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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: July, 2015

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Volume 26, Number 7

In this issue:

  1. “Deep-Seated Culture of Violence” and Abysmal Medical Care at Rikers Island (p 1)
  2. Adolescent Prisoners at Rikers Island No Longer Placed in Solitary (p 21)
  3. From the Editor (p 22)
  4. Ohio DOC Pays $2,000 to Prisoner Burned on Exposed Steam Pipe (p 22)
  5. Explosion at Florida Jail Kills Two Prisoners as Officials Negotiate Reforms for Unconstitutional Conditions (p 24)
  6. Behind Bars and in Danger? (p 26)
  7. GEO Group’s Gulags Grasping for Green Approval (p 30)
  8. $6.2 Million Settlement Reached in D.C. Jail Strip Search, Overdetention Suit (p 32)
  9. 32 Deaths at CCA-operated Immigration Detention Facilities Include at Least 7 Suicides (p 32)
  10. Supreme Court Holds Juror’s Alleged Lies During Voir Dire Not Grounds for New Trial (p 33)
  11. New Mexico Jail Pays $500,000 for Prisoner’s Death (p 34)
  12. $400,000 Settlement in Suit Over Minnesota Prisoner’s Death Due to Medical Neglect (p 34)
  13. Supreme Court Holds Equitable Tolling Excuses Missed Federal Tort Claim Filing Deadlines (p 36)
  14. Successful Defense of Consent Decree Merits Award of Untimely Attorney Fees (p 36)
  15. Chicago Systematically Denies Medical Care to Detainees; $1 Million Verdict (p 38)
  16. Deaths, Lawsuits Plague San Diego County Jail (p 38)
  17. New Jersey County Seeks New Jail Phone Contract, Increases Commission Rate (p 39)
  18. Private Prison Corporation GEO Group Expands its Stable of Former Top Federal Officials (p 40)
  19. Georgia’s Privatized Probation Statute Facially Constitutional, but Problems with Administration (p 40)
  20. Companies Pitch Tablets for Prisoners to Maintain Family Ties, Aid in Reentry ... and Generate Profit (p 42)
  21. Harris County, Texas Jail Prisoner’s Death Results in Firings, Lawsuits (p 44)
  22. Alabama DOC Agrees to Protect Women Prisoners from Systemic Sexual Abuse, Harassment (p 46)
  23. $1.35 Million Total Settlement for South Carolina Detainee Beaten by Jail Guard (p 48)
  24. Texas Prisoners Face Annual Shortage of Hygiene Items in Prison Commissaries (p 48)
  25. California Prison Officials Ordered to Provide Qualified Sign Language Interpreters for All Deaf Prisoners (p 50)
  26. Settlement Moots Appeal of Claims Denied by Summary Judgment (p 50)
  27. Strip Searches of Female Visitors on Their Menstrual Period Addressed at CCA Shareholder Meeting (p 52)
  28. Peer-Review Reports Must be Disclosed in Philadelphia Jail Conditions Suit (p 52)
  29. Florida Home Confinement Program Criticized After Witness’ Murder (p 54)
  30. Ten Law Enforcement Groups Among Worst Charities in America (p 54)
  31. Ninth Circuit: “Brutal” Cavity Search Violated Fourth Amendment (p 56)
  32. Arizona Department of Corrections Adopts Same-Sex Marriage Policy (p 56)
  33. Brits Alarmed to Learn Prisoners Work as Insurance Telemarketers (p 57)
  34. CDCR Adopts New Contraband Rules on Obscene, Gang-related Materials (p 58)
  35. Error for Florida Court to Find Action Moot Before Ruling on Motion to Supplement (p 59)
  36. Supreme Court Clarifies Legal Standard for Pre-Trial Detainee Excessive Force Claims (p 60)
  37. Whether Private Actors Entitled to Qualified Immunity Bypassed Due to Factual Dispute (p 60)
  38. News in Brief (p 63)

“Deep-Seated Culture of Violence” and Abysmal Medical Care at Rikers Island

“Deep-Seated Culture of Violence” and Abysmal Medical Care at Rikers Island

by Gary Hunter

Pressure is mounting to speed the progress of reforms at New York City’s infamous Rikers Island jail complex, as city and federal officials focus on two primary areas that have drawn the focus of public attention: violence that escalated to a record level in 2014 – much of it related to guards using force against prisoners – and grossly inadequate healthcare.

According to data obtained by the Associated Press, New York City jail guards reported using force against prisoners 4,074 times during 2014, an average of 11 incidents per day, ranging from pepper spray to punches. During September 2014 alone they reported 406 incidents – just one month after a federal report blasted Rikers Island guards for being too quick to resort to violence against youthful prisoners.

The increase in use-of-force incidents came as the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) joined a class-action lawsuit to address what federal prosecutors have called a “deep-seated culture of violence” in New York City’s jail system.

“There has clearly not been a commitment to date to address officer violence on Rikers Island,” complained Dr. Bobby Cohen, who ...

Adolescent Prisoners at Rikers Island No Longer Placed in Solitary

Adolescent Prisoners at Rikers Island No Longer Placed in Solitary

On January 13, 2015, the New York City Board of Correction (BOC) voted unanimously to end solitary confinement for prisoners 21 years old and under in the city’s jail system.

Buckling under pressure from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the BOC ended the segregation of prisoners for up to 23 hours a day for adolescents age 18 and under, and the practice is slated to end on January 1, 2016 for those age 18 to 21. The latter rule change is dependent on whether “sufficient resources are made available to the Department for necessary staffing and implementation of necessary alternative programming.”

The DOJ had issued a scathing report in August 2014 that called the use of “punitive segregation for adolescent inmates” at the Rikers Island jail “excessive and inappropriate.” Juveniles make up approximately 14% of the city’s jail population.

During a roundtable session at New York City Hall in December 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio cited changes that had already been put in place, such as the jail system’s “second chance” housing option for adolescents currently held in solitary and a “Transitional Repair Unit” where prisoners ...

From the Editor

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

Over the past 25 years of publishing PLN we have run numerous stories about the Rikers Island jail complex in New York City, generally dealing with guard brutality and medical neglect. Despite several major class-action suits and hundreds if not thousands of other lawsuits, as well as rivers of ink spilled documenting the abuse and countless investigations and reports, the misconduct, corruption and deficient medical care has continued unabated.

Rikers Island is literally a landfill waste dump in the middle of a river in the wealthiest city in the world, and has proved largely impervious to reform or control despite ample lip service paid to both over the decades. The guards’ union at Rikers does not pretend to be anything other than a bunch of thugs intent on fatter paychecks and impunity for their actions.

Even as the latest reforms are announced, it remains to be seen if they will go any further than all the other reforms of the past 40 years. At its core the reality remains that the American government rules through force, violence and brutality, and mass incarceration has served to accelerate and accentuate that reality. Rikers Island exemplifies the ...

Ohio DOC Pays $2,000 to Prisoner Burned on Exposed Steam Pipe

Ohio DOC Pays $2,000 to Prisoner Burned on Exposed Steam Pipe

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has agreed to pay prisoner Ivan Lacking $2,000 for injuries he received in a unit stairwell while on the way to the dining hall.

On October 27, 2011, Lacking’s arm ...

Explosion at Florida Jail Kills Two Prisoners as Officials Negotiate Reforms for Unconstitutional Conditions

Explosion at Florida Jail Kills Two Prisoners as Officials Negotiate Reforms for Unconstitutional Conditions

by David Reutter

As negotiations continued between the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Escambia County, Florida officials over correcting major deficiencies at the county’s Central Booking and Detention Facility, the jail was rocked by an explosion caused by a natural gas leak. Two prisoners were killed and scores injured in the late-night April 30, 2014 blast.

“It’s pretty much complete destruction inside this facility,” said Sheriff David Morgan. “It was a huge explosion.”

The blast occurred near the jail’s booking area, according to county spokeswoman Kathleen Castro, who told reporters shortly after the incident that the ceiling and part of a wall had collapsed, causing extensive damage. She said around 600 prisoners were in the facility at the time and nearby hospitals reported treating more than 150 patients, most with non-life-threatening injuries, though in addition to the two fatalities one guard was paralyzed. A total of 184 people were injured.

The explosion occurred as DOJ and county officials were negotiating the terms of a proposed settlement to require the jail to correct what a five-year investigation determined were systematic deficiencies and routine ...

Behind Bars and in Danger?

Behind Bars and in Danger?

by Dana DiFilippo, Philadelphia Daily News

If Mike Brady had died in a ditch somewhere, his brother would have understood. If he’d overdosed on a North Philly stoop? Sure, that would have been tragic – but unsurprising, given Brady’s longtime struggle with drug addiction.

So when Brady got arrested on drug charges in May 2011, his brother breathed a small sigh of relief.

“He was doing a lot of risky things, so every time my brother went to jail, I felt like he was in a safer place than on the street,” said Jeremy Brady, 43, of Bensalem. “I figured: He’ll get clean, he’ll get medical care, and we can get back to being a family again.”

But jail turned out to be anything but safe.

Jeremy Brady can’t talk about what happened there; family lawyers signed a confidentiality agreement forbidding the family from discussing the details publicly.

But sources familiar with the incident told the Daily News that Mike Brady, sick from detoxing, went to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility’s infirmary.

Returning to his cell, he felt sick again and asked the correctional officers escorting him to go back to the infirmary. But ...

GEO Group’s Gulags Grasping for Green Approval

GEO Group’s Gulags Grasping for Green Approval

by Panagioti Tsolkas

All the environmentally-conscious “green” certifications in the world can’t cover up the steady flow of atrocities associated with for-profit prisons, but that’s not going to stop them from trying.

In March 2015, the GEO Group – the nation’s second-largest private prison company – was called out by the “Greenwashing the Gulags” social media campaign for announcing that they had taken advantage of a publicly-funded program to promote water conservation by installing a native landscape plan at the Desert View Modified Community Correctional Facility.

GEO operates the prison in drought-stricken Adelanto, California, and the company received $4,207 to remove over 8,400 square feet of grass at the entrance of the facility. The labor for the project was provided by prisoners, of course, and the grass was replaced with gravel, a few native plants and well-arranged rocks. Some of the rocks were painted blue to spell out “GEO.”

Despite the new landscaping, GEO Group still draws massive quantities of water each day to operate the 700-bed facility. While GEO did not return calls from Prison Legal News inquiring about the facility’s water use, estimates indicate it uses over 140 ...

$6.2 Million Settlement Reached in D.C. Jail Strip Search, Overdetention Suit

$6.2 Million Settlement Reached in D.C. Jail Strip Search, Overdetention Suit

by Derek Gilna

An eight-year-old lawsuit alleging illegal overdetention and strip searches of detainees at the District of Columbia Jail concluded with a $6.2 million settlement. The class-action suit had accused the jail of wrongfully strip-searching ...

32 Deaths at CCA-operated Immigration Detention Facilities Include at Least 7 Suicides

32 Deaths at CCA-operated Immigration Detention Facilities Include at Least 7 Suicides

by Alex Friedmann

On June 17, 2015, U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, requesting an investigation into recent deaths at the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona. The facility, which houses detainees for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is operated by Corrections Corporation of America – the nation’s largest for-profit prison company.

One of the deaths, that of José de Jesús Deniz-Sahagún, 31, a Mexican national, was ruled a suicide by the Pinal County Medical Examiner’s Office. Deniz-Sahagún died on May 20, 2015 due to asphyxiation; a sock was found lodged in his throat. The day before his death he was reportedly examined by mental health staff at the CCA facility for “delusional thoughts and behaviors,” according to the autopsy report.

“Eloy Detention Center is in the business of detaining people for profit, but that does not exempt them from upholding the law,” Rep. Grijalva said in a statement. “Where transgressions occur, accountability must follow.”

Approximately 200 detainees at the Eloy facility staged a hunger strike over the weekend of June 13-14, 2015. According to Puente Movement ...

Supreme Court Holds Juror’s Alleged Lies During Voir Dire Not Grounds for New Trial

Supreme Court Holds Juror’s Alleged Lies During Voir Dire Not Grounds for New Trial

by Derek Gilna

In a decision with serious implications for criminal defense attorneys as well as civil litigants, the U.S. Supreme Court held on December 9, 2014 that a juror’s allegedly untruthful responses during voir dire questioning did not require a new trial. According to the high court, “[t]he question presented in this case is whether Rule 606(b) precludes a party seeking a new trial from using one juror’s affidavit of what another juror said in deliberations to demonstrate the other juror’s dishonesty during voir dire. We hold that it does.”

The plaintiff in the case, Warger, had sued in federal court for damages for injuries suffered in an automobile accident. After the verdict for the defendant, Shauers, a juror executed an affidavit for Warger’s attorney stating that one of the other jurors had ruled in favor of Shauers because her daughter had been negligent in a fatal automobile collision – a fact not revealed during the same juror’s voir dire responses. Warger’s motion for a new trial, supported by an affidavit that the juror had lied about her ability to ...

New Mexico Jail Pays $500,000 for Prisoner’s Death

New Mexico Jail Pays $500,000 for Prisoner’s Death

by Derek Gilna

When Eusemia Rodriguez, 33, was admitted to the jail in Santa Fe County, New Mexico on July 3, 2012 on a domestic battery charge, she advised employees that she was a drug and alcohol addict who was at risk for severe withdrawal. Several days later, following what medical experts described as “deliberate indifference” to her medical needs, she died after vomiting blood for several hours.

According to registered nurse Kathryn J. Wild, one of the experts who examined Rodriguez’s medical records, the Santa Fe jail failed to follow standards promulgated for similar institutions by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC). The NCCHC standards mandate that medical screening be performed on all prisoners immediately upon their arrival at an intake facility by qualified healthcare professionals or other trained staff.

In the case of Rodriguez, who had been held at the jail a number of times for minor offenses, she was known to have an extensive medical history revolving around drug and alcohol abuse. According to jail records and statements from various witnesses, she had told jail staff that if she did not receive a “kick kit” to ...

$400,000 Settlement in Suit Over Minnesota Prisoner’s Death Due to Medical Neglect

$400,000 Settlement in Suit Over Minnesota Prisoner’s Death Due to Medical Neglect

by Matt Clarke

On May 1, 2013, the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) agreed to pay a $400,000 settlement in a federal lawsuit after a prisoner suffered multiple seizures and died, having received virtually no medical ...

Supreme Court Holds Equitable Tolling Excuses Missed Federal Tort Claim Filing Deadlines

Supreme Court Holds Equitable Tolling Excuses Missed Federal Tort Claim Filing Deadlines

by Derek Gilna

It’s not easy to sue the United States for damages. According to the Supreme Court, “The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA or Act) provides that a tort claim against the United States ‘shall be forever barred’” unless the claimant meets two statutory deadlines. First, a claim must be presented to the appropriate federal agency for administrative review “within two years after [the] claim accrues.” 28 U.S.C. § 2401(b). Second, if the agency denies the claim, the claimant may file suit “in federal court ‘within six months after’ the agency’s final decision.” [See: PLN, March 2014, p.44].

The Supreme Court addressed these deadlines in consolidated cases involving FTCA petitioners Kwai Fun Wong and Marlene June.

In Wong’s case, while she gave proper notice, she failed to file within the six-month period after the federal government denied her claim. June did not give proper notice within the two-year period. Both cases were denied at the district court level, but on appeal the Ninth Circuit held the doctrine of equitable tolling preserved both claims.

Wong argued that she had missed the filing ...

Successful Defense of Consent Decree Merits Award of Untimely Attorney Fees

Successful Defense of Consent Decree Merits Award of Untimely Attorney Fees

by David Reutter

On September 8, 2014, a California federal district court awarded $7,826.60 in fees and costs to the attorneys and certified law students who successfully defended against a motion to terminate a decades-old consent decree ...

Chicago Systematically Denies Medical Care to Detainees; $1 Million Verdict

Chicago Systematically Denies Medical Care to Detainees; $1 Million Verdict

by David M. Reutter

An Illinois federal jury awarded $1 million to a prisoner’s estate after finding the city of Chicago had a policy and practice of systematically depriving detainees in police lockups of needed medical attention and/or medication ...

Deaths, Lawsuits Plague San Diego County Jail

Deaths, Lawsuits Plague San Diego County Jail

by Gary Hunter

Sixty prisoners died in San Diego County, California’s jail system over the past five years, but the facts surrounding those deaths sometimes remained a mystery as prisoners’ families waited for years and still received few answers. In some cases, the ...

New Jersey County Seeks New Jail Phone Contract, Increases Commission Rate

New Jersey County Seeks New Jail Phone Contract, Increases Commission Rate

by Derek Gilna

Officials in Bergen County, New Jersey are seeking bids on a new jail phone contract that will include an increase in the “commission” kickback the county receives from calls made by prisoners, which will go from 60% to 65%. Under the new contract, phone calls from the Bergen County jail will reportedly cost $.21 per minute for domestic calls and $.50 per minute for international calls. There will also be a $5.95 deposit fee for prepaid phone accounts.

At the same time, the New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC), which contracts with Global Tel*Link for phone services, has completely eliminated its prison phone commission. As previously reported in Prison Legal News, the DOC abolished commission payments effective August 2015, which will result in significantly lower rates of under $.05 per minute. [See: PLN, May 2015, p.40; Oct. 2014, p.28].

Although New Jersey counties can opt into the DOC’s phone contract, some, including Bergen County, have declined to do so – apparently to preserve their lucrative commission payments at the expense of higher phone rates for prisoners and their family members and friends ...

Private Prison Corporation GEO Group Expands its Stable of Former Top Federal Officials

Private Prison Corporation GEO Group Expands its Stable of Former Top Federal Officials

by Darwin Bond-Graham

On July 2, 2014, private prison corporation GEO Group added yet another former government official to its inner circle. GEO Group’s management voted unanimously to expand their board of directors to seven seats, adding Julie Myers Wood. From 2006 to 2008, Wood was the Department of Homeland Security assistant secretary in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

Wood is now the second member of GEO Group’s inner circle to have been employed by ICE. GEO Group’s executive vice president for corporate development, David Venturella, was an executive within ICE for 22 years before joining GEO Group in 2012.

Of course ICE is a major customer of GEO Group. GEO Group’s federal prison contracting began in 1987 when ICE signed a deal with the company to build and operate an immigrant prison in Colorado called the Aurora ICE Processing Center. GEO Group recently opened a new 400-bed immigrant “transfer center” in Louisiana. ICE will pay GEO Group $8.5 million a year to hold detainees in this prison.

Some might remember Julie Myers Wood for presiding over an infamous Halloween costume party at ICE’s ...

Georgia’s Privatized Probation Statute Facially Constitutional, but Problems with Administration

Georgia’s Privatized Probation Statute Facially Constitutional, but Problems with Administration

by David M. Reutter

While declining to rule on the constitutionality of a state law authorizing privatized probation services, on November 24, 2014 the Georgia Supreme Court issued a 41-page decision that alters the administration of that statute.

The Court ruled in an appeal in consolidated cases filed by 13 misdemeanor probationers in Columbia and Richmond counties. The first issue the Court addressed was the statute’s constitutionality. As the trial court had not distinctly ruled on that claim, the Court said it could not consider arguments related to the issue; it did find the statute was not unconstitutional on its face, though.

The probationers also argued that their due process rights had been violated because the financial interests of private probation officers denied them fair and impartial tribunals, as the officers encouraged courts to impose excessive and improper terms of probation. The Supreme Court held the state was required to continue to provide due process to individuals under its supervision; however, due process does not prohibit it from contracting with private companies. The probationers conceded their claims arose from employees of the contractor, Sentinel Offender Services, failing “to abide by ...

Companies Pitch Tablets for Prisoners to Maintain Family Ties, Aid in Reentry ... and Generate Profit

Companies Pitch Tablets for Prisoners to Maintain Family Ties, Aid in Reentry ... and Generate Profit

by Derek Gilna

The Pennsylvania DOC is joining a small number of state prison systems that allow prisoners to purchase specially-modified tablet computers, and that number could grow as more and more corrections officials receive favorable reports about the electronic devices. Proponents say such new technology will help prisoners maintain family ties, gain access to educational resources and assist with reentry following their release.

However, the idea of introducing technology into prisons is not without its detractors, including guards’ unions that point to potential security threats, victims’ advocates who fear prisoners will have another way to intimidate their victims, and politicians who decry efforts to provide prisoners with technology that many non-incarcerated citizens lack.

Other critics worry that tablets will be little more than electronic babysitters – like televisions – that mostly provide prisoners with an opportunity to play games, listen to music and watch movies.

“Realistically, what prison officials want is something to keep inmates entertained or occupied,” said PLN managing editor Alex Friedmann. “The technology we would like to see is actual access ... to computers, computer training and computer classes so [prisoners ...

Harris County, Texas Jail Prisoner’s Death Results in Firings, Lawsuits

Harris County, Texas Jail Prisoner’s Death Results in Firings, Lawsuits

In August 2012, two Texas jailers and a deputy sheriff were fired for failing to summon medical assistance for an injured 72-year-old prisoner at the Harris County jail in Houston, and for failing to report a guard who punched the prisoner.

The termination letters sent to the three employees provided a glimpse into the events surrounding the death of Norman Ford Hicks, Sr., a retired Houston butcher with a history of mental health issues and family violence. [See: PLN, Sept. 2013, p.23].

Hicks, arrested on a probation violation, was being disruptive in a cell block at the Harris County jail on January 16, 2011. Guards Christopher S. Pool, 26, and Christopher L. Taylor, 33, and deputy Joseph P. Jameson, 37, removed him from the cell block and put him in a small booth normally used for attorney visitation. Sometime later they noticed that Hicks had urinated and defecated on the floor. They moved him to another booth and told him to remove his soiled shirt and shoes.

Taylor later told investigators that Hicks threw his shirt at Pool, Pool tossed it back and Hicks brought up his fists. Pool ...

Alabama DOC Agrees to Protect Women Prisoners from Systemic Sexual Abuse, Harassment

Alabama DOC Agrees to Protect Women Prisoners from Systemic Sexual Abuse, Harassment

by David M. Reutter

The State of Alabama has agreed to implement reforms designed to protect prisoners at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women from what investigators with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) described as a “toxic, sexualized environment” that led to persistent violations of prisoners’ Eighth Amendment rights due to “unabated staff-on-prisoner sexual abuse and harassment.” The agreement settles a federal lawsuit filed by the DOJ against Alabama and the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC).

The settlement, entered in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama on May 28, 2015, reaffirms the ADOC’s commitment to enforce the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and “to comply with ADOC’s written policies and procedures mandating zero tolerance toward all forms of sexual abuse and sexual harassment.”

To help monitor the behavior of prison guards, the ADOC installed a “state of the art camera system” at Tutwiler with video cameras “strategically placed to maximize supervision while protecting” prisoners’ privacy, according to the settlement agreement. The settlement also requires unannounced inspections by supervisors to prevent misconduct by guards. Further, the ADOC agreed to step up ...

$1.35 Million Total Settlement for South Carolina Detainee Beaten by Jail Guard

$1.35 Million Total Settlement for South Carolina Detainee Beaten by Jail Guard

by David M. Reutter

Richland County, South Carolina has agreed to pay $750,000 to a pretrial detainee who was seriously injured after being beaten by a guard. The jail’s private medical contractor, Correct Care Solutions (CCS ...

Texas Prisoners Face Annual Shortage of Hygiene Items in Prison Commissaries

Texas Prisoners Face Annual Shortage of Hygiene Items in Prison Commissaries

by Matt Clarke

It’s a regular routine for Texas state prisoners – commissaries running out of hygiene supplies and other items as purchasing contracts are renewed.

The contracts for Texas prison commissaries expire at the end of August, when each fiscal year comes to a close. That’s when the Texas Procurement and Support Services Division begins advertising for bidders to fill new commissary contracts. If the previous supplier is willing to fill the new contract the transition may go smoothly, but if they’re dissatisfied with the terms the contract could go unfilled for months. That’s what happened with the contracts for deodorant and toothpaste in 2012, for example, leaving Texas prisoners unable to purchase those items when commissary supplies ran out in early 2013.

“There’s not an easy workaround,” said Jennifer Erschabek, director of the Austin branch of the Texas Inmate Families Association. “It’s just state red tape and then a breakdown in the process.”

According to Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) records, by January 2013 there were 28,000 tubes of toothpaste and 1,800 sticks of deodorant left for around 151,000 state prisoners ...

California Prison Officials Ordered to Provide Qualified Sign Language Interpreters for All Deaf Prisoners

California Prison Officials Ordered to Provide Qualified Sign Language Interpreters for All Deaf Prisoners

by Michael Brodheim

In June 2013, the federal district court overseeing California’s treatment of prisoners with disabilities granted a motion for an order to enforce its prior orders, concluding that clear and convincing evidence showed that prison officials at the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility in Corcoran had consistently failed to provide qualified sign language interpreters (SLIs) for deaf prisoners in education and vocational programs, and during mental health encounters with deaf prisoners housed in administrative segregation (ad seg).

At the same time the court denied a motion to hold the defendants in contempt, though the motion could be renewed in the event prison officials continued to fail to provide SLIs or other accommodations reasonably necessary to ensure that deaf (as well as other disabled) prisoners can access programs and services available to non-disabled prisoners.

In response to a series of orders in the class-action case, Armstrong v. Brown, finding that treatment of prisoners with disabilities violated both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, California prison officials issued an amended Armstrong Remedial Plan (ARP) in January 2001 that set forth ...

Settlement Moots Appeal of Claims Denied by Summary Judgment

Settlement Moots Appeal of Claims Denied by Summary Judgment

by David Reutter

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed a prisoner’s civil rights appeal after finding it was rendered moot by the parties’ post-trial settlement agreement.

Nevada prisoner Christopher A. Jones was subjected to disciplinary action after guards at the Ely State Prison found a letter in his property during a search. The letter called upon fellow prisoners to work together in support of Jones’ class-action suit against prison officials.

Following the September 2000 search, guard Michael Nustad charged Jones with violating rules that prohibit prisoners from “organizing, encouraging, or participating in a work stoppage or other disruptive demonstration or practice.” At a disciplinary hearing, guard Mark Drain had Jones removed for disrupting the hearing by repeatedly requesting that he be provided a copy of the letter to review prior to or during the proceedings. Drain found Jones guilty and sanctioned him with 180 days in disciplinary segregation, 90 days loss of telephone privileges and forfeiture of the letter.

Jones’ appeals were denied and he filed suit, alleging violation of his First and Fourth Amendment rights. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment and the district court issued ...

Strip Searches of Female Visitors on Their Menstrual Period Addressed at CCA Shareholder Meeting

Strip Searches of Female Visitors on Their Menstrual Period Addressed at CCA Shareholder Meeting

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest for-profit prison company, held its annual shareholder meeting in Nashville, Tennessee on May 14, 2015. It was likely the first time that the words “vagina,” “penises” and “menses” have been mentioned during a corporate shareholder meeting.

In January 2015, a federal lawsuit was filed against CCA by a woman who visited a prisoner at the company’s South Central Correctional Facility (SCCF) in Clifton, Tennessee. The visitor, identified only as Jane Doe, said guards had “forced her to expose her genitals to prove she was menstruating when she tried to take a sanitary napkin into the facility,” the Associated Press reported.

The suit was later amended to include another SCCF visitor who alleged she had to endure a similar search by CCA guards to prove she was on her period, while in the presence of her minor children.

Apparently it was CCA’s policy to require women visitors who were menstruating to provide evidence they were on their period. This was accomplished by making them remove or change their tampons or pads in the presence of a female ...

Peer-Review Reports Must be Disclosed in Philadelphia Jail Conditions Suit

Peer-Review Reports Must be Disclosed in Philadelphia Jail Conditions Suit

by David Reutter

A Pennsylvania federal district court held on November 4, 2014 that medical care contractor Corizon Health has to produce mortality and sentinel event reviews in a class-action suit filed by prisoners in the Philadelphia Prison System (PPS) seeking equitable relief from unconstitutional conditions of confinement.

The lawsuit alleges that the PPS is overcrowded and triple-celled, and overcrowding results in danger to the health and safety of the prisoner population. Before the court was a discovery request filed by the plaintiffs that sought “mortality and sentinel event reviews for deaths that occurred in custody from January 2012 to December 1, 2013.”

The PPS defendants sought to obtain the discovery information from Corizon, a non-party to the suit, but the company objected, contending that the records were not discoverable because they were protected by Pennsylvania’s peer-review privilege law. The plaintiffs argued that federal courts do not recognize the state peer-review privilege.

The district court explained that where, as here, there are both federal and state law claims in a case, “the federal rule favoring admissibility, rather than any state law privilege, is the controlling rule.” Therefore, “the ...

Florida Home Confinement Program Criticized After Witness’ Murder

Florida Home Confinement Program Criticized After Witness’ Murder

In internal investigation of a home confinement program in Orange County, Florida revealed widespread problems, including the failure of staff to report violations that could have led to the re-incarceration of a program participant accused of killing one person and wounding two others who were scheduled to testify against him. At least two county jail employees were suspended in the wake of the scandal and the program’s supervisor retired.

Bessman Okafor, 29, could face the death penalty when he goes to trial later this year for allegedly killing 19-year-old Alex Zaldivar and wounding his siblings, Brienna and Remington Campos. Police said each were shot in the head to prevent them from testifying at Okafor’s trial stemming from a violent 2012 home invasion.

An internal review of the home confinement program found that Okafor had violated curfew more than 100 times while in the program; although each violation could have led to his being returned to jail, they were not reported to a judge.

The investigation uncovered problems that included concerns that the home confinement program would be privatized and an atmosphere of leniency perpetuated and even encouraged by the program’s management.

Orange ...

Ten Law Enforcement Groups Among Worst Charities in America

Ten Law Enforcement Groups Among Worst Charities in America

by Joe Watson

Of America’s 48 worst charities, ten – or just over 20% – are affiliated with law enforcement groups, according to a joint investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR).

The benchmark used for selecting the worst charities was the percentage of donations spent on fundraising, salaries and other organizational expenses, compared with the amount spent on programs and services to further their mission.

The list of dubious charities includes the International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO (ranked 5th worst); American Association of State Troopers (7th worst); United States Deputy Sheriffs’ Association (16th worst); and the 20th worst – the Police Protective Fund (PPF), an Austin, Texas-based charity with fundraising call centers in south Florida.

Officials with Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services raided PPF’s call centers on September 17, 2013 and arrested four managers in charge of the operations after determining several felons had been hired as telemarketers. Those arrested included James Paul Williams, Jr., 61, and his son, Jason Robert Williams, 34, a convicted sex offender.

Florida state law bans charities from knowingly hiring fundraisers who have been convicted of ...

Ninth Circuit: “Brutal” Cavity Search Violated Fourth Amendment

Ninth Circuit: “Brutal” Cavity Search Violated Fourth Amendment

by Mark Wilson

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held on August 25, 2014, in a 2-1 decision, that a “brutal” warrantless body cavity search violated the Fourth Amendment.

In September 2006, Mark Tyrell Fowlkes was arrested on federal drug charges in Long Beach, California. During a strip search at the jail, Sergeant Michael Gibbs “delivered a drive stun tase to the center of [Fowlkes’] back.” Gibbs later testified that he did so because he believed Fowlkes was “‘forcing or moving an object or further secreting an object’ inside his rectum to destroy evidence.”

When Fowlkes was handcuffed and bent over, officers saw “what appeared to be a plastic bag partially protruding” from his rectum. They could not see what, if anything, the bag contained. Nor could they tell how large the bag was or how far it extended inside his body.

Fowlkes was unable to destroy or further secrete the bag while restrained. Nevertheless, officers did not obtain a warrant, summon medical personnel, move Fowlkes to a sanitary location or allow him to pass the plastic bag and its contents naturally.

Instead, Gibbs donned gloves and forcibly “pulled the ...

Arizona Department of Corrections Adopts Same-Sex Marriage Policy

Arizona Department of Corrections Adopts Same-Sex Marriage Policy

by Michael Brodheim

Corrections officials in Arizona have changed a policy related to prisoner marriages to allow same-sex unions, now that such marriages are legal in the state. However, prisoners are still not permitted to marry one another, either as traditional or same-sex couples.

Prisoners’ rights advocate Donna Hamm, director of Tempe, Arizona-based Middle Ground Prison Reform, wrote to Corrections Director Charles L. Ryan to lobby for changes in the prison system’s marriage policy.

“The current Arizona Department of Corrections policy, Director’s Order 904, at 904.07, 1.2.1, limits marriage to ‘a member of the opposite sex,’” Hamm stated. “This policy is inconsistent with the State of Arizona which now recognizes same-sex unions. In addition, the Department’s policy on marriage is illegal at 1.2.1.4, which states that an inmate may not marry another inmate.”

Hamm said she was not seeking changes that would allow two prisoners who are married to each other to be housed together, but that the benefits of marriage go far beyond cohabitation.

“The protections afforded to inmates with respect to the right to marry include the emotional, psychological, societal, legal and ...

Brits Alarmed to Learn Prisoners Work as Insurance Telemarketers

Brits Alarmed to Learn Prisoners Work as Insurance Telemarketers

by Joe Watson

Some knickers are in a bunch over revelations that prisoners in Great Britain are working as telemarketers for an insurance company.

Prisoners at two facilities – HMP Oakwood and the Drake Hall women’s jail in Staffordshire – were earning £20 (about $33) a week asking insurance customers for personal information over the phone.

The jobs, part of a Ministry of Justice program to give prisoners work experience, require them to read from a script and, according to an unnamed source, tell homeowners they are calling on behalf of a “market research” contractor.

“When they get through, they are told to ask, ‘would you like to save some money?’” the source informed The Sun, a British tabloid. When the call recipient says yes, the prisoners “then ask to confirm names and postcode, enough to identify where they live, and if they have valuable items” that should be insured.

“It may have put hundreds of homes’ security at risk,” the source concluded.

Peter Cuthbertson of the U.K. Centre for Crime Prevention was just as hyperbolic. “Trusting criminals with people’s financial details is incredibly naive,” he said ...

CDCR Adopts New Contraband Rules on Obscene, Gang-related Materials

CDCR Adopts New Contraband Rules on Obscene, Gang-related Materials

by Michael Brodheim

In the aftermath of a 2013 ruling by the California Court of Appeal that found a book containing sexually explicit content was not obscene and must be returned to the prisoner who ordered it, and following a hunger strike staged in July 2013 by nearly 30,000 state prisoners, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) proposed and adopted new contraband rules governing obscene and security threat group (STG)-related materials.

Critics and prisoner advocacy groups claim the new rules are nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to retaliate by further restricting the reading materials that prisoners can receive and possess. Prison Legal News submitted a six-page comment on June 16, 2014 objecting to the proposed rules, which amend Cal. Code of Reg. Title 15, sections 3006, 3134.1 and 3135.

“There’s a lot of non-sexual speech that will be banned if these regulations are put into effect,” said Paul Wright, executive director of the Human Rights Defense Center, PLN’s parent organization. “This isn’t a new tactic, for hundreds of years the guise of ‘obscenity’ has been used to crush political speech; not just among ...

Error for Florida Court to Find Action Moot Before Ruling on Motion to Supplement

Error for Florida Court to Find Action Moot Before Ruling on Motion to Supplement

by David Reutter

lForida’s First District Court of Appeals held on January 2, 2015 that it was error for a trial court to dismiss as moot a prisoner’s mandamus petition without ruling on a pending motion to supplement the petition.

Prisoner William T. Morrison, Jr. filed four sets of grievances challenging the Florida Department of Corrections’ (FDOC) failure to properly process his mail. Upon filing a mandamus petition on March 18, 2010 in Leon County Circuit Court, Morrison sought relief for the FDOC’s failure to treat correspondence from the Florida Bar and a reporter with the Kansas City Star as privileged mail.

Morrison was granted leave to amend his petition on October 27, 2011, to include grievances related to the processing of his mail from PLN. He then moved on August 22, 2012 to include a claim concerning mail from Lance Weber, general counsel of the Human Rights Defense Center, PLN’s parent organization. The court never ruled on the latter motion to supplement.

Instead, it dismissed his petition as moot based upon the FDOC’s clarification of Rule 33-210.103 F.A.C, which indicated mail ...

Supreme Court Clarifies Legal Standard for Pre-Trial Detainee Excessive Force Claims

Supreme Court Clarifies Legal Standard for Pre-Trial Detainee Excessive Force Claims

by Derek Gilna

Mchael B. Kingsley, a pre-trial detainee in a Wisconsin county jail, filed a § 1983 federal civil rights action alleging that deputies had used excessive force and inflicted serious injuries when they removed him from his cell. At trial, the jury found for the defendants and Kingsley’s appeal was denied by the Seventh Circuit. However, in an important decision that affects only pretrial detainees but lays important groundwork for excessive force claims involving convicted prisoners, the Supreme Court reversed.

On June 22, 2015, in a 5-4 decision, the Court framed the issue as follows:
“[W]hether, to prove an excessive force claim, a pretrial detainee must show that the officers were ‘subjectively’aware that their use of force was unreasonable, or only that the officers’ use of that force was ‘objectively’unreasonable. We conclude that the latter standard is the correct one.”

Jail staff, including Sergeant Stan Hendrickson and Deputy Fritz Degner, had removed Kingsley from his cell in handcuffs after he refused to remove a piece of paper from a light fixture. Kingsley was injured during the May 2010 cell extraction, and in a subsequent ...

Whether Private Actors Entitled to Qualified Immunity Bypassed Due to Factual Dispute

Whether Private Actors Entitled to Qualified Immunity Bypassed Due to Factual Dispute

The First Circuit Court of Appeals declined to rule on a question of whether qualified immunity is categorically unavailable to private medical contractors because disputed issues of material fact remained in the case.

Before the appellate court was the interlocutory appeal of a Maine federal district court’s denial of summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The First Circuit noted it had jurisdiction only to the extent the appeal rested on legal rather than factual grounds.

The defendants were employees of Corizon, a private contractor that provided medical services to prisoners at the Cumberland County Jail. The civil rights action was filed by the estate of Paul Victor Galambos III, who died on December 12, 2008 as a result of the defendants’ deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs after he injured himself and was placed in a restraint chair.

The defendants – psychiatric nurse practitioner Michael Trueworthy, Registered Nurse Barbara Walsh and Licensed Clinical Social Worker Linda Williams – argued their performance did not fall so far below the standard of care as to constitute deliberate indifference, and they were thus entitled to qualified immunity. The district court ...

News in Brief

News in Brief

Alabama: U.S. Marshals used a tip line to locate and arrest the third and final prisoner who escaped from the Choctaw County Jail on December 14, 2014. Demarcus Woodard, Gemayel Culbert and Justin Terrell Gordon lured a guard into their cell and overpowered him before absconding. Gordon and Culbert were located separately in the hours that followed the escape, while Woodard was captured at a Tuscaloosa-area apartment the next day based on an anonymous tip.

Arizona: On January 3, 2015, Bernard Stewart, 47, died from an apparent suicide at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Eyman. Another state prisoner, Donald Condra, 51, also died from an apparent suicide at ASPC Lewis on December 25, 2014. According to a news release from the Arizona Department of Corrections, all deaths are investigated in consultation with the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s office.

Bangladesh: Prison guard Ratan Khan died at the Dhaka Central Jail on December 11, 2014 after being electrocuted in a strange accident. Khan was attempting to dry laundry on an outdoor line when he came into contact with a live electrical wire. He was rushed to Dhaka Medical College and Hospital, but pronounced dead on arrival.

Brazil ...


 

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