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Prison Legal News: May, 2015

Issue PDF
Volume 26, Number 5

In this issue:

  1. Twenty-Five Years of Prison Legal News (p 1)
  2. HRDC Litigation Project Update – 25th Anniversary Edition (p 12)
  3. From the Editor (p 26)
  4. California Probation Cannot Exceed Maximum for Unpaid Restitution (p 27)
  5. ICE Settles New York Immigration Raid Lawsuit for $1 Million (p 28)
  6. Ninth Circuit Upholds $106,000 in Damages Plus Attorney Fees for Withheld Evidence (p 28)
  7. Human Rights Groups, Environmentalists Oppose New Federal Prison on Former Coal Mine in Kentucky (p 30)
  8. Oregon Parole Board Orders Must Explain Decisions, but Orders Defined to Include Administrative Review Responses (p 30)
  9. Oregon Mental Patient’s Death Nets $1.4 Million (p 32)
  10. Lifetime GPS Monitoring of Sex Offenders Upheld in South Carolina (p 32)
  11. The Persistence of Mass Incarceration (p 34)
  12. Accuracy of Widely-Used Polygraph Machine Under Fire (p 36)
  13. Exonerated Colorado Prisoner Receives $1.2 Million under New Compensation Law (p 38)
  14. $7,500 Award for Ohio Prisoner in Slip and Fall Accident (p 38)
  15. New Jersey, Ohio DOCs Significantly Reduce Phone Rates (p 40)
  16. Seventh Circuit Orders New Trial due to Shackling of Prisoner Plaintiff (p 42)
  17. Former Prisoner Left Blind by Assault Obtains Reversal of FTCA Claim (p 42)
  18. Georgia Jail Pays $937,500 in Wrongful Death Settlement (p 43)
  19. Maine Sheriff, Mired in Controversy, Defeated in Re-election Bid (p 44)
  20. $50,000 Settlement for Prisoner’s Suicide at Iowa County Jail (p 45)
  21. Prisoner Files Lawsuit after Being Pepper Sprayed in Restraint Chair (p 47)
  22. When is a Person too Insane to Execute? (p 48)
  23. Fifth Circuit Reinstates Dallas County Jail Excessive Force Suit (p 48)
  24. The Wal-Mart Model: Not Just for Retail, Now It’s for Private Prisons Too! (p 48)
  25. Iowa DOC May Not Switch Administrative Law Judges in Mid-Disciplinary Process (p 50)
  26. California Pays $585,000 to Settle Suit by Prisoner Who Lost Eye Due to Poor Medical Care (p 51)
  27. First Circuit Vacates Massachusetts Prisoner’s $325,956.36 Damages, Attorney Fee Award (p 52)
  28. Due Process Requires Notice Prior to Court-Ordered Deduction from Prisoners’ Accounts (p 52)
  29. Former Prisoner Receives $50,000 Settlement for Beating by Ohio Jail Guard (p 53)
  30. Easing Residency Restrictions Helps Curb Homelessness Among Registered Sex Offenders (p 54)
  31. $500,000 Settlement in Georgia Prisoner’s Death while on Work Crew (p 55)
  32. Maryland County Jail Guards Receive Rights Mirroring Those of State Prison Guards (p 56)
  33. Convictions Affirmed for Two Former Rhode Island Guards Who Assaulted Prisoners (p 56)
  34. Disabled Minnesota Prisoner Settles Discrimination Lawsuit for $10,000, Other Relief (p 57)
  35. Dehydration Death of North Carolina Prisoner Prompts Investigations, Firings, Resignations (p 60)
  36. Ohio Prisoner Represents Himself, Beats Attempted Murder Charges (p 61)
  37. News in Brief (p 63)

Twenty-Five Years of Prison Legal News

The first issue of Prisoners’ Legal News (PLN) was published in May 1990. It was hand-typed, photocopied and ten pages long, and mailed to 75 potential subscribers with a budget of $50. The first three issues were banned in all Washington state prisons, the first 18 in all Texas prisons ...

HRDC Litigation Project Update – 25th Anniversary Edition

HRDC Litigation Project Update – 25th Anniversary Edition

by Lance Weber

After 25 years of publishing Prison Legal News and nearly as many years of litigation over PLN’s right to send its magazine and books to prisoners, the right to communicate news and information about the U.S. criminal justice ...

From the Editor

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

It doesn’t seem like this is the 301st issue of Prison Legal News. When we published our first issue in 1990 I didn’t have an expectation of how long the publication would last nor did I think about its longevity very much. I ...

California Probation Cannot Exceed Maximum for Unpaid Restitution

California Probation Cannot Exceed Maximum for Unpaid Restitution

by Mark Wilson

The California Court of Appeal, Sixth Appellate District, held on September 17, 2014 that trial courts lack authority to hold probationers in “suspended animation” beyond their maximum sentence to ensure full payment of victim restitution.

In California, restitution can ...

ICE Settles New York Immigration Raid Lawsuit for $1 Million

ICE Settles New York Immigration Raid Lawsuit for $1 Million

by Matt Clarke

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has agreed to settle a class-action suit filed by 22 immigrants whose homes were raided by ICE agents in the New York City metropolitan area.

The settlement requires a change in ICE ...

Ninth Circuit Upholds $106,000 in Damages Plus Attorney Fees for Withheld Evidence

Ninth Circuit Upholds $106,000 in Damages Plus Attorney Fees for Withheld Evidence

by Mark Wilson

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a $106,000 damage award and over $348,300 in attorney fees and costs for an innocent man’s 27-month pretrial confinement after two police detectives knowingly ...

Human Rights Groups, Environmentalists Oppose New Federal Prison on Former Coal Mine in Kentucky

Human Rights Groups, Environmentalists Oppose New Federal Prison on Former Coal Mine in Kentucky

by Panagioti Tsolkas

On March 30, 2015, organizations and individuals from across the country joined the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), PLN’s parent organization, in filing a comment opposing a plan by the U.S. Bureau ...

Oregon Parole Board Orders Must Explain Decisions, but Orders Defined to Include Administrative Review Responses

Oregon Parole Board Orders Must Explain Decisions, but Orders Defined to Include Administrative Review Responses

by Mark Wilson

On September 18, 2014, the en banc Oregon Supreme Court held that a 1999 law change does not exempt the state parole board from having to issue “final orders” explaining its decisions ...

Oregon Mental Patient’s Death Nets $1.4 Million

Oregon Mental Patient’s Death Nets $1.4 Million

by Mark Wilson

The family of a man who died in his bed, just feet from a nurse’s station at the Oregon State Hospital (OSH), but whose body was not discovered for hours, accepted $1.4 million to settle a lawsuit filed ...

Lifetime GPS Monitoring of Sex Offenders Upheld in South Carolina

Lifetime GPS Monitoring of Sex Offenders Upheld in South Carolina

by Lonnie Burton

South Carolina’s Supreme Court hasrejected a challenge to a state law that requires lifetime GPS monitoring of certain sex offenders who violate the terms of their probation, parole or community supervision. The statute, known as “Jessie’s Law ...

The Persistence of Mass Incarceration

The Persistence of Mass Incarceration

by James Kilgore

Over the last four years, “we have turned the corner” has become the dominant narrative on mass incarceration. The basis for this optimism appeared sound. From 2009-2012, total prisoner numbers were down nationally for the first time since the late 1970s, with ...

Accuracy of Widely-Used Polygraph Machine Under Fire

In the hands of a skilled operator, such as the late John Reid of John E. Reid and Associates, one of the early pioneers in the lie detection field, the polygraph can be a useful tool. Reid, along with noted Northwestern Law School criminal law professor Fred Inbau, essentially originated ...

Exonerated Colorado Prisoner Receives $1.2 Million under New Compensation Law

Exonerated Colorado Prisoner Receives $1.2 Million under New Compensation Law

by Joe Watson

A man who spent over 17 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit became the first Colorado prisoner to receive damages from the state under a new compensation law.

In September 2013, almost a ...

$7,500 Award for Ohio Prisoner in Slip and Fall Accident

$7,500 Award for Ohio Prisoner in Slip and Fall Accident

by David Reutter

An Ohio Court of Claims awarded over $7,500 to a prisoner for injuries suffered from a slip and fall, after finding liability for negligence against the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) in a ...

New Jersey, Ohio DOCs Significantly Reduce Phone Rates

New Jersey, Ohio DOCs Significantly Reduce Phone Rates

According to an April 9, 2015 press release issued by New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and the New York University School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic, the New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC) has resolved a contract dispute involving ...

Seventh Circuit Orders New Trial due to Shackling of Prisoner Plaintiff

Seventh Circuit Orders New Trial due to Shackling of Prisoner Plaintiff

by Lonnie Burton

On April 4, 2014, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted a new trial to a prisoner who had sued jail guards alleging claims of excessive force, who was required to be visibly shackled throughout the ...

Former Prisoner Left Blind by Assault Obtains Reversal of FTCA Claim

Former Prisoner Left Blind by Assault Obtains Reversal of FTCA Claim

by David Reutter

On August 11, 2014, the Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of a former prisoner’s Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) complaint alleging negligence by the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The reversal required the Illinois federal district ...

Georgia Jail Pays $937,500 in Wrongful Death Settlement

Rodney Earl Graham, 30, died while in the custody of Georgia’s Douglas County jail on November 4, 2009. Arrested on a probation violation for possession of marijuana, he became seriously ill after about a week at the lock-up. Graham requested medical care but instead was placed in a detox cell ...

Maine Sheriff, Mired in Controversy, Defeated in Re-election Bid

Maine Sheriff, Mired in Controversy, Defeated in Re-election Bid

The sheriff of Washington County, Maine has lost his bid for re-election following eight tumultuous years that left him beset with one highly-publicized incident after another.

The Bangor Daily News reported on November 5, 2014 that former Maine state trooper Barry ...

$50,000 Settlement for Prisoner’s Suicide at Iowa County Jail

$50,000 Settlement for Prisoner’s Suicide at Iowa County Jail

by Gary Hunter

Black Hawk County and NaphCare, Inc. have agreed to pay equal shares of a $50,000 settlement to the estate of a prisoner who hanged himself at the county jail.

Michael Adair had an 18-year history of ...

Prisoner Files Lawsuit after Being Pepper Sprayed in Restraint Chair

Prisoner Files Lawsuit after Being Pepper Sprayed in Restraint Chair

by Derek Gilna

A Maine state prisoner who was pepper sprayed at close range after being placed in a restraint chair is suing the prison captain who wielded the chemical irritant during a 2012 incident that was captured on video ...

When is a Person too Insane to Execute?

When is a Person too Insane to Execute?

by Matt Clarke

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing arguments to determine whether a Texas death row prisoner is too mentally ill to execute for murdering his in-laws as their daughter and granddaughter looked on.

The appellate court issued a ...

Fifth Circuit Reinstates Dallas County Jail Excessive Force Suit

Fifth Circuit Reinstates Dallas County Jail Excessive Force Suit

by Matt Clarke

On July 17, 2014, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by the widow of a former Texas prisoner alleging excessive use of force by guards at the Dallas County Jail.

Gregory ...

The Wal-Mart Model: Not Just for Retail, Now It’s for Private Prisons Too!

The Wal-Mart Model: Not Just for Retail, Now It’s for Private Prisons Too!

by Carl Takei

The nation’s biggest and baddest for-profit prison company suddenly cares about halfway houses – so much so, that they want in on the action.

About a year after acquiring a smaller firm that operates halfway houses ...

Iowa DOC May Not Switch Administrative Law Judges in Mid-Disciplinary Process

Iowa DOC May Not Switch Administrative Law Judges in Mid-Disciplinary Process

by Matt Clarke

On August 20, 2014, a federal district court held that the Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC) had violated a prisoner’s due process rights when it reassigned his disciplinary case to a new administrative law judge (ALJ ...

California Pays $585,000 to Settle Suit by Prisoner Who Lost Eye Due to Poor Medical Care

California Pays $585,000 to Settle Suit by Prisoner Who Lost Eye Due to Poor Medical Care

by Michael Brodheim

California prison officials paid $585,000 to former prisoner Frank Lucero to settle his federal lawsuit alleging that he lost an eye due to inadequate medical care received while serving ...

First Circuit Vacates Massachusetts Prisoner’s $325,956.36 Damages, Attorney Fee Award

First Circuit Vacates Massachusetts Prisoner’s $325,956.36 Damages, Attorney Fee Award

by Mark Wilson

On September 24, 2014, the First Circuit Court of Appeals held that Massachusetts prison officials were entitled to qualified immunity for segregating a pretrial detainee. Accordingly, the Court reversed the prisoner’s $47,500 damage award ...

Due Process Requires Notice Prior to Court-Ordered Deduction from Prisoners’ Accounts

Due Process Requires Notice Prior to Court-Ordered Deduction from Prisoners’ Accounts

by David Reutter

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals held on August 14, 2014 that prison officials must provide due process before seizing funds from prisoners’ institutional accounts to satisfy fines, restitution and other costs assessed at sentencing.

Before ...

Former Prisoner Receives $50,000 Settlement for Beating by Ohio Jail Guard

Former Prisoner Receives $50,000 Settlement for Beating by Ohio Jail Guard

by Derek Gilna

Jordan Sand, 18, previously incarcerated at the Lorain County jail in Elyria, Ohio as a juvenile offender, received a $50,000 settlement from the county after he was brutally assaulted in 2012 by former guard ...

Easing Residency Restrictions Helps Curb Homelessness Among Registered Sex Offenders

Spurred by a growing number of homeless registered sex offenders, some states, cities and towns have begun relaxing stringent restrictions on where sex offenders may live – a trend supported by public officials and advocates who argue that such a strategy actually creates a safer environment for everyone.

Rather than ...

$500,000 Settlement in Georgia Prisoner’s Death while on Work Crew

$500,000 Settlement in Georgia Prisoner’s Death while on Work Crew

The family of a prisoner killed while working on a road crew in Georgia accepted a $500,000 settlement in a wrongful death suit. The main cause of action was predicated upon a failure to train employees.

Prisoner John ...

Maryland County Jail Guards Receive Rights Mirroring Those of State Prison Guards

Maryland County Jail Guards Receive Rights Mirroring Those of State Prison Guards

A new Maryland law extends legal rights to guards at two county jails during investigations and disciplinary proceedings similar to those provided to guards in state prisons and several other counties. Then-Governor Mark O’Malley signed legislation in April ...

Convictions Affirmed for Two Former Rhode Island Guards Who Assaulted Prisoners

Convictions Affirmed for Two Former Rhode Island Guards Who Assaulted Prisoners

by David Reutter

Rhode Island’s Supreme Court has affirmed the convictions of two former state prison guards who were found guilty of assaulting multiple prisoners. The Court said the cases “present a rare look into the dark side of ...

Disabled Minnesota Prisoner Settles Discrimination Lawsuit for $10,000, Other Relief

Disabled Minnesota Prisoner Settles Discrimination Lawsuit for $10,000, Other Relief

by Robert Warlick

Minnesota prisoner Michael Dahlin filed suit on November 22, 2012 against state prison officials, alleging discrimination due to his disabilities in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA).

Dahlin suffered from disorders that included spinal ...

Dehydration Death of North Carolina Prisoner Prompts Investigations, Firings, Resignations

North Carolina prisoner with a history of mental illness who was found dead in a transport van after being transferred to another prison died due to dehydration, according to the North Carolina Medical Examiner’s Office.

However, the state pathologist who conducted the autopsy on Michael Anthony Kerr, 54, said records ...

Ohio Prisoner Represents Himself, Beats Attempted Murder Charges

Ohio Prisoner Represents Himself, Beats Attempted Murder Charges

An Ohio supermax prisoner, repre­senting himself while on a month-long hunger strike, won an acquittal in February 2013 on attempted murder charges stemming from fights with prison guards, though he was convicted of lesser charges.

Cornelius “Soja” Harris, serving a 97-year sentence ...

News in Brief

News in Brief

Brazil: A prison guard was suspended after 13 felony offenders escaped the Rio Grande prison through a tunnel on August 17, 2014, recorded the escape on a cell phone and posted the video online. In a nation struggling with government corruption, it is alleged that the guard ...