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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: December, 2017

Issue PDF
Volume 28, Number 12

In this issue:

  1. California Prisons Struggle with Environmental Threats from Sewage Spills, Contaminated Water, Airborne Disease (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 10)
  3. Federal Judge Expresses Frustration in New Orleans Jail Reform Litigation (p 12)
  4. In Midst of Opioid Crisis, an Addiction Medication Program for Federal Prisons Fizzles (p 14)
  5. USP Atlanta Escapes Result in Convictions (p 17)
  6. Georgia Prison Doctor Rewarded for Cutting Costs as Prisoners Died Under His Care (p 18)
  7. Study Indicates Racial Bias Skews Criminality Risk Assessment Tool (p 20)
  8. First Circuit Reverses Convictions of Massachusetts Probation Officials (p 21)
  9. Arizona: Mixed Rulings in Challenges to State’s Lethal Injection Protocol (p 22)
  10. Judge Orders Florida DOC to Immediately Start Treating Prisoners with HCV (p 24)
  11. Prisoners in Solitary Confinement Benefit from Nature Videos, Study Shows (p 25)
  12. Ninth Circuit Denies Immunity to Police Officers, Jailers for Prisoner’s Death (p 26)
  13. HRDC Sues Kitsap County, Washington over Debit Release Cards (p 26)
  14. New Zealand Court Decision: Voting Ban Violates Human Rights of Prisoners (p 27)
  15. Seventh Circuit: Corizon May be Liable for Failure to Coordinate Medical Care (p 28)
  16. Tennessee Judge Denies Summary Judgment Motion in Jail Suicide Suit; Case Settles (p 28)
  17. Massachusetts: Reform Legislation Introduced after Study on Solitary Confinement Published (p 30)
  18. Pennsylvania: Philly D.A. Sentenced to Five Years for Corruption, Disbarred (p 31)
  19. State Governors Grant Over 500 Pardons, Commutations (p 32)
  20. Hawaii: OCCC Mental Health Care Fails, Prison Staff Fired (p 33)
  21. Third Circuit: No Death Row Confinement after Death Sentences Vacated (p 34)
  22. Chicago Man Exonerated of Murder Awarded $13 Million after 22 Years in Prison (p 34)
  23. D.C. Man Subjected to 77 Days Overdetention; Marshals Service Denies Responsibility (p 35)
  24. Vermont Supreme Court Upholds Rights of Jailhouse Lawyers (p 38)
  25. New York Jail Agrees to End Solitary Confinement of Juveniles (p 38)
  26. Seventh Circuit: District Court Erred in Dismissing Prisoner’s § 1983 Suit for Failure to Exhaust (p 40)
  27. $1.275 Million Settlement for Los Angeles County Jail Whistleblower (p 40)
  28. Visitors to USP Leavenworth Turned Away Due to Disabilities (p 41)
  29. Prisoners and Disabilities: The Legal Landscape (p 42)
  30. Missouri Town Pays $1.2 Million to Settle Lawsuit over Jail Suicide (p 43)
  31. Prisoner’s Escape from Understaffed Private Prison Results in Staff Discipline (p 44)
  32. Study: Prison Spending Grew at Three Times the Rate of Education Spending over Last Three Decades (p 45)
  33. Montana County Settles Suit over Prisoner’s Rape for $125,000 (p 46)
  34. Private Prison Company’s Announcement to Reduce Recidivism Criticized as PR Ploy (p 46)
  35. State Sanctioned Murder: By the Numbers (p 47)
  36. Innocence Project Emerging in Israel (p 48)
  37. Tennessee: High Cost of Drugs Cited as Reason to Deny Prisoners Hep C Treatment (p 48)
  38. Louisiana Death Sentence Reversed, Charges Dismissed, Lawsuit Filed (p 50)
  39. Volunteers, Mayor Take Action to Clothe Freezing Prisoners in New York City (p 51)
  40. Tenth Circuit Reinstates Suit over Failure to Provide Medical Treatment to Oklahoma Arrestee/Prisoner (p 52)
  41. Eighth Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Prisoners’ Suit over Repeated Overnight Deprivation of Clothing (p 52)
  42. Missouri DOC Director Replaced after String of Harassment and Retaliation Lawsuits (p 53)
  43. Second Circuit Upholds $36 Million Jury Award, $5 Million in Fees in Wrongful Conviction Case (p 54)
  44. Pressure from Advocacy Group Leads University of California to Partially Divest from Wells Fargo (p 54)
  45. Most Black “Neighborhoods” in Wisconsin are Actually Jails, Prisons (p 55)
  46. Federal Judge Orders Cook County to Correct Courthouse ADA Violations (p 56)
  47. Prison Tattoos Tell a Story (p 56)
  48. New Study Indicates Annual Cost of Incarceration Exceeds $1 Trillion (p 57)
  49. Study Tracks Decline in Use of Solitary Confinement as Reform Bill Stalls in U.S. Senate (p 57)
  50. $10.25 Million Jury Award in Suit over Oklahoma Jail Prisoner’s Death (p 60)
  51. News in Brief (p 63)

California Prisons Struggle with Environmental Threats from Sewage Spills, Contaminated Water, Airborne Disease

by Rick Anderson

"When I walk into my cell and see a [toilet] bowl full of brown water, I’m reminded of my status in the world; I’m reminded of my value. All the pious talk in the world about rehabilitation doesn’t change this ugly reality.”

That was lifer Kenneth ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

Welcome to the last issue of PLN for 2017. We have had an exciting year with many notable accomplishments. By now everyone on PLN’s mailing list should have received the first issue of Criminal Legal News, and if you are interested in criminal case law, police-related ...

Federal Judge Expresses Frustration in New Orleans Jail Reform Litigation

The fight to reform unconstitutional conditions at the New Orleans parish jail in Louisiana has resulted in litigation, a 2013 consent decree and the construction of a new facility. The consent decree stemmed from a federal lawsuit filed by detainees at the jail, who are now represented by the Roderick ...

In Midst of Opioid Crisis, an Addiction Medication Program for Federal Prisons Fizzles

by Mike Ludwig, Truthout

In the spring of 2014, as rising rates of opioid misuse and fatal overdoses were capturing the nation’s attention, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) was working on a national initiative to expand access to addiction medications known as medication-assisted treatments, or MATs. The ...

USP Atlanta Escapes Result in Convictions

by Monte McCoin

PLN previously reported the February 3, 2017 arrest of federal prisoner Justin B. Stinson, who was caught sneaking back into the minimum-security prison camp at USP Atlanta carrying a duffel bag filled with a cell phone, scissors, two 1.75 liters of Jose Cuervo tequila, two cartons ...

Georgia Prison Doctor Rewarded for Cutting Costs as Prisoners Died Under His Care

by David M. Reutter

In September 2015, a Georgia prison doctor was fired for lying on his employment application. The misrepresentations were uncovered earlier that year during an investigation by the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) into the deaths of nine female prisoners under the doctor’s care. He was cited in ...

Study Indicates Racial Bias Skews Criminality Risk Assessment Tool

The use of software to predict future criminality is increasing in popularity. However, a study by ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit news agency that produces investigative journalism, found that prediction programs are racially skewed.

Risk assessments are gaining traction in courtrooms across the United States; some jurisdictions use them to set ...

First Circuit Reverses Convictions of Massachusetts Probation Officials

by Christopher Zoukis

In December 19, 2016, the First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the convictions of several former public officials in Massachusetts for their roles in a hiring scheme at the Office of the Commissioner of Probation (OCP).

The defendants, Elizabeth V. Tavares, John J. O’Brien and William H ...

Arizona: Mixed Rulings in Challenges to State’s Lethal Injection Protocol

by Lonnie Burton

A federal judge has held that members of the media and witnesses may view all aspects of executions carried out in Arizona. State prison officials can no longer prohibit journalists from seeing prisoners being escorted into the death chamber, the insertion of drug catheters or the administration ...

Judge Orders Florida DOC to Immediately Start Treating Prisoners with HCV

by Derek Gilna

For many years, the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) has largely denied treatment to prisoners infected with hepatitis C – a blood-borne disease that can have serious long-term health effects. In doing so, state prison officials concerned more about the cost of medical care than human suffering ...

Prisoners in Solitary Confinement Benefit from Nature Videos, Study Shows

by Monte McCoin

Researchers have found that prisoners considered the highest security risks were less stressed and less violent after watching videos with nature scenes than those who did not. Ecologist Nalini Nadkarni at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City published the study’s findings on September 1, 2017 ...

Ninth Circuit Denies Immunity to Police Officers, Jailers for Prisoner’s Death

by Matt Clarke

On December 30, 2016, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the denial of qualified immunity to two Phoenix police officers and two Maricopa County jail guards in a civil rights case alleging they beat a prisoner to death.

When mentally ill U.S. Army veteran Ernest ...

HRDC Sues Kitsap County, Washington over Debit Release Cards

by Derek Gilna

A lawsuit seeking class-action status was filed on October 20, 2017 in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Washington, complaining of excessive and predatory fees imposed on prisoners who receive debit cards containing funds from their jail trust accounts upon their release. The suit was filed on ...

New Zealand Court Decision: Voting Ban Violates Human Rights of Prisoners

by Monte McCoin

On May 26, 2017, the Court of Appeal of New Zealand issued a decision in the case of Attorney General v. Taylor, which upheld High Court Justice Paul Heath’s July 25, 2015 determination that a blanket ban on the ability of prisoners to vote was a violation ...

Seventh Circuit: Corizon May be Liable for Failure to Coordinate Medical Care

by Matt Clarke

On February 21, 2017, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in an en banc ruling, held that Correctional Medical Services, Inc. (now known as Corizon Health) may be held liable for deciding not to centrally coordinate medical services for prisoners.

Prior to his incarceration, Indiana state prisoner ...

Tennessee Judge Denies Summary Judgment Motion in Jail Suicide Suit; Case Settles

by Derek Gilna

On June 13, 2016, U.S. District CourtJudge Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr. denied a motion submitted by Robertson County, Tennessee officials seeking to dismiss a §1983 civil rights case brought by the mother of Matthew J. Burns, who committed suicide while confined at the Robertson County Detention ...

Massachusetts: Reform Legislation Introduced after Study on Solitary Confinement Published

by Lonnie Burton

A “white paper” published in November 2016 by Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts (PLSM) found that while the use of solitary confinement in the state was widespread, it did not produce provable cost-effectiveness or reduce prison violence – and that solitary may actually be bad for public ...

Pennsylvania: Philly D.A. Sentenced to Five Years for Corruption, Disbarred

by Monte McCoin

Former Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, who in 2009 drew acclaim as the first African-American D.A. in the city and the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, was sentenced on October 24, 2017 to five years in prison for accepting a bribe. He had been disbarred the week ...

State Governors Grant Over 500 Pardons, Commutations

by Christopher Zoukis

In what is typically a politically risky move, six state governors recently granted pardons and commutations to hundreds of current and former prisoners. In California, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, Arkansas and Vermont, more than 500 pardons were granted along with another 20 commutations or grants of clemency ...

Hawaii: OCCC Mental Health Care Fails, Prison Staff Fired

by Monte McCoin

Dr. Mark Mitchell believes that he and a number of other prison medical staffers were fired because they were in the process of returning the Oahu Community Correctional Center’s (OCCC) mental health care system to compliance with U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) standards.

“I think we ...

Third Circuit: No Death Row Confinement after Death Sentences Vacated

by Christopher Zoukis

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has ruled against two Pennsylvania prisoners who were held in solitary confinement on death row for years after their death sentences were vacated. In the course of its opinion, however, the appellate court made it clear that in the ...

Chicago Man Exonerated of Murder Awarded $13 Million after 22 Years in Prison

by Lonnie Burton

Following a trial that began on March 6, 2017, a federal jury awarded a former prisoner more than $13 million after he sued the City of Chicago, seven police officers and two Cook County prosecutors over his wrongful convictions for a 1992 double homicide.

Deon Patrick spent ...

D.C. Man Subjected to 77 Days Overdetention; Marshals Service Denies Responsibility

by Monte McCoin

Carlton O. Harris, a 28-year-old journeyman roofer, was mistakenly held at the District of Columbia’s jail for 77 days without a chance to see a judge or be appointed a defense attorney after a misdemeanor charge against him was dropped. Harris, a father of two, feared retaliation ...

Vermont Supreme Court Upholds Rights of Jailhouse Lawyers

by Christopher Zoukis

In a unanimous and lengthy opinion, the Vermont Supreme Court dismissed a charge of unauthorized practice of law brought against a jailhouse lawyer.

Martin Serendipity Morales, a prisoner who identifies as female, was being held at the Marble Valley Regional Correctional Center when she was charged with ...

New York Jail Agrees to End Solitary Confinement of Juveniles

by Derek Gilna and Matt Clarke

Jail officials in Syracuse, New York have agreed to end solitary confinement for 16- and 17-year-old juvenile offenders held at the Onondaga County Justice Center under the terms of a June 26, 2017 settlement that ended a federal class-action suit filed by the New ...

Seventh Circuit: District Court Erred in Dismissing Prisoner’s § 1983 Suit for Failure to Exhaust

by Lonnie Burton

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has reversed a district court’s order dismissing a Wisconsin state prisoner’s 42 U.S.C. § 1983 lawsuit on the grounds that he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. The appellate court held the lower court had erred when ...

$1.275 Million Settlement for Los Angeles County Jail Whistleblower

by Lonnie Burton

In May 2017, a former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who worked at the L.A. County jail and helped send colleagues to prison for obstructing an FBI investigation was set to receive $1.275 million after the settlement of her federal lawsuit accusing the sheriff’s department ...

Visitors to USP Leavenworth Turned Away Due to Disabilities

A December 2016 news report by FOX 4 Problem Solvers in Kansas City, Kansas found that visitors at the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth were sometimes unable to see their loved ones because the facility failed to accommodate their disabilities. Despite federal regulations requiring all government buildings, including prisons, to ...

Prisoners and Disabilities: The Legal Landscape

by Christopher Zoukis

Incarceration in a state or federal prison is bad. Incarceration in a state or federal prison while disabled is much worse.

Consider the numbers. According to a recent Vice.com article, 31 percent of prisoners in state facilities reported having a physical or mental disability. And as ...

Missouri Town Pays $1.2 Million to Settle Lawsuit over Jail Suicide

by Lonnie Burton

On March 13, 2017, the city of Pagedale, Missouri agreed to pay $1.2 million to the family of a woman who hung herself at the city jail two-and-a-half years earlier. The resolution of the case meant that a jury trial scheduled for August 2017 was called ...

Prisoner’s Escape from Understaffed Private Prison Results in Staff Discipline

by Christopher Zoukis

Four guards at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls, Rhode Island were placed on administrative leave after a prisoner escaped on New Years Eve 2016. James Morales, 35, scaled the backboard of a basketball goal in the facility’s recreation yard, cut through a fence ...

Study: Prison Spending Grew at Three Times the Rate of Education Spending over Last Three Decades

by Lonnie Burton

A July 2016 report by the U.S. Department of Education found that spending on prisons and jails nationwide outpaced what public officials spent on education at a rate of more than three-to-one. The study covered a 33-year period – from 1979 to 2012 – which saw ...

Montana County Settles Suit over Prisoner’s Rape for $125,000

In November 2016, Jefferson County, Montana agreed to pay $125,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit filed by a prisoner who was allegedly raped in the county jail.

Audemio Orozco-Ramirez was being held on immigration charges when he claimed he was sexually assaulted in October 2013. Due to his ...

Private Prison Company’s Announcement to Reduce Recidivism Criticized as PR Ploy

In October 31, 2017, CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest for-profit prison company, announced via a press release that it was launching an initiative to advocate for policies designed to reduce recidivism.

Those policies include “ban the box” initiatives to help ex-offenders obtain employment ...

State Sanctioned Murder: By the Numbers

by Christopher Zoukis

The Death Penalty Information Center has released a report highlighting significant changes in the number of executions in the United States in 2016.

According to the report, there were 20 executions in the U.S. during calendar year 2016 – the lowest number in 25 years. Additionally ...

Innocence Project Emerging in Israel

by Christopher Zoukis

Wrongful convictions are a well-known phenomena in the United States; the administration of one of the world’s largest criminal justice systems virtually guarantees mistakes and failures. Famous cases such as that of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who was framed for murder and spent 20 years in prison, and ...

Tennessee: High Cost of Drugs Cited as Reason to Deny Prisoners Hep C Treatment

by David M. Reutter

Tennessee prison officials “turn a blind eye” to the medical needs of prisoners infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV), a class-action lawsuit filed in July 2016 alleges. While it is likely that almost half of all Tennessee state prisoners have the disease, prison officials cite ...

Louisiana Death Sentence Reversed, Charges Dismissed, Lawsuit Filed

by David M. Reutter

Following the reversal of his homicide conviction by the Louisiana Supreme Court in November 2016, death row prisoner Rodricus Crawford, 29, was released on $50,000 bond after serving three years in prison. A new prosecutor reviewed the case and, on April 14, 2017, announced the ...

Volunteers, Mayor Take Action to Clothe Freezing Prisoners in New York City

by Christopher Zoukis

The New York City Department of Correction and city officials are rethinking their policy of releasing prisoners without jackets during frigid winter months.

The New York Daily News reported in December 2016 that the city was routinely freeing prisoners from jail and court without proper winter clothing ...

Tenth Circuit Reinstates Suit over Failure to Provide Medical Treatment to Oklahoma Arrestee/Prisoner

by Matt Clarke

On January 23, 2017, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed in part a district court’s grant of summary judgment to an Oklahoma state trooper and jailers who failed to obtain medical care for a prisoner after mistaking a brain injury for intoxication. An amended appellate ruling ...

Eighth Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Prisoners’ Suit over Repeated Overnight Deprivation of Clothing

Reversing the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by pretrial detainees at a Missouri jail, the Eighth Circuit held in a January 17, 2017 decision that depriving them of clothing up to three nights a week was more than a de minimus deprivation of their rights and might plausibly be unconstitutional ...

Missouri DOC Director Replaced after String of Harassment and Retaliation Lawsuits

After eight years on the job, Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) director George Lombardi submitted a letter of resignation to then-Governor Jay Nixon on December 14, 2016. Lombardi, who spent over 31 years in corrections, agreed to resign following a series of reports that exposed a vast culture of harassment ...

Second Circuit Upholds $36 Million Jury Award, $5 Million in Fees in Wrongful Conviction Case

by Matt Clarke

On January 19, 2017, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the award of $36 million in damages and nearly $5 million in attorney fees to two New York men who were wrongly convicted of rape and murder, and spent 18 years in prison.

In January 1985 ...

Pressure from Advocacy Group Leads University of California to Partially Divest from Wells Fargo

by Christopher Zoukis

Following demands from the Afrikan Black Coalition (ABC), the University of California has agreed to terminate $475 million worth of contracts with Wells Fargo Bank. According to a press release from ABC, the terminated contracts include a $25 million commercial paper contract, a $150 million interest rate ...

Most Black “Neighborhoods” in Wisconsin are Actually Jails, Prisons

by Christopher Zoukis

A 17-year-old has made a startling discovery about Wisconsin: more than half of the state’s black “neighborhoods” are actually jails.

The young researcher, Lew Blank, used the Weldon Cooper Center’s Racial Dot Map and Google Maps to come to this conclusion, and released the results in August ...

Federal Judge Orders Cook County to Correct Courthouse ADA Violations

by Derek Gilna

U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Gettleman issued an injunction on May 2, 2017, holding the Cook County Sheriff’s Office accountable for insufficient efforts to accommodate the needs of disabled prisoners who must access Cook County courthouses. The injunction ordered “defendant Cook County to move the ...

Prison Tattoos Tell a Story

by David M. Reutter

Tattoos are virtually a rite of prison passage, and the designs, where they are placed and what they signify often have more meaning than just self-expressive body ink.

Once considered taboo, tattoos have gained wider acceptance in today’s society, especially among the younger generation. About 23 ...

New Study Indicates Annual Cost of Incarceration Exceeds $1 Trillion

by Audry Spade

A new research study has estimated the total cost of incarceration in the United States has surged to a staggering $1 trillion per year – 11 times the $80 billion spent annually on corrections alone, and 6% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).

For many families ...

Study Tracks Decline in Use of Solitary Confinement as Reform Bill Stalls in U.S. Senate

by Lonnie Burton

A November 2016 report found that 67,000 prisoners were held in restrictive housing throughout the United States – also known as solitary confinement or segregation – in both state and federal facilities. The report was released soon after a group of U.S. senators introduced a ...

$10.25 Million Jury Award in Suit over Oklahoma Jail Prisoner’s Death

by Matt Clarke

On March 20, 2017, an Oklahoma federal jury awarded $10.25 million to the estate of a prisoner who died at the Tulsa County Jail.

According to court documents, Elliot Earl Williams, 37, a U.S. Army veteran, was arrested by Owasso police officers responding to a ...

News in Brief

Alaska: The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced in a May 11, 2017 press release that a criminal defense lawyer and her incarcerated client had been charged with smuggling drugs into the Anchorage Correctional Complex. Attorney Kit Lee Karjala, 54, and prisoner Christopher B. Miller, 33, were charged with conspiracy, providing ...


 

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