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Prison Legal News: December, 2010

Issue PDF
Volume 21, Number 12

In this issue:

  1. The Graying of America’s Prisons (p 1)
  2. $10.5 Million Settlement in Tennessee Juvenile’s Death Caused by Guard’s Chokehold (p 6)
  3. From the Editor (p 6)
  4. Audits of Tennessee DOC Reveal Deficiencies (p 8)
  5. Washington State Federal Court: Unconstitutional to Shackle Prisoner in Labor (p 10)
  6. $1.5 Million Settlement in Suffolk County Jail Class Action Toilet Suit (p 10)
  7. Breaking Free: Prisoners Find Voice in Zines (p 12)
  8. Florida Prison Guards Plead Guilty to Federal Cocaine Charges (p 13)
  9. $1.8 Million Settlement in New Mexico Woman’s Attempted Jail Suicide (p 14)
  10. Virginia Grand Jury Finds Misconduct at County Jail (p 14)
  11. Washington Commission Finds AT&T is Prison Collect Call Provider (p 16)
  12. Colorado Closes Boot Camp Program (p 16)
  13. Massachusetts Clerk Magistrates and Assistants Pocket Millions in After-Hours Fees (p 18)
  14. Texas Sues Former Prisoner Over Unauthorized Practice of Law (p 19)
  15. Oregon Jail Beating Nets $500 Jury Award Plus $27,500 in Attorney Fees (p 20)
  16. $4 Million Settlement in R&B Singer’s Death from Drug Withdrawal in Ohio Jail for Failure to Pay Child Support (p 20)
  17. Illinois Eliminates Computer, Business Classes for Prisoners (p 21)
  18. Class Certification Upheld for Louisiana Toxic Train Derailment Near Prison (p 22)
  19. Over $26 Million Owed for Forfeited Bail Bonds in Harris County, Texas (p 23)
  20. New York Prison Officials Ordered to Produce Prisoner’s Grievances in Discovery (p 24)
  21. Steep Surcharges for Driving Violations Clog Texas Courts, Create Criminals (p 24)
  22. Three Top Illinois DOC Officials Sacked; Director Resigns (p 25)
  23. Maryland Law Counts Prisoners According to Pre-Incarceration Residence (p 26)
  24. Florida: Judgment for Female Prison Staff Alleging Sexual Harassment by Prisoners Affirmed (p 26)
  25. Wexford Pays $300,000 in Illinois Prisoner’s Death (p 27)
  26. Suspected Norovirus Strikes Oregon Women’s Prison (p 27)
  27. Failure of CMS Nurses and Doctor to Properly Treat Broken Leg Overcomes Summary Judgment (p 30)
  28. Wisconsin Law Prohibiting Hormone Treatment for Prisoners with Gender Identity Disorder Found Unconstitutional (p 30)
  29. Sixth Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment for Dentist Who Failed to Provide Temporary Filling (p 31)
  30. Indian Jail Opens Private Outsourcing Program (p 32)
  31. Former Utah Prison Guard Ordered to Pay Over $1.4 Million for Raping Prisoner (p 32)
  32. Taser Timeout (p 34)
  33. California: 15% Work Credit Limitation Based on Stayed Violent Convictions Applies to Non-Violent Controlling Offense (p 38)
  34. New Jersey Prison Supervisory Officials Found Liable for Prisoner Abuse Claims (p 38)
  35. California: Gilmore Injunction Over Prison Libraries Terminated After 38 Years (p 40)
  36. Ohio: Former Corrections Director Prohibited from Consulting on Jail Issues for 12 Months After Retirement (p 40)
  37. California: Prison Industry Board Not Exempt from Civil Service Rules (p 40)
  38. U.S. Supreme Court Holds Eighth Amendment Prohibits Life Without Parole for Juveniles Not Convicted of Homicide (p 42)
  39. U.S. Prison Population Declines in Second Half of 2009 (p 42)
  40. Iowa Prisoners Perform Private Sector Work for Parole Board Member (p 43)
  41. U.S. Supreme Court Holds Federal Civil Commitment Statute Lawfully Enacted (p 44)
  42. 7,000+ Federal Prisoners Given Pink Slips (p 44)
  43. Florida Disciplinary Record Must Prove Constructive Possession of Contraband (p 45)
  44. $195,000 Award for Injury Resulting from NY Prison Garbage Detail (p 46)
  45. Michigan Prison System Exceeds Budget, Again (p 46)
  46. Maricopa County, Arizona Settles Prisoner Suicide Claim for $125,000 (p 47)
  47. $850,000 Verdict in Nebraska Prisoner’s Suicide (p 48)
  48. PLN Wins Public Records Ruling Against California Prison System (p 48)
  49. AMA Passes Resolution Prohibiting Shackling of Pregnant Prisoners in Labor (p 48)
  50. U.S. Supreme Court Holds Significant Injury Unnecessary for Excessive Force Claims (p 49)
  51. News In Brief: (p 50)

The Graying of America’s Prisons

Frank Soffen, now 70 years old, has lived more than half his life in prison, and will likely die there.

Sentenced to life for second-degree murder, Soffen has suffered four heart attacks and is confined to a wheelchair. He has lately been held in the assisted living wing of Massachusetts ...

$10.5 Million Settlement in Tennessee Juvenile’s Death Caused by Guard’s Chokehold

The privately-operated Chad Youth Enhancement Center (Chad) in Ashland City, Tennessee paid $10.5 million to settle a lawsuit involving a juvenile’s death. The youth, Omega “Manny” Leach, 17, died from asphyxiation caused by a guard’s chokehold on June 2, 2007.

A surveillance camera caught what attorneys for ...

From the Editor

Welcome to the last issue of Prison Legal News for 2010. By now subscribers should have received our annual fundraiser letter requesting donations. Unlike other non-profit organizations, we do not bombard our subscribers with dozens of beg letters a year; we only send out one. But when we send out ...

Audits of Tennessee DOC Reveal Deficiencies

The Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) and several of its contractors violated state law, according to two audit reports issued by the Comptroller of the Treasury’s Division of State Audit.

According to an April 2009 financial and compliance audit, the TDOC failed to generate employee separation notices within 24 ...

Washington State Federal Court: Unconstitutional to Shackle Prisoner in Labor

by Matt Clarke

On May 3, 2010, a U.S. District Court in Washington State held it was unconstitutional to shackle a prisoner in labor.

Cassandra Brawley, 30, was a Washington state prisoner. In 2006 she was arrested for second degree theft and received a fourteen-month prison sentence. She was ...

$1.5 Million Settlement in Suffolk County Jail Class Action Toilet Suit

A $1.5 million settlement has been reached in a class action lawsuit on behalf of approximately 4,000 former prisoners of Building 4 of Massachusetts’ Suffolk County House of Correction.

The complaint alleged Eighth Amendment violations for cruel and unusual punishment. When it was built, Building 4 lacked toilets ...

Breaking Free: Prisoners Find Voice in Zines

"I swore that this time, I wouldn’t allow you to destroy me, to steal my life no matter what you did to me. Somewhere along the way, I found that I wasn’t a victim. I would be a survivor, a fighter. I would see my son again. I ...

Florida Prison Guards Plead Guilty to Federal Cocaine Charges

As a result of plea agreements reached between April and May 2010, eleven Florida prison guards and five other defendants have pleaded guilty to federal cocaine possession charges. The arrests occurred following a two-year investigation into corruption at Florida prisons located in Palm Beach County.

The sixteen defendants entered into ...

$1.8 Million Settlement in New Mexico Woman’s Attempted Jail Suicide

by David M. Reutter

A lawsuit that claimed insufficient suicide prevention procedures and staff training at New Mexico’s Santa Fe County Adult Detention Facility (SFCADF) resulted in a woman’s suicide attempt has been settled for $1.8 million.

When 23-year-old Nanette Romero was arrested on a minor offense ...

Virginia Grand Jury Finds Misconduct at County Jail

The findings of a Virginia grand jury convened in September 2007 to investigate “conditions that involve or tend to promote criminal activity” at the Henry County Jail were released to the public on February 1, 2010.

After interviewing current and former members of the Henry County Sheriff’s Department, investigators ...

Washington Commission Finds AT&T is Prison Collect Call Provider

Washington Commission Finds AT&T is Prison Collect Call Provider

by Mark Wilson

On April 21, 2010, the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission (Commission) handed the dedicated loved ones of PLN’s tenacious Editor an important victory in their long-running challenge of prison collect call rates.

In 2000, Zuraya Wright, Sandy Judd, and Tara Herivel sued AT&T Communications of the Pacific Northwest, Inc. (AT&T); T-Netix, Inc. (T-Netix); Verizon Northwest, Inc. (Verizon); Qwest Corporation (Qwest); and CenturyTel Telephone Utilities, Inc. (CenturyTel), in the Superior Court of Washington for King County.

Plaintiffs alleged that between June 1996 and December 31, 2000, they received collect calls from prisoners confined in four Washington Department ...

Colorado Closes Boot Camp Program

by David M. Reutter

Following the graduation of 23 prisoners from its boot camp program on May 27, 2010, Colorado suspended the program. A combination of high costs and low returns led to the boot camp being scuttled.

Military-style boot camps for low-risk juvenile offenders were all the rage during ...

Massachusetts Clerk Magistrates and Assistants Pocket Millions in After-Hours Fees

by Matt Clarke

In 2009, 191 of 210 clerk magistrates and assistants in Massachusetts padded their incomes by pocketing over $2.5 million in after-hours bail fees.

Clerk magistrates and assistants are paid salaries ranging from $84,000 to $110,000. Due to a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling that ...

Texas Sues Former Prisoner Over Unauthorized Practice of Law

by Matt Clarke

On May 12, 2010, the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee (UPLC), a nine-member body appointed by the Texas Supreme Court that is responsible for enforcing statutes prohibiting the unauthorized practice of law, filed suit against Tony R. Davis, a former federal prisoner, and his two affiliated companies ...

Oregon Jail Beating Nets $500 Jury Award Plus $27,500 in Attorney Fees

In December 2009, a federal jury in Portland, Oregon awarded a hearing-impaired jail prisoner $500 for a beating inflicted by guards during the booking process. The defendants also paid attorney’s fees of $27,500.

On September 11, 2006, Michael Evans was arrested and booked into the Multnomah County Detention ...

$4 Million Settlement in R&B Singer’s Death from Drug Withdrawal in Ohio Jail for Failure to Pay Child Support

$4 Million Settlement in R&B Singer’s Death from Drug Withdrawal in Ohio Jail for Failure to Pay Child Support

A $4 million settlement has been reached in a lawsuit that claimed the policies of Ohio’s Cuyahoga County Jail (CCJ) and the medical negligence of its contractor, Midwest ...

Illinois Eliminates Computer, Business Classes for Prisoners

Illinois prison officials are eliminating computer education classes for prisoners, and the rationale for the decision to end the classes varies.

The computer program operated at 11 state prisons, with around 900 prisoners participating in the last round of classes. It was run with the assistance of community college instructors ...

Class Certification Upheld for Louisiana Toxic Train Derailment Near Prison

On August 21, 2008, a Louisiana appellate court affirmed class certification in a lawsuit involving prisoners and guards who were exposed to toxic chemicals following a train derailment.

The train derailed near Eunice, Louisiana on May 27, 2000, and seventeen of the derailed cars contained hazardous chemicals. Seven were torn ...

Over $26 Million Owed for Forfeited Bail Bonds in Harris County, Texas

by Matt Clarke

If you are arrested in Harris County (Houston), Texas, you can usually pay a bondsman 10% of the bail amount to get out of jail. The bondsman pledges the full amount and assures your appearance in court. But what if you are one of the estimated 5 ...

New York Prison Officials Ordered to Produce Prisoner’s Grievances in Discovery

On December 4, 2009, a New York Court of Claims ordered prison officials to produce copies of a prisoner’s grievances, but denied the claimant’s motion to produce grievances filed by other prisoners.

Before the Court was a motion to compel production of documents in a two-count complaint for ...

Steep Surcharges for Driving Violations Clog Texas Courts, Create Criminals

by Mike Rigby

A program designed to raise money for highway projects and trauma care by assessing steep surcharges for drunk driving and other traffic violations is clogging Texas courts and causing the dismissal rate for DWI cases to skyrocket, former state district judge David Hodges told the Texas Public ...

Three Top Illinois DOC Officials Sacked; Director Resigns

On March 11, 2010, the administration of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announced the firing of three top Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC) officials who were close to DOC director Michael Randle.

“As of today, executive assistant to the director Sergio Molina, chief of staff Jim Reinhart and Northern Regional Supervisor ...

Maryland Law Counts Prisoners According to Pre-Incarceration Residence

by Mike Rigby

A new Maryland law – the first of its kind – changed the way state prisoners were counted in the 2010 census. Historically, prisoners have been counted according to the location of the facility where they reside, which artificially inflates the populations of prison towns. Under the new law ...

Florida: Judgment for Female Prison Staff Alleging Sexual Harassment by Prisoners Affirmed

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) was properly held liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for failing to remedy a sexually hostile work environment created by male prisoners at the Marion Correctional Institution (MCI).

PLN previously ...

Wexford Pays $300,000 in Illinois Prisoner’s Death

Wexford Health Services paid $300,000 last year to settle a lawsuit regarding the wrongful death of an Illinois prisoner who died in June 2003 after suffering an asthma attack.

The complaint alleged Wexford failed to properly train and supervise its medical staff and failed to ensure its medical equipment ...

Suspected Norovirus Strikes Oregon Women’s Prison

At least two dozen female prisoners in Oregon were overcome by flu-like symptoms, causing prison officials to quarantine their unit and cancel visitation.

On May 12, 2010, Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) officials isolated all of the women in a minimum-security unit of the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (CCCF) after ...

Failure of CMS Nurses and Doctor to Properly Treat Broken Leg Overcomes Summary Judgment

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the grant of summary judgment to a doctor and two nurses employed by Correctional Medical Services (CMS). The lawsuit claimed an Eighth Amendment violation related to the treatment of a prisoner who broke his leg just above the ankle during a softball game ...

Wisconsin Law Prohibiting Hormone Treatment for Prisoners with Gender Identity Disorder Found Unconstitutional

by Matt Clarke

On May 13, 2010, a Wisconsin federal court issued a 68-page decision holding that a Wisconsin state law prohibiting hormone therapy for prisoners with gender identity disorder (GID) was an unconstitutional violation of their equal protection and Eighth Amendment rights.

Andrea Fields, Matthew Davidson (aka Jessica Davidson ...

Sixth Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment for Dentist Who Failed to Provide Temporary Filling

Genuine issues of material fact precluded granting summary judgment to a prison dentist accused of providing deliberately indifferent dental treatment, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found.

Gregory T. McCarthy, while incarcerated at Ohio’s Chillicothe Correctional Institute in 2002, had a painful cavity in one ...

Indian Jail Opens Private Outsourcing Program

by Matt Clarke

Authorities at the Cherlapally Central Jail, a 2,100-bed facility near Hyderabad, the capital of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, announced in May 2010 that they will open an outsourcing unit. [See: PLN, July 2010, p.32].

The program will be privately run by Bangalore-based Radiant ...

Former Utah Prison Guard Ordered to Pay Over $1.4 Million for Raping Prisoner

U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups, in a February 2010 decision, ordered former Utah State Prison guard Louis Poleate to pay $435,332.50 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages to prisoner Priscilla Chavez for a rape that occurred in September 2001. Poleate had already served ...

Taser Timeout

In 2005, the sheriff of Kankakee County, Illinois discovered the alchemy necessary to turn the financial burden of operating jails into a financial boon. He rented to other agencies—including Cook County Jail—as many of his 668 beds as possible.

Running a jail—particularly, leasing the beds—is dangerous ...

California: 15% Work Credit Limitation Based on Stayed Violent Convictions Applies to Non-Violent Controlling Offense

The California Court of Appeal, Third District, ruled in April 2008 that when a prisoner receives multiple convictions arising from a single act, some of which qualify as “non-violent” while others qualify as “violent” or “serious,” the harsher 15% limitation on earned work credits attaching to violent or serious offenses ...

New Jersey Prison Supervisory Officials Found Liable for Prisoner Abuse Claims

Three prison officials were found liable in abuse claims stemming from a month-long lockdown at Bayside State Prison following the killing of prison guard Frederick Baker in 1997, according to former federal judge John W. Bissell, named as Special Master by the U.S. District Court of New Jersey to ...

California: Gilmore Injunction Over Prison Libraries Terminated After 38 Years

Four months after adopting regulations setting forth a statewide mandate that “[a]ll inmates, regardless of their classification or housing status, shall be entitled to physical law library access that is sufficient to provide meaningful access to the courts” (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 15, § 3123), the State of California successfully ...

Ohio: Former Corrections Director Prohibited from Consulting on Jail Issues for 12 Months After Retirement

Responding to a request for an advisory opinion from Terry J. Collins, who retired as Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) effective January 31, 2010, the Ohio Ethics Commission concluded that the state’s Revolving Door Law, R.C. 102.03(A)(1), which was designed ...

California: Prison Industry Board Not Exempt from Civil Service Rules

In response to the California Prison Industry Board’s request for an opinion, the Attorney General’s office concluded that while the Board may create a personnel system separate from the state’s constitutionally-protected civil service system, sufficient evidence had not been advanced by the Board or the state legislature ...

U.S. Supreme Court Holds Eighth Amendment Prohibits Life Without Parole for Juveniles Not Convicted of Homicide

The Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause bars juveniles from receiving life without parole for nonhomicide crimes, the U.S. Supreme Court decided May 17, 2010.

Terrance Graham received probation for an attempted robbery committed at age 16. Six months after starting his probation, Graham got into trouble ...

U.S. Prison Population Declines in Second Half of 2009

In June 2010, the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice released year-end prisoner counts for state and federal prisons in 2009. The counts reported 1,613,656 prisoners in state and federal prisons, up 0.2% from year-end 2008. However, the count for the second ...

Iowa Prisoners Perform Private Sector Work for Parole Board Member

In order to avoid interfering with private sector commerce, Iowa Prison Industries (IPI) is supposed to only perform work for governmental and non-profit organizations. That does not always happen, though.

In April 2010, a crew of prisoners installed several cubicles at Washington Title and Guaranty Company, a business owned by ...

U.S. Supreme Court Holds Federal Civil Commitment Statute Lawfully Enacted

Congress did not exceed its powers under the Necessary and Proper Clause in authorizing the federal civil commitment of “sexually dangerous” federal prisoners upon the completion of their sentences, the U.S. Supreme Court decided May 17, 2010.

Shortly before Graydon Comstock’s sentence was to expire, the government filed ...

7,000+ Federal Prisoners Given Pink Slips

Prisoners are not exempt from the nation’s unemployment crisis. Since 2008, over 7,000 federal prisoners have been laid off, and up to 800 more are expected to lose their jobs in the coming months according to Federal Prison Industries (FPI).

FPI, also known as UNICOR, is a government ...

Florida Disciplinary Record Must Prove Constructive Possession of Contraband

Florida’s First District Court of Appeal granted a writ of certiorari to a prisoner who challenged a circuit court’s denial of his mandamus petition that sought to reverse a prison disciplinary conviction. The First District held there was insufficient proof in the record to find the prisoner guilty ...

$195,000 Award for Injury Resulting from NY Prison Garbage Detail

A New York Court of Claims has awarded a former prisoner $195,000 for injuries she sustained while working on a garbage detail. In an April 29, 2008 order, the court found the State of New York 100% liable. The damages award came after a trial in May 2009.

Melissa ...

Michigan Prison System Exceeds Budget, Again

In two of the last three years, the Michigan Department of Corrections’ (MDOC) budget has “blown through its caps,” according to state Rep. John Proos. A May 27, 2010 letter from Robert Emeron, director of the state budget office, informed lawmakers that the MDOC had exceeded its budget by $46 ...

Maricopa County, Arizona Settles Prisoner Suicide Claim for $125,000

On March 31, 2010, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 to pay $125,000 to settle a claim against the county made by the family of a jail prisoner who killed himself in 2008.

According to the notice of claim, filed by Phoenix attorney Joel Robbins, on January ...

$850,000 Verdict in Nebraska Prisoner’s Suicide

A Nebraska federal jury has awarded $850,000 to the estate of a prisoner who hanged himself with a bed sheet in his cell at the Dodge County Correctional Facility (DCC). The estate’s attorney, Maren L. Chaloupka, hailed the verdict as a wake-up call for jail officials.

After Troy ...

PLN Wins Public Records Ruling Against California Prison System

by Matt Clarke

On December 23, 2009, a California superior court ruled that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) had to produce records requested two years earlier by Prison Legal News.

PLN made the request for documents related to “Paid Adult Legal Claims” from 2002-2007 resulting in payments ...

AMA Passes Resolution Prohibiting Shackling of Pregnant Prisoners in Labor

On June 15, 2010, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a resolution prohibiting the use of restraints on a female prisoner “in labor, delivering her baby or recuperating from the delivery,” absent compelling grounds to believe that she poses a threat of harm to herself or others or poses a ...

U.S. Supreme Court Holds Significant Injury Unnecessary for Excessive Force Claims

More than de minimis injury is not required to state an excessive force claim, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously decided on February 22, 2010.

In Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1 (1992) [PLN, May 1992, p.3], the Supreme Court recognized that “the use of excessive physical force ...

News In Brief:

Arizona: When Clayton Thornburg, 24, tried to escape from the Durango Jail in Phoenix on September 29, 2010, he left his clothes – and dignity – behind. Thornburg climbed over five fences topped with razor wire, which shredded his black-and-white striped jail clothes and left him only in a pair of socks ...