In class-action settlement, Minnesota prisoners win access to pricey hepatitis C drugs Class-action suit accused state of withholding the cure for hepatitis C
Of course, rigorous monitoring will be needed to ensure that prison officials follow the court order. More often than not, they ignore it and proceed with business as usual …. causing more litigation … wasting more of your hard-earned tax dollars!
Excerpts from the Article:
Minnesota prisoners with chronic hepatitis C infections must be provided with highly effective but costly antiviral drugs following a class-action lawsuit settlement. A group of five inmates infected with the virus sued the Department of Corrections in 2015, accusing the agency of withholding the new drugs from them despite the medications having a 95 percent cure rate.
“The settlement will provide a cure to all prisoners at every stage of progression,” said Andrew Mohring, an attorney for the prisoners. “It puts Minnesota in the forefront for treatment and care of its prisoners who have chronic hepatitis C.”
The prisoners were not awarded any money as part of the settlement. However, the DOC must reimburse their attorneys $325,000 in fees and another $41,000 in costs. The medications, known as “direct acting antiviral” (DAA) drugs, range in price from $26,400 to more than $100,000 per patient. In court filings, the DOC has said that providing the drugs to all infected inmates could “result in a fundamental alteration to the DOC or its programming” because of the expense.
Under the terms of the settlement, which won preliminary approval on Monday, the DOC must screen all prisoners for hepatitis C. Antiviral drugs must be provided if the inmate has an advanced stage of the disease or has hepatitis along with other complications, such as another viral infection, diabetes or a liver transplant.
An inmate denied treatment can request a re-evaluation every six months. Any inmate with the virus will get treatment after 16 months’ imprisonment.
The litigation joins a series of similar lawsuits across the country that ask whether prison inmates have a right to the most effective drugs despite the toll on the corrections budget. The lawsuit alleges that, although some inmates were getting the new drugs, the DOC’s medical guidelines conflict with the medical standard of care endorsed by “practitioners, major medical associations, and care providers” that requires testing and immediate treatment of all patients with chronic hepatitis C, with limited exceptions.
The DAAs, first approved by federal regulators in 2013, have fewer side effects than older treatments and only require taking a pill once or twice daily for up to 12 weeks.
Private and government health insurers have increasingly agreed to cover the drugs for patients suffering from all levels of hepatitis C, a contagious disease that attacks the liver. Hepatitis C typically spreads by blood through needles or sexual contact. Left untreated, hepatitis C can cause severe liver damage and cancer. About 75 percent to 85 percent of people who have hepatitis C will develop a chronic infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Some of the inmates in the lawsuit said they were infected with hepatitis C while incarcerated.
A previous court filing from the prisoners estimated that there 3,500 inmates with a hepatitis C infection, though in a statement the DOC said 100 prisoners were treated a year, a number that could double.
In an order, U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz found that the DOC was essentially telling its inmates that they wouldn’t be treated until they suffered liver damage.
There is one movie which my son and I watched 4 or 5 times when he was little; he liked it so much. It was a sci-fi movie starring Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver in a space adventure where aliens from another planet [the Thermians, led by Mathesar] had seen the T V show broadcast from earth [Galaxy Quest] and they thought the actors – the show – were real. So when the “evil villain” [General Sarris] threatened their civilization, they brought Tim Allen and his team through space to help them fight the evil forces.
Baxter was 10, and he just loved that movie! Here is the link to it on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galaxy_Quest
Yes, it was a goofy-ass movie, but I loved the line repeated throughout by the leader of the “good guys”, Mathesar: “Never give up, never surrender!” That was “the moral of the story”, and it is the attitude one must have when fighting real life injustice.
As you know, my theme song is Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUTXb-ga1fo
If you live in Nevada contact your legislators and let them know in no uncertain terms that you want NO PRIVATE PRISONS IN NEVADA!
This is not a done deal yet, so voice your opinion. See many articles on this website indicating why private prisons are a DISASTER!
A bill seeking to ban private prisons in Nevada has passed a legislative hurdle. Legislators on a state Assembly committee voted on Friday to approve legislation that requires the “core correctional services” at each prison to be performed by local or state employees.
It is sponsored by Democrat Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno, who told lawmakers earlier this month the state has no private-run prisons at the moment. She says the state once did and experienced “negative consequences.”
Several Republican lawmakers voted against the measure.
Ex-warden Nate Cain pleads guilty mid-trial in federal corruption case, just as ex-wife was set to testify – Another Rotten Warden; America is Full of Them! kra
As I have said so many times: I bet my life that a thorough audit of the wardens of America would result in indictments of at least half of them. They show complete disdain for the law, think they can do whatever they like because they so seldom are held accountable …. the kickbacks and bribes from prison contractors are pouring into their pockets!
Excerpts from the Article:
Former Cottonport prison warden Nate Cain abruptly entered a guilty plea Wednesday afternoon on the third day of his federal trial on corruption charges, cutting the proceedings short as his ex-wife prepared take the stand to testify against him. Cain pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud related to gun purchases he made on the state’s dime while serving as warden of Avoyelles Correctional Center, now Raymond Laborde Correctional Center.
David Joseph, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, said he expects Cain, 51, to serve time in federal prison and pay restitution for the crimes.
“We weren’t giving him anything,” Joseph said. “He’ll pay for it. I can’t tell you what the judge will sentence him to, but I can tell you prison time will be recommended under the guidelines.”
The deal marked a sudden end to a trial in which Cain had faced 17 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The former warden, who resigned in 2016, took the plea before the jury heard from his ex-wife, Tonia Bandy, and corrections secretary Jimmy LeBlanc, both of whom were scheduled to testify. Bandy had already pleaded guilty in the case.
Cain and Bandy were accused of spending thousands of dollars meant for the Cottonport prison’s operations on a slew of personal purchases — from flat screen TVs and Yeti coolers to toilet paper and coffee, as well as construction supplies to quietly build a new home on prison property — while shielding the fraudulent transactions from any state oversight.
The counts to which Cain pleaded guilty Wednesday pertained only to certain purchases of gun and gun accessories, which amounted to less than $1,000, according to Cain’s attorney, John McLindon. Cain admitted to those limited purchases, and apologized to taxpayers.
But federal prosecutors argue that Cain should be on the hook to pay back as much as $150,000 — the total value of the purchases they alleged were fraudulent — because federal sentencing guidelines allow judges to consider all the relevant conduct.
“Even though he’s only pled to two counts, it wouldn’t be uncommon for the judge to consider the entire scheme,” said Dane Ciolino, a professor at Loyola Law School. “The odds are the judge is going to use the larger number; that’s what usually happens.”
Ciolino said that amount the judge decides on will be a key factor in Cain’s sentence. Ciolino noted the guidelines will add time because Cain stole from the public, but Cain’s decision to take a plea will weigh in his favor.
Cain’s sentencing was set for June 17, and he will remain free on bail until that date. Bandy’s sentencing is set for April 12.
Cain pleaded guilty after three days of testimony. The jury heard damaging accounts from several former employees who said Cain and Bandy completely changed the culture of spending at the prison, frequently violating Department of Corrections rules to buy personal items with state credit cards. They said he made them feel their jobs were at risk if they did not go along with the scheme.
Monroe said Cain told him that “loose lips sink ships,” while poking him repeatedly in his chest in a threatening way. He also testified that when prison officials realized they were under investigation, Cain called Monroe into his office and told him to change the name on the DirecTV account at the warden’s house from Cain’s name to the Avoyelles Correctional Center – because the state had been paying for it.
Another former employee, Thomas Heptinstall, then a lieutenant colonel under Cain, said he found out through the investigation that a wedding present Cain had given him – a $80 pressure cooker – had been bought with state funds. He said he returned it to the state when he learned of its origin.
Cain is the eldest son of storied Louisiana jailer Burl Cain, who himself was forced to step down from his longtime perch as warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola in late 2015 amid revelations that he had significant business dealings with the stepfather of an inmate under his supervision. The younger Cain resigned months later, amid investigations into his questionable purchases and other alleged misconduct at his prison, citing his health. Bandy, then still his wife, resigned at the same time, saying she was going to care for her husband, who she said suffered from a medical condition. The two divorced shortly afterward.
Both Cains left during a time of intense scrutiny into nepotism and self-dealing at the Department of Corrections. Though the scrutiny prompted several critical probes and audits, and led to some departures, Nate Cain and several underlings, including Bandy, were the only correctional employees to face criminal charges as a result.
“A lot of our prisons in Louisiana are in remote places, so the warden kind of has the run of the mill,” Joseph said. “We’ve seen, I think, that in several cases in Louisiana. In this case we were able to pinpoint expenses that were being charged to taxpayers that were for personal use.”
Louisiana Inspector General Stephen Street, whose office led the investigation into Nate Cain along with the FBI, called the manner in which the former warden operated a “staggering sense of entitlement.”
“Justice was done today,” Street said. “He abused his power as warden and he’s now going to be held accountable for that.”
But justice in two other cases involving Cain and Bandy remain on hold in the Avoyelles Parish District court, as officials there waited for the federal case to play out. Cain was indicted in February 2018 on obstruction of justice, stemming from a 2016 investigation by state corrections officials that found the former warden undermined a probe into a rape allegation at his Cottonport prison. The allegations involved a sexual relationship between an inmate and a corrections officer at the lockup, which is considered rape under federal law, even when both parties consent.
A year prior in January 2017, Bandy was charged with theft of $25,000 or more, malfeasance and injuring public records in the state court following a legislative auditors report that found Bandy was to blame for $30,000 of missing state funds, which were supposed to benefit five clubs to help rehabilitate inmates.
Report Shows 50 New York Prisoners Died from Inadequate Medical Care in Last Five Years – The Real Number is Much Higher – kra
Based on my vast experience I would bet my life that the real number is at least double that in 5 years! They lie about cause of death, they falsify reports, and they do all they can to cover up the atrocious neglect. READ Culture of Cover Up!
Excerpts from the Article:
A 2018 report by a New York State medical review board charged with reviewing prisoner deaths determined that at least 50 state prisoners had died within the past five years due to insufficient medical care. The board concluded that the deaths could have been prevented with simple medical or mental health treatment; however, the report is not posted online nor is it readily available even to family members of the prisoners who died.
Todd Heatley was one of those prisoners. When his mother, Maureen, visited him at the Wende Correctional Facility in 2014, the 33-year-old was so distraught that he didn’t recognize her. She cut the visit short and asked staff to get him medical help.
“He was totally disoriented,” she stated. Before she left, Maureen said a correction sergeant promised he would take care of her son, who was serving a 25-year sentence for murder. The guard didn’t keep his promise, though. Instead, he determined Heatley was not experiencing an emergency and could be handled by medical staff within the next two weeks. Three days later, Heatley was found hanging from a bed sheet in his cell.
The medical review board determined that he might still be alive had he received proper mental health treatment. The board’s report said medical staff with the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) “failed to recognize the symptom of confusion as a sign of mental illness and institute interventions to provide safety to Heatley until he was evaluated by mental health staff.”
Months later, in January 2015, another prisoner was found hanging in his cell at the Great Meadow Correction Facility. Alfredo Lopez, 54, had been thrown in solitary confinement for being unable to provide a urine sample, which DOCCS deemed a failed drug test – even though the samples he had been able to produce all came back clean. DOCCS maintains a “shy bladder” roster of prisoners who have difficulty urinating, but Lopez was never placed on that list despite his history of diabetes and nerve damage that made it hard for him to provide a urine sample in the time allotted for the test. Then, while in solitary confinement, his pain medication was taken away.
“I can’t take the abuse any more,” Lopez wrote in his suicide note, claiming he hadn’t slept in 18 days and citing “the mental anguish of being locked up for urinalysis, while all along my system has been clean.”
The death cases examined by the board went back as far as 2013, the year William Stewart, 56, died from an asthma attack at the Groveland Correctional Facility. The medical review of his case found DOCCS staff had failed in multiple areas of his treatment, from not recording vital signs to not documenting medication. Stewart, who was serving a four-year term for drug dealing and assault, received medical care that was “grossly substandard,” the review board concluded.
One of the more famous prisoners whose death was reviewed was Julio Gonzalez, who set fire to the Happy Land nightclub in the Bronx in 1990, killing 87 people trapped inside. Gonzalez, 61, died of a heart attack at the Clinton Correctional Facility in September 2016, but the board said his heart disease had been poorly treated for years. “His last documented physical was in 2010,” the review board noted.
“As these reports illustrate, it is clear people inside are dying due to inadequate medical and mental healthcare,” observed Jack Beck with the Correctional Association of New York, a prisoner advocacy group.
Part of the problem, Beck said, is that medical expenditures are shrinking at DOCCS, which admitted that contract payments to private mental healthcare providers fell 28 percent in the five years from 2013 to 2018. Concurrently, overall medical staffing in DOCCS was down over 17 percent. While that was partly attributed to a nine percent drop in the prison population during the same time period, starting salaries for healthcare jobs in state prisons are often $10,000 or more below private-sector wages, leaving the department understaffed.
DOCCS currently employs around 89 clinical physicians, 18 physician assistants, 849 nurses and 28 nurse practitioners. But in some cases medical staff positions remain vacant for years. At the Elmira Correctional Facility in Chemung County, a clinical physician position went unfilled from August 2012 through October 2016. Beck noted that some prisons have a single doctor responsible for treating 500 prisoners.
The board found multiple cases where prison medical staff neglected basic checkups and mental health screenings, and failed to treat more serious medical problems until they had worsened to the point where death was inevitable.
Multiple mentally ill prisoners committed suicide after they were placed in solitary confinement, though DOCCS maintained that it provides mental health screenings for all prisoners in segregation. At least four deaths from asthma-related problems could have been avoided by giving the prisoners inhalers and medications. DOCCS insiders said staff usually think prisoners are lying about the severity of their medical conditions in order to get better housing or drugs. Until they die, that is.
“How many more avoidable deaths will occur before the state addresses these serious and persistent problems?” Beck asked.
Under a recent lawsuit settlement, prison officials are now required to determine which prisoners suffer from serious mental illness and move them to a Residential Mental Health Treatment Unit, where they leave their cells four hours a day for therapy and programming.
“[Prisoners] are in our custody, and we have a constitutional obligation to protect their health, whether they have done wrong or not,” Gottfried stated.
Prosecutors drop most remaining cases in fatal prison riot – The whole prosecution was a circus – kra
A T V reporter (WBOC) just interviewed me about this decision … see link below..
This was the right move by Kathy Jennings, our new A G. She’s a smart gal and she sees the handwriting on the wall. Although I know from all my contacts that Floyd, the murdered guard, was very abusive, killing him was not the answer. But the fact is that the State does not know who really is responsible, so they “threw shit against the wall” by trying 18 people. The only inmate convicted of anything was one guy who did not have a lawyer! Fortunately, the jurors in the two trials to date were diligent … they did justice. And the new A G sees that they will continue to do so.
added 2:24 a m 3/16 Here is the link to my remarks. Tom interviewed me for 10 minutes, but, as usual, they edited it to a few seconds. They left out the best part, where I blast the very two people who spoke before me, but my brief remarks are 2 minutes into the video. http://www.wboc.com/story/40135134/prosecutors-drop-most-remaining-cases-in-deadly-vaughn-prison-riot
It is kind of nice that the three people from whom they sought comment are the head of prisons, that lying scumbag Union rep. Klopp, and yours truly.
Excerpts from the Article:
Delaware prosecutors are dismissing all but three remaining cases against inmate defendants charged in a deadly prison riot. Friday’s decision comes after earlier trials of seven inmates resulted in only one convicted of murder in guard Steven Floyd’s death.
With little physical evidence, prosecutors have relied heavily on testimony from other inmates who were in the building at Delaware’s maximum-security prison during the 2017 riot but were not among the 18 charged.
Defense attorneys have argued that the prosecution witnesses have contradicted one another and that their testimony conflicts with statements they gave investigators.
Floyd was killed and two other guards beaten and later released before tactical teams stormed the building and rescued a female counselor.
It looks like they are trying, but let us pay attention and see whether actual improvements are accomplished. Attorney Steve Hampton, myself, and other advocates have seen too many promises and too few results. As I type, mental health care remains abominable at Delaware D O C and in most of America’s prisons!
If you have a serious case of neglect or prison abuse, you can contact Steve at:
Grady and Hampton LLC
6 North Bradford Street
Dover, DE 19904
Excerpts from the Article:
The Delaware Department of Correction contracted with Chicago-based Gateway Foundation Inc. in mid-February to provide “cognitive behavioral therapy” (CBT) programs to the state’s inmates, noted the agency. According to the contract, the cost to the state “shall not” exceed $437,880.
“A 2015 gap analysis revealed the DOC was lacking in CBT programs in its facilities and the governor’s independent review team made three recommendations for additional evidence-based programs,” said DOC spokeswoman Jayme Gravell. “This past year, the DOC received additional funding from the legislature to provide CBT to all offenders. Gateway successfully bid for the contract through the request for proposal process.”
Gov. John Carney’s independent review was commissioned in the wake of the 2017 riot at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center that left correctional officer Lt. Steven Floyd dead. The review wrapped up that September and provided a list of “41 key recommendations” for crucial prison reforms. The DOC has since reported that they’ve addressed, or at least put a plan in place to address, the majority of the recommendations.
According to the recently signed contract, the Gateway Foundation will provide CBT to the state’s inmates at level 4 and 5 facilities using “evidence-based methods and curriculums that addresses anti-social attitudes, values, beliefs, thinking and/or other criminogenic behaviors.”
The new contract doesn’t overlap or supplant the DOC’s existing contract with Connections CSP — the DOC’s primary medical services provider — said Ms. Gravell.
The DOC has come under fire frequently in the past several years for the quality of both its medical and mental health care. Inmate advocates and other stakeholders have decried accessibility and wait times associated with obtaining healthcare for afflicted inmates.
For example, over 100 inmates filed a lawsuit against the state last year alleging mistreatment and punitive denial of healthcare services. Dover attorney Stephen Hampton filed the lawsuit on behalf of the inmates formerly housed in C Building, the site of the 2017 riot. The 80-page complaint alleges “inhumane conditions” at Vaughn, the state’s maximum security prison near Smyrna, and states that for many years prior to the riot, prison personnel “illegally abused, mistreated and tortured inmates with virtually nothing being done by their JTVCC (Vaughn prison) or DOC supervisors, to stop them.”
The lawsuit claims elected officials overseeing the facilities “including governors, ignored all of the complaints that the Department of Correction was simply warehousing inmates, allowing correctional officers to abuse them, providing them with very little rehabilitation or education, and denying them adequate healthcare for serious injuries and illnesses.”
Given that it’s “ongoing litigation,” the governor’s office and DOC have refused to comment directly on the accusations.
Milwaukee jail deputy sentenced for inmate’s 2016 death – Another Outrage in the Endless March of Prison Abuse – kra
30 days! It was MURDER, and the SOB should have gotten much more time. I remember the incident. More important, I remember vividly all of the abuse I personally saw … inmates in great pain while mean- spirited COs walked by their cells sniggering and mocking them … because they knew they could, time after time after time.
That S O B, Kashka Meadors, who gave the order, also should have gotten life. 60 days!?? This was flat-out MURDER. Sheriff David Clarke, who ran the prison, also should have been jailed.
This is yet another example of a mentally ill inmate being MURDERED instead of being treated.
There is no sugar-coating it, except in the minds of those who choose to ignore America’s rampant prison abuse!
Excerpts from the Article:
A former Milwaukee jail deputy who shut off water to an inmate’s cell, leading to his dehydration death, was sentenced Thursday to 30 days in prison but will be able to go to work during that time. Milwaukee County Judge Joseph Wall said he considered James Lee Ramsey-Guy’s lack of criminal history and community involvement in handing down the sentence, which was part of a plea agreement. Wall noted that Ramsey-Guy, 39, was following a supervisor’s order and that the death of 38-year-old Terrill Thomas in 2016 was a “systemic failure” at the jail.
Ramsey-Guy was one of three county jail staffers charged in Thomas’ death. At the time, the jail was overseen by conservative firebrand Sheriff David Clarke, who has since left to join a political action committee in support of President Donald Trump. Clarke was not charged because he wasn’t directly involved in Thomas’ death.
A lawsuit and evidence from prosecutors allege that staff ignored Thomas’ signs of distress during the week he spent in jail without water. He lost more than 10 percent of his body weight while there, according to the lawsuit.
“I’m sorry that Mr. Thomas lost his life,” Ramsey-Guy said before he was sentenced. “It’s something I carry with me every day, it’s something I think about constantly, and I’m sorry.”
Ramsey-Guy’s former supervisor, Kashka Meadors, ordered that Thomas’ water be turned off because he had flooded his last cell by stuffing a mattress in the toilet. Thomas’ family has said he was having a mental breakdown when police arrested him April 14, 2016, for shooting a man in front of his parents’ house and later firing a gun inside a casino.
Meadors, who’s no longer employed at the jail, was sentenced last month to 60 days in prison, also with work-release privileges. Former jail Cmdr. Nancy Lee Evans is scheduled for sentencing March 22.
All three former staffers reached plea deals that reduced the severity of the charges they initially faced. Evans will be sentenced on felony official misconduct. Meadors was sentenced for abuse of a resident of a penal facility, and Ramsey-Guy’s conviction is for misdemeanor resisting or obstructing an officer.
Prosecutor Kurt Benkley called Ramsey-Guy “a good man” with an excellent work history.
“But in the end what we’re left with is a situation where he acted in a careless manner,” he said, adding that Ramsey-Guy “displayed a certain level of insensitivity to the humanity of those inmates that he was charged with caring for.”
Here is more of the fallout from that outrageous incident of prison abuse which made national headlines when freezing inmates banged on jail windows to make noise. I read the 32 page Complaint – you can too – , and the lawyers involved did a fine job.
Good thing the jail was in the city! There is a reason why most prisoners are in facilities far out of sight: out of sight out of mind. I am reminded of this comment by that great jurist, Justice Brennan: “Prisoners are persons whom most of us would rather not think about. Banished from everyday sight, they exist in a shadow world, that only dimly enters our awareness…….When prisoners emerge from the shadows to press a Constitutional claim; they invoke no alien set of principles drawn from a distant culture. RATHER, THEY SPEAK THE CHARTER UPON WHICH ALL OF US RELY TO HOLD OFFICIAL POWER ACCOUNTABLE. They ask us to acknowledge that power exercised in the shadows (I add: against virtually helpless individuals!) must be restrained at least as diligently as power that acts in the sunlight “ Olene v, Estate of Shabazz, 482 US 342,354-355, 107 S. CT. 2400, 96 L.Ed. 282 (1987)
Excerpts from the Article:
A leading New York civil rights law firm filed a lawsuit today in federal court in Brooklyn against the warden of the Metropolitan Detention Center, seeking a class action that would represent the more than 1,000 people housed in the federal jail’s West Building during the week it went without power or adequate heat in January and February of this year.
Today’s complaint was filed on behalf of two men locked up at MDC during the crisis. David Scott, a 60-year-old Queens man, was awaiting his trial at MDC when the power went out, and he spent a week with only underwear, a T-shirt, socks, and a short-sleeve cotton jumpsuit to wear as vents blew cold air into his unlit cell, according to the complaint. The lawsuit alleges that Scott repeatedly sought medical attention for numbness in his hand, a fungal infection on his skin, and an abscess, but was ignored, even days after the judge presiding in his case specifically ordered jail staff to treat his conditions.
The other plaintiff, Jeremy Cerda, a 25-year-old Queens man, spent the week of the blackout on the jail’s intake unit, where he had recently arrived after failing to find employment, one of the conditions of his bond. Cerda suffers from depression and anxiety, according to the complaint, and after five days in a dark and unheated cell, with only brown and stinking water to drink and his toilet frequently not functioning, he began to think about hurting himself.
“Warden [Herman] Quay left more than a thousand men isolated in dark and freezing conditions for nearly a week, with limited access to medical care and hot food and water, without attorney or family visitation, and cut off from access to the CorrLinks telephone and email systems,” the lawsuit alleges. “Quay’s failings were legion.”
Not only did Quay fail to take steps to improve conditions in the jail, according to the lawsuit, he and his team repeatedly lied about them. In so doing, the lawsuit claims, Quay violated the Fifth and Eighth Amendment rights of the men detained at the jail.
The suit is brought by Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, which has a long history of litigation surrounding conditions in the city jails on Rikers Island. A class action suit brought by the firm, along with the Legal Aid Society, Ropes and Dunn, and ultimately the U.S. Department of Justice, led to a 2015 consent decree mandating sweeping reforms at Rikers.
“Wardens must provide the people in their jails with a minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities—adequate safety, food, warmth, exercise, hygiene, and medical care,” the lawsuit states. “These are some of the most basic conditions of confinement the Constitution requires. These standards define a civilized society. While jails need not be comfortable, they must provide decent, humane conditions for the people who live there.”
Today’s lawsuit joins another one filed three weeks ago by the Federal Defenders of New York in the Eastern District over the jail’s refusal during the crisis to allow people to speak to their lawyers. The Federal Defenders are asking for a court-appointed special master to oversee the jail’s treatment of people in its custody. Conditions at the jail have also been the subject of numerous other court hearings in recent weeks, including one in which Judge Analise Torres personally toured the facility with a court reporter, documenting the inhumane conditions she found there.
Under public pressure and at the urging of legislators, the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General has also begun an investigation into how Quay and other jail officials handled the power outage, but given the long history of the Inspector General issuing sternly-worded reports about conditions at MDC with little apparent improvement, many suspect that the best hope for real change lies with the courts.
You can read the full complaint below.
A New Law Made Him a ‘Free Man on Paper,’ but He Died Behind Bars Marie Dianne Cheatham was making arrangements for her husband’s release from prison when he died.
Thanks to Diane Ross/Cheatham, who sent me this article.
Delaware, and most states, have a mechanism to release ill inmates, each of whom costs taxpayers over $100,000 annually to keep in prison. They are a safe way to reduce prison populations, and thousands of inmates should be released using them, but they are a joke. Delaware’s “POPS Program” has released only 4 or 5 people since its inception years ago! Here we see that the federal system is no better.
WHY? Because for every 1 person arrested, 29 benefit financially! So it is NOT in the interests of prison guards, private prisons, prison “health care” providers, prosecutors, and scores of other companies and organizations to release those who should be released. Indeed, many of these spend BILLIONS of dollars annually in campaign donations and on lobbying to prevent need reforms!
Excerpts from the Article:
At a federal courthouse in Tennessee, a judge signed an order allowing an ailing inmate to go home. But he died in a prison hospice before he heard the news.
At his wife’s home in Indiana, as she was getting a wheelchair, bedpans and other medical equipment ready for his arrival, the phone rang. “It was the chaplain,” said the wife, Marie Dianne Cheatham. “He said, ‘I’m sorry to have to tell you.’ And my heart fell through the floor. I knew what he was going to say.”
For years, terminally ill federal prisoners like Ms. Cheatham’s husband, Steve, have in theory had the option of what is called compassionate release. But in practice, the Bureau of Prisons would often decline to grant it, allowing hundreds of petitioners to die in custody. One of the provisions of the new criminal justice law, signed by President Trump on Dec. 21, sought to change that, giving inmates the ability to appeal directly to the courts.
Mr. Cheatham, 59, did just that, filing a petition last month so that he could leave prison in North Carolina and go home to die. He became one of the first to be granted release under the new law. But then came the harsh truth that made so many families pin their hopes on the law’s passage in the first place: Days and even hours can mean the difference between dying at home or behind bars.
Created in the 1980s, compassionate release allowed the Bureau of Prisons to recommend that certain inmates who no longer posed a threat be sent home, usually when nearing death. But even as more and more Americans grew old and frail in federal penitentiaries, a multilayered bureaucracy meant that relatively few got out.
A 2013 report by a watchdog agency found that the compassionate release system was cumbersome, poorly managed and impossible to fully track. An analysis of federal data by The New York Times and The Marshall Project found that 266 inmates who had applied between 2013 and 2017 had died, either after being denied or while still waiting for a decision. During the same period the bureau approved only 6 percent of applications. Many state penal systems, which house the majority of American inmates, have their own medical release programs with similar problems.
“It is a system that is sorely needing compassion,” said Mary Price, the general counsel for Families Against Mandatory Minimums, which advocates criminal justice reform.
The changes to compassionate release were only one plank of a bipartisan push last year to overhaul the federal criminal justice system. The resulting law, the First Step Act, also expanded job training for inmates, reduced some sentences and allowed the release of some inmates serving lengthy terms for crack cocaine offenses, including one man, Matthew Charles, who attended the State of the Union this month as Mr. Trump’s guest.
The law’s passage has caused a scramble to use the new appeal process for compassionate release, said Ms. Price, whose organization has worked to arrange lawyers for some of those inmates. “There’s a road map now for this, and a way home for people that we’ve never seen before,” Ms. Price said.
Before the First Step Act passed, Ms. Cheatham followed its fortunes closely, hoping it could lead to a shortened sentence for her husband, whose health was deteriorating. Last fall, he was diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer and told he had only a few months to live. In mid-December, he applied for compassionate release, Ms. Cheatham said. The new law requires that prisoners be told within 72 hours of a terminal diagnosis that they may apply for compassionate release, and that the Bureau of Prisons aid those who wish to apply but cannot do so on their own.
After a few weeks, Ms. Cheatham had heard nothing back. The Bureau of Prisons declined to answer most questions about Mr. Cheatham’s case, but did say that it had not received his application for compassionate release until Jan. 11. According to the judge’s order, the request was filed on Dec. 13.
It was to be a homecoming to a home Steve Cheatham had never seen. The Cheathams had met and married after he was already in prison, serving a nearly 16-year sentence for a series of bank robberies in 2006. According to an F.B.I. agent’s account, Mr. Cheatham passed notes to tellers at three banks in Tennessee, making off with about $13,000. The agent made no mention of any weapon. Ms. Cheatham’s son, who was serving a sentence for drug and gun crimes at the same prison, put the two in touch. They started as infrequent pen pals, then began corresponding in earnest. After that: in-person visits, love letters, detailed discussions about what life would be like when Mr. Cheatham was released as early as 2020.
After a lifetime of setbacks — failed marriages, children in trouble with drugs or the law, a stretch of homelessness — Ms. Cheatham, a 67-year-old former truck driver who lives in a quiet retirement community in Fort Wayne, said her new love had brought a sense of wholeness. “When this guy came along, it was like he treated me like a queen, like I was something really special,” she said. “It was as if I was seeing a little glimpse of how God looks at me. And it was just such an unconditional, perfect love.”
Last summer, with the help of her pastor and a notary, the Cheathams exchanged signed wedding vows through the mail. They decided to wait to file the documents until after Mr. Cheatham’s release. A federal judge recognized them as married on the compassionate release order, but Ms. Cheatham — whose legal name, technically, is still Marie Dianne Ross — said prison officials had not allowed her to send a wedding ring. “We had so many things we wanted to do,” Ms. Cheatham said. Eat breakfast at Rich’s Cafe in Fort Wayne. Spend time with each other’s families. Take road trips to Arizona in a motor home.
But the photos in Ms. Cheatham’s apartment showed the fading of those dreams. In one, taken a couple of years ago, Mr. Cheatham is standing straight in khaki prison clothes, his arm around Ms. Cheatham. In another, from a final visit a few weeks ago, he is wearing the same khaki uniform, but sitting in a wheelchair, looking gaunt and at least a decade older. Ms. Cheatham also has advanced-stage cancer, but the two continued to talk about life together, hoping for a miracle.
More recently, the couple had been unable to communicate because she could not call the prison and he was too sick to get to the phone. Their last email exchange was on Jan. 10. On Jan. 30, the formal request for compassionate release was filed, and the next day, a judge signed the order to send Mr. Cheatham home. Ms. Cheatham got the news shortly after 1 p.m.
“My heart just was so full of joy,” she said. “I called everybody I could think of to tell them,” including the prison chaplain, whom she asked to deliver the good news to her husband. Later that afternoon, the chaplain called back. Mr. Cheatham had died before he could tell him about the judge’s order. Ms. Cheatham was devastated, but expressed her hope that on some level, Mr. Cheatham may have sensed the news.