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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: September, 1990

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Volume 1, Number 5

In this issue:

  1. The Initiative Process, Can Prisoners Use It? (p 1)
  2. Sexual Harassment Suit Settled (p 2)
  3. Pro-Lifers for Death (p 2)
  4. Letters From Readers (p 3)
  5. Editorial Comments (p 4)
  6. Let's Come Together (p 5)
  7. Litigating for Maximum Effect (p 5)
  8. Highway Robbery (p 6)
  9. Why Racism? (p 7)
  10. Response to the Article "Why Racism" (p 8)
  11. Fire Hosing Stopped! (p 8)
  12. The Struggle For Prisoner Owned Computers Continues (p 9)

The Initiative Process, Can Prisoners Use It?

In its 1988 Report To The Legislature, the Washington State Parole Board admitted that it imposed exceptional sentences in 53% of the cases it reviewed. These exceptional terms were all above the applicable guideline range. When a sentence was within the range it was always at its uppermost limits.

The courts, on the other hand, during the same period imposed exceptional terms in 3.6% of the cases, and 56% of those exceptional sentences were below the guideline range.

A small but growing number of prisoners and family members want to turn the functions of the Board over to the courts, and to accomplish this it is being suggested that prisoners try to change the law through use of the state's initiative process.

Since 1912 Washington citizens have had the right to make their own laws. One of the processes for doing this is called the initiative. It is called that because the electorate can "initiate" legislation by having a proposition (proposed new law) placed directly on the ballot. While the process gives the electorate the right to legislate, it is not an easy right to exercise.

Any voter, acting individually or on behalf of an organization, may propose ...

Sexual Harassment Suit Settled

The Texas Department of Corrections (TDC) paid secretary Charlene Atchinson $85,000 to settle a sexual harassment suit filed against Warden Jack Garner and Regional Director Marshal Herklotz of the Palestine Unit in East Texas.

In the suit, Ms. Atchinson alleged Warden Garner unzipped his pants in front of her ...

Pro-Lifers for Death

Pro-Lifers For Death

By Paul A. Wright

The TV news lately has been full of governors, legislators, elected officials and citizens who proclaim themselves to be "pro-life" and thus, anti-abortion. The last year has seen attempts by Gov. Martinez in Florida to make abortion impossible to obtain for young and poor women. The Louisiana legislature sought to outlaw all abortions. All the while, claiming they seek to protect human, that of the unborn fetus.

That concern for human life stops as soon as the fetus is born. Both states lead the nation in poor health care for infants, malnutrition and poverty. Florida leads the nation with 322 prisoners on death row and has murdered 22 since 1976, Louisiana has 33 men on death row and has murdered 19. Fetal "life" is sacred by adults are fair game, both states also execute minors and the mentally retarded. The Southern US routinely enacts the most restrictive laws on abortion. Yet the "Death Belt" (Texas, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama) accounts for nearly half of US death row prisoners and 102 of 128 executions since 1976.

Gov. Martinez who expresses a "concern for human life" in opposing abortion, has signed dozens of ...

Letters From Readers

Letters from readers are encouraged. Words in brackets [like this] reflect material added by the editors in order to clarify a subject. Letters are edited for length. Names of writers will not be published unless specific authorization is given. We not only welcome the input of every reader, we want this section to become a forum in which prisoners and family members can criticize, express ideas, and share information. Here are some letters recently sent to newsletter workers:

Better Than Convictions?

Read the 2nd and 3rd PLN. I like it and will help support it wholeheartedly. You will do well with this paper. I like it more than I do Convictions magazine. I am going to throw all my support I have been giving them over to the PLN.

I wish to complement you on getting us a paper that concerns all prisoners and not just a few.

B.B., Clallam Bay

She's Able To Use Our News

Thanks for including the news about Monroe losing its impact money in the newsletter. I shared that information with the prison [construction] opponents in Grandview this week. I was told that although most people in Grandview don't want the prison ...

Editorial Comments

By Ed Mead

Welcome to PLN #5. Let me start this by talking about some of the articles in this issue. First, there is one on the need to get computers into prisoner hands. State Senator Phil Talmadge, who is a member of the Committee on Corrections, has requested a public hearing to inquire into why computers were taken from prisoners at the Reformatory. The request was made to the chairman of the committee, Senator Thorsness. We need letters from outside supporters to be sent to Thorsness urging him to hold the requested hearing. Write:

Senator Leo K. Thorsness, Chair.
Committee on Corrections
9640 Rainier Avenue South
Seattle, Washington 98118

Every letter will help to reinstate this no-cost-to-taxpayers program that resulted in almost no recidivism for the 10% of the WSR population that owned computers. If we win here, we win elsewhere too.

We did very well on our call for donations. Indeed, our production costs for #3 was $150; we received $130 in donations, meaning we lost only $20 on the issue. We may be self-sustaining before too long. Keep those contributions of stamps and money rolling in (checks payable to PLN are okay). Mail them to:

Prisoners Legal ...

Let's Come Together

By Dawud H. Malik

The ole adage about there's only two kinds of power in the world; money power and people power, with the latter being much stronger than the former is true. Across all racial groups, prisoners are drawn from the poorest sectors of society. A warehouse for the "have-nots" where their captors created and designed a diabolical system, which further dehumanizes and reduces their status to non-humans. In spite of the horrendous conditions of prison existence the will to struggle and overcome these adverse, barbaric, oppressive conditions is stronger than not to resist.

Now is the time for all prisoners and their families to unite and organize and meet the challenge and battle these oppressive government forces that are perpetuating the insanity destroying our society. Poverty, homelessness, drugs, racism and other evils that are jailing so many of our young brothers and sisters I'm referring to humanity as a whole, not just to New Africans.

We need to come together and set out a plan of action to make the governmental powers recognize and realize we will not take anymore. That we are aware of the fact that prisons are being built primarily to warehouse people ...

Litigating for Maximum Effect

Litigating For Maximum Effect

By John Perotti

A lot of us know that our system of justice is a hypocritical one-Just-Us. The rich buy their justice; the poor are served theirs in prison cells every time they're served their cold oatmeal and powered eggs.

However, it is good tactics to utilize our oppressors' own tools of oppression against them. Surprisingly enough, a lot of significant changes and improvements have resulted from civil litigation. When I first started litigating I have to admit my main motive was revenge. Revenge for the real and imagined wrongs I'd suffered, but I'm beyond that now, but that's a different story. To litigate for maximum effect you should do so costing the state as much money to defend as possible, yet still bring about good case precedent. Bad precedents make it harder for the next prisoner. So always try to litigate issues that are winnable and which will bring about positive change. Guard on prisoner brutality issues are always worthwhile, because the mere fact that you show the courts how often brutality occurs in prison has a deterrent effect on guards and could prevent a prisoner from being beaten in the ...

Highway Robbery

By Paul Wright

On April 18, 1990, Chase Riveland, Secretary of the DOC, signed DOC Policy 270.070 "Legal Financial Obligations (LFO) Program in Prisons. Effective immediately.

The main purpose of this policy is so that the counties, via the DOC, can collect fines, restitution, court costs, etc., imposed by the sentencing court. This is nothing new and has been done by the DOC, albeit not efficiently, in the past.

However, Section A of this policy states that a "Mandatory Savings Account" of $250.00 will be established for each prisoner. The money will be collected when the DOC takes 10% or $1.00, whichever is greater, from all deposits to a prisoners inmate trust fund account. In other words, the DOC will involuntarily take a 10% cut from all earnings, gifts from family, etc. This has nothing to do with the LFO part of the policy and will affect everyone.

They state the purpose of this is to "provide the inmate with funds upon release of transfer from the DOP." As if $250.00 will mean anything to those of doing life sentences and life without. The DOC has exempted the policy form the grievance procedure leaving no administrative ...

Why Racism?

By Jon George

This is addressed to you in prison, whether you are a white supremacist or a black supremacist, or have any other racist sympathies.

What is racism? Racism is a belief that your own race is superior and that all other races are inferior. Racism means that anyone not of your race is your enemy, is stupid, worthless, subhuman. Conversely, those of your color are therefore your friends, and you have to unite against the lesser races who are out to destroy you. Logically, then, if you are a white Aryan, etc., all other whites are your allies. Similarly, if you are an extreme black Muslim, etc., only those who aren't white are your brothers and everyone else better look out.

Racism as a belief, however, makes absolutely no sense from the prisoners point of view. Racism in the prisons does not help either white or black prisoners. Racism in the prisons accomplishes one thing only. It divides the prison population, making it easier for the guards to control you. Guards love racism! You are so busy fighting each other because of your skin color that your captors/jailers/torturers don't have to worry about you ...

Response to the Article "Why Racism"

By Gregory "Mandela" Carey

Let me answer your article in this manner to enlighten you.

First, understand that America is a very racist country. Despite all the laws against discrimination, a person's race is of prime importance to himself and to others with whom he comes in contact with. In some situations, in some places, like prison, it can even determine your chances of staying alive.

Second, we were all created equal, but despite our personal dedication to the theory of brotherhood, in practice; racial, religious and ethnic prejudice is a definite part of our society. Racism was established in American history from the very beginning if you remember. Some form of white supremacy, both as an ideology and as an institutional arrangement, existed from the first day English immigrants, seeking religious freedom, arrived on the North American continent. From the beginning the early colonizers considered themselves culturally superior to the natives that they encountered. Also, the social arrangements which fixed unequal opportunities and treatment for African-Americans can be traced back through American history too. You need to review the historical roots of racism and examine the ideology that justified its existence before you claim that brotherhood is possible ...

Fire Hosing Stopped!

Fire Hosing Stopped!!!

On July 9, 1990, US District Court Judge Arthur Spiegel entered a preliminary injunction ordering a halt to the practice of Ohio prisoncrats at Lucasville, of firehosing prisoners in their cells. A full trial on the merits will follow.

The Struggle For Prisoner Owned Computers Continues

By Ed Mead

Prisoners are slaves of the state, a status legitimized by the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. These modern day slaves need every tool they can get in an effort to alter their status and to extend democracy to include all people. Computers in the hands of prisoners can be a tool for democracy. Such machines can also enable prisoners to produce quality legal work that nearly puts them on an even playing field with the state in the litigation arena. And, finally, computers can teach prisoners skills that will enable them to earn a living once released form prison.

Inmate owned computers at the Washington State Reformatory worked toward the above objectives and a whole lot more. For over three years approximately ten percent of the W.S.R. population had computers in their cells (53 computers out of a population of just over 550). During that period only one computer was lost due to a "security" related incident; an inmate had stashed a small amount of marijuana behind him monitor. On the other hand many prisoners learned valuable computer related skills, at no cost to the taxpayer, and are today earning good livings in ...


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