Given all the anti-prisoner publicity that usually surrounds discussions of pro se prisoner litigation, the use of the phrase "limiting the burdens" in the title of this manual might suggest that it, too, is all about how to keep prisoners out of court. But this book is nothing like that. Instead, Branham, a Senior Research Scientist in the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, has written a balanced, fair account of the reality of prisoner litigation. And even more importantly for prisoners, Branham strongly emphasizes both prevention of litigation through establishing decent prison conditions and rapid, just resolution of prisoners' legitimate grievances.
Branham covers in detail many of the usual issues that are discussed when prisoner litigation is being considered: The role access to courts/legal services programs in prisons can play; how recent court decisions on access to courts will play out; a discussion of the filing-fee provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act; and what federal courts can and should be doing to enhance ...
Review of Limiting The Burdens Of Pro Se Inmate Litigation: A Technical Assistance Manual For Courts, Correctional Officials, And Attorneys General , by Lynn S. Branham (American Bar Association, 1997).
Although NOCC is medium-security prison, many of the convicts sent there from the District of Columbia penal system were assaultive, long-term prisoners who Gerhardstein contends are properly classified as maximum security. The District of Columbia, which has a contract with the CCA to house prisoners at the Youngstown facility, may have tried to unload some of its most dangerous and troublesome prisoners on NOCC. But CCA administrators are responsible for ensuring that prisoners they accept for confinement at NOCC are appropriate for medium-security placement.
Judge Bell's ruling was prompted by the fatal stabbing, on February 22 1998, of NOCC prisoner Derrick Davis. Three prisoners stabbed Davis 15 times in the face, neck, chest and hands, according to Youngstown police.
Ironically, Davis was one of Gerhardstein's clients in the suit challenging classification policies at NOCC. Richard Johnson, one of the suspects in Davis's murder, was named ...
In February 1998, federal judge Sam Bell ordered the Corrections Corp. of America to halt the transfer of inmates from Washington, D.C., to the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center (NOCC), a CCA-owned prison in Youngstown, Ohio. Bell agreed with Alphonse Gerhardstein, the Cincinnati attorney representing NOCC prisoners, that CCA administrators inadequately classified prisoners transferred to NOCC.
Alex Friedmann is a prisoner and a journalist. Until recently he also warmed a for-profit bunk at the Corrections Corporation of America's (CCA) South Central Correctional Facility in Clifton, Tennessee. That is, until his corporate warders decided that Alex Friedmann presented a threat to the security of their stock performance.
Alex has written numerous articles for PLN and other publications, mostly about prison privatization in general and CCA in particular [See the cover articles of the Nov '97 and Feb '98 PLN s]. He was also interviewed by Eric Bates, who quoted Alex in the article "Private Prisons" [ The Nation , January 5, 1998].
Initially, CCA/South Central employees refused to allow copies of The Nation article into the prison, claiming it would "incite disobedience to law enforcement officials or prison staff." This blatant censorship was subsequently overturned on appeal to TN DOC officials.
Shortly thereafter, PLN received a letter from Alex: "As indicated by my address change, I'm no longer at CCA/South Central...." He had been transferred to a TN state prison "in the far northwest corner of the state, about as far away from anywhere as you can possibly get."
Prison activists and ...
PLN Writer Exiled by CCA
One of those vendors, the Bobby Ross Group, operates the Dickens County Correctional Center (DCCC) in West Texas. DCCC has been the site of numerous disturbances. The facility was criticized by Montana state officials who conducted an audit and cited 29 areas of noncompliance with the jail's contract to house Montana prisoners .
Unlike the Montana state audit, however, Texas state jail commission inspector Robert Scarborough -- and deputy director Dearing gave the troubled Bobby Ross Group facility a clean bill of health.
The discrepancy between the Montana and Texas state inspections wasn't big news. Not until the Houston Chronicle did some digging. In November, 1997, the Chronicle reported a startling fact: A subsidiary of the Bobby Ross Group paid a hefty $42,000 a year "consulting fee" to Dearing.
Bobby Ross company attorney, Tony Schaffer, confirmed that Dearing ...
Robert L. Dearing is the deputy director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. The jail commission is in charge of inspecting and certifying county jails, including those that are privately operated. The jail commission's authority to enforce state standards, in effect, gives it the life-and-death power over private prison vendors who want to ply their trade in the state of Texas.
After an evidentiary hearing the court quickly ...
Afederal district court in Louisiana held that a prison rule allowing only ethnic Native Americans to engage in Native American Religious (NAR) practices was unconstitutional. Seven Louisiana state prisoners housed in a private prison operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) on contract to the Louisiana DOC, filed suit claiming violation of their first amendment religious rights. The plaintiffs claimed they were allowed to practice NAR for an eight month period after which their gatherings were forbidden and they were denied the use of items sacred to their religion, such as pipes, tobacco, feathers, sweat lodge, etc. The prison warden claimed that a "gang or organization" was forming and the Louisiana DOC promulgated a policy that allowed only prisoners that have a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) number or are ethnically Native American to participate in NAR ceremonies. The policy also limited the use of religious items to sacred circle services and required their storage in the prison chaplain's office when not in use and authorized one special gathering a year. All the plaintiffs were denied NAR participation because they did not have a BIA number or were not "ethnically Native American."
The court held these injuries were insufficient to state a claim for relief under § 1997e(e) because none of the injuries caused lasting disablement or severe pain. Readers should note that this ruling is in direct conflict with he supreme court opinion in Hudson v. McMillian , 503 U.S. 1, 112 S.Ct. 995 (1992), as to what constitutes actionable eighth amendment injury. See: Luong v. Hatt , 979 F. Supp. 481 (ND TX 1997).
A federal district court in Texas dismissed a lawsuit as being legally frivolous for not alleging sufficient physical injury under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e). Thinh Minh Luong is a Hawaii state prisoner transferred to the Dickens County Corrections Center, a private prison operated by the Bobby Ross Group in Texas. Luong is an admitted long time informant who alerted BRG officials that he was in danger because of the many prisoners he had informed on over the course of the years. No action was taken and on at least four occasions Luong was attacked by other prisoners, suffering bruises, abrasions, swelling, cuts, a bloody nose, etc.
In October 1997, the president of the AFSCME, Gerald W. McEntee, stated in a bluntly worded letter to state lawmakers that the union will not represent private prison employees in Tennessee or anywhere else. McEntee indicated that the AFSCME's about-face on the privatization issue was due to concerns that correctional officers cannot maintain their professional image in private, for-profit prisons. He also cited the widely-publicized videotaped beating of prisoners at the privately-managed Brazoria County Jail as an example of the "stark" differences between public and private correctional facilities. "In the end," said McEntee, "we were not able to reconcile private prisons with our determination to uphold the professionalism of the correctional officer career." CCA took ...
Last May, when a bill was introduced in the Tennessee legislature to privatize the state's entire corrections system, the private prison industry achieved a major coup by winning the support of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a 1.3 million-member union that agreed to represent former state prison workers retained under private contract. CCA, the prison contractor behind the proposed legislation, boasted about its "labor friendly" relationship with the AFSCME. Now, however, CCA will have to find something else to brag about.
The case began with the complaints of individual prisoners received by the Inmate Advocacy Law Clinic of Seton Hall Law School. Prisoners with serious mental illnesses were being harshly disciplined for ...
Afederal district court in New Jersey has upheld the claims of a statewide class of mentally ill prisoners against defendants' motions to dismiss and for summary judgment. The defendants are: officials of the New Jersey Department of Corrections; Correctional Medical Services, Inc. ("CMS"), a private corporation providing prison health care; and Correctional Behavioral Solutions of New Jersey, Inc. ("CBS"), a private corporation providing prisoner mental health services under a subcontract with CMS. The prisoners allege in their complaint that they receive constitutionally inadequate mental health care, and that they are disciplined for acting out the symptoms of their poorly treated mental illnesses, in violation of their right to due process. The prisoners also allege that the defendants have failed to reasonably accommodate their mental disabilities as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), and that CMS and CBS have violated the terms of their privatization contracts with each other and the State. See D.M., et al. v. Fauver, et al., Civ. No. 96-1840 (AET) (Nov. 10, 1997 D.N.J.).
Edward Moore, a Missouri state prisoner, repeatedly sought dental care for a toothache from Correctional Medical Services (CMS), a private company with whom the Missouri DOC had contracted out its medical services. After six months of futile attempts to secure medical care, Moore filed suit claiming violation of his eighth amendment rights. Eventually Moore received treatment by having his, by now, badly infected tooth removed. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants. The court of appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings.
The court held that the district court erred when it dismissed several defendants under Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(m), claiming Moore had failed to complete waiver of service forms. The appeals court noted that 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d) requires that officers of the court, i.e., the marshalls service, issue and serve all process in in forma pauperis cases. Moore's ...
The court of appeals for the eighth circuit held that a district court erred when it dismissed a prisoner's suit over delays in dental care. The appeals court also held that untimely service of the suit by the marshalls service was not a basis for dismissal and that genuine issues of fact precluded summary judgment.
In November 1993, Mark Douglas was booked into the Collier County jail awaiting trial. As a result of the jail's initial screening process the jail psychologist, Jeff Schultz, an employee of Correctional Medical Service (CMS), a private corporation under contract to the county sheriff, placed Douglas on "strict suicide precaution." Three days later, however, Schultz removed Douglas from the suicide watch and placed him in a general population cell.
Although Schultz was titled and employed by CMS as a clinical psychologist, he possessed only a master's degree in psychology, plus he was unlicensed. At no time was Douglas examined by or even referred to a psychologist or other licensed mental health professional. Expert deposition testimony revealed that Schultz was unqualified to diagnose Douglas, and he should have been referred to someone who was.
Afederal district court in Florida held that genuine issues of fact existed as to whether a jail psychologist and the private corporation that employed him had acted with deliberate indifference to a pretrial detainee's health needs, obviating summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. The court further held that the county sheriff had a non-delegable duty to provide care, precluding his entitlement to qualified immunity.