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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: June, 2008

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Volume 19, Number 6

In this issue:

  1. Sex Offenders Set Up Camp in Miami Florida: The Julia Tuttle Causeway Becomes a Colony. Politicians Pass the Buck. (p 1)
  2. California Parole Board Executive Officer Resigns After Caught Drinking on Duty (p 9)
  3. From the Editor (p 10)
  4. CCA Attempts Cover-Up of Assault by Warden at Tennessee Prison (p 10)
  5. Record Number of Disciplinary Actions Against Texas Prison Guards (p 12)
  6. $154,000 Awarded to Hawaii Prisoner Injured by Jumping from Bunk Bed Without Ladder And Exposed to ETS (p 13)
  7. Think Outside The Cell: An Entrepreneur’s Guide for the Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated, by Joseph Robinson, Resilience Multimedia, 270 pages (p 14)
  8. California Homosexual Prisoner Family Visits Policy Draws Fire (p 15)
  9. $900,000 Settlement in Illinois Jail Guard’s Sexual Assault of Juvenile (p 16)
  10. New Jersey Abolishes the Death Penalty (p 16)
  11. Nevada Prisoner Health Care So Atrocious, Prisoners Volunteer for Execution to Avoid Suffering (p 18)
  12. Eight Guards, Nurse Acquitted in Florida Child’s Beating Death (p 20)
  13. Flesh-Eating Bacteria Grossly Disfigures Misdiagnosed Washington State Prisoner (p 20)
  14. California Prison Beset by Deadly Valley Fever Epidemic (p 22)
  15. New York Prisoner Awarded $112,000 For Leg Burns (p 22)
  16. Vermont Prisons Subject to Human Rights Commission Jurisdiction (p 23)
  17. Florida Prison Still Beset by Contaminated Water (p 24)
  18. $25.5 Million Awarded in California County Jail Strip Search Suit (p 25)
  19. Washington Study Finds Higher Recidivist Rate Amongst Sex Offenders Recommended, But Not Committed, For Civil Commitment (p 26)
  20. Defunct Louisiana Juvenile Private Prison Reactivated by GEO for Immigrants (p 27)
  21. Son of Illinois Congressman Fired, Charged With Raping Prisoners (p 27)
  22. California DOC Federal Master: Continued Court Oversight Needed on “Code of Silence” (p 28)
  23. Pierce County, WA Jail Settles Jail Strip-Search Suit For $667,000 (p 28)
  24. New York Prisoner Awarded $322,000 For Hand Laceration (p 30)
  25. Dallas County, Texas, Criticized for Offering Probation to Murder Defendants (p 30)
  26. Iowa Faith-Based Program Finally Closed (p 31)
  27. $80,000 Settlement For Injury Caused By Defective Federal Prison Sidewalk (p 31)
  28. Junk Bonds to Junk Science? Drug Treatment Program Questioned (p 32)
  29. The Prison and the Gallows: The Politics of Mass Incarceration in America, By Marie Gottschalk, Cambridge University Press, 451 pp. (p 34)
  30. 33,000 California Prisoners May Need Credits Recalculated Due To Retroactive State Court Decisions (p 34)
  31. U.S. Releases Highest Ranking Soldier Convicted For Abu Ghraib Prisoner Abuse (p 35)
  32. California State Prisoner Wins $39,011 for Deprivation of Outdoor Exercise During Extended Lockdowns (p 36)
  33. PLN Sues Massachusetts DOC Over Book Ban, Added to Approved List One Week Later (p 36)
  34. Texas Prisoner’s Hepatitis C Claim Not Frivolous, Fifth Circuit Holds (p 37)
  35. Ohio Jail Prisoner’s Excessive Force Lawsuit Settles For $100,000 (p 38)
  36. Federal Jury Convicts California DOC Guards on Assault and Conspiracy Charges; Judge Tosses Verdict (p 38)
  37. Innocent California Prisoner Freed After Nine Years; Paid $1 Million (p 38)
  38. North Carolina Agency Liable in Jail Fire That Killed Five Prisoners (p 39)
  39. Georgia’s Sex Offender Residency Restriction Unconstitutional; Work Restriction Approved (p 40)
  40. Nevada Criminalizes Cell Phones in State Prisons (p 40)
  41. CA Uses Jail Inmate Welfare Funds for Reentry; Expands Early Release for Permanently Disabled CDCR Prisoners (p 41)
  42. News in Brief: (p 42)
  43. $700,000 Settlement in Minnesota Teen’s Wrongful Death Caused by Jail’s Indifference to Head Infection (p 44)

Sex Offenders Set Up Camp in Miami Florida: The Julia Tuttle Causeway Becomes a Colony. Politicians Pass the Buck.

Another one showed up last night. Around 10 — just before curfew — a car rolled in under the bridge and the newcomer got out with his wife. She hugged and kissed him goodbye, pulled the car out along the road, and disappeared into a sea of headlights. The new guy sits by the side of the Julia Tuttle Causeway, talking to a group of men huddled atop a collection of lawn chairs, buckets, and plastic crates facing the water, toward the Miami skyline.

“I can’t believe this shit,” he booms. Nearly six feet tall and 250 pounds, endowed with a voice like a fire engine, he has already earned his new nickname: Big Man. The men listen with mild sympathy. “They’re shocked; the new guys are in shock,” explains Patrick Wiese, who has been living under the bridge since July, 2007.

A week before his arrival, Big Man was serving a four-year sentence for cocaine possession. A few days before, he was looking forward to leaving prison and reuniting with his wife, until he got the news: Instead of going home, he’d be living under a bridge, a parole commission officer told him. That’s because 23 years ...

California Parole Board Executive Officer Resigns After Caught Drinking on Duty

The Executive Officer of California’s Board of Parole Hearings (Board), who was the passenger in a state car driven by another Board employee, resigned after police stopped the car and arrested the driver for DUI.

John Monday, 56, a 34-year veteran state employee, held the top position at the Board – Executive Officer (a gubernatorial appointment). On November 27, 2007, he was riding with associate chief deputy commissioner Robert Thomas Rodriguez, 57, when Merced city police arrested Rodriguez for driving with a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit.

In his resignation letter to the governor, Monday admitted he had been drinking during a dinner while conducting official business following a speech at a women’s prison in Chowchilla. He wrote that his “judgment on that day was deficient and unprofessional,” and offered his regrets and resignation. Rodriguez remains employed with the Board.

In a separate incident, parole supervisor Ed Carnegie was placed on temporary reassignment in Dec. 2007 after he reportedly used whiteout to alter official documents to cause parolees to be released early from supervision. In six cases, Carnegie allegedly overruled parole agents’ recommendations that the parolees be continued on parole. While Carnegie had the power to do ...

From the Editor

The past several months have been even busier than usual for PLN. In addition to getting the magazine published each month we have seen an upsurge in censorship activities in prisons and jails around the country.
As noted in this issue of PLN, after 5 years of banning books ordered from PLN, the Massachusetts Department of Corrections capitulated and now allows prisoners in their custody to receive books from PLN by adding us to their approved vendor list. The litigation continues now for damages and attorney fees. This occurred a week after PLN sued the DOC. In Rhode Island, the DOC there had been requiring prisoners to order books and subscriptions from their prison trust account. After receiving demand letters from PLN and the RI ACLU noting that PLN has successfully sued four states on this issue, the DOC finally saw the light and they too capitulated and changed their policy to allow prisoners to receive gift subscriptions and publications. But victories such as these all consume staff time and resources.

The Virginia DOC has banned all issues of PLN statewide claiming that ads in PLN somehow threaten prison security. PLN is currently attempting to resolve the issue administratively (courts ...

CCA Attempts Cover-Up of Assault by Warden at Tennessee Prison

Late last year, a prisoner at the CCA-operated Hardeman County Correctional Facility (HCCF) in Tennessee notified PLN that the prison’s warden, assistant warden and internal affairs officer had either resigned or been fired or transferred. The staff changes reportedly resulted from an excessive use of force incident and unrelated criminal charges.

A public records request submitted to the Tennessee Dept. of Correction (TDOC) pursuant to T.C.A. § 10-7-503 resulted in a number of documents that shed light on what happened at HCCF.

On May 16, 2007, a violent altercation occurred in the chapel between Muslim prisoners and CCA guards. HCCF warden Glen Turner personally participated in the interrogation of several prisoners after the fight.
While questioning prisoner James Ingram, who insisted he had not been involved in the incident, Warden Turner threw him to the ground and punched him several times, causing an injury above his eye. Ingram was restrained at the time.

According to Jerry Lester, the TDOC’s acting Internal Affairs Director, state officials were not informed about Warden Turner’s excessive use of force “as it was never reported at the facility. It was not until July 19, when the TDOC received notification from prisoner ...

Record Number of Disciplinary Actions Against Texas Prison Guards

by Matt Clarke

As previously reported in PLN, a record number of Texas prison guards have been arrested in recent years [see: PLN, May 2007, p. 26]. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has now confirmed that over a recent 12-month period, a record number of prison staff have also been disciplined.

The Backgate, a TDCJ watchdog group operated by TDCJ employees, obtained the statistics – which were then published in the Huntsville Item online. They reveal that 7,786 disciplinary actions were filed against TDCJ guards in the past fiscal year. The largest categories of infractions included unexcused absenteeism (1,719) and substandard performance (1,574).

780 of the disciplinary actions were for violations of statutory authority, 494 were for failure to obey a proper order, 249 were for tardiness, 240 were for leaving an assigned post, 228 were for sleeping while on duty, 227 were for conviction of a misdemeanor, 205 were for falsifying state documents and 181 were for confrontations with other employees (both verbal and physical).

These numbers reflect a sharp increase in disciplinary violations among TDCJ staff, according to Backgate writer Marcus Williams.

As a result of the disciplinary actions, 538 employees were fired; there ...

$154,000 Awarded to Hawaii Prisoner Injured by Jumping from Bunk Bed Without Ladder And Exposed to ETS

Hawaii’s First Circuit Court has awarded a prisoner $153,652.73 in a negligence lawsuit. The prisoner’s claims arise from the failure to provide ladders on bunk beds and failure to enforce a non-smoking ban, causing the prisoner injury.

The action was brought by Rodney Herbert, a prisoner ...

Think Outside The Cell: An Entrepreneur’s Guide for the Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated, by Joseph Robinson, Resilience Multimedia, 270 pages

Book Review by Gary Hunter

Books about business come and go. Someone is always ready to tell us how to manage our money. But few books break down complex concepts of business into terms we can all understand. Fewer still are specifically oriented to helping prisoners succeed. This is the magic of Think Outside The Cell.

Author Joseph Robinson’s unique approach appeals to the layman because it leaves no doubt that he’s been where we’ve been. He can relate to where we are and he show us how to get ahead.

But don’t let the layman lingo fool you. Robinson parses every detail on successful entrepreneurship. Each chapter contains articulate, easy to read instructions on how to get ahead and stay ahead.

Think Outside The Cell combines all the qualities of a self-help manual and a college business text. But it does so without leaving the reader stranded in a mire of meaningless platitudes or complex jargon.

All success starts with attitude so that’s where Think Outside The Cell begins. Robinson shows us why what we’ve done wrong as well as what we’ve done right are both crucial components to our future success ...

California Homosexual Prisoner Family Visits Policy Draws Fire

California’s newly adopted state prison policy permitting overnight conjugal visits for registered domestic partners who are in prison has been praised by homosexual advocacy groups but has drawn fire from religious conservatives.

Prison conjugal visiting began in 1918 in Mississippi as a privilege to motivate prisoners to work. Today, only five states permit overnight family visits: California, Connecticut, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York and Washington. But California is unique with its Domestic Partners Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003, which permits virtually “every legal right of marriage under California law to registered domestic partners,” according to Randy Thomasson, president of the conservative Campaign for Children and Families. The Act was passed during the pro gay-rights reign of former Democratic Governor Gray Davis, prior to his recall from office.

The new California prison policy devolved from the complaint of prisoner Vernon Foeller, an HIV-positive prisoner doing 18 months at the California Medical Facility state prison in Vacaville. Under threat of an equal protection suit from the ACLU, the prison capitulated and implemented the policy in June 2007. Prison regulatory changes are being prepared. Phil Magnan, director of Biblical Family Advocates, decried the policy as “tear[ing] down the fabric of ...

$900,000 Settlement in Illinois Jail Guard’s Sexual Assault of Juvenile

Another case of sexual abuse upon a minor by a custodial person has hit the taxpayer’s coffers. This time, a guard at Illinois’ St. Clair County juvenile custody center sexually assaulted a 15-year-old boy, causing the County to settle the boy’s civil rights and negligent hiring claim of ...

New Jersey Abolishes the Death Penalty

by Matt Clarke

On December 12, 2007, New Jersey became the second state since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976 to legislatively abolish the death penalty, replacing it with life without parole. That same day, New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine commuted the sentences of the eight prisoners on New Jersey’s Death Row to life without parole.

Although New Jersey reinstated its death penalty in 1982, no one had been executed by New Jersey since 1963, nine years before the U.S. Supreme Court declared the procedures for imposing the death penalty unconstitutional and thirteen years before it allowed the use of new procedures. This endless delay in executions led some prosecutors to join the abolition advocates.

“To continue with the death penalty where there is no hope the state will ever carry it out is a cruel hoax on families who have lost a loved one and seek some finality from the justice system,” said Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton. “This repeal will ensure in the heinous cases that offenders will have no prospect of re-entering society by getting paroled for the rest of their lives.”

The repeal of the death penalty is largely credited to ...

Nevada Prisoner Health Care So Atrocious, Prisoners Volunteer for Execution to Avoid Suffering

by David M. Reutter

“It is my opinion that the medical care provided at Ely State Prison amounts to the grossest possible medical malpractice, and the most shocking and callous disregard for human life and human suffering, that I have ever encountered in the medical profession in my thirty-five years of practice.” – Dr. William Noel

The above quote comprises the conclusion of Dr. Noel in a report for the National Prison Project of the ACLU. In preparing that report, Dr. Noel examined 35 prisoner medical files from Nevada’s Ely State Prison (ESP), which is more than 250 miles outside Reno, Las Vegas. ESP houses Nevada’s death row. That fact, critics charge, may be the reason behind the atrocious healthcare at the facility.

Dr. Noel’s report details the death of one prisoner that resulted from a failure to render any meaningful treatment. In several cases, Dr. Noel found it simply astonishing the prisoners were still alive in light of a “system that is so broken and dysfunctional that … every one of the prisoners at [ESP] who has serious medical needs, or may develop serious medical needs, is at enormous risk.”

Anti-death penalty advocates point to the number of ...

Eight Guards, Nurse Acquitted in Florida Child’s Beating Death

by David M. Reutter

An all white Florida jury acquitted eight former boot camp guards and a nurse of manslaughter in the death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson.
PLN previously reported upon the beating and dragged death of Martin while the nurse stood idly by watching. See: PLN, July, 2007.

After a three week trial, the jury rendered its verdict in 90 minutes.
The evidence included a videotape of the guards applying punches, pressure grips, and kneeings while they dragged Martin around the boot camp’s exercise yard. When Martin fell out, the guards forced him to inhale ammonia capsules in an attempt, they say, to revive him. All the while, the nurse just stood by watching.

Because the incident was captured on video, the central theme at trial was what caused Martin’s death. The defense argued that Martin died because of an undiagnosed sickle cell trait, which is a usually harmless blood disorder that can hinder blood cells’ ability to carry oxygen during physical stress. The prosecution argued the guards suffocated Martin by covering his mouth and forcing him to inhale ammonia.

Both sides had something to latch onto during trial. The first autopsy conducted by Dr. Charles ...

Flesh-Eating Bacteria Grossly Disfigures Misdiagnosed Washington State Prisoner

by John E. Dannenberg

A Washington state prisoner who lay for two days in the Stafford Creek Correctional Facility infirmary in agonizing pain, with a rash covering his torso and slowly drifting into septic shock, had been misdiagnosed by infirmary staff as having only an allergic reaction to Robitussin (an over-the-counter cold medicine) and was treated solely with an ice pack, Benadryl and Medrol (an immune suppressant). No antibiotics were administered for the 60 hours he was being literally eaten alive by the bacteria consuming his internal soft tissue, penis, testicles and bones.

Charlie Manning, doing 13 months after a drunken argument with a neighbor, left prison with no penis, one testicle and minus six pounds of pelvic flesh. The sixty-year old Manning, a former house-painter with diagnosed mental illness and an IQ of 78, was at worst a chronic drunk.
When he arrived at Stafford Creek in July 2004, he developed an infected hemorrhoid, for which he received no medical attention for two days. By then, he was delusional, in pain, sleeping under his bunk. His genitals were swollen, he was bleeding from his rectum plus had the torso rash and a fever. Over the next two days, his ...

California Prison Beset by Deadly Valley Fever Epidemic

by John E. Dannenberg

In the past three years more than 900 of the 5,300 prisoners at California’s Pleasant Valley State Prison (PVSP) in Fresno County, plus 80 staff members, have contracted coccidioidomycosis, a fungus commonly known as “valley fever.” Over a dozen prisoners and one guard have died from the disease. Valley fever forms in the lungs, where inhaled fungal spores colonize.

The soil-based fungus, which is indigenous from California’s central valley down to South Texas, most often causes symptoms similar to the flu (and in the process confers lifelong immunity); however, in two to three percent of cases it metastasizes. Once it gets into the bloodstream it is often fatal.

Although valley fever has occasionally infected archaeologists digging in Utah’s Dinosaur National Monument and drug-sniffing dogs along the Mexican border, its statistical prevalence in California prisons is troubling. California reported 3,000 cases of valley fever in the general population in 2006, of which 514 were diagnosed at PVSP alone. This 17% morbidity rate among prisoners is astounding. Further, from a mortality standpoint, 12 deaths in 900 prison cases equals a 1.3% fatality rate – double the community rate of 0.6% (based on ...

New York Prisoner Awarded $112,000 For Leg Burns

On August 30, 2007, a court of claims in Syracuse, New York, awarded $112,000 to a prisoner who burned his legs while working in a prison kitchen.

While imprisoned at the Watertown Correctional Facility on July 16, 1995, Daniel Marria was standing on a table cleaning vent hoods when ...

Vermont Prisons Subject to Human Rights Commission Jurisdiction

The Vermont Supreme Court has held that the Vermont Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act (The Act) applies to state prisons. That holding affirmed an order by the Washington Superior Court denying the Vermont Department of Corrections’ (VDOC) motion to quash the subpoena served by the Human Rights Commission (HRC), who was investigating a prisoner’s complaint.

The Act was implemented to provide a local enforcement mechanism for claims actionable under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which applies to all public entities, including state prisons. Under Vermont Law, the HRC has jurisdiction to investigate and enforce complaints of unlawful discrimination in public accommodations.

VDOC argued the Act was not meant to apply to prisons, for they are not “places of public accommodation” that offer services or benefits to the “general public.” The Superior Court held that irrespective of whether the physical structures of government buildings, including prisons, are open to the public, state prisons “are essentially public places open to any member of the public unfortunate enough to meet the criteria for obtaining their services.” The Supreme Court agreed.

Moreover, review of the Legislative history of the Act reveals the legislature intended it to apply to all governmental entities ...

Florida Prison Still Beset by Contaminated Water

Despite spending millions of dollars on new wells and water treatment systems, the Martin Correctional Institution (MCI) in Indiantown, Florida is still unable to provide uncontaminated water to its 1,400 prisoners. The problem has the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) considering closing the facility.

MCI has a long history of water contamination. It became such a problem in 1999 that 700 prisoners were evacuated to the South Florida Reception Center Annex (SFRC). [See: PLN, May 2000, p.14]. Those prisoners were all from the open population units. Meanwhile, prisoners in segregation were left to languish on an 8-ounce cup of water every eight hours, and had to use portable toilets and shower units.

The water problems at MCI, however, go back much further than 1999. The prison was forced by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to build a new treatment plant in 1990. Still, in 1994 MCI was one of several prisons cited statewide for violating water quality standards for lead and copper. As recently as 2002, contaminants in the water at MCI were two to five times the maximum allowable levels.

To protect themselves from the hazardous effects of MCI’s water, prisoners developed their own methods ...

$25.5 Million Awarded in California County Jail Strip Search Suit

by John E. Dannenberg

The County of San Bernardino, California has agreed to settle a federal class action lawsuit filed against its Sheriff’s Department in 2005 for $25.5 million – one of the largest such payouts on record.

On September 26, 2007 the County preliminarily agreed to pay for ...

Washington Study Finds Higher Recidivist Rate Amongst Sex Offenders Recommended, But Not Committed, For Civil Commitment

by David M. Reutter

A report by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy concludes that sex offenders “who were referred for possible civil commitment have a much higher pattern of recidivism than the full population of sex offenders.” The report examined the recidivism of 135 sex offenders released between 1990 and 1999. Each had been referred by the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) for civil commitment, but a petition to declare the sexually violent predators was not filed.

In Washington State, an offender may be civilly committed if a jury finds that after service of a sentence for a crime of sexual violence the offender’s personality disorder or mental abnormality predisposes the person to commit sex acts that are likely to reoccur upon others.
[Editor’s Note: Readers should note that there is no such “mental abnormality”, or disorder, it is a term made from whole cloth to justify keeping sex offenders in prison for the remainder of their lives after they have completed their criminal sentences. The American Psychiatric Association routinely files amicus briefs with courts informing them of this fact, to no avail.] The study applied a routine six year follow-up period from the time of ...

Defunct Louisiana Juvenile Private Prison Reactivated by GEO for Immigrants

A Jena, Louisiana private prison with a troubled past will experience rebirth as an immigrant detention center. The facility, built by the failed N-Group Securities company as part of a scam run by Patrick and Michael Graham, once held 280 juveniles. The Grahams were prosecuted – along with former Houston mayor Fred Hofheinz, former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards, former Texas prison chief Andy Collins and VitaPro CEO Yank Barry – for various prison-procurement and private prison construction scams.

The Jena facility has been closed for almost eight years. PLN previously reported on problems at the prison when it held juveniles under the management of GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut), including a March 2000 lawsuit filed against the company by the U.S. Dept. of Justice related to violence and abuse. [See: PLN, Aug. 2000, p.8].

Now GEO Group has announced plans to expand and remodel the detention center at a cost of $30 million, and convert it into a 1,160-bed immigration prison called the LaSalle Detention Facility (LDF). GEO has already entered into an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house detainees at the facility; the expansion is expected to be complete by mid-2008.

The LDF will include a ...

Son of Illinois Congressman Fired, Charged With Raping Prisoners

On September 10, 2007, the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) fired Jeffery M. Rush, son of U.S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-IL).

Jeffrey Rush, 42, who was employed as an assistant supervisor at the Fox Valley Adult Transition Center in Aurora, Illinois, had been on paid leave from his $54,408-a-year position since June 22, 2007 while an internal investigation was conducted.

Fox Valley is a 120-bed pre-release facility that houses female prisoners nearing the end of their sentences. Prisoners are allowed to leave the center for work, school or counseling and may be granted temporary release passes based upon good behavior.

Rush was terminated after the investigation confirmed allegations that he had sex with at least two female prisoners while they were on off-prison passes between April and June 2007.

It is a felony for an IDOC employee to have sex with a prisoner, and consent is not a defense under Illinois law. On November 16, 2007, Rush was indicted in Macon County on two counts of custodial sexual misconduct and four counts of official misconduct. He faces 47 similar counts in Kane County. The criminal charges are still pending.

Congressman Rush has expressed his unconditional support for ...

California DOC Federal Master: Continued Court Oversight Needed on “Code of Silence”

John Hagar, the Special Master assigned by the U.S. District Court (N.D. Cal.) to monitor the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) staff investigations and disciplinary process has opined, in an October 2007 Final Report to the court, that monitoring should be continued because CDCR could not be relied upon to not fall back into its “code of silence” ways.

The long-running court battle with CDCR began in 1990 at Pelican Bay State Prison, a supermax facility, with complaints of unconstitutional disciplinary treatment and a “code of silence” that suppressed the truth in investigations into staff misconduct. Now, the Special Master to the federal court that imposed oversight and ordered a remedial plan has made his final report on the status of his monitoring efforts.

Hagar made findings as to staffing levels of the remedial action team, the management of investigations regarding staff discipline, and the ability to communicate and work with CDCR staff alongside the state’s oversight organizations (the Inspector General, Bureau of Independent Review [BIR], Office of Internal Affairs, and Employment Advocacy Prosecution Team). Hagar then discussed his concerns as to whether the progress that had been begrudgingly made “under the gun” of ...

Pierce County, WA Jail Settles Jail Strip-Search Suit For $667,000

Pierce County, Washington settled a class action suit challenging unconstitutional strip searches of specified pretrial detainees in its county jail for $200,000 in damages, $15,000 in administrative costs and $452,000 in attorney fees. In addition, the Superior Court of Pierce County held that Washington statutes RCW 10 ...

New York Prisoner Awarded $322,000 For Hand Laceration

On September 19, 2007, a court of claims in White Plains, New York, awarded $322,000 to a state prisoner who suffered a severe hand laceration while opening a window at the Green Haven Correctional Facility in Stormville.

In his lawsuit Jose Medina, who is serving 50 years to life ...

Dallas County, Texas, Criticized for Offering Probation to Murder Defendants

According to a Dallas Morning News article published on November 10, 2007, Dallas County, Texas, leads the state in the number of probation deals it hands out to murder defendants. The highly critical five-part series implies that Dallas County prosecutors and judges simply overlook the seriousness of these crimes and take the easy way out by offering probation rather than proceeding to trial.

From 2000 through 2006, 120 persons convicted of murder in Texas were given probation. Dallas County led the way, giving probated sentences to 47 people during this time, or 9% of all its murder cases.

Bill Hill, the Dallas County district attorney until the end of 2006, could not explain the county’s high rate of probation-for-murder sentences. “It surprised me,” especially since the local judicial system is known for its “hang ‘em high” reputation, he said.

Most of the murderer defendants detailed in The News investigation were minorities who killed other minorities. That is the typical pattern overall in Dallas, where most of the probation-for-murder cases occurred.
About half of the defendants investigated were poor and used court-appointed attorneys.

Unfortunately, a fact of plea bargaining in Texas is that both the time and the charge are ...

Iowa Faith-Based Program Finally Closed

After a five-year court battle and public controversy, the Iowa Department of Corrections (IDOC) has decided to close a Bible-oriented re-entry program at the Newton Correctional Facility.

The program, operated by Virginia-based Prison Fellowship Ministries, was part of the InnerChange Freedom Initiative. PLN has reported extensively on this challenge to the new wave of Christian values programs for prisoners, which is a test of President Bush’s push for faith-based initiatives.

A lawsuit against the InnerChange program was brought in federal court by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. On December 3, 2007, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals found the program unconstitutional to the extent that it used government funds to advocate Christianity, as no other alternatives existed for prisoners to receive the benefits of the program. The appellate ruling also reversed the lower court’s order that Prison Fellowship refund $1.5 million it had received in state funding [See: PLN, Jan. 2008, p.30].

The IDOC announced in February, 2008 that it was closing the InnerChange program, effective at the end of March. The closure came despite the fact that Prison Fellowship had continued to operate the program since July 2007 using donations received ...

$80,000 Settlement For Injury Caused By Defective Federal Prison Sidewalk

The Bureau of Prisons has agreed to pay Beatrice Codianni-Robles, a prisoner at the Federal Correctional Institute in Danbury, Connecticut, $80,000 to settle a federal tort claims suit. While walking outside her prison unit on July 29, 2002 Codianni-Rubles tripped and fell on a “dangerous and defective” depression in ...

Junk Bonds to Junk Science? Drug Treatment Program Questioned

by Gregory Dober

What was worth approximately $554 million in 2007 and is valued at about $94 million today? The correct answer is the stock market value of a firm formerly known as Alaska Freightways Inc., a shell company that, as the result of a merger, is now doing business as Hythiam, Inc.

According to a corporate profile on its website, Hythiam “offers initial disease management offerings for substance dependence built around its proprietary PROMETA Treatment Program for alcoholism and dependence to stimulants.” Basically, the company’s primary pharmaceutical product, Prometa, is being marketed for the treatment of various drug addictions – including alcohol and methamphetamine abuse.

However, buyers may want to beware. Hythiam notes that “Clinical studies are under way to evaluate the PROMETA Treatment Program and to confirm reports from physicians providing the PROMETA Treatment Program in their practices.... The medications used in the PROMETA Treatment Program are Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for uses other than treating dependence on alcohol, cocaine or methamphetamine. Therefore, the risks and benefits of using these medications to treat dependence on these substances have not been evaluated by the FDA.”

Their cautionary statement has not deterred drug court programs in six states ...

The Prison and the Gallows: The Politics of Mass Incarceration in America, By Marie Gottschalk, Cambridge University Press, 451 pp.

Book review by Silja J.A. Talvi

It should no longer be a matter of any debate that the American trajectory toward mass incarceration is the result of an approach toward social control that relies, almost exclusively, on the callous warehousing of our most vulnerable citizens.

Our nation is hardly unique in its willingness to imprison the poor, marginally employed, and undereducated. Indeed, from the standpoint of governmental social control, it stands to reason that marginalized and unprivileged youth and adults would be the most likely candidates to be imprisoned. Removed from the public eye, most prisoners are rendered unseen and unheard in physical environments ripe for constitutional and human rights violations of all kinds. When the weighty factors of racism, xenophobia, sexism, and pervasive hostility toward the mentally ill are added to the mix, the likelihood of arrest and/or incarceration during one’s lifetime—as well as the likelihood of experiencing abuse behind bars—are increased exponentially. Although every Western nation can lay claim to the deprivation of physical freedom as a method of punishment, a combination of historical and political factors have created a particularly severe and senseless phenomenon of large-scale incarceration in the United States.

In ...

33,000 California Prisoners May Need Credits Recalculated Due To Retroactive State Court Decisions

by John E. Dannenberg

Three recent California court decisions interpreting California’s sentencing laws have spawned a need for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to recalculate the release dates of an estimated 33,000 current prisoners. It is unknown how many of the 33,000 will actually gain earlier release as a result. The pressure to perform the calculations came from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 1000, which filed a petition for writ of mandate commanding CDCR to perform these calculations. SEIU’s motive is to require CDCR to hire more SEIU union record clerks to do the auditing, but its pleadings are couched sympathetically in taxpayer cost savings from reduced prison overcrowding when overincarcerated prisoners are released.

The first court case, In re Phelon, 132 Cal.App.4th 1214 (2005) affected the calculation of behavioral credits for prisoners serving composite terms for both violent and nonviolent crimes (which have different credit earning rates). Next, In re Reeves, 35 Cal.4th 765 (2005) restored the more favorable earned credits of non-violent offenders who also had stayed sentences for violent offenses, but which CDCR had arbitrarily taxed at the less generous violent offense rate. Finally, In ...

U.S. Releases Highest Ranking Soldier Convicted For Abu Ghraib Prisoner Abuse

On October 1, 2007, former U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick, 40, was released from the military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, after having served three years of his eight year prison sentence for abusing prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Frederick famously placed wires in a prisoner’s hands, ordered him onto a box and told him he would be electrocuted if he stepped off the box. A photo of that abuse appeared along with the first batch of photos of Abu Ghraib prisoners being abused that was released to the public. Frederick was the highest ranking of the eleven soldiers convicted of prisoner abuse in the Abu Ghraib scandal. Frederick’s attorney, Gary Meyers, called his prosecution a blatant attempt to shift blame for prisoner abuse from high-ranking Bush administration officials, including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Sources: news.findlaw.com

California State Prisoner Wins $39,011 for Deprivation of Outdoor Exercise During Extended Lockdowns

On November 8, 2007, a federal jury awarded a California state prisoner $39,011 for injuries he suffered due to being placed in retaliatory extended lockdowns that prison officials initiated following assaults on staff by other prisoners. The lawsuit alleged cruel and unusual punishment resulting from excessive confinement with no ...

PLN Sues Massachusetts DOC Over Book Ban, Added to Approved List One Week Later

For the past five years Prison Legal News has been unable to sell or distribute books to prisoners in Massachusetts because PLN was not on the Dept. of Correction’s (DOC) approved vendor list. Massachusetts prisoners can only order books from a limited number of pre-approved sources.

DOC officials failed to remedy this situation despite repeated requests, instead offering pretextual excuses and failing to note that PLN sells several books that are unavailable from any other source. Further, the DOC had no standardized policy or guidelines for approving new vendors.
After several attempts to resolve this problem without litigation, PLN filed suit against DOC Commissioner Harold Clarke on April 23, 2008, seeking injunctive relief as well as damages.

“Commissioner Clarke claims that improving prisoners’ literacy is a priority in his administration, but banning books from Prison Legal News is designed to maintain an illiterate and uninformed prisoner population,” noted PLN editor Paul Wright.

One week after the lawsuit was filed, on April 30, Clarke agreed to add PLN to the DOC’s list of approved vendors.Counsel for the DOC assumed that PLN would “voluntarily dismiss this action” after obtaining approved vendor status; however, the lawsuit continues. PLN is seeking ...

Texas Prisoner’s Hepatitis C Claim Not Frivolous, Fifth Circuit Holds

A Texas prisoner’s claim alleging that his civil rights were violated by the denial of hepatitis c treatment based on policy decisions rather than on medical factors was not frivolous, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held, in an unpublished decision.

Edward Trigo, a Texas state prisoner, sued the Texas Department of Criminal Justice after he was twice denied treatment for hepatitis C. Trigo was first denied treatment in August 2003 based on a policy that required him to be imprisoned for at least 12 months before being eligible for treatment. He was again denied treatment in May 2004. This time the decision was based on a policy that denies treatment to prisoners who are due to be released within 12 months.

In his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Trigo contended that he was denied treatment based on policy decisions even though his liver enzymes were severely elevated. He further alleged that he developed cirrhosis because he was not treated and that officials should have known denying or delaying treatment would result in serious harm to his liver. Trigo asserted that the denial ...

Ohio Jail Prisoner’s Excessive Force Lawsuit Settles For $100,000

On May 24, 2007, an Ohio prisoner who claimed he suffered permanent back injury after guards beat him at the Delaware County Jail accepted a $100,000 settlement to end his lawsuit against the county and others.

Plaintiff Steven Foster, 23, claimed that in September 2001, while he was writing ...

Federal Jury Convicts California DOC Guards on Assault and Conspiracy Charges; Judge Tosses Verdict

Last September, a federal grand jury delivered an indictment against California prison guard Hector Flores on allegations that he helped cover-up an unjustified use of force on two prisoners at the California Institution for Men (CIM) at Chino. Flores’ indictment followed the February 2007 indictments of fellow CIM guard Robert McGowan and Sgt. Thomas Ramos. McGowan was charged with two counts of assault and conspiracy under color of authority, while Ramos faced charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

The three were charged in connection with a May 9, 2002 incident at CIM where McGowan allegedly threw two shackled prisoners from a van onto the ground; since they were restrained, they couldn’t break their fall. His actions were reputed to be in retaliation for an assault on staff earlier the same day.

Prosecutors accused Ramos and Flores of drafting false memos that documented their denial of any knowledge of the incident. Flores allegedly told the grand jury that another guard had done the dirty work.

All three guards were found guilty following a trial on October 15, 2007 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. McGowan was convicted of two counts of deprivation of rights under the color ...

Innocent California Prisoner Freed After Nine Years; Paid $1 Million

An innocent man sentenced in 1995 to 27 years for raping and kidnapping a 13-year-old girl was freed by the California Innocence Project after serving 3,280 days in prison. In his subsequent suit for wrongful incarceration, he received $1 million in a settlement with the city, county and state ...

North Carolina Agency Liable in Jail Fire That Killed Five Prisoners

The North Carolina Supreme Court has held that the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has a statutorily imposed duty that creates a special relationship to prisoners that makes it liable in a negligence lawsuit.

At the heart of the case is a fire at the Mitchell County Jail (MCJ) on May 3, 2002. Five prisoners died in the fire. It also severely injured another prisoner, who sued along with the estates of the deceased prisoners. The suit contended DHHS and its employee, Ernest Dixon, were responsible for inspecting MCJ “to ensure compliance with certain regulations and to ensure that all fire and safety procedures were in good working order.”

Specific to the Court’s ruling was the allegation that because the injured and deceased prisoners were confined and unable to protect themselves, “a special relationship arose between [DHHS and Dixon] to fulfill the duties imposed under law to ensure that the [prisoners] as a confined individual, would be protected in the event of a fire.” Additionally, “the State promised it would inspect county jails to ensure the protection of inmates in the event of fires.”

Under North Carolina’s public duty doctrine, “a municipality and its ...

Georgia’s Sex Offender Residency Restriction Unconstitutional; Work Restriction Approved

The Georgia Supreme Court has declared that a state law that prohibits registered sex offenders from residing or loitering at a location that is within 1,000 feet of any childcare facility, church, school or area where minors congregate (the “residency restriction”) is unconstitutional. The Court, however, found a statutory restriction that prohibits sex offenders from being employed by any business or entity located within 1,000 feet of a childcare facility, church or school (the “work restriction”) passes constitutional muster.

The plaintiff in this case, Anthony Mann, lost in the trial court – which found both restrictions constitutional. He then appealed. In previous litigation, Mann’s challenge to the sex offender residency restriction was rejected when applied to Mann’s residence at his parents’ home. See: Mann v. State, 603 S.E. 2d 283 (Ga. 2004). This more recent challenge involved different circumstances.

In August 2003, Mann married and purchased a home. There was no dispute that when the house was purchased it was not within 1,000 feet of any childcare facility, church, school or area where minors congregate. Then, in October 2004, Mann became half-owner and day-to-day operator of a barbecue restaurant. Likewise, that business, when leased, was ...

Nevada Criminalizes Cell Phones in State Prisons

On May 10, 2007, Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons signed into law AB-106, a bill making it a felony for prisoners to possess a cell phone in prison or for a person to furnish a prisoner with a cell phone. Anyone charged with one of those offenses faces up to four years incarceration in a state prison. A person who brings a cell phone into a prison, but doesn’t give it to a prisoner could face misdemeanor charges.

The possession of cell phones in Nevada state prison was already prohibited by prison rules. The bill was considered necessary because a cell phone had been used by a prisoner to set up a 2005 escape. Nevada prisons have prisoner land lines which are monitored and recorded and which charge the call recipient outrageous rates to boot.

Prison officials state that signs will be posted inside and outside of state prisons to remind visitors and staff of the penalties for bringing a cell phone into a prison.

Source: Las Vegas Sun

CA Uses Jail Inmate Welfare Funds for Reentry; Expands Early Release for Permanently Disabled CDCR Prisoners

In September 2007, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill (SB) 718 into law, which amends penal code § 4025 to permit the use of Inmate Welfare Funds (IWF) collected in eight California counties to be used to assist prisoners in their reentry process once they are released from jail.

Set up as a pilot program in Alameda, Los Angeles, Orange, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Stanislaus counties, the new law permits sheriffs to draw from the 10 percent IWF levy imposed on commissary sales in the jails, for the purpose of assisting prisoners within the first 14 days of their release. Such assistance includes (but is not limited to) work placement, counseling, obtaining proper identification, education and housing.

Los Angeles county sheriff spokesman Steve Whitmore said that Sheriff Leroy Baca believed this was good legislation because it provides important resources to people coming out of jail. It will assist released prisoners who otherwise fail to stay out due to a lack of the most basic necessities, and thus will help reduce recidivism and overcrowding.

SB 718 was passed the same day another bill, SB 959, was enacted to help alleviate jail overcrowding. SB 959 provides for low-level offenders to ...

News in Brief:

Australia: In 2007 a law was passed making it illegal for anyone to provide erectile dysfunction drugs to prisoners or for prisoners to sell their artwork. The law was enacted after media disclosed that Bevan Spencer von Einem, a prisoner serving a life sentence for the 1983 rape and murder of a 15 year old boy, was selling his artwork outside the prison and that a prison doctor had prescribed the ED drug Viagra while he is serving his sentence in the maximum security Yatala prison in Adelaide.

California: On February 8, 2008, the state prison in Tehachapi was locked down and quarantined for five days after an outbreak of Norovirus, a gastrointestinal illness, infected at least 10 prisoners.

California: On January 24, 2008, Linda Sherrow, 49, a guard at the state prison in Chino, pleaded guilty in federal court to perjury charges for lying to a grand jury investigating the racketeering conduct of fellow Chino guard Shayne Ziska.

Florida: On December 7, 2007, Clara Adkins, a captain at the Women’s Detention Center in Miami-Dade County was arrested and charged with biting and beating her boyfriend of seven years and holding him captive.
She also smashed his cell phone ...

$700,000 Settlement in Minnesota Teen’s Wrongful Death Caused by Jail’s Indifference to Head Infection

Shortly after his arrest and booking into Minnesota’s Mille Lacs County Jail, 18-year-old Brandon Brown began Complaining of excruciating head pain. The result of jail personnel’s failure to treat him caused his death and a settlement by the County to his family for $700,000.

About five hours ...

 

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