Jail and Prisoner Law Bulletin – Jan 2017

//Jail and Prisoner Law Bulletin – Jan 2017

Jail and Prisoner Law Bulletin – Jan 2017

2017-01-11T10:29:07+00:00 January 23rd, 2017|Legal Updates|Comments Off on Jail and Prisoner Law Bulletin – Jan 2017

A civil liability law publication for officers, jails, detention centers and prisons

ISSN 0739-0998 – Cite this issue as 2017 JB January

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CONTENTS

Digest Topics
Medical Care (2 cases)
Prison and Jail Conditions: Asbestos
Prison and Jail Conditions: General
Prisoner Assault: By Inmate
Prisoner Death/Injury
Prisoner Suicide
Religion
Retaliation
Segregation: Disciplinary

Resources

Cross_References

 

MONTHLY CASE DIGEST

Some of the case digests do not have a link to the full opinion.

  • Most Federal District Court opinions can be accessed via PACER. Registration required. Opinions are usually free; other documents are 10¢ per page.
  • Access to cases linked to www.findlaw.com may require registration, which is free.

Medical Care

     A former pretrial detainee asserted that a private orthopedic doctor, as well as a jail nurse and doctor, were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs after he fell, broke his left humerus, dislocated the hardware in his arm, and began to suffer extreme pain. Summary judgment was upheld for the private orthopedic doctor since he had relayed his diagnosis of the plaintiff’s arm to jail officials and had no responsibility to oversee the continuing medical decisions of the jail, nor was he informed about the subsequent alleged lack of treatment or severe pain. The jail nurse and doctor, however, were not entitled to qualified immunity, as the evidence could be interpreted as showing that they each knowingly and deliberately inflicted pain on the plaintiff by failing to provide timely medical treatment.Melton v. Abston, #15-11412, 2016 U.S. App. Lexis 20681 (11th Cir.).

A former federal prisoner could proceed with his claims that a prison doctor and prison administrator acted with deliberate indifference in failing to provide him with needed insulin and in allegedly failing to provide aid to him after he used an emergency phone or for two to five days after he reported vomiting blood and other signs of evident physical distress. If true, they disregarded a substantial risk that serious bodily injury would result or had already occurred. Scinto, Sr. v. Warden Stansberry, #15-1587, 841 F.3d 219 (4th Cir. 2016).

Prison and Jail Conditions: Asbestos

A Kansas inmate sued the warden and the state Secretary of Corrections, claiming that he had been exposed to lead paint and asbestos while incarcerated. An intermediate state appeals court upheld the dismissal of all state law claims for failure to exhaust available administrative remedies while reversing the dismissal of federal civil rights claims. The Kansas Supreme Court held that both the trial court and appeals court applied the wrong legal standard on the failure to exhaust available administrative remedies, requiring further proceedings. When matters outside the pleadings are presented to the court, a motion to dismiss is converted to a motion for summary judgment to which all parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to respond. There was a factual issue as to whether a letter written by the warden concerning the prisoner’s grievance was sufficient to waive the exhaustion doctrine on behalf of all—or any—of the defendants.Sperry v. McKune, #112455 th3, 2016 Kan. Lexis 601.

Prison and Jail Conditions: General

A trial court erred in granting a warden summary judgment in a prisoner’s lawsuit alleging that his conditions of confinement in disciplinary segregation violated the Eighth Amendment. There was evidence that the warden had actual knowledge of unusually harsh weather conditions and that the windows in the prisoner’s cell would not close, having himself toured the segregation unit. The warden’s “plainly inappropriate” response to the inmate’s grievance and the extreme cold faced by him allowed an inference that he was deliberately indifferent to the plaintiff’s suffering. Haywood v. Hathaway, #12-1678, 2016 U.S. App. Lexis 21367 (7th Cir.).

Prisoner Assault: By Inmate

      A correctional sergeant was properly denied qualified immunity on a prisoner’s claim arising from another prisoner’s attack on him. The attacker had a history of aggressive behavior at the jail and had been charged with several violations of jail rules on several occasions for threatening behavior towards jail staff, including a threat to stab a deputy in the neck, and toward other inmates, including the plaintiff. The attacker had threatened the plaintiff shortly after his arrival at the jail, and the plaintiff requested that he be reassigned to another housing pod away from him. After an argument between the two prisoners, the plaintiff expressed concern about the other prisoner’s aggression toward him. While he was being escorted back from a court proceeding by the sergeant, the attacker was unshackled in the booking area of the jail, which was adjacent to the professional visitation room. At that time, the plaintiff was in the visitation room, meeting with a mental health counselor, the sergeant proceeded to unshackle the other prisoner in the booking area and instructed him to return to his housing pod. After taking one or two steps toward the housing pod door, the attacker suddenly turned around and ran into the visitation room through its unlocked door and assaulted the plaintiff causing him a facial injury.

The substantial risk of such an attack, it could be found, was well-documented and the sergeant was informed of and acknowledged the risk and was accompanying the inmate in an area where the inmate and complainant were visible to each other, such facts were sufficient to permit a jury to find the officer had actual knowledge of the risk and disregarded it. Claims against the sheriff individually were rejected. The mere fact that he was “in charge” of the facility was not sufficient to hold him individually liable for the attack. Durkee v. Minor, #16-1003, 2016 U.S. App. Lexis 20411 (10th Cir.).

Prisoner Death/Injury

****Editor’s Case Alert****

A pretrial detainee in a county jail died from acute renal failure after spending four and a half days being detained in a glass-walled observation cell in the jail’s infirmary. There was sufficient evidence to establish that a detainee’s death was pursuant to an unconstitutional de facto policy of confining incoherent detainees in an observation cell for as long as it took for detoxification, contrary to the jail’s written guideline of confinement for four to eight hours, since the detainee was provided with no medical treatment during his approximately four and one-half days of confinement. The inadequate medical care provided constituted unconstitutional punishment since the jail staff expected the detainee to heal himself despite knowing that the detainee hardly ate or drank for almost four and one-half days, the detainee’s dehydration was obvious, and the jail staff disregarded state standards to search the state mental-health-treatment database which would have disclosed the detainee’s prior treatment.

Federal civil rights liability was properly found, and the trial court improperly granted the defendant county’s motion for judgment as a matter of law on a state law wrongful death claim. The jury award of $1.5 million for pain and $917,000 for wrongful death was upheld, as well as a court award of $410,116.01 for attorneys’ fees and costs. Montano v. Orange County, Texas, #15-41432, 2016 U.S. App. Lexis 21378 (5th Cir.).

Prisoner Suicide

****Editor’s Case Alert****

The family of a pretrial detainee who committed suicide while in police custody sued an officer, seeking to hold her liable for the death. A federal appeals court upheld qualified immunity for the defendant officer. While her actions may not have been “ideal,” her failure to exercise even greater care to prevent the death did not rise to the level of deliberate indifference. She took measures to try to prevent the suicide, including withholding from him the most obvious potential ligature (thin sheets normally issued), placing him under continuous (although ultimately imperfect because of a blind spot) video surveillance, and told the officer who relieved her that the detainee was a suicide risk and should be observed. Hyatt v. Thomas, #15-10708, 2016 U.S. App. Lexis 20722 (5th Cir.).

Religion

A Christian pretrial detainee alleged that he made a religious vow to abstain from eating meat, animal fats, or gelatin. He also refuses to eat any part of a meal that contains those items or to trade those items for acceptable food. He sued a deputy sheriff in his official capacity for refusing to agree to supply him with vegetarian meals. A federal appeals court found that the sovereign immunity of the state of Georgia from damages under the Eleventh Amendment extended to the deputy’s denial of his dietary request. The county sheriff derived his powers from the state under Georgia law and was largely independent of the county, and the providing of food to county jail inmates was a state function under a Georgia statute. The deputy’s functions were derived from the sheriff, so his performance as also a state function. Lake v. Skelton, #15-13124, 840 F.3d 1334 (11th Cir. 2016).

Retaliation

A prisoner claimed that he faced unlawful retaliation in that he was transferred to administrative segregation after he reported a correctional officer for allegedly using excessive force against him while escorting him to a holding cell. Upholding the rejection of qualified immunity for the defendant prison official, the federal appeals court found without merit the argument that California state regulations required that the prisoner be transferred to administrative segregation as soon as he alleged that an officer assaulted him. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, 3335(a) does not require that, and the plaintiff prisoner had established a genuine issue of material fact as to whether he was retaliated against. Shepard v. Wise, 13-15554, 2016 U.S. App. Lexis 19352 (9th Cir.).

Segregation: Disciplinary

A pretrial detainee was entitled to a hearing before he was punished by being placed in disciplinary segregation. In this case, the defendants conceded that no such hearing was provided, so judgment should be entered for the plaintiff on his due process claim. Dilworth v. Adams, #15-6910, 841 F.3d 246 (4th Cir. 2016).

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Resources

    Federal Prison Policies: Special Housing Units, Federal Bureau of Prisons Program Statement 5270.11 (November 23, 2016).

     Female Prisoners: Female Offender Manual, Federal Bureau of Prisons Program Statement 5200.01 (November 23, 2016).

     Statistics: Jails in Indian Country, 2015, by Todd D. Minton, Bureau of Justice Statistics (November 10, 2016, NCJ 250117).

  Reference:

 

Cross References
Diet — See also, Religion
Eleventh Amendment Immunity — See also, Diet
First Amendment — See also, Retaliation Medical Care — See also, Prisoner Death/Injury
Private Prisons and Entities — See also, Medical Care (1st case)
Segregation: Disciplinary — See also, Prison and Jail Conditions: General.

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John Blackmon

A retired law enforcement officer who now serves as the President of the Fraternal Order of Police Tri-County Lodge #3.
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