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Articles by Dale Chappell

Prison Plays Go on the Road, Teach Prisoners Life Skills

The Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) teamed up with the University of Denver’s Prison Arts Initiative and took some prison plays on the road last December. It’s the first time a prison play has gone on tour.

About 40 prisoners from the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility traveled to the Newman Center for the Performing Arts at the college’s campus to put on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol for three sold-out shows.

“I think in our society, we tend to have a very specific stereotype of who is in prison,” Ashley Hamilton, founder of the college’s program, said. “My experience these last 10 years have really shown me that the majority of people who are inside are really ready to make a major change ... and I think that the arts are one way they can do that.”

In another prisoner production under Hamilton’s direction, 30 prisoners from Sterling Correctional Facility, a higher security men’s prison, took the classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest on tour to another prison. The play is about a psychiatric ward run by strict staff and is not unlike real prison, Hamilton noted. She was surprised the DOC allowed the prisoners to ...

Suicide Rate of BOP Guards Keeps Increasing, Sets New Record

The suicide rate among guards in the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) keeps increasing, reaching a record high in 2019 for the most suicides in a single year: 14.

Top brass at both state and federal prisons have known for years that the suicide rate of prison guards is much higher than the general public. It even rivals that of Vietnam War veterans. But the challenge has always been what to do about it.

A recent study by University of California Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy gathered data from over 8,000 prison guards and parole officers in California and found that the problem has many facets. However, the big three factors were: dangerously low staffing levels, high levels of violence and threats of violence, and ineffective workplace programs to combat the problem.

The study was a first of its kind in trying to diagnose why guards keep killing themselves.

“Corrections is extremely difficult and emotionally demanding work,” said Amy Lerman, the lead author of the study and professor of public policy and political science at the university. “We are just beginning to understand the huge range of mental and physical health issues that can result from ...

Are Prison Law Libraries Adequate?

If you’ve ever had to rely on a prison law library to research for a court filing, you know just how sorely lacking they can be. And that’s if you were even able to access the law library. Many states do not provide law libraries for prisoners.

Over 40 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 813 (1977), that “the fundamental constitutional right of access to the courts requires prison authorities to assist inmates in the presentation and filing of meaningful legal papers by providing prisoners with adequate law libraries or adequate assistance from persons trained in the law.”

But what is an “adequate” law library? This has never been defined by the Supreme Court, and no clear standard says what a prison must provide in its law library to meet the mandate of Bounds. The defendants in Bounds never provided North Carolina prisoners with law libraries.

Nearly every prison has its own idea of what an adequate law library means, and nearly every one of them has tossed books and gone digital (except Oklahoma). But what’s on the computers may not be what the public has access to. ...

Federal Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Prisoner's Non-Prison Lawsuit Under PLRA's 3-Strikes Rule, Even Though Unrelated to Prison Conditions

by Dale Chappell

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a Native American prisoner’s lawsuit against the United States involving Indian affairs, citing the prisoner’s previous “frivolous” court challenges to prison conditions to invoke the 3-strikes rule under the Prison Litigation and Reform act ...

Court Grants Bail to Ex-Peruvian President Challenging Extradition Due to Solitary Confinement

by Dale Chappell

On October 10, 2019, U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco granted bail to former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, requiring him to be released on a $1 million bond under home confinement and electronic monitoring.

The 73-year-old Toledo had been held in solitary confinement at ...

Oklahoma County Settles Jail Death Lawsuit for $3.2 Million

by Dale Chappell

The family of a man who was neglected to the point that he died in jail in Carter County, Oklahoma has settled a lawsuit against the county for $3.2 million, plus interest, after new and damaging evidence was uncovered.

Michael Manos was no stranger to staff at ...

California County Settles Failure to Protect Lawsuit for $90,000

by Dale Chappell

Contra Costa County has settled a lawsuit filed in federal court by Suneel Kumar, agreeing to pay him $90,000 after guards at the county jail allowed another prisoner to attack him while he was performing his job duties within the facility, and failed to intervene before he ...

BOP to Implement Paperless Mail System in Attempt to Stop Drugs

by Dale Chappell

Soon, federal prisoners will not be able to receive any paper correspondence but will have to read letters on “kiosks” in housing units. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) officials say the move is needed in order to stop the flow of drugs coming in through the mail, including ...

Prosecutors Get Real Look at Life After Prison

by Dale Chappell

A dozen prosecutors and other criminal justice workers got a real life look at what it’s like to re-enter society after being in prison – ­­and every one of them failed to get everything done as required by their “probation officers.”

The Reentry Simulation took place at ...

Jury Awards Oregon Prisoner $350,000 After Guard Announces He Was a “PC” Case

by Dale Chappell

In April 2019, a jury awarded a prisoner held at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution $350,000 in damages when he was attacked by other prisoners after a guard announced that he was a “PC” (protective custody) case.

Oregon state prisoner Skyler Floro, a former gang member, claimed ...