Union calls for no-confidence vote on Louisville jail chief

(backdating the news…this is a month old – but important!)

Image result for louisville kentucky jail

Phillip M. Bailey , @phillipmbailey Published 10:52 p.m. ET April 25, 2017

Mayor Greg Fischer and Metro Corrections Director Mark Bolton emphasized working with corrections staff to improve conditions at jail facilities on Wednesday afternoon, a day after rank-and-file officers moved to hold a no-confidence vote on Bolton’s leadership.

Chris Poynter, a spokesman for Fischer, said the “mayor appreciates the union’s input. Now, let’s move on to doing the difficult work at Metro Corrections and working to improve every day.”

But in a statement to the Courier-Journal late Tuesday after the correction workers’ union voted to pursue the no-confidence vote, union President Tracy Dotson said Bolton is “misrepresenting the dangerous overcrowding issue at the jail” to city officials and the media.

Dotson, whose union includes more than 500 sworn officers, said their issues with Bolton “are ridiculously many,” including workplace security, health and safety.

Bolton spokesman Steve Durham said the corrections department has seen unprecedented growth of the inmate population, due in large part to a logjam of prisoners awaiting transfer to state facilities. In February,  for instance, jail officials said the population across the department’s three facilities topped 2,300 despite a designed capacity of 1,793 beds.

“The Metro Corrections jail facilities do not control who is admitted or released,” Durham said. “We will continue to work with our criminal justice partners both locally and at state levels to develop solutions that promote and enhance public safety and ensure a quality work environment for our staff.”

Dotson reiterated officers’ previous complaints, including cameras and intercoms in key areas that do not work; a refusal to meet with FOP leadership on employee issues; failure to fill job vacancies; disintegration of sworn staff training; and alleged retaliation and harassment of FOP members and leadership for participating in union activity.

Dotson said the vote on Bolton will take place in a couple of weeks.

Bolton’s leadership has been under increasing scrutiny, including a pending audit of the jail’s overcrowding issues and taxpayer costs, and the vote will be the second regarding a top public safety official in the city in recent months. In December, less than 2 percent of police FOP members said in a vote that they had confidence in police Chief Steve Conrad’s leadership.

Bolton’s office said he is committed to being transparent in his response to public safety challenges under the jail’s direct control.  Durham said there are 22 recruits in the department’s current academy class, for instance.

Local jail officials also said state Corrections Commissioner Rodney Ballard has sent the city a letter on strategies to free up space in the jail and on plans to add capacity at facilities across the state, although they did not share those details.

“Commissioner Ballard expressed that these measures will significantly improve problems with capacity at Metro Corrections,” Durham said. “We certainly hold Commissioner Ballard to his word.”

Besides the union, Bolton also has been in a battle with District Court Judge Stephanie Pearce Burke, who filed a contempt order in January asking him and his top brass to explain incidents in which she alleged inmates were improperly held. Two former Louisville inmates have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that they and hundreds of others were detained in violation of their constitutional rights.

The Jefferson County Attorney’s Office has said most of Burke’s claims of noncompliance with court orders are incorrect.

Reporter Phillip M. Bailey can be reached at 502-582-4475 or pbailey@courier-journal.com.

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Former Kentucky jail guard convicted of beating inmate who later died

 

 

KYRiverJail2.jpg

A former Kentucky jail guard was convicted of beating an inmate and leaving him lying with blood on his face, until another jail employee saw the victim and he was rushed to a hospital and pronounced dead, officials said on Friday.

A federal jury deliberated for an hour and a half before returning the verdict late on Thursday against William Howell, a former deputy jailer at Kentucky River Regional Jail in the town of Hazard, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement.

The panel found Howell guilty of excessive force and of ignoring the inmate’s injuries and he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for each criminal count when he is sentenced on Aug. 16 at a federal court in London, Kentucky.

Howell, 60, and another guard beat inmate Larry Trent, 54, on July 9, 2013, after he was booked on a charge of drunken driving.

It started when the two guards opened Trent’s cell door to remove a sleeping mat. Trent ran out and the jailers punched, kicked and stomped on Trent before taking him back to his cell, where Howell kicked Trent in the head while he lay on the ground, the Department of Justice statement said.

An autopsy found Trent died of a fracture to his pelvis that caused hemorrhaging and from blunt force trauma to his head, chest and limbs.

Damon Hickman, the other guard, pleaded guilty last year to depriving Trent of his legal rights and falsifying records for his role in the beating, according to court records. He has not yet been sentenced for those convictions.

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http://perrycounty.ky.gov/da/Pages/jail.aspx

Vindicated: After 28 years in Kentucky prison, William Virgil walks free

By Jason Riley

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William Virgil arrives for court on Jan. 6, 2017 (Photo by Jason Riley, WDRB News)

NEWPORT, Ky., (WDRB) – After insisting he was innocent for decades – including 28 years spent in prison – William Virgil has finally been vindicated, as a judge dropped charges against him Friday for the 1987 murder of a Veterans Administration nurse in Newport.

Virgil’s conviction was thrown out a year ago, and he was released from prison on bond thanks in large part to DNA testing that was not available when he was found guilty.

Prosecutors had said there was still enough evidence to convict Virgil and a retrial was scheduled for April 24, but during a hearing in Campbell Circuit Court on Friday, Commonwealth’s Attorney Michelle Snodgrass recommended dismissing the murder case because a grand jury last month found there was not enough evidence to move forward.

Judge Julie Reinhardt Ward agreed, dismissed the case without prejudice, which means it could be brought back up again.

Snodgrass said it is “not a declaration of innocence,” just what grand jury decided based on current evidence. The case remains open and Snodgrass said evidence was being sent for further DNA testing.

Virgil immediately hugged his attorneys with the Kentucky Innocence Project, which has been working on his case since 2010. It is the 14th person the state Innocence Project has helped exonerate.

In an interview with reporters after he was set free on Friday, Virgil, 66, was asked if he was angry.

“Why would I be angry?” he said. “It’s a waste of time.”

Defense attorneys for Virgil have filed a wrongful conviction lawsuit and had asked the judge to find prosecutorial misconduct.

“He was framed,” Elliott Slosar, the attorney for William Virgil said on Friday. 

Snodgrass says she has found no wrongdoing.

On April 11, 1987, Retha Welch’s body was found in a blood-filled bathtub of her Newport, Ky., apartment. She was reported to have been raped, stabbed repeatedly and bludgeoned with a vase. Her car and several items from her apartment were missing.

Virgil, who was living mostly in Cincinnati at the time, claims he had no idea when Welch died, only learning about it later from a parole officer.

But evidence, according to police and prosecutors, quickly pointed to Virgil, though it was all circumstantial.

A man who was dating Welch said he saw Virgil outside her apartment days before her body was discovered. His clothes and shoes had blood on them. (At the time, there was not enough blood on Virgil’s clothes for testing and DNA was not yet used as evidence in criminal cases.)

Virgil’s fingerprint was found on a lamp in Welch’s apartment. A bloody palm print on the wall couldn’t be matched to anyone involved in the case.

A jailhouse informant claimed Virgil confessed to him while the two shared a jail cell. A former girlfriend claimed Virgil asked for her help in killing Welch.

But the case fell apart in recent years.

Judge Fred Stine overturned Virgil’s conviction in December 2015 based on the findings from the Kentucky Innocence Project, which include: DNA testing showed blood on Virgil’s clothes did not belong to Welch and semen in her was not his; hairs found on Welch’s clothing did not match Virgil; witnesses’ stories no longer held up under scrutiny; and other suspects were ignored.

Last month, Virgil and his attorneys filed a federal lawsuit in Covington alleging police and prosecutors “manipulated witnesses, fabricated evidence and withheld exculpatory information that would have demonstrated his absolute innocence of this crime.”

The Innocence Project alleges, for example, that prosecutors were responsible for destroying a knife in 2005 that had been used as evidence during Virgil’s trial “with full knowledge that forensic testing of the knife could lead to Mr. Virgil’s complete exoneration.”

Prosecutors asked a judge to order the knife destroyed without Virgil being present or being provided notice that such a request took place, according to court records. The knife had been linked to another suspect in Welch’s death.

The Innocence Project claims nearly 100 pieces of physical evidence from the trial have been retained, including two other knives.

Virgil’s attorneys also allege that the jailhouse informant who told jurors Virgil confessed to him while the two shared a jail cell recanted his testimony in a sworn affidavit.

In a 2015 interview with WDRB, Virgil said he was offered a guilty plea that would amount to a slap on the wrist for such a gruesome crime.

Seven years in prison – possibly cut to three or four years with good behavior — but Virgil insisted he was innocent and turned down the deal, taking his case to trial, where he was found guilty and sentenced to 70 years in prison.

At his sentencing, Virgil remained defiant.

“I told them that they had the wrong guy and whoever it was that committed the crime was still out there running around,” Virgil told WDRB News.

He hasn’t budged from that position over the past 30 years, telling the state parole board in three different hearings that he was wrongly convicted, even though admitting guilt and remorse could go a long way towards his release.

For years, he had fought for his release, becoming a jailhouse legal expert for himself and other inmates. His case didn’t get any traction, however, until the Kentucky Innocence Project took him on as a client.

“I had been fighting it for 23 years by myself,” Virgil said. “I was overjoyed to know that someone was finally representing me…Without them, I don’t know what chance I would have.”

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Trouble Behind Bars: When Jail Deaths Go Unnoticed

 
By: R.G. Dunlop October 5, 2015
Mugshot of Larry Trent taken after his July 5, 2013 arrest by Hazard Police. Trent was booked into Kentucky River Regional Jail for an outstanding bench warrant and on a charge of operating a motor vehicle under the influence.

HAZARD, Ky.—Larry Trent was just one of the 154 or more inmates who died in a Kentucky jail during the past 6½ years.

Arrested on July 5, 2013, in his car outside a Hazard doughnut shop, the 54-year-old Trent told police he drank “about four beers and mouthwash” before driving to the store with his 10-year-old grandson.

Booked into the Kentucky River Regional Jail, Trent couldn’t post bond, so he remained in custody. Four days later, he was dead, allegedly the victim of a fatal beating by two jail deputies.

Within 48 hours of Trent’s death, jail Administrator Tim Kilburn completed a required report for the state Department of Corrections and classified Trent’s death as a homicide. And a few weeks later, the two deputies were charged with manslaughter, accused of killing Trent by “striking, kicking and restraining” him.

The case is still pending, and a federal civil-rights investigation is ongoing. But Trent’s estate already has received a $2.375 million legal settlement — one of the largest in the state during the past 15 years.

The Department of Corrections doesn’t investigate jail deaths. “That would fall to law enforcement,” said department spokeswoman Lisa Lamb.

The department’s responsibilities do, however, include ensuring the safety of inmates and staff, as well as enforcing jail standards, such as those related to training. But DOC documents provided recently to the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting give no indication that the department found anything related to Trent’s death that merited its attention.

For example, the documents list Trent’s cause of death simply as an “altercation” in the jail. An internal DOC memo written after Kilburn’s report says little except that Trent “became combative” and that “use of force was necessary” to subdue him. And although the accused killers served as the jail staff trainers, department records don’t indicate a need for more or better training.

Trent’s is by no means the only in-custody death involving a jail inmate that raises questions about the aggressiveness and thoroughness of Department of Corrections’ oversight.

A months-long investigation by KyCIR found that at least several inmate deaths for which the cause is listed in DOC records as “natural, “unknown” or “autopsy pending” appear to have involved jail staff lapses, misconduct or indifference.

And the Department of Corrections’ own findings and follow-up in those cases were sketchy or nonexistent, despite evidence that the deaths were preventable.

Over the next five days, the “Trouble Behind Bars” series will show numerous Kentucky jail inmates have died or been injured because officials at all levels of government failed to ensure their health and safety.

The causes of more than 40 percent of all Kentucky jail deaths in the past 6½ years are listed ambiguously in department records, with the cause of death variously given as “unknown,” “natural” or “autopsy pending” — even though many of those deaths occurred years ago.

When KyCIR recently asked the department for more current, specific information about the unclear, years-old causes of death, DOC responded that it had none.

The department refused to say whether it followed up on jail deaths, and if not, why not.

“The Department of Corrections has been responding to your questions regarding county jails to the best of our ability for the past 10 months,” a DOC statement read. “We do not have anything further to add on this topic.”

In another case, the DOC list of deaths shows that Valerie Jones, a disabled veteran, died of “heart disease” after being jailed in LaRue County in September 2009. But a lawsuit filed by Jones’ family alleged that she was not properly treated for severe pain, and that she was left in her cell when she desperately needed medical attention.

More than five years later, DOC records still list the autopsy in her case as “pending.” The lawsuit was settled in 2011 for $92,859.

Danny Burden in the summer of 2012, less than a year before his death.

family photo

Danny Burden in the summer of 2012, less than a year before his death.

The death of Danny Burden isn’t listed at all in the department’s compilation of jail deaths. Burden was discovered unconscious in the Grant County jail in March 2013 and later died at an area hospital. A civil suit filed by his family and alleging neglect is pending. A state police inquiry found that Burden, a diabetic, badly needed insulin but did not receive it.

The Department of Corrections, however, found nothing to warrant concern — or action. The department would not comment on the omission of Burden’s death from their list of jail deaths.

A KyCIR examination of the Grant County jail, one of the state’s most troubled and the focus of a U.S. Justice Department investigation for more than a decade, shows lax government oversight and little action following Burden’s death and at least two others that seemingly could have been prevented by jail staff.

During the past 6½ years, a Kentucky jail inmate has died an average of about once every 15 days. But in-jail deaths generally are not of interest or concern to the public at large, said Louisville attorney Greg Belzley, who has filed several dozen lawsuits over the past 15 years alleging wrongdoing in connection with inmate deaths.

No lawsuit often means no accountability, Belzley said. When a jail inmate dies, “People may look it and say ‘s—, another one gone, thinning the herd,’” Belzley said. “There is no question that some deaths that aren’t litigated involve wrongdoing that never gets exposed.”

About three-fourths of the state’s jails have incurred at least one inmate death since 2009. Oldham County Jailer Mike Simpson said no one had died in his jail since the 1990s. And while he didn’t think that fatality could have been prevented, he said, “when something like that happens, we all have a little bit of ownership.”

Incomplete Accounting of Deaths

In Kentucky, the DOC’s incomplete death data show that at least 33 of the 154 deaths have been suicides. Suicide is the single-most frequent cause of deaths in jails across the country, and it has been for at least the past 15 years.

That’s at least partly because large numbers of people housed in jails have significant emotional problems, because jail staff often aren’t trained to deal with them, and because jail conditions can exacerbate or trigger those mental-health issues, said Preston Elrod, a professor in the School of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University.

Among the deaths reviewed by KyCIR were two suicides that occurred in 2010 at Grant County’s jail. The Justice Department has asserted in a document obtained by KyCIR that the two suicides there resulted from “serious breakdowns in jail medical care.”

Grant County Detention Center

R.G. Dunlop / KyCIR

Grant County Detention Center

Carl Lewis hanged himself in the jail on April 11, 2010. He had been placed in a cell by himself with a bed sheet, despite the fact that he was deemed a suicide risk and had what the Justice Department later called a “history of suicidal ideation.”

Justice Department documents show Lewis was given antidepressant medication in a quantity “that was likely too low to be effective.” He received no other mental-health treatment in jail, DOJ found.

The jail’s own inquiry into Lewis’ death, by contrast, concluded that “all operational procedures, medical procedures … were followed professionally and correct.” Nor did the state police or the Department of Corrections find any fault with the jail in connection with Lewis’ death, or that of the other Grant County jail suicide in 2010, involving Derrick Rose.

“Any time you have a fatality in a jail, there should be a very careful investigation and assessment of what went wrong, what happened,” said Elrod, the EKU professor. “Unfortunately, in so many instances, the only way you’re probably going to get closer to an understanding of what happened is if there’s a lawsuit where the parties become compelled to produce evidence.”

Judge Raises Questions

That’s what appeared to have happened in the case of Shannon Finn: minimal if any probing by the Department of Corrections, yet significant revelations come out in court.

On March 17, 2009, Finn was arrested and booked into the Warren County Regional Jail for a probation violation. The following day, he began to shake, sweat and act erratically. He was put on a “detox protocol” and given medication for alcohol and drug withdrawal.

Three days later, a deputy found the 34-year-old Finn lying in a puddle of blood and yellow liquid in his isolation cell. Soon after, he was pronounced dead.

(Listen to the radio version of this story on 89.3 WFPL News)

The family filed a civil suit, and a jury exonerated jail staffers at trial. However, U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley concluded in a pretrial opinion that there was ample evidence of questionable conduct.

Among other things, McKinley noted that a jail deputy did not intervene after discovering Finn on his knees, shaking and mumbling. And a nurse neither contacted the jail’s medical director nor sent Finn to the emergency room, McKinley wrote.

Despite jail policy that characterized alcohol withdrawal as a medical emergency, deputies had received no training regarding its symptoms and dangers, according to the judge.

The department’s listing of jail deaths says only this about Finn: “Found unresponsive–KSP (Kentucky State Police) investigating.”

Reporter R.G. Dunlop can be reached at rdunlop@kycir.org or (502) 814.6533.

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Regarding kendra sams – "lodged" at laurel county corrections" in kentucky…

 

Ms. Kendra Sams,  29  years old, was being lodged at the Laurel County Corrections.

According to Facebook posts she suffered a seizure on July 12th which caused her to fall from the top bunk in her cell and land on the floor.  She was not given medical attention at that time.

At some point she was transferred to Casey County Corrections where her illness became acute.  Her Mother was apparently contacted and she was then transported to the Hospital.

Facebook Timeline Posts:

Roger Hoskins

August 18 at 12:18pm · Garrard, KY ·

I’m waking up to some heart breaking news out of the family and asking for all who can please pray

Roger Hoskins

August 18 at 3:10pm · Edited ·

Please be praying for Kendra Sams she’s going into surgery right now … This young lady didn’t deserve any of this and I’m confident that the story will be told soon…. Please now all the family ask is to be praying

Roger Hoskins added 2 new photos.

August 18 at 7:15pm · Garrard, KY ·

These picture are of Kendra Sams and this is not even the Justice this young lady has suffered .. She’s has much more going I inside her… And is in critical condition at UK hospital … She’s in bad shape according to family who is with her when I am updated on her condition I will pass it along .. The family ask for prayers and this should have never ever happen to anyone else

Roger Hoskins

August 18 at 7:49pm · Garrard, KY ·

Update on Kendra they have 3 drain tubes in her and not sure one will work right but already pulled 2 ounces of infection out of her back but keeping her sedated until tomorrow to do more test … No one is allowed to see her till tomorrow so please keep praying

Roger Hoskins

Yesterday at 3:36am · Garrard, KY ·

They have started a feeding tube on Kendra and a temp of 102 … Doctors said that the next 72 hour will be very critical… So keep prayers coming and I have had a lot ask what happened… Right now the families focus is on Kendra … All they need is prayers but I promise this story will be told .. Thank for all the praying that’s going on and as always it’s in Gods hands ..

Roger Hoskins

Yesterday at 1:37pm · Garrard, KY ·

The story is coming out …. Please pray for Kendra the doctors are hoping she last throughout the day

Roger Hoskins added 4 new photos.

Yesterday at 3:19pm · Edited ·

This all started at Lcdc and she was sent to Casey county jail with the out come being her fighting for her life …. On July 12th she had a seizure a few weeks later she was sent to Casey county detention center will little or no medicinal help … Her mother was called to come get her and this is now her daughter returned home to her …. Don’t know if she will see tomorrow… Please pray….

Roger Hoskins

17 hrs · Edited ·

So thankful for Facebook this night as my post for Kendra has brought some light on all this but most of all I wanna thank the people who are brave and step up in behalf of Kendra … That is why Facebook is a valuable tool … As of 2 am there is no changes in her … I wanna thank each person who has shared this and by all means please continue to do so … This family deserves answers ! This could be your family member……………I will not disclose their name but here is a tid bit of information ……………..

My sister was in the cell with this girl in Casey co jail! She needed medical attention from day 1 this could be anyone’s family member please share this lets raise awareness

Michelle Jackson

11 hrs ·

Update on Kendra!!!!!!
She is still in critical condition they are having trouble keeping her BP up still and now they’re having to give her blood (1pint) so far… Please keep prayers coming.. TIA

— with Roger Hoskins and 8 others at UK ICU.

Michelle Jackson

3 hrs ·

Look what the Lord has done…. GLORY GLORY GLORY I PRAISE YOUR HOLY NAME THANK YOU SWEET JESUS!!!! SHE MOVED HER MOUTH AND TOLD HER MOMMY SHE LOVED HER!!!!!!! HALLELUJAH!!!!!!! KING JESUS I KNOW YOU HEAR ME WHEN I PRAY

— with Roger Hoskins and 9 others at UK ICU.

Michelle Jackson's photo.

Roger Hoskins

2 hrs ·

Please keep sharing my post maybe someone seen something and will step forward for Kendra Sams … This needs media attention to get to the bottom of this

Roger Hoskins

6 hrs · Edited ·

The family knows she is not perfect but to see this after being in 2 jails and her mother was called to come get her only to go into uk hospital is sad this is Kendra Sams if anyone was in her cell with her in laurel or Casey county please get ahold of this family … We are looking for answers to what happened .. This is truly sad … We have tried to contact all media but no help as yet so family has no choice but turn to social media .. Any information is appreciated …please share

***

It is currently 8/20/15 at 10:30pm and I am awaiting a call from Roger Hoskins who is willing to fill in the gaps in this atrocity which has happened under the watch of  “Kentucky Corrections “.

We can only hope and pray that Kendra Sams receives the justice that the State of Kentucky owes her because of this horrific ordeal.  She is not out of ICU yet.   She is currently still fighting for her life.

It never should have happened. 

ANYONE who is incarcerated is entitled to receive healthcare under the Justice Department.

 

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=401505606710487&set=pcb.401506100043771&type=1&theater

https://www.facebook.com/roger.hoskins2

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/feb/24/chicago-police-detain-americans-black-site

 

 

https://embed.theguardian.com/embed/video/us-news/video/2015/feb/24/homan-square-chicago-black-site-video

 

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/feb/24/chicago-police-detain-americans-black-site

While US military and intelligence interrogation impacted people overseas, Homan Square – said to house military-style vehicles and even a cage – focuses on American citizens, most often poor, black and brown. ‘When you go in,’ Brian Jacob Church told the Guardian, ‘nobody knows what happened to you.’ Video: Phil Batta for the Guardian; editing: Mae Ryan

 

The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

 

Held for hours at secret Chicago ‘black site’: ‘You’re a hostage. It’s kidnapping’

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The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.

Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:

  • Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
  • Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
  • Shackling for prolonged periods.
  • Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
  • Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.

At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.

Brian Jacob Church, a protester known as one of the “Nato Three”, was held and questioned at Homan Square in 2012 following a police raid. Officers restrained Church for the better part of a day, denying him access to an attorney, before sending him to a nearby police station to be booked and charged.

Chicago’s Homan Square ‘black site’: surveillance, military-style vehicles and a metal cage

 

“Homan Square is definitely an unusual place,” Church told the Guardian on Friday. “It brings to mind the interrogation facilities they use in the Middle East. The CIA calls them black sites. It’s a domestic black site. When you go in, no one knows what’s happened to you.”

The secretive warehouse is the latest example of Chicago police practices that echo the much-criticized detention abuses of the US war on terrorism. While those abuses impacted people overseas, Homan Square – said to house military-style vehicles, interrogation cells and even a cage – trains its focus on Americans, most often poor, black and brown.

 

Unlike a precinct, no one taken to Homan Square is said to be booked. Witnesses, suspects or other Chicagoans who end up inside do not appear to have a public, searchable record entered into a database indicating where they are, as happens when someone is booked at a precinct. Lawyers and relatives insist there is no way of finding their whereabouts. Those lawyers who have attempted to gain access to Homan Square are most often turned away, even as their clients remain in custody inside.

“It’s sort of an open secret among attorneys that regularly make police station visits, this place – if you can’t find a client in the system, odds are they’re there,” said Chicago lawyer Julia Bartmes.

Chicago civil-rights attorney Flint Taylor said Homan Square represented a routinization of a notorious practice in local police work that violates the fifth and sixth amendments of the constitution.

“This Homan Square revelation seems to me to be an institutionalization of the practice that dates back more than 40 years,” Taylor said, “of violating a suspect or witness’ rights to a lawyer and not to be physically or otherwise coerced into giving a statement.”

Much remains hidden about Homan Square. The Chicago police department did not respond to the Guardian’s questions about the facility. But after the Guardian published this story, the department provided a statement insisting, without specifics, that there is nothing untoward taking place at what it called the “sensitive” location, home to undercover units.

“CPD [Chicago police department] abides by all laws, rules and guidelines pertaining to any interviews of suspects or witnesses, at Homan Square or any other CPD facility. If lawyers have a client detained at Homan Square, just like any other facility, they are allowed to speak to and visit them. It also houses CPD’s Evidence Recovered Property Section, where the public is able to claim inventoried property,” the statement said, something numerous attorneys and one Homan Square arrestee have denied.

“There are always records of anyone who is arrested by CPD, and this is not any different at Homan Square,” it continued.

The Chicago police statement did not address how long into an arrest or detention those records are generated or their availability to the public. A department spokesperson did not respond to a detailed request for clarification.

When a Guardian reporter arrived at the warehouse on Friday, a man at the gatehouse outside refused any entrance and would not answer questions. “This is a secure facility. You’re not even supposed to be standing here,” said the man, who refused to give his name.

A former Chicago police superintendent and a more recently retired detective, both of whom have been inside Homan Square in the last few years in a post-police capacity, said the police department did not operate out of the warehouse until the late 1990s.

But in detailing episodes involving their clients over the past several years, lawyers described mad scrambles that led to the closed doors of Homan Square, a place most had never heard of previously. The facility was even unknown to Rob Warden, the founder of Northwestern University Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, until the Guardian informed him of the allegations of clients who vanish into inherently coercive police custody.

“They just disappear,” said Anthony Hill, a criminal defense attorney, “until they show up at a district for charging or are just released back out on the street.”

‘Never going to see the light of day’: the search for the Nato Three, the head wound, the worried mom and the dead man

Homan Square

 

‘They were held incommunicado for much longer than I think should be permitted in this country – anywhere – but particularly given the strong constitutional rights afforded to people who are being charged with crimes,” said Sarah Gelsomino, the lawyer for Brian Jacob Church. Photograph: Phil Batta/Guardian

Jacob Church learned about Homan Square the hard way. On May 16 2012, he and 11 others were taken there after police infiltrated their protest against the Nato summit. Church says officers cuffed him to a bench for an estimated 17 hours, intermittently interrogating him without reading his Miranda rights to remain silent. It would take another three hours – and an unusual lawyer visit through a wire cage – before he was finally charged with terrorism-related offenses at the nearby 11th district station, where he was made to sign papers, fingerprinted and photographed.

In preparation for the Nato protest, Church, who is from Florida, had written a phone number for the National Lawyers Guild on his arm as a precautionary measure. Once taken to Homan Square, Church asked explicitly to call his lawyers, and said he was denied.

“Essentially, I wasn’t allowed to make any contact with anybody,” Church told the Guardian, in contradiction of a police guidance on permitting phone calls and legal counsel to arrestees.

Church’s left wrist was cuffed to a bar behind a bench in windowless cinderblock cell, with his ankles cuffed together. He remained in those restraints for about 17 hours.

“I had essentially figured, ‘All right, well, they disappeared us and so we’re probably never going to see the light of day again,’” Church said.

Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Vincent Betterly, known as the ‘Nato Three’ Brian Jacob Church, Jared Chase and Brent Vincent Betterly, known as the ‘Nato Three’. Photograph: AP/Cook County sheriff’s office

Though the raid attracted major media attention, a team of attorneys could not find Church through 12 hours of “active searching”, Sarah Gelsomino, Church’s lawyer, recalled. No booking record existed. Only after she and others made a “major stink” with contacts in the offices of the corporation counsel and Mayor Rahm Emanuel did they even learn about Homan Square.

They sent another attorney to the facility, where he ultimately gained entry, and talked to Church through a floor-to-ceiling chain-link metal cage. Finally, hours later, police took Church and his two co-defendants to a nearby police station for booking.

After serving two and a half years in prison, Church is currently on parole after he and his co-defendants were found not guilty in 2014 of terrorism-related offenses but guilty of lesser charges of possessing an incendiary device and the misdemeanor of “mob action”.

It’s almost like they throw a black bag over your head and make you disappear for a day or two

Brian Jacob Church

The access that Nato Three attorneys received to Homan Square was an exception to the rule, even if Jacob Church’s experience there was not.

Three attorneys interviewed by the Guardian report being personally turned away from Homan Square between 2009 and 2013 without being allowed access to their clients. Two more lawyers who hadn’t been physically denied described it as a place where police withheld information about their clients’ whereabouts. Church was the only person who had been detained at the facility who agreed to talk with the Guardian: their lawyers say others fear police retaliation.

One man in January 2013 had his name changed in the Chicago central bookings database and then taken to Homan Square without a record of his transfer being kept, according to Eliza Solowiej of Chicago’s First Defense Legal Aid. (The man, the Guardian understands, wishes to be anonymous; his current attorney declined to confirm Solowiej’s account.) She found out where he was after he was taken to the hospital with a head injury.

“He said that the officers caused his head injuries in an interrogation room at Homan Square. I had been looking for him for six to eight hours, and every department member I talked to said they had never heard of him,” Solowiej said. “He sent me a phone pic of his head injuries because I had seen him in a police station right before he was transferred to Homan Square without any.”

Bartmes, another Chicago attorney, said that in September 2013 she got a call from a mother worried that her 15-year-old son had been picked up by police before dawn. A sympathetic sergeant followed up with the mother to say her son was being questioned at Homan Square in connection to a shooting and would be released soon. When hours passed, Bartmes traveled to Homan Square, only to be refused entry for nearly an hour.

An officer told her, “Well, you can’t just stand here taking notes, this is a secure facility, there are undercover officers, and you’re making people very nervous,” Bartmes recalled. Told to leave, she said she would return in an hour if the boy was not released. He was home, and not charged, after “12, maybe 13” hours in custody.

On February 2, 2013, John Hubbard was taken to Homan Square. Hubbard never walked out. The Chicago Tribune reported that the 44-year old was found “unresponsive inside an interview room”, and pronounced dead. After publication, the Cook County medical examiner told the Guardian that the cause of death was determined to be heroin intoxication.

Homan Square is hardly concerned exclusively with terrorism. Several special units operate outside of it, including the anti-gang and anti-drug forces. If police “want money, guns, drugs”, or information on the flow of any of them onto Chicago’s streets, “they bring them there and use it as a place of interrogation off the books,” Hill said.

‘That scares the hell out of me’: a throwback to Chicago police abuse with a post-9/11 feel

Homan Square

 

‘The real danger in allowing practices like Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib is the fact that they always creep into other aspects,’ criminologist Tracy Siska told the Guardian. Photograph: Chandler West/Guardian

A former Chicago detective and current private investigator, Bill Dorsch, said he had not heard of the police abuses described by Church and lawyers for other suspects who had been taken to Homan Square. He has been permitted access to the facility to visit one of its main features, an evidence locker for the police department. (“I just showed my retirement star and passed through,” Dorsch said.)

Transferring detainees through police custody to deny them access to legal counsel, would be “a career-ender,” Dorsch said. “To move just for the purpose of hiding them, I can’t see that happening,” he told the Guardian.

Richard Brzeczek, Chicago’s police superintendent from 1980 to 1983, who also said he had no first-hand knowledge of abuses at Homan Square, said it was “never justified” to deny access to attorneys.

“Homan Square should be on the same list as every other facility where you can call central booking and say: ‘Can you tell me if this person is in custody and where,’” Brzeczek said.

“If you’re going to be doing this, then you have to include Homan Square on the list of facilities that prisoners are taken into and a record made. It can’t be an exempt facility.”

Indeed, Chicago police guidelines appear to ban the sorts of practices Church and the lawyers said occur at Homan Square.

A directive titled “Processing Persons Under Department Control” instructs that “investigation or interrogation of an arrestee will not delay the booking process,” and arrestees must be allowed “a reasonable number of telephone calls” to attorneys swiftly “after their arrival at the first place of custody.” Another directive, “Arrestee and In-Custody Communications,” says police supervisors must “allow visitation by attorneys.”

Attorney Scott Finger said that the Chicago police tightened the latter directive in 2012 after quiet complaints from lawyers about their lack of access to Homan Square. Without those changes, Church’s attorneys might not have gained entry at all. But that tightening – about a week before Church’s arrest – did not prevent Church’s prolonged detention without a lawyer, nor the later cases where lawyers were unable to enter.

The combination of holding clients for long periods, while concealing their whereabouts and denying access to a lawyer, struck legal experts as a throwback to the worst excesses of Chicago police abuse, with a post-9/11 feel to it.

On a smaller scale, Homan Square is “analogous to the CIA’s black sites,” said Andrea Lyon, a former Chicago public defender and current dean of Valparaiso University Law School. When she practiced law in Chicago in the 1980s and 1990s, she said, “police used the term ‘shadow site’” to refer to the quasi-disappearances now in place at Homan Square.

I’ve never known any kind of organized, secret place where they go and hold somebody before booking for hours and hours

James Trainum, former detective, Washington DC

“Back when I first started working on torture cases and started representing criminal defendants in the early 1970s, my clients often told me they’d been taken from one police station to another before ending up at Area 2 where they were tortured,” said Taylor, the civil-rights lawyer most associated with pursuing the notoriously abusive Area 2 police commander Jon Burge. “And in that way the police prevent their family and lawyers from seeing them until they could coerce, through torture or other means, confessions from them.”

Police often have off-site facilities to have private conversations with their informants. But a retired Washington DC homicide detective, James Trainum, could not think of another circumstance nationwide where police held people incommunicado for extended periods.

“I’ve never known any kind of organized, secret place where they go and just hold somebody before booking for hours and hours and hours. That scares the hell out of me that that even exists or might exist,” said Trainum, who now studies national policing issues, to include interrogations, for the Innocence Project and the Constitution Project.

Regardless of departmental regulations, police frequently deny or elide access to lawyers even at regular police precincts, said Solowiej of First Defense Legal Aid. But she said the outright denial was exacerbated at Chicago’s secretive interrogation and holding facility: “It’s very, very rare for anyone to experience their constitutional rights in Chicago police custody, and even more so at Homan Square,” Solowiej said.

Church said that one of his more striking memories of Homan Square was the “big, big vehicles” police had inside the complex that “look like very large MRAPs that they use in the Middle East.”

Cook County, home of Chicago, has received some 1,700 pieces of military equipment from a much-criticized Pentagon program transferring military gear to local police. It includes a Humvee, according to a local ABC News report.

Tracy Siska, a criminologist and civil-rights activist with the Chicago Justice Project, said that Homan Square, as well as the unrelated case of ex-Guantánamo interrogator and retired Chicago detective Richard Zuley, showed the lines blurring between domestic law enforcement and overseas military operations.

“The real danger in allowing practices like Guantánamo or Abu Ghraib is the fact that they always creep into other aspects,” Siska said.

“They creep into domestic law enforcement, either with weaponry like with the militarization of police, or interrogation practices. That’s how we ended up with a black site in Chicago.”

 

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Jails in Kentucky are overflowing with inmates, but you may not realize many of the inmates are there for profit

 

    • Posted: Feb 09, 2015 3:12 PM CST Updated: Feb 09, 2015 6:00 PM CST

By Emily Mieure

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The Kentucky Department of Corrections started sending state inmates to local jails in the early 1980s — the Bullitt County Jail is just one of them.

Metro corrections is the largest jail in Kentucky with 1,793 beds.

Metro corrections is the largest jail in Kentucky with 1,793 beds.

Metro Corrections doesn’t house state inmates because they don’t even have enough room for local inmates.

Louisville Metro Corrections Director Mark Bolton says if he had the room, he would gladly house state inmates like other counties.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Most local jails in Kentucky are overflowing with inmates, but you may not realize many of the inmates are there for profit.

The Kentucky prison population is big and many prisoners are passed around the commonwealth. There are 12 prisons operated by the Kentucky Department of Corrections across the state and many of them are at capacity — if not above it.

When asked what could be improved with regards to the prison population, Nelson County Jailer Dorcas Figg said flat out: “Well, if we had more beds.”

Figg has been working with jails for over 40 years and she said she doesn’t foresee the overcrowding problem changing.

“Because it’s not a money making business,” she said.

So instead of being in state facilities, about a third of the commonwealth’s 12,000 prisoners are sleeping in county jails.

Some wonder if that’s dangerous, but local jailers insist it’s a good thing.

“It helps the counties out a whole lot,” Figg said.

She says the Kentucky Department of Corrections started sending state inmates to local jails in the early 1980s. Since then, the conditions at county facilities have improved.

“Sometimes they couldn’t even hardly survive back then,” said Figg. “Then once the state took it over, that was a great thing because you had standards you had to meet. Back then, you didn’t have standards,” she added.

Figg’s 102-bed jail is mostly full of local inmates, but she says housing state inmates helps the budget because The Kentucky Department of Corrections pays county jails at least $31.34 per state prisoner per day. A small percentage of that goes into a jail fund.

Sometimes the state will send a prisoner to a certain county for convenience.

“I get letters from state inmates wanting to come here to make them closer to home,” Figg explained. “If I had the beds, I would take any state I could because that’s beds that are being paid for — but we don’t have the beds.”

Not having enough beds is a problem across the commonwealth, and Bullitt County Jailer Martha Knox says it’s a constant balancing act.

“It’s very frustrating,” Knox said.

While her 304-bed jail is usually at or above capacity, she has an entire wing dedicated to only housing state prisoners. Trying to keep the right amount of local and state inmates is a daily struggle, but she says making room for the state prisoners is worth the money.

“It doesn’t pay everything but it is a big incentive,” said Knox.

That money adds up because a state prisoner can stay in a local jail for up to five years.

While this seems to work well in most counties, none of it applies to Jefferson County.

Metro Corrections doesn’t house state inmates because they don’t even have enough room for local inmates.

“We take whoever the police brings us,” Metro Corrections Director Mark Bolton said. “We’re 24/7, 365. Police bring them, we’re going to take them.”

“As far as I know, we’ve never been a class C or D facility and by that I mean we don’t house state inmates here in Jefferson County,” Bolton explained. “We just don’t have the capacity to do it.”

Metro corrections is the largest jail in Kentucky with 1,793 beds. Last year, it housed an average of 1,850 inmates — so where do the extras go?

“They end up going on the floor in a temporary bed and then we get them in a bed in the order they’re brought to us when a bed is freed up,” Bolton said.

He says over the years, they’ve found ways to tackle the overcrowding issue.

“We have seen the population trend down in 2014 to about a ten-year low so that’s fairly significant progress I think,” said Bolton.

He gives partial credit to House Bill 463, which reduced penalties for some drug crimes. But he said Jefferson County’s Home Incarceration Program has also contributed to the decline in the population. At any given time, there are about 700 inmates on home incarceration — 600 of them are monitored through GPS.

“I think that is another element of technology that we’ve brought to the local arena here,” Bolton noted. “I think the judges and prosecutors appreciate that that technology is now here and I think they’re making very prudent decisions with respect to public safety.”

While some think it’s dangerous to keep certain inmates on home incarceration, Bolton says it’s a program he stands behind.

“We need to protect the public and lock people up we’re afraid of, not people that we’re mad at.”

Bolton says if he had the room, he would gladly house state inmates like other counties.

“Corrections does an incredible job moving people throughout the state based upon beds that are free in other jurisdictions,” he said.

Bolton said the population at Metro Corrections peaked near 1,650 in December, which he said he hadn’t seen in over six years.

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