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Prison Legal News: October, 2017

Issue PDF
Volume 28, Number 10

In this issue:

  1. No-show Cops and Dysfunctional Courts Keep Cook County Jail Prisoners Waiting Years for a Trial (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 14)
  3. Kansas Supreme Court: Four Years of Pretrial Detention too Long (p 15)
  4. Former Mississippi DOC Commissioner, Co-defendants Sentenced in Massive Bribery Scheme (p 16)
  5. Tattoo Recognition: Law Enforcement’s Newest Identification Tool (p 20)
  6. Misdemeanor Trespassing Arrest Leads to Permanent Impairment (p 21)
  7. Florida Lawmaker Visits Prisons, Audits Private Prison Contracts (p 22)
  8. Electronic Monitoring Becomes More Widespread, but Problems Persist (p 23)
  9. Correctional Health Report Suppressed by Bush Administration Finally Released (p 26)
  10. Vermont Supreme Court Invalidates Sex Offender Probation Conditions (p 26)
  11. Seventh Circuit: Rodent Infestation Claims Survive Summary Judgment (p 27)
  12. Environmental Protection Agency Finally Recognizes Prisons in Screening Tool (p 28)
  13. DOJ Audit Rips Privately-operated Federal Facility; Trump Administration Presses Forward (p 28)
  14. Compensation for Wrongful Convictions in Massachusetts Not Easily Obtained (p 30)
  15. HRDC Lawsuit: Kentucky DOC Guilty of Censorship, Violations of Due Process and Equal Protection (p 30)
  16. Parole Remains Elusive for Virginia Prisoners (p 32)
  17. TV Production Company has Friends in Low Places (p 33)
  18. Waging War on the Poor: Unpaid Fines Lead to Jail (p 34)
  19. Prisons, Jails Combat Smuggling by Shredding Mail, Requiring Fresh Underwear (p 35)
  20. $60,000 Settlement in GEO Group Employee’s Sexual Harassment Case (p 36)
  21. $200,000 Settlement for Restraint of Pregnant Prisoner after Ninth Circuit Vacates Summary Judgment (p 36)
  22. Seventh Circuit Upholds Jury Award for Illinois Prisoner Beaten by Guards (p 38)
  23. Eighth Circuit Greenlights Jail Detainee’s Excessive Force Claim, but Loss at Trial Affirmed on Appeal (p 38)
  24. State Closes Kentucky Jail for Failure to Properly Maintain Facility (p 39)
  25. Louisiana Corrections Secretary: More Private Prisons Won’t Save Money (p 40)
  26. Seattle Council Approves Protections for Renters with Criminal Records (p 40)
  27. Family Files Wrongful Death Suit Against County Jail in New York (p 41)
  28. Fourth Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Prisoner’s Failure to Protect Claim (p 42)
  29. Court Decision Favoring BOP Whistleblower Critical of BOP and OIG (p 42)
  30. Corizon Loses Indiana DOC Medical Contract Amid Lawsuits (p 44)
  31. Private Probation Company Agrees to End Drug Testing Absent Court Order (p 46)
  32. Virginia Governor Grants Full Pardons to the “Norfolk Four” (p 47)
  33. Profiting Off Mass Incarceration: Detroit Pistons Owner Buys Private Prison Phone Company (p 48)
  34. IRS Audit Prompts New Mexico County to Convert Bonds Used for ICE Facility (p 50)
  35. Georgia Teen’s Suicide from Neglect Results in $1.7 Million Settlement (p 51)
  36. Two Federal Courts Find Prison Gerrymandering Unconstitutional (p 52)
  37. South Carolina Prisoners’ Wage Grievances Not Subject to 15-day Deadline (p 52)
  38. Prisoner Showed Good Cause for Extension of Time (p 54)
  39. Seventh Circuit Reinstates Prisoner’s Lawsuit, Rejects District Court’s IFP Concerns (p 54)
  40. Eleventh Circuit: Procedural Dismissals do Not Count as Strikes Under the PLRA (p 55)
  41. Seventh Circuit Dissent: “A Dog Would Have Deserved Better Treatment” (p 56)
  42. Second Circuit: Ross Abrogates “Special Circumstances” Exhaustion Exception (p 56)
  43. Louisiana Parish Jails Lack HIV Treatment and Services (p 57)
  44. Prisoner Labor Focus of Controversy in Texas, Alabama (p 58)
  45. Eleventh Circuit: Florida Prisoners Must be Provided Kosher Meals (p 59)
  46. Victim-centered Sexual Abuse Investigations Abandon Concept of Neutrality (p 60)
  47. Study Shows “Ban-the-Box” Policies May Result in Racial Bias by Employers (p 60)
  48. Eighth Circuit Vacates Supervised Release Order Barring Wife from Contact with Husband (p 61)
  49. News in Brief (p 63)

No-show Cops and Dysfunctional Courts Keep Cook County Jail Prisoners Waiting Years for a Trial

by Spencer Woodman, Chicago Reader

June 25, 2012, was a terrible day for Jermaine Robinson. Overall, life was good – the 21-year-old Washington Park resident had been studying music management at Columbia College and was a few weeks into a job working as a janitor at a nearby Boys & ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

Over the past 27 years we have reported extensively on abuses in local criminal justice systems in the United States, including jails, to the point that they are more ongoing sagas of abuse and corruption that we update with the latest developments. This month’s cover story on ...

Kansas Supreme Court: Four Years of Pretrial Detention too Long

In December 2016, the Kansas Supreme Court ordered the release of a man who had been held in jail more than four years awaiting trial under the Kansas Sexually Violent Predator Act (KSVPA). The state’s high court held that the unusual length of pretrial detention was a deprivation of liberty ...

Former Mississippi DOC Commissioner, Co-defendants Sentenced in Massive Bribery Scheme

In January 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Henry T. Wingate sentenced Sam Waggoner, 62, to five years in prison for his role in a bribery scheme involving Mississippi’s former corrections commissioner. The sentence also included two years of supervised release.

Waggoner admitted to giving then-Mississippi DOC Commissioner Christopher B. Epps a ...

Tattoo Recognition: Law Enforcement’s Newest Identification Tool

by David Reutter

New technology is giving law enforcement agencies the ability to identify people by taking a photo of their tattoos; it can also group people with others who have the same type of body art.

Federal researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have launched ...

Misdemeanor Trespassing Arrest Leads to Permanent Impairment

by Christopher Zoukis

In March 2015, 53-year-old Ralph Karl Ingrim suffered a seizure at a Dollar General store in Amarillo, Texas. A store clerk was kind enough to call the police to have him removed. When they arrived, Ingrim allegedly became argumentative, placed his hand on an officer’s chest and ...

Florida Lawmaker Visits Prisons, Audits Private Prison Contracts

by David Reutter

In prison after prison across the state, over a period of two years, Florida state Representative David Richardson found that toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, pillows, sheets, shirts and soap were often withheld from prisoners, especially those in solitary confinement. Further, food had been denied as a form of ...

Electronic Monitoring Becomes More Widespread, but Problems Persist

by Derek Gilna, Christopher Zoukis

The use of wearable electronic tracking devices for defendants and people on community supervision has risen sharply over the past decade. Cash-strapped municipalities like the reduced cost, which is much lower than a prison or jail bed and is often passed on to the device ...

Correctional Health Report Suppressed by Bush Administration Finally Released

A "prophetic" U.S. Surgeon General's report that warned of a coming crisis with mentally ill prisoners and prison health care in general, suppressed by the Bush administration, was only released in mid-2016.

The 2006 document, titled “The Surgeon General: Call to Action on Corrections and Community Health,” ...

Vermont Supreme Court Invalidates Sex Offender Probation Conditions

Last year the Vermont Supreme Court vacated four sex offender probation conditions, finding that they improperly delegated judicial authority to probation officers and were overbroad, unconstitutional or based upon insufficient findings.

In 2013, Owen Cornell was convicted of a sex offense and sentenced to two to six years in prison ...

Seventh Circuit: Rodent Infestation Claims Survive Summary Judgment

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that an Illinois prisoner’s claims regarding a rodent infestation were prematurely dismissed because he presented triable issues of fact for a jury.

Illinois state prisoner Marcos Gray was confined at the Stateville Correctional Center for 15 years, in apparently deplorable conditions.

“He sees ...

Environmental Protection Agency Finally Recognizes Prisons in Screening Tool

by Panagioti Tsolkas

Two years ago, the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), which publishes Prison Legal News, introduced the concept of prison environmentalism, building off the work of jailhouse lawyers, scholars and activists around the country. On many occasions spanning the last four decades of mass incarceration in the U ...

DOJ Audit Rips Privately-operated Federal Facility; Trump Administration Presses Forward

by Derek Gilna

In December 2016, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), a watchdog agency within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), issued an audit of the federal Bureau of Prisons’ contract with private prisoner company CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, to operate the Adams ...

Compensation for Wrongful Convictions in Massachusetts Not Easily Obtained

by Christopher Zoukis

Kevin O'Loughlin was wrongfully convicted of raping an 11-year-old girl in 1983. He spent almost four years in prison, where he endured multiple assaults – all for a crime he did not commit.

Then a convicted rapist confessed that he was “99 percent sure” he had ...

HRDC Lawsuit: Kentucky DOC Guilty of Censorship, Violations of Due Process and Equal Protection

On July 20, 2017, the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC) filed a federal lawsuit against the Kentucky Department of Corrections for violating its free speech, due process and equal protection rights.

HRDC, a Florida-based non-profit organization and publisher of Prison Legal News, contended that the Kentucky DOC was guilty of ...

Parole Remains Elusive for Virginia Prisoners

by David Reutter

Virginia has more than 3,500 prisoners eligible for parole, representing over 9% of its prison population of 38,000 – a significant number considering that the state abolished parole over 20 years ago. Still, even for those long-serving prisoners who are still eligible, the odds of ...

TV Production Company has Friends in Low Places

by Christopher Zoukis

Lucky 8 TV is a production company that produces “Behind Bars: Rookie Year” – a reality show about first-time prison guards – and thus requires access to a prison for filming. What better way to gain access than to hire someone from the corrections department to help ...

Waging War on the Poor: Unpaid Fines Lead to Jail

by Christopher Zoukis

Stung by a series of lawsuits filed across the nation challenging the practice of jailing people unable to pay court fees and fines, Texas legislators passed a law that requires judges to offer community service alternatives to low-income defendants convicted of offenses where the maximum punishment is ...

Prisons, Jails Combat Smuggling by Shredding Mail, Requiring Fresh Underwear

by Christopher Zoukis

The regional jail system in West Virginia receives and screens about 300,000 pieces of mail per year. Some letters contain illegal substances being smuggled into facilities for prisoners, particularly subuxone; in response, the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety has implemented a new ...

$60,000 Settlement in GEO Group Employee’s Sexual Harassment Case

The GEO Group -- one of the nation's largest private prison firms, which is frequently the subject of scandal arising from repeated human rights violations at its for-profit facilities – has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought against the company in 2015 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ...

$200,000 Settlement for Restraint of Pregnant Prisoner after Ninth Circuit Vacates Summary Judgment

The Ninth Circuit vacated a summary judgment order in favor of Arizona jail officials in a case that involved a pregnant prisoner who was restrained while she was in labor and after she gave birth.

Miriam Mendiola-Martinez was six months pregnant when she was arrested for forgery and identity theft ...

Seventh Circuit Upholds Jury Award for Illinois Prisoner Beaten by Guards

by Derek Gilna

Charles Murphy, an Illinois state prisoner housed at the Vandalia Correctional Center, raised the ire of several guards on July 25, 2011 when he refused to eat at a dining hall table and chair he maintained were wet. Cuffed without incident and led to segregation, he was ...

Eighth Circuit Greenlights Jail Detainee’s Excessive Force Claim, but Loss at Trial Affirmed on Appeal

by Christopher Zoukis

The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed a district court’s ruling that held a jail detainee’s excessive force and assault and battery claims could not go forward.

Henry M. Davis was arrested in Ferguson, Missouri for driving while intoxicated between 3 and 4 a.m ...

State Closes Kentucky Jail for Failure to Properly Maintain Facility

by Derek Gilna

After numerous failed inspections and failures to perform necessary maintenance, the jail in Estill County, Kentucky was forced to close by order of state correctional officials on March 31, 2017. Approximately two dozen prisoners were transferred to other facilities. This is the second time the county jail ...

Louisiana Corrections Secretary: More Private Prisons Won’t Save Money

Privatizing more prisons will not save Louisiana money now or in the long run, according to the state’s Public Safety and Corrections Secretary, Jimmy LeBlanc. LeBlanc is opposed to House Concurrent Resolution 30, proposed by state Rep. Jack McFarland, which would require the prison system to report by the end ...

Seattle Council Approves Protections for Renters with Criminal Records

by Nathalie Graham, Seattle Weekly

Fifteen months in prison, three years of probation. A $30,000 fine. Sue Mason paid her debt to society long ago – 14 years, to be exact – yet, it feels like she’s still doing her time.

“I get reconvicted over and over,” Mason ...

Family Files Wrongful Death Suit Against County Jail in New York

by Derek Gilna

The family of deceased prisoner Jimmy Richardson filed a federal lawsuit against the Schenectady County Jail in New York in April 2017, alleging that the facility and its medical contractor, Correctional Medical Care, wrongfully withheld medication that could have prevented his death.

The complaint alleges that the ...

Fourth Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Prisoner’s Failure to Protect Claim

by Christopher Zoukis

In March 2016, the Fourth Circuit reversed a district court’s dismissal of a prisoner’s Eighth Amendment failure to protect claim in a case that subsequently settled.

The prisoner, James Herman Raynor, was held at the Sussex II State Prison in Virginia. In November 2012, Raynor, who suffers ...

Court Decision Favoring BOP Whistleblower Critical of BOP and OIG

by Derek Gilna

A December 2, 2016 decision by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, overturning a finding by the Merit Systems Protection Board, has cast in doubt the operations of the chief internal investigative body of the U.S. Department of Justice – the Office of the Inspector General ...

Corizon Loses Indiana DOC Medical Contract Amid Lawsuits

by David Reutter

In 2005, at the urging of then-Governor Mitch Daniels, the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) awarded a contract to privatize medical care for prisoners. The winning bidder, Prison Health Services, merged in 2011 with Correctional Medical Services to form Corizon Health, which later won renewal of a ...

Private Probation Company Agrees to End Drug Testing Absent Court Order

by David Reutter

In a preliminary consent order, Sentinel Offender Services, a private probation company, agreed to stop its practice of drug testing probationers without court approval. The order was entered in a class-action case challenging Sentinel’s practices in a Georgia county that uses the company to manage its probation ...

Virginia Governor Grants Full Pardons to the “Norfolk Four”

by Christopher Zoukis

Four former U.S. Navy veterans wrongly convicted of the rape and murder of an 18-year-old woman have been granted full pardons by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.

Eric Wilson, Danial Williams, Derek Tice and Joseph Dick, Jr., known as the “Norfolk Four,” were arrested for raping ...

Profiting Off Mass Incarceration: Detroit Pistons Owner Buys Private Prison Phone Company

by Brian Dolinar, Truthout

The election of Donald Trump has already given an economic boost to those profiting from mass incarceration. The stock prices of the two biggest private prison builders – CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) and GEO Group – doubled after Trump took office.

Companies that charge for expensive ...

IRS Audit Prompts New Mexico County to Convert Bonds Used for ICE Facility

by Joe Watson

An Internal Revenue Service audit of tax-free bonds used to develop an immigrant detention facility in New Mexico was closed once the bonds were converted to taxable status.

Otero County issued $62.3 million in tax-free revenue bonds in 2007 to finance the construction of an Immigration ...

Georgia Teen’s Suicide from Neglect Results in $1.7 Million Settlement

A settlement was reached last year in a lawsuit brought by the estate of a teenager who hanged himself at a Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facility. The complaint described a chilling account of neglect of a child known to be a suicide risk.

The suit was brought by ...

Two Federal Courts Find Prison Gerrymandering Unconstitutional

by David Reutter

Two federal district courts, one in Florida and the other in Rhode Island, have held prison gerrymandering unconstitutional, though one of the orders was overturned on appeal. The rulings are the first of their kind.

“This is a big win for democracy,” said Adam Lioz of ...

South Carolina Prisoners’ Wage Grievances Not Subject to 15-day Deadline

A South Carolina Appellate Court held that prisoners’ grievances were not subject to a 15-day filing deadline because they did not concern an “incident” but rather challenged the South Carolina Department of Corrections’ (SCDC) policies or procedures.

The ruling was issued in a lawsuit brought by 196 current or former ...

Prisoner Showed Good Cause for Extension of Time

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held a district court erred in denying a prisoner’s motion for extension of time to respond to a dispositive motion.

Oklahoma state prisoner Archie Rachel, 71, filed suit in federal court regarding his medical treatment at the James Crabtree Correctional Center (JCCC). According to ...

Seventh Circuit Reinstates Prisoner’s Lawsuit, Rejects District Court’s IFP Concerns

by Derek Gilna

Rahim McWilliams, an Illinois state prisoner, injured his hand in a fall and filed a claim in federal court for damages, claiming lack of proper medical treatment and permanent disfigurement. He alleged he was indigent and sought a waiver of the filing fee with an in forma ...

Eleventh Circuit: Procedural Dismissals do Not Count as Strikes Under the PLRA

by David Reutter

The Eleventh Circuit held last year that a district court erred in finding the dismissals of a prisoner’s prior civil rights actions due to “lack of jurisdiction” and for “want of prosecution” counted as strikes under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The Court of Appeals further ...

Seventh Circuit Dissent: “A Dog Would Have Deserved Better Treatment”

by Derek Gilna

William A. Miller, incarcerated at FCC Terre Haute, a Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facility in Indiana, entered prison with a serious health problem – a thalamic brain tumor that required a lower bunk assignment, or “pass,” issued by prison medical officials. He was initially given a ...

Second Circuit: Ross Abrogates “Special Circumstances” Exhaustion Exception

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the non-exhaustion dismissal of a New York prisoner’s excessive force suit. Applying Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850 (2016) [PLN, July 2016, p.22], the appellate court held that no administrative remedies were “available” under the Prison Litigation Reform Act ...

Louisiana Parish Jails Lack HIV Treatment and Services

HIV-positive prisoners in Louisiana jails are not provided medication and basic services, which endangers both their health and the communities they return to upon release. That was one of the findings of “Paying the Price: Failure to Deliver HIV Services in Louisiana Parish Jails,” a report published by Human ...

Prisoner Labor Focus of Controversy in Texas, Alabama

by David Reutter

The use of prisoner labor and poor prison conditions are behind calls for action in Texas and Alabama, and have led to concerns over the use of prison labor nationwide.

Most people believe slavery was abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but that ...

Eleventh Circuit: Florida Prisoners Must be Provided Kosher Meals

by David Reutter

The Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) must provide prisoners with the option of receiving kosher meals, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held in affirming a district court’s grant of summary judgment and a permanent injunction.

As previously reported in PLN, the U.S. Department of Justice ...

Victim-centered Sexual Abuse Investigations Abandon Concept of Neutrality

by David Reutter

Criminal justice reform advocates are pushing back against a new trend to “always believe the victim” in sexual assault cases, which has given rise to “victim-centered and offender-focused” investigations.

The victim-centric trend has led to a 20-point manifesto called the “You Have Options” law enforcement program, which ...

Study Shows “Ban-the-Box” Policies May Result in Racial Bias by Employers

by David Reutter

Increasingly, criminal justice reformers are pushing for “ban-the-box” policies, ordinances and statutes, which are intended to eliminate from job applications the box that asks, “Have you been convicted of a felony?” [See: PLN, March 2017, p.26; Oct. 2014, p.46]. Many jurisdictions have adopted such ...

Eighth Circuit Vacates Supervised Release Order Barring Wife from Contact with Husband

by Derek Gilna

Cynthia Louis Hobbs was convicted, along with her husband, of aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and sentenced to 56 months in prison and five years of supervised release. After she left prison in November 2014, her supervised release was uneventful until her husband ...

News in Brief

Alabama: Kenyatta Ervin was arrested in early March 2017 on a felony fraud charge. She worked as a guard at the Calhoun County jail, and was accused of using a prisoner’s jail-issued debit card. According to investigators, Ervin failed to provide a card to an offender who was released on March 1; she subsequently used the card herself to withdraw $172 from an ATM, and admitted to doing so. Calhoun County Sheriff Matthew Wade told the local news media, “If you break the law we will prosecute you, especially if you are in law enforcement. We must ensure the citizens [sic] trust by being honest and transparent.” Ervin’s bond was set at $2,500.

Arizona: Edward Mendoza, a former senior guard at a federal prison in Phoenix, was sentenced to 16 months on March 22, 2017. Mendoza was responsible for supervising the women’s camp at the facility, where he had sex with one prisoner on numerous occasions between February 1 and April 2, 2015. He pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a ward.

Arkansas: An employee at the Pulaski County jail was arrested on March 6, 2017 on 66 counts of forgery, 66 counts of fraud and one count ...