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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: July, 2012

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Volume 23, Number 7

In this issue:

  1. Racial Critiques of Mass Incarceration: Beyond the New Jim Crow (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 16)
  3. Minnesota Man Settles Lawsuit for $229,500 and Policy Changes to Assist Deaf Arrestees (p 17)
  4. Audits Identify Problems with Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative (p 18)
  5. Florida DNA Mix-Up Raises Questions about Rapist’s Conviction (p 19)
  6. California U.S. District Court Holds that Prop. 9 Does Not Supersede Previously-Issued Injunction Regarding Parole Revocation Procedures (p 20)
  7. U.S. Department of Justice Soft on Corporate Crime (p 22)
  8. New Jersey Comptroller Criticizes, Questions Halfway House Contracts (p 24)
  9. Former California Assistant Sheriff Awarded $183,688 in Backpay Despite State and Federal Convictions (p 26)
  10. Ohio Prison Guards Denied Qualified Immunity for Leaving Prisoner Handcuffed for 12 Hours (p 26)
  11. PLN Lawsuit Ends No-Publication Policy at Washington Jail, Results in $180,000 Settlement (p 28)
  12. California Plans to End Out-of-State Prisoner Transfers (p 28)
  13. Texas Prison System Increases Prisoners’ Monthly Phone Minutes (p 30)
  14. Oklahoma Taxpayers Foot $13.5 Million Settlement Bill for Sexual Abuse by Jailers (p 30)
  15. California Prisoners Seek End to Long-Term Segregation, Oppressive SHU Conditions (p 32)
  16. Maryland DOC Rescinds Ban on Prisoner’s Book (p 36)
  17. Missouri Court Finds Prisoner Phone Contract Bidding Process Unfair (p 38)
  18. Alabama Prison Guards Charged in Prisoner’s Murder (p 38)
  19. Another Oregon Prison Food Manager Accused of Misconduct (p 40)
  20. Michigan Introduces Tasers to Prison System (p 40)
  21. Washington State Court Holds Requester Has the Right to Joinder in Suit Seeking to Bar Disclosure of Public Records (p 41)
  22. Study Reveals High Rates of Sexually-Transmitted Diseases at Maricopa County, Arizona Jails (p 42)
  23. California Pays $2.5 Million After Girl Attempts Suicide at Juvenile Facility (p 42)
  24. Saginaw County Jail in Michigan Settles Prisoner’s Wrongful Death Suit for $1.3 Million (p 44)
  25. $2.4 Million Awarded for Wrongful Death of Virginia Prisoner (p 44)
  26. Private Prison Industry Exerts Political Influence in Arizona (p 45)
  27. Texas Parole Board Removes Onerous Sex Offender Conditions from 176 Parolees (p 46)
  28. Most Second Chance Act Money Goes to Government Agencies (p 46)
  29. $1 Million Settlement in Maricopa County, Arizona Jail Prisoner’s Beating Death (p 47)
  30. Prisoners Win Three Jury Trials in Eastern District of California (p 48)
  31. Federal Suit Targets Dangerous, Unconstitutional Conditions in Fresno County, California Jail System (p 48)
  32. Florida Nurse Accused of Scalding Prisoner with Hot Water (p 49)
  33. News in Brief: (p 50)

Racial Critiques of Mass Incarceration: Beyond the New Jim Crow

by James Forman, Jr.*

In the last decade, a number of scholars have called the American criminal justice system a new form of Jim Crow. These writers have effectively drawn attention to the injustices created by a facially race-neutral system that severely ostracizes offenders and stigmatizes young, poor black men as criminals. I argue that despite these important contributions, the Jim Crow analogy leads to a distorted view of mass incarceration. The analogy presents an incomplete account of mass incarceration’s historical origins, fails to consider black attitudes toward crime and punishment, ignores violent crimes while focusing almost exclusively on drug crimes, obscures class distinctions within the African American community, and overlooks the effects of mass incarceration on other racial groups.

Introduction

In the five decades since African Americans won their civil rights, hundreds of thousands have lost their liberty. Blacks now make up a larger portion of the prison population than they did at the time of Brown v. Board of Education, and their lifetime risk of incarceration has doubled. As the United States has become the world’s largest jailer and its prison population has exploded, black men have been particularly affected. Today, black men are imprisoned at ...

From the Editor

The Prison Phone Justice Campaign is gaining momentum nationally. As announced in last month’s issue, a number of organizations, including the Human Rights Defense Center (the parent organization of Prison Legal News) have launched a campaign to end the practice of price gouging prisoners and their families for the cost of phone calls.

Right now a critical issue is getting the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to act on the Wright Petition, which would cap interstate prison phone rates. If you and your friends, family members and supporters can call, write or e-mail the FCC, as described in the ad on page 21, that will let the FCC know this is an important issue affecting millions of prisoners and those who care about them.

In addition to organizing the Prison Phone Justice Campaign, we are also updating the information for all 50 states and the Bureau of Prisons with respect to their telephone contracts, the actual cost of prison phone calls, the kickbacks paid by phone companies, and who holds the contracts. We will report our progress in upcoming issues of PLN and will publish a comprehensive report on the topic in early 2013.

We have added almost a dozen ...

Minnesota Man Settles Lawsuit for $229,500 and Policy Changes to Assist Deaf Arrestees

A deaf Minnesota man has agreed to accept $229,500 and policy changes to settle a lawsuit that alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act (RA) and the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) due to the failure of jail officials to provide him with an ...

Audits Identify Problems with Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative

by David M. Reutter

Two audit reports, one by Michigan’s Office of the Auditor General in 2012 and the other by the State Budget Office in 2011, both found shortcomings with the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative (MPRI).

Michigan took a bold step in 2005 by implementing MPRI. The program abandoned typical tough-on-crime practices and instead adopted policies designed “to significantly reduce crime and enhance public safety by implementing a seamless system of services for offenders from the time they enter into prison through their transition, reintegration and aftercare in their communities.” For example, MPRI offers parolees assistance with housing, transportation, employment, health care and education.

The implementation of MPRI services by Department of Corrections (DOC) staff and partner community agencies statewide was coordinated by the Offender Reentry Services Section (ORSS), a new agency established within the DOC. ORSS was also responsible for initiating and monitoring certain offender reentry contracts. Oversight of the contracting and contract monitoring processes is provided by the DOC’s Bureau of Fiscal Management.

For fiscal year 2009-10, MPRI’s budget was $52.7 million; of that amount, $27 million was for contracts with “adminis-trative agencies [that] serve as fiduciary agents and subcontract with other agencies ...

Florida DNA Mix-Up Raises Questions about Rapist’s Conviction

When the FBI informed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) that it had a recent “hit” on the DNA of convicted rapist Andrew Lingard, the FDLE realized there was a problem: Lingard had been in prison for the past four years, and the FDLE lab in Orlando had processed the DNA evidence that led to his conviction and life sentence.

In September 2011, an investigation revealed that the labels on two DNA samples – that of Lingard and the boyfriend of the rape victim – were mistakenly switched by Altamonte Springs police evidence technician Toni Bullock, and the error went unnoticed by an FDLE lab analyst and reviewer. Based on the mislabeled DNA evidence, Lingard was convicted of raping a 21-year-old woman during a 2004 home-invasion robbery.

Undeterred, Altamonte Springs police chief Michael Deal insisted that Lingard was still guilty. Seminole County prosecutors said they would seek a court order compelling Lingard to provide another DNA sample for testing. Why the original sample was no longer available was not explained.

An independent lab, Orchid Cellmark, conducted additional tests on the rape victim’s clothing and bed sheets, and found a match with Lingard’s DNA. Thus, according to Assistant State Attorney ...

California U.S. District Court Holds that Prop. 9 Does Not Supersede Previously-Issued Injunction Regarding Parole Revocation Procedures

by John E. Dannenberg

Senior U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence K. Karlton has upheld a 2004 injunction that conflicts with the parole revocation provisions of California’s so-called Victims’ Bill of Rights, also known as Marsy’s Law. Marsy’s Law, enacted in 2008 as Proposition 9, a ballot initiative, granted entitlements to crime victims by amending the state constitution and adding § 3044 of the California Penal Code.

Prop. 9 restricted certain procedural rights for parolees at revocation hearings, including: 1) a probable cause hearing no later than 15 days following arrest for violation of parole; 2) an evidentiary revocation hearing no later than 45 days following arrest for a parole violation; 3) counsel at state expense only if the parole board or its hearing officers determine that the parolee is indigent and appears incapable of speaking effectively in his own defense; and 4) parole revocation determinations shall be based on a preponderance of the evidence, including documentary evidence, direct testimony or hearsay evidence offered by parole agents, peace officers or victims.

A federal suit challenging California’s parole revocation procedures, Valdivia v. Brown, had been filed in 1994, and the state agreed to a permanent injunction in that ...

U.S. Department of Justice Soft on Corporate Crime

If you’ve wondered why no one has been prosecuted for the corporate misdeeds that devastated the economy in 2008 and nearly thrust the United States into another Great Depression, you’re not alone.

The reason no Wall Street executives have faced charges for malfeasance is due to the federal government’s recent adoption of a soft-on-corporate-crime approach that rewards companies that hire investigators to uncover and report their own misdeeds. Such self-policing leads to “deferred prosecution agreements,” under which, in exchange for a fine and a promise to clean up its act, the corporation is let off the hook – usually with neither the company nor any of its executives facing prosecution.

According to a July 7, 2011 article in the New York Times, the Department of Justice (DOJ) began pulling back from aggressive prosecution of corporate crimes in 2005 after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a hard-won conviction against Arthur Andersen LLP, Enron’s accounting firm. See: Arthur Anderson LLP v. United States, 544 U.S. 696 (2005).

Fueled by this litigation success, corporate leaders began complaining that DOJ prosecutions had been overzealous and were hurting U.S. businesses. According to participants at a May 2005 meeting of ...

New Jersey Comptroller Criticizes, Questions Halfway House Contracts

In a June 15, 2011 letter and separate audit report, the New Jersey State Comptroller’s office sharply criticized a number of issues related to the Department of Corrections’ (DOC) contracts with private halfway houses. Singled out for special attention was Education and Health Centers of America, Inc. (EHCA), a non-profit corporation that operates about half of the halfway houses under contract with the DOC.

The Comptroller stated, in reference to EHCA, “One of the issues that we found is there are questions about the eligibility of one of those halfway houses to be a part of this program. We sent a letter to the [DOC] suggesting that on this issue they seek formal legal advice from the [State] Attorney General’s Office and they’ve agreed to do that.”

The Comptroller’s office noted that of the $400 million New Jersey had paid to EHCA since 1997, $390 million went to an affiliated for-profit company, Community Education Centers, Inc. (CEC). EHCA subcontracts with CEC for the “operation, support services, management, and maintenance” of EHCA’s halfway houses.

This arrangement skirts a state law requiring halfway houses to be non-profit facilities. While EHCA owns the halfway houses, it basically serves ...

Former California Assistant Sheriff Awarded $183,688 in Backpay Despite State and Federal Convictions

The California Court of Appeal has held that former Orange County Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo is entitled to backpay of $183,688.66 from the time he was improperly fired from the sheriff’s department in March 2004 until he pleaded guilty to two state-law felonies in January 2007.

The ...

Ohio Prison Guards Denied Qualified Immunity for Leaving Prisoner Handcuffed for 12 Hours

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s grant of qualified immunity to prison officials in a federal civil rights action alleging violations of a prisoner’s rights under the Eighth Amendment.

Ohio state prisoner Jasen Barker filed a lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that alleged “highly disputed” facts regarding an incident that occurred on February 7, 2007 at the London Correctional Institution (LCI). He sued the prison and eleven guards. The facts, in the light most favorable to Barker, indicated that he was taking medication that made him drowsy, which caused him to occasionally be asleep during the four o’clock count. A guard would usually wake him and remind him he had to be sitting up during count time.

On the day in question, however, LCI guard Andrew Goodrich woke Barker during count and immediately escorted him to the Captain’s office. Barker was placed in an observation cell, handcuffed behind his back. His requests for mental health services were ignored and he remained in the cell until 8:00 a.m. the next day. While confined he was unable to urinate or get a drink of water and could not lie ...

PLN Lawsuit Ends No-Publication Policy at Washington Jail, Results in $180,000 Settlement

Less than 90 days after PLN filed suit challenging a no-publication mail policy at Washington State’s Chelan County Regional Justice Center (RJC), the defendants conceded the policy was unconstitutional and agreed to the entry of a consent decree and payment of $180,000 in damages, attorney fees and costs ...

California Plans to End Out-of-State Prisoner Transfers

by David M. Reutter

On November 8, 2010, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) issued a press release announcing that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) intended to award a new contract to the company, “to manage up to 3,256 offenders at CCA’s Crowley County Correctional Facility in Olney Springs, Colorado and CCA’s Prairie Correctional Facility in Minnesota.”

At the time, the announcement seemed like a safe bet. CCA already contracted with the CDCR to house around 10,000 prisoners in out-of-state facilities, stemming from an October 2006 state of emergency declared by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger – a proclamation that remains in effect.

Further, in August 2009, as a result of the Plata v. Brown litigation, a federal three-judge panel ordered California to reduce its prison population by up to 44,000 prisoners within two years. [See: PLN, Sept. 2009, p.36]. One potential option for CDCR officials was to transfer even more prisoners out-of-state, to reduce overcrowding in California’s in-state prisons.

But then a funny thing happened. Not only did the CDCR not fill CCA’s Crowley County and Prairie Correctional Facilities with thousands of prisoners, but California has since announced plans to phase out ...

Texas Prison System Increases Prisoners’ Monthly Phone Minutes

by Matt Clarke

In 2007, when Texas became the last state in the nation to let prisoners make phone calls on a regular basis, the limit on phone usage was 120 minutes a month. [See: PLN, Nov. 2007, p.11]. Two years later the Texas Board of Criminal Justice (TBCJ) responded to requests by prisoners’ families and doubled the monthly phone minute allotment to 240. In 2011 the Texas legislature considered, but ultimately did not adopt, an amendment that would have increased the number of minutes to 480; regardless, the limit on phone usage was upped anyway.

Not surprisingly, Texas officials have not increased the number of phone minutes solely for the benefit of prisoners and their families, for whom phone calls are a primary means of communication. Rather, the reason for allowing additional phone minutes is strictly financial. The legislature needs to plug a large budget deficit and money from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) phone system is an attractive source.

Currently, phone calls from Texas state prisoners cost $.234/minute for debit in-state phone calls ($.26/minute for collect or prepaid) and $.387/minute for debit out-of-state calls ($.43/minute for collect or prepaid). While those ...

Oklahoma Taxpayers Foot $13.5 Million Settlement Bill for Sexual Abuse by Jailers

by David M. Reutter

The general public typically shows little concern about abuse and corruption in jails and prisons, at least until it affects them personally. That was the case when residents in Delaware County, Oklahoma attended a November 2011 meeting of the County Commission and learned they may face ...

California Prisoners Seek End to Long-Term Segregation, Oppressive SHU Conditions

There are many forms of political and social protest. They can be purely for the sake of being disruptive or they can aim for resolution of a particular issue. Of course, even when they seek the latter they invariably involve some degree of the former.

A review of hunger strikes staged by up to 12,000 California prisoners in 2011 and early 2012 reveals that they were well-intentioned, peacefully orchestrated and achieved positive results. That is not to say that thousands of participants did not suffer, nor that the hunger strikers achieved all the goals they sought to attain. Regardless, the protests demonstrated that prisoners can make their voices heard and accomplish much-needed reforms.

Background

The first hunger strike originated deep inside one of California’s toughest pens, Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP). More than just a maximum-security facility, PBSP is a remote lockup near the Oregon border that is the designated repository for prisoners the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) considers to be the worst troublemakers. This mostly includes gang members, whom the CDCR wants to isolate to prevent their promoting further gang activity while incarcerated.

But the CDCR has included within its designation of “gang members ...

Maryland DOC Rescinds Ban on Prisoner’s Book

On July 20, 2011, the Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services (DPSCS) rescinded its ban on The Marshall Plan: The Life and Times of a Baltimore Black Panther, a memoir co-authored by Maryland state prisoner Marshall “Eddie” Conway and Dominque Stevenson with the American Friends Service Committee.
Maryland Correctional Training Center acting warden Wayne Webb had banned the book two weeks earlier. DPSCS spokesman Rick Binetti said the memoir was disallowed because it contained pictures of other prisoners without having notifying the victims of their crimes.

“[DPSCS] procedures dictate that any inmate photographed for media/other publication purposes be cleared through the proper victim notification process. This means they check to see if there is a victim notification request by the victim or victim’s family in the inmate’s file requesting they be notified should there be a photo/interview/media request of the inmate,” Binetti said. “Generally speaking, victims ask that the inmate not be allowed to be interviewed/photographed.”

The DPSCS revoked its ban on The Marshall Plan after the ACLU threatened litigation. ACLU staff attorney David Rocah called the ban “flagrantly unconstitutional,” noting that the preferences of victims do not trump prisoners’ First Amendment rights ...

Missouri Court Finds Prisoner Phone Contract Bidding Process Unfair

On November 30, 2011, a Missouri circuit court held that adding optional services to the state’s prisoner telephone contract without putting those services out for competitive bidding would render the contract void. The court found the current contract was valid, but to amend it to include the optional services would require the entire contract to be rebid.

From 2006 to 2011, Public Communications Services (PCS) provided phone services to more than 30,000 prisoners in the Missouri Department of Corrections (MDOC). The PCS phone system handled 12.1 million calls that totaled more than 117 million minutes in 2010. There are three methods by which prisoners can make calls: 1) debit calls, which are debited directly from the prisoner’s account; 2) pre-paid calls with accounts set up by friends and family members; and 3) collect calls that result in the accepting party being billed.

In December 2010, Missouri’s Office of Administration (OA), through its Director of Purchasing and Materials Management (DPMM), issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a new prison phone service provider following the expiration of the PCS contract in May 2011. Seven companies submitted acceptable responses: CenturyLink, Consolidated Communications Public Services, PCS, Securus Techonologies ...

Alabama Prison Guards Charged in Prisoner’s Murder

Four Alabama state prison guards have been charged in connection with the brutal 2010 beating death of a prisoner at the Ventress Correctional Facility (VCF).

The first guard, Lt. Michael Anthony Smith, 37, was indicted on October 17, 2011 by a Barbour County grand jury; he was arrested and booked ...

Another Oregon Prison Food Manager Accused of Misconduct

As previously reported in PLN, former Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) Food Services Administrator Farhad “Fred” Monem accepted over $1.2 million in bribes from several food vendors and then fled to his homeland of Iran, leaving his wife and the vendors to face criminal prosecution. [See: PLN, Oct. 2011, p.38; Sept. 2010, p.24; July 2009, p.20; Aug. 2008, p.1].

Now, the Food Services Manager at the Two Rivers Correctional Institution (TRCI) in Umatilla, Oregon has resigned and may face criminal charges in an unrelated incident.

In 2007, the ODOC hired Mike W. Mathisen, 44, to work in the food services department at the Oregon State Penitentiary. The next year he transferred to TRCI, where he earned $59,000 a year as the facility’s Food Services Manager. While employed in that capacity, Mathisen also owned catering and food packing businesses, and established two local farmers markets.

In 2010, Mathisen was endorsed by state Republicans in a failed bid to unseat state Representative Bob Jenson. He raised $31,500 for his campaign, including $2,500 from the Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance, which is headed by former Oregon legislator Kevin Mannix, the chief sponsor of numerous mandatory minimum ...

Michigan Introduces Tasers to Prison System

by David M. Reutter

Citing hopes of reducing the number of work-related injuries and associated costs resulting from altercations with prisoners, in December 2011 the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) invested $125,000 in a pilot program at five maximum-security prisons to test the effectiveness of Tasers.

MDOC guards at Algier Correctional Facility, the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia and the Ionia, Carson City and St. Louis correctional facilities were armed with a Taser model X26 or X2, both of which have video recording capabilities.

High numbers of assaults involving multiple prisoners, prisoner-on-staff assaults and prisoners with weapons were why the five facilities were selected for the pilot program, said MDOC operations administrator Edward Mize. He noted that other states that allow guards to carry Tasers have reported a 20-50% reduction in employee or prisoner injuries related to altercations.

Each Taser costs around $1,070 and each prison requires about 20, Mize said. In addition to the $107,000 to purchase the electroshock devices, the MDOC spent another $18,000 in equipment and training for five to ten guards at each facility to carry Tasers.

The MDOC has a phone service fund for revenue generated from phone calls made by prisoners ...

Washington State Court Holds Requester Has the Right to Joinder in Suit Seeking to Bar Disclosure of Public Records

Washington State Court Holds Requester Has the Right to Joinder in Suit Seeking
to Bar Disclosure of Public Records

The Division Three Court of Appeals for the State of Washington has vacated an injunction that barred the disclosure of records requested by a state prisoner related to Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) employees.

Allan Parmelee submitted a Public Records Act (PRA) request to the DOC for documents concerning several guards employed at the Washington State Penitentiary. Rather than honor Parmelee’s request, the DOC notified him that it would withhold the records pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by the affected guards. Through their suit, the guards sought an injunction barring disclosure of the records.

Parmelee sought mandatory joinder to the guards’ suit under Civil Rule (CR) 19. The trial court, however, denied his joinder request and granted the injunction, and Parmelee appealed.

The Division Three Court of Appeals, in an unpublished opinion, reversed the trial court. According to the appellate court, Parmelee’s request for joinder was controlled by the Washington Supreme Court’s decision in Burt v. Department of Corrections, 168 Wn.2d 828, 231 P.3d 191 (Wash. 2010).

In Burt, another PRA case involving Parmelee ...

Study Reveals High Rates of Sexually-Transmitted Diseases at Maricopa County, Arizona Jails

A joint study by the Arizona Arrestee Reporting Information Network and Arizona State University’s Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety, released in June 2011, found high rates of sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) among prisoners in Maricopa County’s jail system. Approximately 130,000 people are booked into the county’s jails each year, with an average incarceration period of less than 30 days.

The first anomaly was noticed when the Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety conducted a federally-funded study that tested women under 35 for diseases that could affect fertility. The study noted elevated STD rates among incarcerated women for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Believing that incarcerated men might also have high rates of infection, the researchers expanded the study to include all prisoners regardless of age or gender.

The expanded study revealed gonorrhea infection rates of 5% and chlamydia infection rates of 10% among female prisoners – about 80.6 and 14.5 times higher than the average in the general population, respectively. For male prisoners, the gonorrhea infection rate was 4.6% and the chlamydia infection rate was 6.8% (54.4 and 23.7 times greater than in the general population, respectively).

Public health care officials ...

California Pays $2.5 Million After Girl Attempts Suicide at Juvenile Facility

California officials have agreed to pay $2.5 million to the family of a teenage girl who was left severely brain damaged after trying to hang herself in the mental health unit of the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility (VYCF). According to the family’s lawsuit, VYCF guards and supervisors failed ...

Saginaw County Jail in Michigan Settles Prisoner’s Wrongful Death Suit for $1.3 Million

The Executive Committee for Saginaw County, Michigan voted in December 2011 to settle a lawsuit that alleged county and jail officials were responsible for a prisoner’s death that occurred in May 2007.

Jerry Rouster, 48, was serving a 3-day sentence for misdemeanor contempt of court at the Saginaw County ...

$2.4 Million Awarded for Wrongful Death of Virginia Prisoner

On September 13, 2011, a Virginia jury awarded the estate of a Richmond City Jail prisoner $2.4 million in a wrongful death suit.

James D. Robinson, 46, was arrested and booked into the jail in 2008 after he suffered a seizure while driving with a suspended license and crashed ...

Private Prison Industry Exerts Political Influence in Arizona

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and other state policymakers have been criticized for their close connections with private prison companies, including Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest for-profit prison firm.

Brewer’s senior political advisor and 2010 campaign manager, Chuck Coughlin, founded Highground Public Affairs Consultants, which lobbies for CCA. Further, Brewer’s former deputy chief of staff for communications, Paul Senseman, lobbied for CCA through Policy Development Group, Inc. both before and after working for the governor; his wife, Kathryn Senseman, is a CCA lobbyist with the same company. CCA operates six facilities in Arizona although none currently house Arizona prisoners.

Florida-based GEO Group, CCA’s main competitor and one of the bidders for a state contract to manage 2,000 private prison beds in Arizona, has taken a page from CCA’s playbook. Since CCA apparently has the governor in its pocket, GEO Group decided to influence members of the legislature who have control over the state’s purse strings.

Lobbyists associated with GEO Group gave campaign contributions to House Speaker Andy Tobin and state Rep. John Kavanagh, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and outgoing Chair of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. The contributions came ...

Texas Parole Board Removes Onerous Sex Offender Conditions from 176 Parolees

In November 2011, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles removed the sex offender designations from 176 parolees who were subject to stringent parole restrictions known as Condition “X,” but had never been convicted of a sex offense.

The issue of whether Texas can impose sex offender conditions on parolees who had not been convicted of a sex crime has been litigated for over a decade. Legal challenges have resulted in a series of defeats for parole officials in both state and federal courts, which have held that Condition “X” restrictions are such an infringement on a person’s liberty that a prisoner or parolee who has not been convicted of a sex offense must be afforded a hearing before such conditions can be imposed.

Condition “X” restrictions include prohibitions on: the possession or operation of computer or photographic equipment; visiting any location where minors regularly congregate; establishing a dating, matrimonial or platonic relationship with a person who has minor children; having any contact (directly or indirectly) with minors; or enrolling in a college or university. Other requirements include registering as a sex offender; attending sex offender treatment programs; agreeing to warrantless searches at any time; taking regular polygraphs concerning ...

Most Second Chance Act Money Goes to Government Agencies

by Derek Gilna and Brandon Sample

When the Second Chance Act (SCA) was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008, the legislation was intended to fund programs to help former prisoners find jobs, reintegrate into society and stay out of jail. Years later, however, it appears that most SCA grants are being funneled to government agencies rather than community organizations that provide reentry services for ex-offenders.

Rules promulgated by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and left undisturbed by Congress, give the DOJ authority to dole out SCA funds according to criteria established by the DOJ. Sadly, this is not an isolated practice but part of a decades-long trend in which Congress passes bills with broadly-brushed legislative goals, then leaves entrenched bureaucracies like the DOJ to fill in the details as they see fit.

In fiscal year 2011, SCA grants totaling $2.9 million were distributed to various non-profit community organizations for Adult Offender Mentoring. Some of the grants, which averaged $300,000 each, went to organizations that have tenuous connections with prisoner reentry – such as Goodwill Easter Seals in Miami Valley, Ohio and the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association. Another $3 million went to community groups ...

$1 Million Settlement in Maricopa County, Arizona Jail Prisoner’s Beating Death

The Board of Supervisors for Maricopa County, Arizona has agreed to pay $1 million to the family of a man who was beaten to death by guards at the Maricopa County Jail (MCJ).

Juan Farias Mendoza was in the custody of the MCJ for a DUI probation violation on December 2, 2007. Four days later, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) detective Jeff Perez contacted Mendoza’s family to inform them he had passed away due to natural causes. Perez said no one at MCJ had hurt or injured Mendoza prior to his death.

But rather than having died on December 6 as Perez told the family, Mendoza actually died on December 5. Further, medical records and autopsy reports indicated that Mendoza died after he suffered a severe beating. When the family viewed Mendoza’s body several days later, they were “completely shocked ... because it was covered with bruises, abrasions and contusions.”

MCSO failed to comply with nine requests for information related to Mendoza’s death between December 20, 2007 and May 22, 2008. Despite this intentional effort to conceal what had happened, Phoenix attorney Luis P. Guerra was able to uncover sufficient facts to file a notice of claim ...

Prisoners Win Three Jury Trials in Eastern District of California

On September 29, 2011, a Sacramento jury found that a prison doctor had violated state prisoner Christopher Kyle Prater’s civil rights, and awarded $10,000 in compensatory damages and $20,000 in punitive damages. Prater alleged that Dr. Paramvir Sahota, Chief Medical Officer at Folsom State Prison, was deliberately ...

Federal Suit Targets Dangerous, Unconstitutional Conditions in Fresno County, California Jail System

Fresh off their recent victory in Plata v. Brown, where the U.S. Supreme Court held that overcrowding is the primary cause of constitutionally inadequate medical and mental health care in California’s prison system [See: PLN, July 2011, p.1], attorneys at the Prison Law Office, joined by Disability Rights California and attorneys with the law firm of Cooley LLP, filed a class-action lawsuit in December 2011 against Fresno County officials.

The suit alleges systemic failures to 1) provide minimally adequate health care to Fresno County jail prisoners and 2) protect those prisoners from injury and violence from other prisoners, in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The suit, filed in federal court, seeks declaratory and injunctive relief. It is related to the Plata case in that state officials have responded to the Plata court’s order to reduce prison overcrowding by implementing a massive “realignment” plan, whereby tens of thousands of prisoners formerly sent to state prison to serve time for parole violations and/or low-level offenses are now being housed in county jails instead.

The realignment plan, it is anticipated, will effectively shift much of the overcrowding problem from California’s ...

Florida Nurse Accused of Scalding Prisoner with Hot Water

A registered nurse at Florida’s Lake Correctional Institution (LCI) was charged on February 8, 2011 with abuse, aggravated abuse and neglect of an elderly or disabled adult. The charges followed a three-month investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).

Nurse Elaine M. Wade, 48, was accused of failing to assess and document the unnamed prisoner’s condition following a November 27, 2010 incident that resulted in the prisoner being burned by hot water during a shower. While Wade provided treatment immediately after the prisoner was scalded, she failed to note his “worsening condition” during an examination the next day.

Later that day the prisoner was taken to a local hospital, where doctors found he had first- and second-degree burns over 25-35% of his body. He was also dehydrated and had low blood pressure.

FDLE agents said the prisoner was scalded while Wade was overseeing his shower in the prison’s infirmary. She posted a $2,000 bond after her arrest at LCI; when asked by a news reporter if she had burned the prisoner with hot water, she replied, “I had nothing to do with him getting burned, sir.”

LCI houses prisoners with mental health problems. It ...

News in Brief:

Alabama: On March 2, 2012, the maximum-security Limestone Correctional Facility was hit by a tornado and suffered damage to several buildings, including the roofs of cell blocks C and D and the canteen. A week later, around 200 prisoners were transferred to other facilities. No injuries were reported at the Limestone prison as a result of the tornado.

Arizona: Martin Batieni Kombate, 44, was arrested for trespassing at the Coconino County jail in January 2012 be-cause he refused to leave after being released on his own recognizance. According to Gerry Blair, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, Kombate said he couldn’t find his wallet and became disorderly in the lobby area. He was then arrested and booked back into the jail he was refusing to leave. He had originally been jailed on an unrelated trespass charge.

Arkansas: In March 2012, Baxter County jail prisoner Henry Nielson was found with a broken arm; he told staff that he had fallen from his bunk and was taken to a local hospital. Apparently, however, Nielson had arranged to have another prisoner, Cody Stradford, intentionally break his arm, which was confirmed when jail staff reviewed video surveillance footage. Both Nielson and Stradford ...

 

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