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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: March, 2018

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Volume 29, Number 3

In this issue:

  1. From Cages to the Community: Prison Profiteers and the Treatment Industrial Complex (p 1)
  2. PCI Announces Awards for Private Prison Activism, Advocacy, News Reporting (p 12)
  3. Fifth Circuit Okays Mississippi County’s Strip Search of 12-Year-Old Girl (p 13)
  4. From the Editor (p 14)
  5. Ohio Experiences Continued Problems with Aramark (p 14)
  6. Deaths Soar 600 Percent at Nevada Jail Under New Sheriff (p 16)
  7. Fourth Circuit Vacates Sua Sponte Dismissal Due to Non-exhaustion (p 18)
  8. Settlements in Arizona DOC, BOP Lawsuits Over Release Debit Card Fees (p 18)
  9. Two Cellmates Die at Private Louisiana Jail (p 20)
  10. $50,000 Damage Award Garnished for Restitution Payment (p 20)
  11. Four Guilty in Federal Student Loan Scam Using Prisoners’ Identities (p 21)
  12. Alaska DOC’s 1990 Prison Conditions Settlement Still Enforceable (p 22)
  13. Declaratory Judgment in Mississippi Case Challenging Indefinite Jail Detention (p 22)
  14. Overworked South Koreans Relax at Prison-themed Retreat (p 23)
  15. Oregon Parole Board Cannot Postpone Elapsed Release Date (p 24)
  16. Ineffective Treatment of Ohio Prisoner’s Psoriasis Defeats Summary Judgment (p 24)
  17. San Quentin’s “Ear Hustle” Podcast Makes History, Receives Praise (p 25)
  18. Tenth Circuit: Lengthy Denials of Outdoor Exercise Protected by Qualified Immunity (p 26)
  19. Hopes of Prosperity from Jail Boom has Kentucky County in Financial Trouble (p 26)
  20. Tennessee Drug Court Judge Imprisons Participants for Smoking Cigarettes (p 27)
  21. $111,000 Settlement for Wrongfully Incarcerated Ohio Prisoner (p 28)
  22. Despite AG’s Policy Change, OIG Reviews “Smart on Crime” Initiative (p 28)
  23. $242,500 Settles Jail Rape Suit in Okla. (p 29)
  24. Illinois Taxpayers Still Paying for a Paid-off Jail (p 29)
  25. Will “Dunkirk’s” Use of Prison Labor in Set Construction Disqualify it from the Oscars? (p 30)
  26. $5 Million Settles Jail Detainee’s Death (p 30)
  27. $35,000 Settlement in Kentucky Excessive Force Suit (p 31)
  28. Virginia Prisoner’s Name Change Request for Religious Purpose Requires Hearing (p 32)
  29. PLRA Strikes Accruing After Notice of Appeal Do Not Count to Determine IFP Eligibility (p 32)
  30. Contempt Motion Filed after Pennsylvania Officials Refuse to Release Detainee (p 33)
  31. California: State Immune from Bane Act Claim for Valley Fever Exposure (p 34)
  32. Pervasive Masturbation in Cook County Jail Spurs Class-action Suits, Injunction (p 34)
  33. Mississippi Attorney General Settles with Third Company in Epps Bribery Scandal (p 35)
  34. Pregnant Prisoners Offered Adoption Choice: An Act of Love or Exploitation? (p 36)
  35. $25,000 Settlement to Colorado Jail Prisoner Denied a Quran (p 36)
  36. Oregon Court: Dismissals Are “Strikes” While Pending on Appeal (p 38)
  37. Illinois Prisoner’s Petition Challenging Disciplinary Report States Cause of Action (p 38)
  38. $125,000 Settlement After Failure to Protect Verdict in Virginia (p 39)
  39. Idaho DOC Uses Prisoner Volunteers for Suicide Watches (p 40)
  40. Report Finds Texas Death Row Conditions Violate Basic Human Rights (p 40)
  41. First-time Burglary Offender Eligible for Pennsylvania DOC’s Recidivism Program (p 42)
  42. Summary Judgment Reversed for Delay in Treating Prisoner in Extreme Pain (p 42)
  43. Illinois Sheriff Settles Federal Class-action Suit Over Strip Searches (p 43)
  44. Alaska: Jurors’ Explanation of Negligence Verdict Doesn’t Warrant New Trial (p 44)
  45. Florida Prisoners with Disabilities to Receive Accommodations Under Settlement (p 44)
  46. Georgia Toddler Initially Denied Kidney Due to Father’s Parole Violation (p 45)
  47. Despite Suicides, Jails Replace In-person Visitation with Video Screens (p 46)
  48. Alabama Sheriff Fights to Keep Extra Funds Meant to Feed Prisoners (p 48)
  49. Two Georgia Prison Transport Guards Slain (p 50)
  50. Statute of Limitations for Oregon Child Sex Abuse Claims Expires at Age 40, Not 24 (p 51)
  51. Oregon Jail “Tortures” Mentally Ill Prisoners (p 52)
  52. Indictment Alleges Prison Healthcare Company Bribed Texas State Senator (p 53)
  53. Kansas DOC Raids Inmate Benefit Fund for $6.7 Million (p 54)
  54. DHS Report Shows “Significant Prison Population of Incarcerated Aliens” (p 54)
  55. $27,000 Settles California Prisoner Pro Se Civil Rights Suit (p 55)
  56. Texas State Prisoners Fight for Access to Kosher Meals (p 56)
  57. Kansas DOC Underestimates Cost of New Prison by $51 Million (p 56)
  58. Prison Doctor Dies of Legionnaires’ Disease (p 57)
  59. Major Scabies Outbreak at CoreCivic Facility in Tennessee (p 58)
  60. Federal Lawsuit Filed in Dehydration Death at Wisconsin Jail; Three Jailers Charged (p 59)
  61. $5 Million Settlement After Mentally Ill Prisoner Dies in Restraint (p 60)
  62. Federal Judge Grants Compassionate Release but Questions BOP’s Motivation (p 61)
  63. News in Brief (p 63)

From Cages to the Community: Prison Profiteers and the Treatment Industrial Complex

by Christopher Zoukis

Criminal justice reform is slowly taking hold in the U.S. Since 2014, at least 30 states have passed legislation aimed at reducing their prison populations. And following the election of “law and order” President Donald J. Trump, states have continued to take reform efforts into their own hands – since improvements on the federal level appear unlikely. According to an April 2017 Pew Research Center report, those efforts have been working; from 2009 to 2015, the combined state and federal prison population has dropped by over 5%.

This is encouraging news for just about everyone. But for those who profit from our nation’s perverse system of mass incarceration, the news is not so welcome. In fact, it’s downright frightening. The Pew report, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, found that private prison populations have declined by a profit-pinching 8% since 2012.

So what is a prison profiteer to do? Diversify – and follow the money.

The Treatment Industrial Complex

While the prison population has dipped slightly in recent years, vast sums are pouring into what the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and other human rights organizations have referred to as the ...

PCI Announces Awards for Private Prison Activism, Advocacy, News Reporting

On February 6, 2018, the Private Corrections Institute (PCI), a non-profit citizen watchdog organization, announced its 2017 awards for individual activism, organizational advocacy and excellence in news reporting related to the private prison industry.

PCI opposes the privatization of correctional services, including the operation of prisons, jails and other detention facilities by for-profit companies such as CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) and The GEO Group, which trade on the New York Stock Exchange as CXW and GEO, respectively. PCI also opposes the privatization of prison and jail medical, mental health, transportation, commissary, telephone, food, probation and community corrections services.

The recipient of PCI’s 2017 award for excellence in news reporting on the private prison industry was Demetria Kalodimos, until recently an anchor and reporter for WSMV Channel 4, an NBC affiliate based in Nashville, Tennessee. Throughout 2017, she produced a number of hard-hitting reports about the CoreCivic-operated Trousdale Turner Correctional Center (TTCC). Her reporting covered allegations of inadequate medical care, violence, gang activity and criticism from former employees, as well as the results of a state audit that found serious deficiencies at the prison. [See: PLN, Feb. 2018, p.46]. She also reported on problems at the CoreCivic-operated South ...

Fifth Circuit Okays Mississippi County’s Strip Search of 12-Year-Old Girl

On February 21, 2017, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court’s grant of summary judgment to Lee County, Mississippi in a lawsuit over a pre-teen girl who was strip searched after being brought to a county detention facility.

Twelve-year-old T.M. was in a physical altercation with another student at Tupelo Middle School. A police officer arrested her for assault, disorderly conduct and disruption of a school session after a Youth Court designee, who spoke with him on the phone, determined there was probable cause for the arrest. T.M. was handcuffed, pat searched and taken to the Lee County Juvenile Detention Center.

The detention center had a policy of strip searching incoming juveniles who were charged with violent offenses prior to placing them in general population. In a private setting, a female guard made T.M. “strip naked, bend over, spread her buttocks, display the anal cavity, and cough.” No contraband was found. Later that evening, T.M. was released. No charges were filed against her.

T.M.’s mother, Nichole Mabry, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the county and others involved in her daughter’s strip search. The district court granted the county’s ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

For the past 27 years we have reported on the private prison industry and its expansion. Despite a lot of rhetoric and dire or optimistic predictions (depending on who was making them at the time and their financial relationship with for-profit prison companies), the private prison industry has been largely stagnant in the past decade or so, controlling only about 8% of the nation’s prison population.

Companies like CoreCivic (formerly CCA) and GEO Group have made incredible profits confining immigrant detainees under sweetheart contracts that pay them much higher amounts for housing a fairly docile population. Given the vast over-classification of prisoners requiring maximum security, the pool of prisoners available to private prisons is somewhat limited. As previously reported in PLN, the private prison industry’s biggest fiascos have resulted from their attempts to run minimum- and medium-security facilities, where rapes, murders, escapes, riots and other assorted mayhem has resulted in unwanted media attention.

With the nation’s prison population in very modest decline, and the immigrant detainee population stubbornly refusing to grow despite President Trump’s best efforts, the for-profit prison industry is now expanding into “rehab” and reentry programs. We will see how well they fare. On the ...

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 Aramark after learning of a dispute between the company and the Michigan Department of Corrections over billing discrepancies in excess of $3 million. [See: PLN, Jan. 2018, p.46].

Aramark has held the contract to provide meals to Ohio state prisoners for over four years. The state pays the company around $60 million annually to feed more than 50,000 prisoners in 31 ODRC facilities. Meals provided by Aramark cost the state around $1.31 each.

In January 2017, the union representing ODRC employees submitted its third bid to take over prison food services upon completion of Aramark’s contract the following June. The price per meal quoted by the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) was $1.226 – low enough to save the state $4.4 million per year.

After rejecting OCSEA’s initial bid in 2013, state prison officials fined Aramark $235,000 for several contract violations – including ...

Deaths Soar 600 Percent at Nevada Jail Under New Sheriff

by David M. Reutter

An investigative report by the Reno Gazette-Journal found that 13 detainees died at WCJ in the two years since Allen took office. Just two were ruled deaths by natural causes; the others resulted from two accidents, six suicides and three deaths by restraint. Only 10 prisoners ...

Fourth Circuit Vacates Sua Sponte Dismissal Due to Non-exhaustion

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has vacated a district court’s sua sponte dismissal of a prisoner’s lawsuit for failure to exhaust available administrative remedies.

The Virginia Department of Corrections’ (VDOC) grievance procedure requires prisoners to first submit an informal complaint. Staff must respond within 15 days. If the informal complaint does not resolve the issue, the prisoner may submit a regular grievance “within 30 calendar days” of the “occurrence/incident.” The prisoner is responsible for submitting an informal complaint early enough for it to be resolved within the time limit for filing a regular grievance.

If the regular grievance fails to meet the criteria for acceptance, it must be returned to the prisoner “within two working days.” The denial may then be appealed to the Regional Ombudsman within five days.

Virginia prisoner Ryricka Nikita Custis was assigned to a bottom bunk in a bottom-tier cell at Sussex I State Prison because he is missing toes on his right foot. On August 18, 2014, however, Custis was temporarily moved to an upper-tier cell. While ascending the stairs to his cell in early September 2014, Custis fell and injured his neck and back.

Custis filed an informal complaint on ...

Settlements in Arizona DOC, BOP Lawsuits Over Release Debit Card Fees

by Derek Gilna

The parties in a class-action suit filed in federal district court, which alleged Bank of America (BOA) charged excessive fees for debit cards given to Arizona state prisoners upon their release, reached a preliminary settlement in April 2017. Prisoner advocacy groups had argued that BOA deducted fees from the debit cards that prisoners received when they were released, which contained their own funds, each time they tried to withdraw money or check the card balance.

“Under a program for Arizona’s Department of Corrections, the State of Arizona provides recently released inmates with a prepaid card (‘BofA CashPay card’) containing funds issued by BofA (‘DOC Program Prepaid Cards’),” a statement announcing the settlement said.

The fees were not charged to regular BOA bank customers, and groups like Arizona Justice Alliance and Reinventing Reentry complained, stating the fees were exploiting released prisoners.

Prison Legal News has previously covered exploitive release debit cards and the mutually-beneficial contractual arrangements between the banks that issue them and corrections officials. [See: PLN, April 2016, p.38].

BOA’s contract with the Arizona DOC commenced in 2012, and since then the bank had collected $168,000 in fees – all of which will be ...

Two Cellmates Die at Private Louisiana Jail

by David M. Reutter

A bizarre incident that resulted in the deaths of two pretrial detainees at the Richwood Correctional Center (RCC) in Louisiana reflects how understaffing and inadequate training at privately-operated jails can have life-changing consequences.

Following a traffic stop, Vernon Ramone White, Sr., 28, was arrested on charges of having no license, no insurance and an outstanding bench warrant for an unpaid traffic ticket. Two days after his October 10, 2015 arrest, White was involved in a fight with another prisoner. Guards placed him in a lockdown cell – “an isolation cell for problematic inmates” – with Erie Moore, who was in isolation due to his “erratic and violent” behavior.

Despite the fact that Lt. Hardwell and Capt. Douglas learned on the morning of October 13, 2015 that White and Moore were involved in an altercation, they were not separated. At 5 p.m., Moore was observed on video gesticulating wildly, pointing and pacing. A few minutes later he was seen creating a mask from a Styrofoam tray and holding it to his face.

At 5:13, White banged on the cell door but guards did not respond. A minute later Moore grabbed White, who unsuccessfully tried to ...

$50,000 Damage Award Garnished for Restitution Payment

The Oregon Court of Appeals, on June 28, 2017, upheld the garnishment of a prisoner’s $50,000 federal damage award as partial payment of her restitution judgment.

In 2009, Sandra Quesnoy was convicted of theft charges in Oregon and sentenced to 18 months in prison. The trial court imposed nearly ...

Four Guilty in Federal Student Loan Scam Using Prisoners’ Identities

by Monte McCoin

On January 12, 2018, Mercedes Diaz, 28, was sentenced to two years in prison for her role in an identity theft scheme that preyed upon 181 prisoners in Colorado, Arizona, Ohio, Florida and Illinois between August 2010 and October 2012. Diaz, along with co-conspirators Heather Carr, Marcelle Green and Trammel Thomas, used the prisoners’ identities to apply for federal student loans through community colleges in Colorado and Arizona. The scam netted the group $582,000 in fraudulent student financial aid.

Previously, Carr had been sentenced to four years and 9 months in prison for using her employment at a bank to obtain prisoners’ names, birth dates and Social Security numbers. A federal jury found Thomas guilty of one count of conspiracy to defraud the government and six counts of aiding and abetting mail fraud, while Green entered a guilty plea to similar charges. Both are scheduled to be sentenced in April 2018.

“They took advantage of 181 individuals who had no way of monitoring their credit reports when they are in a prison cell,” U.S. District Court Judge William Martinez said before sentencing Diaz. He added that it will now be that much harder for ...

Alaska DOC’s 1990 Prison Conditions Settlement Still Enforceable

In March 2017, the Alaska Supreme Court held that a 1990 settlement agreement in a class-action prison conditions suit had not been terminated and remained enforceable.

Alaska Department of Corrections (ADOC) prisoners brought a class-action suit challenging prison conditions in 1981. The parties finally resolved the litigation, Cleary v. Smith, in a comprehensive settlement that was incorporated into a 1990 consent decree.

The agreement “included elaborate provisions for future operation of Alaska prisons, enumerated rights of inmates, guaranteed the availability of specific rehabilitative programs and services, required the state to implement an inmate classification system, created population guidelines, and established caps to eliminate overcrowding.” It applied to all present and future prisoners and allowed them to bring compliance challenges after exhausting all available administrative remedies.

In 1999 the state legislature enacted the Alaska Prison Litigation Reform Act (APLRA), AS 09.19.200, which established standards for terminating prospective relief under Cleary and other cases challenging prison conditions.

The ADOC moved to terminate the Cleary consent decree in 2000, pursuant to the APLRA. Prisoners argued that the statute was unconstitutional. Superior Court Judge Elaine M. Andrews concluded that the APLRA was constitutional if it terminated the prospective effect of the ...

Declaratory Judgment in Mississippi Case Challenging Indefinite Jail Detention

by Matt Clarke

A Mississippi federal district court has issued an agreed declaratory judgment in a case brought by two defendants who were held for long periods of time in the Scott County Detention Center without an individualized hearing on bail or appointment of counsel. The court declared that, under Mississippi law, the right to counsel attaches at arrest and an attorney should be appointed promptly thereafter for indigent defendants. Failure to timely appoint counsel would implicate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and indigent arrestees are entitled to prompt individualized bail hearings wherein courts must meaningfully consider alternatives other than money bail when determining how best to ensure a defendant’s presence at trial.

Octavious Burks and Joshua Bassett were arrested for felony offenses and held in the jail without being indicted or given counsel or affordable bail for lengthy periods – over 10 months and eight months, respectively, at the time they filed a federal civil rights suit.

Burks was arrested for attempted armed robbery, felon in possession of a weapon, disorderly conduct and possession of paraphernalia. The arresting officer took him before Justice Court Judge Bill Freeman for an initial appearance. Based on the recommendation of ...

Overworked South Koreans Relax at Prison-themed Retreat

by Monte McCoin

Two hours west of Pyeongchang in South Korea, home of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, guests pay 500,000 Korean won (about $470 U.S.) to stay for a week at Prison Inside Me, a jail-themed meditation center in the snowy mountain village of Hongcheon. Hundreds of customers from around South Korea have checked in since the facility opened in 2008, including office workers, stay-at-home moms and high school students. 

According to a February 10, 2018 report from Canadian news outlet CBC, South Korea is the most overworked nation in Asia, where fourteen-hour days and six-day workweeks aren’t uncommon. South Koreans work an average of 2,069 hours a year.

Suk-won Kang recently visited Prison Inside Me for the third time. “I’m overworking. That’s the main reason I’m here,” he said. The 57-year-old engineer was clocking nearly 70 hours a week at a Kia and Hyundai plant in Seoul. In workaholic South Korea, going to the prison-themed retreat wasn’t punishment; it was his vacation.

Kang occupied one of 28 solitary confinement cells during his stay, enjoying its minimal amenities of a window, table and writing supplies, a tea set, a yoga mat and a panic ...

Oregon Parole Board Cannot Postpone Elapsed Release Date

The Oregon Court of Appeals held on February 15, 2017 that the Oregon Parole Board lacked authority to postpone a prisoner’s release date after that date has passed.

John Jones murdered a woman on May 30, 1988, when he was 17 years old. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. The Oregon Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision (Board) eventually set his release date on June 30, 2012.

Once the Board establishes a release date, the prisoner is entitled to release on that date unless the Board finds that he or she: 1) has engaged in serious misconduct in prison; 2) suffers from a present severe emotional disturbance (PSED) that renders him a danger to the health or safety of the community; or 3) has an inadequate parole plan. See: ORS 144.125. The Board routinely postpones scheduled release dates due to a PSED finding.

Prior to Jones’ June 30, 2012 release date, the Board ordered him to participate in a September 2011 psychological evaluation conducted by a Board-contracted psychologist. The doctor diagnosed him with a mixed personality disorder but concluded he was at low risk of recidivism.

The Board held a November 2011 exit interview ...

Ineffective Treatment of Ohio Prisoner’s Psoriasis Defeats Summary Judgment

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held on July 16, 2017 that an Ohio prisoner presented sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment in a claim that prison medical officials chose a less efficacious treatment method.

Ohio prisoner Kevin Darrah was diagnosed prior to his 2006 imprisonment with Palmo-Plantar-Hyper-Keratoderma (HPK), “a severe form of psoriasis that causes debilitating pain from large and deep fissures that form on the bottom of the feet.” In December 2006, dermatologists in the medical center at the Lebanon Correctional Institution (LCI) examined Darrah and noted his HPK had been treated successfully with Soriatane, and that multiple other treatments had proven ineffective.

Darrah was prescribed Soriatane at LCI, and his medical record showed it was effective and his HPK was “much improved.” He was transferred on January 18, 2011 to Madison Correctional Institution (MCI). At that facility he did not receive Soriatane because it was not listed on the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s (ODRC) drug formulary (list of approved medications). LCI was not regulated by the ODRC’s central pharmacy until March 2012, which is why Darrah did not have issues receiving Soriatane there.

As MCI was regulated by the central pharmacy, medications not ...

San Quentin’s “Ear Hustle” Podcast Makes History, Receives Praise

by Monte McCoin

Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams, both incarcerated at California’s San Quentin State Prison, made broadcasting history by creating “Ear Hustle” – the first podcast from behind prison walls.

The nine-episode first season of “Ear Hustle” has made quite a mark with the media. According to an October 23, 2017 article in the Mercury News, the podcast has been featured in Rolling Stone, Columbia Journalism Review, The Atlantic, Al Jazeera, the Financial Times and even Vogue. Sarah Larson, a New Yorker staff writer, said “Ear Hustle” may be “the best new podcast I’ve heard this year.” More than 1,000 postcards have come in from listeners with questions, comments and accolades about the show.

“When we began talking about this, somebody had to tell me what a podcast was,” Woods said. He and Williams, along with volunteer outside adviser Nigel Poor, work long hours to produce the digital audio files that can be downloaded from the Internet for listening. “We’re trying to do a podcast that talks about everyday life in prison, and to do stories that show the people inside in a more realistic, three-dimensional way,” said Poor. “That includes the people incarcerated as ...

Tenth Circuit: Lengthy Denials of Outdoor Exercise Protected by Qualified Immunity

The Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit issued two decisions in July 2017 which held prison officials were entitled to qualified immunity for denying outdoor exercise to prisoners for 11 and 25 months.

Colorado state prisoners Jonathan Apodaca and Joshua Vigil were denied outdoor recreation during the eleven months they were confined in administrative segregation. Relying on Perkins v. Kansas Department of Corrections, 165 F.3d 803 (10th Cir. 1999) [PLN, Sept. 1999, p.27], they filed suit in federal court, arguing that the denial of outdoor exercise violated the Eighth Amendment. The district court rejected the defendants’ qualified immunity defense and they appealed.

The Tenth Circuit reversed. The Court of Appeals assumed that the deprivation of outdoor exercise for eleven months was a violation of the Eighth Amendment, but held prison officials were entitled to qualified immunity because the underlying constitutional right had not been clearly established in that circuit.

“Roughly three decades ago, we recognized a consensus in the case law regarding the importance of outdoor exercise for prisoners,” the Court explained. “‘There is substantial agreement among the cases ... that some form of regular outdoor exercise is extremely important to the psychological and physical wellbeing of ...

Hopes of Prosperity from Jail Boom has Kentucky County in Financial Trouble

A rural Kentucky county that planned to cash in on the prison and jail building boom in the 1990s is now in dire financial straits. Grant County, which is about 80 miles north of Louisville, is burning through cash to pay off debt on a jail that remains about a third empty.

In 1998, the Grant County Public Properties Corporation sold about $8 million in bonds to expand the local jail from 28 to 300 beds. The plan was to generate profit by leasing the extra bed space to the state.

Grant County estimated it would cost $500,000 a year if the jail housed 250 state prisoners as opposed to $2 million annually if it held only county prisoners. The revenue from housing state prisoners, however, has dropped 21 percent since 2013 to $2.4 million in fiscal year 2015-16.

The county’s fiscal court decided in 2016 to close the facility. But faced with outstanding debt on the jail and the cost to house local prisoners elsewhere, Grant County reversed course. In the interim, the state withdrew its prisoners and some of the employees quit. Because parts of the facility remain closed and it is understaffed, the state has ...

Tennessee Drug Court Judge Imprisons Participants for Smoking Cigarettes

by Monte McCoin

In November 2017, Hamilton County, Tennessee Judge Tom Greenholtz sent several drug court participants to jail for a night after their drug tests came back positive – for nicotine.

“We routinely test for nicotine as we do for other controlled substances,” Greenholtz told Chattanooga TV station News Channel 9. “It shows how serious we are about combatting this.”

Ignoring the fact that nicotine is not a controlled substance and smoking cigarettes is not a crime, the judge said he punished defendants for smoking because he thought it would give them a “better chance at life.”

Indeed, a Columbia University study, published in 2017, found that 11 percent of people who kept smoking while in recovery programs relapsed, compared with around 8 percent who stopped smoking during treatment.

PLN has previously reported on growing scrutiny regarding drug court programs. For 20 years, they have sought to reduce illegal drug use by mandating substance abuse treatment within an overburdened criminal justice system that is generally more punitive than treatment-oriented. However, rather than diverting defendants to drug courts who otherwise would have gone to prison, participants tend to be those who would have received non-prison sentences anyway ...

$111,000 Settlement for Wrongfully Incarcerated Ohio Prisoner

On June 12, 2017, the Ohio Controlling Board voted to settle a wrongful incarceration suit brought by a man whom prosecutors had called a “major supplier” of cocaine, after a judge ignored the reversal of his conviction by an appellate court and kept him in prison.

Frank C. Davis was ...

Despite AG’s Policy Change, OIG Reviews “Smart on Crime” Initiative

by Derek Gilna

In June 2017, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued a report on the U.S. Department of Justice’s “Smart on Crime” initiative. Smart on Crime, instituted in 2013 under Obama-era Attorney General Eric Holder, “encouraged federal prosecutors to focus on the most serious cases that implicate clear, substantial federal interests” and to avoid over-charging low-level drug offenders, according to the report.

However, current Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the initiative in a May 10, 2017 memo that undercut its central theme. He ordered federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials to disregard direction from the Obama administration and pursue charges that typically result in mandatory minimums.

“Prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense,” Sessions wrote. “The most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences.”

When it attempted to study the impact of the Smart on Crime initiative, the OIG discovered that its ability to do so was “limited because [prosecutors] do not consistently collect data on charging decisions ... [and in] the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices’ case management system, [which] allows federal prosecutors generally to track information about their cases, data fields relevant ...

$242,500 Settles Jail Rape Suit in Okla.

On May 24, 2017, Tulsa County officials paid $242,500 to resolve a federal complaint filed by a woman who was reportedly raped by a male prisoner while she was held at the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Aleshia Cyrese Henderson, 20, was suffering from mental ...

Illinois Taxpayers Still Paying for a Paid-off Jail

by Monte McCoin

Residents in Tazewell County, Illinois pay a half-cent public safety sales tax on most purchases inside county lines. The tax was approved by voters in 2000 to pay for the construction of a new $17 million jail. Although the Tazewell County Justice Center building was paid off in 2011, the tax continues to be collected and the sheriff’s annual budget continues to grow.

East Peoria Commissioner Dan Decker publicly questioned the math of the matter. If the public safety sales tax revenues are necessary to manage, maintain and operate the Justice Center, how was it able to keep up with the bills in previous years when $2 million payments were being made on the bonds?

“That’s what I don’t understand,” Decker stated.

According to an October 8, 2017 news report in the Journal Star, Tazewell County Administrator Wendy Ferrill said the tax has raised an average $5.9 million in each of the 15 years it has been collected. It is estimated to raise $6.4 million in 2018. Another county official, Board Chairman David Zimmerman, said, “We absolutely need [the sales tax revenue]. If you took away the half-cent [tax] it would be a catastrophe ...

Will “Dunkirk’s” Use of Prison Labor in Set Construction Disqualify it from the Oscars?

by Mike Elk, Payday Report

The Christopher Nolan-directed epic movie “Dunkirk” has been nominated for 8 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Production Design.

However, prisoners’ rights advocates say that “Dunkirk” should be disqualified from receiving any Oscars due to its use of prison labor in constructing sets in France during production in 2016.

In the official “Dunkirk” companion book, Dunkirk: The History Behind the Major Motion Picture by Josh Levine, set decorator Gary Fettis bragged that the use of prison labor in set construction saved the film money.

“The amount of work needed led to some interesting collaborations,” Fettis wrote on page 327 of the book. “‘The big fenders on the ships, they use giant rubber balls nowadays, but back then they were made out of rope, woven in thick hemp. We had to make about ten of them.’ They found a Dunkirk man who had re-rigged a ship for a local museum. ‘He knew how to weave these bumpers. And he employed prison labour to make them. First-time offenders, kids, they weren’t hard-core criminals.’”

“I hope the producers know, because we saved a lot of money that way,” Fettis boasted.

“Dunkirk” is currently ...

$5 Million Settles Jail Detainee’s Death

Oregon officials have paid $5 mil­­lion to settle claims related to a jail prisoner who died hours after being attacked and denied emergency medical treatment.

Jed Hawk Myers, 34, was being held at the Yamhill County jail in McMinnville, Oregon on a probation violation. On May 27, 2015, guards found ...

$35,000 Settlement in Kentucky Excessive Force Suit

Kentucky’s Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government agreed to pay $35,000 to settle a lawsuit filed in state court that alleged a guard used excessive force against a prisoner at the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections.

The settlement came in a suit brought by former prisoner Pamela Wiley-Stiger, who claimed jailers ...

Virginia Prisoner’s Name Change Request for Religious Purpose Requires Hearing

On August 17, 2017, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled a circuit court had abused its discretion in dismissing a prisoner’s application for a name change based upon religious reasons. The Supreme Court held that a religious reason for a name change presented good cause that requires lower courts to consider evidence and make decisions based upon statutory parameters.

Prisoner James Gardner Dennis petitioned to change his name to James Gardner Wright pursuant to VA Code § 8.01-217. The application sought the name change on grounds that Gardner had converted to the Native American faith, and a “tenet” of his religion required the “consolidation of his name with” that faith. He chose the surname Wright “in obedience to the Great Spirit,” as it was “the last name of his last full-blood Native American” ancestor.

The circuit court dismissed the petition, citing Dennis’ conviction on 20 counts of possession of child pornography, one count of solicitation of a minor over the Internet, one count of sexual abuse and one count of carnal knowledge. On appeal, the Virginia Supreme Court held the dismissal was an abuse of discretion because it came at the first stage of determining whether good cause for ...

PLRA Strikes Accruing After Notice of Appeal Do Not Count to Determine IFP Eligibility

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals held on August 4, 2017 that in determining a prisoner’s in forma pauperis (IFP) motion, a court must look to the date a pleading is filed – and not the date the prisoner’s IFP motion is granted – when assessing whether a particular dismissal counts as a strike under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA).

Federal prisoner Kareena Hassan Millhouse was denied IFP status because a Pennsylvania federal district court determined he had three strikes and was ineligible to proceed IFP under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).

Millhouse filed a Bivens action on August 22, 2014 against several prison employees. The district court denied his motion to proceed IFP on May 5, 2015, and he submitted a notice of appeal on May 19. He then moved on June 15 to proceed IFP on appeal. The case was stayed as the Third Circuit proceeded with an appeal in another case that Millhouse had filed, Millhouse v. Sage.

On February 11, 2016, it was established in Sage that Millhouse had only one prior strike and not three as the district court had determined. While awaiting that ruling and when the stay was still in ...

Contempt Motion Filed after Pennsylvania Officials Refuse to Release Detainee

Officials at Pennsylvania’s York County Prison face a contempt motion filed by an attorney on behalf of a terminally ill pre-trial detainee. The motion claims the officials refused to comply with a court order for the prisoner’s release.

Thomas Nathan Redding, 33, traveled from California to Pennsylvania to visit his parents in June 2016, where he was charged with fleeing an attempted traffic stop. On June 23, 2017, Redding was arrested for an outstanding warrant on the 2016 case, which in turn led to a probation violation warrant in Maryland from a prior burglary conviction.

Redding’s attorney, Jay Whittle, petitioned the York County Common Pleas Court to release his client. The motion was based partly on health concerns, as Redding was in the terminal stages of pancreatic cancer. By July 2017, he had posted $100,000 bail on his new criminal charge, waived extradition to Maryland and had the detainer lifted.

York County Judge Harry Ness said that Redding’s continued incarceration in York County “sounds like unlawful imprisonment,” as there was no longer a legal basis to hold him. The judge entered an order requiring Redding’s “release forthwith,” stating he was to be placed on house arrest and ...

California: State Immune from Bane Act Claim for Valley Fever Exposure

The California Court of Appeal held on August 10, 2017 that the state is immune from liability on a Bane Act claim brought by a prisoner exposed to valley fever.

Valley fever (officially known as Coccidioidomycosis or “cocci”) is an incurable and sometimes fatal fungal infection. The disease can cause debilitating conditions including flu-like symptoms, pneumonia, bone and joint infections, soft tissue abscesses and meningitis. It is contracted by inhaling spores from infected soil in certain areas of the Southwestern United States.

From 1991 to 1993, 70 percent of the reported cases of valley fever in California were reported in Kern County, in the San Joaquin Valley. Sixteen of the state’s 33 prisons are located in that area. As repeatedly reported in PLN, valley fever has become a health crisis in both Arizona and California prisons. [See: PLN, Apr. 2017, p.32; Oct. 2016, p.62; July 2016, p.32; June 2015, p.46; July 2013, p.28; July 2010, p.22; June 2008, p.22; Aug. 2007, p.1].

Dr. John Galgiani, a professor of medicine at the University of Arizona who founded a center that researches valley fever, served as an expert witness in a long-running California class-action ...

Pervasive Masturbation in Cook County Jail Spurs Class-action Suits, Injunction

by Monte McCoin

Two class-action lawsuits claim hundreds of women who work at the jail and courtroom lockups in Cook County, Illinois have been subjected to a hostile work environment as a result of policies maintained by Sheriff Tom Dart and Public Defender Amy Campanelli that allegedly tolerate prisoners who masturbate in front of female staff members.

On November 8, 2017, six attorneys employed with the public defender’s office in Cook County filed a class-action suit that alleges nearly 200 women working in courthouse lockup areas are forced to endure “daily abuses” from detainees, including masturbation in their presence, “verbal threats laden with explicit sexual violence, exposure of detainees’ genitals, and physical attacks.”

According to the complaint, at one point Sheriff Dart instituted a program that gave pizza to prisoners who masturbated in front of staff if they went 30 days without a second sexual misconduct incident. The lawsuit claims the program actually worsened the problem because detainees who hadn’t previously committed indecencies were incentivized to do so to qualify for a pizza reward for not doing it again.

U.S. District Court Judge Matthew F. Kennelly issued a preliminary injunction on November 28, 2017 that requires detainees who ...

Mississippi Attorney General Settles with Third Company in Epps Bribery Scandal

by Monte McCoin

PLN has previously covered the continuing fallout from a massive bribery scandal involving former Mississippi DOC Commissioner Christopher B. Epps, including RICO lawsuits filed by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood against several companies involved in the scandal.

In May 2017, Alere, Inc., which had purchased Branan Medical Corp., one of the firms named in the bribery scheme, settled a suit filed by the Attorney General’s office for $2 million. And in August 2017, Global Tel*Link, the nation’s largest prison telecom provider, agreed to settle the RICO lawsuit filed against it for $2.5 million while admitting no wrongdoing. [See: PLN, Oct. 2017, p.16; Oct. 2015, p.42].

Hood announced on November 29, 2017 that a third company had settled. Sentinel Offender Services, LLC, which provides electronic monitoring, paid $1.3 million to resolve the litigation. “As a company that continues to contract with the state, Sentinel Offender Services agreed to cooperate and settle the case for $1.3 million on a $2 million contract,” the Attorney General said in a statement. “We successfully disgorged them of their ill-gotten profit and then some.”

The Sentinel settlement brought the total damages paid to Mississippi taxpayers ...

Pregnant Prisoners Offered Adoption Choice: An Act of Love or Exploitation?

An estimated 3-4% of women who enter the prison system each year are pregnant. The American Journal of Public Health has reported that such prisoners face tough choices and, with the help of pro-life organizations and adoption attorneys, some choose adoption to provide a better chance for their babies.

From 2011 to 2016, at least 369 prisoners at the Lowell Correctional Institution in Florida arrived at the facility in some stage of pregnancy.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do with my child,” a former Florida prisoner told WFTV reporter Karla Ray. “I was safe. I knew where I was going to go, but I didn’t know what I was going to do, and it was scary.”

Once an incarcerated woman has a baby, some prison systems allow her to spend 24 hours with the newborn while others provide limited nursery programs. [See: PLN, June 2016, p.34; Sept. 2010, p.18]. After that, the child must go somewhere else. There are only a few options, ranging from a family member taking custody of the child, turning the baby over to state child protection services or putting the infant up for adoption.

Attorney Lynn Lawrence assists ...

$25,000 Settlement to Colorado Jail Prisoner Denied a Quran

In May 2017, the Sheriff’s Department in Adams County, Colorado paid $25,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a jail prisoner who was denied access to a Quran during Ramadan in 2015. It also agreed to make changes to jail policies regarding Muslim prisoners.

Marquise Demont Harris, “an American-born ...

Oregon Court: Dismissals Are “Strikes” While Pending on Appeal

On July 6, 2017, the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s revocation of its filing fee waiver even though prior dismissals it had counted as strikes were still on appeal.

Oregon courts may waive or defer a prisoner’s filing fees and court costs in an action against a public body pursuant to ORS 30.643. The court may not waive or defer fees and costs, however, if the prisoner has filed three or more actions which were dismissed as “frivolous or malicious,” “failed to state a claim” or “sought monetary relief from a defendant who is immune.” See: ORS 30.645(1). Oregon’s statute was based on the three-strikes provision of the federal Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA).

Oregon prisoner Robert Woodroffe brought suit in state court against several prison and parole officials. After initially waiving his filing fees under ORS 30.643, the trial court granted the defendants’ motion to revoke that waiver. The court found that Woodroffe had previously commenced more than three prior actions in state court that had been dismissed for the reasons enumerated in ORS 30.645(1). The court gave him an opportunity to pay the filing fee but dismissed ...

Illinois Prisoner’s Petition Challenging Disciplinary Report States Cause of Action

The Illinois Fourth District Court of Appeals held in July 2017 that a prisoner had stated a cause of action on several claims in his petitions for writ of mandamus, declaratory relief and common law writ of certiorari.

Prisoner Aaron Fillmore received a disciplinary report on December 16, 2014 that alleged two offenses: security threat group or unauthorized organizational activity and intimidation or threats. The report summarized 1) an “accumulation of incidents” concerning Fillmore’s “involvement with the Latin King’s Security Threat Group”; 2) handwritten notes confiscated during a shakedown that contained Fillmore’s discussion of Latin King business, which included a threat against someone named Kevin; and 3) recorded phone conversations in which Fillmore discussed various Latin King members who were incarcerated.

An adjustment committee hearing was held on December 19, 2014. Fillmore was found guilty and sanctioned with one year in “C grade,” one year in segregation, revocation of one year of good conduct credits, restriction for one year to $15 per month and contact visits restriction for one year. His administrative grievances were denied and the Sangamon County Circuit Court granted the Illinois DOC’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action.

In a lengthy ...

$125,000 Settlement After Failure to Protect Verdict in Virginia

Following a July 2017 federal jury verdict that found guards had failed to protect a prisoner from an attack by another detainee at the West Virginia Regional Jail (WVRJ), the parties agreed to settle the case for $125,000.

The suit was filed by prisoner Dewayne Jackson Cox, 52, who ...

Idaho DOC Uses Prisoner Volunteers for Suicide Watches

by Matt Clarke

Some prisoners in the Idaho Department of Correction (DOC) who exhibit suicidal tendencies end up with other prisoners as companions, charged with engaging with them and helping to prevent self-harm.

The DOC has a population of 8,000 prisoners and reported 13 suicides between 2011 and 2016 – an average of about 2.2 each year and a rate of around 27.5 per 100,000 prisoners, which was 83% higher than the national annual average of 15 suicides per 100,000 prisoners.

To address this problem, the DOC has recruited over 200 prisoners to serve as volunteer companions for other, suicidal prisoners – a program modeled on one implemented by the federal Bureau of Prisons. According to Deputy Warden Audrey Dowell, who supervises the DOC’s education and behavioral health services, a prisoner who threatens suicide or displays other mental health symptoms is evaluated by medical staff and placed on one of three types of suicide watch.

Acute watch, for actively suicidal prisoners who have already injured themselves or have a specific plan to commit suicide, is handled by staff members who maintain continuous, direct observation. No prisoner companions are used.

Non-acute watch is for prisoners who ...

Report Finds Texas Death Row Conditions Violate Basic Human Rights

by Matt Clarke

In April 2017, the University of Texas School of Law’s Human Rights Clinic published a report that found living conditions on death row in Texas violate “basic human rights as well as a number of international treaties that were voluntarily ratified by the U.S. and which are binding on Texas.”

Because the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) refused to allow interviews with death row prisoners, the Clinic had to gather information from them via questionnaires. Researchers did conduct interviews with former condemned prisoners who had been exonerated and released, or had been moved to the prison system’s general population following a successful appeal of their capital sentence. The Clinic also interviewed death penalty advocates and capital punishment attorneys.

By policy, Texas death row prisoners are subjected to solitary confinement conditions and locked in 8-by-12-foot cells for 23 hours a day with one hour for recreation in a slightly larger, unfurnished cell. In practice, exercise is only permitted two-to-four times a week, not seven as required by policy. When they go to recreation and at all other times, condemned prisoners are kept isolated from other prisoners; they are served meals in their cells and shower ...

First-time Burglary Offender Eligible for Pennsylvania DOC’s Recidivism Program

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has held that a first-time offender convicted of burglary was entitled to participate in the Recidivism Risk Reduction Incentive (RRRI) Act.

The decision came in an appeal filed by Sean Cullen-Doyle, who pleaded guilty to several counts of criminal conspiracy to commit first-degree felony burglary and one count of first-degree felony burglary. The common pleas court found him ineligible for sentencing under the RRRI Act and ordered him to serve three-to-six years on the burglary charge plus 15 years of probation on the conspiracy counts.

In denying a post-sentencing motion, the common pleas court held burglary was a crime of violence and Cullen-Doyle’s prior first-degree burglary conviction rendered him ineligible for sentencing under the RRRI Act. On appeal, the Commonwealth admitted that it could not find any indication of such a prior conviction. The Superior Court, however, held that Cullen-Doyle’s present burglary conviction disqualified him from the RRRI Act.

The statute, enacted in 2009, was “intended to encourage eligible offenders to complete Department of Corrections programs that are designed to reduce recidivism.” Prisoners who are eligible and volunteer to participate are entitled to a reduced sentence; eligibility is conditioned, in relevant part, on the absence ...

Summary Judgment Reversed for Delay in Treating Prisoner in Extreme Pain

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment in favor of a guard and a nurse in a civil rights action alleging they were deliberately indifferent to a prisoner’s serious medical needs and unnecessarily prolonged his suffering.

James A. Lewis, housed at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility, awoke at 5:15 a.m on February 8, 2014 and experienced a sharp pain shooting from the base of his neck to his tailbone when he attempted to get off his bunk. On account of the pain, he could neither lie back down nor stand up. The pain immobilized him for a half hour before he finally leaned forward far enough to press the emergency button in his cell.

The guard who answered the call informed Lt. Joseph Cichanowicz about Lewis’ condition. Cichanowicz told Lewis he needed a nurse, then left Lewis’ cell. After ten or fifteen minutes, Lewis again pushed the emergency button and requested medical assistance. Sometime thereafter, Cichanowicz arrived with nurse Angela McLean.

Lewis told McLean he was experiencing “terrible back pain” and “couldn’t move.” As Lewis could not be examined in his cell pursuant to policy, he was told to be ready after head count; he ...

Illinois Sheriff Settles Federal Class-action Suit Over Strip Searches

by Derek Gilna

A federal civil rights lawsuit filed in 2012, later certified as a class-action, alleged abuses in the strip-search policy at a jail in Kankakee County, Illinois. The case settled on July 19, 2017; under the terms of the settlement, the county will pay up to $1,472 ...

Alaska: Jurors’ Explanation of Negligence Verdict Doesn’t Warrant New Trial

In May 2017, the Alaska Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s denial of a prisoner’s motion for a new trial based on juror comments about the rationale for their verdict.

Alaska prisoner Richard A. Mattox was watching television with several other prisoners at the Spring Creek Correctional Center in 2008 when guard Roxanne Dash momentarily left the unit. Fellow prisoner Vincent Wilkerson then punched Mattox on the left side of his face; Wilkerson was a friend of Mattox’s cellmate, who had previously threatened him.

Mattox suffered “left periorbital fractures,” a “right maxillary sinus fracture and a nasal fracture,” which required surgery. He used an intercom to call the control room for medical attention. The control room guard radioed Dash, who immediately returned to the unit; Mattox told Dash he had been assaulted and eventually identified Wilkerson as his attacker.

Mattox filed a state negligence action against the Alaska Department of Corrections (DOC) for injuries arising from the assault. He alleged the DOC was negligent for failing to accommodate his prior written requests to be moved to a different unit and for allowing Dash to leave the unit unsupervised.

The suit was initially dismissed, but reinstated in 2014 when ...

Florida Prisoners with Disabilities to Receive Accommodations Under Settlement

by David M. Reutter

In July 2017, Disability Rights Florida, the state’s federally-funded Protection and Advocacy organization that advocates for disabled individuals, settled a historic lawsuit against the Florida Department of Corrections over the FDOC’s systematic failure to comply with federal measures intended to protect prisoners with physical disabilities.

The FDOC has a long history of classifying disabled prisoners to facilities that are ill-equipped to handle their needs. Once there, they face serious obstacles to obtaining even basic accommodations, leaving them unable to function in the prison environment or disconnected from family and friends.

For example, prisoner David Belle was born with severe birth defects and is missing both feet and most of the fingers on his right hand. Prison officials at the Gulf Correctional Institution assigned him to a second-floor cell and told him he could either keep his prosthetic legs or use a wheelchair. It took a fall down the stairs to convince staff to move him to the bottom floor and give him a wheelchair. The warden and an assistant told Belle they would have someone “take care of him” if he did not stop filing grievances.

The 43-page settlement agreement changes how prisoners with disabilities are ...

Georgia Toddler Initially Denied Kidney Due to Father’s Parole Violation

by Monte McCoin

Officials at Emory Healthcare canceled a planned October 2017 surgery to harvest a kidney from an Atlanta toddler’s father, who had volunteered to be a living donor. According to news reports, the hospital postponed the donor arrangement after the father, Anthony Dickerson, was arrested on a parole violation several days before the surgery.

Two-year-old A.J. Burgess was born without kidneys, and was not expected to live without a transplant. Dickerson was found to be a perfect match for his son.

According to the family’s attorney, Mawuli Davis, Dickerson had already complied with an extensive living donor evaluation, but in the week leading up to the surgery he was jailed for five days due to a parole violation. “He made it his business to say, ‘Once I get out, I’m gonna promise to my son that he can get a kidney,’” A.J.’s mother stated.

Dickerson was released the day before the scheduled procedure, but when the family arrived at the medical center on October 3, 2017, Emory Healthcare officials told them that because Dickerson had been arrested, he would need to provide proof of compliance with his parole conditions for 90 days before the ...

Despite Suicides, Jails Replace In-person Visitation with Video Screens

by Mike LudwigTruthout 

The Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in Gretna, Louisiana replaced in-person visitation through a glass partition with video calls in October 2017. Three suicides had occurred at the jail since August, raising concerns about the mental health of its prisoners.

Adorned with barbed wire, the beige walls of the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center rise up beside an earthen levy across the Mississippi River from New Orleans. Three men have killed themselves behind these walls in as many months, using nooses fashioned from bed sheets and whatever else they could find.

A deaf man named Nelson Arce, whose plans for enrolling in drug treatment were interrupted by a stay in the jail in 2016, died of a drug overdose last year. Arce leaves behind two children and family members who claim that he would not have been jailed for violating probation requirements had his probation officer provided him with sign language interpreters as required by law, according to a federal lawsuit filed against the state corrections office.

The lawsuit also claims he was denied access to proper communication services while incarcerated, effectively isolating Arce from anyone who could speak his native sign language, for weeks on ...

Alabama Sheriff Fights to Keep Extra Funds Meant to Feed Prisoners

After being held in contempt, the sheriff in Morgan County, Alabama has obtained approval from a federal judge to let her keep any proceeds left over in her jail’s food fund. While a controversial 1939 state law has allowed Alabama sheriffs to retain such funds – which are distributed by the state – federal court orders from 2001 and 2009 prohibited Morgan County’s sheriff from doing so.

The 2001 lawsuit – against then-Sheriff Steve Crabbe – challenged conditions at the Morgan County Jail (MCJ). It ended with a consent decree to build a new jail and improve conditions of confinement at the facility.

The case returned to federal court in 2008 amid complaints about food and conditions under then-Sheriff Greg Bartlett. Bartlett testified that he had taken $212,000 of the jail food fund’s “excess” since 2006--garnering him the nickname “Sheriff Corndog,” because that’s what prisoners at his jail were served, twice a day for weeks, after he reportedly purchased a tractor-trailer load of corndogs for $500.

In 2009, the federal district court hearing the case jailed Bartlett overnight for contempt of the original consent decree. [See: PLN, April 2010, p.1]. A new decree, reached that year, stipulated ...

Two Georgia Prison Transport Guards Slain

by David M. Reutter

On June 13, 2017, a pair of Georgia prisoners being transported from the Baldwin State Prison near Milledgeville to the state’s Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson breached a partition on the prison bus. Within seconds they overpowered and disarmed two transport guards before killing them. A manhunt ensued, ending when the prisoners surrendered 260 miles away in Tennessee; during the 60-hour escape, they allegedly stole four vehicles, burglarized two houses, tied up an elderly couple in their home and led police on a high-speed chase.

Donnie Russell Rowe, 44, and Ricky Dubose, 24, were serving sentences for separate armed robbery and assault convictions. Dubose had been sentenced to up to 20 years, while Rowe was serving life without parole. The pair were once cellmates, and officials speculated that’s when they planned their escape.

The transport bus was carrying 33 prisoners. According to video recovered from the vehicle, Rowe and Dubose quickly went through the door that separated the prisoners from the guards. It appears the door was unlocked, or the pair was able to unlock it or had surreptitiously wedged it open when they boarded the bus. Both appeared to be out of their leg ...

Statute of Limitations for Oregon Child Sex Abuse Claims Expires at Age 40, Not 24

The Oregon Court of Appeals held in August 2017 that a lower court had improperly determined that civil claims filed by a child sexual abuse victim were time-barred. While the statute of limitations in effect at the time of the abuse required the victim to bring suit by his 24th birthday, a retroactively-applied amendment in effect when he filed his claims extended the deadline until his 40th birthday.

In 1993, ORS 12.117(1) required that civil claims of child sexual abuse be filed within six years of the child’s eighteenth birthday. In 2009, however, state lawmakers amended the statute to require that litigation be commenced before the victim attains 40 years of age. The 2009 legislation provided that the amendment would apply to all causes of action “whether arising before, on or after the effective date” of the act, unless a judgment was previously entered before the effective date.

As a child, a victim identified as John Doe was friends with the son of Samuel Arthur Silverman. In 1996, Silverman sexually molested Doe on several occasions; the following year, Silverman was convicted of sexually abusing Doe and sentenced to prison. See: State v. Silverman, 159 Or. App. 524, 977 ...

Oregon Jail “Tortures” Mentally Ill Prisoners

The people who work there are for the most part good people trying to do the best they can,” said Dr. Wil Berry, a psychiatrist who completed a six-month rotation at the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC). “However, the product of the system as a whole is that we’re torturing very sick people. I hate myself for being part of it.”

In March 2017, a report published by Disability Rights Oregon (DRO) estimated that 400 to 800 of the 1,000 prisoners held in Multnomah County, Oregon jails have some form of psychiatric disorder. Sarah Radcliffe, a DRO attorney who authored the report, concluded that jail medical and mental health care is “woefully inadequate.” She faulted staff with limited training and an over-reliance on “correctional tools” to deal with mentally ill prisoners – especially the “rampant use of solitary confinement, punitive use of restraints and suicide watch, and routinized force.”

As a federally-funded agency under the Protection and Advocacy system, the DRO had access to jail incident reports, prisoner medical records, and interviews with jail employees and prisoners. The investigation revealed alarming abuse of mentally ill detainees at MCDC, with several egregious examples highlighted in the ...

Indictment Alleges Prison Healthcare Company Bribed Texas State Senator

by Matt Clarke

In May 2017, federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment accusing Texas state Senator Carlos Uresti of accepting substantial bribes from a company that provides healthcare to prisoners at the Reeves County Detention Center (RCDC) in West Texas.

Uresti allegedly received payments of $10,000 per month from the company, Physicians Network Associates (PNA), to ensure that it kept its lucrative contract to provide medical care to prisoners. RCDC, a “Criminal Alien Requirement” facility, holds federal prisoners who are non-citizens facing deportation after serving their sentences on criminal charges. It is operated by The GEO Group, a private prison contractor.

PNA was acquired by Correctional Healthcare Companies (CHC) in 2010, which then merged with Correct Care Solutions in 2014. The firm’s payments to Uresti allegedly continued through September 2016.

The company was the healthcare provider at RCDC in 2008, when Jesus Manuel Galindo was sentenced to serve 30 months, and then face deportation, after he was caught trying to swim across the Rio Grande to get back into the U.S. When he arrived at the facility, Galindo told guards he had a history of serious epileptic seizures and was not receiving the correct medication. Instead of sending him ...

Kansas DOC Raids Inmate Benefit Fund for $6.7 Million

by Matt Clarke

Since 2004, the Kansas Department of Corrections (DOC) has drained over $6.7 million from the prison system’s Inmate Benefit Fund (IBF), and spent it on goods and services prohibited by state law.

The IBF is funded by prisoners and their families through commissary sales, vending machines in visitation areas, fines imposed on prisoners, telephone kickbacks and donations. According to Kansas state law, IBF funds must be used “to provide property, services, or entertainment” for prisoners, as well as “incentives for program and work participation and performance.” Internal DOC documents, however, indicated the department used $6,739,257 for goods and services unrelated to those requirements.

In 2004, the DOC spent $119,000 in IBF funds on a healthcare contract. In 2004 and 2005, it used $5,227,930 from the IBF to purchase food. Between 2004 and 2008, the DOC took $511,887 from the IBF to pay for victim notification positions; and from 2009 to 2011 it used $398,061 in IBF money for information technology personnel salaries and $246,379 for phone contracts.

An internal DOC policy limits the use of IBF funds to “merchandise, services, and construction/renovation projects that are accessible ...

DHS Report Shows “Significant Prison Population of Incarcerated Aliens”

by Christopher Zoukis

The proportion of federal prisoners likely born outside the United States is nearly twice as large as among the general population. That was a key finding of a report published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Released on December 21, 2017, the report was the third to examine the immigration status of federal prisoners and pretrial detainees in recent years.

Of more than 185,000 federal prisoners at the end of the 2017 fiscal year, over 24,000 were foreign-born while another 21,000 were having their immigration status checked. Taken together, they comprised about a quarter of all federal prisoners – a proportion nearly twice as large as the 13 percent of the general population born outside the U.S.

Unsurprisingly, 97 percent of those prisoners were either under investigation for removal by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or already had deportation orders.

The numbers for federal pretrial detainees were nearly identical. The U.S. Marshals Service, which is responsible for holding pretrial prisoners, reported that over 13,000 out of more than 50,000 detainees self-reported they were not U.S. citizens. Of those, 99 percent were either pending adjudication of removal ...

$27,000 Settles California Prisoner Pro Se Civil Rights Suit

by Derek Gilna

California state prisoner Ronald Martinez filed suit in 2011, asserting that his Eighth Amendment rights had been violated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). He eventually obtained a $27,000 settlement from the state, which was finalized in January 2017.

The settlement was remarkable ...

Texas State Prisoners Fight for Access to Kosher Meals

by Matt Clarke

After leading a 12-year legal battle that secured an agreement from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) to recognize the right of Orthodox Jewish prisoners to receive kosher meals, Max Moussazadeh was released from prison in 2017. That same year, prisoner Aharon L. Atomanczyk filed a similar lawsuit against the TDCJ for its failure to provide him with kosher food in the medical unit to which he was assigned.

Moussazadeh was serving a sentence related to his role as a lookout in a 1993 Houston robbery that resulted in a murder. In 2005, while incarcerated at the TDCJ’s Eastham Unit, he complained that being forced to eat non-kosher food violated his religious beliefs.

His grievance was denied.

That same year, Moussazadeh filed a lawsuit accusing the TDCJ of interfering in the practice of his religion in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) as well as the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In response to the suit, at a cost of about $8,000, the TDCJ set up a kosher kitchen for regular prison meals at the Stringfellow Unit, part of the complex that includes the Ramsey and Terrell Units outside of Houston. The ...

Kansas DOC Underestimates Cost of New Prison by $51 Million

by Christopher Zoukis

The Lansing Correctional Facility, located in the Kansas City area, is crying out for a wrecking ball and a bulldozer. Parts of the facility were built in the 1860s, and the Kansas DOC has determined that even its newer buildings are not as safe or efficient as modern prisons.

When legislators asked the DOC to recommend the least-expensive option to replace the aging facility, prison officials concluded that a lease-purchase arrangement was the best deal for taxpayers. That would involve contracting with a private company to build the prison, lease it back to the DOC for up to 40 years and then sell it to the state.

The total cost, according to department estimates? A cool $155 million. The actual cost, according to a July 2017 legislative audit? Around $51 million more, at $206 million.

According to the audit, the DOC’s estimates “were missing key variables and used inconsistent assumptions that tended to favor a lease-purchase option.” Specifically, the department’s proposal failed to adjust future costs to present-day dollar amounts and presented alternate calculations of construction cost, depending on the prison’s ownership arrangement.

Significantly, the DOC also failed to include the estimated $35 million it would ...

Prison Doctor Dies of Legionnaires’ Disease

A lawsuit filed on May 4, 2017 by the family of a doctor at SCI-Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania claims he died of Legionnaires’ disease contracted through the facility’s water system.

Dr. Joseph Mollura, 60, decided he liked his part-time job at SCI-Pittsburgh so much that he would make it his full-time occupation. He was hired by the prison’s medical contractor, Correct Care Solutions.

“People were people to him,” said his son. “If they were sick, he’d help them.”

According to the suit, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PDOC) knew as early as May 2016 that there were high levels of Legionella bacteria in the cooling tower in the building where Dr. Mollura worked. Yet he “knew nothing about that,” said Lorraine DiNatale, his daughter. “They should have notified the medical staff when they found it in May.”

The family’s attorney, Neil Rosen, added that “Dr. Mollura was a physician who regularly came into contact daily with water and other areas that could have been contaminated. The [water] system over there [at the prison] was a bad system that put people in jeopardy.”

Dr. Mollura died on August 8, 2016 while on a trip to attend a ...

Major Scabies Outbreak at CoreCivic Facility in Tennessee

by David M. Reutter

Three lawsuits, filed in June and July 2017, allege corrections officials ignored an outbreak of scabies at the Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility (MDCDF) in Nashville, Tennessee. Affecting 89 prisoners, the outbreak also spread to at least 17 members of the jail staff and 16 courthouse workers and attorneys. The facility’s private operator eventually paid for scabies treatment for 55 county employees.

With 1,348 beds, MDCDF is operated under a five-year, $100 million contract by CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a company headquartered in the affluent Nashville suburb of Green Hills.

Scabies, a skin infestation caused by parasitic mites, is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact and exposure to clothes and bedding. It typically results in rashes and intense itching, and is treated with prescription ointments strong enough to kill not only the mites but also their eggs.

A lawsuit related to the scabies outbreak was filed by four courthouse employees and lawyers in June 2017. Another claim was filed in July 2017 by 17 CoreCivic employees at MDCDF, and a suit on behalf of 39 female detainees was filed the same month.

The detainees’ lawsuit states that some of the women who suffered scabies while ...

Federal Lawsuit Filed in Dehydration Death at Wisconsin Jail; Three Jailers Charged

by Derek Gilna

A federal civil rights suit was filed in federal court in Wisconsin on August 14, 2017, after a prisoner died at the Milwaukee County Jail (MCJ) – reportedly after being deprived of water for a week. The family of Terrill J. Thomas instituted the action approximately four months after an inquest jury issued a finding of probable cause to prosecute seven jail employees in connection with Thomas’ death. [See: PLN, Sept. 2017, p.52].

In May 2017, District Attorney John Chisholm received the recommendation from the inquest jury, which was itself unusual. Inquests are usually performed by coroners to determine a cause of death, whereas a district attorney considering criminal charges normally convenes a grand jury after a coroner has made such a finding.

The inquest jury recommended charges against seven jailers, all employees of then-Sheriff David A. Clarke. They included Major Nancy Lee Evans, Lt. Kashka Meadors and jail guards James Lee Ramsey-Guy, Thomas Laine, John Weber, Dominique Smith and JorDon Johnson.

Sheriff’s deputies had arrested Thomas in April 2017 after he allegedly confessed to firing three gunshots – two in the Potawatomi Casino and one that hit a man in the chest. Thomas, 38, suffered ...

$5 Million Settlement After Mentally Ill Prisoner Dies in Restraint

by Christopher Zoukis

A 36-year-old California prisoner with a documented history of schizophrenia died in a jail cell on January 22, 2017, less than an hour after his release from a restraint chair where he had been held for almost two days.

Andrew Chaylon Holland was the eighth person to die in custody at the San Luis Obispo County jail since 2012 – a mortality rate higher than the national average. Another death followed on April 13, 2017, when Kevin Lee McLaughlin, 60, suffered a fatal heart attack in a jail unit after a nurse dismissed his complaint of pain in his shoulder.

According to media reports and court documents, Holland faced multiple charges – most often for assaulting jail staffers – during the nearly two years that he was shuffled between the jail and the county’s in-patient psychiatric facility. He was found incompetent to stand trial four times, but on each occasion he was transferred to the psychiatric hospital, “restored to competency” and then returned to the county jail.

His mother, Sharon Holland, told the San Luis Obispo Tribune that her son “was kept in isolation a year and a half.”

A court order that Holland be transferred ...

Federal Judge Grants Compassionate Release but Questions BOP’s Motivation

by Christopher Zoukis

U.S. District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf, who has written judicial opinions in cases involving former mobster and FBI informant James “Whitey” Bulger, knows a rat when he sees one. And when he was presented with a motion from the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) seeking compassionate release for former Massachusetts state Rep. Salvatore F. DiMasi, the judge was skeptical.

That’s because it was the first compassionate release motion from the BOP he had seen in his 31 years on the bench, and it just happened to be for a former lawmaker with powerful friends. DiMasi, 71, was convicted on seven corruption charges in June 2011 and sentenced to eight years plus a $65,000 fine.

Judge Wolf expressed his suspicion in an initial ruling on October 17, 2016, in which he ordered the BOP to submit evidence in support of its motion. He also noted that, despite urging from the Office of the Inspector General, the Sentencing Commission and Human Rights Watch, the BOP almost never sought compassionate release.

[T]hese statistics raise the question – which is only a question – of whether the [BOP] Director’s decision to file the motion was influenced by DiMasi’s ...

News in Brief

Alabama: Five state prison guards were arrested in May 2017, accused of using their positions for personal gain. The arrests followed a three-month investigation at the Staton Correctional Facility, and resulted in Ronald Dickerson, 23, Jarod McDowell, 29, Joshua Alexander, 26, Leonard Scott, 31, and Patrick Jones, 42, being charged in connection with a bribery scheme. The guards allegedly smuggled contraband into the prison, including cell phones and drugs, in return for clothing, home electronics, car accessories and even a cruise trip. Several prisoners were charged, too. “After months of investigating this case, our corruption and fraud task force uncovered the bribery scheme involving correctional officers who are sworn to protect the public, but instead chose to use their position to illegally further their self-interest,” DOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn said in a statement.

Alaska: Anchorage Correctional Complex prisoner Justin Apple, 39, faces attempted murder and first-degree assault charges after attacking his cellmate, Michael Knipe, on July 3, 2017 and “repeatedly stabbing him in his eyes with a pencil and repeatedly kicking him in the head.” Knipe was taken to the Alaska Native Medical Center where he underwent surgery and was placed in critical care. Guard Lewis Jones witnessed ...


 

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