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Prison Legal News: March, 2012

Issue PDF
Volume 23, Number 3

In this issue:

  1. How Victim Rights Shaped Spending, Laws and the Future of Punishment in Colorado (p 1)
  2. Survey Shows College Courses for Prisoners Reduce Recidivism, but Few Exist (p 10)
  3. From the Editor (p 10)
  4. Georgia Jail Guards Charged in Prisoner Abuse Incident (p 11)
  5. Medical Parole Law Costs California Taxpayers Millions of Dollars (p 12)
  6. Workers’ Comp Claims by Illinois Prison Guards Under Investigation (p 14)
  7. Offenders Cannot Sue Over Violations of Interstate Probation Transfer Compact (p 15)
  8. Exec with GEO Group, which Operates Immigration Detention Facilities, Intimidates Immigrant In-Law (p 16)
  9. 31,000 Criminal Cases Under Review After Detroit Crime Lab Closes (p 17)
  10. CCA Objects to Shareholder Resolution Filed by Former CCA Prisoner, PLN Associate Editor (p 18)
  11. $125,000 Settlement in New Jersey Jail Delayed MRSA Treatment Case (p 19)
  12. Electronic Monitoring: Some Causes for Concern (p 20)
  13. Pennsylvania Jail Guard Accused of Stealing from 93-Year-Old Widow (p 21)
  14. U.S. Department of Justice Releases Statistics on Jail Prisoners at Midyear 2010 (p 22)
  15. Settlement in Alabama Prison Overcrowding and Violence Suit (p 22)
  16. $10 Million Settlement in Suit Over Oklahoma Sheriff’s Sex Abuse Scandal (p 24)
  17. Death Sentence Reversed Due to “Accidental” Perjury by Texas Prison Investigator (p 26)
  18. Forty Percent of Adult Offenders Return to Prison Within Three Years of Release (p 26)
  19. HRDC Files Suit on Behalf of Family of Hawaii Prisoner Murdered at CCA Facility (p 28)
  20. Texas Psychologist Who Approved Prisoners for Execution Receives Reprimand (p 30)
  21. Prisons in California, Indiana and New Mexico Go Solar (p 30)
  22. New Prison HIV Medication Rules Subject of Massachusetts Suit (p 32)
  23. California’s Race-Based Prison Lockdowns Targeted in Class-Action Lawsuit (p 32)
  24. Federal Halfway House Director Embezzles $213,787 (p 33)
  25. Maine Prison Warden’s Purchase of State Property Voided (p 34)
  26. Empty Jail Beds Bankrupting Minnesota Counties (p 34)
  27. Report Says Reentry Agencies Should Hire Former Prisoners (p 36)
  28. $105,000 Settlement for Pennsylvania Jail Prisoner Assaulted by Tobacco Gang (p 36)
  29. Former Oregon Prison Nurse Pleads Guilty to Drug Charges (p 37)
  30. South Carolina Crime Stoppers Snitch Line Scammed (p 37)
  31. $500,000 Jury Award for Rape of New York Pretrial Detainee Reinstated on Appeal (p 38)
  32. Two Charged with Scamming $2.6 Million from Prisoners and Prisoners’ Families (p 38)
  33. Supreme Court Boots Challenge to SORNA (p 39)
  34. Indiana Cuts Prison College Courses (p 40)
  35. Florida Jail to Discontinue Providing Underwear (p 40)
  36. Report Criticizes Ohio Prison Doctor Who Resigned (p 41)
  37. Texas Prison Employees Accused of Improper Relationships with Sex Offenders (p 42)
  38. Texas Prisoners Serve Average of 58% of Their Sentences (p 42)
  39. Idaho Jail Institutes Pay-to-Stay-Out Program (p 43)
  40. California Court of Appeal Upholds Attorney’s Fee Award in Excessive Force Case (p 44)
  41. $1 Million Settlement in Oklahoma Jail Prisoner Wrongful Death Suit (p 44)
  42. Los Angeles ADA Agrees to Pay $1.2 Million to Settle DUI Suit (p 45)
  43. California: CDCR Releases 2011 Recidivism Report (p 46)
  44. California: Orange County Settles Suit Over Jail Detainee’s Death for $2.1 Million (p 46)
  45. Missouri Federal Court Enjoins Denial of Housing Assistance to Sex Offender (p 47)
  46. Haitian Prison Conditions Deteriorate in Aftermath of Massive Earthquake (p 48)
  47. Nebraska Judge Dismisses Charges Against Omaha Jailers (p 49)
  48. News in Brief (p 50)

How Victim Rights Shaped Spending, Laws and the Future of Punishment in Colorado

Newly elected as a Colorado state representative, Pete Lee hit the Capitol in January 2011 fired up with big ideas. The biggest of them all was the restorative justice bill he introduced shortly after the session began.

A concept borrowed from Native American traditions and other cultures, restorative justice offers ...

Survey Shows College Courses for Prisoners Reduce Recidivism, but Few Exist

by Matt Clarke

Of the various kinds of rehabilitative programs offered to prisoners, only education has been shown to unequivocally correlate with a strong reduction in recidivism. The more education a prisoner receives, the greater the decrease in recidivism – right down to the nearly zero recidivism rate of prisoners ...

From the Editor

The rights of prisoners and victims are generally depicted as being antagonistic and contradictory, in that one comes at the expense of the other. The reason for this, of course, is that for the past 30 years “victim rights” has been a façade used to expand repressive police and prosecutorial ...

Georgia Jail Guards Charged in Prisoner Abuse Incident

Three guards at Georgia’s Dekalb County Jail (DCJ) were arrested and charged in connection with a May 15, 2011 altercation involving a pretrial detainee.

The prisoner, whose name was not released, had been booked into the DCJ on a disorderly conduct charge. He became embroiled in an argument with ...

Medical Parole Law Costs California Taxpayers Millions of Dollars

Responding to concerns that prisoners who are granted compassionate release due to terminal medical conditions may “cheat” the system by outliving a doctor’s prognosis, the California legislature enacted a medical parole law in 2010 that allows prisoners to be re-incarcerated if their condition improves enough that they may pose ...

Workers’ Comp Claims by Illinois Prison Guards Under Investigation

Illinois taxpayers have shelled out over $10 million to settle workers’ compensation claims filed by employees at the Menard Correctional Center (MCC), mainly related to repetitive trauma injuries. However, a study concluded that the job duties guards are required to perform are unlikely to cause such injuries, raising questions about ...

Offenders Cannot Sue Over Violations of Interstate Probation Transfer Compact

The Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision (“the Compact”) does not create a private right of action, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held on April 11, 2011.

Plaintiff M.F. and his domestic partner sued New York’s Division of Parole after New York refused ...

Exec with GEO Group, which Operates Immigration Detention Facilities, Intimidates Immigrant In-Law

Thomas M. Wierdsma is the Senior Vice President for Project Development at The GEO Group, Inc., a Boca Raton, Florida-based company that, according to its 2010 annual report, operates “a broad range of correctional and detention facilities including ... prisons, immigration detention centers, minimum security detention centers and mental health and ...

31,000 Criminal Cases Under Review After Detroit Crime Lab Closes

After the police crime lab in Detroit, Michigan was found to have provided faulty firearm ballistics evidence in criminal cases, the lab was closed in 2008. A subsequent review of around 31,000 firearm-related prosecutions was deemed “admittedly impossible work,” said Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy.

Indifferent city officials delayed ...

CCA Objects to Shareholder Resolution Filed by Former CCA Prisoner, PLN Associate Editor

When PLN associate editor Alex Friedmann was released from prison in November 1999, he had served six of the ten years he spent behind bars at the South Central Correctional Center in Clifton, Tennessee, a private prison operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

Following his release he became a ...

$125,000 Settlement in New Jersey Jail Delayed MRSA Treatment Case

New Jersey’s Cumberland County Board of Freeholders voted on July 26, 2011 to pay $125,000 to settle a prisoner’s claim related to denial of medical care.

While confined at the Cumberland County Jail (CCJ) in September 2007, James E. Parker, Sr., 50, noticed a boil and tenderness ...

Electronic Monitoring: Some Causes for Concern

Electronic monitoring (EM) looms high on the list of alternatives to incarceration for corrections officials seeking solutions to overcrowded prisons and budget deficits. First used in 1983, today some 200,000 people in the United States wear some sort of electronic monitor, typically an ankle bracelet required as a condition ...

Pennsylvania Jail Guard Accused of Stealing from 93-Year-Old Widow

Prosecutors have charged an Allegheny County, Pennsylvania jail guard with theft. Mark Hendrick, 46, was charged with access device fraud, theft and misapplication of entrusted property in April 2011 after it was discovered that he had taken more than $147,000 from Nerrie Kerr, a 93-year-old widow with dementia.

In ...

U.S. Department of Justice Releases Statistics on Jail Prisoners at Midyear 2010

by Matt Clarke

In April 2011, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) of the U.S. Department of Justice issued a statistical report on the nation’s city and county jail population for the twelve-month period ending June 30, 2010. The report noted this was only the second year in ...

Settlement in Alabama Prison Overcrowding and Violence Suit

A class-action lawsuit that alleged conditions at Alabama’s Donaldson Correctional Facility (DCF) placed prisoners “at a substantial risk of injury due to violence, lack of security, understaffing, corruption, and severe overcrowding” has concluded with a settlement agreement designed to address deficiencies at the prison.

DCF opened in 1982 with a ...

$10 Million Settlement in Suit Over Oklahoma Sheriff’s Sex Abuse Scandal

by David M. Reutter

Members of the public typically have little concern over what happens in the jails and prisons in their communities. Taxpayers in Custer County, Oklahoma, however, are now very concerned following a $10 million settlement in a lawsuit involving female prisoners who were subjected to rampant sexual ...

Death Sentence Reversed Due to “Accidental” Perjury by Texas Prison Investigator

by Matt Clarke

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed a death sentence imposed on a state prisoner convicted of capital murder, because a prison investigator had falsely described the prisoner classification system in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ).

In 2007, a Texas jury convicted Adrian Estrada, 27 ...

Forty Percent of Adult Offenders Return to Prison Within Three Years of Release

In April 2011, the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States issued a report concerning recidivism rates for released offenders.

The report, which updates a similar though far less extensive 2002 study by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), concludes ...

HRDC Files Suit on Behalf of Family of Hawaii Prisoner Murdered at CCA Facility

On February 15, 2012, the family of Bronson Nunuha, a 26-year-old Hawaii prisoner who was brutally murdered at a Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) prison in Arizona in 2010, filed suit in circuit court in Honolulu against CCA and the State of Hawaii.

The lawsuit was based in part on ...

Texas Psychologist Who Approved Prisoners for Execution Receives Reprimand

by Matt Clarke

A Texas psychologist who used questionable methods to examine over a dozen Texas death row prisoners prior to their trials, and found them intellectually competent to face the death penalty, has been fined for using non-standard testing techniques and will no longer perform death penalty evaluations.

Dr ...

Prisons in California, Indiana and New Mexico Go Solar

While solar-powered prisons may be a thing of the future, they have already arrived in California, Indiana and New Mexico, at least at a few facilities.

In California the move to go solar is part of a larger effort to obtain one-third of the state’s electricity from renewable energy ...

New Prison HIV Medication Rules Subject of Massachusetts Suit

Cost reduction is the “real reason” behind a new policy in Massachusetts prisons that prohibits prisoners from receiving their HIV medication through the Keep On Person (KOP) program, according to a federal civil rights lawsuit. Under the policy, HIV-positive prisoners will have to go to the medication line daily to ...

California’s Race-Based Prison Lockdowns Targeted in Class-Action Lawsuit

The Prison Law Office (PLO) has teamed up with the San Francisco-based law firm of Bingham McCutchen, LLP to challenge the official policy of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to impose blanket race-based lockdowns in response to potential security threats.

The lawsuit alleges that the CDCR’s ...

Federal Halfway House Director Embezzles $213,787

A former Oregon halfway house director who embezzled more than $213,000 from the federally-funded facility was arrested in Rhode Island after failing to appear, fleeing and attempting suicide. She later pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.

As previously reported in PLN, Laura Marie Edwards, 39, served as executive director of ...

Maine Prison Warden’s Purchase of State Property Voided

Maine’s Attorney General has declared a real estate deal between the state and Maine State Prison Warden Patricia Barnhart and her partner, Sheehan Gallagher, void. The transaction involved three houses and about five acres of land near the prison.

Barnhart was living in one of the homes at the ...

Empty Jail Beds Bankrupting Minnesota Counties

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, violent and property crime rates have dropped steadily across the nation since at least 1992. Yet some states stubbornly insist on building prisons and jails they cannot afford to operate.

Minnesota is just one recent example of such fiscal irresponsibility. As Minnesota ...

Report Says Reentry Agencies Should Hire Former Prisoners

When released prisoners meet throngs of otherwise upstanding, Ivy League WASPs offering transitional assistance, it’s like getting a tune-up from a mechanic with clean fingernails. It simply doesn’t inspire much confidence in the work being done.

Thus, a recent collaborative report led by the Prisoner Reentry Institute at ...

$105,000 Settlement for Pennsylvania Jail Prisoner Assaulted by Tobacco Gang

Pennsylvania’s Northampton County agreed to pay $105,000 to a former prisoner on July 25, 2011 to settle a lawsuit alleging guards failed to protect him from other prisoners, some of whom were dealing tobacco with a guard’s help.

Aristotle Tarboro was booked into the Northampton County Prison ...

Former Oregon Prison Nurse Pleads Guilty to Drug Charges

On May 3, 2011, a registered nurse formerly employed by the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) was arrested on misconduct and drug-related charges, according to the Oregon State Police (OSP).

The previous month, a Washington County grand jury returned an indictment against Linda Marie Coakley, 47, following an OSP investigation ...

South Carolina Crime Stoppers Snitch Line Scammed

Most people are familiar with Crime Stoppers, the “snitch line” for individuals with information about crimes. Successful tips can result in benefits to the tipster – which can take the form of cash, leniency with a new case or a time cut if the tipster is already in prison. Not surprisingly ...

$500,000 Jury Award for Rape of New York Pretrial Detainee Reinstated on Appeal

On August 18, 2011, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a New York federal district court’s entry of judgment for the defendants. The district court had thrown out a $500,000 jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff, which found the defendants knew that female prisoners faced a ...

Two Charged with Scamming $2.6 Million from Prisoners and Prisoners’ Families

Two Michigan men have been charged with defrauding thousands of prisoners and their families nationwide out of an estimated $2.6 million. Their scheme targeted black and Hispanic prisoners with direct mailings that offered to provide legal and appellate work.

In September 2010, John Henry Wilson, 54, was charged with ...

Supreme Court Boots Challenge to SORNA

The U.S. Supreme Court has dismissed an Ex Post Facto Clause challenge to the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).

In a per curium opinion handed down on June 27, 2011, the Court found that an unnamed Montana juvenile’s claims were moot in light of a ...

Indiana Cuts Prison College Courses

by Matt Clarke

After the Indiana General Assembly passed a budget for FY 2012-2013 that eliminated $9 million in financial aid for college programs for prisoners, the Indiana Department of Correction (DOC) is shifting such programs away from liberal arts studies and four-year degrees, and instead focusing on vocational courses ...

Florida Jail to Discontinue Providing Underwear

As a cost-cutting measure, Polk County, Florida Sheriff Grady Judd has decided his jail will no longer provide underwear to prisoners. “There’s no state law, there’s no federal law that says we have to provide underwear in the county jail,” he said.

Judd has instituted several other changes ...

Report Criticizes Ohio Prison Doctor Who Resigned

by David M. Reutter

An August 2011 performance report by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) found that a prison doctor failed to properly follow-up with his patients, and improperly discontinued medications and treatment without meeting with patients. The review that led to the report was spurred by ...

Texas Prison Employees Accused of Improper Relationships with Sex Offenders

Three Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) employees have been accused of engaging in improper relationships with prisoners in sex offender evaluation or treatment programs at the Goree Unit in Huntsville. Two of the employees were counselors in the Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP) and the third was a guard ...

Texas Prisoners Serve Average of 58% of Their Sentences

by Matt Clarke

According to a recent report by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), during fiscal year (FY) 2010, Texas state prisoners served an average of 58% of their sentences before being released. That percentage is down from 60% in FY 2006. The average sentence length was 19 ...

Idaho Jail Institutes Pay-to-Stay-Out Program

A jail in Canyon County, Idaho has taken the concept of pay-to-stay one step further by charging certain convicted prisoners to stay out of jail. First-time offenders with a non-violent crime who are compliant may have the opportunity to pay up to $15 a day to serve their sentence in ...

California Court of Appeal Upholds Attorney’s Fee Award in Excessive Force Case

On June 23, 2011, the California Court of Appeal upheld an award of over $311,000 in attorney’s fees in a case involving excessive use of force by a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff.

In March 2006, after celebrating his birthday at a bar, Glen Jochimsen was detained by ...

$1 Million Settlement in Oklahoma Jail Prisoner Wrongful Death Suit

by Matt Clarke

In May 2011, Oklahoma County approved a $1 million settlement in a civil rights lawsuit involving a prisoner who was first denied his anti-seizure medication and then fatally beaten by guards after he had a seizure at the Oklahoma County jail. Correctional Health Care Management of Oklahoma ...

Los Angeles ADA Agrees to Pay $1.2 Million to Settle DUI Suit

by Mike Brodheim

On July 19, 2011, Marilyn Seymour, an Assistant District Attorney for Los Angeles County, agreed to pay $1.2 million to settle a lawsuit filed by two women who suffered injuries when Seymour, while drunk, crashed into their car a year earlier.

Attorneys on both sides claimed ...

California: CDCR Releases 2011 Recidivism Report

On November 23, 2011, in the second in a series of annual reports designed to provide new insights to policy-makers and correctional stakeholders with respect to recidivism rates, the Office of Research of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) released its 2011 Adult Institutions Outcome Evaluation Report.

The ...

California: Orange County Settles Suit Over Jail Detainee’s Death for $2.1 Million

by Mike Brodheim

In April 2011, the family of a detainee who died while being restrained by Orange County jail guards agreed to settle a lawsuit against the county for $2.1 million.

The April 1, 2008 death of prisoner Jason Jesus Gomez, 35, was not an isolated incident; it ...

Missouri Federal Court Enjoins Denial of Housing Assistance to Sex Offender

by Matt Clarke

On March 14, 2011, a federal court in Missouri temporarily enjoined the Housing Authority of St. Louis County (HASLC) from denying housing assistance to a seriously ill man who had been convicted of sex offenses and was required to register as a sex offender for life.

Alton ...

Haitian Prison Conditions Deteriorate in Aftermath of Massive Earthquake

by Holly Cooper

On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the island nation of Haiti.
Well-known are the catastrophic numbers of victims left in its wake, leaving hundreds of thousands of people entombed in rubble and over one million homeless. For many of Haiti’s prisoners, however ...

Nebraska Judge Dismisses Charges Against Omaha Jailers

by Matt Clarke

Douglas County, Nebraska District Court Judge Peter Bataillon has dismissed official misconduct charges against jailers who allegedly let a prisoner bleed to death while he begged for his life. Bataillon interpreted Jail Standards Board regulations as putting the burden of ensuring that prisoners receive medical care solely ...

News in Brief

Alabama: In October 2011, Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely said he would not be rounding up sex offenders at Halloween to ensure they don’t hand out candy to children. He stated he didn’t have the authority and lacked the man-power to conduct such an operation, and could not ...