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Prison Legal News: June, 2018

Issue PDF
Volume 29, Number 6

In this issue:

  1. While in Custody: The Fight to Stop Jail Deaths in Washington State (p 1)
  2. Crisis in Maryland as Mentally Incompetent Defendants Languish in County Jails (p 8)
  3. From the Editor (p 10)
  4. The Results are in: Prison Legal News Reader Survey! (p 10)
  5. As More Prisons Shutter, Governments Wonder What to Do With Them (p 12)
  6. Wrongful Death Suit Against Tennessee Town Settles for $6,000 (p 15)
  7. Water at Massachusetts Prison Under Scrutiny from Prisoners, Advocates, Public Agencies (p 16)
  8. Guards Sentenced for Beating Prisoners at Kentucky Jail (p 17)
  9. Prison Labor: Positive Programming or Modern-day Slavery? (p 18)
  10. When Prisons and Jails Switch to Video Calling (p 20)
  11. HRDC Files Censorship Suit Against Sheriff in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina (p 22)
  12. PLN Postcard-only Suit Against Knox County, Tennessee Settles for $87,000 (p 22)
  13. Pennsylvania DOC Bans Timberland Boots; Prisoner Files Suit Seeking Injunction (p 23)
  14. Numerous Deaths, Sealed Settlements in North Carolina Jails (p 24)
  15. MacAuthur Justice Center Files Lawsuit Over Missouri Parole Revocations (p 27)
  16. Abuses at Orange County and San Bernardino Jails Cost Taxpayers Millions (p 28)
  17. Solitary: The Inside Story of Supermax Isolation and How We Can Abolish It, by Dr. Terry Allen Kupers (University of California Press, September 2017). 304 pages, $29.95 hardcover (p 30)
  18. Mentally Incompetent Detainees Stuck in California Jails Spark Class-action Lawsuit, Fines (p 32)
  19. Lawsuit Over Rikers Island Suicide Settles for $380,000 (p 32)
  20. Incorrect Cause of Tennessee Prisoner’s Death Reported by CoreCivic Employees (p 34)
  21. Tennessee: Jail Guard Charged with Taser Assault (p 35)
  22. Influenza Season Hits Nation’s Prisons and Jails (p 36)
  23. Lawsuits Filed Against GEO Group for Wage Violations at Detention Facilities (p 38)
  24. Protest Results in Three Arrests at CoreCivic’s Annual Shareholders Meeting (p 40)
  25. Settlement in Federal Suit Over Treatment of Disabled Detainees in Northern California Jail (p 41)
  26. Cause of Action for Shaming Sex Therapy May Not Accrue Until after Release from Prison (p 42)
  27. $100,000 Settlement in Suit Over Hawaii Guard’s Sexual Assault of Prisoner (p 42)
  28. Who is in Private Prisons? New Study Provides Surprising Answers (p 43)
  29. California: A Prison by any Other Name is Still a Prison (p 44)
  30. Ex-cons Turn Prison Workouts into Real Jobs, Transform Lives (p 44)
  31. Ohio: $275,000 Settlement in Jail Detainee’s Suicide (p 45)
  32. Federal Civil Rights Suit for California Jail Beating Settles for $100,000 (p 46)
  33. Percentage of Americans with Felony Convictions Increases, Especially for Blacks (p 46)
  34. Indiana County Pays $28,000 to Settle Prisoner’s Excessive Force Suit (p 47)
  35. Kansas Prisoner Who Warned “Something is Eating my Brain” Dies of Untreated Brain Infection (p 48)
  36. Ninth Circuit Orders Sealing of Court Documents that Reveal Informant (p 48)
  37. Mississippi DOC Announces Phone Rate Cuts (p 49)
  38. Ohio: Federal Lawsuit Over Jail Beating Settles for $70,000 (p 50)
  39. New California Parole Board Guidelines, Reforms Face Opposition (p 50)
  40. Idaho DOC and Corizon Held in Contempt in Long-standing Lawsuit (p 51)
  41. Trinity Services Group Faces Complaints Due to Inadequate Prison and Jail Food (p 52)
  42. Mentally Ill Colorado Prisoner Who Gouged Out His Eyes Sues Sheriff (p 53)
  43. Transgender Prisoner Issues Result in Litigation, Policy Changes (p 54)
  44. Texas Prisoner in Administrative Segregation Transition Program Murders Cellmate (p 55)
  45. Texas Prisoners Receive Inadequate Legal Representation from State Agency (p 56)
  46. Ohio Death Row Prisoner Avoids Execution then Dies in Prison (p 56)
  47. Settlement after Connecticut Police Chief’s Son Assaults Handcuffed Prisoner (p 57)
  48. Prisons Don’t Damage Only Prisoners; Guards at Risk of PTSD and Suicide, Too (p 58)
  49. Kansas Jail Prisoners Win Lawsuit Over Postcard-only Policy (p 59)
  50. Settlement in Lawsuit Over Missouri Jail Prisoner’s Death (p 60)
  51. Hawaii Prison System Failing to Uphold Agreement on Mental Health Care (p 60)
  52. Wisconsin Settles State Prisoner’s Lawsuits for $13,000 (p 61)
  53. Guantanamo Bay Prison to Remain Open, Trump Announces (p 62)
  54. News in Brief (p 63)

While in Custody: The Fight to Stop Jail Deaths in Washington State

When a prisoner dies in Washington state, the question of who is to blame often goes unaddressed. Meet the families, and their lawyers, who want answers.

by Ciara O’Rourke, Seattle Met

Stephanie Deal wanted her mom to bail her out. She wanted to go home. To see her daughter, Ella ...

Crisis in Maryland as Mentally Incompetent Defendants Languish in County Jails

by Christopher Zoukis

When criminal defendants are found mentally incompetent to stand trial, a judge typically orders their transfer to a psychiatric hospital for treatment to restore competency. But many states struggle with a shortage of psychiatric beds, even as the number of mentally incompetent defendants has grown. So the ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

Deaths in jails are all too common in the United States, especially from medical neglect and untreated injuries. They are also usually ignored, as jails have even less oversight than state or federal prisons. Systemic patterns of jail deaths are nothing new, but the occasional media inquiry ...

The Results are in: Prison Legal News Reader Survey!

by Steve Horn

Prison Legal News has compiled the results of its last reader survey and this summary will report on the more compelling findings, which we will use to inform editorial decisions in forthcoming issues of the magazine. We extend our gratitude to Heidi Sadri, a student worker employed ...

As More Prisons Shutter, Governments Wonder What to Do With Them

Distilleries? Homeless shelters? Museums? There are lots of creative ideas for repurposing old lockups. But finding one that’s good for the economy – and wins approval – isn’t easy.

by Daniel C. Vock, Governing.com

From the moment he saw Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, Pete Waddington wanted to turn the ...

Wrongful Death Suit Against Tennessee Town Settles for $6,000

by Monte McCoin

A $1 million lawsuit filed by the widow of a man who died at the city jail in Kingsport, Tennessee following a 2015 DUI arrest settled on February 28, 2017 for just $6,000.

Judy Honaker alleged that the City of Kingsport and two jailers, Monica Safis ...

Water at Massachusetts Prison Under Scrutiny from Prisoners, Advocates, Public Agencies

by Panagioti Tsolkas

When Wayland Coleman, a prisoner at MCI-Norfolk in Massachusetts, stepped out of the shower last year he noticed something strange. It was as if the towel he used to dry himself was, in his words, “used to wipe dirt off the floor.”

“I don’t know exactly ...

Guards Sentenced for Beating Prisoners at Kentucky Jail

by David M. Reutter

Three Kentucky River Regional Jail guards have been sentenced to federal prison terms for beating prisoners in two separate incidents – including one where a prisoner died.

In 2013, guards Damon Wayne Hickman and William C. Howell entered the cell of Larry Trent, 54, to remove ...

Prison Labor: Positive Programming or Modern-day Slavery?

by Christopher Zoukis

Prisoners in most jurisdictions in the United States are required to work, often for little or no pay. Yet this is neither illegal nor unconstitutional. Pretrial detainees who have not been convicted of a crime cannot be forced to work. But the federal Fair Labor Standards Act ...

When Prisons and Jails Switch to Video Calling

by Derek Gilna

Although video calls – the term PLN uses to describe video visits, which are far removed from actual visitation – are available at many county jails and some prisons, usually for a fee, more and more facilities are considering using them to replace in-person visits. But prisoners’ ...

HRDC Files Censorship Suit Against Sheriff in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina

On April 24, 2018, the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), PLN’s parent non-profit organization, filed suit in federal court against Mecklenburg County Sheriff Irwin Carmichael and other employees of the sheriff’s office, alleging unlawful censorship of HRDC’s publications sent to prisoners at the Mecklenburg County Jail in North Carolina.

HRDC ...

PLN Postcard-only Suit Against Knox County, Tennessee Settles for $87,000

by Steve Horn

On April 4, 2018, Prison Legal News settled a lawsuit over unconstitutional mail policies at a jail in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The complaint centered around the censorship of 147 pieces of mail sent to prisoners at the Knox County jail between November 2014 and when the suit was ...

Pennsylvania DOC Bans Timberland Boots; Prisoner Files Suit Seeking Injunction

by Monte McCoin

On April 30, 2018, Pennsylvania prisoner Jamal Washington filed a lawsuit to prevent a ban on leather Timberland boots at all state prisons. His suit seeks an injunction because, he contends, the boots are needed for warmth during the winter months.

“Most of the DOC’s facilities are ...

Numerous Deaths, Sealed Settlements in North Carolina Jails

by David M. Reutter

After two North Carolina prisoners died in county jails, lawsuits filed by their families resulted in settlements. Under state law, the details of those agreements should have been public record; in fact, in the absence of accepted standards for jail health care or strong regulatory oversight ...

MacAuthur Justice Center Files Lawsuit Over Missouri Parole Revocations

by Matt Clarke

In August 2017, the MacArthur Justice Center (MJC) in St. Louis filed a federal civil rights suit against the Missouri Department of Corrections and its Division of Probation and Parole (Parole Board). At issue were alleged violations of the constitutional rights of parolees facing revocation hearings, which ...

Abuses at Orange County and San Bernardino Jails Cost Taxpayers Millions

by Dale Chappell

“Chicken-winging,” it’s called – when guards twist a prisoner’s arms behind his back and wrench them upward, inflicting extreme pain. Without the upward yank, the technique is an acceptable means of physical control and “you’ll get compliance a lot quicker,” according to former U.S ...

Solitary: The Inside Story of Supermax Isolation and How We Can Abolish It, by Dr. Terry Allen Kupers (University of California Press, September 2017). 304 pages, $29.95 hardcover

Solitary: The Inside Story of Supermax Isolation and How We Can Abolish It, by Dr. Terry Allen Kupers (University of California Press, September 2017). 304 pages, $29.95 hardcover

Book review by Christopher Zoukis

There are nations around the world that routinely torture their own citizens. Government actors in those ...

Mentally Incompetent Detainees Stuck in California Jails Spark Class-action Lawsuit, Fines

by Christopher Zoukis

California county jails are facing lawsuits and court-imposed fines over their handling of detainees who have been determined incompetent to stand trial due to mental illness.

In Ventura County, the families of mentally ill detainees have filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court over the denial of ...

Lawsuit Over Rikers Island Suicide Settles for $380,000

by Christopher Zoukis

In July 2017, the family of a man who killed himself while in custody at the Rikers Island jail complex in New York City agreed to settle their wrongful death suit for $380,000.

Aris Hiraldo, a 24-year-old father of three, committed suicide by hanging himself with ...

Incorrect Cause of Tennessee Prisoner’s Death Reported by CoreCivic Employees

According to the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC), state prisoner Edward Ray Gilley, Jr., 54, died on November 5, 2016 at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, a facility owned and operated by CoreCivic – previously known as Corrections Corporation of America.

In response to a public records request filed by ...

Tennessee: Jail Guard Charged with Taser Assault

A Tennessee grand jury returned an indictment on September 5, 2017 that charged a former deputy with the Cheatham County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) with using a stun gun to assault a pre-trial detainee at the county jail.

Jordan E. Norris, 19, was arrested in November 2016 on drug and weapons ...

Influenza Season Hits Nation’s Prisons and Jails

by Gregory Dober

In 1918, countries worldwide were hit with one of the worst influenza outbreaks in modern time. Experts believe that the pandemic of the Spanish flu originated and spread through overcrowded WWI army camps, then was transported into surrounding civilian communities. That allowed the disease to rapidly spread ...

Lawsuits Filed Against GEO Group for Wage Violations at Detention Facilities

by Christopher Zoukis and Matt Clarke

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit in superior court against The GEO Group in September 2017, alleging the private prison contractor had violated the state’s minimum wage laws by paying immigrant detainees $1 per day to perform work at the company’s ...

Protest Results in Three Arrests at CoreCivic’s Annual Shareholders Meeting

On May 10, 2018, drumbeats echoed and faux “blood” flowed through the parking lot at the Nashville, Tennessee headquarters of CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), as activists staged dramatic street theater to represent the sorrow, suffering and deaths of prisoners at the hands of the for-profit prison operator.

“Over ...

Settlement in Federal Suit Over Treatment of Disabled Detainees in Northern California Jail

by Christopher Zoukis

A class-action lawsuit brought by disabled prisoners held at the Shasta County Jail in California has settled, subject to judicial approval.

The case was originally filed by Everett Joseph Jewett, a disabled detainee. In his April 2, 2014 complaint, Jewett alleged the jail was housing prisoners with ...

Cause of Action for Shaming Sex Therapy May Not Accrue Until after Release from Prison

On August 29, 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held “it may be reasonable for an incarcerated individual who is told she must resurface past sexual trauma to overcome them to rely on these assurances, and to view associated feelings of emotional distress as normal, contractive responses incidental to ...

$100,000 Settlement in Suit Over Hawaii Guard’s Sexual Assault of Prisoner

by Matt Clarke

The State of Hawaii and a former prison guard have each agreed to pay $50,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a female prisoner who was sexually assaulted.

Stormy Rae Smith was serving a five-year sentence at the Women’s Community Correctional Center in Honolulu for car ...

Who is in Private Prisons? New Study Provides Surprising Answers

by Christopher Zoukis

The election of pro-business and law-and-order candidate Donald Trump to the presidency has been a boon to companies that operate for-profit prisons and immigration detention centers. So perhaps now is a good time to ask a question that has seen surprisingly little attention: Who is in private ...

California: A Prison by any Other Name is Still a Prison

by Ed Lyon

The City of Adelanto in San Bernardino County, California owns a detention center – not a prison – according to Pablo Paez, a spokesman for the GEO Group, a private prison firm. “The ICE Processing Centers operated by our company are very different than local jails and ...

Ex-cons Turn Prison Workouts into Real Jobs, Transform Lives

by Dale Chappell

When criminal defense attorney William Kroger visited his clients in California prisons, he noticed that just a few months behind bars seemed to whip many of them into shape. Because the state had removed all weightlifting equipment from its prisons over 20 years earlier, Kroger wondered: How ...

Ohio: $275,000 Settlement in Jail Detainee’s Suicide

A $275,000 settlement was reached in a lawsuit over the March 5, 2015 suicide of a pretrial detainee at Ohio’s Fairfield County Jail. It was the second settlement related to a suicide at the facility since 2009.

Jesse Whitlatch, 32, was arrested on charges of breaking and entering and ...

Federal Civil Rights Suit for California Jail Beating Settles for $100,000

by Derek Gilna

In September 2017, Derek Connor, incarcerated at the Placer County jail in Auburn, California, filed a federal lawsuit against the county and numerous deputies and jail employees over an unprovoked beating and other civil rights violations. The complaint, filed in the Eastern District of California, claimed that ...

Percentage of Americans with Felony Convictions Increases, Especially for Blacks

by Christopher Zoukis

A January 2018 report from Pew Charitable Trusts indicated that the number of U.S. residents with a felony record rose sharply in every state between 1980 and 2010. The report analyzed data from a University of Georgia study published in September 2017, which showed that several ...

Indiana County Pays $28,000 to Settle Prisoner’s Excessive Force Suit

by Dale Chappell

LaPorte County, Indiana has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by a former prisoner who claimed county jailers used excessive force against him.

The suit, filed by Marcin Kulbacki, alleged that guards at the LaPorte County jail tased him and otherwise used excessive force, causing head and ...

Kansas Prisoner Who Warned “Something is Eating my Brain” Dies of Untreated Brain Infection

by Derek Gilna

The family of Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) prisoner Marques Davis filed suit in federal district court in October 2017, alleging that officials at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility and the prison’s for-profit medical care provider, Corizon Health, failed to treat his fatal brain infection.

Davis died on ...

Ninth Circuit Orders Sealing of Court Documents that Reveal Informant

by Matt Clarke

On September 12, 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a federal district court’s denial of a defendant’s motion to seal all documents related to the lower sentence he received because he informed on a drug cartel.

John Doe is the pseudonym of a defendant who ...

Mississippi DOC Announces Phone Rate Cuts

by Monte McCoin

The Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) announced on March 17, 2018 that phone calls from state prisons would be less expensive for prisoners and their families, effective immediately.

“The reduced rate will make services even more accessible and affordable for inmates’ families and loved ones,” Commissioner ...

Ohio: Federal Lawsuit Over Jail Beating Settles for $70,000

by Christopher Zoukis

A federal lawsuit alleging various constitutional and state law violations related to the beating of a jail detainee in Euclid City, Ohio settled in October 2017 for $70,000.

On January 14, 2015, Lucille Dumas was arrested in connection with a traffic stop. As she was being ...

New California Parole Board Guidelines, Reforms Face Opposition

by Ed Lyon

California is getting serious about reversing its long history of mass incarceration. From a 2008 state supreme court ruling that abolished parole denials based on the seriousness and nature of the offense to a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision ordering California to reduce its prison population ...

Idaho DOC and Corizon Held in Contempt in Long-standing Lawsuit

by Derek Gilna

The Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) and its contracted private medical care provider, Corizon Health, were held in contempt of consent orders entered in 1984 and 2014 in a class-action suit. The original November 1, 1984 order required prison officials to adopt a special dietary program for ...

Trinity Services Group Faces Complaints Due to Inadequate Prison and Jail Food

by Ed Lyon

A tide of complaints has surfaced around Florida-based Trinity Services Group, one of the largest food service providers to correctional facilities in the nation. At issue is the provision of adequate, nutritious and healthy meals, since one study has found prisoners are six times more likely to ...

Mentally Ill Colorado Prisoner Who Gouged Out His Eyes Sues Sheriff

by Ed Lyon

On December 7, 2017, Ryan Partridge, a mentally ill prisoner, sued the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office and other county employees, claiming they failed to provide him with adequate mental health care and abused him. The 31-year-old, who suffers from psychosis, eventually gouged out his own eyes; in ...

Transgender Prisoner Issues Result in Litigation, Policy Changes

In two recent settlements, corrections officials were forced to pay for their failure to honor the chosen gender identity of transgender prisoners and where they were housed. But in a third case, a court’s refusal to second-guess a housing decision by prison staff led to a transgender prisoner being assaulted ...

Texas Prisoner in Administrative Segregation Transition Program Murders Cellmate

On January 17, 2018, a Texas state prisoner who was participating in the Administrative Segregation Transition Program (ASTP) at the Ramsey Unit murdered his cellmate. It was the first prisoner-on-prisoner homicide in Texas this year.

Alfred Brosig, 48, who was serving a capital life sentence for a 2002 murder, told ...

Texas Prisoners Receive Inadequate Legal Representation from State Agency

by Ed Lyon

In December 2017, a Texas State Bar committee issued a scathing report concerning the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), which oversees the State Counsel for Offenders (SCO) – an agency that provides legal representation for prisoners in certain cases.

SCO attorneys represent prisoners accused of committing ...

Ohio Death Row Prisoner Avoids Execution then Dies in Prison

by Derek Gilna

On March 3, 2018, Alva Campbell, a 69-year-old death row prisoner convicted of two murders, died in prison. Ironically, he passed away just five months after his poor health forced the postponement of his execution.

In November 2017, prison officials were unable to find a vein to ...

Settlement after Connecticut Police Chief’s Son Assaults Handcuffed Prisoner

by Ed Lyon

On May 1, 2010, Pedro Temich was arrested in Meriden, Connecticut. He was taken to jail, where video cameras recorded officer Evan Cossette pushing Temich, who was handcuffed and not resisting. Temich fell, hitting the back of his head on a concrete bench.

Cossette then entered the ...

Prisons Don’t Damage Only Prisoners; Guards at Risk of PTSD and Suicide, Too

by Christopher Zoukis

In Prison Legal News, much of our reporting addresses the abuses that the U.S. carceral system inflicts on prisoners. But prisoners (and their families) aren’t the only ones whose lives are impacted by mass incarceration. New research is exposing the harm that our nation’s prisons do ...

Kansas Jail Prisoners Win Lawsuit Over Postcard-only Policy

by Ed Lyon

When Wilson County, Kansas Sheriff Pete Figgins instituted a postcard-only correspondence policy at the county jail, prisoners were only allowed to send and receive letters to and from attorneys. No notice was provided when mail was rejected under the new policy.

In April 2016, the ACLU Foundation ...

Settlement in Lawsuit Over Missouri Jail Prisoner’s Death

by Matt Clarke

The family of a prisoner who died at a Richland Heights, Missouri jail after untreated deep vein thrombosis caused a fatal pulmonary embolism has settled a lawsuit brought against the jail, two hospitals and hospital employees. The settlement was confidential but the city’s portion was released as ...

Hawaii Prison System Failing to Uphold Agreement on Mental Health Care

The suicides of three prisoners over a four-month period in mid-2017 brought new scrutiny to the Hawaii Department of Public Safety (DPS). Coming just two years after reaching a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the trio of suicides raises concerns that DPS officials are not following ...

Wisconsin Settles State Prisoner’s Lawsuits for $13,000

On February 2, 2017, Wisconsin officials agreed to pay $13,000 to settle two pro se federal lawsuits.

Samuel S. Upthegrove, a Wisconsin state prisoner with mental health issues, filed two suits related to conditions of his confinement. One of his complaints alleged that, while he was incarcerated at the ...

Guantanamo Bay Prison to Remain Open, Trump Announces

by Derek Gilna

In his State of the Union address in January 2018, President Donald Trump announced that he had signed an executive order to ensure the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, commonly known as Gitmo, would remain open – keeping a promise made during his election campaign to ...

News in Brief

Alabama: Former Draper Correctional Facility guard Johntarance Henriquis McCray was sentenced on July 27, 2017 to 54 months in federal prison for bringing crack cocaine, powder cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, Xanax and Suboxone into the facility. A search of his vehicle had also uncovered a duffle bag containing additional drugs, a ...