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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Dale Chappell

Abuses at Orange County and San Bernardino Jails Cost Taxpayers Millions

by Dale Chappell

“Chicken-winging,” it’s called – when guards twist a prisoner’s arms behind his back and wrench them upward, inflicting extreme pain. Without the upward yank, the technique is an acceptable means of physical control and “you’ll get compliance a lot quicker,” according to former U.S ...

California: Governor Signs Bill to Block Expansion of For-profit Detention Centers

by Dale Chappell

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law in October 2017 that blocks the expansion of for-profit immigration detention facilities, demonstrating the state’s opposition to President Trump’s efforts to crack down on undocumented immigrants and increase deportations.

The Dignity Not Detention Act (SB 29) restricts new contracts between local government agencies and private companies that operate immigration detention facilities in California, blocks plans to expand existing facilities, and requires a 180-day notice and public hearings for future building permits. The law also requires private immigration detention centers to adhere to national standards for conditions, and requires the California Department of Justice to perform annual audits of such facilities.

“California should not be siding with companies that profit from the detention of asylum seekers,” said state Senator Ricardo Lara, the bill’s sponsor. There are four privately-run immigration centers in California. The GEO Group, which operates the Adelanto Detention Facility in San Bernardino County and the Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield, is one of the largest contractors with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), having held $900 million in ICE contracts since 2013. CoreCivic, formerly CCA, runs the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, while the ...

As Prison Populations Drop, Several States Close Facilities

by Dale Chappell and Matt Clarke

Connecticut has closed another prison as the state Department of Correction’s population continues to fall. Officials confirmed that Enfield Correctional Institution, a 700-bed medium-security facility, closed in January 2018.

State officials cited falling crime rates, demographic trends and sentencing reform for the decline in Connecticut’s prison population. After peaking in 2008, the population has steadily dropped, especially during the past two years after the state repealed its mandatory minimum laws for minor drug crimes.

“To have fewer reasons to incarcerate people, that’s a good thing,” said Governor Dannel P. Malloy, who supports prison and sentencing reform. “New prison admissions have declined 38 percent over the last 10 years and the prison population has reached its lowest level in 23 years,” he added.

The closure of the Enfield facility will save the state an estimated $6.5 million annually. It also cost the local community 190 jobs.

“While it is unfortunate that the facility is closing, we must look to the positive point that there are less crimes taking place within our communities,” said state Senator John Kissel, who co-chairs the legislature’s judiciary committee.

Nearby, the Southeastern State Correctional Facility in Windsor ...

San Quentin Newspaper Editor Arnulfo Garcia Leaves a Legacy

by Dale Chappell

Arnulfo Garcia, sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, turned his life around and received a second chance when he was released on July 24, 2017 after serving 16 years. Two months later he was killed in a car crash. He was 65.

During his term as the editor-in-chief of the San Quentin News, a paper produced by prisoners at the infamous California facility, he transformed it into a serious journalism publication that is now distributed to 69 prisons across the country. He also transformed other prisoners’ lives.

After being sentenced as a convicted armed burglar and heroin addict, Garcia was determined to change and to help others do the same.

“He taught me how to be a man, how to be a father, to be responsible and accountable for my actions,” said Richard Richardson, a prisoner who took over as the newspaper’s editor when Garcia was released.

“It takes a team to make it to the moon,” Garcia would say. His “team” used the San Quentin News to give prisoners a voice and educate them on how they could improve themselves while incarcerated. The newspaper also featured profiles and editorials about prison conditions ...

Government Contractor Issues Gag Order on Its Lawyers About Abortion Rights

by Dale Chappell

In fear of losing it $285 million contract with the government, a group that provides lawyers to immigrant children told its lawyers to stop telling minors about their rights to access abortion services.

The February 2 email sent by the nonprofit Vera Institute of Justice to its lawyers said there is a "very real risk" to its program (contract) "if issues other than immigration are addressed in consultations" with immigrant minors -- "the abortion issue in particular." Vera provides legal services to more than 50,000 immigrant children who cross the border without their parents, who do not have a legal right to a lawyer in court. Vera has a five-year contract with HHS for $57 million a year.

Anne Marie Mulchahy, director of Vera's unaccompanied minors program and author of the email, said a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) employee called her and "directed us to ensure that Vera's legal services providers are not talking to children in HHS custody about abortion." Vera also instructed its lawyers to immediately stop any reference to abortion from its "Know Your Rights" flyer given to immigrant children.

The move is not surprising to some. When E ...

California: Protest Over Bay Area Jail Conditions

by Dale Chappell

Promising to “continue peaceful protest to end tortuous practices of solitary confinement,” Prisoners United, a coalition of prisoners in California’s Bay Area jails backed by civil rights groups, described the purpose of their complaints in an open letter to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors on October 15, 2017.

The prisoners said they began a hunger strike to put an end to the abusive use of solitary confinement, unfair grievance practices, insufficient food and dirty clothing. The jails allow a change of clothing just once a week.

Prisoners at four facilities were involved in the protest: the Glenn Dyer Detention Center and the Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County, plus the Main Jail and the Elmwood Correctional Complex in Santa Clara County.

The hunger strike began exactly one year after 100 Santa Clara prisoners ended another protest, when Sheriff Laurie Smith promised to improve jail conditions.

At Glenn Dyer, 82 prisoners remained locked in their cells 23 hours a day in segregation – even though most detainees at the facility were awaiting trial and had not been convicted.

“All the research points to just how bad it is for people’s mental health who are already suffering ...

Arkansas: Failure to Include Interested Party is Fatal to Action for Declaratory Relief

by Dale Chappell

Failure to include an interested party is fatal to an action for declaratory relief, the Arkansas Supreme Court held on August 3, 2017.

Cedric Brown pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. When he looked into his parole eligibility date, the Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) refused to grant him parole eligibility due to a prior violent felony conviction. Brown was told he would have to serve his entire sentence.

He filed a pro se petition for declaratory relief asking the trial court to enforce the terms of his plea agreement concerning his parole eligibility. Brown argued that his defense counsel had promised that if he pleaded guilty, he would serve no more than four years before becoming eligible for parole. The basis for Brown's petition was that the ADC had contravened his plea agreement when it determined he was not eligible for parole and would have to serve 100 percent of his sentence.

The trial court denied Brown's petition on the basis that it did not have authority to abrogate the ADC's determination of parole eligibility. Brown appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

When Brown moved ...

Denial of Parole No Basis for Writ of Mandamus in Arkansas

by Dale Chappell

A petitioner’s claim that his rights were violated when he was denied parole is no basis for a writ of mandamus, the Arkansas Supreme Court held on August 3, 2017.

Anthony Warren filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the Jefferson County Circuit Court on August 5, 2016, contending that his rights were violated when he was denied parole eligibility by the Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC). The circuit court denied Warren’s petition on November 1, 2016, finding he had failed to establish he had a right to be paroled.

The state Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s denial on appeal, noting that “the purpose of a writ of mandamus is to enforce an established right or to enforce the performance of a duty.” The Court found there was no evidence in the record to support Warren’s contentions for relief; there was no evidence he was subject to a parole hearing, and no evidence of his underlying convictions.

Citing precedent that a petitioner-appellant has the burden to present a sufficient record on appeal, the Supreme Court held it had no choice but to affirm the lower court’s decision based on the record before it ...

Constitutional Claim Required to Trigger Judicial Review Under Arkansas Administrative Procedure Act

by Dale Chappell

A petitioner must state a colorable constitutional claim to trigger entitlement to judicial review under the Arkansas Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the Arkansas Supreme Court held on August 3, 2017.

Jeremy Kennedy filed a pro se petition in the Jefferson County Circuit Court arguing that the Arkansas Parole Board had unconstitutionally denied his transfer eligibility to the Department of Community Corrections in May 2016. The court determined, however, that he did not identify the dates when he committed the offenses underlying his incarceration, and the record was silent as to those dates. Parole eligibility is determined by the law in effect at the time the crime is committed, not the date of conviction. The circuit court found that Kennedy failed to state a claim regarding his parole eligibility and granted the Parole Board’s motion to dismiss. Kennedy appealed.

Reviewing the circuit court’s decision for abuse of discretion, and treating the facts alleged by Kennedy as true, the Supreme Court found the lower court had not abused its discretion when it dismissed Kennedy’s petition because he “failed to state a constitutional claim that triggered entitlement to judicial review under the APA.” Citing its decision in Clinton v ...


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