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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by R. Bailey

Criticism of Commission-based Phone Contract at Pennsylvania County Prison

by R. Bailey

Prisoners and their families in York County, Pennsylvania are outraged that Global Tel*Link (GTL), one of the nation’s largest prison and jail telephone service providers, has contracted with the York County Prison under a “commission” arrangement that provides kickbacks to the county through inflated phone rates.

At least 11 states have prohibited telecom companies from paying commissions to their departments of corrections, since commission-based contracts result in higher rates that are an unfair burden on prisoners’ family members. [See: PLN, Dec. 2013, p.1]. Pennsylvania state prisons charge $0.06 per minute for phone calls.

Records obtained by The York Dispatch, as reported in September 2017, indicate the $0.25 per minute charged by GTL at the York County Prison, “plus various billing fees,” would amount to $900,000 in annual commissions for the county – all paid for by prisoners and their family members. Aleks Kajstura, with the Massachusetts-based Prison Policy Initiative, called those rates “unreasonable.”

Notably, high prison and jail phone rates are being charged in a market where non-prison telecom companies provide flat-rate unlimited calling, texting and emails for about $40 a month. In response to pressure from prisoners’ rights advocacy ...

911 'swatting' prank excuses officer's fatal shooting

By R. Bailey

A Kansas district attorney ("DA") determined that a Wichita SWAT team acted reasonably when it fatally shot an innocent, unarmed father in his own home while responding to a “swatting” or 911 prank call made from Los Angeles, California.

The FBI reportedly responds to almost 400 swatting pranks per year. On December 28, 2017, Andrew Finch, a 28-year-old Wichita father of two, lost his life due to such a prank.

Tyler Barriss, a 25-year-old Los Angeles man, made a swatting call to the Wichita Police Department (WPD) 1,400 miles away and reported that, as a resident of that address, he had just murdered his father and was holding his mother and brother hostage at the home.

Barriss was no stranger to swatting; in fact, his online username was “SwauTstic,” and he had a history of swatting and false bomb threats. He had chosen Finch’s address simply because it had appeared in an online game called End of Duty. Neither he nor Finch was connected to the game.

Although the call could have been identified as an out-of-state call, the absence of policies and procedures to verify the caller’s ID and validity of an emergency allowed ...

Alaska high court: Verbatim record may satisfy written record requirements in disciplinary decisions

by R. Bailey

The Alaska Supreme Court held that a prisoner’s federal due process right to receipt of a written statement explaining what evidence and reasoning were relied on in imposing disciplinary action may be satisfied by attaching a “verbatim record” of the proceedings as long as that record can be reduced to writing.

Matthew Pease-Madore, a prisoner in the Alaska Department of Corrections (“DOC”), appealed his disciplinary convictions rendered on 11 infractions, including two November 2014 threats of future harm and one disorderly conduct.

Pease-Madore argued that the DOC violated his federal due process rights when it failed to attach a written explanation of its decision per Wolff v. McDonnell 418 U.S. 539, 564 (1974) requirements. He did not seek to show prejudice or even controvert the evidence. He argued that the DOC only attained a “verbal record” of the proceedings to comply with state due process rights provided in McGinnis v. Stalens, 543 P.2d 1221 (Alaska, 1975).

He asserted that McGinnis predated an additional requirement, or the “verbatim record” could not satisfy the “written record” requirement. 

The Supreme Court found his reasoning to be incorrect. It held that the reasons for the written requirements were to ...


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