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Prison Legal News: March, 2009

Issue PDF
Volume 20, Number 3

In this issue:

  1. Deconstructing Gus: A Former CCA Prisoner Takes On, and Takes Down, CCA’s Top Lawyer (p 1)
  2. Online Postings Lead To Stiffer Sentences (p 13)
  3. From the Editor (p 14)
  4. GEO Cancels Contract at Pennsylvania Jail, Looks Elsewhere for Business (p 16)
  5. $295,000 Award to Wisconsin Prisoner in Moldy Mattress Case Reduced by Court (p 17)
  6. Torture at Angola Prison: President Obama promises to close Guantanamo, but a court proceeding in Louisiana exposes brutality closer to home (p 18)
  7. Widespread Corruption in Private Halfway Houses (p 20)
  8. Dead Bodies at “Bodies” Exhibit May Be Executed Chinese Prisoners (p 21)
  9. Florida’s Juvenile Death Camps: A Painful Past Revisited (p 22)
  10. Prisoners Can Sue Virginia DOC’s Contract Medical Provider for Breach of Contract (p 23)
  11. District of Columbia Rehabilitation Program Contractor Liable in Juvenile’s Death; $1,000,000 Verdict Upheld (p 24)
  12. California Jail Restraint and Tasering Death Settles for $3 Million (p 24)
  13. Oregon Jailer Avoids Prosecution for Online Assault Boast; Jail Employees Lose Internet Access (p 25)
  14. Supreme Court Holds Prosecutors Immune from Using False Snitch Testimony to Gain Wrongful Conviction (p 26)
  15. Hawaii Prisoner Awarded $15,000.50 for Slip and Fall (p 26)
  16. Entire Texas Prison System Locked Down to Search for Phones; Prison Cell Phone Problem is Pandemic (p 29)
  17. Ohio Court Releases Prisoners from Private Jail to Protect Them (p 31)
  18. CMS Contract Woes Persist in New Jersey, Arizona and Delaware (p 32)
  19. $2,925,000 in Recent Settlements Involving Maricopa County and Sheriff Joe Arpaio (p 34)
  20. Audit Faults New York Prison Oversight (p 36)
  21. In the Shadow of San Quentin: An Interview with Prison Law Office Director Donald Specter (p 38)
  22. Prisoners’ Guerrilla Handbook to Correspondence Programs in the U.S. and Canada, 3rd Edition, by Jon Marc Taylor and Susan Schwartzkopf (p 38)
  23. Federal Three-Judge Panel Issues Tentative Ruling To Reduce California’s Prison Population By Up To 57,000 In Three Years (p 40)
  24. $3.6 Million Settlement in Michigan Prisoner’s Segregation Cell Death (p 41)
  25. Selling Segregation (p 42)
  26. California Appellate Court Grants Writ, Reverses Governor, Reinstates PLN Writer’s Grant of Parole (p 44)
  27. Reverend Sues, Wins Right to Register Alabama Prisoners to Vote (p 45)
  28. Texas Parole Officials Caught Lying to Federal Court With Impunity (p 46)
  29. Report Finds Increase in Michigan Prison Population Attributable to Political Policy Changes, Not Crime Increase (p 46)
  30. Georgia Judges, Other Officials Indicted on Corruption and Human Trafficking Charges (p 48)
  31. Maryland Prison Employees Strip Searched After False Alert by Drug Scanning Machine (p 48)
  32. News in Brief: (p 50)
  33. Former Illinois Prison Director Convicted and Fined (p 50)
  34. Washington Jury Awards $202,500 to Ex-Prisoner for Injuries from Top Bunk Fall (p 52)

Deconstructing Gus: A Former CCA Prisoner Takes On, and Takes Down, CCA’s Top Lawyer

by Paul Wright, et al.

On June 13, 2007, former President Bush nominated Gustavus A. Puryear IV, 40, for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.
While you’ve likely never heard of Gustavus Puryear, you may be familiar with the company ...

Online Postings Lead To Stiffer Sentences

Prosecutors are increasingly using photos posted on Facebook and MySpace, popular social networking sites, to obtain harsher sentences.

It was bad taste, to say the least, when Joshua Lipton, a 20-year-old college junior charged with seriously injuring a woman during a drunken driving accident, showed up to a Halloween party ...

From the Editor

Readers will have received the January and February, 2009 issues of PLN later than usual because we had a problem with our mailing list database. The problem has been resolved and we are now moving back towards our regular publishing schedule. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused ...

GEO Cancels Contract at Pennsylvania Jail, Looks Elsewhere for Business

GEO Cancels Contract at Pennsylvania Jail, Looks Elsewhere for Business

by David M. Reutter

GEO Group, Inc. (formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections), the second-largest private prison company in the nation, has operated the jail in Delaware County, Pennsylvania since 1995. GEO reportedly saved the county $30 million when it built ...

$295,000 Award to Wisconsin Prisoner in Moldy Mattress Case Reduced by Court

On September 17, 2008, a Wisconsin federal jury awarded a prisoner $295,000 for violation of his constitutional rights. Specifically, the jury found that state prisoner Reggie Townsend was “denied the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities.”

After a riot at the New Lisbon Correctional Center in late 2004 ...

Torture at Angola Prison: President Obama promises to close Guantanamo, but a court proceeding in Louisiana exposes brutality closer to home

Torture at Angola Prison: President Obama promises to close Guantanamo, but a court proceeding in Louisiana exposes brutality closer to home

by Jordan Flaherty

The torture of prisoners in US custody is not only found in military prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo. If President Obama is serious about ending ...

Widespread Corruption in Private Halfway Houses

by Derek S. Limburg

Privately-operated halfway houses across the nation have become embroiled in scandals and mismanagement. The wrongdoing stretches from the top to the bottom, from former politicians and corrections commissioners to staff and prisoners.

Reports surfaced in June 2008 about operational problems at The Villa, a halfway house ...

Dead Bodies at “Bodies” Exhibit May Be Executed Chinese Prisoners

Dead Bodies at “Bodies” Exhibit May Be Executed Chinese Prisoners

by Gary Hunter

In 1977, German anatomist Gunther von Hagens developed a technique called plastination. The process involves slicing open human cadavers, exposing or extracting the internal organs, and infusing them with silicone or other polymars. Entire bodies can be ...

Florida’s Juvenile Death Camps: A Painful Past Revisited

by David M. Reutter

Recent coverage of long-past abuses at Florida juvenile facilities has put a spotlight on the treatment of juvenile offenders. Reports by the Miami Herald and CNN have revealed that Florida youth facilities have been cruel and problematic institutions for over a century, which provides historical context ...

Prisoners Can Sue Virginia DOC’s Contract Medical Provider for Breach of Contract

Prisoners Can Sue Virginia DOC’s Contract Medical Provider for Breach of Contract

Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) prisoners who receive inadequate medical care may sue the VDOC’s contract medical provider for breach of contract, the Supreme Court of Virginia decided on June 8, 2007.

Prison Health Services (PHS) is a ...

District of Columbia Rehabilitation Program Contractor Liable in Juvenile’s Death; $1,000,000 Verdict Upheld

District of Columbia Rehabilitation Program Contractor Liable in Juvenile’s Death; $1,000,000 Verdict Upheld

by Bob Williams

Re-Direct, Inc., a company that provides services for juveniles for the District of Columbia, appealed the denial of a post?trial motion for judgment as a matter of law or a new ...

California Jail Restraint and Tasering Death Settles for $3 Million

California Jail Restraint and Tasering Death Settles for $3 Million

The surviving family of a deceased detainee at the Santa Cruz, California jail settled their wrongful death suit against Santa Cruz County and its sheriff’s personnel for $3 million in April 2008. The prisoner died in September 2005 of asphyxia ...

Oregon Jailer Avoids Prosecution for Online Assault Boast; Jail Employees Lose Internet Access

Oregon Jailer Avoids Prosecution for Online Assault Boast; Jail Employees Lose Internet Access

by Mark Wilson

An Oregon jail guard who bragged in an online forum that he beat a prisoner and then had the prisoner charged criminally will not face charges himself, according to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s ...

Supreme Court Holds Prosecutors Immune from Using False Snitch Testimony to Gain Wrongful Conviction

Supreme Court Holds Prosecutors Immune from Using False Snitch Testimony to Gain Wrongful Conviction

by John E. Dannenberg

On March 28, 2007, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that a California man, wrongfully imprisoned for 24 years due to unreliable jailhouse informant testimony, could sue the prosecutor ...

Hawaii Prisoner Awarded $15,000.50 for Slip and Fall

Hawaii Prisoner Awarded $15,000.50 for Slip and Fall

A Hawaiian prisoner has been awarded $15,000.50 for a slip and fall that occurred in a prison kitchen. A related claim for damages for a slip and fall that occurred near a shower was rejected, however.

Anthony Jones ...

Entire Texas Prison System Locked Down to Search for Phones; Prison Cell Phone Problem is Pandemic

by Matt Clarke

On October 20, 2008, Texas Governor Rick Perry placed all 112 prisons and 155,000 prisoners in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) on lockdown to search for cell phones after a state senator received calls from a death row prisoner.

Richard Lee Tabler, 29, who ...

Ohio Court Releases Prisoners from Private Jail to Protect Them

Ohio Court Releases Prisoners from Private Jail to Protect Them

One thing about privately-operated jails and prisons is fairly consistent: They rarely function properly. A series of incidents at Ohio’s Columbiana County Jail, which is operated by CiviGenics, Inc. (a subsidiary of Community Education Centers), is the latest example of ...

CMS Contract Woes Persist in New Jersey, Arizona and Delaware

by David M. Reutter

Deficiencies in medical care and failure to comply with contractual obligations have resulted in the termination of two contracts for Correctional Medical Services (CMS). The contracts were worth a total of $95 million annually.

Regular PLN readers will not be surprised at the reasons behind the ...

$2,925,000 in Recent Settlements Involving Maricopa County and Sheriff Joe Arpaio

by Matt Clarke

The most recent developments in a thirty-year history of abuse and medical neglect of prisoners by Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) include three lawsuits in which the county paid almost $3 million in settlements. Those cases follow repeated reports and investigations that have found gross deficiencies ...

Audit Faults New York Prison Oversight

The New York State Commission of Correction (SCOC) is failing to fulfill its prison and jail oversight duties, according to an audit released on August 25, 2008 by the State Comptroller.

SCOC is responsible for overseeing New York’s 69 adult prisons, 4 secure juvenile prisons, 77 county jails and ...

In the Shadow of San Quentin: An Interview with Prison Law Office Director Donald Specter

In the Shadow of San Quentin: An Interview with Prison Law Office Director Donald Specter

by Todd Matthews

If any one of the dozen attorneys working at the Prison Law Office ever needs to be reminded of the importance of their work, they only need to step outside their office ...

Prisoners’ Guerrilla Handbook to Correspondence Programs in the U.S. and Canada, 3rd Edition, by Jon Marc Taylor and Susan Schwartzkopf

Prisoners’ Guerrilla Handbook to Correspondence Programs in the U.S. and Canada, 3rd Edition, by Jon Marc Taylor and Susan Schwartzkopf

Published by Prison Legal News, ISBN 978-0-9819385-0-9; 224 Pages; $49.95

Reviewed by Paul Wright

In 1994 the Democratic Congress and President Clinton eliminated Pell grants for prisoners. Within ...

Federal Three-Judge Panel Issues Tentative Ruling To Reduce California’s Prison Population By Up To 57,000 In Three Years

Federal Three-Judge Panel Issues Tentative Ruling To Reduce California’s Prison Population By Up To 57,000 In Three Years

by John E. Dannenberg

In a tentative ruling issued February 9, 2009, a three-judge federal panel ruled that uncontroverted evidence showed that unconstitutional health and safety conditions exist in California’s prisons ...

$3.6 Million Settlement in Michigan Prisoner’s Segregation Cell Death

The family of Timothy Souders has agreed to accept $3.25 to settle a wrongful death claim relating to Timothy’s death. Timothy, 21, was the subject of a May 2007 PLN cover article, and a February 11, 2007, report on 60 Minutes.

Timothy was one of the millions of ...

Selling Segregation

US high-security prisons are a big export, but critics doubt their success. 

Conflict has long been a source of misery for innocent people around the world. But it has equally long been a source of profit for big business.

The Sofex exposition in Amman, Jordan, is one of the world ...

California Appellate Court Grants Writ, Reverses Governor, Reinstates PLN Writer’s Grant of Parole

California Appellate Court Grants Writ, Reverses Governor, Reinstates PLN Writer’s Grant of Parole

by Marvin Mentor

The California Court of Appeal, 6th District, has twice granted the habeas petition of PLN contributing writer John Dannenberg, whose favorable Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) decision in 2005 was reversed by Governor Arnold ...

Reverend Sues, Wins Right to Register Alabama Prisoners to Vote

by David M. Reutter

The Alabama Dept. of Corrections (ADOC) has agreed to let Reverend Kenneth Glasgow enter state prisons to register prisoners to vote. The settlement agreement came after the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) filed suit on Glasgow’s behalf, alleging that previous permission he had received from ...

Texas Parole Officials Caught Lying to Federal Court With Impunity

A Texas federal court has dismissed as moot a parolee’s challenge to parole restrictions which prevented him from having unsupervised contact with his son. During the course of the litigation, parole officials repeatedly misled the court.

Gerald Grant, a Texas parolee, was convicted of possessing four photographs of child ...

Report Finds Increase in Michigan Prison Population Attributable to Political Policy Changes, Not Crime Increase

Report Finds Increase in Michigan Prison Population Attributable to Political Policy Changes, Not Crime Increase

by David M. Reutter

A report issued by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan (CRC) concludes that “Michigan’s historical incarceration rate growth was not the product of increasing crime rates, but was most prominently influenced ...

Georgia Judges, Other Officials Indicted on Corruption and Human Trafficking Charges

by David M. Reutter

Federal authorities have been investigating Georgia state court judges and county officials for the past several years. The result thus far is numerous indictments and three guilty pleas on charges ranging from fraud and extortion to human trafficking.

The federal investigation has centered on the Alapaha ...

Maryland Prison Employees Strip Searched After False Alert by Drug Scanning Machine

Maryland Prison Employees Strip Searched After False Alert by Drug Scanning Machine

by Derek Limburg

Nine prison employees at the Maryland Correctional Training Center (MCTC) received the same treatment as prisoners upon their arrival at work on August 12, 2008. The employees, including guards and counselors, were strip-searched.

By request ...

News in Brief:

Arizona: On December 19, 2008, Damon Rossi, 38, a criminal defense attorney, was arrested at home for allegedly giving his client a piece of candy during a trial in Yavapai superior court. His client was a jail prisoner in shackles. Sheriff’s spokesman Dwight D’Evelyn said the jail prohibits ...

Former Illinois Prison Director Convicted and Fined

Former Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections Donald Snyder was sentenced, on July 30, 2008, to two years in federal prison for accepting $50,000 in bribes from lobbyists.

Snyder tried to minimize the damage by admitting his guilt and turning state’s witness. A remorseful Snyder admitted taking ...

Washington Jury Awards $202,500 to Ex-Prisoner for Injuries from Top Bunk Fall

Washington Jury Awards $202,500 to Ex-Prisoner for Injuries from Top Bunk Fall

A Washington state jury awarded a former prisoner and his wife $202,500 for injuries incurred after he fell from a top bunk at the Washington Corrections Center (WCC).

Robert Emerick entered the Washington Dept. of Corrections ...