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Prison Legal News: May, 2018

Issue PDF
Volume 29, Number 5

In this issue:

  1. In the Eye of the Storm: When Hurricanes Impact Prisons and Jails (p 1)
  2. Mass Incarceration is a Women’s Issue, Too (p 11)
  3. From the Editor (p 12)
  4. Photos Show Aftermath of Lethal South Carolina Prison Brawl that Left Seven Dead (p 12)
  5. Rash of Security Breaches Plagues Nation’s Prisons and Jails (p 14)
  6. Governor Vetoes Nevada’s Anti-Private Prison Bill (p 17)
  7. New Mexico Jail Sued by HRDC for Censoring Book Orders (p 18)
  8. PLN Censorship Suit Against Virginia Jail Headed to Trial (p 18)
  9. British Prison Guard Sentenced for Contraband Smuggling Conspiracy (p 19)
  10. “Witness to Human Torture”: On Both Sides of the Prison Walls, Social Workers Confront Solitary Confinement (p 20)
  11. “Survivors Guide to Prison,” by Matthew Cooke, director (Gravitas Ventures, February 2018); 102 minutes (p 24)
  12. Mother-Son Team Sentenced for Tax Fraud, Obstruction of Justice (p 25)
  13. California: Defendants’ Repeated Discovery Obstruction Sanctioned in Guard Sex Abuse Case (p 26)
  14. New York Law Gives Reformed Offenders an Opportunity to Seal Convictions (p 27)
  15. Judge Threatens Arizona Officials with Contempt Over Inadequate Prisoner Medical Care (p 28)
  16. Prison Chaplain Wins Standoff with BOP Over Carrying Pepper Spray (p 29)
  17. ACLU Sues Nebraska Over Unconstitutional Prison Conditions (p 30)
  18. San Quentin Newspaper Editor Arnulfo Garcia Leaves a Legacy (p 30)
  19. Prison Mailbox Rule Applied to South Carolina Prisoner’s Late PCR Petition (p 32)
  20. As Prison Populations Drop, Several States Close Facilities (p 32)
  21. Fifth Circuit Reinstates Denial of Medical Care Suit Against Texas County Jail (p 34)
  22. Massachusetts: State Court Officers May Not Enforce Immigration Detainers (p 34)
  23. Federal Prisoner Shot in the Eye Awarded $80,000 (p 35)
  24. Tennessee: New Trial Ordered in Prisoner’s Wrongful Death Case (p 36)
  25. Iowa Prison Officials Drop Disciplinary Sanctions in Controversial Case (p 38)
  26. Seventh Circuit Affirms Denial of Qualified Immunity in Jail Suicide Suit (p 38)
  27. New York Issues New Solitary Confinement Rules for Local Jails Amid Lawsuits, $5 Million Settlement (p 39)
  28. Court Certifies Class of Missouri Prisoners Denied Hepatitis C Treatment (p 40)
  29. Oregon Sex Offenders Get LWOP, Not Treatment (p 40)
  30. $330,000 for Florida Prison Guards Abused at Training Academy (p 42)
  31. Former Pennsylvania Guards Settle FMLA Lawsuits for $110,000 (p 42)
  32. Female Prisoners More Likely to be HIV Positive than Non-prisoners (p 43)
  33. $14.3 Million Settlement for Probationers Subject to Extortion by Private Company (p 44)
  34. Whistleblowing Angola Prisoner Who Faced Retaliation Wins Relief, Redemption (p 44)
  35. Indiana County Settles Jail Guard’s ADA/Discrimination Suit for $150,000 (p 46)
  36. Due Process Mandatory Before Texas Requires Sex Offender Registration for Crimes not Covered by Statute (p 46)
  37. $15,000 Award for New York Prisoner in Medical Negligence Case (p 47)
  38. The “Qualified Immunity” Doctrine Needs to be Reexamined (p 48)
  39. FTCA Claims Survive; PREA Policy Defeats Discretionary Function Exception (p 48)
  40. $437,500 Settlement for Brutal Beating at Missouri Jail (p 50)
  41. Confusion Over Insanity Defense Leads One Jury to Issue Two Verdicts in Triple Murder (p 50)
  42. Alabama: State Agencies Have Absolute Immunity in a Court of Law or Equity (p 51)
  43. California: Governor Signs Bill to Block Expansion of For-profit Detention Centers (p 52)
  44. Newspaper Investigation Reveals Significant Problem with Life Sentences in Arizona (p 52)
  45. Ohio: $75,000 Settlement Reached after 60-Year-Old Woman Body Slammed by Jail Guard (p 53)
  46. Federal Lawsuit Filed Against Oklahoma Sheriffs – All of Them (p 54)
  47. Dying Prisoner’s Complaint Alleged Claim for Failure to Treat Hepatitis C (p 54)
  48. Virginia Federal Court Holds Nation of Gods and Earth is a Religion (p 55)
  49. Major Wage Ratio Gap Between Executives, Employees at Private Prisons (p 56)
  50. Former Michigan Prisoner Receives Over $817,000 for Wrongful Conviction (p 56)
  51. Oklahoma Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Lift Prison Smoking Ban (p 57)
  52. Phony New York Lawyer Defrauds Prisoners, Sent to Prison (p 58)
  53. Nebraska Sheriffs Profiting from Jail Phone Contracts (p 58)
  54. North Dakota: Altered Pencil in Prison Results in Weapon Possession Conviction (p 59)
  55. Pro Se Rhode Island Prisoner Wins First Amendment Settlement (p 59)
  56. Wrongful Death Case Against New York Jail Settles for $101,500 (p 60)
  57. U.S. Coast Guard Operating Inhumane Floating Prisons (p 60)
  58. Porn Reading Rooms in Iowa Prisons Placed on Legislative Hit List (p 61)
  59. North Carolina Woman Attempts Bail Bond Scheme from Inside Jail (p 61)
  60. Washington Prisoner’s Negligence Suit Settles for $75,000 (p 62)
  61. Justice Department Failing to Assess Prison Population Reduction, Clemency and Reentry Programs (p 62)
  62. News in Brief (p 63)

In the Eye of the Storm: When Hurricanes Impact Prisons and Jails

by Matt Clarke

Hurricanes and other major storms represent a significant threat to prisoners. Prisons and jails are often built on poorly-drained land located in flood plains or other environmentally-sensitive areas. Although meteorologists usually warn of hurricanes days or even weeks before they make landfall, prisoners cannot move themselves to ...

Mass Incarceration is a Women’s Issue, Too

by Jessicah Pierre, OtherWords

Over the last few years, our broken criminal justice system has become a national issue as horrific stories of victims of mass incarceration have made their way into the mainstream media.

The dominant narrative around this issue is usually that it disproportionately affects people of color ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

Welcome to the 28th anniversary issue of Prison Legal News. If someone had told me in 1990, when PLN first started, that nearly three decades later we would not only still be publishing but I would still be serving as the editor and we would have 19 ...

Photos Show Aftermath of Lethal South Carolina Prison Brawl that Left Seven Dead

by Steve Horn

Photos obtained by Prison Legal News appear to show the bloody aftermath of a riot that occurred at the Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina around 7:15 p.m. on April 15, 2018. The violence, which culminated in the deaths of seven prisoners, was the deadliest ...

Rash of Security Breaches Plagues Nation’s Prisons and Jails

by Christopher Zoukis

A review of recent news reports has revealed a recent spate of security breaches by both jail detainees and state and federal prisoners across the country. In October 2017 alone, escapes were reported in ten states involving at least 19 prisoners. Though most of those incidents were ...

Governor Vetoes Nevada’s Anti-Private Prison Bill

by Monte McCoin

Assembly Bill 303, introduced by Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno, a former prison guard, would have granted the Nevada Department of Corrections a five-year period to renovate existing prison facilities before eliminating the state’s relationship with for-profit prison firms. The bill progressed through the Nevada legislature with a 38-3 ...

New Mexico Jail Sued by HRDC for Censoring Book Orders

by Derek Gilna

The Santa Fe County Correctional Facility in New Mexico, already cited by the U.S. Department of Justice for shoddy medical care and poor management, has been sued by the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), publisher of Prison Legal News, for rejecting books sent to detainees at ...

PLN Censorship Suit Against Virginia Jail Headed to Trial

A lawsuit filed by Prison Legal News against censorship practices at the Northwest Regional Adult Detention Center (NWADC) in Winchester, Virginia has been scheduled for a jury trial later this year.

The suit will proceed with NWADC and Superintendent James F. Whitley as named defendants, and alleges the jail “adopted ...

British Prison Guard Sentenced for Contraband Smuggling Conspiracy

by Monte McCoin

More than 60 handwritten, sexually graphic letters contained all the proof that prosecutors needed to convict a female guard for her role in a conspiracy to smuggle phones, spice, Subutex, steroids, cannabis, porn and vodka into HMP Full Sutton in East Yorkshire, to give to prisoner Falak ...

“Witness to Human Torture”: On Both Sides of the Prison Walls, Social Workers Confront Solitary Confinement

by Valerie Kiebala, Solitary Watch

Esther Lim, a social worker employed by the ACLU to monitor Los Angeles County jails, was meeting with an incarcerated man in an attorney meeting room in 2011 when she heard what sounded like a fight. She looked through a window to see two deputies ...

“Survivors Guide to Prison,” by Matthew Cooke, director (Gravitas Ventures, February 2018); 102 minutes

Movie review by Steve Horn

A newly-released film that serves as an informative guide to surviving a stint in a U.S. jail or prison has hit the screens, and is streaming for a $4 rental fee on YouTube and Google Play, $5 on Amazon and is available for purchase ...

Mother-Son Team Sentenced for Tax Fraud, Obstruction of Justice

by Derek Gilna

Debra Skipper, a 61-year-old Ohio woman, was sentenced on October 31, 2017 in federal district court in Clarksburg, West Virginia to a split sentence of six months in jail and six months of home detention on charges related to wire fraud. Her co-defendant and son, Tyree Skipper ...

California: Defendants’ Repeated Discovery Obstruction Sanctioned in Guard Sex Abuse Case

On June 5, 2017, a California federal district court imposed sanctions against prison officials for destroying a warden’s personnel file and concealing or misrepresenting his involuntary termination and the existence of personnel file documents. The court granted the plaintiffs an adverse inference jury instruction regarding spoliation of the file, as ...

New York Law Gives Reformed Offenders an Opportunity to Seal Convictions

by Derek Gilna

A 2017 New York law, CPL 160.59, gives certain nonviolent offenders an opportunity to have their state convictions sealed, according to attorneys Ed Kratt and Frank Rothman. One of their clients, Joel Figueroa, a former drug dealer convicted in 2001 who graduated from college and now ...

Judge Threatens Arizona Officials with Contempt Over Inadequate Prisoner Medical Care

by David M. Reutter

On October 10, 2017, a federal district court in Arizona issued an order requiring officials with the Department of Corrections (DOC) to show cause why they should not be held in contempt of a 2014 court-enforced settlement agreement. U.S. Magistrate Judge David K. Duncan also ...

Prison Chaplain Wins Standoff with BOP Over Carrying Pepper Spray

by Monte McCoin

Rev. Ronald Apollo, head chaplain at FCI Bennettsville, a medium-security federal prison in South Carolina, prevailed against the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) in his challenge to a 2015 order that effectively prevented him from carrying out his ministerial duties. Apollo, who is a member of the ...

ACLU Sues Nebraska Over Unconstitutional Prison Conditions

by Matt Clarke

On August 16, 2017, the ACLU of Nebraska, ACLU National Prison Project, Nebraska Appleseed, National Association of the Deaf and two law firms, DLA Piper and Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP, filed a federal class-action suit against the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS), Nebraska Board ...

San Quentin Newspaper Editor Arnulfo Garcia Leaves a Legacy

by Dale Chappell

Arnulfo Garcia, sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, turned his life around and received a second chance when he was released on July 24, 2017 after serving 16 years. Two months later he was killed in a car crash. He was 65.

During his term ...

Prison Mailbox Rule Applied to South Carolina Prisoner’s Late PCR Petition

In an August 16, 2017 ruling, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that if a petitioner presents a valid equitable tolling defense for filing a post-conviction relief (PCR) petition beyond the statute of limitations, the limitations period “shall be tolled until the application is delivered to and received by the ...

As Prison Populations Drop, Several States Close Facilities

by Dale Chappell and Matt Clarke

Connecticut has closed another prison as the state Department of Correction’s population continues to fall. Officials confirmed that Enfield Correctional Institution, a 700-bed medium-security facility, closed in January 2018.

State officials cited falling crime rates, demographic trends and sentencing reform for the decline in ...

Fifth Circuit Reinstates Denial of Medical Care Suit Against Texas County Jail

by Matt Clarke

On June 15, 2017, in an unpublished ruling, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit brought by a former jail prisoner alleging he was denied adequate medical care at the Nueces County jail in Corpus Christi, Texas.

When Adam A. Balle was arrested by two ...

Massachusetts: State Court Officers May Not Enforce Immigration Detainers

by Matt Clarke

On July 24, 2017, a Massachusetts court held that state law provides no authority for court officers to arrest and hold an individual, solely on the basis of a federal civil immigration detainer, beyond the time he or she would otherwise be entitled to release.

Sreynuon Lunn ...

Federal Prisoner Shot in the Eye Awarded $80,000

by Jeremy Pinson

On January 26, 2018, following a three-day bench trial, federal prisoner Oray Fifer was awarded $80,000 in a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) suit by a district court in Phoenix, Arizona.

In December 2011 and August 2012, Fifer filed administrative tort claims with the federal Bureau ...

Tennessee: New Trial Ordered in Prisoner’s Wrongful Death Case

by Steve Horn

On April 5, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that a lawsuit over the death of 33-year-old Charles “Jason” Toll – a prisoner who died in 2010 after being forcibly removed from his solitary confinement cell at the Riverbend Maximum Security ...

Iowa Prison Officials Drop Disciplinary Sanctions in Controversial Case

by Matt Clarke

In 2009, Iowa state prisoner Joe Byrd was accused of participating in a prison gang rape along with four other prisoners. He not only asserted his innocence, but steadfastly maintained that the crime never happened. After a seven-year battle over disciplinary charges, the Iowa Department of Corrections ...

Seventh Circuit Affirms Denial of Qualified Immunity in Jail Suicide Suit

by Matt Clarke

On July 26, 2017, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a Wisconsin federal district court’s denial of qualified immunity to a jail guard and privately-contracted nurse after they ignored a prisoner’s risk assessment indicating a maximum risk of suicide.

Ryan L. Clark’s breath test showed he ...

New York Issues New Solitary Confinement Rules for Local Jails Amid Lawsuits, $5 Million Settlement

by Christopher Zoukis

On October 17, 2017, the New York Commission of Correction issued new rules governing the treatment of prisoners held in solitary confinement in local jails. The rules came in the wake of several class-action lawsuits over the use of and conditions in solitary, one of which recently ...

Court Certifies Class of Missouri Prisoners Denied Hepatitis C Treatment

by Matt Clarke

On July 26, 2017 (two days before World Hepatitis Day), the ACLU of Missouri and the MacArthur Justice Center (MJC) announced the certification of a class of Missouri Department of Corrections (MDOC) prisoners who have been denied treatment for hepatitis C (HCV) under the prevailing standard of ...

Oregon Sex Offenders Get LWOP, Not Treatment

“This bill will finally get at protecting our community from the most dangerous of sexual criminals,” said Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, testifying in support of legislation he co-­sponsored to enact a “two strikes and you’re out” law for repeat sex offenders.

The Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) reports ...

$330,000 for Florida Prison Guards Abused at Training Academy

The Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) agreed to pay $330,000 to settle claims brought by a trio of former guards who alleged they were fired after complaining of being physically abused at the department’s training academy at the Wakulla Correctional Institution.

The settlement resolved a multi-count complaint filed by ...

Former Pennsylvania Guards Settle FMLA Lawsuits for $110,000

by Derek Gilna

In March 2017, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania settled two federal lawsuits filed by former guards who alleged violations of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In the first case, the county agreed to pay $90,000 to settle a suit brought by six guards – Allen Joyce, Matthew ...

Female Prisoners More Likely to be HIV Positive than Non-prisoners

by Ed Lyon

Data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), released in an August 2017 report, found that female prisoners are nine times more likely to have HIV than non-incarcerated women. With the total HIV-positive female ...

$14.3 Million Settlement for Probationers Subject to Extortion by Private Company

Pathways (formerly Providence) Community Corrections (PCC) and officials in Rutherford County, Tennessee agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit over predatory practices by the for-profit probation company. The $14.3 million settlement provides compensation for nearly 30,000 people who were trapped by PCC in a cycle of debt, endless probation ...

Whistleblowing Angola Prisoner Who Faced Retaliation Wins Relief, Redemption

William Kissinger was “widely regarded as a positive leader at Angola by both prisoners and staff” over the 27 years he spent at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. That is, until corrections officials became incensed with the content of his email conversations with Maya Lau, a reporter for The Advocate, a ...

Indiana County Settles Jail Guard’s ADA/Discrimination Suit for $150,000

by Matt Clarke

In July 2017, an Indiana county settled a civil rights lawsuit brought by former jail guard Michael A. Jones that included claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The suit alleged the jail refused to accommodate post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from his finding a prisoner ...

Due Process Mandatory Before Texas Requires Sex Offender Registration for Crimes not Covered by Statute

by Matt Clarke

On August 8, 2017, a Texas federal district court determined that requiring a person on community supervision to register as a sex offender for a crime not covered by the Texas Sex Offender Registration Act, Art. 62.001 et seq., Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, without first ...

$15,000 Award for New York Prisoner in Medical Negligence Case

A New York Court of Claims awarded $15,000 to a prisoner after a nurse failed to timely diagnose and treat his heart attack.

While running to first base during a softball game on May 25, 2011, Shawangunk Correctional Facility (SCF) prisoner Juan Serrano, 53, experienced shortness of breath, felt ...

The “Qualified Immunity” Doctrine Needs to be Reexamined

by Derek Gilna

According to criminal justice expert and University of Chicago professor William Baude, “The doctrine of qualified immunity prevents government agents from being held personally liable for constitutional violations unless the violation was of ‘clearly established law.’”

Unfortunately, this doctrine has resulted in a lack of accountability ...

FTCA Claims Survive; PREA Policy Defeats Discretionary Function Exception

by Jeremy Pinson

While confined at the U.S. Penitentiary in Pollock, Louisiana, federal prisoner Rashod L. James filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2671-2680, against the United States and several prison employees – including Officer LeCroix and Warden Mike D. Carvajal – ...

$437,500 Settlement for Brutal Beating at Missouri Jail

A pretrial detainee who was brutally beaten without cause by guards at Missouri’s Jackson County Detention Center (JCDC) accepted $437,500 to settle his civil rights suit.

James J. Ramirez was being held in the medical wing at JCDC after his arrest on a probation violation. He was suffering from ...

Confusion Over Insanity Defense Leads One Jury to Issue Two Verdicts in Triple Murder

by Christopher Zoukis

A jury’s decision that a defendant on trial for murder was mentally ill but should go to prison led a judge to initially withhold judgment in the case.

Dan Popp, 41, was tried in November 2017 for the murders of Phia Vue, Mai K. Vue and Jesus ...

Alabama: State Agencies Have Absolute Immunity in a Court of Law or Equity

The Supreme Court of Alabama held that state agencies can never be made a defendant in any court of law or equity. The ruling resulted after the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) filed a petition for writ of mandamus against the Montgomery Circuit Court for a dismissal of claims filed ...

California: Governor Signs Bill to Block Expansion of For-profit Detention Centers

by Dale Chappell

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law in October 2017 that blocks the expansion of for-profit immigration detention facilities, demonstrating the state’s opposition to President Trump’s efforts to crack down on undocumented immigrants and increase deportations.

The Dignity Not Detention Act (SB 29) restricts new ...

Newspaper Investigation Reveals Significant Problem with Life Sentences in Arizona

by Christopher Zoukis

An investigation by the Arizona Republic has exposed a serious problem with life sentences imposed by state courts throughout Arizona since 1994. In the 22 years between January 1994 and January 2016, 248 out of 490 life sentences imposed included the possibility of parole after 25 years ...

Ohio: $75,000 Settlement Reached after 60-Year-Old Woman Body Slammed by Jail Guard

by Christopher Zoukis

A federal lawsuit filed by an elderly woman who suffered injuries after being slammed to the floor by a jail guard has ended in a settlement, and the guard disciplined.

Marsha Pate-Strickland was detained in Ohio’s Montgomery County jail on September 8, 2015 when she was involved ...

Federal Lawsuit Filed Against Oklahoma Sheriffs – All of Them

by Derek Gilna

A federal lawsuit was filed in November 2017 against every sheriff in the state of Oklahoma, along with judges, court officials and the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association, challenging a scheme that turned unpaid court fees and fines into a collection “extortion” racket. Most of the people targeted by ...

Dying Prisoner’s Complaint Alleged Claim for Failure to Treat Hepatitis C

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the dismissal of a prisoner’s civil rights action that accused staff at Autry State Prison of denying him treatment for hepatitis C.

Georgia state prisoner Blair Mitchell, who was serving a life sentence, filed a pro se complaint on February 22, 2016 ...

Virginia Federal Court Holds Nation of Gods and Earth is a Religion

A federal district court has ordered the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) to remove the security threat group designation from the Nation of Gods and Earth (NGE), “recognize it as a religion, and afford it the rights and privileges enumerated in the Department’s operating procedure for Offender Religious Programs, including ...

Major Wage Ratio Gap Between Executives, Employees at Private Prisons

by Steve Horn

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings reviewed by Prison Legal News show a major gap between the pay of private prison employees and the executives of those companies. And, according to a new report by the non-profit group Public Citizen, those numbers may not reflect the whole ...

Former Michigan Prisoner Receives Over $817,000 for Wrongful Conviction

A Michigan man who was wrongfully convicted of rape has received $817,351 in compensation from the state. Quentin Carter was 16 when he was charged in September 1991 with raping a 10-year-old girl in Grand Rapids.

The girl’s mother waited ten days to report the incident to the police ...

Oklahoma Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Lift Prison Smoking Ban

by Monte McCoin

The Enid News & Eagle reported on February 23, 2018 that Oklahoma State Representative Rick West had introduced a bill to dismantle a six-year ban on cigarette sales and smoking inside state prisons. The measure, which passed a House committee with a vote of 5-4, moved forward ...

Phony New York Lawyer Defrauds Prisoners, Sent to Prison

by Ed Lyon

Antonia Barrone of Albany, New York posed as an attorney from September 2012 to April 2017. She went by various male aliases, including Mario Vrendenburg, Antonio Barrone, Mario Stacchini, Mario Helems and Mark Vredenburg, and primarily targeted prisoners seeking legal representation for parole denials.

She defrauded over ...

Nebraska Sheriffs Profiting from Jail Phone Contracts

by Christopher Zoukis

The ACLU of Nebraska issued a report on November 30, 2017 detailing the cost of telephone calls made from county jails in the state, concluding that phone rates remain “unconscionably” expensive. Profits for some sheriffs are so high that the ACLU compared the practice to “for-profit debtors’ ...

North Dakota: Altered Pencil in Prison Results in Weapon Possession Conviction

The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the conviction of Arthur Lee Crissler on a charge of possessing a weapon in a correctional facility.

During a September 3, 2016 search of Crissler’s cellblock, a pencil wrapped in paper, thread and elastic was found concealed under the mattress on Crissler’s bunk. He ...

Pro Se Rhode Island Prisoner Wins First Amendment Settlement

by Derek Gilna

Edward McCable, a Rhode Island prisoner housed in the High Security Center (HSC) at the state’s Adult Correctional Institution, successfully sued the Rhode Island Department of Corrections (RI DOC) for restricting his access to religious publications. Without the benefit of an attorney, McCable obtained a settlement on ...

Wrongful Death Case Against New York Jail Settles for $101,500

by Derek Gilna

Lucky Lee Wilkins, Jr., who suffered from depression, committed suicide while in the custody of the Schenectady County jail in New York on May 28, 2014. His family filed suit alleging civil rights violations, and the case settled in July 2017 for $101,500.

Wilkins, who was ...

U.S. Coast Guard Operating Inhumane Floating Prisons

by Christopher Zoukis

An eye-opening report from The New York Times has exposed the existence of multiple “floating Guantanamos” operated by the U.S. Coast Guard throughout the Pacific Ocean. Coast guard cutters on missions to interdict suspected drug smugglers in international waters have become de facto prisons for detainees ...

Porn Reading Rooms in Iowa Prisons Placed on Legislative Hit List

A proposed law, Senate Study Bill 3035, would put an end to “pornography reading rooms” in Iowa prisons. The rooms have existed since a 1988 federal court ruling that held the Iowa DOC’s rules on pornography were unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.

“The current policy on these materials does not align ...

North Carolina Woman Attempts Bail Bond Scheme from Inside Jail

by Monte McCoin

On December 1, 2017, police in Gastonia, North Carolina filed charges against Crystal Dawn Massey, who was already incarcerated at the Gaston County jail, for her role in a fake bail bond scam she attempted to carry out while locked up.

Massey told other prisoners she could ...

Washington Prisoner’s Negligence Suit Settles for $75,000

Washington State’s Spokane County Jail reached a $75,000 settlement in a lawsuit that alleged guards failed to protect a prisoner from being assaulted by another prisoner.

Justin T. Betts, 35, has a long history of mental illness and has been jailed more than a dozen times. Shortly after his ...

Justice Department Failing to Assess Prison Population Reduction, Clemency and Reentry Programs

by Christopher Zoukis

In a statement made to members of Congress on December 13, 2017, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported on the failure of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to properly implement recommendations intended to measure the success of incarceration reduction and reentry initiatives. The programs, recommended ...

News in Brief

Alabama: A 33-year-old prisoner who had worked at the Koch Foods poultry plant for nearly five months while participating in a work release program was killed in an October 29, 2017 “industrial accident.” Frank Dwayne Ellington died shortly after he was caught in a machine during his late afternoon ...