Posts Tagged ‘prisoners’

Great moments in brutality claims

“A California man, who claimed detectives assaulted him during an interview in a holding cell in the Lane County Courthouse last month, has been found guilty of attempted coercion and initiating a false report after surveillance video in the holding cell showed the man punching himself in the face numerous times. … When Tomaszewski was told the self-beating incident had been captured on camera, he allegedly confessed to making up the story with hopes of winning early release from jail, deputies said.” [Eugene, Ore. Register-Guard]

Rikers Island and the correctional officers’ union

It isn’t just in California (here, here, here, here, here, here) that the political power of guard unions makes prisons hard to reform. In December the New York Times investigated the head of the guards’ union in New York City, Norman Seabrook, seen as “the biggest obstacle to efforts to curb brutality and malfeasance” at the city’s notorious Rikers Island, and noted that most elected officials are reluctant to be quoted discussing him by name, sometimes due to “fears about their safety while visiting Rikers” if they get on his wrong side. Seabrook has derailed investigators, reformers, and oversight officials for years:

Perhaps the most naked display of Mr. Seabrook’s power came on Nov. 18, 2013, when a Rikers inmate, Dapree Peterson, was scheduled to testify against two correction officers in a brutality case. Mr. Seabrook essentially shut down the city’s courts by sidelining the buses that ferry inmates to and from court, interviews and documents show. As a result, hundreds of inmates missed court dates, including Mr. Peterson, whose beating had been investigated and referred for prosecution by [deputy commissioner for investigation Florence] Finkle.

The blockage also caused 49 inmates to miss scheduled medical appointments at Bellevue Hospital Center.

Full story here. More: John McGinnis (despite personal tone of Times’s criticism of Seabrook, his actions respond to the predictable incentives of a union leader), Daniel DiSalvo, Washington Examiner (unions can win popularity by preventing discipline of misbehaving workers), Ed Krayewski, Kevin Williamson. See also our coverage of correctional officers “bill of rights” laws in Maryland, Pennsylvania, etc. here, here, here, and here.

Police and prosecution roundup

  • Judge chides Montgomery County, Md. police for “unlawful invasion” of family’s home [my new Free State Notes post]
  • As more offenses get redefined as “trafficking,” state extends its powers of surveillance and punishment [Alison Somin on pioneering Gail Heriot dissent in U.S. Commission for Civil Rights report; Elizabeth Nolan Brown/Reason on legislative proposals from Sens. Portman and Feinstein] Proposal in Washington legislature would empower police to seize/forfeit cars of those arrested for soliciting prostitutes, whether or not ever convicted [Seattle Times]
  • Progressives and the prison state: “most of the intellectual and legal scaffolding of the contemporary American carceral system was erected by Democrats.” [Thaddeus Russell reviewing new Naomi Murakawa book The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America]
  • Here comes the next verbal conflation with negative implications for defendants’ rights, “traffic violence” [Scott Greenfield]
  • Please don’t pay attention to what goes on inside Florida prisons, it would only spoil your day [Fred Grimm, Miami Herald via Radley Balko]
  • Trouble in California: “U.S. judges see ‘epidemic’ of prosecutorial misconduct in state” [L.A. Times, Ronald Collins/Concurring Opinions, video from Baca v. Adams with Judges Kozinski, Wardlaw, W. Fletcher, earlier on California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Moonlight Fire case] But will Ninth Circuit’s strong words change anything? [Scott Greenfield including updates]
  • “Plea Bargaining and the Innocent: It’s up to judges to restore balance” [U.S. District Judge John Kane]

March 13 roundup

  • Claimed prison guard punched him in face: “Man convicted in Chicago-area mass murder awarded $500,000″ [WHAS, ABA Journal]
  • Ken White “immediately repulsed and enraged” by Mayer-Brown-repped suit seeking removal of Glendale, Calif. “comfort women” memorial [Popehat]
  • “Las Vegas: Man Sues Casino After $500k Loss ‘While Drunk'” [Sky News]
  • Regulators blame everyone but selves: “Drug Shortages Continue to Vex Doctors” [Sabrina Tavernese, NYT on GAO report, earlier here, here, etc., etc.]
  • Former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli to speak tomorrow on “dereliction of duty” of AGs who decline to defend laws deemed unconstitutional, hope someone brings up this and this [more background; and his successor Mark Herring’s view]
  • Oregon: “Portland State University will pay $161,500 to settle a lawsuit claiming it discriminated against disabled students who have service animals.” [AP/KOIN] Laws make it dangerous for business owners to draw line between legitimate, fake service dogs [L.A. Times]
  • Not The Onion: Canada telecoms regulator pushes XX cable channels to run more Canadian content [CBC, National Post]

Police and prosecution roundup

  • New insight into Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) casts doubt on criminal convictions [Radley Balko, earlier here, etc.]
  • “The Shadow Lengthens: The Continuing Threat of Regulation by Prosecution” [James Copland and Isaac Gorodetski, Manhattan Institute]
  • Police busts of “johns” thrill NYT’s Kristof [Jacob Sullum, earlier on the columnist]
  • Sasha Volokh series on private vs. public prisons [Volokh]
  • “Police agencies have a strong financial incentive to keep the drug war churning.” [Balko on Minnesota reporting]
  • Forfeiture: NYPD seizes innocent man’s cash, uses it to pad their pensions [Institute for Justice, Gothamist] “Utah lawmakers quietly roll back asset forfeiture reforms” [Balko] “The Top 6 Craziest Things Cops Spent Forfeiture Money On” [IJ video, YouTube]
  • After Florida trooper nabbed Miami cop for driving 120 mph+, 80 officers accessed her private info [AP]

Pennsylvania moves to adopt a “Correctional Officers’ Bill of Rights”

One would think the whole concept of the union-backed “correctional officers’ bill of rights” might have been thrown into disrepute by last year’s Maryland scandal, in which the statute was found to have entrenched problem guards even as the Baltimore jail descended into a scandalous state of gang-run corruption. But apparently not: the Pennsylvania House has unanimously (!) voted in favor of having that state adopt its own such “bill of rights,” weakening administrators’ power to investigate possible officer misconduct. Details of H.B. 976 here.

Police and prosecution roundup

  • Why license plate scanning is an up-and-coming front in the surveillance wars [Radley Balko]
  • Prosecutor whose lapse sent innocent man to prison for 25 years will go to jail — for ten days [Adler, Shackford]
  • “Nurse fights charges she helped father commit suicide” [Phil. Inq., Barbara Mancini case, via @maxkennerly]
  • California inmates released, crime rates jump: a Brown v. Plata trainwreck? [Tamara Tabo, Heather Mac Donald/City Journal]
  • Driver arrested under Ohio’s new law banning hidden compartments in cars even though he had nothing illicit in the compartment [Shackford] Tenaha, Tex. traffic stops, cont’d: “Give Us Cash or Lose Your Kids and Face Felony Charges: Don’t Cops Have Better Things to Do?” [Ted Balaker/Reason, earlier]
  • Arizona Republic series on prosecutorial misconduct [4-parter]
  • Few act as if they care about Mr. Martin-Oguike’s fate at hands of a false accuser [Scott Greenfield]

California inmates sue outside businesses

An inmate serving a long term at Solano state prison in California “has filed a lawsuit against a Sacramento-area car-repair-shop owner asking for $15,000 in damages for the lost use of his transmission.” While a 1996 federal law places limits on suits by federal prisoners, inmates in state prison systems like California’s, what with indulgent filing rules and plenty of time on their hands, “can tie up the court system with cases that would strike most anyone as frivolous. Their court fees are typically paid for by California taxpayers.” [Steven Greenhut, San Diego Union-Tribune]