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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: March, 2009

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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. Prisoners’ Guerrilla Handbook to Correspondence Programs in the U.S. and Canada, 3rd Edition, by Jon Marc Taylor and Susan Schwartzkopf (p 38)
  22. In the Shadow of San Quentin: An Interview with Prison Law Office Director Donald Specter (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 he works for: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest for-profit prison firm. CCA is conveniently located in the Middle District of Tennessee, and Puryear serves as the company’s general counsel – its top attorney.

Puryear’s judicial nomination did not go unnoticed; it drew the attention of a former CCA prisoner turned criminal justice advocate who opposes private prisons. By conducting extensive research, securing widespread media attention, contacting members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and recruiting organizational allies, he coordinated an opposition campaign that managed to stall – and ultimately stop – Puryear’s nomination.

Further, the ex-CCA prisoner who took down CCA’s general counsel, denying him a federal judgeship in a humiliating defeat, happens to be employed by Prison Legal News.

The Man Who Would Be Judge

So who exactly is Gustavus “Gus” Puryear? Born into a wealthy family in Atlanta, Georgia, Puryear graduated with a B ...

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 dressed as a prisoner. Photos of Lipton in his faux prison garb, a black-and-white striped shirt and orange jumpsuit, were posted on Facebook and later fell into the hands of John Sullivan, the prosecutor handling Lipton’s drunken driving case.

Sullivan used the photos at Lipton’s sentencing to paint Lipton as unremorseful. The judge agreed, called the photos “depraved” and gave Lipton two years in prison.

“Social networking sites are just another way that people say things or do things that come back and haunt them,” said Phil Malone, director of the cyberlaw clinic at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. “The things that people say online or leave online are pretty permanent.”

Pictures like those of Lipton are embarrassing and make it more difficult to obtain leniency. Fortunately for defendants, it does not appear that prosecutors are scouring the web in preparation for every ...

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.

On January 28, 2009, John Dannenberg was finally released from prison. John has been a longtime PLN subscriber and began writing for PLN around ten years ago. He has been an excellent writer and a friend. His long parole ordeal, like that of thousands of prisoners in California and elsewhere, was a roller coaster of despair. The good news is that after several years of litigation and three writs of habeas corpus being granted, he was finally released. Of course, a writ of habeas corpus isn’t what it used to be and we can note it takes one court order to put someone in prison and three to get them out. The article on John’s court ordeal is in this issue of PLN. John wrote the article over a year ago, and it sat in my “to run” file until the day came that he was finally released ...

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 the 1,883-bed George W. Hill Correctional Facility (GHCF); in December 2007, GEO and the county agreed on an $80 million two-year contract renewal.

From all appearances it seemed the privatization of GHCF, which is the only privately-operated county jail in Pennsylvania, would result in a permanent relationship between GEO and Delaware County. However, citing “underperformance and frequent litigation,” GEO gave notice that it planned to terminate the contract on December 31, 2008. Today the jail is under another company’s management.

While GEO’s premature pullout was unexpected, it was hardly surprising. PLN’s December 2007 cover story detailed numerous problems at GHCF, which have resulted in several six-figure settlements brought by families of prisoners who died at the facility. Many of those cases involved deficient medical care, mental health care or supervision by jail staff.

GEO’s cancellation of its contract to operate the Delaware County facility came only four months ...

$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 US support for torture, he can start in Louisiana.

The Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola is already notorious for a range of offenses, including keeping former Black Panthers Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox in solitary for over 36 years. Now a death penalty trial in St. Francisville, Louisiana has exposed widespread and systemic abuse at the prison. Even in the context of eight years of the Bush administration, the behavior documented at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola stands out both for its brutality and for the significant evidence that it was condoned and encouraged from the very top of the chain of command.

In a remarkable hearing that explored torture practices at Angola, twenty-five prisoners testified last summer to facing overwhelming violence in the aftermath of an escape attempt at the prison nearly a decade ago. These twenty-five prisoners - who were not involved in the escape attempt - testified to ...

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 in Greeley, Colorado run by Avalon Correctional Services. A Colorado Public Safety Report on The Villa, also known as The Restitution Center, detailed numerous violations – including insufficient security, unqualified staff, falsified drug tests, and sexual relations between staff and prisoners. The sex reportedly took place in an area called the “Boom-Boom Room,” and weapons and drugs were found in a tunnel at the facility.

Following the report, the state canceled its contract with Avalon. The residents of The Villa were moved to a community corrections program at the Weld County Jail, and management of the program was assumed by another company, Intervention, Inc.
Reports concerning two other Colorado halfway houses operated by Avalon, the Phoenix Center and the Loft House, also found problems – including poor training, inadequate record-keeping and high employee turnover.

“It makes you question whether [the company] should still be in business in Colorado,” said state Rep. Liane ...

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 preserved through plastination. In 1995, von Hagens began displaying his creations to the public in an exhibit called Body Worlds. The response was phenomenal.

An Atlanta-based company called Premier Exhibitions, Inc. opened its own version of a plastinated body exhibit in New York in 2005. The display, called Bodies ... The Exhibition, included 20 full-body cadavers and more than 200 organs, embryos and fetuses. Since opening, over 1.5 million people have attended the exhibition.

Last year, however, concerns were raised as to the origin of the bodies on display. Premier insisted that the cadavers were legally obtained from Dailan Medical University in China as “unclaimed” corpses. But an exposé by ABC’s 20/20 program reported the bodies actually came from a plastination lab not connected with the university.

Premier reportedly paid $200 to $300 apiece for the bodies, which were suspected to have come from Chinese prisons. Arnie Geller, former ...

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 for more recent incidents.

At least five Florida juveniles have died in custody since 2001. In June 2003, teenager Omar Paisley died at a Miami facility due to a nurse’s neglect in treating his ruptured appendix. The nurse later pleaded guilty to a charge of culpable negligence and gave up her nursing license; Omar’s family received a $1.45 million settlement. [See: PLN, June 2005, p.8; Jan. 2009, p.31].

On January 6, 2006, Martin Lee Anderson, 14, died at a juvenile boot camp in a high profile incident that resulted in significant changes in the state’s juvenile justice system. [See: PLN, July 2006, p.9; Dec. 2006, p.26]. Eight guards and a nurse were indicted in connection with Martin’s brutal videotaped death, but all were acquitted at trial. [See: PLN, July 2007, pp. 9 and 11; June 2008, p.20].

A review of ...

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 contract medical provider for certain VDOC facilities. PHS’s contract requires that it “provide cost effective, quality inmate health care services for up to approximately 6,000 inmates (initially) housed at four correctional facilities.” The scope of health care services required by the contract includes all “medical, dental, and mental health services.”

In 2005, Oludare Ogunde, a prisoner at the Greensville Correctional Center, filed suit against PHS and several of its employees. Ogunde’s complaint alleged that he suffered from “severe acne cysts and acne keloidalis,” and that this condition was aggravated by shaving.

According to Ogunde, PHS and its employees denied Ogunde treatment for his skin condition and failed to provide him with an exemption from the VDOC’s grooming policy, VDOC grooming regulations prohibit male prisoners from wearing goatees or beards.

Ogunde argued that PHS’s failure to treat him and provide an exemption to the grooming policy amounted ...

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 Office.

In 2007, David B. Thompson, a guard at Portland’s Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC), made some disturbing comments in an Internet game site chat room. “I crushed a dude’s eye socket from repeatedly punching him in it, then I charged him with menacing and harassment,” Thompson wrote. “He took a plea to get away from me. He shoulda picked somebody else to try and fight.”

Thompson admitted to investigators that his comment referred to a 2005 incident in which he repeatedly hit jail prisoner David M. Baker in the head and face, which was one of Thompson’s 40 known use-of-force incidents since 2002.

Witnesses allegedly supported Thompson’s claim that Baker had initiated the attack, according to the district attorney’s “decline-to-prosecute” memo.

At the time of the incident, Baker, who had a history of assaults, said Thompson had attacked him without provocation. Regardless, he pled no contest to ...

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 for civil damages for failing to set forth policies that would prevent such false convictions. Prosecutors are normally absolutely immune from suit within the scope of their professional duties.

Thomas Lee Goldstein was convicted of murder in 1980. Although he maintained his innocence, he was found guilty based largely on the testimony of appropriately-named repeat-snitch Edward Fink, who claimed Goldstein had confessed to him when they were held in the Long Beach, California jail. Goldstein’s conviction was overturned by a federal court in 2004 due to Fink’s lack of credibility as well as the exposure of an undisclosed side deal by the prosecutor to be lenient in Fink’s own prosecution.

Following his release, Goldstein worked as a paralegal; he sued for violation of his civil rights using the novel theory that the prosecutor had no procedures or policies in place regarding the use of jailhouse informants. The prosecutor predictably claimed ...

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 is awaiting execution, used a cell phone to call state Senator John Whitmire, chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, on October 7, 2008 to ask for his help in obtaining a pro bono attorney and special visits for his mother and grandmother.

Tabler’s mother, Lorraine, was arrested at an airport when she arrived from Georgia after Sen. Whitmire told her he had arranged a visit with her son. Detectives are in possession of a videotape from a Wal-Mart in Waycross, Georgia that shows her purchasing minutes for the cell phone that Richard used. Over forty calls made from death row were to her home number.

Tabler’s mother and sister, Kristina Martinez, who surrendered to authorities in Temple, Texas on October 22, 2008, were named in felony warrants for providing a prohibited item to a prisoner. They face up to two years in state jail.

Tabler had also ...

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 that common deficiency.

Problems first became apparent when three guards were charged with smuggling drugs. One of those guards, Jason L. Jackson, is scheduled to go to trial on March 31, 2009 on a felony count of bringing marijuana into the facility. The other guards, Nathanial Barnes and Gary J. Ludt, pleaded guilty to contraband smuggling. Ludt received an 18-month sentence while Barnes will be sentenced later this year.

In June 2008, a prisoner escaped after kicking out an unsecured window in the minimum-security wing of the jail. Then on August 17, 2008, four prisoners broke into a locked closet and opened a panel that exposed duct work leading to the roof. They escaped after leaving dummies in their bunks covered with sheets; all four were captured the following day. According to a post-incident report, several CiviGenics employees had failed to follow proper procedures. Three were fired.

The jail is ...

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 contract terminations. What is unusual is that the contracts were canceled, as prison officials normally tolerate CMS’s substandard performance in order to save money; also, using a private contractor allows them to deflect blame for inept medical care.

In March 2008, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine terminated CMS’s contract to provide medical, dental and pharmaceutical services to the state’s prisoners. The contract had an annual value of $85 million. CMS has provided health care to New Jersey prisoners since 1996.

The New Jersey State Inspector issued a report in October 2007 that was highly critical of CMS, finding the company had overcharged the state and failed to comply with its contractual obligations. The state auditor issued a report with similar findings.

CMS officials seemed shocked that the contract was going to be terminated, especially in the midst of a four-year contract term. “The state has been extremely ...

$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 ...

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 317 local police lock-ups. “For the fiscal year ended March 31, 2007, SCOC received a State appropriation of $2.6 million.” The SCOC is comprised of three commissioners and 25 employees, down from 66 employees in 1990.

To carry out its mission, SCOC adopted rules governing facility construction and operation and the treatment of prisoners. SCOC is mandated by law to ensure compliance with its regulations by conducting site inspections, to evaluate “safety, security, health of inmates, sanitary conditions, rehabilitative programs, disturbance and fire prevention and control preparedness, and adherence to laws and regulations governing the rights of inmates.”

SCOC is also responsible for: investigating grievances and complaints about the treatment of inmates, approving the construction of new facilities and the expansion or renovation of existing facilities; and the training of jail and prison employees.

DOCS Facilities

As of December 31, 2006, the New York Department of Correctional Services (DOCS ...

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 the next few years, most states followed suit and either totally eliminated or gutted their prison education programs. Prison and jail education programs beyond GED and Adult Basic Education (ABE) became, and remain, a rarity. Of course, prisoner illiteracy rates remain sky high; all that changed is that prisoners seeking a higher education can no longer seek one within the prison system. The other alternative is correspondence courses. While there are books on the market discussing correspondence courses, they are all aimed at non prisoners, virtually all of which require some degree of internet access or residency.

Prisoners’ Guerrilla Handbook to Correspondence Programs in the U.S. and Canada, 3rd Edition (PGHCP) is written by Missouri prisoner Jon Marc Taylor who has successfully completed a B.S. degree, an M.A. degree and a Doctorate by mail while imprisoned. This book was initially published in the late 1990s. The second ...

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 door. The non-profit law firm is located just outside the gates of California’s San Quentin Prison, in the shadows of razor wire, guard towers, and the prison’s 5,200 prisoners.

For 30 years, the Prison Law Office has provided free legal services to California state prisoners, with an emphasis on conditions of confinement and medical care. In 2000, the firm filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of prisoners with chronic diseases who suffered medical neglect. The case was settled two years later, resulting in medical care improvements throughout California. The firm has also worked for prison reform aimed to benefit prisoners with disabilities and address overcrowding.

For the past 25 years, attorney Donald Specter has been at the forefront of this work as the firm’s director. PLN recently caught up with Specter to ask him about his work on prison reform.

PRISON LEGAL NEWS: You have focused your law career ...

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 that are due solely to overcrowding, and that the only visible means to correct the constitutional violations was to order a reduction in the existing prisons’ population. The court relied strongly on admissions of the underlying deficiencies made by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in CCPOA v. Schwarzenegger, 163 Cal.App.4th 802 (2008) [CCPOA].

The court’s five-part ruling was both terse and unswerving. Reviewing the facts in Part 1, it observed that in CCPOA, Governor Schwarzenegger had in 2006 already proclaimed a “state of emergency” in California’s prisons due to “severe overcrowding” that had caused “substantial risk to the health and safety of the men and women who work inside these prisons and the inmates housed in them.” In CCPOA, the state appellate court had held that the evidence demonstrated the existence of conditions of “extreme peril to the safety of persons and property.” The federal panel further noted ...

$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’s largest showcases of the latest developments in the art of war.

Passing through the throng of exhibits one can do anything from being voluntarily “Tasered” to opening negotiations on a ballistic missile.

Tucked in among the 7,500 buyers and sellers is a booth run by the Kerik Group purveying one of the latest exports of US defense, a weapon of mass detention – supermax prisons.

Criminal detention has become ?big business

The consulting company is seeking to answer the question of what to do with alleged terrorist suspects once they are in custody.

Frank Ciaccio from the group says that business has been brisk at Sofex and amongst interested clients is the Palestinian prison authority while the group is already helping construct a facility for the Jordanian government.

“Billions of dollars are being spent by military and law enforcement in fighting the war on terror. No money’s going ...

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 Schwarzenegger based solely on the Governor’s politically skewed readjudication of Dannenberg’s second-degree murder case.

The appellate court initially found on December 3, 2007 that there was no evidence of a nexus between Dannenberg’s 1985 commitment offense and any purported dangerousness at the present time. [See: In re Dannenberg, 68 Cal.Rptr.3d 188 (Cal.App. 6th Dist. 2007)]. Accordingly, the court vacated the Governor’s decision and reinstated the BPH’s parole decision.

However, the California Supreme Court granted review pending its opinions in the related cases of In re Lawrence, 190 P.3d 535 (Cal. 2008) and In re Shaputis, 190 P.3d 573 (Cal. 2008). Following those rulings in October 2008, the Supreme Court vacated and remanded Dannenberg’s case to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration. In its latest ruling on January 23, 2009, the Sixth District again granted Dannenberg’s petition, reinstating his grant of parole. He was finally released ...

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 the ADOC to register prisoners was revoked following objections from the Alabama Republican Party.

After Glasgow had a meeting with ADOC commissioners on July 30, 2008 concerning Alabama voting law, a memorandum was issued on September 5 that allowed him to contact prison wardens to schedule visits so he could educate prisoners about their voting rights and register them to vote by absentee ballot.

Upon Glasgow’s arrival at the prison, the warden was to provide him with a list of prisoners eligible to vote under Alabama law and let him meet with them. He was also to be allowed into segregation areas. From September 10 to 17, 2008, Glasgow registered 80 prisoners at three prisons.

Since Alabama law prohibits only felons convicted of crimes involving “moral turpitude” – an undefined term – from voting, Glasgow restricted his voter registration ministry to prisoners convicted of drug offenses, a crime the Attorney General ...

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 pornography which, according to court documents, he was persuaded to take in a sting-like operation involving a prostitute who worked with the San Antonio District Attorney’s Office.

He was sentenced to five years in prison and released on mandatory supervision two years later. As a condition of his release, the Parole Board imposed portions of Special Condition “X” (onerous parole conditions for sex offenders), which stated Grant could not “reside with, contact, or cause to be contacted any person 17 years of age or younger, in person, by telephone, correspondence, video or audio device, third person, media, or any electronic means” unless approved by his parole officer. Parole Division/Policy and Operating Procedure (PD/POP) 3.6.2.

Grant had a five-year-old son, Ethan. The parole restriction prevented him from living with his wife and son or even visiting his son without the supervision of a person unanimously approved ...

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 by changes in criminal justice policy and practices.” The comprehensive report reviewed here examines the policies, events behind those policies, and the consequences therefrom that have resulted in Michigan’s prison population increasing 538 percent from 1973 to 2004. The fiscal result is Michigan expends the largest portion of their budget (5.2 percent) to run its prison system, which is an increase from 1.6 percent of the budget in 1973, of any in the nation.

This report is unique in that it was not compiled by a governmental or prisoner interest group. Rather, the CRC’s Board of Directors and trustees is a who’s who of Michigan and national business leaders. The report said it was not intended to identify precise aspects of policies needed to slow the growth of incarceration, but it does lay the groundwork to determine future specific policy changes.

A historical perspective broke the last ...

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 Judicial Circuit, which comprises Clinch, Lanier, Berrien, Cook and Atkinson Counties in southern Georgia. On July 21, 2008, the FBI arrested five people who were at the epicenter of corruption in Clinch County’s court system.

Named in the 19-count indictment were former Judge Brooks E. Blitch, III; Berrien Sutton, a juvenile court judge and Blitch’s former law partner; Berrien’s wife, Lisa Sutton, who worked under Blitch as a court administrator; George Bessonette, a local attorney; and Hayward Collier, a friend of Blitch’s.

The Grand Jury charged that Blitch had engaged in a fraudulent conspiracy by creating unnecessary court positions, finding this allowed him to receive free legal services from the Suttons and Bessonette, who later served as Blitch’s law clerk.

In exchange for those services, Blitch created an unneeded juvenile court judgeship for Berrien, an unnecessary court administrator job for his wife Lisa, and various ...

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 of MCTC’s Warden, D. Kenneth Horning, the Maryland Department of Corrections (MDOC) Contraband Interdiction Team set up an IONSCAN drug detection system at the front gate of the prison. As employees passed through the machine, it sounded an alert on nine staff members.

Those employees were escorted to a separate room and strip-searched. Females were searched by female guards and males were searched by male guards. No drugs were found on any of the employees or in their vehicles.

Larry Kump, regional governor of the Maryland Classified Employees Association (MCEA), noted that the IONSCAN detector was either faulty or had been improperly operated. MCEA is the union that represents prison guards and other state employees; Kump stated they would file a grievance and were considering a lawsuit.

According to Warden Horning, the reason for the stepped-up scrutiny of drug smuggling by prison staff was a recent spike in prisoner overdoses ...

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 giving prisoners food and that Rossi was warned not to feed his client and responded “what are you going to do, arrest me?”

Arizona: On January 15, 2009, a federal Bureau of Prisons bus was hit by another vehicle which left the scene. Eight prisoners were treated for minor injuries.

Arizona: On November 8, 2008, Juan Nunez, 39, a guard at the Corrections Corporation of America run Central Arizona Detention Center was charged in federal court with accepting bribes from an unidentified prisoner to smuggle cocaine into the prison. Nunez met with an undercover FBI agent and received $1,600 and a half ounce of cocaine and agreed to smuggle the drug into the prison.

Florida: On December 15, 2008, Calhoun county jail guard William Strawn pleaded no contest to bribery and solicitation of prostitution charges. Strawn was videotaped propositioning former jail prisoner Lisa Vaughn for sexual favors whereby he ...

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 $30,000 from lobbyist Larry Sims. He also implicated former Cook County undersheriff John Robinson and prisoner advocate Michael J. Mahoney in the remaining $20,000 pay off. Judge Zagel was not impressed.

“I didn’t believe much of your testimony and I didn’t believe much of your testimony because of your claimed lack of memory,” said Zagel.

Neither did Zagel hide his distaste as he made it clear that Snyder had set a terrible example as a public servant and had impugned the stature of government officials through his actions.

“You hear over and over again that all government officials are corrupt,” the judge said. “You should have stayed in Pittsfield,” said Zagel as he ignored numerous personal affidavits from friends and neighbors, in upstate Pittsfield, vouching for Snyder’s character.

Snyder was defended by Springfield attorney Michael Metnick who tried to get his client a 16-month sentence ...

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 ...


 

Federal Prison Handbook

 



 

Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual

 



 

Federal Prison Handbook

 



 


 

Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual