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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: February, 2008

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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. Less than a month later Governor Rick Perry, Greg Abbott and the entire Texas legislature had to take a long look in the mirror when it was revealed that two high ranking state employees had been molesting young boys for years.

From 2003 to 2005, complaints of inappropriate sexual behavior began piling up against John Paul Hernandez and Ray E. Brookins. But rather than spark an immediate investigation, the complaints were largely ignored while both men rose to positions of authority in the Texas Youth Commission (TYC), the state?s juvenile justice agency.

John Paul Hernandez was the principal of the West Texas State School, a facility for youthful offenders in Pyote, Texas. Reports indicate that Hernandez used offers of candy, cake and educational assistance as enticements to lure boys into sexual encounters.

Ray Brookins, an administrator at the school, had gone so far as to have a 16-year-old boy ...

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 government employees raping prisoners any concerns about sex predators, lengthy sentences and harsh punishment are discarded and replaced by what has happened in Texas: lackluster investigations, perfunctory prosecutions, suspended sentences and probation and no one really knows anything.

The problems in juvenile and youth prisons mimic those of adult prisons: brutality, abuse, overcrowding, medical and mental health neglect, sexual assault, overcrowding and more. Key differences are that children are especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation simply by virtue of the fact they are children and if they are unfortunate enough not to have families to advocate for them, and most do not, they lack the ability to advocate for themselves. Unlike adult prisoners who can at least try to access the court system, contact the media, etc., child prisoners are incapable of doing this. They also tend to lack the ability to organize themselves and protest their treatment.

Texas is ...

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 "mess," resulting in 14 known cases of prisoners being held beyond when they should have been released. The MDOC is not the only prison system with such problems.

The length of overdetentions in the MDOC ranged from one day to four years. The most egregious case involved prisoner Rommel Jones. Since the 1980s, Jones has been in and out of prison due to theft-related charges to feed his drug addiction. In 1988 he received a 20-year prison sentence and a concurrent 10-year term.

Over the next ten years Jones was paroled three times, once for six years, but was returned to prison. His parole violations were usually for drug possession. Jones had another problem that contributed to his being unable to cope with society: He heard voices and had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.

In May 2005, while incarcerated, Jones heard a voice that told him he was going home ...

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 required to check the immigration status of arrestees. Illegal immigrants are barred from many social service programs, and strict new state ID and driver's license rules make it difficult for even legal residents to obtain IDs. The tough new laws have driven immigrant farmworkers to states with fewer restrictions.

Colorado farmers tried to hire local workers through unemployment offices and newspaper advertisements, with little success. State Representative Dorothy Butcher, remembering the old prison farms, worked to create the new Farm Worker Program, which uses state prison labor. While initially skeptical, farmers have been "pleasantly surprised at the serious motivation the inmates have shown," The Denver Post reported.

Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) spokesperson Katherine Sanguinetti told the Post that "It's a win-win situation." The farmers get captive, docile, low paid workers, the prisoners earn four dollars an hour instead of the 60 cents a day they would earn ...

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 a TV cord--County Executive Ron Sims pronounced jail medical care "efficient and well-managed."

The deaths weren't made public at the time; they were revealed months later by Seattle Weekly. But Sims did publicize what he called a "prestigious" performance review his jail had received from a national correctional health care group, giving KCJ high marks for prisoner care.
By December 2006, jail health officials had reclassified their services as "medically sound," even though prisoner complaints, medical errors, and deaths were on the rise.

Flash forward to late November, 2007, when U.S. Department of Justice investigators handed in their own performance review, determining that the two 2005 suicides, and at least three other deaths since then, were preventable. In a blistering report, the feds said King County Jail conditions had become so unsafe and abusive in the past three years that prisoners' civil rights were being violated.

Asked last ...

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 be unconstitutional to tie such a fundamental right to one?s ability to pay.

The Washington ACLU sued on behalf of three felons who could not vote because they could not pay, and may never be able to pay, their fines and restitution assessments. One of the three, Daniel Madison, owed $483.25 in restitution, $200 in victim assessment fees and $100 in court costs.
As a mentally disabled person, his income was limited to meager social security payments. He was able to meet his court-approved payment schedule of $15 per month and has paid $530, but the remaining balance stood in the way of reenfranchisement. The other two plaintiffs were totally disabled and living on public subsistence, with little or no ability to pay their court-ordered debt.

The ACLU and twenty amici curiae argued that there was simply no rational relationship between a person?s ability to pay and ...

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 a felon with a firearm, and mail fraud.

The charges stemmed from a scheme that put state prisoners to work in a local car theft operation. Ficklin?s friend and convicted felon Barry Edward Dawsey ran the illegal business out of B & D Auto Sales in St. Helena Parish. The illicit end of the operation involved buying and selling salvaged and stolen vehicles. When Dawsey was apprehended in a stolen pickup truck, police discovered a gun and Sheriff Ficklin?s badge inside.

Dawsey pleaded guilty in 2006 and is currently serving a 3-year sentence. James Jackson, Mitchell Tidwell and Kevin Simmons also admitted involvement in the car theft ring and pleaded guilty.

Ficklin was originally arrested on a 10-count indictment issued by a federal grand jury. He was released after a detention hearing and posting a $25,000 bond. Twelve more counts were added as the investigation continued.

He was accused of fraud for billing the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (LDOC) $140,000 when he employed LDOC prisoners in Dawsey?s chop shop operation between October 2000 and September 2001. The LDOC claims it also paid the St. Helena Parish Sheriff?s office nearly $250,000 during that same time period.

Over half of Ficklin?s federal charges are for mail fraud. His attorney, Frank Holthaus, calls the charges ?sad.?

?I think mail fraud is as abused as was hooliganism,? said Holthaus. ?In the Soviet Union, hooliganism was the way people the government didn?t like were charged with a vague crime no one had to define. It?s similar to mail fraud in the United States.? Then again, Ficklin isn?t accused of hooliganism; he?s accused of abusing his public office and the public?s trust.

Cori Leigh Clark, Ficklin?s son-in-law, and the son of Ficklin?s girlfriend, Alton Hoyt McNabb II, were charged with witness tampering, conspiracy and retaliation after they assaulted Louisiana State Police Sgt. Dennis Stewart on July 30, 2005. Stewart had assisted in Ficklin?s investigation, along with FBI and ATF officials.

Ficklin, the third consecutive St. Helena Parish sheriff to be indicted, pleaded guilty to 17 of the federal charges in February 2007. He was sentenced on October 30, 2007, and received prison terms of 60-63 months on each count, to be served concurrently ...

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 class action lawsuit challenging the law.

The suit included two classes of people assigned to "youthful trainee status" for sex offenses under Michigan's Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA), who were then required to register as sex offenders. Both classes were comprised of people who had been charged with sex offenses prior to October 1, 2004. One class was for people who were fully discharged from trainee status, while the other was for those still pending disposition.

That distinction originates from the nature of HYTA. Under that law, persons who plead guilty for crimes committed after their seventeenth birthday but before their twenty-first birthday may be designated as a youthful trainee. Such a designation provides for a sentence of up to three years custodial supervision, up to one year in the county jail, or up to three years probation. The HYTA designation holds the plea in abeyance. Once the trainee ...

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 News Herald published a series of damning articles that detailed the abysmal medical care provided to DDOC prisoners. [See: PLN, Dec. 2005, pg. 1; July 2007, pg. 8].

The Monitor retained a team of medical and mental health experts to assist in inspections and making recommendations to help the DDOC come into compliance with adequate medical care practices. The monitoring team made an initial visit to the Delores J. Baylor Women?s Correctional Institution (Baylor), Delaware Correctional Center (DCC), Howard R. Young Correctional Institution (Young), and Sussex Correctional Institution (SCI) during the week of May 21, 2007.

The Monitor?s first report focused on determining the challenges faced by the DDOC to achieve ?substantial compliance? with the agreement. One year of such compliance will terminate its agreement with the DOJ. Future reports will focus on providing technical assistance to the DDOC and addressing specific areas of concern such as sick ...

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 but cost the city thousands of dollars annually. ?We dismissed the vendor for a failure to produce a profit,? said Seal Beach Police Chief Jeffrey Kirkpatrick. ?We had to share a loss and that was not tenable.?

In addition to losing money, CSI managed to score 15 major deficiencies during jail inspections in recent years, including having no written policy for grievances, no policy to segregate prisoners with infectious diseases, and no policy to isolate the mentally ill. But closing the 30-bed jail after 13 years of operation was about more than unsatisfactory performance or financial problems ? it involved one of the most sordid crimes in the history of Orange County, California.

Most average citizens are unaware that there are upper echelon pay-to-stay jails in southern California where non-violent patrons may purchase protected and preferential treatment, including access to laptop computers and cell phones. Typically costing from $70 to $175 ...

"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 the first six months of 2007. At the going rate of $400 to $600, some employees have been caught smuggling up to 50 phones at a time.

Anthony Kane, Associate Director for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), told legislators recently, "It's a tremendous problem." The dangers are plain. Gang members can use the phones to clandestinely direct activities on the streets from behind the walls, noted Gary Hearnsberger of the Los Angeles District Attorney's Hardcore Gang Division. Imprisoned gang leaders could direct killings, run drug operations or intimidate witnesses, he stated. Although mail and normal phone calls are screened to prevent such activities, cellphones escape oversight. Of course, if technology can permit monitoring, this could prove a boon to catching and prosecuting such miscreants.

State Senator Alex Padilla wrote Corrections Secretary James Tilton requesting a full investigation, noting that such devices in the hands of ...

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 Doe plaintiffs in the case. WCSD?s policy states that ?unclothed searches will be performed by a Deputy of the same sex, only under the following circumstances ?when an inmate turns themselves into custody for an outstanding warrant (self surrender), court ordered commitment, weekender agreement, or any inmate brought into the facility, coming form any other jail, prison, or correctional facility (in-transits).?

Each of the plaintiffs either self-surrendered or were arrested on minor offenses and ordered released on OR. Despite the release orders, they were all subject to strip searches by jail personnel. Their lawsuit alleged municipal liability for deliberate indifference to the right to be free of unreasonable searches under the Fourth Amendment.

?Arrestees for minor offenses may be subjected to strip searches only if jail officials have a reasonable suspicion that the particular arrestee is carrying or concealing contraband or suffering from a communicable disease,? the Court said ...

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 him alleged that he had assisted friends and relatives with their legal troubles - one claim involved Thomas helping a cousin manipulate where he served a criminal sentence, while other claims asserted that Thomas took cases away from other judges, without permission, and changed the defendants' legal status or sentences.

Thomas resigned on October 2, 2007 shortly before 5 p.m., which was the deadline for judicial prosecutors to file any additional charges before his ethics trial. His resignation meant the trial before the Alabama Court of Judiciary would not occur, as the harshest punishment the Court can hand down is removal from office.

"While I do not believe I ever intentionally violated any canon of judicial ethics, I recognize that the controversy surrounding me has been disruptive and unproductive for the life of this community," Thomas said in his resignation statement.

Thomas' legal career may be over but his legal ...

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 beds for defendants arrested for violent crimes. As of April 1, 2007 there were 217 prisoners on the waiting list for mental hospital beds, with 175 considered violent.

The average waiting period for prisoners on the list is four months. This lengthy delay, in addition to a months-long wait for a competency hearing, has created a cycle of treatment and deterioration. The cycle includes prisoners waiting for a hearing, being ruled incompetent, getting no treatment while waiting for a hospital bed, receiving treatment at a mental hospital, being returned to jail for another competency hearing, decompensating and getting no treatment while waiting months for the hearing, being ruled incompetent again, getting worse while waiting for another mental hospital bed, ad infinitum.

In February 2007, Advocacy Inc., a non-profit disabilities rights group, filed suit on behalf of Michael Fields and Ronald Crawford, two mentally-incompetent jail prisoners. Fields had twice gone through ...

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 Standardized Chapel Library Project (SCLP), affected books related to all religions ? presumably to avoid content-related censorship issues. Under the SCLP, each of 20 designated religions was limited to an average of 150 books. Some of the restrictions were fairly arbitrary; for example, Praying by J.I. Packer was on the approved list but Knowing God, by the same author, was not.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Feldman said the book removal resulted following an April 2004 Department of Justice review of how prisons choose Muslim religious service providers. Federal officials said they feared that prisons ?had been radicalized by inmates who were practicing or espousing various extreme forms of religion, especially Islam, which exposed security risks to the prisons and beyond the prisons to the public at large,? Feldman stated.

However, under the SCLP the BOP removed more than alleged radical Islamic texts. ?A lot of what we are missing ...

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 to provide him, in electronic format, with a large number of BOP documents. When he received no reply he filed a complaint in the federal district court for the District of Columbia. BOP claimed it never received the request regarding format and provided the requested documents in paper form. Sample was dissatisfied, continuing his claim for the same records in electronic format.

The district court, however, granted BOP's motion for summary judgment, holding that providing the records in electronic form would violate BOP security policies. Those policies limit prisoners' access to computer disks, CD-ROMs and computer terminals in an effort to prevent unsupervised communication with persons outside the facility and to protect the integrity of the BOP's computer systems. Sample appealed.

The Electronic Freedom of Information Act of 1996 directs agencies to provide records in the format specified by the requester, unless they are not readily reproducible by ...

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 in gender inappropriate facilities.

The report is based upon interviews with twelve current and former prisoners and ten advocates working outside of prisons. It found that as a group, transgender and gender non-conforming people are disproportionately poor, homeless, criminalized, and imprisoned.
?Discrimination against transgender people in housing, employment, healthcare, education, public benefits, and social services is pervasive, pushing transgender people to the margins of the formal economy,? states the report. As such LGBT youths and adults run away from hostile families and engage in illegal or criminalized activities to survive, placing them at a higher risk for arrest and entanglement in the criminal justice system.

Not only are they arrested for sex work, drug sales, and theft, but LGBT people are often arrested for other ?poverty-related activities including loitering, turnstile jumping, or sleeping outside.? This is enhanced, according to the report, by police profiling that targets LGBTs.

Once arrested, LGBTs ...

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 drug convictions. At the time, Washington prisoners could receive only a 33% sentence reduction for good conduct.
But in 2003 the legislature enacted RCW 9.94A.728(1)(b), which allowed some low-risk prisoners to earn a 50% good conduct reduction. Such prisoners must have had no violence or sex offenses in their past, and a DOC risk assessment must place them in levels RM-C or RM-D. Those in RM-A and RM-B didn?t qualify.

In March of 2004, the DOC found that Adams qualified for the 50% reduction. In June, Adams filed a personal restraint petition (PRP) claiming his good time had been miscalculated. In July the DOC demoted Adams? risk assessment level and decided that Adams no longer qualified for the 50% reduction, without allowing him to be heard.

Division 1 rejected Adams? arguments that the DOC couldn?t conduct a second assessment on him and that the ...

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 by his position as head of the Broward County Sheriff?s Office (BSO). [See: PLN, June 2007, p.12].

Those investigations, which began in 2005, focused on cozy relationships between Jenne?s security consulting businesses that used BSO equipment and manpower. Federal authorities, however, were more focused on Jenne?s failure to report income from those enterprises. A federal grand jury issued subpoenas for over 20,000 BSO documents and took testimony from a dozen BSO employees.

Along the way the IRS joined the investigation. An IRS agent testified in August 2007 about Jenne?s receipt of over $100,000 from contractors with the Sheriff?s office, without reporting those funds on his income tax returns. According to court records the unreported income included $20,000 in loans from a BSO vendor paid through Jenne?s secretaries; $10,000 in consulting fees from another BSO vendor in 2002; a $8 ...

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 Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science, and was presented in June, 2007, as a working paper of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Ms. Iyengar analyzed data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC) Criminal Docket for 1997-2002, which reveals that: 25.3 percent of federal criminal defendants are represented by privately retained counsel; 1.81 percent proceed pro se; and 72.9 percent are represented by indigent defense counsel.

Defendants qualifying for indigent representation may be appointed a federal public defender??a salaried federal employee who represents indigent defendants full-time??or a ?Criminal Justice Act (CJA) Panel Attorney???a private attorney paid by the hour. Cases are randomly assigned to either the CJA panel or the public defender pool. During the study period, 54.3 percent of indigent defendants were represented by public defenders, and 45.6 percent were represented by CJA panel attorneys.

The study ...

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 held that there was no liberty interest created by the program.

Samatha Chaney and three other WDOC prisoners, who either were or would become eligible for CCER placement, sued (former) WDOC Director Joseph Lehman in U.S. District Court (W.D. Wash.) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for community release under RCW § 9.94A728(2) (2006) (establishing the CCER program) at their earliest possible release date. The district court dismissed their action with prejudice upon finding Lehman was protected by qualified immunity.

On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed. It observed that the CCER statute only provided that prisoners ?may? receive such release, and then only upon having WDOC approve their applications. The applications required, at a minimum, an approved residence and living arrangement. A subjective determination by WDOC that release was inconsistent with public safety concerns could also result in disapproval. However, no hearing was available for these determinations ...

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 three categories for rights restoration. There is automatic restoration for non-violent offenders who have completed all terms of their sentence, including payment of restitution. Then there are violent offenders who committed crimes ranging from aggravated stalking and computer pornography to manslaughter, who require an investigation and clemency board approval. Lastly, a full investigation and clemency review hearing is required for those convicted of murder and sex offenses.

Offenders are screened by two state agencies, the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) and the Florida Parole Commission (FPC). Under Florida law, the FDOC must assist prisoners with civil rights restoration upon release. [See: PLN, March 2003, p.35]. The FDOC has identified 298,000 ex-prisoners who are potentially eligible for restoration of rights under the new rules. On a regular basis the FDOC compiles a list of the 3,000 people released from prison each month who are entitled to restoration reviews ...

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 A. Joseph DeNucci released a report that found the organization had misused $13.4 million in state funds over a 10-year period. The majority of that money, $10.2 million, was funneled through a no-bid contract to CiviGenics, which held a management contract with Spectrum from 1996 to 2002.
CiviGenics operates prisons and substance abuse programs in secure facilities.
DeNucci also questioned a $3.3 million purchase of CiviGenics? Barton Road Clinic by Spectrum, as the clinic was failing financially. Another bone of contention was almost $1 million in compensation paid by Spectrum to a former chairman for undocumented consultation services while he was living in Alaska and Florida.

Under the settlement agreement, Spectrum will pay Massachusetts $3.5 million, CiviGenics will reimburse $3.4 million, and CiviGenics President Roy Ross will pay $650,000. In total the state will receive $7.5 million of the nearly $17.5 million ...

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 out of state.

The land sale is expected to generate between $16.3 million to $23.9 million. Up for sale are the 3,869 acres of the Farquhar State Cattle Ranch in Hale County; 2,045 acres of the 2,409-acre Red Eagle Honor Farm in Montgomery County; the former Department of Corrections 1-acre office site adjacent to the Capitol; 32 acres in Wetumpka; and 10 acres of the old Kilby Prison site in Montgomery.

?These properties are a financial drain on the taxpayers and aren?t needed,? said Gov. Riley. The state previously sold 540 acres of swampland from the Farquhar Cattle Ranch to private landowners for $1.6 million.

The state currently spends $12.4 million a year to keep Alabama prisoners in Louisiana jails. The money from the land sale will be spent exclusively to expand the prison system and renovate or repair buildings to bring ...

$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, names CDCR Secretary James E. Tilton as the defendant.

One of the ways that PLN obtains the verdict and settlement information we report in each issue is through public records requests, since governmental agencies are reluctant to publicize the amount of taxpayer dollars they pay out in cases involving abuse, violation of prisoners? rights, mistreatment of prison employees, etc.

PLN is in the process of obtaining comprehensive settlement and verdict information from a number of correctional agencies, including the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the District of Columbia DOC, and the CDCR. In June 2006 the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in PLN?s favor in a lawsuit filed over the BOP?s refusal to provide requested records unless an exorbitant fee was paid. PLN v. Lappin, 436 F.Supp.2d 17 (D DC 2006). [See: PLN, Sept. 2006, p.15; Feb. 2007, p.33 ...

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 under contract by Geo Group, a private prison company based in Florida. No reason was given for the rebellion.

India: On December 16, 2007, 299 of the 377 prisoners held in the Dantewada prison in Chhattisgarh escaped from the prison. 105 of the escaped prisoners were member the Communist Party of India (Maoist) which is waging an armed struggle for state power throughout India. The prisoners overpowered and disarmed prison guards while guerrillas outside the facility opened fire on the prison.

India: On December 19, 2007, over 200 Maoist political prisoners seized control of the Beur jail and guards fled for their lives. Guards later retook control of the prison.

Louisiana: On November 21, 2007, William Bullock, 26, and Donald Till, 32, both prisoners at the United States Penitentiary in Pollock, died after a fight at the prison. The prison was locked down afterwards. In April, 2007, two other prisoners ...

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 mail processed at a Hamilton, New Jersey mail processing center contained anthrax, infecting those who died.

That incident caused prison officials to take advantage of September 11, 2001, executive order issued by New Jersey's acting Governor, who declared a state of emergency that allowed state agency heads to "waive, suspend, or modify any existing rule the enforcement of which would be detrimental to the public welfare during this emergency."

The state of emergency was still in effect in August 24, 2006, as was NJDOC's new legal mail policy. That mail policy resulted in the filing of two civil rights actions by NJDOC prisoners. These suits resulted in differing opinions. In one, injunctive relief was denied while the other resulted in the policy being found unconstitutional, warranting injunctive relief. The losing parties in those cases appealed, and the Third Circuit consolidated them.

First, the Third Circuit noted that it ...

 

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