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Prison Legal News: March, 2016

Issue PDF
Volume 27, Number 3

In this issue:

  1. Widespread Corruption in L.A. County Jails Leads to Federal Investigation, Indictments (p 1)
  2. Federal Jury Awards $950,000 to Prisoners Beaten at L.A. County Jail (p 13)
  3. From the Editor (p 14)
  4. Wrongfully Convicted Members of “Beatrice Six” Entitled to Compensation Despite False Confessions; Eighth Circuit Reinstates Lawsuit (p 16)
  5. Exonerated Illinois Man Receives $7.6 Million Settlement (p 17)
  6. Settlement, Judgment End Postcard-only Policies at Two Kansas Jails (p 18)
  7. Suicides, Poor Conditions at D.C. Jail Remain Critical Issues Despite Progress (p 20)
  8. Mississippi: More Contraband Found at Private Prisons (p 21)
  9. Prison Ecology and the Water Crisis in Flint, Michigan (p 22)
  10. Oklahoma DOC, Sheriffs Challenge FCC’s Prison Phone Reforms (p 22)
  11. U.S. Court of Claims Awards Federal Prisoner $172,465.75 for Wrongful Conviction (p 23)
  12. Professor Urges Study of Unintended Consequences of Court-ordered Prison Reform (p 24)
  13. Prison Policy Initiative Releases Report on Email Services for Prisoners (p 24)
  14. Reproductive Health Care in Women’s Prisons “Painful” and “Traumatic” (p 26)
  15. New Mexico Corrections Department Bans Prisoner Social Media, Pen Pal Postings (p 29)
  16. Kansas Sex Offender Civil Commitment Program Under Scrutiny (p 30)
  17. $65,000 Settlement Plus Fees and Costs in New York City Jail Assault Suit (p 31)
  18. Texas County Jail, Beset by Prisoner Deaths, has Highest Suicide Rate (p 32)
  19. New Michigan Law Requires Sex Offenders to Pay $50 Annual Fee; Court Challenge Fails (p 32)
  20. Settlements in St. Louis Jail Detainee’s Heroin Withdrawal Death (p 33)
  21. Tennessee: Federal Court Orders Interim Medical Care in Prisoner’s Pro Se Suit (p 34)
  22. Prison Supply Chains Reveal Some Surprises (p 34)
  23. Sexual Harassment, Abuse Alleged at Oklahoma Halfway House for Women (p 36)
  24. PLN Obtains Confidential CCA Litigation Records in Tennessee (p 38)
  25. D.C. Appellate Court Reverses $2.3 Million Wrongful Imprisonment Award (p 42)
  26. Settlement Reached in California Psychiatric Disabilities Class-action Suit (p 43)
  27. Guidelines Issued to Safeguard Rights of Pregnant Canadian Prisoners and their Children (p 44)
  28. Last Member of “Angola 3” Released from Louisiana Prison after 44 Years (p 46)
  29. Judge Orders Ohio County to Cap Jail Population, Release Prisoners (p 48)
  30. Supreme Court: Retroactivity Ends Mandatory Juvenile LWOP Sentences (p 48)
  31. Former California Jail Psychiatrist Placed on Probation (p 50)
  32. Arkansas Prisoner Prevails in Excessive Force Case (p 51)
  33. Justice Department Report: Homicide Rate at Lowest Level Since 1963 (p 52)
  34. Eleventh Circuit: Expiration of Preliminary Injunction Moots Appeal (p 53)
  35. $1,001 Default Judgment in Michigan - Prisoner’s Retaliation Suit (p 54)
  36. Federal Prisoner Wins $300,000 Judgment on Medical Negligence Claim (p 54)
  37. Jury Awards $40,000 to Transgender Prisoner Raped at Florida Jail (p 55)
  38. Prison Populations Worldwide (p 56)
  39. Tennessee: Theft, Misconduct Charges Pending Against Former Jail Supervisor, Son (p 56)
  40. $250,000 Settlement in Ohio Detainee’s Jail Suicide (p 57)
  41. Iowa Prisoner May Have Restitution Deductions from Prison Wages Increased (p 58)
  42. New York City Pays $41 Million for Wrongful Convictions in Central Park Jogger Rape Case (p 58)
  43. Former Prisoner Appointed to New York City Board of Correction (p 60)
  44. Third Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Federal Prisoner’s Eighth Amendment Suit (p 60)
  45. Federal Judge Refuses to Dismiss Suit Filed by Widow of Workplace-Harassed Prison Guard (p 61)
  46. Report Highlights Continuing Problems with Florida Department of Corrections (p 62)
  47. News in Brief (p 63)

Widespread Corruption in L.A. County Jails Leads to Federal Investigation, Indictments

by David M. Reutter and Rod L. Bower

Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy David “Lee” Baca faces up to six months in prison after pleading guilty on February 10, 2016 to charges that he lied to federal investigators in an attempt to cover up a conspiracy to thwart an FBI probe into brutality and excessive use of force by deputies in the county’s sprawling jail system.

In a plea agreement filed in federal court, Baca admitted to twice lying about his involvement in hiding a prisoner-turned-informant from FBI agents. In fact, according to the agreement, Baca ordered the prisoner, Anthony Brown, to be moved from facility to facility under different names, and placed then-Undersheriff Paul Tanaka in charge of executing that plan, dubbed “Operation Pandora’s Box.”

Baca also acknowledged that he lied when he told investigators he was unaware that his subordinates planned to contact FBI Special Agent Leah Marx at her home. Deputies confronted Marx and, in an effort to intimidate her, falsely threatened her with arrest. Baca admitted that he directed the deputies to approach Marx, telling them they should “do everything but put handcuffs” on her, according to his plea agreement.

The guilty plea marks ...

Federal Jury Awards $950,000 to Prisoners Beaten at L.A. County Jail

As indicated by this month’s cover story, violence or the threat of violence has long been part of life for prisoners in Los Angeles County’s jail system. An incident that occurred in August 2008, however, demonstrated that the most significant threat of violence comes from correctional staff. Following a contentious ...

From the Editor

One downside of publishing a magazine like Prison Legal News for 26 years is that in some respects we are not covering a one-off or isolated story but rather are reporting an ongoing and developing issue. This month’s cover story about the epic abuse, corruption and brutality in the Los ...

Wrongfully Convicted Members of “Beatrice Six” Entitled to Compensation Despite False Confessions; Eighth Circuit Reinstates Lawsuit

On July 18, 2014, the Nebraska Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the right of two members of the infamous “Beatrice Six” to receive up to $500,000 each in compensation despite the fact that they had both falsely confessed to a brutal murder.

In this convoluted case with many players, Helen ...

Exonerated Illinois Man Receives $7.6 Million Settlement

The City of Chicago paid $7,625,000 to settle a civil rights action brought by a former prisoner who was wrongfully convicted of rape and exonerated by DNA evidence.

Dean Cage was 27 years old when he was arrested for the November 1994 rape of a 15-year-old girl as ...

Settlement, Judgment End Postcard-only Policies at Two Kansas Jails

A settlement agreement was reached in a class-action lawsuit challenging a postcard-only mail policy at Kansas’ Wyandotte County Adult Detention Center (WCADC), while a federal district court awarded damages to a pro se prisoner challenging a similar policy at a jail in Johnson County.

The settlement involving WCADC provides that ...

Suicides, Poor Conditions at D.C. Jail Remain Critical Issues Despite Progress

The February 8, 2015 suicide of a woman held at the Washington, D.C. Jail and a recent report that blasted the facility for “non-compliance with basic standards established by national corrections authorities” have once again focused a spotlight on conditions at the main jail in the nation’s capital, where ...

Mississippi: More Contraband Found at Private Prisons

On March 25, 2015, state corrections officials conducted a shakedown at the privately-operated Marshall County Correctional Facility and seized weapons, cell phones and other contraband. Mississippi DOC Commissioner Marshall Fisher said it was believed that some staff members were complicit in bringing in contraband and that he expected criminal prosecutions ...

Prison Ecology and the Water Crisis in Flint, Michigan

“Here’s your water filtration system. By the way, you have a warrant for your arrest.”

Jody Cramer, a former prisoner recently released from Michigan’s Genesee County Jail, said that was the story he heard from multiple other people who were locked up with him. Law enforcement officers distributing filters ...

Oklahoma DOC, Sheriffs Challenge FCC’s Prison Phone Reforms

A petition for review has been filed in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the Second Order and Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking released by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on November 4, 2015, which made sweeping reforms to the prison phone industry. [See: PLN, Dec. 2015, p ...

U.S. Court of Claims Awards Federal Prisoner $172,465.75 for Wrongful Conviction

Michael Alan Crooker, wrongfully convicted in Massachusetts on a federal charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, had his conviction reversed on appeal by the First Circuit in 2010, setting the stage for a certificate of innocence and a claim for financial damages from the federal government ...

Professor Urges Study of Unintended Consequences of Court-ordered Prison Reform

Prison reform, including reforms mandated by the judiciary, is an issue that everyone but shareholders in private prison companies thinks is a positive development, for a number of reasons. Even former advocates of mass incarceration now generally agree that the so-called War on Drugs, with its attendant soaring arrest and ...

Prison Policy Initiative Releases Report on Email Services for Prisoners

The non-profit, Massachusetts-based Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) has released a comprehensive study on communication options for prisoners, focusing on email services while also citing issues related to phone calls, visitation and postal mail. According to the January 2016 report, a common thread among these communication options is the creative methods ...

Reproductive Health Care in Women’s Prisons “Painful” and “Traumatic”

By Victoria Law, Truthout

It was Kim Dadou’s second day at New York’s Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. As part of the prison’s intake process, she was brought to the prison’s medical unit for a gynecological exam and pap smear.

“We were brought down three or five at a time ...

New Mexico Corrections Department Bans Prisoner Social Media, Pen Pal Postings

New Mexico prison officials are enforcing a rule that prohibits prisoners from maintaining online profiles, such as social media pages or web-based pen pal ads, including through third parties. Prisoners who violate the rule are subject to discipline.

“Inmates can correspond legally through mail and phone calls,” said Joe ...

Kansas Sex Offender Civil Commitment Program Under Scrutiny

The Sexual Predator Treatment Program, operated by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, is at the heart of a debate over whether civil commitment programs are truly designed to rehabilitate offenders convicted of sex crimes, or are thinly-disguised prisons intended to keep sex offenders warehoused once they have ...

$65,000 Settlement Plus Fees and Costs in New York City Jail Assault Suit

A New York federal district court awarded $47,429.27 in attorney fees and costs in a lawsuit seeking damages for assaults upon a prisoner by guards employed by the New York City Department of Correction (NYCDOC). In ordering the award of fees and costs, the court held that the ...

Texas County Jail, Beset by Prisoner Deaths, has Highest Suicide Rate

A wrongful death suit filed by the parents of a 30-year-old Bexar County, Texas jail prisoner who died of a methadone overdose while in solitary confinement at the lock-up settled in February 2015 for $200,000, and a guard responsible for conducting cell checks at the time of the prisoner’s ...

New Michigan Law Requires Sex Offenders to Pay $50 Annual Fee; Court Challenge Fails

A recently-enacted statute, Mich. Comp. Laws § 28.725a(6), requires registered sex offenders to pay a $50 annual fee to help defray the cost of the state’s online sex offender registry. Offenders are required to pay the fee as long as they have to register, unless they are indigent ...

Settlements in St. Louis Jail Detainee’s Heroin Withdrawal Death

The City of St. Louis, Missouri and Correctional Medical Services (CMS, now Corizon Health) both agreed to pay settlements in a lawsuit filed by the estate of a jail detainee who died due to heroin withdrawal.

Upon being booked into a St. Louis jail in July 2007, Isaac Bennett, Jr ...

Tennessee: Federal Court Orders Interim Medical Care in Prisoner’s Pro Se Suit

Following an evidentiary hearing on November 15, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge William J. Haynes, Jr. ordered Tennessee prison officials to provide medication to a prisoner with a severe case of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) until he could be seen by a specialist.

Robert Z. Whipple III, a state ...

Prison Supply Chains Reveal Some Surprises

by Adeshina Emmanuel, The Chicago Reporter

Most people see a jail and think about crime, tragedy and heartbreak.

Others see dollar signs. That’s because incarceration can be a big money maker.

Consider the drab polyester and cotton scrubs worn by detainees and prisoners at the Cook County Jail, where about ...

Sexual Harassment, Abuse Alleged at Oklahoma Halfway House for Women

Ownership of a privately-operated Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC) halfway house near Tulsa has changed hands in the midst of at least two lawsuits and possible criminal charges stemming from allegations that the owner of a sandwich shop routinely subjected female work release prisoners to sexual harassment and abuse.

The ...

PLN Obtains Confidential CCA Litigation Records in Tennessee

There are many arguments against the privatization of prisons, jails and other detention facilities. Over the years, Prison Legal News has published numerous articles detailing the problems with having a for-profit company fulfill the essential governmental function of incarceration – including higher levels of violence, higher average recidivism rates, lack of public accountability and, in some cases, outright corruption and fraud.

Such reporting has revealed common factors in the private prison industry that have contributed to deficiencies at for-profit prisons, such as inadequate staffing, inexperienced and low-paid guards, high staff turnover rates and inadequate medical care.

For private prison companies, their business model of cutting costs in order to generate profit unsurprisingly results in occasional lawsuits – “occasional” because engaging in litigation is a daunting task filled with procedural hurdles and complexities that are beyond the ability of the average prisoner, as most lack even a high school education. And in cases where a prisoner is rendered incapacitated or dies, a legal action seeking to hold a private prison firm accountable only results if there are family members willing to seek justice on the prisoner’s behalf.

However, when confronted with a lawsuit that reaches the point of an impending trial ...

D.C. Appellate Court Reverses $2.3 Million Wrongful Imprisonment Award

The District of Columbia’s Court of Appeals has reversed a judgment against the D.C. government based upon the municipal liability standard set forth in Monell v. Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). According to the appellate court, the plaintiff, who had been wrongfully jailed following a ...

Settlement Reached in California Psychiatric Disabilities Class-action Suit

On August 7, 2014, federal district court judge Lawrence K. Karlton granted preliminary approval of a settlement in a class-action suit brought by California state prisoners who suffer from mental illnesses. The settlement ensures that such prisoners will not be excluded from prison programs and services or discriminated against on ...

Guidelines Issued to Safeguard Rights of Pregnant Canadian Prisoners and their Children

Authorities in the western Canadian province of British Columbia have published a set of guidelines to govern the implementation of Mother-Child Units in provincial prisons as the result of a successful legal challenge that declared unconstitutional the B.C. government’s abolition of such units in 2008.

The guidelines, issued in ...

Last Member of “Angola 3” Released from Louisiana Prison after 44 Years

The last remaining member of the “Angola 3” – believed to have served the longest term in solitary confinement in the United States – was released from prison after almost 44 years, while consistently maintaining his innocence in the 1972 murder of a guard at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in ...

Judge Orders Ohio County to Cap Jail Population, Release Prisoners

A federal judge has decided the best way to solve the overcrowding problem at the Lucas County Jail in Toledo, Ohio is by simply enforcing the law.

On November 5, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge James Carr ordered county officials to reduce the jail’s population by 34 prisoners by ...

Supreme Court: Retroactivity Ends Mandatory Juvenile LWOP Sentences

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision, held on January 25, 2016 that juvenile offenders can no longer be sentenced by state courts to mandatory life without parole (LWOP), even in capital cases. The Court ruled that its decision in Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012 ...

Former California Jail Psychiatrist Placed on Probation

The former chief psychiatrist at the jail in Fresno County, California was placed on probation for five years and ordered to take additional training courses in the wake of numerous complaints that he provided substandard mental health care to prisoners, many of whom experienced worsening symptoms while incarcerated.

In a ...

Arkansas Prisoner Prevails in Excessive Force Case

A prisoner who was subjected to excessive force and denied due process at the Pike County Detention Center in Murfreesboro, Arkansas received $501 plus court costs following a summary judgment order and settlement agreement.

Prisoner Alan C. Onstad was caught by jail guard Jack Naron passing love notes to female ...

Justice Department Report: Homicide Rate at Lowest Level Since 1963

The number of homicides in the United States fell to a 42-year low in 2011, resulting in declines in the murder rate for males and females of all races, according to a December 2013 report released by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. Homicides known to law enforcement ...

Eleventh Circuit: Expiration of Preliminary Injunction Moots Appeal

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed as moot an appeal by the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) that challenged a preliminary injunction regulating its provision of kosher meals to prisoners. The appellate court also vacated orders by the district court that clarified its injunction.

As previously reported in PLN ...

$1,001 Default Judgment in Michigan - Prisoner’s Retaliation Suit

In March 2015, a Michigan prisoner was awarded $1,001 in a First Amendment retaliation claim following entry of a default judgment.

Prisoner Deontae J. Gordon’s problems began when he asked “Defendant Little,” a librarian’s assistant at the Oaks Correctional Facility, to “make copies of documents so he could ...

Federal Prisoner Wins $300,000 Judgment on Medical Negligence Claim

Federal prisoner Michael Patrick Giambalvo won a judgment against the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) in a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) action alleging medical negligence. The award by West Virginia U.S. District Court Judge Michael Siebert was for $250,000 in economic damages and $50,000 in non-economic damages ...

Jury Awards $40,000 to Transgender Prisoner Raped at Florida Jail

A Florida state court jury awarded $40,000 in a negligence action stemming from the rape of a male-to-female transgender pretrial detainee at the Orange County Jail (OCJ).

Donald Brown, also known as Tori Tyrelle, was being held at OCJ on theft charges in 2008. Tyrelle was initially placed in ...

Prison Populations Worldwide

There are more than 10.35 million people held in prisons across the world today, either as pre-trial detainees/remand prisoners or having been convicted and sentenced, according to the eleventh edition of the World Prison Population List, researched and compiled by Roy Walmsley, Director of the World Prison Brief ...

Tennessee: Theft, Misconduct Charges Pending Against Former Jail Supervisor, Son

A father and son have been charged with misconduct and theft for inappropriate conduct with prisoners and double-billing supervision over a work crew from a Tennessee jail.

According to Police Chief Mark Sirois, the Johnson City Police Department began an internal investigation in October 2012 involving prisoner work details. The ...

$250,000 Settlement in Ohio Detainee’s Jail Suicide

Officials in Lorain County, Ohio have settled a lawsuit stemming from a pretrial detainee’s suicide death.

When police arrived at Cheryl Sweeney’s home on May 26, 2012 because her husband had passed away, they arrested her on an outstanding warrant for failure to pay fines. During the booking process at ...

Iowa Prisoner May Have Restitution Deductions from Prison Wages Increased

The Iowa Supreme Court held that a state district court has the discretion to amend a restitution order to increase the deductions from the pay of a prisoner employed in a private-sector prison industry program.

Before the Court was the appeal of Iowa prisoner Beau Morris, who claimed a district ...

New York City Pays $41 Million for Wrongful Convictions in Central Park Jogger Rape Case

The City of New York, after eleven years of litigation, finally agreed to pay $41 million to settle a case involving the wrongful conviction of five former prisoners who were juveniles at the time of their arrest. One of the men received $12.25 million and each of the other ...

Former Prisoner Appointed to New York City Board of Correction

Stanley Richards could be called the face of reform at New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex. On May 27, 2015, Richards was appointed to the city’s Board of Correction by a unanimous vote. What makes his appointment unique is that he is a former prisoner. Released in 1991, he ...

Third Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Federal Prisoner’s Eighth Amendment Suit

Norman N. Shelton, confined in the Special Management Unit (SMU) at the U.S. Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, filed suit alleging that prison officials had “engaged in a pattern, practice, or policy of improperly placing inmates who are known to be hostile to each other in the same cell.” ...

Federal Judge Refuses to Dismiss Suit Filed by Widow of Workplace-Harassed Prison Guard

California state prison guard Scott Jones committed suicide in 2011, leaving a note that said, “the job made me do it.” His wife, Janelle Jones, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and four prison officials, and thus far has successfully ...

Report Highlights Continuing Problems with Florida Department of Corrections

The Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) was the subject of a recent Prison Legal News cover story that detailed prisoner deaths, excessive use of force by guards, and other types of misconduct and corruption. [See: PLN, Feb. 2016, p.1]. The FDOC was also criticized in a recent audit report ...

News in Brief

Arizona: On December 3, 2015, Brama Koroma walked into a Westwood bar wearing a black-and-white striped Maricopa County jail uniform that he had purchased online. Krystina Smith was at the bar and thought it was a delayed Halloween costume. “He was acting normal,” she said. Phoenix police arrived at ...