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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: April, 2008

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Volume 19, Number 4

In this issue:

  1. Making the Bad Guy Pay: The Growing Use of Cost Shifting as an Economic Sanction (p 1)
  2. Buried Alive: Solitary Confinement in Arizona’s Prisons and Jails (p 14)
  3. From the Editor (p 14)
  4. Flurry of Escapes Emphasizes Prisoners' Desperation (p 16)
  5. As Connecticut's Prison Population Increases, So Does the Number of Imprisoned Mentally Ill (p 20)
  6. Three Murders in Three Months at Mississippi Control Unit Lead to Improvements And New Consent Decree (p 22)
  7. Pennsylvania Lifers' Commutation-Law Ex Post Facto Suit Remanded to Determine Standing (p 25)
  8. ADX Media Visit Staged To Dispel "Myths And Rumors" (p 26)
  9. Administrative Errors and Poor PHS Medical Care Precede Chronically Ill Vermont Prisoner's Death (p 28)
  10. Jail Uprisings in Oklahoma and Arkansas (p 29)
  11. Florida Woman Sentenced to Probation for Unauthorized Practice of Law (p 30)
  12. California Sex Offenders Uprooted by New Restrictive Residency Law (p 30)
  13. California’s Compassionate Release Law Expanded to Include the Medically Incapacitated (p 32)
  14. Michigan Counties Unsuccessful at Collecting Costs of Jail Imprisonment (p 32)
  15. Audit of Iowa Prison System’s Substance Abuse Treatment Programs Released (p 33)
  16. Overcrowded, Understaffed California DOC Pays $471 Million in Overtime (p 34)
  17. Wrongful Death Following Alleged Mistaken Washington Jail Release Settles For $1,800,000 (p 34)
  18. Oregon Sheriff Sentenced to Jail/Sex-Offender Registration (p 36)
  19. Washington State Opens Environmentally-Friendly Control Unit (p 36)
  20. Drug-Resistant Staph Infection (MRSA) Deaths Nationwide Now Exceed Those From AIDS; Prison Connection Ignored (p 38)
  21. Federal Healthcare Receiver Investigates Out-of-State Deaths of Transferred California Prisoners, but Does His Authority Follow Them? (p 38)
  22. $1,000,000 Settlement in Heroin Addict’s Death at Chicago, Illinois, Jail (p 39)
  23. Uprising at GEO Group Illinois Jail (p 39)
  24. Bergen County Jail, New Jersey, Provides Laptops for Legal Research (p 40)
  25. Tainted Chinese Toothpaste Distributed in U.S. Prisons and Hospitals (p 40)
  26. BOP Prisoner Population Exceeds 200,000 (p 40)
  27. Iowa Prisons Fined $92,000 For Prisoner Workplace Accidents (p 41)
  28. $1,825,000 Settlement in Alabama Prisoner’s Death from Flesh-Eating Bacteria (p 41)
  29. News in Brief: (p 42)
  30. New Los Angeles County Policy: Keep Lawsuit Settlements Confidential (p 44)

Making the Bad Guy Pay: The Growing Use of Cost Shifting as an Economic Sanction

by Kirsten D. Levingston1

"At some point, we have to be able to say to people who have been incarcerated, and served time on probation or parole upon release, you have paid your debt to society. We have got to help people move on to leading productive lives."2

"For people with loads of debt from court fines, supervision fees, restitution, and other charges related to their crime, getting out of prison is no fresh start. . . . They come out of the gate already at a disadvantage."3

Ex-prisoner Wilbert Rideau became known as ?the most rehabilitated prisoner in America during his long and complex journey through Louisiana?s criminal justice system, which began when he was 19 and ended when he was 64.4

Rideau was tried, convicted and sentenced to death three times for kidnap and murder, but three different appellate courts reversed those convictions because of blatantly unconstitutional conduct by judges and prosecutors.5 Following the trio of reversals Rideau was ultimately convicted of manslaughter at his fourth trial in 2005, an offense that carried a maximum sentence of 21 years. By then Rideau had already served forty-four years, one of the longest sentences in Louisiana history,6 ...

Buried Alive: Solitary Confinement in Arizona’s Prisons and Jails

Buried Alive: Solitary Confinement in Arizona's Prisons and Jails

Review by David M. Reutter

"There have been a couple of times that I've tried to end my life in here, but they keep reviving me and bringing me back. When I asked why, I was told, 'You're not going to die on us; we're not through punishing you.'"

That quote is part of the prisoner testimony in a report published by American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Arizona. The report is a critical evaluation of solitary confinement in Arizona prisons and jails.
The key findings are that prisoners in supermax units have higher rates of mental illness, those units damage prisoner's mental health, they do not reduce prison violence, and the units increase recidivism.

This report is a compelling presentation that is of interest to anyone in the nation with an interest in supermax confinement conditions and its effects. The uniqueness of this comprehensive report is that it is a compilation of governmental statistics and mainstream media investigative reports into the supermax phenomena. While the report focuses on the conditions of solitary confinement in Arizona, the material could be used to dissect any prison system's ...

From the Editor

Over the years, PLN has frequently reported on the efforts of legislators and prisoncrats to seize money from prisoners, the vast majority of whom are poor. This trend has sharply accelerated in recent years. The cover story of this issue of PLN is excerpted from the recent PLN anthology, Prison Profiteers: Who Makes Money from Mass Incarceration, published earlier this year by the New Press. The book is available from PLN and documents the growing practice of further impoverishing and penalizing those enmeshed in the criminal justice system. Kristen Levingston does a great job showing how these efforts to further immiserate the poor only make a bad situation worse. If you like this article I hope you consider reading the entire book, it?s well worth the read as we show who?s benefitting from policies of mass imprisonment. Not just who is harmed. Prison Profiteers is available from PLN and fine book sellers everywhere. Only PLN has the paperback edition at this time.

I would like to thank everyone who donated to PLN?s annual fundraiser this year. We extended it to the end of March as our mailing was delayed going out. I will report the outcome in ...

Flurry of Escapes Emphasizes Prisoners' Desperation

by Matt Clarke

Last September produced a bumper crop of prison and jail escapes around the country, including a desperate escape by two Texas prisoners that resulted in the death of a guard, a car jacking and two shootouts. Plus a dead horse.

Jerry Duane Martin, 37, and John Ray Falk, Jr., 40, were just two Texas prisoners working oppressive field labor jobs at the Wynne Unit, a Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) facility, until they escaped and killed a guard in the process on September 24, 2007. Field labor is the TDCJ's equivalent of a chain gang. The "hoe squads" work outside the prison fence in agricultural fields, often literally with an eight-pound hoe in hand. They are supervised by armed guards on horseback.

The work is hard. Verbal and psychological abuse by the guards is plentiful. It is essentially a disciplinary detail without the benefit of any disciplinary process. Prisoners who have disciplinary problems are put to work in the field, as are new prisoners, who must "prove themselves worthy" of a non-paying job in industry or support services, and prisoners the administration simply doesn't like, such as "writ writers." In Martin's case, he ...

As Connecticut's Prison Population Increases, So Does the Number of Imprisoned Mentally Ill

by David M. Reutter

Like other prison systems throughout the nation, Connecticut's is reaching peak capacity. In the midst of dealing with overcrowding and parole issues, the Connecticut Department of Correction (CDOC) must also determine how to handle a growing number of prisoners with mental health issues.

To readers of PLN, the increasing population of mentally ill offenders in America's prisons is nothing new. Even prison guards recognize the difference between treating mental illness and warehousing mentally ill prisoners. "We've become society's mental health provider," said Steve Curran, a guard at CDOC's Garner Correctional Institution (GCI) and Secretary of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1565.

After becoming CDOC's Commissioner, Theresa C. Lantz designated GCI as a facility to house mentally ill prisoners. Currently about 450 of GCI's 554 prisoners are classified as having mental problems. Yet, Lantz has insisted that she is "... not running a mental health hospital."

Curran observed that guards regard mentally ill prisoners as prisoners first, while the nurses "are treating them as clients and patients."
Recognizing that could pose a problem, Connecticut's 2006 General Assembly passed a bill that requires additional psychiatric training ...

Three Murders in Three Months at Mississippi Control Unit Lead to Improvements And New Consent Decree

"Taken as a whole, I am convinced the conditions in Unit 32 are as bad as anywhere in the whole country," observed Margaret Winter, a lawyer with the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Unit 32 is otherwise known as the supermax at Mississippi's State Penitentiary in Parchman.

In 2005, the ACLU sued over the treatment of prisoners in Unit 32. A 2006 consent decree obligated prison officials to make improvements. However, a June 29, 2007 letter sent to U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerry Davis disclosed that there had been "a total breakdown in basic sanitation" at the supermax unit.

"Prisoners are being moved into cells without lights, fans, properly functioning toilets, disinfectant, or any other cleaning supplies," the letter stated. "The cells are filthy. Food trays are delivered filthy. Prisoners have been fed a diet of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for days."

According to prisoner Steven Farris, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, the conditions on Unit 32 began to deteriorate after the spearing death of prisoner Boris Harper in June 2007. As Harper passed by the cell of prisoner Lamarcus Lee Hillard, Hillard fatally stabbed him with a spear fashioned from a broken ...

Pennsylvania Lifers' Commutation-Law Ex Post Facto Suit Remanded to Determine Standing

by John D. Dannenberg

In 1997, an amalgam of Pennsylvania prisoners, taxpayers and public interest groups sued the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons (Board) and top state officials in U.S. District Court, challenging restrictive 1997 amendments to Pennsylvania's commutation statutes as violating the Ex Post Facto clause of the U.S. Constitution.

On March 13, 2006 the district court ruled in favor of affected life prisoners on some claims, but against death-sentenced prisoners. See: Pennsylvania Prison Society v. Rendell, USDC MD Pa., 2006 WL 4998630, amending 419 F.Supp.2d 651 (MD Pa. 2006). On appeal by the defendant Board members, the issue of standing was first raised. The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held the plaintiffs had not developed below that they in fact had "standing" to bring the complaint, and dismissed and remanded to the district court to determine the standing issue.

Both life-sentenced and death-sentenced prisoners in Pennsylvania must apply to the Board (and Governor) for a commutation or pardon in order to gain release. Prior to 1997, the relevant statute required applicants to obtain a majority vote of the five-member Board. The 1997 amendments changed that requirement to a unanimous vote. Additionally, prior ...

ADX Media Visit Staged To Dispel "Myths And Rumors"

On the sixth anniversary of the 9-11 World Trade Center attacks, Ron Wiley, warden of the Federal Supermax known as ADX, staged a tightly controlled first-ever media visit at the Federal stronghold. Its stated purpose was an education to dispel "myths and rumors"; its effect was media-generated banality culled from a spoon-fed party line. "We saw only what they wanted us to see, and only that," reports Andrew Cohen, an attorney and legal affairs analyst for CBS News. The environment was one of total control "that extended to when we were allowed to sit down inside the briefing room" Cohen said.

The tour consisted of pristine concrete corridors with "the polished tile of a modern regional high school and the empty stillness of summer break," reports Karl Vick of the Washington Post. Vick and Cohen toured with other reporters from local and national media such as CBS 60 Minutes, CNN, Fox News, the Los Angeles Times, the Pueblo Chieftain (Colorado), and the Canon City Daily Record (Colorado). They passed by housing units, a recreation pen (dogrun) or two, more sterile corridors, and saw a handful of hand-picked, docile, polite prisoners in general population or "step down" units preparing to eventually ...

Administrative Errors and Poor PHS Medical Care Precede Chronically Ill Vermont Prisoner's Death

by David M. Reutter

A Report by the Vermont Protection and Advocacy System (VP & A) has found breakdowns by staff of the Vermont Department of Corrections (VDOC) in its furlough procedure and troubling care provided by VDOC's medical provider, Prison Health Services (PHS). The July 2007 report focuses on the treatment of VDOC prisoner Michael Estabrook.

The subject of the report has been unable to read it. That is because while in custody of VDOC, Estabrook died at Fletcher Allen Health Care (FAHC) on March 7, 2006. The report is based upon Estabrook's medical and classification file notes. At the time of his death, Estabrook was 37 years old, divorced with two children.

In May 2004, he entered VDOC a very sick man. He suffered from a disabling disease called severe dilated cardiomyopathy, which is a condition that decreases the heart's ability to pump blood because the heart's main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, is enlarged and weakened. He also had congestive heart failure.

Recognizing his condition was "terminal and debilitating," VDOC around July 21, 2005, granted Estabrook a medical furlough because he was physically incapable of presenting a danger to society. His furlough, however, was ...

Jail Uprisings in Oklahoma and Arkansas

by Matt Clarke

June 2007 saw three disturbances at two jails in Oklahoma and Arkansas.
The Pittsburg County, Oklahoma jail was built in 1974 and designed to hold 64 prisoners. On June 26, 2007 almost 100 were packed into the facility. That was when a fight between two prisoners escalated into a 10-hour uprising involving around 50 prisoners, which caused an estimated $8,000 to $10,000 in damage. One set of doors leading to the outside was so badly damaged that prisoners might have escaped had under-sheriff Richard Sexton not backed a patrol car up against the outer door.

The riot was put down by sheriff?s deputies assisted by other police departments and a Corrections Emergency Response Team from the nearby Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. Chemical agents were deployed and several prisoners were taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

?Overcrowding was definitely a factor in it if not a major factor,? said Sexton. ?You take a 12-man cell with 20 people in it that you?re with for 24 hours a day, seven days a week in cramped conditions. That causes problems.? The jail holds a number of state-sentenced prisoners due to overcrowding in ...

Florida Woman Sentenced to Probation for Unauthorized Practice of Law

by David M. Reutter

A Florida court has sentenced civil rights activist Nancy Jo Grant to 15 years probation, with no possibility of early termination, for practicing law without a license. Grant, 55, was also ordered to pay $30,315 in court fines by December 30, 2007, or her driver?s license will be suspended until the fines are paid in full.

A dental assistant who has no formal, training, Grant decided during a visit to her son in the DeSoto County Jail that some prisoners were not receiving proper legal representation. Grant formed the Florida Pro Se Bar Inc. to tackle the problem. That non-profit corporation presumably had the purpose to inform prisoners of their rights and to encourage pro se litigation.

Grant claimed many prisoners had been incarcerated without a hearing or a trial. She began ?preaching? to prisoners that their speedy trial rights were ignored and their constitutional rights violated. Grant began distributing an ?emergency motion for release? prepared by her paralegal friend, telling prisoners how to fill out the form and file it.

The 29 counts of unlicensed practice of law were predicated on Grant?s encouragement that prisoners fire their lawyers, either retained or public ...

California Sex Offenders Uprooted by New Restrictive Residency Law

California?s pernicious ?Jessica?s Law,? overwhelmingly approved by voters on November 7, 2006 as a result of Proposition 83, restricts certain paroled sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school, park or other areas where children are present. As of December 2007, the law was being enforced against 5,669 parolees; it is not being applied retroactively following a February 9, 2007 federal district court ruling. See: Doe v. Schwarzenegger, 476 F.Supp.2d 1178 (E.D. Cal. 2007) [PLN, July 2007, p.27].

On September 11, 2007, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), through its parole agents, gave sex offenders in violation of the law 45 days notice to move or face arrest and re-imprisonment. Four affected parolees who objected took the matter to the California Supreme Court, and in December 2007 were granted stays pending that court?s review of the issue. However, the Court refused to defer enforcement for other parolees, suggesting instead that their remedy (if any) was, in the first instance, at the Superior Court level. See: E.J. on Habeas Corpus, California Supreme Court, Case No. S156933, and related cases.

A two-month delay in implementing the residency ?sweep ...

California’s Compassionate Release Law Expanded to Include the Medically Incapacitated

California's Compassionate Release Law Expanded to Include the Medically Incapacitated

California's compassionate release law, which already provided that prisoners who were physician-certified to have less than six months to live may apply for recall of sentence and release, was expanded to include those who are totally medically incapacitated. In addition, the procedures to gain compassionate release were streamlined to speed up approvals.

Assembly Bill (AB) 1539 was signed into law in October 2007, amending Penal Code § 1170(e) relating to the discretion vested in the secretary of corrections and the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) to recommend a recall of sentence to the sentencing court. § 1170(e)(2), which previously provided such discretion if (A) the prisoner is incurably terminally ill with less than six months to live and (B) the prisoner?s release conditions would not pose a threat to public safety, now offers, in lieu of (A), (C) the prisoner is so medically incapacitated that he/she is permanently unable to perform activities of daily living and requires 24-hour total care, such as being in a coma or vegetative state, brain-dead, or on a ventilator (and that these conditions did not exist at the time of ...

Michigan Counties Unsuccessful at Collecting Costs of Jail Imprisonment

by Matt Clarke

On September 12, 2007, the Lenawee County Commission became embroiled in a debate over how to collect $6.3 million in outstanding ?room and board? fees from former jail prisoners that had accrued over the past two fiscal years. The county charges $43.28 per jail day, but cuts that fee in half if the debt is paid within 30 days of release.

What?s the problem? Start with the fact that it is generally poor people who spend time in jail rather than being released on bond or paying fines. Mix in the fact that jailing people is the perfect way for them to lose their jobs, and a criminal record is a great method to keep them from finding employment after their release. Factor in substantial court costs, fines and attorney fees, and it is evident to anyone who is not a Lenawee County Commissioner that most released prisoners are in no position to pay $43.28 per diem for back rent for time spent in the local lock-up.

What?s the county?s solution to this pressing problem? Jail accounts clerk Sabrina Martinez has asked former prisoners to collect cans and bottles for the ...

Audit of Iowa Prison System’s Substance Abuse Treatment Programs Released

Audit of Iowa Prison System's Substance Abuse Treatment Programs Released

by Matt Clarke

On May 25, 2007, the Iowa Department of Management released a performance audit of substance abuse treatment in the Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC). The audit found a number of problems, chief among them that close to 60% of prisoners with substance abuse treatment needs were being released without any treatment. The fact that "lack of treatment resources" was one of the most pressing issues identified by the audited DOC employees may explain the overall lack of treatment.

Among those prisoners successfully completing substance abuse programs recidivism for a new conviction was reduced 0.3% statewide and the overall recidivism rate was 0.5% higher compared with prisoners who had substance abuse program needs, but received no treatment. This would bring the entire concept of prison-based substance abuse treatment into question were it not for differences in the programs offered at the various prisons and huge differences in their resulting recidivism reductions. Newton Correctional Facility, the most successful prison, had a 7.9% reduction in new conviction recidivism and a 12.4% reduction in overall recidivism after one year.

Varying degrees of reduction in new conviction ...

Overcrowded, Understaffed California DOC Pays $471 Million in Overtime

A combination of prison overcrowding and a 10.9% staff vacancy rate in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) resulted in $471 million in overtime being paid in fiscal year 2006-2007 ? a 17% increase over 2005-2006. More than 8,000 CDCR employees collected at least $25,000 each in overtime, with 1,423 pocketing over $50,000.

Some employees? overtime earnings were truly eye-popping. Thirty-six, including guards as well as medical staff, received over $100,000 in overtime. Nine of the top ten overtime recipients in 2006 worked more than 1,900 hours beyond their 2,080 regular hours. Nurse Jean Keller accumulated no less than 2,584 overtime hours, earning $156,000 on top of her $74,000 base pay. Folsom prison guard Patro Lagula worked 2,314 hours of overtime, adding $126,000 in excess pay. Six CDCR employees earned more than Governor Schwarzenegger?s $212,179 salary.

These absurdly high overtime figures were cited in a February 7, 2008 report by the Legislative Analyst?s Office, which recommended against increasing the pay rates for CDCR guards. The Governor?s office has proposed a 5 percent raise for state prison employees.

Driving the excessive overtime are ...

Wrongful Death Following Alleged Mistaken Washington Jail Release Settles For $1,800,000

On September 6, 2007, the City of Algona and King County, Washington, agreed to pay $1,800,000 to the estate of a man killed by a hit and run driver who was, according to the lawsuit, mistakenly released from jail despite multiple convictions for driving under the influence (DUI ...

Oregon Sheriff Sentenced to Jail/Sex-Offender Registration

On August 28, 2007, the former sheriff of Curry County Oregon, was sentenced to one year in jail and ordered to register as a sex offender, for groping three female county employees.

Mark Metcalf spent nearly 25 years in law enforcement. He was appointed Curry County Sheriff in 2003, then elected to the position by voters in 2004.

In August 2006, Kim Wood, a Curry County sheriff civil deputy reported that Metcalf sexually harassed her. A state investigation was launched, during which two other employees??Deputy Tax Collector Sheryl Luzmoor, and Legal assistant Colleen Wallace??brought additional accusations against Metcalf.

In June 2007, voters recalled Metcalf by a margin of 2-to-1. He was then tried criminally on the women?s allegations, in neighboring Coos County. During the trial, at Metcalf?s request, the women testified that he rubbed his body against theirs, touched their breasts, and slipped his hand beneath their clothing. Metcalf denied Wood?s accusations and claimed that his conduct with the other women was consensual.

A six-member jury convicted Metcalf of eleven misdemeanors: four counts of third-degree sexual harassment, four counts of harassment, and three counts of first-degree official misconduct.

?There was simply no truth to the ...

Washington State Opens Environmentally-Friendly Control Unit

by Matt Clarke

In October 2007, the Monroe Correctional Complex (MCC), Washington State's largest prison, opened the first prison building in Washington State to be certified as "green" by the U.S. Green Building Council. The unit, a new segregation building with 200 bunks, consists of a 100-bunk Intensive Management Unit (IMU) for prisoners who are placed there at the whim of prison officials for indefinite, long term stays and a 100-bunk unit for prisoners spending a shorter period in segregation.

At 2,500-bunks, not including the new segregation building, MCC is Washington State's largest prison. Located 45 minutes from Seattle, overcrowding has long been an issue at MCC. Relatives of prisoners claim that the crowded conditions led to violence, including the murder of several prisoners.

The new segregation building cost $39.5 million. The price tag included a rainwater collection system for toilet-flushing water and low energy lighting.

The Washington State Legislature passed state laws requiring that new prisons be energy efficient even though construction costs of such prisons are higher than those of conventional prisons. Thus, the new green-rated 2,048-bunk prison unit at Coyote Ridge will cost $254 million. However, according to Washington Department of ...

Drug-Resistant Staph Infection (MRSA) Deaths Nationwide Now Exceed Those From AIDS; Prison Connection Ignored

by John R. Dannenberg

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that nationwide, more deaths in the United States are now resulting from drug resistant invasive MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus) skin infections than from AIDS. Overall, an estimated 90,000 invasive MRSA infections occur annually nationally ? a rate of 32 per 100,000 people. The October 2007 JAMA report called this rate ?astounding.? While many staph cases are simply mild skin infections, the invasive ones studied here are life-threatening, entering the bloodstream or destroying flesh.

PLN has reported extensively on MRSA infections in prisons and jails (see: PLN, Aug. 2007, p.1). Indeed, the greatest liability (58.4%) turns out to be for patients in community care settings, a category that includes nursing homes and correctional settings. Infections acquired in a hospital, often incidental to elective surgeries, account for 26.6 %.
Another 13.7% arise in ?community-associated? functions (this category includes schools and sports teams), while the remaining 1.3% were unclassified. There was also a strong correlation with age (3 times more prevalent in those over 65) and race (2 times more prevalent in blacks), while gender was not a factor.

The JAMA study surveyed data ...

Federal Healthcare Receiver Investigates Out-of-State Deaths of Transferred California Prisoners, but Does His Authority Follow Them?

by John E. Dannenberg

The federal court-appointed Receiver for California?s prison healthcare system is investigating the deaths of four prisoners who were transferred to out-of-state facilities, but stopped short of declaring the deaths suspicious or negligent. His concern is heightened because the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is presently engaged in selectively shipping 8,500 foreign national prisoners to privately-run facilities around the country in order to meet federal court demands to reduce the state?s overcrowded prison system.

Court-appointed Receiver Robert Sillen, who has since been replaced, spoke at the Sacramento Press Club in July 2007 and called three of the four out-of-state prisoner deaths ?not quite natural.? He said his staff was reviewing the prisoners? medical files to determine if their deaths were preventable. The prisoners died in Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee and an undisclosed location under the federal witness protection program.

However, it is not clear whether prisoners transferred out-of-state due to overcrowding, who are typically housed at private facilities, are covered under the protections of the Plata v. Schwarzenegger prison healthcare receivership. If they are, that might create a conflicting two-tier program for healthcare delivery: the profit-driven substandard care typical of private prisons and ...

$1,000,000 Settlement in Heroin Addict’s Death at Chicago, Illinois, Jail

$1,000,000 Settlement in Heroin Addict's Death at Chicago, Illinois, Jail

On April 18, 2007, Cook County, Illinois, and the Cook County Jail agreed to pay a combined $1,000,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging wrongful death of a female heroin addict at the jail.

Marie O ...

Uprising at GEO Group Illinois Jail

On June 1, 2007, forty-six prisoners at the Tri-County Justice and Detention Center in Ullin, Illinois were involved in an hour-long riot. The 226-bed jail is owned by Pulaski County but operated by Florida-based GEO Group, formerly known as Wackenhut.

The disturbance began around 8:00 p.m. when prisoners barricaded themselves into one section of the jail and began burning mattresses and books. About half an hour later, police ended the uprising by firing tear gas into the barricaded area. No reason was given for the disturbance.
?We?re investigating why it happened, how it happened and we?re going to get down to the who needs to be charged,? said Pulaski County Sheriff Randy Kern, who is also the jail?s warden.

The incident occurred about five weeks after a riot at a GEO-run Illinois prison, the New Castle Correctional Facility, which resulted in nine injuries. [See: PLN, Nov. 2007, p.16]. The Illinois Department of Corrections blamed understaffing and poor staff training for that incident.

?If you get over the moral issue of incarcerating people for profit, I think you can see they don?t do a good job,? said Ken Kopczynski of the Private Corrections Institute ...

Bergen County Jail, New Jersey, Provides Laptops for Legal Research

New Jersey?s Bergen County Jail is entering the 21st century with a revolutionary plan by Sheriff Leo McGuire to provide prisoners with laptop computers to do legal research while in the jail.

The 80 laptops?stripped down durable mini-PCs?were purchased with $100,000 of income from prisoner commissary purchases. The computers will apparently not have access to the internet and will be used only for legal research.

Under the program the laptops will be delivered to prisoners who request them for allotted periods of time.

The laptops will offer an alternative to the jail?s crowded law library?and, according to McGuire, will enhance jail security. McGuire said there is a potential risk every time a cell door is opened at the jail, and delivering laptops to the prisoners reduces that risk.


Tainted Chinese Toothpaste Distributed in U.S. Prisons and Hospitals

by Matt Clarke

On June 1, 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning that toothpaste made in China was found to be contaminated with diethylene glycol (DEG), a toxic chemical used in antifreeze and as a solvent. The FDA urged consumers to ?avoid using toothpaste labeled as made in China,? and suggested that consumers throw away all such toothpaste.

China has a history of using DEG as a cheaper substitute for glycerin, a common and harmless ingredient in household products, drugs and cosmetics. According to the FDA, DEG has a ?low but meaningful risk of toxicity and injury? to children and people suffering from liver or kidney disease.

Chinese regulators claimed that toothpaste with small amounts of DEG was harmless and said the international concern was unjustified. They pointed to a Chinese study that concluded toothpaste with less than 15.6 percent DEG was not dangerous to humans.

?This stuff doesn?t belong in toothpaste, period,? countered FDA spokesman Doug Arbesfeld. ?No Chinese toothpaste has come into the country since the end of May.?

Initially the distribution of the tainted Chinese toothpaste was thought to be limited to discount stores; however, around 900,000 tubes ...

BOP Prisoner Population Exceeds 200,000

In September 2007, the federal bureau of Prisons (BOP) reaffirmed its hold on the title of being the nation?s largest prison system. A weekly population report showed BOP holding 200,052 prisoners for the first time.

Since the start of the ?war on drugs,? the nation?s prisons have continued to swell. At least 80 percent of those confined in BOP prisons are there on drug related crimes. Some are held on sentences that impose federal penalties that are increased for possessing crack cocaine as opposed to smaller penalties for possessing the same amount of powder cocaine.

Others are incarcerated after being kidnapped in their native country by federal authorities to face trial in the United States. The BOP reports that 28 percent of its prisoners are non-U.S. citizens.

The new population level is nearly 10 percent of the 2.3 million people held in numerous American prisons and jails. With the elimination of federal parole and the requirement that prisoners serve 85 percent of their sentences, the BOP is certain to continue its expansion.

Source: Bureau of Prisons

Iowa Prisons Fined $92,000 For Prisoner Workplace Accidents

Fines totaling $92,000 were levied in January 2007 by Iowa?s Occupational Safety and Health Bureau against the Iowa Department of Corrections (IDOC).

In March 2006, a Fort Madison prisoner severed a finger in a table saw in the Prison Industries workshop. Seven months later, another prisoner there suffered a similar accident. Investigation revealed that the saws were not protected by hood guards or kickback prevention devices.
Prisoners assigned to clean up the blood messes were neither instructed on infectious disease protection nor were they provided with any such protection. Separately, IDOC was cited because such precaution was also absent when guards extracted a problematic prisoner from his Newton Prison cell. And in January 2006, a Newton prisoner was electrically shocked while servicing a food service steam table, which he thought had been disconnected first.

Becky Munoz, prisoner industries manager, replied that the injured prisoners either violated prison safety rules or used the saw without permission. She further stated that all employees had been trained on blood spill protective procedures. As to her failure to record any accidents, she said she was unaware that such records were required.

Nonetheless, Health Bureau investigators found that industries management did not ensure ...

$1,825,000 Settlement in Alabama Prisoner’s Death from Flesh-Eating Bacteria

$1,825,000 Settlement in Alabama Prisoner's Death from Flesh-Eating Bacteria

The settlement in a prisoner's death from flesh-eating bacteria at Alabama's Mobile Metro Jail now totals $1,825,000.

In September 2007, the City of Mobile agreed to pay $375,000 to settle its part in ...

News in Brief:

Argentina: On December 13, 2007, Prefect Febres, a member of government death squads during the US backed military dictatorship that ruled Argentina from 1976-1983 was found murdered in his prison cell by cyanide poisoning a few days after being convicted of torturing political prisoners, murdering them and stealing their children. He was due to be sentenced on December 17 and was expected to tell the court who had given the orders for the torture and killings he participated in and the possible whereabouts of some of the stolen children. He was one of the first members of the military to be tried for crimes against humanity and the first who was willing to speak publicly as well.

Arizona: On June 7, 2007, Ciriam Montante, 26, a state prison guard, was sentenced to seven months in federal prison after pleading guilty to delivering 30 kilos of cocaine in exchange for $3,000.00 as part of an FBI undercover operation that resulted in 67 prison guards, policemen and soldiers being arrested for transporting illegal drugs for FBI agents posing as drug traffickers.

California: On October 27, 2007, over 1,000 prisoners were evacuated from the Orange county jail in Irvine due ...

New Los Angeles County Policy: Keep Lawsuit Settlements Confidential

Lawyers for Los Angeles (L.A.) County have ceased making public their internal memos recommending settlements on major lawsuits against the county because they fear that this information is only encouraging attorneys in other lawsuits to arbitrarily increase their settlement demands. Attorneys have been bootstrapping their demands for new settlements onto the old ones rather than relying upon independent evaluations of the merits.

Open-government advocate Doug Heller, director of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer rights, decried this retrenchment from over a decade of openness in such reporting on grounds that it provided cover for the ineptitude of county officials and because it secreted what is plainly public information regarding government legal decisions.

Chief Deputy County Counsel Donovan Main replied, ?We made a determination that they are attorney-client communications, and for the county?s best interests, from a legal standpoint, they shouldn?t be made public.?

The memos in question are those sent by county attorneys to the county?s Claims Board. Contained in the memos are admissions of error, failure or shortcoming as well as internal costs expended to date to fight the claim. While the Claims Board has authority to settle claims below $100,000, the Board of ...


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