This is the first of many posts covering a legal issue that is very important to me, to 2 million of its members, and to many more millions of the members’ families: prisoner news.
A former inmate at the Nassau County Correctional Center in Long Island, New York, filed a law suit alleging that the prison was indifferent to a serious rodent problem. The facts of the case read like something straight from a Stephen King horror novel.
Solomon, a Vietnam veteran PTSD, had been transferred to the facility’s mental observation unit, where he was sleeping in his cell one night when a rat emerged from inside the mattress and bit his penis. He was treated and given rabies shots at a nearby hospital, but “there was no significant blood loss and the wound did not require stitching,” according to a recent decision by Eastern District Judge Arthur D. Spatt, who is allowing Solomon’s lawsuit to proceed. As a result of the rat bite, Solomon’s lawyer says his client suffers “complete sexual dysfunction,” and has had to undergo “numerous painful and humiliating” medical procedures.
One of the plaintiff’s attorneys forthrightly stated that they will prevail on the suit. He said, “The county is in trouble. There was a long-standing practice and pattern of not taking complaints about rodents seriously. I guess because they are inmates.”
California’s criminal justice system has produced a bevy of posts about its prison overcrowding issue.
Earlier in the week, CockleBur Contributor Sara Mayeux posted an interesting piece entitled “What’s Ahead for California’s Dysfunctional Prisons?” that contains an excerpt from the Secretary of the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation, who discusses his biggest frustration with prison reform in the state.
Sara also covers the prisoner attacks on guards at California’s Pelican Bay Supermax, which is currently on lock down. A prison guard union noted that the prison contains close to 1200 more inmates than it was designed for. The California prison overcrowding issue is currently before the Supreme Court in Schwarzenegger v. Plata, No. 09-1233.
But just today the Mercury News.com reports good news for prisoners in California’s overcrowded system. Governor Jerry Brown presented a plan calling for the broadest reform of the criminal justice system in the state’s history. The plan calls for moving low-risk adult convicts from state prisons to county jails by ending prison terms for these individuals. The plan would also eliminate the notoriously violent youth prison system.
The plan—which would save the state an estimated half-billion dollars in the next fiscal year—was hailed by criminology experts like Stanford University’s Joan Petersilia. She noted that the new plan was “an incredibly massive shift for a state system that was sending everybody and their brother to prison.”
The Newark Advocate reports a story about three prison guards from Allen Correctional Institution that were placed on leave after guards failed to find a dead inmate who had committed suicide. A coroner’s report concluded that the suicide occurred eight hours before guards found the prisoner hanging, by tied bed sheets, inside his cell. The prisoner had previously been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, fetal alcohol syndrome and Albright syndrome.
Finally, the New York Times published a piece about jail mail—the ubiquitous handwritten letters that magazines receive from prisoners. Jeremy Peters writes that: “In prisons across the country, with their artificial pre-Internet worlds where magazines are one of the few connections to the outside and handwritten correspondence is the primary form of communication, the art of the pen-to-paper letter to the editor is thriving.”