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Prison Legal News: January, 2010

Issue PDF
Volume 21, Number 1

In this issue:

  1. Prison Health Care, Political Choice and the Accidental Death Penalty in Michigan (p 1)
  2. $950,000 Settlement for California Prisoner Rendered Quadriplegic (p 10)
  3. From the Editor (p 10)
  4. Hadix Litigation Winding Down (p 12)
  5. Shortcomings Cited at Virginia’s Civil Commitment Facility (p 12)
  6. BOP Settles FTCA Abuse/Religious Discrimination Suit for $48,000 (p 13)
  7. U.S. DOJ Calls Houston Jail Unconstitutional, Prisoner Death Rate Alarming (p 14)
  8. $75,000 Settlement in Heart Attack Death of Missouri Jail Prisoner (p 15)
  9. Don’t Build it Here Revisited (or “There is no Economic Salvation Through Incarceration”) - Prisons Do Not Create Jobs (p 16)
  10. $125,000 Settlement in Suicide Death Of New York Jail Prisoner (p 18)
  11. Pennsylvania Prisoner Gets $12,500 in Retaliation Suit After Remittitur (p 19)
  12. Settlement in Class-Action Suit Against CCA Modified After PLN Unseals Court Documents (p 20)
  13. Colorado Detainee Tasered During Seizure, Paid $116,731.73 and $83,268.27 in Fees (p 20)
  14. Prison Video Visitation Expands into For-Profit Market (p 22)
  15. Sex with Former Jail Employee Lands Texas Sex Offender Back in Prison (p 23)
  16. Soft Porn, Bribery and Jailed Millionaire Make for a Dangerous Mix (p 24)
  17. California Communities Made Less Safe as Sex Offender Housing Restrictions More Strictly Enforced (p 24)
  18. Texas Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Ex-Prisoner’s Religious Halfway House (p 26)
  19. Former High-Ranking CIA Official Imprisoned for Corruption (p 26)
  20. $2.4 Million Settlement in Children’s Death Caused by California Jail Guard’s Driving (p 27)
  21. $1.95 Million Awarded to New Hampshire Guards Falsely Accused of Assaulting Prisoner (p 28)
  22. Guantanamo’s Youngest Prisoner Can’t Be Tried, Won’t be Released (p 28)
  23. Education for Persons in Detention—A Human Right (p 29)
  24. BOP Guard Found Guilty in Prisoner’s Death, Sentenced to Life (p 30)
  25. Four Pennsylvania Jail Guards Fired, Two Resign Over Prisoner Beating (p 30)
  26. South Dakota: Prisoner May Enforce Third-Party Kosher Meal Obligation (p 32)
  27. Federal Jury Awards $5 Million for Wrongful Conviction Involving Houston Crime Lab (p 32)
  28. Seventh Circuit Upholds $9,063,000 Award to Illinois Ex-Prisoner Exonerated by DNA (p 34)
  29. Iowa Supreme Court: Retroactive Good Conduct Time Denial is Unconstitutional, Depending on Date of Conviction (p 34)
  30. Seventh Circuit Reverses Dismissal of 8th Amendment and FTCA Medical Claims; Case Settles on Remand for $20,000 (p 36)
  31. New York Politicians Want to Re-Evaluate Civil Confinement Release Law (p 36)
  32. New Hampshire City Ordinance Restricting Sex Offender Residency Found Unconstitutional (p 38)
  33. PLN Sues Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice Over Censorship; Court Upholds Rights of Book Distributors (p 38)
  34. Oneida County, NY Jail Suicide Litigation Settled for $225,000 (p 39)
  35. Los Angeles County Jail Agrees To Pay $900,000 to Settle Lawsuit over Inadequate Medical Care (p 40)
  36. DHS Ordered to Respond to Petition Seeking National Stan-dards at Immigration Detention Facilities (p 40)
  37. $1.31 Million Awarded to California Man Wrongly Jailed on Murder Charge (p 41)
  38. $1.31 Million Award to Wrongfully Jailed California Man (p 41)
  39. Discovery Disputes in Suit Over Pennsylvania Jail MRSA Deaths (p 42)
  40. China Taking Steps to Reduce Number of Executions (p 42)
  41. Federal Court Awards $1.47 Million in Attorney Fees and Costs against Sheriff Arpaio (p 43)
  42. Massachusetts Court of Appeals Reinstates Prisoner’s Dental Negligence Suit (p 44)
  43. Starting Out: The Complete Reentry Book, by William Foster and Carl Horn, 446 pp, $22.95 (p 44)
  44. BOP Fails To Meet Drug Treatment Goals; Lack of Funding Blamed (p 45)
  45. Georgia Prisoners Must Use Court Promulgated Form to Initiate a Court Action (p 45)
  46. District Court May Order Martinez Report, Ninth Circuit Holds (p 46)
  47. Washington Supreme Court Upholds Denial of Parole for Sex Offender Who Refuses to Admit Guilt (p 46)
  48. Washington Pretrial Release UAs Invalidated (p 47)
  49. Second Circuit Establishes Anonymous Pleading Standards (p 48)
  50. Fifth Circuit Reinstates Texas Prisoner’s Failure-to-Protect Suit (p 48)
  51. Reversal of Summary Judgment to BOP Doctor Accused of Deliberate Indifference (p 49)
  52. News in Brief: (p 50)

Prison Health Care, Political Choice and the Accidental Death Penalty in Michigan

by Elizabeth Alexander1

In Hadix v. Caruso, I represent a class of prisoners in a decades-long case challenging conditions of confinement, including medical care, at various Michigan prison facilities.2 Since August 2006 I have been haunted by the death of one of those prisoners, because in retrospect his death ...

$950,000 Settlement for California Prisoner Rendered Quadriplegic

In February 2008, the California Department of Corrections (DOC) settled a lawsuit by a prisoner who had been allegedly rendered quadriplegic by medical mistreatment after he was knocked unconscious in a fight.

According to the complaint, Kenneth Holcomb, a DOC prisoner, was attacked by other prisoners, severely injured and rendered ...

From the Editor

The cover story in this month’s issue is written by Elizabeth Alexander. Elizabeth is the former director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project and one of the top prisoner rights litigators in the United States. I first became aware of Elizabeth in the late 1980s, I had been ...

Hadix Litigation Winding Down

by David M. Reutter

After nearly thirty years, a class-action lawsuit challenging conditions of confinement at the State Prison of Southern Michigan-Center Complex is on the cusp of ending. The end is in sight not because prison officials have fully complied with a court-monitored consent decree, but because they closed ...

Shortcomings Cited at Virginia’s Civil Commitment Facility

by Matt Clarke

The almost two-year-old, $62-million maximum-security Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation (VCBR) is still having start-up problems. Located in rural Nottoway County on 28 acres and opened in February 2008, VCBR is unable to retain staff and offers little in the way of rehabilitative treatment. The facility, which ...

BOP Settles FTCA Abuse/Religious Discrimination Suit for $48,000

O
n August 12, 2009, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) agreed to settle a lawsuit by a Muslim former prisoner who alleged that he was tortured and beaten after complaining to investigators about his Quar’an and Kufi being desecrated.

From April 5, 1996, until October 4, 2005, Hakeem ...

U.S. DOJ Calls Houston Jail Unconstitutional, Prisoner Death Rate Alarming

As a follow-up to PLN’s October 2009 cover story, this article examines in greater detail findings by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) related to conditions at the Harris County jail in Houston, Texas.

From 2001 through June 2009, 142 jail prisoners died in Harris County. The DOJ ...

$75,000 Settlement in Heart Attack Death of Missouri Jail Prisoner

On June 3, 2009, Greene County, Missouri agreed to pay half of a $75,000 settlement in a wrongful death action brought by the family of a prisoner who died while at the Greene County Jail.

In July 2005, Winston Eugene Holt, a federal prisoner being held on charges at ...

Don’t Build it Here Revisited (or “There is no Economic Salvation Through Incarceration”) - Prisons Do Not Create Jobs

by Clayton Mosher and Gregory Hooks

Despite widespread popular beliefs that prison construction offers substantial economic benefits to local areas, empirical research has suggested otherwise. In an article published in Social Science Quarterly in 2004, Hooks et al. collected data on all existing and new prisons constructed in the United ...

$125,000 Settlement in Suicide Death Of New York Jail Prisoner

On April 29, 2009, Onondaga County, New York agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of a prisoner who committed suicide at the Onondaga County Justice Center (OCJC) for $125,000.

On October 7, 2006, William O’Neil hung himself from a bed sheet tied to his cell ...

Pennsylvania Prisoner Gets $12,500 in Retaliation Suit After Remittitur

by John E. Dannenberg

A pro se Pennsylvania state prisoner won a jury verdict of $5,000 in compensatory damages plus $100,000 in punitive damages against a prison official who openly and repeatedly retaliated against him after he filed grievances and a lawsuit concerning mistreatment by guards. The verdict ...

Settlement in Class-Action Suit Against CCA Modified After PLN Unseals Court Documents

Last October, PLN reported that Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest private prison firm, had settled a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Kansas that raised claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) on behalf of current and former CCA employees. The settlement ...

Colorado Detainee Tasered During Seizure, Paid $116,731.73 and $83,268.27 in Fees

A Colorado detainee settled his medical neglect and excessive force suit within four months of filing for $116,731.73 in damages and $83,268.27 in attorney’s fees.

On July 26, 2006, Michael R. Martin was booked into Colorado’s Adams County Detention Facility (ACDF). He was on ...

Prison Video Visitation Expands into For-Profit Market

by David M. Reutter

Businesses seeking to profit from the exponential expansion of our nation’s prison population are now turning to visitation. Florida-based JPay is implementing its “video-conference visitation” in Indiana’s prison system, while other companies, such as einmate.com, are developing similar prison-based video visitation programs.

The ...

Sex with Former Jail Employee Lands Texas Sex Offender Back in Prison

On February 27, 2009, three days after his release from prison, Wydell J. Vaughn, 28, found himself back behind bars for having a romantic relationship with a former jail employee.

Vaughn was convicted in 2002 on two second-degree felony sex charges for having sex with underage girls. While incarcerated at ...

Soft Porn, Bribery and Jailed Millionaire Make for a Dangerous Mix

In April 2007, Joe Francis, 36, the multi-millionaire founder of the popular soft porn Girls Gone Wild videos – which consist of young women exposing themselves at parties, clubs and spring break – was charged with federal tax evasion for claiming about $20 million in fraudulent deductions on his income tax returns ...

California Communities Made Less Safe as Sex Offender Housing Restrictions More Strictly Enforced

A December 2008 report by the California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) has found that increased enforcement of laws adopted to protect communities from registered sex offenders has had the unintended effect of making those communities less safe from those offenders.

Created in 2006, CASOMB was charged with providing state ...

Texas Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Ex-Prisoner’s Religious Halfway House

by Matt Clarke

On June 19, 2009, the Texas Supreme Court held that a city zoning ordinance which effectively banned a religious halfway house in the City of Sinton violated the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (TRFRA), § 110.003(a)-(b), Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code.

Pastor Richard Wayne ...

Former High-Ranking CIA Official Imprisoned for Corruption

by Matt Clarke

When the CIA wanted to build secret prisons outside the United States where terrorism suspects could be tortured with impunity, it turned to Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, who ran the agency’s main European supply base in Frankfurt, Germany. That was in March 2003, and Foggo already had ...

$2.4 Million Settlement in Children’s Death Caused by California Jail Guard’s Driving

A $2.4 million settlement has been reached in a lawsuit involving three children being killed in an automobile accident caused by a California jail guard on the way to work.

As Tulare County guard Joseph D. Armstrong was on the way to work at the county’s jail, he ...

$1.95 Million Awarded to New Hampshire Guards Falsely Accused of Assaulting Prisoner

A New Hampshire jury awarded two former prison guards nearly $2 million upon finding that two of their co-workers had lied about a confrontation with a prisoner, which resulted in their firing.

After guards Shawn Stone and Todd Conner accused fellow prison guards Timothy Hallam and Joseph Laramie of participating ...

Guantanamo’s Youngest Prisoner Can’t Be Tried, Won’t be Released

by Matt Clarke

By July 2002, Omar Khadr, a skinny l5-year-old boy born in Toronto, Canada, had become a radical Muslim militant. He received his first training in an Al-Qaeda camp at the tender age of twelve. To Khadr, a kid who loves Die Hard movies, Nintendo computer games and ...

Education for Persons in Detention—A Human Right

The positive correlation between increased education and lowered recidivism rates is a long-established fact. Even so, governments worldwide are not always willing or even able to insure that the men, women and children housed in various detention facilities are given access to sufficient educational and vocational opportunities. Many factors can ...

BOP Guard Found Guilty in Prisoner’s Death, Sentenced to Life

On July 30, 2009, a federal jury found a former prison guard at the Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) in Coleman, Florida guilty of civil rights violations in connection with a prisoner’s death. She later received a life sentence.

Richard Delano had been in and out of prison since his ...

Four Pennsylvania Jail Guards Fired, Two Resign Over Prisoner Beating

by David M. Reutter

Four Pennsylvania guards have been fired for beating a prisoner at the Westmoreland County Prison (WCP). The June 8, 2009 incident revealed a cover-up orchestrated by prison guards and their union leader.

When WCP prisoner James Edwards, 27, and other prisoners in his cellblock were ordered ...

South Dakota: Prisoner May Enforce Third-Party Kosher Meal Obligation

The South Dakota Supreme Court has ruled that a state prisoner can bring a third-party beneficiary claim to enforce a settlement agreement between the South Dakota Department of Corrections (DOC) and another prisoner.

Charles E. Sisney, a DOC prisoner, filed a pro se complaint in state circuit court seeking to ...

Federal Jury Awards $5 Million for Wrongful Conviction Involving Houston Crime Lab

by Matt Clarke

A Texas federal jury awarded $5 million to a former prisoner who was wrongly convicted of kidnapping and sexual assault based in part on falsified evidence generated by the Houston Police Department’s Crime Lab. In rendering its verdict, the jurors found the City of Houston “had ...

Seventh Circuit Upholds $9,063,000 Award to Illinois Ex-Prisoner Exonerated by DNA

On December 30, 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld a $9,063,000 jury award to a former prisoner, later exonerated by DNA evidence, whose criminal trial was rendered unfair by a police detective who investigated his case.

In September 1989, Alejandro Dominguez, then ...

Iowa Supreme Court: Retroactive Good Conduct Time Denial is Unconstitutional, Depending on Date of Conviction

by Matt Clarke

On January 23, 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court held that state law amendments enacted in 2001 and 2005, which required that certain prisoners must participate in rehabilitative programs to be awarded good conduct time credits, violated the ex post facto clauses of the U.S. and Iowa ...

Seventh Circuit Reverses Dismissal of 8th Amendment and FTCA Medical Claims; Case Settles on Remand for $20,000

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has reversed, for the second time, a grant of summary judgment to two Bureau of Prisons (BOP) medical employees and the United States in a Bivens and Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) suit.

Diego Gil, a prisoner at the Federal ...

New York Politicians Want to Re-Evaluate Civil Confinement Release Law

by Matt Clarke

Two years ago New York enacted the Sex Offender Management and Treatment Act, which lets a jury release a civilly-committed sex offender from confinement if the state fails to provide sufficient evidence of a mental abnormality. Sex offenders who are released by a jury are placed under ...

New Hampshire City Ordinance Restricting Sex Offender Residency Found Unconstitutional

On July 30, 2009, a New Hampshire state district court held that a city ordinance restricting where sex offenders could live violated the Equal Protection Clause of the New Hampshire Constitution.

Richard Jennings, a resident of Dover, was charged with violating city ordinance 131-20, which prohibited a person who was ...

PLN Sues Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice Over Censorship; Court Upholds Rights of Book Distributors

On November 4, 2009, Prison Legal News filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas against Brad Livingston, Executive Director of the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), and other TDCJ officials.

According to PLN’s complaint, the TDCJ has unlawfully censored books sent to ...

Oneida County, NY Jail Suicide Litigation Settled for $225,000

In May 2008 the County of Oneida agreed to pay $100,000, and CNY Services agreed to pay $125,000, in settlement of a wrongful death claim brought by the parents of a 17-year-old detainee who committed suicide in the Oneida County Jail one month after his detention.

Cail Williamson ...

Los Angeles County Jail Agrees To Pay $900,000 to Settle Lawsuit over Inadequate Medical Care

Los Angeles County has agreed to pay $900,000 to a prisoner who lost his foot after staff at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) in California delayed processing a culture test that later showed the prisoner had a serious infection.

Franklin Silva was arrested on March 7 ...

DHS Ordered to Respond to Petition Seeking National Stan-dards at Immigration Detention Facilities

Immigration rights advocates won a short-lived victory in June 2009, when a U.S. District Court in New York ordered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to respond to a petition for rulemaking that requested the adoption of uniform national standards for conditions at immigration detention facilities.

The petition, drafted ...

$1.31 Million Awarded to California Man Wrongly Jailed on Murder Charge

On February 25, 2009, a California federal jury awarded $1,310,000 to a man who spent eight months in jail facing a murder charge that was eventually dismissed.

Shortly after Christopher Shahnazari was shot in Glendale, California on November 1, 2005, he examined a photo-graphic lineup and said Edmond ...

$1.31 Million Award to Wrongfully Jailed California Man

A California federal jury awarded $1.31 million to a man who spent eight months in jail for being unlawfully arrested on a home invasion murder he did not commit.

Within eight hours of the November 1, 2005 crime, Edmond Ovasapyan was arrested. His arrest was made despite the surviving ...

Discovery Disputes in Suit Over Pennsylvania Jail MRSA Deaths

by Matt Clarke

A Pennsylvania federal court has ordered medical personnel to answer deposition questions in a case involving the deaths of two prisoners due to MRSA at the Allegheny County jail. The court also appointed a special master and ordered the parties to pay the master’s fees as ...

China Taking Steps to Reduce Number of Executions

In July, 2009, Zhang Jun, vice president of China’s Supreme People’s Court, said that China was taking steps to reduce the number of executions.

Despite the televising of many executions as a form of public intimidation, the absolute number of executions in China remains a state secret. Nonetheless ...

Federal Court Awards $1.47 Million in Attorney Fees and Costs against Sheriff Arpaio

Last May, PLN reported that a U.S. District Court in Arizona had found that jails in Maricopa County, managed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, continued to violate the civil rights of pretrial detainees. That ruling came in a long-standing class-action lawsuit that alleged inadequate medical, mental health and dental care ...

Massachusetts Court of Appeals Reinstates Prisoner’s Dental Negligence Suit

Andrew W. Kilburn, a Massachusetts state prisoner, filed suit in state superior court alleging negligence and violation of the Eighth Amendment by Department of Correction (DOC) officials and medical personnel employed by Correctional Medical Services (CMS) and University of Massachusetts Correctional Health (UMCH). Kilburn claimed that the defendants had failed ...

Starting Out: The Complete Reentry Book, by William Foster and Carl Horn, 446 pp, $22.95

by Matt Clarke

Ideally, our schools and parents teach us all of the things we need to know to function as healthy and productive adults. Obviously, this is not always the case. Schools may focus more on academics than practical knowledge for living; or they may be distracted from their ...

BOP Fails To Meet Drug Treatment Goals; Lack of Funding Blamed

According to the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) annual report to Congress on substance abuse treatment programs, the BOP will once again fail to provide residential drug treatment services to 100 percent of eligible prisoners.

With the BOP’s population swelling beyond 205,000, the demand for drug treatment by federal ...

Georgia Prisoners Must Use Court Promulgated Form to Initiate a Court Action

The Georgia Supreme Court has held that a trial court should have dismissed a mandamus petition filed by a prisoner against prison officials because the prisoner failed to use a form promulgated by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC).

Georgia state prisoner Rashad D. Price filed a pro se ...

District Court May Order Martinez Report, Ninth Circuit Holds

A federal district court has the discretion to order the preparation of a Martinez report, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decide.

Robert Tuzon, an Arizona prisoner, sued various state prison officials alleging that (1) staff had failed to protect him from assault; (2) his legal ...

Washington Supreme Court Upholds Denial of Parole for Sex Offender Who Refuses to Admit Guilt

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of Washington state, sitting en banc, upheld the denial of parole for an untreated sex offender.

Richard J. Dyer was convicted of abducting and repeatedly raping two women in 1980. Maintaining his innocence, Dyer is ineligible for the Department of Corrections sex offender ...

Washington Pretrial Release UAs Invalidated

In three consolidated criminal cases, the Court of Appeals for Washington state held that a standard pretrial release condition requiring weekly urinalysis (UA) tests was inappropriate.

Washington residents Amber Dee Rose, Danielle Wilson and Kevin Wentz were charged with criminal offenses. The state recommended pretrial release for all three defendants ...

Second Circuit Establishes Anonymous Pleading Standards

by Mark Wilson

In a case of first impression, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals established standards governing the use of pseudonyms in civil litigation. The Court endorsed the Ninth Circuit’s test of balancing a plaintiff’s interest in anonymity against the public’s interest in disclosure and any ...

Fifth Circuit Reinstates Texas Prisoner’s Failure-to-Protect Suit

by Matt Clarke

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed in part a district court’s dismissal of a prisoner’s failure-to-protect suit, though the case lost at trial after remand.

Ernesto R. Hinojosa, Sr., a Texas state prisoner, was housed in an open dormitory at the Wynne Unit when ...

Reversal of Summary Judgment to BOP Doctor Accused of Deliberate Indifference

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has reversed a grant of summary judgment to a Bureau of Prisons (BOP) doctor accused of denying a death row prisoner needed eye surgery.

Arboleda Ortiz, a federal prisoner currently on death row at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre ...

News in Brief:

California: On June 29, 2009, Richard Henry Kase, 41, was sentenced to 90 years to life for the first-degree murder of his cellmate, 28-year-old Randy James Rabelos, at the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy. Kase repeatedly told Rabelos, a convicted child molester, to be quiet one night in December 2007 ...