Families can claim damages after detention ruling

Armley Today
Published on Thu Jan 13 18:07:45 GMT 2011

Failed asylum seekers have won the right to claim damages which could run into thousands of pounds after the High Court ruled three young children were held at an immigration detention centre in Bedfordshire unlawfully.

The ruling was a legal victory for the mothers – Reetha Suppiah, 37, a Malaysian nurse, and Sakinat Bello, 25, a Nigerian national – who brought the legal challenge.

Both said a lack of safeguards at Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire, the UK’s main removal centre for women and minors, led to their children suffering distress and trauma.

Mr Justice Wyn Williams, sitting in London, ruled the Government’s current policy on detaining families with children pending deportation was not unlawful, but – in these cases – it had not been applied by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) “with the rigour it deserves”.

As a result, “the claimants were detained unlawfully from the time they were taken into custody until their release” and they were entitled to claim damages.

Read the rest here.

Inmate’s family sues North Las Vegas over jail death

From: Las Vegas Sun
By Steve Green
Dec. 16, 2010
The city of North Las Vegas along with police and jail officials were sued Wednesday over the 2009 killing of a jail inmate whom attorneys say was at risk of assault by other prisoners because he was suspected of a sex crime involving children.

Sergio Morales, father of Sergio Hugo Morales-Paredes and administrator of his estate, filed suit in U.S. District Court for Nevada over the death of his son, allegedly at the hands of another prisoner.

The suit charges wrongful death, negligence and that the civil rights of Morales-Paredes were violated when Morales-Paredes was placed in a cell in the North Las Vegas Detention center with his alleged killer, Armando Munoz-Ornelas, 25 at the time of the incident and whom the lawsuit described as a “violent detainee.”

Attorneys for the father and estate of Morales-Paredes, 31 at the time of his death, said in the lawsuit Morales-Paredes was a pre-trial detainee incarcerated as a misdemeanor offender and that he was the victim of an “execution/murder” at the jail.

Read the rest here.

Va. Muslim inmate case settled

Washington Post, 11/24/2010
By the Associated Press

Virginia has settled a lawsuit filed by a Muslim inmate who claimed the prisons system violated his rights by refusing him an Islamic newspaper and religious programs.

Red Onion State Prison inmate Kelvin Brown, 37, sued the warden and other prison officials after numerous issues of the weekly Islamic newspaper The Final Call were banned beginning in 2009.

The Department of Corrections bans material it says promotes violence or is detrimental to safety. Brown, who is serving a life sentence for robbery and other charges, was not told why the issues were banned.

In the settlement, the state agreed to allow inmates to receive the previously banned issues and to offer an explanation if other issues are banned in the future. It also agreed to allow Islamic television programming and written materials to be distributed.

It’s the third recent case in which the state has settled a lawsuit or been told by a judge to revise its literature policies.

In September, the state settled a case involving a ban on issues of Prison Legal News, a magazine that reports on prisoner rights and criminal justice issues. That same month, a federal judge declared a policy unconstitutional that denied inmates access to classic literature with sexually explicit passages but allows them to receive Playboy magazine.

“The Virginia Department of Corrections has been out of control when it comes to censoring literature coming into the prisons,” said Jeff Fogel, the attorney in both The Final Call and Prison Legal News lawsuits.

Fogel said despite the recent success in challenging the policy, the problem persists.

“This problem will not be solved until the Department of Corrections fully realizes that it has no right to impose political or religious orthodoxy,” he said.

Department of Corrections spokesman Larry Traylor said the agency does not comment on litigation.

According to the lawsuit, Brown had been a member of the Nation of Islam since 1993 and had subscribed to the newspaper since then as he served time at various state prisons.

At Red Onion, inmates are held in their cells 23 hours a day with limited contact to other prisoners. There are no religious services or programs devoted to the Muslim faith.

Between January and May 2009, 22 issues of The Final Call were banned, and virtually every issue since then has been prohibited.

Brown argued that because he was never told why the issues were banned, he could not appeal the decision of the Publication Review Committee.

Read the rest here.

Nev. Board OKs $450K Settlement in Inmate Death

Nevada board OKs $450K settlement in lawsuit over ex-Coasters manager’s death in prison

Court Finds Part of Alabama’s Community Notification Act Unconstitutional

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld a ruling by a circuit court judge which struck down part of Alabama’s sex offender statute, the Community Notification Act (“CNA”). The appeals court concluded that the CNA unconstitutionally discriminates against the poor and punishes people solely for the status of being homeless, in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

The Court’s decision came in the case of an indigent prisoner who was required by the statute to provide corrections officials with an address that complied with the CNA’s strict residency requirements 45 days before he completed his sentence, or face new charges. The prison did not provide listings of rental homes or motels where he might be allowed to live, and prison rules forbid him from using the telephone or internet to find a home.

Without a home to go to and without money to pay for housing, his only option was to send out letters asking for a place to live in exchange for work. Because he was unable to locate housing before his prison sentence ended, as soon as he completed his seven-year prison term he was immediately re-arrested, placed in jail, and indicted for failure to comply with the CNA, which is a felony.

A Montgomery County trial judge dismissed the indictment and declared the CNA unconstitutional because it punishes people for being poor and unable to find housing. The State appealed. In ruling that the CNA violated the prisoner’s constitutional rights because it created consequences for poor people that do not apply to those with resources, the Court of Criminal Appeals noted that the “cycle of incarceration is potentially endless for the indigent homeless sex offender – and ultimately each would be incarcerated for life as habitual felony offenders.”

This situation is not uncommon in Alabama, where the State has been prosecuting the poor and homeless for failure to comply with the CNA since the law was amended in 2005. Compounding the challenges for poor people finding housing from prison is the fact that the CNA prohibits anyone classified as a sex offender from residing within 2000 feet of a school, daycare center, or college, a provision which remains in place.

Let them read! or Thou Shalt Read?

October 08, 2010
“Throw the books at inmates”: HICKS: Throw the books at inmates
By Brian Hicks
Friday, October 8, 2010
Post and Courier

OK, there are probably a few things you don’t want inmates in your jail reading.

For instance, the J. Campbell Bruce classic “Escape From Alcatraz” or other how-to tomes like “How To Bake a Cake With a File In It … And Not Get Caught.” And don’t ever let them get their hands on “Rioting for Dummies.”

Come to think of it, it’s probably not a good idea to let ’em have Harlequin romance novels either.

But Berkeley County may have gone too far.

According to a lawsuit filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union, Berkeley jail officials will allow prisoners to read only soft-bound copies of the Bible. The suit was filed on behalf of Prison Legal News, which according to the lawsuit is an inmate-subscriber magazine.

As a result of this ban, a Moncks Corner man named Thomas Dalton was denied access to such articles as “Appalling Prison and Jail Food Leaves Prisoners Hungry for Justice” and “Judges Benched for Personal Misconduct.” That’s just criminal.

Of course, the real losers here are Berkeley County taxpayers. They’ve got to pay to defend this Draconian rule.

Reading is good

Everybody is all about the Constitution, until it comes to prisoner rights. But fact is, South Carolina prisons have entire libraries — yeah, just like in “The Shawshank Redemption,” but without the guy with the bird.

The Department of Corrections’ policy is to “provide library materials and services that provide inmates with the opportunity to increase their academic skills, allow for personal development, and engage in recreational reading.”

See, that’s the idea behind supplying reading material to prisoners, and most places share that philosophy. The Charleston County Detention Center has books to loan, and allows inmates to buy newspapers and magazines if they want them. Reasonable enough.

But Dalton, on his extended vacation from society, could not keep up with news he could use or study to learn a skill that might be a more honest way to earn a living than, say, credit card fraud (which he did time for in 1998).

And since the Bible says nothing specifically about Thou Shalt Not Defraud the IRS, Berkeley County left Dalton woefully unprepared to learn from his current 10-year mistake.

Instead, all he got was an idea to smote Berkeley County.

TV, not so much

It seems that one of the biggest problems in this country is that folks don’t read enough. They let talk show hosts do their thinking for them and get their morality off TV and movies.

Read the rest here.


Borrowed via: Real Cost of Prisons

Request by a prisoner at ESP for help to get the Grievance Process sorted (in a Class Action Lawsuit)

This is an issue with a request that has a deadline : it has been expanded to November 24th 2010

Request by a prisoner at ESP for Affidavits and Grievances by other prisoners for a class-action lawsuit concerning AR 740 the Grievance Process

(We are posting this again to attract attention from family and friends of prisoners at Ely State Prison).

On May 11, 2010, Jeremy Allen Crozier filed a lawsuit against Defendants Jim Gibbons, Catherine Cortez-Masto, Ross Miller, Howard Skolnik, James Cox, E.K. McDaniel, Debra Brooks, Renee Baker and several caseworkers at Ely State Prison for Deficiencies in the Inmate Grievance Procedure, known as Administrative Regulation #740.

Furthermore, Plaintiff Crozier filed motion to treat this lawsuit as a class-action on behalf of all inmates at Ely State Prison. However, the Nevada Attorney General´s Office, on behalf of the Defendants, argues that this case cannot be treated as a class-action lawsuit, because no other inmate filed grievances, but Plaintiff Crozier.

As a result, the court will not treat this civil suit as a class-action unless numerous inmates immediately file Grievances, and Affidavits upon the Deficiencies in the Inmate Grievance procedure, and the practices thereof by the Defendants.

Some issues to consider regarding any possible deficiencies regarding the Grievance procedure include, but are not limited to:

– Staff do not bring the grievance box around
– Staff reading and responding to grievances before grievances are logged
– Grievances not date-stamped
– No investigations into inmate grievance claims regardless of merits
– All grievances are denied regardless of merit
– Grievance system used as either a sword, or shield against inmates depending on what benefits staff most
– Inmates have no to short time limits to file original grievance and appeals
– No criminal investigations unless approval by staff during the Inmate Grievance Process
– No definition, nor standard, for emergency grievances
– Untrained staff related to the grievance issue respond to grievances
– Retaliation by staff
– Grievances are sent to staff
– Attached evidence to grievances destroyed by staff and never returned to the inmate
– Same staff member who responded to original grievance will also respond to inmate grievance appeals.

If any of the above apply to Grievances you may have previously filed, or others you know, please file a new grievance listing each error, or injury, caused to you. You should always read Administrative Regulation #740 before filing any Grievance. Also, please take a few minutes to write an Affidavit to Plaintiff Crozier, or on his behalf, listing each Grievance error as so he can attach them to his motion for class-action, and appointment
of class counsel.

The NDOC loves to play games, and make the grievance process an insurmountable hurdle for inmates as we all know. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that inmates and prisoners must completely comply with all grievance policies for the grievance to meet exhaustion requirements, which is mandated by the Nevada Revised Statutes for everyone. As a result, everyone should state in their grievance as a first sentence:

“My one grievable issue is that the NDOC and staff thereof do not follow department policies.”

Then go forth to list each error. Otherwise your grievance will be thrown out, or rejected for filing, upon ´too many issues.´

Most important: be sure to list any, and all injuries that you suffered, such as delayed medical treatment, deny in First Amendment Right to access the court, denial of legal material and so on, and so forth.

Issues to file on the Grievance are:

NDOC does not adhere to AR # 740 as my grievance issue (that must be their first sentence as Grievance).
Then state: Staff do not follow grievance response times, grievances are not date-stamped, staff retaliation for inmates filing grievances, evidence inmates attach to their grievances are destroyed by staff and never returned to the inmate, inconsistent grievance responses, no investigation into inmate grievance claims, all grievances are denied regardless of grievance claims and merit, unqualified staff respond to inmate grievances, no
emergency grievance definition, nor standard, grievance forms do not state instructions for filing an appeal, inmates do not receive staff responses, grievance files are kept confidential, grievance policies are unconstitutionally vague, grievance policies are not followed by staff, too many inmate grievances per responding staff to adequately and meaningfully handle, staff who answer original grievance also respond to inmate grievance appeals (any other reason also list). All claims cause undue risk of life, limb, property of the inmates.

Affidavits must state the same. Inmates can send all affidavits to address below (White Pine County Clerk) before August 31st 2010! So the deadline will be August 25th, to be safe.

Plaintiff Crozier filed his lawsuit in White Pine County Court, and he requested money damages for every inmate at Ely State Prison. This does not mean the court will award money damages, and the courts are not required to do so. However, the ACLU allowed the Defendants off easy and with no punishment for their actions in their Riker v. Gibbons civil lawsuit. Yet, all inmates have opportunity to keep the momentum against the defendants for every mis-step they took regarding the inmate Grievances, especially, upon all our medical Grievances.

Remember, we need all the Grievances and Affidavits possible, and encourage other inmates to take an hour to file both. Be sure to keep a copy of your Affidavits, because the NDOC loves to destroy them.

Send your affidavits to:

White Pine County Clerk,
801 Clark St.,
Ste # 4,
Ely, NV 89301

All Affidavits must contain in the upper left hand corner:
Case NR CF 1003012, Dept no. 2

Received per mail, dated June 24th and June 27th 2010, updated August 8th 2010.

Settlement in the works on Nevada prison suit

So, what about helping prisoners get medical care? We hope this is not another cover up or lost chance to get at least medical reforms to Nevada prisons.

Associated Press, via Review Journal

April 21, 2010

The state of Nevada and American Civil Liberties Union are trying to finalize an agreement to settle a class action lawsuit over medical care for inmates at the maximum security prison in Ely.

An agenda released Wednesday shows the state Board of Examiners will be asked next week to approve $325,000 in fees for the ACLU in the 2008 case thas was certified as a class action by a federal judge last year.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Reno asked for a court-ordered monitor to oversee medical care for about 1,000 inmates at the prison.

A lawyer for the attorney general’s office says an independent monitor is not part of the propose settlement, other details won’t be released until fees are approved.

Another link to this.

City Reaches $33 Million Settlement Over Illegal Strip Searches for the 3rd Time in Ten Years!

City Reaches $33 Million Settlement Over Strip Searches
Published: March 22, 2010- NY Times

For the third time in a decade, New York City has agreed to pay millions of dollars to settle a lawsuit stemming from the illegal strip searches of thousands of nonviolent prisoners.

The settlement, which was announced on Monday, provides $33 million to the roughly 100,000 people who were strip-searched after being charged with misdemeanors and taken to Rikers Island and other city correction facilities.

Under the Giuliani administration, in 2001, the city settled a similar case filed on behalf of more than 50,000 people who were strip-searched as they waited to be arraigned, spending about $40 million. In 2005, the city once again agreed to pay several million dollars, this time to settle the claims of thousands of people who were illegally strip-searched in at least six New York detention centers, including Rikers Island, between 1999 and 2002.

The most recent settlement stemmed from a lawsuit filed in 2005 by the law firm of Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady, and covered 100,000 people from 1999 to 2007.

Two years after the suit was filed, the city acknowledged wrongdoing and agreed to install outside monitors to ensure that the practice had stopped. Yet the settlement covers 19 additional claimants who said they had been illegally strip-searched after 2007.

Richard Emery, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, said it had been settled law since 1986 that it was unconstitutional to require people accused of minor crimes to strip naked.

“The city knew this was illegal in 1986, they said it was illegal and they stopped in 2002, and they continued to pursue this illegal practice without justification,” Mr. Emery said. “We hope the settlement constitutes some semblance of justice.”

A lawyer for the New York City Law Department said in a written statement that the Department of Correction and the city “have worked diligently to ensure that both safety and privacy are given high consideration during intake search procedures.”

The lawyer, Genevieve Nelson, said, “The settlement reached today is the final step in a process during which D.O.C.’s intake search procedures were modified in 2007.”

An outside administrator was appointed on Monday by the judge in the case, John G. Koeltl of Federal District Court, to oversee the payments. The lawyers for the prisoners and the city expect about 15 percent of those who were illegally strip-searched to file claims. If that projection is correct, prisoners who receive money can expect to get roughly $2,000. About $3 million of the settlement will go to the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

As part of the agreement, the city said it would pay two women, who said they were forced to undergo gynecological exams without their consent, $20,000 each.

Mr. Emery said many of those who were strip-searched had been accused of misdemeanors like trespassing, shoplifting, jumping turnstiles or failing to pay child support.

“There was no reason to believe they were concealing drugs or anything else,” he said.

David Sanchez, 39, of the Bronx, said he was arrested by police officers in November 2006 for having a small amount of marijuana in his pocket after they stopped him on the street outside of his friend’s apartment. He said the officers searched him twice after he was arrested but did not make him take off his clothes.

But after he was arraigned and taken to Rikers Island, he said correction officers demanded that he take off his clothes and submit to another search.

“I was put into a cage and told to take off my clothes,” he said Monday in a conference room at the law firm, describing how he had to squat and spread his buttocks. “It was horrifying, being a grown man. I was humiliated.”

Mr. Emery said prisoners often had to undress fully in front of other prisoners and guards.

Those being searched had to lift their genitals or breasts, spread their buttocks and allow guards to inspect their body cavities.

Woman who were menstruating were not excluded from this practice, Mr. Emery said.

“I don’t know why it was done,” he said, “but it seems like it was a punishment, a way of showing the inmates who is in charge.”

Daniel C. Richman, a professor at Columbia Law School and former federal prosecutor, said that “given the financial constraints the city is facing, there must have been very bad facts for them to settle for this amount.”

In January, a federal judge ordered the city to remedy years of discriminatory hiring practices by the Fire Department by giving black and Latino applicants jobs in the department, as well as offering retroactive pay and other damages.

The city plans to appeal that decision.
A version of this article appeared in print on March 23, 2010, on page A22 of the New York edition.


Federal Lawsuit Challenges 27 Years of Supermax Confinement

March 26, 2010

by James Ridgeway and Jean Casella

A suit brought by law students on behalf of one of the nation’s most most notorious supermax prisoners could break new ground in challenging long-term solitary confinement on Constitutional grounds.

Earlier this year, we wrote about the case of Thomas Silverstein, who has now spent 27 years in solitary under a “no human contact” order–and who recently sued the Bureau of Prisons with the help of the Civil Rights Law Clinic at the University of Denver. This week, a decision by a federal district court judge cleared the way for the case to move forward. Alan Prendergast, of the Denver weekly Westword, reported on these latest developments.

When you’ve spent your time since the early days of the Reagan years in a cell smaller than some people’s closets, progress tends to get measured in small, small increments rather than sweeping events.

But Thomas Silverstein, America’s most isolated federal prisoner, got some momentous news today. His lawsuit challenging his decades of solitary confinement is still alive.

U.S. District Court Judge Philip Brimmer has ruled that Silverstein’s case, which raises questions about possible constitutional violations in the way the U.S. Bureau of Prisons consigns prisoners to administrative segregation for years or even decades, can move forward — a decision that could have implications for other federal prisoners in solitary, too.

A bank robber who was convicted of killing two inmates while serving time in the federal penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, Silverstein was put under a “no contact” order after he managed to murder a correctional officer at the high-security pen in 1983. Since that time, he’s been in basement isolation cells with buzzing lights, in his own wing of the Leavenworth pen, and, since 2005, buried in the bowels of the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum (ADX) in Florence…

Prison officials have contended that the extreme degree of isolation Silverstein has endured — including little or no communication with other inmates and entire years spent without leaving his cell — is necessary, in light of his violent history. But in 2007, law students at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law filed suit on his behalf, challenging his long confinement as cruel and unusual punishment and for lack of due process.

Brimmer’s ruling dismisses some of Silverstein’s claims against individual defendants, but leaves intact his Fifth and Eighth Amendment claims against the BOP. Although the case is still a long way from trial, DU law professor Laura Rovner views the ruling as a rare victory in civil-rights activists’ efforts to challenge the nature of solitary confinement itself.

In an email to Solitary Watch earlier this week, Laura Rovner explained the significance of the judge’s decision:

Probably the most significant part is the decision on the Eighth Amendment claim, as it is one of only two or three in the entire country where a court has held that solitary confinement alone is enough to state a claim for cruel and unusual punishment, even absent mental illness or other physical harm.

We anticipate and hope that this decision will have a positive impact on the ability of litigators across the country to challenge the disturbing trend of holding individuals in solitary confinement indefinitely.

Photo: Self portrait by Tommy Silverstein

Silverstein, who is now 57, is believed to have been held in complete and continuous isolation for longer than any other federal prisoner. The suit filed by Rovner and her students alleges that the government’s “deliberate indifference has resulted in Plaintiff suffering deprivations that cause mental harm that goes beyond the boundaries of what most human beings can psychologically tolerate.”

The full text of the judge’s decision in the case can be found here.

For more on Tommy Silverstein, see Alan Prendergast’s 2007 article The Caged Life.