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Prison Legal News: November, 2016

Issue PDF
Volume 27, Number 11

In this issue:

  1. When Prison is Not Enough: The Rise (and Perhaps the Fall) of the Supermax Prison (p 1)
  2. Local Jails Increasingly Refuse to Comply with ICE Detainers (p 8)
  3. From the Editor (p 10)
  4. Maryland DOC Suspends Volunteer, Drops Literature Program (p 11)
  5. Oregon “Incorrigible Masturbator’s” Life Sentence Unconstitutionally Disproportionate (p 12)
  6. Ohio Federal Court Dismisses Suit Against Doctor Over Prisoner’s Suicide (p 13)
  7. Wayward Prosecutors Go Unpunished as Prison Time for Victims Piles Up (p 14)
  8. Supervised Release Term Does Not Limit Prison Sentence Upon Violation (p 17)
  9. Class-action Certified in Challenge to Treatment of Mentally Ill Mississippi Prisoners (p 18)
  10. Oregon Prison Parenting Program Dramatically Reduces Recidivism (p 18)
  11. Pennsylvania Supreme Court Upholds Death Penalty Moratorium (p 20)
  12. Indiana Federal Court Certifies Habeas Corpus Class of Prisoners Disciplined for Refusing to Admit Guilt in Sex Offender Program (p 20)
  13. Alaska Prisons and Jails Filled with Mentally Ill Prisoners (p 22)
  14. Federal Judge Orders Texas Department of Criminal Justice to Provide Safe Water to Prisoners (p 22)
  15. ACLU Sues California as Incompetent Defendants Wait in Jail for Mental Health Treatment (p 24)
  16. Collecting Unpaid Booking Fees in Colorado may be Illegal, Experts Say (p 24)
  17. Hunger Strikes by Immigrant Detainees Expose Abuses by ICE, Private Detention Centers (p 26)
  18. Federal Court Upholds New York Prison System’s Denial of Motorized Wheelchairs; Second Circuit Reverses (p 28)
  19. Oregon Parole Board Incorrectly Prohibited Legal Assistant from Speaking at Parole Hearing (p 28)
  20. Tenth Circuit: No Summary Judgment on Official Capacity Claims (p 30)
  21. Allocation of Fault Required in Verdict Regarding Alaska Detainee’s Suicide; Case Settles for $900,000 (p 30)
  22. Federal Prisoner Tells President “No Thanks” to Offer of Clemency with RDAP Condition (p 32)
  23. Book Review: Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy (p 32)
  24. Southern Health Partners to Face Liability in Kentucky Pre-trial Detainee’s MRSA Death (p 34)
  25. Challenge to Ohio Private Prison Confinement Not Cognizable in Habeas Corpus (p 34)
  26. Arkansas Court of Appeals Upholds Civil Forfeiture Ruling (p 35)
  27. Fifth Circuit Holds Four Decades in Solitary Confinement Implicates Liberty Interest; Last Angola 3 Member Finally Released (p 36)
  28. The Rape Victims Silenced by Their Prison Cells (p 38)
  29. Settlement Comprehensively Overhauls Solitary Confinement in New York Prisons (p 40)
  30. Inquisitorial Telephonic Hearing to Screen Civil Rights Case Deemed Unlawful (p 40)
  31. Wisconsin: Prison Hunger Strike Reaches Crisis Point (p 41)
  32. Preliminary Injunction Granted in Class-action Suit Challenging Private Probation Services in Tennessee (p 42)
  33. Eleventh Circuit Reverses Finding that Seizure of Prisoner’s Legal Mail Stated Claim (p 42)
  34. Federal Judge Sanctions Idaho DOC for Misleading Special Master in Balla Case (p 44)
  35. Illinois Jail Detainee’s Inadequate Food and Contaminated Water Claims Survive Initial Dismissal (p 44)
  36. Arkansas Secretary of State Issues Faulty Felon Data, Thousands Purged from Electoral Rolls (p 45)
  37. Pennsylvania: Former Cop Indefinitely Jailed for Failure to Supply Passwords (p 46)
  38. Justice Policy Institute Report Challenges Reformers to Focus on Violent Crimes (p 46)
  39. Canadian Solitary Confinement Deaths Result in Rare Lawsuits, Eventual Reforms (p 48)
  40. CDCR Drug-sniffing Dog Trainer Resigns Over Switch to “Passive” Dogs (p 50)
  41. Colorado’s “Make My Day” Law No Longer Applies to Prisoners (p 50)
  42. Corrections Corporation of America, Rocked by Setbacks, Changes its Name (p 51)
  43. Nevada Attorney General Investigates Shooting of Two Handcuffed Prisoners (p 52)
  44. Company Offers Educational Tablets to Prisoners, with Mixed Results (p 52)
  45. Full Senate Report on CIA Torture Remains Classified, Largely Unread (p 54)
  46. United Kingdom: Prison Book Ban Overturned (p 57)
  47. Mold-infested Prisons Sicken Guards and Prisoners (p 58)
  48. Maryland Prisoner’s Death Occurs Under Unusual Circumstances (p 59)
  49. Former Pennsylvania Prison Doctor Sentenced for Fraud; Accomplices Convicted (p 60)
  50. Alabama Prisoner Exonerated after Serving 30 Years on Death Row (p 60)
  51. Rare Corporate Prosecution: West Virginia’s “King of Coal” Sentenced for Conspiracy in Mine Deaths (p 61)
  52. News in Brief (p 63)

When Prison is Not Enough: The Rise (and Perhaps the Fall) of the Supermax Prison

by Keramet Reiter

In 1986, the Security Management Unit opened in Florence, Arizona. It was a new kind of prison designed for long-term, total isolation, for prisoners whom prison officials said simply could not get by in the general prison population: gang members, the extremely violent, some death row prisoners ...

Local Jails Increasingly Refuse to Comply with ICE Detainers

Hundreds of municipalities across the country – including major cities such as Los Angeles and others with large populations of immigrants – are refusing to honor requests from federal officials to hold undocumented immigrants in jail for possible deportation after a judge ruled that doing so was unconstitutional. The policy ...

From the Editor

By now everyone should have received our special fundraiser issue, which includes our 2015 annual report. We don’t get many visitors to our office in Lake Worth, Florida, and when we do reactions tend to fall into two categories when people realize we have 15 full-time staff members dedicated to ...

Maryland DOC Suspends Volunteer, Drops Literature Program

Mikita Brottman led a reading and discussion group for nine Maryland prisoners serving life sentences at the Jessup Correctional Institution. A professor of literature at the Maryland Institute College of Art and a psychoanalyst, Brottman volunteered her time for two hours a week, a few weeks out of the year ...

Oregon “Incorrigible Masturbator’s” Life Sentence Unconstitutionally Disproportionate

The Oregon Court of Appeals held on June 17, 2015 that a true life sentence for “an incorrigible masturbator” was an unconstitutionally disproportionate punishment – a decision subsequently upheld by the state Supreme Court.

Under ORS 137.719(1), certain recidivist sex offenders may be sentenced to a presumptive life ...

Ohio Federal Court Dismisses Suit Against Doctor Over Prisoner’s Suicide

On September 4, 2015, an Ohio federal district court dismissed a lawsuit brought against a former prison doctor following the suicide of a prisoner under his care.

Ohio prisoner Gregory Stamper was in extreme pain due to damage to his nervous system. Dr. Myron Lyle Shank, the physician responsible for ...

Wayward Prosecutors Go Unpunished as Prison Time for Victims Piles Up

by Brooke Williams & Shawn Musgrave

Massachusetts prosecutors have violated defendants’ rights to a fair trial regularly and without punishment, even as wrongfully convicted victims of tainted prosecutions have spent years in prison before being freed, decades of court rulings show.

The state’s Supreme Judicial Court and Appeals Court have ...

Supervised Release Term Does Not Limit Prison Sentence Upon Violation

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held “that upon revocation of supervised release a defendant may be sentenced to the felony class limits contained in [18 U.S.C.] § 3583(e)(3) without regard to imprisonment previously served for revocation of supervised release.”

After the third revocation of ...

Class-action Certified in Challenge to Treatment of Mentally Ill Mississippi Prisoners

In September 2015, a Mississippi federal district court certified as a class-action a lawsuit challenging the treatment and conditions afforded mentally ill prisoners at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility (EMCF). The court further held that the plaintiffs’ mental health experts could testify as to the methodologies used to formulate their ...

Oregon Prison Parenting Program Dramatically Reduces Recidivism

Oregon prisoners who complete a parenting program are significantly less likely to engage in criminal behavior and substance abuse after release, a long-term study found.

More than half of America’s 2.3 million prisoners have children under the age of 18 according to a 2010 Pew study. In other words ...

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Upholds Death Penalty Moratorium

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in early 2015; predictably, the move was lauded by opponents of capital punishment and despised by those in favor of the death penalty. State prosecutors petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to overturn the moratorium but were unsuccessful.

Governor Wolf’s ...

Indiana Federal Court Certifies Habeas Corpus Class of Prisoners Disciplined for Refusing to Admit Guilt in Sex Offender Program

On September 30, 2015, a U.S. district court certified a class of Indiana state prisoners who refused to admit their guilt as part of the Indiana Sex Offender Monitoring and Management Treatment Program, and who were subjected to disciplinary sanctions as a result.

In 2006, the Indiana Department of ...

Alaska Prisons and Jails Filled with Mentally Ill Prisoners

Correctional facilities in Alaska are confronted with a record number of prisoners with mental illnesses. In February 2016, KTUU reported that 65% of Alaskan prisoners suffered from some form of mental health problem while 80% had drug or alcohol addictions. The lack of resources to properly treat those prisoners has ...

Federal Judge Orders Texas Department of Criminal Justice to Provide Safe Water to Prisoners

On June 21, 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Keith Ellison ordered the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) to provide prisoners at the Wallace Pack Unit in Navasota with drinking water free of unsafe levels of arsenic. Prisoners at the facility had filed suit in 2014, seeking relief not ...

ACLU Sues California as Incompetent Defendants Wait in Jail for Mental Health Treatment

The ACLU filed a lawsuit last year on behalf of defendants declared incompetent to stand trial who languish in county jails across California while they await transfers to state mental health facilities.

When the suit was filed jointly by ACLU chapters in both northern and southern California in July 2015 ...

Collecting Unpaid Booking Fees in Colorado may be Illegal, Experts Say

According to legal experts, unpaid jail booking fees that sheriff’s departments across Colorado have collected for years may violate state law if the fees are being taken from people who are repeatedly arrested, such as the mentally ill and the homeless. But that hasn’t stopped at least six counties from ...

Hunger Strikes by Immigrant Detainees Expose Abuses by ICE, Private Detention Centers

A series of hunger strikes over the past two years by detainees at federal immigration detention facilities from Washington state to Pennsylvania have called for an end to the incarceration and deportation of undocumented immigrants, and exposed abuses and deficiencies in privately-operated, for-profit detention centers.

“The fortifications, the walls that ...

Federal Court Upholds New York Prison System’s Denial of Motorized Wheelchairs; Second Circuit Reverses

In a September 30, 2015 order, a fed­eral district court held that the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) could deny prisoners the use of wheelchairs with electric motors because the Department’s use of prisoners assigned to push unmotorized wheelchairs, known as “mobility aides,” was a ...

Oregon Parole Board Incorrectly Prohibited Legal Assistant from Speaking at Parole Hearing

Last year, the Oregon Court of Appeals held that a prisoner was improperly compelled to choose between having his mother or a legal assistant speak on his behalf at a parole hearing.

Oregon state prisoner Richard Hartwell is serving a life sentence for a 1985 murder. During an August 4 ...

Tenth Circuit: No Summary Judgment on Official Capacity Claims

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s denial of summary judgment on individual capacity claims against an Oklahoma sheriff related to a prisoner’s suicide. The appellate court held it lacked jurisdiction to consider official capacity claims.

On July 27, 2009, Charles Jernegan was incarcerated on an outstanding ...

Allocation of Fault Required in Verdict Regarding Alaska Detainee’s Suicide; Case Settles for $900,000

In September 2015, the Alaska Supreme Court vacated a $1,078,233 judgment in a lawsuit alleging the City of Hooper Bay was liable in the suicide of a 21-year-old detainee in a police holding cell. The reversal was based on an improper jury instruction regarding allocation of fault.

Louis ...

Federal Prisoner Tells President “No Thanks” to Offer of Clemency with RDAP Condition

Federal prisoner Arnold Ray Jones was one of almost 30,000 applicants seeking executive clemency from President Obama, including those who took part in Clemency Project 2014, which was launched to provide much-needed relief to drug offenders serving long mandatory minimum sentences. [See: PLN, Sept. 2016, p.22; May 2016 ...

Book Review: Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy

Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy, by Dr. Heather Ann Thompson
(Pantheon Books, 2016). 752 pages, $24.00 (hardcover)

Book review by Alan Mills

Anyone who wants to understand mass incarceration needs to understand Attica. And anyone who wants to understand Attica must ...

Southern Health Partners to Face Liability in Kentucky Pre-trial Detainee’s MRSA Death

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a grant of summary judgment to Southern Health Partners, Inc. (SHP) in a civil rights action alleging the company failed to train and supervise its nurses at Kentucky’s Hopkins County Detention Center (HCDC), which violated a deceased prisoner’s constitutional right to adequate medical ...

Challenge to Ohio Private Prison Confinement Not Cognizable in Habeas Corpus

The Ohio Court of Appeals has affirmed the dismissal of a prisoner’s habeas corpus petition seeking immediate release from a private prison.

Ohio state prisoner Maurice Freeman was confined at the Lake Erie Correctional Institution, a private prison owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America. [See: PLN, Nov. 2014 ...

Arkansas Court of Appeals Upholds Civil Forfeiture Ruling

On May 4, 2016, the Arkansas Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s order for the civil forfeiture of nearly $20,000 seized from Guillermo Espinoza during a July 2013 traffic stop. Espinoza was never charged with a crime and prosecutors eventually filed a motion to dismiss the case. In ...

Fifth Circuit Holds Four Decades in Solitary Confinement Implicates Liberty Interest; Last Angola 3 Member Finally Released

On December 17, 2014, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that holding a prisoner in solitary confinement for almost 40 years implicated a liberty interest, and that prison officials could be liable for failing to provide adequate due process.

Louisiana state prisoner Albert Woodfox was convicted of killing prison ...

The Rape Victims Silenced by Their Prison Cells

A prison chaplain who admitted to sexually assaulting three prisoners may spend less than a year behind bars. Why don’t we seem to care?

by Melissa Jeltsen, Huffington Post

When Leticia Villarreal, 42, began her prison sentence at McPherson Unit, a women’s facility in Arkansas, she throbbed with anger and ...

Settlement Comprehensively Overhauls Solitary Confinement in New York Prisons

On December 16, 2015, the State of New York and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) announced a final settlement agreement that will change many aspects of the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision’s use of solitary confinement, commonly known as “the box.” Important changes include ...

Inquisitorial Telephonic Hearing to Screen Civil Rights Case Deemed Unlawful

In reversing an Illinois federal district court’s dismissal of a civilly committed sex offender’s civil rights action, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals did not mince words when condemning the lower court’s use of a merit review proceeding as an inquisitorial hearing.

Willie Henderson is confined in the Rushville Treatment ...

Wisconsin: Prison Hunger Strike Reaches Crisis Point

According to an August 22, 2016 report from Workers World, an ongoing hunger strike at the Waupun Correctional Institution in Wisconsin has reached a crisis point. A group of at least eight prisoners at Waupun and the Columbia Correctional Institution began refusing food in June as part of a movement ...

Preliminary Injunction Granted in Class-action Suit Challenging Private Probation Services in Tennessee

Another victory in the fight against debtors’ prisons was achieved with the grant of an injunction by a Tennessee federal district court. The preliminary injunction, issued in a class-action lawsuit in December 2015, prohibits a private probation company from jailing probationers because they are unable to pay fees related to ...

Eleventh Circuit Reverses Finding that Seizure of Prisoner’s Legal Mail Stated Claim

A Georgia federal district court, in denying a motion to dismiss, found an attorney has a Fourth Amendment right to “privacy and possessory interest in letters mailed to him, and that the government may not take and read letters that have been mailed.” However, the Eleventh Circuit reversed on ...

Federal Judge Sanctions Idaho DOC for Misleading Special Master in Balla Case

On August 11, 2015, an Idaho federal court ordered sanctions against the State of Idaho and its prison system in a blistering ruling that found prison officials had intentionally misled a court-appointed special master regarding the quality of mental health services provided to prisoners. The sanctions were entered in a ...

Illinois Jail Detainee’s Inadequate Food and Contaminated Water Claims Survive Initial Dismissal

On September 25, 2015, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of a civil rights action brought by a pre-trial detainee at Illinois’ Cook County Jail that alleged inadequate food and contaminated water. However, the Court affirmed the dismissal of claims challenging inhumane working and living conditions and ...

Arkansas Secretary of State Issues Faulty Felon Data, Thousands Purged from Electoral Rolls

It will be up to county clerks in Arkansas to fix a grand-scale mistake by Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office, and the ability of thousands of people to vote in November’s general election is in limbo as a result.

In a July 6, 2016 letter sent to county clerks ...

Pennsylvania: Former Cop Indefinitely Jailed for Failure to Supply Passwords

In March 2015, former Philadelphia police sergeant Francis Rawls, 37, was identified as a suspect in a child porno­graphy ring. As part of the investigation, Delaware County authorities confiscated several electronic devices from Rawls’ home and requested that he provide the passwords to decrypt the computers, tablets, iPhone and external ...

Justice Policy Institute Report Challenges Reformers to Focus on Violent Crimes

There is bipartisan consensus on both the state and federal levels that the number of incarcerated non-violent offenders should be reduced, and that process has slowly begun to build momentum. As the U.S. prison population has declined slightly over the past few years, prisoners’ rights advocates have argued that ...

Canadian Solitary Confinement Deaths Result in Rare Lawsuits, Eventual Reforms

Deaths in Canadian federal prisons associated with the prolonged placement of prisoners in solitary confinement, as well as challenges to the use of segregation in provincial jails, have resulted in some limited reforms.

Ashley Smith was sentenced to Canada’s youth justice system when she was 12 years old; she was ...

CDCR Drug-sniffing Dog Trainer Resigns Over Switch to “Passive” Dogs

After resigning from his position, an expert dog trainer and veteran of California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) for more than 25 years has criticized a new program to reduce prison drug smuggling.

Wayne Conrad, 61, who quit in September 2014 after he was purportedly threatened by an associate ...

Colorado’s “Make My Day” Law No Longer Applies to Prisoners

by David Reutter

On the heels of the dismissal of murder charges against two Sterling Correctional Facility (SCF) prisoners under the state’s “Make My Day” law, lawmakers quickly rolled back the self-protection statute’s applicability to prisoners.

Prosecutors charged SCF prisoners Antero Alainz and Aaron Bernal with second-degree murder in the ...

Corrections Corporation of America, Rocked by Setbacks, Changes its Name

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest for-profit prison firm in the United States, and the subject of a recent scathing Mother Jones undercover investigative report that detailed numerous deficiencies at a Louisiana prison operated by the company, effectively found itself “pink-slipped” by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ ...

Nevada Attorney General Investigates Shooting of Two Handcuffed Prisoners

Two handcuffed Nevada state prisoners held in administrative segregation at the high-security High Desert State Prison were shot by guards on November 12, 2014 after they began fighting, allegedly after those same guards deliberately encouraged them to fight. The shooting resulted in the resignation of the guards involved as well ...

Company Offers Educational Tablets to Prisoners, with Mixed Results

A new educational product offered by a private company is being provided to prisoners in an increasing number of the nation’s jails – computer tablets supplied by Chicago-based Edovo (a name derived from “Education Over Obstacles”).

Edovo tablets include interactive educational and therapeutic programming, from GED preparation and math courses ...

Full Senate Report on CIA Torture Remains Classified, Largely Unread

“I want to be absolutely clear with our people and the world. The United States does not torture” – George W. Bush

On December 9, 2014, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a heavily-redacted, 525-page executive summary of its 6,700-page report on the CIA’s use of torture on terrorism suspects ...

United Kingdom: Prison Book Ban Overturned

A writ filed by Barbara Gordon-Jones, a prisoner at HM Prison Send in Surrey, southwest of London, resulted in the reversal of a policy instituted by the British government that effectively prevented prisoners from receiving books from friends and family members. Gordon-Jones, who is serving a life sentence, had argued ...

Mold-infested Prisons Sicken Guards and Prisoners

by Spencer Woodman, The Intercept

During much of her three years awaiting trial in New York’s Rikers Island jail, Candie Hailey was locked in a solitary confinement cell ventilated by a mold-covered air duct. The purpose of the vent was, of course, to pump fresh air into her 6-by-10-foot concrete ...

Maryland Prisoner’s Death Occurs Under Unusual Circumstances

The death of prisoner Louis S. Leysath III, 35, at Maryland’s Jessup Correctional Institution was the subject of an investigation after he was found dead in a steam-filled cell on February 20, 2015. Leysath, serving a 30-year sentence after pleading guilty to first-degree murder for killing his girlfriend, was housed ...

Former Pennsylvania Prison Doctor Sentenced for Fraud; Accomplices Convicted

The former medical director of Pennsylvania’s Lehigh County Prison (LCP) was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to numerous schemes to defraud the government.

Dennis Erik Fluck Von Kiel was employed as LCP’s medical director from March 1989 until August 2013. He was working for private ...

Alabama Prisoner Exonerated after Serving 30 Years on Death Row

After almost 30 years, Alabama death row prisoner Anthony Ray Hinton was freed on April 3, 2015 – at the age of 58 – when prosecutors dropped the charges against him.

At the time of his release, Hinton, who is black, told The Marshall Project that he believed racist officials ...

Rare Corporate Prosecution: West Virginia’s “King of Coal” Sentenced for Conspiracy in Mine Deaths

Don Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy, conspired to “willfully violate mandatory mine health and safety standards” to maximize his personal profits, and on April 5, 2010, an explosion attributed to safety violations claimed the lives of 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. According ...

News in Brief

California: The Los Angeles Police Department arrested an 81-year-old African American man for going “off topic” while giving public testimony at a June 21, 2016 Police Commission meeting, dragging him from the podium. Tut Hayes spoke weekly at the Commission meetings and had previously been arrested under similar circumstances at ...