© Copyright 2002 by AELE, Inc.
Contents (or partial contents) may be downloaded,
stored, printed or copied by, or shared with, employees of
the same firm or government entity that subscribes to
this library, but may not be sent to, or shared with others.

Jail and Prisoner Law Bulletin

A Civil Liability Law Publication
for officers, jails, detention centers and prisons

Cite this issue as:

2002 JB June (web edit.)

Return to the monthly publications menu

Access the multiyear Jail & Prisoner Law Case Digest

Report non-working links here


Featured Cases – with Links

Defenses: Qualified Immunity
Drugs and Drug Screening
False Imprisonment
Medical Care (2 cases)
Prison Litigation Reform Act: Exhaustion of Remedies
Prisoner Assault: By Officers
Prisoner Discipline
Religion (3 cases)
Sexual Assault

Noted in Brief -- With Some Links

Damages: Punitive
Defenses: Absolute Immunity
DNA Tests
Medical Care (2 cases)
Negligent Hiring, Retention, Supervision, and Training
Prison Conditions: General (2 cases)
Prison Litigation Reform Act: Exhaustion of Remedies
Prisoner Assault: By Inmates
Prisoner Assault: By Officers
Prisoner Suicide
Sexual Harassment
Strip Search: Prisoners (3 cases)
Workers Compensation




Prisoner did not present a valid claim for defamation based on Department of Corrections' truthful description of him, on its website, as a "convicted robber." The fact that the prisoner had a pending appeal from his conviction did not alter the result, and, once he was convicted, he was no longer entitled to a "presumption of innocence."

     A New York prisoner objected to the the posting of information about him on a Department of Corrections' website on the internet, on which he was described as a "convicted robber." He argued that this constituted the posting of "confidential" information about him, that it defamed him, especially since he still had a pending appeal from the conviction, and that he should have been given notice and an opportunity to be heard before the information was posted. He also contended that the website should have included the information that his appeal was pending and that he maintains his innocence, since he was entitled to a "presumption of innocence."

     A federal appeals court upheld the rejection of all these claims, along with the prisoner's demands for injunctive relief and compensatory and punitive damages.

     The appeals court noted that the prisoner did not claim that he had not been convicted of robbery, so that the website did not contain a false statement about him, as required for liability for defamation. Further, since he was convicted of the crime, "he is no longer entitled to a presumption of innocence." The information published about him "was not confidential and was not false," so that he "has failed to establish government interference with a protected liberty interest" and was not entitled to notice or an opportunity to be heard before its publication.

     Wells v. Goord, #01-172, 29 Federal Appendix 693 (2nd Cir. 2002).

     [EDITOR'S NOTE: The court indicated that "this summary order will not be published in the Federal Reporter and may not be cited as precedential authority to this or any other court, but may be called to the attention of this or any other court in a subsequent stage of this case, in a related case, or in any case for purposes of collateral estoppel or res judicata." It is presented here for its possible interest to our readers].

     »Click here to read the text of the decision on the AELE website

     •Return to the Contents  menu.

Defenses: Qualified (Good-Faith) Immunity

Physicians and nurses involved in prisoner's care prior to his death from severe dehydration were not entitled to qualified immunity from liability when there were numerous disputed factual issues about what happened.

     A prisoner in the custody of the North Carolina Department of Correction was transferred to the mental health section of a prison hospital, at a time when there was evidence that he was disoriented, did not know who he was, was not in touch with reality, and was unable to follow simple commands and was a risk to himself. While being observed by mental health personnel, he had begun to flood his cell, believing he smelled smoke. The water to his cell was subsequently turned off.

     The prisoner died of severe dehydration in the prison hospital. His estate filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against a number of doctors, registered nurses or licensed practical nurses involved in the prisoner's care, claiming deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs.

     A federal appeals court has upheld a trial court ruling denying summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity to the defendants. After examining the depositions of some 20 witnesses, all physicians or registered or practical nurses, including six non-parties to the case, the trial court found that the parties did not agree on "numerous issues and correctly found that there were issues of disputed fact."

     The appeals court also noted that when the denial of qualified immunity is based on the existence of disputed facts, the "case is not appealable." Accordingly, "the appeals in this case" are "dismissed without prejudice for want of jurisdiction."

     Mabrey v. Farthing, #99-2149, 280 F.3d 400 (4th Cir. 2002).

   »Click here to read the text of the decision on the court's website.

     •Return to the Contents  menu.

Drugs and Drug Screening

California prisoners could pursue claim against state parole authority that it violated federal disability discrimination law to have an "unwritten policy" of automatically denying parole to prisoners with a history of drug abuse problems.

     California state prisoners with a history of substance abuse sued the state parole authority officials for disability discrimination in violation of Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12132, claiming that it had and followed an "unwritten policy" of automatically denying parole to prisoners with substance abuse histories.

     Overturning the trial court's dismissal of the case, a federal appeals court found that this complaint adequately alleged that the plaintiff prisoners were "disabled" for purposes of the ADA claim, were "otherwise qualified" for the benefit that they sought, and that they were denied the benefits of a public program or activity, specifically parole.

     Ruling on the issue for the first time, the court also held that parole proceedings, including "substantive decision making," constituted an "activity of a public entity" that was governed by the ADA.

     "Like state prisons, state parole boards 'fall squarely within the statutory definition of "public entity," which includes 'any department, agency, special purpose district, or other instrumentality of a State or States or local government.'" The court noted that "we hold only that a 'broad rule categorically excluding' parole decisions 'from the scope of Title II is not the law.'"

     The court remanded for further proceedings, and did not decide, at this stage of the proceedings, whether the alleged policy in question actually violated the ADA.

     Thompson v. Davis, #01-15091, 282 F.3d 780 (9th Cir. 2002).

     »Click here to read the text of the decision on the court's website.

     •Return to the Contents  menu.

False Imprisonment

Continued confinement of prisoner for a longer period of time than that stated in his sentence did not result in liability of county for false imprisonment and federal civil rights violation when the order specifying the date of the end of his work release program, violation of which resulted in his reincarceration, was a "facially valid order" of a court with proper jurisdiction.

     After an arrestee was convicted for grand larceny in the third degree, the trial court sentenced him to five years probation and a definite jail term of 180 days. He began to serve his jail term after his appeals were exhausted

     He served a portion of his sentence and then the sentencing court granted his application for release into a work alternative program. When he failed to report to the work release program because he was arrested for allegedly driving a car while intoxicated, he was deemed in violation of his work release conditions and was therefore incarcerated to finish his remaining jail term without credit for the days that he participated in the program.

     He subsequently sued the county and one of its correctional officers for false imprisonment and violation of his federal civil rights, arguing that miscalculation of his sentence resulted in him being incarcerated for an additional three months as a consequence of not reporting to the work release program, when he should have actually concluded the work release program three days earlier, and therefore would not have been ordered back to jail after he was arrested for DUI.

     An intermediate New York appellate court did not agree. The order directing the prisoner's participation in the work release program, which specified the date of its termination, was a "facially valid order issued by a court with proper jurisdiction" so that the allegedly mistaken date of the end of the work release program in it made the county's continued confinement of the prisoner for violating its conditions privileged.

     The existence of the order meant that "everyone connected with the matter is protected from liability for false imprisonment."

     Holmberg v. County of Albany, 738 N.Y.S.2d 701 (A.D. 2002).

»Click here to read the text of the decision on the web.

•Return to the  Contents  menu.

Medical Care

Prisoner did not adequately present a case that prison officials acted with deliberate indifference to his lumbar spine arthritis. A mere showing that the prisoner was dissatisfied with the particular course or treatment, or even a showing of medical malpractice, is not the same as a showing of deliberate indifference to a serious medical need.

     A Wisconsin prisoner fell while walking up a staircase in waist restraints. The fall injured his lower back and left shoulder, and he went to a prison physician who diagnosed him as suffering with arthritis of the lumbar spine, noting that his range of motion in his back was "somewhat limited." The doctor treated the prisoner with pain medication and physical therapy, as well as giving him an "egg-crate" mattress, an abdominal binder, and extra pillows. The prisoner was also given a low-tier/low-bunk/do-not-double assignment due to his health problem.

     When he was transferred to another facility in Wisconsin, he was examined by a physician there, who denied his request for an egg-crate mattress, stating that such mattresses are not used to treat back pain. He did, however, order that the prisoner be placed in a lower bunk. The doctor, after a second examination, also found that the prisoner did not have a medical reason to receive a single-cell assignment. The prisoner objected to both denials, and wrote various letters of complaint to correctional officials.

     The prisoner filed a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming that his "deprivation of medical treatment" amounted to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

     A federal appeals court has upheld a ruling that the prisoner's claim reflected "merely dissatisfaction" with his treatment and did not rise to the level of cruel and unusual punishment. Even if the prisoner's medical condition was, as he contended, "serious, but intermittent, affecting him at least once per week," he failed to show that the prison staff treated him with deliberate indifference.

     "Mere dissatisfaction with a particular course of treatment, or even malpractice," the court stated, "does not amount to deliberate indifference." The only evidence the prisoner presented that his treatment was inadequate was his "dissatisfaction." Rather than being denied care, he was examined on several occasions by the prison physician, who gave him a low-bunk assignment. Without any medical evidence of inadequate treatment, a "prisoner's self-serving opinion of the quality of treatment is insufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact."

     The appeals court also found that the trial court properly dismissed the Wisconsin Department of Corrections and the Wisconsin Bureau of Health Services since they are state agencies and therefore not "persons" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983.

     Walker v. Zunker, #01-2895, 30 Federal Appendix 625 (7th Cir. 2002).

     [EDITOR'S NOTE: The court indicated that this decision was to be an "unpublished order," not to be cited "per Circuit Rule 53." It is presented here for its possible interest to our readers].

     »Click here to read the text of the decision on the AELE website

     •Return to the Contents  menu.

Even if prison doctor acted properly in postponing surgery for a pretrial detainee due to his pending appearance in court on murder charges, he did not provide any reason for an alleged delay in obtaining approval for medically needed surgery once he had been sentenced. He therefore was not entitled to qualified immunity from the prisoner's Eighth Amendment claim.

     Prior to incarceration, a Connecticut prisoner underwent a colostomy procedure at a hospital for a gunshot wound to his thigh and rectum. This is a surgical connection of the large intestine to the body surface at the abdominal wall to allow for the passage of waste into a bag. The surgeons anticipated that the patient would return to the hospital to have the colostomy closed in about six months after the colon had time to heal.

     He was subsequently placed in custody, however, to begin serving a sentence of less than one year. A couple of weeks later, he was arraigned in state court on murder charges. A request to close the colostomy was denied because of his anticipated release in January 1995, after a doctor expressed an opinion that delay until that time would not be harmful.

     This release did not happen, however, because of the pending murder charges against the prisoner. The surgery was ultimately scheduled for October 1995, but then postponed because of a pending court appearance. He was convicted on the murder charges and sentenced to 50 years of incarceration. A subsequent request for surgery to close the colostomy was denied because it involved a "pre-existing condition."

     The surgery was later approved, however, after a nursing supervisor submitted a memo pointing out that the cost of providing the plaintiff with colostomy bags would be $23.51 per week x 52 weeks x 50 years and that this would be "very, very expensive." The surgery was finally performed, and the prisoner sued the prison physician, claiming that the delay in surgery violated his Eighth Amendment rights.

     Rejecting the doctor's defense of qualified immunity, a federal trial court did say that it was not unreasonable for the surgery to be delayed at first because of the pending murder trial. Once the trial was over, however, and the prisoner had been sentenced, the failure to take action to provide the surgical treatment until two months later, the denial of that request, and the failure to submit a request for reconsideration to the necessary committee for approximately two more months, "even though he knew the plaintiff's surgery was long overdue" was not supported by any justification.

     Given that the prisoner was originally supposed to have the colostomy closed in September or October of 1994, a jury could find that a further four month delay following the sentencing was "excessive and that it was due to deliberate indifference on the part of the defendant," resulting in the surgery only finally taking place in July of 1996.

     In a footnote, the court rejected the defendant doctor's argument that the fact that the surgery was "elective in nature" altered the result. "Classifying surgery as elective does not abrogate a prison's duty to promptly provide treatment necessary to address a serious medical need." The plaintiff never indicated to anyone that he wanted to delay the colostomy closure. His colostomy bag "emitted a foul odor even when properly maintained and he had to change it every two or three days." Additionally, a hernia associated with the colostomy "caused him some pain, which increased when he tried to engage in certain activities.

     Baker v. Blanchette, 186 F. Supp. 2d 100 (D. Conn. 2001).

     »Click here to read the text of the decision on the AELE website

     •Return to the Contents  menu.

Prison Litigation Reform Act: Exhaustion of Remedies

Prisoner's lawsuit claiming he was subjected to a hot prison cell with poor ventilation which caused respiratory distress was properly dismissed for failure to exhaust available administrative remedies. While the prisoner did file and pursue an administrative grievance, he did not show that he ever appealed the denial of the grievance.

     A federal appeals court has emphasized the point that the "exhaustion of remedies" provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1997e(a) requires that the prisoner not only file an administrative grievance where available, but pursue it to the end of the available processes. The plaintiff prisoner, incarcerated in a Michigan correctional facility, claimed that he was improperly kept in a hot prison cell with poor ventilation that caused him respiratory discomfort.

     While the plaintiff presented the trial court with a copy of a grievance form he filed, the form did not reflect that he ever appealed the denial of the grievance. The prisoner, the appeals court stated, can not "abandon the process before completion and claim that he has exhausted his remedies or that it is futile for him to do so because his grievance is now time-barred under the regulations." To establish that he has exhausted his administrative remedies prior to filing suit, the court ruled, a prisoner should attach to his complaint "any decision demonstrating the administrative disposition of his claim or describe with specificity the administrative proceeding and its outcome."

     In the absence of this particularized showing that available administrative remedies were pursued to the end, "the action must be dismissed under Sec. 1997e."

     On appeal, the prisoner contended that he filed his grievance directly to the Step III level of review, as permitted under the applicable administrative rule, so that no appeal from the denial of the grievance was available. Looking at the Michigan Department of Corrections' Policy Directive Sec. 03.02.130(II), the court found that "indeed, certain grievances involving claims of discrimination, brutality, or corruption may be taken directly to Step III review" in Michigan. The prisoner's claims of being kept in a stuffy and hot cell, however, "do not fall within the ordinary meaning of brutality, and he provides no other argument that would bring his claims under that definition. Consequently, he did not follow the proper procedures for obtaining administrative review of his claims."

     Lyons-Bey v. Curtis, #01-1574, 30 Federal Appendix 376 (6th Cir. 2002).

     [EDITOR'S NOTE: The court indicated that this case was "not recommended for full-text publication," and that "Sixth Circuit Rule 28(g) limits citation to specific situations," so that "if cited, a copy must be served on other parties and the Court." The case is presented here for its possible interest to our readers].

     »Click here to read the text of the decision on the AELE website

     •Return to the Contents  menu.

Prisoner Assault: By Officers

While there was insufficient evidence to hold county liable for alleged beating death of detainee at the hands of prison guards, individual officers were not entitled to qualified immunity from liability. A claim that "low-level" county officials falsified reports after prisoner's death did not show a "well-settled" county custom of excessive force, but there was a genuine issue of whether guards participating in beating acted maliciously and sadistically.

     The estate of a pretrial detainee in a county correctional facility claim that four prison guards all participated, in varying degrees in the extraction of the detainee from his cell and his restraint, beating him to death while he was shackled, baiting him on and beating him further when he responded to their "provocations," and ignoring pleas by him to stop. The plaintiff also claimed that they disregarded requests by a nurse to stop applying force in order to treat the detainee's injuries and helped roll the prisoner over so that another guard could "stand" on his neck. Another guard present, while she did not touch the prisoner, supervised the incident, and allegedly failed to intervene in circumstances where she knew that excessive force was being used.

     The lawsuit filed over the prisoner's death also attempted to assert various claims against the county for an unconstitutional policy or custom of excessive force.

     Addressing motions for summary judgment by the defendants, the trial court found that the alleged facts were sufficient to support a claim of deliberate indifference against the supervisory guard who observed the incident, and that the use of force by the officers themselves, including the alleged restraint of the prisoner so that one guard could stand on his neck, if as described, constituted a "clear deprivation" of the detainee's Eighth Amendment rights, and a malicious and sadistic use of force.

     A jury, if it believed the plaintiff's version of the facts, could reasonably infer that their repositioning of the prisoner in "order to allow a fellow guard to apply deadly force is force applied maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm," under the standards set forth in Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 112 S. Ct. 995 (1992), supporting liability for both the guards who participated and the officer who supervised. The individual defendants, therefore, were not entitled to qualified immunity.

     The trial court did, however, grant summary judgment to the defendant county, rejecting all the plaintiff's theories of municipal liability.

     The Complaint claimed that the county failed to establish adequate policies for inmate medical and psychiatric care as well as physical confrontations with inmates, failed to enforce existing policies governing medical and psychiatric care and physical confrontations, and failed to provide adequate training regarding the use of force.

     The court found that the plaintiff, while making a "persuasive argument" that those involved in the incident "did not follow the existing procedures," only "summarily addressed" the crucial factual question, for municipal liability, of whether the county defendants failed to enact adequate policies or condoned a pattern of failure to enforce existing policies.

     The plaintiff, in its response to the county's motion for summary judgment, identified three policies that the defendants failed to enact: 1) a policy that would ensure the availability of a complete Corrections Emergency Response Team ("CERT") at all times; 2) a policy that would provide sufficient videotapes so that the video recording equipment could record inmate abuse; and 3) an adequate use of force policy.

     The court found that newspaper articles concerning past incidents of the alleged excessive use of force at the facility were "inadmissible hearsay," and further, even if thirty or forty instances of alleged excessive force took place over a ten year period, that did not necessarily support the argument that written force policies were not followed. The articles, in fact, "provide strong support for the opposite conclusion," since in "thirty-one of the forty-one instances, officers were punished for violating the policy." To support the plaintiff's claim, it would need to show the existence of a "significant number of credible complaints of force in violation of the policy where no discipline or review occurred." Only this would support the claim that the "force policy is really no policy at all."

     The alleged falsification of reports by low-level officers after the detainee was killed does not, the court stated, demonstrate a "permanent and well settled" policy or custom of the department. And no sufficient showing of inadequate training was present either.

     The court further found that the alleged failure to provide constant availability of an emergency response team or to provide adequate numbers of videotapes, even if true, was irrelevant. "If, indeed, an atmosphere of lawlessness pervaded the Department of Corrections, as Plaintiff claims, then the availability of the CERT would be irrelevant, since the alleged policy was for all guards to violate the law." Likewise, the videotape policy had no bearing on the alleged violation of the detainees rights, since here part of the incident was, in fact, recorded on county videotape equipment. Neither the alleged policy of not fully staffing CERT or failing to provide videotapes, the court reasoned, "can be identified as the 'moving force' behind the constitutional violations" that led to the detainee's death.

     Gailor v. Armstrong, 187 F. Supp. 2d 729 (W.D. Ken. 2001).

     »Click here to read the text of the decision on the AELE website.

     •Return to the Contents  menu.

Prisoner Discipline

Prison warden did not violate inmates due process rights by initially refusing to grant his appeal from a hearing officer's determination that he had violated prison rules forbidding the use of controlled substances, even though the prisoner's positive urine test for opiates was due to his use of prescription medicine. The prisoner's placement in segregation did not interfere with a protected liberty interest.

     A Maryland prisoner was prescribed Tylenol # 3, also known as Tylenol with Codeine, by prison medical personnel because of injuries he sustained from a beating by another prisoner. Because of this, when he subsequently submitted to urinalysis for drug screening, he tested positive for opiates and was charged with a rule violation.

     A hearing officer rejected the prisoner's defense that the positive test result was from Tylenol, finding that the level of opiate in his urinalysis was above that of an over-the-counter medication. The officer was mistaken in assuming that Tylenol #3 was over-the-counter Tylenol. Based on this, the prisoner was sentenced to disciplinary segregation for 60 days. The warden initially affirmed the sentence, but subsequently granted a new hearing. Following the new hearing, the prisoner was found not guilty. The warden then amended the prisoner's wage and commitment records to reflect an uninterrupted job assignment from the day after his positive drug test. The prisoner spent less than one month in segregation following the first hearing.

     The prisoner contended that the hearing officer and the warden both violated his due process rights. The trial court rejected both claims. It noted that placement in segregation, by itself, was not, in this case a "major disruption in" the prisoner's environment and did not violate a protectable liberty interest under the standards set forth in Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 115 S. Ct. 2293 (1995).

     Additionally, while the prisoner was also removed from a job assignment, his records were altered, following his successful appeal, to reflect an uninterrupted assignment. Accordingly, since the prisoner was deprived of neither a liberty or a property interest, his claims were properly dismissed.

     Nichols v. Maryland Correctional Institution--Jessup, 186 F. Supp. 2d 575 (D. Md. 2002).

     »Click here to read the text of the decision on the AELE website.

     •Return to the Contents  menu.


Rastafarian prisoner's claim that prison's denial of his request to wear dreadlocks violated his right to religious freedom and constituted sex discrimination was improperly dismissed by trial court without fair notice and opportunity to be heard being provided to prisoner, who was acting as his own lawyer. Appeals court also rules that exhaustion of remedies provision of Prison Litigation Reform Act is an affirmative defense, rather than a pleading requirement, with the burden on the defendants to show non-exhaustion.

     A Rastafarian prisoner in a California correctional facility claimed that prison regulations relating to the length of inmates' hair, which prevented him from wearing dreadlocks, violated his constitutional and statutory rights to practice his religion, as well as his right to equal protection of the laws as a man, since the rules did not apply to female prisoners.

     In addressing the prisoner's First Amendment religion claim, the magistrate judge assigned to the case served on the parties in the case a copy of his findings of fact from a different case challenging the grooming regulations and directed the defendant correctional officials to file a summary judgment motion. He did not explain to the prisoner, who was acting as his own lawyer, that he intended to take "judicial notice" of these findings in the immediate case or how the prisoner could dispute the findings in the summary judgment process.

     After the defendants filed their summary judgment motion, the magistrate judge took "extensive judicial notice" of his prior findings and recommended that the district court grant defendants summary judgment. This recommendation was adopted by the trial judge, who also granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the prisoner's equal protection claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, based on the prisoner's failure to demonstrate exhaustion of the inmate appeals process before filing suit, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1997e(a).

     Reversing, a federal appeals court found that the procedure utilized by the magistrate judge with respect to the First Amendment issue was "flawed because it did not meet the requirements of our fair notice doctrine, under which the district court bears the responsibility of assuring that a pro se prisoner litigant receives meaningful notice of summary judgment procedures and requirements."

     On the exhaustion of remedies issue, the appeals court also found a problem, ruling that the burden was on the defendants to plead and prove that the plaintiff failed to exhaust available administrative remedies, rather than on the plaintiff to allege, in his complaint, that he had exhausted such remedies.

     "Whether the PLRA exhaustion requirement is an affirmative defense or a pleading requirement is an issue of first impression in this Circuit. We adopt the rule of the majority of circuits and hold that it is an affirmative defense. The burden of establishing nonexhaustions therefore falls on defendants. Because defendants did not meet this burden, we also reverse the dismissal of the prisoner's equal protection claim."

     Wyatt v. Terhune, #00-16568, 280 F.3d 1238 (9th Cir. 2002).

    »Click here to read the text of the decision on the court's website.

     •Return to the Contents  menu.

Disposing of a prisoner's medical blood samples in a manner inconsistent with his Jehovah's Witness religious beliefs--by failing to pour it on the ground and cover it with dust--did not violate his right to freely exercise his religion.

     An Iowa inmate claimed that state prison officials violated his civil rights when they failed to dispose of his medical blood samples in a manner consistent with his religious beliefs. Prison nurses routinely drew blood from prisoners for medical test, and the blood was sent to an outside laboratory for any tests other than a pin-prick blood sugar check.

     After the testing was completed, the lab decontaminates the blood before disposing of it. The prisoner, a practicing Jehovah's Witness, believes for religious reasons that after his blood has been tested, it should be poured on to the ground and covered with dust, and thus returned to the earth. He sued prison officials for failure to do so.

     The prisoner based his believe on biblical Old Testament scripture, though his interpretation, according to an appeals court, "goes beyond Jehovah's Witness's teachings." The defendant prison officials, in defense of their failure to comply with the prisoner's wishes, "express public safety concerns about the spread of disease if blood were to be disposed of in the way" that the prisoner has requested.

     A federal appeals court found that the trial court properly found that the prisoner's religious belief about the disposal of his blood was "sincerely held," so that he presented a valid free exercise claim which prison officials may infringe on "only if their action is reasonably related to a legitimate penological interest."

     The appeals court found, however, that there is a valid, rational connection between prison officials' penological concern on not jeopardizing public health and safety and their refusal to dispose of the plaintiff's blood by pouring it on the ground and covering it with dust.

     The appeals court quoted from the magistrate judge's report expressing concern that the prisoner's request would violate "universal precautions" of protecting the public from disease from blood and blood products. The magistrate expressed concern that hepatitis can live in drawn blood for several days, so that dogs could pick it up and "drag it into the neighbor's house," birds could stop, fly around, and pick it up, etc.

     "We agree with the magistrate judge that '[i]n today's world, where HIV, hepatitis, and numerous other serious illnesses are transmitted through contact with blood, the State's procedure that delivers excess blood from testing to a third-party contractor is reasonable, and is rationally connected to the legitimate, neutral government interest of protecting the health and safety of prison inmates and employees."

     The court concluded that there were no ready alternatives for the prison to accommodate the prisoner's request "without jeopardizing the health and safety of others," so that the prison's regulation is presumed reasonable. The "routine decontamination and disposal" of the prisoner's blood after medical testing "bears a reasonable relationship to prison officials' public health and safety concerns."

     Schreiber v. Ault, #01-1760, 280 F.3d 891 (8th Cir. 2002).

     »Click here to read the text of the decision on the court's website. (.pdf format).

     •Return to the Contents  menu.

State prison's denial of request of Shi'ite Muslims for separate group religious services from Sunni Muslims was not facially violative of their First Amendment rights. Shi'ite prisoner's rights may have been violated by use of joint services by a chaplain hostile to their sect to disparage their beliefs, but state correctional authorities enactment of new protocol prohibiting such disparagement addressed the problem.

     A number of Shi'ite Muslim prisoners at a New York correctional facility objected to the requirement that they attend religious services jointly with Sunni Muslims. They further alleged that a Muslim chaplain at the facility who was hostile to the beliefs of their sect and subscribed to the Sunni beliefs used the joint services to disparage Shi'ite principles and try to persuade them to become Sunni Muslims.

     The federal trial court found that the prison's regulations governing the practice of Islam did not facially violate the prisoner's First Amendment right to practice their religion. Prisoners were free, the court noted, to carry on their individual religious practices in their cells, and evidence showed that Shi'ite and Sunni beliefs and doctrines, although not identical, were similar. "It is undisputed that no ecclesiastical authority or religious text requires separate services for Shi'ites and Sunnis."

     The trial court nevertheless found that the prisoners made a "strong showing" that the actions of the chaplain who allegedly disparaged their beliefs and religious doctrines may have violated their rights. "While the First and Fourteenth Amendments do not require that prison inmates have access to religious advisors whose own views are completely congruent to their own, their protections are certainly not satisfied where the religious leader purportedly responsible for inmates' spiritual guidance overtly despises the deeply held beliefs of inmates under his charge."

     The state correctional authorities, however, in response to prior litigation in state court raising "essentially identical allegations," in August of 2001 put into place a Protocol designed to ensure that the rights of Shi'ite inmates are "respected and protected," warning correctional employees, including chaplains, voluntary chaplains and inmate facilitators, "to refrain from disparaging inmates on account of their religious beliefs, and mandates that Shi'ite Muslim inmates have full access to all Muslim religious education classes," equal opportunities to participate in all services and representation on the Muslim "Majlis" (a group for Muslim religious consultation and planning) of any facility in which Shi'ite inmates are present in the general population. It also afforded access to both formal and informal grievance procedures to seek redress.

     The trial court found that the plaintiffs "cannot establish that the defendants' refusal to establish separate services was unreasonable even given the allegations" about the chaplain at the facility, given the modification of the program by the new protocol, so that the plaintiff prisoners "cannot succeed on the merits of their claims."

     The court found that the prison authorities have"undoubtedly articulated a rational relationship between their refusal to provide separate services to Shi'ite inmates and their interest in limiting the administrative burdens placed on the prison system." Requiring separate services "for every religious subsect would stretch prison resources because of the added space, personnel and money that would be required to provide for additional congregations of prison inmates in a manner consistent with prison security."

     Pugh v. Goord, 184 F. Supp. 2d 326 (S.D.N.Y. 2002).

     [EDITOR'S NOTE: Readers may find the description in this opinion as to how New York correctional authorities responded to the prisoner's complaints by conducting an investigation and drawing up the new protocol to address the problem useful. Clearly, the court was impressed with the care taken with this, and the result obtained -- dismissal of the case --reflects that. The text of the opinion is also potentially useful for its somewhat detailed summary of both the differences and similarities in the beliefs and doctrines of the Shi'ite and Sunni Muslim sects].

     »Click here to read the text of the decision on the AELE website.

     •Return to the Contents  menu.

Sexual Assault

Female inmate sexually assaulted by prison guard was properly awarded $15,000 in compensatory and $5,000 in punitive damages against prison security director and $25,000 in punitive damages against warden for failure to protect her against the assault, based on guard's prior actions that a jury could have found put them on notice that he posed a substantial risk of serious harm to female prisoners.

     An inmate at an Iowa correctional facility for women claimed that a male prison guard engaged in various inappropriate and harassing sexual conduct towards her, which ultimately included forcibly having intercourse with her. She sued the prison security director and the warden for failure to take adequate steps to protect her against sexual assault, and a jury awarded her $15,000 in compensatory and $5,000 in punitive damages against the security director, as well as $25,000 in punitive damages against the warden.

     A federal appeals court has upheld those awards as justified by the evidence in the case.

     The male officer began his inappropriate activity by questioning the inmate as to whether she was having a sexual relationship with her roommate, and, if so, "could he watch." Following that, he allegedly violated prison policy by entering her room after lockdown and attempting to reach under her nightshirt, an advance she rejected. After the prisoner was assigned a new roommate, who was a known bisexual, the officer asked them "when's the show" after observing the two in their room together.

     Later that same evening, he allegedly grabbed the prisoner from behind and rubbed up against her while grabbing her breasts and kissing her. The prisoner later explained that she did not report these incidents because she doubted that she would be believed and feared the resulting discipline. Finally, the officer entered the prisoner's room on one occasion after he conducted a routine headcount, and began touching and kissing her over her verbal protests. She states that he then pulled down her underwear and forcibly had intercourse with her. She testified that, at the time of the assault, she was afraid of becoming pregnant and therefore began performing oral sex on him to stop the intercourse. Another prisoner witnessed the encounter and reported it to the security director.

     The officer was then given a letter of termination, and he resigned prior to its effective date. He later pled guilty to sexual misconduct with an inmate under Iowa Code Sec. 709.16(1).

     Evidence in the prisoner's lawsuit indicated that the officer had previously been the subject of complaints by several other inmates who said they were the target of his sexual advances. "Indeed," the appeals court summarized, "the evidence reveals" that he "had a history of predatory behavior throughout his employment at the prison." While an investigation into a claim by two inmates that he sexually assaulted them "proved inconclusive," he was still given a ten-day suspension as a result of his comment to an inmate threatening that he was going "to get the snitch" who alerted prison officials to his behavior.

     He also was accused of giving a ride to a paroled female inmate on her way to a work release program and engaging in sexual relations with her on the way, making inappropriate comments to an inmate's mother about the size of her breasts, and other misconduct.

     The appeals court found that the jury had sufficient evidence on which to base a finding that the security director and warden were deliberately indifferent to the risk that the officer would assault a female inmate. The defendants acknowledged that the sexual act at issue in the case was "sufficiently serious to amount to a deprivation of constitutional dimensions," but argued that they were not deliberately indifferent to the risk that the prisoner would be sexually assaulted because neither could "do anything further to protect her."

     The court noted that the officer had been the "subject of numerous investigations concerning his inappropriate behavior with inmates," and the security director acknowledged that she received copies of all the incident reports. As security director, the court stated, she was aware and testified that sexual misconduct involving guards and inmates was a "big concern," and that she was advised of the investigations into the allegations against the officer during weekly meetings with the warden.

     She herself testified that, despite these investigations proving inconclusive, she was concerned that the officer actually may have perpetrated the things that he was accused of and commented, "where there's smoke, there's fire" after repeatedly hearing his name surface in connection with prison investigations. She also admitted that the officer's threat to "get the snitch" could have been cause for termination, but that he was instead merely suspended.

     The security director herself recognized, the court said, that following the incident with the paroled inmate it "would have been prudent" to reassign the officer to an assignment with no further inmate contact, in order to protect prisoners. In fact, he was reassigned to the control center, but was returned to inmate contact positions after three months. All of this was evidence on which the jury could reasonably find that the security director knew that the officer posed a substantial risk to harm to female inmates at the facility by sexually assaulting them.

     The appeals court also found that it was "known or obvious" to the warden that the officer posed an excessive risk of harm to the inmates. She herself admitted that she was concerned about his "continued use of poor judgment when interacting with inmates and about the possibility that an inmate's safety was jeopardized while in his company." She even once, at the time of a second suspension, advised him that he should consider an alternative line of work.

     Despite her concerns and knowledge of the "many incidents" of the officer's "sexual misconduct," the court concluded, the warden allowed the officer to resume his prison duties which included inmate contact "that ultimately led to the assault" on the plaintiff.

     The mere fact that the defendants investigated the reports filed against the officer did not shield them from liability "because their responses were not adequate given the known risk." The appeals court rejected the argument that the defendants acted reasonably because of a collective bargaining agreement which they contended precluded the prison from permanently assigning the officer to an area without inmate contact or from assigning another employee to "shadow" the officer. The jury could reasonably find, the court ruled, that the officer was "far too significant of a risk to be allowed unsupervised contact with inmates."

     Riley v. Olk-Long, #00-3411, 282 F.3d 592 (8th Cir. 2002).

     »Click here to read the text of the decision on the web. (.pdf format)

     •Return to the Contents  menu.

Noted In Brief

Damages: Punitive

      County board of supervisors could be sued, overcoming qualified immunity, based on alleged prior decisions in bad faith to indemnify county sheriffs from punitive damage awards which purportedly proximately caused subsequent violations of plaintiff's constitutional rights. Navarro v. Block, #99-55623, 250 F.3d 729 (9th Cir. 2001). (.pdf format)

Defenses: Absolute Immunity

     Prosecutor was entitled to absolute immunity in lawsuit over alleged delay in transmitting to the jailer her decision to drop charges against a detainee, resulting in continued confinement when no charges against detainee were pending. Prosecutor was exercising prosecutorial functions in her actions. Neville v. Classic Gardens, 141 F. Supp. 2d 1377 (S.D. Ga. 2001).

DNA Tests

     Florida state DNA testing statute upheld against state constitutional privacy challenge. Requirement that all felons convicted of certain offenses undergo a DNA blood test also did not violate a juvenile felon's Fourth Amendment rights, since the public's legitimate interests in identifying the perpetrators of crime, absolving the innocent, and preventing recidivism outweighed a felon's diminished expectation of privacy. L.S. v. State of Florida, 805 So. 2d 1004 (Fla. App. 2001).

Medical Care

     Jail's failure to send a deputy to accompany a detainee to two hospitals to which he was transported by private ambulance for possible drug overdose problems did not violate his constitutional rights, even if sheriff's department employees were motivated, in this action, by a desire to relieve the county of the burden of paying for the treatment. Detainee still remained in the "constructive" custody of the sheriff's department, and therefore was properly returned to the jail following treatment. Lutz v. Smith, 180 F. Supp. 2d 941 (N.D. Ohio 2001).

     Former Georgia inmate settles medical malpractice claim against Department of Corrections for $280,000 concerning delay while in custody of diagnosis and treatment of syndrome which, if not treated, can lead to irreversible nerve damage in the bladder and bowel regions. Jury awards $600,000 against private medical services corporation involved in providing of care, and appeals court upholds trial court decision not to deduct settlement with governmental entity from jury award since "any amount less than $600,000 would be clearly inadequate in light of the overwhelming evidence of the serious, permanent and debilitating injuries" defendants caused the plaintiff to suffer. Ara Health Services v. Stitt, 551 S.E.2d 793 (Ga. App. 2001).

Negligent Hiring, Retention, Supervision, and Training

     Department of Corrections was entitled to summary judgment in lawsuit brought by prison employee's estate against department claiming that it negligently hired, supervised and monitored another prison employee who shot and killed the decedent. Washington state statute RCW 4.92.100 unambiguously requires that claims against the state shall be verified, and verification by plaintiff's attorney, rather than plaintiff, was insufficient when the plaintiff claimant was not incapacitated, a minor, or a non-resident of the state. Shannon v. State of Washington, No. 26446-3-II, 40 P.3d 1200 (Wash. App. 2002).

Prison Conditions: General

     Jail inmate's lawsuit claiming that the jail had cells that smelled of urine, poor means of transporting prisoners, bad living conditions, nurses with "bad attitudes," "unruly and abusive" guards, and that he was denied adequate medical care was sufficient to give the defendant jail officials notice of the claims against them so that they could file an answer and prepare for trial. While some of his allegations were "generalized," they were neither "vague nor conclusory." Evans v. Nassau County, 184 F. Supp. 2d 238 (E.D.N.Y. 2002).

     Prison officials did not impose cruel and unusual punishment on a prisoner, in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights, by restricting his rights to in-cell water for six days as a punishment after he flooded his cell, when he was allowed access to water elsewhere at least twice per officer shift. Temporary placement of inmate in a cell not equipped to accommodate his wheelchair did not constitute disability discrimination when it was done after he soiled his regular cell with feces and urine. Beckford v. Portuondo, 151 F. Supp. 2d 204 (N.D.N.Y. 2001).

Prison Litigation Reform Act: Exhaustion of Remedies

     The Prison Litigation Reform Act requires a court, before analyzing whether a prisoner has stated a federal civil rights claim under the Eighth Amendment, to first assess whether the plaintiff has exhausted available administrative remedies. Prisoner's claims were therefore dismissed, without prejudice, for failure to do so. Serrano v. Alvarado, 169 F. Supp. 2d 14 (D. Puerto Rico 2001).

Prisoner Assault: By Inmates

     Sheriff was not deliberately indifferent to risk of harm to detainees, although detainees were exposed to an objectively substantial risk of harm, specifically of assault and injury by other inmates, in overcrowded jail. While facility was overcrowded, the sheriff took "immediate and reasonable measures" to attempt to alleviate problems associated with overcrowding. Further sheriff was not present at the jail on the evening of the assault, and did not direct that the two plaintiff detainees be housed in the area of the jail where the assault occurred. Hedrick v. Roberts, 183 F. Supp. 2d 814 (E.D. Va. 2001).

Prisoner Assault: By Officers

     Federal appeals court upholds criminal conviction under 18 U.S.C. Sec. 242 of three corrections officers for depriving a prisoner of his civil rights in an incident in which two of the officers allegedly beat him and then the prisoner was prevented for a time from receiving medical care for his resulting injuries. Trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to grant separate trials for individual defendants. United States v. Daniels, #00-30624, 281 F.3d 168 (5th Cir. 2002).

Prisoner Suicide

     Jailer's alleged awareness of detainee's prior suicide attempt seven months before was not sufficient, standing alone, to impose liability for detainee's successful suicide, in the absence of any indication that there was a strong likelihood that the detainee would commit suicide when he did. Holland v. City of Atmore, 168 F. Supp. 2d 1303 (S.D. Ala. 2001).

Sexual Harassment

    Correctional officials were entitled to qualified immunity in lawsuit brought by prison nurse. Plaintiff failed to adequately establish that defendants' decision to transfer her to another facility where inmates had allegedly made threats against her life was motivated by a desire to retaliate against her for opposing a supervisor's alleged sexual harassment of a subordinate. Strouss v. Michigan Department of Corrections, No. 99-2501, 250 F.3d 336 (6th Cir. 2001).

Strip Search: Prisoners

     Prisoner was entitled to a new trial on his claim that a correctional officer violated his rights, since the evidence presented in the original trial was insufficient to support the jury's conclusion that the officer relied on permissible facts in deciding to perform a body cavity search. Lee v. Perez, 175 F. Supp. 2d 673 (S.D.N.Y. 2001).

     County's concerns about jail security did not justify its prior policy of searching all city arrestee's without any individual or class-wide findings of reasonable suspicion, and its amended policy, under which all city felony arrestees and arrestees held on default warrants were strip-searched without any regard for any individual characteristics violated the Fourth Amendment. Additionally, the city could be held liable for the strip-searches of female arrestees at the county jail under the county's unconstitutional blanket strip search policy, based on the city's policy of sending only female arrestees to the county jail. Ford v. City of Boston, 154 F. Supp. 2d 131 (D. Mass. 2001).

     Individual plaintiff who opted out of class action over county policy on strip and visual body cavity searches stated a possible claim for a violation of the Massachusetts state constitution Declaration of Rights, Article XIV. Ford v. City of Boston, 154 F. Supp. 2d 123 (D. Mass. 2001).

Workers' Compensation

     Prisoner who claimed he was injured while working at penitentiary laundry was entitled to a new hearing on his workers' compensation claim because the hearing examiner's findings in denying claim were contradicted by the "vast weight" of the evidence presented. Sweets v. Workers' Safety & Compensation Division, #01-75, 42 P.3d 461 (Wyo. 2002).

Cross References
Disability Discrimination: Prisoners -- See Also Featured Cases: Drugs and Drug Screening
Drugs and Drug Screening -- See Also Featured Cases: Prisoner Discipline
Medical Care -- See Also Featured Cases: Defenses: Qualified Immunity
Negligent Hiring, Supervision and Retention -- See Also Featured Cases: Sexual Assault
Parole -- See Also Featured Cases: Drugs and Drug Screening
Personal Appearance -- See Also Featured Cases: Religion
Prisoner Death/Injury -- See Also Featured Cases: Prisoner Assault: By Officers
Prisoner Death/Injury -- See Also Noted In Brief Cases: Workers' Compensation
Segregation: Disciplinary -- See Also Featured Cases: Drugs and Drug Screening
Sexual Discrimination -- See Also Featured Cases: Religion

Report non-working links here

Return to the  Contents   menu.

Return to the monthly publications menu

Access the multiyear Jail and Prisoner Law Case Digest

List of   links to court websites

Report non-working links  here.

© Copyright 2002 by AELE, Inc.
Contents (or partial contents) may be downloaded,
stored, printed or copied by, or shared with, employees of
the same firm or government entity that subscribes to
this library, but may not be sent to, or shared with others.