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Prison Legal News: May, 2011

Issue PDF
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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

$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 ...

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 ...

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 ...