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Prison Legal News: July, 2008

Issue PDF
Volume 19, Number 7

In this issue:

  1. Not the Usual Suspects: The Politics of the Prison Boom (p 1)
  2. Arkansas Law Discloses Legislators’ Business Ties to State (p 13)
  3. From the Editor (p 14)
  4. PEW Public Safety Report: Prisoncrats Abuse Their Probation/Parole Violation Powers So As To Stymie Offenders’ Re-entry Into Society (p 15)
  5. Child Abuse Abounds in Wilderness and Boot Camp Programs (p 16)
  6. Squalor, Corruption Cause Cancellation of GEO Group’s TYC Contract (p 18)
  7. A Long Road Toward Reform: An Interview with John Boston, Director of the Prisoners’ Rights Project of the New York City Legal Aid Society (p 20)
  8. Compassionless Conservative Texas Judge Closes Court Promptly, Ensuring Execution (p 22)
  9. Once Again, Former Florida DOC Secretary Faces Liability in Prisoner Beating; Case Settled for $400,000 (p 24)
  10. Two BOP Guards, One Beaten Prisoner: One Guilty Plea, One Acquittal (p 25)
  11. “Hot Bunking” at Cook County Jail Could Violate Consent Decree (p 26)
  12. Out-going Kentucky Governor Issues 101 Pardons, Commutations (p 26)
  13. Wisconsin County Bans Profiteering in Jail Phone Contracts (p 28)
  14. Missouri Execution Nurse, Doctor Have Questionable Histories (p 28)
  15. Indicted California Sheriff Resigns to Fight Federal Corruption Charges (p 30)
  16. California DOC Federal Health Care Receiver Replaced (p 30)
  17. California Juvenile Parolees Entitled to Two-Step Revocation Process (p 32)
  18. $100,000 Settlement in Illinois Jail Guard’s Forced Oral Sex of Female Prisoner (p 32)
  19. California: Few Sex Predators Civilly Committed To Mental Hospitals, Despite Expanded Qualification Criteria (p 34)
  20. CCA Fined $140,000 for Early Release of Prisoners at FL Jail; Quits Contract (p 34)
  21. Infected Hand Mistreatment At Sacramento County Jail Settled For $100,000 (p 35)
  22. Georgia Sheriff, Judges, Other Officials Face Misconduct, Criminal Charges (p 36)
  23. Grand Jury Report, Four Nebraska Jail Guards Indicted in Prisoner’s Death (p 36)
  24. No Safety or Security for Maryland Prisoners (p 38)
  25. $150,000 Settlement in Pennsylvania Jail Prisoner’s Suicide (p 40)
  26. Ohio Prisoner Wins $4,525 Award For Assault By Guard (p 40)
  27. California DOC Stipulates to Removal of Visitor X-Ray Ma-chines, but Damages Appeal Dismissed (p 40)
  28. Washington State Sex Offender Vigilante Dies In Prison (p 41)
  29. $35,00 Settlement in Sexual Assault of Pennsylvania Female Prisoner by Guard (p 41)
  30. Ninth Circuit: Prisoner’s Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment Classification Claims Fail Sandin Test (p 42)
  31. Change in Texas Parole Law May Be Ex Post Facto Violation (p 42)
  32. News in Brief: (p 43)
  33. Ninth Circuit: Vested Retirement Benefits May Be Garnished to Pay Criminal Fines (p 44)

Not the Usual Suspects: The Politics of the Prison Boom

Throughout American history, politicians and public officials have exploited public anxieties about crime and disorder for political gain. The difference today is that these political strategies and public anxieties have come together in the perfect storm. They have radically transformed U.S. penal policies, spurring an unprecedented prison boom. Since ...

Arkansas Law Discloses Legislators’ Business Ties to State

Of concern to taxpayers should be the private business interests of their legislators. An Arkansas law enacted in 2007 requires disclosure of those interests when a lawmaker or his or her spouse owns at least 10 percent of a business that contracts with the state. Under the law, Act 567 ...

From the Editor

Every issue of PLN is filled with news, court rulings and investigative reporting on prisons and jails around the country. Periodically we like to bring readers political analysis of how and why the current phenomenon of mass imprisonment came about. The United States stands alone in the world today with ...

PEW Public Safety Report: Prisoncrats Abuse Their Probation/Parole Violation Powers So As To Stymie Offenders’ Re-entry Into Society

A November 2007 national study by the PEW Public Safety Performance Project concluded that the policy of returning parolees and probationers to custody for other than new offenses has the perverse effect of frustrating their reentry into society and their emancipation from the criminal justice system. This result is not ...

Child Abuse Abounds in Wilderness and Boot Camp Programs

by Matt Clarke

On October 10, 2007, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)--a federal governmental entity that audits, evaluates and investigates for Congress--released a report on residential treatment programs (RTPs) entitled Concerns Regarding Abuse and Death in Certain Programs for Troubled Youth. The report revealed widespread incidents of ...

Squalor, Corruption Cause Cancellation of GEO Group’s TYC Contract

When Texas Youth Commission (TYC) ombudsman Will Harrell toured the privately-operated Coke County Juvenile Justice Center in Bronte, Texas on September 24, 2007, he found children sleeping on dirty bed sheets, walls covered with smeared feces, urine-stained walls around toilets, excrement in the shower area and reports of insects in ...

A Long Road Toward Reform: An Interview with John Boston, Director of the Prisoners’ Rights Project of the New York City Legal Aid Society

For New York City attorney John Boston, law school was a calling of sorts.

“I went to law school because legal work seemed to be a viable way to mitigate the abuses of oppressive institutions, of which the criminal justice system was and is a prime example,” says Boston, who ...

Compassionless Conservative Texas Judge Closes Court Promptly, Ensuring Execution

by Matt Clarke

Sharon Keller, 54, presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, has come under sharp criticism for refusing to keep the court open twenty minutes past its usual closing time to permit a late filing.
The late filing request was to allow attorneys for a death-sentenced ...

Once Again, Former Florida DOC Secretary Faces Liability in Prisoner Beating; Case Settled for $400,000

by David M. Reutter

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held that the former warden of the Florida State Prison (FSP) was not entitled to qualified immunity in a civil rights suit brought by a prisoner who alleged his beating by guards was not an isolated incident, but that ...

Two BOP Guards, One Beaten Prisoner: One Guilty Plea, One Acquittal

Disparate outcomes resulting from charges brought against two federal prison guards accused of assaulting a prisoner reveal the public’s lackluster attitude toward such abuse. The charges stemmed from the Sept. 29, 2004 beating of prisoner John Clark, who was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Greenville, Illinois.

A ...

“Hot Bunking” at Cook County Jail Could Violate Consent Decree

In December 2007, to alleviate the problem of prisoners sleeping on the floor due to chronic overcrowding, Illinois’ Cook County Jail started “hot bunking.” The practice entails prisoners taking turns sleeping in the same bed in shifts. Each prisoner uses a bunk for 8 hours, then turns it over to ...

Out-going Kentucky Governor Issues 101 Pardons, Commutations

In December 2007, during his last hours in office, out-going Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher made state history by issuing 101 sentence commutations or pardons. While some of those acts of executive clemency appear to be meritorious, others smack of cronyism.

One of Fletcher’s commutations converted Jeffrey Devan Leonard’s ...

Wisconsin County Bans Profiteering in Jail Phone Contracts

On September 20, 2007, the Board of Supervisors for Dane County, Wisconsin enacted an ordinance amending the way the county contracts for jail telephone services. The ordinance requires that jail phone contracts (1) must not generate revenue to the county and (2) must be awarded to the lowest bidder consistent ...

Missouri Execution Nurse, Doctor Have Questionable Histories

by John E. Dannenberg

A Missouri nurse employed by the state’s execution team was hired by federal officials to participate in the execution of mass killer Timothy McVeigh at Terre Haute, Indiana in 2001. However, before the nurse could leave the state he had to get permission – from his ...

Indicted California Sheriff Resigns to Fight Federal Corruption Charges

Orange County, California Sheriff Michael Carona, 52, resigned his post on January 14, 2008 to fight corruption charges. As a result of his leaving office he became eligible to receive pro bono legal assistance from a Los Angeles-based law firm – a potentially multimillion dollar benefit he was unable to accept ...

California DOC Federal Health Care Receiver Replaced

by John E. Dannenberg

Robert Sillen, the scrappy Receiver appointed by a U.S. District Court to fix California’s ailing prison healthcare system, was replaced on January 23, 2008 by J. Clark Kelso, former Chief Information Officer for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, who announced ...

California Juvenile Parolees Entitled to Two-Step Revocation Process

by John E. Dannenberg

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California has held that the rights of California juvenile parolees were violated by the single-hearing revocation process used by the Juvenile Parole Board (JPB). Nevertheless, the court declined to require the initial revocation hearing to be ...

$100,000 Settlement in Illinois Jail Guard’s Forced Oral Sex of Female Prisoner

To settle a prisoner’s equal protection claim based upon sexual harassment, Illinois’ Tazewell County has agreed to pay the prisoner $100,000. The same prisoner also had consensual sex with another off-duty guard, resulting in his firing.

The basis for the lawsuit involved events that occurred on July and ...

California: Few Sex Predators Civilly Committed To Mental Hospitals, Despite Expanded Qualification Criteria

by John E. Dannenberg

Even though California widely expanded the potential pool of violent sex predator (SVP) prisoners who could be forced into mental hospitals after completing their criminal sentences, and despite spending $27 million to screen and evaluate thousands of newly eligible candidates, the state hasn’t committed any ...

CCA Fined $140,000 for Early Release of Prisoners at FL Jail; Quits Contract

The nation’s largest private prison firm, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), has once again upset county officials by repeatedly failing to control vital jail operations. The company responded by discontinuing its contract to operate the facility.

On November 1, 2007, a CCA worker prematurely released nine prisoners from the ...

Infected Hand Mistreatment At Sacramento County Jail Settled For $100,000

The County of Sacramento, California settled a federal civil rights lawsuit brought against county jail staff for failure to properly treat the injured hand of a prisoner. While the $100,000 settlement was less than the prisoner’s $156,000 in medical bills, after the billing was sorted out, most ...

Georgia Sheriff, Judges, Other Officials Face Misconduct, Criminal Charges

In November 2007 a federal grand jury issued an indictment charging Clinch County, Georgia Sheriff Winston C. Peterson, 62, with perjury, using forced prisoner labor and extorting former jail prisoners.

Peterson’s indictment marked the second time in the past year that a Georgia Sheriff was charged while in office ...

Grand Jury Report, Four Nebraska Jail Guards Indicted in Prisoner’s Death

by David M. Reutter

Finding there was probable cause that four guards at Nebraska’s Omaha Police Detention Unit (OPDU) failed to render medical care to a prisoner which contributed to his death, a Douglas County grand jury indicted the guards on charges of official misconduct – a Class II misdemeanor ...

No Safety or Security for Maryland Prisoners

Twenty-five guards have been fired amid allegations that they beat prisoners at two Maryland prisons.

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) initially terminated the employment of eight guards on April 4, 2008. Another nine were fired a week later. All had been employed at the Roxbury ...

$150,000 Settlement in Pennsylvania Jail Prisoner’s Suicide

Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County Correctional Facility (LCCF) has agreed to pay the family of a prisoner who committed suicide $150,000. The family contended LCCF was deliberatively indifferent to the risk that prisoner Luke Blumer, 19, posed to himself.

Blumer was known to be suicidal, showing that tendency by attempting ...

Ohio Prisoner Wins $4,525 Award For Assault By Guard

On May 12, 2007, the Court of Claims of Ohio issued a judgment in favor of an Ohio state prisoner awarding him $4,525 for an assault by a guard.
Daniel Booth, an Ohio state prisoner, was working in the kitchen at Southeastern Correctional Institution when he became involved in ...

California DOC Stipulates to Removal of Visitor X-Ray Ma-chines, but Damages Appeal Dismissed

by John E. Dannenberg

On November 20, 2007, the California Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal filed by a group of Lancaster State Prison visitors who sought damages for being subjected to Secure 1000 X-ray machines whenever they visited prisoners at the facility. The Secure 1000 is a low-level “backscatter ...

Washington State Sex Offender Vigilante Dies In Prison

On April 15, 2007, Michael Mullen, 36, the Washington State prisoner convicted of having committed vigilante murders of two registered sex offenders, was found dead in his cell at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center near Aberdeen, Washington. Mullens was alone in his cell when he died and the death was ...

$35,00 Settlement in Sexual Assault of Pennsylvania Female Prisoner by Guard

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PDOC) has settled a female prisoner’s federal lawsuit that claimed she was sexually assaulted by two male guards and videotaped naked by a female guard for $35,000.

The settlement came in the case of prisoner Lisa Lambert, for events that occurred in 1993 ...

Ninth Circuit: Prisoner’s Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment Classification Claims Fail Sandin Test

by John E. Dannenberg

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, applying the “atypical and significant hardship” test of Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472 (1995), affirmed a U.S. District Court’s (N.D. Cal.) ruling that denied relief from an allegedly unconstitutional prison classification decision. The ...

Change in Texas Parole Law May Be Ex Post Facto Violation

by Matthew T. Clarke

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a change in Texas parole laws requiring a two-thirds majority vote of the entire board for certain prisoners may violate the Ex Post Facto clause when applied retroactively to prisoners whose crimes occurred prior to the change ...

News in Brief:

Alabama: On September 26, 2007, Leigh Cochran, 33, a guard at the Houston County Jail was sentenced to five years probation after pleading guilty to felony custodial sexual misconduct and two misdemeanor counts of promoting prison contraband.

California: On February 23, 2008, 21 prisoners were injured, one seriously, in a ...

Ninth Circuit: Vested Retirement Benefits May Be Garnished to Pay Criminal Fines

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, held that the federal Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996 (MVRA) trumps the anti-alienation provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), so as to permit the government to garnish the personal portion of a prisoner ...