Skip navigation

Prison Legal News: January, 2012

View as PDF
Issue PDF
Volume 23, Number 1

In this issue:

  1. Days Without End: Life Sentences and Penal Reform (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 16)
  3. Family of Prisoner Strangled in Oklahoma GEO Private Prison Awarded $6.5 Million (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. Texas Prisoner’s Denial of Dentures Claim Affirmed in Part, Reversed in Part by Fifth Circuit (p 34)
  14. Oregon Prisoner Property Claims Cost State $60,000 Annually (p 34)
  15. Typewriters Alive and Well in American Prisons Despite Reports of Their Demise (p 36)
  16. Review: Directory of Inmate Shopping Services E-Commerce (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. Illinois Prison Wages Cannot be Attached to Satisfy Incarceration Costs (p 42)
  22. North Carolina Jury Awards $10 Million in Wrongful Death Suit Against Taser (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. Prisoner Bike Repair Program Benefits St. Louis Kids (p 46)
  27. Russian Prison Officials Sentenced for Torture and Rape of Prisoners (p 46)
  28. Aramark Loses Laundry Contract to Oregon 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 many penal policies, from the war on drugs to alternatives to incarceration, but not the widespread use of life sentences.1
The United States continues to be deeply attached to condemning huge numbers of offenders to the “other death penalty” despite mounting evidence that lengthy sentences have minimal impact on reducing the crime rate and enhancing public safety.

Life sentences have become so commonplace that about one out of eleven people imprisoned in the United States is serving one. Nearly one-third of these life-sentenced offenders have been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole (LWOP).

The total life-sentenced population in the United States is about 141,000 people – or about twice the size of the entire incarcerated population in Japan. These figures on life sentences do not fully capture the extraordinary number of people who will spend all or much of their lives in U.S. prisons ...

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.S. prison system. I would like to thank all those who have already donated.

This month’s cover story on lifers covers an important issue largely neglected by the corporate media, which is the story of those who are leaving prison in body bags due to life sentences. While the death penalty is in decline in the U.S., the penalty of death-by-incarceration is on the rise in a massive experiment never seen before in human history, in which tens of thousands of people are condemned to die a slow and lingering death by incarceration.

Over the years hundreds, if not thousands, of our readers have written us letters telling us how PLN has helped them help themselves, provided information they needed and otherwise bettered their existence. We are seeking to compile a more complete list of the ways that PLN helps prisoners, and I think the best way to ...

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 ...

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, according to a recent report, resulted in increased costs to taxpayers.

Arizona’s fiscal problems began in 2007 and took a severe downturn the following year with the collapse of the housing bubble. Throughout 2009 the state continued operating in the red. With no relief in sight, the legislature approved the sale of various state-owned properties in an attempt to balance the budget in 2010.

Here’s how the process works. The state sells its assets to investors via Certificates of Participation (COPS), a form of lease revenue bonds. The state maintains control of the buildings and leases them back at 4.37 to 4.75% interest over a maturity period ranging up to 30 years. If all of the payments are made, ownership of the buildings reverts back to the state.

Arizona raised $735 million for its general fund through the first issue of COPS in January 2010, 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 business. How did this drastic expansion of incarceration-for-profit occur, and more importantly how has it rearranged the criminal justice landscape?

The prison and jail population in the United States has increased exponentially over the past several decades, from 648,000 in 1983 to more than 2.3 million as of 2010. That doesn’t include another 5 million people on parole and probation, plus millions more who were formerly incarcerated and are no longer under correctional supervision. Spending on prisons has outstripped expenditures on higher education in at least five states, including Michigan, Connecticut and California, as lawmakers engage in one-upmanship to prove who’s tougher on crime.

Why has our nation’s prison population grown to epic proportions, until the U.S. – with only 5 percent of the world’s population – now has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners?
The succinct answer is because imprisonment has become enormously ...

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 cases where the prisoners remain on death row, and 40 cases that never went to trial.

The most common error was a failure of lab personnel to note in their reports the fact that a subsequent, more accurate test had shown that blood was not found after a less-accurate preliminary test indicated the presence of blood. Other errors included failing to mention inconclusive or negative results in repeated tests, making entries that contradicted the actual test findings, and claiming that no follow-up testing was done when it had been. The fact that such errors always favored the prosecution indicates they were intentional, not random mistakes or oversights.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper commissioned former FBI special agents Chris Swecker and Michael Wolf to conduct a comprehensive audit of SBI blood analysis cases between 1987 and 2003. Their investigation of 15,000 crime lab files, released in August 2010, revealed ...

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 increased expenditures by 209 percent,” according to state officials. ODOC “now accounts for 53 percent of all public safety spending.” [See: PLN, Dec. 2011, p.44].

ODOC’s current 2-year budget of $1.26 billion has soared 250 percent in the last two decades according to former Governor Theodore Kulongoski. That “number ... is expected to grow at an unsustainable rate if we continue the policies in place today,” Kulongoski said.

“Over the past twenty years, Oregon has more than doubled the number of offenders incarcerated in the state corrections system – largely through the adoption of mandatory minimum sentencing structures by the voters,” a Public Safety Subcommittee noted. Now the state cannot afford to run all the prisons it has built.

One of the last to come on-line was the $120 million Deer Ridge Correctional Institution (DRCI) in the small high desert town of Madras, Oregon. Built to hold 1,872 ...

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 Gregg County Jail in Longview, Texas.

Cowling, who suffered from bipolar disorder, had a history of prescription drug abuse. Arrested for possessing a fraudulent prescription in 2001, she had been using methadone to keep herself clean for a decade. She was also receiving Seroquel for bipolar disorder and medication for arthritis, high blood pressure, a failing kidney and heart problems.
Cowling and her mother, Vicki Bankhead, begged jail officials to give her the medication that was in Cowling’s purse located in the jail’s property room, to no avail. Jail policy prohibited the use of methadone and Seroquel.

Cowling died on December 29, 2010 after a horrific day of screaming and seizures. She became the ninth prisoner to die at the Gregg County Jail since 2005 – far more prisoner deaths than reported at other comparably-sized jails during the same time period. [See: PLN, May 2011, p.16]. Since Cowling ...

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, marking them as having been moved from their prior location.

But in the 1950s, racial insensitivity was more blatantly ingrained in the fabric of American society than it is today. Thus, rather than marking the relocated graves with the actual name of the original cemetery, the Corps stamped the new headstones as having been “Moved from Nigger Hill Cemetery” – language that, in the words of the Corps. Lt. Col. Andrew B. Kiger, reflected “a shameful period in American history when racial intolerance was more commonplace.”

The racist language remained on the headstones until 2011, despite offending for years the sensitivities of the El Dorado Hills community in which the transferred graves are now located. Why? Due to bureaucratic red tape.

In May 2011, the California Prison Industry Authority offered to replace the offensive headstones free of charge. “That graveyard is right around the corner from our offices, and it’s ...

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 than 18.5 to qualify for dentures. Marquez, who weighed around 122-135 pounds, had a BMI between 20 and 23. He had been issued a soft food pass, which the Food Services Department reportedly refused to honor, and at times was given blended food.

Marquez filed a civil rights suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against a TDCJ dentist, dental assistant, nurse, facilities practice manager, food services officer, dental hygienist, the warden, a regional director and the TDCJ’s director, alleging deliberate indifference to serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The district court held an evidentiary hearing, during which a nurse testified regarding Marquez’s prison medical records.

After conducting a review of recent unpublished Fifth Circuit decisions related to prisoners and dentures, the court held that Marquez’s complaints of “an inability to chew food, stomach cramps, gas, spastic colon and GERD [gastroesophageal reflux ...

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 steals or damages their property, but they can file a claim if prison officials lose or damage their property during transfers, cell searches or otherwise. Each year, Oregon prisoners file about 1,000 property claims. Prison officials occasionally grant such claims but most are routinely denied, leaving small claims court as the only recourse.

Property claims can be fairly lucrative for prisoners. Take Nathan J. Bennett, for example, who suffered the improper confiscation of 250 pages of pornography. He can buy quite a few Playboys with the $125 he received for his loss. Prisoner Edward Thomas sought $675 for nine family photos that were taken from his cell. “My pictures are priceless and I just want some gratuity for my losses,” he wrote.

When ODOC denied his claim, Thomas went to court and a judge ordered the state to pay him $9.00, or $1 per picture. The state also ...

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 in stock. Although typewriters became obsolete years ago in the west, they were still common in India – until recently. Demand for the machines has sunk in the last ten years as consumers switch to computers.”

However, new typewriters are still being sold ... in American prisons.

Ed Michael, general manager of sales for Swintec, a New Jersey-based company, observed that there are still typewriter manufacturers. “We have manufacturers making typewriters for us in China, Japan, Indonesia,” he said, noting that Swintec owns those factories. “We have contracts with correctional facilities in 43 states to supply clear typewriters for inmates so they can’t hide contraband inside them.”

Swintec makes different types of typewriters available depending on a prison system’s regulations. For example, Model 2416DM CC is available in six versions, all with different amounts of memory capable of storing from 4,000 to 128,000 characters. It takes about 2 ...

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 prisoners. The publication is updated periodically, although precisely how often is unclear; this review is of DiSSE’s holiday edition with a publication date of October 30, 2010. PLN has received more recent copies since this review was written.

For $12.98, DiSSE provides not only lists of companies but also reviews and ratings of those companies. The reviews are by Kayer himself, which, depending on your point of view, is either the strength or the weakness of DiSSE. The impression of this reviewer is that Kayer is a convict with integrity who is trying to make a buck, under extremely difficult circumstances, while at the same time providing a legitimate and useful service to other prisoners.

The holiday edition of DiSSE was 166 pages. It included lists for those interested in developing their writing skills or publishing books, pen pal services and websites, hobby and craft hookups, art info ...

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 by prisoners.

Cate’s motivation is simple. CDCR cannot afford the estimated $16.5 million to $33 million it would cost to install up-to-date “managed access” technology at all 33 state prisons to block cellular signals. The motivation for the phone companies to help combat cell phone use by prisoners is equally simple: profits. As the number of contraband cell phones in the CDCR has grown, the prison phone system’s revenue has fallen.

In a recent interview, Cate put it bluntly. “If cell phones are inoperable, the company will make more money,” he said. That is, without contraband cell phones, prisoners who want to call family members and friends will have only one other option – prison pay phones, which will generate more money for the prison system’s phone service contractor, currently Global Tel*Link.

Cell phone jamming systems are used in prisons in Mexico, France, Australia and other ...

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 Correctional Complex, sparking both internal and external investigations into factors that contributed to Biendl’s murder.

In July 2011 the WDOC released the results of its internal investigation, which faulted line staff who were slow in discovering that Biendl was missing and in locating her body. Biendl’s body was not found for almost two hours; she had been strangled with an amplifier cord.

“We carefully reviewed every action that occurred on that night and found that nearly every staff member followed procedures and policies,” said Superintendent Scott Frankes. “However, we did find some staff members who did not take appropriate actions or intentionally misled investigators.”

Seven WDOC employees were disciplined as a result of the internal report’s findings: Lt. Jose Briones, Lt. Rodney Shimogawa, Sgt. Christopher Johnson, and guards Brenda Fredricks, George Lyons, Charles Maynard and David Young. Briones and Shimogawa were reprimanded for failing to properly account ...

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 facility, in October 2005 and April through June of 2006. He was placed in MCC’s Special Housing Unit (SHU) on October 8, 2005, where he remained until October 25, 2005. During that time his cell had restricted water access and was inundated with insects.

On October 25, 2005, Hicks was transferred to the Ogle County Jail to face criminal charges. Following sentencing he was returned to MCC in April 2006. Hicks was again segregated in the SHU on May 18, 2006, where he remained until his June 7, 2006 transfer to another prison.

Hicks filed a Bivens action in federal court on May 2, 2006. He alleged that in October 2005 his SHU cell conditions “deprived him of his ‘basic human needs’” and that in May 2006, MCC guard Dennis Rolke placed him “in administrative detention ... ‘in retaliation for Plaintiff’s actions relating to this law suit.’”

The defendants ...

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 of excessive force against a prisoner forced the early retirement of the facility’s previous warden.

The charges against Neely allege that he “unlawfully, willfully and feloniously did obstruct justice by ordering evidence ... CD of video surveillance from Lanesboro prison, to be withheld and/or destroyed that was directly relevant and related to an ongoing investigation of Lanesboro inmates.”

The investigation involved a November 2009 incident in which several prisoners and guards were involved in a fight. A former sergeant at Lanesboro, Stephanie Miller, said Neely ordered her to destroy video footage of the brawl because he was concerned it showed guards using excessive force. Instead Miller contacted the State Bureau of Investigation.

“I was instructed not to put the video in the felony file and to destroy it,” she said. “... It was basically a cover-up of the assault. [Neely] didn’t want to be investigated.” Miller said she faced ...

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.

Kensley Hawkins has been imprisoned at the Stateville Correctional Center since July 1, 1983. During that time he worked in a prison industry program assembling furniture. The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) filed suit against Hawkins on March 30, 2005, pursuant to a state statute that allows the IDOC to seek reimbursement for the cost of his incarceration.

Over the relevant time period, Hawkins had money from his wages deposited in his prison account. He had also established an account at an outside bank, which contained around $11,000 at the time the IDOC’s lawsuit was filed.

The state circuit court attached all but $4,000 from the bank account, as the Code of Civil Procedure exempts that amount from collection. Ultimately, the circuit court entered a $455,203.14 judgment against Hawkins for his incarceration costs, but precluded the IDOC from satisfying the judgment from Hawkins’ bank account ...

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 Darryl Wayne Turner was involved in a verbal altercation with store managers at a Food Lion supermarket in Charlotte, North Carolina where he worked. When Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Jerry Dawson, Jr. arrived at the scene there had been no violence or threats of violence, but Turner had knocked over a display and thrown an umbrella. Dawson issued a command and, as Turner turned and moved toward him, Dawson shot him in the chest with a Taser Model X26.

Dawson held the trigger of the Taser down for 37 seconds, causing a high-voltage electrical current to be applied across Turner’s chest. Turner collapsed on the floor. He was unresponsive when a backup officer arrived and ordered him to place his hands behind his back, so Dawson triggered another shock, this time for 5 seconds.

The officers noticed that Turner was not breathing and summoned medical assistance. Paramedics quickly determined that ...

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. The noted discrepancies, totaling over 4,000 hours, amounted to $272,900 during the three-month period – or nearly $1.1 million on an annualized basis. And that was at just one state prison.

The OIG compared the number of work hours paid to psychiatrists, psychologists and licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs), as well as to teachers, vocational instructors and education supervisors, with the number of hours those employees spent inside Mule Creek’s secure perimeter as recorded by the prison’s electronic card-swiping security system (the only such system currently in operation in the state’s 33 adult prisons). After taking into account both authorized time off and training hours, the OIG found that a full 15% of the total hours for which mental health employees were paid, and 8% of the hours for which education employees were paid, remained unaccounted for.

Among psychiatrists (with average annual salaries of $245 ...

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 by PLN associate editor Alex Friedmann. In 2007, CCA denied Friedmann’s request for records related to litigation filed against CCA and for reports or audits that found contract violations by the company, among other documents. The Chancery Court ruled in Friedmann’s favor in July 2008, finding that CCA was the “functional equivalent” of a state agency and ordering CCA to produce the requested records. [See: PLN, Oct. 2008, p.24].

On appeal, the Tennessee Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s finding that CCA was the functional equivalent of a government agency, noting, “With all due respect to CCA, this Court is at a loss as to how operating a prison could be considered anything less than a governmental function.”

The Court of Appeals remanded the case to the Chancery Court in September 2009 to determine whether some of the requested records did not fall within the ...

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.S. Probation Office had asked the prison to take part in the program, and according to Jeff Baney, a spokesman for USP Marion, prisoners responded enthusiastically.

“I just think they enjoy knowing, despite being in jail, they’re still able to do something to help out children who may not otherwise have an opportunity to own a bike. It gives them a sense of accomplishment and instills some self-worth. These inmates are not being paid for their work, they’re doing it strictly voluntarily. They just enjoy really any type of community service they can do,” he stated.

Patrick Van Der Tuin, director of operations for St. Louis BicycleWORKS, said the nonprofit organization started in 1988 as an opportunity for youth in St. Louis to be productive and increase their probability of positive life outcomes. He added that such goals are accomplished by providing children with incentives to develop their ...

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) received sentences between four and six-and-a-half years for their involvement in that and an unrelated, similar incident.

In February 2009, a prisoner serving time for petty theft got drunk and failed to return from furlough. Located hundreds of miles away in Vladimir, he was returned to St. Petersburg and placed in the Gaaz prison hospital.

Tippel sent FSIN Colonel Rostislav Balabolko, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Beryozkin and Major Vladimir Ignatyev to the hospital to “commit physical and psychological violence as a punishment for escaping.” They handcuffed, beat and wrote obscenities on the prisoner’s chest.

Balobolko also threatened two other prisoners into raping the returned escapee. Then the three high-ranking prison officials beat him some more.

Separately, FSIN Major Yevgeny Petrov was sentenced to six years in prison for raping a prisoner he was trying to force to cooperate with authorities, and for ordering three other prisoners to sexually assault the ...

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 due to concerns about Aramark’s cleaning quality.

“The problems were really about infection prevention because instead of being returned clean, we were getting mop heads back that were stinky and crusty,” said Julie Howard, a spokesperson for the hospital. “So we weren’t able to use them. We instead were using a supply of our own mops that we cleaned in-house.”

Rather than contract with another private company, the hospital turned to the Oregon State Penitentiary’s commercial laundry.

“We already contract with [the prison] to clean our bed linens and staff scrubs, and they are doing excellent work,” Howard noted. “We’ve been very happy with their attention to quality, the infection prevention that we require in a hospital.”

Business owners and labor unions often accuse prison industries of competing unfairly with the private sector because they are exempt from minimum-wage laws and other requirements. Aramark, however, had ...

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 with Muslim dietary practices.

As part of the settlement agreement, the CDCR agreed to pay $5,000 to Ashanti’s counsel for attorney fees incurred in representing Ashanti, who initially filed suit pro se. The CDCR made no admission of liability as part of the settlement agreement.

Ashanti had filed a lawsuit in 2007, alleging pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that he had been denied a halal diet required by the tenets of his Islamic faith in violation of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc, et seq.

He also alleged that CDCR officials had violated his constitutional rights, as well as RLUIPA, by failing to provide an interfaith worship facility appropriate for Muslims.
One day after entering into the settlement agreement, the CDCR amended its ...

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 9.2% of the state’s prison population, are illegal immigrants. With an average daily incarceration cost of $84 per prisoner, the ODOC spends about $39.5 million annually to confine those non-citizen offenders – most of whom are serving time for drug-related crimes.

In an effort to cut incarceration costs, in 2009 Oregon adopted a deportation program similar to a federal program known as Rapid REPAT. [See: PLN, July 2010, p.37]. The Oregon program called for the governor to commute the sentences of non-violent, non-citizen offenders who were within six months of release so they could be transferred to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for expedited deportation. Proponents estimated that some 200 offenders would initially be deported under Oregon’s version of the program.

“It was put together under the guise that this potentially would save the budget $2 million,” said Christine Miles, press secretary for ...

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 jail boss, Vernon Wilson, 57, stemmed from four incidents that occurred in 2005. In separate incidents, Wilson slapped two prisoners hard enough to force their heads into a concrete wall. In the latter two incidents, Wilson gave prisoners cigarettes for attacking two other prisoners he considered troublemakers. Three of the victims were awaiting trial; one was the son of a sheriff’s deputy.

WCJ prisoner Gary Gieselman was a victim of one of the latter assaults. Wilson put Gieselman into the “rough tank” after he had an argument with Wilson’s daughter. Gieselman was attacked by other prisoners and suffered permanent facial damage, including a broken jaw, fractures around his eye and missing teeth.

According to Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, “Wilson used the power of his position to punish these inmates,” and in doing so, “his ...

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’re working their hearts out,” said Concordia Parish Sheriff Randy Maxwell. “In all honesty, without them we couldn’t do all this.”

Echoing those sentiments, East Carroll Parish Sheriff Mark Shumate stated, “Without them it would be impossible to conduct this kind of flood fight.”

The prisoners, all deemed non-violent offenders, filled tens of thousands of sandbags. Those from East Carroll Parish worked 12-hour shifts. Sheriff Shumate credited one of the prisoners with designing and building a machine that automatically fills sandbags – an invention which, he suggested, merited a patent.

Employing language that could be construed as either condescending or insightful, Sheriff Maxwell and Sheriff Shu-mate both remarked that the flood-fighting work gave the prisoners purpose.

“They enjoy it,” said Maxwell. “It makes them feel like they are contributing to something bigger than themselves.”

Similarly, Shumate said, “It gives them a chance to give something back, a chance at some ...

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 officials reported that 114 prisoners escaped from a prison in Tshikapa on Sept. 25, 2011. One prisoner was killed and another was wounded; the prisoners had complained about insufficient food and water before staging the mass escape. Earlier that same month, over 960 prisoners escaped from a facility in the city of Lubumbashi.

Florida: On Sept. 28, 2011, a three-count indictment was unsealed that charged Anthony Mangione, 50, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for South Florida, with receipt, possession and transportation of child pornography. Mangione was arrested by FBI agents and ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation. “The government has concerns that given the magnitude of the charges, that he might melt down,” said his defense attorney, David Howard. In October, a federal judge approved Mangione’s release on a $75,000 signature bond.

Florida: The Florida Dept. of Corrections has stopped selling all tobacco products in prison ...

 

Prisoners Self Help Litigation Manual

 



 

Prisoner Education Guide side

 



 

Advertise here

 



 


 

Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual