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Prison Legal News: September, 2008

Issue PDF
Volume 19, Number 9

In this issue:

  1. Massachusetts’ Mental Health Treatment Policies Prove Deadly for Public, Prisoners (p 1)
  2. South Carolina Prison Officials Allegedly Forced to be Executioners (p 6)
  3. Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the U.S. Prison System, by Silja Talvi ;Seal Press, 359 pp. $15.95 (p 7)
  4. From the Editor (p 8)
  5. “I CAN Learn” Software Procurement for Kentucky DOC Questioned (p 8)
  6. Millions Paid in Mississippi Jail Deaths; Ten Guards Sentenced for Abuses; Corruption Continues (p 10)
  7. California “Restitution Center” Prisoner’s Suit for Underpayment Certified as Class Action (p 14)
  8. GEO Group Expands into Mental Health Facilities for Business Growth (p 16)
  9. Of 426 California Prisoner Deaths in 2006, 66 Found to be Preventable (p 18)
  10. New Jersey Joins Other States in Restricting Internet Use by Sex Offenders (p 19)
  11. Florida DOC Ends Unofficial Transfer-for-Sale Policy (p 20)
  12. Arizona DOC Guard Reinstated Despite Error Resulting in Prisoner’s Murder (p 21)
  13. Survivors Guide to Medical Research in Prison (p 22)
  14. Perfecting the Death Penalty (p 24)
  15. PLN Wins Kansas Censorship Suit (p 25)
  16. Judgment in Florida’s Closed Management Conditions Lawsuit Terminated Under the PLRA (p 26)
  17. Texas Federal Judge Acquits VitaPro Defendants (p 27)
  18. New Jersey Prisoners’ Jail Escape Leads to Firings and Suicide (p 28)
  19. California DOC Whistleblower Promoted to Head of Audit/Compliance Department (p 29)
  20. Burgeoning Immigration Detainee Population Stresses ICE (p 30)
  21. Failure to Treat Immigrant Detainee’s Fatal Penile Cancer Ruled “Beyond Cruel” (p 32)
  22. Massive Beef Recall Reaches California Prisons (p 33)
  23. Virginia Felons Notified of Possible Exculpatory DNA Evidence – Eventually (p 34)
  24. Settlement Agreement Reached in Overcrowding Claim Against Florida Jail (p 35)
  25. Physical, Mental and Substance Abuse Problems Fuel Recidivism (p 36)
  26. Former Immigration Detainee Awarded $100,001 Against CSC/Esmor, Plus $137,808 in Attorney’s Fees and Expenses (p 36)
  27. Too Many Prisoners, Not Enough Guards Cause Crisis in Texas (p 38)
  28. Sixth Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Challenge to Ohio Parole System (p 39)
  29. Minnesota Sheriff Profited from Jail Breakfast Scam (p 39)
  30. Prison Legal News Attends CCA Shareholder Meeting (p 40)
  31. $250,500 Verdict for False Imprisonment at Florida Jail (p 40)
  32. New York Prisoner Awarded $21,500 for Finger Injury (p 41)
  33. News in Brief: (p 42)
  34. $200,000 Settlement in Wyoming Prisoner’s Suicide Death (p 44)

Massachusetts’ Mental Health Treatment Policies Prove Deadly for Public, Prisoners

by David M. Reutter

As America’s prisons continue their transformation into mental health institutions, little thought is given to mentally ill prisoners who languish within the harsh confines of prison environments with little if any treatment. That all changes, at least temporarily, when a mentally ill prisoner who has ...

South Carolina Prison Officials Allegedly Forced to be Executioners

On December 18, 2007, Ira Baxley and Terry Bracey, former South Carolina Department of Corrections (DOC) officials with 22 and 23 years of service, respectively, filed suit in federal court against DOC Director Jon Ozmint and Director of Operations Robert Ward, claiming they were forced to perform executions against their ...

Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the U.S. Prison System, by Silja Talvi ;Seal Press, 359 pp. $15.95

Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the U.S. Prison System, by Silja Talvi, Seal Press, 359 pp. $15.95

Reviewed by Alexis Paige

Silja J.A. Talvi’s new book, Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the U.S. Prison System, is an important one. It ...

From the Editor

The link between solitary confinement and mental illness is well known, well documented and largely ignored by the prison officials and policy makers who decide to imprison tens of thousands of American prisoners in solitary confinement on any given day for months, years and decades on end. PLN has frequently ...

“I CAN Learn” Software Procurement for Kentucky DOC Questioned

“I CAN Learn” Software Procurement for Kentucky DOC Questioned

by Matt Clarke

The “I CAN Learn” educational software produced by New Orleans-based JRL Enterprises, which was adopted by the Kentucky Department of Corrections (KDOC), is under scrutiny for ineffectiveness and questionable procurement practices.

In 2004, then-KDOC Commissioner John Rees was ...

Millions Paid in Mississippi Jail Deaths; Ten Guards Sentenced for Abuses; Corruption Continues

“The house always wins,” Warden Don Cabana proclaimed to the Sun Herald, a Mississippi newspaper, in July 2007. However, Harrison County, home of the Harrison County Adult Detention Center (ADC), has agreed to pay $3.5 million to the family of Jessie Lee Williams, Jr., who was brutally murdered at ...

California “Restitution Center” Prisoner’s Suit for Underpayment Certified as Class Action

A prisoner housed at a “restitution center” who spent two years working in the community sued the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) for failure to reimburse her work-related expenses per state statute, or to apply $6,300 that had otherwise been properly deducted from her wages to her ...

GEO Group Expands into Mental Health Facilities for Business Growth

by David M. Reutter

Since 1984, the GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut Corrections) has focused on operating private prisons as its business model. It is now finding a more lucrative niche in privatizing mental health facilities and civil commitment centers for sexual predators. The company has been able to procure multiple ...

Of 426 California Prisoner Deaths in 2006, 66 Found to be Preventable

by John E. Dannenberg

In August 2007, former California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) federal healthcare Receiver Robert Sillen issued a report titled Analysis of CDCR Death Reviews, prepared by the CDCR’s Death Review Committee (DRC). The 11-page “public version” of the report analyzes the causes of all ...

New Jersey Joins Other States in Restricting Internet Use by Sex Offenders

New Jersey Joins Other States in Restricting ?Internet Use by Sex Offenders

On December 27, 2007, New Jersey enacted legislation to restrict convicted sex offenders’ Internet use. Acting Governor Richard J. Codey relied on public hysteria over several well-publicized cases of online sexual predators to justify his sponsoring and signing ...

Florida DOC Ends Unofficial Transfer-for-Sale Policy

by David M. Reutter

It has long been an established fact among Florida prisoners that if you wanted a transfer to a certain prison, you could pay well-connected lawyers to make that transfer happen. After Florida then Department of Corrections (FDOC) Secretary James R. McDonough learned of this practice, he ...

Arizona DOC Guard Reinstated Despite Error Resulting in Prisoner’s Murder

Arizona’s state personnel board has overturned disciplinary actions against two prison employees who were implicated in errors leading to the murder of a prisoner at ASPC Florence. The board determined that although mistakes occurred, they should not have resulted in the termination of one guard or the other staff ...

Survivors Guide to Medical Research in Prison

When one thinks of all the “Survivor Guides” that could be written for prisoners, the last one that comes to mind is for participating as a trial subject in medical research experiments. Yet medicine is science. Scientific theories and developments must be tested to become valid, and the introduction of ...

Perfecting the Death Penalty

When the death penalty was resurrected in 1976, following a brief four-year hiatus, death penalty lawyers made a fateful tactical decision. They decided to abandon the goal of abolition and instead elected to chip away gradually. Rather than arguing that the death penalty is always unconstitutional – that it is necessarily ...

PLN Wins Kansas Censorship Suit

by Michael Rigby

On October 1, 2007, in a lawsuit filed by Prison Legal News (PLN), the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas held that a Kansas prison policy limiting the amount of money prisoners can spend on publications, a total ban on gift subscriptions, and the ...

Judgment in Florida’s Closed Management Conditions Lawsuit Terminated Under the PLRA

Judgment in Florida’s Closed Management Conditions Lawsuit Terminated Under the PLRA

by David M. Reutter

Nearly seven years after it was entered, a Florida federal district court has terminated a revised offer of judgment that was “intended to minimize the potentially harmful effects of” closed management (CM) which is Florida’s ...

Texas Federal Judge Acquits VitaPro Defendants

by Matt Clarke

On April 22, 2008, Houston, Texas, federal judge Lynn Hughes acquitted former Texas prison chief James “Andy” Collins, 57, and former president and CEO of VitaPro Foods Yank Barry of federal charges for bribery, money laundering, conspiracy and misuse of a social security number. This ended the ...

New Jersey Prisoners’ Jail Escape Leads to Firings and Suicide

About an hour into his shift on December 15, 2007, Union County, New Jersey jail guard Rudolph Zurick discovered that prisoners Jose Espinosa and Otis Blunt were missing.
Zurick immediately took steps to have the jail locked down. When it became apparent that Blunt and Espinosa were long gone, Zurick ...

California DOC Whistleblower Promoted to Head of Audit/Compliance Department

California DOC Whistleblower Promoted to Head of Audit/Compliance Department

What goes around apparently comes around. In 2004, a 35-year veteran California civil servant received $500,000 in a whistleblower lawsuit against his employer, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), after facing retaliation for refusing to cover up ...

Burgeoning Immigration Detainee Population Stresses ICE

by Matt Clarke

The Bush administration’s hard-nosed approach to immigration enforcement has caused an explosion in the immigrant detainee population, which has grown from a daily average of 19,600 in 2005 to 29,700 in 2007. This increase parallels a rise in deportations, from around 186,600 in ...

Failure to Treat Immigrant Detainee’s Fatal Penile Cancer Ruled “Beyond Cruel”

Failure to Treat Immigrant Detainee’s Fatal Penile Cancer Ruled “Beyond Cruel”

by John E. Dannenberg

A U.S. District Court (C.D. Cal.) has ruled that the repeated failure of U.S. immigration authorities over an eleven-month period to provide medical testing and treatment for a detainee’s cancerous penile lesion ...

Massive Beef Recall Reaches California Prisons

A major meat processor, Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company of Chino, California, recalled 143.3 million pounds of beef in early February 2008 after undercover video showed sick and “downed” cows being forced to get up so they could be processed. Workers were observed prodding some of the sickly animals ...

Virginia Felons Notified of Possible Exculpatory DNA Evidence – Eventually

Virginia Felons Notified of Possible Exculpatory DNA Evidence – Eventually

by Gary Hunter

On January 9, 2008, Virginia’s state Forensic Science Board (FSB) voted 6 to 5 against notifying convicted defendants that DNA evidence had been discovered in their criminal cases. Instead, the FSB decided, it would be up to ...

Settlement Agreement Reached in Overcrowding Claim Against Florida Jail

Settlement Agreement Reached in Overcrowding Claim Against Florida Jail

The parties to a class action suit filed by prisoners at Florida’s St. Lucie County Jail (SLCJ) have reached a settlement. The civil rights complaint alleged constitutional violations caused by overcrowding, which resulted in limited access to medical treatment, improper screening ...

Physical, Mental and Substance Abuse Problems Fuel Recidivism

by Gary Hunter

In February 2008 the Urban Institute Justice Policy Center issued a report detailing three major factors fueling the high recidivism rate in U.S. prisons. These factors included Physical Health and Reentry, Mental Health and Reentry and Substance Abuse and Reentry.

While the study only examined subjects ...

Former Immigration Detainee Awarded $100,001 Against CSC/Esmor, Plus $137,808 in Attorney’s Fees and Expenses

A federal jury has awarded a former detainee $100,001 against a private company that operated a New Jersey detention center for the U.S. government. The jury found for the plaintiff on her negligent supervision and Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) claims, but rejected her Alien Tort Claims Act ...

Too Many Prisoners, Not Enough Guards Cause Crisis in Texas

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) confirmed on January 9, 2008 that an entire wing on the Dalhart Unit was being closed indefinitely. Nearly 300 prisoners were transferred throughout the prison system because the unit had been dangerously short-staffed for months. Records show that Dalhart had been operating at ...

Sixth Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Challenge to Ohio Parole System

by Matt Clarke

The Sixth Circuit court of appeals upheld the district court’s dismissal of a challenge to the Ohio parole system brought by Ohio attorney Norman Sirak.

This is a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Ohio Adult Parole Authority officials alleging that changes ...

Minnesota Sheriff Profited from Jail Breakfast Scam

Minnesota Sheriff Profited from Jail Breakfast Scam

In October 2007, Hubbard County, Minnesota officials announced they had reached a settlement with Sheriff Gary Mills. For eight years, Mills had practiced an archaic tradition of providing breakfast for the county jail’s prisoners and then having the county reimburse him. The practice ...

Prison Legal News Attends CCA Shareholder Meeting

Prison Legal News Attends CCA Shareholder Meeting

by Alex Friedmann

From 1992 to 1998, I served time at the South Central Correctional Center in Wayne County, Tennessee, which is operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest private prison firm. On May 16, 2008 I attended CCA’s annual ...

$250,500 Verdict for False Imprisonment at Florida Jail

A federal jury from the Middle District of Florida awarded $250,500 to a man who claimed he was falsely imprisoned by the misuse of a Florida law – the Marchman Act – that permits the civil detention of persons who are grossly incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.

While Greg W. Stakey ...

New York Prisoner Awarded $21,500 for Finger Injury

On September 13, 2007, a court of claims in Syracuse, New York, awarded $12,500 to a state prisoner for pain and suffering related to a broken finger.

While imprisoned at the Oneida Correctional Facility on October 24, 2001, state prisoner Patrick Ashley fell on a staircase and broke his ...

News in Brief:

Canada: On August 26, 2008, six prisoners escaped from the Regina Provincial Correctional Center. The men had been awaiting trial on serious charges, mostly murder. Jail officials would not tell the media how the escape occurred.

Colorado: On March 23, 2008, 40-50 prisoners at the Larimer county Detention Center became ...

$200,000 Settlement in Wyoming Prisoner’s Suicide Death

$200,000 Settlement in Wyoming Prisoner’s Suicide Death

To settle the claim that a prisoner who committed suicide was not properly treated, Wyoming’s Cambell County Detention Center (CCDC) has paid the prisoner’s estate $200,000. Nick Ashby, 38, was booked into CCDC on July 21, 2003, for violating a court ...