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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: July, 1990

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Volume 1, Number 3

In this issue:

  1. Prison Population Rises 12.1% (p 1)
  2. BOP Denies Medical Treatment (p 1)
  3. Pleading Supervisory Liability (p 2)
  4. Prisoner Advisors Reinstated (p 2)
  5. Civil Rights Suit For Damages Against State Prison Officials In Individual Capacities (p 2)
  6. County Fined $500,000 for Deliberate Indifference (p 2)
  7. Mental Cases Warehoused in IMU (p 3)
  8. Bankruptcy Declaration Voids Court Ordered Restitution (p 3)
  9. Fascism, Another Step Nearer (p 5)
  10. Summary Judgment on Retaliation (p 5)
  11. We Are All Prisoners (p 6)
  12. Indonesia Murders Long Term Political Prisoners (p 7)
  13. Washington Detains More Kids (p 7)
  14. "The Prison Issue" (p 8)
  15. "Captive Voice" (p 8)
  16. Capital Punishment (p 9)
  17. Small Fry (p 9)
  18. Vietnam MIAs in Perspective (p 9)
  19. The Fortress Economy: The Economic Role of the US Prison System (p 10)

Prison Population Rises 12.1%

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has issued its annual bulletin on prison populations. The report stated the number of state and federal prisoners in the U.S. grew by a record 76,099 prisoners during 1989. This figure now reaches a new high of 703, 687 men and women in the nation's prisons. The number represents a 12.1 percent increase over the 627,588 prisoners held at the end of 1988.

The report noted that at the end of 1989 there were 373,866 more prisoners than there were at the end of 1980, which is an increase of about 113 percent.

There were 36, 689 female prisoners and 663,998 male prisoners as of December 1, 1989. The number of women prisoners increased by 21.8 percent last year, whereas the number of male prisoners grew by 11.6 percent. The female population has grown at a faster rate than has the male population every year since 1981, when women were 4.2 percent of the total prison population compared to 5.6 percent last year.

Washing state had 5,816 prisoners at the end of 1988, and 6,928 at the end of 1989 for ...

BOP Denies Medical Treatment

Dr. Alan Berkman is currently serving a 12-year sentence for conspiracy to aid and abet possession of weapons and explosives. He is currently facing trial for Seditious Conspiracy. Dr. Berkman has a long history of political activism and putting medicine in the service of the people, including service in Harlem, Wounded Knee, and for the Attica Brothers.

Four years ago Alan diagnosed himself as having cancer of the lymph nodes (Hodgkin's Disease). After a successful pressure campaign, Dr. Berkman was given treatment he needed and the cancer went into remission. He has never had follow up medical care on schedule.

After a long delay and many problems, a CAT scan revealed that Dr. Berkman had a recurrence of the cancer. The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) refuses to provide him with the necessary medical treatment. Bith the Mayo Clinic, which has a BOP program, and the Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown are appropriate places for this treatment. The BOP wants to instead return Alan to the infamous Marion Prison, and from there to ship him to Springfield's federal medical prison, which is not equipped to deal with this type of illness.

Readers are urged to write to: Micheal Quinlan ...

Pleading Supervisory Liability

Prisoner seeking to sue prison officials in section 1983 Civil Rights actions must allege either personal involvement and/or supervisory liability by administrators in order to state a claim.

"To hold supervisors liable under section 1983," the court said at page 645, "a plaintiff must show that a superior had actual knowledge of constitutional rights and that he demonstrated deliberate indifference or `tacit authorization' of the offensive acts by failing to take steps to remedy them." An allegation that a prison supervisor, most generally a warden, knew about the assaults in this case and their connection with inadequate training and supervision stated a claim against him. Pool v. Mo. Dept. of Corrections, 883 F.2d 640 (8th Cir. 1989).

Prisoner Advisors Reinstated

A warden's refusal to reappoint four inmates to their positions as inmate legal advisors has been overturned by a federal appeals court.

The inmates sued, alleging that the warden had refused to reappoint them because they criticized the performance of the chairman of the disciplinary board.

The court held a favor of the inmates noting that it was constitutionally impermissible to terminate the appointment under the circumstances. "Prison officials may not retaliate against an inmate for exercising a constitutionally protected right." Since prisoners retain some First Amendment rights, the warden could not refuse to reappoint them because they exercised their right to free speech by criticizing the chairman of the disciplinary board, according to the court. See Newsom v. Norris, 888 F.2d 371 (6 Cir. 1989).

Civil Rights Suit For Damages Against State Prison Officials In Individual Capacities

Two prisoners filed a civil rights damage suite against state correctional officials, charging that they were denied due process because they were not given a timely hearing before being placed in segregation. The court noted that, under Will v. Michigan, 109 S.Ct. 2304 (1989), state officials sued in their official capacity for damages are absolutely immune from liability under the Eleventh Amendment, because states are not "persons" for the purposes of 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, therefore, held that when plaintiffs suing state officials for damages do not make it clear in their complaint that they are suing the state defendants in their individual capacity for damages, rather than simply in their capacity as state officials, the court should dismiss the complaint. See Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591 (6 Cir. 1989).

County Fined $500,000 for Deliberate Indifference

County Fined $500,000 For Deliberate Indifference

A federal appeals court upheld a damages award of $500,000 because of a physician assistant's deliberate indifference to an inmates serious medical needs.

The county road camp prisoner in Florida injured his leg when he jumped off the bed of a ...

Mental Cases Warehoused in IMU

Mental Cases Warehoused In IMU

By Mark LaRue

You would not believe how they are running the Intensive Management Unit (IMU) here at Walla Walla. The tier I am on is filled with nuts who loud talk day and night. Mental health staff openly admit that these people are housed on tiers throughout the IMU. But they deny that the IMU is being used to warehouse the insane. Worse yet, they deny IMU is used to house their disciplinary problems, and they insist that it's okay to discipline mentally disturbed prisoners in the same manner as other inmates.

Needless to say, they do not explain how they are able to do that without housing them in IMU. But is goes without saying that they are doing precisely that. IMU guards acknowledge as much, too. And none of them like having to deal with these guys one bit. Moreover, the cops are not trained to deal with the disciplinary behavior of mental cases.

This lack of adequate medical supervision, I believe, led to the death of an IMU inmate last week. From what I hear he was an epileptic and died form a seizure induced by a lack of medication ...

Bankruptcy Declaration Voids Court Ordered Restitution

On May 29, 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that criminals can avoid paying restitution for their crimes by declaring bankruptcy. The court, in a 7 to 2 ruling, held that restitution orders as part of criminal sentences are "debt" under the federal bankruptcy laws and as a result can be wiped out by declaring bankruptcy.

The ruling came in a welfare fraud case from Pennsylvania. Edward and Debora Davenport pleaded guilty to welfare fraud and were given probation and ordered to make monthly restitution payments until they had paid a total of $4,144. The two later declared bankruptcy and listed the restitution payment as part of their debt and made no payments. The state sought to collect the money. The case ended up in the Supreme Court, which ruled that the restitution order was to be treated like any other debt in bankruptcy. See: Pennsylvania Public Welfare Department v. Davenport, #89-156.

Fascism, Another Step Nearer

[SSB-6259 Is Not Just For Sex Offenders]

Senate Substitute Bill 6259 is now law in this state. Most of its provisions came into effect on July 1, 1990. Most of us have heard of this law as the sex offender bill that allows civil commitment of such prisoners after they have served their sentences. SSB-6259 has a lot of other provisions that impact not just sex offender, but those convicted of serious violent offenses as well. Here we will take a look at some of those provisions.

Community Notification: "At the earliest possible date...before release...the department of corrections shall send written notice of parole, community placement, work release, furlough or escape about a specific inmate convicted of a violent offense or a sex all of the following." The law then the chief of police and county sheriff where the prisoner will live, and if request have been made, notification is extended to the victim (or next of kin in homicide cases), any witnesses who testified against the inmate, and any other person specified by the prosecuting attorney. (See Sec. 121) Officials are also able to release information from a prisoner's records to just about anyone ...

Summary Judgment on Retaliation

Summary Judgment On Retaliation

The prisoner's appearance in court was a protected activity, and prison disciplinary action, taken immediately upon his return from court, provided circumstantial evidenced that prison officials retaliated against him for the exercise of his right of access to the courts.

The court cited numerous cases in support of the proposition that "retaliation for filing lawsuits and administrative grievances violates both the inmate's right of access to the courts and the inmate's First Amendment rights." The court went on to note that "(t)his principle applies even when the action taken in retaliation would be otherwise possible."

On the issue of evidence, the court held "(w)here defendants' motives are seriously at issue, trial by affidavit is particularly inappropriate." Thus the lower court's granting of summary judgment to prison officials was reversed. Smith v. Maschener, 899 F.2d 940 (10 Cir. 1990). Many other good cases are cited in this opinion.

We Are All Prisoners

By Ed Mead

I was reading the "Impact of Washington's Correctional Institutions on Communities," and found it to be a valuable source of correctional statistics, even if somewhat dated (1988). One particular set of figures was both surprising and important. These have to do with the extent to which our prisons are populated with sex offenders.

The Shelton Corrections Center is made up of 21.9% sex offenders; the Reformatory 26.0%; Twin Rivers 63.3%; S.O.C. 20.7%; McNeil Island 26.4%; Purdy Women's Prison a mere 4.5%; and an understated 16.3% at the Walls (the W.S.P. data covers only rape I & II and statutory rape, but other sex offenses are not included). The overall average number of sex offenders in Washington's prisons was 26.8% in 1988.

But the actual number of sex offenders is probably much higher than the above figures would indicate. First of all, there has been a virtual hysteria in the news media over sex crimes since 1988, one that has resulted in more vigorous enforcement of crimes in this area, the passage of new sex offender laws by the state legislature, a much tougher position against sex offenders by the parole board, adverse rulings by the courts, and generally much longer terms being given out by the judges to men convicted of sex crimes.

Secondly, the 1988 statistics only show those who were actually convicted of sex crimes. The figures do not reflect those who were actually guilty of some sort of sex offense, but who plea-bargained for a lesser charge like burglary or assault. As we all know, a lot of this is goes on.

At least a quarter of our state's prison population is made up of sex offenders. Given recent changes in public attitudes and the effects of the plea negotiation system, we can safely bet that the actual figure is somewhere in the neighborhood of between a third and a half of our populations are down on sex related beefs.

What does all of this mean? Speaking for myself, as a man who loves women and children, I feel as if it is time for some of us to start taking some responsibility in this area. We need to know why this is happening at such alarming rates, and we should also be studying ways to correct the behavior of sex offenders.

I am certainly not suggesting that we adopt the punishment methods of our captors. We all know that punishment merely generates anger that eventually gets taken out on the community. Ideally we would approach sex offenders with understanding and comradeship as a part of our efforts to rectify their behavior. At the same time we would be educating ourselves in the area of sexism. Most prisoners still believe that rape has more to do with the sex than it does power, they do not see rape as an assault against women.

Of course we do not live in an ideal environment. Prisoners are not going to try and understand the rapist, let alone work with him toward his rectification. And even if that was done on the inside, social forces on the outside are so sexist that new crops of sex offenders are increasingly produced. We could never keep up with their growing numbers. To make a serious dent in the problem we would need the means of education and information to be in the hands of the working class, yet the revolution is nowhere in sight.

What I'm really suggesting is that prisoners make a conscious effort to stop discriminating against their fellow captives on the basis of their crimes. I would just like you to stop being one of the punishers.

Why? For two reasons. Firstly, since we are not going to do anything very helpful with the sex offender, we can a least get our boot off his neck so he can help himself. It is quite possible that if it were less risky for sex offenders to be more open about their circumstances the more conscious elements of them could start organizing themselves for change. They are the ones who have to change themselves; we can only give them the room to do so. They need to alter their low self-esteem, sexims and the powerlessness that caused them to try and build themselves up by pushing someone else down.

The second and more important reason for not oppressing sex offenders is that we are in need of them. We cannot make any meaningful progress in our struggle to extend democracy if, at the outset, before we even get started, we allow our ignorant prejudices to alienate us from a whopping third of ...

Indonesia Murders Long Term Political Prisoners

On the 16th of February, 1990 four prisoners: Sater Suryanto, Johannes Surono, Simon Solainman and Norbertus Rohayan, were taken from their cell in Cipinang prison in Jakarta (capital of Indonesia) and taken to an uninhabited island in Jakarta Bay where they were shot dead by a platoon of the Police Mobile Brigade.

Previously in October, 1989, two other prisoners, Tohong Harahap and Muchtar Sirait, were secretly executed by the government, they were accused of attempting to revive the banned PKI (Indonesian Communist Party). Their deaths were not confirmed by the government until the February executions took place.

The two prisoners executed in October, 1989 had been convicted and sentenced to death in 1974 for having been PKI members in 1965.

The other four men were all soldiers arrested in 1965 and accused of participating in a coup attempt against the Indonesian ruler, General Sukarno. They were all sentenced to death in either 1969 or 1970. Appeals and petitions for clemency have all been turned down.

The executions should be seen in light of the fact that immediately after the 1965 coup attempt, which was later blamed on the PKI, right wing factions within the military seized power, led by general ...

Washington Detains More Kids

According to the Bureau of Census' Children in Custody series, Washington State leads the nation in its confinement of juveniles in detention and state institutions. Washington has 1,211 juveniles in custody for every 100,000 population. The second ranked jurisdiction was the District of Columbia, which had 666 kids detained for every 100,000 people. The national average is 245 per 100,000.

"The Prison Issue"

Is put out by the folks at new studies on the left, 1484 Wicklow St., Boulder, Co. 80303. It is a "magazine" 216 pages long. There really isn't a whole lot to say about it, it's great!!!

This issue contains a number of thoughtful and provocative essays examining everything about the prison system in this country (as well as an article on the West German gulags), from the racism of the "just us" system, the oppression of Women and minorities within the gulags, etc. There is also material on political prisoners by both current and former prisoners. I believe that this issue will be considered as a standard reference in the area of prison struggle and what it means to progressive people for some time to come. Highly recommended. It costs $10.00 for "free" people, free to prisoners.

"Captive Voice"

"Captive Voice"

This is the title of a quarterly magazine written entirely by Irish republican prisoners of war being held in Ireland, England, the US and Europe. The "CV" contains poetry, short stories, political analysis and the latest updates on prison related campaigns and issues. It is a platform for the political prisoners to express themselves and comment on items of concern to them as prisoners and as people struggling for freedom. It is available free to prisoners and a US subscription is $12.00 per year. Contact:

The POW Department
51/55 Falls Road
Belfast, Northern Ireland

Capital Punishment

By Laurance Boulton, Gatesville, TX

The thought of knowing one's death is drawing near, especially your own, is a portrait of terror. Although refined to a system of rules and legally sanctioned methods, executing a human being in nonetheless murder! No longer is a man or woman "burnt at the stake" or "drawn and quartered," but in our civilized world we may still be shot by firing squad, hung by the neck, electrocuted, gassed or subjected to the latest modification of lethal injection, as a more humane and expedient form of execution.

What is humane about any execution?

Recently Jessie Tafero was put to death by electrocution in Florida. Due to "flames" rising six inches above his masked face and head, the execution was interrupted to ascertain the reason for the flames. Florida DOC officials stated a "wet sponge" on Tafero's head caught fire!

Regardless of one's crime or offense, to be executed is to be murdered. No amount of sanction or legislation can withstand the scrutiny of the Lord on judgment day. Murder is morally wrong. All life is precious.

Governors, presidents, kings or queens, each become a murderer upon affixing their signature on a death ...

Small Fry

By Dan Pens

I'd have to bone up on my state history to say for sure which agency pioneered the strategy, but the Department of Corrections and the State Fisheries Department both have a good thing going. And they know it.

If I had to put money on it, I'd say the Fisheries Department hit on the idea first. You see, it's pretty dang simple: The more hatchlings you process, the more adult salmon return in the coming years. The more adult salmon you get back, the more of their progeny you can expect to process as hatchlings. Which means that you can expect even more adult salmon for the future -- and well, it just goes on.

"More hatcheries! We need more hatcheries!" came the cry from the Fisheries Department. More money! More jobs! More fish to fry! It's good business. Good for the economy they say.

Well, the success of our Fisheries Department hatchling Management Program is such a good story that word spread far and wide. DOC must have got wind of it and sent a team of experts to investigate. I imagine that's how it might have happened.

"We tag 'em," says ...

Vietnam MIAs in Perspective

The MIA (Missing In Action) issue has been exploited by the U.S. government to block normalization of relations with Vietnam. Many prisoners have uncritically swallowed the state's propaganda on this issue. We'd like to put it in a more statistically accurate context:

The French still have 20,000 MIAs from their war in Indochina. The Vietnamese list over 200,000 MIAs. The U.S. still has 80,000 MIAs from WWII and 8,000 from the Korean War. Whereas U.S. MIAs resulting from the Vietnam War is "nearly 2,400." From: Light at the End Of The Tunnel, by Terry Anderson 1988, pages 443 through 462.

Put in context, these numbers are not significant enough to warrant being used as a pretext for failing to establish relations with the government of Vietnam.

The Fortress Economy: The Economic Role of the US Prison System

The Fortress Economy: The Economic Role of the U.S. Prison System is the title of a brand new 29 page booklet by the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers). It's an excellent book and I highly recommend it. The booklet will complement and enhance The Prison Issue, which I review elsewhere in this newsletter. The pamphlet gives a historical overview of the U.S. prison system from its very beginnings. It asks and answers questions such as: who goes to prisons; the use of prisoners as a source of cheap labor; and the trend toward "private prisons." It also addresses the dilemma of ex-prisoners, as well as much more.

In these days of public hysteria and the continuing calls to build more prisons, this booklet is a sobering assessment of the failure of the American prison system, now celebrating its 200th anniversary.

The small book is available at $2.00 a copy for "free" people, and it is mailed at no charge to prisoners. For a copy write a note to:

American Friends Service Committee
1501 Cherry Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
If prisoners can afford a small donation of stamps the A.F.S.C. could use them.


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