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Prison Legal News: August, 2010

Issue PDF
Volume 21, Number 8

In this issue:

  1. Everything Revolves Around Overcrowding: The State of California’s Prisons (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 9)
  3. Wheelchair-bound Texas Escapee Produces Pistol, Commandeers Transport Van (p 10)
  4. U.S. Supreme Court: Counsel Must Advise Immigrant Defendants of Deportation Risks (p 11)
  5. Controversy Over Texas Attorneys Charging Questionable Fees in Wrongful Conviction Cases (p 12)
  6. $4.3 Million Award in Preventable Death of Cook County Pretrial Detainee (p 14)
  7. Incomplete DNA Databases Result in Tragic Consequences (p 14)
  8. Texas Youth Commission Pays $625,000 to Settle Abuse Suit (p 16)
  9. Exorbitant Prisoner Phone Rates Pass New York Constitutional Scrutiny (p 18)
  10. Obama’s 2011 Budget Calls for More Prisons, More Guards (p 18)
  11. Aryan Warriors Prison Gang Prosecuted in Nevada (p 20)
  12. $500,000 Settlement in Maryland Prisoner’s Death from Pepper Spraying (p 22)
  13. Prisoner’s Homicide at Maryland Jail Not Prosecuted (p 22)
  14. DOJ Investigation into New York Jail Finds Unconstitutional Conditions (p 24)
  15. California Official Resigns from State Post, Hired by Federal Receiver (p 25)
  16. U.S. State Prison Population Declines for First Time in a Decade (p 26)
  17. Washington DOC Pays $3,275,000 to Family of Deputy Killed by Former Prisoner (p 26)
  18. New Jersey’s Riverfront Prison Demolished (p 27)
  19. “Back to School” is a Guide to Success Following Release from Prison (p 28)
  20. ICE Policies and U.S. Deportation Laws Violate Human Rights (p 28)
  21. U.S. Department of Justice Releases 2008 Capital Punishment Statistics (p 30)
  22. Problems Persist at Privately-Operated Rhode Island Jail (p 30)
  23. North Carolina Innocence Commission Verifies Wrongful Conviction (p 32)
  24. Maricopa County Throws Sheriff Arpaio Under Improperly Purchased Bus (p 32)
  25. Wisconsin: Taycheedah Lawsuit Set for Trial (p 34)
  26. California Prison Health Care System Plagued by Understaffing, Overtime (p 34)
  27. $140,000 Settlement in Washington Jail Detainee’s Suicide (p 35)
  28. California: Audit Finds CDCR Overpaid Employees Who Supervise Prisoner-Workers (p 36)
  29. Prosecutorial Misconduct Case Pending Before Supreme Court Settles for $12 Million (p 36)
  30. New Picture on Violence in Federal Prisons (p 37)
  31. Maricopa County Detention Officer Held in Contempt for Taking Document from Defense Counsel’s File (p 38)
  32. Released Prisoners More Likely to Die (p 38)
  33. Maryland Prison Guards Busted for Helping Gang Members (p 40)
  34. Louisiana Judge, Attorneys Plead Guilty to Bribery Charges (p 40)
  35. New York City Jail Settles Excessive Force Suit for $62,001 (p 41)
  36. Physician Assisted in Botched Execution Attempt in Ohio (p 42)
  37. Seventh Circuit: Catholic Prisoner’s Religious Diet Lawsuit Remanded (p 42)
  38. Whole Foods Farms out Fish Farming to Colorado Prisoners (p 43)
  39. SORNA Challenges Produce Mixed Results; Supreme Court Weighs In (p 44)
  40. Washington Supreme Court Holds No Judicial Immunity for Non-Judicial Conduct (p 45)
  41. Ninth Circuit: No Qualified Immunity for Refusing to Feed Prisoner (p 46)
  42. $145,000 Settlement by New York City After Holding Immigration Detainee Beyond 48 Hours (p 46)
  43. Washington DOC Settles MRSA Death Claim for $125,000 (p 47)
  44. $3.5 Million Settlement to Former New York Prisoner Convicted Due to Perjured Testimony (p 48)
  45. Kentucky Law Retroactively Applied to Award Street Credit (p 48)
  46. Washington DOC Agrees to Pay $38,000 in Too-Much-Medicine Suit (p 48)
  47. California Prisoner Wins Option of Kosher Meals Until Halal Meals Can be Provided (p 49)
  48. News in Brief: (p 50)

Everything Revolves Around Overcrowding: The State of California’s Prisons

by Donald Specter, Director, Prison Law Office

I. Introduction

California has the nation’s largest and the world’s third-largest prison system.1 In two separate class action lawsuits, filed a decade apart, California prisoners sued the governor and corrections officials for violating their rights under the Eighth Amendment’s ...

From the Editor

This month’s cover story on Plata v. Schwarzenegger is an ample illustration of the political failures that have led to the current state of the criminal justice system around the country. Namely the lack of political will to ensure public safety and to respect the human and civil rights ...

Wheelchair-bound Texas Escapee Produces Pistol, Commandeers Transport Van

by Matt Clarke

On November 30, 2009, a maximum-security Texas state prisoner who was shackled to a wheelchair in the back of a transport van while being transferred between prisons pulled out a pistol, commandeered the van, handcuffed the guards together and escaped. He was recaptured eight days later.

Arcade ...

U.S. Supreme Court: Counsel Must Advise Immigrant Defendants of Deportation Risks

An immigrant charged with a criminal offense must be advised of the deportation consequences associated with pleading guilty, the U.S. Supreme Court held on March 31, 2010.

Jose Padilla was charged with drug trafficking after he was caught in Kentucky driving a tractor-trailer loaded with marijuana. Padilla, a lawful ...

Controversy Over Texas Attorneys Charging Questionable Fees in Wrongful Conviction Cases

by Matt Clarke

On September 17, 2009, Steven Charles Phillips, a former Texas prisoner who spent 24 years in prison on a rape charge before being exonerated in 2008, filed suit in Dallas County district court against his former attorney, Kevin Glasheen, and his attorney’s law firm, Glasheen, Valles ...

$4.3 Million Award in Preventable Death of Cook County Pretrial Detainee

by David M. Reutter

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a jury’s $4.3 million award to the estate of a pretrial detainee. The jurors found that guards at the jail in Cook County, Illinois were deliberately indifferent to the detainee’s serious medical needs, resulting in ...

Incomplete DNA Databases Result in Tragic Consequences

A review by the Associated Press has found that state crime lab databanks are missing thousands of DNA samples. The missing samples and backlogs in processing those that have been collected raise questions concerning serious crimes that otherwise might have been prevented.

“If you got missing samples, some of those ...

Texas Youth Commission Pays $625,000 to Settle Abuse Suit

To settle a federal lawsuit, the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) agreed to pay $625,000 in damages to four youths who were grossly abused by the states’ corrupt juvenile justice system.
The largest payout of $345,000 went to plaintiff Joseph Galloway, who had filed suit alleging that the TYC ...

Exorbitant Prisoner Phone Rates Pass New York Constitutional Scrutiny

by David M. Reutter

On November 23, 2009, the New York Court of Appeals – the state’s highest court – affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit arguing that the contract between the New York State Department of Correctional Services (NYDOCS) and MCI Worldcom Communications for prison telephone services violated the state ...

Obama’s 2011 Budget Calls for More Prisons, More Guards

So much for “hope” and “change.” President Obama’s fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is simply more of the same – more prisons, more guards, more cops. At least when it comes to the criminal justice system, Republicans and Democrats apparently have no ...

Aryan Warriors Prison Gang Prosecuted in Nevada

Nevada prison officials recently had to come to grips with two stark realities. First, for decades their correctional facilities have been a haven for gang-related crime and brutality, and second, the state’s own corrupt prison guards played a role in perpetuating those dangerous and violent conditions.

A federal investigation ...

$500,000 Settlement in Maryland Prisoner’s Death from Pepper Spraying

by David M. Reutter

A half-million dollar settlement was paid to the family of a Maryland prisoner who died when prison officials used excessive pepper spray while extracting him from his cell, and then failed to provide medical care.

After state prisoner Ifeanyi A. Iko was involved in a violent ...

Prisoner’s Homicide at Maryland Jail Not Prosecuted

Ronnie White’s death by strangulation will go unpunished. On June 2, 2009, almost a year after White died amid a flurry of controversy at the Prince George’s County Correctional Center in Maryland, state’s attorney Glenn F. Ivey announced there was not enough evidence to charge anyone with ...

DOJ Investigation into New York Jail Finds Unconstitutional Conditions

The findings of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) into conditions at a New York jail describe violations of prisoners’ constitutional rights – violations which, in the words of federal investigators, have resulted in “serious harm.”

The Civil Rights Division of the DOJ and the U.S ...

California Official Resigns from State Post, Hired by Federal Receiver

Kathleen Webb, the California official who, as deputy director of the state’s Department of General Services, oversaw the questionable purchase of $1.2 million worth of vehicles that remained unused for months, and who resigned in October 2009, just two days after her actions were scrutinized in the press ...

U.S. State Prison Population Declines for First Time in a Decade

Recent advance data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) indicates that not only has the rate of people entering the U.S. prison system declined in the past year, but the state prison population actually dropped in 2009 following a decade of growth.

In 2009 the number of people ...

Washington DOC Pays $3,275,000 to Family of Deputy Killed by Former Prisoner

In September 2009, the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) agreed to settle a wrongful death suit filed by the family of a King County deputy who was murdered by a recently-released prisoner.

On December 2, 2006, while responding to a 911 call, Deputy Steve Cox of the King County Sheriff ...

New Jersey’s Riverfront Prison Demolished

The Riverfront State Prison in Camden, New Jersey is no more.

Despite protests from prison employees and the union that represents them, which objected to the loss of jobs, the prison – which had drawn considerable criticism over the years as a colossal waste of the city’s riverfront potential – was ...

“Back to School” is a Guide to Success Following Release from Prison

Even the most diligent planning does not ensure success. However, it is a proven fact that education significantly enhances one’s chances to succeed. Back to School: A Guide to Continuing Your Education After Prison (the Guide) offers numerous helpful insights for entry or reentry into educational programs.

For many ...

ICE Policies and U.S. Deportation Laws Violate Human Rights

A 64-page report issued last year by Human Rights Watch (HRW), a non-profit watchdog organization, indicates that changes in U.S. deportation laws implemented by Congress in 1996 are mostly targeting immigrants who commit nonviolent crimes.

Statistical data accumulated from 1997 through mid-2007 show that approximately 897,000 immigrants, both ...

U.S. Department of Justice Releases 2008 Capital Punishment Statistics

by Matt Clarke

In December 2009, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) of the U.S. Department of Justice released statistical data on capital punishment in the United States for 2008. The report was later revised to include preliminary statistics on capital punishment in 2009.

Of the 37 executions carried ...

Problems Persist at Privately-Operated Rhode Island Jail

On June 30, 2009, a former employee at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility, a privately-operated jail near Providence, Rhode Island, pleaded guilty to lying to federal officials about sexual misconduct involving an immigration detainee, marking yet another embarrassing problem in a string of scandals to hit the facility.

Glenn ...

North Carolina Innocence Commission Verifies Wrongful Conviction

by Matt Clarke

After examining hundreds of cases, the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission has verified its first claim of innocence – which resulted in both controversy and stinging criticism from prosecutors.

In 2006, North Carolina became the first state to establish a government agency with the sole mandate of verifying ...

Maricopa County Throws Sheriff Arpaio Under Improperly Purchased Bus

by Matt Clarke

On October 30, 2009, the Maricopa County Internal Audit Department released a report critical of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s purchase of a $456,221.57 bus specially equipped to transport prisoners. Among other criticisms, the report noted that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) failed to ...

Wisconsin: Taycheedah Lawsuit Set for Trial

On November 24, 2009, a U.S. District Court judge in Wisconsin substantially denied prison officials’ motion for partial summary judgment and set for trial a class-action suit that alleges medical and mental health care provided to female prisoners at Taycheedah Correctional Institution (TCI) violates the Eighth Amendment, Title II ...

California Prison Health Care System Plagued by Understaffing, Overtime

The rampant use of overtime to fill gaps in medical staffing in California’s prison system has resulted in windfalls for some of the state’s prison health care workers, fatigue for others, and lapses of judgment that endanger the health of prisoners entrusted to their care, according to a ...

$140,000 Settlement in Washington Jail Detainee’s Suicide

Pierce County, Washington has paid $120,000 to settle a federal lawsuit that claimed its policies were deliberately indifferent to the risk of suicide by pretrial detainees at the Pierce County Detention and Corrections Center (PCDCC). The City of Lakewood paid an additional $20,000 to settle the case.

The ...

California: Audit Finds CDCR Overpaid Employees Who Supervise Prisoner-Workers

A follow-up investigation by the California State Auditor has found that the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) overpaid certain employees who supervise prisoner-workers.

In California, non-custodial staff who supervise prisoner-workers qualify for a monthly pay differential which ranges from $190 (for an office technician or a cook specialist I ...

Prosecutorial Misconduct Case Pending Before Supreme Court Settles for $12 Million

On January 4, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court side-stepped resolving an important case that would have likely exposed prosecutors to greater liability when they engage in prosecutorial misconduct.

The case, Pottawamie County v. McGhee and Harrington, S.Ct. No. 08-1065, was filed by Curtis W. McGhee, Jr. and Terry ...

New Picture on Violence in Federal Prisons

As the federal prison population continues to rise – to over 206,500 prisoners as of mid-year 2009 – violence in the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is both up and down, according to recent data obtained from BOP officials.

Last summer PLN reported increasing levels of violence in the BOP ...

Maricopa County Detention Officer Held in Contempt for Taking Document from Defense Counsel’s File

by Matt Clarke

In November 2009, an Arizona state judge held Maricopa County Detention Officer Adam Stoddard in contempt of court and ordered him to hold a press conference and publicly apologize to defense attorney Joanne Cuccia, after Stoddard took a document from Cuccia’s file while she was participating ...

Released Prisoners More Likely to Die

Recently-released prisoners are at a higher risk of death, according to studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and the American Journal of Public Health.
For a NEJM report entitled Release from Prison – A High Risk of Death of Former Inmates, the authors reviewed data related to ...

Maryland Prison Guards Busted for Helping Gang Members

In April 2009, four Maryland prison guards were indicted for participating in a variety of illegal activities involving the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) at the Metropolitan Transition Center (MTC) in Baltimore. Guards Asia Burrus, Musheerah Habeebullah, Takevia Smith and Terry Robe were accused of supplying incarcerated BGF members with contraband ...

Louisiana Judge, Attorneys Plead Guilty to Bribery Charges

In October 2009, following plea negotiations with federal prosecutors, a Louisiana judge and two lawyers pleaded guilty for their roles in a bail bond-rigging conspiracy that allowed about 100 prisoners over a five-year period to get out of jail without paying any bond money, just bribe money.

Wayne Cresap, a ...

New York City Jail Settles Excessive Force Suit for $62,001

On August 11, 2009, the City of New York agreed to settle a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit brought by a former prisoner who alleged that he was beaten without provocation by guards at the George Motchan Detention Center.

In November 2006, while on his way to court, Severiano ...

Physician Assisted in Botched Execution Attempt in Ohio

by Matt Clarke

On September 5, 2009, guards at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville prepared for an onerous task – executing state prisoner Romell Broom. They tried for two hours to find a usable vein in which to inject the three-drug lethal injection cocktail. Unable to find one, they ...

Seventh Circuit: Catholic Prisoner’s Religious Diet Lawsuit Remanded

by David M. Reutter

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held a Catholic prisoner’s free exercise of religion was substantially burdened because he was denied a non-meat diet on Fridays and during Lent.
In 2003, Illinois state prisoner Brian Nelson sued Tamms Correctional Center chaplain Carl Miller, alleging violation ...

Whole Foods Farms out Fish Farming to Colorado Prisoners

A food vendor is involved in a partnership with correctional facilities in Colorado that employ prisoners to raise tilapia and trout, which are then sold to Whole Foods, a popular grocery chain.

About 120 prisoners at the Arrowhead Correctional Center, a minimum-security facility for drug and alcohol offenders, earn around ...

SORNA Challenges Produce Mixed Results; Supreme Court Weighs In

Over the past several years a split has developed between the federal courts of appeal over the scope and constitutionality of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), a component of the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006.

SORNA requires sex offenders to keep their ...

Washington Supreme Court Holds No Judicial Immunity for Non-Judicial Conduct

The doctrine of judicial immunity does not apply to actions unrelated to judicial conduct, the Supreme Court of Washington decided on December 31, 2009.

In September 2002, Skagit County District Court Judge Stephen Skelton ordered Deputy Deanna Randall to take Anthony Reijm into custody following a court hearing.

Believing Reijm ...

Ninth Circuit: No Qualified Immunity for Refusing to Feed Prisoner

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a prison guard was not entitled to qualified immunity for depriving a prisoner of 16 meals over a 23-day period.

In 2001, Ronald P. Foster was confined at California’s High Desert State Prison in Susanville. A rash of assaults on ...

$145,000 Settlement by New York City After Holding Immigration Detainee Beyond 48 Hours

by David M. Reutter

A $145,000 settlement by the New York City Department of Corrections (DOC) provides a new twist in the area of immigration law. The main allegation in the complaint was that the DOC had violated a detainee’s rights by holding him for Immigration and Customs ...

Washington DOC Settles MRSA Death Claim for $125,000

The Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) has agreed to pay $125,000 to the family of a prisoner who died from pneumonia caused by Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

On March 27, 2008, Jeremy Swaser was given a check-up by medical staff at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. He ...

$3.5 Million Settlement to Former New York Prisoner Convicted Due to Perjured Testimony

The City of New York has paid $3.5 million to settle a lawsuit brought by an innocent man who spent 12 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of attempted murder. The conviction was obtained by a prosecutor who “knowingly present[ed] perjured testimony.”

While the conduct of the ...

Kentucky Law Retroactively Applied to Award Street Credit

The Kentucky Supreme Court has held that a law that applies “street credit” to released prisoners effectively suspends existing statutory law that specifies time spent on parole does not count towards a prisoner’s maximum sentence.

The Court accepted transfer of appeals from two circuit courts concerning the application of ...

Washington DOC Agrees to Pay $38,000 in Too-Much-Medicine Suit

On November 19, 2008, the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) agreed to pay $38,000 to a woman who was improperly administered her seizure medication.

The settlement resulted after Cindi J. Heihn, a prisoner at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor, filed suit against the DOC in ...

California Prisoner Wins Option of Kosher Meals Until Halal Meals Can be Provided

The Marin County Superior Court ordered San Quentin prison officials to provide Keith Allen Lewis, a Muslim prisoner, with access to Jewish kosher meals until he could be provided with the Halal meals prescribed by his faith.

Lewis had filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus requesting that the ...

News in Brief:

California: Beverly Hills attorney Michael H. Inman was charged on June 17, 2010 with attempting to smuggle heroin into a secure area of the downtown L.A. criminal court building. The 48-year-old lawyer was caught with approximately 14.25 grams of black tar heroin in a plastic bag and a ...