Skip navigation

Prison Legal News: January, 2012

Issue PDF
Volume 23, Number 1

In this issue:

  1. Days Without End: Life Sentences and Penal Reform (p 1)
  2. Family of Prisoner Strangled in Oklahoma GEO Private Prison Awarded $6.5 Million (p 16)
  3. From the Editor (p 16)
  4. Florida, Arizona Sell and Lease Back Prisons and Other State Buildings (p 18)
  5. The Societal Impact of the Prison Industrial Complex, or Incarceration for Fun and Profit—Mostly Profit (p 20)
  6. Virginia Wrongful Death Jail Suit Against Correct Care Solutions Settled for $1 Million (p 24)
  7. Problems at North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab (p 26)
  8. Federal Judge Sanctions Florida Sheriff’s Attorney for Threatening Plaintiff with Arrest (p 29)
  9. Budget Crisis Closes Oregon Prison for First Time in 159 Years (p 30)
  10. PLN Wins $230,000 in Settlement that Ends Spokane, Washington Jail’s Postcard-Only Rule (p 30)
  11. Deaths at Texas Jail Reveal Health Care Deficiencies (p 32)
  12. California Prison Industry Authority Offers to Replace Offensive Grave Markers (p 33)
  13. Oregon Prisoner Property Claims Cost State $60,000 Annually (p 34)
  14. Texas Prisoner’s Denial of Dentures Claim Affirmed in Part, Reversed in Part by Fifth Circuit (p 34)
  15. Review: Directory of Inmate Shopping Services E-Commerce (p 36)
  16. Typewriters Alive and Well in American Prisons Despite Reports of Their Demise (p 36)
  17. California Criminalizes Cell Phone Smuggling, Seeks Technology to Block Cell Phone Calls from Prisons (p 38)
  18. Washington Prison Guard’s Murder Results in Demotions, Firings and $26,000 Fine (p 38)
  19. BOP Fails to Prove Non-Exhaustion Following Pavey Hearing (p 40)
  20. North Carolina Warden Charged With Obstruction in Beating Coverup (p 40)
  21. North Carolina Jury Awards $10 Million in Wrongful Death Suit Against Taser (p 42)
  22. Illinois Prison Wages Cannot be Attached to Satisfy Incarceration Costs (p 42)
  23. CMS Pays $275,000 in New York Prisoner’s Jail Death (p 44)
  24. Audit Finds California Prison Employees Routinely Work Less Than 40 Hours a Week (p 44)
  25. Tennessee Court Again Orders CCA to Produce Records in PLN Public Records Case (p 45)
  26. Aramark Loses Laundry Contract to Oregon Prisoners (p 46)
  27. Prisoner Bike Repair Program Benefits St. Louis Kids (p 46)
  28. Russian Prison Officials Sentenced for Torture and Rape of Prisoners (p 46)
  29. California Muslim Prisoner Afforded Access to Kosher Diet Pending Implementation of “Religious Meat Alternate Program” (p 47)
  30. Oregon Discontinues Failed Prisoner Deportation Program (p 48)
  31. Head of Missouri Jail Sentenced for Beating, Arranging Attacks on Prisoners (p 48)
  32. Prisoners Contribute to Flood Control Efforts in Louisiana (p 49)
  33. News in Brief: (p 50)

Days Without End: Life Sentences and Penal Reform

Death fades into insignificance when compared with life imprisonment. To spend each night in jail, day after day, year after year, gazing at the bars and longing for freedom, is indeed expiation.

—Lewis E. Lawes, warden of Sing Sing prison, 1920–41

The Great Recession has spurred the reexamination of ...

Family of Prisoner Strangled in Oklahoma GEO Private Prison Awarded $6.5 Million

by Matt Clarke

In June 2011, the family members of an Oklahoma state prisoner who was murdered by his cellmate at a privately-operated GEO Group prison in Lawton, Oklahoma received a $6.5 million jury award.

On January 30, 2005, Lawton Correctional Facility prisoner Ronald L. Sites, 48, was strangled ...

From the Editor

Welcome to the first issue of Prison Legal News for 2012. If you have not yet donated to our annual fundraiser, it is not too late to do so. We rely on donations from our readers to fund the work we do on behalf of human rights in the U ...

Florida, Arizona Sell and Lease Back Prisons and Other State Buildings

Like a junkie seeking money for his next fix, the cash-strapped state of Arizona has pawned its possessions – prisons, government office buildings and other real estate – in an effort to balance a budget shortfall, through lease revenue bonds. Likewise, Florida has used lease revenue bonds for its prison system, which ...

The Societal Impact of the Prison Industrial Complex, or Incarceration for Fun and Profit—Mostly Profit

At the beginning of the 1980s there were no privately-operated adult correctional facilities in the United States. As of 2009, more than 129,300 state and federal prisoners were housed in for-profit lock-ups. Prison privatization has become an acceptable practice and the private prison industry is now a multi-billion dollar ...

Virginia Wrongful Death Jail Suit Against Correct Care Solutions Settled for $1 Million

A nurse employed by Correct Care Solutions (CCS), the company responsible for medical treatment at the Alexandria Detention Center in Virginia, was fired for lying about the care she provided to a prisoner who later died.

The CCS nurse, Nigist Ketema, was also named as a defendant, along with CCS ...

Problems at North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab

Recent revelations of shoddy blood analysis at the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) crime lab led to an investigation that uncovered at least 190 cases of serious blood work errors in criminal cases. Those cases included three death penalty convictions that resulted in executions, four other capital punishment ...

Federal Judge Sanctions Florida Sheriff’s Attorney for Threatening Plaintiff with Arrest

On February 10, 2011, a federal judge admonished and sanctioned a Florida lawyer defending Nassau County Sheriff Tommy Seagraves for using information obtained from the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database to threaten with arrest a plaintiff in a civil suit who was suing Seagraves for damages.

Norman L. Gladney ...

Budget Crisis Closes Oregon Prison for First Time in 159 Years

Oregon prison officials recently proved that desperate times truly do call for desperate measures, as the state closed a prison for the first time since opening its first correctional facility in 1851 – nine years before Oregon became a state.

Since the 1985-87 biennium, the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) “has ...

PLN Wins $230,000 in Settlement that Ends Spokane, Washington Jail’s Postcard-Only Rule

by Matt Clarke

In July 2011, the Board of County Commissioners of Spokane County, Washington agreed to pay $230,000 to Prison Legal News to settle a federal lawsuit challenging unconstitutional restrictions on prisoners’ mail at the Spokane County Jail.

On September 1, 2010, new policies were enacted at the ...

Deaths at Texas Jail Reveal Health Care Deficiencies

When Amy Lynn Cowling, 33, was arrested for speeding and outstanding misdemeanor theft warrants, no one expected that she would receive the death penalty. But Cowling never even had the opportunity to present her case to a judge or jury; five days after she was arrested, she died in the ...

California Prison Industry Authority Offers to Replace Offensive Grave Markers

Over fifty years ago, during the construction of Folsom Dam, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needed to relocate graves from a California grave site known as Negro Hill Cemetery. The Corps moved the graves in 1954. It even placed headstones over the 36 relocated (but previously unmarked) graves ...

Oregon Prisoner Property Claims Cost State $60,000 Annually

On average, Oregon prison officials pay about $60,000 a year due to prisoner property claims, according to an internal audit of the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC). The state spends far more than that amount defending against such claims in court.

ODOC prisoners cannot seek compensation if another prisoner ...

Texas Prisoner’s Denial of Dentures Claim Affirmed in Part, Reversed in Part by Fifth Circuit

Nicolas Marquez, a Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) prisoner held at the Polunsky Unit, has no teeth. He requested dentures but the request was denied because his Body Mass Index (BMI) was too high. He was told that TDCJ dental policy requires prisoners to have a BMI of less ...

Review: Directory of Inmate Shopping Services E-Commerce

by Mike Brodheim

DiSSE, short for Directory of Inmate Shopping Services E-Commerce, promotes itself as “America’s largest inmate shopping guide.” Edited by George Kayer, currently on death row in Arizona, DiSSE is a compilation of companies, organizations and individuals who do business with and/or provide paid services to ...

Typewriters Alive and Well in American Prisons Despite Reports of Their Demise

A recent article in The Daily Mail reported the demise of the venerable typewriter in today’s computer age. “Godrej and Boyce – the last company left in the world that was still manufacturing typewriters – has shut down its productions plant in Mumbai, India with just a few hundred machines left ...

California Criminalizes Cell Phone Smuggling, Seeks Technology to Block Cell Phone Calls from Prisons

In April 2011, Matthew Cate, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), announced that he intended to enlist the aid of companies that bid for the state’s lucrative prison phone service contract in an effort to stem the ever-increasing tide of unauthorized cell phone calls made ...

Washington Prison Guard’s Murder Results in Demotions, Firings and $26,000 Fine

An outside investigation has determined that the murder of a Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) guard was the result of poor staff management and training by prison officials.

On January 29, 2011, prisoner Byron Scherf, 52, strangled WDOC guard Jayme Biendl, 34, to death in the chapel of the Monroe ...

BOP Fails to Prove Non-Exhaustion Following Pavey Hearing

On June 7, 2011, an Illinois U.S. District Court held that federal prison officials had failed to satisfy their burden of proving a prisoner did not exhaust administrative remedies before bringing suit.

Chad Alan Hicks was confined at the Chicago Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC), a federal Bureau of Prisons ...

North Carolina Warden Charged With Obstruction in Beating Coverup

Richard L. Neely, the former warden at Lanesboro Correctional Institution, was charged in April 2011 with obstruction of justice, a Class H felony, for withholding or ordering the destruction of evidence relevant to an investigation at the prison.

Neely became warden at Lanesboro in November 2009 after allegations involving use ...

North Carolina Jury Awards $10 Million in Wrongful Death Suit Against Taser

by Matt Clarke

On July 19, 2011, a federal jury in North Carolina awarded $10 million to the parents and estate of a teenager who died after being shocked with a Taser fired by a police officer. The defendant in the case was Taser International, Inc.

In March 2008, 17-year-old ...

Illinois Prison Wages Cannot be Attached to Satisfy Incarceration Costs

On June 16, 2011, the Illinois Supreme Court held that prison officials may not seize the wages a prisoner earns to satisfy the cost of incarceration. The Court’s unanimous ruling also vacated a judgment of more than $455,000 against an Illinois state prisoner for reimbursement of incarceration costs ...

CMS Pays $275,000 in New York Prisoner’s Jail Death

Correctional Medical Services (CMS) has agreed to pay $275,000 to settle a lawsuit related to a prisoner’s death. The suit, which was filed in New York’s Monroe County Supreme Court and then removed to federal court, alleged negligence, medical malpractice and deliberate indifference.

Orlando Samuels was booked ...

Audit Finds California Prison Employees Routinely Work Less Than 40 Hours a Week

In an April 2011 audit, the California Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that over a three-month period ending in August 2010, mental health and education employees at Mule Creek State Prison routinely worked less than the 40 hours a week reflected on the timesheets they submitted for pay ...

Tennessee Court Again Orders CCA to Produce Records in PLN Public Records Case

On December 1, 2011, Chancellor Claudia C. Bonnyman of the Chancery Court of Davidson County, Tennessee issued a bench ruling directing Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest private prison firm, to produce records in a long-standing public records lawsuit filed against the company.

The suit was brought ...

Aramark Loses Laundry Contract to Oregon Prisoners

Effective June 2011, prisoners at the Oregon State Penitentiary took over the job of cleaning microfiber mop heads for the Salem Hospital.

The hospital previously contracted with Aramark Uniform Services to clean its mops, but on March 10, 2011 the hospital gave 90-day notice that it was canceling the contract ...

Prisoner Bike Repair Program Benefits St. Louis Kids

A recent joint project of the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois and St. Louis BicycleWORKS is helping to provide bikes to St. Louis-area children. Under the program, prisoners at USP Marion are refurbishing old bicycles and donating them to children who might not otherwise have a ride. The U ...

Russian Prison Officials Sentenced for Torture and Rape of Prisoners

by Matt Clarke

In March 2011, Lt. Colonel Vyacheslav Tippel, former head of the prison department for the St. Petersburg region in Russia, received a seven-year sentence for ordering the rape and torture of a prisoner. Six other prison officials with the Federal Service for the Execution of Punishment (FSIN ...

California Muslim Prisoner Afforded Access to Kosher Diet Pending Implementation of “Religious Meat Alternate Program”

by Mike Brodheim

In February 2010, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) entered into a stipulated settlement agreement with Muslim prisoner Askia Ashanti, providing him with access to CDCR’s Jewish Kosher Diet Program pending the prison system’s implementation of a “Religious Meat Alternate Program” (RMAP) consistent ...

Oregon Discontinues Failed Prisoner Deportation Program

Oregon’s expedited deportation program, touted as saving $2.1 million by transferring about 200 illegal immigrant prisoners to federal custody for early deportation, came up $1.9 million short, causing state officials to kill the program.

According to the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC), 1,289 prisoners, or about ...

Head of Missouri Jail Sentenced for Beating, Arranging Attacks on Prisoners

The former head jailer at Missouri’s Washington County Jail (WCJ), about 60 miles from St. Louis, has been convicted of violating the civil rights of four prisoners and obstruction of justice. His daughter, a guard at the jail, also was convicted of obstructing justice.

The charges against the former ...

Prisoners Contribute to Flood Control Efforts in Louisiana

In May 2011, as the rising Mississippi River threatened to flood vast stretches of riverfront territory, Louisiana prisoners from a number of parishes, including East Carroll, Madison, Tensas, Pointe Coupee and Concordia, filed sandbags in an effort to save lives, buildings and property.

Their efforts did not go unnoticed. “They ...

News in Brief:

California: On October 6, 2011, a San Quentin warehouse supervisor was fired following his arrest on suspicion of conspiracy, requesting or accepting bribes, and smuggling marijuana and cell phones to prisoners. Robert Alioto, 48, was freed on bond; he pleaded guilty on December 5, 2011 and awaits sentencing.

Congo: Government ...