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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: April, 2018

Issue PDF
Volume 29, Number 4

In this issue:

  1. America’s Toxic Prisons: The Environmental Injustices of Mass Incarceration (p 1)
  2. Florida Supreme Court Approves Use of Hypnotic Drug for Executions (p 11)
  3. From the Editor (p 12)
  4. Tennessee Sheriff Offered “Church Release” to Prisoners (p 13)
  5. Corruption Among Prison Guards in North Carolina Spurred by Low Pay (p 14)
  6. California Supreme Court Upholds Death Penalty Reform Law (p 17)
  7. Prison Administrators and Criminology Students Study Radical New Approach: Treat Prisoners Like Human Beings (p 18)
  8. California: Mentally Ill Jail Prisoner Dies after Two Days in Restraint Chair; $5 Million Settlement (p 20)
  9. New York: Former Rikers Guard Gets 30 Years for Civil Rights Violations, Conspiracy (p 21)
  10. What’s Hidden Behind the Walls of America’s Prisons (p 22)
  11. Fifth Circuit: Louisiana Must Allow Prisoner to Wear Dreadlocks (p 25)
  12. As Wyoming State Penitentiary Falls Apart, Officials Rush Repairs (p 26)
  13. Ashes to Ashes: In Illinois, the Erasure of Incarcerated People Continues After Death (p 26)
  14. California Prisoners File Class-action Suit Seeking Hepatitis C Treatment (p 28)
  15. Colorado: Defendants Settle After Death of Prisoner Denied Medical Treatment (p 28)
  16. Prisons and Jails Impose More Restrictions on Mail, Visits to Curtail Contraband (p 30)
  17. Ninth Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Deaf Former Prisoner’s ADA Claims (p 32)
  18. Louisiana Prison Officials Sued for Trying to Block Investigation into Abuse of Disabled Prisoners (p 32)
  19. Colorado Federal Jury Awards $50,000 to Prisoner Assaulted by Deputy in Court (p 34)
  20. New Mexico Prisoner Obtains Court Order to Allow Breastfeeding (p 34)
  21. Global Tel*Link Settles Mississippi Prison Bribery Case for $2.5 Million (p 36)
  22. Missouri: $75,000 Settlement for Detainee’s Death Due to Untreated Ulcer (p 36)
  23. Maine: Court Does Not Need Jurisdiction Over Prisoner to Issue Order to Protect Child (p 38)
  24. Deadly Prison Riot in Delaware: 18 Prisoners Indicted, Slain Guard’s Widow Settles Suit for $7.55 Million (p 38)
  25. Oregon Jailer Facing Sex Charges Improperly Denied Insanity Defense (p 40)
  26. Indiana Prisoner Entitled to Kosher Meals Under RLUIPA (p 40)
  27. Alabama Supreme Court Holds Miller Entitled to Retroactivity (p 41)
  28. Fifth Circuit: Strip Searches Due to Security Concerns Not Unconstitutional (p 42)
  29. Challenge to Three-drug Execution Protocol Revived by Eleventh Circuit (p 42)
  30. Tablets and E-messaging Services Expand in Prisons and Jails, as do Fees (p 44)
  31. New York to Spend $7.3 Million on College Programs for Prisoners (p 46)
  32. Innovative Use of Peanut Butter by Alabama Prisoners (p 46)
  33. Texas County Settles Suit Over Jail Prisoner’s Death for $250,000 (p 47)
  34. Idaho DOC Agrees to Provide Kosher Meals, Pay $93,000 Settlement (p 48)
  35. Florida KKK Guards Convicted in Plot to Kill Former Prisoner (p 48)
  36. Twenty-six Indicted After Gang Investigation, Including Two Prison Guards (p 49)
  37. New Policies for Federal and State Prisoners Guarantee Feminine Hygiene Products (p 50)
  38. Rash of North Carolina Jail Deaths Due to Lack of Supervision and Medical Care (p 52)
  39. Prisoners in Kenya and New Zealand, Unlike Counterparts in U.S., Win Right to Vote (p 54)
  40. Securus Fined $1.7 Million for Providing Inaccurate Information, FCC Approves Company Transfer Anyway (p 54)
  41. Private Prison Forced to Produce Solitary Confinement Records (p 56)
  42. Alaska Prisoners Stripped, Paraded on “Dog Leashes,” Held Naked for 12 Hours (p 56)
  43. Filing Date of Operative Complaint Dictates if PLRA Exhaustion Applies (p 57)
  44. Despite Class-action Settlement, Mental Healthcare Problems at CA Jail Persist (p 58)
  45. U.S. Sentencing Commission Report: Racial Disparities Persist (p 58)
  46. Ohio: Almost $3 Million Settlement in Suit Brought by Two Wrongfully Convicted Men (p 59)
  47. $415,000 Settlement in Lawsuit Over Tasered Prisoner Who Died in Texas Jail (p 60)
  48. Inspector General Finds Substandard Conditions at California Jail Used by ICE (p 60)
  49. $49,500 Settlement in Excessive Force Claim at Sacramento County Jail (p 61)
  50. California: Protest Over Bay Area Jail Conditions (p 62)
  51. News in Brief (p 63)

America’s Toxic Prisons: The Environmental Injustices of Mass Incarceration

by Candice Bernd, Zoe Loftus-Farren and Maureen Nandini Mitra

Matthew Morgenstern is convinced his Hodgkin’s lymphoma was caused by exposure to toxic coal ash from the massive dump right across the road from SCI Fayette, a maximum-security prison in LaBelle, Pennsylvania, where he is currently serving a 5- to 10-year ...

Florida Supreme Court Approves Use of Hypnotic Drug for Executions

On August 14, 2017, the Florida Supreme Court approved a new lethal injection drug protocol that includes the hypnotic drug etomidate. The introduction of etomidate into the state’s execution protocol is the latest move to preserve the death penalty despite drug manufacturers’ efforts to prohibit the use of their products ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

I would like to thank everyone who donated to HRDC’s annual fundraiser last year. When we started our fundraiser, our goal was to raise enough money to be able to hire a full-time investigative reporter. Within a few weeks, though, we were evicted by the City of ...

Tennessee Sheriff Offered “Church Release” to Prisoners

by Christopher Zoukis

Maury County, Tennessee Sheriff Bucky Rowland was elected to office in 2014 on a platform that promoted prisoner rehabilitation. While it is not unusual for an elected official to give lip service to the concept of rehabilitating criminals, Sheriff Rowland was serious.

A major part of his ...

Corruption Among Prison Guards in North Carolina Spurred by Low Pay

by David M. Reutter

A “dirty staff gang” of corrupt employees in North Carolina’s prison system is circumventing security measures by smuggling contraband that creates dangers not only for prisoners and staff members, but also for people in the community who have been the victims of criminal plots.

North Carolina ...

California Supreme Court Upholds Death Penalty Reform Law

by Christopher Zoukis

Proposition 66, also known as the Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act, was passed by 51.13% of California voters on November 8, 2016. Prop. 66 was intended to “facilitate the enforcement of judgments and achieve cost savings in capital cases.” In short, it aims to ...

Prison Administrators and Criminology Students Study Radical New Approach: Treat Prisoners Like Human Beings

by Christopher Zoukis

Attorney Donald Specter has spent his career working to bring change to the American carceral system. He began as a volunteer at the Prison Law Office – a Berkeley, California-based nonprofit law firm that litigates prison condition cases. The apex of his efforts may have been the ...

California: Mentally Ill Jail Prisoner Dies after Two Days in Restraint Chair; $5 Million Settlement

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 ...

New York: Former Rikers Guard Gets 30 Years for Civil Rights Violations, Conspiracy

by Monte McCoin

PLN has previously reported on the December 2016 conviction of former Rikers Island jail complex guard Brian Coll, 47, for his role in the 2012 death of detainee Ronald Spear. In 2014, New York City paid $2.75 million to settle the Spear family’s wrongful death suit ...

What’s Hidden Behind the Walls of America’s Prisons

by Heather Ann Thompson

Few Americans fully appreciate just how many of their fellow citizens are ensnared in the criminal justice system.

Some may have heard that there are about 2.3 million people behind bars, but that figure tells only part of the story. Yes, in a stunning array of ...

Fifth Circuit: Louisiana Must Allow Prisoner to Wear Dreadlocks

by Matt Clarke

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s judgment dismissing a lawsuit brought by a prisoner who sought an injunction requiring the Louisiana Department of Corrections (DOC) to allow him to wear dreadlocks. In its decision, the Court declared the DOC’s grooming policy violated the ...

As Wyoming State Penitentiary Falls Apart, Officials Rush Repairs

by Christopher Zoukis

Built just 17 years ago, but on unstable ground, Wyoming’s maximum-security penitentiary in Rawlins suffers from a sinking foundation, cracking walls and ceilings, and flooding from both a failing roof and broken, badly-installed pipes.

In 2011, just 10 years into its planned 50-year lifespan, structural problems were ...

Ashes to Ashes: In Illinois, the Erasure of Incarcerated People Continues After Death

by Sybil Drew, Truthout

The mausoleum at the Oak Grove Cemetery in Hillsboro, Illinois holds a secret: Hidden away in the top shelf are more than a dozen containers of unclaimed ashes. They hold the cremains of prisoners who died at the nearby Graham Correctional Center, a medium-security all-male facility ...

California Prisoners File Class-action Suit Seeking Hepatitis C Treatment

by Gregory Dober

In 2013, the FDA approved two new life-saving hepatitis C (HCV) drugs known as simeprevir (brand named Olysio) and sofosbuvir (brand named Sovaldi). The drugs, a new class of medication called direct-acting antivirals (DAAs), were proven to be over 90% effective in clinical trials. Additionally, they reduced ...

Colorado: Defendants Settle After Death of Prisoner Denied Medical Treatment

by Matt Clarke

The estate of a man who died in a Colorado jail of a treatable foot malady has settled a lawsuit alleging Corrections Corporation of America (now CoreCivic) and other defendants caused his death by denying him medical care and surgery.

When Dennis Choquette was booked into the ...

Prisons and Jails Impose More Restrictions on Mail, Visits to Curtail Contraband

by Matt Clarke

Citing a need to stop the smuggling of drugs and other contraband, some prisons and jails have placed new and stringent restrictions on both prisoner mail and visitation.

Beginning in April 2017, prisoners in the Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC) must be strip-searched and change into new ...

Ninth Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Deaf Former Prisoner’s ADA Claims

Jail officials “may not turn a blind eye to a deaf ear,” the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit fittingly declared in an August 31, 2017 ruling that reversed a summary judgment order in a lawsuit filed by a deaf former prisoner.

David Updike was born unable to ...

Louisiana Prison Officials Sued for Trying to Block Investigation into Abuse of Disabled Prisoners

by David M. Reutter

Alleging a “culture of cover-up and excessive force,” the MacArthur Justice Center and the Advocacy Center of Louisiana (ACL) filed a class-action lawsuit in February 2018 against officials at the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (LDPSC) and the David Wade Correctional Center (DWCC ...

Colorado Federal Jury Awards $50,000 to Prisoner Assaulted by Deputy in Court

by Matt Clarke

On May 12, 2017, a Colorado federal jury awarded $50,000 to a former jail prisoner who was assaulted by a deputy while speaking with a judge in a Denver courtroom.

According to court documents, Deputy Brad Lovingier restrained Anthony Waller with handcuffs, leg irons and a ...

New Mexico Prisoner Obtains Court Order to Allow Breastfeeding

In June 2017, a New Mexico state court issued a temporary restraining order that required the Department of Corrections (DOC) to allow a prisoner to breastfeed her baby during regular visitation hours, and to pump breast milk so her child could be fed at other times.

Monique Hidalgo, 33, was ...

Global Tel*Link Settles Mississippi Prison Bribery Case for $2.5 Million

by Christopher Zoukis

As previously mentioned in PLN, Global Tel*Link Corp. (GTL), the largest provider of prison and jail phone services in the United States, has settled a lawsuit that accused the company of conspiring to bribe corrections officials in Mississippi. [See: PLN, Oct. 2017, p.16; Oct. 2015 ...

Missouri: $75,000 Settlement for Detainee’s Death Due to Untreated Ulcer

A $75,000 settlement was reached in a civil rights action alleging denial of medical care to a pretrial detainee who died from complications related to a peptic ulcer. The death of Robert Breeding, 32, came only five days after he was booked into Missouri’s St. Charles County Department of ...

Maine: Court Does Not Need Jurisdiction Over Prisoner to Issue Order to Protect Child

On August 29, 2017, the Maine Supreme Court affirmed the denial of a motion to dismiss a jeopardy order against the father of Emma B.

Emma was a child living with her mother in Maine, where they moved in 2016. Her father was a prisoner serving a sentence in Massachusetts ...

Deadly Prison Riot in Delaware: 18 Prisoners Indicted, Slain Guard’s Widow Settles Suit for $7.55 Million

by Derek Gilna

In October 2017, a New Castle County, Delaware grand jury indicted 18 prisoners from the maximum-security James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, 16 of whom were charged with the murder of Lt. Steven Floyd, Sr. The guard was the only fatality of a February 2017 riot at the ...

Oregon Jailer Facing Sex Charges Improperly Denied Insanity Defense

The Oregon Court of Appeals held that a female jail employee who repeatedly let a prisoner out of his cell to have sex with him should have been allowed to present an insanity defense at trial.

As previously reported in PLN, the Washington County Jail in Hillsboro, Oregon was rocked ...

Indiana Prisoner Entitled to Kosher Meals Under RLUIPA

The Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) must provide a kosher diet to a Muslim prisoner who said he believes “Islam prohibits rejecting food that Allah has given to humans – including certain types of animal meat.”

Prisoner Roman Lee Jones, who was housed at the Indiana State Prison (ISP ...

Alabama Supreme Court Holds Miller Entitled to Retroactivity

On August 25, 2017, the Alabama Supreme Court held the decision in Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012), which prohibits mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders, was “a substantive rule that is retroactive in cases on collateral review.”

That ruling came in a petition filed by prisoner ...

Fifth Circuit: Strip Searches Due to Security Concerns Not Unconstitutional

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a summary judgment order in favor of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (LDPSC), holding that strip searches of prisoners for security reasons are not unconstitutional.

Freddie R. Lewis, incarcerated at the Winn Correctional Center (WCC), filed a 42 U ...

Challenge to Three-drug Execution Protocol Revived by Eleventh Circuit

by David M. Reutter

On September 1, 2017, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals revived civil rights claims brought by four Alabama death row prisoners. Their lawsuits challenged the state’s current three-drug execution protocol, arguing that the use of midazolam as the first drug would subject them to “intolerable pain” ...

Tablets and E-messaging Services Expand in Prisons and Jails, as do Fees

by Matt Clarke and Ed Lyon

Global Tel*Link (GTL), one of the largest prison and jail phone service providers in the United States, has steadily expanded into other services that target corrections agencies. The telecom firm is now competing with Securus Technologies for a share of a lucrative and ...

New York to Spend $7.3 Million on College Programs for Prisoners

by Christopher Zoukis

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has long advocated for more higher education programs in New York state prisons. His plans have drawn criticism from conservatives who take issue with the use of public funds to educate convicted criminals. But with the help of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance ...

Innovative Use of Peanut Butter by Alabama Prisoners

by David M. Reutter

When prisoners tire of the same fare they are given to eat, day after day, they become creative to make it more palatable. A dozen pre-trial detainees at the Walker County Jail (WCJ) in Alabama, for example, found a new way to use peanut butter – ...

Texas County Settles Suit Over Jail Prisoner’s Death for $250,000

by Matt Clarke

In April 2017, the estate and heirs of woman who died after she was allegedly denied medical care at the Tom Green County jail in San Angelo, Texas received $250,000 to settle a lawsuit against the county, sheriff, three jailers and two jail nurses.

When Jerry ...

Idaho DOC Agrees to Provide Kosher Meals, Pay $93,000 Settlement

In August 2017, the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) agreed to provide kosher meals in state prisons to partially settle a lawsuit brought by four Jewish prisoners represented by the ACLU of Idaho.

While the IDOC’s internal “Handbook for Religious Beliefs and Practices” states that prisoners will receive a kosher ...

Florida KKK Guards Convicted in Plot to Kill Former Prisoner

Three former Florida prison guards, who were members of a Ku Klux Klan chapter, were convicted of conspiring to kill a former prisoner. The plot was reportedly hatched in retaliation for a scuffle that occurred at the Reception and Medical Center (RMC).

In a previous article, PLN covered the arrests ...

Twenty-six Indicted After Gang Investigation, Including Two Prison Guards

by Monte McCoin

A Maryland prison guard was indicted on 35 charges, including first-degree attempted murder, after a lengthy investigation revealed he was a high-ranking member of the 8-Trey Crips street gang. Antoine Fordham was the initial target of a nearly year-long probe into organized crime in Maryland’s prison system ...

New Policies for Federal and State Prisoners Guarantee Feminine Hygiene Products

by Derek Gilna

Within 30 days after the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act (S.1524) was introduced by U.S. Senator Kamala Harris and three of her colleagues – a bill that seeks to compel the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to provide free feminine hygiene products to female prisoners ...

Rash of North Carolina Jail Deaths Due to Lack of Supervision and Medical Care

by David M. Reutter

Todd L. Caveness, 40, had a long history of bipolar disorder, anxiety attacks and paranoia when he was booked into North Carolina’s Wilson County Jail on attempted murder charges in early 2016. When he began to believe his food was poisoned and stopped eating, he lost ...

Prisoners in Kenya and New Zealand, Unlike Counterparts in U.S., Win Right to Vote

by Derek Gilna

In August 2017, prisoners at the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison in Kenya, along with other prisoners in the African nation, were allowed to vote in presidential elections for the first time. Offenders at the Kamiti facility patiently waited their turn to vote via a biometric system that ...

Securus Fined $1.7 Million for Providing Inaccurate Information, FCC Approves Company Transfer Anyway

by Christopher Zoukis

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) slapped Securus Technologies with a $1.7 million fine for providing misleading and inaccurate information as part of its application to transfer control to another company, but still approved the transfer on October 30, 2017.

Securus, one of the nation’s largest providers ...

Private Prison Forced to Produce Solitary Confinement Records

The Roderick and Solange Mac­Arthur Justice Center has prevailed in a lawsuit to obtain records related to prisoners held in segregation at Louisiana’s Allen Correctional Center (ACC), run by the GEO Group, a private prison contractor.

A public records request was submitted to ACC on June 19, 2017 and verified ...

Alaska Prisoners Stripped, Paraded on “Dog Leashes,” Held Naked for 12 Hours

by Christopher Zoukis

Twelve prisoners at the maximum-security Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward, Alaska were stripped, searched, restrained, attached to “dog leashes,” paraded in front of female staff members and then left in cells without clothing, mattresses or blankets for 12 hours.

The incident may have never come ...

Filing Date of Operative Complaint Dictates if PLRA Exhaustion Applies

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held on August 31, 2017 that “a plaintiff who was in custody at the time he initiated his suit but was free when he filed his amended operative complaint is not a ‘prisoner’ subject to a PLRA [Prison Litigation Reform Act] exhaustion defense.” ...

Despite Class-action Settlement, Mental Healthcare Problems at CA Jail Persist

by Derek Gilna

The parties to a May 2015 class-action settlement between prisoners at the Monterey County jail in California, county officials and the jail’s medical provider – which was supposed to address issues of poor medical and mental healthcare, inadequate staffing, accommodations for disabled prisoners and serious safety problems ...

U.S. Sentencing Commission Report: Racial Disparities Persist

by Derek Gilna

In a November 2017 report, the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) found that despite the avowed purpose of the federal sentencing guidelines to promote sentencing uniformity across geographic and socio-economic lines, black defendants continue to receive longer sentences for similar offenses than whites. The report controlled for ...

Ohio: Almost $3 Million Settlement in Suit Brought by Two Wrongfully Convicted Men

Ohio: Almost $3 Million Settlement in Suit Brought by Two Wrongfully Convicted Men

by Matt Clarke

In March 2017, a state court judge approved a $2.9 million settlement between Ohio and two men who each spent almost 17 years in prison after having been wrongfully convicted of rape and ...

$415,000 Settlement in Lawsuit Over Tasered Prisoner Who Died in Texas Jail

by Matt Clarke

The parents and estate of a Texas man who died while incarcerated at the Hopkins County jail after he was repeatedly Tasered by police officers have settled a wrongful death suit filed against Hopkins County, the City of Sulphur Springs, jail personnel and police officers.

Tony Chance ...

Inspector General Finds Substandard Conditions at California Jail Used by ICE

by Matt Clarke

A surprise inspection by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General revealed a number of substandard conditions at an Orange County, California jail used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house detainees.

The Theo Lacy Facility is a 3,000-bed jail that contracts with ...

$49,500 Settlement in Excessive Force Claim at Sacramento County Jail

A pretrial detainee who was subjected to excessive force during the booking process at a jail in Sacramento County, California agreed to a settlement of almost $50,000.

Michael McCormack was arrested on a domestic violence charge stemming from a fight with his girlfriend on July 6, 2015. The lawsuit ...

California: Protest Over Bay Area Jail Conditions

by Dale Chappell

Promising to “continue peaceful protest to end tortuous practices of solitary confinement,” Prisoners United, a coalition of prisoners in California’s Bay Area jails backed by civil rights groups, described the purpose of their complaints in an open letter to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors on ...

News in Brief

Alabama: Morgan McCurdy, 23, a nurse at the DeKalb County jail, was arrested on July 20, 2017 after surveillance video confirmed suspicions that she was involved with smuggling drugs into the facility. DeKalb County Sheriff Jimmy Harris said the licensed practical nurse was jailed on charges of second-degree promoting prison ...


 

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