He Was Sentenced to Only Two Days in Jail, a Lawsuit Says. Three Months Later, He Killed Himself in His Cell. Robert Wayne Johnson’s wife is suing a Mississippi county, saying he was held past his release date and not provided with mental healthcare.
I see several such horror stories every fucking week! Raise a ruckus about prison abuse! It is costing you a fortune AND making us less safe!
Over detention is a major problem, because the “records department” in most prisons is as fucked up as everything else they do!
Excerpts from the Article:
Robert Wayne Johnson was allegedly sentenced to two days in a rural Mississippi jail for not paying a fine. Three months later, still in his cell, Johnson strangled himself with his shoelaces.
Now, his widow, LaToya Johnson, is suing the county, the sheriff’s office, and several correctional officers. She filed a wrongful death lawsuit in a Mississippi federal court on September 30, alleging that he was unlawfully held past his release date, not provided with mental healthcare, and not properly monitored after he became suicidal.
Robert Wayne Johnson, a father of five, was given two days in jail and 199 hours of community service as punishment for not paying money he owed to a Meridian municipal court, according to the suit. In the complaint, LaToya says he wasn’t able to pay the fine because he had lost his job and couldn’t afford it. He was jailed in Kemper Neshoba Regional Correctional Facility, under the Kemper County Sheriff’s Office.
READ: The U.S. isn’t counting prison suicides even though the law requires it.
Robert Wayne made another suicide attempt while jailed before his death, the complaint says. LaToya alleges that the jail ignored her husband’s mental health issues and other inmates’ repeated warnings that he had been tying shoelaces around his neck in the days leading up to his death on Jan. 9, 2018. In the hours before he died, he slit his wrists as well, the suit says.
The complaint says that Johnson was transferred to an unmonitored segregation cell with all of his belongings, including the shoelaces, after a “scuffle” with another inmate over Johnson being upset his fellow inmates had alerted a guard to his suicide attempt. Johnson killed himself approximately 14 minutes after being placed in isolation. The lawsuit also alleges that Johnson was unlawfully held beyond his release date, and accuses the jail of failing to properly monitor inmates’ release dates. According to the suit, when Johnson wasn’t released after two days he began to panic because he didn’t know why he was still in jail, and worried that he had been mistakenly sentenced on a felony charge.
“Not only did I lose my husband and best friend, but his children lost their father, his parents lost a son, and his siblings lost a brother. So many others lost a good friend in him,” Johnson said in a news release after the complaint was filed.
Mississippi has faced scrutiny over its record on mental healthcare. Earlier this year, a federal judge called for increased oversight of Mississippi’s treatment of people with mental illness. A 2011 Justice Department investigation also found the state was “unnecessarily institutionalizing persons with mental illness.” Sheriffs in the state have also long said that they’re overburdened with mentally ill inmates who require extensive care, according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.
Mississippi, which has a high poverty rate but has not yet expanded Medicaid to increase health care services for the poor, also ranks among the states that offer worst access to mental health services, according to Mental Health Care America.
LGBT Chamber Rescinds CoreCivic’s Membership After Fierce Backlash The chamber’s board voted to drop the company after searing public comments at Tuesday night’s meeting
All private prison companies are cruel, inefficient, and ineffective, … in short, a disaster! … but CoreCivic is the worst! They should be denounced in every possible forum!
Excerpts from the Article:
The chamber’s board voted to drop the company after searing public comments at Tuesday night’s meeting. After facing a fierce backlash that was manifest in a heated public meeting Tuesday night, Nashville’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce has dropped private prison corporation CoreCivic from its membership.
The chamber’s board voted to return a $300 membership fee paid by the Nashville-based for-profit prison giant after weeks of standing by the controversial decision to accept them.
“The voices at our meeting last night were very clear,” the statement regarding CoreCivic reads. “Their membership was too much for many in our LGBT community. We heard those concerns and last night our board voted to remove CoreCivic as a member and return their $300 membership fee. While CoreCivic will not be a member of our organization, the reasons we originally accepted their application to join are still true. Every industry has members of the LGBT community who are employees. It’s part of our mission to advocate for them and educate employers on how to support the needs of our community. To both support those employees and to fulfill our mission, we have extended an offer to work with CoreCivic on those initiatives but not as a member.”
In the email to members, the board maintains that its initial acceptance of CoreCivic as a member “did not imply a tacit endorsement on how they handle all LGBT issues or condone all of their business practices.” But community members who attended the board’s Tuesday night meeting were insistent that, regardless of the board’s intention, that is precisely what they would be doing if they allowed the country’s most prominent private prison corporation to place an LGBT Chamber sticker on its doors.
Samantha Rae McAlpine reminded the boa. Speakers talked passionately about the years of reports and testimony about poor conditions and abuse at CoreCivic prisons, as well as the company’s heavy involvement in detaining immigrants on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.rd about the attempted ICE arrest in Hermitage in July, when agents tried to coax a man and his son out of their car but were thwarted by neighbors and community members.
“Where do you think [they] were headed?” McAlpine said. “CoreCivic gets a quarter of their funding from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They operate a huge number of the facilities on the border where they are processing people and caging them like animals.”
Later, she added: “If you think there is any amount of engagement that will fundamentally change who they are, you are at best naive and at worst maliciously indifferent.”
“I wear this in memory of trans women that we lose, many of whom are lost in CoreCivic prisons,” she said. “Raped, degraded. It’s where they’ve had HIV. It’s where they’ve died alone, unloved. And I want each of you to look at it and then spit on it.”
The LGBT chamber now follows the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which received an unsolicited sponsorship payment from CoreCivic around the same time, but sent the money back.
Yes they are! Corizon is notoriously terrible and is sued hundreds of times annually.
This is so telling. As I saw in Delaware D O C, the health care provider blatantly ignored the “settlement agreement”. “One year prior to Abdullah’s death … the Arizona Department agreed to comply with 103 performance measures, including one that required a licensed clinician to visit mentally ill minor inmates every 30 days.”
How many more Mothers’ sons and daughters must die needlessly?!
Excerpts from the Article:
Mariam Abdullah had dreamed of becoming a firefighter, but that dream ended only six weeks after her 18th birthday when she died by suicide in her prison cell, seven months before her scheduled release date. It wasn’t an isolated incident. Abdullah’s death was part of a pattern of neglecting inmates with mental illnesses in the Arizona prison system while under the care of its private health care contractor, Corizon Health, Inc.
While serving a 3-year sentence at Arizona’s Perryville Prison for her role in an armed robbery, Abdullah, whose family immigrated from Iraq when she was a child, had been diagnosed with mental illnesses including mood disorder, bipolar disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.
In the same period, she attempted suicide 15 times. So, when she bit her own wrist on July 10, 2016, a psychiatrist at the prison recommended she be put under suicide watch, a type of segregation where inmates are stripped of all objects and clothing, given a thick smock to wear, and continuously monitored to ensure they do not harm themselves.
“Perryville did what unfortunately happens in a number of badly run prison systems,” said Craig Haney, co-creator of the Stanford Prison Experiment and a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who conducted inspections of Arizona prisons to study the psychological consequences of solitary confinement. “When there are inadequate mental health resources and inadequate mental health programs, persons who are mentally ill tend to be shunted off into isolation units for management and control.”
On July 15, 2016, after five days on suicide watch, Mariam was released back into the general population. She killed herself in her cell four days later.
One year prior to Abdullah’s death, a settlement was reached between the Arizona Department of Corrections and the American Civil Liberties Union, Prison Law Office and a few other organizations meant to avoid this very scenario. The case, Parsons v. Ryan, was a class action lawsuit filed against the Arizona Department of Corrections for failing to provide adequate mental health care, medical and dental care. In the settlement, the Arizona Department agreed to comply with 103 performance measures, including one that required a licensed clinician to visit mentally ill minor inmates every 30 days.
David Fathi, director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project, says these companies are looking to make a profit from the amount of money they receive from the state government, which gives them “a powerful, indeed overwhelming, incentive to deny care.”
At the time of Abdullah’s death, Corizon Health had held the contract with the Arizona Department of Corrections since 2013 and was responsible for complying with the performance measures outlined in the 2014 settlement under Parsons v. Ryan. “It appears from court documents that I got, in fact [Abdullah] wasn’t really seen at all; that there were sporadic visits,” says Lisa Armstrong, a reporter with Type Investigations who became interested in Abdullah’s case in 2016.
A former psychologist at Perryville claims she did not feel she had “the autonomy that was needed as a licensed psychologist.” CBS NEWS
Former Corizon employees in Arizona have come forward with allegations that the system is badly run. Dr. Angela Kenzslowe, a psychologist who worked for Corizon at Perryville prison, quit her job after just three months there, claiming “I felt my license was at risk. I felt that I didn’t have the autonomy that was needed as a licensed psychologist to be able to run mental health the way it needed to be run.”
A nurse, Jose Vallejo, who worked for Corizon Health at Eyman prison in Arizona, said he witnessed several inmates causing themselves harm and did not feel qualified to provide proper mental health care. After sending multiple requests for additional resources to Corizon’s management that resulted in no changes, he claims he put in his two week’s notice but was fired a few days later. A Corizon spokesperson says he was “terminated from his position for failure to perform required duties”.
According to the ACLU’s David Fathi, because there are only three major players in the correctional health care industry — Corizon, Wexford Health and Centurion — issues like those Kenzslowe and Vallejo raised may keep recurring. “The problem is when you have only three players, it does become kind of a revolving door among those three players, or a game of musical chairs, and all too often things don’t really change in a meaningful way,” says Fathi.
Arizona ended its relationship with Corizon in January 2019 and hired Centurion, a company that faces a class action lawsuit in Mississippi for providing inadequate mental health care at a facility where at least six prisoners died in 2018.
From my prior dealings with Chief Mailey, and my knowledge of his operation of Dover P D, he may just be the right man for the job to solve some of the many problems with probation/parole/work release. The problem for anyone inclined to improve Delaware D O C is that other staff and administration will file false reports and lie to them, to try to conceal their many wrongdoings.
This is a MUST READ if you have not read it! Probation and Parole – a short Essay by Ken Abraham – With Letter to the Editor or Editorial Submission
Excerpts from the Article:
Delaware Department of Correction Commissioner Claire DeMatteis announced Oct. 10 the appointment of former Dover Police Chief Marvin Mailey as chief of the Bureau of Community Corrections.
The bureau oversees probation and parole, pretrial services, the community work release program, electronic monitoring and other supervision programs for more than 14,000 individuals statewide who are housed in work release and violation of probation facilities or are serving probationary sentences in the community. Mailey will replace current Bureau of Community Corrections Chief Jim Elder, who will become chief of an expanded Bureau of Healthcare, Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Services on Nov. 1.
“Chief Mailey’s distinguished career reflects a strong commitment to public safety through community engagement and partnership, and he knows the balance between law enforcement and reentry services needed to lead our Bureau of Community Corrections into the future,” said DeMatteis. “As Dover Police chief he was recognized for efforts to reduce violent crime by building relationships between law enforcement, residents and community partners. At the DOC he and his team will leverage that same collaborative approach to support successful reentry and reduce our state’s recidivism rate.”
The Bureau of Community Corrections works to reduce crime and support public safety by assessing offender risks and needs and providing responsive supervision through comprehensive evidence-based reentry-focused programs that feature substance abuse treatment, mental health services, career counseling, education and training. Bureau staff collaborate on a daily basis with medical and behavioral healthcare professionals, community organizations, service providers, state agencies, employers and the Judiciary to connect men and women under their supervision to systems of support that improve their chances of leading productive lives in our communities. They also play an active role in collaborative crime reduction initiatives, including the Group Violence Intervention project in Wilmington.
“I am honored to rejoin the Department of Correction and look forward to leading an exceptional team of Probation and Parole Officers and Community Corrections professionals who work hard every day to guide justice-involved men and women on their path out of the criminal justice system and into successful, healthy and productive lives in the community,” said Mailey.
Mailey returns to the Department of Correction with more than 30 years of community-focused law enforcement experience. After serving for four years as a law enforcement specialist in the U.S. Air Force Chief Mailey served from 1989 to 1993 as a correctional officer with the Delaware Department of Correction. In 1993, he joined the Dover Police Department, with assignments in the Patrol Unit, Drugs, Vice and Organized Crime Unit and Community Policing program. He served in leadership positions as a supervisor of the Special Operations Response Team, Patrol Platoon, the Special Enforcement Unit and Unit Commander of the Internal Affairs Unit. He was appointed deputy chief in 2014 and in May, 2017 was appointed chief in a unanimous vote of Dover City Council. Mailey retired as police chief in May. Most recently, Mailey served as public safety manager for Bayhealth.
Once again, my friend Steve Hampton, Esq. has done a fine job in suing several prison officials responsible for the brutal beating of an inmate. What you read below is not an uncommon occurrence in today’s prisons.
Unfortunately, the only way to greatly reduce such crimes is to LOCK UP SOME OF THE PERPETRATORS! READ:
Excerpts from the Lawsuit:
18. Poorman physically abused Green when he was defenseless and non-resisting by beating, punching, and jumping on him, and also caused another officer to spray pepper spray into his eyes, nose and mouth.
19. Poorman violated DOC policy 8.30 regulating use of force against inmates. Section V of the policy states in part:
a. The use of force must be reasonable under the circumstances and should be used only when no other reasonable alternative is available. If possible, staff shall take reasonable steps to deescalate a situation or otherwise prevent the need to use of force. The use of force may not be used as a retaliatory or disciplinary measure. Physical instruments of restraint (handcuffs, shackles, chains, etc.) of any type shall not be applied as punishment. Use of excessive force by the Department employees or other persons is prohibited. Any violation of this policy may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination
20. Defendant Poorman used excessive, unwarranted and unnecessary force when he physically attacked Mr. Green without cause, violating his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983, and violating his 8th Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment.
21. Defendant Poorman acted:
Defendant Poorman used excessive, unwarranted and unnecessary force when he physically attacked Mr. Green without cause, violating his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983, and violating his 8th Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment.
21. Defendant Poorman acted:
c. With malice; and
d. In a manner which violated Mr. Green’s civil rights.
22. The intentional acts of Defendant Poorman constituted:
c. Intentional infliction of emotional distress; and
d. A violation of Mr. Green’s ’s constitutional civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 and his 8th Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment.
23. As a result of the intentional actions of Defendant Poorman, Mr. Green has suffered the following injuries:
a. Physical injuries including exacerbation of injuries sustained when Green fell about 30 feet to the ground;
b. Tremendous physical pain at the time he was being beaten by defendant Poorman and when Poorman instructed another officer to pepper spray his face while he was handcuffed and already suffering tremendous pain from his broken bones;
c. Past, present and future physical, mental and emotional pain and anguish, and humiliation.
GRADY & HAMPTON, LLC
You can reach Steve at:
Stephen A. Hampton
Stephen A. Hampton (# 2451)
6 N. Bradford Street
Dover, DE 19904
Study on solitary confinement makes a tragic case for restricting it in the U.S. People held in solitary confinement were 127 percent more likely to die from opioid overdose.
I was placed in isolation cells for 1,510 days. I saw many men go mad. “Thank you,God, for my strong spirit”! YOU should read: It’s not about What They Did to Me – Prison Abuse
What these studies don’t tell you is that the isolation cells are used improperly and illegally very often by mean-spirited guards to shut up or punish inmates who try to complain about prison abuse or medical neglect, or try to contact the outside world about the same.
Excerpts from the Article:
In the United States, thousands of prisoners are put in “the hole” for years, and while it’s established the practice of isolating people results in trauma while they are in prison, new research shows solitary confinement is linked with massive costs once prisoners are released.
Scientists reported Friday that people who spent any time in what’s officially known as “restrictive housing” during their incarceration at a North Carolina state prison were “significantly more likely to die of all causes in the first year after release than those who did not.” Furthermore, spending more than 14 days in solitary confinement was linked with a higher risk of death and reincarceration after release from prison.
Their work was published the journal JAMA Open Network, and it examined those prisoners between 2000 to 2015. The data was provided to the team by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, which has expressed interest in reforming how the state approaches solitary confinement.
First author Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, tells Inverse that previous research has shown that solitary confinement can be detrimental to health, but “traditionally it has been very hard to obtain administrative data on time in solitary confinement during incarceration.”
Similarly, it’s been difficult for researchers to establish how many Americans have been placed in solitary confinement. A 2016 study by Yale Law School found that about 66,000 prisoners were in solitary confinement, based on data from 73 percent of the country’s prison population. The study also estimates that if all data was available, that number would rise to 80,000 people.
In the case of this new study, Brinkley-Rubinstein and colleagues were able to use data provided by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, then matched that data to mortality records. The cohort study included 229,297 people, some who had been placed in restrictive housing and others who had not.
Certain patterns emerged: People who spent any time in restrictive housing were 24 percent more likely to die in the first year of their release. Within this group, 78 percent died from suicide while roughly 54 percent from homicide. These individuals were also 127 percent more likely to die from an opioid overdose in the first two weeks after their release. This was especially true for white individuals.
These individuals were also 127 percent more likely to die from an opioid overdose in the first two weeks after their release.”
While this study shows that exposure to restrictive housing “may be a contributing factor” to risk of death during community reentry, it can’t establish exactly why.
“We know that being incarcerated increases the risk of adverse health outcomes post-release but, what is understudied, is what are the ‘mechanisms of incarceration’ that heighten this risk above and beyond what we already know,” Brinkley-Rubinstein explains.
But testaments of prisoners and psychiatrists point to the mechanisms that are likely at play. To be in restrictive housing means to be within a cell about the size of a king-sized bed for 22 to 24-hours a day. These settings mean social isolation, sensory deprivation, and intense physical idleness. Interviews with prisoners in solitary show indicate that time spent there can induce paranoia, hallucinations, panic attacks, and suicidal intentions among other repercussions. They can lose their ability to interact with other people and to know who they are.
Currently, there is a lawsuit filed against the Virginia Department of Corrections for holding a man named Tyquine Lee in solitary confinement at Red Onion State Prison for more than 600 days. Lee has lost over 30 pounds, as well as his ability to speak and remember his name.
There are movements to reform restrictive housing rules in the United States, but various agencies and advocacy groups differ on when it should be applied. Some consider it torture and advocate for its complete restriction, while others argue for more gradual efforts or alternatives.
In 2016, the Department of Justice argued that in certain occasions “correctional officials have no choice but to segregate inmates from the general population” but “we believe strongly this practice should be used rarely, applied fairly, and subjected to reasonable constraints.” Meanwhile, the nonprofit the Vera Institutes argues it should only be used as a “last resort” and “for the shortest time possible.” While federally there are no restrictions on solitary confinement, as of July 2019 there are eight states that have legislation that limits the use of restrictive housing.
In turn, the authors of this new study argue that their results can be used to “identify people for linkage to trauma-nformed, community-based substance use and mental health treatment, overdose prevention and harm reduction, and wraparound care and services. To Brinkley-Rubinstein, the goal is that the data can ignite change: “I hope that jails and prisons reconsider the use of solitary confinement and restrict its use.”
In 2015, the United Nations instituted the “Mandela Rules,” which state that no one should be put in solitary confinement for more than 15 days. However, the US doesn’t follow those rules.
Conclusions and relevance: This study suggests that exposure to restrictive housing is associated with an increased risk of death during community reentry. These findings are important in the context of ongoing debates about the harms of restrictive housing, indicating a need to find alternatives to its use and flagging restrictive housing as an important risk factor during community reentry.
My friend and great lawyer, Steve Hampton, has what it takes to kick the bad guys’ asses. This article relates an all too familiar story about a young man incarcerated with MH issues. I have NO doubt that all of Steve’s allegations are true, and I KNOW that this one is true: “When Darius was being victimized at JTVCC or MCCC his plight was common knowledge at all levels of authority, including the warden.”
Young Mr. Sarro was serving a one-year sentence for a violation of probation on a fourth-degree rape charge. READ Letter to Editor or Editorial Submission – What a Monster we Have Created! Probation and Parole 2/19/19 =
Excerpts from the Article:
The family of an inmate who died after being found hanging two years ago has filed a lawsuit citing the alleged disregard of mental health, abuse and safety concerns during a two-year period.
Darius Sarro was supposedly subjected to constant “terror and torture” before dying while being held at Morris Community Corrections Center in Dover in 2017, according to the 45-page Superior Court action filed action filed on Tuesday. He was also incarcerated at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna during the stretch.
Connections Community Support Programs Inc. and Delaware Department of Correction officials were named as defendants.
The plaintiff’s attorney Stephen Hampton described the case as “tragic … but probably will not be the last if DOC and CCSP continue like they have been.”
Also, the attorney said, “We get contacted by phone, mail, or email upwards of 30 times a week with complaints by inmates or their families about prison conditions. Almost all involve the failure to get healthcare, or bullying by correctional officers.
“Conditions for inmates seem to be as bad as they have ever been, except in the year after the (inmate) revolt (that included the death of a correctional officer at JTVCC).”
Delaware Department of Correction spokesman Paul Shavack said, “We are in the process of reviewing the details of the filing, but due to pending litigation we will not discuss the specifics of the case.”
Attempts to reach CCSP for comment were unsuccessful.
According to the lawsuit, Sarro hung himself in a bathroom sometime overnight on Oct. 10, 2017. DOC records and reports showed that he “was unaccounted for during the 30 to 45 minutes before he was discovered.”
The complaint indicated that Sarro was classified as a Seriously Mentally Ill inmate by CCSP “who required frequent and daily mentoring, monitoring, and medication.
“He had long hair and was slight in stature, standing (5-foot-2, weighing around 120 pounds.) His appearance was youthful, childlike even, and it made him a target of larger inmates who sexually abused him, raped him, bullied him, stole his property, extorted money from him and threatened him during the two years preceding his death.”
Sarro, 23, was pronounced dead on Oct. 14, 2017 after transport to Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital in Dover. He was serving a one-year sentence for a violation of probation on a fourth-degree rape charge.
The lawsuit claimed that “CCSP employees failed to provide Darius with the mental health treatment necessary for a suicidal rape victim. Instead, employees ignored his plight and failed to take steps to prevent Darius from being victimized by these inmates. “They also failed to monitor him even when they knew he was suicidal, out of sight, and wearing a belt.”
According to the action, Sarro had supposedly been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (noted in an initial psychiatric evaluation in December 2014 following incarceration), depression and attention deficit disorder and had been admitted to Dover Behavioral Health and Rockford Center five times, with a most recent suicide attempt in 2012.
Also, the action noted multiple mental health sick call requests, supposed bullying and sexual assaults that were allegedly mishandled or ignored.
DOC employees allegedly failed to follow Prison Rape Elimination Act guidelines and failed to interview Sarro and failed to “take any actions against his attackers other than to move them to another tier.
“When Darius was being victimized at JTVCC or MCCC his plight was common knowledge at all levels of authority, including the warden.”
Jury awards former detainee $25 million in jail beating case – More Costly, Counterproductive, Preventable, Prison Abuse – kra
This is likely to be reduced on appeal, only because judges often do reduce large awards. YOU should read: Why the Massive Indifference is a Massive Mistake
Excerpts from the Article:
A man who attorneys say was beaten and left with a traumatic brain injury inside a now-shuttered jail has won his lawsuit against the state of Maryland.
News outlets report a Baltimore jury awarded Daquan Wallace $25 million on Tuesday. His attorney Cary Hansel says he will contest the $200,000 limit on tort claims against the state. Office of Attorney General spokeswoman Raquel Coombs says the state is reviewing the decision.
The lawsuit says at least three correctional officers allowed gang members to attack Wallace while he was a detainee at the Baltimore City Detention Center in 2014. Hansel says Wallace now uses a wheelchair and cannot talk.
In 2013, state and federal officials said gang members had effectively taken control of jail. Gov. Larry Hogan closed it in 2015.
A report all too familiar to me. Although all of America’s prisons – yes, all – are a disaster, the Florida system is worse than many. The Miami Herald does a good job of reporting what they can. Despite the usual bullshit, false comments by FDC officials, at least this asshole was prosecuted, though his sentence was much too lenient.
This article was sent to me by fellow advocate and great lawyer, Steve Hampton, one of few with the skills and the will needed to sue Delaware DOC.
Grady and Hampton LLC
6 North Bradford Street
Dover, DE 19904
Excerpts from the Article:
Anquanette Woodall’s third child was unplanned. In spring 2016, when she was three years into her 15-year sentence for armed burglary and robbery, an officer at Gadsden Correctional Facility cornered her in a staff bathroom near the prison’s kitchen — one of the many blind spots in the facility’s security camera system. He instructed her to pull down her pants, then threw her against a wall and raped her.
To cement her silence, the guard, Travis Hinson, said that he knew the address for Woodall’s mother, the caretaker of her two small children.
The evidence was damning enough that Hinson ultimately pleaded guilty to sexual battery, but not damning enough to spur the Florida Department of Corrections into enacting much in the way of new policies to prevent sexual assault at the hands of the corrections officers it hires, or helping shoulder the cost of the harm those guards cause.
According to Woodall, who has been moved to Lowell Correctional, the FDC would not pick up the cost of an abortion had she decided not to carry the prison guard/rapist’s child to term.
“The rules were, that if I decided to have an abortion, it wouldn’t come out of the state’s pocket. It would come out of my mom’s pocket instead,” Woodall said.
Woodall’s daughter, now 2, is being raised by the inmate’s sister.
Woodall’s story is one of the many accounts of inmate abuse in Florida’s prison system, which is responsible for the second-largest female prison population in the United States. The Miami Herald’s Beyond Punishment series documented rampant physical and sexual abuse of female prisoners in Lowell, the place where Woodall has ended up after escaping the treatment she experienced at Gadsden. The series showed how officers coerce women into sex acts through threats of violence or sheer force, or by withholding necessities such as toilet paper and sanitary pads from women who do not comply.
In the three years since the series ran, it’s not clear that life has improved much for female inmates in the care of FDC. On Aug. 24, advocacy groups gathered at Lowell, near Ocala, to protest not sexual assault, but a violent attack by several staff members on a 51-year-old prisoner, who is now paralyzed from the neck down. Women formerly incarcerated at Lowell have taken to YouTube and social media to circulate their own accounts of physical and sexual abuse at the facility.
In the wake of the Miami Herald’s reporting, the U.S. Justice Department is conducting an investigation into conditions at Lowell.
In an interview with the Herald, which the FDC would not grant unless prison staffers were in the room (the department could cite no rule requiring such oversight and had not uniformly required it in the past), Woodall described the way that officers closed ranks to protect Hinson. She also asserted that his conviction, after a DNA test tied him to the attack and subsequent pregnancy, made her a target for officer abuse in the FDC system.
“The doctor said, ‘Your pregnancy tests came back positive,’ and I told her, ‘That’s impossible,’ still trying to cover it up,” said Woodall. “And she was like, ‘Well, there’s a rumor that you’ve been going around and sleeping with a lot of officers, being a slut.’ I just started crying then.”
The U.S. Department of Justice told the state of Florida in 2018 that conditions at Lowell Correctional were under federal investigation.
During her pregnancy, Woodall remembers getting messages from Gadsden, close to where Hinson’s family lives. “To a physical degree, it was fine, for a while,” said Woodall. “It was more the comments, what was being said, calling me out by name — slut this, ho’ this, snitch — stuff like that.”
At the time of the assault, Hinson was employed by a labor subcontractor, Management and Training Corporation. Gadsden is a privately run state prison, but under the umbrella of the state Department of Corrections. MTC provided the Miami Herald with a copy of Hinson’s employee disciplinary records, which showed he was reprimanded for excessive tardiness once in 2014, then dismissed in 2016, following the launch of the Inspector General’s investigation.
Prior to MTC, Hinson worked directly for the FDC, where corrections officer turnover is chronically high and the department is eternally understaffed. In July, the FDC reported 2,000 vacant prison guard positions and dropped the minimum age from 19 to 18 in hopes of finding more qualified recruits to fill posts. Salaries for prison guards start around $33,500 per year. The Florida Legislature has shown little inclination to appreciably raising salaries to make corrections officers jobs more desirable. In March, Woodall says she elected to stay in administrative confinement — a more restrictive level of incarceration — out of concern for her safety amid escalating verbal and physical abuse at the hands of corrections officers. In addition to Lowell, where pregnant inmates are incarcerated, she has spent time at nearby Florida Women’s Reception Center and at Homestead Correctional Institution since leaving Gadsden.
As the prison staffers took in every word during the interview, which took place at CFRC, Woodall grew visibly apprehensive when asked to describe those incidents of abuse.. However, for each incident, Woodall penned a detailed formal complaint to prison leadership and the Office of the Inspector General, describing guards who berate her, pinch her and, despite their coworker’s guilty plea to raping Woodall, warn her that sleeping around with guards will not be tolerated.
“Officers, they’re like a unit, and that’s how they’re supposed to be. But if you take one of their own down, it’s a problem,” she said.
Of the 515 officers assigned to Lowell, 265 are male.
In 2012, the Bureau of Justice Statistics implemented national standards for reporting sexual harassment and assault in United States correctional facilities. Between 2012 and 2015, the most recent year for which statistics were available, BJS says inmates in federal and state prisons filed nearly 28,000 allegations of staff-on-inmate abuse, but only one in every 20 complaints was substantiated. Over a tenth of the allegations are still under investigation, while the bulk of allegations were dismissed as unsubstantiated or unfounded.
In 2003, Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), to track and discourage sexual abuse behind bars. States, including Florida, have been slow to adapt.
“There’s a price that comes with speaking up for yourself,” says Woodall. “I know one girl, she tried to report a PREA, and she kept on trying to insist that this is what was happening. She got sent back to the dorm with a DR” — a disciplinary report, citing her own misconduct.
After Woodall’s rape, MTC added 30 additional cameras at Gadsden and is in the process of adding 30 more, according to MTC Director of Communications Issa Arnita. Cameras can prevent abuse, although staffers know where the cameras are and aren’t and can adapt their behavior accordingly.
The FDC, despite trusting Hinson to oversee its female inmates, has not provided the Herald with any changes in screening or hiring practices to prevent similar instances.
For the rape charges and a subsequent, unrelated aggravated battery charge, Hinson is slated to serve just over four years in prison and is scheduled for release in 2022. Four years later, Woodall will be released and be able to assume responsibility for raising his biological daughter.
9/27/19 – I just got a call from the Las Vegas Sun, asking me to verify that I wrote this, because they want to print it! Great! I send letters to papers all over the country, and you should too!
Letter to the Editor – WHY Shootings are the Norm! – 9/25/19
In some neighborhoods in America, shootings are the norm, violence is endemic. WHY? Here is one big reason why: for decades we have been violent against non-violent people!
Millions of Americans have seen and experienced this violence … called Prison Abuse! They were imprisoned for non-violent offenses, only to be brutalized by the system.
Have you read these two articles by Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE? You should! They explain how we have been sooooo stupid, spawning this violence.
Ken Abraham, former Deputy Attorney General, founder of Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE, Dover, DE 302-423-4067
I get lots of letters published, and ghost write for others. THIS IS THE BEST WAY TO REACH THOUSANDS OF READERS! The keys to getting your Letter published are:
1. Keep it to 250 words or fewer.
2. Do not make it about “poor little old me”. Describe the problem as one which not only affects the individual, but is a senseless or ineffective measure, policy, or law which also harms communities and society. For example, with reentry, the obstacles make it unnecessarily difficult for the individual, but also harm society by making it hard to become productive, spending money and paying taxes in the community, and they cause increased recidivism = increased crime.
3. Speak from your heart.
4. Google any facts you are not sure about.
5. Do not name-call.
Do what works: Write that Letter!
Letter to Editor – sign name, town, state, and your phone number (they often call to verify that you sent it), and “Member of Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE” if you like – shows you are part of a large group.
Send the email to yourself, and put on the “bcc” bar the email addresses for Letters to the Editor for the top ten newspapers in your state and several national ones – The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, U S A Today (google the Letter to Editor email addresses). Any questions, CALL me at 302-423-4067!
GOOGLE THE EMAIL ADDRESSES FOR “LETTERS TO THE EDITOR” FOR THE TOP TEN NEWSPAPERS IN YOUR STATE AND SAVE THAT INFORMATION FOR REPEATED USE – Some papers will print a letter from you every 2 ekke, some every 30 days, some every 90 days. They have varying policies. But if you really want to make a difference shoot them a new letter once a month! I send one out every 2 weeks.
Need a Letter on some criminal justice issue and not a great letter writer? NO EXCUSE! Email me a rough draft and call me and I’ll polish it up! firstname.lastname@example.org .
ANY QUESTIONS, CALL ME AT 302-423-4067.