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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: April, 2017

Issue PDF
Volume 28, Number 4

In this issue:

  1. PLN Interviews CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou (p 1)
  2. California Pays for Transgender Prisoner’s Sex Reassignment Surgery (p 13)
  3. Supreme Court Reverses Criminal Conviction for Racial Bias by Juror (p 14)
  4. From the Editor (p 14)
  5. $50,000 Jury Award in South Carolina Prisoner’s Failure to Protect Suit (p 15)
  6. 28 Days in Chains (p 16)
  7. Privately-run Montana Jail Remains Mostly Empty Since 2007 (p 20)
  8. Video Calling Services vs. In-person Visitation (p 22)
  9. Your Kid Goes to Jail, You Get the Bill (p 24)
  10. Work Release Programs Reduce Recidivism in Louisiana – At a Cost (p 27)
  11. Settlement in Baltimore Prison Conditions Class-Action Suit (p 28)
  12. “PrisonCloud” Provides Limited Internet Access to Belgian Prisoners (p 28)
  13. $16,650,000 Settlement in D.C. Wrongful Conviction Suit (p 29)
  14. HRDC Condemns CoreCivic’s Rejection of Resolution for More Oversight (p 30)
  15. Exonerated Illinois Prisoner Wins $22 Million Verdict Against City of Chicago (p 30)
  16. Vermont Supreme Court Adopts Prison “Mailbox Rule” (p 31)
  17. $155,000 Settlement in Lawsuit Over California Jail’s Censorship of PLN (p 32)
  18. BOP Potentially Liable for Valley Fever Outbreak at Privately-run California Prison (p 32)
  19. PLN Files Censorship Suit Against Cook County, Illinois (p 33)
  20. NY State Prisoner Settles Case Over DOC’s Denial of Hepatitis C Treatment (p 34)
  21. Arkansas Judge Charged with Trading Leniency for Sexual Favors (p 34)
  22. GM Hides Defect that Killed 124 People, but No One Goes to Prison (p 36)
  23. Another Florida Prisoner Death, Another Cover Up? (p 38)
  24. Yale Law School Report Examines Variations in Death Row Housing Units (p 38)
  25. New York: Contraband Convictions Vacated After Guard Admits Planting Weapon (p 39)
  26. New York: $67,000 Jury Award in Rikers Island Prisoner’s Suit (p 40)
  27. Report: How Private Prison Companies Exercise Influence Over Public Officials (p 40)
  28. HRDC Supports Lawsuit Against Jailing of Immigrant Children (p 42)
  29. Texas City Settles Suit Over Jail Prisoner’s Death for $1.25 Million (p 42)
  30. Ninth Circuit: “Debatable” Constitutionality Requires Qualified Immunity (p 43)
  31. Washington Sex Offender Records Not Exempt from PRA Disclosure (p 44)
  32. Despite Past Problems, Prison Privatization in Ohio May Expand (p 44)
  33. California Prisoners Provide Cheap Labor to Fight Dangerous Wildfires (p 46)
  34. Arizona DOC Invites Attorneys to Provide Execution Drugs for Their Clients (p 47)
  35. ACLU Exposes Debtors’ Prisons Across New Hampshire (p 48)
  36. Fee Award in Arizona Prison Healthcare Suit Helps Fund Legal Services for Immigrant Detainees, ACLU (p 48)
  37. Ignorance, Bureaucracy and Red Tape: U.S. Citizens Mistakenly Deported (p 50)
  38. COA Not Required for Innocence Protection Act Appeals (p 51)
  39. Denial of Sex Offender Treatment Nets Disabled Utah Prisoner $60,000 (p 52)
  40. Innocence Project Blasts Lack of Consequences from Prosecutorial Misconduct (p 52)
  41. Fourth Circuit Reinstates Prisoner’s Lawsuit Over Coerced Penis Surgery (p 53)
  42. Michigan County Jail Loses Appeal on Legal Mail, Settles with ACLU (p 54)
  43. State Sentencing Reforms Doing Little to Reduce Nation’s Prison Population (p 54)
  44. Stock Prices for Private Prison Firms Surge After Trump Elected President (p 55)
  45. Pennsylvania: Compassionate Release Reforms Fail to Achieve Aim (p 56)
  46. Site of Gruesome Prison Riot Becomes New Mexico Tourist Attraction (p 56)
  47. Two Alabama State Court Judges Disciplined (p 57)
  48. $175,000 Settlement for BOP’s Deliberate Indifference to Mentally Ill Prisoner (p 58)
  49. Federal Dismissals Not In Forma Pauperis Strikes in Arkansas (p 58)
  50. Report Presents Bleak Analysis of BOP Medical Bureaucracy (p 59)
  51. Oregon: Muslim Prison Visitor Receives $40,000 for Discrimination, Retaliation (p 60)
  52. Connecticut DOC Settles Five Percenters Religious Rights Suit (p 60)
  53. Lawsuit Claims Ohio Jail Guards Raped, Tortured Female Prisoner (p 61)
  54. New Treatment Regimen for Latent TB Shows Promise (p 62)
  55. News in Brief (p 63)

PLN Interviews CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou

John Kiriakou is a former CIA officer, former senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former counterterrorism consultant.

He left the CIA in March 2004, later serving as a senior investigator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and senior intelligence advisor to Committee Chairman Senator John Kerry. Kiriakou ...

California Pays for Transgender Prisoner’s Sex Reassignment Surgery

by Joe Watson

The rights of transgender prisoners are in the throes of a major transition.

In August 2015, California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) made the unprecedented decision to pay for sex reassignment surgery (SRS) for Shiloh Quine, 57, a transgender woman incarcerated since 1980. Seventeen months later ...

Supreme Court Reverses Criminal Conviction for Racial Bias by Juror

by Derek Gilna

In a decision sure to reverberate throughout the nation’s criminal courts, in March 2017 the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the conviction of a Colorado defendant charged with sexual battery due to a juror’s racially discriminatory comments during deliberations. According to Justice Anthony Kennedy, “Racial bias implicates ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

This month’s cover story, an interview with former CIA officer John Kiriakou, is part of our ongoing series of interviews with interesting people who have experience with the U.S. criminal justice system. The interview with John is around 8,000 words. A longer version, at about ...

$50,000 Jury Award in South Carolina Prisoner’s Failure to Protect Suit

A South Carolina federal jury awarded $50,000 to a prisoner in a civil rights action alleging a guard failed to intervene when he was attacked by other prisoners.

Lavadre D. Butler, 35, claimed that while incarcerated at the Lee Correctional Institution on June 13, 2012, he was brutally assaulted ...

28 Days in Chains

by Christie Thompson and Joseph Shapiro, The Marshall Project

On February 3, 2011, corrections officers at Lewisburg federal penitentiary in rural Pennsylvania arrived outside Sebastian Richardson’s cell door. With them was a man looking agitated and rocking back and forth. He stared down at Richardson, who at 4 feet ...

Privately-run Montana Jail Remains Mostly Empty Since 2007

by Christopher Zoukis

In an odd twist in this age of prison and jail overcrowding, the Two Rivers Regional Detention Facility (TRRDF) in Hardin, Montana has had an awfully difficult time finding prisoners to fill its beds. Opened in mid-2007 as an intended economic boon for the area, the jail ...

Video Calling Services vs. In-person Visitation

by Christopher Zoukis

Video calling* is gaining a significant foothold in local jails. The technology is seen both as less costly than in-person visitation and a potential profit generator for jailers. But it can also have a detrimental impact on prisoners’ ability to communicate with their families; nevertheless, for-profit companies ...

Your Kid Goes to Jail, You Get the Bill

In dozens of one-on-one meetings every week, a lawyer retained by the city of Philadelphia summons parents whose children have just been jailed, pulls out his calculator and hands them more bad news: a bill for their kids’ incarceration.

Even if a child ...

Work Release Programs Reduce Recidivism in Louisiana – At a Cost

The Louisiana Department of Corrections (LDOC) Transitional Work Program has been having a positive effect on reducing recidivism in Louisiana, though it has not been without its faults and criticisms. A recent audit of the program called for strengthened oversight and made other recommendations.

The LDOC Transitional Work Program consists ...

Settlement in Baltimore Prison Conditions Class-Action Suit

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (MDPSCS) agreed to a settlement in a class-action suit challenging conditions of confinement and the provision of medical care at the Baltimore City Detention Center (BCDC).

The case encompassed BCDC and the Women’s Detention Center, the Jail Industries Building, the Wyatt ...

“PrisonCloud” Provides Limited Internet Access to Belgian Prisoners

by Derek Gilna

According to April 2016 news reports, Belgian prison authorities have instituted limited and controlled access to online services, including the Internet, at the Beveren Prison in Antwerp. The innovative system, called PrisonCloud, has caught the attention of criminal justice officials worldwide; unlike other prison communications systems, this ...

$16,650,000 Settlement in D.C. Wrongful Conviction Suit

by Matthew Clarke

The District of Columbia agreed to pay $16.65 million to settle a lawsuit brought by a former prisoner wrongfully convicted of rape and murder.

On September 16, 1982, Donald Eugene Gates, then 30, was convicted of raping and killing Catherine Schilling, whose body had been discovered ...

HRDC Condemns CoreCivic’s Rejection of Resolution for More Oversight

On February 15, 2017, the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), PLN’s parent organization, condemned CoreCivic, the nation’s largest for-profit prison operator – formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America – for rejecting a shareholder resolution seeking independent audits of the company’s detention facilities.

CoreCivic’s objection to the audits was ...

Exonerated Illinois Prisoner Wins $22 Million Verdict Against City of Chicago

by Derek Gilna

Nathson Fields, convicted of a 1984 double homicide in Chicago, served eighteen years in prison – including 11 on death row – before his convictions were overturned. He was released in 2003 after an exonerated former death row prisoner, Aaron Patterson, posted his $100,000 bond, then ...

Vermont Supreme Court Adopts Prison “Mailbox Rule”

In Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266 (1988), the U.S. Supreme Court held that it was unfair for courts to refuse to file prisoners’ pleadings because they were filed late if the prisoner delivered the pleading to prison officials before the filing deadline. The Court then created the ...

$155,000 Settlement in Lawsuit Over California Jail’s Censorship of PLN

by Matthew Clarke

On July 5, 2016, a California federal district court signed off on a consent judgment in a suit filed against Tulare County, California over censorship of Prison Legal News at the county’s jail. To settle the lawsuit, county officials agreed to change the jail’s mail rules to ...

BOP Potentially Liable for Valley Fever Outbreak at Privately-run California Prison

by Lonnie Burton

On May 20, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reinstated lawsuits filed by two federal prisoners who had sued the government and two prison contractors for failing to protect them from “valley fever,” an infectious disease, at a privately-run federal prison ...

PLN Files Censorship Suit Against Cook County, Illinois

On June 30, 2016, Prison Legal News filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff Thomas J. Dart and Cook County jail officials, alleging they unconstitutionally censored PLN’s monthly publication and books mailed to prisoners at the jail.

According to the complaint, the Cook County jail ...

NY State Prisoner Settles Case Over DOC’s Denial of Hepatitis C Treatment

by Derek Gilna

Adam Corris, incarcerated at the Gouverneur Correctional Facility in New York, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in 2015 claiming that he had been diagnosed with hepatitis C but prison staff wrongfully refused to treat him. In May 2016, New York corrections officials agreed to change their ...

Arkansas Judge Charged with Trading Leniency for Sexual Favors

Federal authorities have indicted an Arkansas judge on charges of – among other things – trading sexual favors for leniency in sentencing.

Former Cross County District Court Judge Joseph Boeckmann, Jr. was indicted in October 2016 by federal prosecutors, following investigations conducted by the FBI and the Arkansas Judicial Discipline ...

GM Hides Defect that Killed 124 People, but No One Goes to Prison

by Joe Watson

Not one executive or employee of General Motors Corporation (GM) will face jail time despite an admission by the company that it concealed an ignition switch defect that resulted in the deaths of at least 124 people and injured hundreds more.

“Unfortunately, it’s the same old story ...

Another Florida Prisoner Death, Another Cover Up?

by David M. Reutter

Faced with the death of yet another prisoner – one of 346 in 2014 alone – Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) officials have refused to release video surveillance of the prisoner’s cell, citing security concerns. The Miami Herald has sued for the video’s release.

Questions surround ...

Yale Law School Report Examines Variations in Death Row Housing Units

by Derek Gilna

The Arthur Liman Public Interest Program at Yale Law School published a report in July 2016 that examined in detail the living arrangements for death row prisoners held by state Departments of Corrections.

The report noted the wide variation in how states house death row prisoners, ranging ...

New York: Contraband Convictions Vacated After Guard Admits Planting Weapon

On January 17, 2017, Cayuga County Court Judge Mark H. Fandrich set aside the convictions of two New York state prisoners serving additional time on contraband charges.

Naythen Aubain and Donnesia Brown had both been sentenced to two to four years after pleading guilty to first-degree promoting prison contraband. Fandrich ...

New York: $67,000 Jury Award in Rikers Island Prisoner’s Suit

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a $67,000 jury verdict in a civil rights action brought by a former Rikers Island prisoner. It also remanded for further proceedings on a malicious prosecution claim that had been improperly dismissed.

While at the Rikers Island jail complex serving a misdemeanor ...

Report: How Private Prison Companies Exercise Influence Over Public Officials

by Christopher Zoukis

An October 2016 report released by In the Public Interest (ITPI), a research and policy group that opposes the privatization of government services, details the millions of dollars spent by for-profit prison companies to influence public officials.

The report tracks political expenditures by private prison firms, including ...

HRDC Supports Lawsuit Against Jailing of Immigrant Children

The Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), the parent organization of Prison Legal News, has joined a friend-of-the-court brief in a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s practice of holding young, immigrant children in prison-like facilities for indefinite periods of time.

In an amicus brief submitted to the Ninth Circuit Court of ...

Texas City Settles Suit Over Jail Prisoner’s Death for $1.25 Million

by Matthew Clarke

In April 2016, the City of Arlington, Texas agreed to pay the estate of a man who died in the municipal jail $1.25 million to settle a wrongful death suit. Two jailers were indicted for negligent homicide, two others were initially fired and one was reprimanded ...

Ninth Circuit: “Debatable” Constitutionality Requires Qualified Immunity

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that prison officials were entitled to qualified immunity for refusing to surgically repair a prisoner’s umbilical hernia because it was “debatable” whether they had complied with the Eighth Amendment.

Washington state prisoner Fleet Hamby suffered a “small” and “easily reducible” umbilical hernia while ...

Washington Sex Offender Records Not Exempt from PRA Disclosure

On April 7, 2016, the en banc Washington Supreme Court held that sex offender registration information is not exempt from blanket disclosure through requests filed under the state’s Public Records Act (PRA).

Washington resident Donna Zink submitted several PRA requests for sex offender registration information. She first requested a copy ...

Despite Past Problems, Prison Privatization in Ohio May Expand

by Lonnie Burton

Ohio Governor John Kasich believes in privatization of some government functions as both a way to save the state money and improve the services that residents receive. So in 2011 he submitted a budget plan asking the legislature for authorization to sell as many as five state ...

California Prisoners Provide Cheap Labor to Fight Dangerous Wildfires

by Joe Watson

As a five-year drought has turned California into a tinderbox, wildfires are being fought with the help of a decades-old program that supplies cheap prison labor.

Proponents of statewide prison firefighting crews – including many prisoners themselves – say they not only save taxpayers millions of dollars ...

Arizona DOC Invites Attorneys to Provide Execution Drugs for Their Clients

On February 15, 2017, The Guardian reported that the state of Arizona had unveiled a controversial new death penalty plan. A provision of the state’s execution protocol now invites attorneys representing death row prisoners to provide prison officials with the execution drugs pentobarbital or sodium pentothal, if they can obtain ...

ACLU Exposes Debtors’ Prisons Across New Hampshire

by Joe Watson

In a September 2015 report, the ACLU of New Hampshire revealed that judges across the state were jailing impoverished defendants due to their inability to pay fines, a practice the ACLU-NH called “unconstitutional, financially unsound and cruel.”

A year-long investigation revealed that nine judges in ten ...

Fee Award in Arizona Prison Healthcare Suit Helps Fund Legal Services for Immigrant Detainees, ACLU

by Joe Watson

A law firm that helped represent Arizona prisoners pro bono in a lawsuit against the state’s Department of Corrections (ADC) over substandard medical treatment is using the attorneys’ fees it was awarded to further other social justice initiatives. In related news, two years after reaching a settlement ...

Ignorance, Bureaucracy and Red Tape: U.S. Citizens Mistakenly Deported

by Christopher Zoukis

According to Bryan Cox, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), “claims of U.S. citizenship of individuals encountered by ICE officers, agents, and attorneys are immediately and carefully investigated and analyzed.” However, the United States has a long history of mistakenly deporting its own ...

COA Not Required for Innocence Protection Act Appeals

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held last year that a Certificate of Appealability is not required to appeal the denial of a motion for DNA testing pursuant to the Innocence Protection Act (IPA), though the Court affirmed the denial of the motion as untimely.

Before the appellate court was ...

Denial of Sex Offender Treatment Nets Disabled Utah Prisoner $60,000

The Utah Department of Corrections (DOC) agreed to pay a former prisoner $60,000 for effectively adding 13 years to his sentence by denying him sex offender treatment due to his disabilities.

In 1996, Richard Ramirez was convicted of sexually molesting a 15-year-old boy and sentenced to five years to ...

Innocence Project Blasts Lack of Consequences from Prosecutorial Misconduct

by Derek Gilna

The Innocence Project has published a report that examines the lack of consequences for prosecutors who engage in misconduct resulting in the conviction and imprisonment of innocent defendants. The non-profit organization examined court records in Arizona, California, Texas, New York and Pennsylvania for the years 2004 to ...

Fourth Circuit Reinstates Prisoner’s Lawsuit Over Coerced Penis Surgery

by Lonnie Burton

On June 7, 2016, a unanimous panel of the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit partially reinstated a lawsuit brought by a West Virginia state prisoner who claimed prison officials had coerced him to have surgery to remove marbles from his penis.

Prior to his incarceration ...

Michigan County Jail Loses Appeal on Legal Mail, Settles with ACLU

by Derek Gilna

Officials in Livingston County, Michigan have agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan, which argued that a “postcard-only” policy for mail sent to prisoners at the county jail interfered with the ACLU’s confidential communications with potential clients. As part ...

State Sentencing Reforms Doing Little to Reduce Nation’s Prison Population

by Lonnie Burton

With almost 7 million people under some sort of correctional supervision, including probation and parole, the United States continues to lead the world in terms of tough-on-crime policies and incarceration rates. Although there have been slight declines in the U.S. prison population since 2010, the number ...

Stock Prices for Private Prison Firms Surge After Trump Elected President

by Derek Gilna

Donald Trump was declared the winner of the 2016 presidential election early on the morning of November 9, 2016. Before that day was over, the stock prices for private prison companies GEO Group (GEO) and CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America) had significantly surged in ...

Pennsylvania: Compassionate Release Reforms Fail to Achieve Aim

by David M. Reutter

Despite a 2008 change in state law intended to make it easier for Pennsylvania prisoners to be granted compassionate release, it is still rare for such releases to be granted.

In 1971, shortly after turning 18, Leon Jesse James was involved in a fatal shooting and ...

Site of Gruesome Prison Riot Becomes New Mexico Tourist Attraction

by Joe Watson

New Mexico corrections officials said “the possibilities are endless” for a dilapidated prison that has become a tourist attraction and occasional movie studio 35 years after it was the site of one of the most violent riots in U.S. history.

In February 1980, dozens of state ...

Two Alabama State Court Judges Disciplined

by David M. Reutter

Almost 35 years after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed “debtors’ prisons” – in which defendants are threatened with jail if they fail to pay fees and fines – courts continue to struggle to follow the ruling. The recent troubles of an Alabama judge demonstrate that ...

$175,000 Settlement for BOP’s Deliberate Indifference to Mentally Ill Prisoner

by Derek Gilna

Robert Gerald Knott, who had spent decades in the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), committed suicide after staff at the ADX Florence supermax in Colorado ignored clear signs that he was going to harm himself. Knott, who had a lengthy history of serious mental illness, had spent ...

Federal Dismissals Not In Forma Pauperis Strikes in Arkansas

On May 5, 2016, the Arkansas Supreme Court reversed the revocation of a prisoner’s in forma pauperis status, finding that dismissed federal court actions could not be counted as strikes under state law.

Arkansas Code Annotated (ACA) § 16-68-607 prohibits an in forma pauperis state court action by a prisoner ...

Report Presents Bleak Analysis of BOP Medical Bureaucracy

by Derek Gilna

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is arguably a failed institution, and that fact is no more obvious than in the substandard medical care it provides to the prisoners in its custody. Although the BOP’s bloated bureaucracy absorbs an ever-increasing percentage of the Department of Justice’s financial ...

Oregon: Muslim Prison Visitor Receives $40,000 for Discrimination, Retaliation

The Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) agreed to pay a female Muslim visitor $40,000 for religious discrimination and retaliation by state prison guards.

Myell Thompson, who converted to the Islamic faith, wears a traditional head covering known as a hijab. A hijab and other modest clothing are mandated by ...

Connecticut DOC Settles Five Percenters Religious Rights Suit

by Derek Gilna

The Connecticut Department of Corrections (DOC) has settled a federal lawsuit filed by a state prisoner and entered into a consent decree recognizing his religion. The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc (RLUIPA), provides that prisoners may practice their sincerely-held ...

Lawsuit Claims Ohio Jail Guards Raped, Tortured Female Prisoner

According to a lawsuit filed on January 27, 2017, a woman incarcerated at the Warren County, Ohio jail in May 2013 was “so desperate for help she attempted to write on the cell wall, in her own blood, ‘God, please help me.’” The suit named one guard by name ...

New Treatment Regimen for Latent TB Shows Promise

Prisoners constitute less than one percent of the nation’s population, yet according to statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), they account for up to 6% of tuberculosis (TB) cases reported in the United States. [See: PLN, Aug. 2007, p.1].

The Indiana Department of Health, for example ...

News in Brief

Alabama: In November 2016 the Barbour County Sheriff’s Office received a faxed court order for the release of state prisoner Bobby Campbell, so of course they released him. As it turned out, however, the order was fake. “Right now we are unsure about the real source of that fax ...


 

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