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A Civil Liability Law Publication
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(Published as VOLUME 2001 NUMBER 293)
Computers, E-Mail, Internet Issues
INDEX OF CASES CITED
COMPUTERS, E-MAIL, INTERNET ISSUES
California prison rule prohibiting the receipt, through U.S. mail, of Internet generated material, including e-mail, was rationally related to prison's legitimate security concerns; appeals court overturns order allowing prisoner to receive printouts of e-mails sent to his internet web page, created via an arrangement with an outside company.
A California maximum security prison, housing many dangerous prisoners, including some affiliated with prison gangs or who have committed serious disciplinary infractions, adopted a rule prohibiting the receipt of materials downloaded from the internet in inmate mail. Prisoners at the facility do not have direct access to the internet through computer terminals at the prison.
A company in the business of publishing personal Web pages on the internet for prisoner subscribers sold a page to one prisoner at a California prison who was later transferred to the maximum security facility. His page included an individual electronic (e- mail) address. The company periodically printed out any e-mail received by the inmate subscriber and sent them to him by regular U.S. mail. He received some of these messages at the maximum security facility prior to the imposition of the rule. After the rule ended his receipt of such e-mail messages, he filed suit challenging the prohibition on First Amendment grounds. A trial court issued an order that the inmate could receive e-mail or other Internet related material sent by U.S. mail, subject to existing regulations governing nonconfidential inmate mail.
An intermediate California appeals court reversed, concluding that the ban is valid because it is "reasonably related to legitimate penological interests" in prison security.
There was testimony in the case that the large population of gang-oriented inmates included many who have tried to use the mail to accomplish drug related crimes, smuggling, extortion, and solicitation for murder both inside and outside the prison, and that existing restrictions on the flow of information into and out of the prison, such as the limitation on inmate to inmate communication, was aimed at "impeding and curtailing criminal activity by inmates," as well as increasing prison security by keeping out coded messages, narcotics, weapons and other contraband. It was believed that the "quick and easy accessibility of communication by e-mail would generate an 'avalanche' of mail to inmates, exacerbating security problems and resulting in an 'exorbitant workload' for prison staff."
Additional concerns included:
* ascertaining the source of e-mail messages can be difficult because senders can hide or disguise their identity more easily than can those who send regular mail;
* the possibility that the volume of mail would dramatically increase and include junk mail or "spam" as well as personal communications;
* the possibility that the ability to "attach" material to an e-mail message would make it easier to send an "unlimited amount of information" by e-mail than by regular mail.
Upholding the rule, the appeals court noted that the policy operated in a "neutral fashion, banning all Internet-generated regular mail without regard to content." Further, it "was undisputed that prison officials believed the potential high volume of e-mail, the relative anonymity of the senders, and the ability of senders to easily send or attach lengthy articles and other publications would greatly increase the risk that prohibited criminal communications would enter the prison undetected and would make tracing their source more difficult. Prison officials were not required to prove that the banned material would actually cause or were likely to cause such problems, and the question is not whether their judgment was in fact correct, but whether it was rational."
The court concluded that the rule was "neither arbitrary nor irrational and was logically related to the prison's legitimate security concerns." The rule did not prohibit the prisoner from communicating with any specific person and did not prohibit the prisoner from having an internet web page. The web page in question, in fact, also had the inmate's regular mail address, enabling anyone who wanted to write to the inmate to do so, and had no effect on the inmate's ability to respond to a letter. Collins, In Re, 86 Cal. App. 4th 1176, 104 Cal. Rptr. 2d 108 (2001).
Text: <http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/>. [Cross-references: First Amendment; Mail].
Corrections officer did not violate a rule against "making a false official report" when he failed, in his applications for employment, to disclose his criminal conviction for resisting arrest and obstructing an officer, since his applications were not "official reports."
An Illinois county corrections officer was fired after the county sheriff charged him with "making a false official report" on the basis that he had filed four separate employment applications with the sheriff's office that all supplied false of misleading information regarding his criminal history. In these applications, he failed to reveal a conviction for resisting arrest and obstructing a police officer.
An intermediate Illinois appeals court ruled that the officer could not be found to have violated departmental rules against making a false official report, since he was not employed by the department at the time he submitted the applications, and therefore did not have any official duties.
The employment applications were not official "reports." The appeals court expressed some confusion about why the officer had not been charged with violation of another rule providing for the disciplining of officers who "have provided false or misleading information during the hiring process," and noted that nothing in its decision precluded officials from doing so on remand. Taylor v. Cook County Sheriff's Merit Board, No. 1-99-3550, 736 N.E.2d 673 (Ill. App. 2000).
Failure to allow officers being questioned at the workplace about possible criminal misconduct access to attorneys, union representatives and other procedural safeguards violated their rights under California Public Safety Officers' Bill of Rights.
There were allegations that the rape of an inmate at a California prison had been "set up" by prison staff, who then tried to conceal their conduct. After correctional officers refused to cooperate with the investigative efforts of the local prosecutor, the state Department of Corrections called for the assistance of the state Department of Justice to investigate the allegations of criminal misconduct by the officers.
An intermediate California appeals court upheld a finding that the manner in which the investigation was to be conducted violated various provisions of the state's Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act, Government Code sections 3300-3311, and that a preliminary injunction was therefore appropriate against the state Department of Corrections, but not against the state Department of Justice.
The provisions of the Act which were violated included sections that mandate that officers be told who would interrogate them, that they be given prior notice of the nature of the investigation, that they be allowed to make their own tape recordings of the interrogation, that they be allowed to consult with counsel before the interrogation, and that those who were "targets" of the investigation be allowed to bring a representative to the interrogation. Additionally, officers must be advised of their constitutional rights before questioning begins, as required by Lybarger v. Los Angeles, 40 Cal. 3d 822, 710 P.2d 329 (1985).
Officers were told that they could not leave the prison grounds until the interrogation was conducted, and they were threatened with disciplinary action if they did not answer the questions posed. Those who were "targets" of the investigation would be handcuffed and arrested if they refused to be interviewed.
The appeals court noted that the injunction against the Department of Corrections was expressly authorized by the Act, since that department is a "public safety department." The court noted, however, that the statute authorizes injunctive relief "only as to the employing public safety department," and does not authorize enjoining "the investigative activities of outside law enforcement agencies." Accordingly, the trial court went too far when it included the state Department of Justice as among the parties enjoined.
Further, it was the involvement of the Department of Corrections which made the Act applicable at all. Since the Department of Justice was not the officers' employer, it would not have any independent basis to compel cooperation or answers from officers questioned. Officers questioned by their employer may be found guilty of insubordination for refusal to answer questions during an interrogation, so long as those compelled answers cannot be used during a subsequent criminal proceeding.
In upholding the injunction against the Department of Corrections, the court stated that an administrative investigation could not be "recast as a criminal investigation to avoid the requirements of the Act." The provisions of the Act would not apply only if the criminal investigation was conducted primarily by outside agencies and without significant active involvement or assistance by the employer. California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. v. State of Calif., 82 Cal. App. 4th 294, 98 Cal. Rptr. 2d 302 (2000).
Denial of yard privileges for outdoor exercise for an entire year, imposed in four 90-day periods because of major disciplinary infractions, did not violate prisoner's rights; appeals court overturns $30,000 award against prison superintendent.
An Illinois prisoner asserted that he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment by being denied access to the prison yard for outdoor exercise for a period of a year. The prisoner had four 90-day suspensions of yard privileges imposed on him because of four separate major disciplinary infractions.
A jury awarded the plaintiff prisoner $15,000 in compensatory damages and $50,000 in punitive damages (cut to $15,000 by the trial judge) against the prison superintendent. A federal appeals court reversed, finding that the sanctions imposed were "proportional" to the prisoner's disciplinary infractions, which included an attack on a prison guard and the setting of a fire. The court further ruled that denial of yard privileges for a year was not "so severe" as to be "intolerable under any circumstances."
The appeals court further ruled that, even if the denial in question were viewed as cruel and unusual, the defendant superintendent would still be entitled to qualified immunity, since there was no prior case law clearly establishing that "stacking" of the 90 day denials of yard privileges would violate the prisoner's rights, and there was no evidence that the superintendent was "actually aware of any risk to the plaintiff's physical or psychological well- being" from the denial of yard privileges. Pearson v. Ramos, No. 98-4110, 237 F.3d 881 (7th Cir. 2001).
Illinois prison officials were not entitled to qualified immunity on denial of outdoor exercise to prisoner for a six-month period during lockdown when there was no showing that this prisoner posed any "particularized security risk."
A federal trial court in Illinois denied qualified immunity to prison officials on a prisoner's claim that he was subject to cruel and unusual punishment when he was deprived of out-of-cell exercise for a six month period during a prison lockdown. The court noted that the prisoner alleged that he became depressed as a result of this denial, and that the only outings offered to the inmate during this time period were weekly showers and a handful of family and medical visits.
The denial of exercise may rise to the level of cruel and unusual punishment in "extreme and prolonged" situations where it threatens the prisoner's physical or psychological health. In this case, the court stated, the record did not reflect that the plaintiff inmate presented any particularized security risk that might justify the loss of his exercise privileges. The lockdown in question was imposed throughout the facility because of various changes, including the ongoing redesign of inmate living units, and various new security measures.
The court ruled that, in light of clearly established law, the defendants could not have reasonably believed that a "six month denial of exercise, even during a lockdown, was lawful. Delaney v. Detella, 123 F. Supp. 2d 429 (N.D. Ill. 2000).
Former Texas prisoner, who claimed he was incarcerated for nine-months after the proper termination of his sentence, could not seek money damages in federal civil rights lawsuit when his conviction and sentence were not previously set aside; fact that he could no longer seek federal habeas relief, since he was no longer in custody, did not alter the result.
A Texas man was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated. He allegedly was incarcerated for a nine month period, but claimed that he was not given credit for this time and therefore had to "serve the time over again." After he was released, he filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against state correctional officials, seeking damages of $1,000 for each day he had "served over his sentence."
A federal appeals court ruled that, pursuant to Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, the former prisoner could not seek to recover money damages in a federal civil rights action when he could not show that his conviction or sentence had been overturned by a court. The court found that the mere fact that he was unable to seek federal habeas relief for his imprisonment, since he was no longer in custody, did not alter the result. Randell v. Johnson, No. 99-11092, 227 F.3d 300 (5th Cir. 2000).
EDITOR'S NOTE: In reaching this result, the court disagreed with three other federal appeals circuits which have ruled that Heck's rule requiring the favorable termination of prior court proceedings concerning the plaintiff's conviction or sentence should be relaxed for plaintiffs who have no procedural vehicle to challenge their conviction. See Jenkins v. Haubert, #98-2408, 179 F.3d 19 (2d Cir. 1999), full text: <www.tourolaw.edu/2ndCircuit>; Shamaeizadeh v. Cunigan, #98-5451, 182 F.3d 391 (6th Cir.), full text: <http://pacer.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions/main.php>, cert. denied, 120 S. Ct. 531 (1999); and Carr v. O'Leary, #96-3885, 167 F.3d 1124 (7th Cir. 1999), full text: <www.kentlaw.edu/7circuit/>. Two other federal appeals circuits have adopted the same rule. See Cabrera v. City of Huntington Park, #96-55258, 159 F.3d 374 (9th Cir. 1998), full text: <www.ce9.uscourts.gov/web/newopinions.nsf/>, and Figueroa v. Rivera, #97-2252, 147 F.3d 77 (1st Cir. 1998), full text: <www.law.emory.edu/1circuit>.
N.Y. prisoner awarded $25,000 in compensatory damages and $20,000 in punitive damages against correctional officer who allegedly found him guilty of a disciplinary infraction in retaliation for his participation in an inmate grievance resolution committee.
A New York prisoner claimed that a correctional officer found him guilty at a prison disciplinary hearing of attempting to organize a prison demonstration against "double-bunking" and sentenced him to 210 days in a special housing unit in retaliation for participating in an inmate grievance resolution committee and complaining about how the committee was being run. A jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff prisoner, awarding him $25,000 in compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages.
The trial judge found that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict, including facts showing that only two prisoners, both members of the inmate grievance committee, were punished for attempting to organize the prison demonstration, despite information that perhaps up to 30 prisoners were identified as being involved. The disciplinary hearing decision was subsequently overturned by the prison superintendent, and there was testimony at trial that the "overwhelming evidence" presented at the prisoner's disciplinary hearing "showed that he did not organize the alleged demonstration.
The court did, however, reduce the $75,000 in punitive damages to $20,000, finding the former figure excessive. Maurer v. Patterson, 197 F.R.D. 244 (S.D.N.Y. 2000). [Cross- reference: Prisoner Discipline].
Oregon prison rule prohibiting prisoners from receiving non-profit organization's newsletter about "prison legal news" because it was sent as bulk "standard rate" mail violated the First Amendment rights of both prisoners and the publisher of the newsletter.
An Oregon Department of Corrections policy prohibiting prisoners from receiving "standard rate mail" violated the First Amendment rights of both inmates and publishers when applied to prohibit the receipt of a subscription non-profit organization's newsletter, "Prison Legal News."
The policy was adopted based on the rationale that bulk mail is voluminous and generally of little value to prisoners and that substantial staff was required to sort, inspect and distribute bulk mail. The policy allows for the receipt of express, priority, first class and periodicals mail, with standard mail items returned to the Post Office.
The appeals court rejected the argument that the regulation banning "standard mail" does not implicate First Amendment rights "because it results only in the loss of cost advantages," requiring non-profit organizations, entitled to use standard mail rates, to forgo a cost advantage and use first class mail to send their newsletters to prisoners. The court noted that the speech at issue "is core protected speech, not commercial speech or speech whose content is objectionable on security or other grounds." Paying a higher postage rate "is not an alternative because the prisoner cannot force a publisher who needs to use, and is entitled to use, the standard rate to take additional costly steps to mail his individual newsletter."
The court found that the rule was not rationally related to an asserted interest in preventing receipt of contraband, reducing fire hazards, enhancing security or increasing the efficiency of random cell inspections.
Non-profit organization standard mail was entitled, the court ruled, to the same procedural protections given to first class and periodicals mail. At the same time, correctional officials were entitled to qualified immunity from damages since the right to receive standard rate mail was not clearly established prior to this case. Prison Legal News v. Cook, No. 99- 36084, 238 F.3d 1145 (9th Cir. 2001).
Text: <www.ce9.uscourts.gov/web/newopinions.nsf/>. [Cross-references: Access to Courts/Legal Info; First Amendment].
Washington state prison officials were entitled to qualified immunity from money damages for barring receipt of newsletter containing the names of current prison employees out of concern for employees' safety; qualified immunity, however, did not properly bar claims for declaratory and injunctive relief.
Washington state prison officials prohibited all inmates in their facilities from receiving the May 1999 issue of a publication entitled Prison Legal News because it contained a reprint of an article from a local newspaper entitled "Black Guard, White Guard: Racism in Washington Continues." The action was taken because the article contains the names of correctional employees who continue to work in the general prison population, which the officials were concerned might endanger the safety of these employees.
In a lawsuit challenging this action, a federal appeals court ruled that the defendant prison officials were entitled to qualified immunity from money damages, since "we cannot say that the law was sufficiently established to alert a reasonable officials that prohibiting inmates from receiving the article was improper."
At the same time, the appeals court ruled that the trial court erred "by also dismissing the plaintiffs remaining claims for declaratory and injunctive relief" on the basis of qualified immunity. Qualified immunity, the court noted, does not provide protection against declaratory and injunctive relief claims. The court therefore ordered further proceedings to determine whether the exclusion of the article from Washington state prisons on the basis of the stated safety/security concern was proper or not. Prison Legal News v. Washington State Dept. of Corrections, #00-35095, 2001 U.S. App. LEXIS 5165.
Full text: <www.ce9.uscourts.gov/web/newopinions.nsf/>. [Cross-references: Defenses: Qualified Immunity; First Amendment].
Paraplegic prisoner awarded $250,000 for inadequate medical treatment provided by county jail, which resulted in him needing three surgical procedures and suffering permanent scarring and disfigurement as well as "extreme pain and suffering."
A federal trial court awarded a total of $250,000 to a paraplegic prisoner in a Texas correctional facility for denial of adequate medical care. The court ruled that jail officials failed to adequately address the prisoner's need for medical treatment for "decubitus ulcers" caused by his paraplegia. Such ulcers are caused by "unrelieved pressure on the body--which damages the underlying tissue." The court found that the defendants' deliberate indifference to the prisoner's need for medical attention resulted in a worsening of these ulcers which caused "extreme pain and suffering and mental anguish," as well as requiring three surgeries within a six-month period and hospital treatment for almost one year afterwards, as well as "extensive scarring and disfigurement on his lower back and buttocks from this surgery."
The $250,000 award was divided into $150,000 for past pain and suffering and mental anguish and $100,000 for future pain and suffering and mental anguish. Because of the prisoner's medical condition, the court found, the defendants knew that he required daily medications and dressing changes, but failed to consistently provide them, and left him "lying in his own feces and on the filthy shower floor after he fell." The jail "knew it could not adequately care for a paraplegic" but "admitted him anyway," and continued to take the prisoner back into its custody and "to care for him inadequately" after several hospitalizations. Lawson v. Dallas County, 112 F. Supp. 2d 616 (N.D. Tex. 2000).
Occasional lapse of deputies in administering medication for prisoner's ear infection, although allegedly leading to a permanent hearing loss, did not constitute deliberate indifference when they did provide medication 162 times over a 20 day period and lacked knowledge that an occasional "lapse" could have serious medical consequences.
A pretrial detainee in an Illinois county jail contracted an ear infection. He later sued his jailers claiming that they displayed deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in their treatment of his infection by failing to administer prescription antibiotics to him on a number of occasions, leading to a permanent hearing loss in his right ear.
A federal appeals court upheld the rejection of this claim. The court found that the occasional failure of deputies to dispense the medication consistently on schedule did not show a "conscious disregard" for the prisoner's health. The record showed that they administered various forms of medication to the detainee 162 times over a twenty-day period, and that the deputies did not have any knowledge that there might be serious medical consequences from their occasionally failing to administer the prescribed dosage. Mere negligence in this regard is insufficient for federal civil rights liability.
The court further found no liability on the part of a supervisor, who was not shown to have either directed the deputies to miss administering any medication or to have had knowledge that they were doing so. Indeed, after being told by the prisoner's attorney that there was some complaint about administration of the medication, he investigated and was told by three deputies that the prisoner was receiving the medication as prescribed. Zentmyer v. Kendall County, Illinois, No. 99-1163, 220 F.3d 805 (7th Cir. 2000).
Officer was protected by qualified immunity from liability for bringing disciplinary proceeding against a Moslem inmate in retaliation for his wearing "kufi" religious headgear, since a reasonable officer could have concluded that contraband could be concealed under the kufi.
A trial court found that a N.Y. correctional officer brought a disciplinary proceeding against a Moslem inmate in retaliation for his wearing a "kufi" religious headgear, and further found that the prisoner had sustained damages of $3,005.
Considering the officer's motion for qualified immunity, however, the court found that a reasonable officer in the defendant's position could have concluded that a weapon or contraband could have been concealed under the kufi. Accordingly, despite the finding that the officer acted out of an improper motive, he was protected by qualified immunity from liability.
"Here, it is likely that there were legitimate penological interests served by preventing plaintiff from wearing the kufi at his work place. The garment was sufficiently loose to permit concealment of a weapon or contraband. Moreover, the work place was in the Administration Building, not in the close confines of the prison, was considerably less secure than plaintiff's usual quarters, and was occupied in part by civilian employees in addition to correction officers," providing some safety concerns. Nicholas v. Tucker, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2323 (S.D.N.Y.). [Cross-references: Defenses: Qualified Immunity; Prisoner Discipline].
Denial of prisoner's request for Native American religious items on the basis that he is Caucasian rather than Native American violated his right to equal protection of the law; prison officials could not use race as the basis to deny a request for articles sincerely sought for reasons of religious belief and practice.
A Virginia prisoner expressed a desire to practice a Native American religion, and as part of this made a request to obtain certain Native American spiritual items, such as sacred herbs, medicine bags and feathers, all items used in religious ceremonies. Prisoner authorities denied these requests, however, arguing that the prisoner did not qualify for a Native American religious exemption for possession of these items, otherwise banned from possession under prison property rules, because he is Caucasian and not of Native American descent.
A federal appeals court upheld the trial court's determination that this denial violated the plaintiff prisoner's rights under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, because it treated him differently from other prisoners solely on the basis of his race. The court ruled that this was intentional discrimination and could not be found to be justified by a legitimate penological interest since the defendants did not show that the requested spiritual items were any less dangerous when possessed by a Native American inmate than in the hands of a Caucasian inmate who had a sincere wish to practice a Native American religion.
The appeals court did not determine whether the prisoner's expressed religious views were sincere or whether there might be reasons to prohibit all inmates from possessing the items in question. It merely ruled that race could not be the basis for the denial. "If the number of inmates possessing a sincere, religious belief in the Native American religious practices and requesting the items at issue becomes so great as to render their presence in the prison environment uncontrollable or infeasible from a security standpoint, a different case may be presented." Morrison v. Garraghty, No. 00-6540, 239 F.3d 648 (4th Cir. 2001).
Indiana sheriff was liable for officer's alleged intentional sexual assault on a female prisoner; "consent" was not an available defense in the lawsuit, and state tort immunity statute did not apply.
Twelve days after being hired, an Indiana county jail officer was "flashed" by two female inmates who lifted up their shirts and showed him their breasts. They later took their clothes off in front of a camera, so that he could watch over a monitor. Later that evening, the officer ordered inmates in the cellblock to be locked down, and then summoned one of these female prisoners out of her cell, grabbed her by the arm, and brought her into a shower room, where he had her perform fellatio on him.
The officer later resigned after admitting the sexual misconduct, and later pled guilty to a criminal official misconduct charge, a misdemeanor. The female prisoner filed a lawsuit against the officer, as well as the sheriff and county commissioners.
An intermediate Indiana appeals court has overturned summary judgment for the sheriff. "As a result of an inmate's substantial dependency and the extraordinary control jailers wield over their prisoners, we hold that inmates are not precluded from recovering damages from a sheriff for injuries suffered by intentional wrongful acts of jail employees. Therefore, as a matter of law, liability attached to" the sheriff "on account of the wrongful acts committed" by the officer against the prisoner, since he had a "nondelegable" duty of care to inmates in the jail.
The court also noted that "consent" is not available as a defense to the prisoner's sexual assault claim brought by a prisoner against a correctional employee, pursuant to a state statute. Further, the court ruled that the sheriff was not immunized from liability by a state statute providing such immunity for losses resulting from "the adoption and enforcement of or failure to adopt or enforce a law." The sheriff's actions in operating a jail were "administrative and custodial in nature," rather than involving the "enforcement of law." The appeals court ordered that the sheriff be held liable and that a trial limited to the extent of the prisoner's injuries, "if any," and the appropriate damages be conducted. The county commissioners, however, could not be held liable since they lacked control over the sheriff and his operation of the jail. Robins v. Harris, No. 84A01-0002-CV-57, 740 N.E.2d 914 (Ind. App. 2000).
Female DUI detainee was properly strip-searched twice, once by female deputy upon booking, based on her possession of a handgun when arrested, and once by a male nurses assistant at the jail infirmary, based on a medical need to perform an examination of cranial and pubic hair to combat lice problems in the facility.
A federal appeals court upheld as reasonable two strip searches of a female detainee arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. The detainee was strip searched at the county jail by a female deputy when first booked, and strip searched a second time by a male nurses assistant the next day when she went to the jail infirmary.
The appeals court found that the county jail's policy, requiring that each inmate be strip searched by a same sex jail staff member before being placed in a cell or detention room, since it did not require any "reasonable suspicion" of possession of weapons or contraband, "does not comport with the requirements of the Fourth Amendment." At the same time, the strip search was constitutional in this case, since the detainee had a .38 special handgun in her possession when arrested. The possession of one weapon by the detainee provided the "reasonable suspicion" necessary to authorize a strip search.
The court further found that the infirmary strip search was justified by the medical purposes of combating the prevalence of head and body lice among inmates. Under the medical procedures utilized, "there is a body search for lice, cranial and pubic hair both are examined, but there is no unnecessary contact with the inmate, nor are the inmate's genitals touched." The court found that the fact that the search in question was conducted by medical personnel of the opposite sex did not make the search "inappropriate." Skurstenis v. Jones, No. 00-10122, 236 F.3d 678 (11th Cir. 2000).
Rhode Island policies providing for strip and visual body cavity searches of all males committed to the state prison were unreasonable, in the absence of individualized reasonable suspicion that prisoners possessed weapons or contraband.
Rhode Island Department of Corrections policies provided that all male prisoners committed to the state prison be subject to a strip search and a visual body cavity search upon incarceration as a matter of routine procedure. A federal appeals court ruled that this policy was unreasonable when applied to persons held for minor offenses, in the absence of any individualized suspicion of possession of weapons or contraband. The court found that the security concerns of the prison could not justify the "indiscriminate strip search" and visual body cavity search policy. The mere fact that arrestees were intermingled with the general prison population was insufficient to justify the policy.
The court noted that the searches in question were not limited to prisoners who have contact with outside visitors, nor limited to "highly dangerous" prisoners who had committed violent felonies. Additionally, while there was a lengthy history of contraband problems at the prison in question, the record showed that a body cavity search was "with possibly one exception," entirely "unnecessary to discover that contraband." Roberts v. Rhode Island, No. 00-1752, 239 F.3d 107 (1st Cir. 2001).
Louisiana trial court denies summary judgment in prisoner's lawsuit over his being required to wear a stun belt for nine hours on a day when he went to court; lawsuit claims that wearing the belt for that period of time was cruel and unusual punishment despite it not having been activated.
A Louisiana trial court has denied the state's motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit brought by a prisoner challenging the use of a stun belt on him on a day that he was in court for a hearing on a civil suit. He wound up wearing the stun belt for over nine hours because of a transportation problem.
Although the stun belt was not activated, the plaintiff prisoner claimed that wearing the belt for this extended period of time bruised him and that its use on him, when he was not classified as an escape risk (since he had received no disciplinary actions in over twenty years of incarceration) was cruel and unusual punishment, particularly in light of a heart condition and recommendations by the belt's manufacturer that it be worn for no longer than eight hours.
The state argued that both 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1997e(e) of the Prison Litigation Reform Act and a comparable provision in state law, La. R.S. 15:1184e barred the prisoner receiving damages for mental anguish in the absence of any showing of physical injury, so that the lawsuit should be dismissed. The prisoner argued that the court could award damages for the violation of constitutional rights, an argument the trial court agreed with. Sinclair v. State of Louisiana, No. 469,519 Louisiana trial court, (19th JDC Div. N. La.), reported in The National Law Journal, p. 1 (Feb. 19, 2001).
INDEX OF CASES CITED
Page numbers in [brackets] refer to the print edition.
California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. v. State of Calif.,
82 Cal. App. 4th 294, 98 Cal. Rptr. 2d 302 (2000).[69-70]
Collins, In Re, 86 Cal. App. 4th 1176, 104 Cal. Rptr. 2d 108 (2001).[67-68]
Delaney v. Detella, 123 F. Supp. 2d 429 (N.D. Ill. 2000).[70-71]
Lawson v. Dallas County, 112 F. Supp. 2d 616 (N.D. Tex. 2000).
Maurer v. Patterson, 197 F.R.D. 244 (S.D.N.Y. 2000).
Morrison v. Garraghty, No. 00-6540, 239 F.3d 648 (4th Cir. 2001).[75-76]
Nicholas v. Tucker, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2323 (S.D.N.Y.).
Pearson v. Ramos, No. 98-4110, 237 F.3d 881 (7th Cir. 2001).
Prison Legal News v. Cook, No. 99-36084, 238 F.3d 1145 (9th Cir. 2001).[72-73]
Prison Legal News v. Washington State Dept. of Corrections,
#00-35095, 2001 U.S. App. LEXIS 5165.[73-74]
Randell v. Johnson, No. 99-11092, 227 F.3d 300 (5th Cir. 2000).
Roberts v. Rhode Island, No. 00-1752, 239 F.3d 107 (1st Cir. 2001).
Robins v. Harris, No. 84A01-0002-CV-57, 740 N.E.2d 914 (Ind. App. 2000).[76-77]
Sinclair v. State of Louisiana, No. 469,519 Louisiana trial court, (19th JDC Div. N. La.),
reported in The National Law Journal, p. 1 (Feb. 19, 2001).[78-79]
Skurstenis v. Jones, No. 00-10122, 236 F.3d 678 (11th Cir. 2000).
Taylor v. Cook County Sheriff's Merit Board, No. 1-99-3550, 736 N.E.2d 673 (Ill. App. 2000).[68-69]
Zentmyer v. Kendall County, Illinois, No. 99-1163, 220 F.3d 805 (7th Cir. 2000).[74-75]
Page numbers in [brackets] refer to the print edition.
© Copyright 2001 by AELE, Inc.
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