By Carrie Wilkinson Although Prison Legal News and its parent organization, the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), are best known for litigation involving censorship by prison and jail officials, HRDC also co-counsels select other cases, mainly involving wrongful deaths on behalf of prisoners’ surviving family members. As detailed in this issue’s cover story, one of
By Matt Clarke / Prison Legal News
Two studies by the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin found that juveniles held in Texas jails while awaiting trial as adults are often isolated with no access to education programs, and that violence remains prevalent in state juvenile facilities in spite of recent reforms.
Texas’ juvenile system, which has been renamed the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD), was rocked by months of violence during 2012 in the agency’s six secure facilities – especially the Giddings State School and Corsicana Residential Treatment Center. The spike in violence echoed widespread reports of abuse and misconduct in 2007 that resulted in substantial changes in the state’s juvenile justice system.
For the first study by the LBJ School of Public Affairs (LBJ), 41 jails were asked to complete a survey related to incarcerated juveniles, their access to programs and whether they were separated from adult prisoners. The results indicated there were few prisoners under the age of 17 held in Texas jails – only 34 during the survey months of October and November 2011. The survey also showed that in 30 of the jails – roughly three-fourths – adults and juveniles were incarcerated separately. However, the report noted that juveniles might come into contact with adult prisoners during showers, recreation or meals.
“National research indicates that juveniles in adult facilities are five times more likely to be victims of sexual abuse and rape than youths who are kept in the juvenile system,” according to the report.
On May 7, 2012, two days before the LBJ report was released, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued a ruling requiring jails to separate adult and juvenile prisoners.
When you put any human being in a box and put others in charge, you create an environment that is ripe for abuse without strict oversight. Unfortunately, because prisons are supposed to be a punishment for law breakers (and those confined therein have left victims in their wake), there is often very little sympathy for inmates, and that means that millions of inmates are placed in prisons that are matrices for abuse.
Female prison inmates are especially prone to abuse from prison guards and other prison employees, because it is more difficult for them to defend themselves against such abuses. The United States Department of Justice is currently investigating one of the worst cases of this abuse at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Alabama, where rapes and harassment have been common occurrence for almost two decades.
Years of Abuse in Alabama Prison for Women
It is estimated that over 33 percent of the female prisoners at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women have been forced into sexual relations with employees of the prison, often for basic necessities such as toilet paper. The New York Times reports that this type of abuse has not only been active for over 18 years, but that prison officials knew of the abuse early on and did nothing to put a stop to it. They simply turned a blind eye.
While abusive prison employees are, and have been, an ongoing problem at the prison, local lawmakers argue that there are three other reasons responsible for these abhorrent conditions:
Recently, a video was released that reveals relentless brutality in the Denver City jail by correctional officers. The inmate, Mr. Moreno, is mentally-ill, suicidal, and the victim of extreme violence that is unnecessary.
Correctional officers attempt to control Moreno by forcing him to strip down to nothing and placing him in a suicidal garment appropriately named a “turtle suit” that is too small for Moreno. The sardonic purpose of the suit is to protect Moreno from self-harm. Moreno has been evicted of any self-pride or dignity he might have left. He is powerless.
The 45-minute footage — obtained September of 2013 by The Colorado Independent through an open records request — depicts Moreno sitting on a cold cement bench that doubles as a bed inside an isolation cell not much bigger than a dog kennel. Moreno’s 45-minutes of hell on tape begin with him bewilderedly looking around the cell. Immobilized and stifled from the combination of constricted attire and cramped quarters, Moreno fidgets with his “turtle suit” and mimics a caged animal by pacing back in forth and shifting his body from side to side. His only means for expressing his pent up anger and frustration is to bang his head against the cement cinder-block wall.
Eight officers assemble outside the cell with a restraint-chair that is supposedly designed to stop Moreno from harming himself. Not knowing what else to do, Moreno resumes hitting his head on the cell wall. After several minutes a correctional officer asks Moreno to stop pounding his head against the wall — Moreno’s only possible response to the emotional horror he is going through. Moreno lets the officer know he doesn’t care about anything and resorts to yelling obscenities.
By Christopher Zoukis It is important to remember that, even while incarcerated, inmates retain an inviolable set of rights: the right to dignity, health, life, and freedom from cruel, unusual, inhumane, or degrading treatment. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) continues to violate these rights of their inmates by subjecting them to extreme heat
The Alabama Supreme Court has held that a third party to a lawsuit may be made a party when a counterclaim is filed. The Court also held a sheriff named as a defendant was not entitled to qualified immunity on a federal claim in her individual capacity, but was entitled to immunity on a federal official capacity claim and state law claims.
The case involved a lawsuit filed by Scott Cotney, an administrator at the Clay County Jail, against former jail guard Phillip E. Green and prisoners Anthony Haywood and Daniel Hall, alleging defamation, slander, libel, invasion of privacy, negligence and wantonness. The claims resulted from a report filed by Green, Haywood and Hall with the Alabama Department of Corrections, claiming that Cotney had used his position to sexually abuse or assault Haywood and Hall while they were held at the jail.
Haywood and Hall filed a counterclaim against Cotney for violations of their Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. They also filed counterclaims against the Clay County Commission and Sheriff Dorothy “Jean Dot” Alexander, in her official and individual capacities. They alleged Alexander “had knowledge of [Cotney’s] unlawful acts … and permitted the abuse to occur,” and made the same claims against her as those against Cotney in addition to a claim of negligent supervision.
More than 130 female prisoners at two California facilities were sterilized over a four-year period without required state approval, and some of the women have claimed they were pressured, harassed and even tricked into signing forms agreeing to the sterilizations. The procedure, known as tubal ligation, involves severing a woman’s fallopian tubes to prevent eggs from reaching the uterus; the operation requires general anesthesia and is considered permanent.
The surgeries were performed from 2006 to 2010 at outside medical facilities by doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for California Correctional Health Care Services – the federal court-appointed receiver over CDCR medical care – said the procedures violated state regulations that restrict tubal ligations not deemed medically necessary. They did not, however, violate state law.
According to public records, doctors were paid $147,460 to perform the sterilizations on female prisoners from the California Institution for Women and Valley State Prison in Chowchilla. The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), which first reported the story on July 7, 2013, initially identified 148 prisoners who were sterilized from 2006 to 2010, but that number was later revised downward to 132 after a further review indicated some of the women had been counted twice. “Perhaps 100 more” prisoners were reportedly sterilized between 1997 and 2006.
Although they signed consent forms, several of the women complained they were pressured into agreeing to the procedures by medical staff and doctors, especially the OB-GYN at Valley State Prison, Dr. James Heinrich.
In September 2010, following an eight-day jury trial, former Gallatin County Sheriff Raymond Martin was convicted of 15 criminal counts concerning the distribution of marijuana, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, and attempting to have two witnesses killed. In January 2011, he was sentenced to two life sentences, plus 10 years to be served consecutively in federal prison.
Mr. Martin appealed the sentences to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that the sentence was unreasonable. In August 2012, the court affirmed the convictions, but vacated the sentences due to a sentencing guidelines calculation error. The case was remanded back to the district court for resentencing.
While awaiting resentencing, Mr. Martin allegedly was caught in possession of, and attempting to smuggle, prescription medications into the Williamson County Jail, where he was being held pending his resentencing. Evidently, his crime spree was not yet complete.
With the new information at hand concerning the attempted smuggling and possession of prescription medications, a new sentence was imposed in conjunction with the remand from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Mr. Martin was again sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment, plus an additional consecutive term of 10 years in prison. He was further ordered to forfeit $76,090 and his residence.
On Friday, February 7, 2014, approximately 800 prisoners at the Geguti prison in the ex-Soviet state of Georgia staged a hunger strike over their conditions of confinement, in particular physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the prison guards and poor medical care. Since then, the severity of the prison protests has only increased,