FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

Recently in Prisons Category

A recent federal court decision out of Tennessee is making headlines due to the impact it could have on inmates diagnosed with Hepatitis C in the state's correctional facilities. The decision grants class certification to the lawsuit, which means that the case can proceed to prove the allegations as a class action case and represent the class of over 3,000 inmates with the disease.

The case seeks an institution-wide change to the way inmates with Hepatitis C are treated while in custody. The case alleges that the denial of appropriate medical care is a violation of the Eighth Amendment which protects individuals from cruel and unusual punishment, including the denial of medical care or provision of inadequate medical care.

There was no question that Darren Rainey died in the showers of the Dade Correctional Institution in 2012. What was unanswered was whether the officers who locked Rainey for two hours in showers that could run as hot at 160 degrees were criminally liable for his death.

That answer came last month, when the state attorney for Miami-Dade County released an "In Custody Death Investigation Close-Out Memo" that attributed Rainey's death to schizophrenia, heart disease, and "confinement inside the shower room." Yet the state attorney declined to press criminal charges against the officers or the prison, saying instead that "the evidence does not show that Rainey's well-being was grossly disregarded by the correctional staff."

A federal district court has approved the settlement of a class action stemming from what was effectively the operation of a debtors' prison. In Alexander City, Alabama, the courts were jailing people for their inability to pay court imposed fines. That is, until the Southern Poverty Law Center got involved and was able to achieve a significant settlement.

In addition to changes in policy allowing court debtors to pay off fines through community service, the city will pay approximately $680,000 in settlement to those wrongfully incarcerated, $500 per day of incarceration per class member.

Of all the places to give birth, jail sounds the least appealing. While jails and prisons in every state are required to provide medical care for their inmates, the way pregnancy and birth are handled varies quite a bit from state to state. Perhaps one of the most shocking practices that is allowed in over half the states is restraining or shackling an expectant mother, even while in labor, to the bed.

When it comes to questionable policies, it doesn't end there either. Some states only provide 24 hours of bonding time with the newborn, while others may provide for 48 or 72 hours. Only 10 states have programs that allow mothers to stay with the newborns beyond 72 hours, with New York being the most generous, allowing up to four years. Despite solid medical evidence that allowing newborns and mothers to have continued contact benefits both mother and child, most states do not have nursery programs, nor the means to provide childcare.

Unfortunately, despite the policies and duties that are in place, all too often, due to the deliberate indifference of correctional officers or prison administration, inmate pregnancies can go horribly wrong.

The United States Department of Justice announced this week that it will phase out its use of private prisons for federal convicts. A DOJ memo noted that private prisons offered fewer rehabilitative programs and resources, were less safe, and cost just as much as Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities.

The move away from private prisons could be a huge landmark in federal criminal justice, and could influence state use of private prisons as well.

Prison Phone Call Price Cap Is in Limbo: FCC to Vote on New Proposal

Prisoners are not usually a coveted consumer group, except for a select few companies that profit from incarceration. Among these are prison phone companies Global Tel*Link (GTL) and Securus Technologies, which have been charging prisoners and their families exorbitant rates to communicate.

Last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a rate cap on calls of all kinds and the companies fought it hard, winning a stay in a March federal appeals court ruling. That stay is still in place and compromise efforts by the FCC are under consideration, reports Ars Technica.

Jail seems like enough of a burden in and of itself. You lose your freedom, perhaps your job and future employment possibilities, contact with your loved ones, and jail isn't always the safest place to be. As it turns out, incarceration can be expensive as well.

It may not seem like it from the outside, since most people think prisoners basically get free room and board for their time inside, but going to prison can cost you a pretty penny. Here's how much it costs to go to jail, from arrest to release:

New Orleans announced plans to relocate 600 inmates from its troubled city jail this week, sending them to prisons far from the city. For those inmates still awaiting trial or appealing their convictions, this means far from their legal counsel, not to mention family and support systems.

While the Constitution guarantees criminal defendants the right to an attorney, does that mean your attorney has to be close by?

FCC Price Cap on Inmate Phone Calls Stalled, Talk Still Not Cheap

Inmates and their families have to pay to communicate, and some say the costs are so high and outrageous that they constitute a tax on the poor. Last year, in October, the Federal Communications Commission capped the costs of calling inmates, but the International Business Times reports that there are setbacks.

The setbacks reveal a lot about what was wrong with the jail and prison communication system to begin with. Mignon Clyburn, an FCC commissioner who led the charge for reform, has called the prison phone industry the "most egregious case of market failure" she has seen in her career. Here's why.

Most prisons outlaw cell phones. And yet that doesn't seem to stop many prisoners from obtaining cell phones and even keep up with their Facebook and Twitter accounts from inside. (Maybe all those prison guards should stop smuggling cell phones to inmates. Or prisons could hire more phone-sniffing dogs like the one at Riker's Island.)

And here's a new worry, from "Alabama's most violent prison" -- inmates are using cell phones to organize and livestream protests and prison riots.