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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: May, 2013

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Volume 24, Number 5

In this issue:

  1. Arkansas Sheriff Took Kickbacks for Card Fees, Class-Action Suit Says (p 1)
  2. Prison Visitation: A Fifty State Survey (p 1)
  3. Maine Prisoner’s Contraband Conviction Vacated (p 11)
  4. Pennsylvania: No Prison Time for Guards Convicted of Abusing Prisoners (p 12)
  5. My Life with Lifers, by Dr. Elaine J. Leeder. (E-Books Unbound, 2012). 140 pages, $4.99 (e-book) or $14.95 (paperback) (p 13)
  6. Mandatory Lifetime Monitoring a Direct Consequence of Sex Offense Plea Bargain in Michigan (p 14)
  7. Governmental Highway Robbery: Asset Forfeiture and the Pillaging of the American People (p 16)
  8. $17.75 Million Settlement for Victims of Pennsylvania “Kids for Cash” Scandal (p 18)
  9. Virginia Prisoner Pardoned After Accuser Admits She Lied (p 18)
  10. Ex-Felons are About to Get Health Coverage (p 20)
  11. CCA Admits to Falsified Staffing Records, Violating Contract with Idaho DOC (p 22)
  12. Utah: Private Company Offers to Pick Up Prison Tab (p 24)
  13. Iowa Sex Offender Special Sentence Provisions Interpreted: Time-Served Credit, but Not Earned-Time, Reduces Revocation Term (p 25)
  14. California: Parole Placement of Serial Killer’s Accomplice in Remote County Upheld (p 26)
  15. North Carolina County Conned into Building $100 Million Jail (p 26)
  16. Seventh Circuit Vacates Summary Judgment for Nutriloaf Diet (p 28)
  17. Eighth Circuit Overturns Jury’s $850,000 Verdict for Nebraska Detainee’s Suicide (p 30)
  18. Oklahoma Parole Board Members Charged with Violating Open Meeting Act (p 30)
  19. CCA Excludes Shareholder Resolution Requiring Company to Fully Disclose Information about REIT Conversion (p 32)
  20. No Room for 900 New Washington Prison “Rugs” (p 32)
  21. Faulty Background Checks Blamed on Digitized Records, Greedy Amateurs (p 34)
  22. Prison Health Care Provider under Fire in Illinois (p 36)
  23. Lawsuits Filed Over Unrelated Deaths of Two Oregon Prisoners (p 38)
  24. Muslim Prisoners Challenge Ohio’s Denial of Halal Meals; Pork Producers Protest (p 40)
  25. New York: $225,000 Settlement for Prisoner’s Suicide Attempt, Abuse at Rikers Island (p 40)
  26. California District Attorney Sued by Former Colleague (p 41)
  27. Administrative Remedies “Unavailable” when Prisoner under Threat of Intimidation or Retaliation (p 42)
  28. California: Lifer Entitled to Credit for Time Served Following Governor’s Erroneous Veto of Parole Grant (p 42)
  29. Kentucky DOC May Not Alter Presentencing Custody Credits (p 44)
  30. Oregon Parole Board’s Notice-of-Rights Form Violates APA (p 44)
  31. New York Creates “All Crimes DNA Database” (p 45)
  32. Federal Court Limits New York’s Civil Commitment Statute, but Injunction Vacated on Appeal (p 46)
  33. $695,000 Settlement in Discrimination Suit by Deaf Colorado Detainees (p 48)
  34. California State Bar Recommends District Attorney’s Disbarment (p 48)
  35. New York Sex Offender Registration Determination is Exception to Article 78 Review (p 49)
  36. Sixth Circuit: Disciplinary Conviction Does Not Bar Excessive Force Claim (p 50)
  37. California: Nine Detainees Charged in Jailhouse Killing; Five Sentenced to Life Terms (p 50)
  38. Oregon: Only Voluntary Surrender Avoids Fugitive Dismissal Rule (p 52)
  39. Oregon Jail Guard Gets Three Years for Sex with Prisoner (p 52)
  40. Arkansas Prisoner’s Ad-Seg Reviews Held to be Meaningless; Case Remanded to Recalculate Damages (p 54)
  41. U.N. Considers Revisions to Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners (p 54)
  42. News in Brief (p 56)

Arkansas Sheriff Took Kickbacks for Card Fees, Class-Action Suit Says

An Arkansas Sheriff received kickbacks from a company hired to convert cash seized from county jail prisoners to prepaid debit cards “with numerous exorbitant fees,” a federal class-action lawsuit claims.

More than 2,200 people who were arrested or booked in the Benton County Jail claim their cash was seized and later returned as prepaid debit cards that charged them fees of $1.50 to $38 per transaction.

According to the lawsuit, Sheriff Kelley Cradduck hired co-defendant Keefe Commissary Network to provide jail commissary services “for specified inflated prices and upon certain terms.”

“One of these terms was that defendant Keefe would pay a kickback to defendant Cradduck of 34% of ‘adjusted gross sales’ of gross commissary sales, less certain noncommissioned items,” the complaint states. “This kickback is expressly identified and referred to as a ‘service fee’ in the contract between defendants.”

The contract was allegedly signed in April 2012.

“Under this contract and the policy, defendant Cradduck has agreed with defendant Keefe that money seized from arrestees and/or prisoners is to be involuntarily placed into a ‘designated account.’ Defendant Cradduck has purported to authorize defendant Keefe to withdraw and convert funds properly belonging to the class members from ...

Prison Visitation: A Fifty State Survey

by Chesa Boudin, Trevor Stutz and Aaron Littman

This article presents a summary of the study’s findings. The full study and data set will be published in a forthcoming volume of the Yale Law and Policy Review: Chesa Boudin, Trevor Stutz & Aaron Littman, “Prison Visitation Policies: A Fifty State Survey,” 32 Yale L. & Pol’y Rev. (forthcoming January 2014).

A collaboration between law students and correctional administrators recently produced the first ever fifty-state study of prison visitation policies. The study, conducted by the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program at Yale Law School in collaboration with the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA), offers a window into the varied state and federal visitation policies, and provides a new opportunity to share best practices.1

The study’s findings were presented at ASCA’s annual training conference in October 2012 alongside presentations by state directors from the Ohio and Minnesota departments of corrections, which highlighted the impact of visitation on prison safety and recidivism.
Importance of Prison

Visitation Policy

Visitation is the primary interaction between prisoners and the public. Visitation policies impact recidivism, prisoners’ and their families’ quality of life, public safety, and prison security, transparency and accountability. Yet many policies are inaccessible to visitors and researchers. Given the wide-ranging effects of visitation, it is important to understand the landscape of visitation policies and then, where possible, identify best practices and uncover policies that may be counterproductive or constitutionally infirm. Comparative analysis of the sort undertaken in this study will hopefully not only inform academics but also empower prisoners and their families to demand meaningful exercise of their First Amendment right to association. In the same vein, the study aims to encourage regulators and prison administrators to implement productive reforms.

Comparative analysis of visiting is particularly valuable given that the contours of prison visitation are determined almost exclusively by administrative discretion, unconstrained except at the margins by judicial interference. The Supreme Court and other federal courts have been largely deferential to prison administrators, granting them wide latitude generally, and in the realm of visitation regulations specifically.2 As a result, decisions made by corrections officials are among the primary determinants of whether and how prisoners are able to maintain relationships with their parents, spouses, siblings and children.

Visitors often represent the only contact prisoners have with the world outside the prison walls, to which they will most likely return after serving out their sentences. The strength of the connections prisoners maintain with their communities may depend substantially on visitation regulations promulgated by administrators. The nearly unrestrained discretion officials have in crafting and implementing prison visitation regulations makes clear how consequential these policy choices are, both to prisoners’ experiences of incarceration and to the success of the correctional enterprise. And, of course, prison visitation policies also have direct and profound implications that transcend the prison walls for families and friends of prisoners.

The Ohio and Minnesota Studies

At the October 2012 annual ASCA training, the Yale authors presented their study alongside Gary Mohr, Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, and Tom Roy, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

The Minnesota study, one of the largest and most in-depth of its kind, concluded that prisoners who received visits while incarcerated were substantially less likely to recidivate. Tracking over 16,000 prisoners released from Minnesota prisons between 2003 and 2007,3 the study showed that, when controlling for numerous other factors, prisoners who received visits were 13% less likely to be reconvicted of a felony after release and 25% less likely to have their probation or parole revoked.4 The study also identified administrative policies as one of three major barriers to visitation, alongside the remote location of many facilities and the uncomfortable setting of the visits themselves.5 Additionally, the study concluded that visits from certain people (e.g. fathers, mentors and clergy) had significantly more effect.6

The Ohio study concluded that visitation had a positive impact on prisoner behavior and prison safety. It found a statistically significant relationship between increased visitation and decreased rule infractions, with even one visit found to have a positive effect, and visits from parents or guardians found to be particularly valuable.7

Taken together, the two studies underscore the fact that an increased number of visits to prisoners can have beneficial effects on both prison safety and offender reentry.

The Yale Study: Methodology

Complementing these two empiracle studies, the Yale study allows for state-by-state comparison across a group of common categories of visitation-related policies. In addition to identifying commonalities and variation in several enumerated categories, the study documents outlier policies revealed in the course of research. The Yale authors worked with ASCA to track down difficult-to-find policy documents, and received written feedback from nearly all fifty state departments of corrections to ensure accuracy.
The study also analyzes in more detail the range of approaches that states take to two forms of visitation at opposite ends of the associational spectrum: virtual visitation and overnight family (sometimes called “conjugal”) visitation.

While at least three layers of rules govern prison visitation – administrative regulations (often general grants of rulemaking authority to correctional administrators), policy directives (more detailed rules promulgated by those administrators) and facility-specific rules – the study focuses at the level of statewide policy directives for two primary reasons.8 First, the directives articulate policy more comprehensively than institution-specific rules,9 and in much more detail than most regulations. Second, policy directives are most amenable to systemic assessment, and, where appropriate, reform. Policy directives are issued by a single, common entity – the director of the state’s DOC.

The Yale Study: General Findings

Substantial consistency and significant commonalities exist across all the jurisdictions surveyed. However, there was tremendous variation as well. Visitation is almost uniformly treated as a privilege rather than a right. Some jurisdictions generally restrict visitation, while other states specifically encourage and promote visitation as a core part of the rehabilitative process. Although the various state policies exist on a continuum, these extremes symbolize divergent policy approaches to visitation and suggest key questions for further exploration: Do states that promote and encourage visitation have better or worse outcomes in terms of institutional security or recidivism? To what extent does the general attitude towards visitation articulated in policy directives correlate with actual visitation policy?

No clear regional, geographic or political trends appear to explain variation in policies. One might expect that certain policies – for example, overnight family visits – would exist in a group of states with certain common characteristics. Instead, the states in each category do not appear to have much in common. The nine states that allow for overnight family visits, for example, are not from any one or even two geographic regions, and it is unclear what else of significance California, Colorado, Connecticut, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, South Dakota and Washington have in common.

Further, while the states often serve as laboratories of policy experimentation, one might expect some harmonization of best practices. If there has been such a harmonization or cross-pollination process, it is not apparent in several key areas. For example, North Carolina allows just one visit per week for a maximum of two hours,10 while New York allows its maximum-security offenders 365 days of visiting per year.11 While South Dakota allows only two people (plus family members) to be placed on a prisoner’s list of approved visitors,12 prisoners in California may list an unlimited number of visitors.13
Some of the key findings from the Yale study presented at the ASCA training conference are as follows:

When to Visit: Twenty-eight jurisdictions have a floor for the minimum number of days or hours visitation must be made available. For example, in Georgia, “[a] minimum of SIX (6) hours shall be allotted each day for visitation periods on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Normally, there will be no restrictions placed on the length of visits during the facility’s established visitation periods.”14 Several other states provide for ceilings to visitation hours. Oregon allows only one visit per day per visitor on weekends and holidays;15 Utah allows no more than two hours per visit per day.16

Who Can Visit: Almost every jurisdiction excludes some categories of visitors, often former felons. Sometimes these restrictions bar former felons from ever visiting. Idaho denies anyone who has a felony conviction or arrest within the last five years, or a misdemeanor drug arrest within the last two years.17 Michigan restricts from visiting “a prisoner or a former prisoner in any jurisdiction. However, a prisoner or former prisoner who is an immediate family member may be placed on the prisoner’s approved visitors list with prior approval of the Warden of the facility where the visit will occur.”18
Hawaii, by contrast, specifically allows former felons to visit prisoners,19 as do Massachusetts20 and Vermont.21 New Jersey22 and Nebraska23 are the only states that explicitly provide for prisoner-to-prisoner visitation in their written policies. Many states do not allow victims to visit prisoners. In Indiana ...

Maine Prisoner’s Contraband Conviction Vacated

On May 29, 2012, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court reversed a prisoner’s conviction for trafficking in contraband. The Court found it was proper for the trial court to allow a guard to testify about details not contained in her written report of the incident, but held reversal was required due to the improper admission of an investigator’s testimony that additional charges would have been brought had another prisoner cooperated with the investigation.

The conviction stemmed from an altercation that occurred at the Maine State Prison on November 11, 2010. Guard Angela Smith yelled “fight” and ran with another guard to a cell where prisoners Timothy Mooney and Michael Brine were brawling. After they were separated, the other guard went to an adjacent cell to handle another incident.

Moments later, Mooney pulled Brine’s cell door open and made a forward motion. Smith quickly grabbed Mooney and saw “something went flying.” Brine was bleeding from his left shoulder and left hand from injuries that required stitches. Later, Smith found two shanks in the area but did not write a supplemental report on her discovery of the weapons.

Mooney was charged with trafficking in prison contraband for possession of a ...

Pennsylvania: No Prison Time for Guards Convicted of Abusing Prisoners

A former Pennsylvania prison guard who was convicted on 27 counts of abusing prisoners will serve no prison time of his own, after a state court sentenced him to five years’ probation and six months on house arrest.

Harry Nicoletti, 61, was convicted of numerous counts of official oppression, simple assault, criminal solicitation and terrorist threats, as well as three counts of indecent exposure. He was acquitted of more serious charges of involuntary deviant sexual intercourse and institutional sexual assault.

The jury reached its verdict after deliberating three days following an 11-day trial that included 58 witnesses, some of them prisoners who recanted their earlier statements against Nicoletti. Charges against four other prison guards had previously been dropped.

Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge David Cashman could have sentenced Nicoletti to up to 18 months in prison, but instead told him, “I’m sparing you from the danger you posed to the individuals you were in charge of.”

Nicoletti was originally indicted on 117 criminal charges following his arrest in September 2011. He was accused of being the ringleader of a group of six guards at SCI Pittsburgh who targeted sex offenders and homosexual prisoners for abuse that included ...

My Life with Lifers, by Dr. Elaine J. Leeder. (E-Books Unbound, 2012). 140 pages, $4.99 (e-book) or $14.95 (paperback)

Book review by John E. Dannenberg

Dr. Elaine Leeder, Dean of the of the School of Social Sciences at Sonoma State University, offers a concise, compassionate view of the life and psyche of California prisoners serving term-life sentences. After a long career that has included volunteering to teach prisoners in New York State, and, later, for a decade in San Quentin State Prison, Dr. Leeder has blended her deeply personal humane support of the underdog with her expertise as a sociologist to show that people “thrown away” by society upon being convicted of murder are still people, capable of rehabilitation and eager for the chance to gain the tools for reintegration into society through intensive education while incarcerated.

My Life with Lifers chronicles Dr. Leeder’s interaction with life-sentenced prisoners at San Quentin in a round table discussion group she leads at the facility, called “New Leaf on Life.” Each month, Dr. Leeder brings a guest speaker – a professor or student – to lead the group in discussion on a topic far removed from prison life. The speaker engages the lifers’ minds in thought processes that take them to new levels – daring them to learn, interact in dialogue and yearn to ...

Mandatory Lifetime Monitoring a Direct Consequence of Sex Offense Plea Bargain in Michigan

The Michigan Supreme Court has held that mandatory lifetime electronic monitoring is a direct consequence of a plea to first-degree criminal sexual conduct or second-degree criminal sexual conduct. As such, when a defendant enters a guilty or no contest plea, the trial court must inform the defendant that he or she will be subject to such monitoring.

David M. Cole was charged with second-degree criminal sexual conduct for sexual acts involving one of his stepdaughters, who was under age 13 at the time of the offenses. As part of a plea bargain, the trial court agreed to not exceed a five-year minimum term of imprisonment for each charge, with the sentences to run concurrently. At Cole’s June 2, 2009 plea hearing, the state described the charges and explained that they carried a maximum of fifteen years and required testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Cole was never advised he would be subject to lifetime electronic monitoring as a sex offender.

Following the plea hearing, Cole was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison. The court, as required by MCL 750.520c(2)(b), also ordered that he be placed on lifetime electronic monitoring following his release. Cole “moved to ...

Governmental Highway Robbery: Asset Forfeiture and the Pillaging of the American People

This is the problem when police officers and police departments have a financial interest in doing their job. We got rid of bounty hunters because they were not a good thing. This is modern day bounty hunting. – Public Defender John Rekowski

Long before Americans charted their revolutionary course in pursuit of happiness, it was “life, liberty, and property” which constituted the golden triad of essential rights that the government was charged with respecting and protecting. To the colonists, smarting from mistreatment at the hands of the British crown, protecting their property from governmental abuse was just as critical as preserving their lives and liberties. As the colonists understood, if the government can arbitrarily take away your property, you have no true rights. You’re nothing more than a serf or a slave.

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was born of this need to safeguard against any attempt by the government to unlawfully deprive a citizen of the right to life, liberty or property without due process of law. Little could our ancestral forebears have imagined that it would take less than three centuries of so-called “independence” to once again render us brow-beaten subjects in bondage to an ...

$17.75 Million Settlement for Victims of Pennsylvania “Kids for Cash” Scandal

by David M. Reutter

Several of the defendants in a “widespread scheme and subversion of the Luzerne County juvenile justice system” in Pennsylvania have agreed to a $17.75 million settlement to resolve a class-action federal lawsuit. The scheme involved the building of two private juvenile detention centers and payments ...

Virginia Prisoner Pardoned After Accuser Admits She Lied

Everyone in Virginia's criminal justice system knew that Johnathan Christopher Montgomery was innocent of the crimes for which he’d been convicted.

His accuser had recanted her testimony and admitted she lied to police about being molested by Montgomery more than a dozen years earlier. And yet the state continued to deny him his freedom until an advocacy organization for the wrongly convicted petitioned for his release.

Finally, on November 20, 2012, more than four years after he was sent to prison for aggravated sexual battery and lesser charges – and two days before Thanksgiving –Montgomery was conditionally pardoned by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and walked out of the Greensville Correctional Center.

“The truth sets you free,” Montgomery told reporters outside the facility.

His accuser, Elizabeth Paige Coast, had told police that Montgomery sexually abused her in 2000 when she was 10 years old and he was 14 and lived across the street from Coast’s grandmother in Hampton. Coast invented the story, she reportedly told investigators, because she was embarrassed and panicked when her parents caught her looking at pornographic websites.

Coast said she didn’t think anyone would pursue her allegations against Montgomery because he and his family ...

Ex-Felons are About to Get Health Coverage

Newly freed prisoners traditionally walk away from the penitentiary with a bus ticket and a few dollars in their pockets. Starting in January 2014, many of the 650,000 prisoners released from prison each year will be eligible for something else: health care by way of Medicaid, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

A sizeable portion of the nearly 5 million ex-offenders who are on parole or probation at any given time will also be covered.

The expansion of Medicaid, a key provision of the health care reform law, is the main vehicle for delivering health insurance to former prisoners.

Researchers and those who advocate on behalf of ex-convicts hail the change as monumental, saying it will help address the generally poor health of ex-offenders, reduce medical costs and possibly keep them from sliding back into crime.

“It potentially revolutionizes the criminal justice system and health system,” said Faye Taxman, a health services criminologist at George Mason University. “We now have a golden opportunity to develop and implement quality interventions to both improve health outcomes for this population and also reduce the rate of criminal activity.”

Expanding Coverage

Medicaid is the federal-state insurance partnership for the poor. Under federal ...

CCA Admits to Falsified Staffing Records, Violating Contract with Idaho DOC

ON April 11, 2013, the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) announced that Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest for-profit prison firm, had acknowledged that employees at the CCA-operated Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) falsified staffing records from at least May through November 2012. As a result, the state paid the company for almost 4,800 staffing hours for vacant positions during that time period.

According to a review of ICC shift logs obtained by the Associated Press, some CCA employees were falsely listed as having worked 24, 36 and even 48 continuous hours.

In January 2013, attorneys for prisoners housed at the ICC filed an amended complaint in federal court that alleged CCA officials had falsified staffing records to conceal chronic understaffing. The prisoners claimed that fewer employees were on duty at the time of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults than the number reflected on shift logs. The lawsuit also contends that CCA staff collaborated with ICC gang members in order to maintain control at the facility. See: Castillon v. CCA, U.S.D.C. (D. Idaho), Case No. 1:12-cv-00559-EJL.

“[E]mployees were being placed on the shift schedule who were not present within the building or who were actually working ...

Utah: Private Company Offers to Pick Up Prison Tab

One of the big efforts by the 2013 Utah legislature was authorizing the Prison Relocation and Development Authority to start taking proposals to relocate the Utah State Prison in Draper and unlock the prime real estate underneath it for commercial development. While estimates put the long-term benefit in the billions, the upfront bill for taxpayers could be as high as $600 million. That’s a cost lawmakers say could be made up in savings with a modern prison, or possibly by diverting sales tax from the construction back into the project instead of city and county coffers.

But what if the state didn’t have to pay anything for the massive relocation project? According to documents City Weekly obtained through a government records request, one company has offered to pick up the entire bill for the state.

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a company that touts itself as the nation’s largest and most experienced private prison operator, gave a letter to the Utah Prison Relocation and Development Authority (PRADA) on November 6, 2012, offering to finance the entire relocation and construction project in exchange for running the prison and being paid for the beds filled daily by prisoners in ...

Iowa Sex Offender Special Sentence Provisions Interpreted: Time-Served Credit, but Not Earned-Time, Reduces Revocation Term

The Iowa Supreme Court held on May 4, 2012 that earned-time credit for good behavior accelerates the completion of a ten-year special sentence but does not reduce a release revocation term. The Court further held that time served in jail pending a release revocation hearing (jail-time) must be applied to reduce the revocation term.

In 2005, the Iowa legislature created sex offender “special sentence” provisions. “In addition to any other punishment provided by law,” sex offenders convicted of a misdemeanor or class D felony must be sentenced to a ten-year “special sentence.” Those convicted of a class C felony or greater offense receive a “special sentence” of life. The offender begins serving the special sentence “as if on parole.”

However, the Iowa Department of Corrections (IDOC) can impose “a revocation of release,” in which case, “unlike revocation of traditional parole, the offender is not incarcerated for his remaining sentence. Instead, these special sentence statutes prescribe maximum ‘revocation of release’ periods” of two years for the first revocation and five years for each subsequent revocation.

In October 2007, an Iowa district court convicted Kris Kolzow of several sex offenses and sentenced him to a seven-year suspended prison term. He was placed ...

California: Parole Placement of Serial Killer’s Accomplice in Remote County Upheld

On March 13, 2012, the California Court of Appeal upheld a decision by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to place Loren Herzog, a high-profile offender who had been paroled, in a remote county rather than the county where he last resided or some other, putatively more suitable community. The placement decision was challenged by the city and county to which Herzog had been paroled on the grounds that his presence was not in the best interests of the public.

Herzog, 46, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and accessory to three murders committed by condemned serial killer Wesley Shermantine, Jr. (aka the “speed freak killer”). In July 2010, two months prior to the scheduled completion of Herzog’s 14-year prison sentence, the CDCR began the process of considering where to parole him.
Consistent with state law, which requires that, if possible, a parolee be placed in the county of his or her last residence, CDCR officials first looked into the possibility of paroling Herzog to San Joaquin County. When 17 victims and witnesses objected, however, they were forced to look elsewhere.

The CDCR next considered placing Herzog with his sister in Elk Grove, but that city was within ...

North Carolina County Conned into Building $100 Million Jail

For evidence that the art of the slick-talking conman is very much alive, witness Guilford County, North Carolina.

The county’s new $100 million, 1,032-bed lockup in downtown Greensboro was built based on spurious claims that the jail population would increase significantly. Voters narrowly approved a bond referendum for the new jail in May 2008 after Guilford County Sheriff B.J. Barnes, along with court officials and county commissioners, touted a report from private consultants that insisted the jail population was growing out of hand.
More than four years later, developers and construction workers have been paid, new guards have been hired and there is now space for 1,703 prisoners among Guilford County’s three detention facilities. But with half the cells in those lockups sitting empty, the new jail stands as a giant brick-and-mortar boondoggle.

“We didn’t need a big jail. We could have added 300 or 400 cells,” said Skip Alston, chairman of Guilford County’s Board of Commissioners. Building the new jail, he contended, was a way for Sheriff Barnes to expand his empire and had nothing to do with the jail population. “B.J. wanted it,” Alston said, and so it was built ...

Seventh Circuit Vacates Summary Judgment for Nutriloaf Diet

Recognizing that “anal fissures” are “no fun at all,” the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held on March 27, 2012 that Wisconsin jail officials were not entitled to summary judgment for imposing an exclusive diet of Nutriloaf on a prisoner.

Milwaukee County Jail (MCJ) policy mandates an exclusive diet of Nutriloaf for any state prisoner who is transferred to the MCJ from segregation, even if his behavior while at the jail is exemplary.

“Nutriloaf (also spelled ‘nutraloaf’) is a bad-tasting food given to prisoners as a form of punishment.” It “isn’t a proprietary food like Hostess Twinkies but, like ‘meatloaf’ or ‘beef stew’ [is] a term for a composite food the recipe of which can vary from institution to institution, or even from day to day within an institution; nutriloaf could meet requirements for calories and protein one day yet be poisonous the next if, for example, made from leftovers that had spoiled.”

Segregated Wisconsin state prisoner Terrance Prude was transferred to the MCJ several times for court hearings. Each time he was housed at the MCJ, he was fed nothing but Nutriloaf. His second stay lasted one week and his third stay was 10 days.

Prude weighed 168 ...

Eighth Circuit Overturns Jury’s $850,000 Verdict for Nebraska Detainee’s Suicide

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a jury’s verdict in favor of the estate of a pre-trial detainee who committed suicide at Nebraska’s Dodge County Jail. Circuit Judge Kermit E. Bye filed a dissenting opinion that criticized the majority for substituting its judgment in place of the jury’s.

The August 10, 2006 suicide of detainee Troy Sampson was the third suicide since 2000 at the Dodge County Jail (DCJ), which closed in 2011. The facility also had twenty-one suicide attempts during that time period.

Sampson’s estate filed suit claiming that the DCJ defendants were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs. The federal district court denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, in which they asserted a qualified immunity defense, holding there were factual questions for the jury to determine.

Following a six-day trial, the jury entered a verdict on June 28, 2010 that found DCJ director Doug Campbell and Cynthia Julian, a registered nurse employed by DCJ, were deliberately indifferent to Sampson’s serious medical needs. The jury also held Dodge County liable “for a custom or policy of failing to implement reasonable suicide prevention practices,” but found for the county on a failure ...

Oklahoma Parole Board Members Charged with Violating Open Meeting Act

Oklahoma City District Attorney David Prater announced on March 13, 2013 that all five members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board (“Board”) had been charged with criminal violations of the state’s Open Meeting Act in connection with some 51 early release requests that the Board considered but did not list on its public agendas since 2010.

The Board members were charged with misdemeanor violations of the Open Meeting Act, an offense punishable by up to a year in jail and a $500 fine for each willful violation pursuant to 25 Okla. Stat. § 313, 314. Additionally, a willful violation of the Act can result in invalidation of actions taken during a meeting not in compliance with the Act.

Board Chairman Marc Dreyer, 66, and members Currie Ballard, 54, Richard L. Dugger, 74 (a former district attorney), and Lynnell Harkins, 73, were charged with 10 counts of willful violation of the Act – one for each month they voted on early release requests after April 2011, when a state Assistant Attorney General held a training session on open meeting requirements for the Board. Board member David E. Moore, 65, was charged with nine counts.

District Attorney Prater issued a news release ...

CCA Excludes Shareholder Resolution Requiring Company to Fully Disclose Information about REIT Conversion

Previously, PLN reported that both Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group, the nation’s two largest private prison companies, were converting their corporate structure into real estate investment trusts (REITs), primarily to benefit from the tax advantages that REITs provide. [See: PLN, Jan. 2013, p.42].

Among other requirements, a REIT must distribute 90% of its taxable income to shareholders; consequently, the company pays no federal tax on its income and the tax burden is shifted to shareholders. CCA indicated that its initial REIT distribution would be made in stock (up to 80%) and cash (up to 20%).

PLN managing editor Alex Friedmann, who also serves as president of the Private Corrections Institute (PCI), a non-profit organization that opposes prison privatization, filed a shareholder resolution with CCA to require the company’s Board of Directors to issue a report to shareholders addressing the following specific points relative to the company’s REIT conversion:

1. Any known disadvantages to stockholders, and/or advantages to the company, should the company elect to make required REIT distributions primarily in the form of stock rather than cash;

2. The extent to which the Board has taken into account the company’s prior ...

No Room for 900 New Washington Prison “Rugs”

“Every day I'm getting emails from staff staff who are concerned about safety,” said Tracey A. Thompson, the Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117, which represents about 3,600 Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) guards. With approximately 16,000 prisoners, Washington state prisons are currently operating at 102 percent of capacity, with an almost 6 percent population increase anticipated by 2016.

In March 2012, prison officials created 140 extra beds by double-bunking single cells at the State Reformatory in Monroe. The Seattle Times reported on March 26, 2012 that the WDOC was also considering plans to reopen dilapidated units at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla and renovate units at a recently-shuttered juvenile facility in Thurston County.

The crowding is most visible at the Washington Corrections Center (WCC) in Shelton. Designed to house 720 prisoners when it opened in 1964, the facility now holds around 1,700.

Traditionally referred to as “fish,” new WDOC prisoners are known as “rugs” because they will likely spend their first days in custody sleeping on thin mats on the concrete floor due to overcrowding.

Prisoners are not happy about having a third prisoner stuffed into their 6’ x 9’ double-bunked cells. “We don ...

Faulty Background Checks Blamed on Digitized Records, Greedy Amateurs

Whoever said that living in the past is a fruitless endeavor never tried to make money off background checks.

Billions of publicly-available records have resulted in a global army of unskilled, wanna-be detectives who make quick bucks by peddling information obtained from public databases related to arrests, criminal convictions and ...

Prison Health Care Provider under Fire in Illinois

In 2011, the State of Illinois signed a 10-year, $1.36 billion contract with Wexford Health Sources, a for-profit company, to provide medical services to Illinois prisoners. Since the contract went into effect there have been numerous complaints concerning the level of medical care that prisoners are receiving – or rather not receiving. In fact, more than 170 federal lawsuits have been filed against Wexford by Illinois prisoners since the company’s contract was announced in September 2011.

The relationship between the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and Wexford has been in the spotlight before. Six years ago, former IDOC director Donald Snyder pleaded guilty to accepting $50,000 in bribes from lobbyists, including a lobbyist for Wexford. He was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison; Wexford was not implicated in the bribery scandal. [See: PLN, March 2009, p.50; Dec. 2007, p.40].

Last year the John Howard Association, a prison watchdog group, released a report which found that Wexford had never been audited prior to the $1.36 billion contract award, and that no one is currently reviewing the quality of care the company provides to Illinois prisoners.

The report recommended a number of remedial actions, including increasing ...

Lawsuits Filed Over Unrelated Deaths of Two Oregon Prisoners

Just ten days before his release, A 22-year-old autistic Oregon state prisoner died in a segregation cell after injecting himself with an “undetermined drug or toxin,” according to a federal lawsuit filed by his estate and his mother.

On July 21, 2006, Richard Gifford stole about $1,200 from a bank. After being jailed he began acting erratically, and a psychologist diagnosed him as suffering from “a pervasive developmental disorder, or autism spectrum disorder” plus a cognitive disorder and possible oppositional defiant disorder.

Gifford was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison, and the court recommended that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) house him at a Federal Psychiatric Medical Facility.

Upon completion of his federal prison term, Gifford was transferred to the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) on December 18, 2009 to serve a five-month state sentence. Before Gifford was transferred, the BOP alerted the ODOC on November 24, 2009 that “Gifford had mental health concerns, had spent the last six months in the Special Housing Unit, had suffered numerous head traumas in the past, and had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.”

Apparently, Oregon prison officials did not heed the BOP report. Unaware of his mental health condition, the ...

Muslim Prisoners Challenge Ohio’s Denial of Halal Meals; Pork Producers Protest

In 2011, Abdul-Hamead Awkal, II, 52, and Cornelius Causey, 35, both Muslim prisoners, filed separate lawsuits against the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC), arguing that the ODRC’s refusal to provide halal meals infringed on their religious rights.

“The issue of eating halal meals is especially important to ...

New York: $225,000 Settlement for Prisoner’s Suicide Attempt, Abuse at Rikers Island

In July 2012, the City of New York paid $225,000 to settle a lawsuit that alleged 17 causes of action arising “from a chain of disturbing events” that involved the treatment of a mentally ill prisoner at Rikers Island.

When Robert Fecu was booked into the Anna M. Kross ...

California District Attorney Sued by Former Colleague

On February 29, 2012, former Contra Costa County prosecutor Paul Sequeira filed a lawsuit in superior court seeking damages from Senior Deputy District Attorney Harold W. Jewett, whom he accused of assault and battery. Two years earlier, the two men (both in their fifties) had argued; the argument escalated until Jewett punched Sequeira, who sought treatment at a hospital and received stitches. [See: PLN, May 2010, p.50].

In an interview conducted the same day that Sequeira’s lawsuit was filed, Jewett denied any wrongdoing, saying, “It was and continues to be my position that I was defending myself physically from an assault ... by Mr. Sequeira.” Jewett, who was named “Prosecutor of the Year” by the California District Attorneys Association in 2008, added, “It may well be that a jury will have to decide who was defending himself against whom.” Jewett was suspended for 30 days without pay following the altercation with Sequeira; he was later promoted.

Whatever differences the two prosecutors may have had, they apparently reached a boiling point as the 2010 election for a new Contra Costa County District Attorney approached. Sequeira and Jewett backed rival candidates, with Jewett supporting the candidacy of the eventual victor, Mark ...

Administrative Remedies “Unavailable” when Prisoner under Threat of Intimidation or Retaliation

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has held “that when a prison official inhibits a prisoner from utilizing an administrative process through threats or intimidation, that process can no longer be said to be ‘available’” under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The appellate court set forth a two-prong test to establish whether administrative remedies are unavailable in such circumstances.

Colorado state prisoner Mark Tuckel was assigned to work in vehicle maintenance at the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility. Unsatisfied with his job position, he reached an agreement with Scott Grover, a prison official, that would result in Tuckel being transferred to a vocational program if he completed a welding project. However, Grover reneged on the deal once the project was finished, claiming the agreement never existed.

Consequently, Tuckel filed a grievance. After filing the grievance he was approached by several other prisoners who told him that Steve Keys, a prison program manager, had advised them that as a result of his grievance they were losing their incentive pay. “At the apparent recommendation of Grover and other officials,” the prisoners assaulted Tuckel, injuring one of his eyes.

Rather than file another grievance, Tuckel filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint ...

California: Lifer Entitled to Credit for Time Served Following Governor’s Erroneous Veto of Parole Grant

Vacating an earlier ruling, on June 29, 2012 the California Court of Appeal, Sixth District, held that while a life-sentenced prisoner is entitled to credit for time served following the governor’s erroneous veto of a decision by the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) to grant him parole, he is not entitled to such credit for an erroneous denial of parole by the BPH itself.

Johnny Lira was sentenced to 15 years to life following his second-degree murder conviction for shooting his wife to death. He entered prison in 1981 and became eligible for release in 1992.

After being found unsuitable for parole at his ninth parole hearing in December 2005, Lira petitioned for habeas corpus relief. The Santa Clara County Superior Court found that the denial of parole was not supported by sufficient evidence and ordered a new hearing. The new parole hearing was held in November 2008 and resulted in a finding that Lira was suitable for parole. Then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed that decision in April 2009, finding that Lira would pose a danger to society if released. Lira filed a petition challenging the governor’s veto.

Meanwhile, at a subsequent BPH hearing in November 2009, Lira was ...

Kentucky DOC May Not Alter Presentencing Custody Credits

The Kentucky Supreme Court has held that the Department of Corrections (DOC) lacks authority to modify a prisoner’s presentencing custody credit calculation.

In 1993, Peter Bard was charged with murdering a deputy sheriff, but the charges were dismissed without prejudice when he was found incompetent to stand trial. He was involuntarily institutionalized for a total of 1,637 days.

After Bard was re-indicted in 2000, a jury found him guilty but mentally ill on a first-degree manslaughter charge.

On August 8, 2002, the trial court imposed the 20-year sentence that had been recommended by the jury. The court also granted credit for 3,086 days of presentencing custody credit – including the 1,637 days that Bard had been hospitalized.

Bard’s sentence expired approximately six years later. Rather than release him, however, the DOC transferred him to a mental hospital for involuntary commitment under a new mental inquest warrant.

Several days later DOC officials claimed that Bard had been credited with too much presentencing custody credit and should not have been released. A warrant was issued for Bard’s return to prison due to “inadvertent release,” and he was transferred back to the DOC.

An amended time credit computation ...

Oregon Parole Board’s Notice-of-Rights Form Violates APA

On June 6, 2012, the Oregon Court of Appeals agreed that a notice-of-rights form (NOR) used by the Oregon Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision (Board) constitutes a rule. Since the NOR was not adopted in accordance with the rulemaking procedures of Oregon’s Administrative Procedures Act (APA), the court held it was invalid.

The validity of any Oregon administrative rule may be challenged in the Oregon Court of Appeals under ORS 183.400. A rule will be held invalid if it violates constitutional provisions, exceeds the adopting agency’s statutory authority or was not adopted in compliance with applicable rulemaking procedures.

A “rule” is defined as “any directive, standard, regulation or statement of general applicability that implements, interprets or prescribes law or policy, or describes the procedure or practice requirements of any agency.”

On September 21, 2009, the Board issued a hearing notice packet consisting of three documents. The first was entitled “HEARING NOTICE & NOTICE OF RIGHTS PACKET,” and included several blank spaces for the Board to write in a prisoner’s name and identification number, hearing date and location, and type of hearing. The second document, titled “HEARING TYPES,” identified and defined the ten different types of Board ...

New York Creates “All Crimes DNA Database”

New York has become the first state in the nation to establish a so-called “all crimes DNA database.”

Like most states, New York already collects DNA samples from convicted felons. On March 19, 2012, however, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law a bill that permits the collection of DNA samples from people convicted of misdemeanors as well.
This makes New York’s DNA database the most expansive in the United States, according to Governor Cuomo’s office.

Unsurprisingly, the bill had the support of New York’s 62 district attorneys, 58 sheriffs and 400 police chiefs. Prosecutors claim that collecting DNA from misdemeanor offenders will help them identify violent criminals and, in some cases, exonerate people who are wrongly accused.

“Every single time we’ve expanded the DNA database, we have shown how effective it is in convicting people who commit crimes,” said Richard Aborn, president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City. “We’ve also shown that it can be used to exonerate the innocent.”

In an opinion article, Manhattan prosecutor Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. argued that taking DNA samples from individuals convicted of low-level offenses has proven effective. He claimed that since the state began ...

Federal Court Limits New York’s Civil Commitment Statute, but Injunction Vacated on Appeal

A decision by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York severely restricted portions of New York’s Sex Offender Management and Treatment Act (SOMTA). A lawsuit filed by Mental Hygiene Legal Service (MHLS) had sought an injunction against enforcement of various provisions of the Act, which provides for the civil confinement of certain sex offenders. However, the injunction issued by the district court was vacated by the Second Circuit.

SOMTA permits the “civil management” of individuals convicted of certain sex crimes, and in challenging the Act, MHLS exercised its statutory mandate to “safeguard the rights of any patient or resident from abuse or mistreatment.” SOMTA granted New York mental health officials the power to confine “certain sex offenders after completion of their prison terms, parole terms, or other periods of state custody. Such civil management is predicated on the danger to society that recidivist sex offenders pose.”

SOMTA became effective on April 13, 2007, the day after MHLS filed suit challenging seven of the Act’s provisions: MHL Sec. 10.06(f), authorizing the New York Attorney General to issue a “securing petition” to detain certain individuals in advance of a probable cause hearing, without ...

$695,000 Settlement in Discrimination Suit by Deaf Colorado Detainees

The City and County of Denver has paid $695,000 to settle a lawsuit that alleged systemic discrimination against deaf people detained or imprisoned at city and county jails and detention centers.

The lawsuit was filed by three former pre-trial detainees, the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC) and the Colorado Association ...

California State Bar Recommends District Attorney’s Disbarment

The State Bar of California has recommended the disbarment of Del Norte County District Attorney Jon Michael Alexander, 64, who was deemed “not eligible to practice law” until the California Supreme Court makes a final decision in his case.

In an April 5, 2013 ruling, State Bar Court Judge Lucy Armendariz held that Alexander had violated three rules of professional conduct – communication with a represented party, moral turpitude and suppression of evidence – and that his “lack of insight into his wrongdoing” and attempts to blame others warranted his disbarment.

“His lack of candor and truthfulness in his dealings with the court and opposing counsel demonstrate that he did not comprehend his special duty as a prosecutor to promote justice and seek the truth, and not merely to convict,” Armendariz stated.

Alexander had previously made three appearances before the State Bar Court. His past transgressions included two convictions for driving without a valid license, prosecutorial misconduct and practicing law without paying Bar dues. Three months after taking office as District Attorney in 2010, Alexander was suspended for 60 days for a variety of past misconduct, including failure to return unearned fees and improper ex parte communications with a judge. He was ...

New York Sex Offender Registration Determination is Exception to Article 78 Review

The New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, has held that a determination as to whether a crime committed in another state triggers New York sex offender registration is reviewable in a proceeding to determine the offender’s risk level.

New York’s Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) requires registration by people who commit sex offenses in other states before moving to New York. Until 2002, a crime committed in another state triggered registration “only if it included ‘all of the essential elements’ of a New York ‘felony.’” In 2002, however, “felony” was replaced with the term “crime” for offenses “committed on or after” the amendment’s effective date.

The trial court determines both registrability and risk level for New York sex offenders. However, for out-of-state offenders, the Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders (Board) determines registrability while the court determines the risk level.

SORA does not specify how someone who is required to register for an out-of-state sex offense may challenge a registration determination. Ordinarily, judicial review under CPLR article 78 is the exclusive remedy for challenging actions of New York administrative agencies. An article 78 review must be brought within four months of the challenged ...

Sixth Circuit: Disciplinary Conviction Does Not Bar Excessive Force Claim

Prisoners who claim they were assaulted by guards in violation of the Eighth Amendment are not barred from challenging such abuse in court even if they were found guilty of disciplinary charges in connection with the incident, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has held. Moreover, it is erroneous for a district court to rely on a guard’s written account of the incident when videotape evidence is readily available.

In overturning a grant of summary judgment in favor of a prison guard, the Court of Appeals ruled that the guard’s alleged act of slamming a handcuffed prisoner into a wall and then to the floor was an event legally distinct from the prisoner’s alleged assault on the guard moments earlier. Prison guards who use excessive force after subduing prisoners are not immunized from court oversight as a result of disciplinary infractions against the prisoner, the Sixth Circuit wrote.

Michigan state prisoner Toran V. Peterson filed suit in federal court, claiming that a prison guard identified only as “Jones” had, without provocation, pushed up on his handcuffed arms to “slam” him into a wall, then lifted him three feet off the ground to slam him to the floor ...

California: Nine Detainees Charged in Jailhouse Killing; Five Sentenced to Life Terms

In January 2012, an Orange County, California judge sentenced two of nine detainees implicated in the jailhouse killing of a suspected child molester to terms of 15 years to life in prison. Three other detainees also were sentenced to life, while the remaining defendants received sentences ranging from 6 to 20 years.

Garrett Eugene Aguilar, 29, and Jared Louis Petrovich, 28, were convicted by a jury of second-degree murder in 2011, along with Miguel Guillen, 49, Stephen Paul Carlstrom, 43, and Raul Villafana, 25, in connection with the fatal beating of John Derek Chamberlain, 41, at the Theo Lacy Facility, an Orange County jail.

Chamberlain was awaiting trial on a misdemeanor charge of possessing child pornography. On October 5, 2006 he was punched, kicked, sodomized with plastic spoons, doused with scalding water and stomped to death by around 10 other prisoners, a short distance from the deputies’ station. One sheriff’s deputy admitted that, at the time of the beating, he was watching COPS on TV. Apparently the show was so riveting that he was unaware Chamberlain was being beaten to death until it was too late. [See: PLN, Jan. 2007, p.42].

Chamberlain reportedly suffered broken ribs, a punctured ...

Oregon: Only Voluntary Surrender Avoids Fugitive Dismissal Rule

In a 4-3 decision, the en banc Oregon Supreme Court held on June 7, 2012 that a defendant’s “surrender” must be voluntary in order to avoid dismissal of a pending appeal under the state’s fugitive dismissal rule.

Pursuant to Oregon Rule of Appellate Procedure (ORAP) 8.05(3), if a criminal defendant “escapes or absconds from custody or supervision” while his or her case is on appeal, the state may move to dismiss. “If the appellant has not surrendered at the time the motion is decided,” the Court of Appeals may grant the motion.

Jesse V. Moss was convicted of several criminal offenses and sentenced to probation and community service in February 2009. He appealed his convictions but on August 17, 2010, while the appeal was pending, “the trial court found that defendant ‘has absconded from probation’ and issued a bench warrant for [his] arrest.”

On August 20, 2010 the state moved to dismiss Moss’ appeal pursuant to ORAP 8.05(3). Two days later, however, Moss was re-arrested. The Court of Appeals rejected his argument that dismissal “was no longer permitted because he had ‘surrendered’ within the meaning of the rule in light of his return to ...

Oregon Jail Guard Gets Three Years for Sex with Prisoner

An Oregon jail guard has been sentenced to three years in prison for having a 19-month sexual relationship with a female prisoner.

Mark W. Samuels, 54, was employed by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office as a guard at the Marion County Jail’s Work Center in Salem. He previously worked for the Oregon Department of Corrections.

On December 8, 2011, Samuels was placed on administrative leave when jail officials learned of allegations that he was having sex with a female prisoner at the Work Center. Sheriff’s Office spokesman Don Thomson would not comment on how the allegations surfaced, citing an ongoing investigation.

Sheriff Jason Myers asked the Washington County Sheriff’s Office to investigate; when that investigation found evidence of misconduct, Samuels was arrested at his home on March 19, 2012. [See: PLN, July 2012, p.50].

He was held at the Linn County Jail on $25,000 bail, but his bail was raised to $80,000 at the request of the Marion County District Attorney’s Office. He was fired on May 23, 2012.

Samuels was formally charged with one felony count of custodial sexual misconduct in the first degree (CSM I), one felony count of sexual ...

Arkansas Prisoner’s Ad-Seg Reviews Held to be Meaningless; Case Remanded to Recalculate Damages

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld an Arkansas federal district court’s finding that state prison officials denied a prisoner meaningful reviews of his placement in administrative segregation, but ordered a recalculation of the lower court’s damage award.

The case involved Arkansas prisoner David Williams, who began serving a life sentence without parole in 1981. Just a year later he was convicted of killing another prisoner. He was released into general population after serving 18 months in administrative segregation (Ad Seg) at the Tucker Maximum Security Unit.

From 1983 to 1995, Williams served his sentence without any major violent incidents, but in 1995 he was assaulted by another prisoner. Prison officials believed the attack stemmed from Williams’ suspected “trafficking and trading” in drugs, and the incident may have resulted from a “drug deal gone bad.”

Ostensibly for his own protection, prison officials placed Williams in Ad Seg in December 1995. He remained there for nearly 14 years until March 13, 2009. His attacker served only 56 days in administrative segregation. In order to justify Williams’ lengthy stint in Ad Seg, which included a three-year transfer to the Utah Department of Corrections, prison officials repeatedly claimed he was ...

U.N. Considers Revisions to Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners

The U.N. Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice held its 22nd session in late April 2013. A significant item on the Commission’s agenda was the development of revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMRs). Originally adopted in 1955, SMRs are rules that regulate the bare minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners in all countries. They are so significant that the U.S. State Department has called them “the most important set of guidelines” governing how prisoners and detainees are treated.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), in this case the ACLU, Amnesty International and Penal Reform International, have continuously advocated updating the SMRs to ensure they conform with contemporary international human rights standards. According to the ACLU, the NGOs are “advocating for progressive amendments aimed at strengthening this historic document by bringing it in line with international law and norms regarding the rights of people deprived of their liberty.”

In December 2012, the ACLU attended the U.N. Inter-Governmental Expert Group Meeting (IGEM) in Buenos Aires. While at the meeting, the ACLU pushed for more stringent protections against long-term solitary confinement, reductions in prison violence, the ability of prisoners to be represented by retained counsel at ...

News in Brief

Arizona: On December 28, 2012, Safford police officers found state prison guard David Hudson, in uniform, threatening to harm himself while holding a gun near the edge of a bridge. Hudson laid down the gun and surrendered to the officers, and was taken to a medical center for evaluation. “Hopefully, he will be able to get the help he needs,” stated Graham County Sheriff P.J. Allred.

Brazil: A prisoner who tried to escape from a prison in Ceres should have lost some weight first, as he became stuck while trying to squeeze through a hole in the prison wall. “The other prisoners tried to push him but he stayed stuck in the wall. He started screaming in pain, and that was when the prison guards were alerted,” said Lt. Tiago Costa with the local fire brigade, which had to extract the overweight escapee.

Brazil: On January 1, 2013, the Brazilian news media reported that a cat had been caught attempting to smuggle contraband into a prison in Arapiraca. The feline was found to have a saw, drill bits, a cell phone, batteries, a phone charger and a memory card taped to its body as it tried to enter the ...

 

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