Declining public enthusiasm for costly prison expansion plans has closed off traditional options for financing new prison construction. But this trend has created new opportunities for a cottage industry of investment bankers, architects, building contractors, and consultants to reap large rewards with “back-door” financing schemes. A review of recent prison, jail, and detention expansion initiatives shows that federal, state, and local governments are using back-door financing mechanisms to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to build facilities that the public does not want and cannot afford.
Paying For Prisons—?Corrections Takes The “Public” ?Out of Public Finance
Until the ...
Much public attention has been devoted in recent years to the “industrial” side of the prison boom, from the fortunes of private prison operators to the profits generated by telecommunications companies from lucrative phone contracts. Less attention has been paid to the sector of the prison industry that gets paid each time a prison is financed or built. Unlike those who make their money from operations, firms that get paid on the front end may have little stake in the ultimate use or financial viability of a new prison or detention project. They profit whether the beds are empty or full.
Arkansas Woman Left in Cell for Four Days Without Food or Water
In March 2008, a woman was locked in a small courthouse holding cell without food or water for four days after an Arkansas bailiff forgot about her.
Adriana Torres-Flores, 38, a mother of three and an illegal immigrant from Mexico, was left in a nine-by-ten foot concrete cell for four days after Jarrod Hankins, a bailiff for the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, forgot she was there. Torres-Flores’ cell, designed to hold prisoners for only an hour, contained no water, food, toilet facilities or bunk. As a result, she was forced to drink her own urine in order to stay hydrated, and slept on the floor. She was not discovered until Hankins returned to work and opened the cell.
“It was just a horrible mistake,” stated Jay Cantrell, Chief Deputy for the sheriff’s department. Roy Petty, Torres-Flores’ immigration lawyer, was not so sure. “Frankly that’s how they treat Hispanics down here. They treat Hispanics like cattle, like less than human,” he said.
Torres-Flores was taken to the hospital, treated, and then sent home to recover. Ironically, the charges against her – related to the sale of pirated ...
For years PLN and the Wall Street Journal have been pretty much the only publications reporting, for very different reasons, the role that Lehman Brothers has played in financing the private prison industry. I have walked past the Lehman Brothers massive office near Times Square in the late afternoon when the chauffeured limousines stretched around the corner while awaiting their masters. These were the people profiting, very handsomely, from the misery of the prison industry. Yet when people think of prisons, jails and ...
Each day the news brings more headlines about the turmoil in financial markets and the collapse of speculative financial devices that were apparently too complex for their buyers to understand (we can all recall the junk bonds of the 1980s), the financial bail out of Wall Street bankers and the perils to everyone else who is not a speculator, a mogul or financier. I was in New York City in September to speak on the plight of women prisoners at a bookstore in Manhattan when it was announced that Lehman Brothers was going under and the treasury would not bail them out. I was probably one of the few people in the city elated by the news.
Monitor’s Second and Third Reports Find Medical Care From CMS for Delaware Prisoners Still Lacking
by David M. Reutter
Despite a monitor to provide oversight, Correctional Medical Services (CMS) continues to suffer from a “lack of stable and effective leadership” that inhibits it from supplying adequate medical care to Delaware prisoners. That was the conclusion drawn in the Second Semi-Annual Report of the Independent Monitor of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the U.S. Department of Justice and the State of Delaware, which was issued in January 2008. The monitor’s third report, released in July 2008, found continued problems with services provided by CMS.
The agreement to monitor prison medical care, which involves the Delaware Dept. of Correction (DDOC), followed a public outcry after The News Journal published a series of damning articles that detailed the abysmal medical treatment (or lack thereof) provided to DDOC prisoners. [See: PLN, Dec. 2005, p.1; July 2007, p.8]. The independent monitor, Joshua W. Martin III, issued his first semi-annual report on July 29, 2007. [See: PLN, Feb. 2008, p.24]. That report focused on challenges faced by the DDOC to achieve “substantial compliance” with the agreement.
The monitor’s second report “acts ...
The Prison Industry Enhancement program (PIE) was created by Congress in 1979 (see: 18 U.S.C. § 1761). Its goal was to encourage businesses to use prison labor to train prisoners in jobs so as to increase their chances for success upon release. Reduced labor and overhead costs made the PIE program very attractive to a variety of free world industries. The biggest concern was that PIE programs could be implemented in such a way as to jeopardize the jobs of free world workers. This is exactly what happened to one Texas business.
Just under three years ago, Direct Trailer and Equipment Company (DTEC) implemented a PIE program at the Michaels Unit in Tennessee Colony, Texas ...
Breaking with its longstanding tradition of using prison slave labor, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is paying certain prisoners, on several units, for working in industry programs. The upside is that some prisoners are being compensated for their labor and money is being added to the state’s General Revenue Fund as a result of deductions from their wages. The downside is that at least one Texas business has been forced to shut down part of its operations due to prison-based competition.
Colorado House Bill 1076 modified CRS 24?72?306(1) which previously mandated a fee not to exceed the actual cost of searching, retrieving, and copying “criminal justice records.” Now the copying fee is a separate item and can be up to $0.25 per standard page. Over 80 percent of this fee is profit for the cash?strapped state agencies.
Criminal justice records are defined as records “made, maintained or kept by any criminal justice agency in the state for use in the exercise of functions required or authorized by law or administrative rule.” See CRS 24?72?302(4).
Prisoner?generated legal work includes court pleadings, exhibits, letters to the court, attorneys and other parties. Some of this may become public record once filed and some, such as ...
As if cutting prisoner wages 70 percent (from $2 per workday to $0.60 while providing nothing but one roll of toilet paper per week) was not enough, Colorado Department of Corrections executive director Aristedes Zavaras has ordered the facility law libraries to increase their fee for copying prisoner?generated legal work by 400 percent from $0.05 to $0.25 per page based on an inapplicable change in law.
An Interview with Randall Berg, Executive Director of the Florida Justice Institute
by Todd Matthews
With approximately 100,000 people in Florida’s prisons, and another 66,000 in its county jails, Florida has joined the ranks of Texas and California as a state that has taken the practice of mass incarceration to new and frightening heights.
One person on the front lines of Florida’s prisoners’ rights movement is attorney Randall Berg. As executive director of the Florida Justice Institute (FJI) – a non-profit, public interest law firm with a small team of attorneys and support staff –- Berg has tackled a variety of issues impacting prisoners. Most notably, FJI helped start the first Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account (IOLTA), which has leveraged more than $3 billion nationally toward legal services to the poor.
Even after 30 years at FJI, Berg says a “bleak” environment for prisoners in Florida persists. “Nothing has changed,” he says. “The biggest concern [in 1978] was how few people cared about prison reform and the plight of prisoners. If anything, there are even fewer persons today who are interested in prison reform. The lack of concern coupled with a dramatic conservative shift in the federal ...
Could the Fall of Lehman Brothers Signal Trouble for Private Prison Corporations?
by Bob Libal and Nick Hudson
While recent business news has been dominated by the bailout of some of the nation’s largest investment firms, the fall of financial giant Lehman Brothers may have unintended consequences for one of the nation’s most controversial industries – the business of incarceration for profit. Articles about Lehman Brothers’ history have largely ignored the fact that the company has been one of the largest, most consistent financial backers of the private prison industry.
Over the past decade, Lehman Brothers supplied billions of dollars in capital and credit to for-profit private prison firms such as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut) and Cornell Corrections, while at the same time provided those companies with a safety net in times of financial difficulty.
An Industry Criticized
Private prison scandals often go unreported, but occasionally a situation is so egregious that the media takes notice. Such was the case with Scot Noble Payne, an Idaho inmate who committed suicide by cutting his throat with a razor blade in 2007 at the GEO Group’s Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas. [See: PLN ...
What was even more alarming was the fact that such abysmal conditions had existed for years while the prison received high marks from inspectors and literally no oversight by state officials. Then again, four of the TYC’s monitoring staff overseeing the GEO-run center were former GEO employees.
The Coke County facility was the state’s only privatized secure juvenile facility. However, around 9 percent of Texas’ adult prisoners are housed in privately-run prisons or state jails. For two decades, Texas has been on a binge to build prisons, fill them and keep them full. This is what lured so many private prison contractors to the Lone Star state. Texas has about 120 lockups and over 160,000 prisoners; 17 are privately-operated facilities that house more ...
So much human feces covered the floors of a GEO Group-run juvenile prison in Coke County, Texas that departing inspectors stopped outside to wipe their shoes in the grass. The Coke County Juvenile Justice Center was in such bad shape that Texas Youth Commission (TYC) executive director Dimitria Pope ordered all juvenile offenders removed from the facility following the inspection, then canceled the state’s contract with GEO. [See: PLN, July 2008, p.18].
Bobbi’s husband, Randy Parker, was deputy warden of OSR at the time of the escape. She had left him a phone message saying she was out shopping. He discovered hours later that the two were missing; Bobbi’s van was found abandoned across the state line.
On April 4, 2005, Bobbi Parker and Dial were found living on a chicken ranch in East Texas. Dial told authorities he had kidnapped Parker and convinced her he would go after her daughters if she ever left him. The girls were 8 and 10 at the time.
Despite Parker and Dial’s insistence that she had been kidnapped and held for over ten years against her will, Greer County District Attorney John Wampler was not convinced. Wampler noted that after numerous interviews, Dial’s “accounts were always a little different. The versions tended to change over time.”
Family and friends said Parker sounded ...
In April 2008, charges were filed against Bobbi Parker, 46, who is accused of hiding convicted killer Randolph Dial in her van and driving him out of the Oklahoma State Reformatory (OSR) on August 30, 1994. The pair remained missing for over ten years before they were eventually discovered.
A report submitted to Mississippi’s legislature found serious deficiencies in the delivery of medical care to prisoners in the Mississippi Dept. of Corrections (MDOC). The December 11, 2007 report was issued by the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER). It found that MDOC and its for-profit healthcare contractor, Wexford Health Services, failed to assure that prisoners received timely access to quality medical care.
PEER stated this shortcoming may not only have an adverse effect on prisoner health, but may cost MDOC more in specialty medical expenses. Increased specialty care costs was an issue of concern due to MDOC’s use of a new model for providing prison medical services.
Prior to July 1998, MDOC used the traditional services model, which entailed employing physicians and other medical service providers. From July 1998 to June 30, 2003, MDOC contracted with the University of Mississippi Medical Center to provide prisoner healthcare. On July 1, 2003, Correctional Medical Services took over MDOC’s healthcare contract, but the company decided in July 2005 that it did not want to be reconsidered for renewal once the contract expired on July 30, 2006.
Wexford won the new contract ...
by David M. Reutter
On December 20, 2007, an Illinois federal jury awarded a record amount in a civil rights case for false arrest – $15.5 million. The damage award was against the sheriff of Will County, Illinois and four of his deputies. Prior to trial, the former state attorney, forensic ...
by Matt Clarke
Effects of Florida’s Faith Based Prisons Found to Be Promising in Reducing Recidivism
by David M. Reutter
A report by the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center concluded the statistically significant difference between the share of prisoners in Florida’s Faith and Character Based Institutions (FCBI) and a comparison group of male prisoner reincarcerated at six months after release suggests “cautious optimism” regarding the FCBI experience and its relationship to subsequent offending, at least in the short term.
Florida first tried a faith based program with a prototype dorm program at Tomoka Correctional Institution (TCI) in 1999. Gov. Jeb Bush expanded the initiative by opening the nation’s first prison fully dedicated to the FCBI model on December 24, 2003. That program is at Lawtey Correctional Institution (LCI). In April 2004, the women’s prison at Hillsborough Correctional Institution (HCI) was converted to the FCBI model.
Another FCBI was opened at Wakulla Correctional Institution (WCI) in March 2006. That program and the one at TCI were not included in the research of the report addressed here. It was pretty much agreed upon by the staff, prisoners, and volunteers associated with the FCBIs at LCI and HCI that the mission is to help prisoners “build ...
Florida County Sheriff Liable for $1.5 Million for Acts of Informant on Work Release
On May 18, 2007, a Florida jury found the Hendry County Sheriff is liable for injuries caused by a prisoner it placed on work release status to hire him as a confidential informant. After the ...
Suspected deficiencies in the jail were brought to the attention of then-Governor Mitt Romney on November 17, 2006. The inspection required two tours conducted in early 2007.
One area of concern addressed the inappropriate use of restraints on prisoners in the jail. Generally, restraint chairs and beds are intended for violent, non-compliant prisoners. A random review of nine video tapes all showed compliant and cooperative prisoners being placed in 4, 5 and 6-point restraints as a means of punishment by guards. In one case a prisoner actually assisted the guards in applying the restraints.
Even in cases where the use of restraints was justified inspectors determined that prisoners were being held too long and for punitive purposes. The use of restraints has reduced substantially since the inspection.
Part of the blame for the guards’ inappropriate behavior was attributed to management ...
A report released by the U.S. Justice Department (USJD), on May 1, 2008, concluded that conditions in the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction (HOC) in Massachusetts violated the constitutional rights of prisoners in its custody. The report detailed a variety of unsanitary and environmentally unsafe living conditions as well as inadequate medical care for mental health patients.
The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice (Commission) charged that the practice of California counties to use competitive bidding for private attorneys to represent indigent criminal defendants has resulted in unconstitutionally poor legal representation. The practice usually involves bidding the criminal defense work on a flat fee, low-bidder-wins criterion. As a result, the profit-driven successful bidders are motivated to minimize expenses such as outside investigators and expert witnesses at the defendants’ peril.
Former Stanford Law School Dean Gerald Uelman, Executive Director of the Commission, opined, “this is like a cancer within the system of providing indigent defense, and its spreading” - “a race to the bottom.” While he noted that the U.S. Supreme Court concluded long ago that indigent criminal defendants are guaranteed competent counsel regardless of their ability to pay (Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963)), the growing low-bidder practice has resulted in cutting corners during trials or even worse, avoiding going to trial at all. In sharp contrast, Uelman noted that full-time public defenders (who handle 80% of California’s felony filings) do not suffer these infirmities, observing that the local (Santa Clara County) defenders “vigorously advocate for adequate funding ...
by John E. Dannenberg
Florida’s Broward County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to pay $13.5 million to settle a lawsuit claiming it illegally strip searched prisoners charged with minor offenses. The settlement ends a class action filed in state court in 2002. Under the settlement, each class member will receive up to ...
Regular readers of PLN are familiar with Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, who bills himself as “America’s Toughest Sheriff.” [See, e.g., PLN, March 2007, p.14]. Dennis Wilenchik, a private attorney known as “Arpaio’s Bulldog,” was hired as a special prosecutor by Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas to investigate the Phoenix New Times.
The New Times, an independent weekly, had published Arpaio’s home address on its website in a 2004 story about the Sheriff concealing millions of dollars of commercial real estate transactions. Posting the address may have violated a little-known state law.
When the grand jury investigating the case issued a subpoena for large quantities of personal information about the New Times’ online readers, the publication’s founders, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, went public. They were then arrested for revealing confidential grand jury information. [See: PLN, August 2008, p.12].
Within a day, the charges were dropped and Wilenchik was dismissed from the case. The New Times subsequently filed a lawsuit against Wilenchik, Arpaio, the Sheriff’s office, Thomas and the County Attorney’s office, which was removed from state to federal court.
On October 6, 2008, U.S ...
by Matt Clarke
On December 12, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a non-binding moratorium on the death penalty. The 192 member nations voted 104 to 54 with 29 abstentions. The measure was spearheaded by the 27-member European Union (EU) which requires death penalty abolition as a condition of membership. The EU, eight African nations and over a dozen Latin American states sponsored the resolution. The opposition was led by the United States, China, Iran, Egypt, Singapore, Sudan and a bloc of Caribbean countries.
“Today’s vote represents a bold step by the international community,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said. “This is further evidence of a trend towards ultimately abolishing the death penalty.”
Amnesty International (AI) lists 133 countries as having eliminated capital punishment in law or practice, but resolution opponents said that over 100 countries still have the death penalty on their books. One of the most vocal opponents to the resolution, Barbados, hasn’t executed a prisoner in decades.
“Capital punishment remains legal under international law and Barbados wishes to exercise its sovereign right to use it as a deterrent to the most serious crimes,” said Mohammed Degia, first secretary of Barbados. “Beyond all of this is ...
by Matt Clarke
Those with knowledge of the situation would think it could get no worse. Never say never. A lawsuit filed in federal court on April 3, 2008, on behalf of 15 Delaware prisoners, brings to mind prison medical experiments. Of course, whether CMS “Nurse Beth” was experimenting, made a mistake, was trying to save money because the prison infirmary was short on supplies, or was just being sadistic is unknown.
What is known is that she used the same needle on 15 prisoners to draw blood and inject medicine. In the end, her motivation and reasoning are irrelevant. “Legally, it doesn’t matter,” said attorney Joseph M. Bernstein, who along with attorney Bruce Hudson are representing the prisoners. “They were still entitled to a minimum level of care.”
The 15 prisoners allege that Nurse Beth used a syringe to ...
That Delaware prisoners have been subject to dreadful health care by the state’s medical contractor, Correctional Medical Services (CMS), is not a new revelation for readers of PLN. We previously published an exposé on the deaths, injuries and deliberate indifference suffered by Delaware prisoners as a result of CMS’s medical services, or lack thereof. [See: PLN, December 2005, pg 1].
Errantly Paroled Mentally Ill San Quentin Prisoner Commits Mayhem In San Francisco
When San Quentin, California state prison employees released mentally ill prisoner Scott Thomas onto parole on the night of Friday, May 18, 2007, they committed numerous serious security blunders that culminated in Thomas’ brutal knife assault the next day on a 15-year-old girl and a man who came to her aid. In a 19-page heavily redacted report, Brett Morgan, California’s Chief Deputy Inspector General (IG), identified huge gaffes committed by multiple San Quentin personnel that led to the tragic results.
Scott Thomas has been incarcerated nine times since his first conviction at age 20 for grant theft auto and hit and run. Although he had a documented history of bipolar disorder and was most recently serving a disciplinary term in solitary confinement for assaulting prison guards, he received no mental health treatment. Nonetheless, he was due to parole on May 26, 2007. State law requires that when a prisoner paroles from solitary, he be placed on “high control.” Among other things, “high control” means that release at night or on a Friday is barred and that the parole agent must pick the prisoner up at the gate ...
A 1999 investigation by the Des Moines Register found that 1-in-12 black men were either in prison, on parole or on probation. This figure was so far above the national average that then Gov. Tom Vilsack commissioned a study of the problem. Current Gov. Chet Culver is now on the verge of implementing $9.7 million in budget reform to deal with the disparity. Budgeted programs would include measures like early childhood education, community-based corrections, drug abuse prevention and re-entry programs.
However, some feel that creating programs is not enough. Legislators, Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court are taking another look at state and federal sentencing laws for certain drug offenses. Disparate laws and sentencing guidelines between crack and powder cocaine has long been a hot topic for advocates of racial parity. But several years ago another drug, methamphetamine, entered the equation.
Methamphetamine has long been predominantly preferred by white drug ...
Extreme racial disparities in Iowa’s sentencing patterns have put the state under scrutiny once again. Iowa has a population of about 3 million people. Only 2.3 percent, about 20,000, are black. Yet the incarceration for black Iowans is six times greater than their white counterparts.
In September 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics released a bulletin showing known cases of prisoners infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and those with confirmed AIDS declined for the sixth straight year in 2005.
The total number of known HIV-infected prisoners in the U.S. declined from 22,936 in 2004 to 22,480 in 2005.
Half the cases were in the South and about a third were in the Northeast. New York, Florida and Texas accounted for nearly half the cases with 4,440; 3,396 and 2,400, respectively. Overall, 1.8% of all state prisoners (20,888) and 1.0% of federal prisoners (1,592) were known to be infected with HIV. This represented 1.8% of all male prisoners (18,953) and 2.4% of all female prisoners (1,935).
The number of prisoners with confirmed AIDS decreased from 5,969 in 2004 to 5,620 in 2005. Texas, New York, Florida and Maryland accounted for almost half prisoners with confirmed AIDS: 894, 700, 645 and 408, respectively.
Prisoner deaths from AIDS-related causes (ARC) also decreased from 185 in 2004 to 176 in 2005, a ...
by Matt Clarke
Nevada Phone Contract Reduces Costs to Prisoners’ Families But Increases State’s Kickback
by David M. Reutter
A panel headed by Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons has approved a contract that reduces the cost of in-state collect calls from prisoners, but maintains exorbitant rates for out-of-state calls. The contract also increases the kickback percentage the state receives from its new prison phone service provider.
In February 2008, Nevada’s Board of Examiners approved a $7.2 million, 3-year contract with EMBARQ, a Kansas-based communications company, to provide collect-only phone services to Nevada’s 13,000 prisoners.
Under the contract, prisoners’ families will pay $1.45 for a local call that lasts 16 minutes. The price for a long distance in-state call will be $2.73. Those costs are down from the previous rates of $1.89 and $4.48, respectively. Prisoners who make out-of-state calls will continue to face price gouging, however, as such calls will cost $16.14, which is only slightly less than the $18.00 cost under MCI, the previous phone service provider.
In response to critics who decried such high rates, Governor Gibbons said, “if you don’t want to pay those prices, don’t go to prison.” His bureaucratic response ...
U.S. Pardon Attorney Replaced After Investigation Reveals Racial Comments, Retaliation and Mismanagement
by Brandon Sample
The federal attorney responsible for recommending presidential pardons and commutations has been replaced following an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
Roger Adams, the DOJ’s pardon attorney for over ten years, was removed after an investigation by the OIG – the DOJ’s internal watchdog – found that he had made racial comments and engaged in retaliation and mismanagement in his running of the Office of the Pardon Attorney.
The pardon attorney’s office reviews more than 1,000 requests for clemency each year and makes clemency recommendations to the president. As of October 2007, the office had a backlog of 3,055 applications, up from 2,255 the previous year.
According to a December 2007 report obtained by the New York Times through the Freedom of Information Act, Adams described a drug offender seeking a pardon as “about as honest as you could expect for a Nigerian.”
“Unfortunately, that’s not very honest,” he allegedly told a co-worker. After interviewing Adams, the OIG indicated it had no reason to doubt the accuracy of ...
Texas State Auditor States Some Prison Rehabilitation Programs Effective, Some Not
by Matt Clarke
In March, 2007, the Texas State Auditor’s Office (SAO) released a report on five rehabilitation programs used in the Texas state prison system (TDCJ). The report found that three of the programs resulted in reduced recidivism rates.
The audit report was on the Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP); Sex Offender Education Program (SOEP); Pre-Release Substance Abuse Program (PSAP); Pre-Release Therapeutic Community Program (PTCP); and InnerChange Freedom Initiative Program (IFIP). The program with the greatest effect was the SOTP, an 18-month, cognitive-behavioral-based treatment program which had a reincarceration rate 61.6% lower for its participants than that for eligible sex offenders who did not participate in the program.
Furthermore, 80% of those reincarcerated after completing SOTP had committed only technical violations of their paroles. SOEP and PTCP participants also had reduced reincarceration rates by about 20% and 30%, respectively.
On the other end of the scale, the PSAP program did not reduce recidivism rates for new crimes or technical violations and the IFIP, an 18-month, fundamentalist Christian faith-based program, reduced rearrest rates for new crimes, but did not reduce overall recidivism rates.
A major point in the ...
On October 1, 2007, the Justice Policy Institute (JPI), a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, published a research brief linking crime rates to wages and unemployment levels. In general terms, JPI found that higher crime rates occur when unemployment rates rise and that increases in wages lead to decreases in criminal activity. The impact of the relationship between unemployment, wages and crime rates was the greatest among people of color. These findings are especially important when the current instability in the U.S. economy is considered.
One-third of jail prisoners were unemployed prior to their arrest according to JPI. This compares with a 4.6% general public unemployment rate. However, the unemployment rates were determined by the number of people applying for unemployment insurance and might miss the chronically unemployed.
Wages for jail prisoners were lower than the general public. In 2002, 83% of jail prisoners reported monthly incomes of less than $2,000, about a third less than the national average. The national average income for the general public was a little over $3,000 in 2003.
One correlation--the relationship between crime rates and unemployment-- seems to be a positive feedback loop. More jail prisoners ...
by Matt Clarke
$145,000 Awarded to New York Prisoner Who Falls While Cutting Wet Grass
A New York Court of Claims has awarded $145,000 in damages to a prisoner who slipped and fell on wet grass while mowing a hilly section of the prison’s lawn. The fall, which occurred at the ...
Incarcerated New York Women Denied Access to Reproductive Health Care
by Gary Hunter
According to a March 4, 2008 study by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) female prisoners in New York county jails consistently were given little or no assistance in terms of gender-specific health care despite state law guaranteeing such assistance.
Most New York county jails did not even have written policies to deal with such areas as abortion, prenatal care, gynecological exams, contraception or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Of the few counties that did outline some care in these areas none were uniform with each other or with state law.
Over 25,000 women find their way into the New York county jail system each year. Of that total at least 3,000 remain incarcerated in 50 counties at any given time. Most are locked up for non-violent crimes; most are at reproductive age. The study found that most of these women “suffer disproportionately from poor health and lack of access to primary health care, and are at high risk for gender-specific health conditions.” Each of these areas, concluded researchers, could be curbed during the time spent in jail.
Policy for county jails is established ...
Alabama Federal Court Awards $538,178 in Attorney Fees and Expenses for Women Prison Conditions Litigation
On August 31, 2007, an Alabama federal court awarded $484,406.35 in attorney fees and $53,771.79 in expenses to prisoners who successfully challenged conditions of confinement in Alabama state prisons for ...
$156,289 in Attorney Fees Awarded for Enforcing California Jail Prisoners’ Federal Consent Decrees
by John E. Dannenberg
On , August 22, 2007, the U.S. District Court (N.D. Cal.) approved $156,289 in attorney fees and costs for the enforcement of two consent decrees related to law libraries and ...
Report Finds Incarceration Damages Children Psychologically, Emotionally
by Gary Hunter
Broken Bonds, a study by the Urban Institute Justice Policy Center shows that incarceration inflicts psychological and emotional damage on the children of incarcerated citizens. Unlike other forms of trauma the incarceration of a parent “creates unique stressors in a child’s life, many of which go unnoticed to the outside world.”
In a society that locks up over 900 citizens per 100,000 it is easy to see how adversely affected children can only foreshadow future problems. Roughly 1.9 million children have parents in prison. Without intervention many will follow in their parents’ footsteps.
To make matters worse the number of mothers being jailed is also rising. In most instances, when only the father is incarcerated, a child does not experience a drastic change in their living situation. Most children will continue to live with their mother and often will not change their living location. Many of these children already live in single-parent homes so incarceration of the father has less impact.
However, when the mother is incarcerated the affected child is forced to relocate, most often with other family members. The new caregiver may be more or ...
CA State Auditor: 352 Licensed Residential Living Facilities Errantly Housed Registered Sex Offenders
by John E. Dannenberg
The California State Auditor cross-checked the State’s database of its 59,000 registered sex offenders and that of its Department of Social Services (DSS) state-funded alcohol and drug rehabilitation residential living facilities and found that in 352 such facilities, registered sex offenders were often housed together - in violation of state law. The Auditor identified 49 instances where the registered addresses were the same as those for DSS facilities housing children in day care facilities. The Auditor found the utter lack of coordination between the sex offender registry and these state care facilities both troubling and illegal. However, the Auditor found unclear the statutory language that defined when two or more sex offenders might be permitted to live at the same address and recommended that the Legislature cure this concern.
California’s sexual offender registration statute requires that those convicted of rape, kidnapping with intent to commit rape, sexual battery and lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor register for life with local law enforcement agencies within five days of moving into their jurisdiction. This information is forwarded to the state Department of Justice to ...
The federal lawsuit charged that “between 2003 and 2006 there was extensive and ongoing sexual abuse of inmates at the prison by various corrections officers, employees, and educators at the prison.” The prisoners kept quiet because they were threatened with harm or reprisals, including transfers to less desirable prisons.
“This activity was widespread and … known to prison officials, including [former superintendent Tammy] Estep and [former chief of security Marilyn] Hill, who condoned these activities, helped cover them up, and threatened and retaliated against uncooperative inmates,” the suit alleged.
The cover-up ended when convicted murderer Sheron M. Montrey became pregnant by guard Bobby G. Brown, Jr. in 2005. Brown said the prison was “grossly understaffed,” which required guards to rely on prisoners to perform institutional duties, bringing guards and prisoners together in close contact.
“Thus, the officers were ...
State officials at Virginia’s Pocahontas Correctional Unit have reached a settlement agreement with nine former female prisoners who sued after being sexually abused by prison employees. The terms of the settlement, which was approved by the Governor’s office in July 2008, remain confidential. According to court documents, however, one of the plaintiffs received $2,500 as her part of the settlement.
Identity of Prisoner Who Smuggled Gun into New Jersey Facility Revealed by Appeals Court
by Gary Hunter
A prisoner accused of smuggling a gun into a New Jersey prison two years ago was identified when he was denied relief by the state’s Superior Court Appellate Division.
Hector Sanabria, 48, was incarcerated at the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton when guards found a loaded .32-caliber pistol on the compound on August 4, 2006. The 1,800 prisoners at the facility were locked down for three weeks during an exhaustive search. Three hunting knives and a stash of drugs were also discovered.
Apart from the initial news-splash, the incident was kept quiet by prison officials. But a Superior Court ruling on April 11, 2008 revealed the underlying details.
Sanabria reportedly established a romantic relationship with Luz Rodriguez, who visited the prison as part of a church group called Uncion Divina. According to internal disciplinary charges filed against Sanabria, Ms. Rodriguez accepted money from various prisoners to pay her bills and to do favors for them. She was never directly accused of bringing weapons into the facility.
Sanabria was an active member of a prison group called Hispanic Americans for Progress (HAP ...
California Proposition 36 Drug Program Participation Credits Apply Against Subsequent Probation Revocation
The California Court of Appeal, Second District, held that when a prisoner convicted of drug possession but granted Proposition 36 probation to attend a drug treatment program in lieu of incarceration violates his probation terms, the time he participated in the program must be credited against his resulting prison sentence.
Earl Davenport was found guilty of drug possession in September 2004, but the court granted probation pursuant to Proposition 36, California’s rehabilitative alternative to prison for certain drug offenders. In May 2006, following violation of his probation, he was sentenced to two years in state prison. The court awarded Davenport earlier pre-conviction jail credits, but refused to award post-conviction program participation credits available under California Penal Code (CPC) § 2900.5. While the language of § 2900.5 makes it clear that credits are available for time spent in a “rehabilitation facility,” that penal section predated Proposition 36. The trial court felt that the “alternative-to-incarceration” principle embodied in Proposition 36 overrode § 2900.5 as to subsequent post-conviction program credit availability.
The appellate court disagreed. It found compelling precedent in two California Supreme Court cases holding that ...
BOP Administrative Tort Claims Fail to Satisfy PLRA’s Exhaustion Requirement
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that a federal prisoner’s administrative tort claims did not satisfy the administrative exhaustion requirement of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), but ordered an evidentiary hearing to determine whether threats by a guard made administrative remedies unavailable to him or precluded the defendants from raising failure to exhaust as an affirmative defense.
Before the appellate court was an appeal by federal prisoner Juan Edgar Loera Macias, who was incarcerated at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in New York. Macias appealed after the federal district court dismissed his complaint alleging Eighth Amendment violations for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. The dismissal was predicated on Macias’ failure to exhaust administrative remedies prior to filing suit, as required under the PLRA.
Before entering MDC, Macias had undergone arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. In October 2002 he slipped and fell while picking up a food tray in his housing unit, sustaining injuries to his right knee, back and head. He was prescribed medication and bed rest, and an X-ray was ordered. Because a physician assistant refused in December 2002 to provide Macias pain medication ...
After Jeremy Ruybal, 27, hanged himself with a bed-sheet ...
The private medical provider at Utah’s Salt Lake County Jail (SLCJ) has settled a lawsuit in a prisoner’s suicide for $80,000. The lawsuit was originally filed in federal court, but landed in state court prior to the settlement.
$5,775 Awarded For 104 Days of Over-Incarceration in Ohio Prison
The Ohio Court of Claims has awarded a former Ohio prisoner $5,775 for 104 days of over-incarceration.
Jasen Thomson was confined at the Marion Correctional Institution for 104 days beyond his lawful confinement. Thomson sued the Ohio Department ...
A divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on June 25, 2008 that a Louisiana statute imposing the death penalty for rape of a child, absent murder or an intent to kill, was unconstitutional because it amounted to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Patrick Kennedy, convicted of the aggravated rape of his 8-year-old stepdaughter (identified as L.H.), was sentenced to death under Louisiana Revised Statutes § 14.42, which authorized capital punishment for rape of a child under 12 years of age. The repulsive nature of Kennedy’s brutal crime understandably resulted in the maximum penalty being imposed, and he was placed on death row.
Kennedy had called 911 to report that two neighborhood boys had raped L.H. and then rode away on a bicycle. Police, arriving in just minutes, found L.H. on her bed, wearing a T-shirt and wrapped in a bloody blanket. She was bleeding profusely from her vagina. Kennedy told police he had carried her in from the yard and wiped blood off her in a wash basin (which prevented later DNA collection). At the hospital, doctors found that L.H. had been torn open to ...
by John E. Dannenberg
Ninth Circuit: Washington Law Creates Liberty Interest in Sex Offenders’ Early Release to Community Custody
A divided panel of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held that Washington State statute RCW § 9.94A.710(1) (2006), which permits application of earned prison conduct credits towards early release to a consecutive sentence of “community custody,” created a liberty interest for qualifying sex offenders protected under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. An analytic dissent found the majority’s logic seriously flawed.
Joseph Carver was sentenced to 4 1/2 years for third-degree child molestation. As a sex offender, he was further sentenced to three years of “community custody” upon his release from prison. Community custody – strictly regimented living in pre-approved residential housing – is considered punishment and is unlike release on parole.
When Carver applied for community custody release based upon his earned good time credits, he was categorically denied due to his status as a sex offender. He sued the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) for injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that the statute created a liberty interest in community custody release by its use of “mandatory language.” ...
Crack Cocaine Offenders Denied Representation for Sentence Reductions
by Brandon Sample
In the wake of the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s decision to reduce penalties for federal crack cocaine offenses, and to make those changes retroactive effective March 3, 2008, crack offenders are being forced to go it alone in their efforts to obtain sentence reductions.
For nearly 20 years criminal justice advocates have argued that sentences for crack cocaine offenses were too harsh in comparison with crimes involving powder cocaine.
The 100-to-1 statutory ratio between power and crack cocaine that results in disparate sentences for crack offenders has been hotly debated, including the racial element: Over 80 percent of federal prisoners serving time for selling crack are black.
In November 2007, following a six-month Congressional review period, the U.S. Sentencing Commission put a band-aid on the problem by marginally reducing the penalties for crack cocaine-related crimes. Mandatory minimums based on the amount of drugs involved in an offense did not change, however. The Commission noted that “Only Congress can provide a comprehensive solution to a fundamental unfairness in Federal sentencing policy.”
Although almost 20,000 offenders are expected to benefit from the change in crack offense penalties, the ...
Snitch: Informants, Cooperators & the Corruption of Justice, by Ethan Brown Public Affairs Publishing, 273 pages, $25.95
Reviewed by David Preston
“Snitch” – the word is one of the most loaded in the English language. To the law enforcement community it means a bad guy gone good: someone who forsakes the mobster’s code of silence, informs on his confederates and cooperates with the cops. To those on the losing end of the deal, a snitch is a traitor, a backstabber, a villain.
These are the classic interpretations of snitching. However, as Ethan Brown demonstrates in his study of modern snitchery, these notions are now – to borrow a term from former US Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales – “quaint.”
Over the last two and one-half decades, testimony from snitches has evolved from being the weapon of last resort in high-profile racketeering and murder cases to being a freely traded commodity in what could be called the trafficking of justice. Informant testimony, both voluntary and coerced, has proliferated in state and federal courtrooms, and prosecutors and cops now rely on it routinely in many cases, and exclusively in some, rewarding snitches liberally with “get-out-jail-free” cards, cash, or even drugs. The ...
Civil rights advocates and attorneys have raised concerns over a recent policy implemented by the Sacramento County, California jail system whereby prisoners are asked to sign a “screening form” prior to release that inquires whether they were mistreated during their incarceration. The pre-release form is purportedly part of a strategy to improve jail operations. However, some prisoners who were interviewed said they felt pressured to complete the form in a non-adversarial way so they would not jeopardize or delay their release.
Michael Risher, staff attorney for the ACLU of Northern California, noted that “someone who’s about to be released has an enormous incentive not to delay that release for even a second.” While a pre-release survey might have benefits, the potential coercive effect would distort the results so as to make its value questionable.
The Sheriff’s office feels the potential benefits outweigh these concerns, as the pre-release forms bring problems to their attention at an earlier time (albeit at the end of, not during, a prisoner’s jail stay). Admittedly the Sacramento jail needs such input, based on past problems. Due to excessive force claims in 2005, the county instigated the survey in 2006 ...
by John E. Dannenberg
California Juvenile Jail Ward, Brain Damaged from Suicide Attempt, Awarded $4.6 Million
A teenager incarcerated at a Kings County, California boot camp sustained permanent brain damage after he attempted suicide. His father then sued the county for negligence in failing to properly train their juvenile hall and boot camp ...
A Hawaii State Court has awarded a prisoner$20,000 for injuries incurred in a negligence claim stemming from a slip and fall, incident. While imprisoned at the Halawa High Security Facility on January 26, 2006, Joseph Sampiao was walking down the smooth concrete walkway to the shower in his ...
Former Illinois Prison Watchdog Group Executive Acquitted of Bribing Prison Officials
On May 7, 2008, a federal judge acquitted Michael J. Mahoney, former executive director of a prison watchdog organization, of involvement in the payment of $20,000 in bribes to former Illinois Department of Corrections director Donald Snyder.
The bribes were allegedly paid to Snyder from 1999 to 2002 in exchange for his directing state contracts to vendors represented by Mahoney. The vendors received millions of dollars in overpayments from the contracts. Snyder and former Cook County Undersheriff John Robinson, a former business partner of Mahoney’s and the alleged bagman in the bribery scheme, pleaded guilty and testified against Mahoney. [See: PLN, Dec. 2007, p.40].
U.S. District Court Judge James B. Zagel noted that it was “difficult to defend Mahoney, at least on moral grounds” for his “use of influence in lobbying” while he served as director of the John Howard Association, a prison reform group. However, the judge noted that “his counsel made no attempt to whitewash that part of his conduct.”
Zagel said the evidence showed at most that Mahoney suspected Robinson of engaging in bribery but did nothing about it. “I don’t think ...
Banning of Newsletter in Wisconsin Prison Violates First Amendment
by John E. Dannenberg
A U.S. District Court has held that a decision by the Wisconsin Dept. of Corrections (WDOC) to ban a prisoner’s receipt of The New Abolitionist, an establishment-critical newsletter, was an exaggerated response and thus violated the ...
Florida Imposes Broad Budget Cuts, but Prison Officials Increase Pay Through Double-Dipping
by David M. Reutter
While the State of Florida has to contend with across-the-board budget cuts due to a financial shortfall caused by the faltering economy, high-ranking Florida Department of Correction (FDOC) officials are padding their pockets by drawing state retirement checks as well as bi-weekly paychecks.
The recent economic downturn has resulted in budgetary problems for Florida, which is primarily dependent on tourism to fill its coffers. Since the state has no personal income tax, it relies on sales tax proceeds to fund government operations. The decline in tax receipts resulted in a 10% reduction in all state agency budgets; Governor Charlie Crist vetoed a record $459 million from the state budget in May 2007.
For the FDOC that meant staff cuts. During the 2007 legislative session, prison officials scared the public into believing that proposed FDOC budget cuts would mean eliminating 1,800 guard positions, closing prisons and releasing prisoners early. That successful scare tactic resulted in less severe cuts and a reduction of only 331 positions. The FDOC planned to cut 199 probation officers and 132 administrative jobs, including a number of prison chaplains. No ...
California: On July 26, 2007, governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a pardon for former San Quentin prison guard Kevin Martino, 47, who was convicted in 2004 of assaulting a man he thought had attacked his girlfriend. He had been sentenced to 90 days in jail and barred from possessing a firearm for ten years which prevented him from working as a prison guard. The pardon allows Martino to resume work as a prison guard. This was Schwarzenegger’s fourth pardon since he took office.
California: On September 19, 2008, Michael Megill, 35, a cook at the Federal Correctional Institution in Herlong, and his brother Jeremy, 32, were each sentenced to one year in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to bring tobacco products into the prison in exchange for bribes. Prosecutors claim the brothers charged prisoners $500 for each tobacco delivery.
Colorado: On January 15, 2008, Jessica Duran filed a claim against the Mesa County jail after jail guards took nude photos of herself which she had sent her husband who was imprisoned in ...
Arizona: On September 20, 2008, Amado Martinez, a guard at the Pinal county jail was arrested and charged with stealing money from prisoners booked into the jail.
In 1997, Miller was released on mandatory supervision, a Texas law that requires release after a specific amount of time is served, but was returned to prison after he refused to adhere to sex offender therapeutic requirements which included wearing an ankle monitor and carrying a global positioning satellite (GPS) device.
Miller was again released on mandatory supervision in March 2007, but a state law passed in 1999, which was amended in 2006 to include offenders like Miller, required him to live at a residence with intensive supervision. He was first sent to a Fort Worth facility and eventually became a permanent resident of the Cold Springs jail. That’s where he was arrested on May 13, 2008 after it was discovered he had established a romantic relationship with a Tarrant County jail ...
Once described as the most-watched prisoner in Texas, Wesley Wayne Miller has managed to make the news again. Miller, 45, is the state’s first prisoner to be committed under the Sexually Violent Predator Program. He was convicted of murder in 1982 and was suspected of several rapes. Two years after his conviction Miller pleaded guilty to a separate charge of burglary with intent to commit rape.