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Prison Legal News: February, 2010

Issue PDF
Volume 21, Number 2

In this issue:

  1. Swine Flu Widespread in Prisons and Jails, but Deaths are Few (p 1)
  2. Ineffective Attempts to Protect Texas Prisoner Were Sufficient (p 7)
  3. From the Editor (p 8)
  4. Preventable Sacramento County Jail Death Costs Taxpayers $1.45 Million (p 8)
  5. Free Rent for Some Washington State Parolees (p 9)
  6. A New Look at a Very Old Subject: The Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act (p 10)
  7. Arkansas Prisoner Awarded $625 for Refusing to Clean His Cell on the Sabbath (p 11)
  8. Three Years Later, CMS Still Fails to Meet Medical Standards in Delaware (p 12)
  9. Army Prisoners Isolated, Denied Right to Legal Counsel (p 14)
  10. Freedom Forum CEO Charles Overby’s Dark History with Corrections Corporation of America (p 16)
  11. Three Florida Guards Charged in Prisoner’s Beating (p 18)
  12. Washington State Makes Work Release Available to Disabled Prisoners; Monetary Payments to Class Members (p 19)
  13. Federal Judge Holds Texas Parole Board Coleman Hearings Unconstitutional (p 20)
  14. $6,000 Settlement in Illegal Arrest of Washington State Probationer (p 21)
  15. Denial of Medical Care Causes Two Riots at GEO Group Texas Prison (p 22)
  16. Special Treatment for Jewish Prisoners, Rappers Leads to Employee Discipline, Resignations at New York Jails (p 24)
  17. Maine Prison System’s Board of Visitors: Secret, Unaccountable and Co-Opted (p 26)
  18. Rikers Guards Charged With Using Juvenile Prisoners to Run Extortion Ring (p 28)
  19. Maryland: Parole Supervision Fee Likely Does More Harm than Good (p 29)
  20. Department of Justice Releases Arrest-Related Death Statistics (p 30)
  21. Homelessness a Significant Problem for Released Prisoners (p 30)
  22. Arizona Prisoner, Abandoned in Outdoor Cage, Bakes to Death (p 32)
  23. Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board Member Brags About Bias (p 33)
  24. Prison Supervisors Can be Liable for Guard’s Sexual Abuse (p 34)
  25. False Sense of Security: The Real Cost And Benefits Of The Adam Walsh Act (p 34)
  26. One of Every 11 Prisoners Now Serving Life Sentence (p 35)
  27. California Parents and Guardians Assessed Fees to Offset Juvenile Detention Costs (p 36)
  28. Wisconsin Enacts New Early Release Law (p 36)
  29. $325,000 Settlement in Michigan Jail Prisoner’s Ruptured Appendix Lawsuit (p 38)
  30. $245,000 Settlement in Michigan Jail Prisoner’s Death (p 38)
  31. Unprovoked Texas Cattle Prod Shocking More Than De Minimis Injury, Case Settles for $20,000 (p 39)
  32. Ohio Inspector General Finds Wrongful Acts by Prison System’s Assistant Director (p 40)
  33. PLN Prevails in Connecticut FOI Case; City Appeals (p 40)
  34. Judge Enjoins Collection of Cost of Incarceration Fees From Federal Prisoner in Washington State Prison (p 42)
  35. Settlement in Idaho Jail Condition Class-Action Suit (p 42)
  36. $2.1 Million Award in Excessive Force Death of California Prisoner (p 43)
  37. Wyoming’s Prison Industry Mushroom Farm Sold at Auction (p 43)
  38. Settlement Promises Improvements at Baltimore City Jail (p 44)
  39. Jury Awards $6,500 to California Prisoner for Negligence, Deliberate Indifference by Doctor (p 44)
  40. Tenth Circuit: Dismissal of Prison Newsletter Censorship Case Reversed in Part (p 45)
  41. Ineligible Texas Prisoners Receive Federal Stimulus Checks (p 46)
  42. Exposure to Freezing Cold More than De Minimis in Texas Retaliation Case (p 46)
  43. Head of California’s Prison System Arrested for Drunk Driving (p 47)
  44. $50,000 Awarded to Florida Prisoner in Excessive Force Case (p 47)
  45. Eighth Circuit Upholds $1,500 Award for Failure to Provide Kosher Diet; Grooming Restrictions Also Upheld (p 48)
  46. Remedial Sanctions Denied in Wisconsin Class-Action Jail Suit (p 48)
  47. Alabama Ends Policy Barring HIV+ Prisoners from Work Release (p 49)
  48. Third-Party Calling Disconnects at Jail Net $1.25 Million Settlement; Customers Get Nothing (p 49)
  49. News in Brief: (p 50)
  50. Four-Year Statute of Limitations Applies to § 1983 Claims Filed in Florida (p 55)
  51. Failure to Raise Issue in Rule 50 Motion Prohibits Argument on Appeal; $214,000 Verdict Upheld (p 55)

Swine Flu Widespread in Prisons and Jails, but Deaths are Few

by David M. Reutter

For hundreds of years the cramped, overcrowded and often filthy confines of dungeons, prisons, jails and other places of imprisonment have served as incubators for infectious diseases, which have killed more prisoners than any other single factor. Thus, the recent outbreak of H1N1 virus, commonly known ...

Ineffective Attempts to Protect Texas Prisoner Were Sufficient

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s denial of summary judgment to prison officials who had failed to safeguard a Texas state prisoner, saying their ineffective attempts to protect him were sufficient.

Gregory Moore was incarcerated at the Beto Unit for sex offenses when a guard ...

From the Editor

February is traditionally the height of cold and flu season in the United States and this month’s cover story probably proves the axiom that if America catches cold, prisons catch pneumonia. Swine flu has been in the news quite a bit lately including its effects in prisons and jails ...

Preventable Sacramento County Jail Death Costs Taxpayers $1.45 Million

by David M. Reutter

The systemic failure of medical care at California’s Sacramento County Main Jail (SCMJ) resulted in a prisoner’s avoidable death that has cost taxpayers $1.45 million. For years, SCMJ’s healthcare system has been severely deficient – yet jail officials continue to use the county ...

Free Rent for Some Washington State Parolees

Due to a roughly $9 billion state budget deficit, the Washington State legislature approved a plan to offer 90-day rent subsidies for selected prisoners who are eligible for early release. The program is expected to save taxpayers an estimated $1.5 million over the first two years of its implementation ...

A New Look at a Very Old Subject: The Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act

by Margaret Colgate Love1

In the past twenty years, a relentlessly punitive political environment has given rise to a wide-ranging network of collateral penalties and disqualifications that isolate and stigmatize those convicted of crime long after the sentence imposed by the court has been fully served. As Jeremy Travis, President ...

Arkansas Prisoner Awarded $625 for Refusing to Clean His Cell on the Sabbath

On April 13, 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Harry F. Barnes adopted a magistrate’s report and recommendation that found an Arkansas prisoner should be awarded $625 after being punished for refusing to work on the Sabbath.

Levester Gillard, a practicing member of the New Testament House of Prayer ...

Three Years Later, CMS Still Fails to Meet Medical Standards in Delaware

by David M. Reutter

Despite federal oversight of its prison medical care, Delaware “continues to have a great deal more to achieve before it comes into substantial compliance with all provisions of the MOA” (Memorandum of Agreement) the state entered into with the U.S. Department of Justice.

That was ...

Army Prisoners Isolated, Denied Right to Legal Counsel

The military’s treatment of Army prisoners is “part of a broader pattern the military has of just throwing people in jail and not letting them talk to their attorneys, not let visitors come, and this is outrageous. In the civilian world even murderers get visits from their friends,” according ...

Freedom Forum CEO Charles Overby’s Dark History with Corrections Corporation of America

Charles L. Overby is a man who leads dual lives; a man who has each foot planted firmly in two very different worlds. In one world he is a champion of the free press. In the other, he is one of a group at the helm of a corporation that ...

Three Florida Guards Charged in Prisoner’s Beating

by David M. Reutter

Three Florida prison guards have been arrested and charged in the December 16, 2008 beating of a handcuffed prisoner at the Charlotte Correctional Institution (CCI). The criminal proceedings can be viewed as a fulfillment of Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) Secretary Walter McNeil’s vow to ...

Washington State Makes Work Release Available to Disabled Prisoners; Monetary Payments to Class Members

The Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) agreed to a settlement in a class action lawsuit alleging violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that results in not only a policy change but monetary payments to class members.

Represented by the Seattle law firm of Budge and Heipt, WDOC prisoner ...

Federal Judge Holds Texas Parole Board Coleman Hearings Unconstitutional

by Matt Clarke

On August 6, 2009, a federal judge ruled that hearings held by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (BPP) to determine whether onerous sex offender conditions should be imposed on parolees not convicted of sex offenses had violated a parolee’s right to procedural due process ...

$6,000 Settlement in Illegal Arrest of Washington State Probationer

The State of Washington paid $6,000 to settle a wrongful imprisonment claim.

The claim involved the probation violation arrest of Kenneth Butler. When he reported to the community corrections office on January 23, 2008, as required, he was advised that his probation officer, Andrea Maldonado, wanted him to check ...

Denial of Medical Care Causes Two Riots at GEO Group Texas Prison

by Matt Clarke

On December 12, 2008, a riot erupted at the GEO Group-run Reeves County Detention Center (RCDC) in Pecos, Texas, which houses federal immigration detainees. The uprising was triggered by the death of a prisoner who had received inadequate medical care. A second, more serious riot at the ...

Special Treatment for Jewish Prisoners, Rappers Leads to Employee Discipline, Resignations at New York Jails

Five corrections employees at the Manhattan Detention Complex in New York City, also called “the Tombs,” were disciplined after it was learned that the jail chaplain in charge of Jewish affairs threw a lavish six-hour party for an Orthodox Jewish prisoner. Two of those employees later resigned.

Rabbi Leib Glanz ...

Maine Prison System’s Board of Visitors: Secret, Unaccountable and Co-Opted

The state prison in Warren has been hammered in recent months by a prisoner murder and other violence, a prisoner hunger strike, legislative investigations exposing mismanagement and poor guard morale, and a request by human-rights groups for a federal probe of prisoner mistreatment. Most recently, the state Corrections commissioner, Martin ...

Rikers Guards Charged With Using Juvenile Prisoners to Run Extortion Ring

On January 22, 2009, Rikers Island, New York guards Michael “Mack” McKie and Khalid “Nel” Nelson were charged with enterprise corruption after it was learned they were using a group of prisoners to enforce discipline and extort other offenders at the Rikers facility for juveniles. A third guard, Denise “Mama ...

Maryland: Parole Supervision Fee Likely Does More Harm than Good

In a 2009 report by the Brennan Center for Justice, a think tank and public interest advocacy group at New York University School of Law, the authors conclude that the state of Maryland’s assessment of a $40 monthly parole supervision fee is “a penny-wise, pound-foolish policy” that likely does ...

Department of Justice Releases Arrest-Related Death Statistics

by Matt Clarke

The Bureau of Justice Statistics recently released statistics on state and local law enforcement arrest-related deaths for the years 2003 to 2006. Although Georgia, Montana and Maryland failed to respond to the survey and Nevada and Wyoming only provided information for one year, the statistics showed that ...

Homelessness a Significant Problem for Released Prisoners

by John E. Dannenberg and Alex Friedmann

On August 8, 2008, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) discharged disabled prisoner Michael R. McHone from FCI Edgefield in South Carolina to spend his first night at a motel. The next day – a Saturday – a prison employee drove McHone to Asheville ...

Arizona Prisoner, Abandoned in Outdoor Cage, Bakes to Death

On May 19, 2009, Arizona state prisoner Marcia Powell, 48, collapsed after being left in an unshaded outdoor chain-link cage for four hours under a scorching summer sun. She later died. Temperatures at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Perryville had reached as high as 107 degrees that afternoon. The guards responsible ...

Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board Member Brags About Bias

Tyson Lynch is a hearing examiner for the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board; his job responsibilities include determining which convicted sex offenders pose a threat to the community. Yet it wasn’t long after he was hired in October 2008 that Lynch began to brag openly on Facebook, an on-line ...

Prison Supervisors Can be Liable for Guard’s Sexual Abuse

by David M. Reutter

In denying a motion to dismiss, the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts held on July 1, 2009 that prison supervisors could be held liable for the sexual abuse of a prisoner because they failed to train, supervise and investigate claims concerning repeated rumors of a ...

False Sense of Security: The Real Cost And Benefits Of The Adam Walsh Act

The Adam Walsh Act (AWA) was enacted by Congress in 2006 with much fanfare. Proponents argued that the law, which requires the establishment of a national sex offender registry, would help protect children from predators. But according to a recent report from the Justice Policy Institute, the AWA has actually ...

One of Every 11 Prisoners Now Serving Life Sentence

In a July 2009 report by The Sentencing Project, a national non-profit organization engaged in research and advocacy on criminal justice policy issues, Ashley Nellis and Ryan S. King examine the consequences of the expanding use of life sentences in America and make recommendations for changes in law, policy and ...

California Parents and Guardians Assessed Fees to Offset Juvenile Detention Costs

On February 13, 2009, following an investigation by the Los Angeles Times, the L.A. County Probation Department suspended its practice of billing parents and legal guardians for each day their children spent in juvenile detention.

The practice was generally legal under a 20-year-old California law intended to prevent families ...

Wisconsin Enacts New Early Release Law

by Matt Clarke

When Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle signed legislation to grant early release to certain prisoners, he just couldn’t win. “It went too far,” said Republicans. “It didn’t go far enough,” retorted his fellow Democrats. What in fact Governor Doyle did was authorize a new form of ...

$325,000 Settlement in Michigan Jail Prisoner’s Ruptured Appendix Lawsuit

Michigan’s Lenawee County Jail (LCJ) paid $325,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a former prisoner who was denied medical care before and after his appendix ruptured. This is the second such settlement within a month. (See accompanying article.)

As was reported in our previous coverage of a ...

$245,000 Settlement in Michigan Jail Prisoner’s Death

In what one lawyer described as round one, Michigan’s Lenawee County has paid $245,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that the deficient medical care at the County’s jail caused a prisoner’s death.

The 24 page second amended complaint in the action begins with an outline of ...

Unprovoked Texas Cattle Prod Shocking More Than De Minimis Injury, Case Settles for $20,000

by Matt Clarke

On September 5, 2007, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a guard who used a cattle prod to shock a prisoner without any provocation caused more than a de minimis injury.

Dale Keith Payne, a Texas state prisoner, was working at the back gate of ...

Ohio Inspector General Finds Wrongful Acts by Prison System’s Assistant Director

by Matt Clarke

On July 29, 2009, the State of Ohio’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released an investigative report concerning the relationship between Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) Assistant Director Michael Randle and Keith B. Key, President of Columbus-based KBK Enterprises, a real estate development ...

PLN Prevails in Connecticut FOI Case; City Appeals

On September 22, 2008, PLN requested public documents from the City of Hartford, Connecticut related to a lawsuit involving a prisoner who committed suicide; the suit had resulted in a $403,164 judgment against the City. [See: PLN, Feb. 2009, p.24].

Hartford Assistant Corporation Counsel Jonathan Beamon agreed to ...

Judge Enjoins Collection of Cost of Incarceration Fees From Federal Prisoner in Washington State Prison

On February 25, 2008, Judge William Thomas McPhee of the Thurston County Superior Court entered an injunction prohibiting the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) from withholding cost of incarceration and crime victim compensation from a federal prisoner serving time in the DOC.

Harry Whitman was transferred to the custody of ...

Settlement in Idaho Jail Condition Class-Action Suit

by Matt Clarke

On August 4, 2009, a consent decree was entered in a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of jail prisoners with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) over conditions of confinement at the Canyon County Jail in Caldwell, Idaho. The defendants agreed to eliminate overcrowding ...

$2.1 Million Award in Excessive Force Death of California Prisoner

In April, 2009, a federal jury awarded $2.1 million in a lawsuit filed against guards at California’s Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility for their negligence and excessive use of force that caused a prisoner’s death.

The prisoner, John Fitzgerald Young, suffered from chronic mental illness that required ...

Wyoming’s Prison Industry Mushroom Farm Sold at Auction

by Matt Clarke

On October 15, 2009, the Wyoming Department of Corrections’ Wind River Mushroom Farm in Shoshoni was sold at auction for an undisclosed amount. The agricultural program, which began in 2004 as an $8 million public-private partnership that used state funds and federal loan guarantees, was once called ...

Settlement Promises Improvements at Baltimore City Jail

by Matt Clarke

On August 18, 2009, a settlement was reached in a class-action lawsuit over conditions of confinement at the Baltimore City Detention Center (BCDC). The lawsuit dates back to 1971 and had been on the federal district court’s inactive docket from 1999 until 2004 following a 1993 consent ...

Jury Awards $6,500 to California Prisoner for Negligence, Deliberate Indifference by Doctor

On May 22, 2009, a California federal jury awarded a state prisoner $6,500 on his claims of medical negligence and deliberate indifference. Todd A. Ashker, a prisoner at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP), sued Dr. M.C. Sayre after Sayre discontinued Asker’s pain medication and treatment ...

Tenth Circuit: Dismissal of Prison Newsletter Censorship Case Reversed in Part

On July 16, 2009, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed in part a district court’s dismissal of a lawsuit involving the nondelivery of newsletters sent in bulk to a Wyoming state prison.

Derrick R. Parkhurst, a Wyoming prisoner, is chairman of the Wyoming Prisoners’ Association (WPA) and an ...

Ineligible Texas Prisoners Receive Federal Stimulus Checks

Between May and June of last year, hundreds of federal economic stimulus checks began to arrive at various Texas prisons, addressed to prisoners who were thought to be eligible to receive them. Those payments were part of 1,700 stimulus checks erroneously sent to prisoners nationwide.

On February 13, 2009 ...

Exposure to Freezing Cold More than De Minimis in Texas Retaliation Case

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a district court had erred when it dismissed a prisoner’s retaliation-based civil rights suit as de minimis when the prisoner’s alleged injury was exposure to freezing cold for four-and-a-half hours on four consecutive nights.

Juarez Miguel Bibbs, a Texas state ...

Head of California’s Prison System Arrested for Drunk Driving

On June 7, 2009, Scott Kernan, undersecretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) – the operational head of the state’s sprawling prison system – was arrested by the California Highway Patrol for driving under the influence in his state-issued vehicle.

Kernan, who was subsequently suspended from work for ...

$50,000 Awarded to Florida Prisoner in Excessive Force Case

A federal jury has awarded $50,000 to a prisoner who was subjected to excessive use of force while in handcuffs at Florida’s Everglades Correctional Institution (ECI).

When housed at ECI on July 1, 2006, prisoner Michael Curry was called to the captain’s office to be questioned about ...

Eighth Circuit Upholds $1,500 Award for Failure to Provide Kosher Diet; Grooming Restrictions Also Upheld

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court’s award of $1,500 to an Arkansas prisoner who was denied kosher meals. The Court of Appeals also affirmed the lower court’s ruling that upheld the prison system’s grooming policy.

Michael J. Fegans, an Arkansas state prisoner ...

Remedial Sanctions Denied in Wisconsin Class-Action Jail Suit

In July 2009, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin entered an opinion reversing an appellate court’s decision that instructed a lower court to order remedial damages in a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Milwaukee County jail prisoners.

The suit was originally filed pro se in March 1996 by Milton ...

Alabama Ends Policy Barring HIV+ Prisoners from Work Release

After more than two decades of intense advocacy by the ACLU, in August 2009 the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) agreed to end its practice of prohibiting prisoners with HIV from participating in work release programs. PLN has previously reported on this issue. [See: PLN, Dec. 2008, p.28].

Since ...

Third-Party Calling Disconnects at Jail Net $1.25 Million Settlement; Customers Get Nothing

by David M. Reutter

When it comes to prison and jail telephone services, it’s all about how much money can be made without regard to the people who are bilked by for-profit phone companies. That is the sad conclusion that must be drawn from a recent decision by Florida ...

News in Brief:

Alabama: On October 30, 2009, Richard Hawthorne, 51, a member of the Escambia County School Board, was in-dicted on seven charges stemming from allegations that he fondled female prisoners at the Escambia County Detention Center where he formerly worked as a guard. Two female prisoners reported that Hawthorne had molested ...

Four-Year Statute of Limitations Applies to § 1983 Claims Filed in Florida

Four-Year Statute of Limitations Applies to § 1983 Claims Filed in Florida

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held that 42 U.S.C. § 1983 actions filed in Florida have a four-year statute of limitations. The appellate court’s ruling reversed a Florida federal district court’s dismissal of a ...

Failure to Raise Issue in Rule 50 Motion Prohibits Argument on Appeal; $214,000 Verdict Upheld

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a jury’s verdict that found a municipality liable despite there being no finding of liability on the part of the individual defendants. The facts in this case involved a claim of deliberate indifference to a prisoner’s serious medical needs.

In ...