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Prison Legal News: February, 2012

Issue PDF
Volume 23, Number 2

In this issue:

  1. Florida Provides Lesson in How Not to Privatize State Prisons (p 1)
  2. Israeli Study Shows Parole Decisions May be Affected by Whether Board Members are Hungry (p 8)
  3. Alaska Medical Care Reimbursement Statute Extends to Former Prisoners; State Refuses to Pay Part of Medical Malpractice Judgment (p 10)
  4. From the Editor (p 10)
  5. Prisoners Contribute to Flood Control Efforts in Louisiana (p 11)
  6. Business is Booming for Prison Profiteers (p 12)
  7. Colorado CCA Prison Uprising: New Details of Unheeded Warnings Emerge in Epic Lawsuit (p 14)
  8. PLN Settles Censorship Suit Against South Carolina Jail; County Agrees to Pay $599,900 and Change Policies (p 14)
  9. New York City Jail Considered Serving Spoiled Meat (p 16)
  10. Doctors Propose Changes to Fix Flaws in Compassionate Release Programs (p 16)
  11. Alaskan Private Prison Promoter Arrested in Mexico, Extradited to U.S. on Child Sexual Abuse Charges (p 18)
  12. California Governor Cozies up to Prison Guards and Crime Victim Advocates (p 18)
  13. GEO Group Ends Florida PAC (p 19)
  14. Some States Resist Implementing Adam Walsh Act Requirements (p 20)
  15. Fight Brewing Between County Jails and Private Prisons in Kentucky (p 20)
  16. Oregon Discontinues Failed Prisoner Deportation Program (p 22)
  17. Rikers Island Guards File Suit Alleging Cancer-Causing Toxin Exposure (p 22)
  18. Private Equity Firms Profit Handsomely from Prison Phone Services (p 23)
  19. Mother Questions Her Son’s “Natural” Death in Colorado CCA Prison (p 24)
  20. Head of Missouri Jail Sentenced for Beating, Arranging Attacks on Prisoners (p 24)
  21. CDCR Pays $12,000 to Settle California Prisoner’s Pro Se Caging Suit (p 25)
  22. Settlement in New York City Jail Mental Health Services Case Still Alive (p 26)
  23. Texas Prisoner on Idaho Presidential Primary Ballot in 2008 (p 26)
  24. Washington DOC Employee Faces Ethics Complaint for Running Non-Profits on State Time Using State Resources (p 28)
  25. Audit Recommends Cost-Saving Measures for Minnesota Sex Offender Program (p 28)
  26. BOP Settles Prisoner Rape Suit for $625,000 (p 30)
  27. Videotaped Assault at Idaho CCA Prison Sparks FBI Investigation (p 30)
  28. Texas Towns Saddled with Empty, Expensive Privatized Prisons and Jails (p 32)
  29. Homeless New Mexico Sex Offender Arrested for Moving Out of Dumpster (p 33)
  30. Massachusetts: Guards Suspended, Accused of Threatening to Kill Escaped Prisoner in Scheme to Generate Overtime (p 34)
  31. FBI Looks into Relationship between GEO Group and Former Florida House Speaker (p 34)
  32. Federal Probation Officer Sexually Abused Clients, Sentenced to Ten Years (p 36)
  33. Prison Phone Rates Under Scrutiny by Louisiana Regulatory Agency (p 36)
  34. New Mexico Continues to Let Understaffed Private Prisons Slide on Most Contract Violations (p 38)
  35. Agreement Between Florida DOC and DOT Steals 1,000 Freeworld Jobs (p 38)
  36. Washington Prisoner Killed During Prison Industries Escape Attempt (p 39)
  37. Oregon’s Attorney General Accused of Botched, Abusive Prosecutions (p 40)
  38. California Pays $10,000 to Settle Sex Abuse Suit Brought by Transgender Prisoner (p 43)
  39. Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Credits Sentence with Time on Appeal Bond (p 44)
  40. Ninth Circuit Applies Turner Test to Evaluate First Amendment Interest in Prisoners’ Receipt of Unsolicited Publications (p 44)
  41. Arizona Ranchers Use Prison Labor to Construct Erosion-Prevention Dams (p 45)
  42. Former Oregon Prison Official Faces Ethics Probe (p 46)
  43. Study Reports on Undiagnosed HIV Infections in New York City Jails (p 46)
  44. Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Rules Against Parole Board on Imposition of Sex Offender Restrictions on Non-Sex Offenders (p 48)
  45. Colorado Prison Murder Prosecutions Include Coerced Witnesses, Withholding of Evidence (p 48)
  46. California: Prison Visitor Settles Slip-and-Fall Suit for $175,000 (p 49)
  47. News in Brief: (p 50)

Florida Provides Lesson in How Not to Privatize State Prisons

by David M. Reutter

When Florida lawmakers used a backdoor approach to try to privatize almost 30 state detention facilities in 2011, they likely did not anticipate the outcome. By the time the political dust had settled, the union representing prison employees had successfully sued to stop the privatization plan ...

Israeli Study Shows Parole Decisions May be Affected by Whether Board Members are Hungry

A ten-month study of over 1,100 parole hearings in Israel indicates that the odds of a prisoner being found suitable for parole seem to be affected by the interval between the hearing and the time the board members last ate, with the odds decreasing dramatically as the length of ...

Alaska Medical Care Reimbursement Statute Extends to Former Prisoners; State Refuses to Pay Part of Medical Malpractice Judgment

On June 24, 2011, the Alaska Supreme Court held that state law allows the Alaska Department of Corrections (ADOC) to seek reimbursement of medical costs from former prisoners.

Dewell Pearce was an ADOC prisoner from 1994 to 2008. He suffered from a number of medical conditions that required outside care ...

From the Editor

I would like to thank everyone who donated to our end-of-year fundraiser. It was very successful, and I am pleased to announce that we have added a second staff attorney to join Lance Weber, our chief counsel, as part of our legal team. Alissa Hull is a recent law school ...

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, filled sandbags in an effort to save lives, buildings and property.

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

Business is Booming for Prison Profiteers

Private corrections company The GEO Group celebrated the holiday season by opening a new 1,500-bed prison in Milledgeville, Georgia on December 12, 2011. The $80 million facility is expected to generate approximately $28 million in annual revenues.

Though GEO (formerly Wackenhut Corrections) is hardly a household name, it is ...

Colorado CCA Prison Uprising: New Details of Unheeded Warnings Emerge in Epic Lawsuit

Seven years ago prisoners at a private prison in southeastern Colorado went on an all-night rampage, chasing the shorthanded staff from the premises, attacking suspected snitches, setting fires and causing millions of dollars in damages. Now documents filed in a long-running legal battle confirm what many prisoners have been saying ...

PLN Settles Censorship Suit Against South Carolina Jail; County Agrees to Pay $599,900 and Change Policies

On January 10, 2012, Prison Legal News settled a First Amendment censorship suit against the Sheriff’s Office for Berkeley County, South Carolina.

The settlement includes changes at the Berkeley County Detention Center (BCDC) related to the receipt of publications and religious materials by jail prisoners, as well as the ...

New York City Jail Considered Serving Spoiled Meat

After Rikers Island officials discovered 65,000 pounds of spoiled meat at the jail, at least one official suggested that it be served to prisoners. The meat, valued at $130,816, was found rotting on July 11, 2011 when nauseating smells began emanating from two freezer trailers that had stopped ...

Doctors Propose Changes to Fix Flaws in Compassionate Release Programs

by Mike Brodheim

In “Balancing Punishment and Compassion for Seriously Ill Prisoners,” published in the July 19, 2011 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, Doctors Brie A. Williams, Rebecca L. Sudore, Robert Greifinger and R. Sean Morrison propose changes to address “medical-related flaws” in compassionate release programs for prisoners.

The ...

Alaskan Private Prison Promoter Arrested in Mexico, Extradited to U.S. on Child Sexual Abuse Charges

In the 1980s, Bill Weimar became a rich man when his company, Allvest Corporation, owned and operated a chain of private halfway houses in Alaska. He heavily promoted building a private prison in Alaska, too, in conjunction with Cornell Corrections, but fell under the scrutiny of the FBI. In 2006 ...

California Governor Cozies up to Prison Guards and Crime Victim Advocates

In April 2011, in apparent repayment of a political debt for helping him get elected, California Governor Jerry Brown approved a 200-page labor contract that gives the 31,000-strong California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) a number of benefits that, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, will create ...

GEO Group Ends Florida PAC

An audit by the Florida Department of State found that the GEO Group, Inc., the nation’s second-largest private prison company, had been violating Florida law by making contributions to politicians from GEO’s Political Action Committee (PAC) in excess of the $500 limit.

In a letter to state election ...

Some States Resist Implementing Adam Walsh Act Requirements

Under the federal Adam Walsh Act, also known as the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), states were required to implement standardized and stringent registration requirements for sex offenders by July 27, 2011 – following two extensions from the original July 2009 deadline – or risk losing 10% of their funding ...

Fight Brewing Between County Jails and Private Prisons in Kentucky

A bill introduced in the Kentucky legislature proposed removing approximately 3,500 Class D state prisoners currently held in county jails and transferring them to private prisons owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Opponents claimed the bill made no fiscal sense. The state pays the counties $31 ...

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 ...

Rikers Island Guards File Suit Alleging Cancer-Causing Toxin Exposure

The Rikers Island jail in New York City was built atop a toxic landfill that is causing cancer, according to lawsuits filed by seven cancer-stricken Rikers employees.

“That island is toxic and it’s killing people,” said guard Vanessa Parks, 49, who was diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2009. “I ...

Private Equity Firms Profit Handsomely from Prison Phone Services

The October 2011 sale of Global Tel*Link Corp. (GTL), the nation’s largest prison and jail phone company, demonstrates what a goldmine prison phone services are for the provider side of the market. The sale, reportedly valued at $1 billion, was highly unusual because it was a leveraged deal ...

Mother Questions Her Son’s “Natural” Death in Colorado CCA Prison

On October 28, 2010, a 26-year-old prisoner named Terrell Griswold was found slumped over and unresponsive in his cell at the Bent County Correctional Facility, a private prison in southeastern Colorado. The official cause of death was listed as cardiac hypertrophy, or an enlarged heart. But Lagalia Afola says the ...

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 ...

CDCR Pays $12,000 to Settle California Prisoner’s Pro Se Caging Suit

As part of a settlement agreement, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) agreed to pay $12,000 to prisoner Bobby James Williams to settle a lawsuit Williams filed in 2005. Williams claimed that the CDCR had violated his state and federal constitutional rights when he was placed in ...

Settlement in New York City Jail Mental Health Services Case Still Alive

On June 28, 2011, the New York Court of Appeals held that a motion to extend the obligations of New York City officials to provide mental health services to jail prisoners was timely because it was filed before the settlement agreement in the case expired.

A group of mentally ill ...

Texas Prisoner on Idaho Presidential Primary Ballot in 2008

During the 2008 Democratic primary election, Idaho voters had three choices for president: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Keith Russell Judd.

At the time, Judd was serving time at the Beaumont Federal Correctional Institution in Texas on a 1999 conviction for making threats on the University of New Mexico campus ...

Washington DOC Employee Faces Ethics Complaint for Running Non-Profits on State Time Using State Resources

by Matt Clarke

In 2005, Washington Department of Corrections Secretary Harold Clarke reprimanded DOC employee Belinda D. Stewart for selling Avon products to her co-workers at the Purdy women’s prison after she was ordered not to conduct private business with DOC staff.

Instead of learning a lesson about co-mingling ...

Audit Recommends Cost-Saving Measures for Minnesota Sex Offender Program

A March 2011 report by Minnesota’s Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) found that while civilly committing sex offenders increases public safety, the prohibitive costs associated with administering the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) could be reduced by, among other means, developing alternatives to commitment at high-security facilities and ...

BOP Settles Prisoner Rape Suit for $625,000

The federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has agreed to pay $625,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a prisoner who was raped by a guard at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, New York.

In the early hours of November 25, 2001, Karleen Toni Remice was forced to ...

Videotaped Assault at Idaho CCA Prison Sparks FBI Investigation

Guards at a private prison in Idaho looked on, but did not intervene, as a prisoner was beaten into a coma. Video footage of the January 2010 incident has sparked an FBI investigation into civil rights violations at the facility.

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest private ...

Texas Towns Saddled with Empty, Expensive Privatized Prisons and Jails

by Matt Clarke

In July 2011, anyone with at least $5 million to spare was invited to bid on a 373-bed, state-of-the-art, turn-key minimum-security prison on 30 acres of land in the cotton-farming town of Littlefield, Texas.

The tiny town, with a population of 6,500, agreed to build what ...

Homeless New Mexico Sex Offender Arrested for Moving Out of Dumpster

Charles Mader, a registered sex offender, was homeless when he was released from jail, so he listed a dumpster at an intersection in Albuquerque, New Mexico as his residence.
That was fine with authorities. However, after Mader moved to an abandoned house across the street from a nearby homeless shelter ...

Massachusetts: Guards Suspended, Accused of Threatening to Kill Escaped Prisoner in Scheme to Generate Overtime

Two Massachusetts Department of Correction (DOC) officers were suspended in May 2011, one with pay, in connection with anonymous, threatening phone calls made to a hospital where a critically wounded prisoner was being held, apparently in an effort to create additional overtime opportunities for DOC guards.

On April 25, 2011 ...

FBI Looks into Relationship between GEO Group and Former Florida House Speaker

In March 2011, PLN reported on the political machinations that led to the construction of Florida’s Blackwater River Correctional Institution (BRCI), which is operated by GEO Group, the nation’s second-largest private prison firm. BRCI was opened at a time when there was excess bed space in Florida’s ...

Federal Probation Officer Sexually Abused Clients, Sentenced to Ten Years

U.S. probation officer Mark John Walker, 52, supervised federal prisoners on parole, probation and other forms of supervised release in Eugene, Oregon from May 1987 until July 2009. Now, however, it will be Walker who is on supervised release after he completes a 10-year federal prison sentence for sexually ...

Prison Phone Rates Under Scrutiny by Louisiana Regulatory Agency

The Louisiana Public Service Commission (PSC) is examining the rates for phone calls made by prisoners. To help it in that determination, the PSC has hired outside counsel to analyze rates, review regulations and compare them with other states to decide if they are “just, fair and reasonable.”

PLN previously ...

New Mexico Continues to Let Understaffed Private Prisons Slide on Most Contract Violations

by Matt Clarke

In September 2010, the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee calculated that over a four-year period, former Governor Bill Richardson (D) failed to collect $18.6 million in penalties from private prison companies that breached their contracts with the state by allowing their for-profit facilities to remain understaffed ...

Agreement Between Florida DOC and DOT Steals 1,000 Freeworld Jobs

With an economic malaise still affecting the nation, millions of people are looking for work. Florida is among the states that have seen job losses over the past four years, and ex-cons are especially hard-pressed to find employment upon release. Rather than offering more jobs to people in the community ...

Washington Prisoner Killed During Prison Industries Escape Attempt

A Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) prisoner was shot and killed at the Clallam Bay Corrections Facility during a June 29, 2011 escape attempt.

At approximately 10:00 a.m., state prisoner Dominick Maldonado, 25, used a pair of scissors to take a guard hostage in the prison’s garment ...

Oregon’s Attorney General Accused of Botched, Abusive Prosecutions

As previously reported in PLN, the Oregon Department of Justice (ODOJ) recently turned its prosecutorial power against a hotshot small-town district attorney. [See: PLN, Oct. 2011, p.39].

By the time it was over the DA had resigned, but the ODOJ skulked away with a fat lip and an ugly ...

California Pays $10,000 to Settle Sex Abuse Suit Brought by Transgender Prisoner

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has entered into a settlement agreement with former state prisoner Alexis Giraldo, paying her $10,000 in exchange for a voluntary dismissal of a lawsuit she filed in San Francisco Superior Court in 2007.

In her suit, Giraldo, a male-to-female transgender prisoner ...

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Credits Sentence with Time on Appeal Bond

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that a man who erroneously remained free on an appeal bond for 21 years was entitled to full credit toward his sentence.

Claus Detref Thiles was sentenced to 16 years in prison in a Dallas County plea agreement in 1982. He appealed. The ...

Ninth Circuit Applies Turner Test to Evaluate First Amendment Interest in Prisoners’ Receipt of Unsolicited Publications

Ninth Circuit Applies Turner Test to Evaluate First Amendment Interest in Prisoners’
Receipt of Unsolicited Publications

by Mike Brodheim

On January 31, 2011, a divided Ninth Circuit panel reversed the grant of summary judgment to two California sheriffs who had adopted mail policies that prevented detainees in their county jails ...

Arizona Ranchers Use Prison Labor to Construct Erosion-Prevention Dams

Whitewater Draw near McNeal, Arizona is a unique desert wetland with a shallow lake that hosts thousands of Sandhill Cranes and other water fowl. Water comes to the 600-acre wildlife area from the mountains that ring Sulfur Springs Valley. However, the water tends to arrive in the form of infrequent ...

Former Oregon Prison Official Faces Ethics Probe

In March 2011, Michael Taaffe, 56, retired from his $91,000-a-year job as an assistant administrator for the Health Services Division of the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC). Three days earlier he had been hired by Correctional Health Partners (CHP), a private medical services company.

While employed with the ODOC ...

Study Reports on Undiagnosed HIV Infections in New York City Jails

by Matt Clarke

An article in the May 2011 issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome reported that the HIV infection rate among people being booked into New York City jails was much higher than the average in the general population, but lower than the 1998 rate. In ...

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Rules Against Parole Board on Imposition of Sex Offender Restrictions on Non-Sex Offenders

by Matt Clarke

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles was required to provide due process in the form of a hearing similar to a parole revocation hearing before imposing onerous sex offender restrictions (Special Condition X) on prisoners who had been ...

Colorado Prison Murder Prosecutions Include Coerced Witnesses, Withholding of Evidence

In January 2011, a Powers County, Colorado jury acquitted a prisoner who was charged in the stabbing death of another prisoner. Prior to trial, prison officials were accused of using coercion to persuade prisoners to testify for the prosecution, including putting one in segregation for a year when he refused ...

California: Prison Visitor Settles Slip-and-Fall Suit for $175,000

Richard Allen Barton, Sr. has settled a lawsuit he filed against the State of California and officials at Avenal State Prison, agreeing to accept $175,000 in exchange for dismissal of the suit.

On July 11, 2008, while visiting a prisoner at Avenal, Barton slipped on a wet bathroom floor ...

News in Brief:

Alabama: Jonathan Windham, 24, was acquitted of manslaughter on October 4, 2011 in connection with the January 2009 death of Northwest Florida Reception Center prison guard Timothy Fowler. Fowler had an altercation with Windham over a card game, and Windham hit him in self-defense. Medical evidence indicated that Fowler died ...