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Prison Legal News: June, 2011

Issue PDF
Volume 22, Number 6

In this issue:

  1. States Scramble to Find Lethal Injection Drugs (p 1)
  2. Three Fulton County, Georgia Jail Guards Sentenced in Prisoner Abuse Investigation (p 10)
  3. Blind Virginia Prisoner Settles Suit to Accommodate Disability (p 11)
  4. From the Editor (p 12)
  5. Wexford Enters Into Confidential Settlement in New Mexico Prisoner’s Death (p 12)
  6. Fire at Overcrowded Chilean Prison Kills Over 80 Prisoners (p 13)
  7. Savings from North Carolina Prisoner Slave Labor Result in Additional Prison Beds (p 14)
  8. Uncollected Court Debts Piling Up in Tennessee (p 14)
  9. New York Jury Awards Wrongfully Convicted Man $18.5 Million, but Court Grants Motion to Set Aside Verdict (p 16)
  10. Ninth Circuit Upholds Washington’s “Two Strikes Law” for Repeat Sex Offenders (p 16)
  11. Washington Prisoner Discovers Good Time Error; County Officials Admit and Correct Mistake (p 17)
  12. PHS and NY Jail Employees Have Conflict of Interest with Legal Representation (p 18)
  13. Louisiana Sheriff Cages Suicidal Prisoners in Space Smaller than Required for Dogs (p 18)
  14. $149,500 Settlement for Hawaiian Prisoner Denied Medical Care After Transport Accident (p 19)
  15. Washington: Pierce County Jail Suit Ends After 15 Years (p 20)
  16. Federal Courts Reject Leniency Pleas from Politically-Connected Defendants (p 20)
  17. Hopes Dashed for Criminal Defendants Facing Deportation in Virginia (p 22)
  18. Releasees from Rural Michigan Jail Frighten Neighbors on Long Walk Home (p 22)
  19. Family of California Immigration Prisoner Who Died Due to Untreated Cancer Gets $3.68 Million (p 24)
  20. Uproar Over Background Checks for BP Oil Spill Workers Following Rape Allegation Against Sex Offender (p 24)
  21. Dozens of Israeli Prison Guards Die in Fire (p 25)
  22. Fifth Circuit Holds Mississippi Felons May Not Vote in Presidential Elections (p 26)
  23. Six Florida Jail Staff Arrested in Contraband Smuggling Probe (p 26)
  24. The Incarceration Capital of the U.S. (p 28)
  25. U.S. Admits Infecting Prisoners, Mentally Ill Patients in Guatemala in 1940s (p 30)
  26. Los Angeles County Approves $444,000 in Settlements for Sexual Assaults by County Employees (p 31)
  27. Controversy Involving North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab (p 32)
  28. Ninth Circuit Rejects Challenge to BOP’s Implementation of Second Chance Act (p 34)
  29. Federal Cell Phone Ban Becomes Law; California Bill Vetoed, then Re-Introduced (p 34)
  30. Sanctions Against Prisoner for Alleged “Frivolous” Habeas Petition Improper, Tenth Circuit Decides (p 35)
  31. Texas Prison System Must Accommodate Hearing-Impaired Visitors (p 36)
  32. Ohio: Mixed Verdicts Against Guards Involved in Prisoner’s Death (p 36)
  33. Wisconsin County Jail Administrator Charged with Stealing Jail Funds (p 37)
  34. Tenth Circuit Reverses Lawsuit on Hygiene Versus Court Access for Second Time (p 38)
  35. Remembering the High Point of Prisoner Rights (p 39)
  36. Department of Justice Reports on Sexual Victimization in U.S. Prisons and Jails (p 40)
  37. Ex-BOP Pharmacist Sentenced for Stealing Drugs (p 41)
  38. No Time Limit for Defendants to Raise a PLRA Defense (p 42)
  39. U.S. Deportations Set Record in 2010 (p 42)
  40. Anarchists Claim Attack on NC Department of Correction (p 43)
  41. ACLU Investigates Prisoners’ Deaths at Puerto Rican Prison (p 44)
  42. First Circuit Reverses Finding that Sexual Interest in Adolescents Not Disorder Warranting Civil Commitment (p 44)
  43. Eighth Circuit Affirms Denial of Qualified Immunity for Guards Accused of Deliberate Indifference; $5.2 Million Verdict, $450,000 Settlement on Remand (p 46)
  44. Virginia DOC Settles Censorship Suit Over The Final Call (p 46)
  45. New York Ex-Jail Doctor Charged With Selling Prescription Painkillers (p 47)
  46. Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Insider Makes Misconduct Allegations; Resignations Result (p 48)
  47. News In Brief: (p 50)

States Scramble to Find Lethal Injection Drugs

by David M. Reutter

“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 ...

Three Fulton County, Georgia Jail Guards Sentenced in Prisoner Abuse Investigation

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.

The FBI had investigated the guards due to two incidents ...

Blind Virginia Prisoner Settles Suit to Accommodate Disability

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.

Fluvanna Correctional Center prisoner Mildred ...

From the Editor

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 ...

Wexford Enters Into Confidential Settlement in New Mexico Prisoner’s Death

by David M. Reutter

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 ...

Fire at Overcrowded Chilean Prison Kills Over 80 Prisoners

by Matt Clarke

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 ...

Savings from North Carolina Prisoner Slave Labor Result in Additional Prison Beds

by David M. Reutter

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 ...

Uncollected Court Debts Piling Up in Tennessee

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.

Davidson County (with Nashville as the county seat) has $290 million in uncollected fines and ...

New York Jury Awards Wrongfully Convicted Man $18.5 Million, but Court Grants Motion to Set Aside Verdict

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.

Alan Newton ...

Ninth Circuit Upholds Washington’s “Two Strikes Law” for Repeat Sex Offenders

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 ...

Washington Prisoner Discovers Good Time Error; County Officials Admit and Correct Mistake

by David M. Reutter

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 ...

PHS and NY Jail Employees Have Conflict of Interest with Legal Representation

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 ...

Louisiana Sheriff Cages Suicidal Prisoners in Space Smaller than Required for Dogs

“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 ...

$149,500 Settlement for Hawaiian Prisoner Denied Medical Care After Transport Accident

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.

Scott Tenney and six other prisoners were being transported from Circuit Court to the Oahu Community Correctional ...

Washington: Pierce County Jail Suit Ends After 15 Years

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.

Following class certification on May ...

Federal Courts Reject Leniency Pleas from Politically-Connected Defendants

by David M. Reutter

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 ...

Hopes Dashed for Criminal Defendants Facing Deportation in Virginia

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 ...

Releasees from Rural Michigan Jail Frighten Neighbors on Long Walk Home

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.

Several years ago, the jail was moved from Grand Haven to ...

Family of California Immigration Prisoner Who Died Due to Untreated Cancer Gets $3.68 Million

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 ...

Uproar Over Background Checks for BP Oil Spill Workers Following Rape Allegation Against Sex Offender

by David M. Reutter

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 ...

Dozens of Israeli Prison Guards Die in Fire

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.

The guards were traveling via bus when a burning tree fell in front of ...

Fifth Circuit Holds Mississippi Felons May Not Vote in Presidential Elections

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.

Assisted by the American Civil Liberties Union, Jerry Young and Christy Colley, persons previously convicted of felonies under Mississippi state ...

Six Florida Jail Staff Arrested in Contraband Smuggling Probe

by David M. Reutter

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 ...

The Incarceration Capital of the U.S.

A Struggle Over the Size of New Orleans’ Jail Could Define the City’s Future

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 ...

U.S. Admits Infecting Prisoners, Mentally Ill Patients in Guatemala in 1940s

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 ...

Los Angeles County Approves $444,000 in Settlements for Sexual Assaults by County Employees

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 ...

Controversy Involving North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab

by Matt Clarke

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 ...

Ninth Circuit Rejects Challenge to BOP’s Implementation of Second Chance Act

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 ...

Federal Cell Phone Ban Becomes Law; California Bill Vetoed, then Re-Introduced

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.

The legislation comes in response to a rising number of cell phone confiscations by the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). In ...

Sanctions Against Prisoner for Alleged “Frivolous” Habeas Petition Improper, Tenth Circuit Decides

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.

Alvin Parker is a frequent litigant in Oklahoma courts. Convicted of second-degree murder, Parker has unsuccessfully ...

Texas Prison System Must Accommodate Hearing-Impaired Visitors

by Matt Clarke

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 ...

Ohio: Mixed Verdicts Against Guards Involved in Prisoner’s Death

On December 3, 2010, Lucas County, Ohio Sheriff James Telb was acquitted of all criminal charges related to the death of a prisoner.

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 ...

Wisconsin County Jail Administrator Charged with Stealing Jail Funds

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 ...

Tenth Circuit Reverses Lawsuit on Hygiene Versus Court Access for Second Time

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.

Colorado state prisoner Michael Whitington filed a § 1983 complaint that accused the Colorado Department of Corrections ...

Remembering the High Point of Prisoner Rights

by David L. Hudson, Jr.

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 ...

Department of Justice Reports on Sexual Victimization in U.S. Prisons and Jails

by Matt Clarke

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 ...

Ex-BOP Pharmacist Sentenced for Stealing Drugs

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.

Brian Walters, 47, pleaded guilty on August 17, 2010 to charges of theft of government property ...

No Time Limit for Defendants to Raise a PLRA Defense

by David M. Reutter

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 ...

U.S. Deportations Set Record in 2010

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.

More than half of those deported, 195,772, had criminal convictions – which ...

Anarchists Claim Attack on NC Department of Correction

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.

Afterwards, a message posted ...

ACLU Investigates Prisoners’ Deaths at Puerto Rican Prison

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 ...

First Circuit Reverses Finding that Sexual Interest in Adolescents Not Disorder Warranting Civil Commitment

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 ...

Eighth Circuit Affirms Denial of Qualified Immunity for Guards Accused of Deliberate Indifference; $5.2 Million Verdict, $450,000 Settlement on Remand

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.

On February 13, 2007, when Steven Ross McFarland, an Iraqi war veteran, was arrested ...

Virginia DOC Settles Censorship Suit Over The Final Call

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.

Kelvin Brown sued the VDOC after nearly a year’s worth of ...

New York Ex-Jail Doctor Charged With Selling Prescription Painkillers

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.

Martin Roginsky, 82, was charged with ten felony counts of criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance after he ...

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Insider Makes Misconduct Allegations; Resignations Result

by Matt Clarke

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 ...

News In Brief:

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 ...