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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: January, 2017

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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 issues like prison and jail phone rates, prison profiteering and prison ecology that we would otherwise not be able to do. If you can become a monthly sustainer, even for $5 a month – less than a cup of coffee in most cities – it would make a huge difference. If every person who reads this issue of Prison Legal News donated just $1 a month, that would be around $80,000 in additional revenue each month that we can use towards advancing prisoners’ rights.

Coming into the New Year we plan to publish at least two new books as well as distribute several more titles. We will announce the new titles as we add them. If there are books on topics that you would like to see available in PLN’s bookstore, please let us know.

We will continue to bring our readers cutting-edge articles on criminal justice-related news and ...

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 well-documented high levels of arsenic in its water supply. [See: PLN, Nov. 2016, p.22; Sept. 2015, p.12].

On December 1, 2016, Joan Kain, an advocate acting on behalf of prisoners at the Eastham Unit, delivered a formal complaint to TDCJ officials in an effort to prompt changes at that prison. Her complaint was based primarily on reports from incarcerated activist Keith “Malik” Washington.

In November, Washington and 43 other prisoners were transferred to Eastham, an administrative segregation unit in Lovelady, Texas, following activities surrounding the September 9, 2016 national prisoner work strike that coincided with the 45th anniversary of the 1971 Attica uprising.
Eastham is one of the oldest prisons in the state. Washington reported that “the conditions there are much worse than at the Telford Unit,” where he was previously housed.

Kain noted that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) had posted notices warning local ...

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 80 hours of training to prisoners who serve as legal aides. Once trained, they are available to provide legal assistance to MDOC’s prison population on a qualifying basis. The 15,000 prisoners without a high school diploma or GED qualify for help, as do prisoners in segregation, who do not speak or write English, are held in inpatient medical units, or have mental or physical disabilities that prevent them from using prison law libraries.

The legal writers are provided access to a computer to help other prisoners draft legal pleadings and complaints. In a submission to the State Administrative Board, the MDOC said the contract with the law firm was necessary “to comply with the prisoners’ constitutional right of access to the courts.”

Some critics think it’s ridiculous for state officials to pay lawyers to train prisoners to help file lawsuits against the state.

“I would imagine they would ...

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 prior law. Although Prop 57 does not automatically require that parole be granted to non-violent offenders covered by the new law, by generating earlier parole consideration it jump-starts the complex parole process that, properly handled, could lead to release on parole.

Prop 64 substantially reduces sentences for most marijuana offenses. Moreover, it is retroactive in the sense that it applies to reduce sentences applicable to prior marijuana offenses which, had they been committed today, would have resulted in either a lesser penalty or no penalty at all under the new law.

Although both Prop 57 and Prop 64 take effect immediately, regulations that govern the way these laws operate in individual cases have yet to be enacted, and it may be some time before such regulations are published and applied. In the meantime, prisoners and their families will be well advised to understand the basics of these new laws and ...

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, now 55, had been wrongfully convicted for the crime in 1994.

As a result, the charges against Maxson were dismissed and he was released after serving approximately 22 years of a life sentence. Elliot Zinger, one of Maxson’s attorneys, said they will seek a certificate of innocence to have his conviction expunged, which would entitle him to up to $200,000 in compensation from the state. Zinger has also filed a lawsuit on Maxson’s behalf against the Chicago police detectives who allegedly coerced, beat and threatened his client into providing an unsigned confession.

Cook County prosecutors announced that DNA evidence from six-year-old Lindsey Murdock, Jr.’s clothing was a match to Wade, who subsequently confessed to the crime and wrote letters of apology to Murdock’s family.

Judge James Brown called the case the worst he’d seen in 14 years on the bench.

“I’m left with a case where an individual ...

“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 who investigated the case determined that Victor died of “natural causes.” True, he needed kidney dialysis and had other ailments, but a number of other prisoners said he had not been given proper medical care and had been physically abused. In fact, one prisoner had predicted to an advocate that the abuse would likely kill Victor.

I wrote the newspaper article, “A Prison Obituary: The Tragedy of Victor Valdez,” which was the basis for the opera. George Swanson has long worked with me and many others in a campaign to end or restrict the use of solitary in Maine and nationally. He successfully convinced the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) to take on the issue.

NRCAT’s founding director, the Rev. Richard Killmer, said the opera “shows the immorality of solitary confinement.” Bonnie Kerness, director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Prison Watch, called it an “amazing” ...

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.

Ford, 64, was charged with the November 5, 1983 murder of a Shreveport jeweler during a robbery. In late 2013, credible evidence came to the attention of prosecutors “supporting a finding that Glenn Ford was neither present at nor a participant in the robbery and murder of Isadore Rozeman.” He was released from prison on March 10, 2014 and given a $20.04 debit card by prison officials.

Under Louisiana law, Ford was entitled to $330,000 in compensation for his wrongful conviction. However, a state court judge denied compensation, stating Ford likely had a role in the robbery that resulted in Rozeman’s death as he was in possession of items taken during the robbery.

“I can take no comfort in such an argument,” wrote A.M. “Marty” Shroud III, the lead prosecutor at Ford’s trial, in a March 2015 column published in the Shreveport Times. “As a ...

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 work in a building trades vocational program, creating items such as wooden sports team plaques and cornhole boards (a type of bean bag game). CCA employees would then sell the items online and at flea markets and pocket the proceeds – in violation of a state statute, TCA § 41-2-148, that makes it a crime for jailers to personally profit from prisoners’ labor.

TCA § 41-2-148(a) states: “No sheriff, jailer or other person responsible for the care and custody of inmates housed in a county or municipal jail or workhouse may employ, require or otherwise use any inmate housed in the jail or workhouse to perform labor that will or may result directly or indirectly in the sheriff’s, jailer’s or other person’s personal gain, profit or benefit or in gain, profit or benefit to a business partially or wholly owned by the sheriff, jailer or other person.”

In ...

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 state’s highway department, which had failed to promptly repair a guardrail that jutted into a lane of traffic.

Killed in the January 15, 2015 crash were TDCJ prisoners Byron L. Wilson, Tyler E. Townsend, Jesus Reyna, Kaleb D. Wise, Adolfo Ruiz, Michael S. Stewart, Angel Cruz Vasquez and Jeremiah Ruben Rodriguez. Prison guards Christopher Davis, 53, and Eligio Garcia, 45, also died in the crash. Garcia was the bus driver; a third guard, Jason Self, 38, survived and was listed in critical condition.

Four prisoners – Damien A. Rodriquez, Remigio Pineda, Terry L. Johnson, Jr. and Hector Rivera – were injured; it took five ambulances to transport the accident survivors to a hospital for evaluation. None of the prisoners or guards were wearing seatbelts, nor was the bus equipped with emergency roof hatches or exit windows. Prison transport vehicles are exempt from those requirements under federal regulations.

The bus, a ...

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 process for providing medical and mental health treatment as well as services for disabled prisoners. It also included $1.25 million in attorney fees for Donald Specter and Sara Norman with the Prison Law Office in Berkeley, as well as San Francisco attorneys Shawn Hanson and Danielle Ginty. The attorneys will continue to monitor and enforce the consent decree with the defendants paying $150,000 per year in monitoring costs. Further, court-appointed experts will oversee compliance with a remedial plan.

The remedial plan approved by the federal district court includes the following provisions: 1) all prisoners entering the jail will be given a prompt, confidential medical screening by a registered nurse; 2) health care forms will be made available as will locked boxes to deposit completed forms; 3) the completed forms will be collected and triaged daily by health care personnel with urgent concerns being seen that day and routine ...

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 developed over more than 30 years – had become a liability due to its connection with higher levels of violence, sexual abuse, corruption and questionable cost savings at CCA-run prisons and jails. The company may now be called CoreCivic but it will always be remembered as CCA and can’t escape its past.” [See: PLN, Nov. 2016, p.51].

In a new development reported on December 13, 2016, Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), a national non-profit organization that works on issues related to U.S. immigration detention, announced that CoreCivic had violated its common-law trademark rights. In fact, CIVIC opposes the use of privately-operated detention facilities and had previously raised concerns about the sexual abuse of detainees at a CCA facility in San Diego. The organization has retained attorney Jonathan Kirsch and the law office of Kendall Brill & Kelly to address the trademark violation.

“It is ...

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, continues to galvanize protests against injustices in the U.S. penal system. Attica ushered in the modern era of American prison reform. The backlash came in 1996; with over 41 prison systems and hundreds of jails under consent decrees or injunctions to improve conditions, Congress responded with the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which limited the ability of the federal courts to improve conditions of confinement.

Yet even 45 years after the Attica rebellion, prisoners still have very limited means to mount protests and face disproportionate retribution from prison officials when they do stand up for their basic human rights. Some argue that the system of mass incarceration is specifically designed to destroy prisoners mentally and physically, and to frustrate them from exercising any means to redress their grievances via methods available to the general public – such as through the courts or political process. Further, it keeps the outside world ...

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 ICE priorities, while others contend the decrease in deportations had a more organic cause – namely, lower numbers of undocumented immigrants attempting to enter the United States.

ICE set a record high for deportations in fiscal year 2012, according to then-agency director John T. Morton, who said 409,849 undocumented immigrants had been removed that year. The number highlighted the emphasis that the federal government had placed on illegal immigration since the 9/11 attacks. Deportations dropped to 368,644 in 2013, then declined further to 315,943 the following year.

As reported by ICE, in fiscal year 2015 the agency deported 235,413 people – a marked decrease from prior years, but still much higher than during previous decades. By way of comparison, the number of deportations in the 1990s rarely topped 20,000 annually.

More people are detained each year by immigration officials than are incarcerated by the ...

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 misconduct by prison employees was central to the escape. Both escapees were shot, one fatally, while trying to evade their heavily-armed pursuers.

Convicted murderer Richard W. Matt, 49, along with David P. Sweat, 35, who was serving life without parole for killing a sheriff’s deputy, broke out of Clinton with the assistance of Joyce E. Mitchell.

Mitchell, 51, was employed by the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) as a supervisor in the tailor shop at Clinton, where both Matt and Sweat worked. Although married, she said she was enticed into a fantasy of helping the prisoners escape and provided them with hacksaw blades. She admitted to having sexual contact with Matt and supplying Sweat with nude photos.

In September 2015, after pleading guilty to charges related to her role in the escape, Mitchell was sentenced to two years and four months to seven years in state ...

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 for failing to pay a $772 traffic ticket. Stojcevski, a drug addict, was taking methadone, Xanax and Klonopin to treat his addiction when he was booked into MCJ. He was denied access to those medications and went into withdrawal, which caused him to act irrationally.

His symptoms were improperly diagnosed and he was placed naked in an observation cell for prisoners with mental health problems. The cell was lit 24/7 and monitored by a video camera. Another prisoner was in the cell with Stojcevski, and they eventually began fighting.

After the other prisoner was removed, Stojcevski could be seen on video reenacting the fight, indicating he was hallucinating. Over the 17 days of his imprisonment at MCJ, Stojcevski lost 50 pounds and suffered convulsions.

During the last two days of his life he laid on the floor of his cell and shook in clear distress, yet no jail staff ...

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 accomplices, Joe L. Russell II and John Vanderveer, were indicted by federal prosecutors on thirteen criminal counts related to an ongoing investigation conducted by the FBI and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

The charges against the men include conspiracy, fraud, bribery concerning programs receiving federal funding, extortion under color of office and attempted witness tampering. If convicted on all charges they face up to 95 years in prison.

Sheriff Arnold was elected to a second term in August 2014. After it was discovered he had ties with friends and relatives who owned JailCigs, LLC, a company based in Georgia, Arnold faced calls for his resignation. He refused to step down, however, even while under indictment.

A financial disclosure form that Arnold filed with the Tennessee Ethics Commission listed JailCigs as an investment and source of income. The disclosure also listed his wife, Megan, as holding investments in the company; according to ...

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 regulation that will allow incarcerated parents to lower their child support payments while they are in prison.

The new rule, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, requires states to notify all parents incarcerated for more than six months of their right to ask the child support agency for a temporary reduction in payments.

As The Marshall Project reported in October 2015, many states have long considered incarceration a form of “voluntary” impoverishment, and therefore not a valid excuse for missing child support payments. [See: PLN, Sept. 2016, p.1]. But jobs in state prisons pay a median wage of about 20 cents an hour, meaning that most incarcerated parents cannot feasibly pay the full amount of their child support obligation – and end up tens of thousands of dollars in debt by the time they get out. (The best estimates indicate that one in five prisoners in ...

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 resolve motions to dismiss for failure to exhaust.

Georgia prisoner Shawn W. Whatley alleged that he was beaten on January 12, 2011 by guards at the Telfair State Prison and transferred within hours to Ware State Prison. He also claimed he was denied medical treatment. In response to his civil rights lawsuit, prison officials filed a 300-page motion to dismiss arguing that Whatley had failed to exhaust administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA).

The district court granted the motion. At issue on appeal were two grievances Whatley had filed. The first was a January 18, 2011 informal grievance in which Whatley addressed the beating and lack of medical care. He received a receipt for the grievance, but never received a response. About three months later he filed an appeal. There was no indication on the receipt as to what issues were raised in the informal ...

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 career reserve officer in the U.S. Coast Guard who had exhibited suicidal tendencies after his arrest, was left unsupervised in his cell.

The defendants admitted that jail policy required suicidal prisoners to be watched around the clock, but the deputy assigned to monitor Goetzee left his post. That deputy, William Thompson, was not only fired but also criminally charged with malfeasance in office; he pleaded guilty and was sentenced in September 2012 to five years’ probation.

For the past several years the Orleans Parish jail had been operating under a court-supervised consent decree. [See: PLN, Dec. 2016, p.16; Sept. 2016, p.44].

Goetzee, 48, was arrested on August 2, 2011 for attempting to seize the firearm of a security guard at a federal courthouse, for the purpose, his family claimed, to use the gun to kill himself. Goetzee apparently committed suicide in his cell by swallowing pieces of ...

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, making it a suit against the state.

Illinois prisoner Delbert Heard has suffered for over 20 years from inguinal hernias, i.e., hernias of the groin. [See: PLN, March 2003, p.24]. He was diagnosed with one in 1995 upon beginning his prison sentence. A second hernia on his other side was diagnosed in 2000, but Wexford Health Sources, the medical contractor for the Illinois DOC, “stalled until May 2007 after both hernias had become incarcerated” – which is when the intestines protrude through a weak spot in the abdominal wall and become trapped, “prompting emergency surgery.”

Heard sued prison officials, Wexford and a Wexford physician in 2006 and 2009. A jury entered a verdict against the doctor, resulting in Wexford settling both lawsuits in September 2012 for $273,250. See: Heard v. Illinois DOC, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Ill.), Case No. 1:06-cv-00644 and Heard v ...

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 district courts in the Southern District of California. That policy, created at the behest of the U.S. Marshals Service, required pretrial detainees to be placed “in full shackle restraints for most appearances before a judge, including arraignments, unless a judge specifically requests the restraints be removed in a particular case.”

After the Marshals gave a presentation on July 8, 2013 regarding the need for the policy, federal judges in the Southern District responded with a letter stating they would defer to the Marshals’ recommendation. The letter said defendants would appear in court in full restraints for all non-jury proceedings with the exception of guilty pleas and sentencing hearings. Any judge could ask the Marshals to remove the restraints in a particular case.

With the new policy in place, defendants began to request to be unshackled; several appealed the denials, resulting in the consolidated appeal. The Ninth Circuit noted ...

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 at least nine guards forced him to undress before he was searched anally, and that a guard struck him and another jumped on his genitals.

He then stated that while still restrained he was dragged down some stairs, hitting his head, and placed in solitary confinement for 42 days. Neluheni argued that he was “not a violent person,” and said he suffered serious injuries to his genitals, was given poisoned tea and did not receive medical care from the prison doctor.

Neluheni was awarded R200,000 (around $14,290) by Judge Nomsa Khumal, who rejected the GEO guards’ assertions that he was a violent person and had assaulted them, though the judge said Neluheni did tend to exaggerate. In the final analysis, Khumal rejected prison officials’ version of the facts, noting that they clearly disliked Neluheni and had fabricated a story in an attempt to cover up the assault ...

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, no Internet at all.

While a growing number of states and the federal Bureau of Prisons allow prisoners access to limited and monitored email – usually for a fee – that does not include the ability to peruse the Internet. [See: PLN, Nov. 2014, p.35; Dec. 2009, p.24].

As such, most prisoners have to obtain information the old-fashioned way: relying on family and friends on the outside as well as (usually outdated) encyclopedias and almanacs in prison libraries. But a program offered by the New York Public Library helps shine a light for some prisoners. Through NYPL’s Correctional Services Program, a team of librarians and researchers receive about 60 letters a month from prisoners seeking information of some kind.

From queries about post-release opportunities to pleas for baseball statistics, the team does its best to provide answers. The Correctional Services Program, which runs lending libraries in New York ...

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 2015 on charges of illegal interception of wire, oral or electronic communications of others. On September 10, 2015 he was sentenced to 21 months in prison plus three years of supervised release.

Eady appealed, seeking to overturn his conviction and sentence on the grounds of inappropriate application of sentencing guidelines, inappropriate use of a government witness as an “expert” and improper jury instructions. His appeal was rejected by the Third Circuit on May 4, 2016.

According to the criminal complaint, Eady was a deputy director at the Hudson County Correctional Facility and represented the county in labor negotiations with unions representing guards and other employees at the jail. From March to July 2012, Eady intercepted conversations between several members of the union who, according to court documents, had criticized Eady’s work performance.

He had intercepted the calls by using an online prank service known as “Evil Operator,” which, for ...

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 felonies only after they have been granted admission, and then only when seeking on-campus housing, clinical or field experiences, study abroad programs or internships.

The change resulted from a student-initiated resolution by the SUNY Student Assembly which recommended that “criminal history screenings should only be implemented after a student has been admitted, and [ ] they should never be used to revoke admission.” The national Ban the Box movement also carried heavy weight with the Board of Trustees.

“The State University of New York is committed to providing all New Yorkers the broadest possible access to quality public higher education,” said SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall, “including those who have succeeded through the justice system following a felony conviction.”

SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher added, “Today’s policy revision is a milestone achievement for SUNY, one that positions our university system as a leader in what has become a ...

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, both incarcerated at the Eastern Correctional Facility, operated by the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), stated that prison guard Simon Prindle had fondled them while conducting pat-down searches during separate incidents in 2011.

Crawford and Corley complained to Prindle’s supervisors, including the warden, but no disciplinary action was taken despite the fact that approximately 20 other prisoners came forward alleging that Prindle had sexually abused them, too.

The lawsuit was filed in federal district court in 2013, but the court dismissed the claim that the sexual abuse constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment, citing Boddie v Schneider, 105 F.3d 857 (2d Cir. 1997). The court held that sexual penetration or physical injury was required for a claim of unconstitutional sexual abuse. Crawford and Corley appealed, arguing the district court had construed Boddie too narrowly.

The New York Chapter of the ...

$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 a federal district court in a lawsuit brought by Richard L. Anderson against Sentinel Offender Services, LLC, a company that provides for-profit probation services. Anderson filed suit “seeking relief for false arrest, malicious arrest, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and false arrest stemming from his arrests for violation of probation, which had been tolled.”

As previously reported in PLN, the Georgia Supreme Court held in Sentinel Offender Services v. Glover, 296 Ga. 315, 766 S.E.2d 456 (Ga. 2014) that, “with respect to a misdemeanor conviction, sentences are fixed at one year, and once a sentence has been served, jurisdiction over the defendant ceases.” [See: PLN, July 2015, p.40].

With the outcome of Anderson’s civil rights action hinging on the question of common law tolling, the federal district court first asked: Is tolling authorized for privately-supervised misdemeanor probated sentences? The Georgia Supreme Court answered ...

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 Creek Correctional Center (LCCC) disabled surveillance cameras, broke a window, ripped a table out of the concrete floor and then stacked the table and mattresses against a door into the dorm, preventing guards from entering.

Shortly after midnight, however, guards were able to break through the barricade and round up an undisclosed number of prisoners, placing them all in segregation. No one was injured according to Alaska DOC officials.

“For weeks, everybody’s been on edge about [the phone rates],” an LCCC prisoner identified only as Alec told the Juneau Empire in a phone interview from the facility. “The most important things we have in here are connections with our family.”

Texas-based Securus entered into a new contract with the Alaska DOC in September 2015. Per the terms of that contract, prisoners would be able to call cell phones (which they had been unable to do previously), but Securus ...

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 addict who had been using up to six “bundles” of heroin a day upon her April 20, 2013 arrest for a parole violation. After being booked into SCJ, Carmen informed other prisoners that she was not feeling well because she was going through withdrawal, and spent most of the day lying in bed and refusing to eat because she felt nauseous. [See: PLN, Sept. 2016, p.54].

On the second day, Carmen deteriorated rapidly. She was “frequently vomiting and defecating on herself, her bedding, and on the floor.” Still, after two days she had not been medically assessed by jail staff.

Carmen was finally summoned to the infirmary on the third day. She appeared to walk in a sluggish manner and looked pale and sickly. The federal lawsuit filed by her estate claimed she received only a “cursory assessment” and was “sent back to her cell without any medication ...

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 system.

Specifically, the DOJ investigation found that Hinds County had violated prisoners’ rights by “(1) failing to provide conditions of confinement that offer reasonable safety and protection from violence, and (2) holding prisoners in the jail beyond their court ordered release dates.”

The DOJ focused on conditions at the Hinds County Adult Detention Center in Raymond and the Jackson City Detention Center in Jackson. Both facilities are operated by the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office. The Raymond jail has 594 beds and the Jackson facility contains 192 beds.

“Hinds County Adult Detention Center and the Jackson City Detention Center are facilities in crisis,” said Vanita Gupta, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. “Making these facilities safe will require broad systematic reforms and a commitment to improve staffing and operations.”

Federal investigators found that “grossly deficient staffing is the most immediate problem facing ...

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 testimony that he yelled at the women, forced them to watch films with graphic rape scenes – such as Looking for Mr. Goodbar – and filmed them while they discussed their sexual histories.

In defending against a civil lawsuit, Wagatsuma told the federal court, “Shame therapy is talking about things that are deep within a person. It’s just talking about their lives, talking about anything that’s bothering them. I don’t yell at them for no reason. It’s about chastising. It’s a good thing ... you want to confront them when they’re wrong.”

Wagatsuma, who has no background in psychology, said he created the program by drawing on his own life experiences. “Before I came into government, I had a really hard life,” he stated.

The lawsuit was filed by Carolyn C. Ritchie, a former social worker at the prison who alleged she faced retaliation after exposing Wagatsuma’s sexual humiliation ...

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 – currently about 2.2 million in state and federal prisons and jails. “Since the 1970s, incarceration in the U.S. has risen steeply, dwarfing the incarceration rate of any other nation on Earth,” the Brennan Center stated.

The report also noted that mass incarceration is expensive, as our nation’s corrections system costs an estimated $80 billion per year. Prison is the third-largest spending category in most states, after education and health care; a 2015 report by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences found that 11 states spent more on corrections than higher education in FY 2013. Those states were Michigan, Oregon, Arizona, Vermont, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Delaware, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Reluctant to raise taxes, lawmakers have sought another source of revenue to pay for criminal justice costs, and courts and corrections officials are increasingly charging defendants, prisoners, probationers and parolees for various “services” such ...

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 conduct so egregious it shows a blatant disregard for the marital relationship that it shocks the conscience.”

The alleged behavior included Stein dressing as a “sissy maid” and wearing “an anal plug with a horse tail and pretended to be a horse by galloping around the marital residence.” Mundy further stated that, while pretending to be a cat, Stein “used [a] litter box and cleaned himself.”

Her divorce petition also said Stein had shown her “a male chastity belt with locks under his clothing to wear to work at the Nassau County DA’s Office,” and told her that he “received sexual gratification from wearing this device at work.”

Additionally, Mundy noted that Stein was unnaturally concerned with the personal affairs of his previous supervisor, Representative Kathleen Rice, who had served as Nassau County’s DA before she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives ...

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. Such apathy reflects poorly on our values as a nation.

“[I]t’s crucial that the lives of those behind bars be taken into account,” wrote Truthout news analyst William C. Anderson, when reporting on deaths in Alabama county jails.

The ubiquity of cameras, in both cell phones and video security systems, as well as police body cams, has helped raise awareness of police brutality and shootings. In jails, surveillance cameras, if present at all, often fail to record abuse by jailers, which tends to occurs in areas not being filmed, or the cameras “malfunction” on a questionably regular basis. Even more rare is video of sick prisoners who are neglected and left suffering within their cells. Such cases often involve prisoners who are unruly due to their malady, or intoxicated or undergoing withdrawal from drug use.

Sheneque Proctor, 18, may have fit both profiles when she was placed ...

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 sees fit.

The constitutional amendment, approved by 67 percent of voters on November 8, 2016, states that “any method of execution shall be allowed, unless prohibited by the United States Constitution,” and that no method of execution employed by the state “[shall be] deemed to be, or constitute, the infliction of cruel or unusual punishments.”

Ironically, as the infliction of “cruel and unusual” punishment is expressly forbidden under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Oklahoma amendment appears to be an attempt at self-inoculation on the part of a state plagued with a seeming inability to kill prisoners in a non-cruel and unusual way.

As reported by Al Jazeera in September 2016, drawing on data provided by the Death Penalty Information Center, Oklahoma has executed 112 prisoners since 1990. As such, it is the state with the highest per-capita execution rate, and second in total ...

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, 2010. Due to overcrowding at the Fulton County Jail (FCJ), Hill was transferred to a jail in Hall County, which had a contract with FCJ.

The Fulton County Superior Court entered an order on September 7, 2010 that directed jail officials to place Hill on suicide watch and house him in protective custody.

Hill was scheduled to appear in court on September 16, 2010, and was returned to Fulton County for the hearing. Hall County guard Stephanie Bennett said she spoke to FCJ jailer Milton Weaver and showed him the suicide watch order. Weaver disputed that, claiming Bennett only told him that Hill should be separated from other prisoners.

Weaver placed Hill in an attorney’s booth, removed his handcuffs and shackles, then left him and went to another part of the facility. Later, another guard looked into the attorney’s booth and noticed Hill was not wearing pants. When jail staff ...

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 the beating death of Michael Tyree, 31, a schizophrenic homeless man who had finished serving a five-day sentence for petty theft and was awaiting transfer to a mental health facility. [See: PLN, June 2016, p.63].

The guards were also charged with assaulting Juan Villa, another prisoner, shortly before killing Tyree, according to prosecutors.

“These men violated the law, human dignity, and a job that they were sworn to do,” said Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen. A coroner’s report determined that Tyree’s death was due to multiple blunt force injuries to his liver and spleen, resulting in internal bleeding. At a news conference, Sheriff Laurie Smith said she felt “disappointment and disgust” about what had happened, and noted the three jailers were the only people with access to Tyree at the time of his death.

According to the charging documents, on the evening of August 26, 2015 ...

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 while incarcerated at FCC Coleman he worked a trash shift several days a week, which required him to “operate [] a very dangerous recycl[ing] machine for cardboard.” He was one of two prisoners who operated the machine, the contents of which “weighed one or two tons” and had to be loaded into a semi-truck three or four times a week.

BOP policy assigns prison workers to one of four pay grades. In March and April 2012, Douglas’ supervisor signed a “work performance rating” form that indicated he performed “satisfactory work” at a pay grade of 1, entitling him to $91.60 for 154 hours of work each month. Douglas alleged that a Lt. Barker, who entered prisoner pay data into the computer, reduced his monthly wages to just $7.20 and $12.00. According to Douglas, Lt. Barker said he reduced the wages because “I don’t like Inmate Douglas ...

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.S. [See, e.g.: PLN, June 2016, p.14].

In Miami-Dade County there are about 175,000 adults with serious mental illnesses; the county has the highest ratio of residents with severe mental health problems of any urban area in the nation. Yet only 24,000 receive care from the public mental health system.

Police encounter mentally ill people on a regular basis, and all too often the results are tragic. From 1999 through mid-2016, more than 25 people with mental health problems have died in Miami-Dade County as a result of interactions with police officers.

Dealing with the mentally ill is a national dilemma. In 2014, an estimated 1.5 million people with serious mental illness were arrested. While in many cases their offenses were directly related to their mental health condition, they were treated as criminals. As a result, people with mental illness often land in jail rather ...

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 been improperly dismissed. The appellate court further held that constitutional claims against defendants in their individual capacity were viable claims.

While at the Omaha Correctional Center (OCC), a male prisoner identified only as “D.M.” was approached by guard Anthony Hansen on December 10, 2011 with a proposition to meet in the chapel to engage in sexual activity. D.M. attempted to avoid and deflect Hansen’s sexual advances. Hansen later approached D.M. and told him there were cameras in the chapel and they should meet in a common area.

D.M. again tried to deflect the sexual advance, but Hansen began to talk about D.M.’s parole date, which D.M. interpreted as a threat to cause him to lose “good time” or be placed in segregation. Reluctantly, D.M. met Hansen in a common area.

At that point, “Hansen shoved D.M. into a wall and ...

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 was shut down in 2013. [See: PLN, April 2016, p.58]. Yet the county continues to pay $1.2 million every month for costs incurred by the project. This running faucet of county revenue has caused a squeeze on its budget, resulting in fewer funds to spend on its three existing aged jails – the oldest of which is the 86-year-old, 770-bed Wayne County Jail.

Then there is the Andrew C. Baird Detention Facility, built in 1984 with a current capacity of around 1,285 beds, followed by the William Dickerson Detention Facility, built in 1991 with a capacity of 896 beds.

The plan was to close all three jails and replace them with a modern facility. With the prospect of a new replacement facility on the horizon, the county quit spending on preventative maintenance at the old jails – leaving them in even worse shape than they were prior ...

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 “inappropriately paid $1.7 million for care of 349 prisoners” after they were released from prison or paroled. The audit also found failures in chronic care assessments, which “may have jeopardized [MDOC’s] ability to manage and treat potentially serious medical conditions before they became more severe and costly.”

The report analyzed the performance of the MDOC’s medical contractor, Corizon Health, which has a long and sordid history of operational problems. [See: PLN, March 2014, p.1]. The first finding concerned chronic care assessments, which involved 39.3% of MDOC’s 45,000 prisoners between October 1, 2013 and April 30, 2014.

“Improvements are needed to timely complete and consistently document chronic care condition medical assessments,” the audit stated. The MDOC was unable to provide auditors with a facility-specific listing of all prisoners who had at least one chronic care condition.

The report found that “22% of the chronic care ...

$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, March 2016, p.16].

Joseph White was convicted in 1989 of raping and murdering Helen Wilson, 68. To convict him, prosecutors used the testimony of his co-defendants, Ada JoAnn Taylor, Thomas W. Winslow, James L. Dean, Kathleen A. Gonzalez and Debra Shelden, all of whom pleaded guilty to related charges. Collectively they were known as the Beatrice Six.

In 2008, DNA evidence exonerated the Beatrice Six, who were pardoned or had their convictions overturned. They filed independent lawsuits against Gage County, then-Sheriff Jerry O. DeWitt and two of his employees under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985. They claimed the defendants led a reckless investigation, manufactured false evidence, conspired to manufacture false evidence and coerced false testimony. Wilson’s murder was eventually linked to Bruce Allen Smith, who died in 1992.

Initially, a consolidated trial in the lawsuits resulted in a hung jury. The defendants then filed motions under ...

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 the Rikers Island jail complex, consumed a “soap ball” containing caustic chemicals he had been given to clean his cell. As the chemicals began burning his digestive tract, he summoned guards, told them what he had done and requested medical attention. Jailers Raymond Castro and Angel Lazarte, and supervising guard Deon Brown, reported Echevarria’s condition to captain Terrence Pendergrass and recommended that he be referred for medical care. Pendergrass told them not to disturb him unless a prisoner was dead or they needed to perform a cell extraction.

As Echevarria’s condition worsened, the jailers repeatedly contacted Pendergrass who refused to authorize medical treatment. Echevarria was found dead the next morning; the cause of his August 2012 death was severe chemical burning of the intestinal tract.

As previously reported in PLN, Pendergrass was convicted on federal charges of denying Echevarria his civil rights. He was sentenced to five years in prison ...

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 May 6, 2015. Johnson was charged with 11 counts of sexual assault on a person in custody, though investigators believe he likely had inappropriate sexual contact with as many as 13 female prisoners.

“I didn’t do this. I haven’t done anything,” Johnson said at the time. “I know I’m innocent. I have nothing to be afraid of or guilty of.”

Yet when reporter Mark Winne asked if Johnson had been alone in his office with the 11 alleged victims, he did not deny that that had happened. “I mean, I’m not going to say that I wasn’t,” he replied. “I’ve been in my office, but my office, it’s like a 4 [feet] by 4 [feet] by 6 [feet] ... it’s in a very crowded area.”

As a judge read the names of the 11 female prisoners who accused Johnson of touching, groping and engaging in sexual conduct ...

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 that the lawyers had lied regarding the implementation of President Obama’s executive order directed to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The case involved a consolidated lawsuit challenging that order filed by 26 state Attorneys General.

Hanen wrote in his scathing May 19, 2016 decision that the “unseemly and unprofessional conduct of these lawyers concealed the fact that Obama’s order was already being implemented when they already had knowledge that this was not the case.”

“Opposing counsel and this Court were assured that no action would be taken implementing the 2014 DHS Directive until February 18, ... despite the fact that in actuality the DHS had already granted or renewed over 100,000 modified DACA applications using the 2014 DHS Directive.”

What bothered Judge Hanen the most was that the “Justice Department lawyers knew the true facts and misrepresented those facts ...

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 so, the appellate court provided her with a surprising amount of information on how to proceed in future litigation, possibly indicating a favorable disposition towards the issue of treatment for prisoners with gender dysphoria.

Roy Mitchell was born male but identifies as female, which makes her physically a man and psychologically a woman. She has been homeless or incarcerated most of her adult life.

Mitchell filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging two Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) administrators, two prison doctors and three Dane County probation officers were deliberately indifferent to her need for psychological and hormonal therapy which had been recommended by a DOC consulting psychologist. She sought a preliminary injunction against her probation officers, who prohibited her from dressing as a woman in public or moving from a men’s shelter to her mother’s home.

The district court dismissed all ...

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 now offer programs exclusively for prisoners. This allows them to comport with prison security requirements and receive state funding for prison education courses at a time when California community colleges are suffering low enrollment rates and thus low revenues. Consequently, doors to educational opportunities are now open to thousands of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) prisoners.

In September 2014, California Senate Bill 1391 was signed into law. Amending Section 84810.5 of the Education Code and adding a new section, 84810.7, the statute not only waived the public availability requirement for community college courses, but also provided $2 million to create 18-month pilot programs and supply staffing, classroom space and educational materials for incarcerated students.

The participating schools include Lassen Community College in Susanville, which is paired with High Desert State Prison; Folsom Lake College, paired with the Folsom Women’s Facility; Chaffey Community College in Rancho Cucamonga ...

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 months. [See: PLN, Dec. 2013, p.32].

The original group of 24 prisoners was joined by 75 others who were sentenced after the women’s facility closed. They were housed in two windowless rooms at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC).

On November 22, 2016, WNYC reported that an Obama clemency recipient, Ramona Brant, was one of the prisoners who had been transferred. Brant served the first 19 years of her life sentence for a nonviolent drug conspiracy charge at FCI Danbury. She recalled the time she spent at MDC: “We felt like we were animals that was [sic] taken to a pound and then that was it,” she said. “They just closed the door and left us.”

MDC was designed to be a short-term holding facility for people awaiting sentencing; it does not provide the same level of medical care, mental health care, rehabilitative services and programming that prisons ...

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 on how immigrants are treated while in custody.

Krome has a long and infamous history of mistreating the people it holds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). As reported by the Miami Herald in October 2015, the detention facility houses around 600 foreign nationals awaiting deportation or asylum hearings. Before being used to hold immigrants, Krome operated as a Cold War-era air defense base.

The most recent abuses at Krome can be attributed to a privatization contract that began in 2008. The contract paid $4 million per month to Alaska-based companies Akal and Doyton, Ltd. to manage the facility. [See: PLN, Nov. 2010, p.38].

“That’s when a lot of corrupted stuff started going on,” said Linda Booker, who worked at Krome for a dozen years.

Physical abuse by guards is a common problem. One incident reported by the Miami New Times involved a detainee with mental health problems ...

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 from Solitary Confinement. The book was screened by the Facility Media Review Committee (FRMC) at the Great Meadow Correctional Facility where Blake is housed and, like thousands of other books sent to prisoners across the country, was deemed detrimental to the prison’s security. Jean Casella, the book’s co-editor and co-director of Solitary Watch, reported on September 20, 2016 that Blake had been denied access to his own writing.

According to the FRMC’s Inmate Disposition Notice, Hell is a Very Small Place is a “[p]ublication which incites disobedience towards law enforcement officers or prison personell [sic], presents clear and immediate risk of lawlessness, violence, anarchy, or rebellion agianst [sic] governmental authority.” The notice flagged 14 pages in the book. Surprisingly, three pages of Blake’s own essay were determined to be too dangerous for him to read.

According to Blake’s correspondence with Solitary Watch, he was instructed to transfer ...

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 release issued by the state police accused Graff of assaulting a 26-year-old female prisoner during a transfer between facilities.

Australia: An 18-year-old fugitive responded to an August 24, 2016 Facebook post that displayed her mugshot with a request to use a better photo, which she provided. A TV station shared a post from local police calling for Amy Sharp’s arrest that included her booking photo. Sharp commented from her own Facebook account and politely asked the station to use a different picture. She wrote, “Can you use this photo, please and thank you. Yours Truly, Amy Sharp xx.” In January 2016, an American fugitive from Ohio, Donald “Chip” Pugh, offered police a selfie to use instead of his mugshot, saying it was a “better photo.”

California: On July 5, 2016, a group of about two dozen protestors gathered in the town of Mountain View to voice their objections ...


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