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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: October, 1990

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Volume 1, Number 6

In this issue:

  1. Mission of SOC To Change (p 1)
  2. Walls Gets "Special Needs Unit" (p 1)
  3. Clallam Bay Gets Computer Phones (p 1)
  4. From the Editor (p 2)
  5. Use of Jailhouse Informants Faulted (p 3)
  6. Prisoners Can't Be Punished for Refusing to Perform Unconstitutional Assignment (p 3)
  7. Government Spending for Civil, Criminal Justice Reached $61 Billion in 1988 (p 3)
  8. Police Torture in Ohio (p 3)
  9. Free Tim Anderson (p 4)
  10. The Ultimate Hunt (p 4)
  11. Private Gulags in England (p 4)
  12. Death Row Abolished (p 4)
  13. It Costs Too Much and It Does Not Work (p 5)
  14. Letters From Readers (p 6)
  15. Russian Prisoners Revolting (p 7)
  16. What's Wrong With This Picture? (p 7)
  17. Judicial Highpoints (p 7)
  18. Prisoners on Purpose (p 8)
  19. Women in Prison (p 8)
  20. Prison Resources (p 8)
  21. Expression (p 8)
  22. Wetmore v. Gardner (p 9)
  23. BOP Hotline (p 9)

Mission of SOC To Change

The Special Offender Center (SOC) is going to become another Intensive Management Unit (IMU). The proposed change is scheduled to take place on July 1, 1991. The SOC was designed and built to house prisoners with mental problems, and has served in that capacity since it was opened in the early 1980's. State prison officials had subsequently tried to get funding for the construction of an IMU at the Reformatory, but the legislature refused to go along with the scheme.

Under the new plan the SOC will become a part of the Reformatory, just as the Walla Walla and Shelton IMU's are a part of their respective parent institutions.

The men currently housed in SOC are suffering from mental illnesses. According to the plan they will be shipped out to Walla Walla and Shelton. It is open to question whether these mental cases will be subjected to the type of warehousing SOC was built to end. There is also some speculation by prisoners that the planned closure of SOC is a cynical attempt by DOC to circumvent the legislature's intent not to have another segregation type facility at the Reformatory.

Walls Gets "Special Needs Unit"

By Mark LaRue

With increasing numbers of mentally ill people being sent to prison here in Washington, prison officials finally decided that something must be done to treat their particular needs here at the Penitentiary.

Dubbed a "Special Needs Unit" in a local paper, administrators have made plans to house 130 mentally disturbed prisoners in Five Wing. And they've hired 15 new mental health staff to care for their psychological needs.

All of this is good news for mentally ill prisoners in general. But it is particularly good news for those living in IMU. For years now the state has herded mentally disturbed prisoners into segregation, where they were housed on the same tiers as other population inmates. And everyone has suffered a great deal because of those living arrangements.

As of yet the Special Needs Unit has not been opened. But when it does 25 inmates are expected to leave the IMU population of less than a hundred, one can see there were many mental health cases housed here.

It is our hope that these men will get better treatment in Five Wing than they did in IMU.

Clallam Bay Gets Computer Phones

Starting on August 8th, prisoners at C.B.C.C. were treated to a new phone service, one run by a computer. You pick up the phone ant the machine asks for your name and the number you want to call. It hen dials the number and tells the person at the other end: "Will you accept a collect call from Such and Such, who is a prisoner in a correctional institution? If so, press `three' on your touch-tone phone." The electronic operator then times your call, and after nine minutes warns you that you have one minute left. At ten minutes the phone is automatically cut off.

Needless to say, this new system is not a big hit with C.B.C.C. prisoners. Indeed, since many of the families and loved ones of prisoners are poor, they cannot afford the more expensive touch-tone phones. This of course has the effect of denying phone rights to those men with the poorest families.

Look for the arrival of this "brave new world" of phone service at a prison near you.

From the Editor

By Paul Wright

Welcome to PLN #6. When we started this publishing project we didn't know how far we'd get. We decided to see how much support our efforts would generate. Issue #4 paid for itself, and #3 almost did, so it looks like we'll shoot for a full 12 issues. To keep going we need your support, both in the way of articles, art, news, and also stamps and money. We can accept personal and prison checks, too, so send donations to:

Prisoners' Legal news
PO Box 1684
Lake Worth, FL 33460

If you like what you're reading don't keep it a secret, share it with your friends and family members, and send us a donation to keep us going. We welcome comments and criticism on how to improve our style and content. Letters, articles, art, etc. should be sent to either:

Paul Wright #930783
Box 5000, HC-63
Clallam Bay, WA 98326

Ed Mead #251397
PO Box 777
Monroe, WA 98272

Don't send stamps or money to us, as we are prisoners. If you're located in Europe or the Middle East send donations to:

Oxford ABC
Box ZZ, 34 Cowley Rd
Oxford ...

Use of Jailhouse Informants Faulted

Use Of Jailhouse Informants Faulted

A grand jury has issued a stinging rebuke of the Los Angeles district attorney's office for failing to assure that "jailhouse informants" called as prosecution witnesses repeatedly over the last decade were telling the truth. "Very little effort was expended by the DA's office to investigate the background and motivation of most jailhouse informants in order to assess their credibility prior to presenting them in court as witnesses," the grand jury concluded in a 153-page report.

The grand jury did not answer the question of whether law enforcement officials actively solicited informants to lie, as some informants told the grand jury. The grand jury said: "Either egregious perjurers have been used as prosecution witnesses or law enforcement officials committed shocking malfeasance."

The scandal over the reliability of informant testimony first broke into the open in October 1988, when one informant, Leslie White, wrote a magazine article describing how, using pay telephones inside the jail, he could pose as a law enforcement official and gather information about a fellow inmate awaiting trial and the crime he was accused of, and then fabricate a credible-sounding confession purportedly made by the suspect. White later showed those ...

Prisoners Can't Be Punished for Refusing to Perform Unconstitutional Assignment

Prisoners Can't Be Punished For Refusing To Perform Unconstitutional Assignment

In a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fruit V. Norris, 905 F2nd 1148 (8th Cir. 1990), the court held that "prison inmates are protected from punishment for refusing to perform an unconstitutional assignment. For prison officials to knowingly compel convicts to perform physical labor which constitutes a danger to their health, or which is unduly painful constitutes an infliction of cruel and unusual punishment..."

The court, at page 1150, went on to say that certain "acts or omissions [are] so dangerous (in respect to health and safety) that knowledge of the risk can be inferred." A lot of good cases are cited, too. Those forced to work with dangerous chemicals or toxic substances without adequate protective gear might be interested in reading this case.

Government Spending for Civil, Criminal Justice Reached $61 Billion in 1988

Government Spending For Civil, Criminal Justice Reached $61 Billion In 1988

Federal, state and local governments spent $61 billion for civil and criminal justice in 1988, a 34 percent increase since 1985, the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics announced on July 15.

Other findings in the report were that federal, state and local governments spent $248 per capita; $114 for police, $78 for corrections, $54 for judicial and legal services, and $2 for other items.

Almost half of the nation's justice spending was for police protection. Corrections accounted for almost one-third of justice costs. Spending for corrections grew the most during that period, by 65 percent. Since 1979 state spending for prison construction increased 593 percent in actual (constant) dollars. That's some 2.6 times the rate of spending to operate prison facilities.

In October of 1988 the nation's civil and criminal justice system employed 1.6 million persons, and the total October payroll for them was almost $3.7 billion.

For a copy of the report Justice Expenditure and Employment, 1988 (NCJ-124132) write to:

National Criminal Justice Reference Service
Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20850

Police Torture in Ohio

Police Torture In Ohio

Dayton Ohio City Manager Richard Helwig has reprimanded police officials for a "breakdown of command" that allowed allegations of police torture of a drug suspect to go unreported for six months.

Greer, a drug suspect, with a clothes iron several times at Greer's apartment on January 12 while another office, Ron Norton, held the suspect against a mattress. The confession, which followed months of denials by Gamble and other officers, came on July 6, and was disclosed in the July 18 issue of the Dayton Daily News. Helwig said it was the first he heard of the incident.

Gamble, Norton, and a third officer accused of lying about his knowledge of the brutality were fired.

Free Tim Anderson

Tim Anderson is an Australian political activist. In 1978 he and two others were convicted of planting a bomb that killed a cop and two bystanders. They were convicted and spent 7 years in prison. After extensive inquiries the government decided that Tim and the others had been wrongly convicted on the basis of perjured testimony by cops and all 3 were released in 1985 and compensated for the time spent in prison.

Upon release Tim was politically active and a vocal critic of the Australian prison system. He was rearrested on the same charges by the cops who lied at the first trial. This is the most controversial trial in recent Australian history. For more information we urge you to contact:

PO Box A737
Sydney South 2000, Australia

The Ultimate Hunt

This is what jackets had embroidered on them that were given away by Jerry Hodge, the Vice-Chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice. The occasion was for Hodge and two of his cronies to "hunt" prisoners from the Huntsville prison using tracking dogs. The prisoner was released on state property, given a head start and then tracked down by a pack of hounds with Hodge and company following on horseback.

To commemorate the "hunt" Hodge had the jackets made up and gave them to his buddies. Hodge also serves Republican gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams spokesman on prison issues. One state legislator denounced the use of prisoners as prey as "a slave sport." The hunts take place several times a week at 25 of Texas' 35 prisons.

Prisoners who "volunteer" for the hunts are rewarded with having time cut from their sentences.

Private Gulags in England

Private Gulags In England

By Mike Vukasinovic

Following the de-nationalized policies of the Tory government of the UK, plans are afoot to privatize new remand centers and the escort of prisoners to and from court. This announcement comes as a prison officer's revolt is happening. The officers are refusing new inmates so that prison cells are being used. Prison authorities are allowing British prisoners to be 3 to a cell built for 1 over a 100 years ago, and locked up for 23 hours a day. Conditions have led to revolts but the governments reply has been heavy handed as usual. No dialogue, just more state repression. Still, the conditions continue. The Tories are deaf to anything that smacks of a climb down even when justice is at stake. Confrontation politics is their motto and to pour oil onto fires are their replies.

Prisoners are trying to organize into a liberation group. Whether it exists or not, no one yet knows. It may be a figment of the imagination of British prison officials.

Anyone interested in more information can contact:

Prisoners AidC/O Oxford ABC
Box ZZ, 34 Cowley Road
Oxford, England

Death Row Abolished

By Mark LaRue

For several months it was rumored that death row was being closed down and everyone with a death sentence was being moved to the other tiers in IMU or 5 Wing [protective custody, editor]. No one believed the rumors of course. So it came as a real surprise to learn everybody on death row was moved and a whole new cast of characters was now occupying their old cells.

What prompted these changes is not yet known. But most, if not all, with a death sentence will benefit from these changes so no one is really complaining at this point in time. Indeed, some prisoners have been on death row for six years or more and welcome any chance to get off death row and out of IMU even if it means going to 5 Wing.

As is stands now, only half of the death row prisoners are still in IMU as they're gradually moved over to 5 Wing. However, others are waiting in the wings to take their place and can expect to stay in IMU for at least a year before they are eligible to join the others in 5 Wing.

Needless to say ...

It Costs Too Much and It Does Not Work

It Costs Too Much And It Does Not Work

By Ed Mead

We need to prove it!

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), during the period between the end of 1988 and the end of 1989, there was a 12.1 percent increase in the number of state and federal convicts confined in the U.S. And from 1980 until the end of 1989 there was an overall increase of 113 percent people behind bars.

Are the streets any safer as a result or locking up all these poor people? Not really. According to another BJS report, its National Crime Survey, during that same period robbery increased by 21 percent. Seattle's murder rate for last year rose by a whopping 48 percent! With figures like these one could almost argue that crime increases in direct proportion to the number of people locked up.

The only point we are trying to make is that we cannot build our way out of the crime problem. Since 1983 the state of New York spent $3.7 billion for new prison capacity. Today they are starting to look for alternatives. Robert Gangi, director of the Correctional Association of New York, said ...

Letters From Readers

We encourage letters from PLN readers. Words in brackets [like this] reflect material added by the editors in order to clarify a subject. Letters are edited for length. The names of writers will not be published unless specific authorization is given. We would like to see this section become a forum through which prisoners and family members can criticize, express ideas, and share information. Here are some letters recently received by newsletter workers:

Suggests Prisoner Information Network
I would like to see something somewhere in between or with local and legal news and some international and national connections. Perhaps some info on what it takes to organize a newsletter like PLN, so that other regions/states could develop their own information service and a clearing house for national and international news that could be shared and spread through local newsletters. This would be a way to build political consciousness, and to get useful information to a majority of prisoners.

I like the discussion on sex offenders. It was a good topic to open up debate, encourage self-struggle. Personally I am rep0ulsed by the crimes and would have trouble relating to those offenders, but realize that 1) prison is no solution ...

Russian Prisoners Revolting

Russian prisoners gave up after a riot in the Dnepropetrovsk prison in the USSR's Ukraine. The surrender took place on June 19, ending a rebellion that left the prison in smoking ruins and four prisoners dead. Of the four dead, one hanged himself, another overdosed on drugs from the prison's hospital, a third was shot by prison guards, and the fourth died of injuries sustained during the June 13th takeover.

Authorities said the prisoners released their hostages unharmed but did not say how many had been held captive or who they were. The prisoners left behind a demolished and smoldering prison, with a yard bloodied by the slaughter of pigs for a final feast. On the eve of their surrender, the men slaughtered and roasted 100 pigs from the kitchen and downed them with gallons of vodka.

The Soviet news agency, Tass, said the uprising caused an estimated $4.8 million in damages. Authorities also said it was the worst prison riot in Ukrainian history.

The prisoners had rioted for improved conditions. Families of the prisoners stood guard outside the facility during the riot. One woman likened the prison to a pigpen. "There are cockroaches a big as ...

What's Wrong With This Picture?

The Washington State Court of Appeals recently handed down a ruling that demonstrates how "equal justice" really works. In State v. Allert, 58 Wn.App. 200 (1990), the court upheld an exceptional sentence below the applicable guideline range for Terry Allert. Mr. Alert, the former police chief of Ritzville, Washington, robbed two grocery stores, and pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree robbery. The standard range for this crime is between 41 and 54 months in prison for each count. Mr. Allert was sentenced to 12 months in work release.

Why did the appeals court uphold this very light sentence? The court said it was because of "his [Allert's] inability to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct...brought about by the combination of alcoholism, depression and his compulsive personality." (Id. At 209) While RCW 9.94A.390 does indeed authorize a departure from the sentencing guidelines if "the defendant's capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct...was significantly impaired," the statute expressly states that "voluntary use of drugs or alcohol is excluded."

The question of "why" becomes even more pressing when considered in light of State v. Weaver, 46 Wn.App 35 (1988), in which that same ...

Judicial Highpoints

Terry Dorsey, convicted in a Sacramento, California, Superior Court of shooting "Billy," the first police dog to die "in the line of duty," was sentenced to eleven years and eight months in state prison. This sentence was imposed in spite of the fact that the dog had first attacked Dorsey.

An Arizona man named Jay Jonas was sentenced to a 25-year term for selling one joint of marijuana to a 14-year-old youth for one dollar. He petitioned the Arizona Supreme Court for a review of his sentence, arguing that it constituted cruel and unusual punishment. The high court ruled the punishment was not excessively harsh.

Prisoners on Purpose

Prisoners On Purpose

"A Peacemakers Guide to Jails and Prisons" is put out by Nukewatch. It deals with the experience of nuclear resisters (these are people who engage in civil disobedience/civil resistance to nuclear weapons and power, by blockades, hammering missiles, etc.) who have been imprisoned because of their activities resisting nuclear weapons and such. It has a "review" of various county and federal prisons by prisoners who've been in them (usually near protest sites), it tells people who may have never been in jail before what to expect, especially those guided by their religious beliefs to oppose the imperial war machine. It has a section on prison survival. If you're already in prison this won't do you much good, but if you're involved in civil disobedience and what to know what to expect, this is for you. Cost: $7.50 with 145 pages, some drawings.

PO Box 2658
Madison, WI 53701

Women in Prison

Women In Prison

This is the topic covered in two parts by the publication "New Directions for Women" in the March/April and May/June, 1990 issues. The number of women in prison is about 7% and rapidly growing due to mandatory sentences, harsher laws, etc. All too often we forget that women prisoners exist and that they have problems not encountered by male prisoners, especially in the area of gender discrimination, stereotypes, etc. These two issues examine these problems in detail, covering: Battered women, lesbians and mothers, etc. Free to prisoners. $2.00 an issue, $12.00 a year for "free" folks.

New Directions for Women
108 West Palisade Avenue
Englewood, NJ 07631

Prison Resources

As you read through PLN you'll notice that few if any of our articles are reprints from other publications. We think it's better to be original than to duplicate the efforts of others and we have only 10 pages to get our message out. Whenever possible we try to let you know about other good prison 'zines. Below is a partial list of prisoner oriented 'zines. Unless noted, all are free to prisoners. Due to space I can't list all the 'zines I get. I have contact with prison reform/struggle groups all over the US, Europe and elsewhere. If you have a specialized need for some type of information or such, drop me (Paul Wright) a line, let me know what you're looking for and I'll see if I can help. If you publish a 'zine or such and I'm not on your mailing list feel free to add me to it.

Paul Wright

Bayou La Rose
302 North J St. Apt. #3
Tacoma, WA 98403
Covers prison, Native American and environmental struggle. Latest issue is filled with contact addresses.

PO Box 5052, Station A Toronto,
Ontario Canada
"Bulldozer: the only vehicle ...


By V. Martinez

When the prison gates slam behind an inmate, he does not lose his human qualities. His mind does not become closed to ideas. His intellect does not cease to feed on free and open interchange of opinions. His yearning for self-respect does not end. Nor does his quest for self realization conclude. If anything the needs for identity and self-respect are more compelling in the dehumanizing prison environment. Whether an O-Henry writing his short stories or a frightened young inmate writing his family, a prisoner needs a medium for self-expression and correspondence with the outside world.

Wetmore v. Gardner

At 735 F.Supp 974, is the ruling of Federal Judge Quakenbush on the states Motion to overturn the jury verdict in favor of Mr. Wetmore challenging the policy of rectal "probes" by officials at the Walla Walla Penitentiary. The jury found the policy unconstitutional and awarded nominal damages ($4 ...

BOP Hotline

The federal Bureau of Prisons has a special phone service for those looking for someone they believe to be held in local, state or federal prisons. Contact:

Inmate Locator Hotline
Bureau of Prisons, Dept. of Justice
320 1st St., NW, Rm 640
Washington, DC 20536
(202) 724-3126 or 727-3198


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