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Prison Legal News: February, 2019

Issue PDF
Volume 30, Number 2

In this issue:

  1. Former Prisoners Become Attorneys: From Breaking the Law to Practicing Law (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 12)
  3. Seventh Circuit: District Court Abused Discretion in Not Seeking Counsel for Pro Se Prisoner (p 12)
  4. HRDC Files Suit Against Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Authority (p 14)
  5. Preliminary Settlement in Class-Action HCV Suit Against Pennsylvania DOC (p 16)
  6. Sixth Circuit Upholds Denial of Interviews with Lucasville Prison Riot Participants (p 18)
  7. Drafting Error in First Step Act Delays Application of Good Behavior Credits (p 18)
  8. Nevada Prisons Persist in Not Serving Healthy Food (p 20)
  9. Obituary: Rick Anderson, 1941-2018 (p 20)
  10. Imprisoning America’s Mentally Ill (p 22)
  11. City of Philadelphia Sinks $5.6 Million into Prison Software Upgrade it Can’t Use (p 24)
  12. Florida Prisoners Get Tablets, Lose $11.3 Million in Digital Music (p 26)
  13. DC Corrections Council Report Slams USP Lewisburg’s “Special Management Unit” (p 26)
  14. PREA Audit at Montana Women’s Prison Amid Sexual Misconduct Complaints (p 28)
  15. Ohio Prisoner Recovers $2,025 for Leg Injury Caused by Guard’s Pepper Ball (p 28)
  16. High Risk, Low Pay for California Prisoners Who Fight Fires (p 30)
  17. Alaska Supreme Court Denies Counsel to State Prisoner in Felony Case (p 31)
  18. Connecticut DOC Settles Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit for $1.3 Million (p 32)
  19. $1.6 Million Settlement for Missouri Prison Guard Subjected to Sexual Harassment (p 33)
  20. Eighth Circuit: Severe Pain Caused by Actual Injury Satisfies PLRA Physical Injury Requirement (p 34)
  21. New York City Pays $280,000 to Settle Suit after Visitor Assaulted by Jail Guards (p 34)
  22. Life-Sentenced Missouri Prisoner Has No Right to Release Date (p 35)
  23. What the Government Shutdown Looks Like Inside Federal Prisons (p 36)
  24. New Trial on Causation Required in Illinois Jail Detainee’s Suicide (p 38)
  25. Arkansas Prisoner Prevails on Grievance Exhaustion Issue (p 38)
  26. Florida DOC Agrees to Reform Prisoner Mental Health Care (p 39)
  27. Virginia Jail’s Video Calling System Replaces In-Person Visits (p 40)
  28. California: $1 Million Settlement in Suit Over Mentally Ill Jail Prisoner’s Suicide (p 40)
  29. Virginia Jail Officials Indicted on Civil Rights Violations (p 41)
  30. Challenges, Secrecy Continue to Surround Use of Lethal Injection Drugs (p 42)
  31. Seventh Circuit Reverses $6.7 Million Indemnification Award for Milwaukee Jail Rape (p 43)
  32. Illinois DOC Settles Lawsuit Filed by Deaf, Hard of Hearing Prisoners (p 44)
  33. Texas Prison Air Conditioning Costs Much Lower than Expected (p 45)
  34. Under Pressure, Some Politicians Return Private Prison Campaign Cash (p 46)
  35. Three Wrongfully Convicted Ohio Prisoners Receive $19.5 Million (p 48)
  36. All Seven Arkansas Supreme Court Justices Face Ethics Charges (p 49)
  37. Illinois Calculates the High Costs of Recidivism (p 50)
  38. Texas Prison System Cuts Phone Rates Over 75 Percent; Rates Drop in Other States, Too (p 50)
  39. Hawaii Prison Guards’ Union Fights Policy of Denying Promotions (p 52)
  40. Protesters Rally Against Private Prison Contractor GEO Group (p 52)
  41. Seventh Circuit Denies Wisconsin Prisoner’s Claims Against Medical Staff (p 53)
  42. $10 Million Award for Wrongly Jailed Philadelphia Man (p 54)
  43. Oklahoma is Number One ... in Incarceration Rates (p 54)
  44. $1 Million Settlement in Lawsuit Over Texas Jail Prisoner’s Death (p 55)
  45. Report Outlines Eight Ways to Shorten Excessive Prison Sentences (p 56)
  46. Florida Prisoner’s Gender Dysphoria Requires Hormone Therapy, 
Social Transitioning Treatment (p 56)
  47. Federal Judge Orders Prison Doctor to Face Deliberate Indifference Claims (p 57)
  48. Tennessee: Class-Action Suit Against Private 
Prison Over Diabetic Care Can Proceed (p 58)
  49. Mississippi: More Indictments from Former DOC Commissioner Epps Corruption Scandal (p 58)
  50. Baby Dies Days After Prisoner Gives Birth in Isolation Cell at Texas Jail (p 59)
  51. Taser Misuse at California Jail Costs County $1.15 Million (p 60)
  52. Print Media and Prisoner Activism (p 60)
  53. One in 55 Adults on Probation or Parole, Study Finds (p 61)
  54. Ninth Circuit Grants Habeas Relief for Ineffective Assistance of Resentencing Counsel (p 62)
  55. News in Brief (p 62)

Former Prisoners Become Attorneys: From Breaking the Law to Practicing Law

by Christopher Zoukis

“A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client,” the old adage goes. But Isaac Wright, Jr. knew he was innocent, so he represented himself at his 1991 trial on charges under New Jersey’s “drug kingpin” law. Unsurprisingly, he was convicted and ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

We have long reported on the phenomenon of jailhouse lawyers and other prisoners who, upon release, have gone to law school and become attorneys. While that phenomenon has been occurring for decades, it appears to be picking up – perhaps because there are simply more people going ...

Seventh Circuit: District Court Abused Discretion in Not Seeking Counsel for Pro Se Prisoner

by Dale Chappell

In a case where a prisoner filed a civil rights claim against prison doctors but failed to follow proper legal procedures, the district court abused its discretion when it refused to seek counsel to represent the prisoner, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ...

HRDC Files Suit Against Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Authority

by Steve Horn

The Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), which publishes Prison Legal News, has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Authority for censoring publications, books and other materials sent to prisoners.

The case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western ...

Preliminary Settlement in Class-Action HCV Suit Against Pennsylvania DOC

by Dale Chappell

A class-action lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) over the lack of adequate treatment for prisoners with hepatitis C (HCV) survived a motion for summary judgment, and the parties have reached a preliminary settlement agreement.

Salvatore Chimenti, Daniel Leyva and David Maldonado filed suit in ...

Sixth Circuit Upholds Denial of Interviews with Lucasville Prison Riot Participants

by Derek Gilna

The April 1993 riot at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville resulted in the deaths of one guard and nine prisoners. Journalists have long tried to interview some of the prisoners involved in that uprising, including Siddique Abdullah Hasan and Keith LaMar – both now on ...

Drafting Error in First Step Act Delays Application of Good Behavior Credits

by Steve Horn

The newswire service Reuters has reported that, due to a drafting error in the First Step Act, the increased good behavior credits included in the bill will not be applied until at least July 2019 or until the error is fixed. The First Step Act – landmark ...

Nevada Prisons Persist in Not Serving Healthy Food

by Ed Lyon

Previously, Nevada state prisoner Robert Leslie Stockmeier won a case against the prison system over claims involving dietary issues in Stockmeier v. Green, 340 P.3d 583 (Nev. 2014).

The Nevada Supreme Court found the state’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and staff were not examining actual meals ...

Obituary: Rick Anderson, 1941-2018

by Paul Wright

On Christmas Eve 2018, PLN contributing writer Rick Anderson died of congestive heart failure at his daughter’s home. Rick was a long-time journalist. He grew up in Hoquiam, Washington and went to work as a copy boy at the Post-Intelligencer in Seattle. That started his career in ...

Imprisoning America’s Mentally Ill

by Ed Lyon

Since the 1962 publication of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a mirror image of the best-selling novel’s plot has played out in U.S. prisons. Author Ken Kasey wrote a work of fiction about a prisoner who was sent to a mental hospital. In fact, mentally ...

City of Philadelphia Sinks $5.6 Million into Prison Software Upgrade it Can’t Use

by Kevin W. Bliss

The Philadelphia Department of Prisons (PDP) has terminated a contract it established in 2014 with an information technology company, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), to design a new Integrated Jail Management System (IJMS).

After investing $5.6 million of the $7.2 million contract total, PDP ...

Florida Prisoners Get Tablets, Lose $11.3 Million in Digital Music

by David M. Reutter

In 2011, the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) entered into a contract with Access Corrections that allowed prisoners to purchase MP3 players which could be hooked up to a kiosk for music downloads. Over the six-year life of the contract, prisoners bought 30,299 players at ...

DC Corrections Council Report Slams USP Lewisburg’s “Special Management Unit”

by Derek Gilna

An April 6, 2018 report published by the District of Columbia’s Corrections Information Council (CIC) criticized the federal Bureau of Prisons’ Special Management Unit (SMU) at USP Lewisburg in Pennsylvania, citing numerous policy violations and violence. One incident involved a prisoner who lost an eye to a ...

PREA Audit at Montana Women’s Prison Amid Sexual Misconduct Complaints

by Matt Clarke

A June 2017 audit at the Montana Women’s Prison (MWP) found the facility was not in full compliance with 20 of 43 standards promulgated under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), enacted in 2003. [See: PLN, Nov. 2017, p.1; Sept. 2013, p.1].

The prison, which ...

Ohio Prisoner Recovers $2,025 for Leg Injury Caused by Guard’s Pepper Ball

by Derek Gilna

Ohio state prisoner Kimani Ware won a $2,025 judgment against the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) on July 16, 2018. Following a trial, Magistrate Gary Peterson found the DRC was responsible for the injury and pain Ware suffering when he was struck in the ...

High Risk, Low Pay for California Prisoners Who Fight Fires

by Chad Marks

Since the 1940s, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has maintained a firefighting corps composed of prisoner volunteers. In late 2018, when the Camp and Woolsey fires destroyed the town of Paradise and hundreds of homes in upscale Malibu, over 1,400 prisoners contributed 15 ...

Alaska Supreme Court Denies Counsel to State Prisoner in Felony Case

by Derek Gilna

In a decision that appears to contradict U.S. Supreme Court precedent, not to mention its own, the Supreme Court of Alaska ruled on September 14, 2018 that a prisoner charged with violation of a prison disciplinary rule that constitutes a felony was not entitled to counsel ...

Connecticut DOC Settles Cancer Misdiagnosis Lawsuit for $1.3 Million

by Dale Chappell

After misdiagnosing a prisoner’s skin cancer as psoriasis for years and refusing to perform tests when treatment was not working, the Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC) agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle the prisoner’s lawsuit.

While held at the Osborn Correctional Institution, state prisoner Wayne ...

$1.6 Million Settlement for Missouri Prison Guard Subjected to Sexual Harassment

The Missouri Department of Corrections (MDOC) has agreed to a $1.6 million settlement in a lawsuit brought by a female guard who alleged she was subjected to sexual harassment at the Kansas City Reentry Center (KCRC).

Tina Gallego was transferred to work at KCRC in September 2015. While there ...

Eighth Circuit: Severe Pain Caused by Actual Injury Satisfies PLRA Physical Injury Requirement

by Matt Clarke

On August 7, 2018, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held the physical injury requirement of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e), does not require a prisoner to show that deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs caused his injury ...

New York City Pays $280,000 to Settle Suit after Visitor Assaulted by Jail Guards

by Ed Lyon

On May 19, 2014, Thomas Hamm went to the Rikers Island jail complex in New York City to visit his same-sex domestic partner, identified as P.F.

Hamm and P.F., who planned to get married, hugged and kissed at the start of their visit just as ...

Life-Sentenced Missouri Prisoner Has No Right to Release Date

by Ed Lyon

In 1990, Gordon F. Goldsby received consecutive sentences of 10 years, life and 25 years for crimes he committed in Missouri in 1972. After discharging his 10-year sentence, he began serving the life sentence. In 2015 he sought a declaration of his right to be released, relying ...

What the Government Shutdown Looks Like Inside Federal Prisons

Family visits canceled, guards driving for Uber, rising tensions and more. 

by Eli Hager, The Marshall Project

The partial U.S. government shutdown is now in its third week [as of January 7, 2019], due largely to President Trump’s insistence that Congress give him more than $5 billion for ...

New Trial on Causation Required in Illinois Jail Detainee’s Suicide

by David M. Reutter

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held on August 10, 2018 that an Illinois federal district court erred in granting judgment as a matter of law on the issue of causation in the death of Lyvita Gomes while she was incarcerated at the Lake County jail ...

Arkansas Prisoner Prevails on Grievance Exhaustion Issue

by Ed Lyon

Arkansas state prisoner Jacob J. Townsend was working at the Tucker Unit’s water treatment plant when his supervisor, Terry Murphy, ordered him to work with chlorine gas. Townsend was not given training or equipment for using the dangerous chemical.

Arkansas prisons employ an informal resolution process prior ...

Florida DOC Agrees to Reform Prisoner Mental Health Care

Disability Rights Florida, the state’s Protection and Advocacy organization for people with disabilities, has reached a settlement agreement with the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) that includes widespread changes to mental health treatment for prisoners.

The agreement was filed in conjunction with the complaint in federal district court in January ...

Virginia Jail’s Video Calling System Replaces In-Person Visits

by David Reutter

Visitation is a major aspect of jail and prison operations. For corrections officials, it is wrought with logistical, staffing and security concerns; as a result, they have increasingly turned to video calling, which, in addition to addressing those concerns, can also be profitable.

The Virginia Beach Correctional ...

California: $1 Million Settlement in Suit Over Mentally Ill Jail Prisoner’s Suicide

by Matt Clarke

On December 28, 2017, the family and estate of a mentally ill prisoner who committed suicide while incarcerated at the Yuba County jail in California filed suit in federal court alleging violations of his civil rights. The case settled ten months later for $1 million.

Bertram Hiscock ...

Virginia Jail Officials Indicted on Civil Rights Violations

A Western District of Virginia federal grand jury indicted two former Rockbridge County Regional Jail (RCRJ) officials on charges related to civil rights violations and falsifying documents to obstruct justice.

The August 14, 2018 indictment, which was initially sealed, included four counts against former RCRJ superintendent John Marshall Higgins, 61 ...

Challenges, Secrecy Continue to Surround Use of Lethal Injection Drugs

by Chad Marks

Through December 31, 2018, there have been 1,490 executions in the U.S. since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977. Almost 90 percent have been carried out by lethal injection, which is considered more humane than hanging, electrocution or the gas chamber. But executions have ...

Seventh Circuit Reverses $6.7 Million Indemnification Award for Milwaukee Jail Rape

by Derek Gilna

On September 14, 2018, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a Milwaukee, Wisconsin federal jury verdict that awarded $6.7 million in damages against Milwaukee County to a woman raped by a guard while she was housed at the county jail. [See: PLN, Feb. 2018, p ...

Illinois DOC Settles Lawsuit Filed by Deaf, Hard of Hearing Prisoners

by Derek Gilna

The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) has settled a class-action suit brought by deaf and hard of hearing prisoners who said they were denied sign-language interpreters for what was called “high-stakes interactions” with prison staff. Prior to the settlement, such prisoners had effectively been denied access to ...

Texas Prison Air Conditioning Costs Much Lower than Expected

by Ed Lyon 

Between 1998 and 2014, at least 23 Texas prisoners died due to excessive heat in housing units and transport buses. Most Texas state prisons are not air conditioned. A federal lawsuit filed on behalf of prisoners at the Wallace Pack Unit initially resulted in an injunction ...

Under Pressure, Some Politicians Return Private Prison Campaign Cash

by Steve Horn

The 2018 election cycle saw a surge in the number of candidates and lawmakers promising to forego campaign donations from private prison operators such as Nashville-based CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) and The GEO Group, headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida. The catalyst appears to have been ...

Three Wrongfully Convicted Ohio Prisoners Receive $19.5 Million

by Derek Gilna

Eugene Johnson, Derrick Wheatt and Laurese Glover, also known as the East Cleveland Three, wrongfully convicted of the 1995 murder of Clifton Hudson, Jr., received a settlement totaling $4.5 million from Cuyahoga County, Ohio in March 2018. Eight months later they each received a $5 million ...

All Seven Arkansas Supreme Court Justices Face Ethics Charges

In September 2018, the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission formally charged state Supreme Court Justices Dan Kemp, Robin Wynne, Courtney Goodson, Josephine “Jo” Hart, Karen Baker and Rhonda Wood with violating the state’s judicial canons. A similar ethics charge against the seventh justice, Shawn Womack, was filed the ...

Illinois Calculates the High Costs of Recidivism

by Ed Lyon 

The state of Illinois seems to be getting serious about downsizing its prison population and reducing the number of offenders who return to prison after being paroled. Governor Bruce Rauner created a task force in 2015, the Illinois State Commission of Criminal Justice and Sentencing ...

Texas Prison System Cuts Phone Rates Over 75 Percent; Rates Drop in Other States, Too

by Matt Clarke

In a monthly meeting held in the ballroom of an Austin hotel on August 24, 2018, the Texas Board of Criminal Justice – the agency that establishes rules by which the Texas prison and parole systems operate – voted unanimously to reduce the cost of phone calls ...

Hawaii Prison Guards’ Union Fights Policy of Denying Promotions

by Matt Clarke 

In Hawaii, the United Public Workers union represents around 13,000 state and county employees, including approximately 1,200 prison guards. The union has been engaged in a seven-year battle against the Department of Public Safety’s policy of denying promotions to guards who were ...

Protesters Rally Against Private Prison Contractor GEO Group

by David M. Reutter

Activists protesting President Trump’s immigration policies are also rallying against a company that profits from immigrant detention: The GEO Group. The activists have been protesting at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities as well as GEO-run detention centers.

At $471 million, GEO Group’s contract with ICE ...

Seventh Circuit Denies Wisconsin Prisoner’s Claims Against Medical Staff

by Derek Gilna

In an August 23, 2018 ruling, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied the deliberate indifference and state law negligence claims raised by Oshkosh Correctional Institution prisoner Donald C. Wilson, who filed a federal civil rights suit against the Wisconsin Department of Corrections in 2009 over medical ...

$10 Million Award for Wrongly Jailed Philadelphia Man

Philadelphia jury awarded Khanefah Boozer $10 million in a state court lawsuit that alleged police officer Ryan Waltman had falsely accused Boozer of firing shots at him.

Boozer was the designated driver during a January 22, 2011 night out with friends. After an evening at a bar, Boozer’s friends ...

Oklahoma is Number One ... in Incarceration Rates

by Matt Clarke

According to a June 2018 report by the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI), Oklahoma’s incarceration rate has surpassed not only that of every other state in the U.S., but also of almost every other nation. To calculate the rates, PPI totaled the number of prisoners in both ...

$1 Million Settlement in Lawsuit Over Texas Jail Prisoner’s Death

by Matt Clarke

A federal civil rights lawsuit brought by the family of a Texas prisoner who died after jailers ignored his rapidly deteriorating mental and physical condition settled for $1 million. 

When Fernando Longoria, 29, reported to the Carrizales-Rucker Cameron County Detention Center in Texas in January 2015 ...

Report Outlines Eight Ways to Shorten Excessive Prison Sentences

by Chad Marks

The United States is home to five percent of the world’s population and around 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Our incarceration rate is 19 percent higher than Turkmenistan’s, 36 percent higher than Cuba’s and 57 percent higher than Russia’s. There is no other democracy that has ...

Florida Prisoner’s Gender Dysphoria Requires Hormone Therapy, 
Social Transitioning Treatment

Following a bench trial, on August 22, 2018 a Florida federal district court held that state prison officials were deliberately indifferent to transgender prisoner Reiyn Keohane’s serious medical condition of gender dysphoria. The court said the denial of hormone therapy, as well as bras, panties and access to female grooming ...

Federal Judge Orders Prison Doctor to Face Deliberate Indifference Claims

by Chad Marks

A federal judge in Indiana ruled on June 12, 2018 that prison doctor Paul Talbot must answer a complaint filed by state prisoner Billy J. Lemond.

Lemond was incarcerated at the Pendleton Correctional Facility when he required back surgery. On August 24, 2015, he underwent decompressive laminectomy ...

Tennessee: Class-Action Suit Against Private 
Prison Over Diabetic Care Can Proceed

In October 2018, a federal district court declined to dismiss a class-action lawsuit that claimed insulin-dependent diabetic prisoners at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Tennessee are denied basic care for their medical condition.

Trousdale is operated by CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America. The prisoners alleged claims under the ...

Mississippi: More Indictments from Former DOC Commissioner Epps Corruption Scandal

by Kevin Bliss

In September 2018, Michael LeBlanc, Sr., Michael LeBlanc, Jr., Tawasky L. Ventroy and Jacque B. Jackson were indicted on bribery and conspiracy charges stemming from a 2014 corruption investigation centered on former Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Christopher B. Epps. The four were accused of exchanging cash ...

Baby Dies Days After Prisoner Gives Birth in Isolation Cell at Texas Jail

by Matt Clarke

On May 17, 2018, baby Cashh arrived in the world, slipping out of his mother onto the floor of an isolation cell at the Ellis County Jail in Texas. Cashh survived only nine days following his traumatic and premature birth. [See: PLN, Oct. 2018, p.51 ...

Taser Misuse at California Jail Costs County $1.15 Million

by Derek Gilna

On March 5, 2018, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department in California settled a federal civil rights lawsuit that alleged deputies at the Rancho Cucamonga jail engaged in a practice of “tasing” prisoners for their own personal amusement. 

The $1.15 million settlement on behalf ...

Print Media and Prisoner Activism

by Stephen Wilson

Because America’s prisons are its most opaque institutions, prisoners and their allies have always employed strategies of visibility to create awareness and understanding of who is being held captive and the conditions of their captivity. Print media – books, magazines, newsletters, newspapers, zines, pamphlets and visual art ...

One in 55 Adults on Probation or Parole, Study Finds

by Rick Anderson

The number of people on probation and parole increased 239 percent from 1980 to 2016, according to a September 2018 report by the Pew Research Center. That spurred a dramatic rise in the per capita rate of people under community supervision, which grew to one out of ...

Ninth Circuit Grants Habeas Relief for Ineffective Assistance of Resentencing Counsel

by Matt Clarke

On July 11, 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted habeas relief to an Arizona death row prisoner based on ineffective assistance of counsel at resentencing. 

Michael Ray White was manipulated by a woman with whom he was having an affair into shooting ...

News in Brief

Alabama: Joshua Wade Ray’s girlfriend was busted by undercover sheriff’s investigators while she passed methamphetamine, marijuana, tobacco, a lighter, rolling papers and two syringes to him during a March 7, 2018 court appearance. Lauren Whitney Foust, 33, taped a package containing the contraband to the Jefferson County courthouse floor. Ray ...