Skip navigation

Prison Legal News: January, 2017

Issue PDF
Volume 28, Number 1

In this issue:

  1. Culture of Abuse and Corruption Plagues Jail in Denver, Colorado (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 10)
  3. Texas: Complaint Filed Over Contaminated Water, Conditions at Eastham Unit (p 10)
  4. Michigan: Contract for Prisoner Legal Writer Program Results in Controversy (p 11)
  5. Rundown on California Propositions 57 and 64 (p 12)
  6. Illinois: DNA Evidence Exonerates One Man, Implicates Another (p 15)
  7. “Natural Causes Killed Victor: A Death in Solitary,” a folk opera by George Swanson (DVD, 55 minutes) (p 16)
  8. Too Little, Too Late: Prosecutor Remorseful for Sending Innocent Man to Death Row (p 16)
  9. PLN Goes Undercover to Bust CCA Employees’ Misuse of Prisoner Labor (p 18)
  10. NTSB Faults Texas Prison Guard, Road Crews in Transport Bus Deaths (p 20)
  11. California County Settles Class-action Lawsuit Over Jail Medical and Mental Health Care (p 20)
  12. CCA’s Rebranding May Violate Trademark Rights (p 21)
  13. Continued Need for Prison and Criminal Justice Reforms (p 22)
  14. ICE Deportations Peaked in FY 2012, Declined from 2013 to 2015 (p 24)
  15. New York Prison Scrutinized, Employees Charged Following High-profile Escape (p 26)
  16. Michigan Jail Subject of Wrongful Death Lawsuit and PLN Censorship Suit (p 28)
  17. Tennessee Sheriff Indicted, Suspended and Jailed Over E-cig Business (p 28)
  18. Child Support Relief Coming for Incarcerated Parents (p 30)
  19. Merits Ruling on Procedurally Flawed Grievance Satisfies PLRA (p 30)
  20. Orleans Parish Jail Settles Prisoner Suicide Suit for $1.75 Million (p 31)
  21. Recurring Injury Subsequent to Lawsuit Settlement No Bar to New Claim (p 32)
  22. Ninth Circuit Vacates Generalized Order to Shackle Pretrial Defendants, En Banc Review Granted (p 32)
  23. Shackled South African Prisoner Beaten by GEO Guards Wins Lawsuit (p 33)
  24. Dear Librarian: Filling the Information Gap for Prisoners with No Internet Access (p 34)
  25. Jail Official Convicted of Illegally Recording Phone Conversations Loses Appeal (p 34)
  26. State University of New York “Bans the Box” on Student Applications (p 35)
  27. Second Circuit Expands Protections from Sexual Abuse by Prison Staff (p 36)
  28. $325,002 Award to Michigan Prisoner Denied Medical Care for Joint Pain (p 36)
  29. Georgia’s Supreme Court Rules on Private Probation Services (p 38)
  30. Securus Phone Rates Spark Uprising at Alaska Prison (p 38)
  31. Correctional Medical Care Pays $425,000 Settlement in Prisoner’s Opiate Withdrawal Death (p 39)
  32. Mississippi: Hinds County Jails in Crisis, Face Mandated Reforms (p 40)
  33. Hawaii Warden Subjected Female Prisoners to “Shame Therapy” (p 40)
  34. Report Finds Charging Criminal Justice Fees Perpetuates Mass Incarceration (p 42)
  35. New York DA Supervisor Engages in Kinky Fetishes, Wife Claims (p 43)
  36. Deaths Due to Neglect in U.S. Jails Reflect Nation’s Values (p 44)
  37. Constitutional Amendment Ensures Executions will Continue in Oklahoma (p 46)
  38. Two Fulton County Jail Employees Subject to Liability in Detainee’s Suicide (p 46)
  39. Three California Jail Guards Charged with Murdering One Prisoner, Assaulting Another (p 48)
  40. BOP Prisoner’s FTCA Wage Suit States Cause of Action (p 49)
  41. Model Mental Health Care Diversion System Started by Miami Judge (p 50)
  42. Nebraska: Portions of Lawsuit over Guard’s Sexual Assault Allowed to Proceed (p 50)
  43. Michigan’s Wayne County Jails Plagued with Inhumane Conditions (p 52)
  44. Michigan: Corizon Audit Finds Deficiencies, State Extends and Expands Contract Anyway (p 52)
  45. $28.1 Million Jury Award after Eighth Circuit Allows Conspiracy Claims in Nebraska Wrongful Conviction Suit (p 54)
  46. New York: Nearly $10 Million in Settlements Over Denial of Medical Care at Rikers Island (p 54)
  47. Georgia Prison Guards Face Sexual Assault Charges (p 56)
  48. Judge Rips DOJ Lawyers for “Series of Misrepresentations,” Orders Ethics Training (p 56)
  49. Seventh Circuit Tells Wisconsin Probationer with Gender Dysphoria how to Proceed (p 57)
  50. Increased Access to Higher Education Programs for California Prisoners (p 58)
  51. FCI Danbury Prisoners Finally Transferred to New Women’s Facility (p 59)
  52. Krome Detention Center has Long History of Detainee Abuse (p 60)
  53. Imprisoned Author Denied Access to His Own Published Writing (p 61)
  54. News in Brief (p 63)

Culture of Abuse and Corruption Plagues Jail in Denver, Colorado

by Lonnie Burton, Matt Clarke, David Reutter, Christopher Zoukis

When Jamal Hunter was arrested in April 2011 on three misdemeanor charges, he had no idea what was in store for him during his stay at the Denver City Jail. Not only was he choked and tasered by guards, he was ...

From the Editor

Welcome to the first issue of PLN for 2017. If you have not yet donated to our annual fundraiser, it is not too late to do so! All donations help, from the smallest to the largest. It is your donations that allow us to carry out our advocacy work around ...

Texas: Complaint Filed Over Contaminated Water, Conditions at Eastham Unit

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has become a litmus test for dealing with toxic environmental conditions for prisoners. Earlier this year, prisoners at the Wallace Pack Unit and their advocates on the outside succeeded in obtaining a court order to provide clean water at that facility, which has ...

Michigan: Contract for Prisoner Legal Writer Program Results in Controversy

A contract between the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) and a law firm hired to train and oversee prisoner legal writers drew controversy last year before it was rebid. The “legal writer” program was created pursuant to a 1996 federal court order arising from a 1992 lawsuit.

The program provides ...

Rundown on California Propositions 57 and 64

by Kent A. Russell, Esq.

In the November 2016 elections, California voters enacted Propositions 57 and 64, two new laws that will potentially benefit thousands of prisoners and scores of prior marijuana offenders.

Prop 57 makes most non-violent prisoners eligible for much earlier parole consideration than was possible under the ...

Illinois: DNA Evidence Exonerates One Man, Implicates Another

On September 28, 2016, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office announced charges against convicted murderer Osborne Wade, 42, in connection with the brutal sexual assault and murder of a child in 1992. The charges followed an extensive investigation by the State’s Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit, which revealed that Mark Maxson ...

“Natural Causes Killed Victor: A Death in Solitary,” a folk opera by George Swanson (DVD, 55 minutes)

Written by George Swanson, a folksinger and Episcopal priest, this unusual folk opera tells how Victor Valdez, a sickly, working-class immigrant from the Dominican Republic, died in 2009 in solitary confinement at the Maine State Prison – and how the causes of his death were covered up.

The state prosecutor ...

Too Little, Too Late: Prosecutor Remorseful for Sending Innocent Man to Death Row

The district attorney who prosecuted Glenn Ford, a Louisiana man exonerated after spending 30 years on death row, called capital punishment “an abomination that continues to scar the fibers of this society.” That statement was made in a column expressing remorse for his role in convicting an innocent defendant ...

PLN Goes Undercover to Bust CCA Employees’ Misuse of Prisoner Labor

When PLN managing editor Alex Friedmann received a letter from a prisoner at the Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility in Nashville, Tennessee, a jail operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA, which recently changed its name to CoreCivic), he knew something was wrong.

The letter described how prisoners were made to ...

NTSB Faults Texas Prison Guard, Road Crews in Transport Bus Deaths

The federal National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently investigated and issued a final report concerning a 2015 prison transport bus accident that claimed the lives of eight prisoners and two guards. The report faulted both the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) officer driving the vehicle as well as the ...

California County Settles Class-action Lawsuit Over Jail Medical and Mental Health Care

In November 2015, Riverside County, California agreed to settle a federal class-action civil rights suit brought by current and former county jail prisoners who alleged violations of their constitutional right to adequate medical and mental health care. [See: PLN, Feb. 2016, p.32].

The settlement included comprehensive reform of the ...

CCA’s Rebranding May Violate Trademark Rights

Just two months ago, PLN reported on Corrections Corporation of America’s tacit admission of failure, evidenced by the firm rebranding itself as “CoreCivic.” PLN managing editor Alex Friedmann said of the name change, “If nothing else this rebranding effort indicates the company knows its CCA brand – which it ...

Continued Need for Prison and Criminal Justice Reforms

Advocates for prisoners’ rights and criminal justice reform have never forgotten the September 1971 uprising at the Attica Correctional Facility in New York, which resulted in the deaths of 33 prisoners and 10 employees. The institutionalized brutality at Attica, which led to the deadly riot and demands for improved conditions ...

ICE Deportations Peaked in FY 2012, Declined from 2013 to 2015

Despite the fact that the Obama administration has deported more people than any other president in U.S. history, in 2015 the number of deportations conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reached a low not seen in many years. Some believe the drop was the result of more targeted ...

New York Prison Scrutinized, Employees Charged Following High-profile Escape

The June 6, 2015 escape of two New York state prisoners from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora revealed troublesome issues that will not soon go away. While many news outlets focused on the spectacular nature of the break-out and emphasized the potential threat to public safety, others noted that ...

Michigan Jail Subject of Wrongful Death Lawsuit and PLN Censorship Suit

The family of a prisoner who died from drug withdrawal symptoms at Michigan’s Macomb County Jail (MCJ) filed a lawsuit against the facility and its private medical contractor, Correct Care Solutions, in March 2015.

On June 11, 2014, David Stojcevski, 32, was ordered by a court to serve 30 days ...

Tennessee Sheriff Indicted, Suspended and Jailed Over E-cig Business

Tennessee’s Rutherford County Sheriff has been indicted and is presently incarcerated, awaiting trial on charges related to his connections with a company that sold e-cigarettes to prisoners at his jail, as well as other contracts he entered into without county approval.

In May 2016, Sheriff Robert Arnold and two alleged ...

Child Support Relief Coming for Incarcerated Parents

In the last days of the Obama administration, regulators quietly ease the child support burden on parents in prison.

by Eli Hager, The Marshall Project

Squeezing in an executive action just a month before president-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, on December 20, 2016 the Obama administration quietly unveiled a new federal ...

Merits Ruling on Procedurally Flawed Grievance Satisfies PLRA

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held that district courts may not enforce a prison’s procedural rule to find a failure to exhaust administrative remedies after prison officials declined to enforce the rule themselves. The Court also found the district court failed to undertake the proper two-step process to ...

Orleans Parish Jail Settles Prisoner Suicide Suit for $1.75 Million

On March 11, 2016, Orleans Parish jail officials in Louisiana agreed to pay $1.75 million to settle a lawsuit stemming from the 2011 suicide of a mentally ill detainee. The suit, filed against Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman and numerous other jail personnel, alleged that prisoner William Goetzee, a ...

Recurring Injury Subsequent to Lawsuit Settlement No Bar to New Claim

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held a prisoner’s previous lawsuit settlements did not preclude a complaint for the same type of injury occurring at a later time. It also held the district court had improperly concluded a claim against a medical director was brought in the director’s official capacity ...

Ninth Circuit Vacates Generalized Order to Shackle Pretrial Defendants, En Banc Review Granted

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held in August 2015 that a full restraint policy imposed on pretrial detainees in non-jury proceedings “ought to be justified by a commensurate need.”

Before the Court were the consolidated appeals of four federal pretrial detainees who challenged a policy instituted by federal ...

Shackled South African Prisoner Beaten by GEO Guards Wins Lawsuit

In May 2016, private prison firm The GEO Group, which operates the maximum-security Louis Kutama Sinthumule Correctional Centre in Louis Trichard, South Africa, lost a lawsuit that alleged the company’s guards beat a prisoner while he was restrained in handcuffs and shackles. Prisoner Takalani Neluheni claimed that in February 2011 ...

Dear Librarian: Filling the Information Gap for Prisoners with No Internet Access

For most Americans, life without Google or Wikipedia would be quite different, and living without Internet access probably unimaginable. One might ask, “How would I obtain the information I need to live my life?” Yet for most of America’s 2.3 million prisoners there is no Google, no Facebook ...

Jail Official Convicted of Illegally Recording Phone Conversations Loses Appeal

A former high-ranking official at a New Jersey county jail, convicted on federal charges for illegally listening to and recording the private phone conversations of jail union leaders, has lost his appeal and will remain in federal prison.

Kirk Eady, 46, of East Brunswick, New Jersey, was convicted in March ...

State University of New York “Bans the Box” on Student Applications

On September 14, 2016, the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York voted to “ban the box” from the school’s student application form. The move revised the university’s prior policy which required applicants to declare any felony convictions. The new policy requires prospective students to declare any ...

Second Circuit Expands Protections from Sexual Abuse by Prison Staff

In an October 7, 2015 corrected ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed a district court’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed by two New York state prisoners alleging they had been sexually abused by a guard who fondled their penises.

James Crawford and Thaddeus Corley ...

$325,002 Award to Michigan Prisoner Denied Medical Care for Joint Pain

A federal jury has awarded $325,002 to a prisoner upon finding Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) staff were deliberately indifferent to his chronic joint pain.

State prisoner Temujin Kensu, 52, suffered for over two decades with medical issues that included serious shoulder, back, knee, elbow and intestinal problems that ...

Georgia’s Supreme Court Rules on Private Probation Services

The Georgia Supreme Court held on March 25, 2016 that common law allows for tolling of privately-supervised misdemeanor probation sentences, and that such common law was not abrogated when lawmakers passed the State-Wide Probation Act.

The case was before the state Supreme Court to answer two certified questions posed by ...

Securus Phone Rates Spark Uprising at Alaska Prison

A riot at an Alaska prison “kind of blew up” because, according to prisoners, the phone service provided by Securus was shoddy and the company charged unreasonable rates.

Sparked by a widespread disconnection of phone calls one Monday night in October 2015, prisoners housed in E Dorm at the Lemon ...

Correctional Medical Care Pays $425,000 Settlement in Prisoner’s Opiate Withdrawal Death

Correctional Medical Care (CMC) agreed to a $425,000 settlement in a lawsuit alleging the company’s practice of putting profit before patient care resulted in the opiate withdrawal death of a prisoner at New York’s Schenectady County Jail (SCJ).

Nicole Carmen, 39 and a mother of three, was a heroin ...

Mississippi: Hinds County Jails in Crisis, Face Mandated Reforms

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a letter in May 2015 that described the findings of an investigation which concluded two jails in Hinds County, Mississippi were violating prisoners’ rights. The county has since entered into a settlement agreement that implements a number of reforms in its jail ...

Hawaii Warden Subjected Female Prisoners to “Shame Therapy”

The head of the Kauai Community Correctional Center (KCCC) came under fire after admitting he had humiliated female prisoners by showing them sexually-oriented films in an attempt to administer “shame therapy.” Warden Neal Wagatsuma denied he had shown porno­graphy to the prisoners, but acknowledged during November 2, 2016 court ...

Report Finds Charging Criminal Justice Fees Perpetuates Mass Incarceration

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law released a report in May 2015 titled, “Charging Inmates Perpetuates Mass Incarceration.”

Mass incarceration refers to the fact that the United States, which has around 5% of the world’s population, holds almost 25% of the world’s prisoners ...

New York DA Supervisor Engages in Kinky Fetishes, Wife Claims

The estranged wife of Jeffrey Stein, the top administrative supervisor in the prosecutor’s office for Nassau County, New York, filed a civil divorce petition claiming her husband’s kinky sexual preferences gave her post traumatic stress disorder.

According to Carole Mundy, Stein victimized her with “predatory and extreme depraved antisocial sexual ...

Deaths Due to Neglect in U.S. Jails Reflect Nation’s Values

While brutality and murders committed by police officers – particularly against unarmed black men – have gained increased public attention over the past few years, the deaths of people in jail due to the negligence or deliberate indifference of corrections staff rarely register even a blip on the public’s radar ...

Constitutional Amendment Ensures Executions will Continue in Oklahoma

Despite a number of botched executions in recent years – which drew widespread criticism for subjecting condemned prisoners to cruel lethal injection practices – Oklahomans have voted to add a provision to the state constitution enshrining and ensuring the state’s ability to put people to death in whatever manner it ...

Two Fulton County Jail Employees Subject to Liability in Detainee’s Suicide

A Georgia Court of Appeals held in March 2016 that two employees of the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office could be held liable in the suicide of a pre-trial detainee.

The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by the estate of Richard W. Hill, Jr., who was arrested on May 21 ...

Three California Jail Guards Charged with Murdering One Prisoner, Assaulting Another

Three California jail guards have been charged with assaulting and murdering a mentally ill prisoner after he was found unresponsive in his cell shortly after midnight on August 27, 2015.

Santa Clara County jail deputies Jereh Lubrin, Rafael Rodriguez and Matthew Farris were arrested in September 2015 and charged with ...

BOP Prisoner’s FTCA Wage Suit States Cause of Action

In February 2016, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a Florida district court’s order dismissing a prisoner’s Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) complaint that alleged a Bureau of Prisons (BOP) guard had withheld his wages.

Before the Court was the appeal of federal prisoner Frank Douglas, who said that ...

Model Mental Health Care Diversion System Started by Miami Judge

Thanks to the efforts of Florida Eleventh Circuit Court Judge Steve Leifman, Miami-Dade County is leading the way in how police and the courts deal with the mentally ill. As PLN has reported over the years, jails and prisons are the largest providers of mental health care in the U ...

Nebraska: Portions of Lawsuit over Guard’s Sexual Assault Allowed to Proceed

Last year, the Nebraska Court of Appeals held a prisoner’s claim alleging an intentional tort related to a sexual assault by a guard was barred by the State Tort Claims Act (STCA), but claims of intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress related to the reporting of the assault had ...

Michigan’s Wayne County Jails Plagued with Inhumane Conditions

The jails in Michigan’s Wayne County are “inhumane for everybody,” according to one law enforcement official. The outmoded and dangerous jails were supposed to be replaced, but cost overruns at a new state-of-the-art facility forced the county to discontinue the project.

As previously reported in PLN, the replacement project ...

Michigan: Corizon Audit Finds Deficiencies, State Extends and Expands Contract Anyway

A performance audit of the Michigan Department of Corrections’ (MDOC) contract with Corizon Health for the provision of prison medical, dental and optical services uncovered a number of deficiencies.

Among other issues, the Michigan Office of the Auditor General’s findings, detailed in a July 2015 report, found the MDOC had ...

$28.1 Million Jury Award after Eighth Circuit Allows Conspiracy Claims in Nebraska Wrongful Conviction Suit

On December 31, 2015, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that six wrongfully convicted former prisoners could sue Gage County, Nebraska for conspiring to manufacture false evidence; further, law enforcement officials involved in the investigation that led to the wrongful convictions were not entitled to qualified immunity. [See: PLN ...

New York: Nearly $10 Million in Settlements Over Denial of Medical Care at Rikers Island

On November 13, 2015, the City of New York entered into a $3.8 million settlement in a lawsuit brought by the estate of a Rikers Island prisoner who swallowed caustic chemicals and died due to severe internal burns after guards denied him medical care.

Jason Echevarria, 25, incarcerated at ...

Georgia Prison Guards Face Sexual Assault Charges

Two prison guards have been criminally charged with sexually assaulting prisoners at the Emanuel Women’s Facility in Twin City, Georgia.

Capt. Edgar Daniel Johnson was the highest ranking officer at the prison, and Channel 2 Action News was present to record his arrest at his home on the morning of ...

Judge Rips DOJ Lawyers for “Series of Misrepresentations,” Orders Ethics Training

In one of the most recent examples of gross misconduct on the part of U.S. Department of Justice attorneys, noteworthy for the fact that it was actually punished, a Texas federal judge blasted DOJ lawyers who had deliberately misled him. U.S. District Court Judge Andrew S. Hanen ruled ...

Seventh Circuit Tells Wisconsin Probationer with Gender Dysphoria how to Proceed

On December 23, 2015, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal of a Wisconsin probationer with gender dysphoria who was denied a preliminary injunction to allow her to move from a men’s homeless shelter to her mother’s house and to dress as a woman in public. In doing ...

Increased Access to Higher Education Programs for California Prisoners

Some California prisoners, including those confined at the notorious Pelican Bay supermax, are enjoying access to higher education courses provided by the state’s community colleges. A 2014 law eliminated the requirement that all classes taught by community colleges must be open to the public; as a result, such colleges can ...

FCI Danbury Prisoners Finally Transferred to New Women’s Facility

Three years after a “temporary” move from FCI Danbury in Connecticut, over 100 women prisoners found themselves incarcerated in a Brooklyn jail instead of a promised new federal facility. The women were told the move, which occurred after Danbury was converted to a men’s prison, would only be for 18 ...

Krome Detention Center has Long History of Detainee Abuse

Immigration reform was a recurring theme in the recent presidential election. The national debate has focused on what should be done with the millions of undocumented immigrants who reside in the United States, but as events at the Krome Service Processing Center in Miami, Florida indicate, the spotlight should be ...

Imprisoned Author Denied Access to His Own Published Writing

In order to survive being subjected to nearly three decades of solitary confinement, William “Billy” Blake turned to reading and, more importantly, writing.

“A Sentence Worse than Death” is an essay Blake wrote for inclusion in an anthology of narratives about solitary entitled Hell is a Very Small Place: Voices ...

News in Brief

Arkansas: Michael Graff, 29, was fired following his arrest on charges of sexually assaulting a prisoner. The former Pulaski County jail deputy received a termination letter from Sheriff Doc Holladay which referred to Graff’s arrest as a violation of the Sheriff’s Office’s standards of conduct. A July 11, 2016 press ...