Prison Legal News:
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Volume 23, Number 2
In this issue:
- Florida Provides Lesson in How Not to Privatize State Prisons (p 1)
- Israeli Study Shows Parole Decisions May be Affected by Whether Board Members are Hungry (p 8)
- Alaska Medical Care Reimbursement Statute Extends to Former Prisoners; State Refuses to Pay Part of Medical Malpractice Judgment (p 10)
- From the Editor (p 10)
- Prisoners Contribute to Flood Control Efforts in Louisiana (p 11)
- Business is Booming for Prison Profiteers (p 12)
- Colorado CCA Prison Uprising: New Details of Unheeded Warnings Emerge in Epic Lawsuit (p 14)
- PLN Settles Censorship Suit Against South Carolina Jail; County Agrees to Pay $599,900 and Change Policies (p 14)
- New York City Jail Considered Serving Spoiled Meat (p 16)
- Doctors Propose Changes to Fix Flaws in Compassionate Release Programs (p 16)
- Alaskan Private Prison Promoter Arrested in Mexico, Extradited to U.S. on Child Sexual Abuse Charges (p 18)
- California Governor Cozies up to Prison Guards and Crime Victim Advocates (p 18)
- GEO Group Ends Florida PAC (p 19)
- Some States Resist Implementing Adam Walsh Act Requirements (p 20)
- Fight Brewing Between County Jails and Private Prisons in Kentucky (p 20)
- Oregon Discontinues Failed Prisoner Deportation Program (p 22)
- Rikers Island Guards File Suit Alleging Cancer-Causing Toxin Exposure (p 22)
- Private Equity Firms Profit Handsomely from Prison Phone Services (p 23)
- Mother Questions Her Son’s “Natural” Death in Colorado CCA Prison (p 24)
- Head of Missouri Jail Sentenced for Beating, Arranging Attacks on Prisoners (p 24)
- CDCR Pays $12,000 to Settle California Prisoner’s Pro Se Caging Suit (p 25)
- Settlement in New York City Jail Mental Health Services Case Still Alive (p 26)
- Texas Prisoner on Idaho Presidential Primary Ballot in 2008 (p 26)
- Washington DOC Employee Faces Ethics Complaint for Running Non-Profits on State Time Using State Resources (p 28)
- Audit Recommends Cost-Saving Measures for Minnesota Sex Offender Program (p 28)
- BOP Settles Prisoner Rape Suit for $625,000 (p 30)
- Videotaped Assault at Idaho CCA Prison Sparks FBI Investigation (p 30)
- Texas Towns Saddled with Empty, Expensive Privatized Prisons and Jails (p 32)
- Homeless New Mexico Sex Offender Arrested for Moving Out of Dumpster (p 33)
- Massachusetts: Guards Suspended, Accused of Threatening to Kill Escaped Prisoner in Scheme to Generate Overtime (p 34)
- FBI Looks into Relationship between GEO Group and Former Florida House Speaker (p 34)
- Federal Probation Officer Sexually Abused Clients, Sentenced to Ten Years (p 36)
- Prison Phone Rates Under Scrutiny by Louisiana Regulatory Agency (p 36)
- New Mexico Continues to Let Understaffed Private Prisons Slide on Most Contract Violations (p 38)
- Agreement Between Florida DOC and DOT Steals 1,000 Freeworld Jobs (p 38)
- Washington Prisoner Killed During Prison Industries Escape Attempt (p 39)
- Oregon’s Attorney General Accused of Botched, Abusive Prosecutions (p 40)
- California Pays $10,000 to Settle Sex Abuse Suit Brought by Transgender Prisoner (p 43)
- Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Credits Sentence with Time on Appeal Bond (p 44)
- Ninth Circuit Applies Turner Test to Evaluate First Amendment Interest in Prisoners’ Receipt of Unsolicited Publications (p 44)
- Arizona Ranchers Use Prison Labor to Construct Erosion-Prevention Dams (p 45)
- Former Oregon Prison Official Faces Ethics Probe (p 46)
- Study Reports on Undiagnosed HIV Infections in New York City Jails (p 46)
- Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Rules Against Parole Board on Imposition of Sex Offender Restrictions on Non-Sex Offenders (p 48)
- Colorado Prison Murder Prosecutions Include Coerced Witnesses, Withholding of Evidence (p 48)
- California: Prison Visitor Settles Slip-and-Fall Suit for $175,000 (p 49)
- News in Brief: (p 50)
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, the state’s top two corrections officials had resigned, and an ethics complaint had been filed against the governor for accepting campaign donations from companies that stood to benefit from privatizing state prisons.
But first some background.
Private Prisons in the Sunshine State
Florida’s Department of Corrections – the third largest in the nation – has been in a constant mode of expansion since a federal court began overseeing the state’s prison system due to a 1972 class-action lawsuit that challenged overcrowding and conditions of confinement. A prison population boom in the 1980s and a court-ordered limitation on the number of prisoners the system could hold created a dilemma.
At first prison officials erected tents to house prisoners at night, tore them down in the morning, and then put the prisoners on buses and shipped them around the state while court monitors inspected the prisons. This attempt to hide the ...
by David M. Reutter
The research results of Ben Gurion University Professor Shai Denziger and his colleagues, including researchers from Columbia University in New York, was reported in the April 2011 issue of Discover magazine. Their study tracked the rulings of eight Israeli judges with an average of 22 years of judicial experience; each of the judges considered between 14 and 35 parole hearings a day, spending around 6 minutes on each decision.
The work day of the judges was divided into three sessions, with a food break between each of the sessions (and presumably a breakfast meal before the first session). The results of the study were striking. Within each session, a prisoner’s probability of being found suitable for parole always began at a relatively high 65% and then invariably dropped to about 10-20% by the end of the session. Interestingly, after every food break the probability of a ...
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 that interval increases.
Dewell Pearce was an ADOC prisoner from 1994 to 2008. He suffered from a number of medical conditions that required outside care between 2001 and 2008, at a cost of more than $150,000.
In March 2008, Pearce prevailed on a medical malpractice claim against the state and was awarded $369,277.88. Rather than pay the full judgment, however, the state “withheld $140,847 as claimed reimbursement for Pearce’s outside medical care unrelated to the injuries giving rise to the malpractice suit.”
The state relied on AS 33.30.028(a), which provides that “the liability for payment of the costs of medical ... care provided or made available to a prisoner ... is ... the responsibility of the prisoner....”
In July 2008, after Pearce was released from custody, the state sought a declaration as to its reimbursement right under AS 33.30.028. During the course of that action “the State agreed ... that its claims should not include medical expenses incurred outside” the statute of limitations, and reduced its claim to $137 ...
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.
Prison Legal News is a project of the Human Rights Defense Center. We were able to start our litigation project in 2009 thanks to the generosity of an individual donor. The basis for creating an in-house attorney position was to be better able to confront and challenge the censorship of our publication and the books we distribute, and to handle litigation related to our public records requests.
As reported in this issue of PLN, we have won the largest legal victory against prison and jail censorship in American history, yet we still continue to be censored. As this issue of PLN goes to press we are currently litigating statewide bans of PLN by the New York and Florida state prison systems, as well as by numerous jails around the ...
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 graduate who has chaired the National Lawyers Guild’s Prison Law Project and helped edit the NLG’s Jailhouse Lawyers’ Handbook.
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 Shumate 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 ...
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.
Though GEO (formerly Wackenhut Corrections) is hardly a household name, it is a major player in the private corrections sector, combining a self-righteous amorality in profiting from human misery with a ruthless sense of just how to make a buck in this business. The GEO Group is so notorious that it was the target of an Occupy Washington D.C. action in early December. In addition, the United Methodist Church sold off more than $200,000 in stock in GEO Group over the holiday season, judging that holding those shares was “incompatible with Bible teaching.” [Editor’s Note: But playing the stock market apparently is compatible with Biblical teaching.]
While such actions may irritate a few within the company’s ranks, the GEO Group is thick-skinned. Over the years journalists have exposed a long history of violence, abuse and corruption in the company’s facilities. Such scandals would have driven most firms out of business, but GEO has always managed to find ...
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.
The 2004 riot at the Crowley County Correctional Facility, operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), has emerged as a kind of case study in the multiple ways things can go wrong in a for-profit prison. The night of the incident, the prison had only 47 employees on duty, including eight trainees, to supervise 1,122 prisoners. There had been growing tension at the facility for weeks over issues ranging from food and rec privileges to the presence of numerous disgruntled prisoners recently shipped in from Washington and Wyoming to fill beds. [See: PLN, Jan. 2005, p.26].
The Colorado Department of Corrections’ after-action report would later blast CCA officials for inadequate training and emergency response procedures – but the DOC’s own monitoring of the prison up to the night of ...
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 all along – that prison officials received ample warning of impending trouble but failed to take action in time.
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 ...
On January 10, 2012, Prison Legal News settled a First Amendment censorship suit against the Sheriff’s Office for Berkeley County, South Carolina.
A Rikers captain walking by the trailers made the discovery upon noticing the putrid scent. A crew of kitchen staffers had failed to inspect the jail’s 33 refrigerators and freezers. “They didn’t check it for at least five days,” said a chef at the facility.
An inventory revealed the ruined food included cubed turkey thighs, Cajun turkey patties, veal patties, Jamaican beef patties, ground turkey, pizza pockets and cubed beef. The loss accounts for about 40% of the $350,000 officials had hoped to save on the jail’s annual food budget.
In recent years, Rikers officials reduced the amount of bread served and cut ice cream from the menu to save money. More recently they eliminated pepper packets and pudding.
When the spoiled meat was discovered, one Rikers official reportedly suggested it could be salvaged by washing it in cider vinegar and sodium bicarbonate before serving ...
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 working.
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 authors, affiliated with prestigious academic and medical institutions in New York and San Francisco, as well as with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (for Drs. Williams, Sudore and Morrison), make the case that, as physicians, they are obligated to “lend [their] expertise and ethical suasion to ensure that compassion is fairly delivered.”
Compassionate release programs allow for the release of eligible, seriously ill prisoners before the end of their sentences, typically so they may die outside of prison. Such programs now exist in all but five states, as well as in the federal prison system. They seek to address the growing recognition that 1) the principal justifications for incarceration may be substantially undermined when a prisoner becomes “too ill or cognitively impaired to be aware of punishment, too sick to participate in rehabilitation or too functionally compromised to pose a risk to public safety,” and 2) the healthcare ...
by Mike Brodheim
He pleaded guilty to two federal felonies related to his failed attempt to get a Republican candidate for the Alaskan Senate, Jerry Ward, elected in exchange for Ward’s support of the private prison project. Weimar served six months in federal prison and completed his post-release supervision in December 2010. [See: PLN, March 2009, p.20].
Weimar, 71, moved far from Alaska, to Sarasota, Florida, where he kept a 60-foot luxury cabin cruiser, the “Renewal II.” In August 2010 he babysat a 6-year-old girl. Later, the girl’s mother noticed she was playing sex games with her Ken and Barbie dolls. When she inquired about this, the girl said that Weimar had asked her to perform oral sex on him and she had done so. She also said he was “mean.” The girl’s ...
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 it was discovered that Weimar, among others, had been the target of a wide-ranging corruption investigation.
While Brown’s relationship with the CCPOA is not surprising, his new found coziness with Harriet Salarno, the head of Crime Victims United (CVU), a leading advocacy group for crime victims, is a bit harder to pin down. In February 2011, at Salarno’s urging, Brown hosted a fundraiser for CVU in Sacramento.
Historically, Salarno and Brown have not always seen eye to eye. In 1986, Salarno, whose oldest daughter was murdered in 1979 during Brown’s first tenure as governor of California, played an instrumental role in the recall of three of Brown’s Supreme Court appointees, most notably then-Chief Justice Rose Bird. Under Bird’s leadership the California Supreme Court had overturned virtually every death sentence it considered, which earned the disdain of crime victims’ advocates. By 2006, Salarno actively opposed Brown in his successful campaign for State Attorney General ...
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 a “huge liability” for the state’s taxpayers.
In a letter to state election officials, GEO said it was operating as a federal committee and was not aware that by filing reports with state agencies it was bound by Florida contribution limits, which are lower than those allowed under federal law.
GEO Group disbanded its state-level PAC on May 18, 2011, but not before it had disbursed contributions to a number of Florida politicians. The PAC gave $500 to state Rep. Eseban Bovo’s successful bid to become a Miami-Dade Commissioner. It also gave $2,500 to Republican congressman Ander Crenshaw’s reelection campaign, but that donation was returned.
In the first quarter of 2011, the PAC gave money to U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and the U.S. Senate campaign committee of current Florida state Senate President Mike Haridopolos. Reports from GEO’s PAC also show contributions to politicians around the country, including Texas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.
Such donations to lawmakers do not ...
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.
As of the July 2011 deadline only 14 states had passed laws bringing them into substantial compliance with SORNA. Those states included Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming (Guam and nine Native American tribes also were in compliance). Other states are resisting the SORNA standards, saying they are more expensive and less effective than existing registration requirements.
“They are reluctant to bear the cost of updating their own technology to register digital fingerprints, palm prints and DNA, and of paying for the additional time that law enforcement officers would spend processing sex offenders who appear before them in person,” noted Maggie Clark with Stateline, a nonpartisan news service of the Pew Center on the States, which reports on trends in state policy.
All states have ...
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 under the federal Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program. [See: PLN, July 2010, p.24].
Losing the Class D prisoners “would be devastating,” stated Grayson County Detention Center employee Darwin Dennison. “We count on the money generated by the Class D program to operate our jail and the female facility. If that money were to dry up, it could cost jobs. The jail annex houses nothing but Class D inmates.”
The counties would also lose the prisoners’ labor, which has been used in work release programs to perform maintenance and clean-up at parks and government buildings.
“The best thing about having a Class D program is that we are able to save the cities and county government a lot of money by providing inmates to work,” said Dennison. “This ...
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 $31.34 per prisoner per day to house Class D state prisoners (plus $9.00 per diem for jails that provide substance abuse treatment programs). CCA charges from $37.99 to $47.98 per prisoner per day.
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 ...
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.
“That island is toxic and it’s killing people,” said guard Vanessa Parks, 49, who was diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2009. “I’ve spent 20 years being exposed to what’s in the ground and the air there. My life won’t ever be the same.”
Guard Jacqueline Bede, 51, who was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2009, agreed. “That place has killed so many of my brothers and sisters,” she stated. “Every few months, someone got sick.”
Rikers Island employees described a strong chemical odor that often permeates the facility, causing nausea. Plumes of methane gas thick enough to set off gas detectors on the island also rise from the ground.
Ingrid Mitchell, the widow of Rikers guard Anthony Mitchell who died of bladder cancer in 2008, claims the jail killed him. “His doctors told him his cancer was caused by inhaling carcinogens” during his 20-year career, said Mitchell. “Rikers did that to him.”
Robert Barley, a cook at Rikers, blamed the jail for his thyroid cancer, while plumber John Paccione ...
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.
GTL and its subsidiaries provide phone services for the prison systems of over half the states plus various county jails. In February 2009, the private equity firm Veritas Capital and Goldman Sachs purchased GTL from Gores Equity LLC for $345 million. The deal to sell GTL to Alabama-based American Securities Capital, another private equity firm, will about triple their investment.
The high value of GTL derives from the fact that it operates a pure monopoly once it obtains a prison phone contract. The company then price-gouges its captive customers, who have few other means of calling their family members and friends.
GTL charges up to $3.95 plus $.89 per minute for long distance calls, or $17.30 for a 15-minute conversation. The company’s call rates vary from state to state; GTL also charges ...
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 at a time when the nearly frozen financial sector is running from most leveraged deals.
When it comes to the mysteries of prison health care, they usually are.
Griswold was serving a three-year sentence for burglary. Although she lives in Kansas City, Afola spoke with him often by phone. Terrell didn’t complain a lot, didn’t volunteer much about his health, she stated. She knew he was taking blood pressure medication but considered him in very good shape, and she was stunned when officials told her that he’d died of a heart condition that couldn’t have been foreseen.
“Initially, they just told me that he died of an enlarged heart,” Afola said. But over the past year she has tracked down medical records held by the private prison operator, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), and the Colorado Department of Corrections; she’s pored over the official autopsy report and pointed out ...
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 circumstances of her son’s death are more complicated than that.
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 ...
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.
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 ...
A group of mentally ill prisoners in New York City jails brought suit in 1999, alleging that “the City had failed to satisfy its duty under the State Constitution and Mental Hygiene Law to provide adequate ‘discharge planning’ services for mentally ill persons completing their terms of incarceration.”
The Supreme Court for New York County certified the case as a class action and granted preliminary injunctive relief. [See: PLN, Jan. 2002, p.14]. The parties then entered into a settlement agreement, which was approved by the court on April 4, 2003.
Two compliance monitors were appointed on May 6, 2003 to oversee the City’s efforts, and the settlement was im-plemented on June 3, 2003.
“The monitors ... did not begin their work monitoring the City’s activities ‘in earnest’ until June 25, 2003 and, even as of the filing of the September 2003 report, they were unable to provide an opinion regarding the City’s ...
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.
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 ...
During the 2008 Democratic primary election, Idaho voters had three choices for president: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Keith Russell Judd.
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 her work duties and private business, Stewart merely switched the type of business she did on state time to nonprofit organizations, according to an ethics complaint filed by state Senator Mark Carrell.
The March 18, 2011 complaint accuses Stewart, now the DOC’s Communications and Outreach Director, of using state computers, vehicles and employees to run at least five non-profit organizations from her DOC office. Those nonprofits, including the National Association of Women in Criminal Justice (NAWCJ) and the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice (NABCJ), used the address of the DOC’s headquarters in Tumwater as their mailing address. Stewart is also the registered agent for the nonprofit Washington Corrections Association (WCA).
The ethics complaint states that Stewart misused “at least 593 hours of state DOC employee time” over a two-year period, which reflected “the work of only one employee,” a graphics technician. The complaint alleges that other ...
by Matt Clarke
Minnesota is one of 20 states with civil commitment programs for sex offenders; in 2010 it had the highest number of civilly committed sex offenders per capita despite having a lower incarceration rate than most states. It is projected that the number of civilly committed offenders will double between 2010 and 2020. With the annual costs of civil commitment reaching $120,000 per MSOP offender – about three times the cost of incarcerating state prisoners – the OLA addressed concerns about whether those costs could be reduced, why the number of sex offenders being committed is so high, and why only one sex offender has been conditionally released from the MSOP since it was created in 1994.
With respect to the number of civil commitments, the OLA noted that Minnesota’s laws facilitate the commitment of ...
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 improving the adequacy of treatment to allow MSOP residents to complete the program and be released.
In the early hours of November 25, 2001, Karleen Toni Remice was forced to ...
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.
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest private prison company, operates the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC), which has long been condemned for high levels of violence.
In 34 years of suing more than 100 prisons and jails, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Stephen Pevar said ICC was the most violent prison he had ever seen.
Critics claim that ICC guards use prisoner-on-prisoner violence to force prisoners to snitch on their cellmates to avoid being transferred to extremely violent units. Prisoners have called ICC a “gladiator school” due to its reputation for violence.
Hanni Elabed, 24, knows all too well just how violent ICC is. He was serving a sentence of two to 12 years for robbery when he snitched on drug trafficking by ICC prisoners and guards, according to a subsequent lawsuit. He was placed in solitary confinement for his own protection when he complained that he was being threatened. Elabed was later returned to his original housing ...
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.
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 was originally a private prison for juvenile offenders after developers convinced city officials there was a burgeoning market for prisoners that would allow Littlefield to rake in huge profits by renting cell space to overcrowded prison systems. The citizens of Littlefield were not allowed to vote on the issue.
The city’s haste to buy into the scheme to profit from keeping people locked up has cost Littlefield residents dearly. Initially, they spent $11 million to construct the Bill Clayton Detention Center. The city issued bonds to raise the money and still has more than $9 million in outstanding debt. The prison hasn’t generated revenue for the last two years, requiring the city to raise taxes and fees, fire municipal employees and suspend the purchase of equipment such as a police car just to make the $65,000 monthly payments on the bond debt. That allowed Littlefield to avoid ...
by Matt Clarke
That was fine with authorities. However, after Mader moved to an abandoned house across the street from a nearby homeless shelter in May 2011, he was arrested.
When sheriff’s deputies realized that Mader had not been in the dumpster for ten days they began searching for him, allegedly spurred by reports that he had been seen “checking out” young children. Five officers discovered him at a near-by homeless shelter, where he told them about his relocation from the dumpster. They then arrested him for failing to register his change of address.
Mader said he didn’t understand the registration requirements. A detective said he had repeatedly explained the requirements to him. As this was Mader’s third violation of the sex offender registration laws, he faced up to three years in prison. His previous violations were for failing to re-register every ninety days and failing to remain at his registered address once before.
Mader was apparently convicted of moving out of the dumpster without registering his new homeless address, as ...
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.
On April 25, 2011, with ten months left to serve on a 2½ to 4 year sentence for gun charges, Tamik Kirkland, 24, placed a dummy in his bed and walked away from a minimum-security prison in Shirley, Massachusetts. Authorities believe he may have been motivated to escape because his mother had recently been shot.
Five days after escaping, Kirkland allegedly shot and killed Sheldon Innocent, 24, at a Springfield barbershop; a barber was also wounded in the shootout. Minutes later, Kirkland exchanged gunfire with state and city police, non-fatally shooting two officers.
After being shot at least five times himself, Kirkland was taken to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, where he was listed in critical condition and placed under 24-hour guard by both police and prison staff.
Several days later, a series of phone calls was made to Kirkland’s hospital room. In one of those calls a male voice said, “I’m ...
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.
The FBI has since launched an investigation into potentially illicit conduct in connection with the legislative process involving BRCI.
The federal investigation apparently centers around former Florida House of Representatives Speaker Ray Sansom, who resigned in February 2010 amid a state criminal and ethics investigation. The main thrust of the state investigation, which was dropped in March 2011, involved allegations that Sansom had falsified the 2007-08 state budget to insert $6 million in appropriations for the construction of an aircraft hanger for Jay Odom, a prominent contributor to the Florida Republican Party.
GEO Group, incidentally, is also a major contributor to Florida Republicans. Through two political action committees, GEO gave $85,000 to the Republican Party of Florida from 2006 through 2009, plus tens ...
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 prison system and it was not needed, and one of the lawmakers who championed the facility had connections with GEO. [See: PLN, March 2011, p.1].
In the summer of 2009, supervisors confronted Walker about accusations that he had inappropriate contact with a woman he supervised. He was suspended for five days. When he returned to work he denied the allegation, but abruptly retired.
On July 22, 2009, the FBI commenced a criminal investigation into Walker’s behavior. Several months later, Walker admitted that he had kissed a probationer but claimed he did not promise her leniency for sex.
In a voicemail to investigators, Walker said it was clear that the FBI was seeking an indictment so he was going to “put it to bed a little earlier” by killing himself. Walker then unsuccessfully attempted suicide by asphyxiation, according to court records.
On July 16, 2010, Walker was indicted for inappropriate sexual contact with five women he had supervised, lying to the FBI, intimidating and threatening witnesses, and falsifying a record ...
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 assaulting women under his supervision.
PLN previously reported that states receive an average of 41.9% of the gross revenue from prisoner calls in kickbacks from phone service providers. The only thing that controls the high rates for prison phone calls is “pure, unabated greed by both the phone companies” and state prison systems. [See: PLN, April 2011, p.1].
In Louisiana the kickback is 55% of gross prison phone revenue. “A lot of people think this is grossly unfair,” said PSC Commissioner Foster Campbell, a former state senator. “This affects a lot of families in Louisiana.”
Prisoners at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison pay $1.31 for the first five minutes of a local call and $.50 for each five-minute period thereafter, or $2.31 for a 15-minute call. According to Pam Laborde, spokeswoman for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, the cost for collect intrastate calls averages $5.55.
Laborde touted that ...
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.”
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 by 10% or more for at least thirty consecutive days. [See: PLN, March 2011, p.42].
Not much changed throughout 2010 and the first three months of 2011 despite New Mexico having a new governor, Susana Martinez (R), who appointed a new corrections secretary, Lupe Martinez (no relation). Martinez later resigned after her live-in boyfriend shot a snake on corrections property and was accused of tampering with evidence.
Records reveal that the state’s four private prisons had high understaffing rates for most of the period between January 2010 and March 2011. The worst offender was the GEO Group-operated Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs, which was above the 10% understaffing threshold for the entire 14 months and had an employee vacancy rate of around 20% for 12 of the 14 months. For seven months, from September 2010 through March 2011, the average vacancy rate was 25.24%.
The Guadalupe ...
by Matt Clarke
Prisoners who are assigned to work under the supervision of the DOT are referred to in the agreement as “supplemental support labor.” They may work in or around DOT facilities and “within DOT crews on a ratio no greater than two prisoners to one DOT employee,” except in unusual or emergency situations, when the ratio may be four-to-one.
Some DOT crews may be supervised by FDOC guards.
The Master Agreement between the DOT and the FDOC, dated June 14, 2011, lists 94 job activities that prisoners may perform. Those jobs are ones that would be expected of an agency charged with maintaining roadways and their adjacent areas, and do not involve highly skilled work.
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, however, last year the Florida legislature appropriated $19,146,000 “to fund a contractual agreement” between the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Department of Corrections (FDOC) “for the use of inmate labor for maintenance” duties.
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 industry program area, according to WDOC spokesman Chad Lewis. As he did so, his accomplice, prisoner Kevin Newland, 25, drove a forklift through the doors of the industry work area and into the perimeter fence in an attempt to break out. A guard shot and killed Newland outside the perimeter of the prison. Maldonado released his hostage shortly thereafter, said Lewis. The guard suffered only minor injuries.
Newland was serving 45 years for first-degree murder, while Maldonado is serving a 163-year sentence for a 2005 shooting incident at a Tacoma mall. Both had prepared for the escape by sewing food, containers of water and medications into their clothes. Maldonado was subsequently transferred to the Stafford Creek Corrections Center and placed in an “intensive management” unit.
It was later revealed that Newland and Maldonado had records of institutional misconduct, including possession of a razor blade, and were classified as close security ...
A Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) prisoner was shot and killed at the Clallam Bay Corrections Facility during a June 29, 2011 escape attempt.
By the time it was over the DA had resigned, but the ODOJ skulked away with a fat lip and an ugly black eye.
Dean Gushwa was appointed district attorney for Umatilla County in Eastern Oregon in 2006, and re-elected in 2008.
“He was a very engaged, very methodical, very skilled DA,” said Pendleton police chief Stuart Roberts. Apparently, however, Gushwa lived his personal life by a different set of rules.
In August 2010, a 47-year-old clerk in the district attorney’s office, identified in court documents as “DW,” accused Gushwa of physically, sexually and emotionally abusing her between December 2008 and April 2010.
DW initially reported that Gushwa – her boss and occasional boyfriend – had handcuffed her and brutally forced himself on her. However, she did not report the incident for eight months.
DW told police she was afraid of Gushwa and had only continued to see him “because I was lonely.” She also admitted to being infuriated to learn that he was also romantically involved with Jennifer Roe, another employee in ...
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].
In her suit, Giraldo, a male-to-female 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.
Claus Detref Thiles was sentenced to 16 years in prison in a Dallas County plea agreement in 1982. He appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed his conviction, and the state filed a petition for discretionary review. The Court of Appeals granted Thiles an appeal bond and he was released in 1985. The bond conditions did not require him to remain in the state or check in with the court.
After thirteen months the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals, reinstated the conviction and returned the case to that court for review of the remaining errors Thiles had raised on appeal. Seventeen months later, the Court of Appeals upheld his conviction. However, no warrant for the appellate mandate was issued for another twenty years.
During these judicial proceedings, Thiles had moved to Missouri, remarried and became a productive member of society with no further criminal arrests, living openly under his own name with no attempt at concealing his identity or location. Two years after the appellate ...
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.
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 from receiving unsolicited publications – or at least those publications that the sheriffs did not want to distribute.
In doing so, the Ninth Circuit majority determined, first, that “a publisher has a First Amendment interest in distributing, and inmates have a First Amendment interest in receiving, unsolicited publications.” The Court of Appeals then applied the four-factor test of Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78 (1987) to evaluate whether that “interest” gave rise to a protected First Amendment right in light of the countervailing interests of jail administrators. The Court concluded that it could not determine, as a matter of law, that the sheriffs were justified in banning the distribution of unsolicited publications to jail prisoners.
In dissent, Ninth Circuit Judge N. Randy Smith opined that because a jail (like a prison) is not a “public forum,” no First Amendment interests were implicated, and therefore the Turner test was inapplicable.
Ninth Circuit Applies Turner Test to Evaluate First Amendment Interest in Prisoners’
Four local ranchers, under grants from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, have been working for three years to install numerous rock dams on their ranches to help prevent soil erosion. The dams were built using prison labor.
The rock dams are typically 18 to 24 inches high and eventually get covered with sediment, losing their effectiveness. Rancher Jack Telles of the Double U Ranch in Gleeson used 66 tons of rock to build 53 dams at different sites in a long wash on his property with a little rock left over for future repairs. The dams collect sediment and create small pools of moisture that help grasses grow, reduce erosion of topsoil and improve the quality of grazing for livestock.
Rancher Ruth Evelyn Cowan of the NI Ranch in Tombstone said the project was simple and inexpensive, but difficult due ...
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 monsoons that cause heavy erosion of the surrounding ranchland.
While employed with the ODOC, Taaffe had helped CHP land a multi-million dollar contract with the state’s prison system; the Oregon Government Ethics Commission is now investigating whether he violated the state’s “revolving door” statute after retiring from his government position.
Taaffe began working in the ODOC prison industries in 1996. He was later employed as a pharmacist before being promoted to an executive position with the ODOC’s Health Services Division in 2007.
Taaffe served on a three-member panel which, in March 2009, selected CHP over five other bidders to manage some of the ODOC’s medical services for prisoners.
However, he did not make the final selection or administer the contract, according to a May 10, 2011 email that ODOC Director Max Williams sent to Governor John Kitzhaber and the Director of the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, briefing them on the situation.
In June 2009, CHP became a “third-party administrator ...
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.
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 the first study of undiagnosed HIV in jails, the article noted that 28.1% of those testing positive for HIV were previously undiagnosed.
The New York City Department of Correction operated 11 jails that processed 64,383 unique male and 8,073 unique female arrestees in 2006. Upon being booked into jail a blood test for syphilis is required, but a consent form must be signed to receive an HIV test. Because only one-third of detainees on average consent to HIV testing, the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene conducted HIV tests using the remnants from blood samples taken for syphilis testing to determine whether jail prisoners who were HIV-positive were not being diagnosed.
The study did not include all persons admitted into the jails, because 8.9% of the arrestees had no intake health data and 31.15% of those with intake health data had no remnant ...
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 or were about to be released on parole or mandatory supervision, and who were not previously convicted of a sex offense.
Johnathan Evans was convicted of reckless injury of his two two-month-old daughters, sentenced to prison and later paroled under Super-Intensive Supervision Parole (SISP), with a stipulation that he complete anger management and parenting classes before being allowed to see his children again. Seventeen months later, he had completed the classes and was taken off SISP. He then moved across the state to El Paso to be near his daughters. He planned to take classes at El Paso Community College to become a nutritionist.
His new parole officer served him with a “Notice and Opportunity to Respond Pre-Imposition of Sex Offender Special Conditions” containing allegations that Evans had sexually abused his daughters. Evans filed a response contesting the allegations, but the Special Condition X was imposed nonetheless. Evans was not ...
by Matt Clarke
Colorado state prisoner Jeffrey Heird was stabbed to death at the Limon Correctional Facility (LCF) in March 2004. Prosecutors became convinced that it was a gang-related killing carried out by prisoners Alejandro Perez and David Bueno, and sought the death penalty. There was no physical evidence clearly linking the murder to Perez and Bueno, so prosecutors built their case on the testimony of prisoners who stood to benefit from their cooperation.
One of the prisoners whom prosecutors claimed was a witness, Ray Wagner, was placed in segregation after he said he had not witnessed the murder. Wagner testified at an October 2007 hearing that he did not see the murder because he was in a different pod at the time. Shortly thereafter, a lieutenant told him he had “pissed off the powers that be” by failing to provide the testimony they wanted, and that “shit rolls down hill ...
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 to testify.
On July 11, 2008, while visiting a prisoner at Avenal, Barton slipped on a wet bathroom floor ...
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.
Alabama: On October 17, 2011, St. Clair Correctional Facility prisoner Jabari Leon Bascomb, 22, was stabbed to death during a fight with another prisoner. “We do have a suspect,” said Alabama DOC public information manager Brian Corbett. “At this time, it’s still under investigation.” Bascomb was a juvenile when he was charged with murdering a 65-year-old man in 2007; he was serving a 22-year sentence for that crime at the time he was killed.
Arizona: Former Arizona prison guard Robert Joseph Hamm, 32, pleaded guilty on October 12, 2011 to repeatedly having sex with a 14-year-old girl. When confronted, Hamm denied having a sexual relationship with the girl but said “[a]nything was possible while he is passed out from alcohol,” according to court records. Hamm ...
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 not from the blow but from a subdural hematoma. The judge acquitted Windham by directed verdict, before the case went to the jury.