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Prison Legal News: September, 2011

Issue PDF
Volume 22, Number 9

In this issue:

  1. Remembering Attica Forty Years Later (p 1)
  2. Extra Earned Time Sentence Reductions Save Oregon $25 Million (p 12)
  3. From the Editor (p 14)
  4. 800,000 Ex-Offenders Regain Voting Rights – 5.3 Million More to Go (p 15)
  5. Female Prisoners Removed from CCA Facility in Kentucky (p 16)
  6. PLN Files Censorship Suit Against Michigan Jail over “Postcard Only” Policy (p 19)
  7. Reform Comes to Maine Supermax: New commissioner cuts population by more than half; prisoner rights advocates help in the reform (p 20)
  8. $73,700 Jury Award for Guard’s Sexual Encounters with Massachusetts Prisoner (p 23)
  9. New Mexico Spends $20 Million in Federal Stimulus Money to Fund Prison Jobs (p 24)
  10. Sixth Circuit Upholds Tennessee’s Financial Obligation Re-Enfranchisement Law (p 24)
  11. Ninth Circuit Finds Maricopa County Jail’s Cross-Gender Strip Searches Unreasonable (p 26)
  12. $60 Million in Strip Search Settlements for Cook County Jail Prisoners (p 26)
  13. California: OAL Disapproves Proposed Parole Board Regulation Formalizing Lifer Risk Assessments (p 27)
  14. Feds Pay Wrongfully Convicted D.C. Men $1.9 Million (p 28)
  15. Florida Reenacts Reconstruction-Era Felon Disenfranchisement Rule (p 28)
  16. EEOC Files Suit Against GEO Group for Sexual Harassment at Arizona Prisons (p 29)
  17. Georgia Deputy Fired for Refusing Threesome with Sheriff (p 30)
  18. Feds Intervene in Suit, Allege “Sadistic” Stun Gun Use at Ohio Jail; Jail Settles (p 30)
  19. Federal Court Dismisses Virginia Lifers’ Parole Suit (p 32)
  20. New Laws Improve Job Prospects for Former Prisoners (p 32)
  21. Florida Prisoner’s Suicide Suit Settles for $500,000 (p 33)
  22. $85,000 Settlement in Philadelphia Wrongful Imprisonment Suit (p 34)
  23. Former Federal Prisoner Seeks Almost $280,000 in Attorney Fees from BOP (p 34)
  24. Prisoners Used to Clean Foreclosed Houses in Georgia (p 35)
  25. Third Circuit Upholds Unanimity Requirement for Pennsylvania Pardon Recommendations (p 35)
  26. Texas Chaplain Who Complained of Jail Conditions Reinstated, Suit Settled (p 36)
  27. Protective Order Denied in Privately Run Florida Juvenile Facility Class-Action Suit (p 36)
  28. $4.5 Million Settlement in Texas County Jail Strip Search Suit (p 37)
  29. Florida’s House Speaker Wants to Quicken Executions (p 38)
  30. Third Circuit Upholds Pennsylvania Sex Offender Treatment Parole Requirement (p 38)
  31. Michigan Prisoner’s Failure to Protect Case Settles for $100,000 (p 39)
  32. Florida Courts Criticize Indefinite Detention While Awaiting Civil Commitment Trials (p 40)
  33. North Carolina Prisoner’s First-Degree Murder Conviction is Valid Basis to Deny Awarding Good Time Credits (p 40)
  34. Parole Violator Leaps to Death at Alaskan Jail (p 41)
  35. North Carolina Jail Prisoner Housed with TB Infected Cellmate Receives $2,250 Settlement (p 41)
  36. New Mexico State Auditor Investigates Prison Contracts (p 42)
  37. Washington State Closes McNeil Island Prison (p 42)
  38. Canadian Prison Guards Hold Prisoners at Gunpoint for 10 Days (p 43)
  39. Smoke ’Em if You Got ’Em, Says Oklahoma DOC (p 43)
  40. California: Orange County Jail System Ordered to Remedy ADA Violations (p 44)
  41. Oregon Settles Prisoner’s Heart Failure Medical Mistreatment Case for $390,000 (p 44)
  42. Arizona County to Pay Ex-Prisoner $325,000 in Jail Guard Beating (p 45)
  43. An American Radical: Political Prisoner in My Own Country, by Susan Rosenberg (Kensington Publishing Corp. 2011), 400 pages, $14.95 paperback (p 46)
  44. UNICOR Wins $20 Million No-Bid Body Armor Contract (p 46)
  45. Federal Stimulus Money Not Spent as Intended by San Diego County Probation Department (p 47)
  46. Paperwork SNAFU Leaves Mentally Ill Woman Jailed in Louisiana for Eight Months (p 48)
  47. California State Auditor Reports on CDCR Malfeasance (p 48)
  48. Official Capacity Not the Same as Governmental Agency in Texas Civil Suit (p 49)
  49. News In Brief (p 50)

Remembering Attica Forty Years Later

by Dennis Cunningham, Michael Deutsch & Elizabeth Fink

This year, September 9 will mark the 40th anniversary of the rebellion at Attica State Prison in upstate New York. As one of the prisoner leaders, L.D. Barkley, announced to the world, the rebellion was “but the sound before the fury of those who are oppressed.”
The sound of Attica was heard loud and clear, but the fury at the time was reserved to the assault force: several hundred violently angry white state police officers and prison guards who carried out the massacre that ended the rebellion on September 13, 1971, with 43 men dead. The fury of the oppressed themselves has been a work in progress since that time.

L.D. was one of many politically aware prisoners in New York and elsewhere who identified with the struggle for liberation world-wide, with consciousness growing out of the civil rights movement, the urban uprisings of the 60s, and the ideology and practices of Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party. This consciousness was given voice in the writings of George Jackson and Eldridge Cleaver, especially Soledad Brother and Soul on Ice, whose searing indictments of injustice, racism and cruelty in California prisons echoed across the country and inspired resistance.

A manifesto demanding reform had come out of California’s Folsom Prison in 1970 and made its way around the country and into Attica, and the prisoners there had delivered a manifesto of their own to New York state authorities, which was ignored, several months before the rebellion. George Jackson was assassinated at San Quentin on August 21, 1971; a few days later the prisoners at Attica staged a surprise protest at breakfast, during which nobody ate and nobody talked. The guards were stunned and unnerved at the unanimity of the protest action.

A number of the prisoners had been involved in previous ...

Extra Earned Time Sentence Reductions Save Oregon $25 Million

Early prison releases saved Oregon at least $25 million in 2009, according to an audit report by the Secretary of State’s office released in December 2010.

On November 1, 1989, Oregon replaced its indeterminate parole matrix sentencing system with a determinate sentencing guideline system. Like similar shifts across the ...

From the Editor

The modern era of prison reform in the United States was ushered in 40 years ago this month in a hail of blood and gunfire at Attica State Prison in New York. Afterwards the refrain was that every prison was Attica and Attica was every prison. Today it is hard ...

800,000 Ex-Offenders Regain Voting Rights – 5.3 Million More to Go

Since 1997, an estimated 800,000 former offenders have regained their voting rights as 23 states eased or eliminated felony disenfranchisement statutes and policies, according to a recent report by The Sentencing Project. Still, only seven states – Texas, Florida, Iowa, New Mexico, Maryland, Nebraska and Connecticut – accounted for 773,000 ...

Female Prisoners Removed from CCA Facility in Kentucky

Five years of staff-on-prisoner sexual abuse, inadequate medical care, security lapses and other problems finally forced Kentucky and Hawaiian officials to remove about 600 female prisoners from a privately-operated prison.

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest private-prison company, runs the Otter Creek Correctional Center (OCCC) in Wheelwright ...

PLN Files Censorship Suit Against Michigan Jail over “Postcard Only” Policy

On August 9, 2011, Prison Legal News filed a federal lawsuit against Livingston County, Michigan and the county’s sheriff, Bob Bezotte, alleging First and Fourteenth Amendment violations due to improper censorship at the Livingston County Jail. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District ...

Reform Comes to Maine Supermax: New commissioner cuts population by more than half; prisoner rights advocates help in the reform

Less than three months into his job, Maine’s new corrections commissioner, Joseph Ponte, has begun to dramatically reform the Maine State Prison’s long-troubled solitary confinement “supermax” unit.

He has cut its population by more than half.

He has stopped – so far, after several weeks under his new rules ...

$73,700 Jury Award for Guard’s Sexual Encounters with Massachusetts Prisoner

A Massachusetts federal jury has awarded $73,700 in damages to a woman who was repeatedly sexually assaulted while imprisoned at the South Middlesex Correctional Center (SMCC).

After being convicted of drug offenses in 2003, Christina Chao, 31, was sent to SMCC.
Shortly thereafter she began having sex with prison ...

New Mexico Spends $20 Million in Federal Stimulus Money to Fund Prison Jobs

Like most other states, New Mexico received a large amount of federal money under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Of the billions of dollars in stimulus funds, $260 million was earmarked as a “state fiscal stabilization fund” intended to plug holes in New Mexico’s budget. Other stimulus money ...

Sixth Circuit Upholds Tennessee’s Financial Obligation Re-Enfranchisement Law

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a Tennessee statute that bars the restoration of voting rights to ex-felons who have outstanding restitution or child support obligations.

Tennessee law disenfranchises convicted felons but allows reinstatement of their voting rights upon completion of their sentence and satisfaction of certain conditions ...

Ninth Circuit Finds Maricopa County Jail’s Cross-Gender Strip Searches Unreasonable

On January 5, 2011, the en banc Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s dismissal of a prisoner’s lawsuit against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Charles Edward Byrd, while a pre-trial detainee in a minimum-security MCSO facility, sought relief for ...

$60 Million in Strip Search Settlements for Cook County Jail Prisoners

Two separate settlements totaling almost $60 million were approved between November 2010 and January 2011 for Cook County, Illinois jail prisoners who were strip searched before being released. Both settlements stemmed from federal court cases filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, one in 2004 and the other in 2006 ...

California: OAL Disapproves Proposed Parole Board Regulation Formalizing Lifer Risk Assessments

In May 2011, California’s Office of Administrative Law (OAL) disapproved a proposed regulation submitted by the Board of Parole Hearings intended to formalize procedures requiring Board psychologists to evaluate the risk for future violence of life-sentenced prisoners being considered for parole.

In January 2009, the Board circulated a document ...

Feds Pay Wrongfully Convicted D.C. Men $1.9 Million

The U.S. Department of Justice agreed in April 2011 to pay almost $1.9 million to two former prisoners wrongfully convicted of murder, who spent a combined 49 years in prison for a District of Columbia homicide.

Joseph Wayne Eastridge and Joseph Nick Sousa, along with two co-defendants, were ...

Florida Reenacts Reconstruction-Era Felon Disenfranchisement Rule

On March 9, 2011, Florida’s executive clemency board unanimously voted to make it more difficult for ex-felons to have their civil rights restored – including the right to vote, sit on a jury and hold public office. Rather than automatic restoration upon completing their sentence, ex-felons convicted of non-violent offenses ...

EEOC Files Suit Against GEO Group for Sexual Harassment at Arizona Prisons

On September 29, 2010, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against private prison firm GEO Group, alleging that the company and some of its male supervisors permitted a “sexual and sex-based hostile work environment” at two GEO-operated prisons in Florence, Arizona.

According to the suit, female employees ...

Georgia Deputy Fired for Refusing Threesome with Sheriff

An employee at Georgia’s Clayton County Sheriff’s Office said she was fired because she refused to have a sexual threesome with the sheriff and a female deputy.

The story began developing in April 2011 after the indictment of Clayton County Deputy Alicia Nicole Parkes, who was charged with ...

Feds Intervene in Suit, Allege “Sadistic” Stun Gun Use at Ohio Jail; Jail Settles

On November 3, 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a motion to join a lawsuit filed by Ohio Legal Rights Service (OLRS) against the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, alleging “excessive, cruel, and inhumane” use of stun guns at the Franklin County Jail.

According to the suit ...

Federal Court Dismisses Virginia Lifers’ Parole Suit

On October 25, 2010, a federal district court dismissed a complaint brought by eleven Virginia Department of Corrections prisoners who alleged due process and ex post facto violations with respect to their parole hearings.

The prisoners had sought to represent a class of over 6,000 parole-eligible men and women ...

New Laws Improve Job Prospects for Former Prisoners

More than 25 cities and counties have taken steps to remove unfair barriers in their employment practices relative to hiring ex-offenders, according to a resource guide produced by the National Employment Law Project.

Central to this new hiring initiative has been the removal of questions about an individual’s criminal ...

Florida Prisoner’s Suicide Suit Settles for $500,000

A $500,000 settlement has been reached in a lawsuit stemming from the 2006 suicide of an 18-year-old Florida prisoner. The suit was filed by the parents and estate of Aleshia Napier against the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC), two private medical contractors and a prison psychiatrist.

While at the ...

$85,000 Settlement in Philadelphia Wrongful Imprisonment Suit

The City of Philadelphia has agreed to pay $85,000 to a man who was wrongfully arrested and imprisoned for a year for a crime he didn’t commit.

When Eugene Robinson saw his photo in the Week’s Most Wanted section of the Philadelphia Daily News on August 4 ...

Former Federal Prisoner Seeks Almost $280,000 in Attorney Fees from BOP

In an unusual case, Nicole Michelle Defontes is seeking nearly $280,000 in “attorney’s fees, expert fees, and costs to challenge the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) violations of its own rules and regulations,” according to a motion filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of ...

Prisoners Used to Clean Foreclosed Houses in Georgia

According to several October 2010 news reports, foreclosed homes in Covington and Newton County, Georgia were being cleaned by prisoners. It was not mentioned whether the prisoners came from local jails or state prisons, but the reports referenced the use of “prison labor.” One local newspaper opposed the idea, though ...

Third Circuit Upholds Unanimity Requirement for Pennsylvania Pardon Recommendations

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a Pennsylvania law requiring a unanimous vote on pardon and commutation recommendations.

Article IV § 9(a) of Pennsylvania’s constitution authorizes the governor to commute or pardon a prisoner. Such authority is exercised upon a recommendation of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons ...

Texas Chaplain Who Complained of Jail Conditions Reinstated, Suit Settled

In January 2011, Gail Hanson was reinstated as a volunteer chaplain at the Cameron County Jail in Brownsville, Texas. She had been banned from the facility after she publicly criticized conditions at the jail, and her reinstatement was part of a settlement in a civil rights lawsuit against the county ...

Protective Order Denied in Privately Run Florida Juvenile Facility Class-Action Suit

A Florida federal district court has denied a motion for a protective order filed by the defendants in a class-action lawsuit brought by five current or former residents of Thompson Academy, a juvenile facility managed by Youth Services International, Inc. (YSI) with funding from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice ...

$4.5 Million Settlement in Texas County Jail Strip Search Suit

On January 12, 2011, a Texas federal court approved a $4.5 million settlement in a civil rights lawsuit involving suspicionless strip searches of people booked into the Bexar County Detention Center (BCDC) in San Antonio, Texas for minor offenses. The settlement will award between $100 and $1,000 to ...

Florida’s House Speaker Wants to Quicken Executions

by David M. Reutter

Speeding up Florida’s execution machinery is a top priority for state House Speaker Dean Cannon. Cannon’s efforts to achieve that goal have included abolishing a commission that oversees death penalty cases and trying to reorganize the state’s Supreme Court.

Most unexpected in the ...

Third Circuit Upholds Pennsylvania Sex Offender Treatment Parole Requirement

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals held that a sex offender treatment requirement did not violate a Pennsylvania prisoner’s constitutional rights.

In 1987, Clifford Newman was convicted of several sex offenses and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Despite losing all of his appeals he continued to maintain his ...

Michigan Prisoner’s Failure to Protect Case Settles for $100,000

The State of Michigan has agreed to pay a prisoner $100,000 to settle a failure to protect lawsuit filed in federal court.

In 2007, Joseph Lyons, 42, was serving a larceny sentence at a Jackson, Michigan prison. He was forced to share a cell with Vernard “Bone” Meadows, 31 ...

Florida Courts Criticize Indefinite Detention While Awaiting Civil Commitment Trials

Florida sex offenders who have completed their prison sentences may face a legal morass that leaves them stuck in indefinite detention while awaiting trial on whether they should be civilly committed. During such pre-trial detention they receive little to no treatment, and thus cannot earn their release by completing the ...

North Carolina Prisoner’s First-Degree Murder Conviction is Valid Basis to Deny Awarding Good Time Credits

by David M. Reutter

On August 27, 2010, North Carolina’s Supreme Court reversed a grant of habeas corpus relief to a prisoner serving a life sentence for first-degree murder, holding that prison officials acted properly in withholding various good time credits accumulated against his sentence.

Alford Jones, convicted in ...

Parole Violator Leaps to Death at Alaskan Jail

Just hours after being arrested, an Alaskan parole violator jumped to his death inside an Anchorage jail.

Ralph Kosbruk, 44, was convicted of sexually abusing a minor in 2005, according to the Alaska Department of Public Safety’s sex offender registry. On January 1, 2011, he was booked into the ...

North Carolina Jail Prisoner Housed with TB Infected Cellmate Receives $2,250 Settlement

The defendants in a lawsuit related to a tuberculosis (TB) outbreak at North Carolina’s Brunswick County jail have agreed to settle the case for $2,250.

The suit was filed in June 2010 by former prisoner Frank Baldwin, who claimed that he spent months in a cellblock with detainee ...

New Mexico State Auditor Investigates Prison Contracts

On November 12, 2010, New Mexico State Auditor Hector Balderas revealed that his office was investigating whether a former state prison employee violated rules when awarding construction and maintenance contracts to three vendors between 2007 and 2010. Balderas said New Mexico Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary Joe Williams contacted him ...

Washington State Closes McNeil Island Prison

by David M. Reutter

Citing $12 million in annual savings, the Washington State Department of Corrections (WDOC) has closed the 1,200-bed McNeil Island Corrections Center. A 2009 audit, however, found there would be no actual savings because it would cost the same amount to continue operating the island’s ...

Canadian Prison Guards Hold Prisoners at Gunpoint for 10 Days

In January 2010, a Canadian prison tactical unit held prisoners at gunpoint during a search of British Columbia’s Kent Institution. “For 10 days, this team followed its own rules of engagement with almost complete impunity,” stated a report by federal correctional investigator Howard Sapers. “It operated in a virtual ...

Smoke ’Em if You Got ’Em, Says Oklahoma DOC

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) has partially reversed its six-year-old smoking ban. Citing increased prisoner health care costs caused by smoking, the DOC banned cigarettes in all its facilities in 2004.

Since then, predictably, a black market for tobacco has thrived. Some prisoners reportedly make as much as $4 ...

California: Orange County Jail System Ordered to Remedy ADA Violations

by Mike Brodheim

Following remand from the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in Pierce v. County of Orange, 525 F.3d 1190 (9th Cir. 2008) [PLN, Feb. 2009, p.34], U.S. District Court Judge Audrey B. Collins held on January 7, 2011 that mobility- and dexterity-impaired pretrial detainees in Orange ...

Oregon Settles Prisoner’s Heart Failure Medical Mistreatment Case for $390,000

“This poor woman had two valves diseased, both of them stressing her heart out, giving her heart failure,” said Dr. Sanjiv Kaul, head of cardiovascular medicine at Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU), speaking of Katherine Anderson, a 31-year-old Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) prisoner. “Any person with decent common sense ...

Arizona County to Pay Ex-Prisoner $325,000 in Jail Guard Beating

The Board of Supervisors for Pima County, Arizona has agreed to pay $325,000 to a former prisoner for injuries he received in a beating by jail guards that resulted in blood clots and a heart attack.

Clifford Linebarger, 29, was arrested at a local dentist’s office after a ...

An American Radical: Political Prisoner in My Own Country, by Susan Rosenberg (Kensington Publishing Corp. 2011), 400 pages, $14.95 paperback

Book review by Bruce Reilly

Susan Rosenberg was raised on the 1950s anti-segregation movement, became an activist within the 1960s anti-war movement, and believed in armed resistance throughout the 1970s global liberation movement. March 8, 2011 marked the 40th anniversary of breaking into a Pennsylvania FBI office and discovering the ...

UNICOR Wins $20 Million No-Bid Body Armor Contract

On March 9, 2011, the U.S. Army announced that it had awarded a $20 million no-bid contract to Federal Prison Industries, also known as UNICOR, to fulfill an order for body armor.

The U.S. military is one of UNICOR’s top customers; in addition to making furniture, clothing ...

Federal Stimulus Money Not Spent as Intended by San Diego County Probation Department

According to an internal audit disclosed in November 2010, the San Diego County Probation Department did not allocate federal stimulus funds for the purposes intended under the terms of the stimulus program. The good news is that the audit seems to have served its intended function; after release of the ...

Paperwork SNAFU Leaves Mentally Ill Woman Jailed in Louisiana for Eight Months

A paperwork error was blamed for a schizophrenic and bipolar woman being held in Louisiana jails for eight months even though the charges against her were dropped and she had not been appointed an attorney. Louisiana state law requires that prisoners be released if they are not appointed an attorney ...

California State Auditor Reports on CDCR Malfeasance

In January 2011, the California State Auditor presented an investigative report to the governor and legislative leaders that summarized substantiated allegations of improper activities involving several state agencies, including the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). The reported investigations were completed between January and June 2010.

Of the eight ...

Official Capacity Not the Same as Governmental Agency in Texas Civil Suit

by Matt Clarke

On June 24, 2010, a Texas Court of Appeals held that suing employees of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) in both their official and individual capacities was not the same as suing both the governmental entity and the employees, and thus the employees did not ...

News In Brief

Arizona: A Maricopa County deputy and two jail guards were arrested in May 2011 and charged with drug offenses, money laundering and human trafficking. One of the guards, Marcella Hernandez, said she was pregnant with the child of Francisco Arce-Torres, an alleged member of the Mexican Sinaloa cartel. Hernandez and ...