Economic Crisis Prompts Prison Closures Nationwide, but Savings (and Reforms) are Elusive
by David M. Reutter
With the current economic crisis adversely affecting state tax revenues, lawmakers across the nation are seeking ways to cut costs and slash spending. Many states have proposed reducing their prison budgets by closing correctional facilities; however, by shuffling prisoners to other locations rather than releasing them, this amounts to little more than a shell game.
Further, politicians, guards’ unions and local businesses often protest the potential loss of jobs from prison closures, which they say will hurt the local economy. The result is that when prisons close, most of the affected employees are moved to other facilities and few are actually laid off.
The main benefit of proposed prison closures appears to be the stoking of public fear over the mere suggestion of releasing prisoners and losing prison jobs – which translates to a greater willingness to cut costs in other areas. Apparently our society is so vested in prisons as sources of employment and revenue that closing them is extremely unpopular and releasing prisoners early practically impossible.
When the Unites States was facing an economic crunch in the 1980s, rural economies that relied ...
Illinois Governor Bases Prison Closure Decision on Politics
by Derick Limberg
In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, Illinois spent at least $17 million to transform the 137-year-old Pontiac Correctional Center (PCC) into a specialized facility to house the state’s most violent prisoners.
However, in May 2008, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich announced plans to close PCC in a move supposedly aimed at reducing a budget deficit of roughly $700 million. According to Blagojevich, closing PCC would save about $8 million over the next two years.
Lawmakers and members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the union that represents Illinois Dept. of Corrections (DOC) guards, argued that cutting $8 million from a total state budget of $59 billion made little sense.
While the conversion of PCC into a maximum-security facility was in progress, the state had also built a brand new $140 million prison in Thomson. That facility opened in 2001 but has sat nearly empty since then, costing the state around $5.2 million to maintain.
About 570 jobs are at stake with the pending closure of PCC, which would “devastate” the local economy, according to the Illinois Commission of Government Forecasting and Accountability. Lawmakers ...
On September 29, 2008, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell ordered a moratorium on paroles. Three weeks later he lifted the suspension of paroles for non-violent offenders, and the moratorium was completely withdrawn last December. These are the latest developments in a crisis caused by overcrowding in Pennsylvania’s prison system, budgetary concerns, and a series of violent crimes committed by parolees.
The catalyst for the moratorium on paroles was the murder of Philadelphia police officer Patrick McDonald, who was shot by parolee Daniel Giddings on September 24, 2008. The fatal shooting followed the May 2008 murder of police Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski by three parolees who had just robbed a bank. According to police union officials, five of the nine Philadelphia officers shot in the past year were shot by parolees.
“Heartbreaking losses such as these have shed light on the need to thoroughly review the process by which Pennsylvania paroles violent offenders,” Gov. Rendell wrote in a letter to Temple University criminal justice department chairman John S. Goldkamp, who was appointed to head a review of the state’s parole procedures.
“We all understand it was the action of individual criminals that caused these deaths, however, I need ...
by Matt Clarke
PGH is the first in a line of books PLN will be publishing and we plan to focus on self-help reference books that are of interest to prisoners. We welcome suggestions on topics as well as book proposals by qualified writers.
PLN columnist Mumia Abu Jamal has also released a book, Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. The USA, which PLN is also distributing. I was honored when Mumia asked me to be the keynote speaker at the party launching the book to be held in Philadelphia on April 24 at the Church of the Advocate. April 24th ...
I generally don’t write about books in my monthly editorial but this is an unusual month. PLN’s first book, the long awaited and much anticipated Prisoners’ Guerrilla Handbook to Correspondence Programs in the US and Canada has been printed and is now being shipped. The third edition of the book has been completely updated and is revamped and professionally laid out and designed, and remains the only comprehensive book of its type written by an imprisoned distance learner, Jon Marc Taylor, a Missouri prisoner, who can accurately state what schools have to offer. We are very pleased with the outcome.
“We flush it and flush it and flush it – until we can’t see any more pills,” admits nurse Linda Peterson, who works at a state prison in Oak Park Heights, Minnesota. She reported that the prison hospital unit which serves prisoners statewide disposes of up to 12,000 pills annually. Heart medications, antibiotics, tightly regulated narcotics and other drugs which cannot be thrown in the trash are flushed down the toilet or poured down the sink.
Noting the presence of a nursing home, hospital and another prison nearby, Peterson asks, “So, what are all these facilities doing, if we’re throwing away about 700 to 1,000 pills a month?”
While few facilities record the amount of their pharmaceutical waste, a sampling by the AP suggests a projected annual national estimate of at least 250 million pounds.
“Obviously, we’re flushing the medications, which is not ideal,” acknowledges Mary Ludlow, who works for a South Carolina pharmacy which services long-term care facilities. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA ...
Each year, tons of unused pharmaceuticals are flushed by America’s state and federal prisons, hospitals and long-term care facilities, contaminating the nation’s drinking water, according to an Associated Press (AP) investigation.
This article is about high blood pressure, also called hypertension. Hypertension is a common chronic disease that arises slowly and continues for years. It generally causes few or no symptoms. Treatment is directed at controlling the blood pressure, not curing the underlying disease. Hypertension does not “get better”. A lifetime of uncontrolled high blood pressure may result in disability or death.
What is Hypertension
When the heart pumps there is a squeezing time when the blood is pushed out. The highest pressure occurs at this time. Then there is a relaxed time when the heart is filling up with blood when the lowest pressure occurs. Both the high peak and the low trough are measured with a blood pressure cuff inflated on the upper arm. The blood pressure is reported as the high and the low, for example “110 over 70” and written down like a fraction, 110/70.
Blood pressure greater than 140/90 is too high. Hypertension generally does not have warning symptoms. You would never know you had it unless they take your blood pressure as part of a nursing assessment at the clinic. Hypertension causes long term complications by ...
by Michael D. Cohen M.D.
Releasing The Disease: Is Overcrowded Cook County Jail Responsible For The Rise Of MRSA On The Outside?
by Kelly Virella
The sudden death of a 17-month-old boy in Hyde Park brought Dr. Robert Daum to the Cook County Jail. Out of town the April morning in 2004 when Simon Sparrow woke up screaming in his crib, Daum, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital, followed the case by telephone. Simon’s blood pressure dropped, his major organs began to fail, his skin turned purple and scabby, and his body bloated as if he were drowning. A day and a half later he was dead.
The attending doctors didn’t know why. But Daum had a hunch. Just a year earlier, a nine-month-old girl had died with similar symptoms. Her autopsy showed that she had a virulent and once rare form of staph infection known as community-associated methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or CA-MRSA (pronounced “mersa”). Since 2000, dozens of children had been admitted to the hospital with the infection, often manifested by lesions, abscesses, and pus-filled boils, but most had been cured with antibiotics.
Daum had seen a spike in CA-MRSA cases before. The prevalence of the disease ...
Illinois Guards Protest Prison’s Failure to Treat Scabies Outbreak
An outbreak of scabies, a mite infestation that causes itching and rash-like symptoms, has hit the Illinois River Correctional Center. Guards protested outside the facility on October 1, 2008 to decry prison officials’ refusal to address the problem, which the guards said was “spreading like wildfire.”
Over 30 prisoners were reportedly infected; however, prison administrators refused to admit there was an outbreak or remedy the situation. The guards said they feared getting scabies themselves.
“On shakedowns, we have to go through clothes. There’s a huge chance we’re going to contract this just through the shakedowns,” stated Sgt. Nick Conklin. He said many prisoners failed to seek treatment because they were afraid or ashamed about possibly having scabies. “I’ve heard cases where guys had it and didn’t say anything for two weeks.”
Union officials representing the guards claim fiscal realities are at the root of prison officials’ deliberate indifference to the outbreak. “There’s no reason for this. They’re not going to provide every inmate medication because of money ...,” said Dick Heitz, president of Local 3585 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “The inmates are ...
Before the Michigan Department of Corrections closed the Southern Michigan Correctional Facility (SMCF) in late 2007 to avoid further litigation in the long-running class action known as Hadix, the federal judge overseeing the case and lawyers representing prisoners argued that closing SMCF would not only transfer the problem to another prison, it would worsen the situation of inadequate medical care for chronically ill prisoners.
In our May 2007 cover story and two other articles that followed that article, PLN reported on the horrid care provided to Michigan prisoners by the private medical vendor, Correctional Medical Services (CMS). Those articles detailed the circumstances surrounding the needless deaths of several prisoners. Now, the callous attitude of prison officials has resulted in the needless death of another prisoner.
After U.S. District Court Judge Richard A. Enslen entered an order preventing the closure of SMCF, Michigan prison officials appealed that and several other orders. While the matter was on appeal, Judge Enslen suddenly requested the matter to be transferred to another judge. Based upon that and other unresolved factual matters, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded for reconsideration of the orders.
The new judge allowed SMCF to close ...
by David M. Reutter
California Class-Action Suit Reinstates $1.5 Million Illegally Siphoned From County Jail Inmate Welfare Fund
by John E. Dannenberg
Santa Clara County, California (SCC) agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit seeking recovery of funds unlawfully taken from its jails’ Inmate Welfare Fund (IWF) between July 2003 and January 2008 to ...
California Juvenile Parolees Entitled to Two-Step Revocation Process; Case Settles
by John E. Dannenberg
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California has held that the rights of California juvenile parolees were violated by the single-hearing revocation process used by the Juvenile Parole Board (JPB). Nevertheless, the court declined to require the initial revocation hearing to be held within ten days as it did for adult parole violators in Valdivia v. Davis, 206 F.Supp.2d 1068 (E.D. Cal. 2002). [See: PLN, Jan. 2003, p.16].
In Sept. 2006, L.H. and three other juveniles filed a class action complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213, claiming that the JPB’s policies and practices denied them due process of law in the parole revocation process. Among other issues, they claimed that the JPB’s policy of not providing two hearings (a preliminary hearing and a revocation hearing) – and indeed, not even providing one hearing for up to 60 days – violated the seminal principles set forth by the Supreme Court in Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471 (1972), Gagnon v. Scarpelli, 411 U ...
Texas Prison Authority OK’s Illegal Use of Prison Labor, but PIE Contract Not Renewed
by Gary Hunter
Even though a Texas legislator found the practice illegal, and even though it cost sixty people their jobs, the Private Sector Prison Oversight Authority of the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) announced in June 2008 that it would not cancel a contract that used prison labor to build flatbed trailers for commercial use. Despite that decision, the TDCJ later decided not to renew the contract after facing strong criticism.
The controversy arose in 2007 when Texas-based Lufkin Industries received notice that a competitor was selling similar flatbed trailers for considerably less money. Lufkin personnel did some digging, and learned their competitor was a company called Direct Trailer and Equipment Company (DTEC), which imported cheaper components from China and used Texas state prisoners at the Michaels Unit for the assembly process. [See: PLN, Nov. 2008, p.12].
Following that discovery, Lufkin filed a complaint with the Private Sector Prison Oversight Authority. Initially, the Oversight Authority announced in April 2008 that it would decertify the contract between the state and DTEC within 90 days if it was found to be in violation of state ...
California Female Parole Supervisor Awarded $859,000 for Gender Discrimination by Female Superior
A Los Angeles jury has awarded $859,000 in damages to a female state parole supervisor who claimed that her superior, also a woman, discriminated against her based on gender, which caused great emotional distress.
Rebecca Hernandez ...
Let Freedom Ring: A Collection of Documents from the Movements to Free U.S. Political Prisoners, by Matt Meyer
Book Review by Ian Head
In October, 2008, activist and (disbarred) attorney Lynne Stewart, who writes the afterword in Let Freedom Ring, spoke at the National Lawyers Guild’s annual convention in Detroit, Michigan.
“For those of you who are not aware of my case, the government tried to make an example of me to scare others,” she began. Stewart was convicted in 2005 of “conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists,” among other charges, in a case that many felt was brought only to intimidate fellow lawyers who defend political activists on the Left.
In Let Freedom Ring, historian Dan Berger echoes her sentiments when he writes, “The state uses the imprisonment of political leaders and rank-and-file activists as a bludgeon against movement victories. Their incarceration is a reminder of the strength, potential and, just as crucially, the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of radical mass movements…political prisoners serve collective prison time for all those who participated in the movements from which they emerged.”
That importance of political prisoners in the United States within the context of radical and progressive ...
Minnesota Sex Offenders’ Requisite Disclosure in Treatment Can Violate Fifth Amendment
Minnesota state prisoners Frank Johnson and John Henderson individually petitioned for writs of habeas corpus in 2005 after 45 days were added to their sentences for noncompliance with a Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP), which required them to admit their guilt.
The state Supreme Court ruled that prisoners with appeals pending or available to them, and those who denied their offense in court proceedings, could not be forced to prejudice their future appeals or to subject themselves to perjury charges, and thus could not be punished for such nondisclosures as part of an SOTP.
Johnson was convicted of assault, criminal sexual conduct and burglary in 2003, and sentenced to four years and ten months. While Johnson’s appeal was pending he refused to participate in the SOTP, asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self?incrimination, and refused to admit his guilt. As a result of his noncompliance, the Commissioner of Corrections (Commissioner) added 45 days to his incarceration as punishment. Johnson’s burglary conviction was overturned on appeal in 2004, but his other convictions were affirmed and further review was denied.
Henderson was convicted of criminal sexual conduct and sentenced to ...
BJS Report Finds 53% of Prisoners Are Parents
by Mark Wilson
About 809,800 (53%) of America’s 1,518,535 prisoners in 2007 were parents of minor children, according to a Special Report of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). Fifty-two percent of state prisoners and 63 percent of federal prisoners reported having 1,706,600 minor children, or 2.3 percent of U.S. residents under 18 years old.
The number of incarcerated parents increased 79 percent (357,300) from 1991 to 2007, and the number of children of incarcerated parents grew by 80 percent (761,000) during the same period. Most of that growth appears to be among state prisoners, with 413,100 incarcerated parents in 1991 growing to 686,000 in 2007 (60.2%) and children of incarcerated parents increasing from 860,300 in 1991 to 1,427,500 in 2007 (60.3%). The largest increases occurred between 1991 and 1997 with parents increasing 40 percent and children increasing 42 percent. Between 1997 and 2007, those numbers increased by only 19 percent and 17 percent, respectively.
In 2007, 744,200 incarcerated fathers reported having 1,559,200 children, while 65,600 incarcerated ...
Approximately half of the nation’s adult parolees are supervised by five states: California (125,067), Texas (101,175), New York (53,215), Illinois (33,354), and Pennsylvania (24,956), according to a 2006 Census of State Parole Supervising Agencies cited in the report.
Thirty-five of the 52 reporting agencies also supervised about one quarter of the 4,237,023 adults on probation as of December 31, 2006. These agencies supervised more than four times as many probationers (1,200,570) as parolees (269,416).
Thirteen of the 19 agencies responsible for release decisions reported that in 2005-2006, 126,641 prisoners were considered for release but only 57,850 (46%) were released.
North Dakota released a high of 76% of prisoners, followed closely by Connecticut at 71 percent.
Sixty-six percent of parolees were required to have face-to-face contact with a parole officer at least once a month, according to the report. Of ...
In 2006, nearly 68,000 state employees supervised 660,959 adult parolees – about 83 percent of 798,202 total parolees – according to a Special Report of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). Parole officers had an average caseload of 28 active parolees.
CA Supreme Court Capitulates, Rewrites "Unworkable" 2005 Dannenberg Lifer Judicial Parole Review Standards
In a welcome reversal of its own “hotly contested” 4-3 decision in In re Dannenberg, 34 Cal. 4th 1016 (2005), concerning judicial review of Board of Parole Hearings (Board) lifer decisions and the Governor’s reversal thereof, the California Supreme Court threw out its earlier “exceeds the minimum elements of the offense” test as being “unworkable.”
The Court decided that the statutory language “shall normally set a parole release date” no longer means just “a hope” of parole but is in fact a mandate, and held that the deferential “some evidence” test for judicial review means some evidence of current dangerousness, not “some evidence” of the existence of the Board’s regulatory factors.
Finding no such dangerousness in the record, the state Supreme Court upheld an appellate ruling that overturned the Governor’s reversal of a favorable parole decision for a first-degree murderer. See: In re Lawrence, 190 P.3d 535 (Cal. 2008).
In a parallel decision issued the same day, the Court gave an example of where some evidence of current dangerousness did exist in the record, and affirmed the Governor’s reversal of a grant of parole by ...
Federal prisoner Carl Green filed a federal habeas corpus petition under 28U.S.C. § 2241 seeking a court order that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) reduce his sentence on the basis of exemplary conduct. He relied on 18 U.S.C. § 3582(C)(1)(A)(i) and alleged that a reduction was warranted because “he may have saved the life of a staff member” and “he alerted prison officials to a small cache of homemade weapons that he found.” The district court summarily dismissed the petition, finding that § 3582(C)(1)(A)(i) permitted early release only for serious and terminal medical conditions. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.
Green then moved for relief from judgment under FRCP 60(b)(5) and (6). He alleged “that a recent amendment to a policy statement interpreting § 3582 now permits a reduction in sentence for reasons other than a medical problem.” The district court denied Green’s motion, noting that prisoners are required to exhaust administrative ...
A federal court in Michigan denied a federal prisoner’s motion for relief from judgment summarily dismissing his habeas corpus petition. The court found that the prisoner failed to show that he exhausted his administrative remedies.
This Valentine’s Lingerie Is Brought to You By the Prison Industrial Complex
by Beth Schwartzapfel
With Valentine’s Day, perhaps you made a trip to Victoria’s Secret. If you’re a conscientious shopper, chances are you want to know about the origins of the clothes you buy: whether they’re sweatshop free or fairly traded or made in the USA. One label you won’t find attached to your lingerie, however, is “Made in the USA: By Prisoners.”
In addition to the South Carolina prisoners who were hired by a subcontractor in the 1990s to stitch Victoria’s Secret lingerie, prisoners in the past two decades have packaged or assembled everything from Starbucks coffee beans to Shelby Cobra sports cars, Nintendo Game Boys, Microsoft mouses and Eddie Bauer clothing. Prisoners manning phone banks have taken airline reservations and even made calls on behalf of political candidates.
Still, it’s notoriously difficult to find out what, exactly, prisoners are making and for whom. Most of the time, prisoners are hired by subcontractors who have been hired by larger corporations, which are skittish about being associated with prison labor. Paul Wright, an expert on prison labor with sources inside many prisons, has broken many labor stories in ...
Since 2007, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), the largest religious network in the world, has been quietly spreading a faith-based rehabilitative TV program for prisoners.
Following a successful pilot program in South Dakota’s prison system, TBN’s Second Chance program is poised to expand nationwide. South Dakota, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida and Corrections Corp. of America (CCA) have already signed up for the free in-house television shows, and Ohio, Mississippi and South Carolina plan to start pilot programs.
TBN pays for all costs associated with the programming. Second Chance consists of up to four faith-based TV channels: TBN, the most popular faith-based channel in the nation; The Church Channel, which broadcasts teaching programs and church services from various denominations; TBN Enlace USA, a Spanish language channel airing faith-based programming from the U.S. and Latin American countries; and JCTV, a faith-based entertainment channel targeting 13- to 29-year-old prisoners.
The channels are broadcast on the Ku satellite band by Glorystar Satellite Systems, a free Christian satellite network, and TBN pays to have satellite dishes and receivers installed and maintained. Buford Satellite Systems and Correctional Cable TV, the two largest providers of cable TV services to prisons and jails ...
by Matt Clarke
Massachusetts Suicide Prevention Procedures Found Lacking
by David M. Reutter
An independent study of suicide prevention practices within the Massachusetts Department of Corrections (MDOC) has found serious deficiencies in the care of prisoners at risk of suicide. Since 2000, there have been 18 suicides, but 12 of those occurred during 2005-2006. With a 10,500 daily population average, that equates to a suicide rate of 26.9 deaths per 100,000 prisoners, which is almost double the national average of 14.
The study was conducted at MDOC’s request by Lindsay M. Hayes of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives. He reviewed the investigative and/or mortality reviews of the 10 most recent suicides and visited seven prisons that experienced the suicides.
In each case, Hayes found similarities. He said that 9 of 10 suicides were by hanging in special housing units. Half of the victims were discharged from suicide watch either a few hours or weeks earlier. Six had documented mental health histories and five had previous suicide attempts.
Hayes found MDOC was lacking in what is the key to suicide prevention: staff training of guards. He noted that “[v]ery few suicides are actually prevented by mental ...
Colorado: When Suing Private Prison under Common Law Tort, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies Not Required
The Colorado Court of Appeals held that prisoners in a private for-profit prison could sue the prison company, in a common law tort action, for nefarious acts of its employees during a 2004 riot without having first exhausted administrative remedies, because the remedies they sought were not available under the prison’s administrative regulations or required by state law.
Eighty-five injured prisoners sued Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), owner and operator of the Crowley County Correctional Facility in Olney Springs, Colorado under contract with the Colorado Dept. of Corrections. The prisoners filed suit under Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-17.5-102.3(1) (2007) in 2005 and 2006 in Crowley County District Court, seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Their common law tort claims included negligence, assault and battery, outrageous conduct and civil conspiracy.
The district court dismissed the complaints for failure to exhaust administrative remedies and dismissed the punitive damages demand as premature. On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that while exhaustion would normally be required, it was unnecessary in this case because the only claims brought were common law tort claims, for which there was no administrative ...
Data was accumulated from all state operated juvenile systems and the District of Columbia. The study also covered at least one private facility in each state. According to the report, private facilities fared better than state-run prisons. Figures indicate that the number of sexual misconduct allegations was five percentage points higher for state facilities than private prisons. All but three states – Montana, New Hampshire and Wyoming – reported at least one allegation in 2005 and 2006. During that same period one in 60 youths alleged being sexually victimized.
Just over one third of the allegations involved youth-on-youth nonconsensual sex. About one fifth involved youth-on-youth abusive sexual contact. Almost one third involved Staff sexual misconduct and eleven percent involved staff sexual harassment.
The report concluded that 732 of the reported allegations were substantiated. Of that number 432 involved youth-on-youth infractions and 295 involved staff-on-youth misconduct.
The study ...
Since the Prison Rape Elimination Act was implemented in 2003 the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has accumulated statistical data on sexual activity in juvenile prisons in the U.S. A report issued in July 2008, by the DOJ, compiled information in the areas of youth-on-youth sexual violence and staff-on-youth sexual misconduct and harassment.
BOP Amends Policy On Shackling Of Pregnant Prisoners
The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has decided to bar the shackling of pregnant federal prisoners except in extreme situations. The policy change comes just six months after the Second Chance Act of 2007 was signed into law. The Second Chance Act included a provision that requires the BOP to submit detailed annual reports to Congress on its use of restraints an pregnant prisoners.
The BOP’s policy change represents a significant victory for thousands of women across the nation in federal prison. The shackling of pregnant women has long been recognized by human rights organizations as dangerous and inhumane. The Rebecca Project for Human Rights and other organizations have been advocating for the change for years.
The BOP joins California, Illinois, and Vermont in restricting the use of restraints on pregnant prisoners. Forty-seven other states have no such laws and are not subject to the new policy. In addition, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which frequently detains pregnant immigrants never convicted of a crime, has refused to end or restrict its practice of shackling pregnant detainees.
Among the individuals seeking pardons were Michael Milken, the former junk bond king turned philanthropist, who was convicted of securities fraud in 1990. Other notables included Randy Cunningham, a former Congressman from California; Edwin Edwards, a former Democratic governor of Louisiana; John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban; and Marion Jones, a former Olympic sprinter. Each was seeking a pardon or commutation of their prison sentence.
The influx of petitions in Bush’s final days added to a substantial backlog of more than 2,000 pending petitions, most of which were from “ordinary people who committed garden-variety crimes,” stated Margaret Colgate Love, a clemency lawyer.
Ms. Love, who served as the U.S. Pardon Attorney from 1990 to 1997, said the backlog was overwhelming the vetting process.
“I have cases that date from the ...
It is not unusual to see an increase in requests for pardons in the waning days of a presidential administration. President Clinton, for example, received 1,827 petitions during his final year in office. However, with harsh mandatory minimums, tough sentencing guidelines and the abolition of parole for federal prisoners, former President Bush received over 2,300 clemency requests in fiscal year 2008, an all-time high.
With the assistance of the ACLU of Indiana, ex-offenders John Doe and Steve Morris filed a pre-enforcement challenge to Section 8(b) against all Indiana prosecutors on behalf of a class of “all persons, current and future, who are required to register as sex or violent offenders pursuant to Indiana law and who are not currently on parole or probation or court supervision.”
Doe and Morris argued that the law violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and the requirement that probable cause exists before a warrant is issued. They sought a declaratory judgment that the consent-to-search requirement under Section 8(b) was ...
On June 24, 2008, U.S. District Court Judge David Hamilton struck down Section 8(b) of Indiana Public Law 119, which required sex offenders and violent offenders who had completed their sentences and were no longer on parole, probation or any other form of correctional supervision to “consent” to the search of their computers or other devices with Internet capabilities. The law also required the installation on the same devices, at the offender’s expense, of hardware or software to monitor their Internet use. Failure to provide such consent was punishable as a felony.
Florida’s Public Service Commission has recommended that TCG Public Communications, Inc. (TCG) pay $7.5 million for the improper disconnection of jail prisoners’ telephone calls. The recommendation was made in a September 8, 2008 memorandum following an investigation into complaints made by family and friends of prisoners at the Miami-Dade Pretrial Detention Center (MDPDC).
The Commission began investigating after receiving a complaint on March 18, 2004 that alleged the phone system at MDPDC was malfunctioning, causing prisoners’ calls to disconnect prematurely. As a result, the complainant incurred $900 in additional phone charges between May 2003 and January 2004.
TCG was a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T Communications of the Southern States, Inc. All prisoner calls from MCPDC were “collect only,” resulting in a surcharge of $2.25 for 30-minute local calls and $1.75 for interstate toll calls plus an additional per-minute charge.
When a call would disconnect prematurely the prisoner would have to dial the party again, resulting in assessment of another surcharge. The disconnects were caused by a serious problem with TCG’s “third-party call detection” software, which resulted in approximately $6.3 million in improper charges. The Commission’s investigation revealed ...
by David M. Reutter
California: Restitution Fine Unlawful for Accessory to Murder
The California Court of Appeal (1st District) reversed a trial court’s imposition of a $12,083 restitution fine in an accessory-to-murder conviction because the criminal act – accessory after the fact – did not cause economic loss to the victim.
Kendricks Woods disposed of a gun that used was in a 2006 murder in Richmond, California, and was subsequently convicted of being an accessory after the fact. He was fined over $12,000, the sum paid by the Victim Compensation Fund to the family of the murder victim, even though he did not commit the murder.
On appeal, Woods claimed that such fines, by operation of Penal Code § 1202.4 and Cal. Const., Art. I, § 28, only attached to the perpetrator who actually caused injury to the victim. Since his post-murder actions caused no such injury, he argued the fine was illegal. The appellate court agreed and reversed the lower court’s imposition of the fine. See: People v. Woods, 161 Cal. App. 4th 1045 (Cal. App. 1st Dist. 2008).
Elected Judges More Punitive Just Before Elections
by Gary Hunter
Research compiled by Gregory A. Hubner of Yale University and Sanford C. Gordon of New York University revealed that trial judges hand out more prison and jail time to defendants just before they come up for reelection.
A total of 645 trial and appellate judges in ten states with retention elections were surveyed. Observations were restricted to only the most punitive felonies. Measures were taken to control for factors that could skew the results such as age, experience of elected judges, political party affiliations and the nonrandom assignment of cases. All total 22,095 cases of discretionary sentences were studied for punishment imposed between 1990 and 1999. The legal guidelines applied to these sentences were established in 1988, 1994 and 1997.
Once the numbers were crunched results revealed that just before election time judges sentenced defendants from 12 to 16 months longer. No judge included in the study handed down more lenient sentences. Pennsylvania judges close to reelection sentenced defendants to “more than two thousand years of additional incarceration” during that 9-year period.
In spite of the tremendous power wielded by trial court judges the study showed that “voters are ...
Pennsylvania Contractor Prohibited from Using State and Federal Funds for Religious Purposes
by Bob Williams
Citizens in Bradford County, Pennsylvania filed a federal lawsuit against the County and state and federal officials after government funds allegedly were used for religious prosetylizing of jail prisoners. A consent order was entered that required monitoring of the government funds and a prohibition against using such funds for religious purposes.
The Firm Foundation of America, d/b/a the Firm Foundation of Bradford County (Firm), provides vocational training for prisoners at the Bradford County Jail. The Firm receives federal, state and local government grants and other funding for this purpose, which reportedly total more than 90 percent of its income.
The Firm began receiving federal funds in 2002, which continued in 2003 through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD). The PCCD awarded the Firm funding through a Workforce Investment Act grant received from the U.S.
Department of Labor under the “Faith?Based and Community Initiative.” Additional funding was provided by the PCCD through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Drug Control and System Improvement program, and from the County’s general fund, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families fund, and various ...
$100,000 Settlement In Death of Diabetic California Prisoner
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) settled for $100,000 the wrongful death suit brought by the surviving son of a CDCR prisoner who died from undertreated diabetes after a 2½ year period.
Jeffrey Gautier was transferred in 2003 ...
Missouri Prisoner Wins $25,000 in Police Excessive Force Case; Attorney Fees Limited to $37,500 by PLRA
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, following the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), limited the attorney fees awarded in a prisoner’s 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ...
Felony Disenfranchisement Reforms Restore Voting Rights to 760,000
by Mark Wilson
Since 1997, 19 states have eased felony disenfranchisement laws and policies, resulting in the restoration of voting rights to at least 760,000 people, according to The Sentencing Project (TSP).
TSP “is a national non-profit organization engaged in research and advocacy on criminal justice policy issues.” In 1998, TSP and Human Rights Watch published Losing the Vote: The Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States, detailing the nation’s far-reaching laws restricting voting rights for people with felony convictions.
In September 2008, TSP Analyst Ryan S. King authored a new report, entitled Expanding the Vote: State Felony Disenfranchisement Reform, 1997-2008. He found that since 1997, and largely in response to the voter disenfranchisement issues exposed during the 2000 Presidential election, felony disenfranchisement issues have received significant media and high-level policy-maker attention.
According to the report, “as the public has become increasingly aware of these restrictive policies, there has been a groundswell of support for change. Public opinion surveys report that 8 in 10 Americans support voting rights for persons who have completed their sentence and nearly two-thirds support voting rights for persons on probation or parole ...
Former Mark Stiles Unit guard Davisha Maxine Martin, 26, pleaded guilty to providing a prisoner with a cell phone and received a four-year sentence on October 27, 2008. The Stiles Unit, located in Jefferson County, is the Texas facility where the most cell phones have been discovered in the past year. Two hundred cell phones have been found at the prison, including 60 hidden in an air compressor delivered to the facility.
Also on October 27, 2008, two New Jersey prison workers were indicted on charges related to cell phone smuggling. State prison guard Lisa Whittaker, 32, was indicted for hindering apprehension and two counts of official misconduct. The hindering apprehension charge stems from Whittaker giving investigators false information about New Jersey state prison nurse Darlene R. Sexton, 44.
Sexton, an employee of Correctional Medical Services, was indicted ...
On October 20, 2008, the entire Texas prison system was locked down and searched for cell phones and other contraband. The search resulted in the discovery of hundreds of cell phones, chargers, SIM cards, tobacco stashes and weapons. [See: PLN, March 2009, p.29]. While the search was in progress, the first Texas prison guard charged with cell phone smuggling was sentenced.
by Derek S. Limburg
On July 29, 2008, North Carolina’s State Auditor issued a report on the state’s oversight of juvenile delinquency prevention programs. The audit focused on three areas, all related to Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils (JCPCs).
Each of the 100 counties in North Carolina has a JCPC. The councils share a $23 million annual budget and use that money to fund and maintain local treatment and counseling programs for at-risk youth. The JCPCs are under the management of the Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (DJJDP).
The first area of concern in the audit was to determine if the local JCPCs had financial or program evaluation conflicts of interest. JCPC members not only allocate funds, but also evaluate the effectiveness of the funded programs.
Some JCPC members operate programs they are responsible for funding and evaluating; although the audit found no actual abuses, the members’ conflicting duties created “the potential for abuse and inequity.”
According to the audit, 14 of the councils had local program employees operating as JCPC board members. In the 2006-2007 fiscal year (FY), those members accounted for 17 of the 499 programs ...
North Carolina Audit Finds Deficiencies in ?State-Funded Youth Programs
Oregon Prison Chief’s Pay Raise Revoked; He Must Survive on Only $14,500 a Month
by Brandon Sample
Crime pays well in Oregon. Just ask Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) Director Max Williams, who earned a whopping $174,000 last year – $14,500 a month – which was $80,400 more than his boss, Governor Ted Kulongoski.
Kulongoski gave the state’s top administrators very generous raises in 2007. Most realized a 22 percent pay increase, while Williams saw his salary jump 30%, moving him from among the top 20 highest-paid prison directors to third in the nation, behind only California and Texas according to a national survey.
To put the increase in perspective, California incarcerates nearly 12 times as many prisoners (170,000) as Oregon (14,300), but California’s Secretary of Corrections earns just 1.3 times more ($225,000) than Williams. Arizona confines nearly three times as many prisoners (38,000) as Oregon, but its prison director earns $30,000 less than Williams. Washington state also confines more prisoners (18,600) but pays its prison chief $27,000 less than Williams. Nationally, the average salary for top state corrections administrators falls between $100,000 and $125,000, according ...
Taliban Break 870 Prisoners Out of Afghan Prison
On June 13, 2008, the Taliban staged a prison break in Kandahar, Afghanistan, releasing 870 of Sarposa Prison’s 1,000 prisoners, 390 of whom were members of the Taliban. The escape started with a cell phone call from a Taliban prisoner to his local Taliban subcommander complaining of poor conditions in the prison in which up to 20 men were crammed into one tiny cell. A week later, the subcommander celled back and promised that the prisoners would soon be freed. Within a few weeks, they began an attack on the prison using a suicide tanker truck bomber to destroy the front gate while a second suicide bomber blew a hole in the prison’s back wall. Dozens of motorcycle-riding Taliban fighters followed up with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles, storming the prison, suppressing the guards and freeing the prisoners. Seven guards and several prisoners died in the assault.
The Taliban allegedly had minibuses waiting outside the prison to transport some of the prisoners. Within a week, NATO and Afghan forces recaptured 20 prisoners and killed 15 insurgents while searching for escaped prisoners. The Afghan government fired Kandahar police chief General Sayed Aqa ...
Imprisoned Connecticut Politician Gets Special Privileges
by Matt Clarke
In October 2008, the Hartford Courant reported that former Connecticut State Representative Jesse G. Stratton had received special privileges from Department of Corrections officials. Stratton, a 61-year-old widow with three grown children, was serving a four-month prison sentence at the York Correctional Institution. She had been arrested for her third DWI offense on September 21, 2007, and pleaded guilty and was sentenced on August 21, 2008.
According to York officials, the maximum number of names allowed to appear on a prisoner’s approved visitation list is seven. DOC regulations say it is ten. Stratton’s list had fifteen.
DOC regulations limit prisoners to three visits a week. However, seven of the people on Stratton’s list had a notation that their visits didn’t count toward the three-visit limit. The names on Stratton’s visitation list included state Environmental Protection Commissioner Gina McCarthy, State Comptroller Nancy Wyman, State Representative Cameron Staples, State Senator Eileen Daily, former State Representative Peter Smith (who is now a lobbyist), and “Pam Church,” who apparently is Pamela Churchill, a friend of Stratton who is a professional fundraiser for nonprofits and schools.
The state officials did not have to go through ...
The results of the ACLU’s investigation were summarized in an October 15, 2008 letter sent to Harley Lappin, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The letter detailed the plight of some 50 prisoners on federal death row, known as the Special Confinement Unit (SCU) at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.
According to the letter, prisoners at the SCU are denied basic medical treatment, adequate mental health services and timely dental care, and are subjected to constant noise that causes sleep deprivation and psychological and physiological stress.
“Our findings should be a clear wake-up call for federal prison officials and should prompt them to do whatever is necessary to ensure that they are fulfilling their constitutional obligations to provide adequate levels of care,” said Gabriel B. Eber, who sent the 30-page letter to Lappin after investigating conditions at the SCU for one year. “The Constitution prohibits deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of prisoners, including those sentenced to die,” wrote Eber ...
The conditions of confinement on federal death row fall below minimum constitutional standards and jeopardize the lives and safety of condemned prisoners, according to an investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Cornell Defrauded of $13 Million in Prison Construction Scam
On August 26, 2008, indictments were filed against three men accused of defrauding private prison operator Cornell Corrections of California, Inc. out of $13 million in a prison construction scam.
A federal grand jury handed down indictments that included 20 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy against Edgar J. Beaudreault, Jr., 60, of Alpharetta, Georgia; Howard A. Sperling, 44, of San Diego, California; and Robert B. Surles, 62, of Canon City, Colorado. The indictments allege the men contracted with Cornell in June 2003 to build a private prison in Canon City. Cornell placed $13 million in an escrow account to be held until construction was complete.
In August 2003 the trio convinced Cornell to transfer the funds to an Atlanta account, which they claimed was a bank escrow account but was actually controlled by Beaudreault. They then moved the money to their own accounts and withdrew it. Some of the cash was spent at casinos, and one of the defendants bought a $60,000 Mercedes Benz.
Beaudreault and Sperling entered guilty pleas on December 17, 2008 and February 2, 2009, respectively, each to one count of conspiracy. They ...
Suit Filed Over Minnesota Jail’s Secret Recording of Privileged Phone Calls
by Matt Clarke
On October 15, 2008, a Minneapolis law firm filed a civil rights suit in federal district court alleging that attorney-client phone calls from the Becker County Jail in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota were secretly recorded and sent to law enforcement officials.
Kenneth E. Andersen was arrested for murder and incarcerated at the jail from June 2007 to June 2008. He was given an orientation handbook when he arrived at the facility that stated phone calls were recorded and monitored except for attorney-client calls, which were not recorded or monitored. No further information on procedures for securing privileged phone calls was provided to Andersen or his attorneys.
Andersen’s initial attorney was based 200 miles from the jail. She and her investigator used phone calls to question Andersen about the case, inform him of the progress of their investigation and plan trial strategy. After four months of privileged phone discussions, they began to suspect that their phone calls were being recorded and provided to law enforcement personnel.
On multiple occasions, law enforcement officials interviewed witnesses a few hours before they arrived at planned witnesses interviews that had been discussed ...
According to Julie Myers, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security, the program only involves low-level offenders. Most of those deported are charged with non-violent crimes such as drunken driving and drug offenses.
“People who are eligible for this program do not have significant criminal histories in Mexico or any other country,” she stated.
Under the current guidelines only about 4 percent of the illegal aliens incarcerated in Arizona’s prisons are eligible for the Rapid Repatriation program. Guidelines stipulate that eligible prisoners must serve half of their sentence, agree not to fight extradition, and not have a violent offense. Those caught reentering the U.S. would be required to serve the remainder of their original sentence plus up to an additional 20 years in prison.
Statistics show that, on average, immigrant prisoners who have been deported under the program received about 210 days off the full sentence they would have served.
Schriro estimates that nearly ...
The Arizona Department of Corrections (AZDOC) has transferred almost 1,500 illegal aliens from state lockups to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) since 2005. AZDOC director Dora Schriro said the newly-implemented policy has saved the state $18.6 million since its inception.
North Carolina DOC Pays $750,000 for Sex Between Guard and Female Prisoner
A North Carolina Department of Corrections (NCDOC) female prisoner won a jury award of $750,000 for three acts of sexual intercourse perpetrated by a male prison guard.
Former prisoner Tawanda Johnson, 25, reported the three incidents ...
California: On March 5, 2009, David Paradiso, 29, a criminal defendant on trial for stabbing his girlfriend to death, was shot and killed by police when he attacked Judge Cinda Fox with a homemade shank. Paradiso was being cross-examined by a prosecutor who asked why he had killed his girlfriend, and he responded “Because she deserved to die.” This resulted in a commotion in the court and when Judge Fox ordered a recess, Paradiso attacked her. Police detective Eric Bradley shot Paradiso three times; he was pronounced dead at the scene.
China: The National People’s Congress (legislature) has pledged to conduct more frequent inspections of the nation’s prisons and jails to halt the abuse and torture of prisoners by staff and fellow prisoners. A national scandal erupted after the February 12, 2009 beating death ...
California: On March 19, 2009, a rebellion by 38 prisoners at the Kern Valley State Prison left prisoner Oscar Cruz dead and 16 injured. One prisoner was stabbed to death by other prisoners, four prisoners were shot by guards, two were stabbed and the remainder were wounded by “blunt projectiles” fired by guards. The cause of the uprising is “under investigation” by prison officials.
Ventura County, California officials have settled an excessive-force lawsuit brought by a prisoner whose leg was severely broken while he was being restrained by jail deputies. The $1.5 million award, while admittedly high, avoided both the high costs of attorney fees in the civil rights suit and an even ...