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Prison Legal News: December, 2012

Issue PDF
Volume 23, Number 12

In this issue:

  1. Momentum Builds to End Prison-Based Gerrymandering (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 12)
  3. Oregon DOC Gets Tiny Cut of $3.34 Million Pfizer Settlement (p 12)
  4. CCA Ceases Operations at Mississippi Prison, County Jail (p 14)
  5. Florida DOC Program Targets Incarcerated Veterans (p 14)
  6. PLN Settles Public Records Suit Against PHS in Vermont, Obtains Settlement Payout Information (p 16)
  7. Washington Jail Prisoner Settles Retaliation Claim for $10,000 (p 16)
  8. Transgender Prisoner’s Lawsuit Sparks BOP Policy Change (p 18)
  9. Fifth Circuit Upholds Former Texas State Judge’s Bribery-Related Convictions (p 18)
  10. States Create Special Commissions to Study Flat-Fee Indigent Defense (p 20)
  11. GAO Report Examines Contraband Cell Phone Use in BOP Facilities (p 22)
  12. Former New York DOCS Food Director Pleads Guilty to Grand Larceny (p 24)
  13. Texas Slashes Prison Education Budget (p 24)
  14. Misconduct at U.S. Army Lab Taints Hundreds of Military Prosecutions (p 26)
  15. Oregon DOC Did Not Report 78 Prisoner Deaths in 2010-2011 (p 28)
  16. Virginia Prison Policy Prohibiting Secular, Non-Religious CDs Held Unconstitutional (p 31)
  17. America Eats its Young: Arizona Communities Embrace Use of Private Prison Employees in Drug Raids at Public Schools (p 32)
  18. Report Criticizes New Hampshire’s Treatment of Female Prisoners; Lawsuit Filed (p 34)
  19. Fifth Circuit Reverses $250,000 Award to Mississippi Prisoner Held too Long (p 36)
  20. U.S. Sentencing Commission Calls Federal Mandatory Minimums “Excessively Severe” (p 36)
  21. Arkansas Prison Director Suspended by Board of Corrections (p 38)
  22. Texas Federal Court Issues Preliminary Injunction Prohibiting Sex Offender Parole Conditions; Case Settles for $52,000 (p 38)
  23. Federal Court Upholds Maryland Law that Reclassifies Prisoners for Redistricting (p 40)
  24. Fifth Circuit Holds Mailbox Rule Applies to Legal Mail Rejected Under Bogus Prison Rule (p 40)
  25. New North Carolina DOC Hospital Promises Better Healthcare for Prisoners (p 42)
  26. Michigan DOC Taser Experiment Touted; Prison Perimeter Patrols to End (p 42)
  27. Missouri County Ordered to Present Civil Detainees Before Court within 27 Hours; $75,000 Damages Settlement (p 44)
  28. Organizations Submit Letters to FCC Urging Action on Prison Phone Rates (p 44)
  29. West Memphis Three Released, but Justice Not Served and Questions Remain (p 46)
  30. Oregon Re-Sells Unused Execution Drugs (p 47)
  31. Philadelphia Women Prisoners Sue for Being Housed with a Man (p 48)
  32. California: Jail Nurse Receives $703,957 in Retaliation Suit Against County, PHS (p 48)
  33. Puerto Rico DOC Fires 97 Guards, Suspends More Than 100 (p 49)
  34. News in Brief (p 50)

Momentum Builds to End Prison-Based Gerrymandering

Four states and hundreds of local governments are standing up to reject one of the most repugnant aspects of the prison industrial complex: Legislators with prisons located in their districts who claim the people incarcerated there – who cannot vote – as their “constituents,” then use their newfound political clout to further ...

From the Editor

This is the last issue of PLN for 2012. By now, all PLN subscribers should have received our annual fundraising appeal; if you have not yet donated, and can afford to do so, then please do. This year we are asking our readers for donations to help support the Campaign ...

Oregon DOC Gets Tiny Cut of $3.34 Million Pfizer Settlement

The Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) was duped by Pfizer, Inc.’s misleading statements and studies used to market an antibiotic, according to the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ). As such, the ODOC received part of a $3.34 million settlement between the State of Oregon and the pharmaceutical giant ...

CCA Ceases Operations at Mississippi Prison, County Jail

On November 10, 2011, Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps announced the closure of the privately-operated 1,172-bed Delta Correctional Facility in Leflore County. He said closing the prison was a mutual decision by state officials and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

CCA was being paid $31.15 per ...

Florida DOC Program Targets Incarcerated Veterans

The Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) has implemented a program for military veterans that includes special housing and counseling services. While some see the program as providing preferential treatment, FDOC officials view it as a way to meet the special needs of incarcerated veterans in hopes of rehabilitating them.

Of ...

PLN Settles Public Records Suit Against PHS in Vermont, Obtains Settlement Payout Information

On February 21, 2012, Prison Legal News settled a public records lawsuit filed in Vermont state court against Prison Health Services (PHS, now operating as Corizon Health, Inc.). As part of the settlement PHS agreed to produce records related to its resolution of legal claims against the company in Vermont ...

Washington Jail Prisoner Settles Retaliation Claim for $10,000

Washington State’s Pierce County has agreed to pay $10,000 to settle a federal lawsuit that claimed a prisoner was subjected to retaliation in the form of solitary confinement for exercising his First Amendment right of access to the courts.

Neil Grenning filed suit under 42 U.S.C ...

Transgender Prisoner’s Lawsuit Sparks BOP Policy Change

A lawsuit filed by a tranmasssgender federal prisoner in Massachusetts has resulted in the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) making appropriate medical care available “to [prisoners] who believe they are the wrong gender,” according to a May 31, 2011 memo issued to all BOP wardens. Previous BOP policy limited treatment of ...

Fifth Circuit Upholds Former Texas State Judge’s Bribery-Related Convictions

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of a former Texas state judge on two counts of wire fraud and one count of making false statements related to bribes he received while in office.

After he was elected but before being sworn in as a state district judge ...

States Create Special Commissions to Study Flat-Fee Indigent Defense

Some states may soon be doing more to guarantee the Sixth Amendment right to counsel for indigent criminal defend-ants.

Special commissions have been convened in Nevada, Idaho, Michigan and Pennsylvania to investigate how flat-fee contracts with private defense attorneys are failing defendants who can’t afford to hire counsel. Meanwhile ...

GAO Report Examines Contraband Cell Phone Use in BOP Facilities

by Derek Gilna and Brandon Sample

A September 2011 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), which reviewed the use of cell phones by federal prisoners, recommended various options to reduce the recent spike in such contraband devices. According to the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), “a number ...

Former New York DOCS Food Director Pleads Guilty to Grand Larceny

Howard Dean, the state employee who ran New York’s prison food services for 17 years, was treated like a big cheese by private vendors. In return, according to investigators, he gave them the secret ingredient for the cheese sauce served at prisons throughout the state.

The New York Department ...

Texas Slashes Prison Education Budget

by Matt Clarke

Faced with a $23 billion biennial state budget deficit, the Texas legislature has radically cut education programs in state prisons. Such short-term savings will undoubtedly result in long-term expenses, as education has been proven to reduce recidivism.

Jorge Renaud, 55, is an example of a prison education ...

Misconduct at U.S. Army Lab Taints Hundreds of Military Prosecutions

Pentagon investigators are looking into allegations that an analyst at the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory (USACIL) botched hundreds of DNA tests, casting doubt about lab results in hundreds of prosecutions. An accused soldier who was forced to resign over allegations of sexual misconduct that were allegedly verified by ...

Oregon DOC Did Not Report 78 Prisoner Deaths in 2010-2011

Seventy-nine Oregon state prisoners died in 2010 and 2011, but the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) publicly disclosed just one of those deaths.

The 79 deaths occurred in nine of the ODOC’s 14 prisons, with three facilities reporting double-digit fatalities: 31 deaths at the Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP) in ...

Virginia Prison Policy Prohibiting Secular, Non-Religious CDs Held Unconstitutional

On February 7, 2012, a U.S. District Court held that a Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) policy prohibiting prisoners from purchasing or possessing secular spoken-word compact discs was unconstitutional. The court invalidated the policy but also granted qualified immunity to the defendant prison officials.

Owen North, a friend of ...

America Eats its Young: Arizona Communities Embrace Use of Private Prison Employees in Drug Raids at Public Schools

In Arizona an unsettling trend appears to be underway: the use of private prison employees in law enforcement operations.

The state has graced headlines in recent years as the result of its cozy relationship with for-profit prison companies – for the role of the private prison industry in assisting in the ...

Report Criticizes New Hampshire’s Treatment of Female Prisoners; Lawsuit Filed

A two-year investigation has concluded that the New Hampshire Department of Corrections is guilty of “inexcusable neglect” of female prisoners, according to a report released on October 17, 2011.

The New Hampshire State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said the 103 prisoners incarcerated at the ...

Fifth Circuit Reverses $250,000 Award to Mississippi Prisoner Held too Long

by Matt Clarke

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Christopher B. Epps, the Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), was entitled to qualified immunity after a prisoner was held beyond the date he was supposed to be released.

Will Terrance Porter, a former Mississippi state prisoner ...

U.S. Sentencing Commission Calls Federal Mandatory Minimums “Excessively Severe”

In a 645-page report prepared by the U.S. Sentencing Commission for Congress, released in October 2011, the Commission found that federal “mandatory minimum” sentences are harsh and unjust – especially in cases where there is no physical harm or threat of physical harm. The study was the first thorough examination ...

Arkansas Prison Director Suspended by Board of Corrections

Ray Hobbs, director of the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADOC), was suspended without pay for two weeks, starting January 2, 2012, for failing to promptly inform the Board of Corrections about a computer glitch that resulted in hundreds of prisoners being paroled early. A six-month probation period followed his suspension ...

Texas Federal Court Issues Preliminary Injunction Prohibiting Sex Offender Parole Conditions; Case Settles for $52,000

by Matt Clarke

On October 7, 2011, a U.S. District Court issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (Board) from enforcing onerous sex offender conditions that had been imposed on a parolee who had not been convicted of a sex offense.

Buddy Jene Yeary ...

Federal Court Upholds Maryland Law that Reclassifies Prisoners for Redistricting

by David M. Reutter

On December 23, 2011, a Maryland federal district court three-judge panel upheld a state law that counts prisoners as residents of their legal home address rather than their prison address for redistricting purposes.

For decades, states have used unadjusted census data to set voting districts. The ...

Fifth Circuit Holds Mailbox Rule Applies to Legal Mail Rejected Under Bogus Prison Rule

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that legal mail rejected by prison officials under a purported rule that does not exist is still entitled to the “mailbox rule.”

Clifford Medley, a Texas state prisoner, tried to mail his federal habeas corpus petition to the U.S. district court ...

New North Carolina DOC Hospital Promises Better Healthcare for Prisoners

With crowded prisons and an increasing percentage of prisoners age 50 and older, the North Carolina Department of Corrections (NCDOC) opened a $153.7 million medical complex at the Central Prison in Raleigh in November 2011.

The new complex includes a five-story, 167,000-square-foot hospital with 120 inpatient beds and ...

Michigan DOC Taser Experiment Touted; Prison Perimeter Patrols to End

Michigan prison officials are proclaiming their experiment to arm guards with Tasers a success. An announced end to round-the-clock patrols of prison perimeters, however, was denounced as a threat to security by the union that represents Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) employees.

The Taser experiment began in December 2011 as ...

Missouri County Ordered to Present Civil Detainees Before Court within 27 Hours; $75,000 Damages Settlement

A Missouri federal district court has entered a consent decree in a class-action lawsuit that prohibits county officials from holding people detained for more than 27 hours, excluding weekends and holidays, on a civil body attachment or other civil process related to child support unless they have seen a judge ...

Organizations Submit Letters to FCC Urging Action on Prison Phone Rates

On October 23, 2012, the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), which publishes Prison Legal News, submitted a joint letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging action on the “Wright Petition,” which asks the FCC to place caps on interstate prison phone rates to make them more affordable.

The Wright ...

West Memphis Three Released, but Justice Not Served and Questions Remain

In August 2011, a trio of Arkansas state prisoners, widely known as the West Memphis Three, walked out of prison after serving more than 18 years for a brutal triple homicide they did not commit. They were not exonerated, however, and are still seeking justice.

In May 1993 the bodies ...

Oregon Re-Sells Unused Execution Drugs

On November 22, 2011, death penalty opponents cheered Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber’s decision to halt the scheduled December 6, 2011 execution of Gary Haugen, and to impose a moratorium on all executions for the duration of his term. Kitzhaber called the death penalty “compromised and inequitable.” [See: PLN, June ...

Philadelphia Women Prisoners Sue for Being Housed with a Man

Four women have sued the City and County of Philadelphia, its prison system, several of its divisions and officials, and Prison Health Services (PHS, now known as Corizon) for forcing them to share a jail cell with a man for over a year.

Jovanie Saldana, 23, was taken to the ...

California: Jail Nurse Receives $703,957 in Retaliation Suit Against County, PHS

On December 15, 2011, following a three-week trial, a federal jury in San Francisco awarded Freddie M. Davis, formerly employed at Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail, $528,957 in damages stemming from retaliation she experienced after she and other nurses complained about mistreatment from a supervisor.

The jury found ...

Puerto Rico DOC Fires 97 Guards, Suspends More Than 100

Puerto Rico’s revolving door of corrupt prison guards is spinning a little faster.
In October 2011, the U.S. commonwealth’s Department of Corrections announced plans to terminate 97 guards and suspend more than 100 others due to illegal drug use, contraband smuggling or unjustified absences from their jobs ...

News in Brief

Afghanistan: On June 7, 2012, 31 prisoners escaped from a prison in Sar-e-Pul province after Taliban fighters blew a hole in the side of the facility. Three prisoners were killed and 28 wounded in a resulting gun battle with guards. Sixteen prisoners were captured shortly after the break-out; the others ...