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Prison Legal News: February, 2017

Issue PDF
Volume 28, Number 2

In this issue:

  1. Trapped (p 1)
  2. Pennsylvania DOC Ordered to Evaluate Mumia Abu-Jamal for Hep C Treatment (p 21)
  3. Florida’s Civil Commitment Center a “Living Death Sentence” (p 22)
  4. From the Editor (p 22)
  5. Still No Answers (p 24)
  6. Pennsylvania: $99,000 Settlement for 22 Years in Solitary Confinement (p 26)
  7. Federal Halfway House Contractor Files Unsuccessful Suit Against Bureau of Prisons (p 26)
  8. Fourth Circuit Reverses Dismissal of FTCA Failure-to-Protect Suit (p 28)
  9. Legacy of Mass Incarceration: Parental Incarceration Impacts One in Fourteen Children (p 28)
  10. Michigan: Class-action Suit Alleges Systematic Deficiencies in Prison Dental Care (p 30)
  11. Prisoner Deaths, Labor Conflicts Precipitate Loss of CA County Corizon Contract (p 30)
  12. Australia Uses Recidivism-Based Performance Contract at Private Prison (p 31)
  13. Justice Department Inspectors Find Problems with BOP Reentry Programs (p 32)
  14. A Story of Racial Bias, the Absence of Mercy, and a Death in Prison (p 32)
  15. Five Wrongfully Convicted North Carolina Men Receive Almost $8 Million (p 34)
  16. Texas: “San Antonio Four” Exonerated after Two Decades (p 35)
  17. Hawaii: Prison Subcontractor under Scrutiny (p 36)
  18. Negative Report Foreshadows End of G4S Juvenile Operations in UK (p 36)
  19. Florida County Votes against New Jail on Former EPA Superfund Site, Opts to Stay in Flood Zone (p 38)
  20. Washington: Teen’s Death in Tribal Jail Sparks Lawsuit, Contract Scrutiny (p 39)
  21. Colorado Town to Pay $775,000 for Relying on Bogus Snitch (p 40)
  22. Seventh Circuit Reinstates Illinois Jail Prisoner’s Failure-to-Protect Suit (p 40)
  23. Death Penalty Opponents File Suit to Thwart California’s Prop. 66 (p 41)
  24. One Oregon Prisoner + Sex with Two Jailers = 86 Months in Prison (p 42)
  25. Arizona: Police Lieutenant Gets Special Treatment During DUI Jail Sentence (p 43)
  26. Study: 95 Percent of Elected Prosecutors are White (p 44)
  27. Kentucky Prisoners Entitled to Review of Audio Recordings at Disciplinary Hearing (p 45)
  28. New York State Closes 14 Prisons Amid Decline in Crime Rates (p 46)
  29. Maine DA Sued for Malicious Prosecution (p 47)
  30. Michigan DOC Audit Reveals $3.4 Million in Overcharges by Aramark; Problems Persist Under New Contractor (p 48)
  31. $175,000 in Damages, Attorney Fees Against Sentinel Offender Services (p 48)
  32. PLN Exclusive! Wisconsin DOC Audit Reveals Contract Violations by Community Corrections Provider (p 50)
  33. California Governor Grants 112 Pardons, One Commutation (p 51)
  34. Third Circuit Holds Prisons Not Required to Treat Impotence or Infertility (p 51)
  35. Three Reports Provide Data on Prisoners Held in “Restrictive Housing” (p 52)
  36. Prisoners Not Required to Take Unspecified Steps to Exhaust Administrative Remedies (p 53)
  37. Studies on Financing of Judicial Campaigns Indicate Need for Reform (p 54)
  38. South Carolina Court Finds DOC Erred in Treating Cases as No-Parole Offenses (p 55)
  39. Fifth Circuit Holds Supervised Release Condition Restricting Dating Improper (p 56)
  40. Some Lawsuits Resolved Against New Mexico Prison Doctor, Others Still Pending (p 56)
  41. Summary Judgment Reversed in Puerto Rican Arrestee’s Wrongful Death Suit (p 57)
  42. Orange Crush: The Rise of Tactical Teams in Prison (p 58)
  43. ICE Bans Crayons in Family Detention Center Visiting Area (p 59)
  44. Riot at Private Prison in Arizona Prompts Review, Reforms and Change in Contractor (p 60)
  45. New York Counties, Corizon Reach $1.85 Million Settlement in Detainee’s Death (p 60)
  46. $7,500 Settlement in Pennsylvania Prisoner’s “Nuisance Suit” (p 61)
  47. Louisiana City Declines to Open Jail Funded by Offender Fees (p 62)
  48. Massachusetts Sheriff Offers Prisoner Labor to Build Trump’s Border Wall (p 62)
  49. News in Brief (p 63)

Trapped

California wastes tens of millions of dollars a year keeping people in prison long after they’ve been rehabilitated – denying parole for arbitrary reasons and destroying lives in the process.

by Sam Levin, East Bay Express

Part One: Cruel and Indefinite Punishment

Demian Johnson knows he has to be extremely ...

Pennsylvania DOC Ordered to Evaluate Mumia Abu-Jamal for Hep C Treatment

Pennsylvania state prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, serving a life sentence for murder and diagnosed with hepatitis C, sued the state’s Department of Corrections (DOC) in federal court when he was refused treatment for that life-threatening disease.

On January 3, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Robert D. Marian granted Abu-Jamal’s motion ...

Florida’s Civil Commitment Center a “Living Death Sentence”

According to state officials, the Florida Civil Commitment Center (FCCC), which holds up to 720 residents billed as the worst sexual predators in the state, is necessary to ensure public safety. For Correct Care Recovery Solutions, a spin-off company of the GEO Group, one of the nation’s largest private prison ...

From the Editor

Since we started publishing PLN in 1990, the injustices of the parole system, or that of never-ending punishment and sentences without end, has been an enduring theme. In the 1970s it was prisoners’ rights activists and advocates who called for an end to parole and determinate sentencing as a means ...

Still No Answers

Jamycheal Mitchell’s death in a Virginia jail cell still hasn’t been explained.
It should be a national scandal.

by Dahlia Lithwick, Slate

On August 19, 2015, 24-year-old Jamycheal Mitchell was found dead in his cell at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Virginia. New revelations in May 2016 about how state officials ...

Pennsylvania: $99,000 Settlement for 22 Years in Solitary Confinement

A Pennsylvania federal district court held that general issues of material fact required a jury to determine whether a prisoner’s Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when he was held in solitary confinement for over 22 years. Before going to trial, however, the case settled for just under $100 ...

Federal Halfway House Contractor Files Unsuccessful Suit Against Bureau of Prisons

On August 3, 2015, Bannum, Inc., a provider and operator of halfway houses for federal prisoners following their release, filed an amended complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the federal Bureau of Prisons and various BOP officials, alleging they had “engaged in a ...

Fourth Circuit Reverses Dismissal of FTCA Failure-to-Protect Suit

On December 29, 2015, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of a lawsuit alleging federal prison officials had failed to properly search prisoners who were placed in a recreation cage where they assaulted and repeatedly stabbed another prisoner.

Federal prisoner Joshua Rich was incarcerated in the Special ...

Legacy of Mass Incarceration: Parental Incarceration Impacts One in Fourteen Children

A recent study by the research firm Child Trends revealed a stunning consequence of our nation’s policy and practice of mass incarceration: one out of every fourteen children in the U.S. has a parent who is currently or has previously been incarcerated. In other words, a staggering seven percent ...

Michigan: Class-action Suit Alleges Systematic Deficiencies in Prison Dental Care

A Michigan federal district court has allowed portions of a lawsuit challenging the adequacy of dental care provided to state prisoners to proceed.

Michigan prisoners Robert Johannes, Michael Woroniecki, Phillip Turner and Roger Stephenson alleged the dental care they received while incarcerated was constitutionally inadequate, and sought class-action status for ...

Prisoner Deaths, Labor Conflicts Precipitate Loss of CA County Corizon Contract

In August 2016, the Alameda County, California Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to end its ties with Corizon Health, Inc., and awarded a contract for county jail medical services to California Forensic Medical Group (CFMG).

The contract, worth $135 million over a three-year period, was issued to CFMG over the ...

Australia Uses Recidivism-Based Performance Contract at Private Prison

Currently a third of all Australian women prisoners return to prison following their release, but a new pilot program initiated by the government in the state of Western Australia hopes to change those recidivism rates.

According to a November 28, 2016 news report, international conglomerate Sodexo will receive 15,000 ...

Justice Department Inspectors Find Problems with BOP Reentry Programs

A report by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Justice, released in August 2016, faulted the quality and effectiveness of the Release Preparation Program (RPP) provided to federal prisoners by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The OIG identified “several weaknesses in the BOP’s ...

A Story of Racial Bias, the Absence of Mercy, and a Death in Prison

By Equal Justice Initiative

Forty-five years after Phillip Chance traveled from his home in Detroit, Michigan to visit family in rural Choctaw, Alabama, he died in an Alabama prison.

During that visit in 1971, 15-year-old Phillip Chance and his older brother went with their cousin to a local convenience store ...

Five Wrongfully Convicted North Carolina Men Receive Almost $8 Million

Five former prisoners who were wrongfully convicted in a home invasion murder have received settlements and compensation totaling nearly $8 million following a botched investigation and misconduct by the sheriff’s office in Buncombe County, North Carolina.

Three masked men entered the Fairview home of Walter R. Bowman on September 18 ...

Texas: “San Antonio Four” Exonerated after Two Decades

In 1997, Elizabeth Ramirez, Kristie Mayhugh, Cassandra Rivera and Anna Vasquez were convicted of sexually assaulting two young girls. The women came to be known as the “San Antonio Four.”

With help from the Innocence Project of Texas, all four were eventually exonerated. Rivera had been paroled in 2012 ...

Hawaii: Prison Subcontractor under Scrutiny

Louis Berger, a New Jersey-based engineering firm, was tapped as a subcontractor for the construction of a prison to replace the dilapidated Oahu Community Correctional Center (OCCC), despite having a checkered history of legal troubles and accusations of fraud and corrupt practices.

The improprieties allegedly committed by Louis Berger span ...

Negative Report Foreshadows End of G4S Juvenile Operations in UK

Following a damning report, a private security company lost its contract to run a juvenile detention center in the United Kingdom, then later said it intends to sell off its UK-based juvenile operations.

Until May 2016, the Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre (STC), located in Northamptonshire, England, was operated by private ...

Florida County Votes against New Jail on Former EPA Superfund Site, Opts to Stay in Flood Zone

Controversy arose at a November 12, 2015 Escambia County Commission meeting in Pensacola, Florida over a plan to construct a new jail. The county’s old jail had been damaged by a flood and natural gas explosion the previous year. Of three possible locations for the new facility, a consulting firm ...

Washington: Teen’s Death in Tribal Jail Sparks Lawsuit, Contract Scrutiny

On January 9, 2017, Seattle attorneys Edwin Budge and Erik Heipt said they plan to file a federal lawsuit on behalf of the family of a teenager who died after warning jailers he had a heart condition and had previously required resuscitation. Although 19-year-old Andrew Westling wasn’t a tribal member ...

Colorado Town to Pay $775,000 for Relying on Bogus Snitch

As a result of two federal lawsuits brought on behalf of eight plaintiffs, in October 2016 the Colorado town of Trinidad agreed to pay $775,000 to the victims of its police department’s incompetence and over-reliance on a snitch who was bent on fingering those she held vendettas against.

The ...

Seventh Circuit Reinstates Illinois Jail Prisoner’s Failure-to-Protect Suit

In a September 16, 2015 ruling, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that a district court had improperly dismissed an Illinois jail prisoner’s failure-to-protect lawsuit based on his refusal to sign a medical release form.

Mario Reyes was a pretrial detainee at the Cook County Jail in Chicago when ...

Death Penalty Opponents File Suit to Thwart California’s Prop. 66

On November 9, 2016, death penalty opponents led by former state Attorney General John Van de Kamp and former El Dorado County supervisor Ron Briggs filed a lawsuit challenging Proposition 66, which had been approved by voters just a day earlier.

Prop. 66 is an initiative intended to speed up ...

One Oregon Prisoner + Sex with Two Jailers = 86 Months in Prison

Two Oregon jail employees who pleaded guilty to 40 criminal charges were sentenced to 36- and 50-month prison terms for having sex with the same prisoner 19 times.

Jill Curry, 38, a civilian jail services technician at the Washington County Jail since 2004, and the wife of a sheriff’s deputy ...

Arizona: Police Lieutenant Gets Special Treatment During DUI Jail Sentence

Mesa, Arizona police lieutenant Rick Van Galder apparently thought he deserved special treatment after his DUI arrest – and he got it.

Van Galder was stopped by rookie officer Gonzalo Dominguez on February 12, 2016 after a concerned citizen called 911 to report a possible drunk driver. The inebriated Van ...

Study: 95 Percent of Elected Prosecutors are White

A recent study illustrates just how racially skewed the U.S. criminal justice system is with respect to its most powerful participants: prosecutors.

Of 2,437 elected state and local prosecutors holding office in 2014, 95 percent were white and 79% were white men, according to data released by the ...

Kentucky Prisoners Entitled to Review of Audio Recordings at Disciplinary Hearing

A Kentucky Court of Appeals held on February 26, 2016 that prisoners have a due process right to request the review of audio recordings at a prison disciplinary hearing.

Proceeding pro se, Kentucky state prisoner Sammy F. Mobley, Jr. argued he was denied due process by prison officials who convicted ...

New York State Closes 14 Prisons Amid Decline in Crime Rates

Since 2009, New York State has closed 14 prisons in an effort to reduce costs and better utilize correctional resources as its prison population has decreased. [See: PLN, June 2013, p.1; April 2009, p.1].

While it’s unusual that a prison system would opt to close facilities, the backside ...

Maine DA Sued for Malicious Prosecution

“Absolute immunity” typically allows prosecutors to escape liability in the event of malicious prosecutions. Even when prosecutorial misconduct is exposed, the punishment is usually far less severe than that experienced by the victim of the state’s wrongdoing – such as spending many years in prison. [See: PLN, Nov. 2014, p ...

Michigan DOC Audit Reveals $3.4 Million in Overcharges by Aramark; Problems Persist Under New Contractor

Problems for Aramark and its prison food service operations continue to mount. Shortly after being taken to task and fined by at least two state corrections departments due to substandard food quality, understaffing and meal preparation areas contaminated by maggots, the company has been accused of overcharging the State of ...

$175,000 in Damages, Attorney Fees Against Sentinel Offender Services

A Georgia state jury awarded $50,000 to a woman for false arrest and imprisonment by Sentinel Offender Services, a private probation company. The award was the outcome in the first trial of more than a dozen lawsuits filed against the company.

Kathleen Hucks was sentenced to two years of ...

PLN Exclusive! Wisconsin DOC Audit Reveals Contract Violations by Community Corrections Provider

Genesis Behavioral Services, a private company, contracts with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) to provide community corrections services to male offenders at a facility in Kenosha – including certified substance abuse, mental health, domestic violence intervention and cognitive intervention programs. However, a recent audit spurred by complaints from a ...

California Governor Grants 112 Pardons, One Commutation

On December 23, 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown granted 112 pardons and commuted one prison sentence in a continuation of his tradition of issuing pre-Christmas reprieves. Most of the pardons were provided to people who had already completed their sentences for nonviolent drug-related crimes.

In one case, Gwendolyn Irene Harvey ...

Third Circuit Holds Prisons Not Required to Treat Impotence or Infertility

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has held that prison officials do not have to treat medical conditions that could result in a prisoner’s impotence or infertility.

When Shemtov Michtavi was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Allenwood, Pennsylvania, he received laser surgery on his prostate. The surgery caused ...

Three Reports Provide Data on Prisoners Held in “Restrictive Housing”

An October 15, 2015 report by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), covering the time period from 2011-12 – the most recent period for which statistics are available – indicated that on an average day, “up to 4.4 percent of state and federal inmates ...

Prisoners Not Required to Take Unspecified Steps to Exhaust Administrative Remedies

On February 25, 2016, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded a prisoner’s suit had been improperly dismissed when he “failed to do something not specified, outlined, or required by his prison’s grievance procedure.”

Before the Court was the appeal of Ohio state prisoner Shannon E. Troche. The appeal ...

Studies on Financing of Judicial Campaigns Indicate Need for Reform

Several recent reports have examined the impact that skyrocketing campaign spending has on state court judicial elections, and whether the infusion of cash into such races is compromising judicial impartiality and integrity.

One study, “Bankrolling the Bench: The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2013-2014,” was prepared by three non-partisan ...

South Carolina Court Finds DOC Erred in Treating Cases as No-Parole Offenses

On November 12, 2015, the South Carolina Court of Appeals held the state’s Department of Corrections (DOC) had erred in interpreting a statute as requiring prisoners with a second conviction for conspiracy to manufacture or intent to distribute methamphetamine to serve 85% of their sentences if they were denied the ...

Fifth Circuit Holds Supervised Release Condition Restricting Dating Improper

On December 17, 2015, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a blanket supervised release condition prohibiting a former prisoner from dating any adult with minor children was improper because it was not supported by a factual finding or otherwise clearly substantiated by the record.

James Allen Caravayo pleaded ...

Some Lawsuits Resolved Against New Mexico Prison Doctor, Others Still Pending

Since 2013, former New Mexico prison doctor Mark E. Walden, nicknamed “Dr. Fingers,” has faced allegations that he sexually abused a number of state prisoners. As a result of the alleged sexual assaults, he has been sued at least 15 times by 77 prisoners who were housed at facilities ...

Summary Judgment Reversed in Puerto Rican Arrestee’s Wrongful Death Suit

In February 2016, the First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a grant of summary judgment to Puerto Rico police officers in a civil rights action alleging they used excessive force against an arrestee and denied him medical care.

The lawsuit stemmed from an April 10, 2007 traffic stop after Christopher ...

Orange Crush: The Rise of Tactical Teams in Prison

by Brian Dolinar, Truthout

Since Ferguson, there has been a public outcry over militarized police who shoot down African Americans on the streets of our cities, but less is known beyond prison walls about guards who regularly brutalize those incarcerated. In Illinois, there is a notorious band of guards called the ...

ICE Bans Crayons in Family Detention Center Visiting Area

Prisoners who cause property damage in correctional facilities often receive swift punishment. It was no different for the very young prisoners held in one of the United States’ most controversial detention centers. Housed with their immigrant mothers in the GEO Group-operated Karnes County Residential Center in Texas, some creative toddlers ...

Riot at Private Prison in Arizona Prompts Review, Reforms and Change in Contractor

In July 2015, the privately-run Arizona State Prison Complex at Kingman (ASP Kingman) was rocked by a protracted riot in which 16 people – both guards and prisoners – suffered injuries. Following the disturbance, the state scrapped its contract with Management & Training Corporation (MTC) and handed operation of the ...

New York Counties, Corizon Reach $1.85 Million Settlement in Detainee’s Death

Two New York counties agreed to pay $1.85 million to settle a lawsuit over the July 2011 death of detainee Irene Bamenga while she was under the care of private medical contractor Corizon Health.

Bamenga, a French citizen, tried to enter Canada from the U.S. on July 15 ...

$7,500 Settlement in Pennsylvania Prisoner’s “Nuisance Suit”

In January 2016, Pennsylvania’s Northumberland County agreed to pay $7,500 to settle a former prisoner’s lawsuit alleging he was denied access to the courts, visitation, recreation and receipt of incoming publications.

While at the Northumberland County Prison, Charles Picarella, Jr., who is now housed at SCI Benner Township serving ...

Louisiana City Declines to Open Jail Funded by Offender Fees

Officials in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, apparently acquiescing to community opposition to profit-based and racially discriminatory policing, have scrapped plans to build a jail for misdemeanor offenders. The jail was to be financed solely through bench warrant fees levied on those charged with low-level offenses.

In October 2015, members of the ...

Massachusetts Sheriff Offers Prisoner Labor to Build Trump’s Border Wall

A Massachusetts sheriff made a personal offer to President Donald Trump shortly before Inauguration Day that drew swift condemnation from civil rights advocates. On January 5, 2017, Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, a Republican, announced that he would make county prisoners available to build Trump’s promised wall on the U ...

News in Brief

Afghanistan: On August 8, 2016, Robert Langdon, a 44-year-old Australian security contractor, became the last Western prisoner to leave an Afghan prison filled with Al Qaeda and Taliban members. U.S. lawyer Kimberly Motley took Langdon’s case pro bono in 2013 and worked diligently to secure his release. “Defending Rob ...