Skip navigation

Prison Legal News: October, 2015

Issue PDF
Volume 26, Number 10

In this issue:

  1. Trends in Prisoner Litigation, as the PLRA Enters Adulthood (p 1)
  2. PLRA Attorney Fee Limits Inapplicable to Discovery Violation Awards (p 16)
  3. 16 Years of Failure to Treat Neurological Disorder Results in $48,000 Award (p 17)
  4. From the Editor (p 18)
  5. More Jurisdictions Don’t Renew Corizon Contracts – Including Big Loss in New York City (p 20)
  6. Hundreds of South Carolina Prisoners Sent to Solitary Confinement Over Facebook (p 24)
  7. $36 Million Awarded to Two Men Wrongfully Convicted of Rape, Murder (p 27)
  8. Breaking News: CDCR Settles Solitary Confinement Class-Action Suit (p 28)
  9. Due Process Violation for “Sham” Reviews During 13 Years in Segregation (p 28)
  10. North Carolina Guard Gets Three Months for Killing Prisoner (p 29)
  11. HRDC and 93 Organizations Ask EPA to Consider Prisoners in Environmental Justice Plan (p 30)
  12. Ninth Circuit Finds Forfeited Assets Satisfy Restitution Order; Eleventh Circuit Disagrees (p 31)
  13. $1.2 Million Award for Failure to Treat New York Prisoner’s Rectal Bleeding (p 32)
  14. Cell Phones Confiscated from Prisoners Given to Charities (p 32)
  15. Inside the Small California Town with a Lot of Prisons, but Not Much Opportunity (p 34)
  16. DC Circuit Denies Appeal of Order to Release Force-Feeding Videos (p 36)
  17. Closed Colorado Prison Converted into Homeless Program (p 36)
  18. Two Kentucky Jail Guards Face Charges in Prisoner’s Death (p 37)
  19. California: Private Medical Provider can be Liable for ADA Violations; Class-action Suit Settles (p 38)
  20. Texas Leads the Nation in Both Executions and Exonerations (p 40)
  21. Mississippi Indictments Illustrate Prison Phone Corruption (p 42)
  22. CCA Prison in Ohio Loses BOP Contract (p 42)
  23. Doctor Involved in Botched Oklahoma Execution Unsuccessfully Sued in Federal Court (p 44)
  24. PLN Settles Censorship Suit against GEO Group at Indiana Prison (p 44)
  25. New Mexico County Jail Pays $1.5 Million to Mentally Ill Prisoner (p 45)
  26. Guard Admits Guilt, but Lawsuit Dismissed against Jail Supervisors (p 46)
  27. Texas Prison Guard Union Urges Death Row Reforms (p 46)
  28. PLN Prevails in Censorship Suit against Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office (p 47)
  29. Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People’s Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time, by James Kilgore (The New Press, 2015). 272 pages, $17.95 (paperback) (p 48)
  30. West Virginia Prisoner Wins Over $905,000 in FTCA Claim (p 48)
  31. New York: Burns from Faulty Steam Cooker Net Prisoner $2,500 (p 49)
  32. Pennsylvania: $65,000 Settlement for Brain Injury Caused by Guard’s Excessive Force (p 49)
  33. Grand Jury Report: Prisoners in Charge at Mississippi County Jail (p 50)
  34. Sesame Street Creates Muppet with Father in Jail (p 51)
  35. North Carolina Prisons Slow to Change Attitudes about Mentally Ill Prisoners (p 52)
  36. Digital Darkness and Silence for Sex Offenders in the Information Age (p 54)
  37. TDCJ’s $100 Annual Fee for Prisoner Health Care Held Constitutional (p 56)
  38. Former West Virginia Judge Pleads Guilty, Sentenced (p 57)
  39. Michigan to Accommodate Religious Rights of Muslim Prisoners (p 58)
  40. Report on Prosecutorial Coercion in Obtaining Drug Pleas (p 58)
  41. 10th Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Halfway House Escape Charge (p 59)
  42. Chicago City Council Approves Reparations for Police Torture Victims (p 60)
  43. Sex Assault Charges against Wiccan Ex-Prison Chaplain Dismissed (p 61)
  44. News In Brief (p 63)
  45. Criminal Justice Resources (p 68)

Trends in Prisoner Litigation, as the PLRA Enters Adulthood

Trends in Prisoner Litigation, as the PLRA Enters Adulthood

by Margo Schlanger*

The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA),1 enacted in 1996 as part of the Newt Gingrich “Contract with America,”2 is now as old as some prisoners. In the year after the statute’s passage, some commenters labeled ...

PLRA Attorney Fee Limits Inapplicable to Discovery Violation Awards

PLRA Attorney Fee Limits Inapplicable to Discovery Violation Awards

In April 2014, a Virginia federal district court awarded $15,980 in attorney fees for a discovery violation in a class-action prisoner civil rights suit. The court’s award came after it found the PLRA does not apply when granting attorney fees ...

16 Years of Failure to Treat Neurological Disorder Results in $48,000 Award

16 Years of Failure to Treat Neurological Disorder Results in $48,000 Award

by David Reutter

A New York Court of Claims awarded a prisoner $48,000 for pain and suffering caused by prison medical staff rendering inadequate treatment during his first 16 years of incarceration, “including a failure to ...

From the Editor

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

Next April will mark the 20th anniversary of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) – the continuing legacy of President Clinton and Congress which has done more to undermine the rule of law and constitutional rights since the internment of Japanese Americans in ...

More Jurisdictions Don’t Renew Corizon Contracts – Including Big Loss in New York City

More Jurisdictions Don’t Renew Corizon Contracts – Including Big Loss in New York City

by Greg Dober

Recent news for for-profit prison and jail healthcare provider Corizon with respect to contract renewals has not been good. In June 2015, it was announced that two of the company’s clients, the New ...

Hundreds of South Carolina Prisoners Sent to Solitary Confinement Over Facebook

Hundreds of South Carolina Prisoners Sent to Solitary Confinement Over Facebook

by Dave Maass

In the South Carolina prison system, accessing Facebook is an offense on par with murder, rape, rioting, escape and hostage-taking.

Back in 2012, the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) made “Creating and/or Assisting ...

$36 Million Awarded to Two Men Wrongfully Convicted of Rape, Murder

$36 Million Awarded to Two Men Wrongfully Convicted of Rape, Murder

by David Reutter

A New York federal jury awarded $36 million to two of three former prisoners wrongfully convicted in the 1984 rape and murder of a teenage girl.

The horrific death of Theresa Fusco, 16, was a high-profile ...

Breaking News: CDCR Settles Solitary Confinement Class-Action Suit

Breaking News: CDCR Settles Solitary Confinement Class-Action Suit

by Derek Gilna

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has long been criticized for its excessive use of solitary confinement, and no facility has been subject to more criticism than Pelican Bay State Prison, which confines over 1,100 prisoners ...

Due Process Violation for “Sham” Reviews During 13 Years in Segregation

Due Process Violation for “Sham” Reviews During 13 Years in Segregation

by David M. Reutter

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a grant of summary judgment to prison officials on a due process claim, holding there was sufficient evidence for a jury to determine whether a prisoner received “sham” ...

North Carolina Guard Gets Three Months for Killing Prisoner

North Carolina Guard Gets Three Months for Killing Prisoner

by Christopher Zoukis

A North Carolina guard was ordered to serve three months in jail after being found guilty of beating to death a prisoner who had been arrested on an open container charge and minor drug violation.

Video footage from ...

HRDC and 93 Organizations Ask EPA to Consider Prisoners in Environmental Justice Plan

HRDC and 93 Organizations Ask EPA to Consider Prisoners in Environmental Justice Plan

The Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), PLN’s parent non-profit organization, submitted a public comment to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on July 14, 2015 to provide input on the agency’s EJ 2020 Action Agenda Framework ...

Ninth Circuit Finds Forfeited Assets Satisfy Restitution Order; Eleventh Circuit Disagrees

Ninth Circuit Finds Forfeited Assets Satisfy Restitution Order; Eleventh Circuit Disagrees

by Derek Gilna

Greg Carter served a 70-month federal prison sentence for defrauding U.S. airlines with phony tickets, along with several co-defendants. As part of his conviction he forfeited cash, real estate and other assets for the purpose ...

$1.2 Million Award for Failure to Treat New York Prisoner’s Rectal Bleeding

$1.2 Million Award for Failure to Treat New York Prisoner’s Rectal Bleeding

by David Reutter

A New York Court of Claims awarded $1.2 million to a former prisoner who was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer after prison medical personnel failed to properly treat his complaints of rectal bleeding ...

Cell Phones Confiscated from Prisoners Given to Charities

Cell Phones Confiscated from Prisoners Given to Charities

by Christopher Zoukis

Thousands of cell phones seized from prisoners nationwide have been donated to charitable causes, including domestic violence programs and Cell Phones for Soldiers.

Cell phones are considered contraband in every prison and jail in the U.S. In many ...

Inside the Small California Town with a Lot of Prisons, but Not Much Opportunity

Inside the Small California Town with a Lot of Prisons, but Not Much Opportunity

by Matt Tinoco

Adelanto, California is a small high desert town just a two-hour drive northeast of Los Angeles, but it feels a long, long way away from Southern California’s stereotypical palm trees and beaches.

This is ...

DC Circuit Denies Appeal of Order to Release Force-Feeding Videos

DC Circuit Denies Appeal of Order to Release Force-Feeding Videos

by Derek Gilna

Abu Wa’el (Jihad) Dhiab was imprisoned at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba when he went on a hunger strike. Authorities then repeatedly extracted him from his cell and force-fed him. Thirty-five videos of ...

Closed Colorado Prison Converted into Homeless Program

Closed Colorado Prison Converted into Homeless Program

by David Reutter

Nearly two years after it opened on September 3, 2013, supporters of Fort Lyon, a former Colorado prison-turned-homeless facility, say it’s too soon to call the program administered by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless a success. But officials say ...

Two Kentucky Jail Guards Face Charges in Prisoner’s Death

Two Kentucky Jail Guards Face Charges in Prisoner’s Death

by David Reutter

A special prosecutor has been appointed to try a first-degree manslaughter case against two Kentucky jail guards indicted in the 2013 beating death of a 54-year-old prisoner who was being held on a DUI charge. Assistant Attorney General ...

California: Private Medical Provider can be Liable for ADA Violations; Class-action Suit Settles

California: Private Medical Provider can be Liable for ADA Violations; Class-action Suit Settles

by David M. Reutter

A California federal district court held in September 2014 that a jail’s private medical provider may be held liable under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); the class-action lawsuit later ...

Texas Leads the Nation in Both Executions and Exonerations

Texas Leads the Nation in Both Executions and Exonerations

by Matt Clarke

Texas has long been notorious for applying the death penalty, executing more prisoners than any other state. Between 1976 and September 1, 2015, Texas carried out 528 executions – nearly five times as many as neighboring Oklahoma, which ...

Mississippi Indictments Illustrate Prison Phone Corruption

Mississippi Indictments Illustrate Prison Phone Corruption

by Derek Gilna

Two Mississippi businessmen, Irb Benjamin, 69, and Sam Waggoner, 61, face federal charges in connection with a scheme in which kickbacks were paid to former Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) Commissioner Christopher B. Epps in return for the awarding of state ...

CCA Prison in Ohio Loses BOP Contract

CCA Prison in Ohio Loses BOP Contract

The privately-owned Northeast Ohio Correctional Center (NOCC) in Youngstown no longer holds prisoners for the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) after the federal agency declined to renew its contract with Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

According to CCA, around 1,400 BOP prisoners and ...

Doctor Involved in Botched Oklahoma Execution Unsuccessfully Sued in Federal Court

Doctor Involved in Botched Oklahoma Execution Unsuccessfully Sued in Federal Court

by Christopher Zoukis

The family of Oklahoma prisoner Clayton Lockett, whose botched execution caused international outrage, filed a federal lawsuit that accused the doctor who oversaw the April 29, 2014 execution of “human medical experimentation in torturing [him] to ...

PLN Settles Censorship Suit against GEO Group at Indiana Prison

PLN Settles Censorship Suit against GEO Group at Indiana Prison

In August 2015, Prison Legal News settled a federal lawsuit against The GEO Group, the nation’s second-largest for-profit prison company, over First Amendment violations at the New Castle Correctional Facility in Indiana.

PLN filed the suit in November 2014 against ...

New Mexico County Jail Pays $1.5 Million to Mentally Ill Prisoner

New Mexico County Jail Pays $1.5 Million to Mentally Ill Prisoner

by Derek Gilna

In February 2014, Valencia County, New Mexico agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle a federal civil rights complaint alleging deliberate indifference to a prisoner’s known physical and mental illnesses.

Jan Green, 50, was ...

Guard Admits Guilt, but Lawsuit Dismissed against Jail Supervisors

Guard Admits Guilt, but Lawsuit Dismissed against Jail Supervisors

by Derek Gilna

A civil rights complaint filed against officials at the Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset, Maine was dismissed by a federal court, even after a male guard admitted to improperly touching a female prisoner. The guard, Brian Bossie ...

Texas Prison Guard Union Urges Death Row Reforms

Texas Prison Guard Union Urges Death Row Reforms

by Christopher Zoukis

In a move that surprised many in the prison reform community, the president of the local chapter of a Texas prison guards’ union wrote a letter to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) on January 20, 2014, urging ...

PLN Prevails in Censorship Suit against Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office

PLN Prevails in Censorship Suit against Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office

by Gary Hunter

In March 2015, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granted summary judgment in favor of Prison Legal News (PLN) against the Virginia Beach Correctional Center (VBCC), and granted declaratory and injunctive relief ...

Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People’s Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time, by James Kilgore (The New Press, 2015). 272 pages, $17.95 (paperback)

Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People’s Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time, by James Kilgore (The New Press, 2015). 272 pages, $17.95 (paperback)

Book review by Russ Immarigeon

“Mass incarceration” has become a term that is quickly slipping into the everyday consciousness of ordinary Americans. In ...

West Virginia Prisoner Wins Over $905,000 in FTCA Claim

West Virginia Prisoner Wins Over $905,000 in FTCA Claim

by Derek Gilna

A federal prisoner was seriously and permanently injured when, after fleeing from a prison fight, he slipped in a pool of blood and slammed into a metal railing. Following a two-day bench trial in Wheeling, West Virginia ...

New York: Burns from Faulty Steam Cooker Net Prisoner $2,500

New York: Burns from Faulty Steam Cooker Net Prisoner $2,500

by Mark Wilson

Last year, the New York Court of Claims awarded a prisoner $2,500 after he suffered burns from a faulty steam cooker. The court found prison officials had negligently failed to fix the cooker despite being ...

Pennsylvania: $65,000 Settlement for Brain Injury Caused by Guard’s Excessive Force

Pennsylvania: $65,000 Settlement for Brain Injury Caused by Guard’s Excessive Force

by David Reutter

Pennsylvania’s Erie County Prison (ECP) agreed to pay $65,000 to settle a federal lawsuit claiming a guard used excessive force on a prisoner, causing brain damage.

Jerome McCallion was housed in ECP’s Restrictive Housing ...

Grand Jury Report: Prisoners in Charge at Mississippi County Jail

Grand Jury Report: Prisoners in Charge at Mississippi County Jail

by David Reutter

The prisoners seem to be in control of the Hinds County, Mississippi Detention Center because the jail does not have enough staff to adequately monitor them, according to a scathing Hinds County Grand Jury report filed on ...

Sesame Street Creates Muppet with Father in Jail

Sesame Street Creates Muppet with Father in Jail

by Christopher Zoukis

Sesame Street has a new muppet character: Alex, whose father is incarcerated. “My dad’s in jail,” he says in an online video. “I don’t like to talk about it.”

Alex is featured in Sesame Street’s online teaching ...

North Carolina Prisons Slow to Change Attitudes about Mentally Ill Prisoners

North Carolina Prisons Slow to Change Attitudes about Mentally Ill Prisoners

by David M. Reutter

The head of North Carolina’s Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice is calling for more than $20 million in additional state funding to pay for changes in the way the state prison system takes ...

Digital Darkness and Silence for Sex Offenders in the Information Age

by Andrew Extein, Truthout

Is my Furby a computer?”

With five months in jail and eight months of parole behind him, and four years of probation to go, Trevor finds himself contemplating the artificial intelligence of a Furby, and its threat to his future.

As a registered sex offender ...

TDCJ’s $100 Annual Fee for Prisoner Health Care Held Constitutional

TDCJ’s $100 Annual Fee for Prisoner Health Care Held Constitutional

by David M. Reutter

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has found constitutional a Texas statute requiring prisoners to pay a $100 annual health care services fee when they receive medical treatment.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by ...

Former West Virginia Judge Pleads Guilty, Sentenced

Former West Virginia Judge Pleads Guilty, Sentenced

by Joe Watson

A former Mingo County, West Virginia circuit judge was sentenced to 50 months in federal prison and fined $6,000 after pleading guilty to federal conspiracy charges which grew out of a plot to silence an FBI informant who planned ...

Michigan to Accommodate Religious Rights of Muslim Prisoners

Michigan to Accommodate Religious Rights of Muslim Prisoners

by David M. Reutter

After a Michigan federal district court ruled the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) had violated the religious rights of Muslim prisoners by denying them the ability to attend Eid meals and refusing to accommodate their need to attend ...

Report on Prosecutorial Coercion in Obtaining Drug Pleas

Report on Prosecutorial Coercion in Obtaining Drug Pleas

by Derek Gilna

A report by Human Rights Watch highlighted what criminal law experts have known for years – that federal prosecutors have almost unlimited power in drug cases to coerce guilty pleas, and they are not afraid to use it. The ...

10th Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Halfway House Escape Charge

10th Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Halfway House Escape Charge

by Derek Gilna

A federal prisoner without any detainers (“holds” placed by other law enforcement agencies) can generally count on a period of community confinement at the end of his sentence, during which he reports to a halfway house under the ...

Chicago City Council Approves Reparations for Police Torture Victims

Chicago City Council Approves Reparations for Police Torture Victims

by Joe Watson

The Chicago City Council has voted to approve a $5.5 million package that will pay reparations and fund other benefits to victims of torture at the hands of notorious former police commander Jon Burge and his cadre ...

Sex Assault Charges against Wiccan Ex-Prison Chaplain Dismissed

Sex Assault Charges against Wiccan Ex-Prison Chaplain Dismissed

by Joe Watson

A Wiccan former prison chaplain at the Oshkosh Correctional Institution in Wisconsin pledged to sue the Wisconsin Department of Corrections after she was cleared of criminal charges in a bizarre faux hostage scheme that involved allegations of sex with ...

News In Brief

Alabama: On April 9, 2013, Kenneth Wayne Patton was arrested on a domestic violence charge. When he arrived at the Etowah County Jail, he informed guards that he used to be employed at the St. Clair Correctional Facility and should be put in protective custody. Despite that warning, he was ...

Criminal Justice Resources

Criminal Justice Resources

Amnesty International

Compiles information about prisoner torture, beatings, rape, etc. to include in reports about U.S. prison conditions; also works on death penalty issues. Contact: Amnesty International, 5 Penn Plaza, New York NY 10001 (212) 807-8400. www.amnestyusa.org

Black and Pink

Black and Pink is ...