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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: May, 2011

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Volume 22, Number 5

In this issue:

  1. Contributions to California Politicians Rewarded with Lucrative Private Prison Contracts (p 1)
  2. Prison Pays: Geo Corp Profits from Half-Way House Murder and Mayhem in Texas (p 1)
  3. From the Editor (p 8)
  4. Felon Disenfranchisement Statute Does Not Violate Voting Rights Act (p 8)
  5. Sixth Circuit OK’s Federal Judge’s Membership in Racist and Sexist Country Club (p 10)
  6. Ninth Circuit Rules PLRA Requires Exhaustion Even if Prison Grievance Process Cannot Provide Monetary Relief (p 14)
  7. California: Continued Resistance Among Prisoners and Prison Officials Alike Slows Attempts to End Housing Segregation (p 14)
  8. Inadequate Medical Care in Texas Jails Kills Hundreds of Prisoners (p 16)
  9. Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire, by Robert Perkinson, Metropolitan Books/Holt, 484 pp (October 2010), $20.00 paperback (p 18)
  10. Massachusetts Prisoner Suicides More Than Four Times National Average (p 20)
  11. Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Retires in Wake of DUI Arrest (p 20)
  12. Practice of Jailing Parents Who Owe Child Support Raises Questions, Concerns (p 22)
  13. Report Documents Scope of Prosecutorial Misconduct in California (p 24)
  14. California Jury Awards Native American Prisoner $150 on Due Process Property Claim (p 25)
  15. Jailing for Debt on the Rise (p 26)
  16. Two California Prisoners Die as a Result of Doctor’s Negligence (p 28)
  17. No Interlocutory Appeal from Denial of Motion for Reconsideration; $6,000 Settlement in New York Jail Abuse Case (p 28)
  18. CA Inspector General Finds 15 of 17 Prisons Demonstrate Low Adherence to Established Medical Policies and Procedures (p 30)
  19. Wisconsin DOC Settles Transgender Prisoner’s Lawsuit (p 31)
  20. Juvenile Justice Expert Condemns Rhode Island’s Jailing of Students for Minor Offenses (p 32)
  21. Staff Smuggle Drugs and Porn to Washington Civil Commitment Prisoners (p 34)
  22. Mississippi Governor Grants Early Release to Scott Sisters (p 34)
  23. CCA Prisoner Awarded $3,250 in Excessive Force Lawsuit (p 35)
  24. Trivialized Use of Presidential Pardon Power Continues Under Obama (p 36)
  25. Homeless Probationer’s Violation for Failure to Comply with GPS Monitoring Reversed (p 37)
  26. Virginia ACLU Requests DOJ Investigation into Jail Deaths (p 38)
  27. Mexican Prison Officials Arm and Release Prisoners for Hit Squad Duties (p 38)
  28. Texas Prison Guard One of "America’s Dumbest Criminals” (p 39)
  29. Select Legal Topics, by Andrew J. Schatkin, 
University Press of America, 625 pp (Sept. 2009), $69.95 (p 40)
  30. Study Highlights the Burden of Fees, Debt Collection on Criminal Defendants (p 40)
  31. Elaborate California Parole Violator Sting Nabs 150 (p 41)
  32. Colorado Officials Lead Efforts to Modernize Afghan Prisons (p 42)
  33. Sweeping Settlement Covers Medical and Mental Health Care at Wisconsin Women’s Prison (p 42)
  34. $75,000 Settlement in Pennsylvania Jail Beating (p 43)
  35. Connecticut Sues Prison Builders for $18 Million (p 44)
  36. Conviction Affirmed for Former Prisoner Who Posed as Lawyer (p 44)
  37. State Auditor Finds Vermont Sex Offender Registry Unreliable (p 45)
  38. Inefficiencies in Prison Pharmacy Operations Cost California Taxpayers at Least $13 Million Annually (p 46)
  39. Fifth Circuit: Sex Offender Conditions May be Imposed for Prior Sex Offense (p 46)
  40. South Carolina Appellate Court Holds Prisoners Entitled to Overtime (p 47)
  41. $50,001 Verdict for Pennsylvania Prisoner in Failure to Protect Suit (p 47)
  42. Eighth Circuit Reverses Transport Rape Summary Judgment (p 48)
  43. Pennsylvania Jail Pays $3 Million to Settle Class-Action Strip Search Suit (p 48)
  44. Sixth Circuit Rules on Whether Prisoner Must Name Defendants in Grievance (p 49)
  45. News In Brief: (p 50)

Contributions to California Politicians Rewarded with Lucrative Private Prison Contracts

In politics, sometimes a little monetary grease goes a long way. No doubt, that’s why Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest private prison operator, based in Nashville, Tennessee, has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to lawmakers in California. Although it probably could never be proven, that is also likely why CCA was rewarded with a contract worth almost $700 million to house California prisoners in the company’s out-of-state facilities.

Derek Cressman, Regional Director of State Operations for Common Cause, a government watchdog group, put it this way: “The fact that they’re putting money in really looks like they’re greasing the skids to get a lot more money out.” And money is just what CCA has been “putting in” – mostly to Republicans, but a great deal to Democrats as well.

In 2009, CCA gave $100,000 to Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget-reform ballot measure. From 2008-2010 the company also donated $5,000 to Gov. Schwarzenegger, $10,000 to Republican Meg Whitman’s gubernatorial campaign and $95,000 to the California Republican Party. CCA contributed a lesser amount ($5,000) to Democrat Jerry Brown’s campaign for governor, while it donated $47,500 ...

Prison Pays: Geo Corp Profits from Half-Way House Murder and Mayhem in Texas

Despite a history of abuse and bad conditions, private-prison corporation GEO Group keeps getting contracts in Texas

by Craig Malisow

Anthony Ferrell left the Ben A. Reid halfway house in northeast Houston on October 25, 2010, to go to work. He never came back.

Just over two weeks later, a Meyerland gas station security camera recorded him walking inside shortly after midnight. When he exited, a mother of three was missing her purse and a 24-year-old college student lay on the floor, bleeding to death. The man had intervened in the purse snatching, and for that he got a bullet in the stomach.

Six days later, a Crime Stoppers tipster spoiled Ferrell’s good time: Police arrested him at a nightclub and charged him with capital murder in the death of Sam Irick. Two days after that, Ferrell had the privilege of observing something Irick never again would: a birthday.

Ferrell’s criminal history dates back to 1989, when he was convicted of burglary and given seven years probation. When he later refused to provide a sample for a urine analysis, his probation was revoked and the full sentence was imposed. But he was out of state custody by 1992 ...

From the Editor

Welcome to the 21st anniversary issue of Prison Legal News. Since we started publishing 21 years ago, one thing has remained constant: prison and jail officials really don’t like PLN and try their best to censor us. The first three issues of PLN were banned by the Washington DOC in 1990, and the Texas prison system banned the first 18 issues.

Twenty-one years later, nine states, nine jails and a private prison find themselves under federal court injunctions and/or consent decrees related to their censorship of PLN. Despite knowing that we vigorously challenge the censorship of our magazine and books, we are faced with statewide bans in Florida and New York, and jails seem to be falling over themselves to ban mail to prisoners. Right now we have active censorship lawsuits pending in Texas and against jails in Washington, California and South Carolina. Plus there are more on the way.

All of this keeps Lance Weber, our staff attorney, and our local lawyers very busy as they fight vigorously to ensure that prisoners around the country can receive PLN and our books. A key issue that we face in almost every lawsuit is that the prison or jail ...

Felon Disenfranchisement Statute Does Not Violate Voting Rights Act

The good news for Washington state prisoners wanting to restore their voting rights? The state’s felon disenfranchisement statute violates the Voting Rights Act (VRA), a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held on January 5, 2010. The bad news? Washington state’s felon disenfranchisement statute does not violate the VRA, the Ninth Circuit found upon rehearing the case en banc in October 2010.

The appellate court’s decisions resulted from a long-standing lawsuit filed by a group of African-American, Hispanic and Native American prisoners. The suit alleged that disproportionate numbers of minorities were prosecuted and imprisoned in Washington state, which resulted in “vote denial ... in violation of the VRA.” In 2000, the district court granted summary judgment to the state but the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that the prisoners’ VRA vote denial claim could go forward.

Additional discovery was conducted on remand. Following the completion of discovery, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. In opposing the plaintiffs’ summary judgment motion, the state did not dispute the plaintiffs’ expert reports which found widespread bias and racial discrimination in Washington’s criminal justice system. Accordingly, the district court held that it was “compelled to ...

Sixth Circuit OK’s Federal Judge’s Membership in Racist and Sexist Country Club

On April 8, 2011, on a vote of 10 to 8, the Judicial Council of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals adopted the recommendation of the Council’s Standing Investigating Committee and dismissed a complaint filed against a federal judge in Tennessee accused of being a member of a private country club that discriminates on the basis of race and gender.

Of the eight Council members who voted to uphold the complaint, four wrote dissenting opinions in which they noted “the discriminatory admission practices of the Club regarding women and African Americans,” cited “abundant evidence of invidious discrimination,” and remarked upon the “lack of [racial and gender] diversity in the composition of the membership” of the Standing Investigating Committee itself.

The dissent by Sixth Circuit Judge Eric L. Clay concluded, “It is deeply distressing, in this day and age, that a Judicial Council of federal judges is willing to render a finding of no discrimination or the appearance thereof in the face of a record rife with evidence of discrimination. It is also deeply distressing for some of us on the Judicial Council to be placed in the position of having to resort to dissents which call attention to our ...

Ninth Circuit Rules PLRA Requires Exhaustion Even if Prison Grievance Process Cannot Provide Monetary Relief

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a California prisoner’s Eighth Amendment damages claim due to his failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
In June 2003, Bruce Alan Morton was assaulted in the prison yard at Ironwood State Prison. He alleged that he was assaulted because prisoners somehow discovered that he had been convicted of murdering his 5-year-old step-daughter.

A month after being attacked, Morton was denied visitation privileges with minors based on a regulation that imposed visiting restrictions on prisoners convicted of certain offenses involving minors. He filed an administrative grievance regarding the application of that regulation to him. After the grievance was denied at all levels of review, Morton filed suit in federal district court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that prison officials’ deliberate indifference contributed to the June 2003 assault. He also challenged the visiting restrictions and alleged a number of state-law causes of action.

The district court dismissed the deliberate indifference claim for failure to exhaust administrative remedies as required under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The court also granted summary judgment to the defendants as to Morton’s claim regarding the denial ...

California: Continued Resistance Among Prisoners and Prison Officials Alike Slows Attempts to End Housing Segregation

by Mike Brodheim

Five years after the U.S. Supreme Court held in Johnson v. California, 543 U.S. 499 (2005) [PLN, July 2005, p.22; April 2004, p.40] that California’s policy of housing prisoners in cells according to race was constitutionally impermissible and morally repugnant to civilized society, California prisoners and prison officials alike continue to resist attempts at racial integration.

As of August 2010, only four of California’s 30 adult male prisons – Folsom State Prison, Mule Creek State Prison, Sierra Conservation Center and the California Medical Facility – had integrated housing policies in place which take into account factors other than race when assigning cellmates. Those other factors, set forth in Section 3269.1 of Title 15 of the California Code of Regulations, include a prisoner’s gang affiliation, if any, the crime he committed, his disciplinary history, and physical characteristics such as height, weight and age.

By April 2011 the Correctional Training Facility at Soledad, California Rehabilitation Center, Solano State Prison, Chuckawalla State Prison and Ironwood State Prison had also implemented the prison system’s Integrated Housing Program. Four more facilities are expected to integrate cell housing by the end of the calendar year.

Looking ...

Inadequate Medical Care in Texas Jails Kills Hundreds of Prisoners

by Matt Clarke

According to information provided by the Texas attorney general’s office, 282 prisoners died due to medical causes in county jails run by the state’s 254 sheriff’s departments between January 2005 and September 2009. That represents an average of around 63 jail prisoner deaths related to illnesses each year – about the same number who die annually in Texas’ state prison system. The difference is that the prison system holds about twice as many prisoners as the state’s county jails.

Although some prisoners would die as a result of medical problems whether they were incarcerated or not, according to experts a lack of jail health care standards contributes to unnecessary and preventable deaths in Texas.

“People aren’t dying of old age in jails,” stated professor Michele Deitch of the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, an expert on jail conditions. “Those numbers are more likely to be reflective of medical concerns.”

The Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) regulates and inspects conditions in the state’s county jails. However, TCJS regulations require only that jails have a plan to provide medical care to prisoners. There are no ...

Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire, by Robert Perkinson, Metropolitan Books/Holt, 484 pp (October 2010), $20.00 paperback

Book Review by Lance Tapley

Why did middle-class liberals, historically in the forefront of compassionate social reform, allow, with nary a peep, the construction of our prison colossus? A new book, Texas Tough, by Robert Perkinson, helps explain why liberals not only went along with this right-wing, racist project – they embraced it.

To obtain a more complete answer, though, to this important political question, Perkinson’s book ought to be read together with another excellent volume, The Prison and the Gallows: The Politics of Mass Incarceration in America, by Marie Gottschalk, published in 2006 [available from PLN – see page 54].

Both books give some credit to the usual explanations for the incarceration boom of the last 35 years, including sensational news-media crime coverage seized on by opportunistic politicians to extend prison sentences; the failed, cynical War on Drugs; and the lobbying of the corporate, union and bureaucratic prison-industrial complex.

Texas Tough contributes another important explanation: how the white leadership of the extremely racially divided, politically conservative South developed an unashamedly racist, brutal prison policy that it exported to the rest of the country. Texas, which developed the biggest prison system, led the way. Between 1968 and 2005 its prison budget ...

Massachusetts Prisoner Suicides More Than Four Times National Average

Massachusetts has a relatively low state prison population, with approximately 11,000 prisoners. Yet its annual prisoner suicide rate has topped an alarming 71 suicides per 100,000 prisoners – more than four times the national average of 16 per 100,000 as reported by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Last July, Massachusetts prison officials logged their eighth suicide in 2010, matching the state’s highest annual total in the past 14 years, according to Massachusetts Department of Corrections (DOC) statistics.

“The number of completed suicides is always the tip of the iceberg,” stated Rick Glassman, litigation director for the Disability Law Center of Massachusetts. “What lies beneath it is the number of suicide attempts and self-injurious behavior.”

“To hear that so many people have committed suicide, it boggles my mind,” said Antonia Chasse, whose brother, Ramon DeJesus, 58, became the sixth suicide in the Massachusetts DOC last year, on June 2, 2010. “This is a place where individuals are being watched 24 hours a day,” she noted.

The state’s seventh prisoner suicide occurred three weeks later on June 23, when Sean Noonan, 27, was found hanging in his cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center ...

Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Retires in Wake of DUI Arrest

by Brandon Sample

It is a familiar pattern for many prominent public officials. Get caught breaking the law, express remorse for your actions, and then tender your resignation. But make sure to claim that your resignation had nothing to do with your wrongdoing.

That is what happened with Harley G. Lappin, 55, the recently-former director of the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

On February 26, 2011, at 3:59 a.m., Lappin was pulled over for DUI by the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland. Lappin was less than a mile from his house in Annapolis, Maryland when he was stopped. According to a police report, his eyes were bloodshot, he had slurred speech and alcohol on his breath, and he failed sobriety tests.

In addition to being charged with DUI, Lappin was charged with reckless driving, negligent driving and failing to obey the instructions of a traffic-control device.
Approximately a month later, Lappin informed the BOP that he was retiring. In a memo sent to all BOP employees, he expressed remorse for his actions.

“I recently allowed a lapse in my judgment to occur, giving rise to potential embarrassment to the agency, the Department of Justice, and my ...

Practice of Jailing Parents Who Owe Child Support Raises Questions, Concerns

by Matt Clarke

Statistics from fiscal year 2009-2010 indicate that parents living in the San Antonio, Texas area who fail to pay child support run a greater risk – five times greater – of being jailed than deadbeat parents in other large Texas counties. The same statistics show that this practice does not significantly increase the amount of child support arrears collected by the courts.

Bexar County has a system for collecting overdue child support that consists of two special child support courts run by associate judges who are hired by elected district court judges. Associate Judge James Rausch admits to having a strict approach to enforcing child support, and blames the increasing number of parents failing to pay their child support obligations on society in general.

“The intact family is disappearing,” he said. “There are good fathers out there, but the numbers are going in the wrong direction. This court takes a very firm, tough approach to fathers and mothers who don’t pay child support. I feel very comfortable and confident we’re handling it the right way.” Rausch serves on the National Judicial Child Support Task Force.

But the “right way” is exacerbating already serious overcrowding in Bexar County ...

Report Documents Scope of Prosecutorial Misconduct in California

by Mike Brodheim

In October 2010, the Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) of the Santa Clara University School of Law published a study regarding the extent of prosecutorial misconduct in California. The study explores the ways in which the criminal justice system identifies and addresses the problem of misconduct by prosecutors, as well as its costs and consequences.

The authors, Santa Clara University School of Law Professor Kathleen Ridolfi, who is the NCIP’s executive director and a former Commissioner on the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, and Maurice Possley, a Pulitzer Prize-winning criminal justice journalist and NCIP Visiting Research Fellow, make a number of thoughtful recommendations in the hope that their comprehensive study will serve as a catalyst for reform and lead to a reduction in the volume of prosecutorial misconduct.

Noting the dual role of prosecutors as advocates in seeking convictions of those they believe guilty of crimes on the one hand, and as “ministers of justice” on the other hand, Ridolfi and Possley make the case that while the majority of prosecutors successfully balance their obligations under those dual roles, some allow their advocacy role to prevail to the extent that they are willing ...

California Jury Awards Native American Prisoner $150 on Due Process Property Claim

A federal jury awarded $150 in damages to California prisoner Gregory L. Rhoades, a Native American, after finding that the property room officer at Corcoran State Prison, defendant D. Adkison, had violated Rhoades’ 14th Amendment due process rights.

In September 2000, five months after Rhoades was found guilty of assaulting ...

Jailing for Debt on the Rise

by Matt Clarke

The use of arrest warrants to jail people who have defaulted on debts is increasing. In Minnesota alone, there were 845 civil arrest warrants issued against debtors in 2009, an increase of 60% compared with 2004. Over a third of the states allow people to be locked up for failing to pay their debts – including Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Illinois, Utah and Washington.

Just because there is an outstanding warrant doesn’t mean the debtor will be arrested. But if a debtor is arrested, he or she will spend time in jail alongside prisoners accused of crimes. The average jail stay for an arrested debtor is only hours, though some may be incarcerated for days.

Only about one in six defaulted debtors are actually at risk of arrest. The level of risk is determined by where the debtor lives: Some counties, especially larger ones, have a sufficient number of deputies available to task some with serving civil arrest warrants.
Other counties don’t have enough deputies and concentrate on criminal warrants. In still other counties the debtor will only be arrested if stopped for something else, such as a traffic ticket.

“If you talk to 15 different counties ...

Two California Prisoners Die as a Result of Doctor’s Negligence

A Costa Mesa, California doctor’s negligence contributed to the deaths of two prisoners and near-blindness of a third, according to a December 2010 announcement by the state’s medical board. Dr. Allan J.T. Yin, 74, was placed on 35 months probation as a result of incidents that occurred between 2005 and 2006. He can continue to practice medicine, but his license may be suspended if he violates the terms of his probation.

According to the Medical Board of California, Dr. Yin failed to provide even a minimum level of care and treatment for three state prisoners, and his delay in rendering necessary treatment could have made a difference. The full names of the prisoners and the facilities where they were incarcerated were not identified. Dr. Yin has admitted responsibility in all three incidents.

In November 2006, a prisoner named “Danny T.” complained to nurses of severe abdominal pain. He was examined the same day and three and four days later. On his last visit he was attended by Dr. Yin. Danny advised Yin that his symptoms had started three months earlier. Despite the fact that he was vomiting and appeared jaundiced, Dr. Yin only prescribed some medication and ...

No Interlocutory Appeal from Denial of Motion for Reconsideration; $6,000 Settlement in New York Jail Abuse Case

The collateral order doctrine does not allow government defendants to take an interlocutory appeal from the denial of a motion for reconsideration of a district court’s denial of qualified immunity, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held on April 12, 2010.

Iesha Lora filed a 42 U.S.C ...

CA Inspector General Finds 15 of 17 Prisons Demonstrate Low Adherence to Established Medical Policies and Procedures

by Mike Brodheim

In August 2010, California’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued a report summarizing and analyzing the results of medical inspections at 17 of 33 adult prisons operated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). The inspections, conducted between September 2008 and January 2010, marked the halfway point of the OIG’s first annual cycle of medical inspections of CDCR facilities.

Using teams of physicians, registered nurses, deputy inspectors general and analysts, the OIG devised 166 questions to assess each prison’s compliance with CDCR’s policies and procedures, as well as with community standards, in 20 key components of medical care. Each facility received a score reflecting its percentage compliance with respect to each component. Some components did not apply at all prisons; for example, prenatal, childbirth and post-delivery care applied only at the California Institution for Women, one of the two women’s prisons inspected during this cycle.

The average score for the 17 prisons profiled in the OIG report was 70%, with individual facility scores ranging from 62% to 78%. Only two prisons had scores above 75% – the Sierra Conservation Center and the Central California Women’s Facility. The facility with ...

Wisconsin DOC Settles Transgender Prisoner’s Lawsuit

The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (WDOC) has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by a transgender prisoner who sought treatment for her gender identity disorder. The settlement ended seven years of litigation.

The suit was filed in federal court in 2003 by Scott Konitzer, who goes by the name of Donna Dawn Konitzer. Konitzer claimed to be a woman trapped in a man’s body. She was provided with hormones under the prison system’s standard practice to treat gender identity disorder, which caused her to develop breasts and other feminine traits. [See: PLN, Aug. 2006, p.28].

Konitzer argued that she was suffering cruel and unusual punishment by not being allowed to have surgery to complete her transition to a woman. Although prison officials provided hormone therapy, they refused Konitzer’s requests to wear female undergarments, to refer to her as a woman, and to use makeup, body hair removal products and an anti-baldness treatment.

In May 2010, in ruling on the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, U.S. District Court Judge Charles N. Clevert held that a jury could find that prison officials “were deliberately indifferent to Konitzer’s serious medical needs” by refusing her the real-life experience ...

Juvenile Justice Expert Condemns Rhode Island’s Jailing of Students for Minor Offenses

Attorney John J. Wilson, a Department of Justice lawyer for almost 31 years, and the author of federal regulations for the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, has condemned the practices of Rhode Island Family Court magistrates, who have locked up dozens of juveniles for non-criminal offenses. According to Wilson, incarcerating non-criminal juveniles for even one night violates the basic premise of the federal act.

Wilson said the act provides money to states like Rhode Island if they follow federal guidelines for youths in the justice system. “We don’t punish adults for doing things that are not criminal, so why in heaven’s name would we punish children for doing things that aren’t criminal,” he asked. “[It’s] an abuse of judicial authority.... And it’s a practice that should be stopped.” At risk is the state’s eligibility to receive federal juvenile justice funding, and the state has compounded its errors by failing to report such detentions to federal officials who monitor state compliance with federal regulations.

For a number of years, according to national juvenile justice experts like Wilson, as well as attorneys, parents and students, magistrates for the Rhode Island Family Court’s ...

Staff Smuggle Drugs and Porn to Washington Civil Commitment Prisoners

A Washington Special Commitment Center (SCC) nurse who fell in love with a civilly committed violent sex offender pleaded guilty to smuggling him drugs and homemade pornographic videos; the offender and two other people were charged with drug-related offenses.

SCC opened in 1990 at the Monroe Correctional Complex, but later moved to McNeil Island. Approximately 1 percent of the state’s sex offenders – about 290 – are indefinitely confined at SCC under Washington’s civil commitment law.

In theory SCC is a treatment center and not a prison, though it operates as a secure facility and its residents are held under prison-like conditions. “It’s a de facto warehouse, regardless of what the intention is,” said Pete MacDonald, an attorney with The Defender Association, a Seattle-based criminal defense organization.

Lawrence A. Williams was committed to SCC in 2004 for sexual assault; he had previously served a 20-year sentence for raping a woman at knifepoint and for sexually assaulting another woman after beating her with a wrench.

While at SCC, Williams hooked up with at least four women – including recently divorced SCC nurse Barbara Boardman. Williams met Boardman while cleaning her office, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Miyake. Boardman “quickly ...

Mississippi Governor Grants Early Release to Scott Sisters

In a recent resolution to a celebrated Mississippi civil rights case, in which sisters Gladys and Jamie Scott each served 16 years of a life sentence for their part in a 1993 armed robbery that netted as little as $11, both were freed on January 7, 2011. Their release, however, was contingent on Gladys Scott donating one of her kidneys to her sister, Jamie, who suffers from renal failure. Gladys had already agreed to the donation.

According to Governor Haley Barbour, “The Mississippi Department of Corrections believes that the sisters no longer pose a threat to society. Their incarceration is no longer necessary for public safety and rehabilitation, and Jamie Scott’s medical condition ... creates a substantial cost to the State of Mississippi.”

Appearing with Governor Barbour, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous praised the decision, stating, “This is a shining example of how governors should use their commutation powers.” Jealous and the Mississippi NAACP had been working for most of the past year to win the Scotts’ release, and NAACP members had signed petitions urging the governor to take action.

The sisters’ armed robbery convictions stemmed from an incident in which they led two men to a secluded area where three ...

CCA Prisoner Awarded $3,250 in Excessive Force Lawsuit

A Louisiana U.S. District Court awarded $3,250 to a prisoner in a civil rights action that involved excessive use of force by a guard. The lawsuit was filed by Winn Correctional Center prisoner Derrick Levon Carter due to events that occurred on April 14, 2006. This case is ...

Trivialized Use of Presidential Pardon Power Continues Under Obama

After almost two years in office, President Obama finally granted his first pardons on December 3, 2010 – all nine of them – barely avoiding George W. Bush’s record for the longest delay by a president in granting clemency.

Each of the nine pardons were for very old, minor offenses, continuing a trend toward limiting the use of the president’s pardon power, which is the last hope for many prisoners serving lengthy federal sentences.

Ronald Lee Foster, one of the lucky few who received a pardon from Obama, was convicted in 1963 of mutilating U.S. currency. While serving in the military, Foster cut pennies down to the size of dimes so he could use them in vending machines.

“We cut the lip off [the pennies], and we were using them in the barracks only, in the vending machines. Washing machines, cigarette machines, pop machines,” he said. “Back then, a pack of cigarettes cost 20 or 30 cents a pack, so you could get a pack for 3 cents.”
Foster was placed on a year of probation and ordered to pay a $20 fine. He submitted his application for a pardon in 2005 after being denied a gun permit due ...

Homeless Probationer’s Violation for Failure to Comply with GPS Monitoring Reversed

On December 21, 2010, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court set aside a probation violation finding where the probationer was unable to accommodate the technological requirements of GPS monitoring equipment while living in a homeless shelter. The Court found that as there was no evidence of willful noncompliance, the violation was “akin to punishing the defendant for being homeless.”

After he pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of fourteen, John W. Canadyan, Jr. was sentenced to eighteen months in prison and five years probation; the latter required him to wear a GPS monitoring device. After his release from prison, Canadyan was forced to live in a homeless shelter.

The GPS device mandated as part of his probation required access to a telephone line, an electrical outlet or both. Neither was available at the homeless shelter. Both Canadyan and the probation office tried to accommodate the requirements for the GPS device, but without a solution a notice of violation was filed. Subsequent to the violation, a device with an extended battery life was provided to Canadyan.

The Chelsea District Court found that Canadyan had violated the GPS condition of his probation without ...

Virginia ACLU Requests DOJ Investigation into Jail Deaths

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia has asked the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate conditions at the Richmond City Jail following the June 2010 deaths of two prisoners, one of which was heat-related while the other may have been heat-related.

Between 2000 and 2007, 8,097 detainees died in jails nationwide according to a July 2010 report by the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). The jail mortality rate dropped from 151 deaths per 100,000 detainees in 2000 to 141 per 100,000 in 2007. That statistic is deceiving, however, because the average daily jail population and number of deaths actually increased over that time period.

Nationally, suicide was the leading cause of jail deaths, totaling 29 percent of all deaths, followed by heart disease as the leading illness-related cause of death at 22 percent. Heat exposure was not listed as a cause of any of the reported deaths in the BJS report.

The rarity of heat-related jail deaths raises questions about two recent deaths at the Richmond, Virginia city jail. On June 14, 2010, 54-year-old Grant Sleeper was arrested on an outstanding warrant for threatening then-Governor Timothy M. Kaine and his daughter ...

Mexican Prison Officials Arm and Release Prisoners for Hit Squad Duties

by Matt Clarke

A Mexican prison director, Margarita Rojas Rodriguez, and three other prison employees were detained in August 2010 while their role in arming and releasing prisoners to kill rival gang members was investigated. [See: PLN, Jan. 2011, p.50].

“According to witnesses, the inmates were allowed to leave with authorization of the prison director ... to carry out instructions for revenge attacks using official vehicles and using guards’ weapons for executions,” said Ricardo Najera, spokesman for the Mexican attorney general’s office. “Unfortunately, the criminals also carried out cowardly killings of innocent civilians, only to return to their cells.”

In addition to Rodriguez, prison security chiefs Roberto Enriquez Aguayo and Jose Guadalupe Rivas Ordaz, as well as the prison’s assistant director, Francisco Carlos Alberto Uranga Orona, were detained pending an investigation.

The background to the astonishing use of prisoners as hit men is the battle for control of the drug trade in the neighboring northern Mexican states of Coahuila and Durango. In that fight, the Zetas – the indiscriminately violent former enforcement arm of the Gulf cartel – is seeking to overthrow the Gulf cartel. At stake is the lucrative narcotics pipeline into the U.S. via Coahuila, which is ...

Texas Prison Guard One of "America’s Dumbest Criminals”

Texas Prison Guard One of "America’s Dumbest Criminals”

In September 2010, a Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) prison guard was arrested for stealing beer and cigarettes from a convenience store. His prosecution will be aided by cell phone photos and video that show the guard and his accomplice celebrating their ill-gotten gains, as well as surveillance footage from the store and the guard’s confession.

At 1:30 a.m. on September 23, 2010, two men entered an E-Z Mart near Silsbee, Texas. One had dark shorts, a red T-shirt and a baseball cap, and the other had a cast on his arm and wore a gas mask. The pair grabbed four cases of beer and ran out of the store. Surveillance videos showed the men jumping into a small extended-cab pickup and speeding off. Deputies responded to the scene and processed the video evidence.

At around 4:30 a.m., the man with the dark shorts and red T-shirt returned. This time he wasn’t wearing a baseball cap. He tried to buy a carton of cigarettes, but produced an obviously fake ID which the clerk refused to honor. The man then ran out of the store ...

Select Legal Topics, by Andrew J. Schatkin, 
University Press of America, 625 pp (Sept. 2009), $69.95

Select Legal Topics, by Andrew J. Schatkin, 
University Press of America, 625 pp (Sept. 2009), $69.95

Book Review by Matt Clarke

The overwhelming characteristic of Select Legal Topics: Civil, Criminal, Federal, Evidentiary, Procedural, and Labor, by Andrew J. Schatkin, is density of information. This book is 625 pages long with small typeset; it contains an enormous amount of information on an impressive variety of legal topics.

Schatkin is a principal partner of a New York-based law firm and a leading legal commentator who has been practicing law in multiple fields and at various levels of state and federal jurisdiction since 1978. Select Legal Topics is a compendium of his legal journal articles covering a wide variety of topics such as criminal law, evidence, civil procedure, labor and employment law, family law, civil rights, tort law and federal procedure, which were originally published between 1980 and 2006.

Each article is well-researched and extensively annotated with relevant case law and explanations of legal principles. Schatkin’s writing style makes the understanding of complex legal questions and reasoning accessible to non-lawyers. Although his articles were published in legal journals and directed at attorneys, Schatkin writes in a pedagogic fashion, filling in the ...

Study Highlights the Burden of Fees, Debt Collection on Criminal Defendants

In an October 2010 report examining the fifteen states that have the highest prison populations, the Brennan Center for Justice found that the practices of imposing new “user fees” on criminal defendants, raising the amounts of existing fees, and intensifying the collection of fees and other forms of criminal justice debt (such as fines and restitution) undermined the rehabilitation and reentry success of released prisoners. The report also showed that efforts expended to collect such debts, rather than increasing revenue, may actually help “pave the way back to jail and result in yet more costs to the public.”

The study noted that “fees, while often small in isolation, regularly total hundreds and even thousands of dollars. All fifteen of the examined states charge a broad array of fees, which are often imposed without taking into account ability to pay.... Thirteen of the fifteen states charge poor people public defender fees for simply exercising their constitutional right to counsel ... [which] can push defendants to waive counsel, raising constitutional questions and leading to wrongful convictions, over-incarceration, and significant burdens on the operation of the courts.”

The Brennan Center report also claims that the imposition of fees on criminal defendants can lead to ...

Elaborate California Parole Violator Sting Nabs 150

About 150 California parole violators recently learned the hard way that “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

California corrections officials set up an elaborate scheme targeting 2,700 of the state’s 14,000 parole violators, by sending letters to their relatives offering an attractive offer: Turn yourself in on Saturday, May 15, 2010, and you’ll receive a $200 reward and qualify for an amnesty program. The sting had its own website and e-mail account to convince the leery.

The 150 or so who showed up in Oakland, California to collect their reward were sadly disappointed when they heard another famous saying: “Do not collect $200. Go directly to jail.”

Colorado Officials Lead Efforts to Modernize Afghan Prisons

Bill Zalman is the leader of a team of prison officials from Colorado that has been tapped to help train the wardens of Afghanistan’s prisons in modern correctional practices.
The head of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David T. Johnson, selected Colorado because he said that state is a leader in the corrections field, along with California and Maryland. He also mentioned he had toured the Colorado prison in Cañon City and reviewed many of the vocational training programs there, which included a 3,000-head goat farm and a culinary arts program. The executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC), Ari Zavaras, stated that prisoners not only learn trades but also develop a work ethic that helps reduce recidivism.

Johnson said he had selected state prison experts to do the federally-funded training in Afghanistan rather than federal prison officials, largely because state systems were closer in size to those of the smaller countries that they were helping. “Our corrections system is the most effective human-rights tool we have in Afghanistan,” he said, apparently without irony.

According to Zalman, stationed in Kabul, “Prison is prison the world around ...

Sweeping Settlement Covers Medical and Mental Health Care at Wisconsin Women’s Prison

On August 23, 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and ACLU of Wisconsin filed a settlement agreement in U.S. District Court that will improve medical and mental health care and conditions of confinement for disabled prisoners at the only women’s maximum-security facility in the Wisconsin Department of ...

$75,000 Settlement in Pennsylvania Jail Beating

A $75,000 settlement has been reached in a lawsuit brought by a former prisoner who was beaten by guards at Pennsylvania’s Westmoreland County Prison (WCP).

In June 2009, James P. Edwards, 28, was arrested on a parole violation. He was on parole following a 10-year sentence in Texas ...

Connecticut Sues Prison Builders for $18 Million

On February 27, 2008, Richard Blumenthal, Attorney General for the State of Connecticut, announced that his office had sued 13 contractors and their insurers seeking more than $18 million in connection with the construction of 22 buildings at the York Correctional Institution – the state’s only prison for women.

The ...

Conviction Affirmed for Former Prisoner Who Posed as Lawyer

by Brandon Sample

Howard O. Kieffer “is not an attorney, never obtained a college degree and has never attended law school or passed a bar exam,” wrote the Chief Judge of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, in affirming Kieffer’s conviction and sentence for fraudulently representing defendants in federal court.

Kieffer’s scam started in the mid-1990s after he was released from federal prison for tax fraud. He formed a business called Federal Defense Associates (FDA). As the executive director of FDA, Kieffer touted himself as an expert in federal prison matters and sentencing issues. [See: PLN, Jan. 2009, p.44].

Through FDA, various websites and other means, Kieffer obtained over $150,000 in legal fees from unsuspecting clients that Kieffer “represented” in federal court, posing as an attorney.

Kieffer would go to legal conferences that only judges and attorneys would attend, passing himself off as a lawyer. Using attorneys he met at those conferences to vouch for his credibility, Kieffer fraudulently obtained admission to the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, the District of North Dakota, the District of Colorado and the Western District of Missouri. He also fraudulently gained admission to the U.S ...

State Auditor Finds Vermont Sex Offender Registry Unreliable

by Matt Clarke

On June 25, 2010, the Vermont State Auditor released a report entitled Sex Offender Registry: Accuracy Could be Significantly Improved. As the title implies, the auditors found critical or significant errors in 79% of the community-based Sex Offender Registry (SOR) records audited. The errors were discovered by comparing information in the SOR with actual paper records from the courts and the Vermont Department of Corrections (DOC). Using automated data analysis tools to scan the rest of the SOR for obvious errors, the auditors discovered an additional 195 critical or significant errors.

In 1996, Vermont’s SOR was established at the Vermont Crime Information Center (VCIC) of the Department of Public Safety (DPS) with the passage of 13 VSA, Chapter 167, Subchapter 3. The statute was subject to multiple subsequent amendments in such areas as the definition of a “high-risk” sex offender and which registrees must be posted on state and national Internet databases.

At the time of the audit, the SOR contained 1,549 records for sex offenders (SOs) who lived, worked or went to school in Vermont (community-based SOs). The audit was based on 57 community-based records, sufficient to achieve a +/- 5% accuracy. Additionally, 53 inactive ...

Inefficiencies in Prison Pharmacy Operations Cost California Taxpayers at Least $13 Million Annually

by Mike Brodheim

Responding to concerns brought to its attention by pharmacy staff regarding the amount of medication wasted in California’s prisons, in April 2010 the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a special report titled “Lost Opportunities for Savings Within California Prison Pharmacies.” The OIG found that inefficiencies in pharmacy operations cost California taxpayers between $13 million and $25 million a year.

The OIG, responsible for oversight of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), conducted an in-depth review of pharmacy practices and operations at nine CDCR facilities, including two women’s prisons, in 2009. The OIG noted, as a preliminary matter, that from 2000 to 2008 – during a time when the CDCR prisoner population increased by no more than seven percent and the cost of prescription drugs rose by only a third – CDCR expenditures on medication for prisoners more than doubled.

In terms of raw numbers, the CDCR allocated $190 million for pharmaceuticals in fiscal year (FY) 2009-2010 – slightly less than ten percent of the department’s proposed budget for medical, dental and mental health care services for prisoners that year. That’s about twice the amount that the federal Bureau of Prisons spent, and ...

Fifth Circuit: Sex Offender Conditions May be Imposed for Prior Sex Offense

by Matt Clarke

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a person on parole for a crime that was not a sex offense, but who had completed a sentence for a prior sex offense conviction, could be subjected to sex offender parole restrictions.

David Brian Jennings was on parole for a Texas debit card abuse offense. He had a 30-year-old juvenile conviction for kidnapping with intent to violate or abuse the victim sexually – a sex offense – but had completed the sentence for that crime 17 years earlier. Without any notice to Jennings, Texas parole officials changed his conditions of parole to include Condition X, which included onerous sex offender restrictions.

Among other things, Condition X required Jennings not to date, marry or have a platonic relationship with an adult who had juvenile children without prior approval; not to maintain or operate computer equipment without written authorization of his parole officer; and to participate in sex offender counseling, including the use of a penile plethysmograph, “a strain gauge that is strapped to an individual’s genitals while sexually-explicit pictures are displayed in an effort to determine his sexual arousal patterns.”

Jennings unsuccessfully petitioned the parole board to remove the sex ...

South Carolina Appellate Court Holds Prisoners Entitled to Overtime

Prisoners participating in the South Carolina Department of Corrections’ (SDOC) Prison Industries Program (PIP) are entitled to receive time-and-a‑half pay for overtime work performed, the Court of Appeals of South Carolina held on April 5, 2010.

While incarcerated at Ridgeland Correctional Institution, Billy Joe Cartrette sometimes worked in excess of ninety hours per two-week period making furniture for Kwalu Furniture, a PIP participant. Cartrette was paid $5.50 per hour but was not given time-and-a-half for overtime.

He filed a grievance arguing that $5.50 an hour was not the prevailing wage for the kind of work he was performing. Under PIP rules, prisoners are required to be paid the prevailing wage for similar work performed in the community. Cartrette argued that non-prisoners were earning $11.00 to $14.00 for similar work. He also argued that he was entitled to time-and-a-half for overtime, and that funds were improperly withheld from his paychecks for room and board and victim’s compensation.

A circuit judge remanded Cartrette’s complaint about not receiving the proper prevailing wage to an Administrative Law Court (ALC) for further determination. However, Cartrette’s request for overtime pay was denied and he appealed.

Examining the intent of ...

$50,001 Verdict for Pennsylvania Prisoner in Failure to Protect Suit

A federal jury awarded $50,001 to a Pennsylvania state prisoner who claimed guards ignored his requests to be protected from his cellmate.

After SCI Fayette prisoner Robert E. Ivory, Jr. was involved in a fight with his cellmate, Russell Nance, in 2008, he requested that guards move him. Ivory ...

Eighth Circuit Reverses Transport Rape Summary Judgment

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that prison officials were not entitled to summary judgment on a female prisoner’s claim that she was raped during transport.

On December 15, 2005, Missouri prisoner Penny Whitson was being transported from the Stone County Jail to the Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC), in a van occupied by four male prisoners.

Each section of the transport van was caged separately, and the van was very dark inside. When Whitson attempted to sit in the first caged area, directly behind the guards, she was ordered to sit with prisoner Richard Leach in the second caged area which was accessible only from the rear of the vehicle.

Corporal Shawna Sorrick drove, accompanied by Officer Brown, who sat in the front passenger seat. The guards played loud music and the three prisoners in the first cage talked loudly.

During the trip, Leach slipped his hand restraints, grabbed Whitson’s arm, sat her on his lap, pinned her against the seat, pulled her pants down and raped her. Whitson tried to get away, but did not scream because she was embarrassed and humiliated.

At a restroom stop, Whitson told Sorrick that Leach raped her but Sorrick ...

Pennsylvania Jail Pays $3 Million to Settle Class-Action Strip Search Suit

A $3 million settlement was reached in a class-action civil rights complaint that challenged the blanket strip search policy at Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County Jail (ACJ). The class, which was certified in June 2008, includes almost 13,000 people who were incarcerated at ACJ between July 13, 2004 and March ...

Sixth Circuit Rules on Whether Prisoner Must Name Defendants in Grievance

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Michigan Department of Corrections (DOC) internal grievance policy rule that prisoners name all defendants did not invalidate a prisoner’s grievance for purposes of exhaustion of administrative remedies when prison officials denied the grievance on the merits.

Mark Anthony Reed-Bly, a DOC prisoner, seriously dislocated his shoulder during a prison basketball game. He was treated at an emergency room and told that he would be seen by an orthopedic specialist within five days. 79 days later, he saw the specialist who told him that he would continue to have shoulder pain and accompanying headaches, some of which lasted up to three days, until he received surgery to repair the shoulder.

An X-ray showed that the shoulder separation was worsening and four times Reed-Bly requested follow-up care. Nonetheless, he did not receive the surgery until another three months had passed.

Reed-Bly filed a grievance. Prison officials responded, stating that the delay was caused by DOC officials awaiting approval for the surgery from Correctional Medical Services (CMS). The grievance was denied on the merits at all three levels.

Reed-Bly filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights action in federal district court ...

News In Brief:

California: Tonya Henderson, a former guard at the California Institution for Men in Chino, resigned in May 2010 after she was arrested for stealing $3,000 worth of merchandise from a Target store, including a steam cleaner and a big-screen TV. She was in her prison uniform and had her 6-year-old son with her at the time. Henderson pleaded no contest to a charge of grand theft on February 23, 2011 and was sentenced to 120 days in jail.

California: On March 3, 2011, James Arroyo, 54, employed as a cook at the Orange County jail, was charged with six misdemeanor counts for sexually assaulting several female prisoners who worked in the kitchen with him. He was placed on administrative leave following his arrest in February. According to the district attorney’s office, Arroyo was also “accused of having inappropriate relationships with other female inmates and providing them with favors including snacks and jail account funds. He is accused of maintaining contact with multiple female inmates and possessing nude photographs of them sent to him on his cell phone after their release from jail.”

Florida: Polk County jail prisoner Lynn Ludlow Pierson, 71, died on March 7, 2011, four days ...

 

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