Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Posts Tagged ‘pretrial detention

ACLU: Louisiana Detainee’s Psychosis and Injuries Went Untreated for Five Months

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From the ACLU of Louisiana:

[George] Mason was found incompetent to stand trial and was transferred to Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System in January 2010. He arrived in a filthy jumpsuit with a strip of rag tied around his right wrist. A stench issued from his wrist which appeared infected and which emitted a green discharge. The rag was embedded in Mr. Mason’s arm, with skin growing over the rag in places. Mr. Mason also had an ulcerous wound on the right side of his back and fractured ribs. These wounds were obviously long standing and had been left untreated during his months of imprisonment.

Miranda Tait, Attorney with the Advocacy Center states, “Mr. Mason was clearly unable to care for himself or to differentiate illusion from reality. For 5 months, he lived a nightmare locked in a cell 23 hours a day, unable to communicate with anyone or ask for help.”

Mason’s niece has filed suit on his behalf against Tangipahoa Parish — you can read the complaint here (PDF) — alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause (which governs conditions-of-confinement cases for pretrial detainees, rather than the Eighth Amendment), as well as state-law negligence. Here, to me, is the most telling part of the Statement of Facts: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by sara

February 9, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Ninth Circuit: Sheriff Joe-Approved Cross-Sex Strip Searches Are Unconstitutional

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An Arizona pretrial detainee’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated when he was strip-searched by a female guard, the Ninth Circuit ruled last week in a sharply divided en banc decision. The case arose out of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s notorious Maricopa County jail system. The San Francisco Chronicle‘s Bob Egelko sums up:

[Charles] Byrd was ordered to strip down to his shorts – colored pink, as required for all inmates by Joe Arpaio, the county’s hard-line sheriff – and was searched by a female cadet from a training academy. She said she had taken no more than 20 seconds, while Byrd estimated the time at a minute. No contraband was found.

“The right to be free from strip searches and degrading body inspections is … basic to the concept of privacy,” Judge Johnnie Rawlinson said in the majority opinion, quoting an earlier ruling.

No emergency existed, Rawlinson said, because male guards were present and could have conducted the search. She said the “humiliating event” was aggravated by the presence of onlookers, one of whom videotaped the search.

Dissenting Judge N. Randy Smith said the cadet had conducted the search professionally and, although it was “unsavory to our sensibilities,” the action met legal standards.

More reporting here from CNN; the full opinion can be downloaded here (PDF). For some background on Ninth Circuit case law on jailhouse strip searches generally, see my earlier post here.

Denver DA Won’t File Charges against Corrections Deputies Responsible for Inmate’s Death

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The indispensable Solitary Watch has been reporting from/on Colorado lately. Here’s their latest story:

As we were preparing to make our recent trip to Colorado, the district attorney in Denver decided not to file criminal charges against the group of corrections deputies who, according to the coroner, were responsible for the death of an inmate in a local jail.

Marvin Booker, who was preacher and homeless, was 56 years old. He was 5-foot-5 and weighed 135 pounds, and suffered from emphysema and an enlarged heart. Back in July, Booker was arrested on the misdemeanor charge of possession of drug paraphernalia, and he was waiting to be booked when a conflict arose. All of it was caught on video, which the state refuses to make public. DA Mitch Morrissey said in a statement that Booker refused to follow an order from a female deputy, then cursed her and “violently resisted.” …

But DA Morrissey insists that Booker alone was responsible for his own demise. “Mr. Booker’s actions and choices resulted in his death,” he said in a statement, suggesting that unruly behavior by a prisoner justifies a use of force sufficient to kill him. “Had he complied, had he given them his arms, had he gone to the holding cell when he was asked to,” Morrissey said, ”this never would have happened.”

So, here’s one reason of many to end the War on Drugs: police wouldn’t be able to arrest and book people on charges like “misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.” In the meantime, take note: if you’re ever arrested in Denver, show anything less than total physical submission to the guards who are booking you, and apparently it’s your own fault if four guards lay on top of you and a fifth Tasers you, and you stop breathing and die. More from DA Morrissey: “Arrestee compliance is not optional, it is mandatory.” Combine that stance on the part of state officials with the Supreme Court’s position that pretextual or spiteful arrests on petty charges don’t violate the Constitution, and you have a pretty terrifying state of affairs.

Leaders from Denver’s black community have called for an FBI investigation.

Written by sara

October 18, 2010 at 9:30 am

ACLU Files Motion for Protective Order for L.A. County Jail Inmates

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The ACLU of Southern California, which has long been involved in litigation over conditions in the Los Angeles County Jail, filed a motion earlier this week in federal court seeking a protective order for inmates who report grievances. The motion alleges a pattern of violent retaliation by prison guards against these inmates, ranging from beatings and stompings to broken bones.

L.A. sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore says the ACLU is exaggerating:

“What the ACLU is characterizing does not occur in men’s central jail,” Whitmore said. “The judge that oversees it toured the jail recently without condemnation.”

Whitmore said “regrettably from time to time there are physical altercations,” but added that every use of force is thoroughly investigated and said the Office of Independent Review, which monitors the department, called the jail system the most transparent in the nation.

The L.A. County jail system is the largest in the nation, with some 20,000 inmates. Men’s Central Jail, which is the facility at issue in the protective order motion, holds about 4,500 men, of which about 80% are pretrial detainees. Last week two inmates committed suicide in the facility.

Related news: L.A. Sheriff Lee Baca is calling for an expansion of the ICE Secure Communities program.

Written by sara

October 12, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Growing Trend: Jails Around the Country Adopting Postcard-only Policies

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I’ve noted a couple of lawsuits against jails that have adopted postcard-only policies for inmate correspondence. The Los Angeles Times reports that this is a nationwide trend that’s now spread from Joe Arpaio’s Maricopa County jails to at least seven states, including most recently, California’s Ventura County jail:

[Ventura County jail official Brent] Morris said that jail officials followed the emerging policy elsewhere through professional associations. They saw it as a way of both cutting security risks and freeing up staff. Two employees now spend most of their shifts sorting through mail flowing to and from 1,500 inmates.

“When you balance it with the challenge of budget and staffing, it seemed like a prudent thing to institute,” he said.

But for Los Angeles County, the tradeoff isn’t worth it, said Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department.

“We believe the mail coming to inmates is as important as their phone calls,” he said. “If we were to limit the mail, we believe we would see a rise in mental challenges, maybe even violence.”

UPDATE: Via Twitter, here’s a response from Just Detention International, which advocates for prison rape victims: “this could be problematic for organizations like JDI. We send important packets 2 survivors daily.”

ACLU Sues (Another) Colorado Jail over Postcard-only Policy

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Back in August, the ACLU of Colorado filed suit against the Boulder County Jail over its postcard-only policy for inmates. This week, the same organization announced a second lawsuit against the El Paso County Jail in Colorado Springs over a similar policy. While the Boulder sheriff defended his policy on safety grounds — as a response to an incident in which two inmates sent letters to area children — the El Paso sheriff has appealed to more of a cost-benefit explanation. From the Gazette:

The policy, implemented last month, says prisoners can only use the small cards sold for 50 cents by the jail. [Sheriff Terry] Maketa has described the new policy as a money-saving move that makes the overloaded jail mail room more efficient.

It also makes it easier for jailers to screen inmate mail for illegal plots, including escape plans. Inmate letters dealing with legal matters are still allowed.

Ultimately, both policies might be traced to the example of neighboring Arizona, and specifically to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was among the first sheriffs in the country to require jail inmates to use postcards — namely, postcards bearing his picture. Whatever the motivation, jails in several states have recently issued postcard-only policies, including Florida (as I noted here), Oregon, and most recently, Washington State (as noted in this editorial, praising the change, from Spokane’s local newspaper).

Written by sara

September 15, 2010 at 7:17 am

Widespread Torture and Abuse in Iraqi Prison System

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USA Today summarizes the findings of a new Amnesty International report:

About 30,000 detainees are currently in Iraqi custody, although the exact number has not been released, the report stated. Prisoners are often housed in crowded conditions, leading to health problems, and they sometimes go years without seeing the inside of a courtroom, Amnesty said. …

Amnesty International researchers detailed a litany of abuse, including suspending people by their limbs, beating them with cables and pipes, removing toenails with pliers and piercing the body with drills.

Hundreds of people — including some facing the death penalty — have been convicted based on confessions extracted through torture, the report said.

The vast majority of the detainees are Sunnis suspected of helping the insurgency; hundreds are Shiites accused of being part of the Mahdi Army, an outlawed militia run by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has fought U.S. and Iraqi security forces.

Last month, the U.S. military released thousands of its own prisoners into Iraqi custody (i.e., into these conditions), completing the near-total handover of prison responsibilities to the Iraqi government. However, Reuters reports that U.S. wardens continue to guard about 200 detainees, “including al Qaeda militants and henchmen of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.”

Written by sara

September 13, 2010 at 7:40 am

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