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Prison Legal News: September, 2010

Issue PDF
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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

$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 ...

$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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

$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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

$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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

$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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

$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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

$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 ...

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 ...