largest Oregon Jail a Cesspool of Misconduct and Mismanagement, Report Finds; Sheriff Faulted and Under Fire (p 12)
  5. Retired Canadian Football-Star-Turned-Prison-Official Faulted (p 14)
  6. Texas Prisoners May Have Right to Extra Storage Space for Religious Materials (p 15)
  7. Audit Reveals Continuing “State of Chaos” at Hawaii Youth Prison (p 16)
  8. As New Regulations Limit Organ Transplants from Executed Chinese Prisoners; South Carolina Allows Organ Donations by Prisoners (p 16)
  9. Utah Prisoner Kills Guard During Escape While on Medical Transport (p 18)
  10. Oklahoma Jail Dodges $700,000 in Fines (p 18)
  11. CCA-Run Immigrant Family Detention Center in Texas Violates Settlement Conditions (p 20)
  12. $195,000 Paid to Family of Slain Florida Prison Guard (p 21)
  13. Los Angeles Jail Canteen Audit: Contractor Rakes In $640,213 Excess Profits (p 22)
  14. Alabama Corrections Commissioner’s Contempt Order Upheld (p 22)
  15. California Prison Guards Lose Unlimited “Time Bank” For On-The Job Union Business (p 23)
  16. Lawsuit Against WI Supermax Settled for $475,000; General Population Prisoners Fill Beds (p 24)
  17. No Criminal Wrongdoing Found in Overpayments to Florida Private Prisons (p 24)
  18. Prisoner Crashes Jet Ski into Dock in Camden County, Georgia (p 25)
  19. Most Serious Sex Offenders in Boston Living in Homeless Shelters (p 26)
  20. New York City Settles Prisoner-On-Prisoner Assault for $180,000 (p 26)
  21. Iowa Faith-Based Program Held Unconstitutional by 8th Circuit; Continues with Private Funding (p 27)
  22. Hawaii Youth Prison Financial Audit Finds Excessive Overtime/Leave Abuses (p 28)
  23. Eighth Circuit Upholds Arkansas Jailer’s 78-Month Sentence for Brutalizing Prisoners (p 28)
  24. Self-Defense: A New Jersey Prisoner’s Right (p 29)
  25. Wrongful Death Suit Against LA County Jail Settles For $750,000 (p 30)
  26. Eighth Circuit Holds State Funding of Iowa Faith-Based Prison Unconstitutional (p 30)
  27. California Jail Settles Gender-Identity-Disorder Discrimination Suit (p 31)
  28. $35,000 Jury Award in Massachusetts Prisoner’s Assault by Guards (p 32)
  29. BOP Byline Prohibition Unconstitutional (p 32)
  30. Washington Pays $665,000 to Prisoner Injured In Racially Motivated Attack (p 33)
  31. Connecticut Prisons Begin 10% Deductions of Prisoner Monies (p 34)
  32. Vermont DOC: Nations Biggest Prison Dispenser of Psychotropic Medication (p 34)
  33. United States Sentencing Commission Approves Crack Reform For Federal Prisoners (p 35)
  34. Eleventh Circuit Condemns One-Sentence Qualified Immunity Denial Order (p 36)
  35. $25,000 Settlement in Miami False Arrest, Strip Search Suit (p 36)
  36. Seventh Circuit Rejects Federal Prisoner’s Necessity Defense (p 36)
  37. Some Australian Prisoners Entitled to Vote (p 37)
  38. Fourth Circuit Finds Virginia Prisoner’s Religious Exercise Claim Meritorious (p 38)
  39. Summary Dismissal of Court Access Claim Reversed (p 38)
  40. California: 1st Degree Occupied Burglary Doesn’t Bar Working in Licensed (p 40)
  41. Michigan Anti-Civil Rights Amendment Declared Unconstitutional (p 40)
  42. Prisoner’s Oral Complaints Worthy of First Amendment Protection; (p 41)
  43. News in Brief: (p 42)
  44. Bivens Action Inapplicable to Private Prison Employees (p 44)

The Poisoned Pen of Fort Lyon Prison

Bought by the state for a dollar, Fort Lyon is rich in history, asbestos, sick prisoners and trouble.

by Alan Prendergast

History Lesson #1

In 1829, William Bent headed west to join his older brother in the fur business. William was twenty years old, the son of a Missouri supreme ...

From the Editor

This month?s cover story examines the environmental woes, and history, of one old prison in Colorado. In many respects this is a microcosm of many prisons in the United States. The negative aspects of prisons on the environment itself, and on the prisoners housed in them, has rarely been ...

Food Deprivation & Pink Clothing Imposed for Violating South Carolina Prison Rules

by David M. Reutter

South Carolina?s Commissioner of Corrections, Jon Ozmint, has embraced hardcore disciplinary methods to deal with prisoners who violate prison rules. Such punishments include depriving prisoners of food and requiring them to wear pink outfits.

The food deprivation has taken on a new twist. Rather than ...

Largest Oregon Jail a Cesspool of Misconduct and Mismanagement, Report Finds; Sheriff Faulted and Under Fire

On November 1, 2006, the Multnomah County District Attorney?s (DA?s) Office in Portland, Oregon released a blistering 63-page report that found systemic, shocking problems in the state?s largest jail system. ?Conservative? in their findings, the two veteran prosecutors who served as investigators, John Bradley and Chuck French ...

Retired Canadian Football-Star-Turned-Prison-Official Faulted

Ron Stewart endeared himself to Canadian citizens during his years as a star halfback for the Ottawa Rough Riders. He later entered into public service where be served for 26 years, including as a prison oversight official, until he retired in 2004. It was recently revealed that the Canadian icon ...

Texas Prisoners May Have Right to Extra Storage Space for Religious Materials

by Matthew T. Clarke

A Texas court of appeals held that state prisoners may have a right to extra storage space for religious materials.

Jeffery Balawajder, a Texas state prisoner, brought suit in state court against the Texas prison system (TDCJ), alleging that his right to free exercise of religion ...

Audit Reveals Continuing “State of Chaos” at Hawaii Youth Prison

Audit Reveals Continuing "State of Chaos" at Hawaii Youth Prison

The Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility (HYCF) is in non-compliance with most of the American Correctional Association (ACA) "Standards for Juvenile Correction Facilities," according to a 2007 security audit.

HYCF, Hawaii's only secure juvenile prison, has come under intense scrutiny ...

As New Regulations Limit Organ Transplants from Executed Chinese Prisoners; South Carolina Allows Organ Donations by Prisoners

In November 2006, China finally admitted that most of the human organs used to satisfy the burgeoning number of transplant-seeking foreigners came from executed prisoners.

?Apart from a small portion of traffic victims, most of the organs from cadavers are from executed prisoners,? Deputy Health Minister Huang Jiefu told a ...

Utah Prisoner Kills Guard During Escape While on Medical Transport

by David M. Reutter

On June 25, 2007, a Utah state prisoner shot and killed a prison guard while escaping from a hospital where he had been taken to receive an MRI. The escape occurred at the University of Utah?s Orthopedic Clinic in Salt Lake City.

Prisoner Curtis Allgier ...

Oklahoma Jail Dodges $700,000 in Fines

On November 28, 2006, the Bryan County Jail in Oklahoma was fined $15,000 by a local judge for health inspection violations. Both the district attorney and jail officials were elated with the ruling.

The reason they were happy was because the jail had originally faced more than $700,000 ...

CCA-Run Immigrant Family Detention Center in Texas Violates Settlement Conditions

by Matt Clarke

On April 9, 2007, a federal district court in Texas held that the conditions of confinement at a privately-run facility used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold families detained due to immigration issues violated the terms of a class-action settlement related to the detention of ...

$195,000 Paid to Family of Slain Florida Prison Guard

by David M. Reutter

The Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) has agreed to pay $195,000 to the family of murdered prison guard Darla Kay Lathrem, 38. PLN previously reported the incident. [See: PLN, April 2006, p.42].

Lathrem was killed during a failed escape on June 11, 2003. She ...

Los Angeles Jail Canteen Audit: Contractor Rakes In $640,213 Excess Profits

by John E. Dannenberg

Compass Group USA, Inc. doing business at the Los Angeles County Jail as Canteen Services (Canteen), was booked by the county auditor for extracting $640,213 in excess profits from its gross prisoner canteen revenues of $78 million between 2000 and 2005 and spending this sum ...

Alabama Corrections Commissioner’s Contempt Order Upheld

Alabama Corrections Commissioner's Contempt Order Upheld

Alabama's Supreme Court has affirmed a Montgomery County Circuit Court's order holding Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) Commissioner Richard Allen in contempt, with the threat of jail time. The order stemmed from a lawsuit filed by counties that sought to enforce ...

California Prison Guards Lose Unlimited “Time Bank” For On-The Job Union Business

California Prison Guards Lose Unlimited "Time Bank" For On-The Job Union Business

by Marvin Mentor

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) lost its bid to undo a cap on its contract provision permitting rank-and-file members to donate unused leave (minimum of two-hour increments) to fellow prison guards to cover ...

Lawsuit Against WI Supermax Settled for $475,000; General Population Prisoners Fill Beds

In January 2007, Wisconsin officials settled a federal lawsuit filed by a prisoner at the state?s former Supermax facility at Boscobel, now called the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (WSPF). Canyon Thixton, who arrived at the maximum security prison in April 2001 when he was 17 years old, alleged he ...

No Criminal Wrongdoing Found in Overpayments to Florida Private Prisons

by David M. Reutter

In May 2007 the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) issued a 22-page report which found that $12.7 million in overpayments to the state's private prison contractors did not result from an intent "to steal or defraud." PLN previously reported on this investigation, which ...

Prisoner Crashes Jet Ski into Dock in Camden County, Georgia

On September 16, 2006, a Camden County, Georgia jail prisoner crashed a Sheriff?s Department jet ski into a private dock at Harriet?s Bluff on the Crooked River.

According to Sheriff Bill Smith, jail trustees were moving the jet skis from a private dock to a trailer at a ...

Most Serious Sex Offenders in Boston Living in Homeless Shelters

Efforts in Massachusetts to keep a close eye on released sex offenders have apparently failed. Rather than having such offenders in stable living environments where law enforcement officials can monitor them, 65 percent of the state?s most dangerous sex offenders stay in homeless shelters. That figure is for Level ...

New York City Settles Prisoner-On-Prisoner Assault for $180,000

On October 23, 2006, the City of New York agreed to pay $180,000 to a prisoner who suffered facial injuries as the result of an attack by another prisoner.

City prisoner Ivan Miller, 34, claimed that on June 30, 1998, while imprisoned at the Brooklyn House of Detention he ...

Iowa Faith-Based Program Held Unconstitutional by 8th Circuit; Continues with Private Funding

Previously, PLN reported an Iowa federal district court ruling which held that the InnerChange Freedom Initiatives, a faith-based prison program that received state funding, violated the First Amendment?s establishment clause. [See: PLN, July 2006, pg.18]. As noted in this issue of PLN, that ruling was largely upheld on ...

Hawaii Youth Prison Financial Audit Finds Excessive Overtime/Leave Abuses

A 2007 financial audit of the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility (HYCF) found significant overtime costs and sick leave among guards, with 35 percent of gross compensation being earned through overtime pay in fiscal year 2004-2005.

Intense scrutiny of HYCF, the state?s only juvenile detention facility, prompted the Hawaii State ...

Eighth Circuit Upholds Arkansas Jailer’s 78-Month Sentence for Brutalizing Prisoners

Eighth Circuit Upholds Arkansas Jailer's 78-Month Sentence for Brutalizing Prisoners

The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the criminal conviction of an Arkansas jailer for violation of the civil rights of two prisoners whom he beat maliciously and sadistically. The court found the evidence more than sufficient ...

Self-Defense: A New Jersey Prisoner’s Right

Self-Defense: A New Jersey Prisoner's Right

A New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, has held that a prisoner has a right to self-defense while incarcerated. Thus, a hearing officer must make specific findings when a self-defense theory is asserted.

The ruling came in an action filed by Michael DeCamp ...

Wrongful Death Suit Against LA County Jail Settles For $750,000

The surviving family of an untreated and mistreated mentally unstable diabetic prisoner who died at the Los Angeles, California (LA) County Jail settled their wrongful death lawsuit against the county and LA Sheriff?s officials for $750,000 in May 2007.

Ramon Gavira was arrested on July 6, 2002 for ...

Eighth Circuit Holds State Funding of Iowa Faith-Based Prison Unconstitutional

On December 3, 2007, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals held that partial state funding of a religious-based prison program in Iowa was unconstitutional.

The Court further held that InnerChange, a division of Prison Fellowship Ministries, was not obligated to repay $1.5 million ...

California Jail Settles Gender-Identity-Disorder Discrimination Suit

by John F. Dannenberg

Orange County and its Sheriff, Michael Carona, settled a discrimination suit brought by a prisoner whom they denied treatment for Gender Identity Disorder (GID). They now provide such individuals specialized medical treatment for their disorders, educate Sheriff's staff on, and extend outreach to, the Lesbian ...

$35,000 Jury Award in Massachusetts Prisoner’s Assault by Guards

$35,000 Jury Award in Massachusetts Prisoner's Assault by Guards

A jury awarded a prisoner at the Massachusetts Correctional Facility at Walpole $35,000 for guards' negligence for failing to intercede to stop an excessive use of force.

After one guard began assaulting and beating prisoner Kenneth S. Bernstein ...

BOP Byline Prohibition Unconstitutional

by David M. Reutter

A Colorado federal district court has held the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) regulation that provides a prisoner may not "publish under a byline" violates the First Amendment. The Court's order prohibits the BOP from punishing any prisoner for violating that regulation.

The Court's order ...

Washington Pays $665,000 to Prisoner Injured In Racially Motivated Attack

On May 30, 2007, the State of Washington agreed to pay $635,000 to a black prisoner who was injured in an attack by white prisoners. The white prisoners were members of a ?Security Threat Group?. The plaintiff was also allegedly a member of a black prison gang, the Black ...

Connecticut Prisons Begin 10% Deductions of Prisoner Monies

The Connecticut Department of Corrections (CDOC) has put into effect a new state law that creates savings accounts for prisoners. The new law, which took effect July 1, 2007, allows CDOC to automatically deduct 10 percent of any funds that are deposited to a prisoner?s commissary account.

The law ...

Vermont DOC: Nations Biggest Prison Dispenser of Psychotropic Medication

Vermont DOC: Nations Biggest Prison Dispenser of Psychotropic Medication

It is not questioned by those familiar with the population of America's prisoner system that prisons have become the main provider of mental health services since the nation dismantled its psychiatric hospital system. The question, however, is what is a ...

United States Sentencing Commission Approves Crack Reform For Federal Prisoners

On December 11, 2007, the day after the Supreme Court affirmed a judge?s decision to sentence below the guideline range based on the unfairness of the crack cocaine sentencing disparity, the United States Sentencing Commission voted to make retroactive its recent guideline amendment on crack cocaine offenses. The USSC ...

Eleventh Circuit Condemns One-Sentence Qualified Immunity Denial Order

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed an Alabama federal district court?s order denying jail officials? motions to dismiss on qualified immunity ground, admonishing the district court for only entering ?one sentence orders denying? the motions.

Kevin Danley sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging ?he was ...

$25,000 Settlement in Miami False Arrest, Strip Search Suit

While driving in Florida?s Miami-Dade County, a 32-year-old female was pulled over for allegedly following another car too closely. The Miami-Dade County police officer arrested her for an outstanding warrant for driving with an invalid driver?s license.

She was arrested in front of her daughter and grandmother, detained ...

Seventh Circuit Rejects Federal Prisoner’s Necessity Defense

Seventh Circuit Rejects Federal Prisoner's Necessity Defense

The Seventh Circuit found that a federal prisoner had failed to prove the requisite elements of the "necessity" defense in a prison weapon possession prosecution.

In 1992, David Sahakian was sentenced to 360 months in federal prison and was confined at the ...

Some Australian Prisoners Entitled to Vote

The High Court of Australia has held that a 2006 law prohibiting prisoners serving a sentence of less than three years from voting was invalid under the Commonwealth Constitution.

The special action before The High Court challenged the Commonwealth Electoral Act amendment of 2006. Prior to that amendment, prisoners serving ...

Fourth Circuit Finds Virginia Prisoner’s Religious Exercise Claim Meritorious

Fourth Circuit Finds Virginia Prisoner's Religious Exercise Claim Meritorious

by Michael Rigby

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated and remanded a district court?s grant of summary judgment to prison officials who had denied a Virginia prisoner access to special Ramadan meals and religious services.

In ...

Summary Dismissal of Court Access Claim Reversed

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court?s sua sponte dismissal of a prisoner?s access-to-courts lawsuit for failure to state a claim. The appellate court also held that the prisoner was entitled to amend his complaint.

Indiana prisoner Kenneth Marshal filed a handwritten, pro se complaint ...

California: 1st Degree Occupied Burglary Doesn’t Bar Working in Licensed

California: 1st Degree Occupied Burglary Doesn't Bar Working in Licensed
Community Care Facilities

Convicted felons suffer many civil disabilities, even after discharge from custody and post-release supervision. In California, a person whose criminal past includes a "crime against a person" is precluded from working in a state-licensed community care ...

Michigan Anti-Civil Rights Amendment Declared Unconstitutional

by John E. Dannenberg

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan declared unconstitutional a March 2000 amendment to Michigan?s Elliot-Larson Civil Rights Act (ELCRA), which had stripped prisoners from protection against discrimination. This important ruling, which is being appealed by the state, found Michigan?s ...

Prisoner’s Oral Complaints Worthy of First Amendment Protection;

Prisoner's Oral Complaints Worthy of First Amendment Protection; 
$1 in Damages and $1.50 in Fees Awarded

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a prisoner's oral complaints about matters of "public concern" that are designed to "urge a change of any prison policy" are ...

News in Brief:

Argentina: On November 5, 2007, 29 prisoners died in a fire at the maximum security prison in Santiago del Estero. The fire was set to distract guards from an escape attempt and quickly spread. Most of the victims died of smoke inhalation. No escapes occurred. Riot police restored order after ...

Bivens Action Inapplicable to Private Prison Employees

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that individual employees of a privately-operated prison are not subject to Eighth Amendment liability under a Bivens action. Before the Court was the defendants' appeal of a North Carolina federal district court's denial of the defendants? motion to dismiss.

Ricky Lee ...