Alumna takes on national corrections reform, wins case before Supreme Court
Margaret Winter (A66), a lawyer and associate director of the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, D.C., will receive an Alumni Award of Merit at this year’s Homecoming in Annapolis (September 28-30). Alumni Frank Murray, Class of 1960, and Bryan Dorland (A92) will each also receive an Alumni Award of Merit.
For the past 18 years, Winter’s work has focused almost exclusively on class-action prison reform cases around the country. “The lawyer's work should always be to give voice to the voiceless,” says Winter, who adds that practicing law is an art form that “helps reveal in narrative form truths about our common humanity: about suffering, injustice, cruelty, courage, love, and redemption.”
Winter argued and won a prisoner’s rights case, Young v. Harper, before the U.S. Supreme Court. In October 2008, she won an injunction against Sheriff Joe Arpaio (the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff in America”), requiring him to provide constitutionally adequate conditions of confinement to the 8,000 pretrial detainees in Arizona’s Maricopa County Jails. Winter represents the detainees in Los Angeles County Jail, the largest jail in the nation, challenging extreme deputy violence, abuse of mentally ill prisoners, and gross overcrowding. In addition, she represents Mississippi youth (ages 13 to 22), who have been tried and incarcerated as adults; this class action challenges a pattern of sexual abuse, violence, and solitary confinement.
Winter and fellow attorney Stephen Hanlon represented the 1,000 men in Mississippi’s maximum security “supermax” prison in a class action that resulted in a ground-breaking consent decree; this obtained release from solitary confinement 90 percent of the State’s administrative segregation population, curtailed violence against prisoners, ended abuse of the mentally ill, and ultimately resulted in shuttering of the supermax. In a class action on behalf of all of Mississippi’s death row prisoners, Winter and Hanlon won an injunction mandating far-reaching reforms of extreme inhumane conditions on death row. Her work in these cases and the subsequent far-reaching reforms in Mississippi’s criminal justice prison policies were featured in the cover story of the August 2010 issue of Governing magazine, “Prison Break: How America’s Reddest State Became a Model of Correctional Reform.”
Winter is currently lead counsel in a class action by Alabama prisoners with HIV under the Americans with Disabilities Act, challenging Alabama’s policy of categorically segregating all prisoners with HIV and barring them from a host of prison programs solely because they have HIV. The trial, which commenced on September 17, 2012, is expected to last through late October 2012.