Prison Legal News:
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Volume 22, Number 6
In this issue:
- States Scramble to Find Lethal Injection Drugs (p 1)
- Three Fulton County, Georgia Jail Guards Sentenced in Prisoner Abuse Investigation (p 10)
- Blind Virginia Prisoner Settles Suit to Accommodate Disability (p 11)
- From the Editor (p 12)
- Wexford Enters Into Confidential Settlement in New Mexico Prisoner’s Death (p 12)
- Fire at Overcrowded Chilean Prison Kills Over 80 Prisoners (p 13)
- Savings from North Carolina Prisoner Slave Labor Result in Additional Prison Beds (p 14)
- Uncollected Court Debts Piling Up in Tennessee (p 14)
- New York Jury Awards Wrongfully Convicted Man $18.5 Million, but Court Grants Motion to Set Aside Verdict (p 16)
- Ninth Circuit Upholds Washington’s “Two Strikes Law” for Repeat Sex Offenders (p 16)
- Washington Prisoner Discovers Good Time Error; County Officials Admit and Correct Mistake (p 17)
- PHS and NY Jail Employees Have Conflict of Interest with Legal Representation (p 18)
- Louisiana Sheriff Cages Suicidal Prisoners in Space Smaller than Required for Dogs (p 18)
- $149,500 Settlement for Hawaiian Prisoner Denied Medical Care After Transport Accident (p 19)
- Washington: Pierce County Jail Suit Ends After 15 Years (p 20)
- Federal Courts Reject Leniency Pleas from Politically-Connected Defendants (p 20)
- Hopes Dashed for Criminal Defendants Facing Deportation in Virginia (p 22)
- Releasees from Rural Michigan Jail Frighten Neighbors on Long Walk Home (p 22)
- Family of California Immigration Prisoner Who Died Due to Untreated Cancer Gets $3.68 Million (p 24)
- Uproar Over Background Checks for BP Oil Spill Workers Following Rape Allegation Against Sex Offender (p 24)
- Dozens of Israeli Prison Guards Die in Fire (p 25)
- Fifth Circuit Holds Mississippi Felons May Not Vote in Presidential Elections (p 26)
- Six Florida Jail Staff Arrested in Contraband Smuggling Probe (p 26)
- The Incarceration Capital of the U.S. (p 28)
- U.S. Admits Infecting Prisoners, Mentally Ill Patients in Guatemala in 1940s (p 30)
- Los Angeles County Approves $444,000 in Settlements for Sexual Assaults by County Employees (p 31)
- Controversy Involving North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab (p 32)
- Ninth Circuit Rejects Challenge to BOP’s Implementation of Second Chance Act (p 34)
- Federal Cell Phone Ban Becomes Law; California Bill Vetoed, then Re-Introduced (p 34)
- Sanctions Against Prisoner for Alleged “Frivolous” Habeas Petition Improper, Tenth Circuit Decides (p 35)
- Texas Prison System Must Accommodate Hearing-Impaired Visitors (p 36)
- Ohio: Mixed Verdicts Against Guards Involved in Prisoner’s Death (p 36)
- Wisconsin County Jail Administrator Charged with Stealing Jail Funds (p 37)
- Tenth Circuit Reverses Lawsuit on Hygiene Versus Court Access for Second Time (p 38)
- Remembering the High Point of Prisoner Rights (p 39)
- Department of Justice Reports on Sexual Victimization in U.S. Prisons and Jails (p 40)
- Ex-BOP Pharmacist Sentenced for Stealing Drugs (p 41)
- No Time Limit for Defendants to Raise a PLRA Defense (p 42)
- U.S. Deportations Set Record in 2010 (p 42)
- Anarchists Claim Attack on NC Department of Correction (p 43)
- ACLU Investigates Prisoners’ Deaths at Puerto Rican Prison (p 44)
- First Circuit Reverses Finding that Sexual Interest in Adolescents Not Disorder Warranting Civil Commitment (p 44)
- Eighth Circuit Affirms Denial of Qualified Immunity for Guards Accused of Deliberate Indifference; $5.2 Million Verdict, $450,000 Settlement on Remand (p 46)
- Virginia DOC Settles Censorship Suit Over The Final Call (p 46)
- New York Ex-Jail Doctor Charged With Selling Prescription Painkillers (p 47)
- Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Insider Makes Misconduct Allegations; Resignations Result (p 48)
- News In Brief: (p 50)
“From this day forward I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death.”
—Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, Callins v. Collins, 501 U.S. 1141 (1994)
The only American producer of sodium thiopental has abandoned the market for that drug due to protests and export bans by European countries. The use of sodium thiopental in lethal injections in the United States was the cause of the protests, and shortages of the drug have some states scrambling for alternatives to keep their death penalty machinery up and running.
Sodium thiopental, sold under the brand name Pentothal, is a fast-acting barbiturate used to render people unconscious. For the 34 states that utilize lethal injection, it was commonly the first of a three-drug protocol administered during executions. When Hospira, Inc. of Lake Forest, Illinois discontinued making Pentothal in the U.S. due to manufacturing problems, shortages began. The company’s January 2011 decision to stop marketing the drug entirely gained the attention of advocates on both sides of the death penalty debate.
Proponents of capital punishment were upset due to delays in executions caused by the shortage of Pentothal. “I think it’s going to anger a lot ...
by David M. Reutter
The FBI had investigated the guards due to two incidents at the FCJ. The first involved guard Curtis Jerome Brown, Jr. After a prisoner disrupted count time on August 11, 2007 by shouting a crude remark at a female guard, Brown handcuffed the prisoner and escorted him to an administrative segregation area.
While walking the prisoner down a hallway that was not monitored by video cameras, Brown stopped, yelled at the prisoner and hit him in the mouth. Blood was splattered on the floor and wall. Shocked by his behavior, another guard reported Brown to a supervisor. Brown later wrote a report about the incident that included false information.
In a separate March 2008 incident, guards Mitnee Markette Jones, Derontay Anton Langford, Brown, and an unidentified guard entered the cell of prisoner Richard Glasco, who was being loud and banging on his cell door and window. Approximately an hour after the guards subdued Glasco with force, he was discovered unresponsive ...
Three guards from Georgia’s Fulton County Jail (FCJ) have been sentenced on federal charges related to an investigation into prisoner abuse at the jail. Two of the guards received prison time; the third received home confinement after assisting prosecutors.
Fluvanna Correctional Center prisoner Mildred ...
A blind prisoner has settled her federal lawsuit that claimed the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) and Virginia Department of Correctional Education (VDCE) violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act by failing to accommodate her disability.
This month’s cover story on the government’s search for drugs with which to execute its citizens illustrates the problem with the medicalization of state murder. With the lethal drugs running out, the fasçade is pulled away just a little and we see the ugly face of state power, with the rule of law be damned as the state executioners scurry like back alley dope peddlers to hustle up their lethal drug mix. At least when state murder is a straightforward affair of hanging, shooting, electrocution or the gas chamber there is less pretense to the fact that it is the government killing its own citizens.
The move ...
As this issue of PLN goes to press, the U.S. Supreme Court has just released its opinion in Brown v. Plata affirming the three-judge district court ruling ordering that the State of California must reduce its prison population in order to comply with a multitude of prior injunctions requiring the state to provide constitutionally adequate medical care for its prisoners. This is literally the court ruling of the century as far as prisoner rights cases go. We will report the decision in detail in next month’s issue of PLN.
Pennsylvania-based Wexford Health Services, which bills itself as “the nation’s leading innovative correctional health care company,” entered into a confidential settlement with the estate of a New Mexico prisoner who died due to deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs.
When prisoner Michael Crespin arrived at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility (CNMCF) in March 2006, he was undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer. After his December 2005 arrest and incarceration, Crespin had complained of abdominal pain. He was taken to the University of New Mexico Hospital (UNMH) where he was diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery.
The surgery left him with a colostomy bag and a prescription for medications and chemotherapy. Although Crespin advised Wexford personnel at CNMCF of his condition, he was isolated from medical staff. And despite his requests, and those of his treating physician at UNMH, Wexford employees lost track of Crespin’s cancer treatment.
Over the next several months, Crespin “missed approximately 14 to 16, or more, medical appointments at UNMH,” according to his subsequent federal lawsuit. “Most of the appointments were for chemotherapy at UNMH.”
The treating physician and staff at UNMH repeatedly called Wexford staff and CNMCF’s warden ...
by David M. Reutter
At around 5:30 a.m. on December 8, 2010, prisoners set fire to mattresses, blankets and clothing during a fight at the San Miguel prison in Santiago, Chile. The fire grew, killing at least 81 prisoners and severely injuring 21 others. The facility was designed to hold 700 prisoners but housed around 1,900 at the time of the blaze.
“The conditions that existed inside this prison are absolutely inhumane,” said Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, while visiting an emergency medical facility where surviving prisoners were being treated for smoke inhalation and burns. He called Chile’s prison system “a disgrace that effects all of us,” and noted that he had inherited the problem of overcrowded prisons from previous administrations.
Although Piñera denied it, people who were waiting in line to visit prisoners when the fire broke out said it took firefighters 40 minutes to respond. Several prisoners stated that a prisoner had placed an emergency call to the fire department using a cell phone after guards failed to report the fire. They also claimed government officials initially prevented firefighters from battling the blaze.
“They wouldn’t let the firefighters come in. The riot police came in ...
by Matt Clarke
Touting its 140-year history of using prisoner slave labor, the North Carolina Department of Correction (NDOC) announced in January 2011 that it will save taxpayers $27 million when building more than 2,700 new prison beds with prisoner labor.
The North Carolina legislature has allocated funds since 2007 for the NDOC to build six prison dormitories. Prison officials proudly announced that the use of prisoner workers will let the department build seven new dorms at a total cost of $82.7 million.
Using its “Inmate Construction Program” (ICP), the NDOC is “building additions to six 1,000 bed prisons that opened between 2003 and 2008.” A seventh project will be completed by a private contractor. An NDOC press release stated the department had already completed a 504-bed dorm at the Scotland Correctional Institution and was working on another 252-bed dorm at the same prison.
Additional building projects were scheduled from February 2011 to December 2012 at the Alexander Correctional Institution (252-bed dorm); Bertie Correctional Institution (504-bed dorm); Lanesboro Correctional Institution (504-bed dorm); Maury Correctional Institution (504-bed dorm); and Tabor Correctional Institution (252-bed dorm).
“Without the use of inmate labor, the estimated cost to build these facilities ...
by David M. Reutter
Davidson County (with Nashville as the county seat) has $290 million in uncollected fines and fees – almost enough to fund Metro’s police department, sheriff’s office, jail and fire department for an entire year. The recession that began in late 2007 made the collection of court debts more difficult, if not impossible.
“It is a problem and clerks across the state do not have a whole lot to help them collect the costs,” noted Sumner County Circuit Court Clerk Mahailiah Hughes. “It has gotten more difficult in the last couple of years.”
An official with the Davidson County Clerk’s Office has proposed legislation that he hopes will boost collections. That proposal would revoke people’s driver’s licenses if their court fees and fines are not paid within a year. The legislation includes measures to allow the poor to have their fees reduced or erased.
“I think it really needs teeth. Something needs to be held over their heads to make them pay ...
Over the past several years, counties in Middle Tennessee have had a difficult time collecting court fees and fines. The outstanding debts, from both civil and criminal cases, amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.
Alan Newton was convicted in 1985 of rape, robbery and assault, primarily based on eyewitness testimony. He fought his conviction after he was sentenced to 13½ to 40 years, and requested DNA testing in August 1994.
The New York City Police Department finally located the rape kit in 2005, more than ten years after Newton and his attorneys had requested the evidence, despite claims over the previous decade that the kit could not be found and was presumed destroyed. Testing revealed that the DNA collected from the victim did not match Newton, and he was exonerated and released on July 6, 2006.
Newton filed suit against the city, and his civil case went to trial in October 2010. Newton’s attorney, John F. Schulty III, argued that the Police Department had employed a shoddy system of storing and tracking post-conviction evidence, including DNA evidence. For years that evidence was tracked by paper ...
On November 2, 2010, a New York federal jury awarded $18.5 million to a man who was cleared of a rape conviction after serving more than two decades in prison. At the time it was the largest award to a wrongfully convicted person in New York City.
After the district court denied his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, Brach E. Norris appealed to the Ninth Circuit and was granted a certificate of appealability to determine if his life without parole sentence was constitutional. Norris was convicted by a jury of child molestation in the first degree; the two strikes law was applied to him due to a conviction for the same offense ten years earlier.
The incident leading to Norris’ most recent conviction occurred on March 5, 2001 at a McDonald’s restaurant. Norris, in front of the 5-year-old victim’s step-father, reached down with one hand and touched the girl between her legs after she came down a slide in the play area.
The Ninth Circuit noted that first-degree child abuse is defined under Washington State law as a “most serious” and “violent” offense. While the absolute magnitude of ...
On September 23, 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the State of Washington’s “two strikes” law for repeat sex offenders, which results in a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, is not grossly disproportionate so as to constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.
Washington State’s Kitsap County Jail (KCJ) has corrected an error in how it calculates and awards “good time” to prisoners, after a former prisoner discovered the mistake and brought it to the attention of jail officials.
As prisoner Robert “Doug” Pierce was being shackled to be transported to state prison to serve two years for possession of methamphetamine, a guard handed him a stack of papers. Pierce knew that he would receive 213 days credit for time served at KCJ awaiting sentencing, and he also expected to receive “good time” credits.
When Pierce looked at the form awarding his good time, however, he said, “This isn’t right.” Under law, the state’s 37 county jails have discretion to award up to 33 percent of a prisoner’s pre-trial time in good time credits.
The Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) makes adjustments when too much time is awarded, but not where an insufficient amount of time is credited. “We didn’t question it,” said DOC records manager Wendy Stigall. “We don’t try and tell them how to run their jail.”
KCJ had divided Pierce’s 213 days of jail time by three, awarding him ...
by David M. Reutter
Upon being arraigned in Queens County Criminal Court on December 18, 2007, the court set bail at $2,500 and ordered David Mercado to be placed on suicide watch. Mercado did not post bond and was incarcerated at Rikers Island.
The next day he was referred to be examined by Patricia Jones, chief of the Mental Health Unit, for an evaluation regarding any “suicidal ideation.” She assigned Simflex Nyame to do the mental health review and informed him of the court order.
Nyame, however, said he was never advised of the order. He concluded that Mercado’s suicide watch should be discontinued; he also believed Jones would obtain the countersignature of a psychiatrist, which she never did.
In general population, guards observed Mercado “showing signs of depression, [and] radical changes in behavior,” prompting a referral back to ...
A federal district court found that a conflict of interest existed with the Corporate Counsel of the City of New York (Corporate Counsel) representing individual employees of Prison Health Services (PHS), because they had conflicting defenses. The court’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the family of a pretrial detainee who hanged himself shortly after arriving at the Rikers Island jail.
When St. Tammany Parish jail officials determine prisoners are suicidal, they place them in “squirrel cages” after stripping them half-naked. The metal cages, which are 3’x 3’, are so small that prisoners are forced to curl up on the floor to sleep. They are not provided with a bed, blanket, shoes or a toilet. Prisoners are also placed in the cages during the booking process into the jail.
Requests to use the restroom are frequently ignored by guards, forcing some prisoners to urinate in discarded containers. Most humiliating is the fact that the cages are in the main part of the jail, allowing other prisoners to gawk at those who are so confined. Prisoners have reported being left in the cages for “days, weeks, and even over a month.”
“We appreciate that mentally ill prisoners pose a challenge for the jail, but Sheriff Strain has a legal and moral ...
“These people need to be locked up,” said Louisiana’s St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain, Jr., referring to prisoners at his jail. “They performed like animals in our society and they need to be caged like animals.” And when it comes to suicidal prisoners, Strain is doing exactly that.
Scott Tenney and six other prisoners were being transported from Circuit Court to the Oahu Community Correctional ...
A $149,500 settlement has been reached in a lawsuit brought by a Hawaiian prisoner who was denied medical care for injuries suffered after a prison transport van was involved in an accident.
Following class certification on May 12, 1995, the parties to the suit worked to reach a resolution, as evidenced by consent decrees entered in 1996, 1998 and 2001. The case was eventually ordered into mediation after Pierce County moved to dismiss the consent decree in September 2009, except as it related to medical care.
A new settlement was reached two months later that limited the remaining issues in the lawsuit to ten areas concerning medical care. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss all remaining aspects of the consent decree in September 2010. Until that point in the litigation, the court had never made factual findings. [See: PLN, Sept. 2010, p.38].
Magistrate Arnold’s October 15, 2010 report made findings on the issues of privacy during intake booking, chronic care, and alcohol withdrawal monitoring. Before making those findings, the court dismissed four other issues included in the earlier consent decree because they were “no ...
In a report and recommendation to partly deny the defendants’ motion to terminate a consent decree related to conditions of confinement at Washington State’s Pierce County Jail, U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Kelley Arnold cited conditions that contributed to the deaths of several prisoners.
Despite a prosecutor’s request for a probationary sentence, a Massachusetts federal judge sentenced Patrice Tierney, 60, the wife of U.S. Representative John F. Tierney, to 30 days in prison followed by five months on house arrest as part of two years’ supervised release. She also must pay $2,900 in court costs and fines.
In October 2010, Tierney pleaded guilty to four counts of aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns for a federal fugitive who fled the county after being indicted on charges of illegal gambling and money laundering.
From the early 1980’s to 2001, Tierney’s brother, Robert Eremian, ran a large-scale illegal gambling business. After state police raided his office in 1996, Eremian fled to Antigua in the West Indies where he set up another gambling business. Between 2003 and 2009, Patrice Tierney paid the bills for her brother’s three children and their mother, balanced Eremian’s bank account and provided information to his tax preparer that resulted in the false tax filings.
Those filings were false because rather than being paid legitimate commissions as a consultant, which is what Tierney said she believed her brother was ...
by David M. Reutter
Another judge in Alexandria, Virginia reopened a twelve-year-old criminal case and reduced the sentence of defendant Emmanuel Morris to obviate the threat of deportation. Circuit Judge Donald M. Haddock wrote, “To allow the desire for finality to trump the need for justice in this case would be a travesty.”
The rulings in these cases were closely watched by immigration attorneys who often are hired to prevent deportation after their clients have already pleaded guilty to deportable criminal offenses without having been advised by their defense counsel of the consequences of a guilty plea.
As noted by the Washington Post, “Even immigrants with green cards are subject to deportation if they commit a felony or misdemeanor that results ...
In an interesting development resulting from the case of Padilla v. Kentucky, 130 S.Ct. 1473 (2010) [PLN, Aug. 2010, p.11], a General District Court in Loudoun County, Virginia reopened four cases involving defendants who said they would not have pleaded guilty had they known they would face deportation. In Padilla, the U.S. Supreme Court held that it was ineffective assistance of counsel for an attorney not to warn a client that deportation was a collateral consequence of a criminal conviction.
Several years ago, the jail was moved from Grand Haven to West Olive. In Grand Haven there were stores and gas stations. West Olive, however, is 14 miles from Grand Haven and 16 miles from Holland. It is a six-mile walk from the jail’s current location to the nearest business, a gas station.
Around 8,000 prisoners are released from the jail annually. They leave without money, as they are issued a check for the cash they had when they entered the facility. Those without a ride are forced to walk.
“Way in the middle of nowhere when they were bringing me out here, I was like, ‘Wow, you know, where are we going, you know,’” said Frank Miller as he was released from the jail. “I’m kind of stranded. It’s unfortunate. I mean, what is a guy supposed to do? You know? It almost makes guys want to steal bicycles or bother people, or hitch hike.”
The remoteness of Michigan’s Ottawa County Jail is leaving released prisoners who have no transportation with no choice but to walk home. Consequently, local residents who live on the county roads that the releasees must travel are scared.
The family of an illegal immigrant who died from untreated penile cancer was awarded $1.73 million in damages against state prison officials by a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury on November 10, 2010. Federal defendants named in a separate lawsuit settled the family’s claims in April 2011 ...
A brouhaha has erupted in Mississippi after an unregistered sex offender, who was working on the BP oil spill cleanup, was charged with raping a co-worker. The uproar revolves around the failure to perform background checks.
Rundy Charles Robertson, 41, was supervising a crew of cleanup workers. When one of his co-workers wasn’t feeling well one day in June 2010, Robertson offered to take her home. Upon reaching her motel room, he asked to use the restroom. The victim alleged that when Robertson came out he raped her. Robertson said the sex was consensual.
Several weeks before the alleged rape, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd learned that the oil spill cleanup workers received only drug screenings, not background checks. Byrd detailed his conversation with a BP representative.
“I said, ‘You’re kidding me.’ He said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘There’s so many of them, we were told to do drug screens and that was it,’” Byrd stated. He then told the BP official, “Well, that’s not good at all. You’re going to have every type of person coming in here looking for a job, and you’re going to have the criminal element ...
by David M. Reutter
The guards were traveling via bus when a burning tree fell in front of their vehicle in the Carmel mountains near the city of Haifa. The bus became engulfed in a massive forest fire covering nearly 7,000 acres.
“The bus had no chance,” a firefighter spokesman said. “They tried to escape but were burned alive. It was a horrific scene.”
“This is a disaster of unprecedented proportions. We are harnessing all the forces of the state to deal with this disaster and rescue those who are injured and to stop the fire,” stated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The cause of the fire, which was described as the worst in Israel’s history, has not been determined. 12,000 people were evacuated as a result of the blaze, including those at a hospital, university and three prisons.
Sources: www.rttnews.com, Los Angeles Times, www.syracuse.com, www.npr.org
At least 37 prison guards died in a forest fire in Israel in December 2010. The guards were on their way to help evacuate prisoners – including Palestinian prisoners – at the Damon jail when they were killed.
Assisted by the American Civil Liberties Union, Jerry Young and Christy Colley, persons previously convicted of felonies under Mississippi state law, filed a § 1983 civil rights lawsuit in federal district court alleging that § 241 of the Mississippi Constitution granted felons the right to vote in presidential elections. They alleged that Mississippi’s denying them the right to so vote violated their Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection rights and the National Voter Registration Act. The district court agreed with Mississippi that the plaintiffs had misinterpreted § 241 and dismissed the suit. Plaintiffs appealed.
The Fifth Circuit held that the claims had been properly brought under the Equal Protection Clause and NVRA. However, the plain language of § 241 did not support plaintiffs’ interpretation. The language that plaintiffs believed exempted felons from disenfranchisement in presidential elections instead merely stated that Congress could add additional qualifications to voters voting in presidential elections in addition to the qualifications already imposed by Mississippi state law. Therefore, the dismissal was affirmed. See: Young v. Hosemann, 598 F.3d 184 ...
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that there was no exception to the disenfranchisement of felons in Mississippi state law that would allow them to vote in presidential elections.
An on-going investigation into contraband smuggling at Florida’s Broward County Jail in Fort Lauderdale has resulted in the arrest of five guards and a contract nurse.
Following months of witness interviews and a review of phone records, detectives arrested jail guards Salisia Pascoe, 30, Kiara Walker, 22, and Roderick Lopez, 30, on December 15, 2010.
The investigation of Pascoe began last November following a fight between two prisoners over the use of a cell phone. Pascoe had provided the phone to a detainee whom she later admitted to having consensual sex with in a jail storage room. When that prisoner refused to lend the cell phone to another detainee, a fight ensued. The spurned detainee then informed jail officials about the phone.
Phone records not only revealed the illicit relationship, but also that Pascoe had arranged to smuggle marijuana into the jail. She was charged with two counts of using a cell phone to facilitate a felony, one count of sexual misconduct with a prisoner and one count of introducing contraband into a detention facility.
When a cell phone fell from the underwear of prisoner John Toussaint during a pat-down search by a jail sergeant ...
by David M. Reutter
by Jordan Flaherty
New Orleans’ criminal justice system is at a crossroads. A new mayor and police chief say they want to make major changes, and the police department is facing lawsuits and federal investigations that may profoundly affect the department. But a simultaneous, and less publicized, struggle is being waged and the results will likely define the city’s justice system for a generation: the city’s jail, damaged during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, needs to be replaced. City leaders must now decide how big the new institution will be.
At first, it seemed like an expansion of the Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) was inevitable. This is a city with one of the highest rates of violent crime in the U.S., and politicians rarely lose votes by calling for more jail cells. But in a city that has led the nation in incarceration, residents across race and class lines are questioning fundamental assumptions about what works in criminal justice.
With 3,500 beds in a city of about 350,000 residents, Orleans Parish Prison is already the largest per capita county jail of ...
A Struggle Over the Size of New Orleans’ Jail Could Define the City’s Future
The experiments were condemned by Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom, who accused the U.S. of “crimes against humanity.” President Barack Obama called President Colom to apologize, and agreed that the acts were contrary to American values. According to the BBC, “Syphilis can cause heart problems, blindness, mental illness, and even death, and although the patients were treated with penicillin, it is not known how many recovered.”
The experimentation on Guatemalan prisoners, soldiers and mentally ill patients was discovered by Professor Susan M. Reverby of Wellesley College, who said the medical studies took place between 1946 and 1948. They were conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service, the National Institutes of Health and the Pan American Health Sanitary Bureau (now the Pan American Health Organization). While Guatemalan government officials had consented to the experiments, they did not receive all of the relevant details related to the ...
The United States’ relationship with the Central American nation of Guatemala probably hit a new low in October 2010 with the revelation that as part of U.S. medical studies conducted over sixty years ago in Guatemala, prisoners, soldiers and mentally ill patients were infected with gonorrhea and syphilis without their knowledge or consent.
On September 29, 2010, the Office of the County Counsel (OCC) for Los Angeles County, California recommended a $199,000 settlement of a claim alleging that a Los Angeles County Probation Department employee had sexually assaulted a teenage boy. In an unrelated case, the OCC recommended a settlement of $245 ...
Crime lab analysts and agents with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) have been accused of pushing the limits of accepted science and police procedures to provide pro-prosecution results. The accusations appeared well-founded after an audit ordered by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper found that 229 criminal prosecutions had been tainted because SBI analysts reported the results of initial blood tests while withholding the outcomes of more sophisticated confirmation blood tests in reports sent to prosecutors.
The accrediting agency for the SBI’s crime lab, which should have discovered the problems, has been criticized for being too closely associated with a crime lab trade group and a for-profit accreditation consulting agency. [See: PLN, Oct. 2010, p.1]. Adding to the controversy, a recently-retired SBI agent has accused the SBI of blaming him for withholding exculpatory information in a twelve-year-old murder case, while another agent is contesting his termination for misrepresenting blood test evidence.
ASCLD-LAB, the nation’s largest forensic crime lab accreditation association, is located in a strip mall in Johnston County, North Carolina. The ASCLD trade association of forensic crime labs and ASCLD Consulting, a for-profit consulting company that instructs labs on how ...
by Matt Clarke
As part of the SCA, Congress expanded the BOP’s authority to make halfway house placements in order to better assist offenders transitioning back into society. Before the SCA, the BOP could place a prisoner in a halfway house for up to six months. The SCA doubled that placement time to 12 months.
Despite the increased use of halfway houses permitted – indeed, encouraged – by the SCA, the BOP largely refused to place prisoners in halfway houses for longer than six months. That refusal stemmed from an unexplained, unsupported assertion found in a 2008 BOP memorandum that stated prisoners’ re-entry needs “can usually be accommodated by a placement of six months or less.”
Tim Ray Sacora and several other BOP prisoners petitioned for habeas relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, arguing that the BOP was not properly implementing the SCA. They claimed that the BOP ...
On December 6, 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled against federal prisoners who argued that the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) was not properly implementing the Second Chance Act (SCA), a law designed to boost re-entry programs and services for released prisoners. [See: PLN, Feb. 2009, p.8].
The legislation comes in response to a rising number of cell phone confiscations by the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). In 2009, over 2,600 cell phones were discovered in minimum security prison camps. Another 600 were found in the BOP’s low, medium and high security facilities.
The new law makes possession or use of a cell phone or wireless device a crime punishable by up to a year in prison. The law also covers the smuggling of cell phones into BOP facilities.
“Now that this bill has become law, prison gangs will no longer be able to use cell phones to direct criminal attacks on individuals, to decide territory for the distribution of drugs, or conduct credit card fraud,” said Democratic U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein, a co-sponsor of the bill.
A report on the effectiveness of the new federal law is due by August 2011. The report will also address the prison telephone rates charged by the BOP. [See: PLN, April 2011, p.1].
The California legislature passed ...
Legislation barring the possession or use of cell phones by federal prisoners, the Cell Phone Contraband Act (S.1749), was signed into law by President Obama in August 2010.
Alvin Parker is a frequent litigant in Oklahoma courts. Convicted of second-degree murder, Parker has unsuccessfully sought post-conviction relief eight times in Oklahoma state courts. On his ninth attempt he was sanctioned.
The trial court concluded that Parker’s ninth application for post-conviction relief was frivolous because it included issues that had already been raised and rejected.
Accordingly, the court sanctioned Parker and ordered him to: (1) pay $3,000 for attorney’s fees and costs, court clerk’s costs, and the court’s time and expense; (2) forego 720 days of good time; and (3) relinquish his non-essential personal property to prison officials for nine months.
Parker sought federal habeas relief arguing that the state court’s imposition of sanctions violated due process because his habeas petition, albeit his ninth, was not in fact frivolous.
In his most recent application for post-conviction relief, Parker argued that a key prosecution witness had lied at his trial about the existence of a deal in exchange for leniency ...
Sanctions imposed by an Oklahoma trial court on a state prisoner who filed a “frivolous” habeas petition were improper, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held in an unpublished opinion.
On December 2, 2010, a Texas federal court entered summary judgment in favor of a visitor to a state prisoner who had sued the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) for failing to adequately accommodate his disability.
Jeremy Durrenberger, who is hearing impaired, visited state prisoner Jeremy ...
by Matt Clarke
Telb and three sheriff’s employees were indicted after Lucas County jail prisoner Carlton Benton, 25, died on June 1, 2004 after being taken to a hospital unconscious and unresponsive. Benton’s death was believed to have been the result of a beating and “sleeper hold” administered by guards. [See: PLN, Oct. 2009, p.48].
Sheriff Telb was accused of covering up the incident and lying to the FBI about what had happened. Robert McBroom, an internal affairs investigator at the jail, faced similar charges. He also was acquitted at trial.
John E. Gray, a former jail sergeant, was charged with violating Benton’s civil rights by leaving him in his cell unconscious without medical attention. Gray was also charged with lying to the FBI and falsifying reports concerning the incident. He was convicted of the civil rights charges and one count of falsifying reports.
Jay M. Schmeltz, a retired Lucas County deputy, was charged with civil rights violations after he was captured on video pushing Benton while Benton was shackled. Schmeltz was acquitted of the civil ...
On December 3, 2010, Lucas County, Ohio Sheriff James Telb was acquitted of all criminal charges related to the death of a prisoner.
One of the prisoners approached by Sweeney, Bryce McKinley, said he received two checks, one for $175.30 and the other for $420. Sweeney then allegedly told him “a glitch occurred in the accounting system,” and demanded that McKinley cash the checks and give him the proceeds of the $420 check. A bank official noticed McKinley video recording the transaction and notified authorities, leading to an investigation that revealed Sweeney had improperly issued other checks.
For example, a $460 check was cut to a released prisoner identified as “R.F.” According to R.F., Sweeney told him to meet at the bank and cash the check. Sweeney then kept $400 and gave $60 to R.F. Another former prisoner, “S.N.,” received a $500 check from Sweeney, who drove ...
The administrator of the jail in Washburn County, Wisconsin was charged in November 2010 in connection with a scheme to defraud public funds. Bruk L. Sweeney, 37, was arrested on four counts of misconduct in office and two counts of forgery. The alleged scheme involved Sweeney issuing refund checks to newly-released prisoners for more money than they were due, then persuading them to cash the checks and give him the difference.
Colorado state prisoner Michael Whitington filed a § 1983 complaint that accused the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) of forcing him to choose between hygiene and dental care or access to the courts. In 2003, the CDOC reduced the maximum daily wage for employed prisoners to $.28 from $2.03 – an 86 percent reduction. After deductions for restitution, child support and/or court fees, little is left for even basic hygiene items that the state does not provide. Further, medical care surcharges for prisoners increased from $.50 to $5.00 per visit ($10 for emergencies), and legal photocopy fees rose 400 percent in 2008.
Under this tight financial squeeze, Whitington labored to pay his court expenses while maintaining basic hygiene. The CDOC provided only one roll of toilet paper per week unless the prisoner was “indigent,” which, by the CDOC’s own definition, occurs only if the prisoner receives no pay. Since all prisoners receive some form of pay – even unemployed prisoners receive $.23 per weekday – no ...
For the second time, the Tenth Circuit has reversed the dismissal of a pro se prisoner’s lawsuit alleging he was denied basic hygiene items when his available money was spent on court-related expenses.
Thirty-seven years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396 (1974), a ruling that has since proven to be the high-water mark for prisoner rights.
On April 29, 1974, the high court invalidated California Department of Corrections regulations that allowed sweeping censorship of prisoner mail.
One regulation allowed prison officials to ban any prisoner letters that “unduly complain” or “magnify grievances.” Another permitted the censorship of prisoner mail that expressed “inflammatory political, racial, religious, or other views or beliefs.” Yet another gave corrections officials the right to censor prisoner mail that said anything “defamatory” or “inappropriate.” In reality, these rules allowed officials to censor any prisoner letters they wanted.
Before examining those restrictions, the Court did something significant – it established a constitutional baseline for reviewing prisoner First Amendment claims. Traditionally, courts had taken an approach of total deference to prison officials. In its decision in Procunier v. Martinez, the Court ruled that – at least with regard to censorship of prisoner mail – corrections officials had to show a substantial government interest in a particular regulation and that the regulation must be “no greater than is necessary or essential to the ...
by David L. Hudson, Jr.
In August 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released a report on the most recent national survey of prisoners on the topic of sexual victimization in prisons and jails. The survey was conducted at 167 state and federal prisons, 286 jails and 10 special confinement facilities between October 2008 and December 2009.
Over 76,450 prisoners answered questions about unwanted sexual contact involving other prisoners and any type of sexual activity with prison or jail staff. Most of the prisoners, all of whom were at least 18 years old, completed the survey in private using a touch-screen interfaced computer-assisted questionnaire; 726 prisoners who were in segregation or considered too violent to be interviewed filled out a paper questionnaire form. The survey fulfilled the requirements of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) for an annual comprehensive statistical review and analysis of incidents and effects of prison rape.
The survey found that 4.4% of state and federal prisoners and 3.1% of jail prisoners reported at least one incident of sexual victimization by other prisoners or staff within the preceding 12 months. Extrapolating this to the entire U.S. prison and ...
by Matt Clarke
Brian Walters, 47, pleaded guilty on August 17, 2010 to charges of theft of government property after an investigation by the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General discovered that he stole nalbuphine hydrochloride, a narcotic pain killer, from FCI Fairton’s pharmacy from July 2008 to July 2009. He also stole other drug paraphenalia.
Walters, an employee of the U.S. Public Health Service, had worked at FCI Fairton since 1991. He was sentenced on December 1, 2010 to a three-year term of probation, $7,041.44 in restitution and a $1,000 fine. See: United States v. Walters, U.S.D.C. (D. NJ), Case No. 1:10-cr-00550-JEI.
Sources: The Daily Journal, U.S. Attorney press release
The former chief pharmacist at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Fairton, New Jersey has admitted to stealing more than $7,000 worth of drugs, needles and other supplies from the prison’s pharmacy.
On May 17, 2010, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s grant of summary judgment to prison officials on the eve of trial, holding it was an abuse of discretion to grant the oral motion for summary judgment so late in the proceedings. The appellate court also held that the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) does not impose a strict timing requirement on prison officials to raise the affirmative defense of failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
Before the Third Circuit was the appeal of Pennsylvania prisoner Jeffrey Allen Drippe. His civil rights complaint alleged an Eighth Amendment violation for denial of prompt medical treatment by guard Ralph Gototewski. Drippe was forced on August 1, 2004 to shower in a dirty shower without footwear. By August 4 he had become extremely sick with flu-like symptoms and a swollen leg.
Gototewski came to Drippe’s cell and stated, “that looks really bad.” He told Drippe that he would inform the Unit Sergeant, but Drippe was not taken to medical until August 7. He was diagnosed with cellulitis.
In answering Drippe’s complaint, Gototewski raised several defenses, with failure to exhaust administrative remedies being the ...
by David M. Reutter
More than half of those deported, 195,772, had criminal convictions – which was an increase of more than 81,000 deportations of such immigrants compared with the last year of the Bush presidency.
According to the New York Times, the Obama administration has been under “intense pressure to show that they are tough on illegal immigration.”
Of course, that is contradicted by the fact that the U.S. Justice Department filed a well-publicized lawsuit against the State of Arizona in an effort to strike down that state’s legislative attempt to increase arrests of illegal immigrants. [See: PLN, Nov. 2010, p.1].
According to the Times, “an outcry from Latinos in the state and nationwide, who said [the law] could lead to harassment and racial profiling...” helped trigger the lawsuit by the Justice Department. The Arizona statute, SB 1070, has been partially stayed by a federal judge.
Napolitano claimed that the Obama administration was trying to concentrate deportation efforts on “removing those ...
According to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano in an October 2010 statement, the United States set a record for deporting immigrants in the fiscal year that ended last September, reaching 392,862 deportations.
Afterwards, a message posted on an anarchist website claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that anarchists had vandalized the DOC office and vehicles because the department “oversees the administration of probation and forced drug [tests].” The attack was “against this institution in particular and the police apparatus in general.”
According to the online post, “Six DOC vehicles were disabled. Their tires were slashed and their windows destroyed with glass etching fluid. ‘Burn the Prisons’ and a circled A were scrawled across [the] DOC building’s veneer.” The circled A is a common symbol used to denote anarchy.
The message also linked the DOC to the Prison Industrial Complex and said the attack was “an act of revolutionary solidarity” with comrades Eric Oseland, David Japenga and Alfredo Bonanno, “who was recently released from Greek Prison.”
The online message closed with the following: “In a world dominated by these institutions and saturated by police, we did ...
On November 24, 2010, the tires of six vehicles belonging to the North Carolina Department of Correction (DOC) were slashed in a parking lot in Asheville, North Carolina, and an adjacent building housing a DOC office was defaced. The total damage was estimated at $3,000.
The study was prompted by reports in the news media commencing in 2004 that highlighted unusual prisoner deaths, and the lack of success that family members had in obtaining information as to the cause of the deaths. “Relatives of the deceased prisoners reported that they were not notified that their relative died on account of health problems, and in many cases were not notified that their relative had died at all,” the report stated.
According to jail authorities, the deaths were not due to violent causes and were unrelated to aggression from other prisoners. The study, among several findings reached following the ACLU’s investigation, revealed that prison officials were extremely uncooperative ...
An investigative report released by the Puerto Rico chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in July 2010, concerning the Guerrero Correctional Institution in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, found that 53 prisoners had died during a six-year period from 2002 to 2008. According to the report, it was “particularly alarming that many of these deaths occurred during [the prisoners’] first days in jail. In the most extreme cases, the deaths occurred during the first forty-eight (48) hours following admission of the prisoner or detainee to that correctional facility.”
The Adam Walsh Act, enacted by Congress in 2006, permits the civil commitment of “sexually dangerous” persons. Sexual dangerousness is demonstrated upon a showing of clear and convincing evidence that the person “suffers from a serious mental illness, abnormality, or disorder as a result of which he would have serious difficulty in refraining from sexually violent conduct or child molestation if released.” 18 U.S.C. § 4247(a)(5)-(6).
On March 9, 2007, the federal government instituted civil commitment proceedings against Todd Carta. Carta was incarcerated for his first sex offense but had a long history of sexual contact with minors. The government sought certification of Carta as a sexually dangerous person on the basis that he suffered from “hebephilia,” which, according to the Bureau of Prisons doctor who diagnosed him, is a sexual preference for “young teens ...
On June 4, 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro ordered the release of a federal prisoner the government had sought to civilly commit as a sexually dangerous person. In ordering the release, Judge Tauro concluded that the government had failed to show that the prisoner suffered from a “serious mental illness, abnormality, or disorder” that justified civil commitment.
On February 13, 2007, when Steven Ross McFarland, an Iraqi war veteran, was arrested ...
On August 20, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed a district court’s denial of qualified immunity to six Garland County Adult Detention Center (GCADC) staff accused of deliberate indifference.
Kelvin Brown sued the VDOC after nearly a year’s worth of ...
The Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by a prisoner at Red Onion State Prison over the rejection of numerous issues of The Final Call, a newspaper of the Nation of Islam.
Martin Roginsky, 82, was charged with ten felony counts of criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance after he was caught selling $261,000 worth of painkillers to an undercover cop from Rockville Centre, New York. The drugs had an estimated street value of $10 million to $15 million, according to authorities.
Roginsky was responsible for medical care at the Nassau County Jail from 1999-2001. He was fired in 2001 after state and federal investigators questioned the quality of care being provided to prisoners at the jail. One prisoner died as a result of poor medical treatment during Roginsky’s tenure.
He also served as a staff physician at the Suffolk County Jail, and resigned in lieu of being terminated. He had been writing prescriptions for “staff of the Jail, including corrections officers, nurses, physician assistants and even the warden.” Roginsky later filed suit, claiming age discrimination. See: Roginsky v. County of Suffolk, U.S.D.C. (E.D. NY), Case No. 2:09-cv-01160-DRH-ARL.
The charges against Roginsky remain ...
The former clinical director of the jail in Nassau County, New York was charged in December 2010 with selling oxycodone, oxycontin and roxycodone without performing patient evaluations or exams.
On August 17, 2010, Frank D. Munnell, Deputy Chief and Patrol Bureau Commander at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), sent a 63-page memorandum to Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The memo, which was made public the following month, accused several high-ranking MCSO officials – including Chief Deputy David Hendershott, Deputy Chief Larry Black and Captain Joel Fox – of serious misconduct, some of which constituted felony offenses under Arizona state law.
The overall theme of Munnell’s memo was that Hendershott ran the MCSO like a tyrant, punishing anyone who failed to obey his orders regardless of their legality, and retaliating against anybody who dared to complain or who cooperated with any of the many investigations of the MCSO by state and federal authorities.
Another theme was that Hendershott used his control of the MCSO to place unqualified friends and relatives in command positions, where some of them acted in an unprofessional and juvenile fashion instead of taking their duties seriously. Munnell’s allegations included “malfeasance, nepotism, corruption, mismanagement, political impropriety and violations of [the MCSO’s] Code of Conduct,” as well as at least four felonies and interference with disclosure of public information.
Hendershott was accused of using ...
by Matt Clarke
California: Napa County jail prisoner Vernon Cannon, 29, was left in critical condition after wrapping himself in toilet paper and setting himself on fire using a spark from an electrical outlet in his cell on February 9, 2011. Cannon was a patient at a mental hospital before he was charged with assault and transferred to the jail. “People who are intent on hurting themselves can often be very, very creative,” stated Napa County spokesperson Elizabeth Emmett. Around 100 other prisoners were temporarily evacuated due to smoke from the fire. Cannon was hospitalized with second- and third-degree burns.
California: When Earl Lee Vogt, 29, arrived at the Lake County jail to begin serving his sentence, he brought a few recreational items ...
Arkansas: During a search for contraband at the Greene County Jail, three guards and a sheriff’s deputy were locked in a cell by prisoner Jacob Rodden. The October 10, 2010 incident occurred after Rodden ran out of the cell, closed the door behind the guards who were inside conducting the search, and locked it. Sheriff Dan Langston said the embarrassing mishap was due to poor training, and the guards involved would not face discipline. Rodden was placed on lockdown.