Skip navigation

Prison Legal News: September, 2020

Issue PDF
Volume 31, Number 9

In this issue:

  1. What’s Justice Got to Do with It? (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 10)
  3. Can the Pandemic Undermine Mass Incarceration? (p 10)
  4. Animal Shelters Provide Cooler Temperatures Than Florida Prisons in Summer (p 12)
  5. North Carolina Criticized for Prisoner Transfers During Pandemic (p 13)
  6. Report: Arkansas Let Asymptomatic Prison Employees Infected with Coronavirus Continue to Work (p 14)
  7. $550,000 Settlement in Georgia Prisoner’s Starvation Death (p 15)
  8. COVID-19 in Hawaii’s Lockups: Still a Success Story but Cracks Starting to Show (p 16)
  9. Disabled Detainee at Cook County Jail Wins Class Certification in Lawsuit (p 17)
  10. The Latest News on How to Protect Yourself From Infection (p 18)
  11. Prisons Banning Black Culture and History Books (p 19)
  12. ICE Deportations Fueling Spread of COVID-19 to Latin American Countries (p 20)
  13. Jails and Prisons Have Reduced Their Populations in the Face of the Pandemic, but Not Enough To Save Lives (p 22)
  14. The Prison Was Built to Hold 1,500 Inmates. It Had Over 2,000 Coronavirus Cases (p 23)
  15. How Long Can You Hide a Dead Body in a Prison Cell? (p 28)
  16. Interview: Jodie Sinclair on Her New Book, “Love Behind Bars” (p 30)
  17. Interview: Corene Kendrick on How the Prison Litigation Reform Act Strips Prisoners of Legal Rights (p 32)
  18. Pay Up or Lockup: Housing Shortage Kept Cash-Poor Parolees Behind Bars (p 34)
  19. Colorado Explores Ending Private Prisons (p 36)
  20. Ohio Jails Under Investigation (p 36)
  21. San Francisco Eliminates Fees on Jail Phone Calls (p 38)
  22. Maine DOC, Medical Provider, Pay $250,000 Settlement Due to Excessive Force on 11-Year-Old (p 38)
  23. Consultants Advising Rich on Prison Life (p 40)
  24. Wisconsin: Court Dismisses Prisoners’ Suit Over Asbestos, Mold on Procedural Grounds (p 40)
  25. Does Increased Guard Violence Mean Texas Prisoners Are at Greater Risk? (p 42)
  26. Transgender Woman Who Says She Was Raped, Beaten, Sues Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center (p 43)
  27. BOP Official Reportedly Had Sexual Relationship With Former Police Union Head (p 43)
  28. Doctor at Florida Detention Center Spread COVID-19 to Prisoners (p 44)
  29. Can Kentucky Keep Charging Prisoners for Their Jail Stay if They Are Found Not Guilty? (p 44)
  30. D.C. Appeals Court Mixed on Request for Records and Video (p 45)
  31. Prison Art is Rehabilitation (p 45)
  32. Rhode Island Takes Uncommon Steps to Address a Common Problem: Drug Addiction in Prison (p 46)
  33. From Super Villain to Super Man, Tennessee Prisoner Still Executed (p 46)
  34. Record Number of Laws Passed Reducing Barriers for People With Criminal Records (p 47)
  35. Tioga County, New York Police Informant Paid $50,000 to Settle False Arrest Claims (p 48)
  36. New York Prisoner Prevails in Lawsuit, Freed from 23 Years in Solitary Confinement (p 48)
  37. Lifers Now Exceed Entire Prison Population of 1970 (p 50)
  38. Second Circuit Vacates Summary Judgment on Connecticut Prisoner’s Failure to Protect Claim (p 50)
  39. Many of Aging Kansas State Prison Population Could Be Released (p 51)
  40. Study Shows Solitary Confinement Poses Mortality Risk After Release (p 52)
  41. $2.8 Million Settlement in New York Pretrial Detainee’s Suicide (p 52)
  42. Dallas County, Texas Jails Finally Enter the 21st Century on Phone Rates (p 53)
  43. Beyond Harsh: 86 Mississippi Prisoners Serving Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses (p 54)
  44. Federal Judge: BOP Exercising “Reasonable Efforts” Against Coronavirus at NC Prison (p 54)
  45. United Nations Official Says Connecticut’s Use of Solitary May Amount to Torture (p 55)
  46. Court Approves $1,250,000 Settlement in Suit Against Tennessee County for Fair Labor Violations (p 56)
  47. New Jersey: Commission Recommends State Take 100 Steps to Improve Re-Entry for Ex-Prisoners (p 56)
  48. Williams & Connolly, HRDC Win Censorship Case Against Virginia Regional Jail, $210,000 in Attorney Fees (p 57)
  49. Court Orders South Carolina Prisons to Move Forward with Hepatitis C Treatment (p 58)
  50. Kansas Leads Country in Female Incarceration Rates (p 58)
  51. New Law in Maryland Reveals Pathetic Prison Wages (p 59)
  52. DC Council Approves Voting in Prison Ahead of November Election (p 60)
  53. BOP Guard Pleads Guilty to Sexually Molesting Prisoners at MCC Manhattan (p 60)
  54. Supreme Court Affirms Lower-Court Dismissal of Colorado Prisoner In Forma Pauperis Actions (p 61)
  55. News in Brief (p 62)
  56. Seventh Circuit: Indiana District Court Erred in Denying Counsel to Prisoner (p 62)

What’s Justice Got to Do with It?

Visits to Icelandic Prisons Shine Light on America’s Complacency Toward the Suffering of Incarcerated People

After 40 years of an inter-partisan tougher-on-crime-than-you arms race, sentencing reform (and a desire to reduce prison costs) is one issue that now brings Republicans and Democrats together. No other advanced democracy ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

COVID-19 has not gone away; indeed it seems to be worsening in prisons and jails around the country. But this month’s cover story on prisons in Iceland serves as a reminder that not all countries have, or want, a police state that cages one percent of its ...

Can the Pandemic Undermine Mass Incarceration?

The direction of public policy in massive bureaucratic states tends to create an almost inexorable momentum all on its own, and that momentum often overwhelms not only the conditions that created the policy but also the public welfare it purportedly serves. It is extraordinarily difficult to break ...

Animal Shelters Provide Cooler Temperatures Than Florida Prisons in Summer

With the heat of summer’s arrival, Florida prisoners endure living in outdated infrastructure. The Florida Department of Corrections (FDC), in a July 14, 2020 email to prisoners, said it “is making efforts to ease the negative impact of extreme heat in the coming months.” That email ...

North Carolina Criticized for Prisoner Transfers During Pandemic

On June 16, 2020, North Carolina’s Wake County Superior Court ordered the state Department of Public Safety (DPS) temporarily to cease the majority of prisoner transfers. Except for medical emergencies or cases of life endangerment, ordered Judge Vinston Rozier, Jr., DPS may not move prisoners unless they ...

Report: Arkansas Let Asymptomatic Prison Employees Infected with Coronavirus Continue to Work

In late April 2020, prisoners at Arkansas’ Cummins Unit knew that the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, was spreading among not only the prison’s inmates but also its staff. But a prisoner identified as Marco was shocked to learn that the state Department of Corrections (DOC) ...

$550,000 Settlement in Georgia Prisoner’s Starvation Death

Lucero entered the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDOC) ...

COVID-19 in Hawaii’s Lockups: Still a Success Story but Cracks Starting to Show

Disabled Detainee at Cook County Jail Wins Class Certification in Lawsuit

a disabled prisoner at the Cook County Jail (CCJ) in Chicago, won class-action certification to represent all of the jail’s disabled prisoners housed in its Division 10 as he proceeds with a lawsuit alleging violations of federal laws protecting the ...

The Latest News on How to Protect Yourself From Infection

by Michael D. Cohen, M.D.

Recommendations for behaviors to reduce exposure to coronavirus and infection are changing as more knowledge is gained about the virus and the disease. Of course, implementing these behaviors in a prison setting is often impossible, but it’s worth passing on newer information so prisoners can ...

Prisons Banning Black Culture and History Books

here is one word that rarely, if ever, is used to describe anything that occurs in prisons. That word is fair. For example, study after study of prison demographics all conclude that although Black citizens are the minority of the U.S. population, they comprise the majority of ...

ICE Deportations Fueling Spread of COVID-19 to Latin American Countries

Jails and Prisons Have Reduced Their Populations in the Face of the Pandemic, but Not Enough To Save Lives

Our updated analysis finds that the initial efforts to reduce jail populations have slowed, while the small drops in state prison populations are still too little to save lives.

by Emily Widra and Peter Wagner, Prison Policy Initiative, originally published August 5, 2020

Source Material

At a time when more ...

The Prison Was Built to Hold 1,500 Inmates. It Had Over 2,000 Coronavirus Cases

Prison overcrowding has been quietly tolerated for decades. But the pandemic is forcing a reckoning.

by Dara Lind, ProPublica

This article was originally published June 18, 2020, by ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published.

Jason Thompson lay awake in his dormitory bed in the Marion Correctional Institution in central Ohio, immobilized by pain, listening to the sounds of “hacking and gurgling” as the novel coronavirus passed from bunk to bunk like a game of “sick hot potato,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

Thompson lives in Marion’s dorm for disabled and older prisoners — a place he described to ProPublica in a phone call as the prison’s “old folks home” — where 199 inmates, many frail and some in wheelchairs, were isolated in a space designed for 170. As the disease spread among bunks spaced 3 or 4 feet apart, Thompson said he could see bedridden inmates with full-blown symptoms and others “in varying stages of recovery. While the rest of us are rarely 6 feet away from anyone else, sick or not.”

“Prison is not designed for social distancing,” said Thompson, who is serving ...

How Long Can You Hide a Dead Body in a Prison Cell?

Mental-health problems, short staffing plague a Texas lockup in COVID lockdown.

Interview: Jodie Sinclair on Her New Book, “Love Behind Bars”

Jodie Sinclair is the co-author of two nationally published non-fiction books and the author of a recently released memoir about her 25-year fight to free her husband from prison after a wrongful conviction, “Love Behind Bars: The True Story of an American Prisoner’s Wife.” She also co-authored ...

Interview: Corene Kendrick on How the Prison Litigation Reform Act Strips Prisoners of Legal Rights

Pay Up or Lockup: Housing Shortage Kept Cash-Poor Parolees Behind Bars

Source Material

David, 28, was counting the days until January 6, 2012, when his prison sentence would end and he would be released on parole. He had earned his GED diploma inside and lined up some job options in ...

Colorado Explores Ending Private Prisons

Ohio Jails Under Investigation

Governor Mike DeWine admitted back in June 2019 that the state ...

San Francisco Eliminates Fees on Jail Phone Calls

Maine DOC, Medical Provider, Pay $250,000 Settlement Due to Excessive Force on 11-Year-Old

Consultants Advising Rich on Prison Life

Weinstein, 67, joins a ...

Wisconsin: Court Dismisses Prisoners’ Suit Over Asbestos, Mold on Procedural Grounds

Filed on July 18, 2019, by Nicasio Cuevas Quiles III and nine fellow prisoners ...

Does Increased Guard Violence Mean Texas Prisoners Are at Greater Risk?

Transgender Woman Who Says She Was Raped, Beaten, Sues Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center

A transgender woman who was housed with male prisoners at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. (MDC), sued the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) on the grounds that staff ignored her requests for safety, resulting in her allegedly being repeatedly beaten and raped in a male housing unit.

The ...

BOP Official Reportedly Had Sexual Relationship With Former Police Union Head

Doctor at Florida Detention Center Spread COVID-19 to Prisoners

Can Kentucky Keep Charging Prisoners for Their Jail Stay if They Are Found Not Guilty?

D.C. Appeals Court Mixed on Request for Records and Video

Prison Art is Rehabilitation

The charity and social enterprise has ...

Rhode Island Takes Uncommon Steps to Address a Common Problem: Drug Addiction in Prison

From Super Villain to Super Man, Tennessee Prisoner Still Executed

Record Number of Laws Passed Reducing Barriers for People With Criminal Records

by Douglas Ankney  

Forty-three states, along with the District of Columbia and the federal government, passed “consequential legislation” in 2019 aimed at reducing barriers faced by people with criminal records.

The 152 laws significantly or completely eliminated obstacles to societal reintegration in areas of employment, housing, voting, jury duty and ...

Tioga County, New York Police Informant Paid $50,000 to Settle False Arrest Claims

In March 2014, Russell D. Towner was a ...

New York Prisoner Prevails in Lawsuit, Freed from 23 Years in Solitary Confinement

The announcement followed a March 12, 2020, ruling by the U.S. District ...

Lifers Now Exceed Entire Prison Population of 1970

Second Circuit Vacates Summary Judgment on Connecticut Prisoner’s Failure to Protect Claim

Connecticut prisoner Christopher J.M. Lewis was a member of the PIRU or PIRU Bloods gang. He was ...

Many of Aging Kansas State Prison Population Could Be Released

Study Shows Solitary Confinement Poses Mortality Risk After Release

$2.8 Million Settlement in New York Pretrial Detainee’s Suicide

The morning of January 23, 2013, started innocently for Franqui. He called friend Simon ...

Dallas County, Texas Jails Finally Enter the 21st Century on Phone Rates

Beyond Harsh: 86 Mississippi Prisoners Serving Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses

Federal Judge: BOP Exercising “Reasonable Efforts” Against Coronavirus at NC Prison

BOP argued that ...

United Nations Official Says Connecticut’s Use of Solitary May Amount to Torture

Court Approves $1,250,000 Settlement in Suit Against Tennessee County for Fair Labor Violations

New Jersey: Commission Recommends State Take 100 Steps to Improve Re-Entry for Ex-Prisoners

Williams & Connolly, HRDC Win Censorship Case Against Virginia Regional Jail, $210,000 in Attorney Fees

PLN ...

Court Orders South Carolina Prisons to Move Forward with Hepatitis C Treatment

“This action today is going to save 1,184 lives,” ...

Kansas Leads Country in Female Incarceration Rates

A report put out by the Prison Policy Initiative and the American Civil Liberties Campaign for Smart Justice in ...

New Law in Maryland Reveals Pathetic Prison Wages

DC Council Approves Voting in Prison Ahead of November Election

The DC Council approved an emergency bill July 7, 2020 that included the Restore the Vote Amendment, authorizing voting by residents incarcerated in jail or prison with a felony conviction.

The District joins just two states, Maine and Vermont, which maintain voting rights for imprisoned citizens. ...

BOP Guard Pleads Guilty to Sexually Molesting Prisoners at MCC Manhattan

The 43-year-old naturalized citizen from Nigeria, ...

Supreme Court Affirms Lower-Court Dismissal of Colorado Prisoner In Forma Pauperis Actions

In the case of ...

News in Brief

California:In June 2020, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) commuted 21 state prisoners’ sentences, a dozen of them were for murder convictions, patch.com reported. Seven were committed when the prisoner was 22 or younger. Half of the prisoners are now 59 or older. One commutation went to 62-year-old Thomas Waterbury, ...

Seventh Circuit: Indiana District Court Erred in Denying Counsel to Prisoner

That ruling came in an appeal brought by Indiana prisoner ...