PLN’s August 2006 cover story, Guards Rape of Prisoners Rampant, No Solution in Sight, profiled examples of sexual abuse by prison guards and other employees in 26 states. Since that time the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission has issued proposed standards to reduce sexual abuse behind bars, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics has released reports on sexual victimization in our nation’s prisons and jails. The latter reports found that over 60% of allegations of sexual abuse involved staff members rather than other prisoners.
What has not changed in the past several years is the continued rape and sexual exploitation of prisoners by prison and jail employees who are supposed to ensure their safety. All 50 states have enacted laws criminalizing sex between prisoners and prison staff; thus, employees who engage in sexual misconduct can no longer claim consent as a defense.
Due to the nature of prisons as “total institutions,” it is impossible for prisoners to voluntarily consent to sexual advances by ...
Sexual assault, rape, indecency, deviance. These terms represent reprehensible behavior in our society. They also represent recurring themes in our nation’s prisons – not only by prisoners, but also by guards and other staff members.
On the topic of books, the latest edition of Protecting Your Health and Safety, published by the Southern Poverty law Center and exclusively distributed by PLN is also now available. The book is an excellent litigation how to book aimed at helping pro se prisoners successfully litigate medical, excessive force and failure to protect claims.
This editorial will be brief because we have a lot of news to report this month. Enjoy this issue of PLN and encourage others to subscribe.
On March 20, 2009, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency gave Prison Profiteers: Who Makes Money from Mass Incarceration, the third PLN anthology on mass imprisonment its respected PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award. The purpose of the award is to honor the role of the media in informing the public on the root causes of crime and methods to protect youth and citizens from involvement in crime. I would like to thank both the NCCD and all the contributors to Prison Profiteers for the award. The book is available from Prison Legal News.
Billionaire-Funded California Voter Initiative Triples Lifer Parole Denial Intervals, Imposes Restrictions on Parole Violators
In the November 2008 elections, California voters narrowly passed Proposition 9 by a 53 to 47% margin. Prop. 9 was a state Initiative Act that 1) tripled the statutory intervals permitted by the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) when denying parole to life-sentenced prisoners, and 2) countered a recent U.S. District Court ruling that guaranteed legal representation and prompt revocation hearings for parole violators.
Seductively labeled on the ballot as a “victim’s rights” act, Prop. 9 was bankrolled almost entirely by billionaire Henry T. Nicholas III, whose 21-year-old sister, Marsy Leach, was murdered in 1983 by a former boyfriend. Notwithstanding that Marsy’s killer died in prison years ago, Prop. 9 was in reality a posthumous blanket decree designed to punish all of California’s 120,000 parolees and 30,000 life-sentenced prisoners.
But in what can only be characterized as poetic justice, Nicholas was himself recently indicted on 21 federal charges that include stock fraud, conspiracy, pimping, perjury, drugging friends’ and prostitutes’ cocktails, and having a warehouse of drugs. He faces up to 340 years in prison and is scheduled to go to trial in late ...
Prisoner’s Death, Abusive and Incompetent Guards Give Black Eye to Maryland Prisons & Jails
by Gary Hunter
On June 27, 2008, Ronnie L. White, 19, was arrested for the death of Maryland State Police Cpl. Richard S. Findley after hitting him with a truck. Police reports claim that White “intentionally accelerated toward Corporal Findley and ran him over.”
The following day White was taken to court and charged with first-degree murder. He was then placed in a solitary confinement cell at the Prince George’s County jail, which would prove to be a death sentence. White was found dead in his cell on June 29; an autopsy ruled his death a homicide.
The circumstances surrounding White’s murder were unclear, but guards at the jail were implicated. NAACP chapter president June White Dillard complained that the guards involved in White’s death were not being disciplined. “There are nine individuals identified and all are still employed and still on duty. We feel it is imperative that they be placed on administrative leave until a complete and thorough investigation has been completed into the homicide of Ronnie White.”
Clothilda Harvey, attorney for the guards’ union, said the autopsy ruling was premature and ...
Unlock the Box: Documenting the Struggle to Shut Down Prison Control Units, Reel Soldier Productions / MIM (www.abolishcontrolunits.org) 2008, 2:00 hours
Reviewed by David Preston (DP_Editor@comcast.net)
The new documentary Unlock the Box is the upshot of two public conferences: “Unlock the Box,” held in 2005, in San Francisco, and “StopMax,” held in 2008, in Philadelphia. The conferences, sponsored by the Unlock the Box Coalition and the American Friends Service Committee respectively, were organized to focus attention on the increasing trend toward use of Special Housing Units (SHUs) in the American prison system, and to put pressure on government to stop and reverse this trend. At the conferences, testimony was presented by former prisoners and their families; legal and psychological experts; and general supporters of human rights. The film presents additional historical material and testimony from current prisoners, prison officials, and others. If you can get past the low budget feel and overtly political tone of Unlock the Box, you are guaranteed to have your eyes opened about the nature of modern American prisons.
Like most bureaucratic inventions, the Special Housing Unit (aka Prison Control Unit, Segregation Unit) is a mild-sounding euphemism for something unpleasant ...
State Auditor: Texas Prisoners Face Retaliation for Airing Grievances
by Matt Clarke
In September 2008, the Texas State Auditor released a report on the investigation and resolution of complaints in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). The report found that while grievance administrators filled out investigation forms properly and resolved grievances on time, many prisoners and employees had suffered retaliation for filing complaints.
By the end of FY 2007, 139,577 prisoners were incarcerated in 101 state prisons and 20 privately-operated facilities. At that time, TDCJ had 39,030 full-time equivalent employees. The audit covered FY 2007 and the first six months of FY 2008. Over that time period there were 376,421 non-medical prisoner grievances; 46,492 medical prisoner grievances; 12,364 Patient Liaison Program complaints; 34,436 Safe Prison Program prisoner protection complaints; 1,492 employee grievances; and 1,120 Equal Employment Opportunity Complaints (EEOCs).
Surveys of 1,641 prisoners at 7 prisons regarding the TDCJ grievance system revealed that many prisoners did not know about the grievance system, most believed they would be subjected to retaliation if they filed a grievance, and almost all questioned the objectivity and independence of grievance staff. Similar surveys of 673 ...
Washington’s Top Prison Doctor Resigns Over Executions; Entire Execution Team Later Quits Following PLN Records Request
by Mark Wilson
Washington State death row prisoner Darold Ray Stenson was scheduled for execution in December 2008. He got an unlikely stay, however, when the top physician for the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) resigned to avoid involvement in Stenson’s death sentence.
Dr. Marc Stern supervised about 700 medical staff in WDOC facilities statewide. He was troubled that some of the people he supervised were participating in preparations for lethal injections, and voiced concerns to his supervisors. According to Stern, no solution was forthcoming.
He noted that it was unethical for doctors to take any part in executions, and that both the American Medical Association and Society of Correctional Physicians oppose physician participation in carrying out death sentences. Resigning was the only way he could remove himself from being involved with Stenson’s execution, Stern stated.
WDOC Assistant Secretary Scott Blonien characterized Stern’s objection as more personal than professional. “It’s clear to us that Marc had a personal, ethical conflict and we respect that,” said Blonien. “There’s nothing we would want to do in the department to cause someone to commit a violation ...
New York Prisoner Receives $3,732 for Medical Neglect/Lost Property Claim
A New York Court of Claims awarded a prisoner $3,500 for medical neglect by prison medical officials’ failure to treat the prisoner’s deviated septum for 20 months. The prisoner also received a $232.68 settlement for lost ...
Caging Kids for Cash: Two Pennsylvania Judges Guilty of Selling Out Juvenile Justice System
by Matt Clarke
Judges are supposed to be the protectors of our constitutional rights. They are expected to be fair and impartial, and to safeguard vulnerable members of society who are unable to protect themselves. Admitting to a shocking breach of this sacred trust, in January 2009 two Luzerne County, Pennsylvania judges entered guilty pleas to federal charges related to their acceptance of $2.6 million in kickbacks.
The payments were for their help in arranging the construction of private juvenile facilities, eliminating a county-owned and operated juvenile prison, obtaining a favorable contract for the private facilities, and incarcerating juvenile offenders accused of minor crimes in the private, for-profit prisons.
On January 21, 2009, Luzerne County President Judge Mark A. Ciavarella, Jr., 58, and Senior Judge Michael T. Conahan, 56, entered conditional guilty pleas to the charges contained in a 22-page criminal information. The plea agreement requires them to resign from their positions, pay an undisclosed amount of restitution, and serve 87 months in prison. Both remain free on $1,000,000 unsecured bonds pending formal guilty pleas and sentencing. See: United States v. Ciavarella and ...
Wisconsin Prisoners Sexually Assaulted by 20 Staff Members Over Five Years
by Gary Hunter
According to John Dipko, public information director for the Wisconsin Dept. of Corrections, twenty state prison employees have faced charges of rape or sexual assault involving prisoners since 2003. Several recent cases are detailed below.
Dwight Helsell, Edward H. Wood and Andrew Metzen all worked maintenance at the Taycheedah Correctional Institution (TCI) when they were charged with sexually assaulting two female prisoners. [See: PLN, Aug. 2006, p.1].
Helsell received two years probation and 45 days in jail for sexually inappropriate behavior with the two prisoners between February 1 and August 22, 2005.
Wood was a section plant operator at TCI for 13 years when he was charged with 4th degree sexual assault. He was accused of bringing beer into the prison, giving it to one of the prisoners and then touching her inappropriately on two occasions. Wood was ordered to pay $250 to a non-profit organization for sexual assault victims.
Metzen received a six-month jail sentence and two years probation for having sexual intercourse with one of the prisoners, who was also sexually involved with Helsell. The woman said the sex was consensual and admitted ...
$1 Million Settlement Fund Established in New Mexico Jail Strip Search Settlement
by David M. Reutter
A $1 million settlement fund has been established in a class action lawsuit alleging an unconstitutional blanket strip search at the Hidalgo County Detention Center (HCDC) in New Mexico violated the rights of the ...
Also, in January 2008, the U.S. Dept. of Justice filed suit in federal court against administrators at TYC’s Evins unit, alleging they had “engaged, and continue to engage, in a pattern or practice of failing to ensure that the youth at Evins are adequately protected from harm.” The state entered into a settlement agreement to resolve problems at the facility. [See: PLN, Oct. 2008, p.50].
Since that time state legislators have supposedly imposed greater oversight, and the TYC’s population of juvenile offenders has been cut by more than half. Lawmakers are now shocked by the fact that TYC administrators are doing less work for considerably more money. The salaries for top agency officials have increased almost 25 percent to $18.7 million annually, while the population in TYC facilities has dropped from 4,500 to about 2,200.
Administrators at the already-troubled Texas Youth Commission (TYC) have succeeded in creating a new scandal. Only 18 months ago, Texas citizens and lawmakers were rocked by revelations that two senior TYC officials, Ray Brookins and John Paul Hernandez, had been molesting young boys at the West Texas Youth Facility in Peyote. [See: PLN, Feb. 2008. p.1].
California County’s 2005 Purchase of Private Prison Still Clouded in Conflict of Interest Questions
by Marvin Mentor
Investigative journalism by the San Bernardino Daily Bulletin has revealed that the April 2005, $31.2 million purchase of a private prison by San Bernardino County remains under a conflict-of-interest cloud because the lobbyist who represented both the buyer and seller allegedly did not fully disclose his dual relationship at the time.
The Victor Valley Modified Community Correctional Facility, located in Adelanto, was owned by Maranatha Corrections, LLC. The company’s consultant, former state Assemblyman and Board of Prisons Terms member Brett Granlund, also served as a lobbyist for the county. Maranatha founder Terry Moreland reportedly failed to disclose this conflict of interest to county officials at the time of the private prison sale.
The conflict question was subsequently assigned to independent attorney Leonard Gumport, who found that Granlund’s involvement in the sale was “minimal” and he had no influence on the purchase negotiations. Although the parties insist there was no wrongdoing regarding the sale of the prison, Gumport’s report has never been made public. [See: PLN, Dec. 2007, p.15; Jan. 2006, p. 20].
The private prison had been built on spec by ...
CA Jail Deputies Allegedly Provoke Murder of Misidentified Child Molester by Other Prisoners; Wrongful Death Suit Settled for $600,000
A prisoner booked into the Theo Lacy jail in Orange County, California on domestic battery and child pornography charges was falsely labeled a child molester by deputies, and as a ...
On October 22, 2008, U.S. District Court Judge Neil V. Wake issued an 83-page order with findings of facts and conclusions of law in a long-running civil rights lawsuit against Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and other county officials. The order held that conditions of confinement in sections of the Maricopa County jail system, which houses around 10,000 pre-trial detainees, did not pass constitutional muster.
The class-action civil rights suit, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, was originally filed with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 1977. In 1998 the defendants filed a motion to terminate a previously-entered amended judgment pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA); the motion was renewed in 2001. This resulted in an automatic stay of the injunctive relief in the amended judgment.
The intent of the PLRA’s automatic stay provision was to ensure that the termination proceedings would be resolved quickly. Such was not the case; rather, the termination motion had the effect of suspending enforcement of the amended judgment for a decade.
Unfortunately, Sheriff Arpaio did not use that time to bring the Maricopa County jails into compliance with constitutional standards ...
by Matt Clarke
Hawai’i Supreme Court Holds Takings Clause Requires Payment of Interest on Prisoner Trust Accounts
by David M. Reutter
The Hawai’i Supreme Court has held that prison officials have no statutory authority to divide a prisoner’s trust account into two accounts, one of which was restricted as to withdrawals. More importantly, the Court held that state prisoners have a federal constitutional right to payment of accrued interest on funds in their prison trust accounts.
Hawai’i prisoner Richard Blaisdell, acting pro se, filed a declaratory judgment action against the Department of Public Safety (DPS), challenging the placement of his prison earnings into a restricted trust account. He cited Hawai’i Revised Statutes (HRS) § 353-20, which provides that all sums collected for prisoners “shall be deposited by the department into an individual trust account to the credit of the committed person.”
Such funds can only be garnished under four specific provisions of HRS § 353-22.5. Garnishment may occur only for restitution to victims, court-ordered child support, replacement and other expenses associated with damage the prisoner may cause while incarcerated, and reimbursement for copying and postage costs advanced for litigation. None of those factors were applicable to Blaisdell.
The DPS did not ...
Study Shows Treating HCV in Prisons with Pegylated Interferon Is Cost-Effective
by Matt Clarke
A new study published in the November 2008 issue of the medical journal Hepatology found that treating hepatitis C-infected prisoners with the standard therapy of pegylated interferon and ribavirin was cost-effective. Savings were as high as $41,321 per year, with 0.75 years of increased quality life expectancy for prisoners 40 to 49 years old without a pre-treatment biopsy.
Between 12 and 31 percent of the 2.3 million people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails are infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which causes liver damage and eventual death if left untreated. This compares with a 1.3% infection rate in the general population.
The high rate of prisoner HCV infection is due to a high rate of intravenous drug use.
Annually, between 29% and 43% of the total number of HCV-infected persons in the U.S. pass through a prison or jail. Thus, the treatment of HCV-infected prisoners has wide-ranging consequences for our nation’s public health policy.
Previous studies had shown that the standard HCV treatment was cost-effective for the general U.S. population. This new study, led by Sammy Saab ...
The California Court of Appeal upheld a Superior Court verdict of $21,800 against state prison officials in a lawsuit filed by a prisoner whose eventually-corrected good time credit earning rate resulted in his being released nine months late. Suing under a theory of false imprisonment ...
by John E. Dannenberg
Charles Roberson III was placed on community supervision by the DOC in 2003 for possession of a controlled ...
On April 16, 2008, the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) settled a lawsuit brought by the family of a woman killed by a drunk driver under DOC community supervision for $850,000.
In July 2008, Louisiana-based private prison company LCS Corrections Services agreed to remove junked cars, appliances and other debris inhibiting the flow of Petronila Creek, which runs close to LCS’s newly-built 1,100-bed Coastal Bend Detention Center near Robstown, Texas.
The company had applied to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for a permit to discharge up to 150,000 gallons a day of treated wastewater into the creek.
The permit was opposed by residents, especially those from nearby Lost Creek colonia, because the creek already had putrid, stagnant water and tended to flood due to blockages.
A colonia is an unincorporated, often impoverished community in the southwest, usually without potable water, sewage systems or paved roads.
Although water tests had not shown high levels of E. coli bacteria, Lost Creek residents complained that the creek water sickened both community members and livestock. The contamination may have resulted from people dumping animal carcasses into the creek, or from brine pits and brine injection wells located close by. The creek tested high for chlorides, sulfates and total dissolved solids. State agencies had refused to clear the creek’s flow obstructions because it cuts through private property ...
by Matt Clarke
Court records indicate that Pignatelli was facing indictment as a co-conspirator for allegedly helping his clients purchase “stash houses,” which were to be used to store drugs and money. Instead, he avoided prosecution by turning on his clients and becoming an informant. Information provided by Pignatelli led authorities to seize hundreds of pounds of cocaine and marijuana, as well as over $3 million in cash and property.
Although many people expressed outrage or disgust at Pignatelli’s questionable behavior, his own attorney, Lawrence Vuillemin, said he had “acted responsibly and as required under the law.” Be that as it may, others believe that lawyers who inform on their clients make a mockery of attorney-client privilege.
Robinson’s new attorney, James Campbell, said Pignatelli’s decision to turn on his client “leaves a bad taste in ...
On January 23, 2009, Chevaliee Robinson was sentenced to 15 years by a U.S. District Court in Ohio after pleading guilty to drug conspiracy and money laundering charges. Robinson’s arrest was one of 30 made by federal agents in connection with an undercover sting operation that lasted more than three years. The primary informant in the investigation was Robinson’s attorney, Frank Pignatelli.
Oregon Jail Oversight Committee Disbanded After Sheriff Resigns
In 2006, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners in Portland, Oregon responded to a scathing prosecutor’s report about dangerous and costly conditions in the county’s jails by creating a special advisory committee. [See: PLN, Jan. 2008, p.12].
The committee was designed to address the systemic management failures of then-Sheriff Bernie Giusto, who publicly battled commissioners over the way he ran the Multnomah County jail system.
Giusto resigned under fire in July 2008 following findings of ethical violations. [See: PLN, Jan. 2009, p.48]. Three months later the advisory committee was disbanded, representing a strong endorsement of the county’s new sheriff, Bob Skipper.
“It’s an expression of confidence in my ability and the staff’s ability to run this agency as it should be run,” said Sheriff Skipper. County Chairman Ted Wheeler praised Skipper’s efforts but promised that the Board of Commissioners, which was also faulted for lackadaisical jail oversight, would continue to stay involved.
Source: The Oregonian
U.S. Military Uses Small Wooden Boxes for Segregation Cells of Iraqi Prisoners
The U.S. military has taken the meaning of segregation back to the most draconian periods in human history. The military’s answer to dealing with violent Iraqi or Al Qaeda loyalist prisoners is to place them in small wooden boxes.
Military officials released three grainy black-and-white pictures that show the 3 foot by 3 foot by 6 foot tall wood and mesh boxes. Once an average Iraqi, who is an average 5 feet 6 inches tall, is placed in the box, there is little room to move around.
Because prisoners are only isolated in the box for no more than 12 hours at a time and they are checked every 15 minutes, military officials contend the boxes are humane.
“Someone in a segregation box is actually observed more than those anywhere else,” said Maj. Neal Fisher, Marine spokesman for Task force Unit 134. “Their care and custody does not change simply because they are in segregation.”
“There are concerns that they could be used in places where detainees are enclosed in extremely hot conditions. It is important to know whether or not detainees are provided ...
In August 2008, in an attempt to avoid negative press, the Nevada Dept. of Correction (DOC) asked the contractor to suspend its use of prisoners to register voters. “We immediately contacted the Choices Group and asked them to terminate all work release inmates working for the ACORN organization,” the DOC said in a written statement.
The company complied, but not before the Nevada Secretary of State and Attorney General’s office launched an investigation. A criminal investigator with the Secretary of State reported that ACORN had hired 59 work release prisoners between March 5 and July 31, 2008. One of those prisoners, Jason Anderson, was promoted to a supervisory position.
On October 7, 2008, twenty boxes of files were seized from ACORN’s Nevada headquarters along with eight computers and hard drives. ACORN also relinquished 46 application packages related to 33 former canvassers. An examination by election officials turned ...
Last year, prisoners participating in a work release program were hired by Choices Group, a contractor, to register voters in Nevada. Residents of the Casa Grande Transitional Housing Facility in Las Vegas were used to canvass neighborhoods and sign up voters by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).
Double Standard of Punishment for Supervisors, Line Staff in Colorado DOC
by Gary Hunter
Records show that supervisors who break the rules at the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) are punished less severely, if at all, in comparison with low-level prison employees.
In 2006, Director of Prisons Gary Golder was involved in a dispute with his girlfriend; he was drunk at the time and brandished a loaded weapon.
Golder’s distraught girlfriend called 911. “My boyfriend has a gun and he’s drunk, and I’m not sure what he’s going to do with it,” she told the dispatcher. “He’s come out and gone back in and told me I just [expletive] him out of a job.”
Even drunk, Golder knew he should have been fired for his actions, as CDOC regulations prohibit behavior that brings “disrepute” on the department. But Golder kept his job. He wasn’t even arrested.
In contrast, Jason Monett was not only fired, he was prosecuted for possession of chewing tobacco on prison property. Monett was a ten-year employee of the CDOC; the prison system sought to have him charged with felony possession of contraband on prison property. Monett pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor to avoid the ...
“My passion is inside the [prison] walls,” said Cuie. “I’m as happy as I can be. I’m grateful to have this opportunity.”
But after just six months Cuie had managed to overspend the budget for the Mayor’s Office for the Reentry of Ex-Offenders, breach existing contracts and hire too many employees. In August 2008, Mayor Nutter reassigned Cuie to another position.
Cuie’s original appointment came with much fanfare. Philadelphia had already taken a novel stance in the way it dealt with released prisoners. In 2005, under the leadership of former mayor John F. Street, city leaders created a $2.6 million budget aimed at reducing recidivism by assisting ex-offenders following their release from prison. Along with hiring Cuie, Mayor Nutter had championed legislation to persuade businesses to hire ex-offenders by giving them a $10,000 tax credit.
Further, Impact Services Corp. was ...
Before his release in 2003, Ronald L. Cuie had served almost three years in Pennsylvania prisons for aggravated assault, robbery and criminal conspiracy. However, it was his successful work under two previous Philadelphia mayors that convinced Mayor Mike Nutter to appoint him over an office created to help former prisoners successfully reintegrate into society.
Florida Prison Officials’ Failure to Timely Respond to Grievances Results in Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that Florida prison officials failed to timely respond to a prisoner’s grievance, which satisfied exhaustion of available remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA).
The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida dismissed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action filed by state prisoner John West Davis, holding he had failed to exhaust administrative remedies as required by the PLRA. Davis appealed.
He argued that the district court failed to consider the time frame in which Florida Dept. of Corrections (FDOC) officials have to answer a prisoner’s grievance. Davis contended that because FDOC officials failed to timely respond to his grievances, he had properly exhausted his available administrative remedies.
Florida has a three-tier grievance procedure: informal grievances, formal grievances, and appeals to the Secretary. Prisoners must file informal grievances within a reasonable time after an incident, which is determined on a case-by-case basis. Prison officials must respond to such grievances within 10 days of receipt.
All other grievances or appeals, including an emergency or medical grievance, must be filed within 15 days of ...
Mock Prison Disaster Program Discontinued; Mock Prison Riot Training Remains
by Gary Hunter
Practicing for prison riots has been big business in Moundsville, West Virginia for years. The West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville gained notoriety in 1986 when prisoners took control of the facility for 53 hours, holding seventeen employees hostage. Three prisoners were killed.
That same year the state Supreme Court ruled that conditions at Moundsville were unconstitutional. Among other violations, up to three prisoners were being housed in 5’ by 7’ cells. See: Crain v. Bordenkircher, 176 W.Va. 338, 341 (W.Va. 1986). The prison was closed in 1995 and is now used for historical and educational tours.
In 1997, the Office of Law Enforcement Technology Commercialization (OLTEC) saw an opportunity to peddle its high tech security gadgets by staging mock emergency riots and disasters at the Moundsville prison site. By 2000, Moundsville commanded a $1.4 million allocation from Congress, thanks to senator Robert Byrd, and participants in the disaster and riot training programs infused the local economy with over $600,000. Guest speakers and salesmen touted everything from Tasers and night vision goggles to pepper spray rifles.
“It was a soup to nuts operation ...
Prisons and Jails Preparing for Switch to Digital TV Broadcasting ... or Not
by Matt Clarke
On February 17, 2009, over-the-air television broadcasters were scheduled to complete the switch from analog to digital signals. Following the changeover, analog televisions will no longer receive over-the-air stations without a converter, as all channels will be broadcast digitally.
The conversion is needed to free up airwaves for public safety communications, wireless broadband services and cell phone companies. The deadline for the analog-to-digital broadcasting switch has since been extended; all broadcasters must now make the changeover by June 12, 2009.
Some prison systems are prepared for the switch. In California, for example, all TVs purchased by prisoners since July 2008 have been digital and all state-owned TVs will be equipped with digital converters, according to California DOC spokesman Paul Verke.
Tennessee prisons plan to mount rooftop antennas with a digital service to provide signals to most prisoners’ in-cell TVs. Prisoners will be charged a small fee for the service. The Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice has an estimated 7,000 televisions, which will be upgraded by installing digital receivers.
Jails and prisons with cable connections will not have to do anything, as cable service providers ...
California Prison Fined $40,000 for (Another) Raw Sewage Spill
California water officials fined the California Men’s Colony State Prison (CMC) in San Louis Obispo $40,000 for a 20,000 gallon raw sewage spill into Chorro Creek on January 27, 2008. This was just the latest such spill into Chorro Creek, which drains into environmentally sensitive Morro Bay.
The spill was traced to the failure of a backup power generator during a power outage. But CMC has “priors.” When its older sewage plant spilled 220,000 gallons of waste into Chorro Creek in 2004, and a records search revealed 450 documented spills in the previous five years, CMC was fined $600,000 [see: PLN, Nov. 20007, p.2]. Since then, a multi-million dollar plant upgrade has been completed.
In this latest episode, the toxicity of the pollution was mitigated by high winter creek flows. Nonetheless, concerned county officials closed Morro Bay, a state-designated marine protected area, for four days as to water-contact recreation and indefinitely as to sport shellfish harvesting. CMC could have been fined $200,000 under state law.
John Henry Mathers, 56, was civilly-committed in July 1997. He was initially incarcerated at SCC but graduated to a less-restrictive SCC halfway house in 2002. There, under escort, he could leave the facility for treatment and work.
Mathers had been convicted of multiple violent offenses that included sexual assaults involving women and girls. The state petitioned to have him deemed a sexually violent predator when he completed his last criminal sentence in March 1996, and he agreed to be civilly committed.
Mathers participated in the sex offender treatment program with favorable staff reports during his stay at SCC. According to court documents, “he has continued to progress in his treatment and to comply with all the rules and conditions. Mr. Mathers has been viewed as a model resident.”
Pierce County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Arend heard Mathers’ request for unconditional release on August 15, 2008. The Department of Social and Health Services had opposed any type of release, contending that Mathers still fit the statutory definition of a sexual ...
Washington State, for only the second time ever, has unconditionally released a prisoner from the Special Commitment Center (SCC), a facility for civilly-committed sex offenders located on McNeil Island near Tacoma.
New Jersey Judge Denied Sex Offender a Fair Hearing, Appellate Court Finds
Questioning a lower court’s ability to conduct a fair hearing, a New Jersey appellate court ordered a new hearing before a different judge for a sex offender confined under the state’s Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA).
On March 20, 2007, a sex offender identified as S.B.M. was civilly committed under the SVPA. During a December 20, 2007 hearing to determine if his confinement should be continued, the judge interrupted testimony because she wanted to know if there was a reason why S.B.M. was wearing dark glasses. A witness told her that S.B.M. had a history of eye surgery. She asked if dark glasses had been prescribed, but the witness did not know.
“The judge ordered S.B.M. to ‘take them off.’ S.B.M. responded, ‘I have a medical…’ The judge cut him off and ordered him to take them off several times.” The judge was subsequently informed that S.B.M.’s medical file indicated “tinted lenses were medically necessary.” She did not order him to remove the glasses again but said the “use of black glasses ...
Kenneth H. was arrested on September 15, 1998 for grand ...
The Supreme Court of New York held that the Court of Claims erred when it dismissed a prisoner’s damages claim for injuries suffered when he was not placed in protective custody as had been ordered by the Criminal Court.
An anonymous MDOC prisoner identified as Jane Roe (and later, a class of similarly situated prisoners) sought approval for “outcount” transportation to a medical facility to have an elective, non-therapeutic abortion. MDOC policy restricted all such transports to medical “necessities.”
Roe countered that she had a Fourteenth Amendment right to an elective abortion, and the MDOC’s policy was therefore unconstitutional; she further alleged cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. The U.S. District Court (W.D. Mo.) ruled for her on both claims, and the state appealed.
The Eighth Circuit conducted a de novo review and found that the four-part test of Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78 (1987) applied. The state contended that Roe’s case was similar to one of racial classifications, and thus was owed a stricter standard of review; however, this argument was rejected by the appellate court.
In applying Turner, the Eighth Circuit first agreed with the district court that although a legitimate ...
The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has held that the Missouri Department of Corrections’ (MDOC) blanket policy of prohibiting the transport of female prisoners to outside medical facilities for elective, non-therapeutic abortions violated the Fourteenth Amendment.
South Dakota Jail Prisoner Awarded $1.1 Million for Rape by Guard
A South Dakota federal jury awarded a former female pretrial detainee $1.1 million in damages for being raped by a guard at the Pennington County Jail. The detainee, Mindy Kahle, was a former stripper awaiting disposition of ...
Los Angeles County Pays $850,000 for Police Misconduct Death and $595,000 in Jail Medical-Related Death
Los Angeles County settled two lawsuits in July 2008 for a total of $1,445,000. Of that amount, $850,000 went to the survivors of a man shot to death by sheriff’s ...
A former Missouri prison doctor and participant in lethal injections, who was banned from performing executions in that state, is still for hire to conduct executions in other jurisdictions. With over 40 death sentences notched in his belt, he is widely sought after for his purported expertise with lethal injections.
Dr. Alan Doerhoff, 64, proudly told the Associated Press on August 14, 2008, “Nobody will ever do as many [executions] as I have.” In fact, Doerhoff has assisted with lethal injections not only in Missouri but also in Arizona and Connecticut, and for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
His departure from Missouri’s execution team was based upon his previously non-disclosed dyslexia, which causes him to transpose numbers and make dosing mistakes. [See: PLN, July 2008, p.28]. Doerhoff has since stated that “he is not dyslexic, but does transpose numbers” – a seeming distinction without a difference. He has also been sued for malpractice over 20 times.
Apparently, his current Dept. of Corrections clients don’t care. Rather, they rely on his self-proclaimed status as the “world’s authority on lethal injection” to perform allegedly painless executions. His procedure is to deliver all the drugs ...
by John E. Dannenberg
Dennis Sullivan tested positive for marijuana in August 2006. The U.S. District Court (D. Mont.) ruled that was a violation of his supervised release from a 1998 federal conviction for possession of a stolen money order. Sullivan had originally been sentenced to 18 months in prison plus three years of supervised release. The latter required him to refrain from any unlawful use of a controlled substance. Upon violating Sullivan, the court sentenced him to an additional 12 months in prison and 20 more months of supervised release.
However, Sullivan had a concurrent sentence from a Montana state court. In February 2001, he was transferred from a state prison to a state pre-release center, from which he was released in September 2002 ...
The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has held that with respect to 18 U.S.C. § 3624(e), being on supervised release in a state community pre-release center did not toll a state prisoner’s concurrent federal supervised release. Since the plaintiff had therefore served all of his federal probation period while participating in the state community pre-release program, he was beyond the federal court’s jurisdiction for reincarceration when he failed a subsequent drug test.
California Prisoner-Pay Deductions for Aiding Crime Victims Distributed to Victim Organizations
In December 2008, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) Prison Industry Authority distributed $131,343 collected from prisoner workers’ pay to twelve crime victims organizations. The money, amounting to 20% of the net wages earned in Joint Venture programs within CDCR, was doled out in amounts ranging from $3,010 to $17,632.
The Joint Venture program was created in 1990 when Proposition 139 (“Inmate Labor Initiative”) was passed by the voters. Prop 139 authorized private companies to set up businesses on prison grounds to employ prisoners at comparable market wages. The prisoners’ after-tax “earnings were divided to pay 20% each towards (1) restitution orders (or the victims fund), (2) family support, (3) incarceration costs, (4) a mandatory prison-administered savings account for the prisoner upon release and (5) the prisoner’s current use.
It is from the portion withheld for victims that the $131,343 accrued. The organizations receiving the current distribution were: Community Action Partnership of Madera County ($35,264); James Rowland Crime Victim Assistance Center ($17,632); Merced County District Attorney Victim/Witness Assistance ($17,632); Lassen County Victim/Witness Assistance Center ($3,010); Sunny Hills ...
$75,000 Settlement in Utah Jail Prisoner’s Suicide
Officials at the Salt Lake City Jail settled a lawsuit involving a prisoner’s suicide for $75,000. The settlement came in the hanging death of Arthur Henderson.
When he was booked on January 28, 2006, Henderson revealed he was depressed and had ...
Federal Supervised Release Must be Credited for Time Served on Prior Revocations
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that the maximum allowable period of federal supervised release following multiple revocations must be reduced by the aggregate length of any prison terms served as a result of prior revocations.
In 1999, Stephen Mazarky pleaded guilty to federal drug charges and was sentenced to 42 months imprisonment and 36 months of supervised release. Following his 2004 release, Mazarky violated his supervised release.
The district court revoked his supervised release and sentenced him to 10 months in prison and 26 months of supervised release. Mazarky was released in 2006 and again violated. The court again revoked, and sentenced Mazarky to 8 months in prison and 28 months supervised release.
Mazarky appealed, arguing that under 18 U.S.C. § 3583 his 36-month supervised release term should have been reduced by the 18 months he served in prison on the violations, resulting in an 18-month supervised release term rather than the 28 months ordered by the district court. The Eleventh Circuit agreed.
Noting that this was “a question of first impression in this Circuit,” the appellate court acknowledged that it “has been ...
Luis Francisco Alba, a federal prisoner incarcerated at the McRae Correctional Institution in McRae, Georgia, filed a pro se civil rights complaint claiming deliberately indifferent medical care. McRae is owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) under contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).
According to his complaint, Alba underwent surgery for a benign goiter in his throat while at McRae. He alleged that the surgery damaged his vocal cords, and that despite repeated requests he was not given appropriate post-operative treatment. Alba sued several individual CCA employees, including the warden and other health services staff, but not CCA corporate.
He specifically alleged that prison employees, acting pursuant to CCA policy, had refused to schedule thyroplasty surgery – a corrective procedure recommended by a throat specialist. Alba contended that CCA employees did not authorize the surgery based on a CCA policy that considered the surgery “elective” in order to curtail medical costs. Alba sought monetary damages and an order directing prison ...
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that a federal prisoner incarcerated at a privately operated prison may not pursue a Bivens action against private prison employees for violating his Eighth Amendment rights.
Ninth Circuit Remands RLUIPA Claim for Group Religious Worship in Maximum Security Jail
The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has held that under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), a prisoner seeking group worship in the maximum security section of a jail was entitled to have his religious rights balanced against jail security concerns, rather than be subjected to a blanket ban on all group worship irrespective of less restrictive means.
Darin Greene was housed in the maximum security section of the Solano County, California jail, awaiting trial on charges of terroristic threats and false imprisonment. His requests to have a classroom made available at the jail for the purpose of conducting group religious services was denied due to a blanket policy of movement restriction for high-security prisoners. He attempted to conduct Bible study by yelling to other prisoners through the corner edge of his cell door, but was rebuffed by staff and other prisoners who were bothered by the noise.
Greene sued jail Lt. Peggy Rourk in U.S. District Court (E.D. Cal.) under the RLUIPA, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq., claiming the blanket restriction on group worship services violated ...
$7,025 Award in Slip and Fall From Ohio Prison Bunk
The Ohio Court of Claims has awarded a former Ohio prisoner $7,025 for injuries related to a slip and fall from a prison bunk.
Stacy Rose slipped and fell while climbing down from his bunk at the Chillicothe ...
Court Rejects Federal Prisoner Worker’s Claim of Copyright Infringement
The U.S. Court of Federal Claims dismissed a prisoner’s copyright infringement suit for lack of jurisdiction; the dismissal was upheld on appeal.
Robert J. Walton, a federal prisoner, sued the United States for copyright infringement related to his creation of calendars for the General Services Administration (GSA) while working for Federal Prison Industries, Inc., commonly known as UNICOR. Walton alleged that the government never compensated him for use of the calendars, and that government officials were engaged in ongoing infringement.
While working at a UNICOR print factory at the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas from 1999 to 2001, Walton designed various calendars for the GSA. The designs were created at the instruction of his work supervisor and prepared with UNICOR equipment. Millions of calendars were produced by UNICOR using Walton’s designs, and shipped to the GSA.
At some point Walton expressed concern to his work supervisor that UNICOR was misappropriating his “original art, designs, images, words and phrases, and creations” in violation of his intellectual property rights. As a result, Walton requested permission to include his name and a copyright symbol on the calendars. Walton also requested permission to ...
Ninth Circuit: Former Gang Member Entitled to Jury Trial in § 1983 Jail Guard Retaliation Suit
The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that a prisoner’s lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Jail for intentionally housing him in the jail’s “gang module” as retaliation for his refusal to become a snitch should proceed to a jury trial. The pro se plaintiff’s attempts in the district court to obtain a jury trial and request appointment of counsel were improperly denied, the appellate court held.
Salvador Solis is a former Mexican Mafia “La Eme” gang member, now serving life without parole in state prison for murder. When he first entered the Los Angeles County Jail, he asked for protective custody because he feared for his safety from active gang members. Although given a jail segregation form to complete, he answered “no” where it asked if he feared for his safety, because at the time he was being observed by other gang members. Accordingly, he was placed in general population.
Later he privately asked jail guard Miguel Beltran to put him in the segregation module, explaining that he did in fact fear for his safety – showing Beltran documents proving his ...
Berta Ray Lee was a 27-year-old mother of three minor children, ages five, seven and nine. She was arrested on December 17 ...
On March 14, 2008, Multnomah County, Oregon paid $59,422 to the estate of a mentally ill female detainee to settle a suit stemming from her jail suicide.
In October 2008, Michigan’s Auditor General released a performance audit on selected personnel and other administrative costs at the Department of Corrections (DOC) for the previous fiscal year. The report revealed that the DOC had overspent millions on overtime pay.
As of December 31, 2007, the DOC spent $1.91 billion to operate 41 prisons and 8 camps that housed over 50,000 prisoners. The department had 16,260 employees with an annual payroll of $1.41 billion, including $95.3 million in overtime costs.
The audit’s objectives were to assess the effectiveness of the DOC’s management of staffing, overtime, salaries/benefits and other administrative expenses. To do this, the auditors interviewed DOC employees and reviewed statutes, directives, policies, legislative reports and additional documents related to administrative costs. The DOC’s price negotiations with Michigan State Industries (MSI) were audited, but MSI operations and DOC costs for food, prisoner transportation and health care were not.
The most glaring deficiency found in the audit was the DOC’s reliance on paying
overtime instead of hiring more guards. The auditors discovered that 121 guards had each worked more than 1,000 hours of overtime. One worked ...
by Matt Clarke
Georgia: On April 23, 2009, Fulton county jail guards Lt. Robert Hill, 46 and Lt. Earl Glenn, 47, were arrested by FBI agents and charged in federal court with violating the civil rights of a prisoner; obstructing justice; filing a false report and making false statements to federal agents. The charges stem from the unprovoked beating of an unidentified jail prisoner on August 9, 2008.
Kansas: On April 27, 2009, Jacob Roscoe, a former recreation specialist at the US Penitentiary in Leavenworth was sentenced to 366 days in prison for accepting a $1,400 bribe to bring marijuana and jewelry into the prison.
Louisiana: on April 28, 2009 ...
Florida: On October 7, 2008, Dade County circuit court Judge Maria Espinosa Dennis accused fellow judge David Miller of assaulting her when he attempted to use the fax machine in her chambers. Dennis told police that Miller had “grabbed her by her shoulders and pushed her toward her office in an attempt to close the door behind them.” The Dade county State Attorney’s office refused to file charges in the case. Prosecutors denied they were showing Miller favoritism because he is a judge. Miller was reassigned to family court in 2009.
Four BOP Guards Sentenced To Prison For Beating, Cover-Up
U.S. District Judge Carol B. Ann has ordered four former Bureau of Prisons (BOP) guards to serve time for the beating of a prisoner and subsequent cover-up.
Jaime Toro and Glenn Cummings, former guards at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, were sentenced to 41 and 35 months imprisonment, respectively, after a jury found them guilty of beating a handcuffed prisoner. The assault occurred in April 2006 while Toro and other guards were escorting a prisoner--accused of assaulting another guard—to the Special Housing Unit.
Upon reaching the elevator, Toro stuck his leg out and threw the prisoner to the floor of the elevator. Cummings then ran into the elevator and repeatedly stomped on the prisoner’s back and shoulders. Cummings stomped the prisoner so hard he left boot prints on the prisoner’s back. The prisoner was handcuffed behind his back during the entire incident. Lieutenant Elizabeth Torres and Angel Perez, another guard, watched the beating from the hallway in front of the elevator but did nothing to stop it.
After the beating, Toro, Cummings, Torres, and Perez tried to cover-up what happened. They lied to investigators and submitted false ...