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Inmate Serving One Year Sentence Released After Serving Decade in RHU

Attorney Jerry Lynch, of Rudinski, Orso and Lynch in Williamsport, Pa. successfully argues release of inmate after being confined for over a decade in a restrictive housing unit.

The Restrictive housing unit (RHU), often referred to as administrative segregation, is implemented by state correctional facilities to confine disruptive prisoners. An inmate in RHU is physically removed from the general population of the prison. Extreme restrictions are placed on their movement, behavior, and privileges. In most cases the RHU is more restrictive than death row. There is zero interaction with other inmates.

Mr. Lynch’s client was placed in SCI Muncy for a forgery charge that carried a one year sentence. That was over a decade ago. While the client had no record of physically assaultive behavior, the then thirty-year-old women deteriorated quickly. While at SCI Muncy she had over eight hundred and forty violations (840) resulting in continued incarceration and placement in the RHU.

The client testified to the constant smell of feces and unsanitary conditions, screaming and moaning on the unit throughout each night, each night, and she refused to leave her cell for the one hour she was allowed for exercise. Her frustrations often resulted in tearing her jumpsuit and bedding to shreds. As her situation further spiraled downwards she began having auditory hallucinations and believed the correctional officers were demons.  She often caught Aggravated Assault charges for fighting Correctional Officers when she was removed from her cell. As a precautionary measure she was fitted with a spit guard mask when transported. On one occasion, she was taken to a proceeding by Lycoming County Sheriffs’ and, after being left in the vehicle as to not disrupt the courts, the client chewed through the back seats.

After over a decade on a charge in which she should have been released after a year and ten appointed attorneys, Attorney Jerry Lynch was appointed by the Lycoming County Court of Common Pleas. It took nearly one year for Mr. Lynch to garnish the trust of the client.

At a sentencing hearing, Mr. Lynch put on extensive psychological evidence verified by expert witnesses that his client’s mental problems were caused by the incarceration itself. Experts stated that there was high likelihood that these responses to the RHU environment would likely cease if she were to be removed. The client had not expressed these types of actions prior to incarceration. In addition, an expert testified that if she were not releases there was high likelihood her current condition would become permanent and even upon her eventual release (2048), put the community in further jeopardy.

The Lycoming County District Attorney’s Office argued that precedent must continue to prevent other prisoners from acting this way in hopes of release form RHU. In argument, Mr. Lynch stated he believed it “improbable that his client acted this way in hopes of release, when she could have been released after one year and instead spent over a decade in the most restrictive incarceration that exists.”

Pennsylvania has closed more than ten major state hospitals and has cut its average daily number of patients from 41,000 to 1,500 (96 percent) since 1955. This end result is that Pennsylvania prisons are forced to house the mentally ill and those in need do not get the treatment needed.

After lengthy deliberation and debate, the court concluded that incarceration is not serving the purpose of rehabilitation and released the client to a probationary sentence which included a mental health rehabilitative element.

To date, it has been one year since the client’s release. She is independent, gainfully employed, continues with mental health therapy, and has not had a single violation since release.

 

January 12, 2017 Categories: Criminal