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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: December, 1990

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Volume 1, Number 8

In this issue:

  1. Magistrate Recommends Continued Single Celling at Reformatory (p 1)
  2. Demonstration Against Double Bunking at Twin Rivers Prison (p 1)
  3. From the Editor (p 2)
  4. Thinking About Women (p 2)
  5. Chileans Still in Prison (p 4)
  6. Sore Loser (p 4)
  7. CBCC Legal Services Scam (p 4)
  8. Could Sending People to Prison Actually Cause Crime? (p 5)
  9. Prisoners' 1983 Suits (p 6)
  10. U.S. House & Senate Pass Watered Down Version of Crime Bill (p 7)
  11. Making Cons Work Without Pay Does Not Constitute Involuntary Servitude (p 7)
  12. State Liable for Delay in Diagnosing and Treating Prisoner Injury (p 7)
  13. Fifth Circuit Adopts Reactionary Standard in Excessive Force Claim (p 7)
  14. Sixteen Executed During 1989 (p 7)
  15. Letters From Readers (p 8)
  16. Parole Board Action Alert (p 9)

Magistrate Recommends Continued Single Celling at Reformatory

There has been a long and bitterly fought struggle by prisoners at the Washington State Reformatory to enforce a consent decree mandating single celling.

The consent decree is a product of a 1978 civil rights complaint filed by Evergreen Legal Services. The suit raised a number of issues relating to conditions at the Reformatory, one of which was the mandatory double bunking then being practiced.

In 1981 a consent decree was entered into between prisoners and prison officials that would limit the population to the prison's single cell capacity. Shortly after the suit had been settled, however, the state filed litigation aimed at killing the single celling provision. In response to these efforts the federal district court held that WSR officials were contractually bound to the agreement, and this holding was upheld by the U.S. court of Appeals.

The state next implemented a series of dilatory tactics to keep form ending the two men to a cell still being practiced. They'd go in to court pleading one emergency situation after another. Finally they had so much unused cell space they entered into the rent-a-cell business with the federal government and other states, farming out some 200 WSR ...

Demonstration Against Double Bunking at Twin Rivers Prison

About a dozen members of the outside community held a demonstration in front of the Twin Rivers Correctional Center on October 21st. The protest was sponsored by the Ethnic Minority and Prison Task Force (PO Box 667, Edmonds, WA 98020), and was called in an effort to draw attention to the following areas of concern:

The mandatory double bunking to T.R.C.C. prisoners.
The overall bias and mistreatment of prisoners, especially the African-American population.
Administrative impediment of outside volunteers and programs.
Abuses in the use of administrative segregation.
Poor medical service.
While prison officials at T.R.C.C. refused to meet wit protesters or to otherwise discuss the issues involve, word of the action reached prisoners at both T.R.C.C. and the nearby Reformatory. News of the demonstration substantially raised the spirits of prisoners at both institutions.

From the Editor

From The Editor

By Paul Wright

Welcome to issue #8 of PLN. If your mailing label says "last issue" this means that you have not made any donations to PLN or assisted us in production. (Note: this applies only to US readers). We do not expect donations form prisoners in control units, death row or Marion. We are prisoners ourselves and know what it is like trying to make ends meet. However, we aim for PLN to be self sufficient and pay for itself, whenever there is a shortfall we have to make it up out of our pockets. It costs 55¢ per issue to print PLN and get it to you we have come out on a pretty regular basis and we haven't denied anyone a few issues because they didn't donate or contribute.

Periodically we need to trim our mailing list of those who don't contribute in order to save funds to keep getting PLN to those who do want to get it. So if this is your last issue and you want to keep on getting PLN you need to send our publisher a donation, we don't charge a subscription rate because we ...

Thinking About Women

By David Gilbert

On the streets I had women on my mind all the time, but that was nothing compared to being in prison. On many nights I lie in my cell just thinking about women - missing loved ones, remembering times together, and dreaming about the future. A big part of that punishment of prison is separation from women.

Prison is not a natural environment. For some guys, who came in as youngsters, their main impression of women comes from "short-ice" magazines. But in real life real women don't usually sit in provocative poses, ready to do our every bidding, with blank expressions on their faces and nothing in their minds. While they can certainly appreciate sexual love, real women also have minds, feelings and goals of their own.

Sexual desire is only natural; the conditions of prison make the longings particularly intense. But sexuality is only one of the important ways we miss the women in our lives. We also miss their intellect, their companionship, their spirit, and their laughter. If we reduce women to "sex objects" we reduce ourselves to "sex maniacs." Some guys try to be lovers with every women in the world 9which they can ...

Chileans Still in Prison

Chileans Still In Prison

Last December many thought that the elections that brought the formal end to the military dictatorship of General Agusto Pinochet (installed in a 1973 CIA assisted coup against the elected government of Salvador Allende) would curtail the massive human rights abuses that characterized his regime. Despite the promises of Chile's new president over 300 political prisoners remain in prison.

The military and police still effectively rule Chile and it is unlikely any of the prisoners will be released soon. Just as it is unlikely that any military or police officials will ever stand trial for the murders and tortures committed during the dictatorship.

The prisoners are united and have refused deals that would only release some and leave others from other political groups. The prisoners also demand that officials who have murdered and tortured prisoners be tried and punished. The military has responded by falsely charging many prisoners with serious non-political crimes to keep them in prison. Few of the prisoners have even had trials or any type of judicial process to begin with.

For more information write:

Maria Gajordo
Casilla #9560, Central de Casilla
Santiago, Chile

Sore Loser

Right now the US government is claiming to be outraged by "violations of international law" on the part of the Iraqi government. This is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

In 1986 the World Court in The Hague found the United States guilty of financing and directing its proxy war against the Sandinista led Nicaraguan government. The Nicaraguan government claimed $18 billion in damages brought on by Ronald Reagan's policy of pillage and banditry that left over 40,000 dead Nicaraguans.

After the World Court entered its verdict in the lawsuit the US announced that it would not recognize the verdict nor the court's findings. The US stands alone as the only country to come before the world court and then ignore its verdict.

Right now the Bush administration is pressuring the government of Violeta Chammoro into dropping the suit in exchange for $300 million in "aid." This has met with stiff resistance in the Nicaraguan assembly from the Sandinista party.

CBCC Legal Services Scam

By Paul Wright

On October 26, 1990, some 42 prisoners at CBCC showed up for what had been purported t be a "legal seminar" by Jean Schiedler Brown. It got started a half-hour late at 10 AM. It turns out Ms. Brown and her associates were not going to answer any questions but merely make a video, supposedly for prisoner viewing in the library. It was pointed out that prisoners are not allowed to watch video's and the existence of such videos had until now been kept from CBCC prisoners. The show went on.

Ms. Brown covered the basic researching of legal materials. It is worth noting that the DOC already has videotapes (a 3 part series) on doing legal research prepared by the DOC and DSHS; staff at WSR have offered to provide them to CBCC and that was refused.

After Ms. Brown stated that no personal questions would be answered and prisoners were expected to just sit there mute while the video was made over half those present left at 10:10. Several prisoners present complained that letters to Brown had not been answered in months.

Mr. Howard Comfort spoke about prison "grievances," including the DOC grievance ...

Could Sending People to Prison Actually Cause Crime?

Could Sending People To Prison Actually Cause Crime?

By Ed Mead

According to the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the nation's state and federal prison population increased by 42,862 prisoners, or six percent, during the first half of 1990. BJS director Steve Dilligham said: "the annual increase of more than 80,000 inmates from midyear 1989 to midyear 1990 was the largest annual growth in 65 years of prison population statistics." The increase in the percentage of women being sent to prison continued to outpace that of men, reaching 7.1 percent for the first half of the year. In Washington State, from mid-1989 t mid-1990, the percent of increase in the state's prison population was a whopping 16.0 percent. Nationally, the number of prisoners per capita reached a record 289 persons incarcerated in state and federal prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents.

Columnist Herb Robinson, writing for the Seattle Times, reports that the percentage of felons sentenced to alternatives to confinement has decreased form 25% in 1982 to only 7% of all felons in 1988. Robinson said, "If present policy directions were correct, there'd be less pressure for ...

Prisoners' 1983 Suits

J. D. Enquist

This is part two of the article Prisoners' 1983. It will be written from a somewhat different slant; your due process rights as protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Prison employees are taught that in order to be effective they must view all prisoners as dangerous, scheming, conniving criminals who must be subjected to close surveillance and domination. The staff is told that they cannot just watch and wait, for that would give the prisoner an opportunity to react in a thought-out and organized manner, thus contributing to a greater willingness on the part of prisoners to defy institutional rules.

Staff members are taught that domination of all individual prisoners is important; this means they must show their authority in the making and enforcing of rules. Thus, while you are on your way to the yard, the staff member will say, "Don't slow down, keep walking," or "That's right, keep walking," to the prisoner who never so much as thought of slowing down. The staff will often use this ploy to incite a reaction, so he or she can infract the prisoner.

Because the guards who are in charge of the disciplinary hearings are generally sergeants ...

U.S. House & Senate Pass Watered Down Version of Crime Bill

U.S. House & Senate Pass Watered Down Version Of Crime Bill

In a last-minute effort to get out of town, the U.S. House and Senate quickly worked out differences over their respective versions of the 1990 Crime Bill. On October 27th they passed a measure through both houses and sent it on to George Bush, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

From as near as we can tell, however, the new Crime Bill has been stripped of controversial provisions. Bush had threatened to veto the bill as being too "soft on crime" if the proposal to bar executions of prisoners who demonstrated that their sentences were imposed because of racial discrimination was not removed. The lawmakers capitulated.

But some of the more reactionary measures contained in the original bill were also removed. Gone are many of the proposed restrictions on appeals by death row prisoners, and the expanded list of federal crimes subject to the death penalty was also dropped.

The new version of the Crime Bill will now double federal financial aid to local police agencies, and create 85 new federal judgeships. We will have more information on this bill once it is signed into ...

Making Cons Work Without Pay Does Not Constitute Involuntary Servitude

Making Cons work Without Pay Does Not Constitute Involuntary Servitude

Four prisoners sued prison officials for placing them on administrative segregation status for refusing to work without pay. The court dismissed the complaint as frivolous.

The judge noted that the thirteenth amendment prohibits involuntary servitude "except as punishment for crime." Because the prisoners have been convicted of a crime and are serving a sentence of punishment, they may not make a 13th amendment claim.

Further, the court held, placing the men in ad seg for refusing to work did not violate the Eighth Amendment. The restriction or forfeiture of certain privileges is a rational technique for handling the problems presented by an inmate's unreasonable refusal to do assigned work, the court said. Mikeska v. Collins, 900 F.2d 833 (5 Cir. 1990).

State Liable for Delay in Diagnosing and Treating Prisoner Injury

State Liable For Delay In Diagnosing And Treating Prisoner Injury

A New York state prisoner slipped on a wet flight of stairs and injured his right knee. During the next 3-1/2 years he continuously complained to prison officials of pain, swelling, and grinding of his injured knee. He was ...

Fifth Circuit Adopts Reactionary Standard in Excessive Force Claim

Fifth Circuit Adopts Reactionary Standard in Excessive Force Claims

A state prisoner filed a civil rights complaint in federal court against two guards who assaulted him during a cell search. The convict received an elbow fracture during the struggle. The trial court dismissed the excessive force claim and the prisoner appealed.

In upholding the dismissal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit adopted a new and very backwards standard for assessing Eighth Amendment excessive force claims. In order for a plaintiff to prevail he must be able to prove: (1) A significant injury, which (2) resulted directly and only from the use of force that was clearly excessive to the need, the excessiveness of which was (3) objectively unreasonable, and (4) the action constituted an unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.

The court held there was no "wanton infliction of pain" and thus the claim was properly dismissed. Huguet v. Barnett, 900 F.2d 838 (5 Cir. 1990).

Sixteen Executed During 1989

Sixteen Executions During 1989

In 1976 the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty. Since then 13 states have executed 120 people. Last year (1989) eight states executed 16 people. Eight of them were white and eight were black. They'd spent an average of seven years and 11 months on death row before being killed.

Letters From Readers

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

Calls On Others To Support Us

I subscribe to the PLN and I not only think it's high quality, but even more credit, rather than criticism, is due to those who make this fine reading available.

I personally don't see any need for criticism, but rather for more and more help and support for this newsletter. We readers can do a vital service toward spreading the news and awareness, ant that's by providing some of the financial support necessary to keep the paper going. So let's all do as much as we are capable of [in this regard], as payment back to those who sweat and bleed to keep the paper going.

D. H., Clallam Bay

Article Was ...

Parole Board Action Alert

[The following notice was sent to us by a prisoner activist at Walla Walla.]

If you have been subjected t a parole revocation or ".100" hearing in the last couple of years, you may want to do something about the outcome. If so, read on...

Currently, the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board (Board) is being investigated. This investigation was initiated by citizens' groups (such as the Friends of Diane, the folks who organized after Diane [Ballasiotes] was killed in Pioneer Square by a work release prisoner). The Citizens' Groups have asked the Governor's Office to investigate the Board to see why prisoners are being released before their maximum term expires!

The impact of the citizens' groups is already being felt. The pressure the Board is feeling from the various groups' claim that the Board is "soft on crime" has turned into longer minimum terms for prisoners, even on petty violations. What is happening out there is having an effect on you in here. But something can be done about it.

The [Governor's] investigator is trying to see both sides of the issue. He is looking for examples of where the Board released prisoners early (good luck at finding any ...


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