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Prison Legal News: May, 2022

Issue PDF
Volume 33, Number 5

In this issue:

  1. PrimeCare: Less Medical Care for Prisoners, Higher Expenses for Taxpayers, More Profits for Corporate Owner (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 14)
  3. Vermont Supreme Court: Removing Prisoner From Programming Is Reviewable When Catalyst Was Punitive (p 14)
  4. $11 Million Settlement Reached in Tennessee Suit Alleging False Arrest and False Imprisonment of Minors (p 16)
  5. Nine Deaths in Three Years at CoreCivic Jail in Florida, None From COVID-19 (p 18)
  6. $5.5 Million Settlement to California Prisoner Left Incapacitated After Suicide Attempt at Santa Cruz County Jail (p 18)
  7. Pittsburgh Jail Records 13 Deaths in Two Years, Only One From COVID-19 (p 20)
  8. California Federal Court Approves Consent Decree Upgrading Mental Health Care at Alameda County Jail (p 22)
  9. Trapped in The Floods: With Floodwaters Rising, Prisoners Wait for Help in Floating Feces (p 24)
  10. Fifth BOP Staffer Arrested in “Rape Club” at California Federal Prison (p 28)
  11. Eighth Circuit Rules Pretrial Detainees and Prisoners Have Right to Visit Family Members (p 29)
  12. Tenth Circuit Says Parolee May Not be Forced to Participate in Religious Program Under Threat of Jail (p 30)
  13. $8.5 Million Paid by Pennsylvania DOC for Death of Asthmatic Prisoner Improperly Pepper-Sprayed (p 30)
  14. $260,000 in Attorney Fees Awarded by California Federal Court after Finding Governing State Law Not Impacted by PLRA (p 32)
  15. Investigation Finds Hundreds of Unreported Deaths in Tennessee Prisons and Jails (p 32)
  16. HRDC Sues Nebraska Department of Correctional Services for Banning its Books (p 34)
  17. Multiple Florida DOC Guards Convicted of Assault, Smuggling and Child Sex Abuse (p 34)
  18. Hawaii Supreme Court Orders New Parole Hearing for Prisoner Held Since 1979 (p 36)
  19. Eleventh Circuit Says Georgia Prisoner Failed to Exhaust Remedies by Filing Late Grievance to Ask for Investigation that Was Already Underway (p 38)
  20. $2.2 Million Settlement Over Transgender Georgia Prisoner’s Suicide Is Largest in State DOC History (p 38)
  21. Nevada Federal Court Denies Motion to Compel Arbitration by Rapid Financial Solutions in Debit Card Suit (p 40)
  22. Ecuador’s Prison System in Catastrophic Crisis (p 42)
  23. $6,500 Paid by Nevada DOC After Ninth Circuit Affirms Denial of Qualified Immunity for Withholding Evidence From Prisoner Accused of Smuggling Meth in Mail (p 42)
  24. What to Know about Using Pell Grants to Take College Classes in Prison (p 44)
  25. $316,673 Settlement in New Mexico Prisoner’s Lawsuit Over Stabbing at GEO-Operated Private Prison (p 46)
  26. $725,000 Settlement Reached in North Carolina Prisoner’s Suicide at Troubled Jail (p 46)
  27. HRDC Sues New Hampshire Jail over Publications Banned under No-Hard-Copy Mail Policy (p 48)
  28. Guard Arrested for Running “Fight Club” in New Jersey Prison Kitchen (p 48)
  29. Sweetheart Deal Nets GEO Group $15 Million Payout from ICE for Haitian Deportation Flights (p 50)
  30. Tenth Circuit Says Disabled Colorado Prisoner Offered Diapers Rather Than Bathroom Pass May Deserve Damages Under ADA (p 50)
  31. Ninth Circuit Says Nevada DOC Not Micromanaged by Requirement to Treat Prisoner’s Severe Mental Illness; Upholds Preliminary Injunction (p 52)
  32. Con Who Conned Cons is Sentenced to Federal Prison (p 53)
  33. Absenteeism Skyrockets for New York City Jail Guards, Up 215% Over the Last Two Years (p 54)
  34. DOJ Reaches Settlement Over Disability Access With Vermont Prison System (p 54)
  35. Ninth Circuit: Error to Instruct Jury to Defer to Medical Staff’s Asserted Security Justification for Terminating California Prisoner’s Morphine Prescription Without Tapering (p 56)
  36. Preliminary Injunction Granted to Illinois Prisoner to Receive Non-Allergenic Kosher Meals (p 57)
  37. Connecticut Supreme Court Rules That Prisoner Was Denied Due Process with Sex Offender Classification (p 58)
  38. Lifting Six-Year Moratorium, Oklahoma Treats Witnesses to Convulsing and Vomiting Prisoner During Execution (p 60)
  39. News in Brief (p 62)
  40. Washington State Supreme Court Holds that Denying Wheelchair-Bound Prisoner Access to Water and Toilet Facilities Violates State Constitution (p 62)

PrimeCare: Less Medical Care for Prisoners, Higher Expenses for Taxpayers, More Profits for Corporate Owner

by Matt Clarke

The news from Pennsylvania on April 4, 2021, had a sadly familiar ring to it: A prisoner died a preventable death in a county lockup, costing a bundle to settle, so county officials were turning to a private healthcare provider. They granted a multi-million-dollar annual contract—a million ...

From the Editor

This issue of PLN marks our 32nd anniversary. Having published 384 issues since May 1990, we have been reporting on the growth of the American police state for 32 years as its prison and jail population has more than doubled from one million to almost 2.3 million reported in 2020. ...

Vermont Supreme Court: Removing Prisoner From Programming Is Reviewable When Catalyst Was Punitive

In a decision reached on October 8, 2021, the Vermont Supreme Court held that a determination by state prison officials to remove a prisoner from programming was reviewable when the catalyst was punitive. The claim at issue was based upon the failure to provide the prisoner a hearing before imposing ...

$11 Million Settlement Reached in Tennessee Suit Alleging False Arrest and False Imprisonment of Minors

by Ed Lyon

On December 20, 2021, a settlementwas approved by a federal court in a lawsuit alleging the illegal arrest and detention of some 1,500 children at the Rutherford County Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. As a result, members of the proposed classes of plaintiffs were eligible ...

Nine Deaths in Three Years at CoreCivic Jail in Florida, None From COVID-19

The Citrus County Detention Facility(CCDF) in Lecanto, Florida, serves a modest-sized county with a population of 149,383, slightly over the average in all 2,843 jail jurisdictions in the U.S. The mortality rate in all U.S. jails in 2018—the last year for which federal Bureau of Justice statistics were published—averaged 154 ...

$5.5 Million Settlement to California Prisoner Left Incapacitated After Suicide Attempt at Santa Cruz County Jail

by Ed Lyon

On December 16, 2021, a federal court in California approved a $5.5 million settlement between Santa Cruz County and the estate of a former prisoner at the county jail whose attempt on his own life there left him an invalid.

Sometime after 11 a.m. on February 15, ...

Pittsburgh Jail Records 13 Deaths in Two Years, Only One From COVID-19

by Jo Ellen Nott

In the two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, deaths have more than doubled at the Allegheny County Jail (ACJ) in downtown Pittsburgh, even as the jail population was cut drastically in an effort to curb the spread of the SARS-COV2 virus. Yet ...

California Federal Court Approves Consent Decree Upgrading Mental Health Care at Alameda County Jail

by David M. Reutter

On February 7, 2022, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California approved a Consent Decree in a class-action lawsuit filed against the Alameda County Jail in Santa Rita that accused officials there of subjecting “individuals with mental health diagnoses and/or other psychiatric disabilities” ...

Trapped in The Floods: With Floodwaters Rising, Prisoners Wait for Help in Floating Feces

by Alleen Brown

The flooding in Dixie County, Florida, began in July, brought on by Tropical Storm Elsa. Then the rains kept falling. By August, the ground was saturated, and the semirural county was underwater.

At the Cross City Correctional Institution, the prison administration repeatedly canceled visitation hours throughout July. ...

Fifth BOP Staffer Arrested in “Rape Club” at California Federal Prison

by Jo Ellen Nott

Once known for famous prisoners from Hollywood, the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) at Dublin, California, is now in the spotlight for a different reason: As of March 2022, at least five Bureau of Prisons (BOP) employees have been charged with sexually abusing women held at the ...

Eighth Circuit Rules Pretrial Detainees and Prisoners Have Right to Visit Family Members

Eighth Circuit Rules Pretrial Detainees and Prisoners Have Right to Visit Family Members

In a precedential ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has held that “prisoners and pretrial detainees have a right to be free from arbitrary or permanent limitations on visits with family members.”

The ...

Tenth Circuit Says Parolee May Not be Forced to Participate in Religious Program Under Threat of Jail

by David M. Reutter

In a lawsuit alleging prison officials used coercion to force an atheist parolee into participating in Christian programming, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit came down on the parolee’s side on August 6, 2021, reversing a lower court’s grant of summary judgment to ...

$8.5 Million Paid by Pennsylvania DOC for Death of Asthmatic Prisoner Improperly Pepper-Sprayed

by Matt Clarke

On October 18, 2021, a federal court in Pennsylvania approved an $8.5 million settlement reached the prior month between the state Department of Corrections (DOC) and the family of an asthmatic state prisoner who died after being pepper-sprayed with oleoresin capsicum (OC) by guards at State Correctional ...

$260,000 in Attorney Fees Awarded by California Federal Court after Finding Governing State Law Not Impacted by PLRA

by David M. Reutter

After finding the award of attorney’s fees under California’s Code of Civil Procedure is not impacted by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e, a federal district awarded $259,237.50 to attorneys for two prisoners who obtained civil verdicts against guards employed by state ...

Investigation Finds Hundreds of Unreported Deaths in Tennessee Prisons and Jails

by Harold Hempstead

A November 2021 investigation by Knoxville TV station WBIR found prisons and jails across the Volunteer State were underreporting in-custody deaths to the state Bureau of Investigation (TBI), in apparent violation of Tennessee law. The investigation counted 602 people who died in custody from 2017 to 2020, ...

HRDC Sues Nebraska Department of Correctional Services for Banning its Books

By Sam Rutherford

On February 25, 2022, the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), publisher of PLN and Criminal Legal News (CLN), filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska against Scott Frakes, Director of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (DCS), under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ...

Multiple Florida DOC Guards Convicted of Assault, Smuggling and Child Sex Abuse

by Jo Ellen Nott

On March 6, 2022, a judge in Citrus County, Florida, handed down a prison term to a former state prison guard for child sex abuse, just days after three other former Florida guards were sentenced to federal prison on February 28, 2022, following their convictions for ...

Hawaii Supreme Court Orders New Parole Hearing for Prisoner Held Since 1979

by Douglas Ankney

Over 42 years after he was sentenced to Life with Possibility of Parole (LWPP), a pro se Hawaii prisoner took a step closer to the promise contained in his sentence on October 22, 2021, when the state Supreme Court reinstated his claim that he was wrongfully denied ...

Eleventh Circuit Says Georgia Prisoner Failed to Exhaust Remedies by Filing Late Grievance to Ask for Investigation that Was Already Underway

by David M. Reutter

Here’s a simple message to prisonersfrom the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit: Exhaust your remedies, no matter how redundant they may seem.

That was the key takeaway from the Court’s ruling on August 31, 2021, in which it held that the grievance process ...

$2.2 Million Settlement Over Transgender Georgia Prisoner’s Suicide Is Largest in State DOC History

by Matt Clarke

On December 7, 2021, the parents of a 25-year-old transwoman who committed suicide while imprisoned in the Georgia Department of Corrections (DOC) dismissed their federal civil rights lawsuit against DOC officials after accepting a $2.2 million settlement the preceding October 27. See: Maree v. Igou, 2021 ...

Nevada Federal Court Denies Motion to Compel Arbitration by Rapid Financial Solutions in Debit Card Suit

by David M. Reutter

On August 30, 2021, a federal district court in Nevada denied a motion to compel arbitration in a lawsuit alleging that forcing prison release debit cards upon prisoners violates state and federal laws. Chief Judge Miranda M. Du ruled the plaintiff did not assent to the ...

Ecuador’s Prison System in Catastrophic Crisis

by Ed Lyon

After a riot in Ecuador’s El Turi prison left 20 prisoners dead on April 4, 2022, Interior Minister Patricio Castillo responded with a vow to “drain the cesspit” that his nation’s prisons have become. But how exactly?

Castillo promised to strip prison benefits from the unnamed ringleaders, ...

$6,500 Paid by Nevada DOC After Ninth Circuit Affirms Denial of Qualified Immunity for Withholding Evidence From Prisoner Accused of Smuggling Meth in Mail

by David M. Reutter
AS PREVIOUSLY REPORTED BY PLN, OFficials with the Nevada Department of Corrections (DOC) in 2020 lost a suit filed pro se in federal district court by a state prisoner they disciplined for smuggling methamphetamine through the prison mail, with the court agreeing his Fourteenth Amendment due-process ...

What to Know about Using Pell Grants to Take College Classes in Prison

by Richard Hahn


THE VALUE OF POST-SECONDARY EDUCAtion to people who complete courses in prison is well established. The Second Chance Pell (SCP) Pilot, which offered federal grants to help prisoners pay for college and professional certification classes beginning in 2015, was meant to leverage the benefits of higher education ...

$316,673 Settlement in New Mexico Prisoner’s Lawsuit Over Stabbing at GEO-Operated Private Prison

by Matt Clarke

On October 1, 2021, the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) and the private operator of one of its prisons, the GEO Group, agreed to pay $316,673.53 to settle a lawsuit brought by a prisoner stabbed and severely injured by another prisoner at a GEO-operated state prison that ...

$725,000 Settlement Reached in North Carolina Prisoner’s Suicide at Troubled Jail

by Keith Sanders

On January 18, 2019, Melissa Middleton Rice committed suicide while in custody at the Jackson County Detention Center (JCDC) in Sylva, North Carolina. As she sat in the jail’s booking room, Rice hanged herself with a telephone cord. She was found unresponsive and without a pulse just ...

HRDC Sues New Hampshire Jail over Publications Banned under No-Hard-Copy Mail Policy

By Sam Rutherford

On March 11, 2022, the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), PLN’s publisher, filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the Strafford County House of Correction (HOC) violated its rights under the First and Fourteenth ...

Guard Arrested for Running “Fight Club” in New Jersey Prison Kitchen

by Ashleigh Dye and Jayson Hawkins

A New Jersey prison guard was arrested on October 1, 2021, on charges he ran a “fight club” in the kitchen he supervised at Bayside State Prison, regularly beating and torturing prisoners who worked under him there.

“A badge is not a license to ...

Sweetheart Deal Nets GEO Group $15 Million Payout from ICE for Haitian Deportation Flights

by Ashleigh Dye

In September 2021, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) paid more than $15 million to private prison operator GEO Group for deportation flights to repatriate thousands of Haitian migrants. The contract covered 44 charter flights from Texas to Haiti over a two-week time period, followed by another ...

Tenth Circuit Says Disabled Colorado Prisoner Offered Diapers Rather Than Bathroom Pass May Deserve Damages Under ADA

by David M. Reutter

In an opinion issued on September 8, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled the federal district court in Colorado erred in dismissing a state prisoner’s claim filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. ch. 126 §12101 et seq., ...

Ninth Circuit Says Nevada DOC Not Micromanaged by Requirement to Treat Prisoner’s Severe Mental Illness; Upholds Preliminary Injunction

by Matt Clarke

On August 30, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit took the Nevada Department of Corrections (DOC) to task over a four-year delay in providing a state prisoner the only drugs known to safely treat his severe mental illness. Swatting away DOC’s contention it ...

Con Who Conned Cons is Sentenced to Federal Prison

The federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has no parole, but there are ways for a federal prisoner to shorten a sentence length. One way is to successfully complete a 13-week Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP), earning up to 12 months of credit toward release.

Enter RDAP Law Consultants, LLC, a ...

Absenteeism Skyrockets for New York City Jail Guards, Up 215% Over the Last Two Years

by Jo Ellen Nott

In New York City, 25 jail guards have run up an absentee rate over the last two years which is “breathtaking in its magnitude,” according to local news reports, and “embarrassing,” according to Sarena Townsend, a former high-ranking internal affairs investigator with the city’s Department of ...

DOJ Reaches Settlement Over Disability Access With Vermont Prison System

by Jacob Barrett

On October 28, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) reached a settlement with the Vermont Department of Corrections (DOC) to remedy conditions in state prisons that fail to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. ch. 126 § 12101 et seq.

The settlement ...

Ninth Circuit: Error to Instruct Jury to Defer to Medical Staff’s Asserted Security Justification for Terminating California Prisoner’s Morphine Prescription Without Tapering

by Matt Clarke

On September 15, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a federal district court in California erred when it instructed the jury in a prisoner’s civil rights trial to defer to prison medical staff’s “security justification” for stopping his morphine medication abruptly—without ...

Preliminary Injunction Granted to Illinois Prisoner to Receive Non-Allergenic Kosher Meals

by David M. Reutter

An Illinois federal district court issued a preliminary injunction in favor of a state prisoner on October 12, 2021, requiring prison officials to provide him fresh or frozen kosher meal entrées because he suffers an allergic reaction to those provided, which are “shelf-stable.”

The prisoner, Mark ...

Connecticut Supreme Court Rules That Prisoner Was Denied Due Process with Sex Offender Classification

by Harold Hempstead

On July 17, 2021, the Supreme Court of Connecticut held that when the state Department of Corrections (DOC) classified him as a sex offender despite not having a conviction on a sex offense, a state prisoner was denied his rights to procedural and substantive due process under ...

Lifting Six-Year Moratorium, Oklahoma Treats Witnesses to Convulsing and Vomiting Prisoner During Execution

by Keith Sanders 

Several journalists spoke out about what they witnessed during the execution by lethal injection of Oklahoma prisoner John Marion Grant on October 28, 2021, saying the 60-year-old convulsed over a dozen times and then began vomiting after the first drug, a sedative, was administered.

Sean Murphy and ...

News in Brief

Alabama: A state Department of Corrections (DOC) guard in Birmingham was arrested on March 9, 2022, for allegedly beating a prisoner to death, according to the Alabama Political Reporter. As PLN previously reported, prison officials at first insisted no foul play was suspected in the death of Victor Russo, ...

Washington State Supreme Court Holds that Denying Wheelchair-Bound Prisoner Access to Water and Toilet Facilities Violates State Constitution

by Doug Ankney

In an opinion issued on October 7, 2021, the Supreme Court of Washington ruled that holding wheelchair-bound prisoner Robert Rufus Williams in a cell that lacked a sink or toilet violated the Washington State Constitution.

The now-79-year old Williams was convicted of multiple offenses, including a brutal ...