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Prison Legal News: June, 2022

Issue PDF
Volume 33, Number 6

In this issue:

  1. Locked Up and Left to Die (p 1)
  2. After 49 Years in Prison for a Murder in Which He Didn’t Pull the Trigger, Former Black Liberation Army Member Sundiata Acoli Wins Parole (p 11)
  3. From the Editor (p 12)
  4. Fifth Circuit Reinstates Louisiana Prisoner’s Excessive-Force Claim Despite Prison Disciplinary Conviction Issued for the Same Incident (p 12)
  5. Fifth Circuit Reinstates Louisiana Prisoner’s Suit Dismissed on Heck Grounds, Holds Related Disciplinary Convictions Don’t Absolutely Bar Excessive Force Claims (p 14)
  6. Securus Rolls Out “Free” E-tablets to Texas Prisoners (p 15)
  7. Oregon Federal Court Issues Groundbreaking, Model COVID-19 Damage Class & Wrongful Death Class Certification (p 16)
  8. Eleventh Circuit Says Florida Prisoner Alleging Sexual Assault by Guard Need Not Also Prove Excessive Force and Malicious Intent (p 18)
  9. Washington Pays $3.25 Million for Negligent Medical Care Causing Preventable Prisoner Death (p 20)
  10. Healthcare Audit in Utah Prisons Reveals “Inadequate Service” and “Systemic Deficiencies” After 18 Prisoner Deaths During Pandemic (p 22)
  11. DOJ Secures Settlement With South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice at Detention Center Where Staff Hogtied and Bit Kids (p 22)
  12. Ninth Circuit Holds California Prison Officials Entitled to Legislative Immunity When Promulgating Rules (p 24)
  13. After Paying $500,000 to Consultant Outed for Corruption Ties, Iowa DOC Accused of Allowing “Corporate Dodge” (p 24)
  14. $12.5 Million Settlement Over Invasive Strip and Body Cavity Searches of NYC Jail Visitors (p 26)
  15. Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting Uncovers Almost 1,000 Privileged Calls Recorded in Four County Jails, Sues York County for Denying Public Records Request (p 26)
  16. BOP Prisoners on Extended Home Confinement Not Headed Back to Prison When COVID-19 Emergency Ends (p 28)
  17. $500,001 Settlement Against Guard Who Groped Delaware Prisoner With Long History of Lost Cases (p 30)
  18. Kansas Appeals Court Vacates Prison Dentist’s Conviction for Sexually Abusing Prisoner, Says Touching Wasn’t “Lewd” (p 32)
  19. The Catalog of Carceral Surveillance: Mobile Correctional Facility Robots (p 32)
  20. $275,000 Settlement Reached After Detainee’s Attempted Suicide at Illinois Jail (p 34)
  21. Washington Pays $3 Million to Murdered Prisoner’s Family After Overriding Single-Cell Recommendation for Violent Cellmate (p 34)
  22. Settlement Finally Reached in Prisoners’ Hep-C Class-Action Against Connecticut DOC (p 36)
  23. Kentucky Supreme Court Rules ‘Incarceration Fees’ May Not Be Collected After Charges Are Dismissed (p 38)
  24. Prison Phone Giant GTL Cuts Prices in Miami-Dade Jails, But Only After County Taps COVID-19 Relief Funds to Replace Forfeited Kickbacks (p 38)
  25. $250,000 Paid to Woman Forced to Give Birth in California Jail Cell by Guards and CFMG Nurses (p 40)
  26. Seventh Circuit Reinstates Suit of Epileptic Illinois Prisoner Who Suffered Seizure and Fell From Top Bunk (p 40)
  27. Sacramento Shooting Stokes Debate Over CDCR Rule Changes on Good Conduct Credit (p 42)
  28. Third Circuit Joins Fifth, Tenth and D.C. Circuits in Holding Heck Favorable-Termination Dismissals Are PLRA Strikes (p 44)
  29. U.S. Prison and Jail Populations Flat or Rising Again After 2020 Decline Spurred by Pandemic (p 44)
  30. Illinois Department of Corrections Cancels Contract with Canteen Provider Keefe (p 46)
  31. Sixth Circuit: Michigan DOC’s Years-Long Delay in Access to Religious Services and Items Constitutes Constructive Denial of Religious Exercise (p 46)
  32. Georgia Sheriff Victor Hill Facing Criminal Trial for Using Restraint Chair to Punish Jail Detainees (p 48)
  33. $7,000 Default Judgment Awarded in Failure to Protect Suit Against Former Arkansas Jail Guard (p 49)
  34. Ineffective Mississippi Prison Industries on the Chopping Block After Scathing Report (p 50)
  35. Eighth Circuit Holds Pornography Policy Unconstitutional as Applied to South Dakota Prisoner, but Denies Relief (p 50)
  36. Overdoses Skyrocket in Tennessee Prisons During Pandemic Despite Visitation Restrictions (p 52)
  37. Federal Suit Challenging Iowa DOC Ban on Nude Images Moves Forward, Defendants Denied Summary Judgement on Due Process Claim (p 52)
  38. Third Circuit Reinstates Suit Filed by Transgender Prisoner Assaulted at New Jersey Federal Prison (p 54)
  39. $17.5 Million Paid to Ohio Prisoner Left Quadriplegic After Brutal Attack by Guards (p 55)
  40. “On-Going Distress and Harm” Persist at FCI Sheridan Months After Court-Ordered Inspection (p 56)
  41. New Jersey Sex Offenders Excluded From Programming, Chances for Early Release (p 56)
  42. Sixth Circuit Revives Tennessee Detainee’s Suit, Holds Lower Court Not Required to Retain Jurisdiction of State Law Claims After Dismissing Federal Claims (p 58)
  43. $45,000 Paid by Idaho Jail to Settle Censorship Suit Filed by HRDC (p 59)
  44. Illinois Inspector General Finds Prisoner Labor Used to Benefit DOC Employees (p 60)
  45. Fifth Circuit Denies Qualified Immunity to Texas Sheriff Who Rehired Abusive Jailer Who in Turn Again Abused a Detainee (p 60)
  46. $6,500 Settlement After Eleventh Circuit Affirms Denial of Qualified Immunity to Florida Jail Officials Who Repeatedly Opened Detainee’s Legal Mail (p 61)
  47. News in Brief (p 62)

Locked Up and Left to Die

In Texas, dying in jail is “par for the course.”

by Michael Barajas and Sophie Novack, Texas Observer

Armando Carrillo had been waiting outside the Nueces County Jail for hours when he heard sirens approaching in the middle of the night on March 5, 2018. He had visited the jail earlier ...

After 49 Years in Prison for a Murder in Which He Didn’t Pull the Trigger, Former Black Liberation Army Member Sundiata Acoli Wins Parole

On May 10, 2022, the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed a state parole board decision and granted release to Sundiata Acoli, whose involvement with a radical group that advocated overthrow of the U.S. government was repeatedly cited to keep him incarcerated for nearly a half century. In doing so, the ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

For all the talk of criminal justice reform. the reality of daily life for millions of caged American prisoners is amply summed up this month’s cover story reprinted from the Texas Observer which reports on the death toll of jail prisoners in Texas. Of course, it is ...

Fifth Circuit Reinstates Louisiana Prisoner’s Excessive-Force Claim Despite Prison Disciplinary Conviction Issued for the Same Incident

by Matt Clarke

In its decision 28 years ago in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), the U.S. Supreme Court held that a prisoner’s claims affecting the duration of his confinement—including loss of “good time”—are barred when a favorable decision would “negate” a prison disciplinary decision.

Further explaining ...

Fifth Circuit Reinstates Louisiana Prisoner’s Suit Dismissed on Heck Grounds, Holds Related Disciplinary Convictions Don’t Absolutely Bar Excessive Force Claims

by Matt Clarke

On November 17, 2021, the same day it explained that a Louisiana prisoner’s civil rights claims are not necessarily barred by related prison disciplinary convictions under Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit applied that reasoning to ...

Securus Rolls Out “Free” E-tablets to Texas Prisoners

by Ed Lyon

Texas state prisoners have begun receiving free tablet computers from Securus Technologies. By February 18, 2022, the state’s privately contracted provider had distributed 3,500 “e-tablets” to prisoners in seven of its 61 state prisons—Diboll, Bell, Henley, Kegans, Kyle, Stevenson and Halbert units—according to a tweet from the ...

Oregon Federal Court Issues Groundbreaking, Model COVID-19 Damage Class & Wrongful Death Class Certification

by Mark Wilson

On April 1, 2022, the federal court for the District of Oregon granted class-action certification to a suit brought by state prisoners accusing Gov. Kate Brown (D) and officials with the state Department of Corrections (DOC) of inadequate response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Court created two ...

Eleventh Circuit Says Florida Prisoner Alleging Sexual Assault by Guard Need Not Also Prove Excessive Force and Malicious Intent

by David M. Reutter

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has decided that when a prisoner alleges sexual assault by a prison official, the only fact he needs to prove is whether the sexual assault occurred and not that it was also carried out with excessive force ...

Washington Pays $3.25 Million for Negligent Medical Care Causing Preventable Prisoner Death

by Mark Wilson

On July 6, 2021, a Washington state court disbursed $3.25 million paid by state officials to settle a lawsuit filed by the estate of a prisoner who died of a treatable condition that went ignored for months by medical staff at Monroe Correctional Complex (MCC), the state’s ...

Healthcare Audit in Utah Prisons Reveals “Inadequate Service” and “Systemic Deficiencies” After 18 Prisoner Deaths During Pandemic

by Benjamin Tschirhart

When Brandy Gillespie emailed the Clinical Services Bureau (CSB) at Utah State Prison, she was afraid for her husband, prisoner Jerry Gillespie, 48. It was November 2020 and state prisons were in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic. The response she received was a mixture of bureaucratic ...

DOJ Secures Settlement With South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice at Detention Center Where Staff Hogtied and Bit Kids

by Brooke Kaufman

On April 14, 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a Settlement Agreement with the federal court for the District of South Carolina that brings to a close a suit against the state Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) over allegations of abuse and excessive use of solitary confinement ...

Ninth Circuit Holds California Prison Officials Entitled to Legislative Immunity When Promulgating Rules

by David M. Reutter

On August 20, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed an order finding officials with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) are immune to civil rights claims for damages resulting from regulations they adopted while exercising authority delegated them by ...

After Paying $500,000 to Consultant Outed for Corruption Ties, Iowa DOC Accused of Allowing “Corporate Dodge”

by Jacob Barrett

After two staff members were brutally beaten to death by prisoners in March 2021, the Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC) hired prison consultant CGL Companies to review security at the Anamosa State Penitentiary. In return, DOC received a $500,000 bill and an audit report in December 2021 ...

$12.5 Million Settlement Over Invasive Strip and Body Cavity Searches of NYC Jail Visitors

by Matt Clarke

On November 29, 2021, the federal court for the Southern District of New York approved the final settlement of a class-action civil rights lawsuit over suspicionless and invasive “strip/body cavity” searches of visitors at New York City Department of Correction (DOC) jails. [See: PLN, Aug. 2018, p.54.] ...

Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting Uncovers Almost 1,000 Privileged Calls Recorded in Four County Jails, Sues York County for Denying Public Records Request

by Keith Sanders 

On January 26, 2022, the Maine Monitor published a list of nearly 1,000 privileged calls illegally recorded between detainees and their attorneys from June 2019 to May 2020 at four county jails in the state. Not included, however, was any data from York County, the state’s second-most ...

BOP Prisoners on Extended Home Confinement Not Headed Back to Prison When COVID-19 Emergency Ends

by Casey J. Bastian

Imagine having a chance to get out of prison early, doing the right thing with the opportunity and working towards your ultimate freedom, only to have it taken back. That was the situation faced by several thousand people released to home confinement by the federal Bureau ...

$500,001 Settlement Against Guard Who Groped Delaware Prisoner With Long History of Lost Cases

by Keith Sanders

On December 16, 2021, a federal jury awarded Delaware prisoner DeShawn Drumgo $500,001 in damages after concluding a prison guard had inappropriately fondled him. This was the same prisoner who lost at least four earlier cases over conditions of confinement and alleged use of excessive force by ...

Kansas Appeals Court Vacates Prison Dentist’s Conviction for Sexually Abusing Prisoner, Says Touching Wasn’t “Lewd”

by Mark Wilson

“Not all touching is lewd, even when committed with sexual intent,” the Kansas Court of Appeals declared on December 23, 2021, vacating a former prison dentist’s conviction for sexually abusing a female prisoner.

As previously reported by PLN, the former dentist, Dr. Tomas Co, worked for ...

The Catalog of Carceral Surveillance: Mobile Correctional Facility Robots

by Cooper Quintin and Beryl Lipton

There are too many people in U.S. prisons. Their guards are overworked, underpaid, and prone to human errors, and they require work breaks and food, paychecks and sick days. Plus, they possess flaws that can lead to outbursts of violence, racism, and sexual harassment. ...

$275,000 Settlement Reached After Detainee’s Attempted Suicide at Illinois Jail

by David M. Reutter

In April 2021, Illinois’ DuPage County Jail (DCJ) and its Psychiatric Services Medical Director agreed to pay $275,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by detainee Dean Fuerstenberg, who attempted suicide at the jail in November 2013, sustaining permanent injuries.

In his amended civil rights complaint, Fuerstenberg ...

Washington Pays $3 Million to Murdered Prisoner’s Family After Overriding Single-Cell Recommendation for Violent Cellmate

by Mark Wilson

On November 19, 2021, the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) agreed to pay $3 million to a murdered prisoner’s family for overriding recommendations to house his violent cellmate in a cell by himself. Together with another $3.25 million settlement in July 2021 [See: PLN, June 2022, ...

Settlement Finally Reached in Prisoners’ Hep-C Class-Action Against Connecticut DOC

by Ed Lyon

Nearly four years after a group of Connecticut prisoners sued the state Department of Corrections (DOC) for denying treatment for their infection with the Hepatitis-C virus (HCV)—and a year after the parties reached a settlement that a federal judge then rejected—a superseding settlement agreement was reached on ...

Kentucky Supreme Court Rules ‘Incarceration Fees’ May Not Be Collected After Charges Are Dismissed

by Casey J. Bastian

On October 28, 2021, the Supreme Court of Kentucky unanimously ruled that when criminal charges are dismissed, a detainee then released is not required to pay costs associated with incarceration under Kentucky law.

The decision reversed lower state court rulings and found that under Kentucky Revised ...

Prison Phone Giant GTL Cuts Prices in Miami-Dade Jails, But Only After County Taps COVID-19 Relief Funds to Replace Forfeited Kickbacks

by Ashleigh Dye

When prison telecom company Global Tel*Link (GTL) agreed to slash the price for calls that it charges detainees held by the Miami-Dade Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR) in November 2021, it was only because advocates of the incarcerated convinced county officials to forfeit kickbacks the firm ...

$250,000 Paid to Woman Forced to Give Birth in California Jail Cell by Guards and CFMG Nurses

by Ashleigh Dye

A woman who gave birth in a cell in 2017 at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, California, has been awarded $250,000 to settle a lawsuit she filed the following year against Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern and jail employees, including its privately contracted healthcare staffers. The ...

Seventh Circuit Reinstates Suit of Epileptic Illinois Prisoner Who Suffered Seizure and Fell From Top Bunk

by Ed Lyon

On October 26, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the decision of a federal district court in Illinois to dismiss a suit brought by an epileptic prisoner forced to sleep in an upper bunk from which he fell when having a seizure ...

Sacramento Shooting Stokes Debate Over CDCR Rule Changes on Good Conduct Credit

by Matt Clarke

After a shootout between rival gangs in downtown Sacramento left six dead and 12 injured—many of them bystanders—on April 3, 2022, one of three suspects apprehended was Smiley Martin. Martin, 27, had been released from custody by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) just two ...

Third Circuit Joins Fifth, Tenth and D.C. Circuits in Holding Heck Favorable-Termination Dismissals Are PLRA Strikes

by Mark Wilson

On October 29, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit handed a New Jersey prisoner a legal defeat. But in the process, it joined the Fifth, Tenth, and D.C. Circuits in holding that a dismissal for failure to meet the “favorable-termination” requirement laid out ...

U.S. Prison and Jail Populations Flat or Rising Again After 2020 Decline Spurred by Pandemic

by Matt Clarke

After they were slashed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, U.S. prison populations have leveled off and jail populations appear to be rising again, according to research published by the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) on March 14, 2022.

The report mirrors another published in December ...

Illinois Department of Corrections Cancels Contract with Canteen Provider Keefe

by Kevin Bliss

On December 14, 2021, the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC) canceled its contract with the Keefe Group as provider of prison commissary items. The next day, the state’s chief procurement officer, Ellen Daley, released a 25-page ruling determining the firm’s bid was improper and erroneous.

DOC had ...

Sixth Circuit: Michigan DOC’s Years-Long Delay in Access to Religious Services and Items Constitutes Constructive Denial of Religious Exercise

by Jacob Barrett

On November 9, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that a six-year delay in replying to a Michigan prisoner’s request for religious services was not merely an administrative problem for the state Department of Corrections (DOC) but instead amounted to a substantive ...

Georgia Sheriff Victor Hill Facing Criminal Trial for Using Restraint Chair to Punish Jail Detainees

by David M. Reutter

Victor Hill, Sheriff of Georgia’s Clayton County, will face a jury trial on September 26, 2022, on seven federal charges of violating the civil rights of jail detainees held in a restraint chair as punishment.

In April 2021, Hill was indicted for the alleged abuse of ...

$7,000 Default Judgment Awarded in Failure to Protect Suit Against Former Arkansas Jail Guard

by Harold Hempstead

On November 23, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas awarded $7,000 in compensatory damages to a state prisoner who, while held in a Pine Bluff jail, was injured in a beating by fellow prisoners when a former guard failed to intervene.

The ...

Ineffective Mississippi Prison Industries on the Chopping Block After Scathing Report

by Ashleigh Dye

On April 18, 2022, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) signed House Bill 863, legislation that will repeal the 32-year-old law creating the Mississippi Prison Industries Corporation (MPIC), a non-profit entity tasked with providing job training that ultimately reduces recidivism for prisoners. Barring further action by state legislators, ...

Eighth Circuit Holds Pornography Policy Unconstitutional as Applied to South Dakota Prisoner, but Denies Relief

by David M. Reutter

Holding that the pornography policy at South Dakota State Penitentiary (SDSP) was unconstitutional as applied to a prisoner, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit nonetheless decided it lacked jurisdiction to provide him meaningful relief while also reversing a district court’s finding that the ...

Overdoses Skyrocket in Tennessee Prisons During Pandemic Despite Visitation Restrictions

by Ed Lyon

In the three years before the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, fourteen Tennessee state prisoners died from overdoses, according to the state Department of Correction (DOC). Over the two years since then that number skyrocketed to at least 68, not including several pending autopsies.

The rise from ...

Federal Suit Challenging Iowa DOC Ban on Nude Images Moves Forward, Defendants Denied Summary Judgement on Due Process Claim

by David M. Reutter

Finding a material dispute of fact exists in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a ban in Iowa prisons on sexually explicit materials and materials featuring nudity, a federal district court in the state denied summary judgment to defendant state and prison officials on September 30, ...

Third Circuit Reinstates Suit Filed by Transgender Prisoner Assaulted at New Jersey Federal Prison

by Matt Clarke

On September 1, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit overturned a lower court’s decision to dismiss the claim of a pre-operative transgender federal prisoner who accused Bureau of Prisons (BOP) officials of deliberate indifference to her serious risk of sexual assault when she ...

$17.5 Million Paid to Ohio Prisoner Left Quadriplegic After Brutal Attack by Guards

by Harold Hempstead

In November 2021, Ohio state prisoner Seth Fletcher received a $17,500,000 settlement to conclude the civil rights complaint filed on his behalf against guards at Chillicothe Correctional Institution (CCI), after the developmentally disabled 21-year-old was the victim of a brutal assault that left him physically disabled, too. ...

“On-Going Distress and Harm” Persist at FCI Sheridan Months After Court-Ordered Inspection

by Brooke Kaufman

In a status report filed in federal district court in Oregon in February 2022, a federal public defender said conditions at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) at Sheridan remained just as dire as she had found during an inspection the previous September, leaving prisoners there to suffer ...

New Jersey Sex Offenders Excluded From Programming, Chances for Early Release

byMario Palomo

Prisoners at New Jersey’s Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center (ADTC)—all convicted sex offenders—do not have access to the same programs and benefits that other state prisoners do, according to a letter excerpted in a post on December 28, 2021, to the site of the National Association of Rational ...

Sixth Circuit Revives Tennessee Detainee’s Suit, Holds Lower Court Not Required to Retain Jurisdiction of State Law Claims After Dismissing Federal Claims

by Matt Clarke

On September 22, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit extended the life of civil rights claims brought under Tennessee law by a jail detainee whose federal claims were dismissed by the federal court for the Eastern District of Tennessee.

In its ruling, the ...

$45,000 Paid by Idaho Jail to Settle Censorship Suit Filed by HRDC

by Jacob Barrett

In an agreement executed on February 7, 2022, Canyon County, Idaho, agreed to pay $45,000 to settle censorship claims made by the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), the nonprofit publisher of PLN and Criminal Legal News (CLN). The County also agreed to a list of policy ...

Illinois Inspector General Finds Prisoner Labor Used to Benefit DOC Employees

by Casey J. Bastian

In a report released on October 24, 2021, the Illinois Office of the Executive Inspector General (OIG) found that state prisoners had been improperly used to wash cars, shine shoes, give haircuts and sell wood or plants for the benefit of a fund that finances parties, ...

Fifth Circuit Denies Qualified Immunity to Texas Sheriff Who Rehired Abusive Jailer Who in Turn Again Abused a Detainee

by Matt Clarke

On January 13, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that by rehiring a jailer who previously abused detainees at the jail, a Texas sheriff was not entitled to qualified immunity in a new suit brought by another prisoner making abuse allegations against ...

$6,500 Settlement After Eleventh Circuit Affirms Denial of Qualified Immunity to Florida Jail Officials Who Repeatedly Opened Detainee’s Legal Mail

by David M. Reutter

On November 12, 2021, a settlement was reached under which four officials at the Duval County Jail (DCJ) in Jacksonville agreed to pay $6,500 to a detainee who alleged they repeatedly opened his legal mail outside his presence. That followed a decision by the U.S. Court ...

News in Brief

Alabama: A former Alabama Department of Corrections (DOC) guard was indicted on April 22, 2022, for assaulting three prisoners and then filing a false report to cover it up, the Associated Press reported. The guard, Lorenzo Mills, 55, was charged with beating three male prisoners with a wooden baton at Draper Correctional Facility in ...