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Prison Legal News: February, 2008

Issue PDF
Volume 19, Number 2

In this issue:

  1. Scandal Rocks Texas Youth Commission; Youths Molested by School Supervisors (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 12)
  3. Oregon Parole Officer’s Molestation Victim’s Suicide Claims Settled for $210,000 (p 12)
  4. Overdetention: When Completing a Prison Sentence Just Isn’t Enough (p 14)
  5. Arizona Prison Guard Awarded $750,000 for False Sexual Misconduct Allegations (p 15)
  6. Colorado Farms Out Prisoners to Replace Immigrant Farm Workers (p 16)
  7. Death Sentence: The Feds Throw the Book at King County'sJail as Prisoner Fatalities Skyrocket (p 18)
  8. Washington State: No Restoration of Felon Voting Rights Until Fines and Restitution are Paid (p 19)
  9. Louisiana Work-Release Prisoners Used by Sheriff in Chop Shop (p 22)
  10. Los Angeles Settles County Jail Murder Suit For $1 Million (p 22)
  11. Non-Convicted Michigan Sex Offenders Required to Register (p 23)
  12. Independent Monitor Issues First Report on Delaware Health Care (p 24)
  13. Privately Run Seal Beach, California Jail Closed Following Checkered Past (p 26)
  14. "Let Freedom Ring" -- Cellphones Abound In California Prisons (p 26)
  15. New York Prisoner Awarded $4,250 for Knee Injury While Shackled (p 27)
  16. $90,000 Awarded to New York Prisoner for Delay of Surgery (p 28)
  17. Nevada Jail Strip Searches Before Release on Own Recognizance Unconstitutional (p 28)
  18. Alabama Judge Resigns Amid Prisoner Spanking Allegations and Judicial Improprieties (p 30)
  19. Lawsuit Exposes Jail Limbo for Mentally Incompetent Defendants in Texas (p 30)
  20. BOP Removes Religious Books; Capitulates After Public Outrage, Lawsuit (p 31)
  21. BOP Must Provide Prisoner's FOIA Request in Electronic Format (p 32)
  22. Missouri Ordered to Pay Prisoner's $250,000 Judgment Plus Fees and Costs for Sexual Assaults by Work Supervisor (p 32)
  23. Second Circuit Rejects New York’s Interlocutory Appeal of Prisoner's $7.65 Million Failure-to-Protect Jury Verdict (p 33)
  24. Transsexuals Treated Poorly in New York Prisons (p 34)
  25. WA Prisoners Entitled to Minimal Due Process Before Risk Level Demotion (p 34)
  26. Broward County, FL Sheriff Resigns, Pleads Guilty to Federal Corruption Charges (p 35)
  27. New York Pays State Prisoner $1,100 for Disregarding Work Restrictions (p 36)
  28. Study Finds Federal Defenders Outperform CJA Attorneys (p 36)
  29. Ninth Circuit Holds Washington DOC Immune From Suit for Denial of Community Custody Early Release (p 37)
  30. Florida's Parole Commission Slows Restoration of Felons' Civil Rights (p 38)
  31. Spectrum Health Systems Pays Massachusetts $7.5 Million for Fraud in Concert with Civigenics (p 38)
  32. Alabama Prisons Sell Land to Finance Prison Building, Repair (p 39)
  33. $100,000 Settlement in Missouri Jail Prisoner’s Methamphetamine Overdose Death (p 40)
  34. Federal Suit Over Wisconsin Suicide Attempt Settles for Millions (p 40)
  35. PLN Sues CDCR Over Failure to Produce Public Records (p 41)
  36. News in Brief: (p 42)
  37. New Jersey "Anthrax" Legal Mail Policy Unconstitutional; Count Condemns Opening Outside Prisoner's Presence (p 44)

Scandal Rocks Texas Youth Commission; Youths Molested by School Supervisors

During the 2006 elections, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott ran television ads touting the capture of the state's 500th Internet child predator. Shortly after elected lawmakers convened in 2007 they went to work on a bill that would impose the death penalty for the most serious child sex offenders ...

From the Editor

This month?s cover story on abuse in the Texas youth prisons is of notable interest for exposing the shallow hypocrisy of many politician?s ?protect the children? mantra which tends to go hand in hand with being ?tough on crime.? PLN has previously reported that when it comes to ...

Oregon Parole Officer’s Molestation Victim’s Suicide Claims Settled for $210,000

Oregon Parole Officer's Molestation Victim's Suicide Claims Settled for $210,000

Aaron Munoz never had a chance in life. He was born addicted to alcohol and heroin because his mother, Deanna Murphy, a longtime heroin user, abused drugs and alcohol during her pregnancy.

"He was three weeks old ...

Overdetention: When Completing a Prison Sentence Just Isn’t Enough

Overdetention: When Completing a Prison Sentence Just Isn't Enough

by David M. Reutter

One of the most basic functions of a prison system is releasing prisoners when their sentences expire. In April 2007, the Massachusetts Department of Correction (MDOC) admitted its system for determining sentence expiration dates was a ...

Arizona Prison Guard Awarded $750,000 for False Sexual Misconduct Allegations

On March 26, 2007, an Arizona jury awarded $750,000 to an Arizona prison guard who claimed a state investigator knowingly withheld evidence exonerating him of alleged malfeasance and sexual misconduct.

A female state prisoner accused the plaintiff, a 31-year-old male prison guard employed by the Arizona Department of Corrections ...

Colorado Farms Out Prisoners to Replace Immigrant Farm Workers

Colorado is renting its prisoners to local farmers to replace migrant agricultural workers - mostly Mexican and Central American - who have been scared away by the state's restrictive immigration laws.

In 2006, the Colorado legislature passed what it trumpeted as the nation's toughest immigration policies. Law enforcement officials are ...

Death Sentence: The Feds Throw the Book at King County'sJail as Prisoner Fatalities Skyrocket

Death Sentence: The Feds Throw the Book at King County's Jail as Prisoner Fatalities Skyrocket

by Rick Anderson

A few months after two prisoners in the downtown King County Jail in Seattle, Washington committed suicide in 2005--one by overdosing on hoarded jail medications, the other by hanging himself with ...

Washington State: No Restoration of Felon Voting Rights Until Fines and Restitution are Paid

On July 26, 2007, a majority of the Washington State Supreme Court held that pursuant to state law, felons must first pay all court-imposed fines and restitution before their voting rights are restored. A strong dissent agreed with the position of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that it would ...

Louisiana Work-Release Prisoners Used by Sheriff in Chop Shop

In February 2005, Louisiana sheriff Ronald ?Gun? Ficklin was indicted on 22 counts of conspiracy, trafficking in motor vehicles with removed or altered Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs), removing or altering VINs, aiding and abetting the possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, misprision of a felony for not reporting ...

Los Angeles Settles County Jail Murder Suit For $1 Million

by John E. Dannenberg

On August 14, 2007, Los Angeles County settled a lawsuit brought by the family of a mentally ill prisoner who was stomped to death in a holding cell by two prisoners, while guards failed to respond. The $1 million settlement is another increment in the County ...

Non-Convicted Michigan Sex Offenders Required to Register

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that Michigan's Sex Offender Registration law, which requires persons charged with but not convicted of sex crimes to register as sex offenders, is constitutional. The Court's ruling affirms an order granting summary judgment to the State of Michigan in a ...

Independent Monitor Issues First Report on Delaware Health Care

by David M. Reutter

Joshua W. Martin III, the Independent Monitor who is overseeing an agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Delaware Department of Corrections (DDOC), has issued his first semi-annual report. The agreement with the DOJ followed a public outcry that ensued after The ...

Privately Run Seal Beach, California Jail Closed Following Checkered Past

by John E. Dannenberg

With salacious tales of murderous and thieving former guards splashed across local headlines, Seal Beach, California officials shut down their privately-run jail on June 15, 2007.

The city claimed that the jail?s for-profit contractor, Texas-based Correctional Systems, Inc. (CSI), not only failed to make money ...

"Let Freedom Ring" -- Cellphones Abound In California Prisons

Over 1,000 cellphones and Blackberrys were confiscated in California's 33 prisons in the past year. While such contraband was at a trickle seven years ago, the technology has reduced the size of these items to permit a veritable flood today -- 221 alone at the Solano State Prison in ...

New York Prisoner Awarded $4,250 for Knee Injury While Shackled

On March 19, 2007, a court of claims in Rochester, New York, award $4,250 to a state prisoner who fell and injured his knee while walking to a transport van in leg shackles.

State prisoner Earl Martin, 54, fell on the ground as he attempted to step down from ...

$90,000 Awarded to New York Prisoner for Delay of Surgery

A New York Court of Claims has awarded a prisoner $90,000 in a medical malpractice claim stemming from prison personnel delaying surgery, causing lasting injury and pain.

The claim was brought by Sing Sing Correctional Facility prisoner Jonathan D. Long, who was hit by an errant softball on the ...

Nevada Jail Strip Searches Before Release on Own Recognizance Unconstitutional

A Nevada federal district court has held that the Washoe County Sheriff Department?s (WCSD) policy of strip-searching all arrestees who self-surrender and are then released on their own recognizance (OR) is unconstitutional.

Before the Court was a summary judgment motion filed by five of the six John and Jane ...

Alabama Judge Resigns Amid Prisoner Spanking Allegations and Judicial Improprieties

In the face of a looming ethics trial and allegations that he spanked male prisoners, Alabama's Mobile County Circuit Judge Herman Thomas has resigned.

Thomas had been on paid suspension since March 2007 while he awaited an October 29 trial for ethics violations. The 30 ethics charges filed against ...

Lawsuit Exposes Jail Limbo for Mentally Incompetent Defendants in Texas

by Matt Clarke

According to a lawsuit filed by a non-profit group, Texas is facing a shortage of mental hospital beds that leaves hundreds of mentally-incompetent criminal defendants stranded in jails awaiting treatment.

Texas has a total of 738 mental hospital beds designated for mentally ill jail prisoners, including 343 ...

BOP Removes Religious Books; Capitulates After Public Outrage, Lawsuit

In June 2007, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) began removing thousands of religious books from its prison chapels. The purge of religious literature, which occurred nationwide, was part of a long-delayed post-September 11 directive intended to prevent radical Islamic texts from being available to prisoners.

The directive, called the ...

BOP Must Provide Prisoner's FOIA Request in Electronic Format

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has held that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) must provide a prisoner with information requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in the format requested by the prisoner, which includes in electronic format.

Federal prisoner Brandon Sample requested the BOP ...

Missouri Ordered to Pay Prisoner's $250,000 Judgment Plus Fees and Costs for Sexual Assaults by Work Supervisor

by John E. Dannenberg

On June 29, 2007, the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled that the state must pay a $250,000 judgment awarded in federal district court to a prisoner who had been sexually assaulted by his prison work supervisor.

In granting the writ of mandamus, the state appellate ...

Second Circuit Rejects New York’s Interlocutory Appeal of Prisoner's $7.65 Million Failure-to-Protect Jury Verdict

by John E. Dannenberg

The Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rejected a belated attempt by the New York Department of Corrections (NYDOC) to invoke a claim of qualified immunity to thwart a prisoner's substantial jury verdict for NYDOC?s having failed to protect him.

Don Juan Britt ...

Transsexuals Treated Poorly in New York Prisons

by David M. Reutter

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) has issued a report on the treatment of transgender and intersex people in New York state men?s prisons. That report finds that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) prisoners experience assault, denial of urgently needed medical care, and placement ...

WA Prisoners Entitled to Minimal Due Process Before Risk Level Demotion

Division 1 of the Washington Court of Appeals has ruled that the State Department of Corrections (DOC) must afford minimal due process to prisoners whose risk assessment levels it intends to demote.

In 2000, Dion Xavier Adams, a Washington State prisoner, was sentenced to 108 months in the DOC for ...

Broward County, FL Sheriff Resigns, Pleads Guilty to Federal Corruption Charges

by David M. Reutter

Facing an imminent federal grand jury indictment, Florida?s Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne took preemptive action by agreeing to plead to lesser charges and resign as Sheriff. PLN has previously reported the state and federal investigations into Jenne?s personal corruption that was made possible ...

New York Pays State Prisoner $1,100 for Disregarding Work Restrictions

On March 31, 2006, a court of claims in Rochester, New York, awarded $1,100 to a state prisoner who was forced to pick up a laundry bag despite a work restriction prohibiting such activity.

Plaintiff Stephen Gagne claimed that on November 22, 1999, medical staff at the Wende, New ...

Study Finds Federal Defenders Outperform CJA Attorneys

Indigent federal criminal defendants represented by court-appointed private attorneys ?are, on average, more likely to be found guilty and? to receive longer sentences? than defendants represented by public defenders, according to a new study by a Harvard economist.

The study was conducted by Radha Iyengar, a postdoctoral fellow at the ...

Ninth Circuit Holds Washington DOC Immune From Suit for Denial of Community Custody Early Release

by John E. Dannenberg

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held that the Secretary of the Washington State Department of Corrections (WDOC) was qualifiedly immune from suit by prisoners who claimed that they were improperly denied participation in WDOC?s Community Custody Early Release (CCER) program.
The court ...

Florida's Parole Commission Slows Restoration of Felons' Civil Rights

by David M. Reutter

In April 2007, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and his Cabinet made it easier for some felons to regain their civil rights, including their right to vote. The new rules automatically restore rights to non-violent offenders and provide quicker reviews for other felons.

The new rules create ...

Spectrum Health Systems Pays Massachusetts $7.5 Million for Fraud in Concert with Civigenics

To settle charges that it misused state money, Spectrum Health Systems, Inc. has agreed to pay the State of Massachusetts $7.5 million. Spectrum is a nonprofit organization that provides treatment for substance abusers; the settlement was announced in January 2007.

Spectrum came under attack in 2004 after Massachusetts Auditor ...

Alabama Prisons Sell Land to Finance Prison Building, Repair

In July 2007, Alabama Governor Bob Riley announced a plan to sell approximately 6,000 acres of state prison land to finance the construction of new prison beds and make needed repairs to existing facilities. The extra bed space would enable the state to return Alabama prisoners who are housed ...

$100,000 Settlement in Missouri Jail Prisoner’s Methamphetamine Overdose Death

$100,000 Settlement in Missouri Jail Prisoner's Methamphetamine Overdose Death

When arrested during a traffic stop on June 4, 2005, 20-year-old Sheena Crawford ingested methamphetamine. Upon being booked into Missouri's Pettis County Jail, Crawford advised guards Jennifer Meyer and Clarence McGuldrick that she had swallowed meth.

The guards ...

Federal Suit Over Wisconsin Suicide Attempt Settles for Millions

On February 22, 2007, a lawsuit against employees of the Monroe County Jail in Wisconsin settled for between $6,100,000 and $13,100,000. The suit alleged deliberate indifference in a suicide attempt that left a prisoner permanently disabled

In 2002, Brenda Mombourquette was on probation for possessing the ...

PLN Sues CDCR Over Failure to Produce Public Records

On December 17, 2007, Prison Legal News filed suit against the California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) after the department failed to respond to PLN?s public records request seeking the CDCR?s payouts in prison-related settlements, claims, verdicts and judgments.
The lawsuit, filed in Sacramento Co. Superior Court ...

News in Brief:

Illinois: On June 3, 2007, over 50 prisoners at the Tri County Justice and Detention Center in Ullin rebelled and barricaded themselves in their housing unit and set fire to mattresses and property. Police and guards used tear gas to suppress the rebellion within 30 minutes. The jail is operated ...

New Jersey "Anthrax" Legal Mail Policy Unconstitutional; Count Condemns Opening Outside Prisoner's Presence

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a New Jersey Department of Corrections' (NJDOC) policy of opening prisoners' legal mail outside their presence is unconstitutional. That policy was enacted by a NJDOC memorandum dated October 19, 2001. The memo came on the heels of five people dying after ...