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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: December, 2010

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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’ Norfolk prison. Because of his failing health and his exemplary record over his 37 years behind bars—which includes rescuing a guard being threatened by other prisoners—Soffen has been held up as a candidate for release on medical and compassionate grounds.

He is physically incapable of committing a violent crime, has already participated in pre-release and furlough programs, and has a supportive family and a place to live with his son. One of the members of the Massachusetts state parole board spoke in favor of his release. But in 2006 the board voted to deny Soffen parole. He will not be eligible for review for another five years.

The “tough on crime” posturing and policymaking that have dominated American politics for more than three decades have left behind a grim legacy. Longer sentences and harsher parole standards have led to overcrowded prisons, overtaxed state budgets, and devastated families and ...

$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 a request for financial support, we really mean it. Our subscription and advertising income only covers a portion of the expenses related to publishing the magazine. The remainder is made up by individual donations and grants.

If you believe in an independent media, this is your chance to support it. In addition to publishing Prison Legal News, the Human Rights Defense Center also publishes books (more on that below), provides advocacy on behalf of prisoners in select cases and vigorously challenges prison and jail censorship practices around the country. None of which would be possible without support from our readers.

If you can afford to make a tax deductible donation to the HRDC or PLN, please do so.
Equally important, please encourage others to make a donation to support our work, to subscribe and to advertise and purchase books from us. It all helps. Every day I receive letters, e-mails ...

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 hours of separation as required by state law.
Auditors found that 53 percent of the reviewed notices were filed an average of 10 to 18 days late, and as many as 23 days late in some cases. Such delays could negatively impact former employees’ unemployment benefits.

TDOC management also failed to assess and mitigate “the risks associated with information systems security, which increases the risk of fraudulent activity,” auditors found. While not revealing the “specific vulnerability identified,” auditors determined that TDOC staff “did not always follow the department’s Management Information Services Procedure Manual in order to maintain proper information systems security.” TDOC officials claimed they had “been closely monitoring these issues ... for over two years.”

Tennessee’s Financial Integrity Act requires agency heads to “submit a letter acknowledging responsibility for maintaining the internal control system of the agency” to the Comptroller of the Treasury by June 30 of each ...

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 would enjoy a summer day, a cool winter night or the spring rain. I would bask in the sunshine with my lover. I would defeat you, beat you at your own game, and teach others how to survive and fight you." — Lee Savage, from Tenacious

Lee Savage was in prison for the third time, months into a mind-numbing stay in solitary confinement at the Lowell Correctional Institution in Ocala, Florida, when she took to writing. During this stint in isolation, she says, “things started up in me.” She penned fiery essays and poems, tightly knitting the political and the personal: anarchism and classism, her criminal history of abuse and addiction, her experience coming out as a lesbian, and her suicide attempt during her first stint at Lowell.

Her work found a place in a number of zines—self-published, self-assembled booklets that reflect the whims and desires of the person putting ...

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 separate plea agreements that resulted in guilty pleas to either federal charges of conspiracy to possess cocaine or possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

The investigation involved undercover FBI agents recruiting guards from Glades Correctional Institution, South Bay Correctional Institution and the Florida Road Prison. The guards, and five others who posed as prison guards, ran loads of fake cocaine out of Miami-Dade County for payments of $5,000.

Pleading guilty in federal court were Latess Hill, Jentle Chatman, Zedra Warner, Belinda Davis Brown, Tanika Wright, Samantha Wilkerson, Kenyetta Biggs, Elisha Allen, Melvin Brown, Antonio Key, Jason Miller, Marcus Pitre, Dondia Wilkerson, Pakesha McCray, Takisha Golden and Melissa Jefferson. All were sentenced between July and August 2010 to prison terms ranging from 21 to 57 months plus up to five years of supervised release.

The federal investigation coincided with a state probe that resulted in six prison employees being ...

$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 and agents of the Virginia State Police, and current and former jail prisoners, the grand jury found that over the course of five years, from 2004 to 2009, there had been repeated cases of unprofessional and criminal misconduct by members of the Sheriff’s Department. Such acts of misconduct, however, were mostly too old to be prosecuted.

Still, the grand jury probe yielded perjury indictments against two officers – deputy Glenn Brett Stokes, 39, who, the grand jury concluded, lied about matters related to sexual contact with a female prisoner; and former deputy Mary Lois Markland, 58, who, according to the grand jury, lied about having provided cigarettes to prisoners. Stokes and Markland were both arrested, and Stokes was suspended without pay.

The grand jury found credible evidence that jail employees had facilitated the passing of messages and other items between prisoners in different cell blocks – without necessarily being aware of ...

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 of Corrections (DOC) facilities. They also alleged that the named telephone companies were operator service providers (OSPs) that violated Washington’s rate disclosures for the collect calls they received.

The Superior Court dismissed Verizon, Qwest and CenturyTel from the suit, then referred two questions to the Commission under Washington’s “doctrine of primary jurisdiction,” which “requires that issues within an agency’s special expertise be decided by the appropriate agency.” The court sought the Commission’s expertise as to: (1) whether AT&T and T-Netix were OSPs under the contracts at issue; and (2) if so, whether they violated Washington’s rate disclosure regulations. See: Judd v. Am. Tel & Tel Co., 136 Wash App 1022 (2006).

Both AT&T and T-Netix filed answers with the Commission, claiming that they were not OSPs during the relevant period. T-Netix also filed a July 26, 2005 summary judgment motion with the Superior Court, asserting that Plaintiffs had not suffered any injury and, therefore, lacked standing.

On September 6, 2005, the Superior Court granted T-Netix’s motion and revoked its referral to the Commission. See: Judd v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., King County Superior Court, No. 00-2-17565-5 SEA. The court later clarified that its ruling also applied to AT&T in Judd, 136 Wash App 1022. On October 28, 2005, the Commission dismissed the complaints against both AT&T and T-Netix.

On December 18, 2006, the Washington Court of Appeals reversed and remanded to the Superior Court and the Supreme Court of Washington denied review on December 4, 2007. See: Judd v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 162 Wash 2d 1022, 175 P3d 1092 (2007). On March 21, 2008, the Superior Court again referred the matter to the Commission for resolution of the previously referred issues.

During the relevant period, administrative rules defined OSP as “any corporation, company, partnership, or person … providing a connection to intrastate or interstate long-distance or to local services from locations of call aggregators.” Another rule mandated that OSPs “disclose to the consumer: (A) a quote of the rates or charges for the call, including any surcharge; (B) the method by which the rates or charges will be collected; and (C) the methods by which complaints about the rates, charges or collection practices will be resolved.”

AT&T entered into a contract with the DOC in 1992 to provide prison telecommunication services and equipment. That contract was ...

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 the prison build-up caused by “get-tough-on-crime” laws, which have been the linchpin of criminal justice policy in the U.S. for the past three decades.

It was expected that rigid discipline would cause juveniles to change their attitudes and thus their behavior. However, the results have sorely disappointed. Colorado has released 155 prisoners from its boot camp program in Buena Vista since 2007, and 51 percent have since returned to prison.

“The lowest-risk offenders go into the camp,” said Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti. “You would have expected a huge difference in recidivism.”

Yet the only difference in the recidivism rate was that it was just two percentage points lower than for so-called high-risk offenders. Plus the costs of the program were higher; in the past year alone, the cost per boot camp participant soared from $78 to $108 per day.
A decrease in minimum-security prisoners contributed ...

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 bail hearings must be held within six hours of arrest to avoid constitutional issues, the clerk magistrates and assistants are often called after work hours to set or deny bail.

If a bond is set and paid, the arrestee is charged a $40 fee. During normal business hours that fee goes into the state coffers. However, the fees for after-hours bail settings are pocketed by the clerk magistrates and assistants as a supplement to their salaries.

In 2009, 36% of Massachusetts clerk magistrates and assistants pocketed over $15,000 each in fees. Twenty-four took in more than $25,000 each. Further, 87 bail commissioners, appointed by the Superior Court Committee on Bail, pocketed another $734,000. About a third of the bail commissioners are also employed by the state in other capacities.

“This is a striking amount of money these fees are generating for these clerks,” said Michael Widmer, president ...

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, International Legal Services, Inc. and ILS Services, Inc., seeking an injunction to prevent them from engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. A state district court judge granted a temporary restraining order the same day it was requested by the UPLC.

Davis was convicted of eight counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, travel and transportation of securities for fraudulent purposes, and money laundering by a federal jury in Austin, Texas in 1988. He served about 66 months of a 97-month sentence, then returned to Austin where he set up his companies, reportedly in his wife’s name. Davis said he took paralegal and legal secretary courses and that his businesses employ about 17 people to do legal research. He uses the research to generate legal documents, which he copyrights. The UPLC claims he sells the copyrighted material to his companies’ clients, most of whom are incarcerated.

A 1999 state statute exempts ...

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 and provided computer and business management skills to help prisoners obtain work or start their own businesses upon release.

Prison officials, however, cited a five-year review that found prisoners were not being hired in computer-related positions upon release. “It was determined that offenders were unable to find direct employment in the computer technology arena,” said prison spokeswoman Sharyn Elman.

But elimination of the classes may have more to do with fiscal realities, as Illinois is facing a $13 billion budget gap. One community college, Southeastern Illinois College, announced in May 2010 that it was ending its classes at the Shawnee and Vienna correctional facilities because the state was delinquent in paying the school for work it performed.

Community colleges provide a variety of education classes to prisoners ranging from automotive repair to horticulture. The estimated 19 instructors who lost their jobs due to elimination of the computer and business management ...

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 open and two exploded. Two other cars were intentionally breached during the clean-up process.

Sixty-nine cars that were not derailed were moved to a siding about a mile from the South Louisiana Correctional Center (SLCC) in Basil, a private prison operated by LCS Corrections Services, Inc. (LCS). One of those train cars, owned by Union Tank Car Company (UTC) and leased to Dow Chemical, began to leak, releasing ethylene oxide for several days. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that inspection procedures by Union Pacific Railroad (UPR) failed to detect defective track joint bars, leading to the train accident.

Anthony Crooks and John Spellman were Louisiana state prisoners housed at SLCC at the time of the derailment. They filed separate lawsuits against LCS, UTC, Phillips Petroleum, Huntsman Petrochemicals, UPR, Dow and the State of Louisiana in state district court, alleging among other claims that LCS neither evacuated them nor allowed ...

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% of prisoners who bond out but then don’t show up? Who pays the forfeited bail?

Theoretically the bonding company must pay and then attempt to collect the money from the bail jumper. In practice, however, there is little enforcement of judgments against bonding companies or individuals who forfeit bail. A recent review by the Houston Chronicle found that 500 bonding companies, some no longer in business, owe the county more than $26 million in bond forfeitures, some of which are decades old.

On average there are 13,000 criminal defendants on bond in Harris County at any given time. Harris County bonding companies typically hold bail guarantees in excess of $125 million. This massive business is regulated by the 11-member Harris County Bail Bond Board (HCBBB), which employs just four staff members to oversee the 86 bonding companies in Harris County and collect outstanding debts. The board has not ...

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 damages. The complaint was filed by Johnathan Johnson, a prisoner at New York’s Upstate Correctional Facility. Johnson’s claims involved 1) prison officials’ failure to decide grievances filed by him and other prisoners in a fair, impartial and satisfactory manner, and 2) injuries caused by prison officials’ practice of keeping a light on in his cell from nightfall to sunrise.

The Court of Claims held that Johnson’s discovery request for grievances filed by other prisoners from 2007-2009 related to facility conditions and staff conduct, as well as those concerning use of night-lights, were not relevant to his claims because they were not filed by him.

While the Court denied the request to compel production of those grievances, it held that 177 grievances filed by Johnson himself between 2007 and 2009 were relevant to his claims. Prison officials were ordered to produce those documents and provide Johnson with copies ...

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 Safety Commission on April 26, 2010.

The Texas Driver Responsibility Program, implemented in 2004, has had a “devastating” impact on the state’s court system, said Hodges, who is now a liaison for the Texas Center for the Judiciary, which trains and supports judges. Jurists statewide are reporting a two-year waiting list for pending DWI cases as more defendants invoke their right to trial.
In addition to an increase in dismissals, charges in other cases are being reduced – to reckless driving, for example – in order to ease the enormous backlog.

Under the Texas Driver Responsibility Program, those convicted of a first DWI offense are hit with a surcharge of $1,000 a year for the first three years. The cost soars to $2,000 a year when a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) measures twice the legal limit of .08.

Drivers are assessed points for other violations – two points ...

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 Jac Charlier are no longer State of Illinois employees,” said DOC spokeswoman Sharyn Elman, who refused to comment further.

The firings were likely the result of a controversial, secretive early release program called “Meritorious Good Time Push” (MGT Push), which had resulted in the early release of about 1,745 state prisoners, some of whom had been incarcerated for as little as three weeks. Hundreds of the MGT Push releasees had been convicted of violent offenses, including 21 convicted of murder, attempted murder or conspiracy to commit murder. A separate, publicized program resulted in the early release of another 233 non-violent offenders. Some of the prisoners who were released early went on to commit additional crimes.

Illinois Comptroller Dan Hayes made the early release programs a major campaign issue when running against Governor Quinn in the primary. Quinn suspended the programs in December 2009; since then, critics have been calling ...

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, enacted in April 2010, Maryland prisoners will now be counted as residents of the last place they lived prior to their incarceration.

The statute significantly affects Baltimore, which for decades has been suffering a decrease in population and which produces roughly 6 in 10 of Maryland’s prisoners. As a result of the new law, Baltimore’s official population could grow by 12,000 – which will benefit the city when congressional and state legislative lines are redrawn following the once-per-decade census count.

Civil rights activists applauded the statutory change. “There’s enough people moved around to break how democracy works,” said Peter Wagner, executive director of the non-profit Prison Policy Initiative, which has spearheaded a nationwide effort to reform how prisoners are counted in the census.

But officials in rural areas of Maryland with large prison populations opposed the change. Kevin Kelly, a Democrat who represents Allegany County, where 4 ...

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 reported the verdict in this case, which resulted in 14 female employees at MCI being awarded $45,000 each. The award came after a jury found the FDOC had failed to remedy sexually offensive conduct by prisoners, including the frequent use of abusive language and pervasive “gunning” – the notorious practice of prisoners openly masturbating in front of female staff – in MCI’s close management units between 1999 and 2002. [See: PLN, Jan. 2009, p.32].

In affirming the district court’s judgment, the Eleventh Circuit held that precedent established that “employers may be held liable under Title VII for harassment by third parties when that conduct creates a hostile work environment.”

While prisons cannot eject unruly prisoners like businesses can remove rude customers, the FDOC cannot refuse to adopt reasonable measures to curtail harassment by prisoners, according to the appellate court. The evidence at trial not only showed the FDOC ...

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 four prisoners suffered severe gastrointestinal problems. Within 24 hours, the number of sick prisoners had grown to at least 24, according to ODOC spokeswoman Jana Wong.

Symptoms included nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and respiratory problems, stated William Keene, senior epidemiologist for Oregon’s Public Health Division. While the cause of the outbreak was not clear, Keene identified norovirus as a prime suspect. He did not believe food poisoning was responsible. “The unit doesn’t have its own food preparation,” he noted. “If it was being prepared in the kitchen, you’d expect [the illness] to be more spread out.”

There have been at least 21 similar outbreaks – known among medical professionals as desmoteric clusters – in Oregon jails and prisons since 2000. Many of those were caused by norovirus, which is transmitted in feces. The disease spreads from person to person but can also live on surfaces for several days.

On May ...

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.

While sliding into second base on August 9, 2002, Missouri prisoner Bryan Croft fractured his leg. CMS nurses Wanda Patton and Pam Tanner later admitted that Croft had an obvious fracture, as his foot was “not at the right angle” and he was in obvious pain.
Croft’s claim was based on the failure of the nurses to stabilize his leg before moving him.
Instead, they tried to move him onto a backboard by holding him by the shoulders and knees. When they did so, his “foot completely spun over backwards and hit the dirt.” They then loaded him on a golf cart and took him to the infirmary.

The Eighth Circuit found the “record showed the nurses’ acts conflicted with the emergency nursing protocol for fractures, and it is commonly known that an obviously fractured limb requires immobilization and stabilization, particularly before a person is moved and that failure ...

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) and Vankemah D. Moaton, Wisconsin prisoners with male-to-female GID, brought a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Wisconsin Department of Corrections (WDOC) officials after their feminizing hormone therapy was discontinued without medical justification. In 2005, the state legislature passed Act 105, which prohibited hormone treatment and sex reassignment operations for prisoners with GID (Wis.Stat. § 302.386(5m)). Fields, Davidson and Moaton challenged Act 105’s constitutionality.

The district court recognized that GID, sometimes referred to as transsexualism, is a serious medical need. It is classified as a psychiatric disorder in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). The plaintiffs’ experts testified that if left untreated, GID can cause serious psychiatric consequences such as anxiety, sleeplessness, inability to concentrate, depression, genital self-mutilation and suicidal thoughts. One in 11,900 genetic males has GID. It is less common among genetic females.

The court noted ...

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 of his teeth. Dr. Maitland Place, a contract dentist at the prison, provided McCarthy with ibuprofen for pain but refused to supply a temporary filling. According to Dr. Place, McCarthy had to wait to get a filling until several of McCarthy’s other teeth were extracted. McCarthy endured significant pain from his cavity for seven months until Place finally filled the tooth.

McCarthy filed suit in federal court, arguing that Dr. Place’s refusal to temporarily fill his tooth constituted deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment. According to McCarthy, Place regularly performed temporary fillings on other prisoners. Place’s decision, then, to give McCarthy only ibuprofen was deliberate indifference because it was a “less efficacious treatment route.” The district court granted summary judgment to Dr. Place; McCarthy appealed, and the Sixth Circuit reversed.

“McCarthy ... presented evidence that Dr. Place was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs by ...

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 Info Systems and employ 210 prisoners in three round-the-clock shifts of 70 workers each. It will specialize in back-office work such as data entry and information processing for banks and insurance companies. The prisoners will be paid between 100 and 150 rupees ($2.20 to $3.32) a day, which is much higher than the 15 rupees per day paid to prisoners with more conventional jobs such as manufacturing furniture.

According to Radiant director C. Narayanacharyulu, the jail was chosen due to its unusually high percentage (40%) of educated prisoners. Only 2,000 of the 13,000 prisoners in Andhra Pradesh jails are listed as well-educated. Education is important for the jobs in the outsourcing unit because they involve the use of sophisticated electronic information technology. Software company Tata Consultancy Services is providing equipment for the program.

“We have identified the area in the jail where the unit will come ...

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 work. Jails are war zones where detainees and guards fight for power. In 1986, a Kankakee County jail guard was killed while helping escort a violent detainee from a jail community room to a cell. The detainee kicked the guard, Jerome Combs, repeatedly in his chest, according to the Kankakee Daily Journal. Within 75 minutes he hemorrhaged, choked on his blood and vomit, and died.

To maintain order in the jail, Kankakee County guards have used persuasion, physical force and, if necessary, nonlethal weapons such as pepper spray. Then, about six years ago, they added another weapon to their arsenal—Tasers.

Tasers shock detainees with a five-second cycle of 1,400 volts of electricity, causing total-body muscle contractions, severe pain and sometimes electrical burns and permanent scarring.

Taser International, the weapon’s manufacturer, has adduced several studies indicating that the device isn’t lethal. But more than 330 Americans are ...

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 must be applied to the non-violent offense when it is the controlling case and the violent/serious offenses are stayed. The ruling was upheld by the state Supreme Court in August 2010.

Nathan Pope was convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, plus two counts of alcohol-related driving resulting in great bodily injury (GBI). Under California law, the vehicular manslaughter charge is not considered a violent felony (as defined in Penal Code § 667.5), but the GBI offenses are.

However, under Penal Code § 654, because all counts resulted from a single act, Pope could only be punished for the charge that carried the longest sentence, with the other counts stayed. This resulted in his being sentenced to 6 years on the non-violent vehicular manslaughter offense with the 5-year GBI convictions stayed.

When Pope entered the prison system, the California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation ...

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 investigate 200 allegations of abuse. Bissell’s conclusion, reached after extensive fact-finding and review of the prisoners’ complaints, was entered in April 2010.

Previously, federal juries awarded three Bayside prisoners monetary damages totaling more than $300,000, and in the past year Bissell awarded 23 other prisoners an additional $117,000, all of which must be paid by the State of New Jersey. [See: PLN, Feb. 2005, p.28; Nov. 2003, p.10].

In his April 2010 report, Bissell determined that “William Fauver, Gary Hilton and Scott Faunce bear supervisory liability for the claims proven before me resulting from the lockdown at Bayside State Prison for the period July 30, 1997 through September 3, 1997.” Bissell further wrote that he was “satisfied that the lockdown at Bayside, both as designed and thereafter implemented, violated the Eighth Amendment rights of inmates.... The lockdown and all ... its features was indeed a ‘policy ...

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 moved to terminate an injunction imposed 38 years earlier in a case, Gilmore v. California, initially brought by San Quentin prisoners in 1966, concerning access to law books and the courts. Although no class was ever certified, in 1972 the U.S. District Court in San Francisco issued an order requiring that all California prisons maintain a specified list of legal research material in their libraries. The new regulations require that prisons maintain, at a minimum, the materials specified in the Gilmore injunction. And, under California law, such regulations have the force and effect of law; accordingly, the rights conferred by those regulations can be enforced by state courts.

The State moved to terminate the 1972 injunction in October 2009, pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act and Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) (5), before the new regulations had been implemented. The Prison Law Office (PLO), representing prisoners’ interests ...

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 to prohibit former public officials from realizing personal gain at public expense by the use of “insider” information, prohibited Collins from serving as a consultant in a case involving a county jail for one year after his retirement.

After announcing his plans to retire, Collins was contacted by an attorney who requested that he consider serving as an expert consultant (after leaving state service) in a case where he would be required to render an opinion on the adequacy of a county jail’s procedures for classifying prisoners based on their security needs. Noting that Collins’ role as ODRC Director had included the development and promulgation of mandatory operational standards for Ohio jails, the Ethics Commission had little trouble concluding that his proposed employment as an expert consultant fell within the ambit of the Revolving Door Law, and thus would be prohibited.

To his credit, Collins had sought the advisory ...

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 to justify a wholesale departure from the civil service mandate for the Board’ s non-prisoner employees, which number around 700.

The 11-member Board administers the Prison Industry Authority (PIA), a state agency operating under the auspices of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). The PIA’s purpose is to develop and operate industrial, agricultural and service enterprises modeled on business practices in the private sector, while providing training and employment opportunities to CDCR prisoners. The PIA employs approximately 6,000 prisoners statewide – about 4 percent of the total CDCR population. Prisoners who work in PIA jobs earn wages, typically around $100 per month, that far exceed those earned by prisoners employed in non-PIA jobs.

By statute the PIA is supposed to be a self-supporting entity, with revenues from the sale of products and services intended to cover all of its operating costs. The PIA sells many of its ...

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 again, committing a series of armed home invasions. A Florida judge revoked Graham’s probation and imposed a life term of imprisonment.

Graham appealed the sentence arguing that it violated the Eighth Amendment. Denying relief, the First District Court of Appeal concluded that Graham’s sentence was not “grossly disproportionate” to his crimes and that Graham was unable to be rehabilitated. The Florida Supreme Court denied review, and the Supreme Court granted certiorari.
In an opinion by Justice Kennedy, the court adopted a bright-line rule barring life without parole for nonhomicide crimes committed by offenders under age 18.

Looking at actual sentencing practices across the country, the court found that it was “exceedingly rare” for juveniles not convicted of murder to receive life without parole. According to a 2009 study on the issue, for instance, only 129 juveniles were serving life without parole for nonhomicides, 77 of which were from ...

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 half of 2009 indicated a decrease of 3,822 prisoners, the first decline in a half-year period since 2001. The significance of the decrease is unknown since second-half statistics over the past decade usually show a lower rate of increase or, in 2001, a slight decline, compared to a stronger increase in the number of prisoners during the first half of the year.

Since 2006 there has been a clear trend of reduced rates of increase in the prison population such that, if the trend continues, there should be an overall reduction in the nation’s prison population by year-end 2010. For example, in 2006 the prison population increased by 42,016 prisoners. In 2007 the increase was 28,300 prisoners. There was an increase of 11,514 prisoners in 2008 and 3,897 in 2009 – by far the lowest annual increase in the past decade as measured by year-end ...

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 Richard Bordwell, a member of the Iowa State Parole Board.

The crew of three prisoners from Newton Correctional Facility was supervised by Dan Crook, an ironically-named IPI technician. The pieces for the cubicles were made by prisoners at different Iowa prisons. The desks and partitions, for example, were produced at the prison in Anamosa.

“These guys are all in for non-violent offenses,” said Crook. “They have less than three years remaining on their sentence. This gives them a chance to get out of the prison for a while. They all seem to enjoy it. They have a great work ethic. I’ve been with Prison Industries for two years now, and I’ve never had an incident with any of the guys. They’re good guys to work with; they just happened to take a wrong turn in life.”

While extolling the virtues of the IPI prisoner workers, Crook did ...

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 a certification with the US District Court in North Carolina designating Comstock as a “sexually dangerous” prisoner, the first step in the federal civil commitment process. 18 U.S.C. § 4248(a). The government’s certification automatically stayed Comstock’s release until a hearing could be held to determine whether Comstock met the statutory requirements for civil commitment.

The district court, however, dismissed the civil commitment proceeding against Comstock, holding the statute exceeded Congress’ legislative powers under the Commerce Clause and Necessary and Proper Clause. In addition, the court held that the statute impermissibly lowered the burden of proof required for civil commitment from proof beyond a reasonable doubt to proof by clear and convincing evidence. The Fourth Circuit agreed with the district court that § 4248 exceeded Congress’ authority. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari and reversed.

In a 7-2 opinion written by Justice Breyer, the Supreme Court held ...

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 corporation created by Congress in 1934 to provide job training to federal prisoners, who earn up to $1.15 per hour. A large portion of their wages goes toward paying child support, fines, restitution and other court-ordered obligations.

In 2008, FPI employed 23,152 of the nation’s 201,280 federal prisoners (11.5 percent) to provide about 80 products and services for the government. However, a $65 million budget shortfall has compelled federal prison officials to stop or scale back operations at prison recycling, furniture, cable and electronics assembly factories.

“We’re feeling the same pressures that are present in the overall economy,” stated FPI spokeswoman Julie Rozier. She said the current workforce cuts are among the largest reductions in FPI’s 75-year history.

As of July 2010, just 16,115 of 211,146 federal prisoners (7.6 percent) were employed by FPI. In other words, while the federal ...

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 of constructive possession of contraband.

The basis of the contraband charge against state prisoner Terry D. Bujno was that a pornographic magazine was found hidden in a squad cart that Bujno was riding in along with another prisoner and two staff members. Bujno argued in administrative hearings and to the circuit court that there was no evidence he had hidden the contraband or was even aware of its existence. Moreover, because the cart was kept in an unsecured area and was readily accessible to a large number of prisoners and staff, the evidence was insufficient to establish constructive possession.

After citing the law on constructive possession, the Court of Appeal found the circuit court had departed from the essential elements of law by failing to issue an order to show cause that would establish an adequate record of the disciplinary proceeding and the evidence considered by the disciplinary team to ...

$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 $46.25 million.

Several factors contributed to the cost overruns. “One, the MDOC is run in an inefficient manner; and two, I believe our salary and benefit scales are out of whack with surrounding states,” said Rep. Proos. While states bordering Michigan spend $70 per prisoner per diem, on average, MDOC spends more than $90.

Proos blamed the Office of the State Employer, which negotiates contracts, as well as the governor’s office. He noted that since 2003, MDOC officials have received an average 3% pay increase annually.

Additionally, inefficiencies exist in the handling of prescription drugs and food service. “On average, prisoners have 10 prescription drugs,” Proos stated. The medications are handled by dozens of people from the time they arrive at central receiving to when they are distributed to prisoners.

The MDOC also has different menus in each prison. “Because of that we can’t harness the power of ...

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 24, 2008, James Cole committed suicide by slashing his wrists with a razor that he received from jail personnel. The notice stated that Cole was providing evidence against a gang, which may have led him “to the point that he took his own life to prevent others from doing it.” The notice cited issues related to Cole’s classification, his being provided with a razor, and an inadequate response to the potential threat caused by his assisting law enforcement.

“It’s like any other settlement we enter into,” said Maricopa County Risk Manager Peter Crowley. “We estimate the potential exposure, the potential verdict, the chances of losing a trial, the cost of trying it. We reach a decision on the value of the case, and we tried to settle based upon that value.”

Because no lawsuit was filed, there is no court information for this case.

Source: Arizona Republic

$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 “substantial” escape risk and “cannot be reasonably contained by other means.” The resolution also urges jail and prison officials to use “the least restrictive restraints necessary” on female prisoners during the 2nd and 3rd trimester of pregnancy.

While not binding or enforceable, the AMA resolution lends moral, ethical and medical force to a growing body of opinion that the practice of shackling pregnant prisoners, particularly during labor, is, in the words of Erin Tracy, MD, an Ob/Gyn from Massachusetts, “dehumanizing” and “counter to our values” as a society. The resolution may lead hospital administers to develop anti-restraint policies, which in turn would put pressure on prison and jail officials to adopt practices consistent with those hospital policies.

The AMA itself plans to write draft legislation that states can se as a model to develop anti-shackling laws. Only eight states – New York, California, Texas, Illinois, New Mexico, Vermont, Washington and ...

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 against a prisoner may constitute cruel and unusual punishment [even] when the inmate does not suffer serious injury.”
In spite of this holding, since Hudson was decided several lower courts have required prisoners to allege more than “de minimis” injury in order to state an excessive force claim.

Such was the case with Jamey L. Wilkins, a North Carolina state prisoner who sued a guard for “maliciously and sadistically” assaulting him “[w]ithout any provocation.”
According to Wilkins’ complaint, the guard, identified only as “Officer Gaddy,” became incensed after Wilkins asked for a grievance form. Gaddy allegedly “snatched [Wilkins] off the ground and slammed him onto the concrete floor,” and “then proceeded to punch, kick, knee and choke [Wilkins] until another [guard] had to physically remove him from [Wilkins].” Wilkins claimed he suffered numerous injuries, including “a bruised heel, lower back pain, increased blood pressure, as well as migraine headaches ...

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. Jail-issued pink socks. He was spotted naked and bleeding, running from the jail, and was caught within minutes. “We got him after he hopped the last fence,” said Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. “But can you imagine this guy running down the street with no clothes? Where was he going to go?” Thornburg faces a felony escape charge.

Arizona: Jeffrey Landrigan, 50, who was executed on October 26, 2010, gave a final statement that included what was a cryptic phrase to some: “Boomer Sooner.” Originally from Oklahoma, Landrigan was referring to a football fight slogan for the University of Oklahoma’s Sooners. He had served two decades on death row for a 1989 murder in Phoenix.

California: On November 23, 2010, a truck transporting 12 prisoners who worked on a Los Angeles County fire crew was involved in a serious accident that resulted in two fatalities. The 83-year-old driver of ...

 

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