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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: August, 2016

Issue PDF
Volume 27, Number 8

In this issue:

  1. Not So Securus (p 1)
  2. United Kingdom: Queen Elizabeth Unveils Judicial and Prison Reform Shakeup (p 15)
  3. Securus Faces Lawsuit Over Recorded Attorney Calls (p 15)
  4. From the Editor (p 16)
  5. Popular New Snack Born Behind Bars (p 17)
  6. HRDC Represents Former Illinois Prisoner in Wrongful Conviction Suit (p 18)
  7. Cell Workout, by L.J. Flanders (LC Books, 2015) (p 19)
  8. California: Ninth Circuit Reverses Finding that Props 9 and 89 are Unconstitutional (p 20)
  9. Oklahoma Jail Detainee Handcuffed, Pepper-sprayed and Choked to Death (p 20)
  10. The Mirage of Justice (p 22)
  11. Advocates Want Private Prisons Subject to Open Records Laws (p 24)
  12. New York Federal Judge Challenges Collateral Consequences (p 24)
  13. Seventh Circuit Reverses Denial of Prisoner’s Claim for Failure to Detach Portion of Administrative Form (p 26)
  14. New Jersey Prison Phone Class-action Suit Against Global Tel*Link Continues (p 26)
  15. Will Ohio’s Prison Watchdog Agency be Silenced? (p 27)
  16. Restraint Chair Deaths, Abuses Prompt Questions, Criticism and Lawsuits (p 28)
  17. Hawaii Prison Relocation Project Fails to Skirt Environmental Review (p 32)
  18. Illinois DOC to Pay Millions in Utility Arrearages (p 33)
  19. Los Angeles County Undersheriff Convicted on Federal Obstruction, Conspiracy Charges (p 34)
  20. Hawaii Prisoner Awarded $7.2 Million after Losing His Fingers and Feet (p 34)
  21. Texas Judge Indicted for Making Secret Deal with Red-light Camera Company (p 35)
  22. Prison Conferences to be Held in Ohio, California (p 36)
  23. Prison Policy Initiative Report Says Money Bail System Keeps Poor in Jail (p 36)
  24. Prisoners in Chinese Labor Camps Send Pleas for Help in Exported Products (p 38)
  25. Prison Tobacco Bans Reduce Smoking-related Deaths (p 40)
  26. Ninth Circuit Directs BOP to Reconsider Denial of Designation to State Prison for Service of Federal Sentence (p 40)
  27. Report: How Private Prison Companies Cut Corners to Generate Profit (p 42)
  28. In-house Parole Costs New Mexico Over $10 Million Annually (p 42)
  29. Idaho DOC Can’t Stop Love; State Senator’s Ex-wife Weds Prisoner (p 44)
  30. Criminal Defendants Shortchanged by Justice System that Favors Prosecutors (p 46)
  31. German Prisoners Form Union, Seek Minimum Wage and Pension (p 49)
  32. Iowa State Court Finds Prisoner Entitled to Counsel at Prison Classification Hearing (p 50)
  33. Ninth Circuit Reverses Habeas Relief in California Death Penalty Case (p 50)
  34. Virginia: Unproven Facts Used to Deny Parole Subject of Lawsuit, Settlement (p 51)
  35. $7,000 Settlement after Second Circuit Reverses Dismissal of New York Prisoner’s Suit (p 52)
  36. Sixth Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Federal Prisoner’s Bivens Claim, Discusses Inmate Accident Compensation Act (p 52)
  37. Mother Jones Reporter Goes Undercover at CCA Prison in Louisiana (p 54)
  38. Prison Policy Initiative Shines Spotlight on Probation and Parole Data (p 55)
  39. A Deadly Dust is Plaguing Hawaii Prisoners in Arizona (p 56)
  40. Illinois DOC Settles Lawsuit Over Mental Health Treatment (p 58)
  41. Report Reveals “Guaranteed Minimums” Drive ICE Detention (p 59)
  42. Number of State Prisoners Age 55 and Over Increased 400% in 20 Years (p 60)
  43. CCA Annual Shareholder Meeting Met by Protestors (p 60)
  44. Tenth Circuit Finds Compelled, Incriminating Sex Offender Polygraphs Unconstitutional (p 62)
  45. News in Brief (p 63)

Not So Securus

by Jordan Smith and Micah Lee, The Intercept

An enormous cache of phone records obtained by The Intercept reveals a major breach of security at Securus Technologies, a leading provider of phone services inside the nation’s prisons and jails. The materials – leaked via SecureDrop by an anonymous hacker who believes that Securus is violating ...

United Kingdom: Queen Elizabeth Unveils Judicial and Prison Reform Shakeup

On May 18, 2016, Queen Elizabeth announced a plan – touted as the “biggest shakeup” in criminal justice reform since Victorian times – that will provide more self-governance to UK prisons and allow prisoners greater access to technology. The Queen’s annual address also included a strategy for GPS monitoring of ...

Securus Faces Lawsuit Over Recorded Attorney Calls

On May 27, 2016, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Securus Technologies, Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, accusing the company of recording privileged phone calls between prisoners and their attorneys as described in this issue’s cover story.

The suit was filed by ...

From the Editor

The Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, co-founded by the Human Rights Defense Center, has led the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to curb some of the more egregious abuses of the prison telecom industry. It has also helped focus increased attention from all sources, including the media, the public and those ...

Popular New Snack Born Behind Bars

In 2009, Seth Sundberg was sentenced to five years for a fraudulent $5 million tax refund. The former pro basketball player had managed a California mortgage office and went from a comfortable living in the real estate industry to earning $5.25 a month in the prison kitchen. While working ...

HRDC Represents Former Illinois Prisoner in Wrongful Conviction Suit

Over the years, Prison Legal News and its parent non-profit organization, the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), have filed dozens of censorship lawsuits against state prison systems and county jails, as well as numerous public records suits. [See: PLN, May 2015, p.12]. More recently, HRDC has represented the families ...

Cell Workout, by L.J. Flanders (LC Books, 2015)

231 pages, $35.00 softcover

Book review by David M. Reutter

“In prison, people can discover new things and improve themselves in many ways; faith, fitness, a new language, education, skills and qualifications that may lead to job opportunities,” writes author L.J. Flanders. “In my case, I decided ...

California: Ninth Circuit Reverses Finding that Props 9 and 89 are Unconstitutional

In February 2014, following a bench trial, U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence K. Karlton found that two California laws created as a result of state ballot initiatives “retrospectively increased punishments, in violation of the ex post facto clause of the U.S. Constitution.” Proposition 9 mandated longer intervals ...

Oklahoma Jail Detainee Handcuffed, Pepper-sprayed and Choked to Death

Caddo County District Attorney Jason Hicks cited his interpretation of the state’s open records law as justification for withholding reports and video footage documenting the death of Darius Robinson at the county lockup in the rural town of Anadarko, Oklahoma.

Robinson, a father to seven children, died on April 5 ...

The Mirage of Justice

by Chris Hedges, Truthdig

If you are poor, you will almost never go to trial – instead you will be forced to accept a plea deal offered by government prosecutors. If you are poor, the word of the police, who are not averse to fabricating or tampering with evidence, manipulating witnesses ...

Advocates Want Private Prisons Subject to Open Records Laws

Government accountability advocates have called for private prison companies like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group to be subject to open records laws – including the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) – to ensure they are accountable to the public. This is especially important considering that ...

New York Federal Judge Challenges Collateral Consequences

In a move The New York Times called “striking,” and Gabriel J. Chin, a professor at the University of California, Davis School of Law said was “groundbreaking,” U.S. District Court Judge Frederic Block sentenced a young woman in a drug case to probation rather than prison, issuing ...

Seventh Circuit Reverses Denial of Prisoner’s Claim for Failure to Detach Portion of Administrative Form

Charles Donelson was a prisoner in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) when he was charged with disciplinary infractions for two incidents involving the same guard. Donelson denied that he had tried to leave his housing unit without permission, failed to follow the guard’s warning and then ...

New Jersey Prison Phone Class-action Suit Against Global Tel*Link Continues

A New Jersey federal district court denied a motion to dismiss filed by prison telecom giant Global Tel*Link (GTL) and its subsidiary DSI-ITI in a class-action lawsuit alleging predatory practices in providing phone service to New Jersey state prisoners.

On September 8, 2014, Judge William J. Martini held that ...

Will Ohio’s Prison Watchdog Agency be Silenced?

On May 25, 2016, Joanna Saul, 33, the executive director of Ohio’s Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC), was forced to resign due to infighting between the bipartisan prison watchdog agency, Republican legislators and Governor John Kasich.

Saul first touched a nerve when the CIIC aggressively pursued transparency in prison inspections ...

Restraint Chair Deaths, Abuses Prompt Questions, Criticism and Lawsuits

Like another jail detainee more than seven years before him, Joshua Grose died while strapped into a restraint chair at the York County Detention Center in South Carolina.

In the early morning hours of October 12, 2013, following his arrest for allegedly killing both his stepmother and a neighbor by ...

Hawaii Prison Relocation Project Fails to Skirt Environmental Review

While lawmakers in Hawaii have advanced bills to fast-track the relocation of a state prison, they were forced to concede that an environmental impact review could not be avoided.

In February 2016, the state legislature held a pair of hearings to consider House Bill 2388 and Senate Bill 2917, which both ...

Illinois DOC to Pay Millions in Utility Arrearages

The state of Illinois owes more than $34 million in operational costs for prisons statewide, including $1.2 million owed to the city of Chester for unpaid power, water and sewer bills at the Menard Correctional Center. A short-term budget deal was signed by Governor Bruce Rauner on June 30 ...

Los Angeles County Undersheriff Convicted on Federal Obstruction, Conspiracy Charges

Paul K. Tanaka, 57, the former second-in-command of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) and the elected mayor of Gardena, California, was found guilty on federal charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice in April 2016. Accused of being the “ringleader” of the conspiracy, he was ...

Hawaii Prisoner Awarded $7.2 Million after Losing His Fingers and Feet

In October 2011, 30-year-old Aaron David Persin was accosted by police officers for having an open container of alcohol. When they determined that he had warrants for missing traffic court they arrested Persin, who was homeless. Unable to post bail, he was held at the Oahu Community Correctional Center (OCCC ...

Texas Judge Indicted for Making Secret Deal with Red-light Camera Company

Smith County, Texas Judge Joel Patrick Baker was suspended without pay on June 21, 2016 after being arrested the previous week on three misdemeanor counts of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act.

Baker, who has denied any wrongdoing, is accused of improperly entering into a 10-year agreement with red-light camera ...

Prison Conferences to be Held in Ohio, California

A conference described as “a Midwest convergence in support of prisoners’ struggles” is scheduled to be held in Columbus, Ohio from August 26-29. Titled “Bend the Bars 2016,” the event will consist of a series of workshops and discussions on issues related to mass incarceration and prisoner advocacy.

According ...

Prison Policy Initiative Report Says Money Bail System Keeps Poor in Jail

Of the more than 2.3 million people locked up in the United States at any given time, around 646,000 are held in county jails. Of that population, seven in ten are pretrial detainees who have not yet been found guilty, and according to a May 2016 report by ...

Prisoners in Chinese Labor Camps Send Pleas for Help in Exported Products

Chinese prisoners have used a novel, if not entirely secure, method of reporting human rights abuses, by stashing handwritten notes in the products they are forced to make inside prison sweatshops.

Accounts of former prisoners held in Chinese labor camps have described long work hours and brutal abuse at the ...

Prison Tobacco Bans Reduce Smoking-related Deaths

Tobacco use and secondhand smoke kill over 480,000 people in the United States annually. The mortality rate of smokers is three times higher than those who have never smoked, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and smoking reduces an average smoker’s life expectancy by 10 years ...

Ninth Circuit Directs BOP to Reconsider Denial of Designation to State Prison for Service of Federal Sentence

On May 25, 2016, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of a federal prisoner’s petition for habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, in which he complained of an abuse of discretion by the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The appellate court held the BOP ...

Report: How Private Prison Companies Cut Corners to Generate Profit

Private prison companies like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group earn hundreds of millions of dollars each year, averaging between $2,771 and $3,366 in profit per prisoner based on 2014 data. According to In the Public Interest (ITPI), a not-for-profit organization that opposes the privatization ...

In-house Parole Costs New Mexico Over $10 Million Annually

Inefficiencies in the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) and the state’s Parole Board have resulted in hundreds of prisoners being kept in prison long beyond their parole release dates. The cost of incarcerating each prisoner during this so-called “in-house parole” is $99.31 per day, and with only 50% of ...

Idaho DOC Can’t Stop Love; State Senator’s Ex-wife Weds Prisoner

Lance Conway Wood, 48, was described as “a strong-willed inmate” with an extensive “history of ‘crossing the line’” who “exploits the human weaknesses of prison staff,” according to a federal judge. Wood, however, undoubtedly views himself as a “lover” and not an “exploiter,” and his affections have not ...

Criminal Defendants Shortchanged by Justice System that Favors Prosecutors

Since the landmark Supreme Court case of Gideon v. Wainwright in 1963, criminal defendants who face incarceration have been guaranteed representation by an attorney if they cannot afford one. Gideon spurred most states and the federal government to form public defenders’ offices, which have since been overwhelmed due to limited ...

German Prisoners Form Union, Seek Minimum Wage and Pension

A group of prisoners in Germany has accomplished what American prisoners have long been prohibited from doing: They formed a labor union for incarcerated workers, to advocate for minimum wage pay so they can earn enough for a greater chance at successful reentry after their release. The GG/BO (Gefangenengewerkschaft ...

Iowa State Court Finds Prisoner Entitled to Counsel at Prison Classification Hearing

Iowa State District Court Judge Scott D. Rosenberg reversed and remanded a prisoner’s adverse classification hearing based upon the denial of his right to legal counsel.

Gary Pettit pleaded guilty to third-degree sexual abuse and kidnapping, and received consecutive 15-year prison terms. As part of his sentence he was required ...

Ninth Circuit Reverses Habeas Relief in California Death Penalty Case

On November 12, 2015, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a setback to death penalty abolitionists by reversing a grant of habeas corpus relief to a California prisoner who argued that the state’s post-conviction process in capital cases violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. In ...

Virginia: Unproven Facts Used to Deny Parole Subject of Lawsuit, Settlement

A settlement agreement in a federal lawsuit forced the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) and the state’s Parole Board to deem a prisoner eligible for parole. The settlement also reversed the agencies’ interpretation of Virginia’s “Three Strikes” law in that case.

State prisoner Jerry D. Lee, 45, was incarcerated in ...

$7,000 Settlement after Second Circuit Reverses Dismissal of New York Prisoner’s Suit

In 2007, prisoner Aaron Willey filed a pro se federal civil rights lawsuit against guards employed by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, alleging harassment, inadequate nutrition, theft of legal documents, malicious prosecution, false imprisonment and unsanitary conditions of confinement.

Willey claimed that after he refused ...

Sixth Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Federal Prisoner’s Bivens Claim, Discusses Inmate Accident Compensation Act

On May 11, 2016, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s dismissal of a former prisoner’s civil rights action. Stephen Ted Koprowski, who was incarcerated at USP Ft. McCreary in Pine Knot, Kentucky, sued after he fell off a step ladder and injured his back while working ...

Mother Jones Reporter Goes Undercover at CCA Prison in Louisiana

Mother Jones magazine, known for its in-depth investigative reporting, was not content to merely skim the surface of the controversial private prison industry by viewing it from the outside. Prisons both public and private are notorious for their lack of transparency, typically justified in the name of “security” – which ...

Prison Policy Initiative Shines Spotlight on Probation and Parole Data

A recent study by the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) places its emphasis not on the number of people incarcerated in the United States, but rather on an often-ignored figure – how many individuals are on probation and parole. The June 2016 study indicates that even some states that have reduced ...

A Deadly Dust is Plaguing Hawaii Prisoners in Arizona

Valley fever is widespread in the Southwest, yet Hawaii’s prison officials haven’t paid much attention to it, despite the recent deaths of at least two Hawaii prisoners who had the disease.

by Rui Kaneya, Civil Beat

In the spring of 2014, Melvin Wright was among a crew of prisoners who ...

Illinois DOC Settles Lawsuit Over Mental Health Treatment

It took eight years but civil rights attorneys finally prevailed in a federal lawsuit against the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), entering into a settlement that requires prison officials to provide 11,000 mentally ill state prisoners with adequate mental health care. The class-action suit was filed in 2007 as ...

Report Reveals “Guaranteed Minimums” Drive ICE Detention

An updated report by Detention Watch Network (DWN), in cooperation with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), has exposed the practice of “guaranteed minimum” bed quotas in detention facilities operated by or for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The term refers to the highly-criticized practice that originated by an act ...

Number of State Prisoners Age 55 and Over Increased 400% in 20 Years

Although much of the attention concerning the huge increase in America’s prison population has focused on the federal prison system, a new U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) report found that the number of prisoners in state facilities increased by 55%, from 857,000 in 1993 to 1,325,300 ...

CCA Annual Shareholder Meeting Met by Protestors

This year, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest for-profit prison company, held its annual shareholder meeting on May 12, 2016. The meeting took place at CCA’s swank corporate office near the upscale Green Hills area of Nashville, Tennessee; the firm has a modern office with a large fountain ...

Tenth Circuit Finds Compelled, Incriminating Sex Offender Polygraphs Unconstitutional

In May 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that sex offenders released from custody cannot be compelled to answer potentially incriminating polygraph questions as a condition of their supervised release. The ruling came after an earlier emergency stay of a polygraph test was issued ...

News in Brief

Arkansas: Two guards were placed on paid leave after they shot and killed prisoner Christopher Wilson during an April 7, 2016 escape attempt from the Varner Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction. According to DOC spokesperson Solomon Graves, “Officers gave [Wilson] a demand to cease his activity, and he ...


 

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