FPI, a wholly-owned government corporation commonly known as UNICOR, was founded in 1934 with the aim of rehabilitating federal prisoners through job training that could be used to increase their employability upon release from prison. Over the years, however, UNICOR has moved away from its original mission; it now focuses more on taking advantage of its lucrative monopoly on providing goods and services to government agencies while using cut-rate prison labor.
Existing federal law requires federal agencies to look to UNICOR first for goods and services they may need. This lack of competition with the private sector, combined with low wages for prisoner workers, has been a boon for UNICOR. In fiscal year 2007, the prison industry netted $853 million in sales and $45.8 million in profit.
On Sept. 14, 2006, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the ...
Federal Prison Industries (FPI), the largest legal sweatshop in America, has jeopardized the lives and safety of untold numbers of prisoners and staff working in its recycling factories, according to a preliminary report in an investigation by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and an evaluation issued by the Federal Occupational Health Service in October 2008.
PLN reports extensively on health and medical issues in prisons and jails. Unfortunately, our coverage is rarely positive. All too often we are reporting the medical neglect and abuse of prisoners; inadequate medical resources and outright malpractice and the systemic failure to provide prisoners with adequate medical care that afflicts pretty much every prison and jail in the United States. By adding this column we hope to be able to provide prisoners with sound, reliable and basic medical information they can use to try to maintain themselves healthy while they are imprisoned. Hence the need to have a medical professional who not only knows medicine, but also the reality of prison and jail life.
In the 17 years I spent in prison the biggest fear that I had was getting sick ...
Welcome to the first issue of PLN for 2009. For the new year we are introducing a new quarterly column in PLN called Prison Health and Self Care by Dr. Michael Cohen. Dr. Cohen is a doctor who has extensive experience working with prisoners in state prisons and jails and he helped put together the diabetis handbook distributed by PLN which is published by the Southern Poverty law Center.
Allegations of Contraband Smuggling, Sex and Corruption at Texas Prison
by Matt Clarke
The Inspector General’s office of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has been investigating numerous cases of corruption at the 1,555-bed Terrell Unit near Rosharon, Texas. The allegations include sex between prisoners and guards, as well as the smuggling of tobacco, drugs and cell phones. One Terrell Unit guard faces felony charges; another has resigned, a captain was fired, and the warden has been removed.
The allegations came to light after several guards who were not involved in the corruption contacted a Houston television station, Channel 2 KPRC. The guards reported the illicit sex, funneling of contraband into the prison, and cash payments from prisoners to “allow all sorts of wrongdoings.”
When the misconduct was reported to the prison administration, it was ignored and retaliation ensued. The guards who blew the whistle on the corruption alleged that prison administrators covered up the illegal acts and allowed organized criminal activity to persist. Channel 2 conducted an independent investigation and began a series of reports on the Terrell Unit that aired in early May 2008.
On April 23, 2008, former Terrell Unit guard Derrick Rice, 34 ...
Organizing for Freedom: Resistance at Angola State Penitentiary, Louisiana’s Last Slave Plantation
by Jordan Flaherty
At the heart of Louisiana’s prison system sits the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, a former slave plantation where little has changed in the last several hundred years. Angola has been made notorious from books and films such as Dead Man Walking and The Farm: Life at Angola, as well as its legendary bi-annual prison rodeo and The Angolite, a prisoner-written magazine published within its walls. Visitors are often overwhelmed by its size – 18,000 acres that include a golf course (for use by prison staff and some guests), a radio station, and a massive farming operation that ranges from staples like soybeans and wheat to traditional Southern plantation crops like cotton.
Recent congressional attention has again brought Angola into the media limelight. The focus this time is on the prison’s practice of keeping some prisoners in solitary confinement for decades, especially two of Angola’s most well-known residents – Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox. Woodfox and Wallace are members of the Angola Three who remain imprisoned, political activists widely seen as having been interned in solitary confinement as punishment for their political activism. As ...
Until recently, immigrants destined for deportation due to their illegal residency status in the United States faced the possibility of being drugged before leaving. Since 2003, there have been more than 250 cases where psychotropic drugs were inappropriately administered to deportees, according to an investigative report by the Washington Post ...
Connecticut DOC Settles Prisoner’s Brutal Beating By Ten Guards For $500,000
The Connecticut Department of. Corrections (CDC) settled for $500,000 the civil rights complaint brought by a prisoner who was brutally assaulted by ten CDC guards solely for their sadistic pleasure. While the settlement stipulates “no admission of ...
Multiple Incidents Indicate Florida Jail Has Culture of Abuse
Three recent incidents at the Hillsborough County Jail in Tampa, Florida demonstrate a culture of abuse at the facility. One of the incidents involved a guard dumping a quadriplegic prisoner from his wheelchair, which was caught on videotape.
When Brian Sterner, 32, awoke to knocking on his front door on Jan. 29, 2008, it was sheriff’s deputies serving a warrant for a charge related to a traffic violation. Since 1994, Sterner has had no feeling below his sternum, no use of his legs and limited use of his arms as a result of a wrestling accident. The deputies took him to jail, placed him in a wheelchair and left him to the care of the jail staff. That proved to be a mistake.
During the booking process, Charlette Marshall-Jones, a 22-year veteran jail employee, asked Sterner to stand. When he said he couldn’t, Jones lifted the back of the wheelchair, dumping him on the floor. She then checked Sterner’s pockets as Cpt. Steve Dickey stood by laughing. Sterner was then lifted back into the wheelchair.
“She was irked with what she was telling me to do,” said Sterner. “It didn’t ...
Prisoners’ Death Rate Report Indicts Prison Medical Care by Implication
by David M. Reutter
A report by the US Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics has issued a report on the 12,129 state prisoners’ deaths reported between 2001 and 2004. That report examined the circumstances and causes of death using information obtained from individual death records collected under the Death in Custody Reporting Act of 2002.
During the period under analysis, 99% of all state prisoners were between the ages of 15 and 64. The good news is that the mortality rate for prisoners is 19% lower than the comparable age group of U.S. residents. While that trend continued for all prisoner age groups under 45, the prisoner death rate for the 55 to 64 age group was 59% higher than the U.S. resident population.
Although the report makes no direct connection to prison medical care, it does state that among illness fatalities: medical staff evaluated prisoners for illness in 94% of cases, administering medications for the fatal condition 93% of the time. A blood test, x-ray, or MRI was conducted in 89% of the cases.
Prisoners who died of illness entered prison with that illness ...
Race, Incarceration, and American Values. By Glenn C. Loury with Pamela Karlan, Tommie Shelby, and Löic Wacquant. MIT Press. 88 pp. $14.95.
A few years ago, Graterford state prison outside Philadelphia hosted a large and unprecedented family fun day for imprisoned men and their families. Afterwards, a seven-year-old sent Superintendent Donald DiGuglielmo a letter thanking him for the “most fun I’ve ever had.” Sounding alternately proud, bemused, and troubled as he recalled this story, DiGuglielmo asked his largely suburban audience at a recent workshop on children and incarceration: what does it say about us as a society that the best day of this child’s life was a day spent behind the walls of a maximum-security prison?
Much recent research on prisoners and their families emphasizes the uniformly devastating economic, social, and political impact that mass incarceration has had on families and communities. Glenn C. Loury and his contributors survey some of the wreckage in Race, Incarceration, and American Values. But as Megan Comfort shows in Doing Time Together, the families ...
Doing Time Together: Love and Family in the Shadow of the Prison. By Megan Comfort. University of Chicago Press. 256 pp. $55.00 cloth. $22.00 paper.
Cook County Jail Conditions Unconstitutional, Charges Department of Justice
by David M. Reutter
On July 11, 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division issued a letter to officials at Illinois’ Cook County Jail (CCJ) which found that conditions at CCJ violated the constitutional rights of prisoners held at the facility. The 98-page letter detailed findings based upon on-site inspections that occurred on June 18-22 and July 23-27, 2007.
The inspectors found that prisoners were not protected from excessive use of force by jail staff or prisoner-on-prisoner violence. Medical and mental health care was inadequate, and serious risks were posed by a lack of fire safety precautions. Further, environmental and sanitation deficiencies existed.
CCJ is one of the largest single-site county jails in the nation. It sits on approximately 96 acres in Chicago, and has an average daily population of 9,800 male and female prisoners. In 2006, CCJ admitted 99,663 prisoners. As a historical note, Al Capone was once housed at the jail.
Since 1982 the facility has been under federal court supervision in a class action overcrowding lawsuit. CCJ is still under a consent decree in that ongoing case. See: Duran v. Dart, U.S ...
Palinchik’s family suspects she caught Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) shortly after arriving at the jail. Within a week after being booked, Palinchik, 42, was placed in PCJ’s medical wing.
Her family claims that she repeatedly asked for medical care. Although Palinchik had a fever of 101.5 that raged for five days, she was only given one Motrin and one Sudafed. While some may wonder at such inadequate treatment, this is only one of numerous failures perpetuated by Correctional Medical Service (CMS), the jail’s private health care provider. [See, e.g., PLN, Aug. 2002, p.1; May 2007, p.1].
After ten days at PCJ, Palinchik was sent to a local hospital. Doctors determined she had pneumonia and MRSA, and put her in a drug-induced coma in an attempt to save her life. The aggressive MRSA infection had already blackened her hands and feet; the doctors were considering amputating all her limbs ...
When Dorothy Dian Palinchik was booked into Florida’s Pinellas County Jail (PCJ) on February 13, 2008 for stealing a $9.00 Philly cheesesteak sandwich from a grocery store, she was seemingly healthy. Two weeks later she died of pneumonia and an antibiotic-resistant staph infection.
Oregon Juvenile Facility Warden Indicted; Youth Authority Director Resigns
by Mark Wilson
From 2000 to 2007, Darrin Humphreys served as warden of the RiverBend Youth Detention Center, a 50-bed Oregon Youth Authority (OYA) facility in LaGrande, Oregon.
Supervisors were so impressed with his performance that they promoted him to head the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility, the state’s largest juvenile prison, even though he scored eighth out of nine applicants who were interviewed for the position. “This is a guy who was producing results,” OYA Director Robert Jester declared at the time.
Just weeks later, however, the results weren’t looking so good for Humphreys and his supervisors. In April 2007, the Oregon State Police began investigating Humphreys after a relative of a RiverBend employee complained to another state agency. Humphreys was placed on administrative leave and later resigned on June 8, 2007. Two other RiverBend employees also quit, and two were fired.
Internal documents and police reports revealed Humphreys as a warden who stole property, used prisoners to remodel his home, tried to take kickbacks from a contractor, claimed over $12,000 in unearned mileage reimbursements, and attempted to fire potential whistleblowers and threaten possible witnesses.
Publicly, the OYA Director ...
Violence and Corruption at Rikers Island; Called a “Battle Camp for Kids”
by David M. Reutter
While there have been no escapes and only two suicides in the past year at New York City’s Rikers Island, the nation’s largest jail system – which houses 13,900 prisoners – is under scrutiny due to an increasing level of violence at the facility. Prison officials deny there is a significant problem.
“If it was so bad, they would be killing each other, they would be killing themselves, and there would be escapes,” said Martin F. Horn, Commissioner of the New York Dept. of Correction. “This is a safe jail system.”
Statistics, however, show that violence at the facility rose dramatically when compared with the previous year. Use of force injuries jumped from 1,079 to 1,565. During searches, the number of weapons found increased from 1,830 to 2,174. For the third year in a row, the number of violent incidents among prisoners was over 8,000; the number of stabbings or slashings increased from 35 to 44.
The surge in violence has at least one veteran jail supervisor concerned. “It’s indicative of less control on the part ...
Former PHS Doctor Arrested on Drug Charges
In July 2008, former Prison Health Services (PHS) employee John N. Mubang, 57, was arrested by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for prescribing drugs for monetary gain and trafficking in controlled substances.
The six-month investigation that led to the four felony counts against Mubang stemmed from citizen complaints. Mubang had previously served as the medical director of the Hillsborough County Jail, where PHS was the jail’s medical provider. He had also worked for PHS’s competitor, Correctional Medical Services.
Mubang had a private practice of 1,000 patients in internal and ambulatory medicine. Since 2006, four of his patients have died from overdoses or interactions between drugs that he prescribed, which included oxycodone, hydrocodone and Xanax.
Mubang was asked to resign or be fired by PHS in 2006, according to depositions taken in a lawsuit against PHS filed by a prisoner whose newborn baby died in the Hillsborough County Jail. PHS settled that suit for $1.25 million. [See: PLN, Oct. 2007, p.32].
More recently, for the past two years Mubang had been contracted to provide medical services at the CCA-operated Citrus County Jail in Lecanto, Florida.
Sources: Tampa Tribune, www.baynews9 ...
There is much concern among prisoners about skin infections caused by a well-publicized germ called MRSA. This article explains what MRSA is, what you can do to protect yourself from MRSA, and how to take care of yourself if you get a skin infection caused by MRSA.
What is MRSA?
MRSA stands for Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus.
Methicillin is one of the penicillin type antibiotics. Penicillin was one of the first drugs developed that was highly effective against bacteria that often cause skin, lung, ear, throat and other common infections.
Resistant refers to a germ’s ability to live and multiply in the presence of an antibiotic. With widespread use of anitbiotics over the last 50 years, some germs have developed the ability to survive treatment with some drugs. Penicillin resistance became widespread among certain germs commonly treated with penicillin. Methicillin was developed to re-establish the effectiveness of penicillins against these germs. Now some germs are resistant to methicillin and other penicillin-like drugs too.
Staphylococcus aureus is the scientific name for one germ that commonly causes skin infections. It is also called “staph” for short. Staph normally inhabits the skin and the nose near ...
by Michael D. Cohen MD
Cold Case Hits Use Vastly Exaggerated DNA “Match” Statistics; Upheld by California Supreme Court
by Matt Clarke
A recent California murder trial has highlighted serious problems in the probability statistics used to determine the odds of DNA matches in cases that involve DNA database searches. However, the California Supreme Court upheld the admission of evidence regarding the process used to obtain those odds in a separate case dealing with the same issue.
In December 1972, Dianna Sylvester was raped and murdered in her San Francisco apartment. The case went unsolved for decades. Meanwhile, in 1977, John Puckett committed two rapes and a sexual assault in the Bay Area. He was convicted and sentenced to prison. Other than a 1988 misdemeanor battery charge, his record has been clean since his release from prison in 1985. The obese, 70-year-old, wheelchair-bound Puckett recently had triple bypass surgery.
In 2004, California gave San Francisco funding for DNA testing in cold case murders. A swab containing sperm taken from Sylvester’s mouth was retrieved and tested. The usual number of genetic markers used in DNA testing is 13; such markers contain less than a millionth of the information in a human DNA molecule. In Sylvester’s case ...
$885,437.24 Award for CMS Massachusetts Jail Nurse Barred for Reporting Prisoner Abuse
A Massachusetts federal court awarded $885,437.24 in compensatory damages, punitive damages, costs, attorney fees and electronic litigation support fees to a Correctional Medical Services (CMS) nurse who was barred from the Suffolk County jail ...
This recent increase in restoration of rights is a victory for civil rights activists and Governor Charlie Crist, who fulfilled a campaign promise to end the Jim Crow era rules pertaining to former felons. Under the old rules, the Florida Board of Executive Clemency had to review every application for restoration of rights, resulting in only about 7,000 restorations annually due to the time-intensive process.
The new rules automatically restore rights for non-violent ex-offenders so long as they have completed probation, have no pending criminal charges, and have paid all restitution and court costs. The success of the rule change was touted by Gov. Crist at a Restoration of Rights summit sponsored by the Florida Department of Corrections with a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
“Once somebody has truly paid their debt to society, we should recognize it,” said ...
Changes to Florida’s rules for restoration of civil rights were made in April 2007; since that time, 115,232 former felons have had their rights to vote, serve on juries, run for office, and obtain various business licenses restored. That number accounts for more than half of all the state’s felons who have regained their rights.
Texas Prison Guard Files False Report, Faces 20 Years
by Gary Hunter
Former Texas prison guard Eugene Morris, Jr. was found guilty of filing a false report about a use of force incident involving state prisoner Robert Tanzini. Morris was a sergeant at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s (TDCJ) Ferguson Unit when, in November 2002, he got into a physical confrontation with Tanzini.
According to Morris, who is black, Tanzini spit on him and made a racial slur against him and a black female guard. The two scuffled. Following the incident, Tanzini was taken away on a stretcher with a fractured skull after he was reportedly “stomped, kicked and punched” by Morris and another guard, Troy Grusendorf.
Tanzini filed suit in federal court but the case was dismissed in 2004 due to a procedural issue. In January 2007, federal prosecutors reopened the case when they deemed they had enough evidence to go before a federal grand jury, using information from Tanzini’s lawsuit.
“When anyone has information that rules of law are not being followed in the prison system, we have a duty to go forward and we did,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ruben Perez.
Morris and another ...
Los Angeles County Settles For $900,000 After Unattended Prisoner Savagely Beaten By Violent Jail Gang
Los Angeles County paid $900,000 to settle the civil rights complaint brought by the parents of a 41-year-old man who was beaten and crippled on June 7, 2005 by a known violent jail ...
One Texas state prisoner who used a parole consultant is Jon Buice, who was 17 years old when he stabbed Paul Broussard, 27, to death in a high-profile July 4, 1991 gay bashing incident that involved him and nine other assailants. Buice paid former state Representative Allen Pace $6,000 to represent him before the Parole Board. Pace served five years as chair of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee before becoming a parole consultant; he earned $280,000 for representing 85 parole candidates in 2007.
“You got a former chairman of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee that’s got a client list yea-long. I mean Allen Pace – you can’t tell me just looking at it on the surface that that certainly has its advantages,” said Andy Kahan, head of the City of Houston’s crime victims assistance office, who is also affiliated with Justice for All, a viciously reactionary violent ...
Many Texas prisoners seeking parole are paying large fees to attorneys acting as parole consultants, in an attempt to increase the likelihood of gaining release. In 2007, 22,364 Texas prisoners were paroled. About ten percent – or 2,168 – had hired one of 769 attorneys registered as parole consultants.
TASER Avoids Liability in Three Deaths by Suing Medical Examiner
by John E. Dannenberg
Arizona-based TASER International, Inc. (TASER) was cleared of liability in the unrelated deaths of three drug-afflicted Ohio men who died shortly after being shocked with X-26 Taser stun guns during their apprehension by police. TASER had sued the Summit County, Ohio Medical Examiner, challenging her findings that Tasers had contributed to each of the deaths.
Common Pleas Court Judge Ted Schneiderman ruled there was no evidence showing that Taser shocks caused the deaths, and in a stunning ruling, ordered the Death Certificates and Reports of Autopsy to be amended to reflect only “accidental” or “undetermined” causes of death.
The thrust of the litigation was that it was drug overdoses combined with pre-existing cardiac disease that doomed the victims, not the multiple Taser shocks to which they had been subjected. But the fact remains that the men died after being shocked, not before. Thus, the conclusion that Tasering played no part in the deaths ignores the temporal inference to the contrary.
Dennis S. Hyde died while committing a burglary in Akron. He bled extensively from cuts sustained when he broke a window to gain entry to an ...
A California federal jury awarded $2 million to a man imprisoned 12 years for a rape/robbery he did not commit. The court also awarded him $1,368,834 in attorney fees, $6,500 in fees on fees, and $165,067.22 in costs (including $40,363.35 in travel ...
PR Bonds Plummet in Harris County, Texas as Jail Overflows
by Gary Hunter
Republican judges elected on promises to be tough on crime and the absence of federal oversight have been cited as two reasons why Houston, Texas jails are once again dangerously overcrowded.
Less than a decade ago, the Harris County Jail was operating under the scrutiny of federal authorities as the result of a lawsuit; during that time the jail was forced to correct a variety of constitutional problems, including overcrowding. One way the judges dealt with the overcrowding issue was to release low-risk arrestees on personal recognizance (PR) bonds.
In 1994 about 9,000 people were released on PR bonds in Harris County. Over 1,800 of those released were facing low-level felony charges. By 2004, that figure had dropped to only 109 felony defendants released on PR bonds. Even more dramatically, the number of misdemeanor defendants who were required to post bonds rather than being released on PR bonds increased more than 30,000% (from 7 to 2,114) from 1994 to 2004.
In 2007, the Harris County pretrial services department interviewed 36,176 candidates for PR bonds. Of those interviewed, judges granted only 153. By ...
While detained on a battery charge, Paisley begged guards and nurses for medical care over a three-day period. No help was forthcoming until it was too late. On June 9, 2003, Paisley died due to a ruptured appendix. His death was described by family attorneys as “agonizing but entirely preventable.”
The negotiated plea bargain calls for former nurse Dianne Demeritte to serve one year on probation. She also “agrees that she will voluntarily relinquish her license to practice nursing again, and that she will never provide patient care to anyone outside of her own family,” Assistant State Attorney Reid Rubin said in a letter. “Further, it is our understanding that Ms. Demeritte will apologize to the family of Omar Paisley.”
Without explanation, prosecutors dropped charges against a second nurse, Gaile Coperfido. Both Coperfido and Demeritte were originally charged with manslaughter and third-degree murder. Critics were upset with the outcome. “We have an issue here of fairness,” said Roy ...
A former nurse at Florida’s Miami Regional Juvenile Detention Center has pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of culpable negligence related to the death of a teenage prisoner. The guilty plea comes five years after the death of 17-year-old Omar Paisley.
Ohio Court Finds Three-Drug Execution Protocol Violates Prisoners’ State Rights
On June 10, 2008, Judge James J. Burge of the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas has held that the three-drug protocol used by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DORC) to execute prisoners violates their right under Ohio law “to expect and to suffer a painless execution.”
The ruling came upon motions filed by Ruben O. Rivera and Ronald McCloud, who face the imposition of the death penalty upon their convictions for murder. Over two days, the Court held hearings that allowed experts to testify for each side.
The three-drug lethal injection protocol includes sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride. The Court said the issue of whether an execution is painless arises from the use of pancuronium bromide, which makes a person unable to breath, move or communicate, yet “does not affect our ability to think, or to feel, or to hear, or anything, any of the senses, or any of our intellectual processes, or consciousness,” stated defense expert Mark Heath. Thus, the Court held that the drug would “mask the body’s reaction to pain.”
It then found that potassium chloride causes excruciating pain ...
Florida Prison Employees Awarded $630,000 for ?Subjection to Prisoner “Gunners”
On May 15, 2008, a federal jury awarded $45,000 to each of 14 former female employees at Florida’s Martin Correctional Institution, finding the women had been subjected to lewd behavior by prisoners. The women claimed the Florida Department ...
Demonstrators Supporting Guantanamo Prisoners in Front of U.S. Supreme Court Found Guilty of Unlawful Assembly
On May 29, 2008, thirty-four members of the civil rights group Witness Against Torture (WAT) were found guilty in the District of Columbia Superior Court of unlawful assembly for having demonstrated at the U.S. Supreme Court on January 11, 2008 against the indefinite detention of military prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The WAT members included college students, religious prelates, construction workers, farmers, school teachers and professors; they came from many different states. Some were members of other non-violent activist organizations such as Plowshares and the Catholic Worker movement.
The Supreme Court protest was to bring attention to the gross injustice of the indefinite incarceration of Guantanamo detainees, both before and after sham military tribunals. Nonetheless, the protesters were surprised to be arrested in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, an “internationally known temple to free speech.”
Constitutional Law Professor Michael Foley of the City University of New York stated, “If you told me that the defendants would be arrested for ‘unlawful free speech’ just twenty feet from where the Justices decide First Amendment cases, I’d say you were crazy.”
$170,000 Jury Verdict in Sacramento Jail Beating
In April 2008, a federal jury in Sacramento, California returned verdicts against five Sacramento County Jail deputies for beating a prisoner and denying him food and water for eight hours. Although the facts were contested, the jury’s verdicts of $20,000 in ...
As delays mount, San Quentin’s proposed replacement Death Row facility is growing in cost while shrinking in size. In a June 2008 report to the Governor and Legislature, the state Auditor’s office made its first of two reports concerning the cost of the proposed facility being constructed at San Quentin State Prison. A second report issued in July addressed costs associated with locating the facility elsewhere.
The first report compared the original cost plan with current projections, made a reasonableness determination of the current project, estimated whether the proposed facility would meet the state’s needs over the next 20 years, and assessed further cost increases that might result from continuing construction delays. San Quentin’s present condemned population is housed in three buildings dating back to 1930.
The Death Row replacement project began in 2003 with a $220 million estimate to build a 1,024-cell complex with its own infirmary, law library and visiting area. When later studies revealed problems with soil mitigation, environmental concerns and rising labor and material costs, the project was scaled back to 768 cells at an increased estimate of $356 million. The most recent review increases that amount ...
by John E. Dannenberg
Washington State’s Criminal Libel Statute Held Unconstitutional; Prisoner Disciplinary Conviction Vacated
by John E. Dannenberg
The Washington State Court of Appeal, Division 2, ruled that the state’s criminal libel statute was unconstitutional under U.S. Supreme Court precedent due to vagueness and for being overbroad. In so ruling, the appellate court vacated a state prisoner’s disciplinary conviction that had been obtained based upon the statute.
Allan Parmelee is a Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) prisoner who has filed numerous civil rights actions against prison officials during his multiple incarcerations. Recently, when his comments towards them were tinged with vulgar language, WDOC retorted by giving him a disciplinary violation based upon a theory of criminal libel. However, because the appellate court found that Washington’s criminal libel statute was unconstitutional on its face, the disciplinary conviction was vacated.
The law on defamation was defined by the U.S. Supreme Court in New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964). The high court concluded that civil sanctions could not be imposed on defamatory statements against a public official unless those statements were both false and made with “actual malice.” The Court expressly wanted to protect debate on public issues, which ...
Florida Sheriff Sued for Awarding No-Bid ?Health Care Contract, Receiving Gifts
Prison Health Services (PHS) has sued the sheriff of Sarasota County, Florida for awarding the jail’s health care contract to rival Armor Correctional Health Services without taking competitive bids. The lawsuit also alleges that Sheriff Bill Balkwill received gifts from Armor in the time period leading up to the no-bid contract award.
One of those gifts had a specific correlation to the contract negotiations. Doyle Moore, Armor’s chief executive officer, took Sheriff Balkwill on a fishing trip on Lake Okeechobee. He rented two boats with guides and plenty of bait. Balkwill caught a one-and-a-half pound bass, and Moore footed the $748 bill with a credit card.
When Balkwill returned to his office the following Monday he e-mailed Moore, stating, “Had a great time! Give a call when you’re ready to talk about the contract and what you can do.” Between 2006 and 2007, Armor also treated Balkwill to hundreds of dollars in meals and other perks, according to records discovered by PHS lawyers. Moore is no longer an Armor executive; he stepped down after it was revealed that he had a criminal record for tax evasion.
Under Florida ...
Civil Commitment Provisions of Adam Walsh Act Held Unconstitutional
Congress exceeded its authority under the Commerce Clause and Necessary and Proper Clause of the U.S. Constitution in enacting the civil commitment provisions of the Adam Walsh Act, a Minnesota U.S. District Court ruled on May 23, 2008.
Shortly before Roger Dean Tom was about to complete his ten-year federal prison sentence for aggravated sexual abuse, the United States stayed his release by filing a petition pursuant to the Adam Walsh Act, 18 U.S.C. § 4248(a), which authorizes the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to “stay the release” of any prisoner certified by the BOP to be “sexually dangerous.”
A stay under the Walsh Act remains in effect until a court determines, by clear and convincing evidence, whether the person is in fact sexually dangerous. If the person is found to be sexually dangerous, he or she is committed to the custody of the Attorney General.
Tom moved to dismiss the government’s petition, arguing that the civil commitment provisions of the Walsh Act exceeded Congress’ authority under the Commerce Clause and Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution. Joining a split among district courts that have ...
Prison Health Services, Inc. (PHS) was granted a three-year, $366 million no-bid contract renewal to provide medical and mental health care services for New York City’s Rikers Island Jail, notwithstanding the company’s checkered record during its last three-year contract, which resulted in $793,000 in fines for non-performance. The contract renewal amounted to a 10% raise for PHS when adjusted for inflation.
As a result, the 100,000 prisoners admitted to Rikers Island each year can expect more of the same substandard medical care, since PHS has a long history of exacting its profits at the expense of prisoners’ health. [See, e.g.: PLN, Nov. 2006, p.1].
Quarterly audits of PHS’s performance, which revealed an average 15% non-compliance rate, were made by New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) based on a review of 9,000 case files. Principal areas that were reviewed included HIV, asthma, sexually transmitted diseases and women’s healthcare issues.
In six of the eight most recent quarters, PHS continuously failed to meet some health care standards, most notably follow-up on HIV treatment and testing. For five of the quarters, PHS failed to meet ...
by John E. Dannenberg
A nationally recognized security expert inspected the jail’s aging electronic security system and concluded that it was “a virtual certainty that major systems will fail in the near future,” leaving the jail “inoperable.” Based on this assessment, in April 2003 the County Council declared an emergency and hired Turner Construction under a $213,437 contract to begin planning the security upgrade. The Council waived competitive bid requirements due to the emergency.
Over one year later, in September 2004, the County awarded Turner a $14.2 million no-bid contract to complete the project. County officials claimed that putting the project up for bid would have delayed its completion, threatening public safety and disrupting jail operations. State auditors disagreed, however, finding that “typically, one year is sufficient time to solicit bids.”
“Since the execution of the construction contract, the County has authorized 28 change orders,” which added tens of millions of dollars ...
King County, Washington officials violated state law by failing to get competitive bids on a security upgrade project at the King County Correctional Facility, according to a March 12, 2008 state audit. Originally slated at $14.2 million, the cost of the project has skyrocketed to $51.6 million.
Anthony Collier was arrested by federal agents in Michigan and charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm under 18 U.S.C. § 992(g)(1).
After Collier pleaded guilty, the pre-sentence investigation report determined that he had three prior “violent felonies” for purposes of sentencing under the ACCA: “(1) breaking and entering a dwelling with intent to commit larceny, (2) prison escape, and (3) fourth-degree fleeing and eluding a police officer.” Because Collier was being sentenced on a felon in possession of a firearm conviction, the ACCA required a minimum 15-year sentence if he had been previously convicted of three “violent felonies.”
At sentencing, Collier’s attorney conceded that breaking and entering was a violent felony, but argued that the other convictions were not. The sentencing court found that all three convictions were violent felonies and sentenced Collier under the ACCA.
On appeal, the Sixth Circuit noted that whether an offense “is a ‘violent felony’ turns on whether it ‘involves conduct that presents a ...
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a Michigan “failure to report” escape conviction was not a “violent felony” under 18 U.S.C. § 924, the Armed Career Criminals Act (ACCA).
Jail Nurse Guilty of Forging Doctor’s Order; Forged Orders Common Jail Practice
by Mark Wilson
On August 28, 2008, a Multnomah County, Oregon jury convicted a former jail nurse of forging a drug prescription for a prisoner who died hours later.
Jody Gilbert Norman, 43, was arrested on February 19, 2005 and taken to the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC) at 3:00 a.m. According to a district attorney’s investigation, Norman, who had a history of drug abuse and heart problems, complained of chest pains to jail staff.
Rather than calling a doctor as jail procedure required, MCDC nurse William Lee James falsified forms to make it appear that a doctor had authorized him to give Norman a prescription anti-anxiety medication called Ativan. Hours later, Norman died in his cell from complications related to his heart condition.
The prosecutor’s office was first alerted to Norman’s death nearly three years later by the Oregon State Board of Nursing, in late 2007. James was then charged with forgery.
During a two-day trial, Deputy District Attorney Glen Banfield argued that if James had called the doctor as he was required to do, Norman likely would have been sent to an emergency room ...
$7 Million in Settlements in Colorado Jail Prisoner’s Death from Medical Negligence
by David M. Reutter
The Denver Health Medical Center has settled a claim of negligent care for $4 million after releasing a prisoner with internal injuries who later died. Six months later, the Denver City Council approved an ...
Michael J. Budd, once second-in-command of the Mahoning County, Ohio Sheriff’s Department, was charged in a four-count indictment with subjecting prisoners to excessive force. Count one alleged conspiracy to deprive pretrial detainee Tawhon Easterly of his constitutional rights under color of law, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242, and witness tampering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(2). The remaining counts charged Budd with violations of § 242 with respect to Easterly, sentenced prisoner Brandon Moore, and pretrial detainee Stephan Blazo.
A jury convicted Budd of count one but deadlocked on the remaining counts. He was then retried and convicted of each of those counts. On appeal, Budd challenged count three, “because the indictment referred to a Fourteenth Amendment basis for the right to be free from excessive force, while the jury instructions referred to an Eighth Amendment basis for the right.” Budd claimed this amounted to an improper constructive amendment of the indictment.
Although it was “a close question,” the Sixth Circuit found that the difference in language was merely a variance ...
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a former jail guard’s criminal convictions for using excessive force on three prisoners.
$1,100,000 Settlement in Juvenile Prisoner Suicide in Union County, New Jersey
On November 15, 2007, Union County settled a lawsuit over the suicide death of a juvenile prisoner at the 42-year-old Union County Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The county agreed to pay $780,000 ...
Democrats lean towards decreasing the prison population from the current 172,000 to 132,500 (based largely on reducing returns to custody for “technical” parole violations), while Republicans want every prisoner to remain behind bars for as long as possible. The shortsighted result is that state budget cuts may suck $5 billion out of education funds, increasing the chances that California’s marginally educated children (at an $8,000 annual education cost) will grow up to become future prison residents (at a $43,000 annual incarceration cost).
Three decades of “tough on crime” rhetoric has quintupled California’s prison population to 172,000 prisoners. An additional 123,000 parolees provide fodder to fill empty prison bunks at the discretion of parole agents, who are members of the CCPOA, the state’s powerful prison guards union. There is no incentive for the CDCR to reduce the prison population, which remains maxed ...
As California deals with a projected $28 billion budget shortfall over the next 18 months, it remains to be seen if the requisite two-thirds of the state legislature has the political courage to make cuts to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) proposed $11 billion annual operating budget.
Second Circuit Recognizes Attorney-Client Privilege in Prisoner’s Journal in Prosecution of Rapist Guard
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that a female prisoner did not waive attorney-client privilege with respect to certain writings in her prison journal.
Nicholas DeFonte, a former guard at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, was facing criminal prosecution for raping female prisoners at the jail. Federal prosecutors intended to call former prisoner Francia Collazos as a witness against DeFonte.
Collazos kept a journal during her confinement, recording incidents involving DeFonte and conversations with prosecutors and her attorney. “The Government became aware of … Collazos’s journal when her possessions were mistakenly taken from her cell and transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut. Once the mistake was realized, the journal was delivered to the United States Attorney’s Office.”
DeFonte’s attorney learned of the journal just before trial and moved for its disclosure.
Collazos moved to intervene and sought “a protective order, arguing that the writings in the journal are protected by the attorney-client privilege.” The district court denied the motion, “finding that the documents were not protected by the attorney-client privilege and that Collazos had no expectation of privacy in the ...
Rape of Child by Former Washington DOC Director’s Son Spawns Departmental Crisis
by John E. Dannenberg
The Washington State Court of Appeals has upheld the firing of the Department of Corrections’ (WDOC) chief personnel counselor for violating the department’s privacy policies while counseling staff during a crisis caused by salacious publicity surrounding the WDOC Director’s son having been charged with child rape.
The internal hubbub over unfolding news reports concerning the arrest and guilty plea of Joseph Lehman, Jr., son of then WDOC Director Joseph Lehman, Sr., ultimately resulted in the October 2003 firing of Cyndi Walters, director of WDOC’s Staff Resource Center, for indiscretions in dealing with crisis counseling over the incident. Although Walters had won relief in the superior court, the appellate court reversed and found ample evidence of her having violated confidentiality rules and having neglected her duties.
The Court of Appeals focused on investigative interviews by Walters of WDOC staff, and her subsequent discussions about those interviews with other WDOC employees – including statements in which she falsely implied that she had provided counseling services to Director Lehman. Walters was bound by a duty of confidentiality, which the WDOC claimed she violated.
Also brought up were ...
A former prisoner who posed as an attorney in at least 16 cases in ten federal courts since 2004 has admitted to a federal judge that he is not a lawyer and didn’t graduate from law school as he had claimed. The effect of his faux “legal representation” may provide the basis for overturned cases should his unsuccessful clients file appeals based on ineffective assistance of counsel.
Howard O. Kieffer, 53, of Santa Ana, California, and Duluth, Minnesota (he maintains a mail drop address in the former and lives in the latter) has a criminal record that includes a 1989 conviction for filing false tax returns – for which he served three years of a five-year federal sentence. He also had prior California state convictions for forgery and grand theft.
Following his release from prison in 1992, Kieffer gained respect in the legal community through deceit and misrepresentation; he was “known” as a capable attorney specializing in federal sentencing issues and post convictions. He worked with Federal Defense Associates (www.afda.org), where he served as executive director, and acted as a consultant for defense attorneys. He also maintained a highly respected Internet listserv, BOPWatch, which ...
by John E. Dannenberg
$5 Million Settlement For Illegal Strip Searches In Las Cruces, NM Jail
An estimated 11,000 Doña Ana County Detention Center detainees who were illegally strip searched between March 7, 2003 and March 7, 2006 have settled their class action suit against the county for $5 million. Included in the ...
New Jersey Court Enters Preliminary Injunction Barring Women Prisoners at Men’s Prison
A New Jersey Superior Court has issued a preliminary injunction that prohibits prison officials from transferring women prisoners to the New Jersey State Prison (NJSP), a men’s maximum-security facility. The Court also entered orders certifying the lawsuit as a class action and denying prison officials summary judgment.
The suit was filed on December 12, 2007 by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU) on behalf of prisoners Kathleen Jones, Lakesha Jones, Sylvia Flynn and Helen L. Ewell. The action ensued after prison officials transferred the four plaintiffs and 36 other female prisoners from the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility (EMCF) to NJSP in March 2007. The Court’s class action order defines the class as “all general population women prisoners who are now or in the future will be confined in New Jersey State Prison.”
Before those transfers, the only women who were sent to NJSP from EMCF were those who had committed serious violations of prison rules. They were provided a hearing and returned to EMCF after completing their stint in the disciplinary segregation unit at NJSP.
The March 2007 transfers, however, affected women prisoners who ...
The venerated PEW Center on the States reported in February 2008 that one in every 99.1 adult Americans was presently behind bars. For males between ages 20 and 34, the number is 1 in 30. Racially, the numbers are even more disturbing: one in 36 Hispanic adults is locked up, as is one in 15 black adults. The number increases to 1 in 9 for black males between the ages of 20 and 34, which portends a devastating discontinuity in familial upbringing and support for black children being raised by young single mothers. Indeed, the projection is that for male African-American babies born today, fully one in three will suffer incarceration at some time in their lives.
The report also studied female prisoner statistics. While only one in 355 white women between ages 35 and 39 is behind bars, the rate rises to 1 in 100 for black women of that age.
Across the nation, the prison population grew by 25,000 in 2007, bringing it to 1.6 million. Including the additional 723,000 ensconced in local jails, one in 130 of America’s 300 million people is thus incarcerated.
All of this imprisonment ...
by John E. Dannenberg
Maryland DOC Pays $500,000 for Detainee Beaten to Death By Guards
In May, 2008, the State of Maryland settled for $500,000 a lawsuit brought by the family of a detainee who was beaten to death by jail guards at Baltimore’s Central Booking and Intake Center.
Raymond Smoot had ...
$7,025 Award in Slip and Fall From Ohio Prison Bunk
The Ohio Court of Claims has awarded a former Ohio prisoner $7,025 for injuries related to a slip and fall from a prison bunk.
Stacy Rose slipped and fell while climbing down from his bunk at the Chillicothe ...
Georgia Sheriff Must Give Revenue from Prisoner Phone Calls to County
by David M. Reutter
The Georgia Court of Appeals has held that a sheriff must turn over to the county all revenue from a profit-sharing prisoner telephone contract. The ruling upholds an order of declaratory relief granted to Lincoln County against Sheriff Gerald S. Lawson.
In 2003, former Sheriff Edwin Bentley entered into a contract with Evercom Systems, Inc. to provide telephone services to prisoners at the Lincoln County jail. In return, Evercom agreed to pay the sheriff a commission of 38% of the revenue derived from the prisoners’ collect calls, which amounted to $15,000 to $16,000 a year.
Bentley turned these proceeds over to Lincoln County’s general fund, which the County Commission used, in part, to pay for the prisoners’ care and for the operation and maintenance of the jail. The anticipated revenue was used to calculate and partially fund the sheriff’s budget.
When Lawson took office in 2005, he continued that practice. In January 2006 he amended the phone contract to allow him to purchase pre-paid calling cards to sell to prisoners. At some point in early 2006, Lawson stopped turning the phone commissions over ...
Giusto, a lightning rod for criticism, has been under constant fire for the better part of two years. A 2006 investigation by the Multnomah County District Attorney found systemic problems in the jail and heaped most of the blame on Sheriff Giusto [See: PLN, Jan. 2008, p.12].
A 2007 Department of Justice corruption probe cleared Giusto of breaking the law, but laid the foundation for the largest and most expensive investigation into an Oregon law enforcement officer’s ethics by the Board on Public Safety Standards and Training (BPSST).
Over a year after commencing its investigation, on May 13, 2008, a BPSST Police Policy Committee – comprised of sheriffs, police chiefs and officers from across Oregon – voted overwhelmingly to strip Giusto of his badge, ending his “colorful” 24-year law enforcement career on a very sour note.
The Committee’s unprecedented action was based upon a finding that Giusto had lied nearly 20 years ago when he told his Oregon State Police supervisors that he wasn’t having an affair with ...
Flamboyant and controversial Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto, head of Oregon’s largest county jail, has retired in the face of an overwhelming vote to strip him of his badge.
On May 19, 2008, at approximately 12:30 p.m., a fight broke out between Native American and black prisoners at the Oklahoma State Reformatory (OSR) in Granite. When the skirmish ended five minutes later, two prisoners were dead and twelve others injured – three of them critically. No prison employees were hurt.
Three days earlier there had been a spitting incident involving a black prisoner and a Native American at the 800-bed medium-security facility located 144 miles southwest of Oklahoma City. Details of that incident were unclear, but the two prisoners decided to wait until the following Monday to settle their differences so as not to interfere with weekend visitation.
True to their intent, on Monday they met on a recreation yard to fight.
“One fight started in the housing unit,” said Department of Corrections (DOC) spokesman Jerry Massie. “They could be seen by the inmates on the other rec yard, and that triggered a second round of assaults. It looks like two inmates initiated a fight, a couple more jumped in and then it broke out into a larger fight. That’s when it broke down with combatants along racial lines.”
At least some of the ...
by Matt Clarke
California: On August 29, 2008, several hundred prisoners in the Lerdo Minimum Security Facility in Bakersfield rioted and fought each other, injuring 24.
California: On July 18, 2008, Jose Rivera, 22, a guard at the United States Penitentiary in Atwater was stabbed to death by two prisoners armed with homemade shanks.
Colorado: On July 24, 2008, Edward Davidson, 31, shot and killed his wife and three year old daughter and then himself after escaping from the minimum security Federal Prison Camp in Florence, Colorado. He also shot a teen age girl, who survived. In April 2008 Davidson had been sentenced to 21 months in prison after he pled guilty to falsifying header information on e mails in order to send spam. He escaped from ...
Arkansas: On July 24, 2008, Joshua Albright, a prisoner in the Johnson county jail, was being transported to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to serve a 40 year sentence for armed robbery. Deputies stopped at the Johnson county jail so Albright could use the bathroom and he escaped from the jail’s bathroom and fled in the jail’s transport van which still had the keys in it. Albright was recaptured the next day in Arkansas.
Sixth Circuit Now Permits § 1983 Complaint to Proceed Even If Prisoner Did Not Initially Plead Exhaustion Below
The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has vacated its precedent which held that a prisoner had an affirmative burden to plead exhaustion of administrative remedies in a § 1983 complaint. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to the contrary in Jones v. Bock, 127 S.Ct. 910 (2007) [PLN, May 2007, p.36], the Sixth Circuit granted a prisoner’s Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(1) motion to abate the district court’s dismissal of his complaint for having failed to affirmatively plead exhaustion.
Michigan prisoner Raphael Okoro had sued prison authorities in pro per, alleging violation of his constitutional rights related to a prison policy declaring court documents to be contraband and requiring their immediate destruction. His case was dismissed without prejudice in the U.S. District Court (E.D. Mich.) for his failure to expressly plead exhaustion of administrative remedies. Okoro’s Rule 60(b)(1) motion to correct this error of law was denied and he appealed.
In the meantime, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Jones, which expressly held that failure to plead exhaustion was not grounds ...