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Prison Legal News: January, 2013

Issue PDF
Volume 24, Number 1

In this issue:

  1. Forms of Judicial Deference in Prison Law (p 1)
  2. Louisiana Public Service Commission Votes to Lower Prison and Jail Phone Rates (p 14)
  3. From the Editor (p 16)
  4. FBI Reports Drop in Violent Crime; DOJ Reports Increase (p 17)
  5. Venezuelan TV Station Fined $2.16 Million for Prison Reporting (p 18)
  6. Dramatic Increase in Percentage of Criminal Cases Being Plea Bargained (p 20)
  7. Pennsylvania: Former BOP Warden Pleads Guilty to Cover-up (p 21)
  8. Despite Budget Crunch, Texas Rarely Grants Medical Paroles (p 22)
  9. Iraqi Prison Breaks Likely Inside Jobs (p 23)
  10. Contraband Smuggling a Problem at Prisons and Jails Nationwide (p 24)
  11. NH Corrections Officer, Suspended After Fight, Obtains Back Pay Plus $250,000 in Damages and Attorney Fees (p 26)
  12. California Lawsuit Challenges Voting Prohibition on County-level Offenders (p 28)
  13. Louisiana Sex Offender Internet Restrictions Unconstitutional (p 28)
  14. Law Enforcement Forfeiture Corruption Scandal in Michigan Includes Police Chief (p 30)
  15. Massachusetts Prisoners Receive Refunds for Illegal Fees Imposed by Sheriff (p 30)
  16. Obama Pardons Two Turkeys, No Prisoners in 2012 (p 32)
  17. Scientific Advances in Arson Investigations Reveal Wrongful Convictions (p 34)
  18. Georgia Judge Removed from Bench for Misconduct, Files Lawsuit Claiming Conspiracy (p 38)
  19. Virginia Considers Privatizing State’s Civil Commitment Center (p 38)
  20. New Mexico Slaps Private Prison Companies with $1.4 Million in Fines (p 40)
  21. States Seek Federal Medicaid Reimbursements to Offset Prison Medical Costs (p 40)
  22. Oregon-Washington Prison Employee Logs 19-Hour Days (p 42)
  23. Nation’s Largest Private Prison Companies Trying to Do the REIT Thing (p 42)
  24. Tenth Circuit Cites PLN Case in Denying Oklahoma Newspaper’s FOIA Request (p 44)
  25. California and Oregon Prison Guards Fire Shots to Break up Fights (p 44)
  26. North Carolina Governor Pardons Wilmington 10 (p 45)
  27. Cook County, Illinois Lowers Jail Phone Rates (p 46)
  28. California: Del Norte County DA Described as “Idiotic” (p 46)
  29. 9th Circuit: Class-action by Civilly Committed Sexually Violent Predators May Proceed on Claims for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief (p 48)
  30. First Circuit: RLUIPA Does Not Provide Relief from Transfer to Remote Prison where Opportunities for Religious Exercise are Limited (p 48)
  31. News in Brief (p 50)

Forms of Judicial Deference in Prison Law

by Sharon Dolovich1

Anyone familiar with the constitutional law of prisoners’ rights knows how ready courts are to find against prisoners in the name of “judicial deference.” It is not unreasonable for courts to grant a measure of deference to state actors tasked with a job as complex, challenging and ...

Louisiana Public Service Commission Votes to Lower Prison and Jail Phone Rates

On December 12, 2012, after a “raucous” hearing with four hours of testimony, the Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC) voted to lower the cost of telephone calls made from state prisons and local jails. With rates of $.30 per minute and surcharges to set up phone accounts, calls made by ...

From the Editor

Over almost 23 years of publishing PLN, the saddest duty I have had as editor has been noting the passing of many of our friends and supporters. One person who liked my PLN obituaries, and thought I wrote them well, was my father, Rollin Wright, who was also PLN’s ...

FBI Reports Drop in Violent Crime; DOJ Reports Increase

Violent crime fell nationally in 2011 according to the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report, released in October 2012. The FBI reported a 3.8 percent drop in violent crime – including murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault – with an estimated 1.2 million violent offenses nationwide. The data was ...

Venezuelan TV Station Fined $2.16 Million for Prison Reporting

by Matt Clarke

Globovisión is the last remaining Venezuelan television station that is openly critical of President Hugo Chávez. In May 2010, Globovisión president Guillermo Zuloaga was arrested for making offensive comments about Chávez while discussing a government crackdown on the Venezuelan media at an Inter-American Press Association conference.

That ...

Dramatic Increase in Percentage of Criminal Cases Being Plea Bargained

by Matt Clarke

Over the course of the past few decades there has been a significant increase in the percentage of criminal cases being plea bargained and a corresponding decrease in cases that are taken to trial.

According to many legal experts, the driving force behind this change is an ...

Pennsylvania: Former BOP Warden Pleads Guilty to Cover-up

Troy Levi, the former warden of Federal Detention Center (FDC) Philadelphia, was indicted by a federal grand jury on September 13, 2011. Levi, 49, was charged with multiple counts of obstruction of justice, witness tampering and making false statements to federal officials.

According to the indictment, he attempted to conceal ...

Despite Budget Crunch, Texas Rarely Grants Medical Paroles

by Matt Clarke

Faced with a $23 billion shortfall in its 2011-2012 budget, Texas officials nevertheless have refused to take advantage of a potential money-saver: paroling state prisoners who are elderly, infirm or terminally ill, who pose little threat to public safety.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), a conservative ...

Iraqi Prison Breaks Likely Inside Jobs

On September 27, 2012, prisoners at the Tasfirat prison in Tikrit seized weapons after breaking into a storage room, overpowered guards and engaged in a gun battle with security forces during an escape attempt.

The late evening incident, which lasted several hours, left 16 guards dead. Four prisoners also were ...

Contraband Smuggling a Problem at Prisons and Jails Nationwide

by Matt Clarke

The smuggling of illicit items such as drugs, cigarettes and cell phones into prisons and jails continues to be a significant problem throughout the United States. Often the people doing the smuggling are guards or other corrections employees, who, motivated by greed, accept bribes from prisoners.

Prison ...

NH Corrections Officer, Suspended After Fight, Obtains Back Pay Plus $250,000 in Damages and Attorney Fees

NH Corrections Officer, Suspended After Fight, Obtains Back Pay Plus $250,000
in Damages and Attorney Fees

On October 31, 2011, a state court jury found that the New Hampshire Department of Corrections (NHDOC) had interfered with the free expression rights of Mark F. Jordan, 43, a prison guard and ...

California Lawsuit Challenges Voting Prohibition on County-level Offenders

On March 7, 2012, the League of Women Voters, two prisoners’ rights organizations and a female prisoner filed suit against California election officials, alleging that offenders in county jails or on county supervision were being improperly disenfranchised.

In an attempt to ease severe overcrowding in California’s prison system, the ...

Louisiana Sex Offender Internet Restrictions Unconstitutional

In a February 16, 2012 opinion, a Louisiana federal court held that restrictions placed on sex offenders’ Internet access were unconstitutional.

John and James Doe are pseudonyms for two Louisiana registered sex offenders who filed a federal civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, that challenged the ...

Law Enforcement Forfeiture Corruption Scandal in Michigan Includes Police Chief

The former chief of police in Romulus, Michigan, his wife and five detectives have been charged with dozens of criminal offenses related to their alleged misuse of funds seized under forfeiture laws. Romulus is located just outside Detroit, in Wayne County.

Ex-police chief Michael C. St. Andre, 50; his wife ...

Massachusetts Prisoners Receive Refunds for Illegal Fees Imposed by Sheriff

A class of prisoners at the Bristol County House of Correction in Massachusetts has received settlement checks from a lawsuit challenging an illegal $5-a-day fee imposed by the sheriff for room-and-board. The checks were mailed out on May 3, 2012, more than two years after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ...

Obama Pardons Two Turkeys, No Prisoners in 2012

Barack Obama has served as president since January 2009. From that time until the end of 2012, he has issued just 22 pardons and one commutation of sentence.

His first nine pardons, on December 3, 2010, mainly went to people who had received probation or short prison terms for minor ...

Scientific Advances in Arson Investigations Reveal Wrongful Convictions

by Mike Rigby

Current scientific knowledge is shattering the long-held traditional beliefs of arson investigators and exposing wrongful convictions in the process. Still, old-school fire inspectors, detectives and even some judges have been slow to embrace new scientific methods and findings related to arson investigations. In Texas, such reluctance led ...

Georgia Judge Removed from Bench for Misconduct, Files Lawsuit Claiming Conspiracy

The Georgia Supreme Court has ordered that Catoosa County Magistrate Judge Anthony Peters be permanently removed from the bench, and barred him from ever holding or seeking elected or appointed judicial office in the state of Georgia.

The court’s September 6, 2011 decision followed the recommendation of the Judicial ...

Virginia Considers Privatizing State’s Civil Commitment Center

A November 2011 standoff between police and two sex offenders threatening suicide at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation (VCBR), the state’s civil commitment facility near Richmond, raised concerns about the safety and treatment of residents held at the center.

Two residents – identified only as a 29-year-old from Richmond ...

New Mexico Slaps Private Prison Companies with $1.4 Million in Fines

The departure of Bill Richardson as New Mexico’s governor has changed the previously lax business environment for the state’s private prison contractors. The new administration of Governor Susana Martinez is taking a more aggressive tone in demanding contractual compliance at privately-operated facilities that house state prisoners.

In March ...

States Seek Federal Medicaid Reimbursements to Offset Prison Medical Costs

States Seek Federal Medicaid Reimbursements to Offset Pris-on Medical Costs

State prison systems nationwide are looking to federal Medicaid reimbursements to partly offset escalating healthcare expenses for prisoners. The Medicaid law expressly excludes coverage for people who are incarcerated, but since 1997 has provided coverage for cases where prisoners are ...

Oregon-Washington Prison Employee Logs 19-Hour Days

To say that Ming Zhu is an industrious employee would be an understatement of epic proportions.

Zhu works the graveyard shift at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution (EOCI) in Pendleton, Oregon. Then, when his shift ends at 6:30 a.m., he drives an hour to the Washington State Penitentiary ...

Nation’s Largest Private Prison Companies Trying to Do the REIT Thing

In early January 2013, both Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group – the nation’s two largest private prison companies that control a combined 75 percent of the for-profit prison market in the United States – announced that they had each completed preliminary plans to convert their corporate structure ...

Tenth Circuit Cites PLN Case in Denying Oklahoma Newspaper’s FOIA Request

by Derek Gilna

In 2008, World Publishing Company, the publisher of the Tulsa World newspaper, requested six booking photos from the U.S. Marshals Service under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Department of Justice denied the request, relying upon Exemption 7(C). The paper filed suit, lost in ...

California and Oregon Prison Guards Fire Shots to Break up Fights

Between September and November 2012, California state prison guards at three high-security facilities used live rounds to quell fights on prison yards. One prisoner was killed by the gunfire; two others were injured.

On September 19, over 60 prisoners engaged in a large scale brawl in the yard at CSP-Sacramento ...

North Carolina Governor Pardons Wilmington 10

In 1971, during a time of racial unrest in Wilmington, North Carolina, shortly after schools were integrated and amid protests and race-based violence, a white-owned business, Mike’s Grocery, was firebombed. Responding firefighters claimed they were targeted by gunfire from unknown shooters at a nearby church.

Ten people were arrested ...

Cook County, Illinois Lowers Jail Phone Rates

On December 18, 2012, the Board of Commissioners for Cook County, Illinois voted to lower the outrageous cost of telephone calls made by prisoners at the Cook County Jail.
The county has a contract with Securus Technologies, which operates phone systems in 2,200 jails and prisons across 44 states ...

California: Del Norte County DA Described as “Idiotic”

Attorney Jon Michael Alexander, 63, has been a meth addict. He’s spent time in jail, he’s been homeless, he’s contemplated suicide, he’s been suspended by the State Bar several times, he’s been investigated by the FBI and is presently awaiting the outcome of yet another ...

9th Circuit: Class-action by Civilly Committed Sexually Violent Predators May Proceed on Claims for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief

Following remand from the U.S. Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit reversed in part its previous published ruling, Hydrick v. Hunter, 500 F.3d 978 (9th Cir. 2007) [PLN, April 2007, p.34], which had held that the administrators of Atascadero State Hospital, the defendants in a class-action lawsuit initiated ...

First Circuit: RLUIPA Does Not Provide Relief from Transfer to Remote Prison where Opportunities for Religious Exercise are Limited

On March 29, 2012, the First Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. §§2000cc et seq., does not provide a basis for relief where a prisoner’s opportunities for exercise of religion are limited due to his transfer ...

News in Brief

Arkansas: While held at the Independence County jail, Michael Dennis Grubbs was charged with theft and breaking and entering after he reportedly used a comb to pick the lock to the property room and stole items belonging to other prisoners. Jail officials searched Grubbs’ cell after reviewing surveillance camera footage ...