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Prison Legal News: February, 2011

Issue PDF
Volume 22, Number 2

In this issue:

  1. Mass Torture in America: Notes from the Supermax Prisons (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 8)
  3. Study: CIA Doctors ‘Gave Green Light to Torture’ (p 8)
  4. Florida Woman Settles Lawsuit Against Sheriff’s Officers for $67,500 After Arrest While in Premature Labor (p 9)
  5. Illinois Supermax Placement Procedures Unconstitutional (p 10)
  6. Is Operation Streamline a Billion Dollar Give-away to the Private Prison Industry? (p 11)
  7. Habeas Hints: The Year in Review (p 12)
  8. California: State May Be Liable for Delaying Medical Care to Prisoner’s Infant Child (p 14)
  9. Blind Texas Prisoner Dies after Confrontation with Guards (p 15)
  10. New U.S. Marshals Director Confirmed Despite Conflict of Interest with Private Prison Companies (p 16)
  11. 1,295 Prisoners Scam Government for $9.1 Million (p 18)
  12. Fifth Circuit Holds Texas Parole Revocation Witness Denial Violated Due Process (p 18)
  13. Physicians for Human Rights: CIA Performed Illegal Medical Experiments While Torturing Prisoners (p 20)
  14. Seventh Circuit Holds That A Prisoner’s Verbal Complaints About Racist Guards May Be Protected Speech (p 21)
  15. Mississippi DOC Closes Unit 32 (p 22)
  16. The Habeas Citebook: lneffective Assistance of Counsel, by Brandon Sample, Prison Legal News Publishing, 2010, pp.212 $49.95 (p 22)
  17. Florida Guard’s Conviction for Falsifying Use-of-Force Report Affirmed (p 23)
  18. Denial of Qualified Immunity Reversed in Michigan Prison Wage Suit (p 24)
  19. Ninth Circuit Upholds Arizona Teenage Detainee Suicide Claim Dismissal (p 24)
  20. $450,000 Award in New York Prisoner’s Negligence Claim (p 26)
  21. Washington State Sheriff’s Classification of Sex Offender Violates Separation of Powers (p 27)
  22. Eleventh Circuit Affirms Injunction in Florida DOC Mental Health Conditions Pepper Spray Case (p 28)
  23. Kenyan Prisoners Allowed to Vote in Constitutional Referendum (p 28)
  24. 9th Circuit: Prisoner Need Not Succumb to Threats in Order to Prevail on First Amendment Retaliation Claim (p 29)
  25. Correctional Medical Care Has Controversial Litigation History (p 30)
  26. Georgia: Flurry of Judicial Resignations Highlights Secrecy Behind Investigations (p 32)
  27. Homeland Security Inspector General’s Report Finds Additional Controls Needed to Ensure Prisoners’ Access to Phones at ICE Facilities (p 33)
  28. Report: New Jersey DOC Should Upgrade Prisoner Reentry Programs (p 34)
  29. Texas Pays for Geriatric Prisoners, Rarely Grants Medical Parole (p 34)
  30. $42,000 Verdict in Iowa Jail Excessive Force Case (p 35)
  31. Federal Prisoner’s Death at FCI Pekin Triggers FBI Investigation (p 36)
  32. Disability Rights Vermont Report Faults Staff for Disabled Prisoner’s Death (p 36)
  33. Onerous Ohio Sex Offender Restrictions Drive Some Underground (p 38)
  34. California Wrongful Conviction Lawsuit Settled for $7.95 Million (p 38)
  35. New Epidemic: Contraband Cell Phones in Prison Cells (p 40)
  36. Abuse and Assaults Continue at Pennsylvania Jail (p 41)
  37. Feds Indict Two in Florida Prison Canteen Kickback Scheme (p 42)
  38. Fourth Circuit Vacates Summary Judgment on RLUIPA Haircut Claim, but Case Dismissed on Remand (p 42)
  39. Head of Ohio Juvenile Facility Fired Following Complaints of Sexual Harassment (p 43)
  40. Virginia Prisoner Kills Cellmate, Requests Death Sentence (p 44)
  41. Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six, by Jordan Flaherty, Haymarket Books, 2010; $16.00, 292 pages (p 44)
  42. $240,001 Verdict in Boston Jail Beating Suit (p 45)
  43. New York City Pays $9.9 Million to Settle Wrongful Conviction Suit (p 46)
  44. Study Finds Discriminatory Jury Selection in Southern States (p 46)
  45. $33 Million Settlement in New York City Jails Strip Search Class-Action (p 48)
  46. Michigan Prison Doctor Liable for Late Prostate Cancer Diagnosis (p 48)
  47. Texas Supreme Court Rules Typed Copy of Grievance Decision Satisfies Chapter 14 (p 49)
  48. News In Brief: (p 50)

Mass Torture in America: Notes from the Supermax Prisons

“Exterminate all the brutes!”
– Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

“They beat the shit out of you,” said Mike James, hunched near the smeared plexiglass separating us. He was talking about the cell “extractions” he’d endured at the hands of the supermax-unit guards at the Maine State Prison.

“They push ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

As we move into the New Year we are striving to increase our circulation. We mail sample copies of PLN as well as information packs on an almost daily basis. But that is expensive and not as efficient as we would like. No one knows PLN better ...

Study: CIA Doctors ‘Gave Green Light to Torture’

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reveals that physicians with the CIA’s Office of Medical Services (OMS) played an even greater role in facilitating the torture of detainees than was previously recognized.

As described in the study, “In 2003, partially in response to ...

Florida Woman Settles Lawsuit Against Sheriff’s Officers for $67,500 After Arrest While in Premature Labor

In June 2010, Melanie Dawn Williams, who had been arrested by officers after allegedly running a red light on her way to the St. Vincent’s Medical Center emergency room in Jacksonville, Florida when she was in premature labor, accepted a settlement in her lawsuit instead of going to trial ...

Illinois Supermax Placement Procedures Unconstitutional

by David M. Reutter

An Illinois federal district court has held that existing Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) procedures for placing prisoners at the Tamms Correctional Center (Tamms) are inadequate to protect the liberty interest of IDOC prisoners to avoid confinement at the supermax facility. To cure the due process ...

Is Operation Streamline a Billion Dollar Give-away to the Private Prison Industry?

A new “green paper” released on July 19, 2010, entitled Operation Streamline: Drowning Justice and Draining Dollars along the Rio Grande, takes a look at the impact of Operation Streamline on the private prison industry.

Operation Streamline, initiated in 2005 in Del Rio and expanded to much of the Texas ...

Habeas Hints: The Year in Review

by Kent Russell, Blaire Russell & Chandra Russell

This column provides “habeas hints” to prisoners who are considering or handling habeas corpus petitions as their own attorneys (“in pro per”). The focus of the column is on habeas corpus under AEDPA, the 1996 habeas corpus law which now governs habeas corpus practice in federal courts throughout the United States.

Habeas Year In Review: 
Supreme Court Term 2009-2010

Holland v. Florida, 130 S. Ct. 2549 (June 14, 2010).

The question in Holland was whether the AEDPA’s 1-year statute of limitations could be “tolled” (suspended) for equitable reasons after the state post-conviction proceedings had become final and before a ...

California: State May Be Liable for Delaying Medical Care to Prisoner’s Infant Child

The California Court of Appeal has held that the State may be vicariously liable for the acts or omissions of its employees in failing to provide needed medical care for an infant living with its mother in a private, community-based correctional facility operating under a contract with the California Department ...

Blind Texas Prisoner Dies after Confrontation with Guards

Thord “Catfish “ Dockray, 42, a blind Texas state prisoner with a history of mental illness, died on May 13, 2010 following a violent altercation with prison guards.

Dockray was housed alone in a cell in the medical wing of the Estelle Unit in Huntsville. According to prison officials he began ...

New U.S. Marshals Director Confirmed Despite Conflict of Interest with Private Prison Companies

On December 21, 2010, just days before recessing for the holidays, the U.S. Senate confirmed Stacia Hylton as director of the U.S. Marshals Service in spite of opposition by a coalition of human rights, citizens’ advocacy and criminal justice-related organizations that argued she had a conflict of interest ...

1,295 Prisoners Scam Government for $9.1 Million

by Mark Wilson

In 2008, 1,295 prisoners – including 241 serving life sentences – bilked the federal government out of $9.1 million in fraudulent home buyer credits, according to a June 23, 2010 report by the Inspector General (IG) of the U.S. Treasury Department.

The home buyer credit program ...

Fifth Circuit Holds Texas Parole Revocation Witness Denial Violated Due Process

The Fifth Circuit court of appeals held that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (BPP) failed to comport with the due process requirements of Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 92 S.Ct. 2593, 33 L.Ed.2d 484 (1972), when it revoked a parolee for a crime ...

Physicians for Human Rights: CIA Performed Illegal Medical Experiments While Torturing Prisoners

by Matt Clarke

According to a report released by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) in June 2010, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) performed illegal non-consensual human medical experiments on high-value terrorism detainees in connection with torturing those detainees. Also see article on p. 8.

The PHR report was released following ...

Seventh Circuit Holds That A Prisoner’s Verbal Complaints About Racist Guards May Be Protected Speech

Retaliation for verbally complaining about a prison guard who hung a noose where prisoners could see it, the Seventh Circuit has held, may constitute an infringement of a prisoner’s First Amendment free speech rights.

Lester Dobbey, an Illinois state prisoner, filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ...

Mississippi DOC Closes Unit 32

A settlement agreement was reached in June 2010 to close the notorious Unit 32 at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman. The agreement provides for the dismissal of a lawsuit that challenged conditions at the supermax unit.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in collaboration with the Holland & Knight law ...

The Habeas Citebook: lneffective Assistance of Counsel, by Brandon Sample, Prison Legal News Publishing, 2010, pp.212 $49.95

Reviewed by Mumia Abu Jamal

Law books aren’t easy to review.

That’s because they are unlike other books, as they are really collections of what others—courts—have written, and are thus actually the recitations of others.

The Habeas Citebook is precisely that book that many prisoners are ...

Florida Guard’s Conviction for Falsifying Use-of-Force Report Affirmed

by David M. Reutter

On July 13, 2010, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of a former Florida prison guard for making a false entry in a report with the intent to impede a federal investigation.

Before the Court was the appeal of Wilton Joseph Fontenot, formerly ...

Denial of Qualified Immunity Reversed in Michigan Prison Wage Suit

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed a district court’s denial of qualified immunity for Michigan prison officials accused of violating a prisoner’s due process rights.

In April of 2001, David Pickelhaupt was given a physical plant maintenance job at the Michigan Department of ...

Ninth Circuit Upholds Arizona Teenage Detainee Suicide Claim Dismissal

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s grant of summary judgment to Arizona jail officials related to a teenage detainee’s suicide. The court vacated the dismissal of plaintiff’s state law claims and remanded for reconsideration.

Seventeen-year-old Jasper Simmons was charged with molesting a 10-year-old ...

$450,000 Award in New York Prisoner’s Negligence Claim

A New York Court of Claims has awarded $450,000 for injuries incurred as a result of a prison doctor negligently injecting a corticosteroid directly into a prisoner’s Achilles tendon.

Prior to his incarceration in 1988, New York state prisoner Kent Kruemer was a serious and experienced runner hoping ...

Washington State Sheriff’s Classification of Sex Offender Violates Separation of Powers

The State of Washington Division II Court of Appeals has held that the legislature violated the separation of powers by allowing the sheriff’s office to classify sex offenders to levels of supervision without providing guidance.

Before the Court was the appeal of Domingo Torres Ramos, Jr., who was challenging ...

Eleventh Circuit Affirms Injunction in Florida DOC Mental Health Conditions Pepper Spray Case

by David M. Reutter

On August 20, 2010, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court’s order that found a warden and the secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) had “turned a blind eye” to a prisoner’s “mental health needs and the obvious danger ...

Kenyan Prisoners Allowed to Vote in Constitutional Referendum

When Kenya was torn apart by bloody civil strife following contested national elections in December 2007, it was not apparent that the political chaos could lead to the reform of prisoners’ voting rights. Yet that is exactly what happened.

To end the violence, the two main political parties agreed to ...

9th Circuit: Prisoner Need Not Succumb to Threats in Order to Prevail on First Amendment Retaliation Claim

The Ninth Circuit has ruled that a prisoner threatened with retaliation for filing grievances may prevail on a claim of First Amendment retaliation even when the threat is non-specific and not carried out, and even if the prisoner does not succumb to the threat, so long as the threat would ...

Correctional Medical Care Has Controversial Litigation History

Correctional Medical Care, Inc. (CMC), a private company that provides health care for prisoners in at least eight jails in New York and Pennsylvania, is embroiled in a lawsuit that alleges misconduct by corporate officials.

The president of Pennsylvania-based CMC, Emre Umar, was named in the suit as being responsible ...

Georgia: Flurry of Judicial Resignations Highlights Secrecy Behind Investigations

by David M. Reutter

At least 21 Georgia judges have been disciplined by the state’s Judicial Qualifications Committee (JQC) or have resigned amid allegations of unethical conduct since April 2008. The high rate of action by the JQC has raised questions about corruption on the bench and the secrecy ...

Homeland Security Inspector General’s Report Finds Additional Controls Needed to Ensure Prisoners’ Access to Phones at ICE Facilities

A report issued by the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as part of an audit to determine whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are properly administering prison telephone systems found that changes must be made to bring ICE into full compliance with ...

Report: New Jersey DOC Should Upgrade Prisoner Reentry Programs

A report by Rutgers University released in January 2010 concluded that the New Jersey Department of Corrections could be doing more to help prisoners successfully reintegrate into society upon their release. The report was based on the results of a survey of 4,000 prisoners completed in August 2009, comprising ...

Texas Pays for Geriatric Prisoners, Rarely Grants Medical Parole

by Matt Clarke

In the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), geriatric prisoners – those over 55 years old – comprise only 7.3% of TDCJ’s population. However, they account for almost one-third of the prison system’s medical expenses. Geriatric prisoners average $4,700 in annual health care costs compared ...

$42,000 Verdict in Iowa Jail Excessive Force Case

A federal jury has awarded $42,000 to a woman who was placed in a restraint chair for seven hours. On January 25, 2006, while incarcerated at the Scott County Jail in Scott County, Iowa, Lillian Slater had a painful flare-up of her Sickle Cell Anemia.

Rather than provide Slater ...

Federal Prisoner’s Death at FCI Pekin Triggers FBI Investigation

The November 13, 2009 death of Adam Montoya, a prisoner at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Pekin, Illinois, resulted in an investigation by the FBI.

The Associated Press (AP) reported that “an autopsy concluded that the 36-year-old inmate suffered from no fewer than three serious illnesses – cancer, hepatitis, and ...

Disability Rights Vermont Report Faults Staff for Disabled Prisoner’s Death

In June 2010, the advocacy group Disability Rights Vermont (DRV) released a report faulting the staff of the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility (CRCF) in South Burlington, Vermont in connection with the death of a disabled prisoner.

Michael Crosby, 49, was arrested after he turned himself in on charges of selling ...

Onerous Ohio Sex Offender Restrictions Drive Some Underground

by Matt Clarke

Public officials in Cleveland, Ohio have noticed that some registered sex offenders are dropping out of sight. When the officials attempted to confirm the offenders’ registered addresses, they found they didn’t live there. The reason for this development is Ohio’s sex offender residency restrictions, which ...

California Wrongful Conviction Lawsuit Settled for $7.95 Million

A long-running lawsuit against the City of Long Beach, California for Thomas Goldstein’s wrongful murder conviction was settled in June 2010 for $7.95 million.

After serving 24 years in prison following his 1980 conviction, Goldstein was finally released based on new evidence that the police had coached the ...

New Epidemic: Contraband Cell Phones in Prison Cells

For decades, prison officials across the U.S. have lined their pockets with multi-million dollar kickbacks from telephone companies that are awarded lucrative prisoner phone service contracts. In doing so, they unwittingly created an “epidemic” that they are now desperately scrambling – and largely failing – to control. Namely, the excessive phone ...

Abuse and Assaults Continue at Pennsylvania Jail

by David M. Reutter

An attorney representing a prisoner who suffered a near-fatal attack by another prisoner at Pennsylvania’s Lackawanna County Prison (LCP) has claimed that the incident demonstrates a pattern of mistreatment by staff at the facility.

Prisoner Nicholas Pinto, 29, pleaded guilty to child pornography in federal ...

Feds Indict Two in Florida Prison Canteen Kickback Scheme

A federal grand jury has issued a two-count indictment against two businessmen implicated in a kickback scheme that involved prison canteen profits and former top-ranking officials with the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC). PLN previously reported events related to this story. [See: PLN, Dec. 2006, pp.1, 4].

The indictment ...

Fourth Circuit Vacates Summary Judgment on RLUIPA Haircut Claim, but Case Dismissed on Remand

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a district court’s decision granting summary judgment to officers and officials with the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) after they forcibly shaved a prisoner’s head in contravention of his religious beliefs. The prisoner, Kevin Smith, a/k/a Bar-None Royal ...

Head of Ohio Juvenile Facility Fired Following Complaints of Sexual Harassment

The Ohio Department of Youth Services (ODYS) said in a May 2010 report that it had found substantial evidence to validate numerous harassment charges against Thomas Teague, an 11-year ODYS employee, which justified his immediate firing.

According to an Associated Press article, female employees at the Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility ...

Virginia Prisoner Kills Cellmate, Requests Death Sentence

“I murdered that man cold-bloodedly. I planned it, and I’m gonna do it again,” said Virginia state prisoner Robert Gleason, Jr., 40, after murdering his cellmate, Harvey Gray Watson, Jr. “Someone needs to stop it. The only way to stop me is to put me on death row.”

Watson ...

Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six, by Jordan Flaherty, Haymarket Books, 2010; $16.00, 292 pages

Review by Lewis Wallace

Parts of the story are familiar. In late August 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. Floodwaters broke the levees in New Orleans and the city was devastated—first by floods, then by a shamefully underwhelming response on the part of the federal, state, and local ...

$240,001 Verdict in Boston Jail Beating Suit

On February 23, 2009, a federal jury returned a $240,001 verdict in favor of a man who was violently beaten by a guard at the Suffolk County House of Correction (SCHC).
Rodney Chaney ended up at the SCHC in August of 1998 after he was sentenced to 30 days ...

New York City Pays $9.9 Million to Settle Wrongful Conviction Suit

The City of New York will pay $9.9 million to a man who was wrongfully accused, arrested, convicted and imprisoned as the result of actions by disgraced former New York City police detective Louis J. Eppolito, who is now serving a life sentence plus 100 years for mob-related activities ...

Study Finds Discriminatory Jury Selection in Southern States

A study by the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit legal organization based in Montgomery, Alabama, has found widespread discrimination in jury selection in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee. The discriminatory practices appear to be most prevalent in serious criminal cases, including capital ...

$33 Million Settlement in New York City Jails Strip Search Class-Action

by Matt Clarke

On March 16, 2010, New York City agreed to settle a long-standing class-action lawsuit challenging the strip search policy used in the city’s jails. The settlement was for over $33 million, which included an estimated $3 million in attorney fees.

The suit originated as a class-action ...

Michigan Prison Doctor Liable for Late Prostate Cancer Diagnosis

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a prisoner stated sufficient facts to defeat dismissal of his claim alleging a prison doctor was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. However, the appellate court affirmed judgment in favor of three other doctors named as defendants in the suit ...

Texas Supreme Court Rules Typed Copy of Grievance Decision Satisfies Chapter 14

The Supreme Court of Texas has held that a prisoner who submits a hand-typed copy of the prison grievance decision he received adequately meets the requirements of Chapter 14, Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code (TCPRC).

Michael Lou Garrett, a Texas state prisoner, filed a prison-related lawsuit in state district ...

News In Brief:

California: Over 226,000 pounds of hamburger meat was recalled from prisons in California and Oregon due to concerns that it was spoiled. The meat, shipped in 20-pound boxes from One Great Burger in Elizabeth, New Jersey, had been flagged by the U.S. Department of Agriculture but was still ...