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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Matthew Clarke

Texas Prison Expert Pays the Price for Telling the Truth

by Matthew T. Clarke

Tony Fabelo was the head of the Texas Criminal Justice Policy Council for two decades. He survived multiple changes of administration by doing a great job as the state's top number-cruncher on prison issues. Legislators of both parties say the Cuban-born Ph.D., a nationally-known authority on prisons and prison construction, served the state well during its dramatic build up of the prison system. However, Tony Fabelo no longer has a job.
O.K., technically Fabelo wasn't fired. No, Governor Rick Perry simply signed a line-item veto eliminating the council's $1 million biannual appropriation from the state budget. Fabelo, who recognized the irony of being the head of an unfunded government entity, then resigned and became a nationwide consultant on prison issues.

Why was Fabelo's council, which was doing such a good job, eliminated? Perry says that the council's job was done and he wanted to save the money. Neither aspect of that rationalization makes sense. The state still has one of the largest prison systems in the world and will still need advice on how to manage it. During its existence, the council collected twice as much money in federal ...

Texas State Equipment and Employees Used for Private Prison Labor Lobbying

by Matthew T. Clarke


Republican State Representative Ray Allen of Grand Prairie, Texas, Chairman of the Texas House Corrections Committee, has been using his state employees and state equipment to operate a private firm that specializes in consulting and lobbying for the private prison industry. Allen's company, called Service House, has one client: the National Correctional Industries Association, a promoter of programs designed to use prisoner labor in private business.

Allen, 53, is known as a conservative Republican who is very pro-gun and anti-abortion. He took a leading role in passing the 1995 law that allowed Texans to carry concealed firearms.

Two government watchdog groups have criticized Allen for his practices of using state employees and equipment to further his private company. For instance, Scott Gilmore, Allen's top aide, was paid by the state while he was traveling around the U.S. doing paid consulting and lobbying for the prison factory industry. In another incident, a letter to a lobbying client was found stored on a state computer used by ex-Allen employee Tedrah Hutchins, who left Allen's office in June, 2004 for another state job. Hutchins also used the state computer system's email to send a ...

Fifth Circuit Allows Sexual-Orientation Discrimination in Texas Prisoner Rape Suit

by Matthew T. Clarke


The Fifth Circuit court of appeals held that a homosexual prisoner who prison officials allegedly allowed to be repeatedly sexually assaulted and made a sex slave may sue the prison officials for both failures to protect him in violation of the Eighth Amendment and discrimination based upon sexual orientation in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

Roderick Keith Johnson, a former Texas state prisoner, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in federal district court against various prison officials alleging they denied him protection from physical and sexual assault. [PLN Oct. 2002, p. 20]. Margaret Winters, Associate Director of the ACLU's National Prison Project (NPP) and the NPP's Craig Cowie represented Johnson.

Johnson is black, homosexual, and of slight build and effeminate manner. He was imprisoned 18 months at the Allred Unit. At the time of his incarceration, Allred was infamous for being gang-infested and extremely violent. Johnson alleged that prison gangs made him a sex slave, buying and selling him like chattel. He was allegedly raped, abused and degraded on a daily basis. Johnson filed numerous grievances and life-endangerment" forms. He also wrote letters to prison officials complaining of his treatment. Johnson ...

Uprising by Vermont Prisoners Damages CCA Prison in Kentucky

by Matthew T. Clarke


On September 14, 2004, a prisoner uprising rocked the 816-bed, 88-acre Lee Adjustment Center (LAC), a private prison owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) in Lee County, Kentucky.


The Prison


LAC was built in 1990 as a 400-bed, minimum-security prison by a private company under contract with the Kentucky Department of Corrections (KDOC). In 1999 CCA bought the prison and converted it into an 816-bed medium security prison used to house both KDOC and out-of-state prisoners. Apparently CCA cut costs during the conversion because during the uprising prisoners were able to move freely about the prison by pulling up the interior fences. At the time of the rebellion, it held 376 Kentucky DOC prisoners and 427 prisoners from the Vermont Department of Corrections (VDOC). Kentucky pays CCA $38.44 per prisoner per day while Vermont paid $42.50 per prisoner per day under a 29-month contract involving up to 700 prisoners and up to $29.5 million.


The Uprising


The rebellion began when nine prisoners, five from Kentucky and four from Vermont, attacked a round wooden guard tower in the center of the recreation yard after about 150 prisoners were let out on ...

Compensating the Wrongly Convicted, or Not

by Matthew T. Clarke

Hundreds of thousands of men and women are hidden from society—social failures convicted of felonies—behind concrete walls and razor wire in isolated parts of our country. Nestled among them are society's silenced victims—the wrongfully convicted.

Society is loath to admit its mistakes. Citizens would rather believe the police are trustworthy than accept they plant evidence. The community would rather believe that a criminal was captured and brought to justice than a crime remains unsolved. Prosecutors who have publicly accused a person of a crime are reluctant to admit a mistake. Indictments and press releases are the life-blood of public officials.

This bias is further magnified when a series of similar crimes occurs, causing community pressure on police, judges, and prosecutors to find and convict someone—anyone. Harried prosecutors manipulate police, forensic experts, and other witnesses to conform their testimony to the desired outcome. All this leads to conviction of the innocent along with the guilty. Once convicted, this injustice is seldom undone.

It is uncomfortable to believe that innocent people are in prison or worse—executed. Therefore, prosecutors, police, witnesses, judges, juries, victims and the media join in a great festival of ...

 

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