Tag Archives: litigation

Delaware prison sex abuse agreement in dispute

From the article: “In addition to adequate staffing levels, the ACLU is concerned that DOC officials do not have written policies and procedures in place to ensure compliance with all provisions of the consent agreement stemming from a lawsuit in which a female inmate claimed she was raped by a prison guard in 2008. State officials settled that underlying case and now argue that the ACLU is making unfounded assertions that they are not complying with the consent agreement.”

Read more here.

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CA: Solitary confinement case set to expand

From the article: “A federal judge Thursday said she is likely to allow a lawsuit alleging that solitary confinement conditions at Pelican Bay State Prison amount to psychological torture, to be expanded from the cases of 10 prisoners to include about 1,100 inmates now held in indefinite isolation.”

According to the article, there are 500 men who have been held in solitary confinement (defined in the article as 22.5 hour per day lockdown) for more than a decade.  Unbelievable.

Read more from the article here.

The reality is that not all solitary confinement is created equally.  Speaking from my state, some segregation units are relatively humane, with inmates who have access to adequate food, lighting, recreation opportunities, reading material, and who report few concerns.  Other segregation units (I am thinking of one in particular) are the not-so-good scenario, with inmates who are in a sensory-deprived environment, where they can only get books if they pay off a porter, recreation is limited, etc.

What makes the difference?  Well, I can tell you.  The first issue is overcrowding.  Segregation is a microcosm of prison and just as on the compound, overcrowding taxes staff resources and makes staff go into “survival mode,” where they do even less than they might have otherwise done for a population that they could handle.  This results in a negative spiral, as inmates’ issues are not addressed, so they become frustrated, so they act out, so staff react negatively, etc.

The second issue is the time that inmates are kept in segregation, which is not always (sometimes not even frequently) within the control of staff, particularly if inmates are waiting for a disciplinary transfer.  They could be back there for months, or even a year.  This results in a huge amount of frustration (understandably, in my opinion).  Staff feel helpless.  Again, a negative spiral.

The third issue is in fact the type of inmate that you’re housing, although in my opinion this is less of an issue than the above two.  The inmate is in the most secure environment, so security classification seems less of an issue.  However, it is certainly the higher security inmates who engage in the most disruption (breaking off sprinkler heads, flooding the range, creating a disturbance, etc).

So, is it always psychological torture?  I would say no when you are talking about a short term stay in an under-capacity unit with a manageable population.  But a definitive yes to the overcrowded, under-resourced segs where inmates just sit with nothing to do for months.  The only question is, what do you do with the inmates who have legitimately misbehaved in order to place themselves in the unit?

h/t Vera Institute

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Texas prison guards to join inmate lawsuit over sweltering jails

“The union that represents Texas’ correctional officers has reportedly announced its support of lawsuits filed over the deaths of at least 14 inmates in sweltering state prisons, claiming the institutions should be cooled to relieve unbearable conditions.”

It’s not about inmates living in AC splendor.  Heat can be lethal to some inmates, particularly the elderly and those on psychotropic medications.

Read more here.
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Singapore: Inmate’s death: Prison officer pleads guilty

From the article: “The prosecution, recounting the incident of Sept 27, 2010, said [the deceased] – who was serving a jail sentence for rioting and theft – had to be restrained after he had kicked a prison warden in his abdomen at about 10.45am in Changi Prison. He was moved to a disciplinary housing unit and left alone on the ground in a “prone position” by officers under the supervision of Lim.”

Read more here.

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DE: Poisoned prisoners take DOC officials to court

From the article: “The men say Apgar put Ajax or Comet on half a loaf of bread, and then gave it to another inmate to put in the common area.  In the handwritten complaint, Campbell said he retrieved the bread and took it back to his cell, June 5. “Me, Joseph Rushing, Tevon Savage got very sick after eating the bread,” he wrote.  “C/O James Apgar came to room 309 and stated, ‘I hope y’all enjoy that homemade gritty bread because you people are always stealing,’” Campbell wrote.”

Read more here.

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MT: Execution-method changes called unconstitutional

From the article: ” Montana prison officials revised lethal-injection procedures after a judge ruled the previous methods were unconstitutional, but a civil rights organization and attorneys for a death row inmate said the changes still put condemned prisoners at risk of unnecessary suffering.”

Read more here.

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Fired Pennsylvania Prison Guard Gets 45 Days For Freezing Shackles

From the article: “A fired guard must spend 45 days in jail for placing freezing shackles on a female inmate after she previously complained about how cold the metal restraints could be.”

Read more here.

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MS: Prison company wants dismissal of riot lawsuit

From the article: “The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, says CCA ‘created a dangerous atmosphere for the correction officers by depriving inmates of basic needs and treating them inhumanely.'”  The riot resulted in the death of an officer and injuries to at least 20.

The officer was off duty on the day of the riot, but was called in to help.  Reportedly, staff had been informed that the inmate population was volatile, but failed to act.  Further, the officer was reportedly not told that he was on a “hit list.”

CCA’s argument is that inmates killed the officer.

Read more here.

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NZ: Prison smoking ban ruled ‘unlawful’

According to the article, this is the second appeal – both successful – of New Zealand’s prison system’s attempt to restrict smoking.  In this latest judgment, the judge reportedly found that “forcing prisoners into nicotine withdrawal is not humane.”

Further:

“…sentences must not be administered more restrictively than is reasonably necessary to ensure the maintenance of the law and the safety of the public, corrections staff, and prisoners. Depriving prisoners of tobacco, an otherwise lawful substance, is too restrictive.”

The result?  The corrections system is still going to be smoke-free, but inmates reprimanded for breaching the ban could receive compensation.

Read more here.

I’ve got to say that I do not agree with this.  Ohio has banned tobacco in its prisons (for both inmates and staff) for several years now.  Prior to the ban, you would have non-smoking inmates complaining about the amount of smoke and the very real threat posed by secondhand smoke.  I have far more sympathy for those inmates than others who are purposefully engaging in self-injurious behavior via tobacco inhalation.

That’s not to say that the ban has not caused problems.  Despite the ban, tobacco continues to be smuggled into the prison like any contraband, but now inmates and staff can sell it for exorbitant black market prices.  Staff spend a large amount of time tracking down contraband that is otherwise legal on the street.  And inmates have said that nicotine withdrawal contributes to violence and/or that having tobacco reinstated would reduce violence.

I still think that the longterm healthcare costs incurred by tobacco use – which the state would have to pay – outweigh the desire to feed a nicotine addiction, which is both harmful and expensive.  Better for people to spend the time in prison kicking the habit for when they are released.

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FL: Privatized prison health services leaves public employees out of a job

From the article: “Under terms of its contract, Corizon must offer comprehensive care to Florida’s inmate population for 7 percent less than it cost the state in 2010. Health care costs have increased steadily since then.”

That’s the upside.  The downside is that the company has come under fire for allegedly inhumane practices.

Then again, proponents of privatization have stated that the reality is that state-run prison medical services can also subject inmates to inhumane care – even when not inhumane, mistakes and negligence are going to happen in any healthcare system.  The goal is simply to limit the number of inmates affected and to limit the negative effects of any poor medical decisions.

Read more on FL here.

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