Category Archives: News

Is SCOTUS losing the respect of the public?

What’s going on with the Supreme Court of the United States that makes experts wonder whether the public even trusts this once esteemed institution? Here’s a great article that gives a unique perspective on the problem from a solution-based approach.

I’ve Joined Zoukis Consulting Group

It only made sense, really. My good friend, Chris Zoukis, asked me to join his consulting firm and I had to say yes. Chris is a highly-respected author and noted expert in federal criminal law and BOP matters. Right up my alley!

My ties to Chris go back several years, when we were cowriters for Criminal Legal News and Prison Legal News magazines. We stayed in touch over the years and, once Chris finished law school, he asked me to come aboard.

How could I say no?

I’ve joined as a litigation consultant with the Zoukis Consulting Group and it’s been busy. I opened a new office in Tampa and the boxes of stuff keep showing up at the reception desk. Every single day.

You can call me direct, 813-502-1007, or request a consult with the main office in Charleston, SC, at 843-620-1100.

Thanks to everyone who has stuck with me all this time and I hope to hear from you soon!

BOP Medical Center Prison Explodes with COVID Three Days After Lifting Mask Mandate

Just three days after the Federal Bureau of Prisons lifted its mask mandate at the Federal Medical Center at Devens, near Boston, COVID-19 cases exploded across the housing units. The medical isolation wing of the medical building is completely full and staff are stuffing prisoners with COVID into the Special Housing Unit (SHU), a jail of sorts within the prison with no medical personnel on shift.

It happened rather fast. On Friday (July 8), I reported that the entire medical prison was operating under “green” conditions, meaning that no masks were required anywhere in the prison (see here). By Tuesday, flocks of infected prisoners filled the medical isolation unit and staff have been sending the rest to the SHU.

Let me explain why the SHU is not a great place to put prisoners with COVID. The first thing staff does is strip search anyone going into the SHU. Then they put you in an orange jumpsuit and handcuff your hands behind your back. You`re put into a metal and concrete room with a terrible mattress and a metal toilet. You might get a Styrofoam cup. You have none of your medications or over-the-counter meds that you could buy at commissary, like Tylenol. The BOP doesn`t provide medications in the SHU, except prescription meds that medical staff deliver when needed.

You`ll sit in the SHU 10 days, even though the isolation period for COVID out in the “free world” is only 5 days. You`ll be handed food through a slot in the door and won`t have access to the phone or email. I`ve seen where some BOP prisons don`t allow mail delivery (incoming or outgoing) for anyone in isolation. It`s a very stark place, and definitely not a place where someone sick with COVID should be housed. In fact, the SHU is designed as a disciplinary unit for people who get into trouble. Regardless of why someone is in the SHU, the same disciplinary rules apply to everyone in there. That means COVID prisoners in the SHU are punished for being sick.

That`s what`s happening at the BOP`s medical prison right now. They are filling the SHU with prisoners sick with COVID-19. Meanwhile, the virus is spreading like wildfire throughout the housing units. Why? Because staff are forcing prisoners to eat in the dining hall on top of each other, mixing units. Obviously, it`s impossible to eat with a mask on. They stopped allowing prisoners to bring to-go containers of food back to the housing units to eat in their rooms in somewhat safe conditions. They cited the high cost of those to-go containers as the reason for doing requiring everyone to eat together in the chow hall.

This is reality for prisoners still struggling with COVID-19 in the BOP.

BOP Opens Direct Communications Link to Central Office for Transgender Prisoners

The BOP announced July 14, 2022, that it opened a direct email link to the Central Office in Washington, DC, to allow transgender prisoners to voice their complaints and concerns to the Transgender Executive Council (TEC). The link became active on July 5, through the BOP`s TRULINCS internal email system for prisoners and staff members.

The BOP`s memo posted on the electronic bulletin board in the prisons says the email link will be available for things such as wrongful pat-down searches of transgender prisoners, request for “gender affirming transfers” (presumably to a prison that matches one`s gender identity), requests for gender-assignment surgery, or “other accommodation requests.” However, complaints by transgender prisoners under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) or other administrative complaints should use existing lines of communication for those issues, not the link to the TEC.

“This is intended to facilitate a direct line of communication between inmates who identify as transgender and the TEC,” the memo says.

It works by sending an email to the TEC, which is a group of BOP departments (psychology, Office of General Counsel, etc.) that meets quarterly and is a division of the Central Office Branch. TEC can then respond directly to a prisoner`s request, but only if it is “directly related to the TEC.” Other requests will be ignored, the memo says.

The BOP strongly suggests that any transgender issues be addressed with staff at the local level before turning to the TEC. But the lack of help at the local level is exactly what prompted the BOP to create a direct link to the TEC at the Central Office level in the first place.

BOP Finally Gets New Director

Colette Peters, the new director of the BOP

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has a new leader, and it`s someone who has a long history of being pro-prisoner. Will she be able to hold up under the deeply corrupt BOP? I hope so.

Her name is Colette S. Peters, and she`s been the director of the Oregon Dept. of Corrections since 2012. She`s got 30 years of experience in the public safety arena, becoming the first woman to head the ODOC after stints leading other departments within the ODOC.

Atty General Merrick Garland, in a statement, said that Director Peters has a history of transforming prison environments to be more humane and effective. Most recently she ended the practice of ODOC staff calling prisoners “inmate.” She said it was demeaning and hindered their successful re-entry into society after prison.

She begins her new role as BOP Director on August 2, 2022.

Dale Chappell is the author of hundreds of published articles on the federal criminal justice system, and the Insider`s Guide series of federal post-conviction books. He is a federal litigation consultant with the Zoukis Consulting Group. Follow his blog at www.zenlawguy.com and on Twitter at @zenlawguy.