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Prison Legal News: September, 2022

Issue PDF
Volume 33, Number 9

In this issue:

  1. “Unconscionable and Unacceptable” Conditions in Georgia DOC With 57 Prisoners Murdered in Two Years (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 16)
  3. Settlement Delivers Huge Gains for Montana Prisoners with Mental Illnesses (p 16)
  4. Federal Court Puts Troubled Mississippi Jail in Receivership (p 18)
  5. Sixth Circuit Again Extends Kingsley Protections for Pretrial Detainees in Deliberate Indifference Claim Against Kentucky Jail (p 20)
  6. CoreCivic Workers Unionize and Go On Strike at Arizona Prison (p 22)
  7. Federal Court Says Illinois Statute Barring More Than One Sex Offender per Address Is Unconstitutional (p 22)
  8. 17 States and DC Have Stopped Reporting Active COVID Cases Behind Bars (p 24)
  9. The Catalog of Carceral Surveillance: Voice Recognition and Surveillance (p 27)
  10. Arizona Closing Prison, Moving Prisoners to CoreCivic Lockup (p 29)
  11. Tenth Circuit Revives Suit Against Oklahoma Jail for Medical Neglect Leading To Detainee’s Death (p 30)
  12. California Court Sides With Securus in Challenge to CDCR Contract, Dealing Only Temporary Setback to GTL (p 32)
  13. All Ohio Prison Guards to Wear Body Cams (p 33)
  14. Monkeypox: A Global Health Emergency (p 34)
  15. SCOTUS Reinstates Boston Marathon Bomber’s Death Sentence (p 38)
  16. $1.1 Million Settlement Paid by Michigan County to Estate of Detainee Who Committed Suicide at Jail (p 40)
  17. Nebraska Prison Staffing Crisis Sees Supervisors Take Demotions to Get Hourly Overtime Pay (p 40)
  18. Fifth Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Texas Prisoners’ Challenge to Pandemic Prison Conditions for Failure to Exhaust (p 44)
  19. U.S. Supreme Court Grants Texas Prisoner Religious Touch and Audible Prayer During Execution (p 44)
  20. California Appeals Court Says Prop. 57 Doesn’t Require In-Person Parole Hearings (p 46)
  21. Oregon Appeals Court Okays Legal Change of Transgender Prisoner’s Name and Sex (p 46)
  22. Fourth Circuit Says Virginia May Require Muslim Prisoner to Purchase Prayer Oil From Vendor Also Selling Pork and “Idols” (p 48)
  23. Florida Now Digitizing Incoming Mail for State Prisoners (p 48)
  24. $7,500 Settlement Reached for Assault in California Jail (p 50)
  25. Impact of Felons’ Voting Minimal, MIT Researchers Find (p 50)
  26. $1.375 Million Award in Hawaii Prisoner’s Suicide (p 52)
  27. Third Circuit: Federal Prisoner Exposed to Risk of Assault Cannot Collect Damages if One Didn’t Occur (p 52)
  28. Seventh Circuit Allows Wisconsin Prisoner to Amend Inartfully Pleaded Pro Se Complaint (p 54)
  29. Florida Supreme Court Reinstates Prisoner’s Appeal That Was Dismissed for Lack of Prison Date Stamp (p 54)
  30. Indiana Caps Phone Rates in State Prisons and Jails (p 55)
  31. Senators Spank BOP Director on Last Day Before Replacement by Former Oregon DOC Director (p 56)
  32. New York Lifts Blanket Internet Ban on Sex Offenders (p 56)
  33. Even as U.S. Jail Population Declines, Average Length of Stay Rises (p 57)
  34. Rhode Island Supreme Court Finds Lifer “Civil Death” Law Unconstitutional (p 58)
  35. Embattled Los Angeles County Sheriff, Brawling Over Closing Decrepit Jail, Accused of Ignoring Deputy “Gangs” (p 58)
  36. California Sheriff’s Pay-to-Play Scandal Reflects Nationwide Corruption Potential Documented in Watchdog Report (p 60)
  37. $90,000 Paid to Settle Lawsuit Over Recorded Attorney-Client Calls at Wisconsin Jail (p 60)
  38. “Jailhouse Lawyer 360” Shut Down by California Bar (p 61)
  39. California Jail Enters Settlement Agreement Resolving DOJ Investigation into ADA Violations (p 62)
  40. Pennsylvania County Pays $147,500 to Jail Detainees Held in Solitary for Refusing To Cut off Dreadlocks (p 63)
  41. News in Brief (p 64)

“Unconscionable and Unacceptable” Conditions in Georgia DOC With 57 Prisoners Murdered in Two Years

by Casey Bastian

In August 2022, during their federal civil rights trial for running down and fatally shooting an unarmed jogger, Ahmed Arbury, in Brunswick in February 2020, attorneys for father and son defendants Greg and Travis McMichael offered their guilty pleas on one condition: That the federal judge overseeing ...

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

This month’s cover story reports on developments in the Georgia prison system, which continues from bad to worse in terms of its rising body count of dead prisoners. This fits into the pattern of massive, systemic neglect, brutality and violence that currently seems to be especially concentrated ...

Settlement Delivers Huge Gains for Montana Prisoners with Mental Illnesses

by Kevin W. Bliss

The Montana Department of Corrections (DOC) and Montana State Prison (MSP) entered into an agreement with Disability Rights Montana, Inc. (DRM) on March 10, 2022, settling a lawsuit DRM filed on behalf of state prisoners with serious mental illnesses (SMI) with a major overhaul to the ...

Federal Court Puts Troubled Mississippi Jail in Receivership

by David Reutter and Keith Sanders

On July 29, 2022, the federal court for the Southern District of Mississippi took the dramatic step of placing Hinds County’s Raymond Detention Center (RDC) under federal receivership.

A series of crises dates back to a 2012 prisoner riot at the 28-year-old, 594-bed jail ...

Sixth Circuit Again Extends Kingsley Protections for Pretrial Detainees in Deliberate Indifference Claim Against Kentucky Jail

by David M. Reutter

On March 24, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit joined a short list of federal appellate courts so far to say that additional protections provided to pre-trial detainees by the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in cases alleging excessive force also extend to ...

CoreCivic Workers Unionize and Go On Strike at Arizona Prison

by Ben Tschirhart

Some 20 newly unionized workers and their supporters manned a picket line at CoreCivic’s Central Arizona Florence Correctional Complex (CAFCC) on August 12, 2022, after pay negotiations broke down over a company offer the union representative called “insulting.”

Despite alleged attempts by CoreCivic to thwart their vote, ...

Federal Court Says Illinois Statute Barring More Than One Sex Offender per Address Is Unconstitutional

by Matt Clarke

On July 11, 2022, the federal court for the Northern District of Illinois enjoined the state Department of Corrections (DOC) from keeping 25 sex offenders imprisoned who were eligible for mandatory supervision release (MSR) but whose new housing violated a state law that bars more than one ...

17 States and DC Have Stopped Reporting Active COVID Cases Behind Bars

by Victoria Law

This article was originally published at TruthOut.com on August 5, 2022. It is reprinted here with permission.

On July 5, Rita Deanda tested positive for COVID while incarcerated at the California Institution for Women. She was immediately ordered to pack her belongings and moved to a quarantine ...

The Catalog of Carceral Surveillance: Voice Recognition and Surveillance

by Beryl Lipton And Cooper Quintin

This article was first published by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on September 10, 2021. It is reprinted here with permission.

Prison telecommunication companies have historically been in a voice-based business with one way to profit: charging exorbitant rates for phone calls.

The business ...

Arizona Closing Prison, Moving Prisoners to CoreCivic Lockup

by Ed Lyon

In January 2022, when Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) announced the closing of the state prison complex in Florence, he pointed to the facility’s age—it was built in 1904—and said spending an estimated $150 million on needed repairs “just doesn’t make sense.”

What does make sense? Apparently ...

Tenth Circuit Revives Suit Against Oklahoma Jail for Medical Neglect Leading To Detainee’s Death

by David M. Reutter

In a lawsuit alleging officials at Oklahoma’s Carter County Jail (CCJ) failed to provide any medical attention in the days leading up to a pretrial detainee’s death, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit overruled a lower court’s grant of qualified immunity (QI) to ...

California Court Sides With Securus in Challenge to CDCR Contract, Dealing Only Temporary Setback to GTL

by David M. Reutter

On September 10, 2021, a California court set aside an award by the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) of a contract to Global Tel Link Corporation (GTL) for telecommunications services for California prisoners.

The ruling disrupted GTL’s rollout of new tablets to state prisoners ...

All Ohio Prison Guards to Wear Body Cams

by Keith Sanders

In January 2022, the Ohio Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation began requiring the state’s 5,000 prison guards to don body-worn cameras. Supplied by Axon, the “body cams,” which complement over 1,000 security cameras already installed in Ohio’s 28 state prisons, will cost almost $7 million the first ...

Monkeypox: A Global Health Emergency

by Michael D. Cohen MD

The World Health Organization has designated monkeypox a global health emergency because it has suddenly and unexpectedly spread around the world via new modes of transmission that are not understood. It is an emergency because it is still spreading. But the numbers of people infected ...

SCOTUS Reinstates Boston Marathon Bomber’s Death Sentence

by Mark Wilson

In a 6-3 decision authored by Justice Clarence Thomas on March 4, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death sentence of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, reversing a lower appellate court to conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding a juror-screening ...

$1.1 Million Settlement Paid by Michigan County to Estate of Detainee Who Committed Suicide at Jail

by David M. Reutter

On October 7, 2021, the Board of Commissioners of Michigan’s Macomb County agreed to pay $1 million to settle claims by survivors of a detainee who hanged himself at the county jail in 2017. The jail’s privately contracted medical provider, Correct Care Solutions (CCS), now known ...

Nebraska Prison Staffing Crisis Sees Supervisors Take Demotions to Get Hourly Overtime Pay

by Kevin W. Bliss

Despite a watchdog report finding state prisons so short-staffed that some guard supervisors sought demotions to take advantage of ballooning hourly overtime pay, the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (DCS) will not see any help from lawmakers this session, after an ambitious prison overhaul bill died ...

Fifth Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Texas Prisoners’ Challenge to Pandemic Prison Conditions for Failure to Exhaust

by Matt Clarke

On March 9, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the adequacy of pandemic precautions taken by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), holding that there was no exception for a pandemic emergency to the requirement ...

U.S. Supreme Court Grants Texas Prisoner Religious Touch and Audible Prayer During Execution

by Matt Clarke

On March 24, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) held that a Texas death row prisoner was likely to prevail on his claims under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq., that the state unduly burdened ...

California Appeals Court Says Prop. 57 Doesn’t Require In-Person Parole Hearings

by Kevin W. Bliss

On March 28, 2022, the California Court of Appeals for the Third Appellate District ruled that a new “paper review” process for parole consideration did not violate the equal protection or due process rights of state prisoners affected by it.

After a federal district court ordered ...

Oregon Appeals Court Okays Legal Change of Transgender Prisoner’s Name and Sex

by Jacob Barrett

On February 2, 2022, the Court of Appeals of the State of Oregon held that a lower court erred in denying a state prisoner’s petition for change of legal name or sex just because she was incarcerated.

The prisoner, Andrew “April” Jondle, is a transgender woman currently ...

Fourth Circuit Says Virginia May Require Muslim Prisoner to Purchase Prayer Oil From Vendor Also Selling Pork and “Idols”

by Matt Clarke

On February 1, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC) did not violate the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc, et seq., by requiring a Muslim prisoner to purchase prayer ...

Florida Now Digitizing Incoming Mail for State Prisoners

by Kevin W. Bliss

Starting from a four-prison pilot launched on January 18, 2022, the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) has now banned state prisoners at all 128 of its facilities from receiving any tangible routine mail. Instead they are delivered electronic copies of their mail on tablets.

DOC has ...

$7,500 Settlement Reached for Assault in California Jail

by David M. Reutter

On June 29, 2021, a lawsuit against California’s San Joaquin County was dismissed by a former detainee at the county jail, after he agreed to accept $7,500 to settle his claim that guards yanked him off the toilet in his cell and beat him without provocation. ...

Impact of Felons’ Voting Minimal, MIT Researchers Find

by Keith Sanders

Mass incarceration disenfran­chises millions in America, especially the economically disadvantaged who make up the majority of those incarcerated. Though the rationale for barring felons from voting is multifaceted, one argument is that a bloc of voting felons would somehow skew election outcomes. However, a study published in ...

$1.375 Million Award in Hawaii Prisoner’s Suicide

by David M. Reutter

On March 29, 2022, the First Circuit Court of Hawaii awarded $1.375 million to the estate of Joseph O’Malley, who committed suicide while incarcerated at the Halawa Correctional Facility (HCF) in July 2017.

O’Malley, 28, was diagnosed with schizophrenia spectrum disorder upon incarceration at HCF on ...

Third Circuit: Federal Prisoner Exposed to Risk of Assault Cannot Collect Damages if One Didn’t Occur

by Casey J. Bastian

On March 1, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a federal prisoner’s lawsuit, finding that even though a Bureau of Prisons (BOP) staffer put him at risk of assault, damages were not warranted because the “risk never materialized.” ...

Seventh Circuit Allows Wisconsin Prisoner to Amend Inartfully Pleaded Pro Se Complaint

by Matt Clarke

On February 2, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit revived a Wisconsin prisoner’s retaliation claim against a state prison guard, saying that the district court erred when it dismissed the poorly pleaded pro se civil rights complaint with prejudice without first granting an ...

Florida Supreme Court Reinstates Prisoner’s Appeal That Was Dismissed for Lack of Prison Date Stamp

by David M. Reutter

On February 4, 2022, the Supreme Court of Florida held that the state’s First District Court of Appeal erred in not accepting a prisoner’s notice of appeal for lack of a prison date stamp since prison mail logs indicated the notice was timely turned over to ...

Indiana Caps Phone Rates in State Prisons and Jails

by Ashleigh N. Dye

On July 1, 2022, a new Indiana law took effect that caps the price charged for phone calls in state prisons and jails. With the change, those held by the state Department of Corrections (DOC) now pay 12 cents per minute for a call. However, since ...

Senators Spank BOP Director on Last Day Before Replacement by Former Oregon DOC Director

by Jacob Barrett

On August 2, 2022, the federal Department of Justice introduced its pick to helm the nation’s Bureau of Prison (BOP): Collette Peters, the director of Oregon’s Department of Corrections (DOC) since 2012. She fills a slot vacated by retiring BOP Director Michael Carvajal, a career agency employee—he ...

New York Lifts Blanket Internet Ban on Sex Offenders

by Jayson Hawkins

A settlement was finalized on January 19, 2022, in a lawsuit challenging a New York law barring those on the state sex offender registry from accessing the internet. The settlement allows some registered sex offenders now to access and use the internet, unless they previously used it ...

Even as U.S. Jail Population Declines, Average Length of Stay Rises

by Ashleigh N. Dye

A recent study published in December 2021 suggests that even as U.S. jail population was falling between 2014 and 2019, the length of stay for each incarceration was on the rise.

The study, Understanding Trends in Jail Populations, 2014-2019: A Multi-Site Analysis, was conducted by ...

Rhode Island Supreme Court Finds Lifer “Civil Death” Law Unconstitutional

by David M. Reutter

The Supreme Court of Rhode Island held on March 2, 2022, that the state’s civil death statute is “unconstitutional and in clear contravention of the provisions” of the state constitution.

The Court’s ruling was issued in the consolidated appeals of state prisoners Cody-Allen Zab and Jose ...

Embattled Los Angeles County Sheriff, Brawling Over Closing Decrepit Jail, Accused of Ignoring Deputy “Gangs”

by Matt Clarke

Forced into a November 2022 runoff by a close primary vote, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva came out swinging at the Civilian Oversight Commission (COC) the very next month, defying a subpoena to testify on July 25, 2022, about reports that deputy “gangs” persist in the ...

California Sheriff’s Pay-to-Play Scandal Reflects Nationwide Corruption Potential Documented in Watchdog Report

by Jayson Hawkins

Engulfed in a campaign finance probe that has snagged ten others on corruption and bribery charges in an alleged “pay to play” scheme, the Sheriff of California’s Santa Clara County, Laurie Smith, announced in March 2022 that she would not seek another term to the office she ...

$90,000 Paid to Settle Lawsuit Over Recorded Attorney-Client Calls at Wisconsin Jail

by Casey J. Bastian

On March 21, 2021, an agreement was reached between Wisconsin’s Portage County and a class of plaintiffs consisting of current and former detainees at the county jail to settle claims that their privileged communication with their attorneys was unlawfully intercepted. Under the settlement, Defendants and their ...

“Jailhouse Lawyer 360” Shut Down by California Bar

by Jayson Hawkins

Like many other California parolees, Anthony David Urbano wanted to use the skills learned in prison to make a living on the outside. Unfortunately, his skill was serving as a “jailhouse lawyer,” helping other prisoners with their legal work, and his right to use it remained behind ...

California Jail Enters Settlement Agreement Resolving DOJ Investigation into ADA Violations

by David M. Reutter

California’s San Luis Obispo County entered into a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on June 23, 2021, resolving alleged violations at the county jailof the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. ch. 126, § 12101 et seq.

DOJ initiated an investigation ...

Pennsylvania County Pays $147,500 to Jail Detainees Held in Solitary for Refusing To Cut off Dreadlocks

by Matt Clarke

On January 6, 2022, the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project (PILP) announced a settlement had been reached in a lawsuit filed for a trio of its clients, who were thrown in solitary confinement while incarcerated at the Lebanon County Correctional Facility (LCCF) after they refused to cut off ...

News in Brief

Alabama: A federal prisoner in Birmingham was gunned down outside a privately-operated reentry facility on July 16, 2022. The Associated Press reported that the prisoner, Larry Taylor, 47, had just been released from the facility, which is operated under contract from the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) by Keeton ...