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Idaho Law Libraries Closed, Pillaged

Following the lead of Arizona
[See: "Experiment in Access" Oct '97 PLN ], the Idaho DOC, on January 19, 1998, revised their method of providing court access to Idaho prisoners.

Under the revised policy, the law libraries in Idaho prisons will permanently close. Court access will be provided by a state paralegal who will assist only in the initial pleading stage. No research materials will be available to prisoners.

Thus, not only will Idaho prisoners be unable to defend against Motions for Summary Judgement and Motions to Dismiss, but in addition, anyone will be able to sue an Idaho prisoner and win by default, as there exists no provision in the revised policy for dealing with a situation where a prisoner is a defendant in an action. Of interest is that often the State is the plaintiff in this situation.

As of this writing (January 22, 1997), attorneys from the ACLU's Denver office and the National Prison Project have obtained a Temporary Restraining Order enjoining the IDOC from closing prison law libraries and from removing the materials therein.

Update: 02/12/98

On January 31, 1998, Idaho prisoners were informed that the temporary Restraining Order had been lifted. As such, law libraries in Idaho prisons were immediately closed, and the new court access policy, 405-C (better known as the "denial of court access" policy) went into effect.

Within days of the closure, IDOC officials at the Southern Idaho Correctional Institution began pillaging the prison's law library, appropriating whatever they had the urge to pilfer. Items such as desks, chairs, typewriters and miscellaneous office supplies (all purchased with monies from the Inmate Welfare Fund, or donated for use by prisoners) were distributed among various corrections officials as they saw fit. Almost all of the remaining desks and office chairs, along with the Cumulative Supplements to the Pacific and Federal Digest were loaded onto a truck and taken to be burned.

The worst part of this whole ordeal is that I have noticed the "gulag mentality" of IDOC officials slip even further toward the "go ahead, sue us" state of mind, as they are now well aware of the difficulties that Idaho's prisoners will face in attempting to vindicate their rights and seek redress in the courts.

-- M.M., Idaho

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