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 ...
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 ...
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 Angeles County jail system is the third or fourth major feature article on that topic that we have published in the past two decades, along with dozens of smaller stories related to individual cases of abuse, neglect and misconduct. Jails are often overlooked in discussions about criminal justice reform, but the Los Angeles County jail, which confines some 22,000 prisoners on any given day, is by comparison larger than the state prison systems of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island, combined.
The poor state of American jails is made readily apparent by cover stories such as this one and similar articles we have run on jail systems in New York City, Sacramento, New Orleans, Dallas and other jurisdictions. The ongoing body counts of prisoners attributable to abuse, medical neglect and cultures of violence and impunity are characterized by their apolitical nature: They continue and intensify regardless of ...
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 Wilson, 68, was raped and killed in her Beatrice, Nebraska apartment in 1985. Initially a drifter by the name of Bruce Allen Smith was suspected of the crime, but the focus turned elsewhere when blood tests seemed to exclude him.
Four years later, James L. Dean, Ada Joann Taylor, Joseph E. White and three other suspects were arrested for the crime. Initially, they maintained their innocence. Dean took a polygraph test and was told the results “did not look good.”
A police psychologist, Dr. Wade Price, told Dean he had unconscious knowledge of the crime that would return to him in his dreams. During the same time, Dean was repeatedly shown videotapes, photographs and diagrams of the crime scene.
Dean then began to dream of Wilson’s murder and believed that Dr. Price had helped him remove a “subconscious block”; concerned about the polygraph results, he eventually confessed. Similarly, Taylor ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 more than 2,000 prisoners await trial or are serving misdemeanor sentences.
According to a press release issued by the D.C. Department of Corrections (DOC), Tawana Johnson, 46, was booked into the jail the day before she died on a misdemeanor charge of destruction of property, for allegedly breaking a window at her daughter’s apartment.
“I was angry about my window being kicked in,” said Johnson’s daughter, Erica. “I really didn’t want to have to call the police, but I had no choice.”
D.C. Corrections Director Thomas Faust stated Johnson had displayed no suicidal tendencies or bizarre behavior, but family members said they believed more could have been done for the woman, who had been treated for intoxication at the jail following a previous arrest.
“Some help. Some kind words. Some apologies, I mean anything – anything,” said Maria Johnson, another daughter.
While Johnson’s suicide ...
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 to follow.
Recent shakedowns at five Mississippi prisons, both public and private, have resulted in the confiscation of nearly 200 weapons. Former U.S. Attorney Brad Pigott said the numbers so far suggest that the problem of weapons is more prevalent in private prisons. He also indicated that private prisons are using money “which could have gone into hiring enough guards to find and remove knives from prisoners, and they are sending those tax dollars instead to their corporate headquarters.”
For-profit prison company Management and Training Corporation (MTC), which operates three of the prisons involved in the shakedowns, including the Marshall County Correctional Facility, responded to the criticism by saying contraband is a problem at all prisons both public and private. Company spokesman Issa Arnita noted the company has created a K9 team that conducts unannounced contraband sweeps, and has installed a body scanner and anti-contraband netting.
According to ...
“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 due to water contamination in the city were also serving warrants. Many of those arrested were jailed, and while they were awaiting trial and had not yet been convicted of a crime, potentially irreparable punishment may have begun the day they were incarcerated – as access to both uncontaminated water and the truth about it were hard to come by behind bars.
By now, much of the world knows that public officials in Michigan sat on their hands despite having knowledge that the public water system in the city of Flint was poisoning local residents with high concentrations of lead and Legionnaires Disease.
How far up the administrative ladder did such indifference go? Internal emails obtained through public records requests by the group Progress Michigan indicate that Governor Rick Snyder’s office was aware of a Legionnaires outbreak linked to using the Flint River as a city water source as early ...
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.40].
The petition, filed by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel and the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association, alleges that the Order exceeds the FCC’s statutory authority to prevent unfair practices and ignores evidence of the costs that correctional facilities incur when providing phone services to prisoners. The petitioners have asked the appellate court to set aside and enjoin enforcement of the FCC’s Order.
As previously reported in Prison Legal News, the Order, set to take effect in all state and federal prisons on March 17, 2016 and in all other detention facilities nationwide on June 15, 2016, establishes a rate cap of $0.11/min. for debit and prepaid calls made from state and federal prisons and $0.14-$0.22/min. for debit and prepaid calls from local detention facilities based on their population size. Collect calls will initially be capped at higher amounts and phased ...
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 ...
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 incarceration rates, has resulted in increased red ink in government budgets. But what about the unintended consequences? What about the hollowing-out of inner city neighborhoods and the shattering of families in many impoverished communities?
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in May 2011 that prison overcrowding in California constituted cruel and unusual punishment, sparking a court-ordered reduction in that state’s prison population [see: PLN, July 2011, p.1], some academics began to study the correlation between increased corrections spending and reduced spending on social services.
Professor Richard Boylan of Rice University in Houston, Texas, an expert on the economics of prison reform, has analyzed the corrections industry from an economic rather than social policy standpoint and has developed some conclusions that deserve serious consideration.
Professor Boylan notes that “State prison crowding is a major problem in the corrections system, and since as early as the 1970s U.S. federal ...
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 that private companies use to monetize the desire of prisoners to stay in touch with their families and loved ones.
The PPI study, while concentrating on the various forms of communication between prisoners and the outside world, reiterates the accepted and documented fact that frequent contact with family members and friends has been shown to reduce recidivism, which makes profiteering on such services all the more perverse.
Following a decade-long examination of the issue, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) clamped down on exorbitant prison and jail phone calls, first in 2013 with an order capping interstate (long distance) rates, then again in October 2015 with caps on all prison and jail phone rates which are scheduled to go into effect this month. [See: PLN, Dec. 2015, p.40]. High phone rates have resulted from “commission” kickbacks that phone service providers pay to corrections agencies, usually based on a percentage of ...
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,” she told Truthout. “It’s like an assembly line. They rush you in and rush you out. That in itself is degrading.”
To add to that feeling, the gynecologist did not explain what he was doing or why. “He didn’t talk to you except ‘Open your legs’ or ‘Scoot down,’” she recalled. As he examined her, however, he commented, “You have a very nice aroma.”
“I wanted to die,” Dadou said nearly 24 years later. “I was like, ‘This is prison? This is what I have to look forward to?’”
Nearly 5 percent of people who enter women’s jails and prisons are pregnant. While incarcerated, they face a host of challenges to safe and healthy pregnancies, including inadequate prenatal care, lack of food and vitamins, and, in many states, the threat of being shackled during childbirth, sometimes despite protective legislation.
But what about the 95 ...
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 Booker, Deputy Secretary of Operations for the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD). “But we don’t know who’s out there on the Web.” So prison officials have implemented a policy to restrict prisoners from communicating with “who’s out there” online – even when they don’t have direct access to the Internet themselves.
Booker claimed the policy, CD-044005-M, is necessary to address public safety concerns. Web postings may be used, he said, to send messages or introduce contraband such as drugs and escape devices into the prison system. He offered no evidence, however, that anyone has done so, in New Mexico or elsewhere.
“I think this is a kneejerk reaction,” countered Adam Lovell, president and owner of Florida-based WriteAPrisoner.com, a pen pal service that advertises in PLN. “Most inmates lose all contact with the outside world within a few years in prison. This just allows inmates to connect with ...
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 completed their sentences. Helping to fuel the debate is the skyrocketing cost of maintaining such programs, as new offenders are civilly committed but few are ever released.
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has proposed increasing funding for the state’s sexual predator program to an estimated $22 million for fiscal year 2016-17 – an increase of more than $6 million in just three years. According to the Department for Aging and Disability Services, around 250 offenders are currently in the civil commitment program and 10 to 15 more are added annually. Twenty-two offenders have spent at least 15 years in the program and over two dozen have died while in custody as of December 2014.
Critics claim such statistics are proof the state’s Sexual Predator Treatment Program is, in reality, an effective life sentence for sex offenders – most of whom they say could safely be freed with minimal risk of re-offending ...
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 ...
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.
“By requiring registered sex offenders to pay an annual fee to fund the registry website, law enforcement will be able to direct more of its resources to public safety,” Governor Rick Snyder stated.
Michigan is not the only state to attempt to collect a fee from sex offenders to fund their registries. Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin charge offenders $100 per year, and Indiana charges $50 annually. Sex offenders in Michigan previously only had to pay $50 once; the newly-imposed annual fees are capped at $550.
Sex offenders have complex registration requirements in most states, depending on their risk classification level, and must report any changes in their address, and sometimes their place of employment, to local law enforcement officials. Failure to do so can result in additional criminal charges.
Michigan’s law, although quite specific regarding who has to register and how often, as well as the consequences for failure ...
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 death was fired and prosecuted.
Meanwhile, statistics compiled by Texas officials identified the Bexar County facility as the jail with the highest rate of prisoner suicides in the state.
The parents of Thomas Reed Taylor filed suit against the county after their son was moved to an isolation cell that contained no cameras or other monitoring devices – only a window in the door for guards to peer through. Taylor had been placed in isolation after allegedly becoming disruptive in a cell with other prisoners. He had surrendered to authorities on August 21, 2012 on misdemeanor warrants for drug possession and DWI.
At around 2:15 the following morning, six hours after Taylor was placed in isolation, a guard discovered his body on the floor of the cell, kneeling with his head against the floor and blood coming from his nose. Bexar County Sheriff Susan L. Pamerleau allowed Taylor’s sister ...
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. told a CMS nurse that he was a heroin addict who had used the drug the day before his arrest. During the next 48 hours Bennett experienced diarrhea and vomiting, which were “[c]lassic symptoms of heroin withdrawal” according to his estate’s complaint. Despite those symptoms, he “was not given even the most basic medical treatments.”
On July 23, 2007, two days after his arrest, Bennett died due to “metabolic changes secondary to withdrawal from heroin causing disturbance of cardiac rhythm and resulting in cardiac arrest,” the complaint stated. His estate filed suit in federal court in 2010.
CMS, as is its usual practice, agreed to pay a confidential settlement. The district court approved a separate settlement agreement with the City of St. Louis on March 5, 2014, with the city agreeing to pay $10,000. See: Youell v. Correctional Medical Services, U.S.D.C. (E ...
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 prisoner housed at the Turney Center Industrial Complex, filed a pro se lawsuit in September 2013 against Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) Commissioner Derrick Schofield and eight other prison officials and private medical contractors, alleging failure to provide adequate medical care.
Whipple stated he was receiving treatment for GERD until May 2013 when the TDOC’s Pharmacy & Therapeutics Committee removed his prescribed medication, Prilosec, from the state’s formulary – a list of approved drugs that prison doctors can prescribe. The removal from the formulary prevented medical staff from renewing prescriptions for that medication for all prisoners, regardless of their medical needs. Instead, Prilosec, an over-the-counter medication, was placed on the institutional commissary list for prisoners to purchase. Whipple could not afford to buy the Prilosec he needed from the commissary, and accused TDOC officials and Corizon, a private prison medical contractor, of deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in ...
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 100,000 people are booked annually. (At County, the men wear tan and the women wear blue, not the more infamous orange.)
In 2012, Ohio-based company Pyramid Enterprise Supplies, a minority-owned business that also provides Smith and Wesson handcuffs and leg locks to the jail, won a two-year, almost $1.7 million county contract to provide the Cook County Department of Corrections with clothes, undergarments and accessories. Jail executive director Cara Smith said the county activated the first of three renewal options for the contract last fall at an additional cost of about $340,000.
The original contract included more than 50,000 prisoner uniforms, totaling about $600,000.
The uniforms were manufactured by Gardena, California-based Robinson Textiles – a company whose alleged ties to sweatshop labor in the Dominican Republic ran afoul of San Francisco officials in 2012. Alleged violations included problems with worker health and safety, wages and ...
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 complaints allege that employees with Avalon Correctional Services, which operates the Turley Residential Center, knew about the sexual misconduct but continued to send women to the business in return for kickbacks from the owner. [See: PLN, Jan. 2015, p.1].
Sub shop owner Abbas Kazemi Kia fled “to avoid prosecution” after Tulsa police conducted an investigation and raided the shop, according to a negligence lawsuit filed on November 18, 2014 by former work release prisoner Cassie Chambers. The suit names Avalon, the ODOC, Kia and three other businesses. [See: PLN, July 2015, p.63]. The sub shop abruptly closed after the police raid, according to the complaint.
Chambers alleged that Avalon knew as early as November 2011 “that Kia had sexually battered a program participant,” but kept sending women to his business because the private prison company “earned a kickback on wages paid to women in the work release ...
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 ...
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 parole revocation, failed to show that the violation of his rights resulted from a municipal policy or custom, shielding the District from liability for the improper acts of its employees.
The Court of Appeals wrote that “[t]he District of Columbia Board of Parole revoked plaintiff Charles Singletary’s parole based primarily on unreliable multiple-hearsay testimony. This court later determined that the evidentiary basis for his parole revocation failed to satisfy the requirements of the Due Process Clause.”
Singletary filed suit against the D.C. government under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, arguing “that the District bore responsibility for the Board’s unconstitutional revocation decision. The district court found the District liable, and a jury awarded $2.3 million in damages for the period of Singletary’s confinement following the revocation of his parole.” [See: PLN, Sept. 2012, p.30].
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Monell is ...
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 the basis of their mental health disabilities.
This class-action federal lawsuit was originally filed in 2005 by seventeen California prisoners with psychiatric disabilities. The class has been represented by San Francisco attorneys Michael Bien and Blake Thompson with the law firm of Rosen Bien Galvan and Grunfeld LLP, and by Claudia Center with the ACLU Foundation’s Disability Rights Program. The complaint was brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.
Pursuant to the settlement agreement, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) policies will be revised to ensure prisoners with psychiatric disabilities are not excluded from prison programs and services, or discriminated against due to their mental illnesses. The settlement includes specific provisions that prisoners in the Enhanced Outpatient Program (EOP) be given access to educational programs, vocational programs and jobs if approved by their treatment team; that prisoners in the EOP receive milestone credits for their ...
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 August 2015 by The Collaborating Centre for Prison Health and Education at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, “are predicated on the clear and compelling evidence that early mother-infant bonding supports positive future outcomes for the child, and that the child has a right to non-discrimination.”
Declaring that a “wide range of psychological, physiologic and developmental harm caused by separation of a child from her/his mother is well documented,” the guidelines focus on the child as well as the incarcerated mother.
“The best interests of the child must be of a primary concern, including her/his safety and security, and the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of the child,” the introduction to the guidelines states. “It is in the best interests of the child to remain with her/his mother, to breastfeed and be allowed to develop a healthy attachment.”
The British Columbia Supreme ...
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 Angola. [See: PLN, Jan. 2009, p.8; April 2004, p.12].
Accompanied by his brother, Albert Woodfox left the West Feliciana Parish Detention Center a free man on February 19, 2016 – his 69th birthday – after entering a no contest plea to lesser charges. Woodfox and another prisoner, the late Herman Wallace, had long argued they were wrongfully convicted in the stabbing death of Angola guard Brent Miller, 23, because they had been actively organizing a Black Panther Party chapter at the prison during the early 70s.
Woodfox was indicted three times for Miller’s murder, most recently in February 2015. He has always claimed he is innocent; one of his attorneys, George Kendall, with the law firm of Squire Patton Boggs LLP, said Woodfox pleaded no contest to manslaughter and aggravated burglary, which was not an admission of guilt.
“It means simply that [Woodfox] does not contest that the ...
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) [PLN, June 2013, p.50], which invalidated mandatory juvenile life without parole sentences, should be applied retroactively in a challenge filed by Henry Montgomery, who received an LWOP sentence for killing a deputy sheriff in Louisiana in 1963 when he was 17 years old.
According to the majority of the Court, “‘children are constitutionally different from adults for purposes of sentencing,’” quoting from Miller, which cited the ruling in Roper v. Simmons, 125 S.Ct. 1183 (2005). “These differences result from children’s ‘diminished culpability and greater prospects for reform.’”
The Supreme Court then explained three factors that underpinned its opinion, quoting from Roper: “First, children have a ‘lack of maturity and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility,’ leading to recklessness, impulsivity, and heedless risk-taking.” Second, they “‘are more vulnerable to negative influences and outside pressures,’ including from their family and peers; ... and lack the ability to ...
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 the end of 2014, thus bringing the facility into compliance with a 1984 court order which requires the Lucas County sheriff to release prisoners charged with nonviolent misdemeanors when the population exceeds 90% of capacity.
“We’re now consistently at 120%,” said Aneel Chablani, an attorney with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE), who filed a motion on behalf of current jail prisoners.
Judge Carr ordered the jail to cap its population at 403 by November 20, 2014 and then reduce the number of prisoners to 369 by the end of the year.
“It’s a partial, interim, short-term, temporary response to the [ABLE] motion,” Carr told other judges, prosecutors, public defenders and county officials who had packed his courtroom.
Evy Jarrett, an assistant prosecutor for Lucas County, argued that ABLE’s motion had not provided evidence that the chronic overcrowding problem at the jail was violating prisoners’ constitutional rights ...
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 settlement agreement that took effect on September 19, 2014, the Medical Board of California first suspended the license of Dr. Pratap L. Narayan, 54, then stayed the suspension and placed him on probation. Narayan was also ordered to undergo a clinical training program, a course in prescribing practices and training in medical record keeping as a result of the Board’s ruling. In addition, he was banned from solo practice and required to submit to monitoring by an unspecified, impartial colleague with whom he was required to share office space.
Narayan was cited for 17 causes for discipline stemming from his treatment of mentally ill prisoners at the Fresno County Jail. The Board’s order listed six prisoners who were under Narayan’s care from August 2007 through September 2011, and cited a pattern of unprofessional conduct that included changing prisoners’ medication and dosages, and sometimes even withholding medication, usually without ever seeing ...
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 ...
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 agencies declined for the fifth straight year and the murder rate dropped to the lowest level since the 1960s.
“The U.S. homicide rate declined by nearly half (49%), from 9.3 homicides per 100,000 U.S. residents in 1992 to 4.7 in 2011, falling to the lowest level since 1963,” the report found.
The data, which tracked homicides known to law enforcement agencies nationwide as of yearend 2011, found that the number of murders fell by half from 1992 to 2011 for both men (50%) and women (49%), although the report noted that over a 10-year period the homicide rate for men was greater than that for women, and greater for whites than blacks.
“From 2002 to 2011, the average homicide rate for males was 3.6 times higher than the rate for females,” the report said. “The average homicide rate for blacks was 6 ...
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, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sued the FDOC to force it to provide kosher meals to prisoners with religious dietary requirements. After the FDOC’s motion to dismiss was denied, it implemented a “Religious Diet Program” with restrictive provisions. The DOJ moved for an injunction requiring the FDOC to provide a “kosher diet to all prisoners with a sincere religious basis for keeping kosher” and to prohibit prison officials from implementing its “new Religious Diet Program to the extent it violates RLUIPA” – the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. The district court granted the motion in 2013 and entered an order that detailed procedures for the FDOC to follow when providing prisoners with kosher meals. [See: PLN, May 2014, p.14].
That order, however, did not mention the “need-narrowness-intrusiveness criteria for preliminary injunctions established by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA).” The district court also failed ...
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 further pursue a grievance alleging that prison officials were fabricating documents so that certain inmates could be paid, pursuant to their prison jobs, for work which they did not perform.” His complaint stemmed from allegations that he was not allowed to perform his job duties because he was a member of the Nation of Islam.
Little confiscated and refused to copy a document titled “July 4 payroll for Unit 4 payrolls.” She told Gordon she “was not copying anything that could lead to the firing of staff.”
Following that November 10, 2011 interaction, Gordon sought to obtain copies of a document for use in an appeal of his criminal conviction. Little responded to his request by stating, “Last time I made copies for you, I had to confiscate them because the documents could have gotten [prison employees] Benson and Haske fired.”
Gordon reported the incident and ...
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 ...
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 ...
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. The most recent version of the List was published on February 3, 2016 by the Institute for Criminal Policy Research at Birkbeck, University of London (ICPR). It complements the data held in ICPR’s World Prison Brief online database.
The World Prison Population List provides details on the numbers of prisoners held in the prison systems of 223 independent countries and dependent territories. Most of the information derives from the national prison administration of the country concerned or the Ministry responsible for the prison administration. There are some gaps in the data: figures for Eritrea, Somalia and the Democratic People’s Republic of (North) Korea are not available and the figures for China are incomplete. Also missing are the numbers of prisoners held under authorities not recognised internationally and those pre-trial prisoners who are held in police facilities and not included in official national prison population totals. The full number of prisoners ...
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 investigation was launched after David Garland, 40, a part-time employee with the city’s Parks and Recreation department, returned a crew of female prisoners he supervised to the jail and the prisoners were visibly intoxicated.
It was discovered that not only had Garland allowed the prisoners to smoke and drink while on the work detail, but he was involved in an inappropriate relationship with one of the prisoners. Further inquiry found that Garland had logged hours with the city amounting to more than $10,000 while also working as a public safety officer for East Tennessee State University.
Investigators then focused their attention on Garland’s father, Samuel Garland, 60, who was the superintendent of the Johnson City jail. They learned that while employed at the jail he had billed the local Boys and Girls Club for supervising a prisoner work crew; between 2004 and 2012, the Boys and Girls Club paid ...
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 ...
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 four received $7.125 million. As part of the settlement agreement, the city did not admit any wrongdoing – though the record demonstrates otherwise.
The infamous “Central Park Jogger” case involved the brutal April 19, 1989 rape and assault of Trisha Meili, a 28-year-old investment banker, while she was jogging in Central Park. Meili was allegedly attacked by a “wilding” pack of teens; the crime was cited as an example of growing lawlessness in New York City, and put tremendous pressure on the city’s police department to solve the case. Investigators focused their attention on five black and Hispanic teenagers – Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, Jr. and Korey Wise – who confessed during interrogations. After a contentious trial, all of the defendants, who became known as the Central Park Five, were convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 5 to 15 years.
However, they continued ...
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 court had abused its discretion when it rescinded a modified restitution order that required 50% of his earnings be paid towards restitution.
As part of his sentence, Morris was ordered to pay $16,000 in restitution. The district court ordered 15% of all income into his prison account be paid towards his restitution obligation. When Morris was hired by Iowa Prison Industries, he filed a motion with the court to increase the deduction to 50%, which was granted. The Iowa Department of Corrections (IDOC) then moved for the order to be rescinded.
The district court granted the IDOC’s motion, finding “the Modified restitution order violated the state statutory scheme for the distribution of inmate earnings from private-sector employment.” Morris appealed.
Iowa law specifies three priorities for distribution of a prisoner’s gross payroll earnings: (1) twenty percent to be deposited in the prisoner’s general account; (2) all required tax deductions ...
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.” SMUs are generally used to house prisoners with violent tendencies or a history of gang involvement.
Shelton filed his complaint in federal district court “on behalf of himself and other inmates housed in the SMU,” seeking “damages for Shelton personally, but only injunctive and declaratory relief on behalf of the class.” He also alleged that prison staff “fail[ed] to intervene when the predictable inmate-on-inmate violence erupts,” and “improperly restrain[ed] inmates who refuse cell assignments” due to a perceived risk of violence from their cellmates.
The district court denied Shelton’s motion for class certification and granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment; the court also denied Shelton’s Federal Tort Claims Act claims for failure to follow the technical requirements of the Act. He appealed.
The Third Circuit reversed, finding that Shelton should have been granted discovery pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d), which requires ...
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 experienced firsthand the violence that has given Rikers its unsavory reputation and resulted in federal oversight. [See: PLN, July 2015, p.1].
Upon his release, Richards became a vocal advocate for criminal justice reform; as a member of the non-profit Fortune Society, he assisted prisoners with transitioning into life on the outside. It was during his work as an advocate that Richards mentioned his desire to serve on the Board of Correction to City Councilmember Daniel Dromm.
Richards said his time on the inside will provide a unique perspective that will help the Board reach its full potential, and hopes his input will allow the Board to implement solutions, not just identify problems.
Richards had never heard of the Board of Correction during his incarceration, and said he feels many of the problems at Rikers addressed by the U.S. Justice Department should have been addressed by the Board.
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 defeated multiple efforts by the defendants to have her complaint dismissed.
Scott Jones had been assigned to work in Z-unit at the CDCR’s High Desert State Prison, “[a] stand-alone administrative segregation unit housing the most dangerous inmates,” according to the complaint. The lawsuit also alleged that one of his duties “was to disclose information regarding the wrongful and unlawful conduct of correctional peace officers.”
Jones suffered various harassing actions by his fellow prison guards, which resulted in an injury to his knee during horseplay and included being pepper-sprayed in the face after filing “several complaints regarding working conditions” and “numerous complaints of safety violations....” His coworkers apparently resented those complaints, and according to his widow’s subsequent lawsuit Jones was “falsely accused of misconduct,” such as tampering with prisoners’ mail, and threatened with disciplinary action on several occasions.
As a direct result of this pattern of ...
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 issued by CGL, an independent consulting firm. The audit, funded by a $300,000 grant from Florida’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, found that FDOC facilities continue to be mismanaged, racked by contraband, staffed by poorly trained personnel with high staff turnover, and lacking in programs to reduce recidivism.
The 178-page report explored the “adequacy of current facility staffing,” finding that the centralization of staff hiring had improved the number of newly-hired employees. However, it also found that the FDOC’s staff turnover rate had grown “by 50.4 percent over the last six years.” That resulted in a shortage of experienced employees in key positions, exposing both prisoners and staff to dangerous conditions.
“Half of the department’s correctional officers have less than 3.1 years of work experience,” and “at 5 of the 10 largest ... facilities, half of the staff has less than two ...
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 the bar and confronted Koroma after receiving multiple disturbance calls. He responded with threats that he would stab the responding officers and blow up the building. Police mistook Koroma’s handheld vaporizer for a hand grenade, and a physical altercation ensued. Koroma was arrested on two counts of aggravated assault, though at least he was appropriately dressed when he was booked into jail.
Arizona: The Associated Press reported on October 23, 2015 that it had obtained documents which confirmed Arizona officials were caught trying to illegally import a shipment of lethal injection drugs to be used in executions. In July, federal officials had confiscated $27,000 worth of sodium thiopental, an anesthetic no longer approved by the FDA for use in executions, from a British Airways flight at the Phoenix airport. Arizona Department of Corrections spokesman Andrew Wilder protested that action, saying, “The department is contesting FDA’s legal authority to continue ...