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Loompanics Unlimited

Loompanics modestly bills itself as "the best book catalog in the world." If it's not the best it is certainly the most diverse, having all the books you've heard about but probably haven't seen in the neighborhood bookstore. Loompanics is a publisher and vendor that pushes the first amendment to its limit. Their large book catalog, an entertaining and informative read in and of itself, has books on every topic imaginable, including: how to clear a criminal record, everything you wanted to know about prison, freelance writers handbook, how to make improvised explosives and weapons, lockpicking, drug manufacture, solar energy, self publishing, fake ID, atheism, survivalism, finding information, getting even, anarchy, smuggling, economics, sex, camouflage, military and paramilitary manuals, guns, weapons, privacy, mass media, guerrilla warfare, health and medicine and lots, lots more.

If you're interested in any offbeat, underground or unusual topics then Loompanics probably has it. Their catalog is available for $5.00 from: Loompanics Unlimited, P.O. Box 1197, Port Townsend, WA. 98368. 1-800-380-2230.

The Citebook

Review by Paul Wright

The Citebook is a 275 page book written by Tony Darwin designed to help laypersons help themselves in researching their litigation. Now in its eleventh printing the book is organized by subject and gives a brief description of relevant cases. This book is in a category of its own. While the Prisoners' Self Help Litigation Manual describes prisoners' rights and tells you how to litigate your claims, this book only lists case law, hence the title.

Its main usefulness will be to litigants who need a quick starting point in their legal research. While it contains a great deal of criminal and prison related cases the book contains citations of case law relevant to citizens interested in knowing what their rights are in a variety of situations: consumer protection, bankruptcy, credit agencies, landlord tenant, insurance, IRS, workers compensation, real estate, etc. Prisoners will find useful the chapters dealing with habeas corpus, parole, prison regulations, sentencing, mail censorship, pro se complaints, cruel and unusual punishment, disciplinary hearings and much more.

While this book is not intended to replace more extensive case law digests it provides a handy reference source. It is also easy to read and gives a brief synopsis of relevant cases. The book contains useful appendices listing all federal courts, federal agencies and federal prisons. I bought a copy of the book several years ago and would do so again. Cost is $27.45, including shipping. Contact: Starlite Inc., P.O. Box 20004, Dept. 34, St. Petersburg, FL. 33742. 1-800-577-2929. Starlite also sells a variety of other self help books.

US Prison Population Report

According to the Department of Justice the American prison population has grown more than 2.5 times between 1980 and 1993. As of 1993, the latest year statistics are available, 2.6% of the US adult population, 4.9 million adults, were on parole, probation, in prison or jail. This represents an increase of 3 million people since 1980.

During this time period the percentage of black prisoners increased from 46 to 50%, the Hispanic prison population grew from 7.7 to 14.1% while the general population increase for these groups was 11.8 to 12.4% and 6.5 to 9.5%, respectively. As of 1992 there were 4,094 black male prisoners per 100,000 black adults in the population, versus 502 white male prisoners per 100,000 adult white males in population.

In 1992 almost one in three of state prison admissions were parole or probation violators, compared to 1 in 6 in 1980. This and much more information is contained in the DOJ's latest 180 page booklet on this topic. It also includes extensive information of death sentenced prisoners, trend data, state by state data and more. Copies are available for free from: BJSC, P.O. Box 179, Annapolis, MD 20701-0179. Ask for Correctional Populations in the United States, 1992, NCJ 146413.

Jail Population Report

Like the prison population the nation's jail population has soared in recent years, overshadowed by prison crowding. According to a recent Department of Justice report, Jails and Jail Inmates 1993-94, the national jail population was at an all time record high of 490,442 detainees as of June 30, 1994. Jails operated by cities and counties house about one third of all prisoners in the US. In 1983 the nation's jails held 223,551 detainees. The number of jail prisoners per 100,000 adult US residents has increased from 130 in 1983 to 251 in 1994.

It is interesting to note that while the jail prisoner population increased by 106% the jail staff increased by 156%. The national jail population was at 97% of its rated capacity. Obviously this is misleading as some cities are massively overcrowded while small towns frequently have empty cells. Jails with a capacity of 1,000 or more prisoners were at 111% of capacity while those with less than a 50 prisoner capacity were at 67% of capacity. Whites made up 39% of the jail population; blacks made up 44%; Hispanics made up 15% and other groups made up the remaining 2%. For local jails the incarceration rate for blacks is six times that of whites. The total number of women jail prisoners was 48,879 in 1994.

One thing that stands out is that according to this report slightly more than 50% of all jail detainees are pretrial detainees who are unconvicted of any crime, too poor to post bail while the other half is convicted and either serving a sentence or awaiting transport to prison. Jails generally hold the unconvicted and those serving sentences of less than one year. Almost $10 billion a year is spent operating the nations jails, even though, when adjusted for inflation, the cost of keeping jail prisoners has decreased 11% since 1983. Anyone desiring a free copy of this report which has a lot more information should write: BJSC, P.O. Box 179, Annapolis Junction, MD 20701-0179.

Strangeways 1990: A Serious Disturbance

Review by John Bowden

>On 1 April 1990, the British prison system was shaken to its very foundations by an uprising of prisoners at Strangeways in Manchester; an uprising so prolonged and visible that it acted as a catalyst for wider prisoner unrest throughout the system and a focus for probably the most intense and far-reaching discussion and inquiry ever into the nature of the prison system in Britain.

Five years on much of the enlightened debate surrounding the causes of the Strangeways revolt, and virtually all of the recommendations to emerge from Lord Justice Woolf's inquiry into it, have now evaporated in a social and political climate of increased repression and the scapegoating of marginalised groups, including prisoners. Within five brief years the emphasis has radically changed from one favoring a genuine improvement in prison conditions and prisoners' rights to one favoring instead a total eradication of those rights and a return to almost medieval conditions of confinement. The ideological pendulum is now swinging dangerously to the far right on the question of prisons and the lessons of Strangeways are fading quickly.

The recent publication of Strangeways 1990: A Serious Disturbance by Nicki Jameson and Eric Allison is, therefore, a timely reminder of those lessons and, on this fifth anniversary of the revolt, a fitting tribute to all the prisoners at Strangeways who, by their magnificent collective action, blew the whistle on prison brutality in Britain and then suffered savagely as a consequence. Jameson and Allison have written an extremely well researched and powerfully analytical account of the revolt that contextualises the actions of the "rioters" in the hellish conditions and fabric of the prison system, as well as the social and political forces which determine the character of repressive prison regimes. Throughout the book the point is made that the actions of the Strangeways prisoners were a legitimate and absolutely justifiable reaction to the institutionalized brutality and maltreatment of the prison system.

This is very much a politically committed book, written from the perspective of the prisoners themselves; a book which bravely and unambiguously takes sides and gives voice to the voiceless, providing an extremely valuable testament to the historical struggle of the totally powerless against the omnipotently powerful.

Here also is a very gripping and absorbing human drama, a dynamic tale of resistance and heroism told with great compassion and empathy, and an uncompromising commitment to discovering and revealing the truth of what happened at Strangeways and why.

As with all potent displays of working class resistance, inside or outside prison, the state and a compliant media tried to drown the Strangeways revolt in a sea of disinformation and lies. The "ringleaders" were characterized as "animals" and "jail scum" etc. and their actions as an "explosion of evil" and an "orgy of violence". Layer upon layer of media and establishment lies were applied in an attempt to criminalise the Strangeways revolt and condemn its alleged ringleaders to additional years of imprisonment and victimization. The authors of Strangeways 1990 are therefore to be congratulated for writing a courageous and truthful book that dispels completely the official mythology that surrounds Strangeways and instead places the revolt in its true context as a legitimate struggle against intolerable state violence and repression.

Solidarity is a strong and enduring theme throughout this book and both authors write from a clear position of active commitment to the prison struggle, infusing their work with a vibrant and campaigning energy. Here is a book that seeks radical change in and a calling to account of an inhuman prison system, and by doing so provides prisoners with a potent weapon of liberation.

Strangeways 1990: A Serious Disturbance by Nicki Jameson and Erie Allison was published on 6 April 1995 by Larkin Publications, BCM Box 5909, London, WC1N 3XX, England (GB), telephone 0171 837-1688, fax 0171 251-3443, price £7.95 (sterling) plus £2 postage and packing. ISBN 0 905400 18 6. 192pp. Paperback.

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