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Prison Legal News: February, 2018

Issue PDF
Volume 29, Number 2

In this issue:

  1. Prison Broke: The Missouri Department of Corrections Can’t Escape its Own Worst Habits (p 1)
  2. Sexual Harassment Lawsuits, Settlements Rock Missouri Department of Corrections (p 15)
  3. From the Editor (p 16)
  4. HRDC Files Class-action Suit Over CDCR Debit Release Cards (p 16)
  5. Kentucky County Jail Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit for $75,000 (p 17)
  6. Seventh Circuit: No Summary Judgment for 11-Year ACL Surgery Denial (p 18)
  7. Federal Court Holds PLN Lawsuit Challenging ADX Censorship Not Moot (p 19)
  8. Unable to Find Work, Some Former Prisoners Become Entrepreneurs (p 20)
  9. TRO Requires Pennsylvania Jail to Provide Hormone Treatment (p 22)
  10. Fifth Circuit Upholds Attorney’s 15-Year Sentence for Fake Bribery Scam (p 23)
  11. Arkansas Conducts Four Executions in One Week Due to Expiring Lethal Injection Drugs (p 24)
  12. Ninth Circuit: Washington Civil Rights Suit Not Tolled by State Presentment Statute (p 25)
  13. Lawsuits Challenge Treatment of Pregnant Prisoners at Milwaukee County Jail (p 26)
  14. Indiana Jail’s Overdetention of Pretrial Detainees Erroneously Denied Class-action Status (p 27)
  15. Oregon County Pays $1.1 Million for Death of Detainee Mocked by Guards (p 28)
  16. Eighth Circuit Upholds $1.25 Million Jury Award for Missouri Prisoner’s Death (p 29)
  17. Clock is Ticking on Understaffing in Florida’s Prison System (p 30)
  18. Estimated 10.35 Million Prisoners Worldwide, Three Million in Pre-trial Detention (p 31)
  19. Virginia: Undocumented Immigrant Receives $12,000 Settlement for Overdetention (p 32)
  20. $7.9 Million Award Against New York County and Medical Contractor in Jail Suicide Case (p 32)
  21. Pennsylvania: $20,000 Settlement for Prisoner’s ADA Claim (p 33)
  22. Co-pays Deter Prisoners from Accessing Medical Care (p 34)
  23. Class Certified in Lawsuit Alleging Flaws in Illinois’ Prison Healthcare System (p 35)
  24. Missouri Supreme Court: Restitution Must be for Losses “Due to” Crime of Conviction (p 36)
  25. Stipulation to Admit Video Created Error When Video Was Excluded at Trial (p 36)
  26. Lawsuit Alleges Inadequate BOP Mental Health Treatment in SMU (p 38)
  27. Poor and Mentally Ill Languish in Mississippi Jails for Months or Years Awaiting Indictments (p 38)
  28. Ohio Experiences Continued Problems with Aramark (p 40)
  29. $11.5 Million Awarded in Suits Over Wisconsin Jailer’s Sexual Assaults (p 42)
  30. Ninth Circuit Reinstates Prisoner’s Excessive Force Suit (p 42)
  31. Texas State Jail Guard Indicted for Leaking Video of Tear Gassing (p 43)
  32. New FAMM Report Offers Solutions for BOP Recidivism (p 44)
  33. Prisoner Suicides a Problem in Oklahoma (p 44)
  34. CoreCivic Prison in Tennessee Plagued with Problems (p 46)
  35. New York: Prison Disciplinary Witness Request Improperly Denied (p 47)
  36. Prisoner Abuse at Parchman: Minimum Punishment and Impeded Investigations (p 48)
  37. Louisiana Prisons Present Immense Environmental Dangers (p 48)
  38. Canada to Apologize, Pay $10.5 Million to Former Guantanamo Detainee (p 50)
  39. Record Number of Florida Prisoners Died in 2016, 2017 (p 50)
  40. California Billionaire Pushes States to Adopt “Marsy’s Law” (p 52)
  41. North Carolina Brothers Settle Lawsuit Over 31 Years of Wrongful Imprisonment (p 54)
  42. Prison Policy Initiative Report Addresses Jail Populations (p 54)
  43. California Jail Doctor Faces Medical Board Discipline for Negligent Care (p 55)
  44. $637,500 Settlement for Texas Jail Suicide (p 56)
  45. Total Cost of Pretrial Detention Estimated at up to $140 Billion Annually (p 56)
  46. French Officials to Install Phones in 50,000 Prison Cells (p 57)
  47. Oregon Juvenile Prisoners Denied Law Libraries, Legal Assistance; Claims Not Heck-Barred (p 58)
  48. Ninth Circuit Blocks Deportation of ICE Detainee Who Received $125,000 for County Jail Rape (p 58)
  49. Report Critical of BOP’s Solitary Confinement Policy for Mentally Ill Prisoners (p 58)
  50. Texas: Federal Court Grants Injunction Against Discriminatory Money Bail System (p 60)
  51. News in Brief (p 63)

Prison Broke: The Missouri Department of Corrections Can’t Escape its Own Worst Habits

by Karen Dillon, The Pitch

Each day, as she prepared herself to work another shift at the Missouri Department of Corrections prison, Lashonda Reid knew to expect one thing.

It would be bad.

Reid had been called a “n****r,” a “token n****r,” “sexual chocolate.” She ...

Sexual Harassment Lawsuits, Settlements Rock Missouri Department of Corrections

by Derek Gilna

The Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC), roiled by a series of lawsuits and settlements related to workplace sexual harassment of female employees, has been called “dysfunctional” by a special state legislative committee investigating DOC operations. Responding to a report by The Pitch magazine that detailed millions in ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

This month’s cover story delves into the sexual harassment of Missouri DOC employees by their co-workers. As we see from recent news reports, relatively powerful men in the media and entertainment industry resign or get fired because they either can’t or won’t keep their comments or hands ...

HRDC Files Class-action Suit Over CDCR Debit Release Cards

by Derek Gilna

The Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), the parent organization of Prison Legal News, filed a complaint on January 12, 2018 seeking class-action status in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The lawsuit alleges unlawful and exploitative practices by JPay, Inc., Sunrise Banks ...

Kentucky County Jail Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit for $75,000

by Derek Gilna

On June 16, 2017, Dianna Reynolds, a former employee at the Boyd County Detention Center in Kentucky, settled her lawsuit against jailer Joe Burchett over sexual harassment by a supervisor. The county agreed to pay her $75,000. Reynolds had alleged that co-worker Jeffrey Scott Salyer had ...

Seventh Circuit: No Summary Judgment for 11-Year ACL Surgery Denial

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has vacated a summary judgment order in favor of three prison doctors and a warden who denied a prisoner ACL surgery for over a decade.

Illinois state prisoner Herbert Diggs injured his right knee in 2006. For the next three years he complained to ...

Federal Court Holds PLN Lawsuit Challenging ADX Censorship Not Moot

by Matt Clarke

On August 14, 2017, a Colorado federal district court vacated its prior order granting a motion to dismiss filed by the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and held that a lawsuit filed by Prison Legal News challenging censorship at the supermax Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) in Florence ...

Unable to Find Work, Some Former Prisoners Become Entrepreneurs

by Matt Clarke

It’s an age-old story. Despite EEOC guidance instructing employers not to have blanket policies against hiring ex-felons – and efforts to lift restrictions on occupational licenses for former prisoners – those released from prison soon become familiar with every variation of the word “no” when seeking jobs ...

TRO Requires Pennsylvania Jail to Provide Hormone Treatment

A Pennsylvania federal district court issued a temporary restraining order on July 7, 2017 that required the Lackawanna County Prison (LCP) to provide hormone drugs to treat a transgender prisoner diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

Steven Fritz, who identifies as Sparkle Wilson, “has lived and presented herself as a woman since ...

Fifth Circuit Upholds Attorney’s 15-Year Sentence for Fake Bribery Scam

On March 14, 2017, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a criminal defense lawyer’s 18 convictions for scamming defendants into paying large sums of money in a fake scheme to bribe federal officials to dismiss their cases.

Abraham Moses Fisch, aka Anthony Fisch, was a Texas defense attorney who ...

Arkansas Conducts Four Executions in One Week Due to Expiring Lethal Injection Drugs

by David M. Reutter

As its lethal injection drug supply neared expiration last year, Arkansas embarked upon the most ambitious death penalty plan since capital punishment was revived by the Supreme Court in 1976: The state scheduled eight executions over an 11-day period in April 2017. Protests and court challenges ...

Ninth Circuit: Washington Civil Rights Suit Not Tolled by State Presentment Statute

by Lonnie Burton

On April 7, 2017, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a district court’s denial of a motion to dismiss filed by county defendants who asserted that a former prisoner’s 42 U.S.C. § 1983 lawsuit was time-barred. The appellate court rejected the plaintiff’s ...

Lawsuits Challenge Treatment of Pregnant Prisoners at Milwaukee County Jail

by Matt Clarke

Five women who served time at Wisconsin’s Milwaukee County jail have filed lawsuits against the county and former Sheriff David Clarke, Jr., alleging mistreatment while they were pregnant – including shackling, the death of one child and the stillbirth of another.

Shadé Swayzer was eight months pregnant ...

Indiana Jail’s Overdetention of Pretrial Detainees Erroneously Denied Class-action Status

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed an Indiana federal district court’s denial of class-action status for a subclass in a civil rights action alleging that the policies and practices of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office caused pretrial detainees at the county jail awaiting release to be held for an ...

Oregon County Pays $1.1 Million for Death of Detainee Mocked by Guards

"Deschutes County has paid what appears to be the largest settlement or verdict against a governmental entity for jail abuse, neglect or death ever in Oregon,” said attorney Jennifer Coughlin, referring to the $1,025,000 settlement she accepted in January 2017 on behalf of the family of a ...

Eighth Circuit Upholds $1.25 Million Jury Award for Missouri Prisoner’s Death

by Matt Clarke

On June 22, 2017, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a jury award of more than $1.25 million in a lawsuit over a Missouri prisoner’s death.

Danial Letterman was held at the Western Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in a secured, padded room under suicide ...

Clock is Ticking on Understaffing in Florida’s Prison System

by David M. Reutter

Increases in use-of-force incidents, violence and disturbances in Florida prisons have been blamed on understaffing, a problem ticking like a time bomb in the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC).

Guards employed by the FDOC, which is the third-largest prison system in the U.S., are among ...

Estimated 10.35 Million Prisoners Worldwide, Three Million in Pre-trial Detention

by Derek Gilna

The Institute of Criminal Policy Research (ICPR), part of the Birkbeck University of London, has collected statistics that indicate approximately three million people were held in pre-trial/remand detention worldwide as of the end of November 2016. According to the ICPR, its data “shows the number of ...

Virginia: Undocumented Immigrant Receives $12,000 Settlement for Overdetention

by David M. Reutter

In May 2017, the sheriff’s office in Henrico County, Virginia entered into a $12,000 settlement to resolve a lawsuit alleging an undocumented immigrant was held in jail beyond his scheduled release date.

Following his arrest for drunk driving, James S. Alfaro-Garcia, an undocumented immigrant from ...

$7.9 Million Award Against New York County and Medical Contractor in Jail Suicide Case

A New York federal jury awarded $7.9 million to the estate of Bartholomew Ryan, 32, who committed suicide at the Nassau County Jail. The jury found the county and its medical contractor, Armor Correctional Health Services, were negligent and had violated Ryan’s constitutional rights.

Ryan was a Marine Corps ...

Pennsylvania: $20,000 Settlement for Prisoner’s ADA Claim

A lawsuit alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act led the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PDOC) to pay $20,000 and agree to provide “reasonable therapy or reasonable accommodation” to prisoner Donald Scott.

Scott suffered a severe stroke in February 2010, which resulted in brain ...

Co-pays Deter Prisoners from Accessing Medical Care

by Christopher Zoukis

More than four decades have passed since Estelle v. Gamble, the 1976 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which held prisoners cannot be denied necessary medical care under the Eighth Amendment. But when cash-strapped state Departments of Corrections charge co-pays for health care provided to sick prisoners – ...

Class Certified in Lawsuit Alleging Flaws in Illinois’ Prison Healthcare System

In April 2017, an Illinois federal district court certified a civil rights class-action consisting of “all prisoners in the custody of Illinois Department of Corrections [IDOC] with serious medical or dental needs.” The suit seeks injunctive relief from future harm due to the IDOC’s “flawed healthcare systems.”

State ...

Missouri Supreme Court: Restitution Must be for Losses “Due to” Crime of Conviction

The en banc Missouri Supreme Court held that a trial court may order restitution only for “losses ‘due to’ the offense for which the defendant has been found (or pleaded) guilty.”

Under Mo. Rev. Stat. 559.105.1, “any person who has been found guilty of or has pled ...

Stipulation to Admit Video Created Error When Video Was Excluded at Trial

On July 14, 2017, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals remanded a civil rights action for a new trial after it found the exclusion of a video left it with “no assurance that [the plaintiff’s] claim was fairly tried.”

The case stemmed from the December 19, 2007 attempted suicide ...

Lawsuit Alleges Inadequate BOP Mental Health Treatment in SMU

by David M. Reutter

A federal class-action suit filed in June 2017 paints the U.S. Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania essentially as a solitary confinement warehouse filled with prisoners who suffer from serious mental illness. The suit alleges that prisoners are given crossword and Sudoku puzzles in place of counseling ...

Poor and Mentally Ill Languish in Mississippi Jails for Months or Years Awaiting Indictments

by David M. Reutter

Some people arrested on felony charges in Mississippi face months, a year or even longer in jail before they are indicted. Some are never indicted before their release. All have one thing in common: they are too poor to afford an attorney or post bond.

According ...

Ohio Experiences Continued Problems with Aramark

by Christopher Zoukis

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) over­paid food service giant Aramark $57,193 for food provided to nonexistent prisoners, investigators found.

The overpayment was uncovered by the state Office of the Inspector General (OIG). According to a June 15, 2017 report, the OIG began investigating ...

$11.5 Million Awarded in Suits Over Wisconsin Jailer’s Sexual Assaults

by Matt Clarke

On February 3, 2017, a jury in Madison, Wisconsin awarded two women $11.5 million in the first two of five federal lawsuits brought by former Polk County jail prisoners who were sexually abused by former guard Darryl Christensen. The awards came a year after Christensen, then-49 ...

Ninth Circuit Reinstates Prisoner’s Excessive Force Suit

On April 27, 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a district court’s dismissal of a prisoner’s federal civil rights lawsuit alleging excessive use of force by a guard. The case had been dismissed for non-exhaustion of administrative remedies, but the appellate court held the failure of prison officials ...

Texas State Jail Guard Indicted for Leaking Video of Tear Gassing

On December 8, 2016, Elderick Brass, a former Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) lieutenant, was indicted for misuse of official information for leaking a video that showed tear gas being deployed against prisoners at the Pam Lynchner State Jail in May 2015.

The TDCJ admitted that the video showed ...

New FAMM Report Offers Solutions for BOP Recidivism

by Derek Gilna

After extensive research, Families Against Mandatory Minimum (FAMM), which advocates for sentencing reform, published a report in May 2017 that highlighted numerous suggestions for reducing recidivism rates for federal prisoners.

According to FAMM, “almost one-half (49.3%) of the offenders released in 2005 were rearrested for a ...

Prisoner Suicides a Problem in Oklahoma

by Matt Clarke

A rash of suicides at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary (OSP) in McAlester gave it the highest suicide rate among Oklahoma prisons – six times that of the second-highest.

According to a February 20, 2017 article by Oklahoma Watch, between 2012 and 2015, nine OSP prisoners committed suicide ...

CoreCivic Prison in Tennessee Plagued with Problems

by David M. Reutter

Less than two years after opening the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center (TTCC) in January 2016, the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) imposed a $43,750 fine against the prison’s private operator, Nashville-based CoreCivic.

Formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, and the nation’s largest for-profit prison ...

New York: Prison Disciplinary Witness Request Improperly Denied

The New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Division has held that a prison disciplinary hearing officer improperly denied a prisoner’s request to call witnesses. As such, the court remanded the case for a new disciplinary hearing.

Based upon confidential information, New York state prisoner Christopher Ellison was issued a misconduct report ...

Prisoner Abuse at Parchman: Minimum Punishment and Impeded Investigations

by David M. Reutter

A federal investigation into an assault on a prisoner by guards at Mississippi’s State Penitentiary at Parchman included a claim that then-Superintendent Earnest Lee impeded the prison’s own review of the incident.

As previously reported in PLN, another FBI investigation resulted in federal charges against four ...

Louisiana Prisons Present Immense Environmental Dangers

by Daniel Horowitz

For many people it will come as no surprise that Louisiana has an extensive prison system. Considered the world’s prison capital, the state imprisons more adults per capita than any other state in the U.S. With 132 detention facilities and more than 30,000 prisoners throughout ...

Canada to Apologize, Pay $10.5 Million to Former Guantanamo Detainee

by Christopher Zoukis

The Canadian government has agreed to pay $10.5 million to Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who was held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as an enemy combatant for over a decade. Canadian officials also agreed to apologize to Khadr for his ...

Record Number of Florida Prisoners Died in 2016, 2017

by David M. Reutter

A record number of prisoners – 356 – died while in the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) in 2016. Even more died during 2017.

Topping the chart in 2016 was Dade Correctional Institution (DCI) with 13 deaths – twice the number of any other prison except Charlotte Correctional Institution, which had 7, and facilities that house elderly or ill prisoners.

 DCI has been under scrutiny since the Miami Herald published an investigative report about the death of Darren Rainey, 50, a schizophrenic prisoner serving a drug-related sentence who was fatally scalded in a shower in the facility’s mental health unit on June 23, 2012 – apparently as part of a sadistic punishment by guards. [See: PLN, April 2017, p.38; Feb. 2016, p.1].

Despite a letter sent to State Attorney Katherine Frenández Rundle by advocacy group Stop Prison Abuse Now (SPAN), no official explanation has been forthcoming as to why no one was held accountable for Rainey’s death. Prosecutors announced in March 2017 that criminal charges would not be filed against prison staff.

In 2000, there were just 191 deaths among FDOC prisoners. The increase in the system’s mortality rate since then ...

California Billionaire Pushes States to Adopt “Marsy’s Law”

by Matt Clarke

California billionaire Dr. Henry T. Nicholas and his mother entered a grocery store in 1983, a few days after his sister, Marsalee, was murdered. There they ran into her boyfriend, who had been arrested for the crime. They were surprised, shocked. Just coming from a visit to ...

North Carolina Brothers Settle Lawsuit Over 31 Years of Wrongful Imprisonment

by Matt Clarke

On April 11, 2017, two North Carolina brothers who had been wrongfully convicted and spent 31 years in prison before being exonerated of a rape-murder by DNA evidence moved to dismiss their lawsuit against the government agencies and law enforcement officers complicit in their wrongful convictions, following ...

Prison Policy Initiative Report Addresses Jail Populations

by Derek Gilna

The non-profit, Massachusetts-based Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) published a report on May 31, 2017 that argued local jails, which hold “one of every three people behind bars” in the United States, have for too long been ignored by state policymakers. “Jails may be locally controlled, but jail ...

California Jail Doctor Faces Medical Board Discipline for Negligent Care

by Monte McCoin

According to an October 2017 news report, an investigation by the Medical Board of California found that Dr. Michelle A. Thomas was negligent in the care of five prisoners at the Fresno County Jail in 2014 and 2015. Thomas could face a reprimand, probation or revocation of ...

$637,500 Settlement for Texas Jail Suicide

On March 9, 2017, Ochiltree County, Texas settled a lawsuit brought by the family of a woman who committed suicide at the local jail, agreeing to pay $637,500. The county also paid guardian ad litem fees of $10,100 and agreed to change policies at the facility to help ...

Total Cost of Pretrial Detention Estimated at up to $140 Billion Annually

According to a report by the Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) released in January 2017, U.S. taxpayers “spend approximately $38 million per day to jail people who are awaiting trial (63% of the total jail population, or more than 450,000 individuals on any given day).” The report noted ...

French Officials to Install Phones in 50,000 Prison Cells

by Monte McCoin

In a bold move designed to reduce cell phone trafficking and improve rehabilitative efforts, on January 2, 2018, French officials opened the bidding process for a telecom provider to install landline telephones in each of 50,000 cells in 178 prisons. The justice ministry said the program ...

Oregon Juvenile Prisoners Denied Law Libraries, Legal Assistance; Claims Not Heck-Barred

On June 5, 2017, an Oregon federal district court refused to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a state prisoner who alleged he was denied access to a law library and legal assistance while confined in a juvenile facility.

Hector Fernando Canales-Robles and Saamir Lopez-Cervantes were both 17 years old when ...

Ninth Circuit Blocks Deportation of ICE Detainee Who Received $125,000 for County Jail Rape

by Derek Gilna

In August 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the deportation of Audemio Orozco-Ramirez, an undocumented Mexican immigrant who was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2013, confined at the Jefferson County jail in Montana and held pending a civil removal order. While incarcerated ...

Report Critical of BOP’s Solitary Confinement Policy for Mentally Ill Prisoners

by Derek Gilna

In July 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued a report highly critical of the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) policy of confining mentally ill prisoners in Restrictive Housing Units (RHUs). The report detailed not only the failure of the BOP ...

Texas: Federal Court Grants Injunction Against Discriminatory Money Bail System

by Derek Gilna

U.S. District Court Judge Lee H. Rosenthal, of the Eastern District of Texas, issued a 193-page opinion on April 28, 2017 that effectively gutted what she termed a “discriminatory money bail system” in Harris County, which includes Houston.

PLN has long covered problems with the money ...

News in Brief

Alabama: If you’re running a check forgery ring, it’s not a good idea to pass fake checks from the bank account of a law enforcement agency. Several defendants learned that the hard way after they operated a check cashing scheme that targeted the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. On June 9 ...