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Prison Legal News: June, 2017

Issue PDF
Volume 28, Number 6

In this issue:

  1. Affluenza Epidemic Rampant in Our Nation’s Criminal Justice System (p 1)
  2. New Reporting System for Prisoner Deaths May Allow for Increased Intervention Opportunities (p 13)
  3. Feds Impound Illegally Imported Execution Drugs in Arizona, Other States (p 14)
  4. From the Editor (p 14)
  5. Michigan Prison Plagued by Sewage Problems Despite Repeated Complaints (p 16)
  6. Virginia: Three Face Federal Charges for Fake Legal Services Scheme (p 17)
  7. Corporate Cash Helps Fill Indiana Politicians’ Coffers (p 18)
  8. Three-day Denial of Pain Medication Sufficient to Overcome Claim of Qualified Immunity, Eighth Circuit Rules (p 21)
  9. Exploring the Connection Between Brain Injuries and Criminal Behavior (p 22)
  10. New York Prisoner Attempts to Retire from His Prison Job (p 23)
  11. Federal Circuit Reverses Prisoner’s Compensation Award by Court of Federal Claims (p 24)
  12. New Report Examines “Treatment Industrial Complex” (p 24)
  13. AVID Prison Project Report Details Challenges Faced by Disabled Prisoners (p 26)
  14. PLN Settles Censorship Challenge at Oklahoma Jail for $125,000 (p 26)
  15. Maine State Prison Rescinds Bra-removal Policy for Female Visitors (p 27)
  16. ACLU Report Details Damaging Effects of Solitary Confinement on Disabled Prisoners (p 28)
  17. Texas Lawyer Quits with 0-34 Record of Losses in Death Penalty Cases (p 28)
  18. New York: Prison College Program Reduces Recidivism, Receives More Funding (p 29)
  19. Increasing Number of Cities and States Enact Bail Reform – but is it Enough? (p 30)
  20. Marion County, Indiana Jail Plagued by Prisoner Deaths, Ensuing Lawsuits (p 32)
  21. Two Prisoners Killed in Second Nebraska Prison Riot in Two Years (p 33)
  22. Harvard Law School Report Highlights Ill Effects of Criminal Justice Fees (p 34)
  23. Kentucky: Disciplinary Proceeding Reversed for Failure to Review Video Footage (p 34)
  24. DC Circuit Agrees that U.S. Attorney’s Discovery Handbook is Exempt from FOIA (p 35)
  25. DC Circuit Court Reverses Dismissal of Suit Challenging CMU Placement (p 35)
  26. Seventh Circuit Reverses Grant of Summary Judgment to Illinois Prison Doctors (p 36)
  27. Heroin Overdose Antidote Becoming More Widely Available, Including Behind Bars (p 38)
  28. $103,000 Settlement Between Colorado Town and ACLU Over “Pay or Serve” Jail Policy (p 40)
  29. Global Tel*Link Agrees to Pay $8.8 Million in Class-action Settlement (p 40)
  30. WA: Prisoners May Not Have Their Incarceration Used Against Them at Child Dependency Proceedings (p 41)
  31. Former LA County Sheriff to Serve Three Years in Prison (p 42)
  32. Washington Supreme Court Strikes Down Legal Financial Obligations Imposed on Indigent or Disabled Defendants Unable to Pay (p 42)
  33. Seventh Circuit: Request to Revise Supervised Release Conditions was Premature (p 43)
  34. States Wrestle with Prison Privatization (p 44)
  35. Indiana Court Rules that Correct Conviction Must be Used when Revoking Parole (p 45)
  36. Three State Supreme Courts Rule on Post-release Issues for Sex Offenders (p 46)
  37. Probation Revocation for Refusal to Participate in Polygraph Tests Upheld (p 47)
  38. Perfect Storm of Overcrowding, Violence and Staff Shortages in Tennessee Prisons (p 48)
  39. Three Murders in Alabama Prisons in Ten Days; State Senate Passes Reform Bill (p 51)
  40. Texas Leads the Nation in Exonerations, Costing More than $93 Million (p 52)
  41. ICE Settles Suit Filed by Immigration Detainees, Pays $405,000 in Attorney Fees (p 53)
  42. Seventh Circuit Affirms Award of $1.00 in Excessive Force Case (p 54)
  43. Private Prisons in Oklahoma Prove Costly (p 54)
  44. Chief Federal Judge in D.C. Resigns after Lawsuit Accuses Him of Rape (p 56)
  45. University of Texas Researcher Makes Data on In-custody Deaths Comprehensible (p 57)
  46. Major Measles Outbreak at Detention Center in Arizona (p 58)
  47. New Mexico State Court Orders Disclosure of Corizon’s Litigation Records (p 58)
  48. Arkansas Attorney Sues to Gain Access to Incarcerated Client (p 59)
  49. Double Blind: Preventing Eyewitness Error (p 60)
  50. Utah Attorney Plans Wrongful Death Suit Against County Jail (p 61)
  51. Michigan Prisoner’s Suicide Under Investigation; Lawsuit Filed (p 62)
  52. News in Brief (p 63)

Affluenza Epidemic Rampant in Our Nation’s Criminal Justice System

by Gary Hunter

Af-flu-en-za /n. <L. affluentia, see AFFLUENCE + <LL. Influens, see INFLUENCE/: an acute and infectious disease caused by greed and favoritism in the judicial system and characterized by preferential treatment and lenient sentences for wealthy offenders.

 Following his testimony in the criminal prosecution of Ethan Couch, a Texas ...

New Reporting System for Prisoner Deaths May Allow for Increased Intervention Opportunities

by Lonnie Burton

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has been collecting data from state prisons and locals jails regarding prisoners’ deaths since the Death in Custody Reporting Act was passed in 2000. Under its new Death in Custody Reporting Program (DCRP), the DOJ has reported 100% cooperation from ...

Feds Impound Illegally Imported Execution Drugs in Arizona, Other States

by Joe Watson

Arizona's Department of Corrections (ADC) imported a drug used for executions, but federal agents seized and impounded the illegal shipment at the Phoenix airport before it could be used for lethal injections.

The ADC reportedly paid $27,000 for 1,000 vials of sodium thiopental, which ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

One of the constants in PLN’s coverage of criminal justice issues since our inception in 1990 has been the disparate, two-tier system of justice in the United States: one system for the wealthy, privileged and politically connected, and another for the poor and unconnected.

In most ...

Michigan Prison Plagued by Sewage Problems Despite Repeated Complaints

by Panagioti Tsolkas

The Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson County, Michigan doesn’t have an official gas chamber. In fact, it’s considered a low-security prison. But recent conditions at Parnall have been poisoning prisoners through prolonged exposure to sewage gas.

Last year, Kevin Blair, Sr. watched his son, also Kevin Blair ...

Virginia: Three Face Federal Charges for Fake Legal Services Scheme

Prisoners held in jails in Newport News and Norfolk, Virginia were duped by a fictitious legal services company called “FamUnited,” also known as “Famm United” or “FamilyTranzitions.” The scammers behind the scheme, Teresa Gallop, 49, Jessie Davis, 20, and Delanio Vick, 31, allegedly stole prisoners’ identities along with ...

Corporate Cash Helps Fill Indiana Politicians’ Coffers

by Leah Carter, James Benedict, Madison Hogan and Paige Ferguson

On paper, Indiana has a strict cap on campaign contributions from corporations. But in practice, it’s easy for businesses to turn on the flow of money and get around the spending limits.

Contributions from executives, political action committees and subsidiary ...

Three-day Denial of Pain Medication Sufficient to Overcome Claim of Qualified Immunity, Eighth Circuit Rules

by Lonnie Burton

On June 30, 2016, the Eighth Circuit affirmed a district court’s order granting qualified immunity to jail officials in a case where a prisoner was repeatedly denied pain medication during his three-day stay at a county lock-up.

Patrick Dadd was arrested in Anoka County, Minnesota on the ...

Exploring the Connection Between Brain Injuries and Criminal Behavior

by Christopher Zoukis

Thanks in large part to recent well-publicized incidents involving the National Football League, the impact of brain injuries has become a topic of interest to the general public. When highly-paid professional athletes who participate in contact sports engage in bizarre, criminal or suicidal behavior, people want to ...

New York Prisoner Attempts to Retire from His Prison Job

Franklin Correctional Facility prisoner ibn Kenyatta, serving time for the 1974 attempted murder of a police officer, has long professed his innocence and refused to attend parole hearings despite being eligible since 1989. The elderly prisoner has no desire to be released. “If I wanted to get out, I’d go ...

Federal Circuit Reverses Prisoner’s Compensation Award by Court of Federal Claims

by Derek Gilna

Michael Alan Crooker, convicted of “mailing a threatening communication and possession of a toxin without registration,” received credit toward his federal prison sentence “for 2,273 days he spent imprisoned on a prior conviction for transportation of a firearm in interstate commerce by a convicted felon ...

New Report Examines “Treatment Industrial Complex”

by Derek Gilna

As public and legislative pressure builds to reduce the number of prisoners held in state and federal correctional facilities, the private prison industry has changed gears to offer rehabilitative and treatment services – a shift criticized in a February 2016 report titled “Incorrect Care: A Prison Profiteer ...

AVID Prison Project Report Details Challenges Faced by Disabled Prisoners

by Derek Gilna

Last year, Disability Rights Washington's AVID (Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities) Prison Project published a report titled “Making Hard Time Harder: Programmatic Accommodations for Inmates with Disabilities Under the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

The report, released on June 22, 2016, detailed many of the ...

PLN Settles Censorship Challenge at Oklahoma Jail for $125,000

by Derek Gilna

Faced with the censorship of its monthly publication and other correspondence by a jail in Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma, Prison Legal News, a project of the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), filed suit in federal district court in September 2015. Following 16 months of litigation, the Pottawatomie County ...

Maine State Prison Rescinds Bra-removal Policy for Female Visitors

When Air Force veteran Stacy Venable arrived at the Maine State Prison on February 11, 2017 to visit her nephew as she had several times a year for the past seven years, she was ushered through a metal detector as usual. This visit was different, however. Venable’s bra, which did ...

ACLU Report Details Damaging Effects of Solitary Confinement on Disabled Prisoners

by Derek Gilna

A January 2017 report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) examined the effects of solitary confinement on prisoners with physical disabilities, based upon interviews with disabled prisoners who were “locked in cages the size of a regular parking space.” The report described some of the ...

Texas Lawyer Quits with 0-34 Record of Losses in Death Penalty Cases

by Matt Clarke

If you were on trial for your life, you would want the best possible lawyer. That would exclude Houston, Texas attorney Jerry Guerinot, 71, who has a great deal of experience but a very poor track record. Guerinot lost all 34 capital cases he defended at trial ...

New York: Prison College Program Reduces Recidivism, Receives More Funding

Gus Bethea "never imagined [he'd] be a college graduate.” The 33-year-old overcame the challenges of in-prison education, such as outdated textbooks and lack of Internet access, to complete a college degree program while serving time on a robbery conviction. “We just appreciate it so much more because we’ve ...

Increasing Number of Cities and States Enact Bail Reform – but is it Enough?

by Joe Watson

Bail reform did not happen soon enough to save the life of Walter Scott, a forklift operator whose fatal shooting by a police officer intensified a national debate not only on the use of excessive force by the police but also on the unnecessary jailing of nonviolent ...

Marion County, Indiana Jail Plagued by Prisoner Deaths, Ensuing Lawsuits

by Lonnie Burton

As of January 2016, Marion County, Indiana Sheriff John Layton had a banner hanging above the entrance to the county jail that read “Top 1% of Sheriff’s Offices in America!” But the families of more than a dozen prisoners who died at the facility since 2009 ...

Two Prisoners Killed in Second Nebraska Prison Riot in Two Years

Prisoners Damon Fitzgerald, 39, and Michael Galindo, 31, died in Nebraska’s second deadly prison riot in two years. Officials at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution offered few details about the deaths, but said the March 2, 2017 disturbance involved about 40 prisoners in a 128-man unit.

In addition to the ...

Harvard Law School Report Highlights Ill Effects of Criminal Justice Fees

by Derek Gilna

In September 2016, Harvard Law School published a report titled “Confronting Criminal Justice Debt: A Guide for Policy Reform,” which questioned the moral justification of a criminal justice system that relies on fees extracted from mostly-indigent defendants to function.

As noted in the report, “Monetary sanctions ...

Kentucky: Disciplinary Proceeding Reversed for Failure to Review Video Footage

by Lonnie Burton

On May 20, 2016, a Kentucky Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, held that a prisoner has the right, upon request, to have video surveillance footage reviewed and considered by the hearing officer during a prison disciplinary proceeding. The ruling reversed a lower court’s order.

Kristy ...

DC Circuit Agrees that U.S. Attorney’s Discovery Handbook is Exempt from FOIA

by Derek Gilna

In a setback for the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys (NACDL), the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit declined to overturn a district court’s judgment that found the U.S. Attorney’s discovery handbook, also known as the “Blue Book,” was not subject to disclosure ...

DC Circuit Court Reverses Dismissal of Suit Challenging CMU Placement

by Derek Gilna

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned portions of a district court’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed by three federal prisoners – Yassin Aref, Kifah Jayyousi and Daniel McGowan – who sought damages as a result of their confinement in Communications Management Units (CMUs). The ...

Seventh Circuit Reverses Grant of Summary Judgment to Illinois Prison Doctors

by Lonnie Burton

In a pair of cases, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated lawsuits filed by Illinois prisoners alleging inadequate medical care.

First, on August 25, 2016, the appellate court, sitting en banc, issued an amended decision that reversed a district court’s order granting summary judgment to two ...

Heroin Overdose Antidote Becoming More Widely Available, Including Behind Bars

by Joe Watson

Just months after New York's prison system launched a heroin overdose prevention program by training prisoners to administer naloxone – an opioid overdose antidote also known as Narcan – Maryland made it easier to obtain the medication without a prescription.

According to the Baltimore Sun, the ...

$103,000 Settlement Between Colorado Town and ACLU Over “Pay or Serve” Jail Policy

by Matt Clarke

On May 4, 2016, Colorado Springs officials signed off on a $103,000 settlement that will end the practice of municipal judges converting fine-only violations of municipal ordinances into jail time for indigent defendants.

In a longstanding practice known as “pay or serve,” Colorado Springs municipal ...

Global Tel*Link Agrees to Pay $8.8 Million in Class-action Settlement

by Derek Gilna

Global Tel*Link (GTL), the telecom company known for exploiting prisoners with high phone rates to maintain communication with their friends and family members, agreed on March 27, 2017 to pay $8.8 million to settle a federal lawsuit alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act ...

WA: Prisoners May Not Have Their Incarceration Used Against Them at Child Dependency Proceedings

On July 14, 2016, the Washington Supreme Court issued a decision affirming statutory provisions that strengthen the rights of incarcerated parents when the state initiates child dependency proceedings or tries to terminate parental rights.

In 2013, the Washington legislature enacted amendments to the dependency statute, RCW 13.34.180, to ...

Former LA County Sheriff to Serve Three Years in Prison

by Derek Gilna

Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was sentenced on May 12, 2017 to three years in federal prison for lying to federal officials investigating allegations of corruption, physical abuse, bribery and misconduct in the LA County Sheriff’s Department (LASD). The sentence brought to an end a ...

Washington Supreme Court Strikes Down Legal Financial Obligations Imposed on Indigent or Disabled Defendants Unable to Pay

by Lonnie Burton

On September 22, 2016, a unanimous Washington Supreme Court held that the imposition of legal financial obligations (LFOs) on indigent or disabled defendants violates state and federal law when the trial court makes no particularized finding that the defendant has a current or future ability to pay ...

Seventh Circuit: Request to Revise Supervised Release Conditions was Premature

by Christopher Zoukis

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held it was premature to file a request to revise conditions of supervised release 14 years before those conditions were to go into effect.

The terse per curium ruling, issued on September 6, 2016, disallowed federal prisoner Andre Williams’ request to ...

States Wrestle with Prison Privatization

by Christopher Zoukis

In 2016, questions were raised in at least three states about the amount of taxpayer money flowing into the coffers of private, for-profit prison companies.

Take Colorado, for example. When lawmakers were considering an almost $26 billion state budget last year, they noticed it included a curious ...

Indiana Court Rules that Correct Conviction Must be Used when Revoking Parole

by Christopher Zoukis

Tyrone Grayson was on parole after serving a 20-year sentence for attempted robbery and a consecutive 10-year sentence for unlawful possession of a firearm when he committed another offense. He was charged and received a new 12-year prison term, then ordered to serve the balance of his ...

Three State Supreme Courts Rule on Post-release Issues for Sex Offenders

by Matt Clarke

In six separate opinions, the Supreme Courts of Kansas, Ohio and Colorado ruled on issues related to sex offender registration and probation requirements.

In a trio of decisions handed down on April 22, 2016, the Supreme Court of Kansas held the 2011 amended version of the Kansas ...

Probation Revocation for Refusal to Participate in Polygraph Tests Upheld

by Christopher Zoukis

On May 16, 2016, the Colorado Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s ruling which found a convicted sex offender did not violate the terms of his probation by refusing to participate in court-ordered treatment that included polygraph exams.

Carl Daniel Ruch argued that requiring him to participate ...

Perfect Storm of Overcrowding, Violence and Staff Shortages in Tennessee Prisons

by David Reutter

An increasing prison population within the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC), combined with staff shortages, created a perfect storm that spawned high levels of violence in the state’s prison system.

The TDOC has maintained that its prisons are safe. But state legislative hearings uncovered a scheme to ...

Three Murders in Alabama Prisons in Ten Days; State Senate Passes Reform Bill

Alabama state prisons tallied a deadly streak of three unrelated homicides within the 10-day period between February 16 and 26, 2017. Two stabbing deaths were reported at the Elmore Correctional Facility; the third death occurred after a prisoner was beaten in his cell at the Staton Correctional Facility. The following ...

Texas Leads the Nation in Exonerations, Costing More than $93 Million

by Christopher Zoukis

On March 13, 1997, 41-year-old Dahn Clary, Jr. of Texarkana, Texas was arrested and charged with the aggravated sexual assault of his best friend’s 11-year-old son.

The boy told his father and police that Clary had fondled his genitals and performed oral sex on him several times ...

ICE Settles Suit Filed by Immigration Detainees, Pays $405,000 in Attorney Fees

by Derek Gilna

Immigration and Customs (ICE) officials in northern California agreed to settle a three-year-old federal class-action lawsuit that focused on ICE policies which unnecessarily restricted the ability of immigration detainees to communicate with their counsel and prepare for court hearings. The November 2016 settlement required ICE to pay ...

Seventh Circuit Affirms Award of $1.00 in Excessive Force Case

by Christopher Zoukis

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an award of $1.00 in a case where a jury found a prison guard had used excessive force.

The plaintiff, Sammy J. Moore, an Illinois state prisoner, claimed he was struck in the head twice by guard Peter Liszewski ...

Private Prisons in Oklahoma Prove Costly

Private prisons cost the state of Oklahoma $92.7 million in 2015 alone, and almost $1 billion since 2004. With its prison system currently operating at 122 percent of capacity, the Oklahoma Board of Corrections (OBOC) will need even more private prison bed space, according to Joe M. Allbaugh, Director ...

Chief Federal Judge in D.C. Resigns after Lawsuit Accuses Him of Rape

by Christopher Zoukis

The Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Richard Roberts, 63, unexpectedly stepped down on March 16, 2016. Although the official reason for his departure was listed as an undisclosed disability, Judge Roberts’ early retirement came the same week a lawsuit ...

University of Texas Researcher Makes Data on In-custody Deaths Comprehensible

by Matt Clarke

All law enforcement agencies, jails and prisons in Texas are required by state law to report in-custody deaths, but the raw statistics are not easily understood. That shortcoming prompted University of Texas Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis postdoctoral fellow Amanda Woog to create the Texas ...

Major Measles Outbreak at Detention Center in Arizona

by Christopher Zoukis

An infectious outbreak at an immigration detention facility in Pinal County, Arizona operated by CoreCivic (formerly known as CCA) resulted in over 20 people contracting measles.

The outbreak was discovered in May 2016 when one detainee and an employee at the Eloy Detention Center tested positive for ...

New Mexico State Court Orders Disclosure of Corizon’s Litigation Records

by Derek Gilna

New Mexico District Court Judge Raymond Z. Ortiz ruled in August 2016 that Corizon Health, a for-profit medical services provider, must release its settlement agreements in lawsuits filed against the company by New Mexico prisoners.

Until last year, Corizon provided medical care at 10 state correctional facilities ...

Arkansas Attorney Sues to Gain Access to Incarcerated Client

A lawyer in Little Rock, Arkansas was forced to file a lawsuit to gain access to his client in a criminal case.

Attorney Patrick Benca, who represented Antoine Ramon Jackson on a capital murder charge, filed the six-page suit on March 22, 2017 in Pulaski County Circuit Court, claiming the ...

Double Blind: Preventing Eyewitness Error

Utah Attorney Plans Wrongful Death Suit Against County Jail

Attorney Michael Studebaker announced on February 17, 2017 that he planned to file a lawsuit on behalf of the family of Marion Herrera, a 40-year-old Ogden woman who died after 3½ days in custody at a jail in Weber County, Utah.

Herrera was a heroin addict charged with cashing a ...

Michigan Prisoner’s Suicide Under Investigation; Lawsuit Filed

by David Reutter

A Michigan prison guard has been criminally charged following an investigation into her role in a prisoner’s suicide – an investigation that also resulted in a federal lawsuit and an admission of misconduct from the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC).

Janika Edmond, 25, was serving a sentence ...

News in Brief

Arizona: On January 19, 2017, Estrella Jail guard Roy Eugene Ramey III was fired by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Ramey, who had been arrested in September 2016, was placed on administrative leave pending disposition of charges that he engaged in sexual activity with a female prisoner. He was indicted ...