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Prison Legal News: April, 2008

Issue PDF
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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

$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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

$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 ...

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 ...