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Prison Legal News: November, 2022

Issue PDF
Volume 33, Number 11

In this issue:

  1. Unending ‘Crisis’ in San Diego County Jails: Hundreds Dead, Millions in Legal Payouts (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 16)
  3. Maine Caps Price of Phone Calls in State Prisons and Jails (p 17)
  4. San Diego County Pays $250,000 After Detainee Suicide in County Jail (p 18)
  5. New Federal ‘Fresh Start’ Student Loan Policy May Help Prisoners in Default (p 19)
  6. South Carolina Judge Halts State Executions by Electrocution and Firing Squad (p 20)
  7. Excessive-Force Claim by Now-Incarcerated Former Maryland Guard Survives (p 20)
  8. Michigan Supreme Court Says Prisoner’s Possession of Cell Phone by Itself Doesn’t Show Threat to Security (p 22)
  9. Ohio County Pays $2.5 Million for Photographing Female Detainees’ Tattooed Private Areas (p 23)
  10. San Diego County Pays $3.488 Million After Jail Detainee Dies in Cell Extraction (p 24)
  11. Federal Judge Calls Out BOP’s ‘Plinko’ Tactics, Orders Surgeon Found for Trans Prisoner’s Gender-Confirming Procedure (p 26)
  12. San Diego County Pays $8.1 Million After Jail Guard Fatally Shot Fleeing Detainee in the Back (p 26)
  13. The Catalog of Carceral Surveillance: Tablet Advertising That Can Also Issue Discipline (p 28)
  14. Rifles, Tasers and Jails: How Cities and States Spent Billions of COVID-19 Relief (p 30)
  15. North Dakota Prisoner’s Conviction for Assault on Guard Vacated Due To Erroneous Jury Instruction (p 33)
  16. DOJ Finds Unconstitutional Conditions at Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman (p 34)
  17. Washington DOC Fined $84,000 for Health Code Violations Found After TB Outbreak (p 36)
  18. Georgia Jail Settles Suit Filed by Mentally Ill Female Detainees With Policy Changes and $1.2 Million in Attorney Fees and Costs (p 38)
  19. Tenth Circuit Vacates Oklahoma Prisoners’ Witness Tampering Conviction (p 38)
  20. Condemned Alabama Prisoner Now Spared Twice (p 40)
  21. Gang Violence in Texas Federal Prison Results in Two Deaths, Nationwide BOP Lockdown (p 40)
  22. Hawaii Governor Finally Appoints Coordinator for State DOC Oversight Commission (p 42)
  23. $6,000 Sanction for Mississippi Federal Prosecutor Who Lied to Court About COVID-19 Vaccination Status (p 42)
  24. Sentencing Reports Show Longer Sentences, Few Compassionate Releases (p 44)
  25. Tennessee Governor Suspends Executions, Orders Investigation Into Lethal Injection Process (p 44)
  26. Nebraska Supreme Court Says Revocation of Post-Release Supervision Does Not Bar Prisoner From Earning Good Time Credit (p 46)
  27. Seventh Circuit: Chicago Police Department’s 30-Day Claim-or-Forfeit Policy for Arrestee Property Is Constitutionally Adequate (p 46)
  28. COVID-19 Injunction Lapses in Oregon, Another Fails in Massachusetts (p 48)
  29. Over $386,000 Awarded to Mississippi Prisoner, Plus Hip Surgery He Was Denied (p 48)
  30. Eighth Circuit Rules Federal Prisoner Need Only Know Item Is Prohibited To Support Conviction for Possession of Contraband (p 50)
  31. Wisconsin Pays $8,000 To State Prisoner After Seventh Circuit Revives Retaliation Claim Against Guard Over Destroyed Legal Documents (p 50)
  32. $215,000 Awarded to New Jersey Detainee Assaulted by Jail Guards (p 52)
  33. Fifth Circuit Affirms Denial of Qualified Immunity to Texas Jailers Who Refused Medical Care to Detainee Dying of Drug Overdose (p 52)
  34. Parole Board Members Miss Work, Leaving Nebraska Prisoners Locked Up (p 53)
  35. Georgia Sheriff Agrees To Provide Muslim Prisoners With Halal Meals for Ramadan (p 54)
  36. More Victims Added to Sex Abuse Indictment of Former Federal Prison Warden in California; Former Chaplain Sentenced for Role in ‘Rape Club’ (p 54)
  37. Mississippi Attempts to Offload Prisoner Healthcare Costs Onto Medicaid (p 56)
  38. Wisconsin High Court Admits Into Evidence Secret Tape of Prisoner Made by Fellow Prisoner (p 56)
  39. $2.1 Million Settlement for Estate of Detainee Who Committed Suicide in Scandal-Plagued Ohio Jail (p 58)
  40. Alabama Prisoner Who Escaped With Jail Guard Lover Charged in Her Death on the Run (p 58)
  41. Experimenting on Prisoners: New California Lawsuits Reveal Old Abuses (p 60)
  42. Fifth Circuit Upholds Nearly $13.5 Million Restitution Order Against Federal Prisoner (p 60)
  43. Maine Settles Suit Over COVID-19 Jobless Benefits Seized From Prisoners (p 62)
  44. News in Brief (p 65)

Unending ‘Crisis’ in San Diego County Jails: Hundreds Dead, Millions in Legal Payouts

by Jo Ellen Nott

When the men and women incarcerated in San Diego County jails awoke on October 6, 2022, the biggest news was also the grimmest: Nothing had changed. A fellow detainee had been murdered the night before, but his was the 19th jail death in just over nine ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

Most of PLN’s prisoner readers are housed in state or federal prisons and serving a sentence after being convicted of a crime. On any given day at least 500,000 people are being held in jails around the country, operated by cities, counties or Indian Tribes. The vast ...

Maine Caps Price of Phone Calls in State Prisons and Jails

by Benjamin Tschirhart

On April 15, 2022, Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) approved H.P. 853, a new law capping the cost of calls in state prisons and county jails. Effective October 1, 2022, calls may not exceed the federal rate of twelve cents per minute in prisons and twenty-one cents ...

San Diego County Pays $250,000 After Detainee Suicide in County Jail

by Jayson Hawkins

On March 29, 2022, the federal court for the Southern District of California approved a settlement between the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department (SDSD) and the widow of a 21-year-old U.S. Marine who committed suicide while held in pretrial detention at the county’s Vista Detention Facility (VDF). ...

New Federal ‘Fresh Start’ Student Loan Policy May Help Prisoners in Default

by Matt Clarke

On April 26, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) announced a new “fresh start” policy for people whose student loans are in default, and it may help prisoners who would otherwise be barred from receiving Pell Grants when they become available next year.

The policy brings ...

South Carolina Judge Halts State Executions by Electrocution and Firing Squad

by David M. Reutter and Ed Lyon

On September 6, 2022, the Richland County Court of Common Pleas granted an injunction in a challenge brought by four condemned South Carolina prisoners to 2021 state legislation making electrocution the default method of execution unless a prisoner opts instead for lethal injection ...

Excessive-Force Claim by Now-Incarcerated Former Maryland Guard Survives

by Harold Hempstead

On September 2, 2021, the federal court for the District of Maryland denied a motion for summary judgment made by a state prison guard who is the defendant in a case brought by a prisoner who was himself a former guard, and who alleged he was subjected ...

Michigan Supreme Court Says Prisoner’s Possession of Cell Phone by Itself Doesn’t Show Threat to Security

by David M. Reutter

On April 28, 2022, the Michigan Supreme Court held that possession of a cell phone by a prisoner may not justify an enhanced sentence under the state criminal code unless the facts also establish that the prisoner’s conduct actually threatened prison security. That drew a sharp ...

Ohio County Pays $2.5 Million for Photographing Female Detainees’ Tattooed Private Areas

by Kevin W. Bliss

On January 7, 2022, Ohio’s Franklin County Board of Commissioners settled a suit brought by a class of former female detainees in the county jail who claimed their constitutional rights were violated when photographs of tattoos on or around their private areas were taken by deputies ...

San Diego County Pays $3.488 Million After Jail Detainee Dies in Cell Extraction

by Chuck Sharman

In October 2022, PLN successfully concluded a months-long effort to obtain a copy of an agreement by San Diego County to pay nearly $3.5 million to settle its part of a lawsuit filed by the family of Paul Silva, a mentally ill detainee who died after a ...

Federal Judge Calls Out BOP’s ‘Plinko’ Tactics, Orders Surgeon Found for Trans Prisoner’s Gender-Confirming Procedure

by Jacob Barrett

On April 18, 2022, after finding the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) “employed tactics similar to the game of Plinko on The Price is Right,” an exasperated federal judge demanded the agency produce a timeline for compliance with an earlier Preliminary Injunction (PI) ordering Gender Confirming ...

San Diego County Pays $8.1 Million After Jail Guard Fatally Shot Fleeing Detainee in the Back

by Chuck Sharman

On June 22, 2022, San Diego County agreed to pay $8.1 million to settle claims that a deputy outside a county jail chased a fleeing detainee and fatally shot him in the back. It was the largest payout for a wrongful death by the county in at ...

The Catalog of Carceral Surveillance: Tablet Advertising That Can Also Issue Discipline

by Dave Maas

Imagine you’ve been arrested and are sitting in county lock-up. You need to make arrangements for bail, a lawyer, and a caretaker for your kids or pets. Maybe you need someone to bring your prescription or you need to talk to your AA sponsor. On top of ...

Rifles, Tasers and Jails: How Cities and States Spent Billions of COVID-19 Relief

by Anastasia Valeeva, Weihua Li, and Susie Cagle

President Biden’s signature American Rescue Plan Act gave local governments $350 billion to recover from COVID-19. They spent much of it on police, prisons and the courts.

 

(This article originally appeared on themarshallproject.org on September 7, 2022. It is reprinted here ...

North Dakota Prisoner’s Conviction for Assault on Guard Vacated Due To Erroneous Jury Instruction

by David M. Reutter

On May 26, 2022, the SupremeCourt of North Dakota vacated a state prisoner’s conviction for aggravated assault of a guard because the trial court committed error by instructing the jury on the wrong law under which he was charged.

While held at the North Dakota State ...

DOJ Finds Unconstitutional Conditions at Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman

by David M. Reutter

On April 20, 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a report finding conditions at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman likely violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights of the prisoners held there. DOJ is reportedly working with the state Department of Corrections (DOC) ...

Washington DOC Fined $84,000 for Health Code Violations Found After TB Outbreak

by Jacob Barrett

On September 9, 2022, the Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) levied an $84,000 fine against the state Department of Corrections (DOC) for safety violations at a state prison that was the epicenter of the state’s largest tuberculosis outbreak in 20 years.

L&I issued the fine ...

Georgia Jail Settles Suit Filed by Mentally Ill Female Detainees With Policy Changes and $1.2 Million in Attorney Fees and Costs

by Matt Clarke

On April 4, 2022, the federal court for the Northern District of Georgia gave final approval to a settlement in a lawsuit brought by mentally ill women incarcerated at the South Fulton Jail. The agreement included numerous changes to jail policies and practices, along with monitoring and ...

Tenth Circuit Vacates Oklahoma Prisoners’ Witness Tampering Conviction

by David M. Reutter

On April 5, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that a conviction for federal witness tampering requires an affirmative answer to two questions: (1) Did the defendant contemplate a particular proceeding in which the witness would testify and (2) was it ...

Condemned Alabama Prisoner Now Spared Twice

by Chuck Sharman

When his death warrant expired at 12:01 a.m. on September 23, 2022, condemned Alabama prisoner Alan Eugene Miller was still alive, capping a wild few days during which his execution was stayed by a federal judge and then reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court before executioners tried ...

Gang Violence in Texas Federal Prison Results in Two Deaths, Nationwide BOP Lockdown

by Keith Sanders

On April 7, 2022, the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) announced indictments against seven federal prisoners for the brutal murder of two fellow prisoners in their Texas lockup, an incident that prompted a rare nationwide lockdown of the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

The victims, Guillermo Riojas, ...

Hawaii Governor Finally Appoints Coordinator for State DOC Oversight Commission

by Douglas Ankney

It took him three years to do it, but Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) finally appointed a director for the state Correctional Systems Oversight Commission (CSOC). On April 4, 2022, former New York City Department of Corrections (DOC) Monitor Christin Johnson assumed the role created by the ...

$6,000 Sanction for Mississippi Federal Prosecutor Who Lied to Court About COVID-19 Vaccination Status

by David M. Reutter

On July 7, 2022, a federal judge for the Southern District of Mississippi levied a $6,000 sanction against a federal prosecutor for lying about his COVID-19 vaccination status.

When Assistant U.S. Attorney Theodore “Ted” Cooperstein was quizzed on three appearances before Judge Carlton W. Reeves on ...

Sentencing Reports Show Longer Sentences, Few Compassionate Releases

by Benjamin Tschirhart and Casey J. Bastian

On July 20, 2022, the nonprofit Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ) reported a spike in the share of state prisoners serving long sentences, with 57% now locked up for ten years or more. As a result, the average length of time served has ...

Tennessee Governor Suspends Executions, Orders Investigation Into Lethal Injection Process

by Harold Hempstead

On May 2, 2022, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) halted all executions scheduled for the remainder of the year for an independent investigation into the state’s lethal injection protocols. Four days later, the interim director of the state Department of Correction (DOC), Lisa Helton, filed her admission ...

Nebraska Supreme Court Says Revocation of Post-Release Supervision Does Not Bar Prisoner From Earning Good Time Credit

by David M. Reutter

On April 28, 2022, the Nebraska Supreme Court held that a lower state court erred in denying good time credit when resentencing a state prisoner who had violated the terms of his post-release supervision (PRS).

The Court’s opinion was issued in an appeal by Joshua J. ...

Seventh Circuit: Chicago Police Department’s 30-Day Claim-or-Forfeit Policy for Arrestee Property Is Constitutionally Adequate

by Casey J. Bastian

On April 18, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to issue a writ of certiorari to hear a challenge that the abandoned property policy of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) violates the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment. See: Conyers v. City of Chi., 142 ...

COVID-19 Injunction Lapses in Oregon, Another Fails in Massachusetts

by Mark Wilson

On June 21, 2022, a preliminary injunction granted by the federal court for the District of Oregon expired, ending its mandate that state prison employees comply with the COVID-19 masking policy of the state Department of Corrections (DOC).

Aaron Hanna, a prisoner at Two Rivers Correctional Institution ...

Over $386,000 Awarded to Mississippi Prisoner, Plus Hip Surgery He Was Denied

by David M. Reutter

On March 31, 2022, the federal court for the Southern District of Mississippi granted a state prisoner’s petition and enjoined the state Department of Corrections (DOC) to provide him total hip revision surgery. He was also awarded damages and attorney fees totaling over $386,000.

Since age ...

Eighth Circuit Rules Federal Prisoner Need Only Know Item Is Prohibited To Support Conviction for Possession of Contraband

by David M. Reutter

How much actual knowledge does a prisoner need to have of items in his possession to support a contraband conviction? According to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, the answer is “not much.”

That was the Court’s conclusion in a ruling filed on ...

Wisconsin Pays $8,000 To State Prisoner After Seventh Circuit Revives Retaliation Claim Against Guard Over Destroyed Legal Documents

by David M. Reutter

On August 5, 2022, a Wisconsin state prisoner signed off on an agreement to accept $8,000 to resolve claims that a guard destroyed his legal documents in retaliation for a lawsuit the prisoner was preparing to file.

The settlement comes on the heels of a ruling ...

$215,000 Awarded to New Jersey Detainee Assaulted by Jail Guards

by Keith Sanders

On October 22, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey awarded $215,000 in damages to a former pretrial detainee at the Cumberland County Jail (CCJ) for injuries suffered during an assault there by guards and police officers.

Lourenzo Witt, the plaintiff, was arrested ...

Fifth Circuit Affirms Denial of Qualified Immunity to Texas Jailers Who Refused Medical Care to Detainee Dying of Drug Overdose

by Matt Clarke

On June 1, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a district court’s denial of qualified immunity (QI) to staff in a Texas jail who allegedly ignored the medical needs of a prisoner for 32 hours while he “moaned in pain, twitched, thrashed, ...

Parole Board Members Miss Work, Leaving Nebraska Prisoners Locked Up

by Benjamin Tschirhart

Each year, thousands of Nebraska prisoners go before the state Parole Board, hoping to return to their lives and their families. But when board members don’t show up for work, people often stay in prison instead of going home.

That’s because the board needs at least three ...

Georgia Sheriff Agrees To Provide Muslim Prisoners With Halal Meals for Ramadan

by Jacob Barrett

On April 19, 2022, Georgia’s DeKalb County Jail (DCJ) and county Sheriff Melody M. Maddox filed a stipulation in a civil suit agreeing to provide religious meals for Muslim prisoners observing daylight fasts during Ramadan.

The suit was brought by Norman Simmonds, who was detained at DCJ ...

More Victims Added to Sex Abuse Indictment of Former Federal Prison Warden in California; Former Chaplain Sentenced for Role in ‘Rape Club’

by Jo Ellen Nott

With two former Bureau of Pri­sons (BOP) staffers convicted of sexually abusing prisoners and three more charged and awaiting trial — including the former warden — the “rape club” scandal continues to widen at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Dublin, California. It now counts a ...

Mississippi Attempts to Offload Prisoner Healthcare Costs Onto Medicaid

by Anthony W. Accurso

On April 21, 2022, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) signed H.B. 936, a new law creating “special care facilities” to house and provide healthcare for about 600 “medically frail” state prisoners eligible for parole whom the state Department of Corrections (DOC) refuses to release because they ...

Wisconsin High Court Admits Into Evidence Secret Tape of Prisoner Made by Fellow Prisoner

by David M. Reutter

On July 1, 2022, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin decided that just because a jailhouse snitch used a government-provided device to tape incriminating statements made by a fellow pretrial detainee, he was not acting as a “state agent,” so the defendant’s right to counsel was not ...

$2.1 Million Settlement for Estate of Detainee Who Committed Suicide in Scandal-Plagued Ohio Jail

by David M. Reutter

On May 5, 2022, Ohio’s Cuyahoga County agreed to pay $2.1 million to the estate of a mentally ill detainee arrested on bogus charges who was then left to commit suicide at the county jail (CCJ). The settlement is one of 11 so far in 30 ...

Alabama Prisoner Who Escaped With Jail Guard Lover Charged in Her Death on the Run

by Kevin W. Bliss

On July 12, 2022, the District Attorney (DA) for Alabama’s Lauderdale County announced murder charges against a former detainee in the county jail who escaped with the help of a high-ranking guard, after which she fatally shot herself as authorities closed in to recapture him.

Vicky ...

Experimenting on Prisoners: New California Lawsuits Reveal Old Abuses

by Eike Blohm, MD

The City of Philadelphia formally apologized on October 6, 2022, for medical experiments conducted on some 300 men — mostly Black, many of them pretrial detainees — incarcerated at the now-shuttered Holmesburg Prison over 50 years ago.

Interest revived in the ancient torture at the notorious ...

Fifth Circuit Upholds Nearly $13.5 Million Restitution Order Against Federal Prisoner

by Anthony W. Accurso

On February 25th, 2022, winning turnedout to be losing for a federal prisoner when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed a massive restitution order issued by a district court in Texas, saying the prisoner had provided jurisdiction with his own successful challenge ...

Maine Settles Suit Over COVID-19 Jobless Benefits Seized From Prisoners

by Jayson Hawkins

Like many prison systems across America, Maine’s Department of Corrections (DOC) has a work-release program that allows prisoners to hold jobs in local communities while serving their sentence. But when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, the programs were suspended as part of the effort to ...

News in Brief

Alabama: A convicted bank robber had 30 months added to his 17-year prison sentence on September 26, 2022, for bribing an Alabama jail guard to smuggle him a cellphone, K2 “spice” paper, and other contraband. According to a federal Department of Justice (DOJ) press release, while Stanley Young, 34, was ...