Prison Legal News:
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Volume 23, Number 3
In this issue:
- How Victim Rights Shaped Spending, Laws and the Future of Punishment in Colorado (p 1)
- Survey Shows College Courses for Prisoners Reduce Recidivism, but Few Exist (p 10)
- From the Editor (p 10)
- Georgia Jail Guards Charged in Prisoner Abuse Incident (p 11)
- Medical Parole Law Costs California Taxpayers Millions of Dollars (p 12)
- Workers’ Comp Claims by Illinois Prison Guards Under Investigation (p 14)
- Offenders Cannot Sue Over Violations of Interstate Probation Transfer Compact (p 15)
- Exec with GEO Group, which Operates Immigration Detention Facilities, Intimidates Immigrant In-Law (p 16)
- 31,000 Criminal Cases Under Review After Detroit Crime Lab Closes (p 17)
- CCA Objects to Shareholder Resolution Filed by Former CCA Prisoner, PLN Associate Editor (p 18)
- $125,000 Settlement in New Jersey Jail Delayed MRSA Treatment Case (p 19)
- Electronic Monitoring: Some Causes for Concern (p 20)
- Pennsylvania Jail Guard Accused of Stealing from 93-Year-Old Widow (p 21)
- U.S. Department of Justice Releases Statistics on Jail Prisoners at Midyear 2010 (p 22)
- Settlement in Alabama Prison Overcrowding and Violence Suit (p 22)
- $10 Million Settlement in Suit Over Oklahoma Sheriff’s Sex Abuse Scandal (p 24)
- Death Sentence Reversed Due to “Accidental” Perjury by Texas Prison Investigator (p 26)
- Forty Percent of Adult Offenders Return to Prison Within Three Years of Release (p 26)
- HRDC Files Suit on Behalf of Family of Hawaii Prisoner Murdered at CCA Facility (p 28)
- Texas Psychologist Who Approved Prisoners for Execution Receives Reprimand (p 30)
- Prisons in California, Indiana and New Mexico Go Solar (p 30)
- New Prison HIV Medication Rules Subject of Massachusetts Suit (p 32)
- California’s Race-Based Prison Lockdowns Targeted in Class-Action Lawsuit (p 32)
- Federal Halfway House Director Embezzles $213,787 (p 33)
- Maine Prison Warden’s Purchase of State Property Voided (p 34)
- Empty Jail Beds Bankrupting Minnesota Counties (p 34)
- Report Says Reentry Agencies Should Hire Former Prisoners (p 36)
- $105,000 Settlement for Pennsylvania Jail Prisoner Assaulted by Tobacco Gang (p 36)
- Former Oregon Prison Nurse Pleads Guilty to Drug Charges (p 37)
- South Carolina Crime Stoppers Snitch Line Scammed (p 37)
- $500,000 Jury Award for Rape of New York Pretrial Detainee Reinstated on Appeal (p 38)
- Two Charged with Scamming $2.6 Million from Prisoners and Prisoners’ Families (p 38)
- Supreme Court Boots Challenge to SORNA (p 39)
- Indiana Cuts Prison College Courses (p 40)
- Florida Jail to Discontinue Providing Underwear (p 40)
- Report Criticizes Ohio Prison Doctor Who Resigned (p 41)
- Texas Prison Employees Accused of Improper Relationships with Sex Offenders (p 42)
- Texas Prisoners Serve Average of 58% of Their Sentences (p 42)
- Idaho Jail Institutes Pay-to-Stay-Out Program (p 43)
- California Court of Appeal Upholds Attorney’s Fee Award in Excessive Force Case (p 44)
- $1 Million Settlement in Oklahoma Jail Prisoner Wrongful Death Suit (p 44)
- Los Angeles ADA Agrees to Pay $1.2 Million to Settle DUI Suit (p 45)
- California: CDCR Releases 2011 Recidivism Report (p 46)
- California: Orange County Settles Suit Over Jail Detainee’s Death for $2.1 Million (p 46)
- Missouri Federal Court Enjoins Denial of Housing Assistance to Sex Offender (p 47)
- Haitian Prison Conditions Deteriorate in Aftermath of Massive Earthquake (p 48)
- Nebraska Judge Dismisses Charges Against Omaha Jailers (p 49)
- News in Brief (p 50)
A concept borrowed from Native American traditions and other cultures, restorative justice offers an alternative to the conventional crime-and-punishment approach of the legal system. The emphasis is on “restoring” and healing a community damaged by crime – by, for example, letting victims have more say in the justice process and requiring transgressors to admit their guilt and agree to reparations, such as fixing up vandalized property, instead of simply spending time behind bars.
A Colorado Springs Democrat and criminal defense attorney, Lee had worked with juveniles in a restorative justice program in El Paso County and had been impressed with the results. “We had very low recidivism rates, and the kids accepted responsibility for what they did,” he says. “So I became a zealot.”
Many prosecutors are skeptical of the touchy-feely aspects of restorative justice programs; they regard the approach as far more effective in dealing with juvenile delinquency and property crimes than violent offenses. But Lee, whose wife works as a restorative justice ...
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.
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 who earn a Masters degree while incarcerated.
Unfortunately, a report released by the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) in May 2011 found that prisoners rarely have access to college courses.
“Most inmates never have the opportunity to get a college degree,” said Carlos Rosado, 36, who earned a Bachelors of Arts from Bard College while serving over 12 years for robbery. Rosado credits his degree with helping him get a job as a field engineer for a recycling company following his release from the New York state prison system in 2010.
The IHEP report compiled data from a survey of prison officials in 43 states. The survey revealed that only 6% of prisoners in those states were enrolled in vocational or academic higher education programs during 2009-2010. Thirteen states – Arizona, Arkansas, California, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin – have ...
But not all victims are equal. Most homicide victims in this country were engaged in criminal activity or had prior criminal convictions, yet one would never know that fact from the media or legislative posturing on the topic.
Defining who the “victim” is serves the important political purpose of also defining who the bad actor is. Rodney King was brutally beaten by Los Angeles police officers and some of his attackers were duly prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned, yet King is never referred to as a “crime victim” – since doing so would imply the criminality of his police attackers. When prisoners are raped, beaten or killed they too are not defined as crime victims because they are deemed unworthy of the title, as doing so does not advance the goals of the modern American police state.
The steady ...
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 power while seeming to respond to the interests of those victimized by crime.
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 jail guard Nelson Seals over the use of a bathroom. The argument became physical.
An investigation was launched after Sheriff’s officials received a letter from the prisoner’s attorney. Three days later, arrests were made. On July 25, 2011, Seals was charged with misdemeanor battery and violation of oath of office.
DCJ guards Jean Bruno and Deborah Grier witnessed the incident but failed to report it to their supervisors; they were charged with violation of oath of office. All three guards were suspended without pay.
Two other guards were fired following the investigation by the Sheriff’s Office – Jean Silivus for failing to cooperate with investigators, and Emmett Kater for violation of oath of office. Two more DCJ employees, who were not named, face disciplinary action in connection with the incident.
“I will not tolerate abuse by any of my officers against any person that they are sworn to ...
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.
Yet neither the state’s compassionate release law nor medical parole statute is being used sufficiently to make an appreciable difference in the number of comatose, paraplegic or otherwise seriously ill or disabled prisoners serving time in California.
Compassionate release provisions have been on the state’s law books since 1991; they allow a court to “recall” a prisoner’s sentence if he or she is terminally ill and has a life expectancy of six months or less. In the 20 years from 1991 to 2010, prison doctors referred 1,183 prisoners for compassionate release consideration. Approximately 70% of those referrals were rejected because prison administrators or judges believed the prisoners could still pose a risk to public safety.
As discouraging as that statistic may be, it still means that 348 prisoners have been granted compassionate release over the past two decades, or about 17 ...
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 a threat to public safety.
From January 1, 2008 to December 2010, 389 MCC employees – more than half the workforce at the prison – filed successful workers’ compensation claims. The cost to taxpayers to settle those claims was around $10 million; of that amount, $5.9 million was for claims involving repetitive trauma. [See: PLN, Aug. 2011, p.47].
The most common repetitive injury claim was carpal tunnel syndrome – which guards alleged was caused by manually locking and unlocking doors at the prison. Even the warden at MCC claimed he had developed carpal tunnel, resulting in a $75,678 settlement in his workers’ comp case. Other MCC employees alleged foot injuries from standing or walking on the facility’s cement floors. In the face of so many costly claims, state officials had Midwest Rehabilitation, Inc. examine the working conditions at MCC and issue a report.
The seventeen-page report concluded ...
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 the validity of the workers’ comp claims.
Plaintiff M.F. and his domestic partner sued New York’s Division of Parole after New York refused to accept the transfer of M.F.’s probation from New Jersey unless he agreed to the installation of monitoring software on his work computer, employer notification of his conviction and a lifetime period of supervised release.
In 2001, M.F. was convicted of soliciting sex from minors over the Internet. He declined the transfer of his probation to New York due to the onerous conditions, fearing his employer would fire him.
The district court granted summary judgment to the New York Division of Parole. On appeal, the state argued for the first time that the Compact did not confer a private right of action to individuals such as M.F.
While many laws create duties and confer rights, not all laws are enforceable by private litigants. A law that has been violated must explicitly or implicitly give an individual a private right of action, which basically means the right ...
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.
With respect to immigration detention, GEO manages 9 such detention centers in the United States plus other immigration facilities abroad, including the Migrant Operations Center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In 2010, GEO Group received 53% of its domestic business from contracts with the federal government, including 20% from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – the federal agency responsible for overseeing the detention of immigrants awaiting deportation and asylum hearings.
Thus, it is accurate to say that GEO is heavily invested in providing immigration detention services for the federal government, and vice versa.
It is also accurate to say that Wierdsma is a top GEO Group executive. He was hired by GEO as a vice president in January 2007, and according to his employment agreement began working for the company at a base salary of $315,000 per year plus annual performance awards and additional benefits.
Along with other ...
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 residential treatment facilities.”
Indifferent city officials delayed investigating those cases. Finally, in July 2010, Worthy obtained $2.7 million to review them. She hired three attorneys, other legal experts and support workers to retest the evidence and examine voluminous transcripts and court records.
Of the 31,000 firearm-related cases, only 270 had been closed as of June 2011. Worthy’s office prioritized the cases to focus on those involving defendants who were still in prison on firearm possession charges and cases challenged by defense attorneys. Thus far, four prisoners have received retrials; one was exonerated.
When the crime lab closed, legal experts predicted there would be thousands of requests for review. Yet defense attorneys have sought review just 34 times.
“I feel very strongly that we have to continue going through these cases,” said Worthy. “It’s frustrating. We’re the only ones who did anything with these cases.
In May 2011, the crime lab’s dilapidated ...
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.
Following his release he became a CCA shareholder, purchasing one share of stock so he could attend the company’s annual shareholder meetings and ask questions of CCA’s executives as a shareholder of record. [See: PLN, Sept. 2008, p.40].
Friedmann bought an additional 190 shares of CCA stock in 2010; by holding the shares for a year he was eligible to introduce a shareholder resolution, which he did in November 2011. His resolution called for CCA’s Board of Directors to produce bi-annual reports “on the Board’s oversight of the company’s efforts to reduce incidents of rape and sexual abuse of prisoners housed in facilities operated by the company. The reports should describe the Board’s oversight of the company’s response to incidents of rape and sexual abuse at the company’s facilities, including statistical data by facility regarding all such incidents during each reporting period.”
“The purpose of the resolution ...
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).
While confined at the Cumberland County Jail (CCJ) in September 2007, James E. Parker, Sr., 50, noticed a boil and tenderness ...
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.
For high-profile lawbreakers like Martha Stewart and Lindsay Lohan, the ankle bracelet is a badge of privilege – a high-tech mode of avoiding time behind bars. For those with more ordinary cases, release on electronic monitoring may offer offenders an opportunity to reunite with their family and find employment. Nonetheless, the introduction of EM on a broader scale raises a number of concerns.
The Legal Framework
The first issue is that in most cases electronic monitoring programs operate under questionable legal frameworks, typically excluding or minimizing any rights or entitlements for the people being monitored. For example, laws in Illinois, Rhode Island and North Carolina deal primarily with the technical minutiae of supervision, emphasizing guarantees of public safety and spelling out penalties for rule violations. A small section includes a list of activities which a person on electronic monitoring “may” be allowed to do ...
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 of probation, parole, bail or house arrest.
In July 2010, Kerr gave Hendrick power of attorney over her affairs, though she later said she did not remember doing so. Hendrick helped Kerr set up a will that allotted Hendrick 25 percent of her estate, with the remainder going to Kerr’s family and church.
According to investigators, though, Hendrick got greedy. He allegedly made himself the sole beneficiary of Kerr’s $500,000 annuity and $285,000 investment account. He also was accused of taking $147,000 from one of her other accounts and opening a credit card in her name. Plus he was named a partial owner of Kerr’s house.
“I don’t want that. I didn’t want it changed,” Kerr told police. “I don’t want Mark to get all of it. I never told anyone to change it.”
Hendrick was released on $5,000 bond; the charges against him remain pending. He has ...
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 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 which the jail population had decreased since the BJS began keeping statistics in 1982. The other year of decline occurred in 2008-2009.
On June 30, 2010 there were 748,728 prisoners held in U.S. jails, which was 18,706 (2.4%) fewer compared to the previous year. The vast majority of jail prisoners were male (87.7%). Whites accounted for 44.3%, while Blacks were 37.8% and Hispanics 15.8% of the nation’s jail population.
Almost 39% of prisoners held in city and county jails had already been convicted, while 0.8% were juveniles being held as adults and 0.3% were juveniles awaiting transfer to a juvenile facility.
The report provides a break-down of jails according to the size of their average daily population (ADP). During the reporting period, the largest jails, those with an ADP exceeding 1,000, experienced a total ADP decline of 18 ...
by Matt Clarke
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 ...
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 ...
by David M. Reutter
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, of the capital murder of his pregnant girlfriend and her 12-week-old fetus. During the punishment phase, in an attempt to show that Estrada would not be a danger to others if given life without parole instead of the death penalty, the defense introduced the testimony of prison expert and former TDCJ spokesman Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald described the classification system in Texas prisons, saying the least restrictive general population classification was G-1 (an outside trusty) and the most restrictive was G-5 (close custody). He testified that the least restrictive classification available to a person sentenced to life without parole for capital murder was G-3.
The state called A. P. Merillat, a criminal investigator for the Special Prosecution Unit, as an expert to counter Fitzgerald’s testimony. The Special Prosecution Unit, an independent office, prosecutes crimes statewide – primarily offences that occur at TDCJ facilities.
Merillat claimed that after ten years, a prisoner ...
by Matt Clarke
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 that recidivism rates remained relatively unchanged at around 40% between 1994 and 2007, despite a quadrupling of spending on corrections. The system designed to deter offenders from continuing their criminal behavior is thus failing miserably. “That’s an unhappy reality,” the report states, “not just for offenders, but for the safety of American communities.”
Some of the background numbers are both startling and disturbing. In 2008, the Pew Center on the States reported that incarceration levels had increased to the point that one out of every 100 adults in the U.S. was in jail or prison. [See: PLN, Jan. 2009, p.46]. A second Pew study reported a year later that one out of every 31 American adults was either incarcerated or on probation or parole – more than 3% of the adult population. [See: PLN, Nov. 2009, p.30].
Total annual spending on corrections is currently estimated at about ...
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 lawsuit was based in part on CCA’s business model of understaffing its prisons and cutting corners to increase the company’s profit margin. Those systemic practices violated fundamental safety requirements and subjected Hawaii prisoners to rampant gang violence in understaffed housing units. Bronson Nunuha was just months away from being released when CCA placed him in a unit with violent, gang-affiliated prisoners.
“Bronson’s death was senseless and preventable. CCA and the State of Hawaii needlessly put him in danger,” said attorney Kenneth Walczak with the law firm of Rosen, Bien & Galvan, LLP, which, along with the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC – the parent organization of Prison Legal News) and the ACLU of Hawaii, represents the Nunuha family.
“Private prisons are known to have higher levels of violence due to understaffing and high staff turnover that result from their goal of generating ever-greater profits,” added HRDC director Paul Wright. “But prison companies are not allowed to make profit more important than human life. Unfortunately, CCA’s desire to turn a corporate profit needlessly cost Bronson Nunuha his life.”
Bronson was transferred to CCA’s Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona as part of a controversial practice in which Hawaii prisoners are sent to private, for-profit mainland facilities. He was serving a 5-year sentence for burglary and property damage when he was killed by other prisoners. Bronson left behind a grieving mother, sisters and his seven-year-old son. Under state law, state officials were required to return Bronson to Hawaii when he had only a year left on his sentence, so he could complete pre-release programs. The state ignored that law.
Bronson was murdered in CCA’s “Special Housing Incentive Program,” or SHIP. The SHIP program places rival gang members and prisoners who do not belong to any gang together in one unit, where they share recreation time and sometimes even the same cell. Predictably, this practice resulted in violent incidents, including Bronson’s murder. Only one CCA employee, a correctional counselor, was present to oversee approximately 50 prisoners in the SHIP unit where Bronson was housed.
While at CCA Saguaro, Bronson had asked to be removed from the SHIP unit but CCA staff denied his requests. On February 18, 2010, two gang members attacked Bronson in his cell; the cell door had been opened by a CCA employee, who then left. Bronson was beaten and stabbed over 100 times. His assailants carved the initials of their gang into his chest and even had time to leave his cell, shower and change clothes before CCA staff knew Bronson had been murdered.
One of Bronson’s assailants, Miti Maugaotega, Jr., had previously been ...
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.
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. George C. Denkowski was a darling of Houston-area prosecutors. They knew he would deem a defendant suitable for the death penalty even when other psychologists balked. Ultimately, defense attorneys and Denkowski’s fellow colleagues proved to be his undoing after they filed complaints against him with the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists (TSBEP).
The U.S. Supreme Court held in 2002 that executing mentally handicapped prisoners was unconstitutional, but did not provide guidelines for determining who was mentally handicapped. See: Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002) [PLN, Sept. 2002, p.24]. To be deemed mentally handicapped in Texas, a defendant must demonstrate below-average intellectual function, a lack of adaptive behavior skills and a persistence of those problems since childhood.
To determine a person’s adaptive behavior and life skills, family members are given a standard test that asks questions about the subject. Typical questions might include ...
by Matt Clarke
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 sources by the year 2020. Five state prisons have already been or are in the process of being outfitted with over 83,000 solar panels generating 25 megawatts – enough electricity to power more than 89,000 homes. To put that in perspective, using fossil fuels to generate an equivalent amount of power would release as much carbon dioxide as 90,000 vehicles emit each year.
Money is also a factor. The installation of solar panels at the prisons is expected to result in savings of $55 million to California taxpayers over the next two decades; excess power generated will be sold into the state’s electricity grid, with the profits from the sales being split between the state and solar panel contractor SunEdison. The profits are expected to be substantial enough, apparently, that SunEdison is willing to subsidize the cost of the solar panel projects at the prisons.
A 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.
The complaint was filed in November 2010 by attorneys with Prisoners’ Legal Services, and was joined by the AIDS Action Committee (AAC) of Massachusetts. It seeks class-action status to obtain declaratory and injunctive relief for alleged violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
A governor’s advisory board was convened in the 1990s to analyze HIV care in the state’s prison system and to recommend and enact policies to improve such care. The board recommended that prisoners receive their medications through the KOP program, which only requires a prisoner to report to medical once a month to obtain a renewal of prescribed medications.
UMass Correctional Health (UMCH), a program of UMass Medical School, has the contract to provide Massachusetts prisoners with medical care. In November ...
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 receive their life-saving drugs rather than being allowed to keep a larger supply on hand.
The lawsuit alleges that the CDCR’s failure to conduct timely individualized assessments to determine whether every prisoner of the affected race in fact poses a threat to institutional safety and security renders its lockdown policy racially discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional.
The U.S. Supreme Court held in Johnson v. California, 543 U.S. 499 (2005) [PLN, April 2006, p.20; July 2005, p.22], that the CDCR’s policy of using race as the determinative factor in housing assignments for prisoners was akin to segregation and thus subject to “strict scrutiny” analysis. That is, the policy violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment unless prison officials could show it was “narrowly tailored” to advance a “compelling governmental interest.” It is likely the same analysis would equally apply to any race-based prison policy.
Indeed, a year before Johnson, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held in a case which foreshadowed the Supreme Court’s ruling ...
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.
As previously reported in PLN, Laura Marie Edwards, 39, served as executive director of the Oregon Halfway House (OHH), now known as the Northwest Regional Re-Entry Center, from 2007 until 2010, when she was fired on suspicion that she had embezzled from the facility. [See: PLN, Jan. 2011, p.42].
In 2009, Edwards received a salary and benefits totaling $107,000. Yet she stole $213,787 from OHH, in part by using a business debit card to make purchases from the Adoption Shoppe – an online store that she owned.
Edwards admitted to OHH Board President and Oregon Federal Public Defender Steven Wax that she previously had been fired from Cornell Industries, a California-based halfway house, also for misappropriating funds.
On June 27, 2011, Edwards was scheduled to appear before U.S. District Court Judge Ancer L. Haggerty to enter a plea to the embezzlement charge. She failed to appear, however, and a warrant was issued for her arrest.
Within days, Edwards was hospitalized in ...
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.
Barnhart was living in one of the homes at the time of the deal, which was provided for her use by the Department of Corrections. The property was sold to Barnhart and Gallagher for $175,000. However, the town of Thomaston had assessed the three houses and five acres located in Ship Circle at $458,000.
As part of the deal, the state agreed that prisoner work crews would provide mowing and landscaping, and would remove snow and trash on the property. In exchange Barnhart agreed to let prison guard trainees stay in one of the houses for the next four years.
State lawmakers had ordered the property sold. “Under the direction of the 124th Legislature, the fiscal year 2010-2011 budget was to be balanced, in part, by booking $1.5 million in anticipated revenue from the sale of a list of state-owned properties, which included the Ship Circle properties in Thomaston,” a press release from the governor stated.
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.
Minnesota is just one recent example of such fiscal irresponsibility. As Minnesota county officials are in the midst of an unprecedented jail-building boom, they face a surplus of cells they are unable to fill or afford.
Minnesota’s problem stems, in part, from a state-led campaign to modernize and expand deteriorating 19th century jails. Many county commissioners were once certain that they could profit by housing prisoners from other jurisdictions. As a result, dozens of counties built new facilities, increased capacity at existing jails or did both, adding about 2,000 beds to the state’s jail system since 2003.
Minnesota officials now admit that more than 3,000 cells statewide sit empty on any given day. Goodhue County officials were alarmed when they saw their new jail was only a third full.
“That, from a crime standpoint, should be good,” said Goodhue County Administrator Scott Arneson. Of course from a financial perspective it’s not so good, as jails are expensive ...
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.
Thus, a recent collaborative report led by the Prisoner Reentry Institute at New York City’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice proposes that transitional agencies become “culturally competent” to better assist the nearly 10 million people who are released from prisons and jails across the U.S. each year.
Cultural competence is an academic concept that, when implemented by reentry services, reengineers the revolving doors of recidivism and relapse by employing former prisoners and recovering addicts as counselors, mentors and case workers. It is also a pragmatic solution to finding jobs for released prisoners who desperately need them.
“Because incarceration both profoundly impacts those who experience it and disproportionately affects low-income people of color,” the June 2011 report notes, “the response to it needs to be culturally competent across a spectrum of issues.”
Hiring former prisoners would simultaneously boost the credibility of reentry agencies and undermine job discrimination against people with criminal records. As of 2009 only eight states, including New ...
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.
Aristotle Tarboro was booked into the Northampton County Prison ...
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.
The previous month, a Washington County grand jury returned an indictment against Linda Marie Coakley, 47, following an OSP investigation. She was charged with six counts of tampering with drug records, six counts of official misconduct and three counts of possession of a controlled substance.
ODOC spokeswoman Jeanine Hohn reported that Coakley was hired in June 2006 to work at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (CCCF), a women’s prison and intake center.
In 2009, Coakley diverted medication from CCCF prisoners to herself, including Vicodin and oxycodone, stated Deputy District Attorney Mark Richman. Coakley was “stationed at home” by the ODOC on October 26, 2009 and resigned in June 2010, said Hohn.
According to the Oregon State Board of Nursing, Coakley voluntarily surrendered her nursing license in August 2010 due to “inaccurate and incomplete recordkeeping, and unauthorized removal of narcotics from the workplace.”
Coakley pleaded guilty to official misconduct and drug offenses on July 22, 2011 and was sentenced to 25 days in jail plus 18 months on probation. She ...
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).
Rather than calling to report crimes, though, some crafty South Carolina state prisoners figured out a way to use the Crime Stoppers phone line to make personal calls, racking up some $7,000 in charges at Crime Stoppers’ expense, according to a July 2011 news report. The toll-free tip line was billed for 4,000 calls in one month, apparently after prisoners used the Crime Stoppers phone number as a third-party billing source for long distance calls.
“Some inmates are very resourceful and have a lot of time on their hands,” said Joey Hudson, President of Greenville County Crime Stoppers. “We know definitively the calls were made from corrections institutes in the Pee Dee area,” he stated. “We are still working to see if we can trace the calls back to a specific inmate or inmates.”
Telecompute, the company that provides ...
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, Crime Stoppers receives a lot of calls from prisoners.
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 ...
In September 2010, John Henry Wilson, 54, was charged with 66 counts of fraud while Lari Zeka, 27, was charged with 60 counts of aiding and abetting mail fraud. Wilson owned University Legal Services LLC, University Legal Research Services LLC and Appellant Research Services LLC. Wilson and Zeka worked for two of the companies.
They told their victims that for a fee they could conduct legal research and retain lawyers. The victims were led to believe the legal research was needed to help win an appeal and the retainer would be used to assist in the case. Wilson and Zeka used fake names when corresponding with their victims and portrayed themselves as attorneys or as representing attorneys who worked for the companies. Zeka was diverting money to another firm he operated, Paramount Research Group.
Neither Wilson nor Zeka were licensed to practice law, nor did their companies employ lawyers. Once the victims paid, no research was done and no attorney ...
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 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 Montana Supreme Court decision holding that the juvenile was required to register as a sex offender under state law irrespective of SORNA’s registration requirements.
To avoid a finding of mootness, the juvenile had to show that he was subject to collateral consequences stemming from SORNA’s registration requirements, as he was no longer subject to federal supervision. Thus, the Supreme Court sought clarification from the Montana Supreme Court as to whether the juvenile had a duty to register under state law as a result of SORNA.
After the Montana Supreme Court’s decision, the juvenile attempted to avoid a mootness finding by arguing that his challenge to SORNA was “capable of repetition, yet evading review.” The U.S. Supreme Court, however, rejected that argument. “The capable-of-repetition exception to mootness does not apply [because the juvenile] will never again be subject to an order imposing special conditions of juvenile supervision ...
The U.S. Supreme Court has dismissed an Ex Post Facto Clause challenge to the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).
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.
Under the new plan, the DOC will spend around $2 million on post-secondary education programs but will emphasize classes leading to a work skills certificate or a two-year associate degree in a limited number of fields that reflect the specific needs of Indiana employers.
The DOC canceled contracts with six colleges, including Ball State, Grace College and Indiana State University. It plans to have one university provide all of the DOC’s vocational classes. This change, combined with the elimination of liberal arts curriculums, will reduce the number of higher education offerings available to Indiana’s 28,000 state prisoners.
In 2010 there were 1,760 prisoners enrolled in courses leading to a degree in the DOC’s Corrections Education Pro-gram, including 676 enrolled in four-year bachelor’s degree studies – one of the largest higher education programs for prisoners in the nation.
According to Steven J. Steuer, executive director of ...
by Matt Clarke
Judd has instituted several other changes to make conditions at the Polk County Jail more onerous. He has ordered less expensive food to be served to prisoners; removed coffee, juice and fresh milk from the menu; had the jail’s basketball hoops taken down; and limited TV options to focus on educational programming. He contends the changes are motivated toward saving money.
The plan to cut underwear would save $45,000 per year, Judd said when he presented his proposal to the county commissioners on July 14, 2011. “Why shouldn’t they pay like the rest of us pay? We pay to maintain the county jail; to keep them there,” he stated.
“Certainly they can pay their way as much as they can afford. This is the county jail; it’s not a welfare program.”
He proposed selling underwear to prisoners on the jail’s commissary for between $2.54 and $4.48 a pair.
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.
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 a prisoner’s suicide.
The report examined the performance of Dr. Myron Shank, who served as the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) at the Allen Correctional Institution (ACI) from July 6, 2010 until his resignation on June 20, 2011. After Dr. Shank assumed the position of CMO, the number of medical grievances filed by prisoners exploded. In the year prior to his taking that position, 57 medical complaints were filed at ACI. During Dr. Shank’s brief tenure as CMO, 131 grievances were filed.
The majority of those complaints concerned diagnosis and treatment. Grievances claiming improper or inadequate medical care, or delay or denial of medication, increased by 25% and 24% respectively. Grievances that disagreed with a diagnosis or treatment increased 17%, while complaints regarding access to or delay in receiving medical care jumped by 12%.
During his tenure, Dr. Shank was called in for corrective meetings with ODRC supervisors on ...
by David M. Reutter
In the first incident, an unidentified associate psychologist in the Goree Unit SOTP was suspected of having an inappropriate relationship with a sex offender. The prisoner was awaiting transfer to another facility when the psychologist attempted to continue the relationship, and tried to enter areas of the prison she had no reason to go to. Her coworkers reported her. When confronted with evidence that she had been visiting those parts of the prison, she resigned. She later denied any wrongdoing and said she was unaware that she had appeal rights after being forced to quit.
Another associate psychologist at the Goree Unit SOTP, Lisa Marie Bailey, resigned on September 10, 2010 after TDCJ investigators intercepted numerous letters she had written to a sex offender she was counseling ...
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. The TDCJ credited other staff members with uncovering the misconduct, but in at least one case a prisoner reported the employee’s behavior.
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 19.2 years, and time served before release averaged slightly more than 11 years.
The TDCJ’s 12,000 state jail prisoners served sentences ranging from six months to two years, and averaged one year. Such short terms provided little time for early release.
The sentences for other TDCJ prisoners ranged from two years to life without parole or the death penalty. Among the prisoners entering Texas state prisons in FY 2010, the average sentence length was around 10 years for violent offenders and about 5.8 years for prisoners convicted of drug offenses.
In FY 2010, about 12,000 prisoners were admitted for violent crimes such as robbery, sexual assault and kidnapping. Around 950 were admitted for murder while about 9,000 were sent to prison for drug offenses and 3,800 for DWI. In FY 2010, 247 new arrivals to the TDCJ were sentenced to life, 85 to life ...
by Matt Clarke
Most of the people participating in the pay-to-stay-out program were convicted of misdemeanors, such as driving without a license or petty theft. Those convicted of a sex offense, domestic battery and most other felonies, as well as known members of violent gangs, are not allowed to participate. The program saves the county about $50-$54 per day in jail costs, plus generates revenue of $15 per day per participant. The payments are placed in the jail’s indigent fund, with any surplus going to the county’s general fund.
There are several alternatives to serving jail sentences. The sheriff’s Inmate Labor Detail allows prisoners to work under supervision in community service programs. Such services include stereotypical chores such as picking up trash, but also involve working in the animal shelter, unloading trash at the county dump, shoveling snow from sidewalks, sweeping sand spread ...
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 the community rather than behind bars.
In March 2006, after celebrating his birthday at a bar, Glen Jochimsen was detained by ...
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 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 ...
by Matt Clarke
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 victory. Mike Alder of Beverly Hills, who represented the two victims, Chelsea Ann Caughran and Jocelyn Hernandez, said the settlement would provide immediate compensation to his clients and prevent Seymour from appealing.
Meanwhile, Albert DiRocco, Jr. of Los Angeles, Seymour’s attorney, said “No one is happier that the plaintiffs have agreed to a reasonable settlement than my client.”
Seymour did not contest liability in the case, and had previously pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges related to the accident.
She had gone to a bar after work on April 2, 2010. By the time she left around midnight, her blood-alcohol level was almost 0.26% – more than three times the legal limit. She rear-ended the car in which Caughran and Hernandez were driving home, causing them both to sustain serious injuries.
The parties reached a settlement the same day that a Los Angeles jury returned a verdict in the ...
by Mike Brodheim
The report presents recidivism rates from a three-year follow-up period for all felons released from the CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions in fiscal year (FY) 2006-2007, plus one-year recidivism data for FY 2008-09.
In the past, the CDCR measured recidivism by tracking released prisoners who return to prison. While still regarding that as the most reliable and useful measure, the CDCR now reports recidivism by tracking three different measures: arrests, new convictions and returns to prison. Arrests yield the highest rate of recidivism while convictions yield the lowest. For example, in FY 2008-09 the one-year recidivism rate was 57.2% as measured by arrests; it was 45.2% based on returns to prison and only 20.0% as measured by new convictions.
Additionally, whereas in the past the CDCR provided recidivism rates only for felons paroled for the first time on their current term during a specified period of time ...
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.
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 ...
by Mike Brodheim
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.
by Matt Clarke
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, the earthquake bequeathed a momentous opportunity to escape. Over 5,000 Haitian prisoners escaped in the aftermath of the disaster, including all 4,125 prisoners from the National Penitentiary, Haiti’s largest prison.
In Haiti’s Les Cayes prison, however, escaping prisoners met a different fate – a brutal massacre by guards. Prisoners packed inside overcrowded cells, originally built in the nineteenth century, began to scream in fear for their lives during the earthquake’s violent shaking. The guards refused the prisoners’ basic demand that they be allowed to sleep in the prison courtyard during the aftershocks. Instead, the guards retaliated against the most vocal prisoners, packing them in overcrowded cells and refusing them bathroom “privileges.” Prisoners responded by throwing buckets of urine at the guards and escaping their cells.
To quell the unrest, a week after the earthquake the police and guards used tear gas and massacred between ten to ...
by Holly Cooper
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 on the facility administrator, not on the jail’s line staff.
In September 2007, Alexander Simoens, 47, was in the Omaha City Jail on charges of driving with a suspended license when he began to experience serious medical problems.
Simoens was in agony and begged for medical attention for two days, writhing in his cell and vomiting blood, while jailers ignored his condition and pleas for help. Finally, he collapsed and was taken to a hospital where he died of gastrointestinal bleeding caused by a ruptured ulcer.
“In hindsight, we would have prescribed appropriate medical attention,” said Omaha Police Chief Thomas Warren.
Jail surveillance cameras captured Simoens’ plight, and the video sparked outrage among his family members and others who viewed it. In December 2007, a grand jury indicted jail supervisors Jeanelle Moore and Andrew Freeman, as well as guards Mark Haefele and Joachim Dankiw, on misdemeanor charges of official ...
by Matt Clarke
Florida: Lake County Jail prisoner George McCovery, 37, was released 9 days early from his 29-day sentence for driving with a suspended license due to his weight loss at the jail. When sentencing McCovery, Judge Donna Miller said she would take a day off his sentence for each pound he lost. McCovery, who weighed 345 pounds before he went in, had lost 25 pounds when he went back before the judge after serving 20 days. Judge Miller is known for offering creative alternative sanctions to defendants, such as having ...
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 arrest sex offenders who refused to participate. Meanwhile, the Russell County Sheriff’s Department said it would require around 35 sex offenders on probation or parole to attend a mandatory meeting on Halloween evening, and would ask 115 other sex offenders to voluntarily attend. Those who volunteer to come to the meeting would have their annual registration fee reduced by $20.