Parole Is Better Than Prison. But That Doesn’t Mean I’m Free. At age 17, I was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. I got out due to Supreme Court decisions, but there was one catch: Parole for the rest of my life.
You see, for every 1 person arrested in America, 29 people benefit financially! Think about it – cops, support staff, prison guards, the zillions of “contractors” who work in prisons, parole officers, their support staff, … and the list goes on.
So all these groups’ unions and many more spend millions every year blocking needed reforms and lobbying for laws to keep people in the system and violate them for things like being 10 minutes late for curfew!
There are more than 850,000 people on parole in America, and they can tell you that the absurd and nearly endless list of conditions is a real burden.
Excerpts from the Article:
On the morning of Feb. 11, 2021, while residents of Philadelphia braced themselves for a winter storm, 83-year-old Joe Ligon prepared to take his first steps into the streets where he was arrested nearly seven decades earlier.
After participating in a spree of robberies and assaults that resulted in two deaths, Joe was convicted of murder in 1953, at age 15. At 16, he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. He went on to serve 67 years, 11 months, two weeks and five days in a half dozen facilities, including what was once known as the Pennsylvania Institution for Defective Delinquents. This made him the longest serving prisoner in the country. Joe could have been released four years earlier — if he was willing to spend the rest of his life on parole. The Supreme Court had struck down automatic life without parole for juveniles in 2012, and the court made it retroactive in 2016. Under those decisions, Joe was re-sentenced to 35-years-to-life in 2017. Given that he had already served 65 years, he was automatically eligible for a parole hearing. But instead of living under the constraints of parole supervision, he chose to stay in prison and pursue legal recourse in hopes that one day he could leave truly free. Joe’s decision surprised me. As someone who was sentenced to life without parole at age 17, I knew firsthand the daily struggle to survive the monotony of prison. (My sentence was the result of my participation in an unarmed robbery during which the victim was shoved to the ground and suffered a fractured femur. The man died of congestive heart failure 18 days later, after undergoing surgery for the fracture.)Before I found out why Joe refused release, I thought of Brooks Hatlen, a character in the movie “The Shawshank Redemption” who becomes parole eligible after 50 years of imprisonment. In a dramatic scene that plays out days before his release, Brooks holds a knife to a fellow prisoner’s throat in an effort to sabotage his own freedom. While Joe did nothing as drastic as Brooks, many in the Pennsylvania prison system still assumed that he refused parole because he was afraid to leave. After all, when he went inside, Dwight D. Eisenhower was president and the Korean War was just ending. By the time Joe was resentenced, he’d become a rather frail 80-year-old who had been banished from society for more than six decades. But then I heard Joe, in rather blunt terms, express his unwillingness to accept any parole supervision. I remember him saying, “I already served enough time.” It was clear that Joe was as desperate to be free as any of the nearly 3,000 prisoners in the United States who were sentenced to life without parole as children. Living the precious remaining years of his life under parole supervision was simply untenable. In July 2017, I faced the same choice as Joe. I was resentenced to a term of 30-to-life. Since I had already served 31 years, I was immediately eligible for parole. That October, after a successful parole hearing, I walked out of the State Correctional Facility at Frackville a nominally free man.
When I left prison uncuffed and unshackled, my eyes were brimming with tears of joy and gratitude. Still, a part of me felt a strong sense of indignation that I would have to be on parole for the remainder of my life. For a split second, I wondered if I should have stood in solidarity with Joe. But parole or no parole, I couldn’t fathom staying in prison a minute longer than I had to. I desperately needed to experience life beyond steel bars, electrified fences and 24-hour surveillance.
And of course, there were loved ones who had a stake in my release. Supervision is as intrusive and demeaning as I had heard it was when I worked as a paralegal assisting clients who were reimprisoned after their parole was revoked. Parole comes with an endless list of prohibitions against the most innocuous human behaviors. There are the frequent, random drug and alcohol tests that I pay for out of pocket, although I haven’t used either in over three decades. I have to get permission from my parole agent to change my employment. I also need special permission to travel for work or leisure or to move into a new apartment or house. Wherever I live, I am subject to random, unwarranted searches of my home. And there are restrictions on who I can associate with and the establishments I can patronize. I even have to notify my parole agent of any medications I’m taking, including herbal supplements, allergy pills and cold medicine. Does this sound like freedom to you? To me, it sounds like living life as a permanent ward of the state. And this is what Joe Ligon set out to avoid. While Joe and I served about 10 years in the same prison, I didn’t know him well; he kept to himself. But recently, he shared what was on his mind when he was released for good. “When I got out, I had a big smile on my face; free at last!” he said. “I saw others going back because of parole violations, but I was never going back! ”While I didn’t make the same choice as Joe, I understand it. Rather than dismissing his decision as the stubborn antics of a feeble-minded old man, I see his unwillingness to subjugate himself to the indignities of parole as the courageous sacrifice of an elder. I see it as an indictment against a system of which these questions are rarely asked: Who gets placed on parole? For how long? To what end? After nearly 68 years in prison, Joe knows that to live truly free is to live with dignity. And I am extremely happy that he will spend his final years in the most dignified manner possible. I believe every person who was sentenced to life as a child and is now serving lifetime parole due to an arbitrary policy choice should have the same opportunity to experience this dignity.
I wish I had $1 for each valid instance of prison abuse – by DOC staff or medial staff – filed in America just last year – … I’d be a millionaire.
Excerpts from the Article:
A group of men detained at Washington County Detention Center in Arkansas say that the jail’s medical staff gave them the anti-parasite drug ivermectin last year, without their consent, to treat COVID-19, while telling them the pills were “vitamins.” On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of the inmates, filed a federal lawsuit against the jail and its doctor.
The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have repeatedly warned against the use of ivermectin for COVID. The FDA has only approved the medication for humans to treat river blindness, intestinal strongyloidiasis (an illness caused by roundworms), head lice and rosacea.
The lawsuit claims that medical staff at the jail gave the men ivermectin as early as November 2020, and that the men did not become aware of what the pill was until well after they received it. At a local finance and budget committee meeting last August, county sheriff Tim Helder confirmed that the facility’s doctor Dr. Robert Karas prescribed ivermectin.
Floreal-Wooten says he was given ivermectin without his consent while detained at Washington County Jail in Arkansas.
According to the lawsuit, as well as CBS News’ previous interview with one of the inmates and plaintiffs, 30-year-old Edrick Floreal-Wooten, the jail’s medical staff told inmates the ivermectin pills were “vitamins,” “antibiotics,” and/or “steroids.”“The truth, however, was that without knowing and voluntary consent, Plaintiffs ingested incredibly high doses of a drug that credible medical professionals, the FDA, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all agree is not an effective treatment against COVID-19,” the lawsuit says.
The inmates are asking that they receive a medical evaluation by an independent provider and be “awarded their costs, fees, and any other appropriate relief to which they are entitled.”
Gary Sullivan, legal director of the ACLU of Arkansas, issued a statement saying that “no one — including incarcerated individuals — should be deceived and subject to medical experimentation.”
“Sheriff Helder has a responsibility to provide food, shelter, and safe, appropriate care to incarcerated individuals,” Sullivan said. “…The detention center failed to use safe and appropriate treatments for COVID-19, even in the midst of a pandemic, and they must be held accountable.”
In August 2021, the lawsuit says that Floreal-Wooten and the other plaintiffs all tested positive for COVID-19. The jail, they said, relocated them to barracks “specifically designated” for quarantine, where it is believed that 22 people were housed. It was there, the lawsuit says, that they were given a “cocktail” of between two and 10 pills twice a day by Karas’ team.
CBS News spoke with Floreal-Wooten, over a video call from the detention center in September, where he is still being held. He said he and other inmates were not aware the jail nurses were giving them ivermectin until about five days after they first started receiving the pills.
“They said they were vitamins, steroids and antibiotics,” he told CBS News. “We were running fevers, throwing up, diarrhea … and so we figured that they were here to help us. … We never knew that they were running experiments on us, giving us ivermectin. We never knew that.”
The inmates were not able to discern what the pills are, he said, because they were pulled out of a drawer that has dozens of bottles. It was only after news reports emerged of the situation that medical staff started to ask for consent about the ivermectin, Floreal-Wooten said.
Once they asked permission, he added, he and roughly 20 other people turned them down.
“It was not consensual. They used us as an experiment — like we’re livestock,” he said. “Just because we wear stripes and we make a few mistakes in life, doesn’t make us less of a human. We got families, we got loved ones out there that love us.”
The lawsuit says the combination of pills the men were given included “high doses” of vitamins, as well as ivermectin. “‘High doses’ is no hyperbole,” the lawsuit says.
Based on Floreal-Wooten’s height and weight, according to the lawsuit, he should have only received up to 0.2 mg/kg in a single dose, roughly 14 mg. “Mr. Wooten, however, received 48 mg over a period of four days,” the lawsuit says, “3.4 times the approved dosage.”
Dayman Blackburn says he faced a similar situation. His medical records, according to the lawsuit, show that he received nearly 6.3 times the approved dosage of ivermectin based on his height and weight.
People who take “inappropriately high doses” of the medication, according to the CDC, “may experience toxic effects,” including nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, seizures, coma and death. Floreal-Wooten told CBS News he suffered from diarrhea and upper abdominal pain in the weeks after he was given the medication.
“I’m scared,” he had told CBS News. “…I can’t trust any of the medical staff.”
Pharmacy records included with the lawsuit show that Karas’ team dispensed at least 200 ivermectin pills in November 2020 alone.
Documents show that in November 2020, Dr. Robert Karas’ team distributed at least 200 pills of ivermectin to detainees at Washington County Detention Center in Arkansas. Karas also touted ivermectin to treat COVID-19 through his health care facilities, the lawsuit says.
“Guess we made the news again this week,” Karas Health Care said in a Facebook post on January 15. “Still with the best record in the world at the jail with the same protocols. Inmates aren’t dumb and I suspect in the future other inmates around the country will be suing their facilities requesting the same treatment we’re using at WCDC – including the Ivermectin.”
A week earlier, Karas said “there’s a lot of COVID out there” and recommended that adults load up on Vitamin D, Vitamin C, zinc and “a little salt water gargle twice a day” for the next month.
Karas has said that he started prescribing ivermectin to patients more regularly, and took it himself, after reading information from Frontline Covid Critical Care Alliance — a controversial group that originated at the beginning of the pandemic and has become known as a source of COVID-19 disinformation.
Despite the FDA, CDC, World Health Organization and National Institutes of Health all saying ivermectin should not be used for COVID treatment or prevention, FLCC says on its website it is a “core medication.” Karas has said the website is “very thorough and professional.”
Even now, Sarah Moore of the Arkansas Justice Reform Coalition said that it’s unclear if COVID protocols have changed at the detention center. When CBS News spoke with Floreal-Wooten, he was in the quarantine barracks. He and other detainees did not have face masks, just black bandanas, he showed us over video.
“Only when we talk to individuals and can see the pods do we see what’s happening,” she told CBS News. “Where people are housed in this area…most of the time, no one is wearing a mask. They are heavily overcrowded at this point.”
Two-thirds of the people being held at Washington County Detention Center, Moore said, have not been convicted of their accused crime — they’re still awaiting trial.
“Right now, our population is 750. About two-thirds of those are pre-trial. Many of those, about 80 of those folks, are trapped in these bonds that are very high because they’ve missed a court appointment,” she said. “…These are our community members, our moms and dads and cousins and sisters and brothers. And just like you or me, they could easily, we could easily, be accused of something, but they are not convicted.”
While ivermectin can be used to treat conditions such as head lice and rosacea, Moore said “it’s highly unusual” for it to be distributed in detention facilities.
“We hear quite the opposite,” she said. “It’s actually very hard to get any kind of medications in an incarcerated setting, be it the Department of Corrections, in a prison setting, or in a local county jail. … So it seems quite unusual that vitamins would be offered, or some kind of preemptive type of solution would be offered because oftentimes, the medical care within a congregate setting like this is oftentimes quite expensive for the individual.”
She said it can cost $10 for Tylenol or ibuprofen, causing people who are detained to “weigh whether or not their ache or pain or their symptoms are valid enough…to get that type of charge.”
“It just goes back to consent. I mean, we should have choice over our own person,” Moore said. “…I think it’s a really sad thing to think that we would start to dehumanize people in this way.”
This joins scores of articles I have concerning abominable prison health care.
Excerpts from the Article:
Prisoners, wardens, psychologists, correctional experts and medical specialists testified over the course of four weeks in the Jensen v. Shinn prison health care trial in Arizona.They described their personal experiences and observations in Arizona prisons in a legal challenge in which prisoners allege the state is providing unconstitutional levels of health care.
But on the last day of the trial on Wednesday, Dec. 8, the court heard “damning” testimony from the state’s prison health care provider, Centurion of Arizona, that may undermine the state’s entire defense.
Tom Dolan, Centurion Vice President for the Arizona prison contract, took the witness stand to discuss his company’s performance since it took over from the previous provider, Corizon Health, in 2019. “We learned early on that, in order to meet the needs of our clients, some facilities needed additional staff,” Dolan said.
Dolan testified that the health care staffing levels in the Arizona prison system were set by the Department in a 2019 request for proposals. The contract requires Centurion to have 1,052.75 full-time equivalent positions.
But soon after it took over in July of 2019, Dolan said Centurion did its own independent evaluation to determine if that number was sufficient. He said the company worked with the 10 state-run prison sites to identify what additional positions they needed in order to provide services that lived up to the performance measures agreed to in the Jensen v. Shinn lawsuit, which was still under a settlement agreement at the time.
“We look at all of the statistics that we collect each month,” Dolan said. “We look at provider visits, nurse lines, number of HNRs, med passes, number of meds that patients are on. We look at man-down encounters per facility. We look at the overall facility and then build the staffing on the data.”
Dolan said Centurion used that information to submit a proposal to the Department to amend the staffing matrix. In an email sent in January of 2020 to an administrator at the Arizona Department of Corrections health services contract monitoring bureau, Dolan outlined what he referred to as a staffing “wish list.”
According to an attorney for the Department, Dolan was responding to a request from DOC “to review the staffing matrix and submit a staffing proposal without budget constraints.”
Dolan’s staffing proposal called for 161.5 additional positions than were in the 2019 Centurion contract. The additional staff included administrators, nursing directors, regional directors, records clerks, nurses, physicians, and special “man down” teams dedicated to emergencies.
But Dolan testified that after he submitted the staffing proposal, the Department of Corrections did nothing with it. Dolan said the Department was not open to amending the contract to add the additional FTEs, and they were not included when the Centurion contract was extended in July 2021. He testified that the current Department staffing matrix is still the same as the one provided in the original 2019 contract.
ACLU National Prison Project Deputy Director Corene Kendrick, representing the prisoners in the lawsuit, called the staffing proposal a “damning admission.”
“The legal analysis for this type of case is something called deliberate indifference,” Kendrick said. “This document is the epitome of deliberate indifference. Prison officials were told in Jan 2020 that they needed to increase health care staff by 15 percent and nothing happened. Instead, what happened over the next year and half is that many, many people died preventable deaths because of the failure to provide basic medical care and mental health care.”
“I think what it shows is that Centurion’s leadership recognized that the current staffing model that the state has dictated to them is not adequate to provide basic health care,” Kendrick said.
In 2012, the federal court recognized a group of people in Arizona prisons who claimed their Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment were being violated. The class action lawsuit was then named Parsons v. Ryan, after named plaintiff Victor Parsons and then-director Charles Ryan. Arizona agreed to settle the case in 2014 and it was certified in 2015.
But since that time, the federal courts overseeing the settlement have found the state was not living up to the terms of the settlement agreement. Federal judges have twice held the Department in contempt, fining the agency millions of dollars. The case has outlasted judges, named plaintiffs and prison administrators. In 2021, it is now known as Jensen v. Shinn.
In July, Judge Roslyn Silver took the drastic measure of rescinding the settlement and ordering a bench trial, which began on Nov. 1.
During the four-week trial, the court heard testimony from several currently incarcerated people who claimed they had suffered due to lack of medical and mental health care.
Kendall Johnson, a witness for the plaintiffs incarcerated in the Perryville Women’s Prison, said she entered prison at age 19 in 2004 as a healthy young woman. In 2017, she started to experience numbness in her legs and feet. She repeatedly requested medical treatment for several years as her symptoms progressed. She said she experienced several falls that resulted in broken bones and eventually lost the ability to write and walk. In 2020, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Johnson wrote health needs requests begging for proper treatment, but she didn’t get it until May 2021. She told the court she is now confined to a special needs medical unit at the prison where she spends her days “counting the ceiling tiles.”
She is nearly immobile and has trouble speaking. “I tried to get help but it was like hitting my head against the wall,” she said.
Dustin Brislan, a named plaintiff, testified from the Tucson prison. He provided the names of more than 10 officers he accused of taunting him and encouraging him to self-harm, a tactic known in the prisons as “kickstarting.” “Kickstarting is where an officer or mental health staff push your buttons — they know your triggers — and get you to react,” he said. “It happened many times.” Brislan said he would often cut himself with rust from the isolation cells while on constant suicide watch, while correctional officers were watching and encouraging him to do so. He said the officer would watch him and not act to stop him.
“The officers actually encourage me to cut myself,” he said. “They say they want to see how bad I can get. They heard stories about me and wanted to see how seriously I could hurt myself. They know exactly how serious I am. There’s a lot of them that do it.”
Judge Silver could order receivership, in which a federal monitor who answered to the courts would be in charge of the health care services for state prisons. Silver could also order Centurion to hire more prison health care workers, or she could order the state to resume direct operations of the health care in state prisons as opposed to hiring a contractor.
If the ruling is unfavorable to the Department, it will almost certainly be appealed, as has been the strategy of the defense team in most other instances in response to orders from the court in the Jensen lawsuit.
Kendrick said she feels optimistic about their case.
“We presented testimony from multiple experts and people who actually still work there, Kendrick said. “We showed that the conditions in isolation units and the medical and mental health care are abysmal.”
“We hope that Judge Silver will find that the department has been violating the rights of incarcerated people,” Kendrick said. “We’ve asked her in the past to appoint someone independent to oversee the delivery of health care. And we’ve asked her to place very strict limits on the use of solitary confinement, including banning its use on people with serious mental illness, pregnant people and juveniles.”
The parties must now file findings of fact and conclusions of law by Jan. 21. Responses to those filings are due Feb. 11, meaning the ruling might not happen until March.
We should have known that a tRump appointee was not the answer; that buffoon was clueless in everything he did!
Excerpts from the Article:
The director of the federal Bureau of Prisons is resigning amid increasing scrutiny over his leadership in the wake of Associated Press reporting that uncovered widespread problems at the agency, including a recent story detailing serious misconduct involving correctional officers.
Michael Carvajal, a Trump administration holdover who’s been at the center of myriad crises within the federal prison system, has told Attorney General Merrick Garland he is resigning, the Justice Department said. He will stay on for an interim period until a successor is in place. It is unclear how long that process would take.
His exit comes just weeks after the AP revealed that more than 100 Bureau of Prisons workers have been arrested, convicted or sentenced for crimes since the start of 2019, including a warden charged with sexually abusing an inmate. The AP stories pushed Congress into investigating and prompted increased calls to resign by lawmakers, including the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Carvajal’s tumultuous tenure included the rampant spread of coronavirus inside federal prisons, a failed response to the pandemic, dozens of escapes, deaths and critically low staffing levels that have hampered responses to emergencies.
“We are very appreciative of Director Carvajal’s service to the department over the last three decades,” Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said in a statement. “His operational experience and intimate knowledge of the Bureau of Prisons — the department’s largest component — helped steer it during critical times, including during this historic pandemic.”
The administration had faced increasing pressure to remove Carvajal and do more to fix the federal prison system after President Joe Biden’s campaign promise to push criminal justice reforms. The Bureau of Prisons is the largest Justice Department agency, budgeted for around 37,500 employees and over 150,000 federal prisoners. Carvajal presided over an extraordinary time of increased federal executions and a pandemic that ravaged the system.
After the AP’s story was published in November, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin demanded Carvajal’s firing. Several congressional committees had also been looking into Carvajal and the Bureau of Prisons, questioning employees about misconduct allegations.
In a statement, Durbin, D-Ill., said Carvajal “has failed to address the mounting crises in our nation’s federal prison system, including failing to fully implement the landmark First Step Act,” a bipartisan criminal justice measure passed during the Trump administration that was meant to improve prison programs and reduce sentencing disparities.
“His resignation is an opportunity for new, reform-minded leadership at the Bureau of Prisons,” Durbin said.
Carvajal, 54, was appointed director in February 2020 by then-Attorney General William Barr, just before the COVID-19 pandemic began raging in federal prisons nationwide, leaving tens of thousands of inmates infected with the virus and resulting in 266 deaths.
COVID-19 is again exploding in federal prisons, with more than 3,000 active cases among inmates and staff as of Wednesday, compared with around 500 active cases as of mid-December. All but four BOP facilities are currently operating with drastic modifications because of the pandemic, with many suspending visiting.
Carvajal also oversaw an unprecedented run of federal executions in the waning months of the Trump presidency that were so poorly managed they became virus superspreader events.
Biden administration officials had discussions about whether to remove Carvajal in the spring, after the AP reported that widespread correctional officer vacancies were forcing prisons to expand the use of cooks, teachers, nurses and other workers to guard inmates.
The agency’s staffing levels reached a critical point under Carvajal and officers at several facilities have held protests calling for him to be fired. But Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said recently that she still had confidence in him.
Carvajal, an Army veteran, worked his way up the Bureau of Prisons ranks. He started as a correctional officer at a Texas federal prison in 1992 and was the warden of the federal prison complex in Pollock, Louisiana, before being promoted to regional director in 2016, assistant director in 2018 and director in 2020.
Carvajal’s departure was celebrated by some of his own employees, who say the federal prison system has suffered under his watch.
“Destructive actions by Carvajal have crippled this agency to the point of uncertainty, like a tornado leaving destruction behind,” said Jose Rojas, a leader in the federal correctional officers’ union. “He was a disgrace to our agency. Good riddance.”
I have scores or articles about racism in the courts, but this was a real eye-opener!
Excerpts from the Article:
New research has found that Black Americans who have spent time in jail or prison are 65 percent more likely to die prematurely, even if it’s been years since their incarceration, while having no meaningful impact on the long-term health of white former inmates, reports Health Day.
The findings, published by the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Network, were based on a study of 7,974 individuals who were followed up from 1979 to 2018. “Racial disparities in the association of incarceration with mortality—as well as in rates of exposure to incarceration—may partially explain the lower life expectancy of the non-Hispanic Black population in the U.S.,” the study concluded.
The way prisons are run could have something to do with the increased rate of death, with solitary confinement being shown to harm a person’s long-term health, and simply being housed with so many others in close quarters increasing the spread of infectious diseases.
In addition, prison food is lousy and meager, often prompting inmates to load up on unhealthy junk food from the commissary.
Black people re-entering society after serving their time also must deal with disruptions in their social networks, educational opportunities and ability to access programs like low-income housing and food stamps.
Further, Black people are less likely to have enough money on hand or enough connections to successfully pick themselves up and become a productive member of society, compared with white people.
“If you or your family have some sort of cushion of wealth to fall back on or a family or social network where there is access to opportunity, there’s just much more opportunity to bounce back from a setback like incarceration,” said Dr. Benjamin Bovell-Ammon, a visiting fellow in general internal medicine at Boston Medical Center and lead researcher for the study.
I just got this email from my friend and great lawyer, Steve Hampton, who hears from inmates, their friends and families, every week.
Sounds par for the course at Delaware D O C:
I understand they have another fairly large outbreak of Covid at Vaughn. All visiting has ceased. I still believe that it is the staff introducing the virus on a regular basis. They are still not mandated to get their shots, and “most say they will quit before submitting.” So they have DOC over the barrel, re: staffing.
I have also been informed that medical staffing is down to a skeleton crew of 30%. I don’t even see how meds are getting passed or Codes being responded to.
They had a mental health worker (which requires no education, talent or certification) who “watches the levels” (I, II,III) walk off. (that is considered abandonment and would have resulted in termination) They called her back offered her $45.00 an hour and she returned saying, “money talks”.
Grady and Hampton LLC
6 N. Bradford St.
Dover, DE 19904
Not surprised to see this. They all are bad but Louisiana has one of the worst prison systems in America! Prosecutors and judges need to crack down on the abusers. READ Why Prison Abuse is “Bad Bad Policy”! – Sample Letter to Editor
Excerpts from the Article:
On July 24, 2021, Kermit Parker — also known as inmate No. 129332 — wouldn’t get on his knees. Officers were seeking to restrain Parker, who, along with scores of other incarcerated people, had been on hunger strike to protest solitary confinement conditions at Louisiana’s David Wade Correctional Center in July.
When he wouldn’t kneel, the officers yelled, pepper-sprayed and shackled him, and wrote him up.
The charge? “Aggravated disobedience.”
The punishment? A month and a half in solitary confinement.
The suffocating walls, the eerie darkness, and the rock-hard, stone-cold floor of the 3.5-foot by 8.5-foot cell were familiar to Parker. A year and a half earlier, in January 2020, Parker had been written up for hitting another prisoner with a broomstick at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center. Parker denied the allegations, but he was found guilty in a disciplinary hearing and was sentenced to 90 days in disciplinary segregation — a form of solitary confinement in which he would be locked in his cell for 23 hours a day.
To serve out his time, he was transferred to David Wade, which has been used as a disciplinary camp in the Louisiana prison system and is currently the subject of a class-action lawsuit that claims incarcerated people are kept in restrictive housing for extended periods of time, refused adequate mental health care, and regularly mocked and humiliated by guards. (Lawyers for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, or DPSC, have argued in legal filings that it provides adequate mental health care and uses restrictive housing “appropriately” to “deliver public safety” at David Wade.)
Parker was told that he would be transferred back to Elayn Hunt at the end of his 90 days. But instead, he spent over 18 months in isolation, where he says he was denied medications for his medical conditions, stripped of his possessions — including his wedding ring — and pepper-sprayed and abused by guards.
“Pain was part of my sentence,” Parker wrote in a letter shared with The Intercept and The Lens, adding that it had taken a toll on him. “Unlike the inmates they’ve paralyzed with fear,” he continued, “I will be a voice for the frightened, the beaten, the broken, the forgotten!”
Though his time at David Wade lasted far longer than his disciplinary sentence, the fact that Parker was even given a specific sentence in the first place is the result of a new “disciplinary sanctions matrix” meant to provide a transparent rubric for punishment throughout the Louisiana prison system. Previously, prisoners could be sentenced to what was called “extended lockdown” for indefinite periods of time. Now the matrix mandates a range of punishment for specific disciplinary infractions and supposedly sets upper limits on the use of disciplinary segregation. The reform, developed in partnership with the Vera Institute of Justice — a national criminal justice reform organization — was piloted at two facilities starting in 2018 and introduced across the system in early 2020. It became official department policy in March 2021. In spite of the new policies, many prisoners, like Parker, are still facing indefinite lockdown.
Interviews with 17 people in four Louisiana prisons, reviews of individual disciplinary records, and analyses of limited data provided by DPSC show that Parker’s case is not an anomaly. Despite the limits on solitary confinement outlined in the matrix, the prison system has continued to put people in solitary confinement for indefinite periods of time for minor and ambiguously defined offenses that are often nonviolent. In letters shared with The Intercept and The Lens, more than a dozen people who were transferred to David Wade from Elayn Hunt to serve out disciplinary charges wrote that they were kept in solitary confinement long past their sentences, in dire conditions. The matrix has allowed DPSC to continue doing what it’s always done, they argued, now under the banner of reform.
DPSC records, obtained through public records requests, show that people were being held in segregation at similar rates to before the implementation of the matrix — often for nonviolent charges — and frequently for months on end. They also show that rather than being released to the general population, people are sometimes moved from disciplinary segregation to “preventative segregation.” That form of restrictive housing is not used in response to any specific disciplinary infraction but rather when a classification board determines that a prisoner is “a danger to the good order and discipline of the institution.” Practically, there is little difference between the two.
DPSC has intermittently responded to questions pertaining to the allegations made by incarcerated people and advocates regarding the matrix. In an email, a spokesperson for DPSC called Parker a “continual disciplinary problem,” noting that he has had 280 write-ups, and defended officers’ use of pepper spray as necessary to “quell a disturbance.” Seth Smith, DPSC chief of operations, granted an interview to The Intercept and The Lens in March, during which he answered questions about the matrix.
The agency did not respond to a detailed list of questions regarding the findings of this investigation, sent to them last month, until shortly after this article was published. In an email, Ken Pastorick, a spokesperson, said that the department “has dramatically reduced the overall use of restrictive housing” and that their goal “has always been, and remains, to reduce the usage of restrictive housing.” But he said there have been “growing pains” in the process, citing COVID-19 and “resource challenges on housing and operations.” He also declined to comment further on specific allegations made by incarcerated people.
Publicly, DPSC has admitted that despite the intent of the matrix to provide clear sanctions guidelines, prisoners are frequently held in solitary confinement beyond what is called for due to lack of bed space in other less restrictive settings and inadequate staffing.
Additionally, in spite of an agreement with Vera, Louisiana has provided data on the use of restrictive housing in only two of eight facilities since the disciplinary matrix was implemented. These two facilities represent less than half of the population being held in state prisons. The records also only cover part of the time the matrix was in effect.
In a report following the completion of the partnership in December 2020, Vera said that Louisiana prisons made “notable progress” in reducing the use of solitary but did not provide any quantitative measures showing whether or how much it has in fact declined. (In a similar report in Washington state, Vera described the percentage decreases in use of restrictive housing, the average lengths of stay, and the demographics of people placed in segregation.)
Asked to elaborate on the claim about “progress,” a Vera spokesperson said that the reforms enacted so far provide “a path” toward reducing solitary confinement but that additional reforms are necessary to “achieve substantial and sustainable segregation reduction.” In response to a question about the finding that people are being held in segregation beyond the amount of time they’ve been sentenced to under the matrix, the spokesperson reiterated that DPSC could “continue to implement reforms.”
Some advocates have long been skeptical of Louisiana’s commitment to reform. Haller Jackson, a former attorney who was released from the Louisiana State Penitentiary in June 2020 after serving a five-year sentence, described the policy as “an effort at rebranding.” The matrix was advertised as an effort to “correct a process that was rife with due process abuse and kangaroo courts,” he said. “But as a practical matter, it hasn’t changed a damn thing.”
Louisiana has been called the “prison capital of the world,” incarcerating more people per capita than any other state in a country that imprisons more of its citizens than anywhere else in the world. Its flagship facility is the notorious Louisiana State Penitentiary — a former slave plantation better known as “Angola” in reference to its ancestral farmhands’ homeland.
Inside the walls of these prisons, “egregious and extensive” rates of solitary confinement for arbitrary and inconsistent reasons led to local and national calls for reform in the early 2010s.
In 2017, DPSC partnered with Vera to “develop a bold vision” for reducing solitary confinement. The organization found that between 2015 and 2016, solitary was almost four times as common in Louisiana as the national average, often used for “indeterminate and prolonged periods of time,” with conditions that were “often harmful to the health and safety” of prisoners and disciplinary processes that were “vaguely defined” and “inconsistently enforced.” The collaboration was supported by a $2.2 million grant from the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance to support Vera’s prison reform efforts in 10 states, including Louisiana.
The partnership aimed to “reduce the use of segregation by 25 percent, eliminate its use for specific vulnerable populations, reduce the length of time people spend in segregation, improve conditions in these units, and address any racial and ethnic disparities in the system’s use of segregation.”
That effort culminated in the matrix, a dense, 29-page document that enumerates 30 categories of charges that can result in placement in “disciplinary segregation” or other consequences, such as loss of visitation, wages, days off, and forfeiture of “good time.” (Good time, a form of “meritorious credit” that accrues to incarcerated individuals who avoid behavioral sanctions, can lead to reduced sentences and early release.)
Smith, of DPSC, said that the previous system led to vastly different punishment outcomes for the same violation at different Louisiana prisons: “It was very open-ended possibilities of what could happen.” Another issue, Smith said, was that “the rulebook had no upper limits on segregation, so guys could be put there indefinitely.”
Under that system, solitary could be used for “really about close to anything,” said former Vera senior program associate David Cloud, adding that the disciplinary process was “a hot mess.” (Cloud was Vera’s lead author for a 2019 report that described the collaboration.) There was also no transparency, noted Sara Sullivan, the former Vera project head: “People had no idea why they were in solitary or how long it would be until they got out.” Cloud and Sullivan no longer work at Vera.
The goal of the matrix, Sullivan said, “was to add some consistency and transparency to that process, as well as to reduce the amount of time people were spending in restrictive housing.” But even Vera had concerns about the specifics of the matrix. In its 2019 report, it noted that the matrix “did not explicitly reserve disciplinary segregation as a last resort for only serious acts of violence and permitted months of segregation for a range of minor and nonviolent behaviors.”
Early data suggested that the new policy “may not reduce entries into segregation as significantly as intended,” Vera warned.
Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, said that the policy’s intent is laudable. “On paper, the matrix could be good,” she said, noting that in most prison systems, “we can’t parse out a rubric for why people are sent to solitary and how long they go for.”
But in practice, Louisiana Policy Intended to Reform Solitary Confinement Still Leaves People in Indefinite Lockdownmany of the enumerated offenses are poorly defined, subject to wide interpretation. Those include “work offenses,” such as failure to “perform their assigned tasks with reasonable speed and efficiency,” and “unsanitary practices,” defined as failing to uphold “as presentable a condition as possible under prevailing circumstances.” The final category, “general prohibited behaviors,” is a catchall that includes “any behavior not specifically enumerated herein.” The breadth of the categories creates a lot of room for discretion — and potential for abuse — in the disciplinary process, said Brinkley-Rubinstein. “You can throw your hands up and say, ‘The matrix told me to do it.’”
In interviews, people who’ve been sentenced to disciplinary segregation under the matrix described how it has worked in practice.
Dominick Imbraguglio was sentenced to two days in solitary confinement at Angola in February 2020 after being caught with what officers believed was a lock pick. Inexplicably, those two days turned into more than a year. Then, in May 2021, his confinement was renewed for “original reason of lockdown,” according to his disciplinary record. He has now spent 22 months in disciplinary segregation, said his wife, Krystal Imbraguglio, even though the matrix prescribes a 365-day maximum for time spent in solitary confinement . Imbraguglio has a history of anxiety, depression, and ADHD, and he’s on a daily drug combination of antidepressants, sedatives, and antipsychotics. In recent months, he’s been plagued by phantom voices and visual hallucinations — symptoms that can result from prolonged solitary confinement — but says that he’s been denied treatment. “It’s mental torture, pure and simple,” said Krystal. “Dom’s pain is only scratching the surface to a much larger pile of injustice and corruption here.”
Frederick Ross, who is incarcerated at Angola, was sentenced to three days in solitary confinement in March 2020 for masturbating in his cell (officially sentenced for “sexual offenses” or “disorderly conduct,” defined as “all boisterous behavior”). But despite being “overwhelmed with the segregation,” Ross — who has depression and a history of self-harm — said that he was denied mental health care while in solitary. (In March, a federal judge found that Louisiana prison officials had violated the constitutional rights of people with disabilities, including mental illnesses, by not providing adequate health care at Angola.) Instead, he was placed alone in a “timeout tank” under video surveillance. Later, Ross said, he began to “spiral out of control,” fighting with other people. His segregation was subsequently extended to 395 days, he said.
Even after his sentence was formally finished, Ross said that his charges were “renewed” due to lack of bed space. (Angola’s general population units were over capacity throughout 2020. No 2021 data is available.) As of this writing, he’s spent over 600 consecutive days in segregation. When asked about Ross’s allegations, DPSC admitted that he was in fact kept in restrictive housing due to limited bed space.
Aljerwon Moran was sentenced to 15 days in disciplinary segregation after a violent altercation with another incarcerated person at Angola last November. It was the first time he was disciplined for a violent offense; he said the fight was started by the other person in what he believes to be retaliation for months of self-advocacy against what he called “death-threatening” conditions due to Covid-19. Officially, he was sentenced for “defiance” (defined as efforts to “obstruct, resist, distract, or attempt to elude staff”) and “aggravated disobedience.”
In segregation, he was placed in a cell with soiled linens and an overflowing toilet, he said. After requesting a move, he said that prison guards placed him in a shower, sprayed him with Mace, wrestled him to the ground, nearly suffocated him by putting a knee on his neck, and dragged him by handcuffs. He was subsequently charged $16.55 for the Mace and a torn jumpsuit, appearing in court a week later with a black eye and bruises across his face.
Incarcerated people also say that under the matrix, they were sent to solitary confinement without ever being told why. Early in the coronavirus pandemic, Quierza Lewis spoke out against the Angola administration about Covid safety concerns, including lack of masks, distancing precautions, and testing. In August 2020, Lewis was thrown in solitary confinement for over a month — officials told him that he was under investigation as a “terroristic threat,” he said. He had four disciplinary hearings, his record shows, but he said that he didn’t receive a notice before any of them; that he wasn’t permitted self-representation or witnesses; and that he did not know or ever hear from his counsels — the incarcerated people appointed by the board to act on his behalf. To date, he’s received no documentation explaining his confinement, contrary to DPSC policy. “It’s inhumane, it’s unconstitutional, and it’s a death trap,” Lewis said of the matrix.
According to Louisiana’s contract with Vera, DPSC was supposed to hand over statewide data on the use of segregation from April 2019 through September 2020 so that the organization could analyze the efficacy of the new policy. The Intercept and The Lens made multiple requests for this data; in response, DPSC spokesperson Ken Pastorick said that the department does “not have a document that has that information in it, and we do not create reports with that.”
DPSC’s failure to keep consistent records created obstacles for the Vera team. Sullivan, the former Vera project lead, said that the organization was “very challenged to get administrative data” from the department when the matrix was rolled out. “Louisiana’s data collection procedures are not really centralized — it’s mostly at the facility level, and it’s not particularly consistent between facilities. We got data from some, but not others,” she said. “It has greatly limited our ability to assess the success of the reforms.”
Ultimately, DPSC provided Vera with data from only two facilities: Angola and Raymond Laborde Correctional Center, or RLCC. The provided data covered July 2019 through December 2020 at Angola and June through November 2020 at RLCC. But the state didn’t release any prior-year data that could allow researchers to see whether things had changed at those facilities. Pastorick attributed DPSC’s failure to report the numbers to the COVID-19 pandemic, “which limited time and resources to respond.”
The Intercept and The Lens obtained those records through a public records request and found that over three-quarters of the placements in disciplinary segregation at RLCC were due to nonviolent offenses. They also show that the proportion of people in restrictive housing at that prison hardly budged during the five months captured by the records — and the number of people backlogged remained the same. Those placed in segregation typically stayed between three and five months, the records show.
The records from Angola, meanwhile, reveal that it was exceedingly common for people to be held in restrictive housing beyond the time they were sentenced to under the matrix.
Between January 2020 (when the matrix was first piloted at Angola) and October 2020, the number of people who were supposed to be held in restrictive housing based on their disciplinary sentences outlined in the matrix decreased by about 70, but the number of people held in solitary actually increased. By October, over half of the people being held in restrictive housing at Angola — nearly 200 individuals — were being held beyond their disciplinary sentences. (After this story was published, DPSC said that the number of people currently backlogged at Angola is down to 35.) The majority of those backlogged were waiting to be moved to preventative segregation, where they would still be held in their cells for over 23 hours a day.
The numbers support the allegations made by Kermit Parker and others: Stays in solitary confinement were functionally indefinite.
Yet several incarcerated people who have sought recourse for their experiences under the matrix — and for the putative violation of their rights — said they’ve had no luck. Moran, Lewis, Ross, and others said they filed grievances and appeals that were ignored or rejected for a number of reasons (including having “failed to provide any clear and convincing evidence to substantiate your allegation of cruel and unusual punishment”) or for no clear reason at all.
Moreover, incarcerated people appointed to provide legal counsel to their peers said that they have faced retaliation for filing formal complaints through the prison’s administrative remedy procedure, or ARP. On March 15, 2021, three people — Lawrence Kelly, Ned Biagas, and Warren Holmes — were placed in solitary confinement after a highly ranked official “stormed in [to the legal aid office] wanting to know who had helped file somre [sic] ARP’s that he was holding in his hand,” Kelly wrote in an email. The legal aid office was subsequently closed entirely, Kelly said.
In its report at the end of its collaboration with DPSC, Vera wrote that the data it did receive “is in no way a reflection of segregation across the system.” The report continued: “The department can only address segregation issues if they know how they are using the practice.” The report also notes that under the matrix, “several frequent and non violent infractions can still land incarcerated people in segregation.”
Cloud, who left Vera in December 2019, said hearing that much has remained the same “makes you feel that the problems are much bigger than any bureaucratic tweaks we can make.” “I guess I’m really not that shocked,” he added. “It’s like that stupid adage: Shit’s changed, but nothing’s changed.”
No shit Sherlock! I sent an email to Ms. Burke, encouraging her to keep suing these out of control S O Bs! I have dozens of articles like this one about SCI on my website.
Excerpts from the Article:
A lawsuit filed Friday on behalf of two men who claim they were unjustifiably beaten by officers at Sussex Correctional Institution aims to investigate what the filing describes as an “ongoing and egregious pattern of the use of excessive force” against people housed in the prison.
The lawsuit was submitted to U.S. District Court in Wilmington on behalf of William “Bill” Davis and Isaac Montague. Both claim they were beaten as pretrial detainees and that officers deployed pepper spray directly into their nose and mouth as they were held down in two separate incidents this fall.
“Justice? I think they definitely need to be charged criminally because eventually they are going to kill somebody,” said Davis, a resident of Bear and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit follows other litigation against the Delaware Department of Correction in which people imprisoned by the state claim that officers engage in violence and other violations of basic rights with impunity.
Both Davis and Montague are being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware. It is the first time the organization has represented prisoners in recent years and the first such lawsuit since hiring Susan Burke, who took over as the chapter’s legal director earlier this year.
“We intend to do a lot of prison litigation,” Burke said. “The conditions are deplorable. We were particularly concerned in this case about the state violence and we look forward to significant changes.”
Davis was booked into the Georgetown-area prison, known as SCI, on a Thursday night in October due to an outstanding warrant related to missing court on traffic charges. The next morning, he appeared at a court hearing via video link from the prison and a judge ordered him released pending the processing of his case, he said.
But the prison didn’t release him, so he remained locked up at SCI through the weekend.
“I figured well, whatever, you are south of the ditch and things move a little slower down there sometimes, you know what I mean?” 49-year-old Davis said in an interview Friday.
He said he spent the weekend sleeping on a mattress on the floor of a cell that housed three others.
The following Monday, he inquired with officers about his custody status. Later that morning, he received paperwork that indicated incorrectly that he was to be kept in lockup.
He said he began to curse at nobody in particular as he walked away and was summoned by Officer Kirk Neal, who he said began to curse and shout at him. “They are prison guards; they have a job to do,” Davis said. “I can appreciate that, but you have to treat a man like a human being as well. My father didn’t even speak to me the way that man spoke to me.”
Davis said he didn’t take an “aggressive stance” but told Neal he didn’t need to shout at him.
“I tell him, ‘Look, I’m standing right here; all this screaming is not necessary, my man,” Davis recalled.
He said Neal grabbed him by his arm and head and asked him where he lived as he started walking him down the tier. He told Neal that he lives in Bear, not thinking the officer was referring to which cell Davis was being held in.
“That was not the answer he was looking for,” Davis said.
Davis and the lawsuit claim Neal first slammed him against a wall and then to the ground. “As I’m on my way to the ground, one of the other guards, he was coming across that tier like a linebacker,” Davis said. “He couldn’t wait to get to me.”
He said eventually three officers pummeled him as he was pressed against the ground. He said the officers were shouting “stop resisting” as they attacked him. “I told him, ‘I’m not resisting,’ as I’m getting punched in the head and my head is getting bounced off the floor,” Davis said.
He was on his stomach with an officer’s knee in his back when that officer took his head, turned it sideways and instructed an officer identified as Evanglett — and named as a defendant in the lawsuit — to “mace him.”
He said the officer stuck the pepper spray nozzle directly in his nose and fired.
“Imagine taking a glass bottle, smashing it up and grinding it up and snorting that up your nose,” Davis said, recounting the sensation. “Then times that by 1,000. I felt it burn for days.”
He said the officers tried to spray him a second time but the nozzle was knocked off.
He was then lifted by his cuffs and taken to a different part of the building. He said he felt like he was dying and was “half choking to death.” He said officers responded by putting a bag over his head to contain any spit from his coughing.
“One guard, he was kind enough to open the door for me, but that was only so he could put his leg out, take me and throw me face down on the floor after just beating me half to death,” Davis said.
Shortly after, he was taken for what he described as a cursory check at the infirmary where his blood pressure and pulse were measured and no other care was rendered.
Later that day, his mother was able to sort out the problem with his release, which he said stemmed from someone involved with the courts failing to fax the appropriate paperwork to the prison. He was released that night, his eye blacked and his head “all knotted up,” and he went to the hospital. There, he was diagnosed with a concussion and severe muscle spasm in his back, he said. He has a coming doctor’s appointment to address ankle pain.
“My head still doesn’t feel right to this day,” he said.
Davis didn’t know this until later, but there had been a similar such incident in the same area of that prison involving Officer Neal the month before.
In September, Isaac Montague was ordered back into his cell by Neal. Montague’s lawsuit said Neal followed him back to his cell, shouting at him. The lawsuit claims Neal stood in the doorway so his cell door could not close and signaled to other officers that there was a disturbance.
Montague claims he put himself stomach first on the ground with hands behind his back at this point. The lawsuit claims Neal assaulted Montague anyway, kneeing him in the side of the face as other officers joined in the assault.
The lawsuit claims Montague’s dreadlocks were pulled from his head, that officers struck him in the face with handcuffs, leaving a permanent scar, and that both Neal and Officer Ryan Maddox called him a “racist name.”
He also claims Maddox inserted a pepper spray nozzle into his mouth and sprayed it inside of his body.
The attack left him unable to immediately walk. He was taken on a gurney to the infirmary where his face was “patched up.” He claims he was given only ice in response to subsequent sick calls, the lawsuit states. The lawsuit states Montague spent the next three weeks in “the hole,” a slang term for the harshest part of the prison where prisoners are housed as punishment. His lawsuit claims his shoulder remains injured. He remains incarcerated at SCI, according to the lawsuit.
His lawsuit states that attempts to complain of the beating through normal prison grievance channels were “ignored or disregarded.”
Truman Mears, warden of the prison, is also named as a defendant. The lawsuit states he would have known about Montague’s beating and failed to take disciplinary actions which would have spared Davis his assault a month later.
The lawsuit will seek to extract video from the Department of Correction showing both of the assaults. The filing also states it is “likely” the litigation will uncover further failures to properly supervise the responsible officers.
“They are the type that will kill you down there,” Davis said. “They have carte blanche to do whatever they want.”
The lawsuit makes claims of constitutional violations while seeking punitive and compensatory damages.
This is good news indeed. Several years ago I organized a successful boycott of prison phones in DE due to high rates. This situation was worse. And note, as with so many prison contractors, these defendants lied like hell!
Excerpts from the Article:
The country’s largest provider of telecommunications services to jails and prisons has agreed to end contentious litigation over non-refunded deposits made by its customers.
Global Tel*Link Corp. will establish a $67 million settlement fund to reimburse customers whose deposits were taken by the company from April 2011 to this past October after being deemed inactive, a court motion filed Monday said. The company is also agreeing to change its policies governing inactive accounts so its customers can reclaim unused funds.
The settlement must be approved by U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg in Atlanta, who has presided over the class-action litigation. A year ago, Totenberg issued a strongly worded order in which she sanctioned GTL for falsely stating that its customers had been fully advised of the terms of their contracts.
The lead plaintiff in the case is Decatur attorney Ben Githieya. In March 2014, while a member of the DeKalb County’s public defender office, Githieya set up a GTL account with a prepaid deposit. But after a span of 90 days in which Githieya did not use the phone system, GTL classified his account as inactive and converted the unused balance to its own use. The lawsuit contended GTL unjustly enriched itself by doing this to thousands of its customers over the past decade.
“We’re fortunate to reach this point,” Githieya said Monday. “The settlement will allow people in compromised positions inside jails and prisons and who have only one mode of communicating with their loved ones to no longer be victims of corporate greed.”
According to its website, the company provides communications services to 1.2 million people held in nearly 2,000 correctional facilities in all 50 states.
“From start to finish, we had to fight for every inch of ground we won in the case,” co-counsel Mike Caplan and Brandon Waddell said in a statement. “We are proud to have achieved a settlement that will provide full refunds to class members and establish important protections for GTL’s future customers.”
In a court filing Monday, Caplan said GTL took in more than $96 million from inactive accounts over a 10 ½-year period ending in October.
“The settlement will allow people in compromised positions inside jails and prisons and who have only one mode of communicating with their loved ones to no longer be victims of corporate greed.”
A key issue was whether GTL’s automated voice recording heard by new customers fully informed them about the company’s use-it-or-lose-it policy. Throughout much of the litigation, GTL repeatedly said its automated script told customers that “balances that remain unused may expire after 90 days,” Totenberg said in her sanctions order. The judge noted that lawyers representing the plaintiffs found out that GTL had removed its “may expire” statement from its automated system in early 2014 — more than a year before the lawsuit was even filed.
That was “a misrepresentation that boils down to a lie,” Totenberg said, finding it “poisoned” the entire litigation process. “GTL insisted, over and over again in different variants, that this lie was the truth.”
In the proposed settlement, GTL will extend its inactivity policy from 90 days to 180 days, the court motion said. It will also fully disclose this to its customers and give them at least 30 days’ advance notice before taking money from their accounts.
Every week at some prison in America, settlements and judgements due to abuse like this cost YOU millions of dollars! Money needlessly spent, which could have been avoided if D O C staff and their contractors just did what they legally are required to do!
Excerpts from the Article:
Georgia’s prison system has agreed to pay $2.2 million to the family of a transgender woman who died while at a men’s prison four years ago. Jenna Mitchell hung herself on Dec. 4, 2017 while serving a 10-year sentence at the Valdosta State Prison.
According to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia on her family’s behalf, prison staff ignored multiple threats of suicide and failed to keep Mitchell safe.
The settlement was a record-setting wrongful death settlement in Georgia’s prison system according to David Shanies, the civil rights attorney who represented the family.
But Mitchell’s mother, Sheba Maree, told CNN earlier this week that, “the financial settlement is barely nudging any kind of justice…
“I’d rather have my child … nothing will ever, ever, ever, ever take the place of my child. To me, this is blood money, and I will not stop until the people involved with her death are held responsible,” she said.
Mitchell, 25, “had a history of mental illness, was suffering from gender identity issues, and had engaged in a pattern of suicidal and self-harming behavior,” her mother said, according to the suit.
Two days before Mitchell hung herself with bedsheets in her cell, her mother received a letter in which her daughter said she was going to pull a “suicide stunt.”
At that time she had been housed in solitary confinement for more than two weeks, NBC News reported.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the launch of an investigation into the treatment conditions of inmates housed in prisons in Georgia.
The announcement came after an increase in homicides within the state’s correctional system.
The probe is looking into whether the state is offering inmates “reasonable protection from physical harm at the hands of other prisoners,” while focusing on violations by the Georgia Department of Corrections under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act — the rights of prisoners guaranteed under the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
The department also reaffirmed its commitment to investigate “whether Georgia provides lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex prisoners reasonable protection from sexual abuse by other prisoners and by staff” — by expanding on an existing federal inquiry started in 2016.
In April, Ashley Diamond, a transgender woman who was also being held in a men’s prison in Georgia, told a judge that she had been sexually assaulted 16 times — including three times by Georgia Department of Corrections staff. She has also been denied lifesaving gender-dysphoria care, according to a lawsuit.