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Prison Legal News: December, 2009

Issue PDF
Volume 20, Number 12

In this issue:

  1. Improbable Private Prison Scam Plays Out in Hardin, Montana (p 1)
  2. Behind Montana Jail Fiasco: How Private Prison Developers Prey on Desperate Towns (p 8)
  3. From the Editor (p 10)
  4. Private Prisons Don’t Make Better Prisoners (p 11)
  5. Miami Sex Offenders Still Living Under Bridge; Lawsuits Fail to Solve Problem (p 14)
  6. Arizona Jail’s Medical Failures Due to Inadequate Record Keeping, Understaffing (p 16)
  7. HABEAS HINTS – CALIFORNIA COMMENT Pace and Bonner: Avoiding and Fighting “Untimeliness” Rulings Under California Law (p 18)
  8. GPS Used to Track Sex Offenders in Washington State (p 20)
  9. Secret Red Cross Report Reveals Medical Personnel Collusion in CIA Torture (p 20)
  10. Florida Law Enforcement Officials on the Wrong Side of the Law (p 22)
  11. Increasing Number of Prisoners Obtain Access to Email (p 24)
  12. LULAC Returns CCA Donation (p 26)
  13. Rape Victim and Family of Exonerated Man Who Died in Prison Become Activists (p 26)
  14. New Jersey DOC Report: Megan’s Law Costly and Ineffective (p 28)
  15. Pennsylvania Prison Porn Ban Improperly Promulgated, but Not Unconstitutional (p 28)
  16. Electronic Court Records Permissible in Florida, but Restricting Disclosure is Not (p 29)
  17. $100 Million Settlement in Michigan Prisoners’ Sexual Abuse Suit (p 30)
  18. $2.7 Million Settlement for Oklahoma Double Leg Amputee Jail Prisoner (p 31)
  19. Violence Against Blacks Decreases In The U.S. (p 32)
  20. $750,000 Settlement in Chicago Jail Mass Beating Suit (p 32)
  21. Oklahoma Lawmen Charged with Sundry Crimes (p 33)
  22. Prison, Jail and Law Enforcement Corruption Continues in Georgia (p 34)
  23. Catholic Mass and Sacraments Made Available to Louisiana’s Death Row (p 35)
  24. Nearly 15,000 California Prisoners Held in Long-term Isolation (p 36)
  25. PLN Associate Editor Attends ACA Conference (p 36)
  26. $2.2 Million Settlement: Murder by Washington State Community Service Releasee (p 37)
  27. Michigan’s Prison Industries Mismanaged and Unprofitable (p 38)
  28. Mental Illness Prevalent Among County Jail Prisoners, Especially Women (p 38)
  29. Judges: Umpires They Are Not (p 40)
  30. AMA Study Finds Link Between Confinement and Hypertension (p 40)
  31. Class Action Alleging Unconstitutional Michigan Indigent Defense System Survives Summary Judgment (p 42)
  32. Massachusetts Man’s Estate Resolves Wrongful Conviction Suit for $14.1 Million (p 42)
  33. $91,059.83 in Damages, Fees and Costs Awarded to Alabama Prisoner Beaten by Guard (p 43)
  34. Former Alabama Judge Acquitted of Paddling, Sexually Abusing Jail Prisoners (p 44)
  35. $16.5 Million-Plus Settlement in Oklahoma City False Conviction Case (p 44)
  36. Eight More Prison Closures in Michigan (p 46)
  37. Ohio Prison Employees Involved in Improper Relationships, Drug Smuggling, Sexual Misconduct (p 46)
  38. 4,000 Kenyan Death Sentences Commuted to Life (p 48)
  39. California Struggles to House Sex Offenders (p 48)
  40. $150,000 Settlement in Tennessee Jail Beating (p 49)
  41. News in Brief: (p 50)
  42. Federal Prison Employees Convicted of Stealing Prisoners’ Meds (p 55)

Improbable Private Prison Scam Plays Out in Hardin, Montana

“Trouble, oh we got trouble, right here in River City! With a capital ‘T’ that rhymes with ‘P,’ and that stands for pool.”
– Professor Hill

The above quote is from The Music Man, a 1957 Broadway musical in which “Professor Hill,” an opportunistic con artist, convinces the gullible residents of ...

Behind Montana Jail Fiasco: How Private Prison Developers Prey on Desperate Towns

With the unraveling of the deal for the shadowy American Private Police Force to take over and populate an empty jail in Hardin, Montana, it’s pretty clear that the small city got played by an ex-con and his (supposed) private security firm.

But an investigation by TPMmuckraker into how ...

From the Editor

With the end of the year we can look back at our accomplishments in the past year as well as our goals for the coming year. In 2009 PLN accomplished quite a bit. We published our first book, the Prisoners Guerrilla Handbook Guide to Correspondence Courses in the US and ...

Private Prisons Don’t Make Better Prisoners

by Prof. Andrew L. Spivak

The incarceration rate, which from the 1920s to the early 1970s hovered between about 100 to 120 state and federal prisoners per 100,000 Americans, has risen nearly fourfold. While the rate of increase has slowed substantially in recent years, the raw numbers continue to ...

Miami Sex Offenders Still Living Under Bridge; Lawsuits Fail to Solve Problem

by David M. Reutter

PLN has reported several times on the plight of Florida sex offenders forced to live under the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami due to restrictive sex offender residency laws. [See: PLN, July 2009, p.36; June 2008, p.1]. Despite local and national media attention, as ...

Arizona Jail’s Medical Failures Due to Inadequate Record Keeping, Understaffing

by Matt Clarke

Medical care for approximately 10,000 prisoners in the Maricopa County jail system is an abject failure. That may explain why the Arizona county, which is the fourth largest in the nation, has had to pay over $13 million in jury awards, settlements and legal fees in ...

HABEAS HINTS – CALIFORNIA COMMENT Pace and Bonner: Avoiding and Fighting “Untimeliness” Rulings Under California Law

by Kent Russell

Recently, the interplay of two decisions, one from the U.S. Supreme Court and one from the Ninth Circuit, has created a potential minefield for California habeas corpus petitioners in the form of “untimeliness” rulings under California law, which can result in a federal court dismissing a ...

GPS Used to Track Sex Offenders in Washington State

by Matt Clarke

Like firefighters and airline pilots, the ten Washington Department of Corrections community correction officers (CCOs) assigned to monitor high-risk sex offenders in King County via Global Positioning System (GPS) hope for a really boring day at work. Otherwise, if it isn’t boring, bad things are usually ...

Secret Red Cross Report Reveals Medical Personnel Collusion in CIA Torture

by Matt Clarke

A leaked confidential report issued by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in February 2007, concerning the treatment of fourteen “high value detainees” in CIA custody, revealed torture and collusion by medical personnel in the prisoners’ mistreatment.

In September 2006, the CIA moved fourteen high ...

Florida Law Enforcement Officials on the Wrong Side of the Law

by David M. Reutter

“We’re a law-respecting, law-abiding community. ... We teach our children to respect and look up to men and women who wear badges, and that’s the way it oughta be,” said Florida state senator Don Gaetz. But the way it “oughta be” and the way things ...

Increasing Number of Prisoners Obtain Access to Email

Federal and state prisons across the country are slowly beginning to offer email access to prisoners in addition to traditional postal mail service – in some cases limited to receiving email messages, and in others allowing prisoners to send replies.

Leading the charge is the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The ...

LULAC Returns CCA Donation

by Matt Clarke

As the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) prepared for a June 20, 2009 protest in Williamson County, Texas outside the T. Don Hutto Family Residential Facility, a secure immigration detention center run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), it was revealed that LULAC had accepted ...

Rape Victim and Family of Exonerated Man Who Died in Prison Become Activists

by Matt Clarke

Tim Cole achieved widespread recognition when he was exonerated 24 years after his arrest for the rape of a university student in Amarillo, Texas. Another man confessed to the crime and DNA tests proved that Cole was innocent. Unfortunately that didn’t help him, as he had ...

New Jersey DOC Report: Megan’s Law Costly and Ineffective

by Matt Clarke

In December 2008, the New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC) submitted a research report on the practical and monetary effects of Megan’s Law to the U.S. Department of Justice. The report concluded that Megan’s Law, which requires registration of sex offenders and community notification ...

Pennsylvania Prison Porn Ban Improperly Promulgated, but Not Unconstitutional

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has held that a state prison rule prohibiting prisoners from receiving or possessing materials containing pornography or nudity was invalid because it was not promulgated as a regulation pursuant to the Commonwealth Documents Law. However, a decision by the state Supreme Court issued the same ...

Electronic Court Records Permissible in Florida, but Restricting Disclosure is Not

Florida’s Supreme Court has implemented rules related to court reporting services and the use of electronic recordings of court proceedings. The rules were promulgated as amendments to the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration and the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure.

The amendments to judicial administration are in Rule 2 ...

$100 Million Settlement in Michigan Prisoners’ Sexual Abuse Suit

by David M. Reutter

A record-breaking settlement has been reached in a 13-year-old class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of female prisoners who were “subjected to sexual abuse, sexual harassment, privacy violations by male [prison] staff ... and/or retaliation for reporting such abuse while incarcerated in a Michigan Department of Corrections ...

$2.7 Million Settlement for Oklahoma Double Leg Amputee Jail Prisoner

On April 9, 2009, a federal district judge in Oklahoma signed a consent decree memorializing a $2.7 million settlement between an Oklahoma county and a former jail prisoner who suffered amputation of both legs while incarcerated at the jail.

Russell Mounger, a former prisoner at the Creek County Jail ...

Violence Against Blacks Decreases In The U.S.

Violence against blacks in the U.S. has dropped dramatically over the last decade. The Bureau of Statistics for the U.S. Justice Department showed that, between 1993 and 2001, violent victimization of blacks decreased by nearly 57% and remained stable through 2005. These rates were consistent for all age ...

$750,000 Settlement in Chicago Jail Mass Beating Suit

On June 4, 2009, the finance litigation subcommittee of the County Board of Cook County, Illinois moved to settle a lawsuit over an alleged mass beating at the Cook County Jail.

In August 2006, Dwond Donahue, Jerome Fountain, Bernard Garcia, Darryl Johnson, Archie Mitchell, Bernard Rhone, Jarrod Rodriguez, Edward Sanders ...

Oklahoma Lawmen Charged with Sundry Crimes

In separate incidents, five Oklahoma prison and jail guards have been charged with crimes ranging from contraband smuggling and assault to murder.

Former Sequoyah County jail guard Jarrod Anthony Yates pleaded guilty on October 2, 2008 to violating the civil rights of an unnamed detainee by punching, kneeing and stomping ...

Prison, Jail and Law Enforcement Corruption Continues in Georgia

by David M. Reutter

As the number of people in prison and jail in Georgia has increased, so too has the number of corruption cases involving detention and police officials. One of every 13 Georgians are under the watchful eye of law enforcement authorities – but based on the following incidents ...

Catholic Mass and Sacraments Made Available to Louisiana’s Death Row

Officials at the Louisiana State Prison (LSP), better known as Angola, have agreed to a settlement agreement in a lawsuit alleging a prisoner’s rights were violated by the officials’ mandating of Baptist religious television to the exclusion of all other religious programming. The settlement provided for the prisoner to ...

Nearly 15,000 California Prisoners Held in Long-term Isolation

The American Friends service committee (AFSC) has taken the position that “long-term solitary confinement is ineffective and inappropriate in all circumstances.”

In May 2008, it launched a national STOPMAX campaign calling for an end to the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. In conjunction with the launch of ...

PLN Associate Editor Attends ACA Conference

From August 7 to 12, 2009, the American Correctional Association (ACA) held its 139th Congress of Correction at the Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The theme of the conference was “Effective Re-entry is Good Public Safety.”

Founded in 1870 as the National Prison Association, the ACA is ...

$2.2 Million Settlement: Murder by Washington State Community Service Releasee

On October 17, 2008, the State of Washington settled a lawsuit brought by the survivors of a man killed by a man on community supervision for $2.2 million.

Andrew J. Brown, a state prisoner in Washington State, was convicted for robbery and received 12 months community supervision as part ...

Michigan’s Prison Industries Mismanaged and Unprofitable

by David M. Reutter

A June 2009 report issued by Michigan’s Office of the Auditor General on the performance of the state’s Bureau of Correctional Industries (BCI), which operates under authority of the Department of Corrections, listed several reportable conditions of management and operational failures. The report highlights ...

Mental Illness Prevalent Among County Jail Prisoners, Especially Women

A random sampling of 2,000 prisoners in five county jails found that, on average, nearly 15 percent of male prisoners and 31 percent of female prisoners suffer from serious mental illness.

The study was headed by Dr. Henry Steadman, Ph.D and Dr. Steven Samuels, Ph.D of Policy ...

Judges: Umpires They Are Not

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts famously said during his confirmation hearing that judges are like umpires, each calling balls and strikes as they come. But is that really a fair comparison? “Batters” like Kevin Phelps and other prisoners who are fighting their criminal cases will tell ...

AMA Study Finds Link Between Confinement and Hypertension

An American Medical Association (AMA) study found that incarceration is associated with future hypertension and left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) among young adults. Untreated, this can lead to increased cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality.

Researchers conducted “a longitudinal investigation of CVD risk factors and subclinical coronary disease in a population of black ...

Class Action Alleging Unconstitutional Michigan Indigent Defense System Survives Summary Judgment

Michigan’s Court of Appeals has upheld the denial of a summary judgment motion filed by state officials in a class action lawsuit that claims indigent defendants subject to felony prosecutions in trial courts in three Michigan counties have been, are being and will be denied their state and federal ...

Massachusetts Man’s Estate Resolves Wrongful Conviction Suit for $14.1 Million

In July 2009, the estate of a man who served over 18 years in Massachusetts prisons for a murder and robbery he did not commit reached a $3.4 million settlement with 5 of the 6 insurers for the Town of Ayer. Damages of $10.7 million were later assessed ...

$91,059.83 in Damages, Fees and Costs Awarded to Alabama Prisoner Beaten by Guard

An Alabama federal jury has awarded $20,000 in compensatory and punitive damages to a man beaten by a guard at the Lauderdale County Detention Center (LCDC).

The lawsuit alleged that LCDC guard Philip King was aware that prisoner Kris Thornton had previously undergone brain surgery, and thus was more ...

Former Alabama Judge Acquitted of Paddling, Sexually Abusing Jail Prisoners

On March 27, 2009, former Mobile County, Alabama Circuit Court Judge Herman Thomas was indicted on 57 charges for allegedly checking young male prisoners out of the Metro Jail, taking them to his office, and paddling them on their bare buttocks or asking them to engage in sex acts. Seven ...

$16.5 Million-Plus Settlement in Oklahoma City False Conviction Case

by Matt Clarke

On June 8, 2009, a federal district judge in Oklahoma City signed a judgment following the settlement of a suit awarding a man who spent 17 years in prison for a rape he did not commit over $16.5 million from the forensic chemist and district attorney ...

Eight More Prison Closures in Michigan

Since taking office in 2003, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm has closed six prisons. To pare $120 million from the state’s budget, she recently decided to close eight more, including five minimum-security prison camps. The announcement of the closures on June 5, 2009 created an uproar in communities that have ...

Ohio Prison Employees Involved in Improper Relationships, Drug Smuggling, Sexual Misconduct

Four Ohio prison employees resigned or were fired amid an investigation into their improper relationships with prisoners, while in unrelated incidents four state prison guards were accused of sexual misconduct, smuggling drugs and soliciting bribes.

The Lorain/Medina Community-Based Correctional Facility (CBCF), a secure rehabilitation and substance abuse treatment center ...

4,000 Kenyan Death Sentences Commuted to Life

by Matt Clarke

On August 3, 2009, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki announced that he had commuted the death sentences of all 4,000 prisoners on Kenya’s death row to life in prison. Explaining his rationale for this action, Kibaki said an “extended stay” on death row while awaiting execution ...

California Struggles to House Sex Offenders

When California voters approved Proposition 83 (Jessica’s Law) in 2006, the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated that enforcement of the law’s provisions – which included GPS monitoring and banning sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park where children “regularly gather” – would cost ...

$150,000 Settlement in Tennessee Jail Beating

Sullivan County, Tennessee has paid $150,000 to settle the claim of a former prisoner who was beaten at the county’s jail. The suit alleged the sheriff’s department failed to properly train and supervise jail guards, deliberately placed the prisoner in a dangerous situation, and neglected to treat ...

News in Brief:

Brazil: At least five prisoners died and around 40 others were injured in a fire at the Joao Pessoa jail in northeastern Brazil in October 2009. According to a military police spokesman, prisoners had set the fire to protest another prisoner’s transfer to a high-security facility.

California: In January 2009 ...

Federal Prison Employees Convicted of Stealing Prisoners’ Meds

On January 6, 2009, three former employees at the Buffalo Federal Detention Center in Batavia, New York pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of theft of government property.

Richard Lawson, a captain and pharmacist; Lisa Schwab, a pharmacist technician; and Leonard Iannello, a contract guard at the facility, admitted they had ...