Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Two Sides to Benefit of New Prison Guard Law

Congress Passes "Eric Williams Correctional Officers Protection Act


by Derek Gilna


            The "Eric Williams Correctional Officers Protection Act,"  named after a deceased correctional officer killed by a prisoner at U.S. Penitentiary at Canaan, Pennsylvania, passed Congress by unanimous votes. The law provides authority for federal correctional officers to carry non-lethal pepper spray in both medium and higher security prisons.

            The job of correctional officers is certainly not easy, and guards are always outnumbered by prisoners, and there are other dangers for prison employees as well. The United States Department of Justice estimates that at least one-third of all federal prisoners suffer from some form of mental illness, and the BOP has received no awards from prisoner-rights advocates for enlightened treatment of those maladies.

            Representatives and Congressmen were both energetic and unanimous in their praise of the deceased guard, but hopefully they saved some of their energy for consideration of other important issues concerning prisoners: sentencing relief and reform of the broken Bureau of Prison health care and compassionate release programs. Congressional committees and the United States Sentencing Commission have both commented negatively on that agency's inability to properly administer medical care and the compassionate release program for sick, helpless prisoners who often find that even a short sentence of imprisonment can be a death sentence.

            Although the arming of prison guards with pepper spray may seem a great idea to Congressmen cocooned in the fortress-like U.S. Capitol Building, to the prisoner forced to eat  expired prison food, suffer substandard prison medical care, and endure the daily petty indignities of confinement, it does not seem like such a great idea. Prison guards safety depends less on armaments than on good management, fair treatment,  and mutual respect, which is often hard to get given the clear inability of the Bureau of Prisons to properly manage its facilities.



Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Supreme Court Makes Johnson Case Retroactive

Supreme Court Decision in Welch Case Makes Johnson Case Retroactive Nationwide


            Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Welch case, which made the Johnson decision retroactive, is the decision that we have been waiting for to put the key in the lock for federal prisoners with ACCA residual clause issues.  As was predicted here not a month ago, the Supreme Court has held that the Johnson case announced a new substantive rule that has retroactive effect in cases on collateral review.

            In practical terms, this means that there is now no rush to file a Johnson case before the end of June, since the Supreme Court ruling takes precedence and must be applied by all federal courts across the nation.  We estimate that several thousand federal prisoners will qualify for relief under this new holding.

            In making the Johnson holding retroactive, the court noted in Welch, “a majority of this Court concluded that (previous decisions) did not bring sufficient clarity to the scope of the residual clause, noting that the federal courts remained mired in ‘pervasive disagreement’ over how the clause should be interpreted.”  We read that as a rebuke to the circuits who chose to ignore Johnson before today.

            Those of you who are currently represented by us may rest assured that we are examining all of our filings and pending filings to incorporate this new decision. However, if you have Johnson facts, or know someone who does, and wish to take advantage of this landmark case, please contact us immediately.


Federal Legal Center, Inc.

113 McHenry Rd. #173

Buffalo Grove, IL  60089



Thursday, April 14, 2016

BOP Acknowledges Crisis in Prisoner Medical Care

Bureau of Prisons Struggles to Provide Prison Medical Care, Says

Staffing of Medical Facilities Reaches “Crisis Level.”


Reprinted by Permission of Prison Legal News


            BOP administrators have recently acknowledged that several factors, including an aging prison population, medical staffing gaps, and other problems have causing rising problems in providing timely and adequate medical care to prisoners.  This will come as no surprise to the chronically-ill individuals within the system who are subjected to the effects of that system.  It is also the reason for the new medical services ‘survey’ that inmates are now encouraged to fill out.

            According to USA Today, ‘Physicians are paid at least 55% more in the private sector, while dentists are paid at least 112% more outside the system…the government has been increasingly unable to compete with the private sector for medical professionals…’ In other words, this in essence means that the BOP is only able to hire those who are unemployable elsewhere, for whatever reason.

            In one Region of the BOP, there are three physicians on staff, and two of those are in that Region’s Metropolitan Correctional Center, who allegedly provide medical care to tens of thousands of inmates in that Region.  Of course, in today’s medical community, PA’s supply medical care, but PA’s are not trained or intended to act in the place of physicians.

            This explains the recent upsurge of prisoner federal civil rights suits and federal tort claims actions specifically targeting those individuals and institutions responsible for the continuing problem by prisoners who are becoming increasingly more sophisticated in retaining medical records and other evidence.  Once targeted by these suits, prison administrators and medical personnel can no longer say that they are not aware of the problem. Many prisoners feel that without such legal action, that their medical issues and requests for compassionate release would continue to be ignored.

            This upsurge in litigation and complaints has caught the attention of Congressional oversight offices, as well as the DOJ’s Inspector General, and in all probability was the catalyst for the newest prisoner survey. The BOP has indicated that it needs to develop a ‘strategic plan’ to resolve the problem.”


Federal Legal Center, Inc.

113 McHenry Rd., #173

Buffalo Grove, IL  60089



Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Update on Proposed Federal Habeas Corpus Action Changes

Changes Planned to 1983 Prisoner Lawsuit Format A Welcome Development



            The Washington University Law Review has published a study that they propose to forward to Congress to change the primary litigation component by which prisoners can sue for violations of their civil rights by prison authorities.  Commonly known as 1983 actions, the study notes that in 2015, “inmates filed nearly 27,000 civil rights actions in federal court.”

            Unfortunately, this form was “based upon a model first developed in the 1970’s,” the report continued, and can be “confusing to people not familiar with the law and can diminish their chances of winning a lawsuit,” according to Richard Frankel of Drexel University Kline School of Law and Alistair Newbern of Vanderbilt University Law School.

            The recommended changes would include not requiring a plaintiff to bring up his litigation history, removing language that encourages the plaintiff to “briefly” state the facts, replacing it with a provision asking for as much detail as possible, and eliminating the portion of the form that asks prisoners to state the legal grounds of their claim.

            There are enough hurdles to life in prison without having clear yet another one to get relief for a civil rights violation.  Unfortunately, prison libraries have drastically curtailed or eliminated legal research resources, and the authors of the study feel that this is unfair and should be changed also.

            Once again, we are available for such actions, as well as many other prisoner relief petitions, should you wish to pursue them. We encourage you to visit us at for further information.  Thank you.


Federal Legal Services, Inc.

A not-for-profit corporation

113 McHenry #173

Buffalo Grove, IL 60089