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Prison Legal News: January, 2018

Issue PDF
Volume 29, Number 1

In this issue:

  1. They Thought They Were Going to Rehab. They Ended up in Chicken Plants (p 1)
  2. Multiple Lawsuits Allege “Slave Labor” Under Guise of Drug Treatment (p 8)
  3. From the Editor (p 10)
  4. Federal Correctional Complex at the Center of City’s Water Debacle (p 10)
  5. US Parole Activists Aim to Overhaul a Failing System (p 12)
  6. New York State Prisoner’s Administrative Charges Dismissed (p 15)
  7. Utah Settles Federal Suit Alleging Delays in Competency Treatment for Pre-trial Detainees (p 16)
  8. $8.4 Million Judgment in Defamation Suit (p 17)
  9. National Registry of Exonerations Report: Blacks Suffer More False Convictions (p 18)
  10. Palestinian Prisoners Stage Hunger Strike (p 19)
  11. Solitary to the Streets: Studies Find Such Releases Result in Higher Recidivism Rates, Violent Behavior (p 20)
  12. Seventh Circuit: Court Erred in Dismissing Prisoner’s Suit for Failure to Include Trust Account Ledger (p 21)
  13. Arkansas Supreme Court: Religious Freedom Preliminary Injunction Requires Hearing (p 22)
  14. Pennsylvania Class-action Targets Company Providing Inaccurate Background Checks (p 22)
  15. Report Slams Takeover of Washington DOC Food Services by Correctional Industries (p 24)
  16. $1.23 Million Settles Indiana Jail Conditions Suit (p 25)
  17. $3.6 Million: California Prisoner Killed by Guards (p 26)
  18. Attica Medical Experiments Exposed (p 27)
  19. Department of Justice Releases Reports on Prison and Jail Deaths (p 28)
  20. “Start by Believing” Initiative Creates Controversy (p 29)
  21. $150,000 Settles Colorado Jail Prisoner’s Sexual Assault Suit (p 30)
  22. Eighth Circuit Vacates Summary Judgment Order in Detainee’s Wrongful Death Suit (p 30)
  23. New York Times Reveals Racial Bias Rampant in Upstate New York Prisons (p 32)
  24. California Agency Addresses In-person Visits at Jails after Governor Vetoes Bill (p 32)
  25. Montana DOC Agrees to Modification of ADA Class-action Settlement (p 35)
  26. $840,000 to Wrongfully Terminated Pennsylvania Jail Official (p 36)
  27. Drug Addicts Suffer Preventable Deaths in U.S. Jails (p 38)
  28. Cook County Strip-search Class-action Claimants to Receive Additional Payments (p 40)
  29. Controversy Surrounds Angola Prison Warden’s Retirement, Indictment of Family Members (p 42)
  30. $500,000 Settles Illinois Jail Suicide Suit (p 43)
  31. Michigan’s New Prison Food Service Provider Failing to Meet Contract Terms (p 46)
  32. Michigan’s Macomb County Jail Under Fire for Lack of Medical Care, Deaths (p 48)
  33. Majority of Federal Prisoner’s Settlement Seized for Restitution; Tenth Circuit Affirms (p 50)
  34. $950,000 Settles Mistreatment of Mentally Ill Prisoner (p 50)
  35. West Virginia Prisoner Injured on Work Crew Denied Workers’ Compensation (p 51)
  36. Florida: Private Prison Company Allowed to Overcharge State, Mistreat Prisoners (p 52)
  37. $10,000 Settles Kansas Suit Over Fall From Upper Bunk (p 53)
  38. Lawsuit Claims CoreCivic Allowed Corruption and Gangs to Flourish at Oklahoma Prison (p 54)
  39. Seventh Circuit: Injured Federal Detainee Meets Negligence Standard in Fall from Stool (p 55)
  40. $15,000 Settlement in New Mexico Jail Rape Case Based on Polygraph Results (p 55)
  41. Fifth Circuit Upholds Sanctions Against GEO Group Attorneys for Discovery Abuse (p 56)
  42. New York: Inhumanity in the Guise of Education at Rikers Island Jail (p 56)
  43. Sentencing Project Report Examines Increasing Number of Life Sentences (p 57)
  44. North Carolina Reforms Solitary Confinement Policies Following Vera Report (p 58)
  45. Private Prison CEO Heads Search for United Way Leader (p 59)
  46. Assaultive Behavior by Michigan Prisoners Subject to Aggressive Prosecution (p 59)
  47. $160,000 Settles New Jersey Jail Class Action Suit (p 60)
  48. OIG Report Slams CoreCivic’s Management of Leavenworth Prison (p 60)
  49. Florida Guard Gets 21 Months for Attacking Prisoner, Planting Weapon (p 61)
  50. News in Brief (p 63)

They Thought They Were Going to Rehab. They Ended up in Chicken Plants

by Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana WalterReveal

The worst day of Brad McGahey’s life was the day a judge decided to spare him from prison.

McGahey was 23 with dreams of making it big in rodeo, maybe starring in his own reality TV show. With a 1.5 ...

Multiple Lawsuits Allege “Slave Labor” Under Guise of Drug Treatment

by Derek Gilna

Following an investigative report by Reveal, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting, at least four federal lawsuits were filed against Christian Alcoholics and Addicts in Recovery (CAAIR) and Simmons Foods, Inc. in October and November 2017. The suits allege that defendants sent to CAAIR by ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

Welcome to the first issue of PLN for 2018. By the time you read this we should be moved into our new office in Florida. I would like to thank everyone who donated to help us with the unexpected expense of a sudden eviction by the City ...

Federal Correctional Complex at the Center of City’s Water Debacle

by Panagioti Tsolkas

Any attention that Florence,Colorado receives from the world outside its rural and mountainous borders tends to involve the federal Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) supermax facility, built near the city 25 years ago. And news coverage of the prison, known as the ADX, doesn’t tend to be ...

US Parole Activists Aim to Overhaul a Failing System

by Jean Trounstine, originally published September 30, 2017, Truthout.org.

The United States has the shameful reputation of being the world's largest jailer, and as the Prison Policy Initiative reported in March, 2017, 2.3 million people are currently locked up in prisons and jails. This mass incarceration continues ...

New York State Prisoner’s Administrative Charges Dismissed

by Derek Gilna

On March 16, 2017, the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court dismissed all administrative charges against state prisoner Lawrence George Wilson, who was accused of violating prison disciplinary rules under CPLR article 78. Wilson had been charged with “bribery, solicitation, possessing personal identifying information, violating ...

Utah Settles Federal Suit Alleging Delays in Competency Treatment for Pre-trial Detainees

by Derek Gilna

On June 14, 2017, Utah officials entered into a settlement to resolve a federal class-action lawsuit that alleged the state failed to provide timely and proper mental health competency evaluations and treatment to pre-trial detainees. According to the complaint, filed in 2015 by the Disability Law Center ...

$8.4 Million Judgment in Defamation Suit

by Christopher Zoukis

A retired Army colonel who was denied a promotion due to a rape accusation has been awarded $8.4 million in a defamation lawsuit filed against his accuser.

Col. David “Wil” Riggins, a highly-decorated veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, was up for promotion to brigadier general ...

National Registry of Exonerations Report: Blacks Suffer More False Convictions

by Derek Gilna

On March 7, 2017, the National Registry of Exonerations published a report that found African-Americans are much more likely than whites to be wrongfully convicted and spend more time in prison before being exonerated. The report noted that although blacks represent just 13% of the U.S ...

Palestinian Prisoners Stage Hunger Strike

by Christopher Zoukis

Around 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails launched a hunger strike on April 17, 2017, a date also known as Palestinian Prisoners Day. According to the Palestinian Prisoners Center for Studies, the strike was meant to protest the “difficult humanitarian conditions” inside Israeli prisons.

Al ...

Solitary to the Streets: Studies Find Such Releases Result in Higher Recidivism Rates, Violent Behavior

by Lonnie Burton

Several studies have shown that prisoners released directly to the streets from solitary confinement are more likely to reoffend, commit new crimes sooner and exhibit violent behavior after release. The most recent study, “From Solitary to Society,” authored by Samarth Gupta and published in the Harvard ...

Seventh Circuit: Court Erred in Dismissing Prisoner’s Suit for Failure to Include Trust Account Ledger

by Matt Clarke

On February 7, 2017, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that a district court erred when it dismissed a prisoner’s civil rights lawsuit that was brought in forma pauperis without first evaluating his exculpatory explanation that prison staff had refused to give him a required trust ...

Arkansas Supreme Court: Religious Freedom Preliminary Injunction Requires Hearing

The Arkansas Supreme Court held on March 16, 2017 that a lower court abused its discretion by denying a prisoner’s motion for a preliminary injunction without holding a hearing.

Arkansas prisoner Malik Muntaqim is a member of the Nation of Islam (NOI). He alleged that literature developed by NOI ministers ...

Pennsylvania Class-action Targets Company Providing Inaccurate Background Checks

by Derek Gilna

Helen Stokes, a 65-year-old Pennsylvania woman with no criminal record, was nonetheless continually denied credit due to inaccuracies in her background report that a property credit reporting company refused to correct. Consequently, she filed a class-action complaint in federal court that alleged damages as a result of ...

Report Slams Takeover of Washington DOC Food Services by Correctional Industries

by Lonnie Burton

In October 2016 report by Prison Voice Washington detailed the adverse effects of a takeover of food services in Washington state prisons by Correctional Industries (CI). The report, titled “Correcting Food Policy in Washington Prisons: How the DOC Makes Healthy Food Choices Impossible for Incarcerated People and ...

$1.23 Million Settles Indiana Jail Conditions Suit

by Derek Gilna

Officials in Floyd County, Indiana agreed on July 24, 2017 to settle a federal class-action lawsuit that alleged jail officials kept prisoners in padded cells, “deprived [them] of clothing, bedding, and hygiene products,” and tased and pepper-sprayed them. Named as defendants in the 2014 complaint were ...

$3.6 Million: California Prisoner Killed by Guards

by Matt Clarke

Santa Clara County, California has agreed to pay $3.6 million to the family of a mentally ill man who was beaten to death by guards in the county’s San Jose jail. The three guards who killed him, who had attacked another prisoner the day before, were ...

Attica Medical Experiments Exposed

by Greg Dober

On November 19, 2017, Heather AnnThompson, a professor of history at the University of Michigan, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which she described medical experiments that took place at the Attica Correctional Facility in the early 1970s.

Thompson, author of the recently-released book ...

Department of Justice Releases Reports on Prison and Jail Deaths

by Matt Clarke

In December 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released two reports on deaths in state and federal prisons and local jails, covering more than a decade of mortality data ending in 2014.

As of yearend 2014 there were an estimated 1 ...

“Start by Believing” Initiative Creates Controversy

by Matt Clarke

According to a December 15, 2016 news report, Debbie Moak, then-director of the Arizona Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family, issued a letter of guidance recommending that criminal justice agencies not adopt policies supported by Start by Believing.

Start by Believing, a nonprofit victim-centered initiative, works ...

$150,000 Settles Colorado Jail Prisoner’s Sexual Assault Suit

by Matt Clarke

In January 2017, Otero County, Colorado paid $150,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a jail prisoner who was sexually assaulted by a former guard.

Jennifer Hernandez, a mother of two, was booked into the Otero County Jail as a pretrial detainee.

“It’s a little backwater ...

Eighth Circuit Vacates Summary Judgment Order in Detainee’s Wrongful Death Suit

In March 2017, the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit vacated a summary judgment order in favor of jail officials on claims stemming from a detainee’s death.

On February 23, 2012, Jerome Harrell reported to the jail in Stearns County, Minnesota on outstanding traffic warrants. Booking staff noted that ...

New York Times Reveals Racial Bias Rampant in Upstate New York Prisons

by Lonnie Burton

In December 2016, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo ordered an official probe into allegations of racial bias by guards in the state’s prison system. The governor’s announcement came shortly after the New York Times published evidence of racial discrimination it had uncovered following an investigation that examined nearly ...

California Agency Addresses In-person Visits at Jails after Governor Vetoes Bill

by Lonnie Burton

Under new rules adopted by a state regulatory agency in February 2017, any California jail that offered in-person prisoner visitation at the beginning of 2017 may not limit visits to video calls. Further, all future jails in the state will have to provide space for in-person, face-to-face ...

Montana DOC Agrees to Modification of ADA Class-action Settlement

by Derek Gilna

In March 2017, the Montana Department of Corrections (DOC) agreed to modifications to a class-action settlement originally entered into in 1994 to resolve medical, dental and mental health complaints stemming from a 1991 prison riot. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged that “five prisoners were murdered in ...

$840,000 to Wrongfully Terminated Pennsylvania Jail Official

A federal jury has awarded $842,119 to a former major at the Allegheny County Jail in Pennsylvania. The jury found that Walter Mikulan was fired in 2013 in an effort to get rid of older supervisors and because he was allegedly abusing the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Mikulan ...

Drug Addicts Suffer Preventable Deaths in U.S. Jails

by Christopher Zoukis

There is a growing epidemic of opioid addiction in the United States. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, over 33,000 opioid-related deaths occurred in 2015, representing a quadrupling of such fatalities since 1999. It is estimated that three-quarters of crimes are related to drugs ...

Cook County Strip-search Class-action Claimants to Receive Additional Payments

by Derek Gilna

In May 2017, insurance companiesfor Cook County, Illinois preliminarily agreed to add $52 million to a previous settlement reached in 2010 concerning blanket strip searches of prisoners held at the Cook County Jail. The agreement resolved claims related to a federal class-action lawsuit filed by former prisoners ...

Controversy Surrounds Angola Prison Warden’s Retirement, Indictment of Family Members

by David M. Reutter

One month after a November 2015 investigative report by the New Orleans Advocate, Louisiana State Penitentiary warden Burl Cain, 73, announced his retirement. He stepped down from his longtime position at the Angola prison effective January 1, 2016.

The report outlined a series of private real ...

$500,000 Settles Illinois Jail Suicide Suit

by Matt Clarke

On April 27, 2017, the County Board of Knox County, Illinois agreed to a $500,000 settlement in a federal lawsuit over the suicide of a pretrial detainee.

Joey Corbin, 26, had a history of mental illness and was taking psychotropic medication when he was booked into ...

Michigan’s New Prison Food Service Provider Failing to Meet Contract Terms

by David M. Reutter

After privatizing its prison food services in 2013, the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) has continued to report problems with its current vendor, Florida-based Trinity Services Group – largely the same problems it experienced with its previous contractor, Pennsylvania-based Aramark Correctional Services. [See: PLN, Dec. 2015 ...

Michigan’s Macomb County Jail Under Fire for Lack of Medical Care, Deaths

by David M. Reutter

Since 2012, at least eighteen prisoners have died at the Macomb County Jail (MCJ) in Michigan, a rate twice the national average. As a result, seven lawsuits have been filed against the jail and its private medical contractor, Correct Care Solutions. Nevertheless, Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said ...

Majority of Federal Prisoner’s Settlement Seized for Restitution; Tenth Circuit Affirms

A federal prisoner who obtained a $200,000 settlement from the Bureau of Prisons was ordered to pay $145,640 towards restitution to compensate his victims.

Kappelle Simpson-El was convicted in 2008 on 25 counts related to a scheme where he and four others stole cars from dealers in Kansas ...

$950,000 Settles Mistreatment of Mentally Ill Prisoner

by Derek Gilna

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has agreed to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by former prisoner Jermaine Padilla after prison staff physically abused him while he was having a mental health crisis. On April 25, 2017, the CDCR agreed to a $950 ...

West Virginia Prisoner Injured on Work Crew Denied Workers’ Compensation

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals held on June 8, 2017 that “a person confined in a state correctional facility or jail who is participating in a work-release program [is prohibited] from receiving workers’ compensation benefits for any injury sustained while engaged in such work during the person’s period ...

Florida: Private Prison Company Allowed to Overcharge State, Mistreat Prisoners

by David M. Reutter

An audit personally overseen by Florida state Rep. David Richardson concluded the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) had approved a pricing scheme that allowed Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), now known as CoreCivic, to operate the Lake City Correctional Facility (LCCF) at a significantly higher cost ...

$10,000 Settles Kansas Suit Over Fall From Upper Bunk

In June 2017, Shawnee County, Kansas agreed to pay $10,000 to a woman who fell from an upper bunk in her jail cell, resulting in “severe and permanent” injuries.

When Giusepinna Lidia Rogers was booked into the jail, she told staff members that she could not safely climb up ...

Lawsuit Claims CoreCivic Allowed Corruption and Gangs to Flourish at Oklahoma Prison

by Matt Clarke

The family of a prisoner who was maced by guards as he bled to death at an Oklahoma prison operated by CoreCivic--then known as Corrections Corporation of America--has filed a lawsuit alleging prison officials allowed corruption and gangs to flourish at the facility, resulting in conditions that ...

Seventh Circuit: Injured Federal Detainee Meets Negligence Standard in Fall from Stool

On June 23, 2017, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held a detainee in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service met the criteria for application of the res ipsa loquitur doctrine, and the record would permit a fact finder to infer negligence on the part of the government ...

$15,000 Settlement in New Mexico Jail Rape Case Based on Polygraph Results

by Matt Clarke

When New Mexico state prisoner Rhiannon Montoya was 36, she was incarcerated at the Rio Arriba County Jail. There she met guard Orlando Ulibarri, whom she accused of sexually assaulting her. Montoya complained about Ulibarri, who was subsequently fired for bringing contraband into the jail and possessing ...

Fifth Circuit Upholds Sanctions Against GEO Group Attorneys for Discovery Abuse

by Matt Clarke

On December 12, 2016, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Texas district court’s sanctions of $1,000 each against lawyers representing GEO Group, the nation’s second-largest private prison operator, after finding they had engaged in discovery abuse.

Lisa Velasquez Olivarez filed a civil rights action ...

New York: Inhumanity in the Guise of Education at Rikers Island Jail

by Christopher Zoukis

The New York City Board of Correction (BOC), which provides oversight of the city’s jails, has approved the use of controversial “restraint desks” for violent prisoners aged 18 to 21 held at the Rikers Island jail complex. The desks – used in classrooms where programming is provided ...

Sentencing Project Report Examines Increasing Number of Life Sentences

by Derek Gilna

The non-profit Washington, D.C.-based Sentencing Project released a report in May 2017, titled “Still Life: America’s Increasing Use of Life and Long-Term Sentences,” that explores the high number of prisoners serving life sentences despite declining prison populations across the nation. According to the report ...

North Carolina Reforms Solitary Confinement Policies Following Vera Report

by Derek Gilna

The non-profit Vera Institute of Justice, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, published a report in December 2016 that detailed excessive use of solitary confinement in North Carolina’s prison system. The report, titled “Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative ...

Private Prison CEO Heads Search for United Way Leader

Until recently, Damon Hininger, president and CEO of CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), served as chairman of the Board of Trustees for the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville (UWMN). CoreCivic is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.

After UWMN CEO Eric Dewey, 54, died unexpectedly on March 31, 2017, the ...

Assaultive Behavior by Michigan Prisoners Subject to Aggressive Prosecution

To stop Michigan state prisoners from throwing food, feces or bodily fluids on guards--or exposing themselves--a new Officer Dignity Initiative has been created through a partnership between the Prosecuting Attorney Association of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), the Michigan State Police (MSP) and the union that represents prison ...

$160,000 Settles New Jersey Jail Class Action Suit

by Derek Gilna

After eleven years of litigation and five failed consent decrees, Camden County, New Jersey corrections officials have finally agreed to pay $160,000 to settle a federal civil rights suit that alleged severe overcrowding, sanitation, poor nutrition and environmental violations of prisoners’ rights. Approved by the court ...

OIG Report Slams CoreCivic’s Management of Leavenworth Prison

by Derek Gilna

An April 2017 report by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) strongly criticized private prison company CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America), which operates the Leavenworth Detention Center (LDC) in Kansas. The U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), which contracts ...

Florida Guard Gets 21 Months for Attacking Prisoner, Planting Weapon

by Monte McCoin

On December 14, 2017, former Floridaprison Sgt. Willie L. Walker was sentenced to almost two years in federal prison for attacking a prisoner and then planting a weapon to justify the beating.

In March 2015, prisoner William Hernandez was summoned to an office after a search of ...

News in Brief

Australia: According to a June 2017 news report, a GEO Group-run prison in Queensland was busted for dumping raw sewage. The waste was threatening a creek near the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre, according to an anonymous source inside the facility who said, “A sewage truck pumped out tanks every two ...