Skip navigation
Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: October, 2013

Issue PDF
Volume 24, Number 10

In this issue:

  1. How Many Inmate Deaths is too Many? (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 20)
  3. Sex Offenders Who Fail to Register May Receive Life Sentence Under California’s “Three Strikes” Law (p 21)
  4. Five Prisoner Deaths in Eighteen Months at Small Ohio Jail (p 22)
  5. New York Promised Help for Mentally Ill Prisoners – But Still Sticks Many in Solitary (p 24)
  6. Widespread Sexual Abuse Alleged at Alabama Women’s Prison (p 26)
  7. Idaho: Federal Court Unseals Pleadings, Holds CCA in Contempt for Violating Settlement Agreement (p 28)
  8. Third Circuit Finds Just Cause or Excuse Defense Not Applicable in Prison Assault Case (p 30)
  9. Special Sex Offender Release Conditions Vacated by Tenth Circuit (p 31)
  10. Hunger Striking Illinois Jail Prisoner Dies (p 32)
  11. Texas Prison Burials Surprisingly Well Done (p 34)
  12. Former Federal Prisoner Claims to be Most Litigious Person (p 34)
  13. IFRP Payment Schedule May Not be Delegated to BOP by Sentencing Judge (p 36)
  14. Georgia: Civil Rights Law Firm Demands Return of Fines Illegally Collected by State Court Judge (p 36)
  15. Eighth Circuit Denies Civilly Confined Minnesota Patients 1983 Action (p 38)
  16. Ninth Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Nevada Prisoner’s First Amendment Retaliation Claims (p 38)
  17. Former Georgia DOC Official Charged for Embezzling Public Funds (p 39)
  18. Effective Counsel Required in Kansas Civil Commitment Proceedings (p 40)
  19. CDCR to Block Contraband Cell Phone Signals at all Facilities (p 40)
  20. California: Court May Not Award Increased Presentence Conduct Credits to Categorically Disqualified Prisoners (p 41)
  21. D.C. District Court Reaffirms Access to Counsel for Guantanamo Detainees (p 42)
  22. Declining Prison Populations Leave Towns with Empty Jails, Debt (p 45)
  23. Private Detention Facility Forced into Bankruptcy, Sold at Auction (p 46)
  24. PLN Files Federal Lawsuit Over Censorship at Virginia Jail (p 47)
  25. Brain Imaging Research Conducted on Prisoners (p 48)
  26. Massachusetts: Overcrowding Forces Changes in Correctional Facilities (p 50)
  27. Death Row Prisoners in Two States File Suit over Hip Replacements (p 52)
  28. Oregon DOJ Intentionally Destroyed Records; Target of Abusive Criminal Investigation Settles Suit for $1 Million (p 54)
  29. Montana Agrees to Change Policies for Treatment of Mentally Ill Juveniles in Adult Prison (p 54)
  30. News in Brief (p 56)

How Many Inmate Deaths is too Many?

by Dave Maass & Kelly Davis

San Diego CityBeat

Bernard Joseph Victorianne was a 28-year-old black male with a ticking time bomb in his stomach.

Victorianne was arrested on September 12, 2012, less than two blocks from the San Diego Police Department’s Mid-City station on suspicion of driving under the influence. A week later, he was found dead in his cell—the 60th inmate to die in the custody of the San Diego County jail system since 2007.

Immediately after his arrest, Victorianne was taken to Alvarado Hospital to be treated for alcohol intoxication. Even then, police and medical staff believed the suspect—who was on probation for a number of narcotics offenses—likely had swallowed a bindle of drugs. He was observed overnight, then transferred to the San Diego Central Jail. For the next several days, Victorianne was bounced between sobriety cells, secure units and administrative segregation (a normal housing unit reserved for problematic inmates who need to be separated from the general population) due to his lasting, agitated behavior. He was prescribed Haldol, a powerful anti-psychotic, and anti-anxiety medication.

According to the medical examiner’s report, Sheriff’s deputies couldn’t say exactly when they last saw Victorianne alive. Deputies checked on him in the “early evening” of September 18. He was left unmonitored through the night.

At 4:30 a.m., guards who brought breakfast into his cell found him lying on the floor, naked, but didn’t check whether or not he was conscious. Two-and-a-half hours later, guards began their morning rounds and discovered that Victorianne hadn’t moved. By the time they entered his cell, rigor mortis had begun in his lower extremities.

The official cause of death: methamphetamine toxicity—the baggie had busted in his stomach.

Many questions remain unanswered: Why was Victorianne in an administrative segregation cell rather than a cell where he could be more closely monitored? When exactly did deputies last check on his welfare? Why was he left unobserved overnight when he was suspected to have swallowed a potentially lethal amount of drugs? Why didn’t guards check to see if he was OK when they first entered his cell that morning?

Perhaps most important of all: Did Sheriff’s deputies bring Victorianne to the hospital for the visit scheduled the day before he died? The medical examiner’s report states only that “it was unknown if he attended.”

That information still isn’t publicly known. The Sheriff’s Department declined to answer CityBeat’s questions about Victorianne’s death.

What is known is that Victorianne was the latest casualty in a jail system with one of the highest mortality rates in California.

• • •

Between 2007 and 2012, 60 people died while wards of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’s five-jail detention system.

They were 56 men and four women. Thirty-six were white, 15 Hispanic, six African-American, one Korean-American, one Native American and one was a Chinese national. Most suffered from substance abuse and/or mental health issues, and many were transient before their arrest.

Their average age was 46. The youngest was 18—Luis Manuel Lopez from Poway. He was arrested on felony vandalism charges in the fall of 2008, around the time other kids his age would’ve been going off to college. He was transferred from one jail to another, ending up at the George Bailey Detention Facility, where he started displaying symptoms of a cold that rapidly grew worse. When his temperature hit 102 and his heart began beating abnormally fast, Lopez was transferred to UCSD Medical Center. His health continued to decline. After almost two weeks in the hospital, he flat-lined and was resuscitated, but his condition continued to deteriorate; his family chose to withdraw care and ease his suffering with pain killers.

Doctors never determined precisely what killed Lopez. The medical examiner’s report concluded it was “most likely” a bacterial infection that was masked by the antibiotics he received in jail. His death was ...

From the Editor

This month’s cover story on the San Diego County jail system illustrates that while prisons often get slightly more media attention, it is not because they are necessarily more poorly run. On any given day some 735,000 detainees are confined in local jails, and over 11 million people ...

Sex Offenders Who Fail to Register May Receive Life Sentence Under California’s “Three Strikes” Law

The California Supreme Court has held that, depending on the specifics of the underlying offense, failure to register as a sex offender may subject a defendant with two qualifying prior serious and/or violent convictions to a sentence of 25 years to life under the state’s infamous “Three Strikes ...

Five Prisoner Deaths in Eighteen Months at Small Ohio Jail

by Matt Clarke

The deaths of five prisoners in 18 months might pass without notice in a large jail system, but that many deaths at the 270-bed Portage County jail, located about 30 miles southeast of Cleveland, Ohio, raised red flags.

An investigation by the Cleveland Plain Dealer revealed that ...

New York Promised Help for Mentally Ill Prisoners – But Still Sticks Many in Solitary

When Amir Hall entered New York state prison for a parole violation in November 2009, he came with a long list of psychological problems. Hall arrived at the prison from a state psychiatric hospital after he had tried to suffocate himself. Hospital staff diagnosed Hall with serious depression.

In Mid-State ...

Widespread Sexual Abuse Alleged at Alabama Women’s Prison

On March 4, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division launched a formal inquiry into widespread sexual abuse of female prisoners by male guards at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama.

The investigation was opened following an assessment by the National Institute of ...

Idaho: Federal Court Unseals Pleadings, Holds CCA in Contempt for Violating Settlement Agreement

On August 16, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter, sitting by designation, unsealed a number of court documents related to a contempt motion seeking sanctions against Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest for-profit prison company, for violating a settlement agreement in a lawsuit that ...

Third Circuit Finds Just Cause or Excuse Defense Not Applicable in Prison Assault Case

Aaron Taylor, incarcerated at the Federal Detention Center (FDC) in Philadelphia, was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon under 18 U.S.C. § 113(a)(3) and assault resulting in serious bodily injury under § 113(a)(6), stemming from an attack on another prisoner. He attempted to assert the ...

Special Sex Offender Release Conditions Vacated by Tenth Circuit

When Ronald D. Dougan pleaded guilty in January 2011 to robbing an Oklahoma City, Oklahoma post office of $220, he likely did not anticipate the unforeseen consequences that would result due to his previous 1978 conviction for sexual battery and 1994 conviction for aggravated battery (which was allegedly sexual in ...

Hunger Striking Illinois Jail Prisoner Dies

by Matt Clarke

Against the backdrop of the recent hunger strike involving thousands of prisoners in California, the death last year of an Illinois jail prisoner who died after refusing to eat or drink is especially poignant.

Lyvita Gomes, 52, died in January 2012 following a 15-day hunger strike that ...

Texas Prison Burials Surprisingly Well Done

If a Texas state prisoner dies or is executed, relatives or friends can pick up the body. If they don’t, he or she is buried in the largest prison graveyard in the United States – the Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery in Huntsville, Texas. Such burials occur around 100 times each ...

Former Federal Prisoner Claims to be Most Litigious Person

Jonathan Lee Riches, 36, bills himself as the most litigious person alive. He’s claimed that the Guinness Book of World Records wanted to list him as having filed the most lawsuits; he sued Guinness in response, arguing that they had miscounted the number of his legal actions.

“Jonathan Lee ...

IFRP Payment Schedule May Not be Delegated to BOP by Sentencing Judge

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has held that “where the sentencing court has failed to consider whether the defendant has the financial resources to pay restitution immediately, ordering immediate payment impermissibly delegates to the BOP [Bureau of Prisons] the court’s obligation to set a ...

Georgia: Civil Rights Law Firm Demands Return of Fines Illegally Collected by State Court Judge

On August 8, 2013, the Southern Center for Human Rights sent a letter to the governing authority for Grady County, Georgia, demanding the return of illegal “administrative costs” charged to criminal defendants convicted in the Grady County State Court.

In Georgia, “state courts” are courts of limited jurisdiction that handle ...

Eighth Circuit Denies Civilly Confined Minnesota Patients 1983 Action

Civilly-committed patients in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) and Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) officials, alleging that various conditions of their confinement were unconstitutional. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants which ...

Ninth Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Nevada Prisoner’s First Amendment Retaliation Claims

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals resurrected the majority of a prisoner’s lawsuit raising First Amendment retaliation claims after the case had been dismissed by the district court. The suit then settled following remand.

Raymond Watison, serving a sentence in the Nevada State Prison, sued prison officials under 42 ...

Former Georgia DOC Official Charged for Embezzling Public Funds

A former deputy director of operations for the Georgia Department of Corrections has been indicted on 35 counts of identity fraud, after admitting he used his state purchasing privileges to buy electronic items and make other unauthorized purchases for his personal use.

Benjamin Hopkins, 42, was indicted by a Fulton ...

Effective Counsel Required in Kansas Civil Commitment Proceedings

The Kansas Supreme Court has held that prisoners facing civil commitment under the Kansas Sexually Violent Predators Act (KSVPA) have a due process right to effective assistance of counsel. The Court also held that ineffective assistance of counsel claims may be raised on appeal or in a state habeas corpus ...

CDCR to Block Contraband Cell Phone Signals at all Facilities

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has awarded a six-year system-wide telephone contract to Global Tel*Link (GTL), which requires the company to install equipment capable of blocking signals from contraband cell phones at the state’s 33 adult correctional facilities. In exchange for installing the equipment, as ...

California: Court May Not Award Increased Presentence Conduct Credits to Categorically Disqualified Prisoners

On July 19, 2012, the California Supreme Court held that a trial court’s discretionary power to dismiss a criminal action “in furtherance of justice” pursuant to Penal Code Section 1385 did not extend so far that it could disregard the facts that categorically disqualify a prisoner held in local ...

D.C. District Court Reaffirms Access to Counsel for Guantanamo Detainees

In a September 6, 2012 memorandum opinion, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia once again asserted an “obligation to assure that those seeking to challenge their Executive detention by petitioning for habeas relief have adequate, effective and meaningful access to the courts.” In doing so, the ...

Declining Prison Populations Leave Towns with Empty Jails, Debt

by David M. Reutter

Several Texas towns are bemoaning their bad business decision to enter into the for-profit incarceration industry as the bottom began dropping out of that market 5 or 6 years ago. Over a two-decade boom in prison building, rural communities in Texas and other states were able ...

Private Detention Facility Forced into Bankruptcy, Sold at Auction

The Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Georgia has been sold at auction after the facility’s owner, Municipal Corrections LLC, was forced into bankruptcy court by bondholders.

A 2007 agreement between Irwin County and Municipal Corrections demonstrates the risks that government agencies assume when they issue bonds to ...

PLN Files Federal Lawsuit Over Censorship at Virginia Jail

On July 30, 2013, Prison Legal News filed a lawsuit in federal court against Virginia Beach Sheriff Kenneth Stolle and other sheriff’s office officials due to the censorship of books, magazines and correspondence mailed to prisoners at the Virginia Beach Correctional Center (VBCC).

The suit contends that Sheriff Stolle ...

Brain Imaging Research Conducted on Prisoners

Prisoners might not be able to obtain aspirin for their headaches or insulin for their diabetes while incarcerated, but if researchers get their way, an MRI for brain imaging may be free of charge. That is no cause for celebration, though, because the MRI results could someday be introduced as ...

Massachusetts: Overcrowding Forces Changes in Correctional Facilities

by David M. Reutter

Prisons and jails in Massachusetts have a problem: Almost every correctional facility in the state is operating above its capacity. Budget cuts have compounded the overcrowding problem because there is no money for new construction or expansion, and longer prison and jail terms due to tougher ...

Death Row Prisoners in Two States File Suit over Hip Replacements

by David M. Reutter

The fact that prisoners have a constitutional right to adequate medical care under the Eighth Amendment has long been established. Since the U.S. Supreme Court made that pronouncement in Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976), most lawsuits challenging deliberate indifference by guards and ...

Oregon DOJ Intentionally Destroyed Records; Target of Abusive Criminal Investigation Settles Suit for $1 Million

The Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) deliberately destroyed emails and withheld records related to a botched high-profile criminal investigation, a state court found. One of the targets of that investigation filed a lawsuit against the DOJ which recently settled for $1 million.

In August 2010, Oregon Attorney General John R ...

Montana Agrees to Change Policies for Treatment of Mentally Ill Juveniles in Adult Prison

by David M. Reutter

To settle a lawsuit filed by a juvenile prisoner, the Montana State Prison (MSP) has agreed to adopt or change policies that regulate the care and treatment provided to prisoners under the age of 18.

The plaintiff who filed the suit, Raistlen Katka, can only be ...

News in Brief

Arkansas: The Phillips County jail closed on April 30, 2013 after it failed to pass a state inspection. Sheriff Neal Byrd would not go into detail as to why the 30-year-old facility failed the inspection, but said 60 prisoners had been transferred to other jails and 18 employees would lose ...


 

Advertise here

 



 

Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual

 



 

Federal Prison Handbook

 



 


 

Prisoner Education Guide side