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Prison Legal News: June, 2013

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Volume 24, Number 6

In this issue:

  1. Slowly Closing the Gates: A State-by-State Assessment of Recent Prison Closures (p 1)
  2. Fourth Circuit: No Qualified Immunity for Bail Bondsmen; $100,000 Damages Award Upheld (p 1)
  3. Solidarity and Solitary: When Unions Clash with Prison Reform (p 12)
  4. TN Court of Appeals Rules Against CCA for Second Time in PLN Public Records Case (p 14)
  5. From the Editor (p 16)
  6. New York Commission of Correction Says Jails Don't Need Law Libraries (p 16)
  7. How the Prison - Industrial Complex Destroys Lives (p 18)
  8. Charting a New Justice Reinvestment (p 21)
  9. Oregon Juvenile Department Employee Gets Jail Time for Sexualizing Booking Photos (p 23)
  10. Florida Proceeds with Privatization of Prison Medical Care (p 24)
  11. New Law Gives Parents Behind Bars in Washington State a Way to Hold onto Their Children (p 26)
  12. U.S. Supreme Court Reinstates BOP Prisoner's FTCA Suit (p 28)
  13. Reprieved Oregon Prisoner Wages Legal Fight to be Executed (p 30)
  14. Eighth Circuit: Heck Bars False Imprisonment Claim (p 31)
  15. CCA Pays $100,000 after Exiting Contract to Operate Florida Jail (p 32)
  16. Research Study Finding Benefits from Prison Privatization Funded by Private Prison Companies (p 32)
  17. New York DOCCS Settles Statewide PLN Censorship Suit for $155,000 (p 34)
  18. TransCor May Face Punitive Damages for Prisoner's Death (p 34)
  19. Plata and Coleman Showdown in California (p 36)
  20. Sixth Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Prisoner's Sexual Orientation Discrimination Suit (p 36)
  21. New Hampshire Cancels Private Prison Bids, but Bill Prohibiting Prison Privatization Fails to Pass (p 38)
  22. Oregon Rape Victim's Rights Clash with Rights of Accused Rapist (p 40)
  23. Oklahoma: Hospital Sues Sheriff over Unpaid Medical Bills, for Third Time (p 42)
  24. PLN Prevails in Challenge to Postcard-only Policy at Oregon Jail (p 42)
  25. Former Michigan Assistant Attorney General Held Liable for Targeting Gay Student (p 43)
  26. Millions Owed in Unpaid Restitution in Oregon (p 44)
  27. Maryland Repeals Death Penalty (p 44)
  28. Canadian Prisoners Escape via Helicopter (p 45)
  29. Supermax: Controlling Risk Through Solitary Confinement, by Sharon Shalev (Willan Publishing, September 2009). 346 pages, $39.95 (p 46)
  30. Prison Legal News Files Public Records Suit Against CCA in Texas (p 46)
  31. Florida Legislator Resigns in Wake of Texting Scandal (p 48)
  32. Oregon Pays Record $5.85 Million for Abuse of Foster Child and Abuser's Death in Prison (p 48)
  33. Pennsylvania Prison Guards, Sergeants Out-earn Supervisors (p 50)
  34. Survey Finds Disturbing Trends in Childhood Violence, Racial Dynamics for Juvenile Lifers (p 50)
  35. Oregon State Police Handwriting Analysis Unit Closed, under Investigation (p 52)
  36. Former Halfway House Director Sentenced to 18 Months (p 52)
  37. Oklahoma Escapee Surrenders to Police after 14 Years on the Run (p 53)
  38. CDCR to Open New Mental Health Facility (p 54)
  39. Tennessee Supreme Court: No Separate Parole Dates for Consecutive Sentences (p 55)
  40. News in Brief (p 56)

Slowly Closing the Gates: A State-by-State Assessment of Recent Prison Closures

by Christopher Petrella and Alex Friedmann

After nearly 40 years of unprecedented growth, our nation's expanding prison population has finally begun to sputter. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2010 marked the first year since 1972 in which, taken together, state and federal correctional populations declined slightly – a trend that continued in 2011.

This modest reduction reflects revisions to draconian drug laws (particularly in New York and Florida), curtailing re-incarceration for technical parole violators, and the burgeoning implementation of "good time" early-release credits. As a result, 15 states have closed 35 adult correctional facilities over the last two years, according to the National Conference of State Legislators, while additional closures are pending in 2013.

Although prison closures are widely celebrated by prisoners and criminal justice reform activists alike, the implementation of such plans is rarely straightforward and often encounters opposition from local communities, prison guard unions and lawmakers in the districts where facilities are slated to close. If achieved, prison closures are usually piecemeal and result in the transfer of prisoners to other facilities, not additional releases. Similarly, prison employees displaced by closures are often absorbed by other facilities, not fired. The predictable tumult resulting from actual and ...

Fourth Circuit: No Qualified Immunity for Bail Bondsmen; $100,000 Damages Award Upheld

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a jury verdict and $100,000 damages award, concluding that bail bondsmen are not entitled to qualified immunity.

South Carolina bail bondsman Jon E. Ham, through his company Quick Silver Bail Bonds LLC, posted a $20,000 bond for Tyis Rose; however ...

Solidarity and Solitary: When Unions Clash with Prison Reform

by James Ridgeway and Jean Casella

On January 4, 2013, Tamms supermax in southern Illinois officially closed its doors. The prison, where some men had been in solitary confinement for more than a decade, had become notorious for its brutal treatment of prisoners with mental illness – and for driving sane prisoners to madness and suicide. The closure of Tamms, under order of Governor Pat Quinn, was celebrated as a victory by human rights and prison reform groups, and by the local activists who had fought for years to do away with what they saw as a torture chamber in their own backyards.

The major force that had opposed the closure of Tamms – and indeed, delayed it for many months – was the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. AFSCME challenged Quinn's order through its legislative allies, stalled it through the courts, and mounted a public campaign to keep the prison open. The battle over the future of Tamms became the most visible and contentious example of a phenomenon seen, in one form or another, around the country: Otherwise progressive unions are taking reactionary positions when it comes to prisons, supporting addiction to mass incarceration. And when it comes ...

TN Court of Appeals Rules Against CCA for Second Time in PLN Public Records Case

In February 2013, the Tennessee Court of Appeals issued its second ruling in a long-running lawsuit filed under the state's Public Records Act against Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation's largest for-profit private prison company. The Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling of the lower court, holding that CCA must produce documents that it had refused to disclose, plus pay attorney fees and costs.

The suit was filed by PLN managing editor Alex Friedmann. In 2007, CCA had denied Friedmann's request for records related to litigation filed against CCA and for reports or audits that found contract violations by the company, among other documents. The Chancery Court ruled in Friedmann's favor on July 29, 2008, finding that CCA was the functional equivalent of a government agency and ordering the company to produce the requested records. [See: PLN, Oct. 2008, p.24].

CCA appealed and the Court of Appeals affirmed in September 2009, noting, "With all due respect to CCA, this Court is at a loss as to how operating a prison could be considered anything less than a governmental function." The appellate court narrowed the lower court's ruling by exempting one CCA-run Tennessee prison ...

From the Editor

Please note that as of June 10, 2013, Prison Legal News and its parent organization, the Human Rights Defense Center, will have a new mailing address: P.O. Box 1151, Lake Worth, FL 33460. Our website and e-mail addresses remain the same, and our new phone number is (561) 360-2523. These changes are reflected in this issue of PLN.

In many ways we have come full circle. Between 1990 and 1996, when my father, Rollin Wright, was PLN's publisher and office manager, our mailing address was in Lake Worth. Our business office was then based in Seattle, Washington for 14 years, and for the past three years it has been in Brattleboro, Vermont.

By moving to Florida we are relocating to a state on the front lines of criminal justice issues such as prison privatization, overincarceration and felon disenfranchisement. We are now based in the same county (Palm Beach) as GEO Group, the nation's second-largest private prison company; additionally, Florida has the third-highest state prison population in the U.S.

We are timing the move so it does not interfere with our work schedule, but there will be a roughly one-week period when our entire office is in ...

New York Commission of Correction Says Jails Don't Need Law Libraries

According to the Albany Legislative Gazette, the New York State Commission of Correction will no longer require the county jails it oversees to provide law libraries for detainees, effective May 18, 2013.

Although jails must provide prisoners with access to legal resources, they will not have to supply a physical law library with law books.

"Under the new regulation, each jail must still provide access to legal materials to all inmates. Law libraries are not being closed ... the regulation gives those facilities flexibility in how they provide those services," explained Janine Kava, director of public information at the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services/Commission of Correction.

Rather than physical law libraries, jails can provide detainees with access to electronic legal services or a combination of electronic access and books.

Some New York jails use a nearby court library as an alternative to an in-house law library. Six jails currently have been granted variances by the Commission of Correction to use a law library located outside the facility; prisoners can request the books they want, which are then delivered.

However, Jack Beck, with the Correctional Association of New York, said that was an "unrealistic" alternative because pro se ...

How the Prison - Industrial Complex Destroys Lives

by Mark Karlin, Truthout

Marc Mauer is the Executive Director of The Sentencing Project and the author of Race to Incarcerate, which has just been released in graphic format, illustrated by Sabrina Jones, as Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling (The New Press).

Mauer's knowledge about the prison-industrial complex in the United States – which has the highest percentage of incarcerated individuals in the world – is extensive. Race to Incarcerate is considered a landmark indictment of a system that locks the poor and minorities up with abandon, while largely neglecting support systems for reintegration back to society.

Further, a large percentage of U.S. prisoners are jailed for nonviolent drug "crimes," and they are largely black and Latino males. This creates a perpetual cycle of incarceration and re-incarceration for what one could argue are largely crimes of economic need or committed in environments where the only hope lies in drug use. And this imprisonment is at great cost to the American taxpayer, with funds that could be better spent improving the job prospects of those who are commodities for the prison-industrial complex.

Mark Karlin: In praising your original book Race to Incarcerate, Julian Bond states that prisoners have become commodities ...

Charting a New Justice Reinvestment

by Nicole D. Porter, The Sentencing Project

For more than forty years, the correctional system has been dominated by growth. In 1969, the crime rate was 3,680 per 100,000 population and the incarceration rate was 97 state and federal prisoners per 100,000 population. Today the crime rate is slightly lower at 3,667 per 100,000 population but the incarceration rate is five times higher, at 492 per 100,000. The culture of punishment, in part driven by political expediency with "tough-on-crime" policies marketed as the solution to "fear of crime," has been aggressively implemented at every stage of the criminal justice process: arresting, charging, sentencing, confining, releasing and supervising.

Today, there is general agreement that this vast expansion of the criminal justice system and the seven million people currently under U.S. correctional control did not occur by accident, but as the result of deliberate policy choices that impose intentionally punitive sentences that have increased both the numbers of people entering the system and how long they remain there.

The destructive effects of mass incarceration are visited disproportionately upon individuals and communities of color. Justice Reinvestment was conceived as part of the solution to this problem ...

Oregon Juvenile Department Employee Gets Jail Time for Sexualizing Booking Photos

"A jail sentence is called for," declared Clackamas County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey S. Jones when sentencing a former Oregon Juvenile Department employee to two days in jail for altering mugshot photos of juvenile offenders to make them look sexually provocative. "It's an important symbol in light of his position. He's going to leave the courtroom in handcuffs," Judge Jones stated.

Eric Granville Lawrence, 45, was hired by the Clackamas County Juvenile Department on June 1, 2010, but, thankfully, his career was short-lived. He resigned in April 2012 after an investigation revealed that he had accessed confidential booking photographs of female juvenile offenders and manipulated the images with Photoshop, a photo-editing program. He made it appear that some of the girls were wearing skimpy outfits, then sent the photos to his personal email account.

Investigators also discovered Facebook pictures of other girls, and adult pornography, on Lawrence's work computer. He claimed he knew the girls in the Facebook photos and wanted to alert their parents about their inappropriate behavior.

Lawrence ultimately pleaded guilty to second-degree official misconduct and unauthorized use of a computer – both misdemeanors – and was sentenced in May 2012. In addition to the two-day stint ...

Florida Proceeds with Privatization of Prison Medical Care

The Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) is moving forward with a legislative mandate to privatize its entire medical system. Whether the plan is implemented, however, may depend on the outcome of a lawsuit filed by prison health care workers challenging the FDOC's outsourcing of medical services for prisoners.

During its 2011 session, the Florida legislature approved a budget provision that authorized the privatization of 29 south Florida prisons. A challenge by the union that represented FDOC employees at the time, the Florida Police Benevolent Association, resulted in the Leon County Circuit Court ruling that the provision was unconstitutional. [See: PLN, April 2012, p.38; Feb. 2012, p.1]. While that issue generated considerable media attention, overlooked until now has been the state's plan to privatize the FDOC's entire medical care system.

That system serves Florida's 101,000 prisoners at an annual cost of around $400 million. The privatization plan seeks to save at least 7% annually. Contracts that the FDOC approved in April 2012 exceeded that amount, with anticipated savings of 11% in 2012 and 13% in 2013 from what the agency spent in 2009-2010, which is the benchmark set by the legislature. The winning contract ...

New Law Gives Parents Behind Bars in Washington State a Way to Hold onto Their Children

by Victoria Law, Truthout

On May 8, 2013, Washington State governor Jay Inslee signed SHB1284, or the Children of Incarcerated Parents bill, into law. The law guides the courts' discretion to delay the termination of parental rights if the parent's incarceration or prior incarceration is a significant factor for the child's continued stay in the foster care system.

Alise Hegle gave birth to her daughter while facing a seven-year sentence for her meth addiction. Her daughter was born two months early and tested positive for a small amount of meth (".001," Hegle clarified). Her daughter was placed in foster care. One month later, Hegle was arrested and sent to jail.

"I'd been in and out of jail throughout my pregnancy," Hegle told Truthout. But, with her daughter in foster care, Hegle now had to contend with trying to attend custody hearings from behind bars. "I sent in seventy kites [requests] to try to get transported to court hearings," she recounted. She repeatedly asked the guards about attorneys and social workers. Lacking money for phone calls, she was unable to call to search for resources.

Hegle's difficulties navigating the child welfare system from behind bars are not ...

U.S. Supreme Court Reinstates BOP Prisoner's FTCA Suit

On March 27, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court clarified that the scope of the Federal Tort Claims Act's waiver of sovereign immunity for certain intentional torts committed by federal law enforcement officials was not limited to executing searches, seizing evidence or making arrests.

Federal prisoner Kim Millbrook filed a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania that alleged negligence, assault and battery by Bureau of Prisons (BOP) guards. He claimed that a guard had sexually assaulted him while another restrained him and a third guard kept watch, and sought compensatory damages due to physical injuries he suffered.

The district court granted summary judgment to the BOP defendants and the Third Circuit affirmed based on Pooler v. United States, 787 F.2d 868 (3d Cir. 1986). Pooler limited the FTCA's law enforcement waiver proviso to tortuous conduct that occurred during the course of executing a search, seizing evidence or making an arrest. The appellate court reasoned that since Millbrook's claims occurred outside this narrow interpretation, they must be dismissed. See: Millbrook v. United States, 477 Fed.Appx. 4 (3d Cir. 2012).

The Supreme Court granted review ...

Reprieved Oregon Prisoner Wages Legal Fight to be Executed

As previously reported in PLN, on November 22, 2011, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber imposed a moratorium on the death penalty for the remainder of his term in office. In doing so he canceled the scheduled execution of Gary Haugen, 50, who had waived his appeals and asked to be put to death. [See: PLN, Dec. 2012, p.47].

Haugen initially praised Governor Kitzhaber's decision, saying the news was especially gratifying given that he had repeatedly criticized, at court appearances and in letters, some of the same flaws in capital punishment that Kitzhaber cited when imposing the moratorium, which the governor said was arbitrary, costly and "fails to meet basic standards of justice."

Upon further reflection, however, Haugen's praise and gratitude turned to spite. "I feel he's a paper cowboy. He couldn't pull the trigger," Haugen said. Governor Kitzhaber "basically pulled a coward's move" in granting the reprieve, he stated.

While Haugen said he agreed with the moratorium, he criticized the governor's decision to temporarily stop executions without implementing reforms. "You're not going to execute people, but you're going to continue to allow people to litigate in a broken system?" he asked, referring ...

Eighth Circuit: Heck Bars False Imprisonment Claim

In an April 19, 2012 decision, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a federal district court that Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) [PLN, Sept. 1994, p.12] barred a Minnesota prisoner's claim that prison officials unlawfully confined him for 375 days beyond his supervised release eligibility date.

In 2002, Brian Lee Marlowe pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced to 108 months in prison, including a term of supervised release.

Several months before Marlowe's December 6, 2007 supervised release date, he was designated a level two predatory sex offender; this required that he serve "intensive supervised release ... [and] a standard condition of intensive supervised release is that the offender live in a residence approved" by the Department of Corrections (DOC).

Prior to Marlowe's supervised release date, he and his prison case manager were unable to find a suitable post-release residence. Marlowe was assigned a supervising agent who picked him up at the prison on his supervised release date. "Marlowe used the agent's cell phone to make a last attempt to find a residence. When Marlowe was unable to find one, the supervising agent took him to the county ...

CCA Pays $100,000 after Exiting Contract to Operate Florida Jail

A mediation agreement between Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and Hernando County, Florida has resolved a dispute over $1.86 million after CCA and the county ended their contract for operation of the Hernando County Detention Center (HCDC), which CCA had managed for 22 years.

When the county declined to ...

Research Study Finding Benefits from Prison Privatization Funded by Private Prison Companies

In April 2013, two professors at Temple University in Philadelphia released a study, titled "Cost Analysis of Public and Contractor Operated Prisons," that alleged financial savings through prison privatization and equal or better performance by private prison companies.

According to an April 29, 2013 press release issued by Temple University, the study lauding the benefits of prison privatization was funded by "members of the private corrections industry." However, the research study itself, produced by Temple's Center for Competitive Government, did not disclose that it was funded by private prison firms – including CCA, the GEO Group and MTC.

Further, the authors of the study, Professors Simon Hakim and Erwin A. Blackstone, submitted editorials regarding the results of their research that were published by newspapers in Oklahoma, Maine, Florida and Kentucky. Three of those four editorials likewise did not mention their study's private prison funding source.

Nor did Professors Hakim and Blackstone disclose that they have a predisposition to favor the private sector, as they both have previously advocated for privatization of government services, including privatizing certain police functions.

"Any published or publicly released research should identify all sources of funding in support of that research," said Prof. Edward L ...

New York DOCCS Settles Statewide PLN Censorship Suit for $155,000

The New York state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (NYDOCCS) has settled a federal lawsuit filed by Prison Legal News that challenged the censorship of PLN's monthly publication, books and correspondence at New York prisons statewide.

PLN claimed in its complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court ...

TransCor May Face Punitive Damages for Prisoner's Death

TransCor America, LLC, a for-profit prisoner transportation company and subsidiary of Corrections Corporation of America, may be held liable for punitive damages if it is found responsible for the death of a prisoner who died while being transported in a TransCor van.

U.S. District Court Judge James F. Holderman, Chief Judge for the Northern District of Illinois, wrote in a March 29, 2012 ruling that while federal prisoner Joseph Curtis, 66, had died during a trip from a prison in Kansas to a facility in Indiana, actions taken by TransCor staff at the company's headquarters in Tennessee made the application of that state's punitive damages statute appropriate.

According to the district court's recitation of facts in the case, on June 23, 2009, a TransCor van with a non-working air conditioner in the prisoners' compartment picked up Curtis at USP Leavenworth and took him and several other prisoners on a circuitous route through Kansas, Missouri and into Illinois before heading to USP Terre Haute in Indiana.

Curtis, who was serving a 60-month sentence for possession of child pornography, died in the unairconditioned TransCor van due to heatstroke. The outside temperature on the day he died reached 95 ...

Plata and Coleman Showdown in California

by John E. Dannenberg

A three-judge federal court tightened the noose around the neck of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) in April 2013 when it issued a lengthy order denying a motion by state officials to delay or modify the court's prison population reduction order that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2011. See: Brown v. Plata, 131 S.Ct. 1910 (2011) [PLN, July 2011, p.1]. The court also denied the CDCR's request to end the federal receivership over the state's prison mental health care. The sockdolager came when the court threatened the CDCR and California Governor Jerry Brown with contempt if they did not follow the court's directives after decades of litigation.

On April 5, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence K. Karlton issued a 68-page order in Coleman v. Brown, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Cal.), Case No. CIV S 90-520 LKK/JFM (PC) – the 23-year-old case that resulted in a special master being appointed by the court to oversee mental health care in CDCR facilities – denying the defendants' motion to "terminate all relief in this action, vacate the Court's judgment and orders ...

Sixth Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Prisoner's Sexual Orientation Discrimination Suit

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a district court's dismissal of a prisoner's lawsuit alleging discrimination based on his sexual orientation.

Ricky Davis, a gay, insulin-dependent diabetic Michigan state prisoner, was screened, medically cleared and hired by an off-site public-works program.

He was the only openly gay participant in the program, and contended that work crew supervisors treated him differently than other prisoners due to his sexual orientation. Guards "did not want to strip search him because he was a homosexual and ... they would make 'under the breath' remarks when selected to do so." The guards also ridiculed, belittled and "ma[d]e a spectacle" of him.

Other insulin-dependent diabetics participated in the public-works program, and supervisors were given honey packets to remedy problems related to low blood sugar.

When Davis complained of low blood sugar on December 2, 2009, a guard refused to directly hand him a honey packet due to "animus toward or discomfort with him as an openly gay man." The guard instead had another prisoner give Davis the packet.

Davis was fine after consuming the honey, but supervisors ordered him to see a nurse. His blood sugar levels were normal and the ...

New Hampshire Cancels Private Prison Bids, but Bill Prohibiting Prison Privatization Fails to Pass

After the state of New Hampshire hired a consulting group last year to help evaluate bid proposals for the "construction, operation and potential privatization" of the state's entire prison system, it was determined that all of the bids "had deficiencies from an operational standpoint," according to a report issued by New Hampshire's Department of Corrections (DOC) and Department of Administrative Services (DAS). The report further found that the proposals were "non-compliant with meeting the Department of Corrections' legal obligations."

By April 2012, New Hampshire officials had received bids from four companies to build and/or operate a facility to house male prisoners and a "hybrid" prison that would hold both male and female offenders. The bidders included Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), GEO Group, Management & Training Corp. (MTC) and the relatively unknown NH Hunt Justice Group LLC – a partnership between LaSalle Corrections, Hunt Companies and several other firms.

To evaluate the detailed and voluminous bid proposals, state officials organized three evaluation teams made up of staff from the DOC and DAS. Additionally, in July 2012 the state paid $171,000 to hire an "independent consultant" – MGT of America, Inc. – to assist with the review by evaluating the "operational and financial aspects of the vendors' responses."

Careful observers noted a glaring conflict of interest with respect to MGT: One of the MGT consultants evaluating the prison privatization bid proposals was George Vose, who previously served as Senior Vice President for Operations of Community Education Centers (CEC), a private prison firm that runs 17 jails and 34 halfway houses. Vose currently serves on CEC's Board of Directors.

When contacted by Prison Legal News, Vose expressed surprise that people would be concerned about his past and present connections with the private prison industry when he had also spent many years working in state corrections agencies – including as director of the Massachusetts and Rhode Island DOCs. New Hampshire DOC Commissioner Bill Wrenn described Vose's participation in the bid review process as "really neutral."

While the state evaluation teams and MGT considered the bid proposals, an opposition campaign formed against prison privatization in New Hampshire, comprised of criminal justice reform advocates, faith-based groups, labor unions representing public-sector employees and others who objected to for-profit incarceration.

Caroline Isaacs with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Arizona, who has extensive experience fighting the private prison industry, traveled to New Hampshire for a three-day speaking tour in September 2012, and spoke at public events in Concord, Keene, Lancaster and Nashua.

On October 23, 2012, 36 national and New Hampshire-based organizations submitted a joint letter to the state's five-member Executive Council, which would make the initial decision on the private prison bids, in opposition to prison privatization. Signatories to the letter included AFSCME, the United Methodist Church's General Board of Church and Society, Grassroots Leadership, NAACP New England Area Conference, League of Women Voters of New Hampshire, International CURE, New Hampshire Council of Churches, Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform and the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC – PLN's parent organization).

"Across the country each of the companies that have responded to New Hampshire's Request for Proposals has been cited for serious mismanagement," said Kymberlie Quong with Grassroots Leadership. "The poor training of prison staff, under staffing, and other standard violations has resulted in unsafe environments for the individuals working and living in [private] prisons, and the public at large."

HRDC director and PLN editor Paul Wright spoke out against efforts to privatize New Hampshire's prison system at a screening of the CNBC documentary "Billions Behind Bars" in Keene on November 26, 2012; he also participated in a similar panel discussion in Concord two days later.

Ultimately, both the state evaluation teams and MGT determined that the bids submitted by the four private prison companies fell short of the requirements specified in the state's Request for Proposals (RFP). MGT found "significant issues with all the proposals."

According to MGT's report, released in March 2013, "It was determined that the private vendor's [sic] proposed ...

Oregon Rape Victim's Rights Clash with Rights of Accused Rapist

The Oregon Supreme Court, sitting en banc, has dismissed a rape victim's interlocutory appeal of a trial court's order allowing her accused rapist to review her Internet search history on her personal computer as part of his defense.

In 1999, voters amended the Oregon Constitution to grant certain rights to crime victims. Among the state's constitutionally-recognized victims' rights is "the right to refuse any interview, deposition or other discovery request by the criminal defendant," so long as the defendant's constitutional right "to discovery against the state" is not restricted. See: Article I, section 42, Oregon Constitution.

If a trial court enters an order denying a victim's constitutionally-protected rights, the victim may file an interlocutory appeal with the Oregon Supreme Court within seven days of the challenged order. That deadline may not be extended or waived.

In February 2011, board-licensed anesthesiologist and community college anatomy instructor Thomas Harry Bray, 38, met a 23-year-old woman on Match.com, a dating website. After drinks they went to Bray's home, where he allegedly choked, beat and raped her for several hours.

Bray was arrested two days later and charged with rape, strangulation and assault. He claimed the sex ...

Oklahoma: Hospital Sues Sheriff over Unpaid Medical Bills, for Third Time

For the third time in the past eight years, Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel has been sued for damages by a local hospital, which accuses him of releasing dozens of jail prisoners to avoid having to pay their medical bills.

Prior lawsuits involving Whetsel's handling of detainee medical costs have resulted in county officials paying more than $8 million in settlements. The latest action, filed on April 5, 2013 in Oklahoma County District Court, alleges that the sheriff's office has run up at least $924,085 in medical bills at Oklahoma University Medical Center (OUMC) since March 2011, excluding interest, while paying only $52,402 to the hospital.

OUMC officials contend that Sheriff Whetsel has deliberately circumvented a state law that requires counties to pay the medical costs of prisoners held in their custody. "The county and the sheriff have developed a practice of ... purporting to 'release' inmates from custody before, and even after transporting them to the hospital, and then deny liability for the necessary medical care by saying the inmate is no longer in the county's custody," the lawsuit alleges. "This practice ... is a blatant effort by the county and the sheriff to absolve themselves ...

PLN Prevails in Challenge to Postcard-only Policy at Oregon Jail

On April 24, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon held that a postcard-only policy at the Columbia County Jail, which restricted mail sent to and from detainees at the facility to postcards, was unconstitutional. The court therefore permanently prohibited enforcement of the policy – the first time that a jail's postcard-only policy has been struck down following a trial on the merits.

The ruling, by federal judge Michael H. Simon, was entered in a lawsuit against Columbia County and Sheriff Jeff Dickerson filed by Prison Legal News. PLN sued in January 2012 after Columbia County jail employees rejected PLN's monthly publication and letters sent to detainees. Further, the jail had failed to provide PLN with notice or an opportunity to appeal the jail's censorship of its materials. [See: PLN, March 2013, p.50].

The rejection of PLN's publications and letters was attributed to the jail's postcard-only policy and a policy or practice that prohibited prisoners from receiving magazines. PLN contended that such policies violated its rights under the First Amendment, and that the lack of notice and opportunity to appeal was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

During the litigation the ...

Former Michigan Assistant Attorney General Held Liable for Targeting Gay Student

On August 16, 2012, a federal jury in Detroit found Andrew Shirvell, a homophobic former Michigan Assistant Attorney General, guilty of stalking, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy in a civil lawsuit filed by Chris Armstrong, the University of Michigan’s first openly gay student body ...

Millions Owed in Unpaid Restitution in Oregon

As of early 2012, medium- and high-risk offenders in three of Oregon's 36 counties owed almost $155 million in unpaid restitution, with an average of just 16 percent of offenders statewide complying with restitution orders, according to the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) and Oregon Judicial Department.

"We don't do the greatest job in collecting restitution," acknowledged Bill Penny, district manager for Multnomah County's Department of Community Justice.

Following years of budget cuts, parole and probation officers have made the collection of restitution a low priority. In Multnomah County, for example, only 9 percent of court-ordered restitution was paid by medium- and high-risk offenders in cases that closed between mid-June and mid-December 2011, the ODOC found. That translates into $87 million in unpaid restitution that Multnomah County crime victims likely will never see. Similarly, Washington County victims are owed $38.2 million and offenders in Clackamas County owe $29.9 million.

Statewide, $426.5 million in unpaid restitution is owed by criminal defendants, dating back decades.

Bob Robison, a former Multnomah County victim services manager, said the problem stems from a lack of manpower to enforce restitution orders. Although he once made restitution collection a priority, his ...

Maryland Repeals Death Penalty

On May 2, 2013, Maryland became the sixth state in six years to abolish the death penalty, and the 18th state – along with the District of Columbia – that has rejected capital punishment. Maryland is the first Southern state to forgo executions in nearly half a century, joining West Virginia, with its 1964 repeal, as the only states below the Mason-Dixon Line without capital punishment on the books.

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, a Democrat who has been fighting the state's death penalty with legislative efforts since 2007, and who signed the repeal bill, said in a press release, "Maryland has effectively eliminated a policy that is proven not to work. Evidence shows that the death penalty is not a deterrent, it cannot be administered without racial bias, and it costs three times as much as life in prison without parole." He added, "Furthermore, there is no way to reverse a mistake if an innocent person is put to death."

The death penalty repeal, which goes into effect on October 1, 2013, does not explicitly apply to the five men currently on Maryland's death row. The state's last execution took place in 2005 when Governor Robert Ehrlich was ...

Canadian Prisoners Escape via Helicopter

by John E. Dannenberg

Two Canadian prisoners, Benjamin Hudon-Barbeau and Danny Provençal, escaped from a St. Jérôme, Quebec correctional facility on March 17, 2013 when a helicopter hovered over the yard and lowered a rope for them. They clambered up, with one holding onto the undercarriage and the other hanging upside down from the rope as they flew off, according to witnesses. Their freedom was short-lived, however, as they were captured later the same day along with two accomplices who had commandeered the helicopter.

Hudon-Barbeau, 36, had been cleared of a double murder on appeal but was returned to prison in connection with an attempted murder investigation. In September 2011, Provençal, 33, began serving seven years and 10 months for arson, breaking and entering, forcible confinement, unauthorized possession of a firearm, uttering threats to cause harm and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle. Both were allegedly affiliated with the Hells Angels biker gang.

Following the break-out, Hudon-Barbeau called a reporter at 98.5 FM in Montreal, reportedly saying, "I don't want to cause any harm to anybody. I am not a killer. I never did anything bad to an innocent. I know that [the escape] wasn't the best ...

Supermax: Controlling Risk Through Solitary Confinement, by Sharon Shalev (Willan Publishing, September 2009). 346 pages, $39.95

Book review by Julie Etter

Without exaggeration, Sharon Shalev's examination of supermax prisons and the dynamics of solitary confinement in the United States illustrates the consequences of bureaucratic dictates on the human soul. While not concealing her own moral judgment as to the practice of solitary confinement, Shalev evenly approaches this topic by reproducing, and helping the reader navigate, the theories and mechanisms employed in supermax facilities.

Divided into nine chapters, Supermax shares the terrifying, all-consuming reality of solitary confinement through multiple lenses. Following the first chapter's brief introduction to the purpose of the text, Chapter 2 traces the history of solitary confinement in the U.S. – from the early Quaker "silent" cells meant for self-reflection to today's steel and concrete behemoths.

Chapter 3 examines factors contributing to the modern rise of supermax prisons, with specific reference to California's prison guard union and the political context of solitary confinement. Chapter 4 is largely an expansion on the previous chapter, though with greater emphasis on the ideology and propaganda used to justify the use of solitary.

Chapters 5 and 6 examine, respectively, the "bureaucratization of control" with a focus on classification and a prisoner's existence within ...

Prison Legal News Files Public Records Suit Against CCA in Texas

In a lawsuit filed in state court on May 1, 2013, Prison Legal News, represented by the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP), alleges that Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is concealing information about CCA-run correctional facilities by failing to respond to a public records request.

To obtain information about CCA's operations in Texas, PLN submitted a records request to the company on March 1, 2013 pursuant to the state's Public Information Act, requesting a number of documents related to CCA's contracts with state and local Texas government agencies, injunctions issued against CCA in Texas, and settlements and verdicts in legal actions involving CCA in Texas. The company did not respond to the records request.

"Privately operated prisons and jails are notorious for their abhorrent conditions," PLN stated in its complaint. "Although they perform a government function, they are driven by a profit model that cuts costs for the benefit of shareholders and to the detriment of basic services, security, and oversight. Prison Legal News seeks to enforce its rights under the Public Information Act to investigate details about these facilities in Texas."

The lawsuit filing was tied to CCA's lack of transparency with respect to the ...

Florida Legislator Resigns in Wake of Texting Scandal

A Florida state lawmaker who supported harsher criminal penalties for stalkers and people who commit sexual offenses using electronic means has resigned in the wake of a texting scandal.

In August and September 2011, Democratic state representative Richard L. Steinberg used a disguised Yahoo account to send text messages to Assistant U.S. Attorney Marlene Fernandez-Karavetsos. The texts included suggestive messages that referred to her as "sexxxy mama," and inquired about her infant son.

Fernandez-Karavetsos repeatedly asked the texter to identify himself. "Considering we're both married parents, probably best I not answer at this point," Steinberg wrote back. Fernandez-Karavetsos, 37, is married to George Karavetsos, also a federal prosecutor and chief of the Miami U.S. Attorney's narcotics section. Steinberg, 39, is married and has one child.

With the texts continuing to pour in, Fernandez-Karavetsos complained to the U.S. Secret Service, which investigated the case because it involved a federal prosecutor. The texts were traced to Steinberg's home and phone. The story broke after the Miami Herald obtained the affidavit for a search warrant to examine the information in Steinberg's Yahoo account.

Steinberg quickly acknowledged he was the perpetrator and expressed sorrow and asked for ...

Oregon Pays Record $5.85 Million for Abuse of Foster Child and Abuser's Death in Prison

The State of Oregon has paid $3.75 million to a little girl who was injured by an abusive foster parent. Then, in an ironic twist, state officials agreed to pay another $2.1 million to the family of the man who committed the abuse, to settle a wrongful death ...

Pennsylvania Prison Guards, Sergeants Out-earn Supervisors

by David M. Reutter

Life in prison has alwayss been far different than life in the free world. An investigation by the Pittsburgh-Gazette into the wages of Pennsylvania prison employees revealed one of those differences – an Alice-in-Wonderland quality to the Department of Corrections' (DOC) pay scale.

Typically, an employee's higher rank merits greater pay. Yet Pennsylvania prison guards, who occupy the bottom rung of the DOC's employment ladder, are some of the state's highest paid prison workers.

For example, of the 23 employees at State Correctional Institution (SCI) Pittsburgh who earned more than $100,000 in 2011, 21 were guards or sergeants. That same year, the best-paid captain at SCI Pittsburgh earned less than $88,000 while the top-paid lieutenant made $73,817. One guard, whose base pay was around $51,000, padded his income with leave pay, shift differentials and overtime to earn a total of $139,571. His overtime pay alone was approximately $75,000.

"That guy works every minute he can," said David Mandella, local vice president of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Association (PSCOA).

Of the $5.5 million in overtime paid at SCI Pittsburgh in 2011 – representing 17.3% of the prison's ...

Survey Finds Disturbing Trends in Childhood Violence, Racial Dynamics for Juvenile Lifers

An overwhelming majority of prisoners serving life sentences without parole for crimes committed as juveniles were exposed to domestic violence and lived in poverty, while significant numbers failed in school, were influenced by friends in trouble with the law and grew up in a home missing at least one parent who was incarcerated, according to a report by The Sentencing Project.

The report, based on the most comprehensive survey to date of prisoners serving life sentences for crimes they committed as juveniles, calls for the elimination of life without parole (LWOP) sentences for juvenile offenders. The report also recommends a closer inspection of the racial dynamics of the juvenile justice system, which imposes LWOP sentences on black youths at an alarmingly higher rate than on white youths.

"Juveniles serving life sentences have had their lives defined by a serious crime committed in their youth, but it is not a complete picture of who they are," wrote Ashley Nellis, Ph.D., a research analyst for The Sentencing Project and the report's author.

"Although it does not excuse their crimes," she added, "most people sent to prison for life as youth were failed by systems that are intended to protect children ...

Oregon State Police Handwriting Analysis Unit Closed, under Investigation

"We don't know if it's one isolated case or there are going to be others," said Oregon State Police (OSP) Lt. Gregg Hastings, when he announced that OSP handwriting examiners had made a mistake in a criminal case.

In March 2012, OSP's Forensic Services Division's handwriting analysis unit, formally called the Questioned Documents Unit, found that its examiners had used procedures in a criminal case that violated OSP policy. The department placed its two handwriting examiners – Ron Emmons and Christina Kelley – on paid leave, re-assigned Captain Randy Wampler, the head of the Forensic Services Division, and notified district attorneys and law enforcement agencies across the state.

The handwriting unit handles an average of 80 cases a year for all 36 Oregon counties, analyzing documents such as suicide notes, wills and fraudulent checks.

"Our intent is to fully audit, investigate and review the Questioned Documents Unit issues," said Major Joel Lujan. "This is a precautionary measure to determine if there are any significant issues beyond quality control."

According to The Oregonian, the OSP is re-examining 35 cases from the Questioned Documents Unit, using out-of-state experts. Problems were discovered when it was learned that Emmons and Kelley were ...

Former Halfway House Director Sentenced to 18 Months

A former halfway house director, who embezzled up to $213,787 from a federally-funded non-profit Oregon halfway house, pleaded guilty and has been sentenced to 18 months in prison.

As previously reported in PLN, Laura Marie Edwards, 39, served as executive director of the Oregon Halfway House (OHH), now known as the Northwest Regional Re-Entry Center, from 2007 until she was fired in 2010. The facility houses federal prisoners prior to their release from custody. [See: PLN, March 2012, p.33; Jan. 2011, p.42].

Edwards' troubles began when the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) alerted the OHH Board of Directors that she should be relieved of her duties. BOP officials would not elaborate, but OHH commenced an internal investigation and turned its findings over to the FBI.

The investigation revealed that Edwards had funneled up to $213,787 of OHH's funds into her personal bank account. According to court records, she misused an OHH debit card meant for business purchases to buy items from the Adoption Shoppe – an online store that she owned.

Edwards also admitted to OHH Board President and Federal Public Defender Steven Wax that she previously had been fired as the regional director of Cornell ...

Oklahoma Escapee Surrenders to Police after 14 Years on the Run

On April 26, 2013, David Lee Kemp, 43, turned himself into the Comanche County, Oklahoma Sheriff's Office. He was actively being sought by the FBI, U.S. Marshals and other law enforcement agencies for escaping from the Comanche County Jail 14 years earlier. "He said that he was just tired basically of running and it was affecting his health," said Sheriff Kenny Stradley.

Kemp was being held in the Comanche County Jail in 1999 for the shooting deaths of Christine Frances Kemp, his ex-wife, and Robert Wayne Miller, her new boyfriend. Kemp allegedly went to their apartment, pushed open the unlocked front door, and shot Miller four times and his ex-wife three times.

He then fled the area. Police later located a man who claimed he had sold Kemp a .45 caliber handgun. Subsequent testing of spent bullet casings confirmed that the gun was the one used in the murders. The California Highway Patrol located Kemp's Dodge Ram pickup truck abandoned by the side of the road several days later, and commenced a search. They located Kemp, who was eventually cornered in a junkyard, where he held the .45 up to his head and threatened to kill himself ...

CDCR to Open New Mental Health Facility

In response to intense pressure from the Plata v. Brown and Coleman v. Brown federal lawsuits demanding improved medical and mental health care for California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) prisoners, a new 50-bed mental health facility is scheduled to open in July 2013 at the California Men's Colony (CMC) state prison in San Luis Obispo.

The $23 million facility will be available to house CDCR prisoners experiencing mental health crises, such as those who are suicidal or who have repeatedly stated they intend to harm themselves. It will also house prisoners whose mental health has deteriorated to the point they present a danger to others.

Known as the Correctional Treatment Center, the licensed mental health facility is intended to comply with a federal court order requiring the CDCR to provide mental health care consistent with the Eighth Amendment.

Governor Jerry Brown had hoped the new facility would bring an end to what he called "intrusive" federal control over the CDCR's mental health services. Both Governor Brown and CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard have issued recent statements claiming that concerns related to mental health care in the state's prison system were no longer an issue. However, the ...

Tennessee Supreme Court: No Separate Parole Dates for Consecutive Sentences

by Matt Clarke

On May 25, 2012, the Supreme Court of Tennessee held that prisoners with consecutive sentences are not entitled to separate parole eligibility dates for each sentence. The Court also clarified that a prisoner may only challenge the calculation of a release eligibility date by the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) under the procedures outlined in the state's Uniform Administrative Procedures Act (UAPA), T.C.A. §§ 4-5-101 to 325. Decisions by the parole board, however, are challenged via a petition for common law writ of certiorari.

Danny A. Stewart, a Tennessee state prisoner, was convicted of thirteen drug-related crimes. His sentences were run consecutive, with a ten-year sentence stacked on a twenty-year sentence that was stacked on a twelve-year sentence, for a total combined sentence of 42 years. The TDOC calculated his parole release eligibility date by adding the sentences and treating them as a single 42-year prison term.

The Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole (BPP) denied Stewart parole in November 2009. He filed an appeal with the BPP, arguing that he had not been given a custodial parole hearing as required under Howell v. State, 569 S.W.2d 428 (Tenn. 1978). The BPP denied ...

News in Brief

Australia: Benjamin Lord pleaded guilty in Victoria County Court on January 21, 2013 to two counts of impersonating a public official with the intention of obtaining sexual services and two counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception. While incarcerated, Lord, 31, had victimized a fellow prisoner by pretending to be an undercover government agent. Besides convincing the victim to have sex, Lord also demanded hair samples from him and strip searched him. Lord continued the charade once he was released, returning to visit his victim in prison and manipulating him after he was paroled. Judge Julie Nicholson called Lord's scheme "quite inventive" and "almost like a Hollywood script."

Brazil: Dozens of prisoners escaped from a Brazilian prison by crawling through the sewage system on February 3, 2013, authorities said. An official at Vicente Piragibe prison in Rio de Janeiro state told the media that 31 prisoners were involved in the escape; four were quickly captured while still in the sewers. The facility houses around 1,700 prisoners with only 10 guards on duty at times. The prisoners are believed to have broken into the sewer pipes through the floor of a communal area.

California: Fremont jail prisoner Marquice ...

 

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