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Prison Legal News: August, 2018

Issue PDF
Volume 29, Number 8

In this issue:

  1. Prison Food and Commissary Services: A Recipe for Disaster (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 14)
  3. New Jersey Jail Scrutinized after Suicides; Guards Charged, Families Sue (p 14)
  4. Private Prison Firms Use Revolving Door Lobbying, Generous Campaign Donations (p 16)
  5. Pennsylvania: Settlement Changes Jail’s Policy for Treatment of Pregnant Prisoners (p 19)
  6. Colorado Prison Gang Leader Commits Suicide at Wyoming Prison (p 20)
  7. Arkansas and Oklahoma Rehab Programs Sued for Using Court-ordered Defendants for Forced Labor (p 22)
  8. Arizona Man Falsely Arrested, Prosecuted by Iowa Officials Accepts $285,000 Settlement (p 23)
  9. Lawsuit Against Private Prison Firm Over Prisoner’s Death at Texarkana Jail (p 24)
  10. California Prison Psychiatrist Faces Harassment, Retaliation from State Officials (p 25)
  11. Texas Couple Wrongly Convicted in “Satanic Panic” Receive $3.4 Million (p 26)
  12. HRDC Receives $25,000 Judgment in North Carolina Jail Censorship Case (p 26)
  13. Federal Court Allows Menard Prisoner’s Lawsuit for Loss of Legal Papers, Retaliation to Proceed (p 28)
  14. $650,000 Settlement in Oregon Jail Wrongful Death Claim (p 28)
  15. Jail Prisoner Injured in Attack by Co-defendant Settles for $5,000 (p 29)
  16. Alabama Prisoners Suffer Nation’s Highest Homicide, Suicide Rates (p 30)
  17. The Catalyst: Thelton Henderson Transformed California’s Criminal Justice System. Now Comes the Backlash (p 32)
  18. $375,000 Settlement for Ohio Woman Pepper Sprayed in Jail’s Restraint Chair (p 35)
  19. Texas Towns with Private Prisons Experience Job Losses (p 36)
  20. Florida: $60,000 Settlement for Juvenile Offender Raped During “Test of Heart” Ritual (p 38)
  21. Arpaio’s Infamous Tent City is Gone but Arizona State Prison’s Tent City Remains (p 38)
  22. Tennessee Jailer Convicted of Official Misconduct, “Extreme Provocative Contact” (p 39)
  23. Prisoners Help Train Future (K9) Law Enforcement Officers (p 40)
  24. California Prison Spends $417,000 on Bottled Water as Contamination, Violations Continue (p 40)
  25. North Carolina Prison Guard Beaten, Stabbed; Sources Say His Past Brutality Made Him a Target (p 41)
  26. Federal Prisoner’s Custody Status Continues While “on Loan” to Face State Charges (p 42)
  27. 15 Years to Life for Jailers Who Beat Mentally Ill Prisoner to Death (p 42)
  28. Former Prosecutor and Director of Tennessee DOC Sentenced to Prison (p 43)
  29. Alabama Pastor and Non-profit Director Fights Capital Murder Charge (p 44)
  30. Federal Judge Dismisses Class-action Suits Over Jail Phone Rates, Commissions (p 44)
  31. Michigan Prisoners Receive Compensation for Wrongful Convictions (p 45)
  32. Canadian Non-profit Seeks Plant-based Focus, No Animal Slaughter at Prison Farms (p 46)
  33. Alaska Jail Recorded Attorney-client Conversations for Four Years (p 46)
  34. Virginia: Former Assistant Warden Gets Suspended Sentence for Trading Privileges for Sex (p 47)
  35. Louisiana Judge’s Views May Warrant Recusal in All Death Penalty Cases (p 48)
  36. Georgia Renewal Statute Requires Prepayment of Costs of Prior Suit (p 48)
  37. Growing Number of Local Jurisdictions Reject Correctional Privatization (p 49)
  38. Wrongfully-convicted California Prisoner Exonerated, Receives $15 Million (p 50)
  39. Federal Class-action Accuses CoreCivic of Exploiting Immigrant Detainee Labor (p 50)
  40. Donald Who? Reform Goes Forward Despite His Idiocy (p 52)
  41. Trump Calls Prison Reform “Very Important” as First Step Act Passes in the House (p 54)
  42. Massachusetts County Faces Lawsuit Over Phone Fee Kickbacks (p 55)
  43. Temple University Marks 20 Years of Transformative Inside-Out Prison Program (p 56)
  44. Previous NY Escapee Fails to Negotiate Privileges in Exchange for Revealing Security Flaws (p 56)
  45. Indiana DOC Settles Prisoner’s Retaliation Suit for $80,000 (p 57)
  46. Federal Compassionateless Release (p 58)
  47. Criticism of Commission-based Phone Contract at Pennsylvania County Prison (p 58)
  48. Michigan Prisoner Publishes Book, State Sues for His Proceeds (p 60)
  49. Inadequate Health Services for Native American Prisoners (p 60)
  50. FRCP Rule 25 Allows for Extension of Time to Substitute Party Upon Death (p 61)
  51. News in Brief (p 63)

Prison Food and Commissary Services: A Recipe for Disaster

by David M. Reutter

Food plays an integral role in our lives. It not only provides the nutrition necessary to sustain our existence, it feeds the sense of community we all crave. Social bonds are made as we break bread with those who sit and dine with us at the ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

For anyone who has done time, the obscene prices at the prison or jail commissary are always a source of complaint and wonder. Complaint because they are so high, and wonder because they are so untethered from any reasonable level of profit or reality. As this issue’s ...

New Jersey Jail Scrutinized after Suicides; Guards Charged, Families Sue

by Edward B. Lyon, Jr.

The Cumberland County jail in Bridgeton, New Jersey, parts of which are nearly 80 years old, is scheduled for replacement in 2020. Meanwhile, the facility has been plagued with a high prisoner suicide rate and staff misconduct. From July 2014 to May 2017, four male ...

Private Prison Firms Use Revolving Door Lobbying, Generous Campaign Donations

by Steve Horn

It’s an even-numbered year, which makes sense because, as is the norm, what’s going on in our nation’s capital is anything but odd. That is, big money once again is flowing into Congressional campaign coffers from corporate interests, aiming to influence the 2018 midterm elections. And as ...

Pennsylvania: Settlement Changes Jail’s Policy for Treatment of Pregnant Prisoners

A settlement agreement has been reached that improves the conditions of confinement for pregnant women held at the Allegheny County Jail (ACJ) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The agreement ends the routine placement of pregnant prisoners into solitary confinement.

The civil rights complaint, filed in December 2016, named five plaintiffs – all ...

Colorado Prison Gang Leader Commits Suicide at Wyoming Prison

by Matthew Clarke

On August 26, 2017, Benjamin Davis, 42, the founder and leader of a white supremacist prison gang called the 211 Crew, was found hanging in his cell at the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins. Davis was suspected of having ordered the 2013 murder of Tom Clements, director ...

Arkansas and Oklahoma Rehab Programs Sued for Using Court-ordered Defendants for Forced Labor

by David Reutter

A federal lawsuit filed in October 2017 accuses an Arkansas-based drug rehab center of “human trafficking and forced labor” for abusing a court-ordered pre-trial diversion program. The rehab center reportedly compelled defendants to provide cheap labor for welding companies, chicken processing plants and manufacturers – including a ...

Arizona Man Falsely Arrested, Prosecuted by Iowa Officials Accepts $285,000 Settlement

by Ed Lyon

Early on January 1, 2017, Tristan Hermanson was with a woman in his apartment in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Two men entered, assaulted him and stole money and his cell phone. The woman, Elizabeth Navarro, seemed to be working with the robbers. Hermanson was able to escape and ...

Lawsuit Against Private Prison Firm Over Prisoner’s Death at Texarkana Jail

by Matthew Clarke

The family of a prisoner who died at the Bi-State Jail in Texarkana has filed a federal civil rights suit alleging his death resulted from inadequate medical care.

The jail is unique in that it straddles the border of Texas and Arkansas in a city that spreads ...

California Prison Psychiatrist Faces Harassment, Retaliation from State Officials

by Ed Lyon

Psychiatrist Anthony Coppola, employed in California’s prison system, was a warden’s dream employee. He often worked overtime and on his days off when his primary job at a prison in Tracy, California was short staffed. As a result of his hard work, he amassed a huge backlog ...

Texas Couple Wrongly Convicted in “Satanic Panic” Receive $3.4 Million

by Matt Clarke

An Austin, Texas couple wrongly convicted of sexually abusing a child at the day-care center they ran in the 1990s has been declared innocent and received over $3.4 million in compensation from the state.

Starting in the 1980s, the United States experienced an episode of mass ...

HRDC Receives $25,000 Judgment in North Carolina Jail Censorship Case

by Steve Horn

The Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), the parent organization of Prison Legal News, obtained a civil judgment in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina in a lawsuit filed against the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office, after accepting an offer of judgment from ...

Federal Court Allows Menard Prisoner’s Lawsuit for Loss of Legal Papers, Retaliation to Proceed

by Derek Gilna

U.S. District Court Judge Staci M. Yandle, in the Southern District of Illinois, ruled on May 22, 2018 that a civil rights suit filed by Mickey Mason, incarcerated at the Menard Correctional Center in southern Illinois, could go forward. Mason had filed his complaint under 42 ...

$650,000 Settlement in Oregon Jail Wrongful Death Claim

The Linn County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to settle a wrongful death claim filed by the estate of a woman who died while imprisoned at the Oregon county’s jail.

In November 2014, Samantha Jeanne Robinson, 42, was sick with bacterial pneumonia and missed an appointment in drug court. She had ...

Jail Prisoner Injured in Attack by Co-defendant Settles for $5,000

A prisoner who was attacked by his co-defendant at the Crawford County Correctional Facility (CCCF) in Saegertown, Pennsylvania agreed to a $5,000 settlement in his failure-to-protect suit.

Harry W. Boyer, Jr. was arrested on a probation violation for new criminal charges on August 16, 2012. The day after his ...

Alabama Prisoners Suffer Nation’s Highest Homicide, Suicide Rates

by David Reutter

Alabama’s prison murder rate, already the nation’s worst, is on the rise – along with an increase in assaults that do not end in fatalities, as well as prisoner suicides. Prison officials agree that the root problems – mainly overcrowding and understaffing – are correctable. But the ...

The Catalyst: Thelton Henderson Transformed California’s Criminal Justice System. Now Comes the Backlash

by Abbie Vansickle, The Marshall Project

As the judge climbed the watchtower stairs in Pelican Bay prison, he heard muffled gunshots below. When he reached the top, he looked into the prison yard and saw bodies lying in the dirt. One was his law clerk, spread-eagled on the ground in ...

$375,000 Settlement for Ohio Woman Pepper Sprayed in Jail’s Restraint Chair

by Matt Clarke

In August 2017, a lawsuit brought by a woman who was pepper sprayed at the Montgomery County jail in Dayton, Ohio – despite being held in a restraint chair – settled for $375,000.

Amber Swink was 24 years old when police received a domestic disturbance call ...

Texas Towns with Private Prisons Experience Job Losses

by Matthew Clarke

Over a decade ago, with the promise of cost savings as well as stable jobs for the community, local governments in Texas agreed to issue bonds to finance the construction of prisons and jails operated by for-profit companies. But when state and federal authorities stopped sending enough ...

Florida: $60,000 Settlement for Juvenile Offender Raped During “Test of Heart” Ritual

by David M. Reutter

A Florida juvenile offender who was beaten and raped by other prisoners as a guard stood by and watched has received a $60,000 settlement from the state.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Florida imprisons more children in adult prisons than any ...

Arpaio’s Infamous Tent City is Gone but Arizona State Prison’s Tent City Remains

by Matthew Clarke

Soon after he was sworn in as sheriff for Maricopa County, Arizona, Paul Penzone began phasing out the infamous Tent City jail erected by his predecessor, Joe Arpaio, who was found guilty of criminal contempt by a federal court in July 2017 but later pardoned by President ...

Tennessee Jailer Convicted of Official Misconduct, “Extreme Provocative Contact”

by Monte McCoin

PLN previously reported the January 2016 grand jury indictments of former Morgan County, Tennessee jail guard Joe D. Shoffner, Jr. and fellow jailers Garren Austin Luke Cooper and Michael Alan Lloyd for their roles in an incident in which a prisoner was assaulted. [See: PLN, April 2016 ...

Prisoners Help Train Future (K9) Law Enforcement Officers

by Christopher Zoukis

Post-9/11, the demand for highly-trained explosives investigators has grown significantly; law enforcement agencies nationwide have hurried to recruit officers who have received specialized training in the detection of bombs and accelerants. And in an ironic twist, prisoners play a central role in the training of this ...

California Prison Spends $417,000 on Bottled Water as Contamination, Violations Continue

by Panagioti Tsolkas

What was intended as a state-of-the-art, $32 million prison water treatment plant has turned into yet another state infrastructure boondoggle. Since the plant’s completion in 2010, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) Deuel Vocational Institution, which uses brackish wells on its grounds, is supposed to ...

North Carolina Prison Guard Beaten, Stabbed; Sources Say His Past Brutality Made Him a Target

by Monte McCoin

Brent Soucier was hired as a prison guard by the then-North Carolina Department of Correction in 1997. Only four months earlier, he had been fired from his job as a guard in Vermont after being convicted of assault for holding a cocked semi-automatic handgun against a man’s ...

Federal Prisoner’s Custody Status Continues While “on Loan” to Face State Charges

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held on November 21, 2017 that a federal prisoner remains in the custody of the U.S. Attorney General despite being held on behalf of state officials.

Bud Ray Brown was serving a 15-year federal sentence for possession of a firearm when the State ...

15 Years to Life for Jailers Who Beat Mentally Ill Prisoner to Death

by Christopher Zoukis

Three former California jail guards were convicted of second-degree murder for fatally beating a mentally ill prisoner who suffered what prosecutors called an “agonizing and painful” death. In January 2018, the three men were each sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison.

The guards, Jereh ...

Former Prosecutor and Director of Tennessee DOC Sentenced to Prison

by Monte McCoin

On March 30, 2018, D. Michael Dunavant, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, announced that Quenton Irwin White, who previously served as U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee during the Clinton administration and also as head of the Tennessee Department ...

Alabama Pastor and Non-profit Director Fights Capital Murder Charge

by Derek Gilna

Dothan, Alabama pastor and non-profit director Kenneth Glasgow, 52, has been charged with capital murder in a controversial case where another man with whom he was driving fatally shot a woman who allegedly stole the other man’s car. Glasgow has condemned the charge as excessive and moved ...

Federal Judge Dismisses Class-action Suits Over Jail Phone Rates, Commissions

by Christopher Zoukis

On August 10, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers dismissed four related class-action lawsuits in which prisoners challenged the rates and commission kickbacks associated with jail phone service contracts.

A group of attorneys representing California prisoners held in San Mateo, Santa Clara, Contra Costa ...

Michigan Prisoners Receive Compensation for Wrongful Convictions

by Derek Gilna

Edward George Carter and Marwin McHenry, both wrongfully convicted and imprisoned in separate cases, have obtained compensation awards from the Michigan Court of Claims. Carter was awarded $1,761,506.85, while McHenry received $175,753.42.

Carter was tried and convicted in 1975 for a sexual ...

Canadian Non-profit Seeks Plant-based Focus, No Animal Slaughter at Prison Farms

by Derek Gilna

A Canadian non-profit organization, Evolve Our Prison Farms (EOPF), has come out in opposition to the Canadian government’s plan, announced in early 2018, to reinstitute prison farms that will include the slaughter of livestock. A total of $4.3 million over five years was authorized to recommence ...

Alaska Jail Recorded Attorney-client Conversations for Four Years

by Monte McCoin

On January 15, 2018, the Anchorage Daily News reported that, from 2012 to 2016, confidential conversations between criminal defendants and their attorneys were routinely recorded by a long-abandoned audio monitoring system in a visitation room at the Anchorage Correctional Complex (ACC).

Clare Sullivan, deputy commissioner of the ...

Virginia: Former Assistant Warden Gets Suspended Sentence for Trading Privileges for Sex

by Monte McCoin

On March 19, 2018, former Indian Creek Correctional Center assistant warden Clyde Alderman, 68, entered an Alford plea to three misdemeanor counts of solicitation. By entering the plea, Alderman, without admitting guilt, agreed that prosecutors had enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt he had repeatedly ...

Louisiana Judge’s Views May Warrant Recusal in All Death Penalty Cases

by David R. Bailey

Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Scott Crichton’s self-recusal from hearing “Angola 5” David Brown’s death penalty appeal ensured that Brown’s due process rights would not be compromised. Brown feared he could not receive a fair review by the state Supreme Court following Crichton’s comments made during a ...

Georgia Renewal Statute Requires Prepayment of Costs of Prior Suit

On November 17, 2017, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit brought under Georgia’s renewal statute because the plaintiff failed to pay the costs from a prior case or seek in forma pauperis (IFP) status when filing the new suit.

While incarcerated at the Hall ...

Growing Number of Local Jurisdictions Reject Correctional Privatization

by Monte McCoin

On May 8, 2018, the City Council in Tucson, Arizona passed a historic resolution by unanimous vote that prohibits “contracting with private, for-profit prison companies like GEO Group or CoreCivic (formerly CCA) for jail operations.” City Councilmember Regina Romero, who spearheaded the passage of the resolution ...

Wrongfully-convicted California Prisoner Exonerated, Receives $15 Million

by Derek Gilna

How do you calculate the cost of years of your life – lost forever – when you are behind bars for a crime you didn’t commit, while knowing that those who put you there perverted the criminal justice system to do so? For Frank O’Connell of Los ...

Federal Class-action Accuses CoreCivic of Exploiting Immigrant Detainee Labor

by Derek Gilna

A federal class-action suit filed on April 17, 2018 in the Middle District of Georgia accuses private prison behemoth CoreCivic – formerly Corrections Corporation of America – of exploiting immigrant detainees who perform work in the company’s ICE detention facilities, specifically at the Stewart Detention Center in ...

Donald Who? Reform Goes Forward Despite His Idiocy

by Joseph Margulies, Justia.com

Recently, the president called for the execution of drug dealers. This is idiotic, of course, both as a matter of law and policy. But no one who has been following these things should have been particularly surprised. The president says all sorts of stupid things ...

Trump Calls Prison Reform “Very Important” as First Step Act Passes in the House

by Christopher Zoukis

Does “tough on crime” President Donald J. Trump support prison reform? If his comments at a January 2018 listening session can be believed, the answer is a qualified “yes” – qualified because his focus is mainly on reentry services, not on prison conditions or sentencing reform.

Jared ...

Massachusetts County Faces Lawsuit Over Phone Fee Kickbacks

by Monte McCoin

On May 2, 2018, attorneys with Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts, the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), the Legal Services Center at Harvard Law School and the law firm of Bailey & Glasser LLP filed a lawsuit against Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson and Securus Technologies ...

Temple University Marks 20 Years of Transformative Inside-Out Prison Program

by Derek Gilna

In 1997, Temple University professor Lori Pompa instituted a ground-breaking program at a Philadelphia county jail known as the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, which brings university students and prisoners together in a correctional setting to discuss criminal justice and other academic issues. From that modest start, the ...

Previous NY Escapee Fails to Negotiate Privileges in Exchange for Revealing Security Flaws

by Derek Gilna

New York state prisoner David Sweat became famous – or rather infamous – when he and fellow prisoner Richard W. Matt escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York in 2015. The pair led authorities on a three-week search through the rural area, known for ...

Indiana DOC Settles Prisoner’s Retaliation Suit for $80,000

by Matthew Clarke

In August 2017, the Indiana Department of Correction (DOC) agreed to settle a prisoner’s conditions of confinement lawsuit after he alleged DOC officials had retaliated against him for filing the complaint.

Robert L. Holleman, an Indiana state prisoner, filed a pro se federal civil rights suit complaining ...

Federal Compassionateless Release

by Dale Chappell

For thousands of federal prisoners who have filed for compassionate release after the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) expanded eligibility criteria in 2013, the response has been a familiar and consistent refrain: “Denied.” Over the following four years, just six percent of compassionate release requests were ...

Criticism of Commission-based Phone Contract at Pennsylvania County Prison

by R. Bailey

Prisoners and their families in York County, Pennsylvania are outraged that Global Tel*Link (GTL), one of the nation’s largest prison and jail telephone service providers, has contracted with the York County Prison under a “commission” arrangement that provides kickbacks to the county through inflated phone rates ...

Michigan Prisoner Publishes Book, State Sues for His Proceeds

by Ed Lyon

Curtis Dawkins is serving life without parole in Michigan. He has been imprisoned since 2005, after a crack-fueled series of crimes committed on Halloween night the year before left Tom Bowman dead. Dawkins is also a fiction writer whose first book, penned during his incarceration, was purchased ...

Inadequate Health Services for Native American Prisoners

by Edward B. Lyon, Jr.

Members of various Native Americans tribes live in reservations across the United States, where they police themselves and maintain tribal jails for detention. Federal funds are used to operate those facilities and a multitude of agencies – including the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Interior ...

FRCP Rule 25 Allows for Extension of Time to Substitute Party Upon Death

by David Reutter

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a Florida federal district court’s order denying a motion to reopen a case and substitute parties due to the death of the original plaintiff. The district court erred in finding it could not extend the 90-day time period for ...

News in Brief

Alaska: An internal investigation was launched by the Alaska Department of Corrections after five female prisoners at the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River overdosed on an unknown substance over a two-day period. DOC spokeswoman Megan Edge said four of the prisoners were transported to local hospitals for treatment ...