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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: September, 2010

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Volume 21, Number 9

In this issue:

  1. Thou Shalt Not: Sexual Misconduct by Prison and Jail Chaplains (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 2)
  3. Clergy Who Advocate for Prisoners Barred from Prisons and Jails (p 10)
  4. Federal Court Finds Nation of Islam Publication Not Racially Inflammatory (p 11)
  5. $35,000 Settlement in Indiana Jail Failure to Protect and Medical Care Suit (p 12)
  6. Boulder Weekly Investigation Ends the Practice of Shackling Colorado Prisoners in Labor (p 14)
  7. $10 Million Settlement for Former Colorado Prisoner Cleared by DNA (p 17)
  8. Prison Nursery Programs Promote Bonding, Reduce Recidivism (p 18)
  9. Texas Judge Sharon “Killer” Keller Receives Sanctions (p 20)
  10. Court Rebuffs BOP for Third Time in PLN Records Suit (p 21)
  11. Failed Extortion Scheme Led to Washington Prisoner’s Suicide Attempt, Lawsuit Says (p 22)
  12. Deplorable Conditions at Los Angeles ICE Facility Result in Settlement (p 22)
  13. $2 Million in Settlements for Wrongful Arrest, Conviction in Ohio (p 23)
  14. Technology, Budget Cuts Make Sex Offender Monitoring More Difficult (p 24)
  15. Five Sentenced in Oregon Prison Food Bribery Scandal (p 24)
  16. Wisconsin Doctor Sentenced for Sexually Abusing Prisoner Patients (p 26)
  17. Congress Passes Law to Reduce Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity (p 26)
  18. Former Prisoner Accepts $179,000 for Wrongful Conviction Under New Florida Law (p 27)
  19. Ohio Cuts Prison Industry Jobs (p 28)
  20. Alabama’s Indigent Defense System “Perfect Storm” for Ineffective Assistance (p 28)
  21. $130,000 Settlement in Tennessee Jail Prisoner’s Beating, Rape (p 29)
  22. Pay-to-Stay Jails Unsuccessful in Ohio (p 30)
  23. U.S. Supreme Court Holds Restitution Deadlines Not Jurisdictional (p 30)
  24. U.S. Department of Agriculture Subsidizes Jail Building in Texas (p 31)
  25. Democratic Chairman’s Rhetoric Supports Restoration of Voting Rights, but Actions Speak Louder than Words (p 32)
  26. $850,000 Award in Delaware Prisoner’s Suicide; State Declines to Renew CMS Contract (p 32)
  27. U.S. Supreme Court Holds Government May Offset Attorney Fees to Collect Litigant’s Debt (p 33)
  28. Pennsylvania Legislator / GEO Board Member Faces Criminal Charges (p 34)
  29. Innocence Project Report on Compensation and Reentry Services for Exonerated Prisoners (p 34)
  30. Former Oregon Prison Guard, Accused of Contraband Smuggling and Sexual Misconduct, Files Suit Alleging Racism (p 36)
  31. Suit Filed for Oregon Jail Pneumonia Death (p 37)
  32. 14 Years of Litigation Fails to Remedy Deficient Jail Medical Care; Herrera Saga Continues in Washington State (p 38)
  33. Registered Sex Offender Remained on City Payroll While Incarcerated (p 40)
  34. Oregon Politician Visits Prison, Proposes Porn Ban (p 41)
  35. Arizona Attempts Prison System Sell-Off (p 42)
  36. $1 Million Award in New York State Prisoner’s Death Caused by Medical Malpractice (p 42)
  37. Another Way for CCA to Influence Congress (p 44)
  38. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander (N.Y., The New Press, 2010). 290 pages. (p 44)
  39. California: Last Two of Five Guards Charged in Prisoner’s Death Get Prison Time (p 45)
  40. U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Federal Good Time Challenge (p 46)
  41. Justice Thomas’ Wife Creates “Nonpartisan” Political Organization (p 46)
  42. New Jersey Prison Guards Fake Electrocution (p 47)
  43. $2.9 Million Settlement in Suit against GEO over Suspicionless Strip Searches (p 48)
  44. Mississippi Stops Segregating HIV-positive Prisoners (p 48)
  45. GEO Group Settles $47.5 Million Texas Prisoner Wrongful Death Suit (p 49)
  46. New York City Jail Prisoner Awarded $1.3 Million in Deliberate Indifference to Assault Claim (p 49)
  47. News in Brief: (p 50)

Thou Shalt Not: Sexual Misconduct by Prison and Jail Chaplains

by David M. Reutter

Traditionally, the role of a chaplain in the correctional setting is to serve as a spiritual advisor to prisoners and help them meet the requirements of their religious faiths. Equally traditionally, chaplains have generally been from conservative mainstream Christian faiths and often proselytize among prisoners for those faiths.

There is some debate as to whether it is proper to have government-paid chaplains at prisons and jails, based on the premise that such arrangements violate the principle of separation of church and state. There is also dispute concerning whether chaplains – who are overwhelmingly Christian – can adequately address the religious needs of prisoners with many diverse faiths, including Islam, Judaism, Native American beliefs, Hinduism and Buddhism, among others, to say nothing of agnostics and atheists.

However, there is universal agreement that prison and jail chaplains should not abuse their role as spiritual leaders and use their positions of authority to fulfill their own deviant sexual desires. Such abuses do occur, albeit not with the frequency that other correctional staff victimize prisoners. [See, e.g.: PLN, May 2009, p.1].

While incidents involving sexual mis-conduct by chaplains are not common, they are indicative of a somber incongruity ...

From the Editor

After 20 years of publishing Prison Legal News I have been asked if it ever gets old or if I get tired of reporting the same news for decades. While there are common themes in prison and jail news over the years (medical neglect and guard brutality being the most common), new things are always arising and then there are new variations on the old.

One thing that I look for whenever there is a mainstream media story is “what is the prison angle” for PLN readers. For the past few decades the sexual assault of children by members of the clergy has been all too common and the sexual assault of prisoners by staff members has been even more common. This month’s cover story reflects that connection as we report in detail on an inter-related phenomenon: clergy members who rape prisoners and prisons that serve as dumping grounds for clergy who rape their parishioners outside prison.

PLN had reported such cases in the past but it was only while researching broader articles on a national basis, about the prevalence of sexual assault of prisoners by staff, that the scope of the problem became apparent. How prevalent is difficult ...

Clergy Who Advocate for Prisoners Barred from Prisons and Jails

As described in this month’s cover story, prison and jail chaplains accused of sexual misconduct often resign, retire, are fired or are sometimes prosecuted. In other cases, though, well-meaning clergy members who seek to help prisoners have been locked out of jails and prisons by staff who don’t appreciate their advocacy efforts.

Such was the case with Gail Hanson, a volunteer chaplain for eight years at the Cameron County Jail in Brownsville, Texas. Hanson, 61, complained about conditions at the facility for women prisoners – such as poor food, cold temperatures and lengthy pre-trial detention. In response, instead of addressing those issues, in March 2008 Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio prohibited the chaplain from visiting the jail.

Chief Deputy Gus Reyna, Jr. later told a local newspaper that Hanson’s complaints on behalf of prisoners might “even rise to the level of threatened security breach,” stating, “While
spiritual guidance may be helpful, personal involvement and advocacy for inmates is not within the acceptable limits of spiritual guidance and counseling, and may foment unnecessary and counter-productive unrest among the jail population.”

Some chaplains, however, including Hanson, realize that it is insufficient to address prisoners’ spiritual needs if their physical needs remain ...

Federal Court Finds Nation of Islam Publication Not Racially Inflammatory

by David M. Reutter

On March 31, 2010, a Louisiana U.S. District Court held that the denial of access to a religious publication based solely on the inclusion of a section called “The Muslim Program” was a violation of the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).

The court’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Louisiana prisoner Henry Leonard, who was incarcerated at the David Wade Correctional Center (DWCC). Leonard had been a member of the Nation of Islam (NOI) since 1985. He subscribed to The Final Call, the NOI’s official publication, and first began receiving it at DWCC in October 2005.

Beginning on June 14, 2006, DWCC started rejecting The Final Call because it contained racially inflammatory material that was considered a threat to security. Of greatest concern to prison officials was “The Muslim Program” on the last page of each issue, which includes statements about “What Muslims Want” and “What Muslims Believe.”
Leonard filed suit over the DWCC’s censorship policy.

The district court held that Leonard’s claims were very similar to those raised in Walker v. Blackwell, 411 F.2d 23 (5th Cir. 1969). At issue in ...

$35,000 Settlement in Indiana Jail Failure to Protect and Medical Care Suit

by David M. Reutter & Mark Wilson

Indiana’s Marion County Jail (MCJ) has paid $35,000 to settle a federal civil rights complaint that alleged deliberate indifference to a prisoner’s safety and serious medical needs.

The lawsuit was filed by Joseph R. Grieveson, a federal detainee incarcerated at MCJ ...

Boulder Weekly Investigation Ends the Practice of Shackling Colorado Prisoners in Labor

Ryan Owens caught her first case at age 27 after becoming addicted to methamphetamine. She was sent into treatment, but relapsed almost immediately after graduating. When she got into trouble again, she went on the run, afraid of being sent to jail.

A mother with two children, she was also pregnant.

She wasn’t on the run long, however, when law enforcement caught up with her. She spent her first five days in Denver City Jail heavily pregnant and sleeping on the floor on a dirty blanket. Then she was transferred to Denver County Jail, where she stayed for a time, before being transferred to El Paso County on her due date — and then back again.

During transport, she was kept in full restraints, including ankle shackles and a belly belt, an excruciating experience. Though she begged the guards to remove some of the shackles, they refused, instead joking about whether or not the trip would make her go into labor.

“It hurt so bad,” she says. “It was miserable. I cried the whole way down there and the whole way back.”

She was in Denver County Jail when she finally went into labor. She was brought to the hospital ...

$10 Million Settlement for Former Colorado Prisoner Cleared by DNA

by David M. Reutter

On February 16, 2010, Colorado’s Larimer County Commission approved a $4.1 million settlement with a former prisoner who served 10 years of a life sentence for a murder he didn’t commit. The settlement agreement covers employees in the Larimer County district attorney’s ...

Prison Nursery Programs Promote Bonding, Reduce Recidivism

Several studies, highlighted by the Women’s Prison Association (WPA) in a recent report, have shown that allowing infants born in prison to remain with their incarcerated mothers enhances bonding and leads to decreased recidivism.

Prior to the 1950s, nurseries for prisoners who gave birth were fairly common. But by the 1970s every state prison and jail system except one had eliminated efforts to keep mothers united with their newborns. Only the nursery in New York’s Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, which was founded in 1901, has remained in continuous operation.

Not surprisingly, it was also during the 1970s that the United States ushered in draconian lock-’em-up policies and practices. According to a report released by the WPA’s Institute on Women & Criminal Justice in May 2009, the number of women incarcerated in the U.S. increased by 832 percent between 1977 and 2007. The report also stated that in 2004, “four percent of women in state prisons and three percent of women in federal prisons were pregnant at the time of admittance.”

Currently only seven states have prison nursery programs: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Nebraska, New York, South Dakota and Washington. Two states, California and West Virginia, are in the process of creating prison nurseries. Just one jail system, Rikers Island in New York, offers such a program.

In other jurisdictions pregnant prisoners are usually separated from their newborns within a matter of hours. Female prisoners in Texas can’t live with their children after giving birth, but are allowed liberal visitation through the Love Me Tender program at the Carole Young Medical Facility.

Prison nurseries vary greatly from state to state as there are no standardized requirements or federal guidelines. The Illinois program at the Decatur Correctional Center only accommodates five mothers and their children, while New York’s Bedford Hills facility can house 29 mother/infant pairs. The Bedford Hills program includes a parenting center, prenatal center, day care center and child advocacy office.

In June 2010, Indiana prisoners raised money for the Wee Ones Nursery at the Indiana Women’s Prison, which is funded through donations and grants. Within the first week prisoners had contributed $4,000 to the program, which was founded in 2008 and has provided services for 30 incarcerated mothers and their children.

“I just know that I was motivated and feeling strong about keeping my baby here, because my other two kids, I lost them, because after coming to prison, I had to let somebody adopt them,” said Indiana prisoner Balbina Hernandez, 33, who participated in the Wee Ones program with her newborn daughter, Angelina, for one year.

The length of participation in prison nursery programs varies. South Dakota only allows prisoners to nurse their babies for thirty days, while the Washington Correctional Center for Women lets children live with their incarcerated mothers for up to three years. For most facilities the average duration is 12 to 18 months.

To be eligible for nursery programs, most states require that women be pregnant upon their arrival at prison. They must also sign a waiver releasing prison officials from responsibility for children who may get sick or injured. Prisoners who become pregnant during their incarceration (e.g., on furlough) or who plan to give their child up for adoption are disqualified.

Despite the variations, every prison nursery program currently reports favorable results for both the prisoners and children involved.

The University of Nebraska conducted a study of the nursery program at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women. According to that study, prisoners who participated in the program received 13 percent fewer disciplinary cases than those in general population. A five-year evaluation concluded that women who were immediately separated at birth from their newborn children returned to prison at a rate of 33.3% within five years of release.
Women who participated in the prison nursery program had a 9% recidivism rate.

A study conducted at the Ohio Reformatory for Women (ORW) had even more impressive results. Established in 2001, 118 mothers and their newborns took part in the ORW nursery program over a five-year period. The three-year recidivism rate for women in the program was a mere 3% compared to an overall 38% for general population prisoners, both male and female.

A 2002 follow-up survey of prisoners in the New York State Department of Correctional Services yielded less dramatic but still noteworthy results. For women who participated in the nursery program, 13.4% returned to prison within three years of release compared to 25.9% of female prisoners in general population.

The most extensive study was conducted by Prof. Mary W. Byrne at Columbia University. Her longitudinal research covered prison nursery participants at New York’s Bedford Hills and Taconic Correctional Facilities. Ninety-seven prisoners and 100 infants who participated in the nursery programs from 2003 to 2008 were studied. The results indicated that mothers and their children developed a stronger attachment as a result of such programs, and according to a “one-year follow-up, the women also appear to have a lower recidivism rate than similar women in the community.”

According to Dr. Byrne, “Prison nurseries offer needed services to a population of women and infants who might otherwise be overlooked.” Dr. Angela M. Tomlin, an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine, agreed, stating, “The prison nursery is an investment in the future, one mother and baby at a time.”

Despite such favorable data and endorsements, prison nursery programs are not without their critics. For example, a 1992 study conducted by Dr. L. Catan found that while children in prison nurseries did develop a strong bond with their mothers, they also demonstrated deficiencies in motor skills and cognitive development. Follow-up studies have concluded that those deficiencies disappear soon after children leave the prison environment.

Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC), a non-profit advocacy organization, endorses community-based rather than in-prison programs for mothers and their infants.
While acknowledging the benefits of prison nurseries, LSPC supports “implementing a true community-based program without guards for parents who have sole custody of their young children instead of putting these children in prison,” noting that prison officials “have difficulty providing adequate care for adults; they certainly aren’t qualified as experts in child rearing.”

In addition to prison nurseries, the WPA report also profiled community-based residential parent programs for prisoners in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Illinois, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Vermont, and in the federal Bureau of Prisons, which operates Mothers and Infants Nurturing Together (MINT) programs at facilities in Florida, Texas, Connecticut, Illinois and West Virginia.

Almost all prison nursery programs include some educational component for prisoners such as GED ...

Texas Judge Sharon “Killer” Keller Receives Sanctions

by Matt Clarke

On January 20, 2010, San Antonio judge David A. Berchelmann, Jr., acting as a special master for the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct, issued findings of fact in a disciplinary complaint against Sharon Keller, the presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA).

The disciplinary action resulted after Keller refused to keep the court clerk’s office open late on September 25, 2007 to accept post-conviction filings in the capital case of Michael W. Richard, who was scheduled to be executed that evening. On the morning of September 25 the U.S. Supreme Court had agreed to hear arguments in a case involving a challenge to the three-drug protocol used to execute prisoners in Kentucky, which was similar to the protocol used in Texas. This eventually led to the staying of all executions in the U.S. until the Kentucky case was decided. [See: PLN, Dec. 2008, p.37].

According to the Texas Defender Service (TDS), a coalition of attorneys opposed to the death penalty who were representing Richard, TDS contacted the court before the 5:00 p.m. closing time for the clerk’s office, explained they were having computer difficulties and asked ...

Court Rebuffs BOP for Third Time in PLN Records Suit

The score is now PLN - 3, BOP - 0 in a protracted legal battle over the disclosure of records related to settlements and judgments paid by the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

In August 2003, PLN submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the BOP for “all documents showing all money paid by the [Bureau] ... for lawsuits and claims” from January 1, 1996 through July 31, 2003.

PLN requested a fee waiver for the documents, which the BOP promptly denied, claiming that PLN lacked the ability to effectively disseminate the information to the public.

PLN then filed suit, arguing it was entitled to a fee waiver. U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton agreed and granted summary judgment against the BOP. Round one to PLN. See: Prison Legal News v. Lappin, 436 F.Supp.2d 17 (D. D.C. 2006) [PLN, Sept. 2006, p.15].

Thereafter, federal prison officials provided PLN with over 11,000 documents; however, the vast majority were useless because they were so heavily redacted.

PLN filed another summary judgment motion, contending that the BOP failed to conduct an adequate search for records and that most of the redactions were improper. In support of its motion ...

Failed Extortion Scheme Led to Washington Prisoner’s Suicide Attempt, Lawsuit Says

by David M. Reutter

According to a suit filed on behalf of a Washington state prisoner who attempted to commit suicide, a guard at the McNeil Island Corrections Center retaliated against prisoners who failed to pay extortion fees.

Leon G. Toney was left in a coma and permanent vegetative state after trying to hang himself in his segregation cell at McNeil on September 18, 2008. The lawsuit says he had a history of depression and suicidal ideation.

Toney’s suicide attempt came only six-and-a-half hours after being placed in segregation when he was found with a cell phone charger. Preceding the discovery of the charger, prisoner Luis Perez was caught with a cell phone after a guard heard a female voice coming from his cell. A search of the phone revealed nude photos of Toney.

An investigative report by Washington State Patrol detective Juli Gundermann uncovered information that formed the basis for part of the lawsuit. Her report noted that Toney had lost his visitation privileges for 90 days when he was caught engaging in sexual conduct with his wife, Rene Matthews, in the prison visitation room on July 18, 2008.

Gundermann was briefed by Washington State Department of Corrections ...

Deplorable Conditions at Los Angeles ICE Facility Result in Settlement

Being locked up is bad enough. But imagine being held in a basement without basic essentials like drinking water, clean clothes, the ability to shower, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and medical care. Thousands of immigration detainees in Los Angeles were routinely subjected to such conditions at “B-18,” an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) holding facility located, literally, in the basement of a federal building.

“You actually walk down the sidewalk and into an underground parking lot. Then you turn right, open a big door and voilà, you’re in a detention center,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, director of Immigrant Rights for the ACLU of Southern California (ACLU).

The problems at B-18 were due, in part, because the facility was not designed for long-term detention. In fact, according to ICE policy, prisoners were not to be kept there for more than 12 hours.

However, ICE officials circumvented that rule by shuttling detainees back-and-forth between B-18 and local jails. A detainee would spend 12 to 18 hours at B-18, be held overnight at a county jail and then return to B-18 in the morning. This cycle would repeat itself over and over, forcing prisoners to endure B-18’s squalid conditions for weeks or ...

$2 Million in Settlements for Wrongful Arrest, Conviction in Ohio

Two former Ohio prisoners have accepted settlements totaling $2 million after being wrongly imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. One of the men, Derris Lewis, spent 18 months in jail pending trial on murder charges. The other, Robert McClendon, served 18 years in prison for rape.

Lewis was arrested ...

Technology, Budget Cuts Make Sex Offender Monitoring More Difficult

by Matt Clarke

Technological innovations and tech-savvy sex offenders, combined with budget cuts, have made it harder for law enforcement authorities to monitor the nation’s estimated 716,750 registered sex offenders (RSOs).

That does not include all RSOs, as some are not required to register and around 100,000 have failed to comply with registration requirements and are being sought by law enforcement. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the number of sex offenders has increased 78% since 2001.

Part of the reason for the rise in RSOs is the Bush administration’s emphasis on prosecuting sex crimes against children, which has been re-emphasized by the Obama administration, driving up child sexual exploitation prosecutions by 147% since 2002. In the first year of the Obama administration funding for child sex abuse task forces rose from $16 million to $75 million, and 81 new Department of Justice prosecutors were hired to handle a larger number of sex offender cases.

While the federal government has increased spending on child sex abuse prosecutions, budget cuts among the states have hampered efforts at monitoring RSOs. For example, Virginia cut its budget for parole and probation departments by $10 ...

Five Sentenced in Oregon Prison Food Bribery Scandal

Four men who paid Oregon’s prison food services administrator $1.2 million in bribes to obtain state contracts have been sentenced to 3 months in prison for their role in the worst corruption case in Oregon’s history.

As previously reported in PLN, shortly after a January 10, 2007 raid by IRS and FBI agents, California food brokers Michael Levin, William Lawrence and Howard Roth, as well as Maryland food broker Douglas Levene, pleaded guilty to one count of bribery and one count of tax fraud in exchange for cooperating with the prosecution of former Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) food services administrator Farhad “Fred” Monem. [See: PLN, Aug. 2008, p.1].

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kent Robinson said the food brokers’ cooperation was a “key element” of their plea agreements. Although each defendant faced a maximum of 13 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Cardani said the government would recommend the low end of the sentencing range so long as they fulfilled their obligations.

With his co-conspirators turning against him, Fred Monem tried to cut a deal of his own. However, when Monem and his wife – who was also involved in ...

Wisconsin Doctor Sentenced for Sexually Abusing Prisoner Patients

In March 2010, a former doctor employed at the Stanley Correctional Institution in Wisconsin pleaded no contest to seven misdemeanors related to abusing or mistreating prisoners at that facility. In exchange for entering into a plea agreement, prosecutors reduced the charges from six felony counts.

Dr. Brian J. Bohlmann, 47, received a sentence of seven months in jail for the misdemeanor charges, which were brought in Chippewa and Winnebago Counties. He also agreed to give up his medical license for three years; significantly, he will not have to register as a sex offender.

Male prisoners said Bohlmann touched them inappropriately and had them remove their clothes when that had nothing to do with their medical complaints. [See: PLN, May 2009, p.1].

Three prisoners had harsh words for Bohlmann at the doctor’s sentencing hearing. “If I had my way, you’d be charged and prosecuted with sexual assault like you should be, go to prison and register as a sexual offender and never practice medicine again,” said one of the doctor’s former patients.

The sentencing judge, however, said that although he was aware of the prisoners’ concerns, he felt it was significant that Bohlmann had given up eight ...

Congress Passes Law to Reduce Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity

On August 3, 2010, President Obama signed into law historic legislation that reduces the two-decades-old sentencing disparity between federal crack and powder cocaine offenses. House Republicans and Democrats are in agreement that U.S. drug laws are too harsh and must be reformed. The tide is clearly turning against the failed war on drugs.

Before the changes, a person with just five grams of crack received a mandatory sentence of five years in prison. That same person would have to possess 500 grams of powder cocaine to earn the same punishment. This disparity, known as the 100-to-1 ratio, was enacted in the late 1980s and was based on myths about crack cocaine being more dangerous than powder. Scientific evidence, including a major study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, has proven that crack and powder cocaine have identical physiological and psychoactive effects on the human body.

Advocates pushed to totally eliminate the disparity, but ultimately a compromise was struck between Democrats and Republicans to reduce the 100-to-1 disparity to 18-to-1.
The 100-to-1 ratio has caused myriad problems, including perpetuating racial disparities, wasting taxpayer money, and targeting low-level offenders instead of dangerous criminals. African Americans comprise 82 percent ...

Former Prisoner Accepts $179,000 for Wrongful Conviction Under New Florida Law

After initially declining to accept $179,000 under Florida’s Victims of Wrongful Incarceration Compensation Act, Leroy McGee agreed to receive compensation pursuant to that statute for serving 43 months in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

McGee, 42, was convicted of a 1991 gas station robbery. He had a time card from his janitorial job at Fort Lauderdale High School that indicated he was working at the time of the robbery. Further, he did not match initial descriptions of the robber and his fingerprints were not found at the crime scene.

However, at trial his attorney “failed to raise a single objection during the case and attempted to enter the wrong time card into evidence.” His conviction was reversed after he finished serving his prison sentence, with Judge Paul Backman saying McGee’s trial lawyer had provided “absolutely the worst performance in the courtroom I’ve ever seen.”

Under the Victims of Wrongful Incarceration Compensation Act, which was enacted in 2008, exonerated prisoners are eligible to receive $50,000 for each year they spent in prison. McGee refused to accept compensation under the statute because it failed to cover the costs associated with hiring an attorney.

“Most ...

Ohio Cuts Prison Industry Jobs

by Matt Clarke

In February 2010, Ohio Penal Industries (OPI) announced it planned to close several prison industry programs and reduce its prisoner work force from 1,554 to 1,269 due to budget cuts. Previously, OPI stated in December 2009 that it was discontinuing its wood office furniture operation as part of “additional cost-savings measures.”

Industry jobs are highly sought after by Ohio prisoners, as they pay between $.21 and $1.23 an hour and provide work skills and experience that can be used to help find post-release employment if the prisoners are ever released. Participation in prison industry programs is tied to a reduction in recidivism, from an overall rate of 38% to just 18% for OPI workers. However, those figures are questionable since some prison industry workers are lifers who will either never be released or will be too old to work when they are released.

Industry jobs performed by Ohio prisoners include manufacturing toilet paper, making dentures, crafting eyeglasses, producing institutional clothing, milking dairy cows and slaughtering cattle. The slaughterhouse operation at the Pickaway Correctional Institution supplies 3.7 million pounds of meat per year to Ohio’s prison system, saving the state $3.3 million ...

Alabama’s Indigent Defense System “Perfect Storm” for Ineffective Assistance

by David M. Reutter

“Alabama’s right-to-counsel system has the ‘perfect storm’ of characteristics that virtually guarantee ineffective assistance of counsel to the poor,” observed David Carroll, research director for the National Legal Aid & Defender Association.

Carroll was referring to a system that gives state court judges unbridled discretion to appoint attorneys to cases, and therefore lets them assign work to lawyers who, for example, make contributions to the judges’ election campaigns.

“Most states with state funding have independent right-to-counsel commissions with authority to promulgate and enforce standards. There is no such accountability in the Alabama system,” said Carroll. “This means attorneys who move dockets quickly and who kick back some of the money to the judge’s reelection campaigns can be financially rewarded. The ‘perfect storm.’ Judges are happy, defense attorneys are happy. The only problem is that clients’ rights are being trampled on.”

In Mobile County, six attorneys received six-digit payments from the indigent defense system, which is funded by state general revenue funds and revenue collected from a $50 civil case filing fee. The top earner, attorney Habib Yazdi, made $267,193 in fiscal year 2009; he had a total caseload of 516 appointments.

The second-highest earner, Lee L. Hale, Jr., made $217,239 for 241 cases in FY 2009. Almost a third of those appointments came from Judge Charles A. Graddick. At one time, Graddick worked with Hale’s father, Lee L. Hale, Sr.

Hale Jr. denied claims of favoritism. What he did not deny was making $1,850 in contributions to Graddick’s 2004 reelection campaign. In fact, he was unapologetic about it. “I make lots of contributions to lots of people,” he said. “If someone is doing a great job, I want them kept in office. It is what it is.”

Yazdi and attorney Gregory Hughes, another of the top six indigent defense fund earners in Mobile County, also made campaign donations to Judge Graddick.

Carroll singled out Yazdi as an example of an attorney taking on too many cases. “My guess is that the majority of them are felonies. If so, the attorney in question could very ...

$130,000 Settlement in Tennessee Jail Prisoner’s Beating, Rape

Local officials in Shelby County, Tennessee paid $130,000 to settle a lawsuit by a man who was beaten and raped while held at the Shelby County Jail.

The plaintiff, identified in federal court documents as E.R. to protect his privacy, was arrested for a warrant that had been ...

Pay-to-Stay Jails Unsuccessful in Ohio

by David M. Reutter

Part of the legacy of the punitive criminal justice philosophy of the 1990s is pay-to-stay incarceration, which involves jails charging prisoners booking fees and per-diem fees. [See: PLN, July 2010, p.10].

The rhetoric behind pay-to-stay programs is that it is wrong for criminals to be “rewarded” with free room and board while their victims suffer and the public struggles to fund overcrowded prisons and jails.

The concept has turned out to be a huge flop in Ohio, often costing more than it returns to county coffers. Several factors have contributed to this failure, notably the fact that most people who end up in jail are poor and can’t afford to pay.

Another factor was an Ohio federal court’s finding that it was unconstitutional to impose pay-to-stay fees on prisoners who had not been convicted. That ruling required Hamilton County officials to refund about $1 million in jail fees and pay $150,000 for a prisoner education program after the county was sued in 2000. [See: PLN, Aug. 2003, p.20; June 2002, p.18].

The following year Butler County, Ohio was sued. That litigation settled when county officials agreed to return $63,846 ...

U.S. Supreme Court Holds Restitution Deadlines Not Jurisdictional

Under the federal Mandatory Restitution Act (MRA), 18 U.S.C. § 3664(d)(5), “the court shall set a date for the final determination of the victim’s losses, not to exceed 90 days after sentencing.” The U.S. Supreme Court, however, held on June 14, 2010 that a sentencing court which misses the 90-day deadline retains the ability to order restitution when it has made clear prior to the deadline’s expiration that it would impose restitution, leaving open only the amount.

Brian R. Dolan pleaded guilty on February 8, 2007 to a federal charge of assault resulting in serious bodily injury. He was sentenced on July 30, 2007 to 21 months in prison and 3 years’ supervised release. The district court stated it had insufficient information regarding restitution and would leave that issue open.

Sixty-seven days after sentencing, the probation office prepared an addendum to Dolan’s presentence report that included $104,649.78 in restitution. However, the court did not hold a restitution hearing until February 4, 2008. Dolan argued the law no longer authorized the district court to impose restitution due to the expiration of the 90-day statutory deadline.

The court disagreed and ordered restitution; on ...

U.S. Department of Agriculture Subsidizes Jail Building in Texas

by Matt Clarke

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considering whether to grant or loan $5 million to Webb County, Texas to build a new county jail. The USDA has already given Jim Hogg County, Texas $5 million to expand its jail – 25% as a loan and 75% as a grant.

Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar said the county needs a new jail because they are losing out on the opportunity to earn about $500,000 a year by housing federal prisoners.
The federal government often contracts with local jails to house prisoners, particularly immigration detainees, and some counties use contracts with the U.S. Marshals Service as a reliable source of income.

One complication in Sheriff Cuellar’s plan is the Rio Grande Detention Center, a 1,500-bed private prison in Laredo owned and operated by the GEO Group, a Florida-based company formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections. The Rio Grande facility opened in October 2008 following controversy over GEO’s record of alleged human rights abuses at some of the company’s other Texas prisons. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) operates the 480-bed Webb County Detention Center near Lardeo, too, which houses U.S. Marshals detainees and ...

Democratic Chairman’s Rhetoric Supports Restoration of Voting Rights, but Actions Speak Louder than Words

by David M. Reutter

Restoration of voting rights for former prisoners is a key issue for many members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), because ex-felons are disproportionately minorities and according to conventional wisdom, minorities are more likely to vote for Democratic candidates. It would be natural, therefore, for the DNC’s chairman to support restoration of voting rights.

“I think folks who serve their time should have their rights restored, especially those who have been convicted of nonviolent felonies,” said DNC chairman and former Virginia governor Timothy M. Kaine.

Despite Kaine’s apparent support for re-enfranchisement, however, Virginia is one of only two states that refuse to restore the voting rights of ex-felons upon the completion of their sentences without approval from the governor. That restriction applies to all felons, not just those convicted of violent offenses.

When Kaine’s term as governor was ending in January 2010, he was asked by WTOP political reporter Mark Plotkin why he did not sign an executive order restoring the voting rights of former prisoners he thought were deserving.

“Our analysis of Virginia’s law is that I can’t just do a blanket restoration – I have to restore people by name ...

$850,000 Award in Delaware Prisoner’s Suicide; State Declines to Renew CMS Contract

A federal district court has awarded $850,000 to the family of a Delaware prisoner who hanged himself, after entering default judgment against First Correctional Medical, Inc. (FCM). In other Delaware news, the state’s prison system did not renew its contract with Correctional Medical Services (CMS).

In 1997, Christopher Barkes ...

U.S. Supreme Court Holds Government May Offset Attorney Fees to Collect Litigant’s Debt

On June 14, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court held that “fees and other expenses” awarded to a prevailing party are “payable to the litigant and ... therefore subject to a Government offset to satisfy a pre-existing debt that the litigant owes the United States.”

After attorney Catherine Ratliff prevailed in a Social Security benefits claim for her client, she moved for an attorney fee award of $2,112.60. The unopposed motion was granted, but before the fees were paid federal officials discovered that Ratliff’s client owed the United States a debt that predated the award.

The government then used its statutory authority to impose an administrative offset to recover the debt from the attorney fee award. The district court held Ratliff lacked standing to intervene to challenge the proposed offset. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit accepted Ratliff’s argument that attorney fees awarded under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) are awarded to a prevailing party’s lawyer and may not be used to offset or otherwise satisfy a litigant’s federal debt.

In rejecting that ruling, the Supreme Court found the plain language of 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A) does the opposite – “it ...

Pennsylvania Legislator / GEO Board Member Faces Criminal Charges

by Matt Clarke

On November 12, 2009, Pennsylvania state representative John M. Perzel was charged with 82 counts of theft, conflict of interest, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and hindering apprehension or prosecution as a result of Attorney General Tom Corbett’s long-running investigation into political corruption, nicknamed “Bonusgate.” Perzel, a Republican and former Speaker of the House, had for years been a member of the board of directors of GEO Group, the nation’s second-largest private prison firm.

Perzel, his brother-in-law, a nephew, two former chiefs of Perzel’s staff and five other people with ties to the Pennsylvania House GOP caucus (including two former district attorneys) were charged with spending around $10 million in state funds to develop advanced computer programs that were used by Republicans to give them an advantage during elections.

According to William Tomaselli, a state-paid special projects coordinator who was granted immunity by prosecutors, Perzel was aware that the programs were utilized to benefit GOP candidates. “The goal was to win elections. It was a campaign piece,” Tomaselli alleged.

Perzel has denied any criminal conduct and claims the charges are “political opportunism” by Corbett, a fellow Republican who is running for governor. Corbett countered that ...

Innocence Project Report on Compensation and Reentry Services for Exonerated Prisoners

by Matt Clarke

The Innocence Project was founded in 1992 by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at New York’s Yeshiva University. Since that time the Innocence Project and its partners have been instrumental in securing the release of many of the 258 prisoners exonerated by DNA evidence nationwide – including 17 who spent time on death row.

Exonerees have served an average of 13 years in prison and experience all of the usual difficulties faced by long-term prisoners reentering society, yet are denied even the inadequate social services and financial assistance available to released prisoners. The plight of exonerees has received little attention or study, but a recent Innocence Project report describes the ordeals they suffer and recommends model legislation to ensure fair compensation for wrongful convictions.

Exonerees who serve lengthy prison terms often have a variety of disabilities, including post-traumatic stress disorder; poor health due to substandard prison medical care; institutionalization; depression; lack of work experience, education and training; and lack of experience with modern technology. Frequently some of their family members have died, their partners found new mates and their children grew up during their incarceration. When exonerees ...

Former Oregon Prison Guard, Accused of Contraband Smuggling and Sexual Misconduct, Files Suit Alleging Racism

An ex-Oregon prison guard who resigned in 2007 was hired the following year as a “security technician” at the Oregon State Hospital (OSH). He was fired one month later after being accused of engaging in oral sex with a male co-worker in an OSH vehicle, at a cemetery, while on duty.

William Coleman began working as a guard at the Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP), a maximum-security prison, on January 18, 2005, but resigned in September 2007.

He was subsequently hired by OSH as a mental health security technician; however, he was terminated following a November 24, 2008 incident involving co-worker Gregory Charles. The two men, whose duties included patrolling OSH grounds, drove to an adjacent cemetery and parked. They said they were watching “a suspicious man” riding a bicycle, but the bicyclist, who was the cemetery gatekeeper, reported they were having sex in the vehicle. Police arrived and questioned Charles and Coleman, then called their supervisors.

Coleman was immediately fired. Charles, who had been an OSH employee since November 2006, was placed on leave before being terminated on March 20, 2009. Both flatly denied claims that they were engaging in oral sex.

They filed suit, alleging racial discrimination, defamation and ...

Suit Filed for Oregon Jail Pneumonia Death

Holly Jean Casey, a homeless 36-year-old heroin addict, lived a rough life and died an agonizing death on the floor of an Oregon jail cell on January 4, 2008.

The day before she died, Casey was on her way to the hospital when she was arrested in Portland for failing to appear in court on a misdemeanor theft charge. Between coughs, Casey told police she had missed court because she was sick.

When she was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC), Oregon’s largest jail, police told guards at the facility that she had pneumonia. Casey filled out a medical request stating, “I’ve got pneumonia for 3 days. Won’t go away. I have difficulty breathing. It hurts bad. I have no energy. I have lupus and no spleen.”

A nurse examined Casey and noted her wheezing, labored breathing and racing heart. She was given several puffs from an Albuterol inhaler, which seemed to help, but was not seen by a doctor or given any other treatment.

By the next morning Casey’s condition had worsened. She “begged for help yelling, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, please help me,’” according to a federal suit ...

14 Years of Litigation Fails to Remedy Deficient Jail Medical Care; Herrera Saga Continues in Washington State

by Mark Wilson

In 1996, Tacoma, Washington officials settled a class-action federal lawsuit over unconstitutional conditions and insufficient health care at the Pierce County Jail (PCJ). Fourteen years later, however, prisoners continue to be denied adequate medical and mental health care, according to court filings. At least eight deaths between 2006 and 2008 were linked to deficient medical treatment at the jail.

The class-action suit was filed in 1995 and settled with a consent decree on March 28, 1996. [See: PLN, March 1997, p.18; April 1995, p.5]. Pursuant to the consent decree, the district court appointed two monitors to report on compliance with constitutionally-mandated minimal health care at PCJ.

The first monitor was Dr. Steve Shelton, Medical Director for the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC), whose hepatitis C policies were the subject of an unrelated federal class-action lawsuit while he served as a court monitor in the PCJ litigation. [See: PLN, Feb. 2005, p.14]. He was replaced by Dr. Joseph Goldenson, who oversees jail health services for the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

“Both Court Monitors have repeatedly reported serious deficiencies” at PCJ, class counsel Fred Diamondstone informed the district court, and “Pierce County has repeatedly ...

Registered Sex Offender Remained on City Payroll While Incarcerated

Dennis J. McLaughlin, a water maintenance worker for Baltimore’s Department of Public Works (DPW), continued to earn his salary from 2007 to 2008 while serving a prison sentence for sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl.

McLaughlin, 37, pleaded guilty to a first-degree sex offense in 2007. Sentenced to 16 months, he was released eight months early in May 2008 according to the Maryland Department of Corrections. Incredibly he then resumed his employment with DPW, which occasionally required him to check water leaks in private residences and schools.

An investigation by Investigative Voice, and later by the city’s Inspector General, found that McLaughlin received $12,700 in sick leave, vacation and holiday pay during the time he was incarcerated. The investigation further revealed that McLaughlin was able to remain on the city’s payroll by using fraudulent sick leave requests.

All of this came to light only after McLaughlin, a 10-year DPW employee, was arrested again in January 2010, this time for allegedly impersonating a police officer while sexually assaulting a Baltimore County woman. He later pleaded guilty to those charges.

Professing ignorance, city officials claimed they did not know McLaughlin had served eight months in prison for sexually abusing ...

Oregon Politician Visits Prison, Proposes Porn Ban

Oregon state representative Greg Smith is up for reelection, and thus looking for a way to win over voters. So why not drop in on an Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) facility and engage in some tough-on-crime prisoner-bashing? That’s likely to get some votes, especially from members of the prison guard union.

So Smith paid a visit to the Two Rivers Correctional Institution (TRCI), where staff members apparently regaled him with appalling stories of prisoners receiving sexually explicit magazines such as Playboy.

“It took me by surprise,” said Smith. “Prisoners should be focused on rehabilitation rather than on personal gratification.” Of course he failed to recognize that the type of sexually explicit material allowed in ODOC facilities does not undermine rehabilitation, or that it is hard for prisoners to “focus on rehabilitation” when the ODOC spends only a small part of its budget on rehabilitative programs. He also might not have realized that publications like Playboy contain more than smutty pictures.

Still, Rep. Smith left TRCI ready to draft legislation imposing a sweeping ban on all sexual materials in Oregon’s prison system, never mind the fact that prison officials have acknowledged that such publications do not cause problems ...

Arizona Attempts Prison System Sell-Off

The next lot in our auction is the Arizona prison system. Do I hear $100,000,000? What, no bidders? None? You, sir, Corrections Corporation of America, you must be interested. No? Okay. How about you, GEO Group? No, not interested either?

Prison privatization is not a new concept but efforts to privatize an entire prison system are rare – having been previously considered in only one state, Tennessee, more than a decade ago. [See: PLN, Sept. 1998, p.16]. However, last year Arizona lawmakers attempted to privatize most of that state’s prison system as they tried to close a whopping $4 billion budget deficit.

HB 2010, signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer on September 3, 2009, permitted the unprecedented sale of almost all of Arizona’s prisons. Under HB 2010, state prison officials were required to solicit bids for the operation of “one or more prison complexes” by private companies in return for an upfront payment of $100 million. The state would then lease the prisons back from the companies over a 20-year period, paying them to manage the facilities. The prison complex at Yuma was not subject to the law; it had been exempted at the insistence ...

$1 Million Award in New York State Prisoner’s Death Caused by Medical Malpractice

A New York Court of Claims has awarded $1,021,915.73 to the estate of a former prisoner who died as the result of a prison nurse and doctor departing from accepted standards of care.

Leonard Pickell arrived at New York’s Ulster Correctional Facility (UCF) on July 8 ...

Another Way for CCA to Influence Congress

by Matt Clarke

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest for-profit prison company, already spends a significant amount of money courting federal agencies and members of Congress. CCA employs three lobbying firms in Washington D.C., spent about $1 million in lobbying on the federal level in 2009, and has its own Political Action Committee. CCA executives and employees have made over $135,000 in campaign donations to federal political candidates in the 2008 and 2010 election cycles.

Recently, though, Talking Points Memo, a news organization that specializes in reporting on government and political issues, found another way that CCA influences federal officials: Three former and current Congressional staffers with ties to U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, run an event-planning business that has accepted money from CCA to plan events honoring Thompson.

Dena Graziano, Rep. Thompson’s communication director since 2006, co-founded Chic Productions along with Michone Johnson, chief counsel for a House Judiciary subcommittee, and Michelle Persaud, a former House Judiciary Committee staffer. According to Chic’s website the company provides “high style events with simple elegance,” and congressional events make up about 90 percent of its business.

Lobbyist ...

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander (N.Y., The New Press, 2010). 290 pages.

Book Review by Mumia Abu-Jamal

The New Jim Crow offers an unflinching look at the US addiction to imprisonment and comes up with a startling diagnosis: American corporate greed, political opportunism and the exploitation of age-old hatred and fears have congealed to created a monstrous explosion in the world’s largest prison industrial complex. Further, the author, Michelle Alexander, a law professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, digs deep into US history, and deeper still into US criminal law and practice, to conclude that the barbarous system of repression and control known commonly as Jim Crow had a rebirth in this era.

That’s why she calls it The New Jim Crow.

This system of legal discrimination came into being much as the first one did. After the rout of the South in the Civil War, millions of newly-freed Africans exercised their new rights under Reconstruction. Black men became senators and legislators across the South. But this period was short-lived, and as soon as possible states passed harsh laws known as Black Codes, which denied rights and criminalized behavior by Blacks, and exposed them to the repression of southern prisons where convicts were leased out to ...

California: Last Two of Five Guards Charged in Prisoner’s Death Get Prison Time

In January 2010, two former jail guards were sentenced to prison for participating in a brutal assault that resulted in a prisoner’s death.

James Moore, 30, was involved in a lengthy struggle with over a dozen guards at the Kern County Detention Center on August 15, 2005 following his arrest on criminal threat charges. He was placed in a “carotid hold” and severely beaten, including when he was shackled to a gurney. Moore died about a week later due to head injuries.

Five jail guards were charged with participating in the beating or failing to stop it. Three took plea bargains, while two, Daniel Lindini and Ralph Contreras, went to trial in October 2009 and were convicted.

Lindini was sentenced to two years in prison after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter and assault by a public officer. He had worked at the Kern County jail for 26 years.

Contreras was convicted of second-degree murder and assault by a public officer, and sentenced to 15 years to life. The judge in the case, Louis P. Etcheverry, said neither Lindini nor Contreras had tried to stop the assault on Moore. Attorneys for the former guards claimed their clients had been unfairly ...

U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Federal Good Time Challenge

On June 7, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) method for calculating federal good time credits.

The dispute over the BOP’s implementation of the federal good time statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b), began about six years ago. Federal prisoners across the country, including this writer, filed habeas petitions arguing that the BOP was misapplying the good time statute by awarding credits retrospectively instead of prospectively.

Under the BOP’s methodology, prisoners can earn 54 days of good time – the maximum allowable by statute – only after physically serving each year in custody (except for the last year of incarceration, when the amount of good time is prorated). A prisoner with a ten-year sentence, for example, can earn a maximum of 470 days of good time on his or her total sentence using the BOP’s method.

Conversely, prisoners could earn 540 days of good time on a ten-year sentence if the credits were awarded based on the sentence imposed, which is the method advocated by BOP prisoners and their supporters (10 years x 54 days of good time each year = 540 days total good time).

Every federal Court of Appeals that heard ...

Justice Thomas’ Wife Creates “Nonpartisan” Political Organization

by David M. Reutter

Members of the judiciary have an ethical obligation to remain impartial. When it comes to the U.S. Supreme Court, such impartiality is crucial given the impact that the Court’s rulings have nationwide. For that reason the high court historically has remained nonpartisan and distanced itself from the political arena.

Thus, the recent involvement of Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, whose husband is Justice Clarence Thomas, in the Tea Party movement is raising eyebrows. “I adore all the new citizen patriots who are rising up across this country,” Virginia said while speaking on a panel at the Conservative Political Action Committee. “I have felt called to the frontlines with you, with my fellow citizens, to preserve what made America great.”

Ordinarily, participation in political advocacy by family members of the judiciary is not a matter for concern. What has tested the norms is that in November 2009, Virginia, an outspoken critic of President Obama, created a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization called Liberty Central, Inc.

The organization’s website,, coordinates activism around a set of conservative “core principles.” Benefitting from the recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S ...

New Jersey Prison Guards Fake Electrocution

Three New Jersey guards accused of faking the electrocution of a prisoner at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel have been suspended. Sergeants Mark Percoco and Steven Russo received 105-day suspensions without pay following the October 3, 2009 incident, while prison guard Edward Aponte was suspended for 14 days.

Details concerning the faux electrocution were revealed after the Star-Ledger, a local newspaper, obtained a copy of a confidential internal affairs report.

According to the report, prisoner Javier Tabora was allegedly told by one of the guards to sit in a chair used to scan prisoners for contraband and pretend that he was being electrocuted. While he was seated, Tabora said he yelled and shook, and pretended “that electricity was coming from the chair.” He also put “cream soup” in his mouth and let it ooze out “for added effect.”

The charade was reportedly staged to frighten Robert Grant, another prisoner at the facility, which houses sex offenders (including some who are mentally ill). Grant had apparently been filing grievances complaining about certain aspects of his confinement. He told investigators that he saw a prisoner with “foam coming from his mouth” and then became “upset, nervous and shaking” when ...

$2.9 Million Settlement in Suit against GEO over Suspicionless Strip Searches

by Matt Clarke

On May 20, 2010, a $2.9 million settlement was reached in a Pennsylvania federal civil rights lawsuit against GEO Group for performing suspicionless strip searches of people arrested for minor, non-violent, non-drug offenses.

Penny Allison inadvertently missed a scheduled court appointment finalizing her probation program in ...

Mississippi Stops Segregating HIV-positive Prisoners

On March 17, 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union announced that the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) had agreed to stop segregating prisoners with HIV. The policy change followed two decades of efforts by the ACLU, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other advocacy organizations.

The decision to end the segregation of HIV-positive prisoners was made by MDOC Commissioner Christopher Epps prior to a forthcoming report by the ACLU and HRW detailing the negative effects of such discriminatory policies, which are still in force in Alabama and South Carolina.

“Commissioner Epps deserves a tremendous amount of credit for making this courageous decision to replace a policy based on irrational HIV prejudice with a policy based on science, sound correctional practice, and respect for human rights,” stated Margaret Winter, Associate Director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project. “The remaining segregation policies in South Carolina and Alabama are a remnant of the early days of the HIV epidemic and continue to stigmatize prisoners and inflict them and their
families with a tremendous amount of needless suffering.”

Health care experts have long agreed that there is no justifiable medical reason to segregate people with HIV in correctional settings, or to prevent them from participating ...

GEO Group Settles $47.5 Million Texas Prisoner Wrongful Death Suit

On January 7, 2010, GEO Group settled a lawsuit over the beating death of a prisoner in Willacy County, Texas that had already resulted in a jury verdict of $47.5 million – one of the largest prisoner wrongful death awards in the nation.

Gregorio de la Rosa, Jr., 33, was ...

New York City Jail Prisoner Awarded $1.3 Million in Deliberate Indifference to Assault Claim

A New York federal jury awarded $1 million to Steve Tatum for severe injuries he sustained as a pre-trial detainee when he was assaulted by other prisoners at the Rikers Island jail. The district court also awarded $321,788.21 in attorney’s fees and $4,023.62 in costs ...

News in Brief:

Arizona: On July 25, 2010, the troubled Corrections Corporation of America-run Saguaro Correctional Center was placed on lockdown after 30 prisoners from Hawaii were involved in a scuffle over an Xbox. During the melee the prison’s “gang intelligence officer” was beaten and suffered a broken nose, broken cheekbones and eye socket damage.

Arkansas: Jessie Lunderby, 21, a detention officer with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, was placed on paid administrative leave in June 2010 after she posed for Playboy. Even though she had reportedly informed her superiors and did the photo shoot on her own time, Lunderby was investigated for “conduct unbecoming an officer.” She was later fired, with Sheriff Tim Helder saying her “nude modeling hobby” had become a “distraction.” It is unlikely that the petite blond bombshell will have difficulty finding another job.

Arkansas: On April 7, 2010, Betsey Wright, 66, a former chief of staff for then-governor Bill Clinton, pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts related to attempted contraband smuggling. Wright, an anti-death-penalty activist who served as a volunteer counselor, was on her way to visit a death-row prisoner when prison officials found she had a Swiss Army knife, a box cutter and tweezers hidden ...


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