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Prison Legal News: October, 2014

Issue PDF
Volume 25, Number 10

In this issue:

  1. In Washington State Prisons, Negligent Health Care Turns Illness into a Death Sentence (p 1)
  2. $750,000 Settlement for Washington State Prisoner’s Wrongful Death (p 8)
  3. Texas Court Finds CCA Subject to State’s Public Information Act, Awards Attorney Fees (p 9)
  4. From the Editor (p 10)
  5. Women in Solitary Confinement: “The Isolation Degenerates Us into Madness“ (p 12)
  6. Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearings on Criminal Justice Reform (p 16)
  7. How the Courts View ACA Accreditation (p 18)
  8. Leading with Conviction: JustLeadershipUSA (p 22)
  9. Washington State: Injunction Entered Against Lewis County in PLN Censorship Suit (p 23)
  10. Drug Courts Partner with Pharmaceutical Company to Combat Heroin, Alcohol Abuse (p 24)
  11. Class-Action Suit Claiming Inadequate Medical Care at Virginia Prison Set for Trial (p 26)
  12. Prison and Jail Phone Reforms Needed in New Jersey (p 28)
  13. Pretrial Detainee’s First Amendment Retaliation Claim Survives Summary Judgment (p 28)
  14. Alaska Filing Fee Statute Denies Prisoners Court Access (p 30)
  15. California: Federal Judge Certifies Class-Action Over SHU Placement, Conditions (p 30)
  16. $8.15 Million Jury Award for Prisoner’s Death at New York Jail (p 32)
  17. Tenth Circuit Holds “Consensual” Sex Defeats Prisoner’s Eighth Amendment Claim (p 32)
  18. Jail Video Visitation Proposal Considered in Dallas County, Texas (p 34)
  19. Colorado Law Grants Immunity to Law Enforcement Officers Transporting Juveniles (p 34)
  20. California Exhaustion Requirement Extends to Independent Contractors (p 35)
  21. Former Wyoming Probation Officer Receives, Violates Probation (p 36)
  22. Ninth Circuit: Exhaustion Prior to Amended Complaint Satisfies PLRA (p 36)
  23. Fifth Circuit Holds Louisiana Commutation Changes Not Ex Post Facto (p 38)
  24. Second Circuit: Spraying with Feces Not De Minimis Injury; $7,000 Settlement After Remand (p 38)
  25. Ninth Circuit Revives Ad Seg 24-Hour Lighting Claim (p 40)
  26. Seventh Circuit Extends Appeal Filing Deadline for Prisoner Misled by Court Clerk (p 41)
  27. Seventh Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Illinois Booking Fee Challenge (p 42)
  28. Colorado: Sentencing Court May Override Sexually Violent Predator Risk Assessment Score (p 42)
  29. ICE Implements New Directive to Limit Solitary Confinement (p 44)
  30. “Ban the Box” Movement Spreads Nationwide (p 46)
  31. Pennsylvania Activists Arrested for Protesting Construction of New Prison Complex (p 48)
  32. California Prison Healthcare Costs Soar Under Federal Receiver (p 50)
  33. Fifth Circuit Declares SORNA Unconstitutional in Certain Cases, Reversed by Supreme Court (p 50)
  34. Probe Reveals Corruption at Pennsylvania Jail (p 52)
  35. Nebraska DOC Obstructing Efforts to Modify Prisoners’ Child Support Payments (p 52)
  36. New York District Attorney Admits Lying About Acting in Porn Movies (p 53)
  37. Investigation Uncovers Lost Graves at Former Florida Juvenile Facility (p 54)
  38. News in Brief (p 56)

In Washington State Prisons, Negligent Health Care Turns Illness into a Death Sentence

In Washington State Prisons, Negligent Health Care Turns Illness into a Death Sentence

Ricardo Cruz Mejia went to prison a murderer, he left a victim.

by Rick Anderson

Ricardo Cruz Mejia’s final days began with a stomach problem. It was October 2010. After the 26-year-old Walla Walla State Penitentiary prisoner ...

$750,000 Settlement for Washington State Prisoner’s Wrongful Death

$750,000 Settlement for Washington State Prisoner’s Wrongful Death

by Carrie Wilkinson

Although Prison Legal News and its parent organization, the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), are best known for litigation involving censorship by prison and jail officials, HRDC also co-counsels select other cases, mainly involving wrongful deaths on behalf ...

Texas Court Finds CCA Subject to State’s Public Information Act, Awards Attorney Fees

Texas Court Finds CCA Subject to State’s Public Information Act, Awards Attorney Fees

On September 15, 2014, a Travis County District Court entered a final judgment that found Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest for-profit prison company, is a “governmental body” for purposes of the Texas Public Information ...

From the Editor

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

This month’s cover story about the Washington Department of Corrections killing prisoner Ricardo Mejia through medical neglect is in many ways an old one. Over the past 24 years, PLN has run hundreds of articles about prisons and jails murdering prisoners through medical and ...

Women in Solitary Confinement: “The Isolation Degenerates Us into Madness“

Women in Solitary Confinement: “The Isolation Degenerates Us into Madness“

by Victoria Law

A mass prisoner hunger strike rocked California’s prison system last year, drawing international attention to the extensive use of solitary confinement in the United States. Increasingly, solitary is finding its way into the mainstream media and onto ...

Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearings on Criminal Justice Reform

Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearings on Criminal Justice Reform

On September 15 and 16, 2014, while Tennessee’s General Assembly was out of session, the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on criminal justice reform – the first time a legislative body in the state has comprehensively addressed that topic for ...

How the Courts View ACA Accreditation

How the Courts View ACA Accreditation

by Alex Friedmann

The American Correctional Association (ACA), a private non-profit organization composed mostly of current and former corrections officials, provides accreditation to prisons, jails and other detention facilities.

According to the ACA, “Accreditation is a system of verification that correctional agencies/facilities comply ...

Leading with Conviction: JustLeadershipUSA

Leading with Conviction: JustLeadershipUSA

by Glenn Martin and Sasha Graham

For decades, advocates and scholars alike have publicly decried the crippling financial and human costs of mass incarceration. Today their calls for reform are amplified by an emerging bipartisan consensus that current incarceration trends are unsustainable, ineffective and increasingly harmful ...

Washington State: Injunction Entered Against Lewis County in PLN Censorship Suit

Washington State: Injunction Entered Against Lewis County in PLN Censorship Suit

On September 10, 2014 a federal judge entered a preliminary injunction against Lewis County, Washington in a lawsuit challenging a postcard-only mail policy at the county jail.

The lawsuit, filed by Prison Legal News in April 2014, alleged that ...

Drug Courts Partner with Pharmaceutical Company to Combat Heroin, Alcohol Abuse

Drug Courts Partner with Pharmaceutical Company to Combat Heroin, Alcohol Abuse

The 406th District Drug Court in Webb County, Texas has turned to a new approach for breaking the cycle of addiction related to heroin, opiate and alcohol abuse: The court formed a partnership with Irish pharmaceutical company Alkermes ...

Class-Action Suit Claiming Inadequate Medical Care at Virginia Prison Set for Trial

Class-Action Suit Claiming Inadequate Medical Care at Virginia Prison Set for Trial

A December 2014 trial date has been scheduled in a class-action federal lawsuit that could determine the future of health care for prisoners at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women (FCCW) in Troy, Virginia.

The suit was filed ...

Prison and Jail Phone Reforms Needed in New Jersey

Prison and Jail Phone Reforms Needed in New Jersey

by Karina Wilkinson

Two prison phone service providers, Global Tel*Link and Securus, continue to overcharge prisoners and their families for calls made from prisons and jails in New Jersey. While federal regulations capped interstate (long distance) calls from correctional facilities ...

Pretrial Detainee’s First Amendment Retaliation Claim Survives Summary Judgment

Pretrial Detainee’s First Amendment Retaliation Claim Survives Summary Judgment

by David M. Reutter

In a December 26, 2013 decision, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s grant of summary judgment, holding that a former pretrial detainee had presented sufficient evidence that he was subjected to retaliation for ...

Alaska Filing Fee Statute Denies Prisoners Court Access

Alaska Filing Fee Statute Denies Prisoners Court Access

by Mark Wilson

In December 6, 2013, the Alaska Supreme Court held that barring an indigent prisoner from filing an appeal due to inability to pay the filing fee deprived him of his fundamental right of access to the courts.

In May ...

California: Federal Judge Certifies Class-Action Over SHU Placement, Conditions

California: Federal Judge Certifies Class-Action Over SHU Placement, Conditions

by Derek Gilna

California state prison officials could be forgiven for complaining that the federal courts spend a lot of time monitoring their activities, but the facts indicate that such attention is warranted. California’s prison system, already singled out by the ...

$8.15 Million Jury Award for Prisoner’s Death at New York Jail

$8.15 Million Jury Award for Prisoner’s Death at New York Jail

by David Reutter

A New York City jury awarded $8.15 million to the estate of a prisoner who died after being denied access to medical care.

While incarcerated in 1996 at the Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center ...

Tenth Circuit Holds “Consensual” Sex Defeats Prisoner’s Eighth Amendment Claim

Tenth Circuit Holds “Consensual” Sex Defeats Prisoner’s Eighth Amendment Claim

by Mark Wilson

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a female prisoner’s “consensual” sex with two guards did not violate the Eighth Amendment.

Stacey Graham was housed in solitary confinement at a jail in Logan County, Oklahoma ...

Jail Video Visitation Proposal Considered in Dallas County, Texas

Jail Video Visitation Proposal Considered in Dallas County, Texa

On September 9, 2014, the Dallas County Commissioners Court unanimously rejected a proposal that would have ended all face-to-face visits with prisoners at the Dallas County Jail. The Commissioners Court had been considering bids to equip the jail with a video ...

Colorado Law Grants Immunity to Law Enforcement Officers Transporting Juveniles

Colorado Law Grants Immunity to Law Enforcement Officers Transporting Juveniles

by David M. Reutter

The Colorado Supreme Court held on January 13, 2014 that “allegations of negligence alone are not sufficient to overcome the statutory grant of immunity and the presumption of good faith afforded to law enforcement officers” under ...

California Exhaustion Requirement Extends to Independent Contractors

California Exhaustion Requirement Extends to Independent Contractors

by Mark Wilson

On December 6, 2013, the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, held that prisoners must exhaust administrative remedies before suing independent contractors employed by the prison system.

California prisoner Ira Don Parthemore was examined by Dr. Peter R. Col ...

Former Wyoming Probation Officer Receives, Violates Probation

Former Wyoming Probation Officer Receives, Violates Probation

by Derek Gilna

A former Wyoming Department of Corrections probation officer was placed on probation herself following her conviction on drug and theft charges.

Ruby Maddox, 36, was enrolled in a rehabilitation center to address her addiction to prescription medication as part of ...

Ninth Circuit: Exhaustion Prior to Amended Complaint Satisfies PLRA

Ninth Circuit: Exhaustion Prior to Amended Complaint Satisfies PLRA

by Mark Wilson

On January 14, 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that claims raised in an amended complaint satisfy administrative exhaustion requirements under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) if they are exhausted before the amended complaint is ...

Fifth Circuit Holds Louisiana Commutation Changes Not Ex Post Facto

Fifth Circuit Holds Louisiana Commutation Changes Not Ex Post Facto

by Matt Clarke

In an opinion filed May 21, 2013, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that changes to commutation laws and rules in Louisiana, which gave the pardons board the authority to deny a hearing on commutation and ...

Second Circuit: Spraying with Feces Not De Minimis Injury; $7,000 Settlement After Remand

Second Circuit: Spraying with Feces Not De Minimis Injury; $7,000 Settlement After Remand

by Mark Wilson

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals held on December 20, 2013 that spraying a prisoner with a mixture of feces, vinegar and oil is not a de minimis injury

New York state prisoner ...

Ninth Circuit Revives Ad Seg 24-Hour Lighting Claim

Ninth Circuit Revives Ad Seg 24-Hour Lighting Claim

by Mark Wilson

On January 16, 2014, the Ninth CircuitCourt of Appeals reversed a summary judgment order dismissing a prisoner’s claim related to 24-hour lighting in a segregation cell.

While incarcerated at the Airway Heights Corrections Center, Washington prisoner Neil Grenning was ...

Seventh Circuit Extends Appeal Filing Deadline for Prisoner Misled by Court Clerk

Seventh Circuit Extends Appeal Filing Deadline for Prisoner Misled by Court Clerk

by Matt Clarke

In a well-crafted opinion delivered on August 8, 2013, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that a prisoner who was misled by a court clerk regarding the status of his habeas corpus petition should ...

Seventh Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Illinois Booking Fee Challenge

Seventh Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Illinois Booking Fee Challenge

by Mark Wilson

On January 2014, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a challenge to a jail’s booking fee policy.

The Village of Woodridge, Illinois imposes a $30 booking fee on any person who is arrested and ...

Colorado: Sentencing Court May Override Sexually Violent Predator Risk Assessment Score

Colorado: Sentencing Court May Override Sexually Violent Predator Risk Assessment Score

by Matt Clarke

The Colorado Supreme Court has held that a sentencing court may designate a person convicted of a sexual offense a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) even if a risk assessment instrument (screening instrument) indicates that the person ...

ICE Implements New Directive to Limit Solitary Confinement

ICE Implements New Directive to Limit Solitary Confinement

Civil rights and immigration advocacy groups are watching closely to see the results of a change in federal policy governing the placement of immigrant detainees in solitary confinement, which was implemented one year following the release of a damning report on that ...

“Ban the Box” Movement Spreads Nationwide

“Ban the Box” Movement Spreads Nationwide

by Joe Watson

Prisoner advocacy groups are hailing recent successes in “Ban the Box” campaigns to remove questions related to criminal records from employment applications, and say they hope to expand the movement even further as momentum grows to help ex-offenders find jobs.

San ...

Pennsylvania Activists Arrested for Protesting Construction of New Prison Complex

Pennsylvania Activists Arrested for Protesting Construction of New Prison Complex

Seven members of Decarcerate PA, a grassroots coalition working to end mass incarceration in Pennsylvania, were arrested while protesting the construction of a new two-prison complex in that state. The protest was to highlight the $400 million cost to build ...

California Prison Healthcare Costs Soar Under Federal Receiver

California Prison Healthcare Costs Soar Under Federal Receiver

Creating a balance between adequate healthcare for prisoners at a reasonable and affordable cost for taxpayers is at the heart of a debate being argued in legislative offices and behind prison walls in California.

The federal receiver appointed to overhaul the state’s ...

Fifth Circuit Declares SORNA Unconstitutional in Certain Cases, Reversed by Supreme Court

Fifth Circuit Declares SORNA Unconstitutional in Certain Cases, Reversed by Supreme Court

by Matt Clarke

The full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held in July 2012 that Congress did not have the power to enact criminal penalties for failing to register as a sex offender following an intrastate move, as ...

Probe Reveals Corruption at Pennsylvania Jail

Probe Reveals Corruption at Pennsylvania Jail

A former guard at Pennsylvania’s Erie County Prison and his supervisor, who is also his wife, were accepted into a special diversion program for first-time offenders after being charged in connection with payroll tampering and missing ammunition. Another guard was demoted following an investigation ...

Nebraska DOC Obstructing Efforts to Modify Prisoners’ Child Support Payments

Nebraska DOC Obstructing Efforts to Modify Prisoners’ Child Support Payments

Excessive enforcement of child support obligations is not only detrimental to incarcerated parents, according to advocates in Nebraska, but also risks increasing recidivism and hindering familial relationships.

Legal Aid of Nebraska, led by managing attorney Muirne Heaney, has attempted to ...

New York District Attorney Admits Lying About Acting in Porn Movies

New York District Attorney Admits Lying About Acting in Porn Movies

An upstate New York district attorney who lied when questioned during his re-election campaign about being an actor in pornographic movies during the 1970s will not quit, despite public calls for his resignation and at least one expert’s view ...

Investigation Uncovers Lost Graves at Former Florida Juvenile Facility

Investigation Uncovers Lost Graves at Former Florida Juvenile Facility

by David M. Reutter

An anthropological team from the University of South Florida investigating the grounds of the now-closed Florida Industrial School for Boys (FISB), a juvenile detention facility in Marianna, has identified the remains of three youths buried in a ...

News in Brief

News in Brief

Alaska: On January 12, 2014, twenty-year-old detainee Jairus Nelson slipped under a garage door at the Dillingham jail and fled wearing nothing but his underwear. He ran into some nearby woods and later attempted to jump into several passing cars to evade officers. Unfortunately for Nelson, after ...