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Prison Legal News: June, 2015

Issue PDF
Volume 26, Number 6

In this issue:

  1. Women, Incarcerated (p 1)
  2. $1 Million for Medical Neglect Death of Wisconsin Jail Prisoner (p 18)
  3. From the Editor (p 18)
  4. A City of Convicts: The statistical sleight of hand that makes the U.S. crime rate seem lower than it really is (p 20)
  5. $1.35 Million Award in Montana Jail Prisoner’s Alcohol Withdrawal Death (p 22)
  6. New Jersey Pre-trial Detainee’s Mysterious Death Results in $650,000 Settlement (p 22)
  7. Grand Jury Investigates Santa Cruz County Jail Deaths (p 24)
  8. Is Redemption Possible for Former Prisoners? (p 26)
  9. Massachusetts: Wrongful Death Claims Survive Summary Judgment in Prisoner Suicide Case (p 28)
  10. Arbitrator’s Award on Pay Raises for Prison Guards Costs Pennsylvania County $5 Million (p 28)
  11. $1.75 Million Settlement in Michigan Detainee’s Heroin Withdrawal Death (p 29)
  12. Ex-Con Seeks Return to Prison for Medical Treatment (p 30)
  13. Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli Jails Smuggle Sperm to Impregnate Wives (p 30)
  14. Denial of Time Served Credit Violates Vermont Law (p 31)
  15. Ninth Circuit: BOP Improperly Denied RDAP Sentence Reduction; Remedy may be Reduced Supervised Release Term (p 32)
  16. “American Taliban” Wins Injunction Against BOP Religious Worship Restrictions (p 32)
  17. Oregon: No Presumed Prejudice for Violation of Attorney-Client Communication (p 34)
  18. New Report Cites Improvements at Troubled Ohio Prison (p 34)
  19. Nebraska Court Awards Prisoner $267,000 in Failure to Protect Suit (p 36)
  20. $266,653 Judgment in Lawsuit Challenging Alabama Prison’s Improper Sewage Discharge (p 36)
  21. Dismissal of State-Created Danger Claim Reversed (p 38)
  22. Judicial Misconduct Results in Mild Sanctions (p 38)
  23. Nevada DOC’s “One Eye Policy” Challenged; Summary Judgment Reversed (p 40)
  24. $71,000 Settlement in Iowa Prisoner’s Sexual Harassment Claim (p 40)
  25. Washington Prisoner’s Wife Prevails on PRA Claim for Investigative Report Redactions (p 41)
  26. Fifth Circuit Holds Texas Prisoner has Right to Free Kosher Meals (p 42)
  27. Automatic Oregon Death Row Confinement Pending Resentencing Enjoined (p 42)
  28. Fourth Circuit Finds No Sex Reassignment Surgery Evaluation States Claim; $13,000 Settlement (p 44)
  29. Sixth Circuit: Group Strip Searches and Delousing at Ohio Jail State Claim (p 45)
  30. California Tests State Prisoners for Valley Fever Amid Lawsuits, Deaths (p 46)
  31. Federal Court Strikes Down Pennsylvania Law that Restricts Prisoners’ Speech (p 48)
  32. $110,000 Settlement in Suit over Nebraska Jail Prisoner’s Suicide (p 49)
  33. Maryland DOC’s Ban on Media Interviews with Prisoners Upheld (p 50)
  34. New York: $360,000 Award for Guard’s Statutory Rape of Prisoner (p 50)
  35. Supreme Court Reinstates Challenge to North Carolina Post-Release GPS Sex Offender Monitoring (p 51)
  36. Ninth Circuit: Plata Doesn’t Bar Individual Injunctive Relief Claims; $26,000 Settlement (p 52)
  37. Two Former Oklahoma Prison Guards Get Deferred Sentences in Prisoner’s Death (p 52)
  38. Former Nurse at Maine State Prison Files Suit Over Racial Slurs (p 54)
  39. Feds and Tennessee Officials Investigate Prisoners Using Facebook (p 54)
  40. Ninth Circuit: PLRA Fee Cap Inapplicable to Fees on Appeal (p 56)
  41. Over 100 Protestors Converge at GEO Group’s Shareholder Meeting (p 56)
  42. Wyoming Prisoner Escapes from Private Transport Van, Remains on the Run (p 57)
  43. BOP Settles Medical Negligence Claim for $600,000 (p 58)
  44. Tennessee County Agrees to Improve Mental Health Care for Prisoners (p 58)
  45. Second Circuit: Rule 41 Dismissal Requires Five Factor Analysis (p 59)
  46. Former PA Supreme Court Justice Convicted, Disbarred, Ordered to Write Apology (p 60)
  47. Pollution Prison in Pennsylvania (p 60)
  48. Nevada Jail Charges Prisoners for Meals, Medical Care to Defray Costs (p 61)
  49. News in Brief (p 63)

Women, Incarcerated

Women, Incarcerated

by Sharona Coutts and Zoe Greenberg, RH Reality Check

Investigative Series Shows Systemic Abuses of Women in Prisons and Jails

Keeley Schenwar learned she was pregnant the same day she was arrested. That spring of 2013, she didn’t pee on a stick and study the results in the ...

$1 Million for Medical Neglect Death of Wisconsin Jail Prisoner

$1 Million for Medical Neglect Death of Wisconsin Jail Prisoner

by David M. Reutter

A Wisconsin federal jury awarded $1 million to the estate of a prisoner who died of a heart attack at the Racine County Jail (RCJ); the award came after the jury found jail officials were deliberately ...

From the Editor

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

The one area of American life where no one is calling for gender equality or parity is that of mass incarceration. Prisons are and remain a tool of social control aimed primarily at men, who make up 91% of all prisoners. The number of ...

A City of Convicts: The statistical sleight of hand that makes the U.S. crime rate seem lower than it really is

A City of Convicts: The statistical sleight of hand that makes the U.S. crime rate seem lower than it really is

by Josh Voorhees

Imagine an American city with 2.2 million people, making it the fourth largest in the nation behind New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Now imagine that ...

$1.35 Million Award in Montana Jail Prisoner’s Alcohol Withdrawal Death

$1.35 Million Award in Montana Jail Prisoner’s Alcohol Withdrawal Death

by David M. Reutter

The Montana Human Rights Commission (MHRC) awarded $1.35 million for a pre-trial detainee’s death after finding county jail officials showed “discriminatory indifference” for failing to treat the prisoner’s alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Allen J. Longsoldier ...

New Jersey Pre-trial Detainee’s Mysterious Death Results in $650,000 Settlement

New Jersey Pre-trial Detainee’s Mysterious Death Results in $650,000 Settlement

by David M. Reutter

$650,000 settlement was reached in a lawsuit filed by the estate of a prisoner who died at the Cumberland County Jail (CCJ) in New Jersey.

Steven C. Bell, 32, was arrested on New Year’s ...

Grand Jury Investigates Santa Cruz County Jail Deaths

Grand Jury Investigates Santa Cruz County Jail Deaths

by N.H. Putnam, Sin Barras

Santa Cruz County, California is seen by many as a model for enlightened jail policies. But in May 2014 the Santa Cruz County Grand Jury released a report on the unusual number of deaths in the ...

Is Redemption Possible for Former Prisoners?

Is Redemption Possible for Former Prisoners?

The three women who were kidnapped and held hostage by Ariel Castro in a “house of horrors” in Cleveland, Ohio – tortured and sexually abused for roughly a decade – have been repeatedly praised for their strength and resilience since their rescue in May ...

Massachusetts: Wrongful Death Claims Survive Summary Judgment in Prisoner Suicide Case

Massachusetts: Wrongful Death Claims Survive Summary Judgment in Prisoner Suicide Case

by Mark Wilson

n September 15, 2014, a Massachusetts superior court denied summary judgment to jail officials on a wrongful death claim related to a prisoner’s suicide, though the court dismissed deliberate indifference claims against three defendants.

Eric Adams ...

Arbitrator’s Award on Pay Raises for Prison Guards Costs Pennsylvania County $5 Million

Arbitrator’s Award on Pay Raises for Prison Guards Costs Pennsylvania County $5 Million

by David M. Reutter

Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County Commission has been forced to dip into its reserve funds to comply with an “unaccountable” arbitration award that resulted in a 7% annual pay increase for the county’s prison guards ...

$1.75 Million Settlement in Michigan Detainee’s Heroin Withdrawal Death

$1.75 Million Settlement in Michigan Detainee’s Heroin Withdrawal Death

by David M. Reutter

A $1.75 million settlement was reached in a lawsuit brought by the estate of a pre-trial detainee who died as a result of heroin withdrawal after being denied medical care.

In the days leading up ...

Ex-Con Seeks Return to Prison for Medical Treatment

Ex-Con Seeks Return to Prison for Medical Treatment

In a depressing commentary on the availability of health care in the United States, a former federal prisoner got himself arrested so he could receive treatment for his leukemia. Although a judge declined to re-imprison the man, saying it would be inhumane ...

Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli Jails Smuggle Sperm to Impregnate Wives

Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli Jails Smuggle Sperm to Impregnate Wives

by Matt Clarke

Authorities in Israel concede there is little they can do to stop a growing practice among Palestinian prisoners: smuggling their sperm out of prison in order to impregnate their wives and father children.

Since August 2012, about ...

Denial of Time Served Credit Violates Vermont Law

Denial of Time Served Credit Violates Vermont Law

by Mark Wilson

On August 29, 2014, the Vermont Supreme Court held that an amended sentencing order denying time served credit violated state law.

In June 2013, Roger Perry pleaded no contest to two burglary charges in exchange for a total prison ...

Ninth Circuit: BOP Improperly Denied RDAP Sentence Reduction; Remedy may be Reduced Supervised Release Term

Ninth Circuit: BOP Improperly Denied RDAP Sentence Reduction; Remedy may be Reduced Supervised Release Term

by Mark Wilson

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held on October 27, 2014 that the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) had improperly denied a prisoner early release eligibility, and remanded the case for a ...

“American Taliban” Wins Injunction Against BOP Religious Worship Restrictions

“American Taliban” Wins Injunction Against BOP Religious Worship Restrictions

by Derek Gilna

Federal prisoner John Walker Lindh, better known as the “American Taliban,” who pleaded guilty to fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan and carrying an explosive during the commission of a felony, has won a lawsuit against the ...

Oregon: No Presumed Prejudice for Violation of Attorney-Client Communication

Oregon: No Presumed Prejudice for Violation of Attorney-Client Communication

by Mark Wilson

On August 20, 2014, the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s refusal to dismiss criminal charges against a defendant because a detective had read his legal mail.

Michael James Russum, 33, was charged with four sex ...

New Report Cites Improvements at Troubled Ohio Prison

New Report Cites Improvements at Troubled Ohio Prison

Prisoner-on-staff assaults at the Toledo Correctional Institution (TOCI) in Ohio continued to rise in fiscal year 2014, but a recent report from a state inspection team indicates the facility has made improvements in other areas, and prisoner-on-prisoner assaults have declined significantly.

The ...

Nebraska Court Awards Prisoner $267,000 in Failure to Protect Suit

Nebraska Court Awards Prisoner $267,000 in Failure to Protect Suit

by David M. Reutter

Following a bench trial, a Nebraska state court found prison officials were aware of threats to prisoner James M. Saylor but failed to take steps to protect him. Consequently, the court awarded damages and interest ...

$266,653 Judgment in Lawsuit Challenging Alabama Prison’s Improper Sewage Discharge

$266,653 Judgment in Lawsuit Challenging Alabama Prison’s Improper Sewage Discharge

by David Reutter

Following a settlement agreement between Black Warrior Riverkeeper (Riverkeeper) and Alabama Utility Services (AUS), a judgment was entered in a lawsuit that alleged the sewage treatment plant at the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility (DCF) had ...

Dismissal of State-Created Danger Claim Reversed

Dismissal of State-Created Danger Claim Reversed

by David M. Reutter

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s order dismissing a civil rights action that alleged the disclosure of a confidential informant’s status established a state-created danger in violation of his due process rights.

The suit at issue ...

Judicial Misconduct Results in Mild Sanctions

Judicial Misconduct Results in Mild Sanctions

by Matt Clarke

In November 2011, the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct (TCJC) temporarily suspended Aransas County Court-at-Law Judge William Adams after a 2004 video of Adams viciously beating his then-16-year-old daughter, Hillary, went viral. The state Supreme Court reinstated Adams on November 9 ...

Nevada DOC’s “One Eye Policy” Challenged; Summary Judgment Reversed

Nevada DOC’s “One Eye Policy” Challenged; Summary Judgment Reversed

by Lonnie Burton

In an October 24, 2014 corrected ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals addressed a Nevada prison policy that denies prisoners with one good eye medical treatment for their other eye. The 2-1 decision reinstated a lawsuit that ...

$71,000 Settlement in Iowa Prisoner’s Sexual Harassment Claim

$71,000 Settlement in Iowa Prisoner’s Sexual Harassment Claim

by David M. Reutter

A former Iowa prisoner received a $71,000 settlement after being sexually harassed at her prison job in a case that established prisoners have civil rights protections with respect to employment under Iowa state law.

While incarcerated ...

Washington Prisoner’s Wife Prevails on PRA Claim for Investigative Report Redactions

Washington Prisoner’s Wife Prevails on PRA Claim for Investigative Report Redactions

by Mark Wilson

On September 16, 2014, the Washington Court of Appeals held that information redacted from a prison investigative report should have been disclosed to a prisoner’s wife under the state’s Public Records Act (PRA). The appellate court ...

Fifth Circuit Holds Texas Prisoner has Right to Free Kosher Meals

Fifth Circuit Holds Texas Prisoner has Right to Free Kosher Meals

by Matt Clarke

On December 21, 2012, in a lawsuit that still remains pending, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a Jewish prisoner in Texas has the right to receive free kosher meals.

Max Moussazadeh, 36, filed ...

Automatic Oregon Death Row Confinement Pending Resentencing Enjoined

Automatic Oregon Death Row Confinement Pending Resentencing Enjoined

by Mark Wilson

On October 10, 2014, an Oregon federal judge enjoined prison officials from automatically segregating death sentenced prisoners who have had their sentences vacated and are awaiting resentencing.

Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) prisoners are assigned custody levels pursuant to ...

Fourth Circuit Finds No Sex Reassignment Surgery Evaluation States Claim; $13,000 Settlement

Fourth Circuit Finds No Sex Reassignment Surgery Evaluation States Claim; $13,000 Settlement

he Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held on January 28, 2013 that refusal to evaluate a transgender prisoner for sex reassignment surgery states a valid Eighth Amendment claim. The case later settled after the plaintiff was released ...

Sixth Circuit: Group Strip Searches and Delousing at Ohio Jail State Claim

Sixth Circuit: Group Strip Searches and Delousing at Ohio Jail State Claim

by David Reutter

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a proposed class-action complaint filed on behalf of pretrial detainees at the Cleveland House of Correction, which alleged it was unreasonable for the jail to 1 ...

California Tests State Prisoners for Valley Fever Amid Lawsuits, Deaths

California Tests State Prisoners for Valley Fever Amid Lawsuits, Deaths

by Derek Gilna

The State of California is taking steps to minimize the number of cases of coccidioidomycosis, a fungal infection commonly known as “valley fever,” at two prisons in the rural Central Valley area, including testing prisoners for ...

Federal Court Strikes Down Pennsylvania Law that Restricts Prisoners’ Speech

Federal Court Strikes Down Pennsylvania Law that Restricts Prisoners’ Speech

by Derek Gilna

Pennsylvania state lawmakers and former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett both claimed they had good intentions when they enacted legislation that restricted prisoners’ free speech rights if their speech might upset crime victims. A federal judge disagreed, however ...

$110,000 Settlement in Suit over Nebraska Jail Prisoner’s Suicide

$110,000 Settlement in Suit over Nebraska Jail Prisoner’s Suicide

by Matt Clarke

Lincoln County, the City of North Platte and Great Plains Regional Medical Center agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the sister of a Nebraska jail prisoner who committed suicide. As part of the settlement, the county ...

Maryland DOC’s Ban on Media Interviews with Prisoners Upheld

Maryland DOC’s Ban on Media Interviews with Prisoners Upheld

Maryland Circuit Court found apetition filed by a group of prisoners who were denied interviews by a local newspaper was moot, but questioned the propriety of using victims’ rights as a reason for prison officials to veto the interviews.

In November ...

New York: $360,000 Award for Guard’s Statutory Rape of Prisoner

New York: $360,000 Award for Guard’s Statutory Rape of Prisoner

by Matt Clarke

The New York Court of Claims has awarded a former prisoner $360,000 in a lawsuit in which she claimed a prison guard repeatedly had sexual contact with her, some of it unwilling, and impregnated her ...

Supreme Court Reinstates Challenge to North Carolina Post-Release GPS Sex Offender Monitoring

Supreme Court Reinstates Challenge to North Carolina Post-Release GPS Sex Offender Monitoring

by Derek Gilna

In a March 30, 2015 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed a North Carolina law that requires certain sex offenders to wear a satellite-tracking device following their release from prison. Torrey Dale Grady had ...

Ninth Circuit: Plata Doesn’t Bar Individual Injunctive Relief Claims; $26,000 Settlement

Ninth Circuit: Plata Doesn’t Bar Individual Injunctive Relief Claims; $26,000 Settlement

by Mark Wilson

The Ninth Circuit Court of Ap­peals has held that an individual California prisoner’s medical care injunctive relief claims are not barred by Plata v. Brown, the class-action suit that seeks systemic reform of California’s prison ...

Two Former Oklahoma Prison Guards Get Deferred Sentences in Prisoner’s Death

Two Former Oklahoma Prison Guards Get Deferred Sentences in Prisoner’s Death

by Matt Clarke

Two former guards at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary (OSP) received deferred sentences in connection with the death of an OSP prisoner who died due to smoke inhalation after setting fire to the mattress in his cell ...

Former Nurse at Maine State Prison Files Suit Over Racial Slurs

Former Nurse at Maine State Prison Files Suit Over Racial Slurs

by Joe Watson

For the second time in as many years, allegations of racism have been leveled against employees at the Maine State Prison. In the most recent incident, a former nurse at the facility filed suit in federal ...

Feds and Tennessee Officials Investigate Prisoners Using Facebook

Feds and Tennessee Officials Investigate Prisoners Using Facebook

by David Reutter

The Bureau of Prisons is investigating two prisoners who were discovered using Facebook to “broadcast live” from a federal facility in Atlanta, where they are serving time on drug and weapons charges. The probe was initiated following a November ...

Ninth Circuit: PLRA Fee Cap Inapplicable to Fees on Appeal

Ninth Circuit: PLRA Fee Cap Inapplicable to Fees on Appeal

by Mark Wilson

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the attorney fee cap provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) does not apply to fees incurred on appeal.

California prisoner Earnest Cassell Woods II obtained a federal ...

Over 100 Protestors Converge at GEO Group’s Shareholder Meeting

Over 100 Protestors Converge at GEO Group’s Shareholder Meeting

On April 29, 2015, over 100 people joined a protest outside the GEO Group’s annual shareholder meeting at the Boca Resort and Club in Boca Raton, Florida. GEO, a private prison firm that trades on the New York Stock Exchange, bills ...

Wyoming Prisoner Escapes from Private Transport Van, Remains on the Run

Wyoming Prisoner Escapes from Private Transport Van, Remains on the Run

by Mark Wilson

If his history is any indication, Wyoming fugitive Kenneth James Ward probably didn’t need a head start. But he got one when a private prison transport company let him get away and did not report the ...

BOP Settles Medical Negligence Claim for $600,000

BOP Settles Medical Negligence Claim for $600,000

by David M. Reutter

The federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) paid $600,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging officials at USP Coleman Low caused a prisoner to suffer permanent injuries due to their negligent provision of medical care.

BOP prisoner Robert Lee ...

Tennessee County Agrees to Improve Mental Health Care for Prisoners

Tennessee County Agrees to Improve Mental Health Care for Prisoners

The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has reached an agreement to settle a civil complaint that alleged the rights of mentally ill prisoners at the Robertson County Detention Facility (RCDF) in Springfield, Tennessee were ...

Second Circuit: Rule 41 Dismissal Requires Five Factor Analysis

Second Circuit: Rule 41 Dismissal Requires Five Factor Analysis

by Mark Wilson

In September 24, 2014, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that a district court had improperly dismissed a New York prisoner’s lawsuit for failure to prosecute, without weighing the required factors.

Federal prisoner Harry Baptiste filed suit ...

Former PA Supreme Court Justice Convicted, Disbarred, Ordered to Write Apology

Former PA Supreme Court Justice Convicted, Disbarred, Ordered to Write Apology

by Joe Watson

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has accepted the voluntary disbarment of one of the high court’s former jurists who was convicted in 2013 on corruption charges. Former Justice Joan Orie Melvin, 58, was also ordered to come ...

Pollution Prison in Pennsylvania

Pollution Prison in Pennsylvania

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Recently, a group of human rights researchers, responding to letters from prisoners at SCI Fayette, found a slew of environmental dangers and threats to the lives, health and well-being of hundreds of prisoners, guards and other staff members at the prison in Western ...

Nevada Jail Charges Prisoners for Meals, Medical Care to Defray Costs

Nevada Jail Charges Prisoners for Meals, Medical Care to Defray Costs

by Michael Brodheim

Overcrowding at Nevada’s Elko County jail is expected to ease with the scheduled completion of an addition to the facility, while the jail continues to work on correcting deficiencies reported in a Nevada Department of Health ...

News in Brief

News in Brief

Arizona: Sergio Aguilar, 51, incarcerated at the Towers Jail in Phoenix, died on November 4, 2014 following a fight among several prisoners that reportedly started over a commissary-related issue. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said the incident was a “racially divided brawl” and Aguilar had been punched ...