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Prison Legal News: November, 2015

Issue PDF
Volume 26, Number 11

In this issue:

  1. Inside America’s Toughest Federal Prison (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 12)
  3. Idaho Prisoner Wins $602,000 Settlement against Corizon (p 13)
  4. Habeas Hints (p 14)
  5. Pennsylvania Detainee’s Estate Claims Financial Incentive Motive for Denial of Medical Care; $325,000 Settlement (p 18)
  6. Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders Files “Justice is Not for Sale Act” (p 20)
  7. Toxic Traps: Environmental Hazards Threaten Two Federal Supermax Prisons (p 24)
  8. Association of State Correctional Administrators Study Criticizes Solitary Confinement (p 28)
  9. Pennsylvania: Settlement Means Better Care for Severely Mentally Ill Prisoners (p 30)
  10. Failure to Protect New York Prisoner Nets $12,500 Award (p 32)
  11. Breaking News: Federal Bureau of Prisons to Release 6,000 Prisoners (p 32)
  12. Oklahoma Early Release Program Leads to Only Isolated Cases of Recidivism (p 33)
  13. Deaf Prisoner Settles Discrimination Suit for $150,000 (p 34)
  14. New York Prisoner Awarded $2,225 for Denial of Dental Care (p 34)
  15. 11th Circuit Reinstates Suit Filed by BOP Confidential Informant (p 36)
  16. Prisoner’s Right to Counsel Violated by Eavesdropping on Attorney Phone Calls (p 36)
  17. Oregon: Medical Neglect of Diabetic Detainee Nets $260,000 Settlement (p 39)
  18. New York: $450,000 in Awards to Two Prisoners for Failure to Treat Muscle Tears (p 40)
  19. Ohio Limits Solitary Confinement for Juvenile Offenders (p 40)
  20. Seventh Circuit Vacates Unduly Restrictive Supervised Release Conditions (p 42)
  21. Sixth Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Prisoner’s Bivens Suit against BOP Officials (p 42)
  22. PLN Files Censorship Suit against Virginia Jail (p 43)
  23. Soldiers Sentenced to Die, but No Executions on Military Death Row Since 1961 (p 44)
  24. Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff Stages Media Event to Promote Meatless Meals (p 46)
  25. $150,000 Award after New York Prisoner’s Family Denied Right of Sepulcher (p 46)
  26. Utah Sex Offender Prison Population Grows under Harsher Laws while Treatment Programs Lag (p 48)
  27. California: Ex-Prisoners on Community Supervision Secure Major Voting Rights Victory (p 50)
  28. ACLU Prompts Kansas Jail to Change Religious Meals, Mail Policies (p 51)
  29. Jails: Time to Wake Up to Mass Incarceration in Your Neighborhood (p 52)
  30. $10 Million Lawsuit Filed against Tennessee Jail in Hanging Death (p 55)
  31. Prisoner Admits to Scheme to Defraud Catholic Church, Gets 33 More Months in Prison (p 56)
  32. California Court Finds “Horrific” Treatment of Mentally Ill Prisoners (p 56)
  33. Ohio Appellate Court Orders Review of State Budget Over Private Prison Sale (p 57)
  34. Medicaid Helps Ohio Slash Prison Medical Costs (p 58)
  35. PLN Challenges Postcard-only Policy at Jail in Knoxville, TN (p 58)
  36. Ninth Circuit: Damages Suit Not Heck-barred by Retrial (p 59)
  37. Florida’s IQ Rule for Death Penalty Exemption Unconstitutional (p 60)
  38. Homicidal Prisoner Fails to Derail Oregon Death Penalty Moratorium (p 60)
  39. Prisoner’s Lawsuit Dismissed Due to Abusive Language (p 61)
  40. News in Brief (p 63)

Inside America’s Toughest Federal Prison

Inside America’s Toughest Federal Prison

by Mark Binelli, New York Times Magazine

For years, conditions inside the United States’ only federal supermax facility were largely a mystery. But a landmark lawsuit is finally revealing the harsh world within.

In prison, Rodney Jones told me, everyone had a nickname. Jones’s was Saint ...

From the Editor

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

As this issue of PLN goes to press the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced that on October 22, 2015, they will be issuing rules regulating all prison and jail telephone calls, including setting rate caps for debit and prepaid calls of $.11 per ...

Idaho Prisoner Wins $602,000 Settlement against Corizon

Idaho Prisoner Wins $602,000 Settlement against Corizon

by Derek Gilna

An Idaho state prisoner, William A. Bown, obtained a $602,782.50 settlement from Corizon Health in July 2014 for damages resulting from deliberately indifferent medical care arising from a heart attack he suffered at the Idaho Maximum Security ...

Habeas Hints

Habeas Hints

by Kent Russell

This column provides “habeas hints” to prisoners who are considering or handling habeas corpus petitions as their own attorneys (“in pro per”). The focus of the column is on the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), the federal habeas corpus law which now governs ...

Pennsylvania Detainee’s Estate Claims Financial Incentive Motive for Denial of Medical Care; $325,000 Settlement

Pennsylvania Detainee’s Estate Claims Financial Incentive Motive for Denial of Medical Care; $325,000 Settlement

by David Reutter

A Pennsylvania federal district court ordered medical personnel employed by Correctional Medical Care, Inc. (CMC) to face claims brought by the estate of a pre-trial detainee who died from alleged deliberate indifference ...

Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders Files “Justice is Not for Sale Act”

Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders Files “Justice is Not for Sale Act”

by Derek Gilna

Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, along with Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona in the House, filed companion bills on September 17, 2015 to address some of the many problems in ...

Toxic Traps: Environmental Hazards Threaten Two Federal Supermax Prisons

Toxic Traps: Environmental Hazards Threaten Two Federal Supermax Prisons

by Laura Cepero

A Solitary Watch investigation into the sites of the federal government’s two “supermax” facilities – the first open for two decades, the second slated to open soon – reveals a number of possible serious environmental hazards. The prisons, ADX ...

Association of State Correctional Administrators Study Criticizes Solitary Confinement

Association of State Correctional Administrators Study Criticizes Solitary Confinement

by Derek Gilna

In August 2015, the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA), made up of the heads of state prison systems, the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and large jails, in conjunction with the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program of ...

Pennsylvania: Settlement Means Better Care for Severely Mentally Ill Prisoners

Pennsylvania: Settlement Means Better Care for Severely Mentally Ill Prisoners

by David M. Reutter and Derek Gilna

Severely mentally ill prisoners in Pennsylvania state prisons will receive improved treatment and live in better conditions following the settlement of a civil rights lawsuit filed by the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania ...

Failure to Protect New York Prisoner Nets $12,500 Award

Failure to Protect New York Prisoner Nets $12,500 Award

by David Reutter

A New York Court of Claims awarded $12,500 to a prisoner based on his complaint that guards were negligent in failing to ensure his safety. However, the Court dismissed the prisoner’s medical malpractice claim stemming from ...

Breaking News: Federal Bureau of Prisons to Release 6,000 Prisoners

Breaking News: Federal Bureau of Prisons to Release 6,000 Prisoners

by Derek Gilna

In a dramatic announcement on October 6, 2015, the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) stated it is preparing to release up to 6,000 prisoners by the end of the month or early November 2015, who ...

Oklahoma Early Release Program Leads to Only Isolated Cases of Recidivism

Oklahoma Early Release Program Leads to Only Isolated Cases of Recidivism

by Christopher Zoukis

Only two of the nearly 1,500 prisoners granted early release by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) from March to October 2014 have returned to prison, notwithstanding news reports indicating that lawmakers and “several” corrections ...

Deaf Prisoner Settles Discrimination Suit for $150,000

Deaf Prisoner Settles Discrimination Suit for $150,000

by Mark Wilson

To settle what some are describing as a landmark disability discrimination case, Oregon prison officials agreed to pay a deaf prisoner $150,000.

Merle Baldridge, 42, is deaf and uses American Sign Language (ASL) as his primary form of ...

New York Prisoner Awarded $2,225 for Denial of Dental Care

New York Prisoner Awarded $2,225 for Denial of Dental Care

by David Reutter

A New York Court of Claims awarded $2,225 to a prisoner who sued prison officials for medically negligent dental care for failure to extract a tooth for almost three months.

While imprisoned at the Elmira ...

11th Circuit Reinstates Suit Filed by BOP Confidential Informant

11th Circuit Reinstates Suit Filed by BOP Confidential Informant

by Derek Gilna

The 11th Circuit has reinstated a previously-dismissed complaint alleging Eighth Amendment violations by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for being deliberately indifferent to the safety of a prisoner who acted as a confidential informant. The plaintiff, who filed ...

Prisoner’s Right to Counsel Violated by Eavesdropping on Attorney Phone Calls

Prisoner’s Right to Counsel Violated by Eavesdropping on Attorney Phone Calls

by Christopher Zoukis

Charges against a Washington man awaiting trial on felony drug and stolen property charges were dropped by a Yakima County Superior Court after an investigation found that a prosecutor and sheriff’s detective had listened to phone ...

Oregon: Medical Neglect of Diabetic Detainee Nets $260,000 Settlement

Oregon: Medical Neglect of Diabetic Detainee Nets $260,000 Settlement

by Mark Wilson

A former Oregon jail detainee received $260,000 to settle his lawsuit alleging inadequate medical care.

Since 2008, Franklin Millner has suffered from “Charcot foot” – a softening of the foot bones due to nerve damage from ...

New York: $450,000 in Awards to Two Prisoners for Failure to Treat Muscle Tears

New York: $450,000 in Awards to Two Prisoners for Failure to Treat Muscle Tears

by David Reutter

A New York Court of Claims has awarded $250,000 to a former prisoner in a lawsuit claiming inadequate treatment for a ruptured Achilles tendon, and $200,000 to another prisoner for ...

Ohio Limits Solitary Confinement for Juvenile Offenders

Ohio Limits Solitary Confinement for Juvenile Offenders

by Derek Gilna

Ohio’s Department of Youth Services, which is responsible for the incarceration of offenders ages 10 to 21, reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in May 2014 to significantly reduce the frequency and duration of solitary ...

Seventh Circuit Vacates Unduly Restrictive Supervised Release Conditions

Seventh Circuit Vacates Unduly Restrictive Supervised Release Conditions

by Derek Gilna

In a consolidated case involving post-release restrictions imposed on federal defendants, the Seventh Circuit struck down those portions of a district court’s judgment it deemed beyond the scope of 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). The case was ...

Sixth Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Prisoner’s Bivens Suit against BOP Officials

Sixth Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Prisoner’s Bivens Suit against BOP Officials

by Derek Gilna

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a district court’s dismissal of a prisoner’s suit raising a failure to protect claim, remanding it for further proceedings. The district court had dismissed the case due to ...

PLN Files Censorship Suit against Virginia Jail

PLN Files Censorship Suit against Virginia Jail

In September 2015, Prison Legal News filed a lawsuit in federal court against unconstitutional censorship practices at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center (NWADC) in Winchester, Virginia.

The suit names the Northwestern Regional Jail Authority, NWADC Superintendent James F. Whitley and other jail ...

Soldiers Sentenced to Die, but No Executions on Military Death Row Since 1961

Soldiers Sentenced to Die, but No Executions on Military Death Row Since 1961

by Joe Watson

The guilty verdict and death sentence handed down on August 28, 2013 against U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan for a 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas that left 12 soldiers and ...

Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff Stages Media Event to Promote Meatless Meals

Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff Stages Media Event to Promote Meatless Meals

by Joe Watson

When prisoners at the Maricopa County, Arizona jail lined up for chow on April 15, 2015, they were in for a surprise – helping to serve the midday meal was former Playboy model and Baywatch TV ...

$150,000 Award after New York Prisoner’s Family Denied Right of Sepulcher

$150,000 Award after New York Prisoner’s Family Denied Right of Sepulcher

by Mark Wilson

On February 6, 2014, a New York Court of Claims found that prison officials did not exercise reasonable efforts to locate a deceased prisoner’s next of kin before burying him in a prison cemetery.

William ...

Utah Sex Offender Prison Population Grows under Harsher Laws while Treatment Programs Lag

Utah Sex Offender Prison Population Grows under Harsher Laws while Treatment Programs Lag

by Mark Wilson and Christopher Zoukis

Fueled by the notion “once a predator, always a predator,” harsher laws have flooded Utah state prisons with sex offenders sentenced to longer and longer prison terms, while funding for ...

California: Ex-Prisoners on Community Supervision Secure Major Voting Rights Victory

California: Ex-Prisoners on Community Supervision Secure Major Voting Rights Victory

by Lonnie Burton

Tens of thousands of convicted felons in California will have their voting rights restored after Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced he will not pursue an appeal of an Alameda County Superior Court ruling that struck down ...

ACLU Prompts Kansas Jail to Change Religious Meals, Mail Policies

ACLU Prompts Kansas Jail to Change Religious Meals, Mail Policies

by Joe Watson

Prisoners at the Allen County jail in Iola, Kansas had been forced to violate their religious beliefs or go hungry until the ACLU persuaded jail officials to honor the U.S. Constitution.

According to the jail’s former ...

Jails: Time to Wake Up to Mass Incarceration in Your Neighborhood

By James Kilgore, Truthout

Jails admit nearly 12 million people every year. Yet they are largely off the radar of critics of mass incarceration. However, as a new report by Vera Institute and actions by activists around the country demonstrate, jails matter.

In February 2015, the MacArthur Foundation launched ...

$10 Million Lawsuit Filed against Tennessee Jail in Hanging Death

$10 Million Lawsuit Filed against Tennessee Jail in Hanging Death

by David Reutter

The estate of a pre-trial detainee who hanged himself at the Robertson County Detention Facility (RCDF) in Springfield, Tennessee has filed a $10 million federal lawsuit alleging deliberate indifference to his serious mental health needs. The death ...

Prisoner Admits to Scheme to Defraud Catholic Church, Gets 33 More Months in Prison

Prisoner Admits to Scheme to Defraud Catholic Church, Gets 33 More Months in Prison

by Mark Wilson

A prisoner serving a lengthy sentence for a series of Pennsylvania bank robberies has been sentenced to additional time in federal prison after perpetrating a scheme to defraud the Catholic Church by falsely ...

California Court Finds “Horrific” Treatment of Mentally Ill Prisoners

California Court Finds “Horrific” Treatment of Mentally Ill Prisoners

by David Reutter

A California federal district court found “an existing constitutional violation with respect to use of force on seriously mentally ill inmates” in a long-running class-action lawsuit. After viewing six videos of what officials with the California Department of ...

Ohio Appellate Court Orders Review of State Budget Over Private Prison Sale

Ohio Appellate Court Orders Review of State Budget Over Private Prison Sale

by Gary Hunter

Ohio Governor John Kasich joined legislators in protesting an order by Ohio’s Tenth District Court of Appeals that instructed a trial court to edit the state’s biennial budget bill. The appellate court held that lawmakers ...

Medicaid Helps Ohio Slash Prison Medical Costs

Medicaid Helps Ohio Slash Prison Medical Costs

by Christopher Zoukis

A controversial decision by Ohio Governor John Kasich to expand Medicaid under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has extended health coverage to all Ohio state prisoners, helping the state save $10.3 million in prison ...

PLN Challenges Postcard-only Policy at Jail in Knoxville, TN

PLN Challenges Postcard-only Policy at Jail in Knoxville, TN

by Alex Friedmann

On October 6, 2015, Prison Legal News filed suit in federal court against Knox County, Tennessee, Sheriff James “J.J.” Jones and the assistant chief deputy at the Sheriff’s Office, challenging mail restrictions at the Knox County ...

Ninth Circuit: Damages Suit Not Heck-barred by Retrial

Ninth Circuit: Damages Suit Not Heck-barred by Retrial

by Mark Wilson

In “an unusual case,” the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a California murder conviction on retrial did not bar a damages suit for the first conviction, which had been illegally obtained.

In 1995, Frederick Lee ...

Florida’s IQ Rule for Death Penalty Exemption Unconstitutional

Florida’s IQ Rule for Death Penalty Exemption Unconstitutional

by David Reutter

Florida’s “rigid rule” that requires defendants to have an IQ of 70 or less before they can present mitigating evidence of an intellectual disability “creates an unacceptable risk that persons with an intellectual disability will be executed,” Justice ...

Homicidal Prisoner Fails to Derail Oregon Death Penalty Moratorium

Homicidal Prisoner Fails to Derail Oregon Death Penalty Moratorium

by Mark Wilson

By most any standard, Craig Dennis Bjork, 53, meets the definition of an undeniably dangerous person. Apparently unimpressed by his first five murders, one can only hope that prison officials finally recognize he’s “for real” in the wake ...

Prisoner’s Lawsuit Dismissed Due to Abusive Language

Prisoner’s Lawsuit Dismissed Due to Abusive Language

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has held that abusive language directed towards a federal magistrate judge was sufficient grounds to dismiss a prisoner’s lawsuit.

New York state prisoner Edward Koehl, while housed at the Green Haven Correctional Facility, sent several letters to ...

News in Brief

News in Brief

California: On April 21, 2015, San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi announced that 30 body cameras would soon be deployed by jailers working within Jail No. 4. He said he hopes that the new equipment will emphasize transparency and accountability in his department, which has come under scrutiny ...