Prison Legal News:
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Volume 23, Number 11
In this issue:
- Bailing on Justice: The Dysfunctional System of Using Money to Buy Pretrial Freedom (p 1)
- Guantanamo Detainees Cost $800,000 Annually (p 13)
- $15,700 Plus Boombox to Settle California Prisoner’s Excessive Force Claim (p 14)
- From the Editor (p 14)
- Liberty for Sale: Should Ohio Prisoners be Commodities in a For-Profit Venture? (p 16)
- PLN Readers Flood the FCC with Letters; Campaign Fights for Prison Phone Justice (p 20)
- The Other Death Sentence: More than 100,000 Americans are destined to spend their final years in prison. Can we afford it? (p 22)
- Private Prison Companies Use Political Influence to Increase Incarceration (p 26)
- California Prison Psychologist Faked Her Own Rape (p 29)
- $60,411 Attorney Fee Award in Maryland Prisoner’s Public Information Act Suit (p 30)
- Hawaii AG Study Confirms Ineffectiveness of Mainland Private Prisons (p 30)
- Florida Jail Abandons Postcard-Only Mail Policy, Pays Prisoners’ Attorney Fees (p 32)
- Prisoner’s Coma-Inducing Latex Allergy Triggers Lawsuit, Burning Questions (p 32)
- State Auditor Finds Flaws in Texas Criminal Justice Information System (p 34)
- California Settles Suit with Prison Guards’ Union for $3.5 Million, Interest-Free (p 34)
- $20,000 Settlement in Arkansas Jail Prisoner’s Failure to Protect Suit (p 36)
- Seventh Circuit Upholds Injunction Against Wisconsin Transgender Prisoner Treatment Ban (p 36)
- New York City Pays $2 Million to Settle Suit Over Death of Juvenile Killed by Other Prisoners Acting as Guards’ Enforcers (p 38)
- $2,500 Settlement in Illinois Prisoner’s Telephone Disconnect Suit – After Nine Years (p 38)
- Pennsylvania Guards Charged with Physical, Sexual Abuse of Prisoners (p 40)
- Pennsylvania Jail Major Pleads Guilty to Beating Prisoner After Escape Attempt (p 40)
- BOP Supermax Lawsuit Claims Horrific Abuse of Mentally Ill at ADX (p 42)
- Vietnam Pardons 10,244 Prisoners but Few Dissidents (p 44)
- Nebraska Refuses to Return Execution Drug to Swiss Company (p 44)
- Iowa Reconsidering Costs, Benefits of Sex Offender Supervision Law (p 46)
- Los Angeles Jail Pays $161,000 Settlement for Juvenile Injured Due to Negligent Supervision (p 46)
- News in Brief (p 50)
The practice of requiring someone to pay money to a court in order to remain free while awaiting trial is known as “money bail.” While considerable attention has been focused on other aspects of our criminal justice system, money bail is a component that has been under-examined but has huge impacts on costs, communities, and those who are arrested and required to make bail. This article will examine the practice of money bail as well as the for-profit bail bonding industry, and explain why neither should be part of a fair and effective justice system.
Money Bail Increases Pretrial Incarceration
Money bail is one of the primary drivers of growth in our jail populations. About 11.8 million people are processed through jails across the United States each year, with over 725,000 people held in jail at any given time.1 U.S. jails have operated at an average 91 percent capacity since 2000, resulting in a huge financial burden to states, cities and counties, and frequently inhumane conditions for people who are jailed.
What many don’t know is that a majority of those held in jail are presumed innocent ...
by Tracy Velázquez, Melissa Neal and Spike Bradford*
Each year the Department of Defense “spends approximately ... $800,000 per detainee,” Attorney General Eric Holder, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other Cabinet members wrote in a letter to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. “Meanwhile, our federal prisons spend a little over $25,000 per year, per prisoner, and federal courts and prosecutors routinely handle numerous terrorist cases a year well within their operating budgets.” [See: PLN, Sept. 2012, p.26].
The prison at Guantanamo opened in January 2002 and as of September 10, 2012 held 167 “enemy combatants” or detainees suspected of terrorist acts, at a cost of about $139 million annually. More than 600 detainees have been re-leased since the prison opened; of those currently held at Guantanamo, 87 have been approved for release but remain incarcerated.
“We are running a five-star resort and not a detention facility for terrorists,” said Florida Republican Representative Allen West, a former Army lieutenant colonel. “For example, why do they need 24 cable-TV channels?”
Cooperative detainees do get ...
The U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba has become the world’s most expensive prison, at around 30 times the average cost to house prisoners in detention facilities in the United States.
The lawsuit, filed by state prisoner Tracye B. Washington, stemmed from events that occurred at Salinas Valley State Prison. Washington’s problems began on ...
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) agreed to pay $15,700 plus a boombox to settle a prisoner’s excessive use of force claim.
Many pretrial detainees languish in jail, presumption of innocence be damned, simply because they cannot afford to post bail even in small amounts. The Justice Policy Institute recently issued several detailed reports on the bail bonding industry that formed the basis for this month’s cover story. The bail bonding industry, which is almost totally unregulated, exists exclusively to profit from the criminalization of poverty at the expense of everyone else. As the need for criminal justice reform becomes even more urgent there is equally a need to question the involvement of the many parasitic businesses that profit from mass incarceration. These include private prisons, prison phone companies and, yes, bail bondsmen.
PLN readers should have received our annual fundraiser letter by now ...
This month’s cover story on the bail bonding industry focuses on one of the lesser discussed but equally important economic players in the U.S. prison industrial complex. One of the main causes of jail overcrowding in many local jurisdictions tends not to be mundane things like crime but rather bail practices – and as with the rest of our nation’s criminal justice system, the burden and expense fall disproportionately on the backs of the poor.
In 1997, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) opened a private prison in Youngstown, Ohio. The Northeast Ohio Correctional Center was to hold out-of-state prisoners with the promise of profits and tax revenue for Youngstown, a largely industrial city that had struggled economically since its steel industry went downhill in the 1970s and ‘80s. CCA quickly staffed the prison with inexperienced guards and then received 1,700 prisoners – most charged with violent crimes – transferred from Washington, D.C. Within a year, 20 prisoners were stabbed and two were murdered. Six escaped.
Public outrage came fast. Citizens in Youngstown demanded the prison be shut down. Local and national media outlets picked up the story. Mother Jones, a respected, independent investigative news magazine, reported that George McKelvey, then-mayor of Youngstown, told reporters, “Knowing what I know now, I would never have allowed CCA to build a prison here.” The city sued CCA to get the prison to abide by new safety standards.
CCA eventually shut down its Youngstown prison because having to abide by the new standards made it no longer profitable. The prison remained closed for a few years and then opened under a new model – as ...
by German Lopez, Cincinnati CityBeat
“My parents, 84 and 85 years old, barely can pay their bills with their income,” wrote prisoner Robert Taylor in his letter to the FCC. He noted that telephone calls are the only way to communicate with his aging parents, as his mother suffers from macular degeneration, a medical condition that results in loss of vision, and cannot read or write.
His parents “often go without meals to be able to cover the cost of hearing my voice,” Taylor said. “It’s a shame for these companies to be able to gouge our families so hard that they have to miss meals just to speak to their loved ones.”
According to FCC Docket #96-128 (known as the Wright Petition ...
In June 2012, Prison Legal News began running a full-page flyer for the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, asking people to get involved and take action. Within weeks, letters from PLN readers began flooding the Federal Communications Commission, urging the FCC to cap the high costs of interstate prison phone calls. The letters and comments described the exorbitant phone rates that prisoners and their families have to pay, and explained the consequences – personal, financial and societal – of expensive prison phone calls.
their final years in prison. Can we afford it?
by James Ridgeway
William “Lefty” Gilday had been in prison 40 years when the dementia began to set in. At 82, he was already suffering from advanced Parkinson’s disease and a host of other ailments, and his friends at MCI Shirley, a medium-security prison in Massachusetts, tried to take care of him as best they could. Most of them were aging lifers like Lefty, facing the prospect of one day dying behind bars themselves, so they formed an ad hoc hospice team in their crowded ward. They bought special food from the commissary, heated it in an ancient microwave, and fed it to their friend. They helped him to the toilet and cleaned him up. Joe Labriola, 64, tried to see that Lefty got a little sunshine every day, wheeling his chair out into the yard and sitting with his arm around him to keep him from falling out.
But Lefty, who was serving life without parole for killing a police officer during a failed bank heist in 1970, slipped ever deeper into dementia. One day he ...
The Other Death Sentence: More than 100,000 Americans are destined to spend
A June 2011 report by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) reveals how for-profit private prison companies use political campaign donations, lobbyists and relationships with government officials to increase their profits by promoting policies that result in more people being incarcerated.
Even in tight budgetary times when many policymakers want to safely reduce prison populations in order to cut costs, private prison companies seek to preserve the status quo in terms of punitive criminal justice policies and high incarceration rates. Since private prison companies receive their revenue almost exclusively from the government, taxpayers are indirectly funding an industry that opposes criminal justice reforms that would benefit the public.
As of December 31, 2010 there were about 128,195 state and federal prisoners being held in private prisons in the U.S., comprising 9.1% of the federal and 3.2% of the state prison populations. This represented an increase in the use of private prisons since 2000 of approximately 120% for the federal government and 33% for the states. During that same time period, the overall U.S. state and federal prison populations increased by less than 16%.
According to the JPI report, corrections spending increased 72% between ...
by Matt Clarke
Rather than simply having a conversation with her spouse about her desire to relocate, Martinez, who was employed as a supervising senior psychologist at the California State Prison in Sacramento, conspired with a friend, Nicole April Snyder, 33, to create the appearance that she had been beaten, robbed and raped by a stranger. For reporting the fake crime on April 10, 2011, Martinez and Snyder were charged with multiple counts of conspiracy.
Arrested in November 2011 and facing three years in prison, Martinez was freed on $50,000 bail. On January 26, 2012, she pleaded no contest and was sentenced to five years of probation and 180 days on electronic monitoring, plus $4,000 in restitution to cover the cost of the police investigation. She also lost her husband, who filed for divorce a month after the false rape report, and was fired from the CDCR. Additionally, her medical license was suspended.
Martinez’s fake rape plot unraveled after one of her prison co-workers told ...
Unhappy with where she lived, Laurie Ann Martinez, 36, a psychologist employed with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), decided to convince her husband that they needed to move to a safer neighborhood.
While incarcerated at the Western Correctional Institution (WCI) in May 2002, Richard L ...
The State of Maryland has agreed to pay more than $60,000 in attorney fees to settle a longstanding lawsuit brought by a prisoner who had requested public records pursuant to the state’s Public Information Act.
A federally-funded report released last year by the AG recommends that Hawaii lawmakers should think twice about relying on privately-operated mainland prisons, namely Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) facilities, where about 54% of the state’s 3,700 prisoners are incarcerated.
According to researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, in collaboration with the AG’s office, rehabilitation is too often viewed “mainly through the prism of cost,” also referred to as “humonetarianism.” And that’s a mistake, they contend.
“[The] focus on short-term financial costs often deflects attention away from deeper problems that plague the correctional system, such as inconsistent sentencing policies, the provision of decent medical care, the protection of inmates from sexual assault ... and the over-representation of racial minorities and the poor at all stages of the criminal justice system,” the researchers wrote. “In Hawaii and elsewhere, problems such as these suggest the short-sightedness” of cost-based corrections, including the use of private prisons.
Sociologists at UH-Manoa ...
Academic researchers in Hawaii believe that exiling offenders to private prisons thousands of miles away on the U.S. mainland is misguided. And the Hawaii Attorney General’s office (AG) – the state’s Big Kahuna of law enforcement – actually agrees.
In February 2012, a Florida U.S. District Court approved a consent decree that settled a civil rights action challenging a postcard-only mail policy at the Santa Rosa County Jail (SRCJ). As a result of the settlement, prisoners are no longer restricted to postcards and can send and receive an ...
Abeyta, 44, a sex offender serving a sentence of seven years to life, claims to have experienced some “itchiness” from exposure to latex for some time. His sensitivity developed into an extreme case three years ago, when he was working as a kosher prep cook at the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility. According to court records, he began to feel a burning sensation in his wrists, had difficulty breathing and was diagnosed at the prison infirmary as having “an acute reaction to latex gloves.”
That exposure led to treatment at a Pueblo hospital and eventually in the burn unit of the University of Colorado Hospital, where he received morphine and lapsed into a coma.
After he got well, Abeyta testified, a nurse practitioner at the prison ...
A prisoner’s lawsuit against the Colorado Department of Corrections, claiming a latex allergy so severe that he’s suffered burns and respiratory problems when touched by glove-wearing guards, appeared to have been resolved in August 2012 when DOC officials testified that they no longer use latex in their facilities. But Albert Abeyta says he’s still getting burned by his unsympathetic handlers, and the strange case seems to be headed back to federal court.
In September 2011, the Texas State Auditor released a report on the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) used by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). The audit, which covered the period from September 2009 through November 2010, found inaccuracies and incomplete records in the CJIS as well as the potential for unauthorized changes to be made.
The CJIS includes the Computerized Criminal History System (CCHS) maintained by DPS and the Corrections Tracking System (CTS) maintained by the TDCJ. The goal of the CCHS is to provide accurate criminal background checks to law enforcement while the CTS tracks people who are under the supervision of the state’s criminal justice system. Both systems depend on the input of numerous persons, many of whom are not employed by DPS or the TDCJ.
The CCHS relies upon the input of 4,272 separate agencies, including 2,309 law enforcement agencies such as police departments or sheriff’s offices, 507 district or county attorney offices and 1,456 district or county courts. By statute, the CCHS is supposed to include information related to the prosecution and disposition of all felony cases and misdemeanor ...
by Matt Clarke
According to the suit, the CCPOA owed the state at least $4.5 million for wages and ...
Avoiding the uncertainty of litigation, in January 2012 the State of California settled a lawsuit it had initiated two years earlier against the prison guards’ union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA).
The suit was filed by Howard Johnson for events that occurred on January 30, 2007 at ...
Officials in Baxter County, Arkansas agreed to pay $20,000 to settle a former prisoner’s lawsuit that alleged he was assaulted by another prisoner as a guard stood by and failed to intervene.
Several Wisconsin Department of Corrections (WDOC) prisoners have been diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder (GID), a psychiatric condition in which an individual identifies “strongly with a gender that does not match their physical sexual characteristics.”
GID is a recognized condition in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV); it is treated with psychotherapy, hormone therapy and, in severe cases, sexual reassignment surgery.
The WDOC GID prisoners were prescribed hormone therapy for their condition. However, in 2005 the Wisconsin legislature enacted the “Inmate Sex Change Prevention Act” (Act 105), which prohibited the WDOC from paying for “hormonal therapy or sexual reassignment surgery” for prisoners diagnosed with GID. See: 2005 Wis.Act 105, codified at Wis.Stat. § 302.386(5m)(2010).
WDOC prisoners are not allowed to seek outside health care and thus must rely on the prison system for medical treatment. However, the “defendants did not produce any evidence that another treatment could be an adequate replacement for hormone therapy” for prisoners with GID.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court’s injunction barring the application of a Wisconsin law that prohibits certain types of medical care for transgender prisoners.
Christopher Robinson, 18, was killed in October 2008 by a gang of prisoners who ...
The City of New York has paid $2 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the mother of a juvenile offender who was beaten to death at the Robert N. Davoren Center (RNDC) on Rikers Island.
Prisoner Johnnie Flournoy filed suit in state court in 2002. He alleged fraud and negligence against Ameritech, a prison phone ...
An Illinois prisoner has accepted $2,500 to settle a lawsuit against Ameritech, in which he accused the telecommunications company of fraudulently and intentionally disconnecting phone calls made by prisoners.
Before his arrest, Harry F. Nicoletti, Jr., 60, had worked at SCI for 10 years. The charges against him, stemming from his conduct in F Block, the prison’s intake unit, include institutional sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and official oppression.
A federal lawsuit filed five days before the Allegheny County Grand Jury indicted Nicoletti shed some light on the facts of the case. The suit claims that eight prison officials and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PDOC) had a “common plan and conspiracy to sexually abuse, physically abuse, and mentally abuse inmates who were homosexual,” as well as those who were transgender or convicted of sex crimes. The abuse allegedly included the rape of a transsexual prisoner.
The unidentified plaintiff who filed the lawsuit claimed that Nicoletti had victimized him by threatening to anally rape him, make him perform oral sex or touch his genitals, or he would be subjected to physical abuse and false misconduct reports. [See: PLN ...
A Pennsylvania state prison guard was arrested on September 27, 2011 and charged with 89 counts of physically and sexually abusing prisoners at State Correctional Institution (SCI) Pittsburgh. Seven other guards were initially suspended, and three face related charges.
A federal lawsuit filed on October 7, 2011 accused Donis of beating a prisoner, Gary W. Barbour, who had allegedly attempted to escape through the jail’s ventilation system in April 2010. He was caught and offered no resistance. Nonetheless, Donis allegedly put on leather gloves and repeatedly punched Barbour in the face after telling him, “I’m your worst nightmare.” Other guards allegedly participated in the assault.
According to the suit, after the beating Barbour’s bloody and soiled clothes were changed before he was taken to a hospital. He was also denied follow-up medical care by jail staff, was not taken to a surgical appointment for repair of a deviated septum and was placed in a psychological observation cell for more than a month.
Attorney Ronald D. Barber, who represents Barbour in the lawsuit, said it was “too early to tell” what effect the firing would have on the litigation. Allegheny County spokeswoman Judi McNeil refused ...
On October 29, 2011, James M. Donis, 50, who had been major of the guards and the fourth-highest-ranking official at the Allegheny County Jail in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was fired from his $68,631-a-year position. He had worked at the jail since 1989.
Filed on behalf of five ADX prisoners and another half-dozen “interested parties” who are also prisoners there, the suit claims that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) ignores its own regulations in shifting dangerous or hard-to-control prisoners to ADX regardless of their mental status, and fails to monitor them properly after they arrive – even to the point of denying them medication or ignoring diagnoses made by other BOP medical staff.
“Many prisoners at ADX interminably wail, scream, and bang on the walls of their cells,” the complaint alleges. “Some mutilate their bodies with razors, shards of glass, sharpened chicken bones, writing utensils, and whatever ...
“A Clean Version of Hell” – that’s what a 2007 segment of 60 Minutes called the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum facility in Florence, Colorado, or ADX, home to some of the world’s most notorious murderers and terrorists. But according to a grimly detailed lawsuit filed in Denver on June 18, 2012 that alleges systemic mistreatment of mentally ill prisoners, the federal supermax is actually a filthy version of hell – a place where untreated psychotic men mutilate themselves, have delusional conversations with ghosts and live in feces-caked isolation cells for months with little monitoring.
A total of 10,244 prisoners arrested for crimes ranging from murder and drug trafficking to trafficking women and bribery were released due to the mass amnesty – around 10 percent of the country’s entire prison population. Approximately 17,000 prisoners had been pardoned in 2010 and about 5,000 were released in 2009 as part of Vietnam’s annual National Day amnesty.
According to Giang Son, Vice-Chairman of the President’s office, “This once again demonstrates the clemency policy of the Party and State and the humane traditions of the Vietnamese people.”
International prison watchdog groups, however, painted a different picture. Human Rights Watch said Thachs’ poetry and other “dissident” writings “condemn corruption, injustice, and human rights abuses,” and noted that he had been arrested more than 10 times since 1978.
Amnesty International expressed concern that dozens of ...
Two Vietnamese activists jailed for advocating democracy were among more than 10,000 prisoners granted amnesty by Vietnam’s government on August 25, 2011 in celebration of National Day. Nguyen Van Tinh and Tran Duc Thach had been sentenced in 2009 to three-and-a-half and three years in jail, respectively – Tinh for hanging pro-democracy banners and Thach for “propaganda against the state.”
Swiss pharmaceutical company Naari AG cried foul and asked Nebraska to return the sodium thiopental. State officials countered that they had legally obtained the lethal injection drug and would move forward to execute prisoner Michael Ryan. Ryan was scheduled to be put to death in March 2012 but received a stay of execution.
Naari AG said it gave samples of sodium thiopental, which was produced at its plant in India, to Chris Harris with Harris Pharma LLP, a Calcutta broker, who claimed he wanted to sell it as an anesthetic in Zambia, according to a November 18, 2011 letter from Naari AG CEO Prithi Kochhar to Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican. Instead, Harris sold the samples to Nebraska officials for $5,411.
“I am shocked and appalled by this news,” wrote Kochhar. “I am writing to request that the thiopental which was wrongfully diverted ... to the Nebraska Department ...
In its desperation to obtain a supply of sodium thiopental, one of the three drugs commonly used to carry out executions by lethal injection, the State of Nebraska circumvented the manufacturer, which does not sell the drug for use in capital punishment, and instead bought it from an Indian middleman.
A January 2012 report by the Iowa Sex Offender Research Council indicates that the additional cost of monitoring an estimated 2,651 sex offenders serving special sentences will total at least $34.5 million by 2021, thanks to a strict state law.
That law, passed in 2005, requires sex offenders to be supervised and monitored with GPS tracking technology for 10 years to life after their release from prison, depending on the seriousness of their crimes.
“The special sentence, particularly lifetime supervision,” the report stated, “will increase the parole caseload by 78 percent in 10 years.”
According to Iowa’s Legislative Services Agency, the cost of treating, supervising and monitoring sex offenders cost the state $11.5 million in 2010 alone.
The report concluded that “[t]here is sufficient evidence that sex offenders and the public benefit from a period of supervision and treatment/relapse prevention support ...
Over the past decade more than 20 states have created “special sentences” that require community supervision for sex offenders after their release, even if they expire their prison terms. But Iowa is currently reevaluating whether the millions in taxpayer dollars spent on such post-release supervision is justified in light of the questionable results.
The plaintiff, 17-year-old Alyssia Frenzel, was detained ...
The County of Los Angeles has agreed to pay $161,000 to settle a civil rights action that claimed a juvenile offender was seriously injured while held at the Los Angeles County Probation Department’s Central Juvenile Hall (CJH), due to improper supervision.
Nevada: Former Southern Desert Correctional Center guard Michael Ford, 31, pleaded guilty on June 17, 2012 to felony misconduct charges. Ford was prosecuted for trying to smuggle tobacco to prisoners in a large duffle bag. “Our office takes seriously any allegations of corruption by public employees,” said Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.
New Jersey: Two former prison guards, Ardones V. Livingston, 55, and Latasha Y. Walker, 44, were convicted on June 20, 2012 of accepting $500 to smuggle a cell phone to a prisoner at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel. Both received five-year sentences and were barred from public employment; Livingston also forfeited his state pension. The prisoner who bribed the two guards, Frank Rodriquez, 52, was charged with ...
Indiana: On June 21, 2012, former state prison guard Benjamin Hankins, 37, was sentenced to 64 years for killing his estranged wife, Lisa, in June 2011. Hankins shot his wife three times when she dropped off their children at his home, then waited several minutes before calling the authorities. Hankins, who was also a Gaston police reserve officer, worked at the Pendleton Correctional Facility at the time. He claimed he was the victim of a police conspiracy.