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Prison Legal News: December, 2009

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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. Secret Red Cross Report Reveals Medical Personnel Collusion in CIA Torture (p 20)
  9. GPS Used to Track Sex Offenders in Washington State (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. Rape Victim and Family of Exonerated Man Who Died in Prison Become Activists (p 26)
  13. LULAC Returns CCA Donation (p 26)
  14. Pennsylvania Prison Porn Ban Improperly Promulgated, but Not Unconstitutional (p 28)
  15. New Jersey DOC Report: Megan’s Law Costly and Ineffective (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. $750,000 Settlement in Chicago Jail Mass Beating Suit (p 32)
  20. Violence Against Blacks Decreases In The U.S. (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. Mental Illness Prevalent Among County Jail Prisoners, Especially Women (p 38)
  28. Michigan’s Prison Industries Mismanaged and Unprofitable (p 38)
  29. AMA Study Finds Link Between Confinement and Hypertension (p 40)
  30. Judges: Umpires They Are Not (p 40)
  31. Massachusetts Man’s Estate Resolves Wrongful Conviction Suit for $14.1 Million (p 42)
  32. Class Action Alleging Unconstitutional Michigan Indigent Defense System Survives Summary Judgment (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. Ohio Prison Employees Involved in Improper Relationships, Drug Smuggling, Sexual Misconduct (p 46)
  37. Eight More Prison Closures in Michigan (p 46)
  38. California Struggles to House Sex Offenders (p 48)
  39. 4,000 Kenyan Death Sentences Commuted to Life (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 a small rural town to buy instruments and uniforms to form a marching band. Replace “River City” with “Hardin” and “pool” with “prison,” and you have a modern-day adaptation of this classic performance – complete with a shady conman, unsuspecting townfolk and entertaining hijinks. The only thing missing is a musical score. And a happy ending.

A Prison Without Prisoners

PLN recently reported on the plight of Hardin, Montana, a middle-of-nowhere town with a population of 3,500 located in Big Horn County about an hour’s drive east of Billings. Hardin made national headlines last April when the city, desperate to find prisoners to fill its vacant 464-bed correctional facility, offered to take maximum-security terrorist detainees housed at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. [See: PLN, October 2009, p.28].

Hardin’s Two Rivers Detention Center was completed in September 2007 with the goal of spurring economic ...

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 Hardin ended up with the 92,000 square foot facility in the first place suggests that, long before “low-level card shark” Michael Hilton ever came to town, Hardin officials had already been taken for a ride by a far more powerful set of players: a well-organized consortium of private companies headquartered around the country, which specializes in pitching speculative and risky prison projects to local governments desperate for jobs.

The projects have generated multi-million dollar profits for the companies involved, but often haven’t created the anticipated payoff for the communities, and have left a string of failed or failing prisons in their wake.

“They look for an impoverished town that’s desperate,” says Frank Smith of the Private Corrections Institute, a Florida-based group that opposes prison privatization. “They come in looking very impressive, saying, ‘We’ll make money rain from the skies.’ In fact, they don’t care whether ...

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 Canada; we added a staff attorney position; we ended the ban on publications by the Fulton County jail in Atlanta, Georgia; we ended the Massachusetts DOC policy of requiring books to be sent from “approved vendors”; we successfully expanded the size of the magazine from 48 to 56 pages; we unsealed a confidential settlement between Corrections Corporation of America and its prison employees it had bilked out of overtime pay; we changed the name of our parent non-profit from Prison Legal News to the Human Rights Defense Center and much more.

By now all readers should have received PLN’s annual fundraising appeal. We desperately need your support, above and beyond the cost of an annual subscription to continue doing the work we do on behalf of the human rights of the imprisoned in the US besides publishing the magazine Prison Legal News. This includes our cutting edge anti- censorship ...

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 climb and many prisons are operating at or above capacity. Along with increasing correctional populations, per capita state prison expenditures have likewise expanded, but spending for building new prisons or renovating existing facilities has not been commensurate with the overall level of growth.

Under these pressures, the country increasingly turned to the private sector to deal with burgeoning prison populations. Americans’ affinity for market economy solutions and a corresponding distrust of government in general led to a belief that the private sector might outperform government agencies in providing incarceration services. Although the proportion of state correctional budgets spent on private prisons is relatively low, about six percent nationally, some states spend a much higher proportion than others.

As of the last available data (about 3 years ago), Oklahoma ranked fourth in the nation with 30% of its funds allocated for private prison expenditures, and was sixth in the percentage of ...

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 well as two lawsuits, there has been no resolution to this problem.

Living in Miami’s sex offender “colony” under the causeway bridge is an onerous task even for healthy people; it is much more difficult for those with health concerns. One sex offender was returned to prison due to complications involving his medical needs and the deficient living conditions under the bridge.

After five years in jail, Eduardo Galego took a plea bargain for time served and probation. Galego’s conviction for sexually assaulting a 17-year-old while using a knife required him to register as a sex offender, which in turn required him to live under the Julia Tuttle Causeway since he could find no other suitable housing.

Miami city and county ordinances restrict sex offenders from residing within 2,500 feet of a school, day care center, park, playground or public school bus stop (City of Miami Ord ...

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 lawsuits involving prisoners’ deaths and injuries due to medical neglect over the last decade. The county has also paid $250,000 to consultants to help identify solutions to the jail’s problematic health care services. [See: PLN, March 2009, p.34]

The major causes of the breakdown in medical treatment have been identified as poor record keeping and understaffing, with attendant overworking of the jail system’s health care personnel. Maricopa County operates six detention facilities, including its infamous tent city, under the direction of also-infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

In the early 1990s, then-Sheriff Tom Agnos asked the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to create Correctional Health Services (CHS) to assume responsibility over the medical care needs of prisoners in the jail system. By the time Betty Adams took over as director of CHS in 2007, the agency had gone through four other directors in the past ten years. By ...

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 petition as untimely even though the state petition was filed within the time limits for statutory tolling set forth under AEDPA (the federal habeas corpus statute).

In Pace v. Guglielmo, 544 U.S. 408 (2005), the U.S. Supreme Court held that, if a state court denies a state habeas petition as “untimely”, that petition was not “properly filed” under state law. In Bonner v. Carey, 425 F.3d 1145 (9th Cir. 2005), the Ninth Circuit held that, because statutory tolling can only be granted for a state habeas petition that was “properly filed”, Pace requires the federal court to deny statutory tolling to a petition that a lower California court had found to be untimely, even though the state petition had been filed within the 15-month-from-finality period that the AEDPA statute of limitations allows. Meanwhile, because California does not have any specific time limits that apply to filing habeas ...

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 value guerrilla suspects to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In October and December 2006, members of the ICRC interviewed the fourteen detainees, who were being held in isolation. They had had no opportunity to communicate with each other to concoct a story. Nonetheless, the details they provided of their time in CIA custody were extremely consistent and depicted what the ICRC described as torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment – all in contravention of international law.

The fourteen detainees were initially arrested in foreign countries by those countries’ police or security forces, often with American personnel present. They were subjected to harsh conditions in the country of their arrest, then transferred to a CIA prison in Afghanistan (likely Bagram Air Force Base near Kabul), where they typically received the worst treatment of their detention. They were then moved between one and four times to other CIA-operated “black site ...

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 happening.

What they hope to see is GPS-monitored sex offenders going to and from work, stores, church and their homes while avoiding “exclusion zones.” A computer aids the CCOs in determining where the sex offenders have been and whether they visited a park or school area, which is prohibited.

“The only way a person can offend sexually is to have a cloud of secrecy about them,” said Theo Lewis , head of the King County Special Assault Supervision Unit. “This blows that cloud away, and it’s highly effective in allowing the CCO to intervene before [sex offenders] get to a point where they are going to reoffend.”

Critics point to the February 21, 2009 slaying of a 13-year-old girl by a homeless GPS-monitored sex offender in Vancouver, Washington. They note that GPS tracking doesn’t indicate when a sex offender is likely to commit a crime, and gives the CCOs ...

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 are do not always coincide.

Numerous incidents in Florida indicate that just because someone wears a law enforcement badge does not mean they are deserving of respect. In fact, corrections and sheriff’s officials involved in recent scandals are in some cases headed to prison or jail themselves, or have joined the ranks of the unemployed.

Senator Gaetz’s comment came after Okaloosa County Sheriff Charlie W. Morris and his director of administration, Teresa Adams, were arrested by federal marshals. At the time of their arrests in February 2009, Morris was president of the Florida Sheriffs Association.

Morris and Adams “created fictitious bonuses to sheriff’s department employees,” according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice. “[T]he employees were directed to return all or a portion of the bonuses in the form of cash or cashier’s checks under the pretense that these returned funds were ...

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 BOP, in conjunction with Advanced Technologies Group, an Iowa-based company that develops software solutions for correctional agencies, has developed a secure messaging system called the Trust Fund Limited Inmate Communication System (TRULINCS). TRULINCS allows prisoners to communicate directly with family members, friends, businesses and attorneys. The service operates without prisoners having direct access to the Internet.

TRULINCS is available at over a dozen BOP facilities; the system is scheduled to be implemented in all federal prisons by June 2011. Family members and friends can use the system by creating an account at www.corrlinks.com after they have been added to a prisoner’s approved contact list.

TRULINCS is accessed through a workstation or kiosk that allows prisoners to compose messages and read email replies. Messages are limited to 13,000 characters (about 4½ pages), and cannot include attachments. Prisoners purchase time to use the system in blocks of 40 ...

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 died while incarcerated on December 2, 1999.

Michele Mallin was the student who had been brutally raped; she had tentatively identified Cole as her assailant after the Amarillo police used a suggestive photo lineup and other questionable identification techniques.

Devastated by her unintentional role in sending an innocent man to prison, Mallin joined with Cole’s family to obtain a posthumous exoneration. A Texas court did just that in a ruling issued on April 7, 2009, almost ten years after Cole’s death, finding that he had been wrongly convicted. [See: PLN, July 2009, p.12].

Mallin has also lobbied the Texas Legislature to enact laws to increase the amount of compensation paid to exonerated prisoners (HB 1736, which passed), and to standardize witness identification procedures so witnesses cannot be manipulated by the police as she was. In an August 1, 2009 Houston Chronicle editorial, Mallin urged Congress to create ...

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 substantial donations from the private prison company.

According to LULAC’s national convention programs for 2005, 2006 and 2007, CCA was a Patron-level donor for each of those years. Patron-level means a donation of $10,000 or more; the company was also an exhibitor at the 2005 and 2007 conventions. Some critics said CCA’s sponsorship of LULAC events dated back to 2002.

Jaime Martinez, a San Antonio labor activist and LULAC’s National Treasurer, explained that he and LULAC President Rosa Rosales initiated the return of CCA’s 2007 sponsorship funds as soon as they learned about disturbing conditions at Hutto – conditions that resulted in a lawsuit against the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), which led to much-needed reforms at the facility. [See: PLN, Jan. 2008, p.20; Aug. 2007, p.10]. Referring to the money as “tainted,” Martinez said LULAC didn’t want CCA’s sponsorship.

Before ...

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 day demonstrates that when prison officials promulgate the rule properly it will be difficult to challenge, because the Supreme Court found it was supported by a “legitimate penological interest.”

Earl R. Vance, Jr., a state prisoner, sought declaratory and injunctive relief to invalidate Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PDOC) Policy DC-ADM 803.1, titled “Inmate Mail and Incoming Publications.” Under that rule, prisoners cannot receive or possess pornography, which is defined as material containing nudity that shows “human male or female genitals, pubic area, or buttocks with less than a fully opaque covering or showing the female breast with less tha[n] a fully opaque covering of any portion thereof below the top of the nipple.”

There was no dispute that the rule was implemented when the PDOC issued an amendment bulletin on December 29, 2005. The Commonwealth Court agreed with Vance that the rule was invalid because, under the Commonwealth ...

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 of their presence, is both costly and ineffective.

The DOC undertook research to investigate “1) the effect of Megan’s Law on the overall rate of sexual offending over time; 2) its specific deterrence effect on re-offending, including the level of general and sexual offense recidivism, the nature of sexual re-offenses, and time to first re-arrest for sexual and non-sexual re-offenses (i.e. community tenure); and 3) the costs of implementation and annual expenditures of Megan’s Law. The study focused on the ten years prior to and ten years immediately following the enactment of Megan’s Law, reviewed data on 550 sex offenders released between 1990 and 2000 and collected information on the implementation and ongoing Megan’s Law administration costs in the 15 counties that responded to a survey. Over the twenty-year period, 48 of the studied sex offenders were rearrested for another sex offense, a rate of ...

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 2.535, and add several definitions. The amended rule defines “approved court reporter” and “civil court reporter” as persons “who meet the court’s certification, training, and other qualifications for court reporting.” An “approved transcriptionist” is someone “who meets the court’s certification, training, and other qualifications for transcribing proceedings.” These persons are considered officers of the court.

The amended rule defines an “electronic record” as the “audio, analog, digital, or video record of a court proceeding.” While an electronic record is allowed, the “official record” is the transcript, “which is the written record of court proceedings and depositions prepared in accordance with” previously established requirements.

The rule also defines the ownership of “all records and electronic records” required to be reported at public expense or for the court’s own use, which belong to the “chief judge of the circuit in which a proceeding is pending, in his or her ...

$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 ...

$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 ...

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 subgroups except those over 50 years old.

Black males fared better (61%) than black females (53%) in the overall decline. However, urban areas still proved to be more dangerous for the black population than rural areas, violent victimization from 2001 to 2005 did not vary significantly between any of the subgroups. However, in 2005 black males were more likely to be victims of violent crimes than their female counterparts.

In 2005 blacks accounted for nearly half of all homicide victims. While blacks comprise only 13% of the U.S. population they accounted for 8,000 of the 16,500 murder victims that year. About 6,800 of those victims were males while 1,200 were females. Just as with non-fatal victims, murder rates for blacks increased with population density.

About 93% of single-victim/single-offender black homicides were committed by other blacks as compared to 85% for whites. Women were the ...

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 on the prisoner’s head and face, resulting in a frac-tured orbital socket and other serious injuries. On January 14, 2009, Yates was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison and three years supervised release.

On February 2, 2009, Oklahoma County Detention Center guards Gavin Douglas Littlejohn and Justin Mark Isch were indicted by a federal grand jury for causing the death of Christopher Beckman, a prisoner at the facility.

Beckman had been arrested for drug possession, drunk driving and other traffic offenses, according to court records. On May 26, 2007, he suffered a seizure in his cell. Jail staff restrained him and transported him to the medical clinic.

The federal indictment accuses Isch of using Beckman’s head to push open a steel door; it also accuses Littlejohn of repeatedly striking Beckman in the head and face, causing his death. The two guards were charged with federal civil rights ...

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, one has to wonder who is watching the watchers.

Two days before Victor Hill’s term expired as sheriff of Clayton County, Georgia, he filed for bankruptcy. Hill claimed that he could not afford to pay $1.7 million in damages stemming from several lawsuits. In October 2008 he was ordered to pay $475,000 to Mark Tuggle, the brother of a former Clayton County sheriff, for false arrest. He also faced five other suits.

After his bankruptcy filing it was discovered that Hill had stashed $25,000 in a stock account that he failed to report to the bankruptcy court. In February 2009, federal trustee Tamara Miles Ogier ordered Hill to turn the money over so it could be divided among his creditors. Federal officials are also investigating whether Hill stole weapons and other sheriff’s equipment before he left office.

The Clayton County Commission is reviewing a Las ...

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 that campaign, the AFSC Oakland office published Buried Alive: Long-term Isolation in California’s Youth and Adult Prisons, authored by Laura Magnani.

Magnani traces the history of extended solitary confinement to the killing of a guard at the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois in 1972. Following that incident, a large part of the penitentiary was converted into a Management Control Unit -- a “prison within a prison” -- one of only a handful of such units around the country at the time.

By 1997, according to a 2003 AFSC report, 45 states, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the District of Columbia were operating one type of control unit or another. Notable among those was/is the Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) in Florence, Colorado -- the first prison built specifically for the purpose of solitary confinement.

By 2006, more than 40 states had specially designed “supermax” facilities. In California, the first such ...

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 a non-government membership organization for corrections officials that advocates for criminal justice-related issues and policies. The ACA also provides accreditation for correctional facilities or agencies that meet its self-proclaimed standards. One of the ACA’s stated goals is to “Lead and serve as the voice for corrections.”

PLN associate editor Alex Friedmann attended the ACA’s last convention in Nashville, in 2006, to report on the event as a member of the media. When he contacted the ACA to likewise attend the August 2009 conference, however, he was rebuffed. Friedmann was informed by ACA Director of Government & Public Affairs Eric L. Schultz, Jr. that “To cover the conference and any events associated with the conference you’ll need to be registered as an attendee.” In other words, to report on the ACA conference as a member of the press, Friedmann would have to register like any other conference-goer – at a minimum cost of $140 per day.

PLN declined to pay for the privilege of covering the conference; it was later learned that the ACA had allowed a local news agency to cover the event for free. In a phone conversation, Schultz said the ACA had restricted its media policy because they had been “burned” in the past by negative coverage. In response, Friedmann noted that might have “something to do ...

$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 ...

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 Research Associates Inc. and Dr. Fred C. Osher, M.D. of the Council of State Governments Justice Center.

Five jails participated in the two-phase, data-collection study. Phase one ran from May 2002 through January 2003. Phase two ran from November 2005 through June 2006. Nine interviewers were trained to conduct the clinical research interviews for phase one and sixteen were trained for phase two. Intensive training, numerous practice interviews and graded evaluations ensured a high rate of aptitude reliability among interviewers. Many of the interviewers from phase one also participated in phase two.

Four jails participated in each phase. Phase one included Montgomery County Jail and Prince George County Jail in Maryland and Albany County Jail and Rensselaer County Jail in New York. Phase two included the same jails with the exception of the Albany jail which was replaced by New York’s Montgomery County Jail.

Screening for mental illness ...

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 failures of basic business management.

Under its mission statement, BCI is to “produce products and provide services that meet or exceed customer expectations while providing professional growth opportunities for staff and marketable job skills to prisoners.” It produces a variety of products in its 28 factories in 13 prisons and 1 camp. The products and services are sold to governmental and nonprofit organizations throughout the nation, employing around 1,900 prisoners to fill approximately 1,000 full-time equated work assignments. BCI also employed 176 free-world employees as of September 30, 2008.

In its first finding, the report found that between 2004 and 2008 BCI lost over $7 million. While Michigan law does not require it to maximize profit, BCI is required to be “a total self-supporting system.” In FY 2007-08, BCI had sales of $41.4 million with a net loss of $2.7 million. “The continuance of certain unprofitable ...

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 and white men and women aged 18 to 30 years at baseline in 1985-1986…. The study enrolled 5,115 young adults, who were recruited from 4 U.S. cities.” Only 4,350 subjects who participated in the study for at least five years were included in the analysis.

Seven percent of participants (288) reported having been incarcerated. “Black men and less-educated participants were most likely to have a history of prior incarceration.” Additionally, former prisoners “were more likely to report family earnings below 200% of the federal poverty line, smoking, illicit drug use, and excessive alcohol consumption compared with those without incarceration history.”

The study “found that a history of incarceration is associated with a significantly elevated risk of future hypertension and with LVH.” Three to five years after incarceration, those 23 to 35 years old had a 12% incidence of hypertension, compared with 7% among those without an incarceration ...

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 you that judges are anything but umpires.

For eleven years, Phelps’ habeas petition has languished in the “netherworld” of the federal courts, going back and forth between the district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. It has never been heard on the merits.

Phelps’ journey is unfortunately a familiar one for many prisoners. In the name of “efficiency,” “parity” and “judicial economy,” courts have increasingly placed excessive reliance on empty formalism – often at the expense of ensuring that justice is served. Such was the case with Phelps.

Convicted of murder in 1994 after two hung juries, Phelps sought federal habeas relief in 1998. The district court, however, dismissed his petition as untimely under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), finding it had been filed 15 days late.

Phelps appealed and the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court. See: Phelps v. Alameda, 2000 ...

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 ...

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 constitutional rights to counsel and the effective assistance of counsel.

The “highly-detailed complaint” alleged that the indigent defense systems in place for Berrien, Genesee and Muskegon Counties “are underfunded, poorly administered, and do not ensure that the participating defense attorneys have the necessary tools, time, and qualifications to adequately represent indigent defendants and put the cases presented by prosecutors to the crucible of meaningful adversarial testing.”

The alleged inadequate performances by various court-appointed defense attorneys included “counsel speaking with plaintiffs, for the first time, in holding cells for mere minutes prior to scheduled preliminary examinations while in full hearing range of other inmates; counsel advising plaintiffs to waive preliminary examinations without meaningful discussions on case-relevant matters; counsel failing to provide plaintiffs with police reports; and counsel generally neglecting throughout the entire course of criminal proceedings to discuss with plaintiffs the accuracy and nature of the charges, the circumstances of the ...

$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 months later, in what many considered to be an astonishing verdict, the ex-judge was found not guilty following a jury trial.

Thomas and his attorney, Robert “Cowboy Bob” Clark, had held a news conference to denounce the charges when they were filed. While speaking with the press in front of the jail, police walked up to Thomas, tapped him on the shoulder and took him into custody. He was released within hours on $287,500 bond.

The indictment accused Thomas of kidnapping, extortion, assault, sexual abuse and sodomy involving nine different jail prisoners who had previously appeared before him on criminal charges when he was on the bench. One defendant went before Thomas repeatedly before he was sentenced to prison; Thomas later ordered his early release, according to the Mobile Press-Register. A second indictment issued in August 2009 added more charges. After some of the charges were dropped, Thomas faced ...

$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 ...

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 for low-security Ohio prisoners, has come under scrutiny for inappropriate relationships involving staff members.

CBCF Executive Director Mike Willets offered few details about the investigation but suggested that “out there in the population it was a slow rumor that some people were getting preferential treatment, some people were getting this, some people were getting that.”

One of those people was apparently Program Director Sandra Wright, who joined CBCF in 1997 and rose in the ranks to one of the facility’s top positions. Wright, formerly a juvenile probation officer, was suspended on August 21, 2008 and resigned less than two weeks later rather than attend “a predisciplinary hearing on allegations she had ‘unauthorized relationships with residents’ and other ethics violations.”

Willets also ended a longstanding relationship with Wright’s church, Worship Cathedral Inc., where CBCF prisoners had performed community service for several years. Questions had been raised about whether the ...

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 embraced the facilities as a way to boost their local economies.

One Michigan town even offered to take in terrorist detainees from Guantanamo Bay after it learned that its local prison, the Standish Maximum Correctional Facility, was scheduled to close. [See: PLN, Oct. 2009, p.28]. The facility shut down on October 31, 2009.

Despite having the highest unemployment rate in the nation due to the demise of the U.S. auto industry, Michigan’s prison population has declined 7.3% since January 2007. After the closure of the eight facilities, the state’s prison capacity will drop by 6,400 beds from its end-of-2008 capacity of 50,435. The prison population is presently around 46,400.

“Our top priority is public safety, and that is at the core of every decision we make in operating our state correctional facilities,” said Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) Director Patricia Caruso. “But ...

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 taxpayers “a couple hundred million dollars annually within 10 years.”

State corrections officials responded to the passage of Jessica’s Law by providing financial assistance to an increasing number of sex offenders who, unable to locate or afford scarce housing, would otherwise be left homeless, difficult to track and thus more likely to reoffend.

The cost to house sex offenders in California has increased significantly since Jessica’s Law was enacted, with the state dishing out almost $22 million in 2008 to place hundreds of paroled sex offenders in apartments and motel rooms – an almost ten-fold increase since mid-2006, before the law was passed. Although the housing assistance is considered a loan, few offenders are able to pay it back.

Officials have sometime put sex offenders in locations they later learned were prohibited under the vaguely-written law (which does not define “park” or specify whether to measure the prohibited 2 ...

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 caused “undue mental anguish and suffering, psychological trauma and anxiety.” Kenya has not carried out an execution since 1987.

Kibaki insisted that the mass commutation did not mean that Kenya’s judges would no longer be issuing death sentences. To the contrary, under Kenyan law capital punishment is required for murder, armed robbery and treason. One of the criticisms of the mandatory sentencing law is that a man convicted of stealing a chicken while armed with a stick would receive a death sentence.

Prisoners’ rights activists and experts on Kenyan prisons noted that the actual effect of Kibaki’s commutation might be more practical: it may help keep prisoners from being unruly and will allow the government to put them to work, with the added bonus of quelling criticism by international death penalty opponents. According to a presidential press release, exempting death row prisoners from the otherwise-mandatory work requirement in ...

$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, Weusi McGowan was on trial for robbery and burglary charges in San Diego Superior Court. During the middle of his trial, McGowan pulled out a bag of his own feces that he had hidden in his clothing, rubbed it on his attorney and tossed it at the jury. McGowan was subsequently convicted of robbery and burglary, as well as two additional assault charges for throwing the excrement. He was sentenced on October 26 to thirty-one years in prison.

California: On September 3, 2009, police were called to the home of Michael O’Riley, a counselor at the Rio Cosum-nes Correctional Center. Police discovered that he had been holding his wife hostage, denying her food and money, and sexually abusing her for nearly two years. O’Riley was arrested on a variety of charges, including sexual assault and kid-napping.

Colorado: Cesar Corzo, a former lead therapist at the Ridge View ...

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 stolen medicine intended for prisoners.

The three former staff members came under investigation in May 2007 after prisoners complained of difficulty in obtaining their medications. Drugs taken from the prison included Fiorcet, a prescription painkiller; Ibuprofin; Cephalexin, an antibiotic; Sudafed, and various other psychotropic and pain medications.

Court documents indicated that federal prosecutors were also investigating a captain who served as the facility’s health service director, a lieutenant and two “jail commanders” for receiving stolen drugs. The lieutenant, who was not charged, reportedly received Fiorcet pills “almost daily for two to three years.” Federal officials refused to disclose whether the other implicated employees had been reassigned or reprimanded, citing a pending investigation.

Because the drugs involved were only prescription medicines and not controlled substances, Lawson, Schwab and Iannello were charged with misdemeanor offenses. “If they were controlled substances or narcotics, we would have looked at more serious charges,” said ...

 

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