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Prison Legal News: January, 2015

Issue PDF
Volume 26, Number 1

In this issue:

  1. When Halfway Houses Pose Full-Time Problems (p 1)
  2. Controversy, Criticism Plague Brooklyn Halfway House (p 18)
  3. From the Editor (p 20)
  4. “Ban the Box” Campaigns Seek to End Discrimination Against Formerly Incarcerated College Applicants (p 22)
  5. Admission of Jail Disciplinary Records at Criminal Trial May Violate Confrontation Clause (p 26)
  6. Oklahoma Supreme Court Remands Consolidated Sex Offender Registration Case (p 26)
  7. Federal Court Orders Colorado to Provide Outdoor Recreation to Supermax Prisoner (p 28)
  8. Texas Prison Population Drops as Guard Shortage Persists (p 30)
  9. State Appellate Costs Improper on Washington PRP Dismissal (p 31)
  10. Prison Legal News Prevails in Tennessee Public Records Suit in Spite of Sheriff’s Antics (p 32)
  11. Florida Death Row Prisoner Entitled to Prison and Medical Records (p 34)
  12. Virginia Prison’s Policy Requiring Physical Indicia of Faith for Religious Sincerity Held Unconstitutional; Suit Settles for $3,795 (p 34)
  13. CCA Board Member Steps Down from Open Government Organization (p 36)
  14. Tenth Circuit: No Qualified Immunity for Juvenile Restraint Chair Punishment (p 36)
  15. Tennessee Man Sues for Placement in Women’s Facility for Three Years (p 38)
  16. Consent Decree and Remedial Plan End Lawsuit Challenging Conditions in Illinois Juvenile Facilities (p 38)
  17. Colorado Prisoner Sues Security Guard Who Sexually Abused Her Moments after Giving Birth (p 40)
  18. RLUIPA Explained in Tenth Circuit Decision re Denial of Sweat Lodge Access (p 40)
  19. America’s Prisons: A Road to Nowhere (p 42)
  20. Prisoner’s Request for Medical Care after Signing Refusal Form Precludes Summary Judgment (p 44)
  21. Investigation Finds that Money Stolen from Oregon Prison Wasn’t Really Stolen (p 44)
  22. $145,000 Settlement for U.S. Citizen Held on Immigration Detainer due to Racial Profiling (p 45)
  23. Fifth Circuit: Sleep Deprivation May Violate Eighth Amendment (p 46)
  24. West Virginia Public Defender Disbarred for Child Prostitution “Hoax” (p 46)
  25. Florida Court of Appeals: Prison Guards Can Raise “Stand Your Ground” Defense (p 47)
  26. Introduction of Nolo Plea to Challenge Prisoner’s Credibility was Error (p 48)
  27. Ohio DOC Director Wants Return to Stricter Law after 2012 Spike in Positive Drug Tests (p 48)
  28. California Parole Term Not Shortened by Improper Parole Denial (p 49)
  29. The Globalization of Supermax Prisons, edited by Jeffrey Ian Ross (Rutgers University Press, 2013). 240 pages, $28.95 paperback (p 50)
  30. Jail Closes “God Pod,” Agrees to Accommodate Muslim Prisoners (p 50)
  31. Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law Struck Down, Some Prisoners Released (p 52)
  32. Malpractice Suit Proceeds against Michigan Defense Attorney in Wrongful Conviction Case (p 52)
  33. Georgia: Mandamus Available to Compel Law Library Access (p 53)
  34. Fifth Circuit Holds Prison Officials Need Not be Named in Grievances (p 54)
  35. Florida Supreme Court: Review of Parole Commission Revocation Order Limited (p 54)
  36. News in Brief (p 56)

When Halfway Houses Pose Full-Time Problems

When Halfway Houses Pose Full-Time Problems

by Derek Gilna

A recent interest among government officials in reducing prison populations as a way to cut costs, stemming from the 2008 Great Recession that resulted in significant budget deficits, has placed renewed emphasis on the importance of halfway houses. As more prisoners ...

Controversy, Criticism Plague Brooklyn Halfway House

Controversy, Criticism Plague Brooklyn Halfway House

by Derek Gilna

Community First Services, Inc., established by Jack A. Brown III in 2005 to provide transitional services for prisoners returning to New York City, has come under scrutiny following news reports that cast doubt not only on the organization’s halfway house but ...

From the Editor

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

Welcome to the first issue of Prison Legal News for the New Year! By now you should have received our fundraiser packet with our last annual report. First, I would like to thank everyone who has donated to help support our work with the ...

“Ban the Box” Campaigns Seek to End Discrimination Against Formerly Incarcerated College Applicants

“Ban the Box” Campaigns Seek to End Discrimination Against Formerly Incarcerated College Applicants

by Victoria Law

"Selene” had been out of prison for one month when she applied to Dutchess Community College and Ulster Community College, both part of the State University of New York system. SUNY requires applicants to ...

Admission of Jail Disciplinary Records at Criminal Trial May Violate Confrontation Clause

Admission of Jail Disciplinary Records at Criminal Trial May Violate Confrontation Clause

by David M. Reutter

The Texas Court of Appeals, First District, held in December 2013 that the admission of jail disciplinary records at a penalty phase hearing in a criminal trial violated the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth ...

Oklahoma Supreme Court Remands Consolidated Sex Offender Registration Case

Oklahoma Supreme Court Remands Consolidated Sex Offender Registration Case

by Shepherd Litsey

On November 19, 2013, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings a case involving a registered sex offender required to register for life due to an amended state law ...

Federal Court Orders Colorado to Provide Outdoor Recreation to Supermax Prisoner

Federal Court Orders Colorado to Provide Outdoor Recreation to Supermax Prisoner

by Matt Clarke

A federal court in Colorado has heldthat a mentally ill prisoner who spent over 12 years in administrative segregation must be afforded an opportunity for outdoor recreation. The court also ordered the Colorado Department of Corrections ...

Texas Prison Population Drops as Guard Shortage Persists

Texas Prison Population Drops as Guard Shortage Persists

by Matt Clarke

In spite of a three-year downward trend, Texas continues to lead the nation with the largest state prison population. At the same time, the state has pursued a variety of incentives to address a chronic shortage of prison guards ...

State Appellate Costs Improper on Washington PRP Dismissal

State Appellate Costs Improper on Washington PRP Dismissal

by Mark Wilson

On November 14, 2013, the en banc Washington Supreme Court held that the court’s clerk had erred in awarding the state a $200 statutory attorney fee against a prisoner whose personal restraint petition (PRP) was dismissed.

Washington prisoner Derek ...

Prison Legal News Prevails in Tennessee Public Records Suit in Spite of Sheriff’s Antics

As part of its news reporting, Prison Legal News routinely submits public records requests and Freedom of Information Act requests to government agencies. Most of the time they comply with the law and produce the requested records. Not so in Marshall County, Tennessee.

On February 3, 2014, PLN managing editor ...

Florida Death Row Prisoner Entitled to Prison and Medical Records

Florida Death Row Prisoner Entitled to Prison and Medical Records

by David M. Reutter

On December 19, 2013, the Florida Supreme Court held that a death-sentenced prisoner was entitled to receive his prison and medical records once the governor signs a death warrant; however, he was not entitled to clemency-related ...

Virginia Prison’s Policy Requiring Physical Indicia of Faith for Religious Sincerity Held Unconstitutional; Suit Settles for $3,795

Virginia Prison’s Policy Requiring Physical Indicia of Faith for Religious Sincerity Held Unconstitutional; Suit Settles for $3,795

by David M. Reutter

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has vacated a summary judgment order in favor of prison officials entered in a lawsuit challenging a prison policy that conditioned a ...

CCA Board Member Steps Down from Open Government Organization

CCA Board Member Steps Down from Open Government Organization

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest for-profit prison firm, is also one of the least transparent government contractors despite performing an inherently governmental function – incarceration.

For example, CCA has vigorously opposed efforts to require the company to comply ...

Tenth Circuit: No Qualified Immunity for Juvenile Restraint Chair Punishment

Tenth Circuit: No Qualified Immunity for Juvenile Restraint Chair Punishment

by Mark Wilson

On November 8, 2013, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the denial of qualified immunity in a case that involved the shackling of a juvenile detainee in a restraint chair as punishment and denial of mental ...

Tennessee Man Sues for Placement in Women’s Facility for Three Years

Tennessee Man Sues for Placement in Women’s Facility for Three Years

"How can you not tell a vagina from a penis?” asked Carla Brenner, aka Lamonda Fuller, a female impersonator who filed suit against the City of Nashville, Tennessee and the private company that held him in a women’s ...

Consent Decree and Remedial Plan End Lawsuit Challenging Conditions in Illinois Juvenile Facilities

Consent Decree and Remedial Plan End Lawsuit Challenging Conditions in Illinois Juvenile Facilities

by Matt Clarke

On September 12, 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) helped juvenile offenders held in secure facilities operated by the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) file a class-action federal lawsuit alleging that conditions ...

Colorado Prisoner Sues Security Guard Who Sexually Abused Her Moments after Giving Birth

Colorado Prisoner Sues Security Guard Who Sexually Abused Her Moments after Giving Birth

Colorado prisoner sexually assaulted by a private security guard at a hospital only minutes after she gave birth has filed suit against her attacker, the company he worked for and the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office for damages ...

RLUIPA Explained in Tenth Circuit Decision re Denial of Sweat Lodge Access

RLUIPA Explained in Tenth Circuit Decision re Denial of Sweat Lodge Access

by David M. Reutter

On January 23, 2014, the Tenth Circuit reversed a grant of summary judgment to prison officials in a civil rights action alleging violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), related ...

America’s Prisons: A Road to Nowhere

America’s Prisons: A Road to Nowhere

by Ben Notterman

Video of Henry McCollum’s release from a North Carolina prison in September 2014 shows the exonerated death row prisoner making his way through a crowd of excited onlookers and into his family’s car, where he could not figure out how to ...

Prisoner’s Request for Medical Care after Signing Refusal Form Precludes Summary Judgment

Prisoner’s Request for Medical Care after Signing Refusal Form Precludes Summary Judgment

by David M. Reutter

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a summary judgment order for the defendants in a former prisoner’s civil rights suit that alleged he was denied medical care after prison staff “materially altered” ...

Investigation Finds that Money Stolen from Oregon Prison Wasn’t Really Stolen

Investigation Finds that Money Stolen from Oregon Prison Wasn’t Really Stolen

by Joe Watson

An Oregon State Police investigation has revealed that money believed stolen from the Oregon State Correctional Institution (OSCI) was actually right where it was supposed to be – deposited in the Inmate Welfare Fund (IWF) and ...

$145,000 Settlement for U.S. Citizen Held on Immigration Detainer due to Racial Profiling

$145,000 Settlement for U.S. Citizen Held on Immigration Detainer due to Racial Profiling

An American citizen who was racially profiled and held in jail on an immigration detainer has reached settlements totaling $145,000 with three government agencies in a civil rights lawsuit.

Ernesto Galarza was arrested in ...

Fifth Circuit: Sleep Deprivation May Violate Eighth Amendment

Fifth Circuit: Sleep Deprivation May Violate Eighth Amendment

by Matt Clarke

In an unpublished ruling, the Fifth Circuit held on April 1, 2014 that a Texas prisoner’s sleep deprivation-based challenge to the security schedule used by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) may state a valid claim for violation ...

West Virginia Public Defender Disbarred for Child Prostitution “Hoax”

West Virginia Public Defender Disbarred for Child Prostitution “Hoax”

A former West Virginia public defender has agreed to give up his license to practice law in the wake of a scandal involving allegations that he offered to sell children for sex. The state Supreme Court accepted the annulment of Steve ...

Florida Court of Appeals: Prison Guards Can Raise “Stand Your Ground” Defense

Florida Court of Appeals: Prison Guards Can Raise “Stand Your Ground” Defense

by Matt Clarke

On March 28, 2014, a Florida Court of Appeals held that a former Department of Corrections guard charged with aggravated battery for assaulting a prisoner was entitled to pursue a “stand your ground” defense pursuant ...

Introduction of Nolo Plea to Challenge Prisoner’s Credibility was Error

Introduction of Nolo Plea to Challenge Prisoner’s Credibility was Error

by David M. Reutter

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals held in January 2014 that a Pennsylvania federal district court erred when it allowed into evidence a nolo contendere (no contest) plea for the purpose of challenging the credibility of ...

Ohio DOC Director Wants Return to Stricter Law after 2012 Spike in Positive Drug Tests

Ohio DOC Director Wants Return to Stricter Law after 2012 Spike in Positive Drug Tests

Drug testing in Ohio prisons in October 2012 revealed the highest level of prisoner drug use in more than a decade, though the head of the state corrections department blamed the spike in positive drug ...

California Parole Term Not Shortened by Improper Parole Denial

California Parole Term Not Shortened by Improper Parole Denial

by Mark Wilson

On February 3, 2014, the California Supreme Court held that a prisoner erroneously denied parole was not entitled to have his parole term reduced by the length of improper confinement.

Johnny Lira was sentenced to an indeterminate sentence ...

The Globalization of Supermax Prisons, edited by Jeffrey Ian Ross (Rutgers University Press, 2013). 240 pages, $28.95 paperback

The Globalization of Supermax Prisons,
edited by Jeffrey Ian Ross
(Rutgers University Press, 2013).
240 pages, $28.95 paperback

Book review by Gary Hunter

"Zero tolerance” is a phrase that has found its way into many facets of our society. But nowhere is it more prevalent than in the vocabulary ...

Jail Closes “God Pod,” Agrees to Accommodate Muslim Prisoners

Jail Closes “God Pod,” Agrees to Accommodate Muslim Prisoners

The Pierce County Jail (PCJ) in Washington State agreed to adopt new policies to protect the religious rights of Muslim prisoners as part of a settlement agreement in litigation brought by the ACLU of Washington and the Public Interest Law ...

Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law Struck Down, Some Prisoners Released

Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law Struck Down, Some Prisoners Released

by David M. Reutter

In December 2013, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the state’s version of Megan’s Law, holding the legislature had violated the “single subject” rule of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

The Court’s ruling resulted from an appeal filed by James ...

Malpractice Suit Proceeds against Michigan Defense Attorney in Wrongful Conviction Case

Malpractice Suit Proceeds against Michigan Defense Attorney in Wrongful Conviction Case

by David Reutter

A former prisoner whose sexual assault conviction was reversed after he served seven years in prison can sue his attorney for malpractice after the Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal an appellate court’s ruling.

Jackob ...

Georgia: Mandamus Available to Compel Law Library Access

Georgia: Mandamus Available to Compel Law Library Access

by David Reutter

he Georgia Supreme Court held in February 2014 that a trial court erred in denying the filing of a prisoner’s petition for mandamus seeking access to a law library.

After being sentenced to life plus a term of years ...

Fifth Circuit Holds Prison Officials Need Not be Named in Grievances

Fifth Circuit Holds Prison Officials Need Not be Named in Grievances

by Matt Clarke

On November 15, 2013, in an unpublished decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the summary dismissal of a Texas prisoner’s civil rights action, holding that he did not have to name the defendants in ...

Florida Supreme Court: Review of Parole Commission Revocation Order Limited

Florida Supreme Court: Review of Parole Commission Revocation Order Limited

by David M. Reutter

On January 23, 2014, the Florida Supreme Court quashed an appellate court’s order because it exceeded the scope of second-tier review of a prisoner’s habeas corpus petition challenging the revocation of his conditional release.

The petition ...

News in Brief

News in Brief

Alabama: On April 4, 2014, WBRC News reported that six people had been arrested and five others were wanted in connection with a scheme to smuggle drugs hidden in Bibles into the Shelby County Jail. Small index tabs were attached to the Bibles that contained smaller strips ...