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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: October, 2000

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Volume 11, Number 10

In this issue:

  1. The Penal System and the U.S. Labor Market (p 1)
  2. Massachusetts Prisoners' Political Action Committee Floundering (p 4)
  3. NH Supreme Court Overturns Prisoner Voting Rights (p 5)
  4. Habeas Hints: Statute of Limitations (p 6)
  5. Ohio Prison Food Contract Sparks Controversy (p 8)
  6. First Federal Execution Postponed (p 9)
  7. Nassau Jail Guards Convicted, Sentenced for Fatal Beating (p 10)
  8. No Immunity in Denying Kosher Diet (p 11)
  9. Ninth Circuit Reverses Madrid v. Gomez, Adopts Martin v. Hadix (p 12)
  10. Nominal Damages Not Monetary Award Under PLRA Attorney's Fees Cap (p 13)
  11. $100,000 Settlement in TX Restraint Chair/Pepper Spray Death (p 13)
  12. VP's Drug Dealer Still Litigating Retaliation Claim (p 14)
  13. California Private Prison Riot (p 14)
  14. $50,000 to Settle CA Jail Beating Suit (p 15)
  15. Crack in the Federal Scheme: The October Rebellion of 1995 (p 16)
  16. New Jersey Parole Board Chief Resigns (p 18)
  17. Escape Costs Oklahoma Private Prison $304,375 (p 19)
  18. OK Private Prison Fined $168,750 (p 19)
  19. Wisconsin Ban on Crosses Struck Down (p 21)
  20. HIV+ Detainee States Conditions Claim (p 21)
  21. Administrative Exhaustion Required in Bivens Suits (p 22)
  22. Claim Exhausted When Prison Refuses Grievance Appeal (p 22)
  23. No Administrative Exhaustion Required When AG Won't Give Hearing (p 23)
  24. Family Wins $12.9 Million Award in Michigan Jail Death Suit (p 24)
  25. WI DOC Ends Censorship of PLN (p 26)
  26. From the Editor (p 26)
  27. News in Brief (p 27)
  28. Arpaio Runs for Reelection on Backs of Prisoners, For the Third Time (p 28)

The Penal System and the U.S. Labor Market

Bruce Western, Princeton University

Kathy Beckett, Indiana University

The low rate of US. unemployment contrasts strikingly with very high levels of joblessness in Europe. Official statistics show that U.S. unemployment is now around 4% while European unemployment is over 10% and has been persistently high throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Policymakers and analysts often attribute low unemployment in the United States to a highly unregulated labor market in which there is very little state intervention. In Europe, on the other hand, governments negotiate with unions and employers in setting wages, and welfare states provide generous benefits for unemployment, training, health care and education. Without these institutional protections, so the theory goes, wages are allowed to fall to a level at which everyone can find work and indeed everyone must look for work because government assistance is so meager. In Europe, wages are rigid and unemployed workers don't have incentives to seek work because of the generous welfare benefits at their disposal. In short, the American model of market deregulation has apparently generated low unemployment and the European case stands as the cautionary counter-example.

The estimates of unemployment upon which these arguments rest do not include the prison and ...

Massachusetts Prisoners' Political Action Committee Floundering

Massachusetts prisoners were set back in their electoral efforts when the formation of a political action committee (PAC) inside the walls of the Massachusetts Correctional Institution was banned by executive order of Republican Governor Paul Cellucci. Guards confiscated the prisoners' political materials and put the prisoners in solitary confinement. Prison administrators and politicians alike fear that prisoner political empowerment will spell doom for the house of cards they have constructed. Not only do they fear the potential dismantling of the nation's prison systems but also the total collapse of the American capitalist system. Such hysterics, unfortunately, are totally unfounded.

PLN has previously reported on the organizational efforts by the Massachusetts Prisoners Association PAC. Unhappy with that state's laws which allow prisoners to vote, Cellucci has also proposed an amendment to Massachusetts' constitution that would disenfranchise prisoners.

Prison activists are fighting Cellucci's initiative. No matter what happens, prisoners will likely remain outside the political system, says Dave Elvin, a prisoners' rights activist who represented the prisoners' PAC on the outside. The $243 collected by the PAC languishes in a bank account and its prisoner founders are laying low. "Nobody was interested in us, not even progressives," Mr. Elvin ...

NH Supreme Court Overturns Prisoner Voting Rights

By Ronald Young

As previously reported in PLN, New Hampshire state prisoner David J. Fischer successfully litigated the right of New Hampshire prisoners to cast absentee ballots in local, state, and federal elections. Fischer alleged that legislation prohibiting felons from voting violated his right to vote under Part I, Article 11 of the New Hampshire Constitution. The lower Superior Court agreed and declared the disenfranchisement statutes unconstitutional. It ordered local election officials to allow Fischer and others similarly situated to register and vote in the next election.

Naturally the state appealed the decision to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. It reversed the lower court decision after the state successfully argued that the New Hampshire legislature has constitutional authority under Article 11 to determine voter qualifications and that the legislature reasonably excluded incarcerated felons from the franchise.

After a review of Article 11, its constitutional history, and legislation pertinent to the historical right of felons to vote, the state justices concluded that the legislature retains the authority under Article 11 to determine voter qualifications and that the felon disenfranchisement statutes are a reasonable exercise of legislative authority.

The state argued that from its inception, Article 11 has always provided the legislature ...

Habeas Hints: Statute of Limitations

By Kent Russell

This column is intended to provide "habeas hints" for prisoners who are considering or handling habeas corpus petitions as their own attorneys ("in pro per"). The focus of the column is habeas corpus practice under the AEDPA - the 1996 habeas corpus law which now governs habeas corpus practice throughout the U. S.

1. If you have any doubt about whether the AEDPA statute of limitations is about to run out or has run out, file a "protective" state habeas corpus petition ASAP.

In my book I stress the need to file a state habeas corpus petition within the one-year period of limitations that applies under the AEDPA, because only by complying in advance with the AEDPA limitations period can a prisoner exhaust his state remedies and still have time left to apply for federal habeas corpus in the likely event that state habeas corpus relief is denied. This means that any prisoner who is eventually planning on seeking habeas corpus relief should file a state habeas corpus petition at least a few days prior to the expiration of one year from the date that a prisoner's conviction becomes final on direct appeal, and should begin drafting ...

Ohio Prison Food Contract Sparks Controversy

In 1998 senior officials of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DORC) were convinced that outsourcing prison food service would be the next great leap forward for Ohio penology. So they bid out a contract for private firms to provide food service at the Noble Correctional Institution. Of the two bids submitted, from ARAMARK Correctional Services of Oakbrook, Ill., and Canteen Corp. of Chicago, ARAMARK's was the lowest.

Commencing October 1, 1998, ARAMARC purchased, cooked, and dished out the food served to Noble's 2,500 captive consumers. The contract specified that ARAMARC was to be paid from $1.24 to $1.27 for each meal it served. That number was to be calculated from an exact count of convicts who ate at each breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Almost immediately problems with the contract began. The profit-conscious ARAMARC served precisely measured food portions that were "substantially smaller' than those received by convicts of other state prisons, admitted Gary C. Mohr, DORC's deputy director for administration.

Within weeks Noble's then-warden Thomas Haskins and other Noble employees began complaining to officials at DORC headquarters that ARAMARK's small portions presented a big problem. Grumbling by prisoners could escalate ...

First Federal Execution Postponed

By Bill Dunne

Federal authorities announced on July 6, 2000, a plan to delay the execution of Juan Raul Garza, previously scheduled for August 5, 2000. Garza was convicted in 1993 in Brownsville, TX, of ordering three drug-related murders, for which he denies responsibility. His execution would have been the first federal execution in 37 years.

Clinton administration officials cited both lack of death penalty clemency procedures and concerns about racial and geographic disparities in imposition of the federal death penalty as reasons for the postponement. Responsibility for the delay in the clemency procedures' regulations is disputed. The White House faults the Justice Department, but Justice contends it sent draft procedures to the White House months ago. Both sides (as well as Garza's defense) agree race and geography unduly influence death penalty decisions. The role of class in death sentences was completely ignored.

The new clemency procedures for federal capital cases will allow prisoners' lawyers to make a presentation to a clemency panel. The Justice Department's Office of the Pardon attorney then makes a recommendation to the president, in whom the constitution vests sole authority to grant clemency. The regulations set no time limits on the president's ...

Nassau Jail Guards Convicted, Sentenced for Fatal Beating

Two Nassau County (NY) jail guards who fatally beat an unarmed jail detainee were sentenced May 26, 1999, to 11 years in federal prison, and a jail supervisor who tried to cover up for them received nearly 6 years.

In the July 1999 issue of PLN we reported that four Nassau County jail guards were arrested in May 1999 for the January

1999 fatal beating of jail detainee Thomas Pizzuto. [See: "Detainee Beaten to Death at Nassau County Jail," PLN July `99].

Pizzuto, 38, was a recovering heroin addict who had been receiving daily methadone treatment when he started serving 90 days for a traffic violation. After guards refused him methadone, Pizzuto began yelling. Jail guards Patrick Regnier and Edward Velazquez went to Pizzuto's cell to quiet him. They entered the cell and beat Pizzuto while another guard, Ivano Bavaro, acted as a lookout.

Thomas Pizzuto was hospitalized three days later. He died 48 hours after that from internal bleeding, a lacerated spleen, and broken ribs. His face and body were covered with bruises. From his deathbed, Pizzuto was able to whisper to his father that two jail guards beat him up.

The investigation quickly focused on Regnier and ...

No Immunity in Denying Kosher Diet

The court of appeals for the Second Circuit held that fact issues requiring a trial were present in a Jewish prisoner's lawsuit over the denial of a kosher diet. The court also held prison officials were not entitled to qualified immunity from money damages in this case.

Nathaniel Jackson, a black New York state prisoner, has identified himself as Jewish and participated in the New York prison system's kosher diet program since 1986. Upon transfer to a different prison, Jackson was denied a kosher diet after the prison rabbi determined Jackson was not Jewish because he was not born Jewish and he had not undergone a formal conversion process. After exhausting his administrative remedies, Jackson filed suit claiming a violation of his First, Eighth and Fourteenth amendment rights. Prison officials agreed to provide Jackson with a kosher diet pending the outcome of the suit. "Preferring to remain embroiled in this litigation, however, prison officials have refused to grant Jackson such meals indefinitely." The district court dismissed the lawsuit, holding Jackson was not Jewish. The appeals court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part.

The court held that the district court erred in considering whether or not ...

Ninth Circuit Reverses Madrid v. Gomez, Adopts Martin v. Hadix

Ninth Circuit Reverses Madrid V. Gomez, Adopts Martin v. Hadix

By Matthew T. Clarke

The Ninth Circuit has ruled that the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) attorney fees caps do not apply to work performed prior to the enactment of the PLRA, but it does apply to work performed after the enactment date.

This case involves a class-action suit by California state prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison. After successfully suing prison officials in federal court over unconstitutional prison conditions, the plaintiffs' class counsel requested an award of attorney fees for past work and anticipated future work during the remedial phase. The district court granted the request, splitting the award up into two orders - one covering work performed prior to the enactment of the attorney fees cap in the PLRA and one covering work performed after the enactment date. Both orders were signed after the enactment date. Neither order applied the attorney fees cap. The district court reasoned that to apply the attorney fees cap to an already pending case would have a retroactive effect. The defendants appealed.

The Ninth Circuit court of appeals initially ruled that the PLRA applied to all attorney fees awarded after its enactment, regardless of ...

Nominal Damages Not Monetary Award Under PLRA Attorney's Fees Cap

A federal district court in Maine has held that the award of one dollar in nominal damages does not invoke the PLRA attorney's fees cap, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(d)(2).

Raymond P. Boivin, a Maine state pre-trial detainee, sued a guard at Maine Correctional Institution--Warren under 42 ...

$100,000 Settlement in TX Restraint Chair/Pepper Spray Death

On February 22, 2000, Tarrant County, Texas agreed to pay a $100,000 settlement to the estate of James Livingston, 30, to settle a wrongful death suit. On July 6, 1999, Livingston was arrested on a trespassing warrant. He was allegedly abusive while being booked into the Tarrant county jail ...

VP's Drug Dealer Still Litigating Retaliation Claim

The court of appeals for the District of Columbia circuit held that law-of-the-case doctrine foreclosed a challenge to a legal decision made at an earlier stage of the litigation and that the district court must determine whether government officials were motivated by improper intent before denying their motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity.

In 1988, Brett Kimberlin, a federal prisoner at El Reno, Oklahoma, claimed to have sold marijuana to then-vice-presidential candidate Dan Quayle while Quayle was in law school. Thereafter, the media deluged El Reno with requests to interview Kimberlin. On three occasions, says Kimberlin, he was placed in Administrative Segregation because of his communication with the press and, on each occasion, defendant Michael Quinlan, Director of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP), interfered with his access to the press because of the content of his speech.

In 1990, Kimberlin filed a Bivens action in the District of Columbia alleging that BOP officials violated his First and

Fifth Amendment rights and his right of access to the press. The district court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment on Fifth Amendment claims but, on the remaining claims, denied defendants' motion for summary judgment on grounds of qualified ...

California Private Prison Riot

By W. Wisely

Racial brawling broke out between black and Latino prisoners at Victor Valley Community Correctional Facility March 1, 2000. Six prisoners were sent to hospitals near the Adelanto, California, medium security private prison operated by Marantha Private Corrections LLC.

Fighting began at 7:00 P.M. and allegedly ended a few minutes later, Angela Valles, Assistant Facility Director, told the Associated Press. However, the Adelanto Police Department reported rioting continued at 9:30 P.M. An hour and a half later, heavily armed guards from another prison nearby arrived as reinforcements.

The 500 man for-profit prison houses mostly non-violent parole violators. Emphasis there is on rehabilitation, and spokespersons deny any serious problems. Yet, in October, 1998, racial violence broke out between some 50 prisoners, injuring three.

Five of the 10 to 15 men involved in the latest incident were expected to be transferred to Lancaster prison, according to Valles. The facility was locked-down pending an investigation. "So they can't talk to each other. That way we can investigate the incident," said Larry Kositsin, director of counseling.

Trying to downplay the situation, Valles said she wasn't sure what started the fighting, adding it may have been racial ...

$50,000 to Settle CA Jail Beating Suit

In April 2000, Sacramento county paid $50,000 to settle a prisoner's excessive force lawsuit that two Sacramento county jail guards, later fired for assaulting another prisoner, also beat him. Troyd Ransom was in the Sacramento county jail on a parole hold in February 1999, when guards Dan Berringer ...

Crack in the Federal Scheme: The October Rebellion of 1995

By Bill Dunne

Between October 19 and October 26, 1995, the U. S. Bureau of Prisons (federal prison system) experienced a series of largely spontaneous but causally related uprisings in its then 84 prison, 100,000 prisoner gulag archipelago. Involving a range of demonstrations and direct action, this widespread rebellion ignited by injustices in the imposition and execution of prison sentences was unprecedented in the history of the BOP (Bureau of Prisons). Though its participants caused no deaths, took no hostages, and breached no secure perimeter, their exclamation of discontent resulted in the first nationwide lockdown of federal penitentiaries and correctional institutions and cost $39.7 million.

The BOP's After Action Report: October 1995 Disturbances seeks to ascribe the events to external factors beyond BOP control and absolve the prisonocracy of responsibility for the crisis. Officialdom specifically blames congressional refusal to reduce the gross disparity between sentences for crack cocaine and powder cocaine offenses (and media reporting thereon) for causing the revolt. The report claims there was no advance indication that any such action was likely or imminent, and no subsequent indication that internal factors of prison policy, practice, or administration played a significant role. On the basis of ...

New Jersey Parole Board Chief Resigns

The chairman of the New Jersey state Parole Board submitted his resignation July 28, 2000, as authorities neared the end of a two-year investigation into his alleged links with organized crime. A law enforcement source close to the investigation told The Record, the newspaper of Bergen County, that authorities will seek to indict Andrew Consovoy for official misconduct, a criminal statute that defines a violator as someone who uses his position to benefit himself financially.

The investigation centers around an alleged parole-for-pay scheme by which numerous reputed mobsters gained early release. Among those allegedly paroled under the scheme were Michael Perna, the one-time "caretaker" of the Lucchese crew in New Jersey; Samuel Corsaro, identified as a mobster in the Gambino family; and Anthony Vincent Ravo, a reputed mob associate of the Genovese family.

The anonymous source said that Consovoy also did "a favor" for an imprisoned capo in the Gambino family, Robert "Cabert" Bisiccai, although Bisiccai was not paroled. The source did not specify what favors Consovoy performed for Bisiccai, nor how Consovoy allegedly benefited financially from the early parole scheme.

Although Consovoy is the main target of the criminal probe, authorities are also looking into the role of a ...

Escape Costs Oklahoma Private Prison $304,375

Gordon Flud's April 12, 2000, escape from a Hinton, Oklahoma rent-a-jail didn't end well for him--or for his prison. Flud, 44, jumped fences, avoided razor wire and climbed down the Great Plains Correctional Facility administration building's rainspout in his bid for freedom. But that freedom lasted only seconds, as guards nabbed him in the parking lot.

Call it the $300,000 escape. That's what the Oklahoma Department of Corrections did when it slapped the private prison's operators with a $304,375 penalty for alleged security breaches that allowed the escape to occur.

The 812-bed lockup is owned by The Hinton Economic Development Authority and operated by Cornell Corrections Inc. The penalty for Flud's escape, which DOC officials plan to withhold from Great Plains' state contract, is the largest assessed against an Oklahoma private prison.

The second largest was a $168,750 forfeiture levied against the same prison in March 2000 for not meeting medical service obligations [see related article below]. The $300,000-plus penalty amounts to roughly nine or ten days of free rent for the state, which pays Great Plains $43.95 a day for each of the approximately 715 prisoners housed in ...

OK Private Prison Fined $168,750

On March 5,2000, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) fined the Great Plains Correctional Facility (GPCF) in Hinton, Oklahoma, $168,750 for failing to provide adequate medical care to the 812 Oklahoma prisoners housed in the prison. GPCF is owned by the Hinton Economic Development Authority, a county government agency, but it is operated by Cornell Corrections, a private, for-profit prison company. GPCF is the first private prison to open in Oklahoma.

Dennis Cunningham, the Oklahoma DOC's private prison administrator, said at the time the fine was levied it was the

largest ever against a private prison company in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma DOC found that the prison was not providing the medical care it was contractually obligated to provide, especially to chronically ill prisoners. Despite repeated requests, the prison never documented purported waivers of medical treatment from prisoners. The prison's medical staff was also working outside the scope of

their licenses.

Cunningham said the fine amount was determined by a formula and would be withheld from payment on the GPCF contract. Both Cornell and the HEDA disputed the fine and called the DOC's action "arbitrary and capricious." They claimed the prison provides basic medical care required ...

Wisconsin Ban on Crosses Struck Down

The court of appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that a Wisconsin prison rule banning crosses unless it was attached to a rosary violated the First amendment rights of Protestants.

This is the latest installment in a long running lawsuit over the Wisconsin Department of Corrections attempt to ban religious jewelry in its prisons. The ban on crosses was initially struck down by the district court at 891 F. Supp. 1305 and 908 F. Supp. 1429. The court held the policy violated the First amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The state appealed and the injunction was affirmed. See: Sasnett v. Sullivan, 91 F.3d 1018 (7th Cir. 1996). The Supreme Court vacated and remanded the case after it held the RFRA was unconstitutional. See: City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507, 117 S.Ct. 2157 (1997). On remand, the district court upheld the ban on religious jewelry. The court of appeals reversed.

At the outset, the court held the case was not moot as the policy in question had been changed after the initial policy was enjoined. The court observed that the defendants' vigorous defense of the policy implied they would return to it in the ...

HIV+ Detainee States Conditions Claim

A federal district court in Indiana held that an HIV positive detainee was entitled to a trial to resolve his claims over inhumane conditions of confinement and discrimination due to his HIV status.

Edward Roop was arrested on a warrant after arguing with a police officer. Upon being booked into the Allen County, Indiana, jail he told jailers he was HIV positive and on a medication regimen. The policeman whom Roop had argued with died of a heart attack the next day. Roop was placed in a dirty cell with no toilet or bunk for five days, then placed in a different filthy isolation cell with no bunk, toilet or shower. After four more days he was placed in an isolation cell with a bunk. Roop claimed guards purposely deprived him of sleep and his requests for water were frequently delayed, aggravating his medical condition. Roop filed suit claiming his rights to due process and under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12132 were violated.

The court denied the defendants' motion for summary judgment, holding that numerous issues of disputed fact required a trial to resolve. The court held that while no single one of the ...

Administrative Exhaustion Required in Bivens Suits

The court of appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that federal prisoners filing Bivens suits must exhaust all administrative remedies regardless of whether or not they are seeking money damages. As previously reported in PLN, the Fifth, Ninth and Tenth circuits have held that prisoners filing Bivens suits seeking only money damages are not required to exhaust administrative remedies under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) if the prison grievance system does not provide for money damages. The Ninth Circuit has extended this line of reasoning to include 42 U.S.C § 1983 actions by state prisoners as well.

The Eleventh and Seventh circuits have held that administrative exhaustion is required in all suits filed by prisoners, regardless of the relief sought. The Sixth Circuit has generally held that § 1997e(a) requires administrative exhaustion in all suits by prisoners. This ruling further deepens the circuit split on this issue.

Paul Lavista, a legally blind, wheelchair bound federal prisoner at FMC Lexington in Kentucky, filed a Bivens suit against Bureau of Prisons (BOP) officials claiming they violated his rights under the Rehabilitation Act (RA), 29 U.S.C. 794(a) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C ...

Claim Exhausted When Prison Refuses Grievance Appeal

The court of appeals for the Eleventh circuit held that a Georgia prisoner had exhausted his administrative remedies as required under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) when the prison refused to process his grievance appeal.

Tracy Miller, a paraplegic Georgia state prisoner, filed suit claiming 11 prison guards dragged him from a prison transport van and beat him in retaliation for filing grievances. He further claimed he was denied medical attention for the injuries he suffered in the beating. Miller also claimed the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs as an incontinent paraplegic where he was forced to lie on a concrete floor, covered in urine and feces, without a wheelchair, leg braces or physical therapy.

The district court dismissed Miller's complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), for failing to exhaust his administrative remedies because he did not sign the grievance form. The appeals court reversed.

The appeals court gives a detailed description of the Georgia Department of Corrections grievance system. It notes that nowhere in its extensive policy does the Georgia DOC state that prisoners must sign the grievance form. In this case, when Miller received his grievance response, terminating the grievance ...

No Administrative Exhaustion Required When AG Won't Give Hearing

By Paul Wright

A federal district court in New York held that a medical indifference claim required administrative exhaustion under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) even though money damages were not available as a remedy in the prison grievance system. After staying the suit and remanding the case for an administrative hearing, the attorney general for New York refused to comply with the court's order. The court then held no administrative remedies were available.

Felix Cruz is a New York state prisoner who claims that after he underwent surgery to repair a rupture in his abdominal wall the surgeon failed to close the wound before returning him to prison where he was placed directly in a cell with no medical examination. When the anesthetic wore off, Cruz found the wound open and bleeding. Cruz cried for help with no response from guards, at which point he collapsed in a pool of his own blood until discovered the next day.

Cruz required hospitalization and additional surgery, and spent 357 days in the prison medical center during which time he was unable to walk on his own. He was also denied a bed and bedding for two weeks.

Cruz filed ...

Family Wins $12.9 Million Award in Michigan Jail Death Suit

By Ronald Young

Eddie B. Swans Sr., the personal representative of the estate of Edward Swans, brought a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights action against the City of Lansing, Michigan. The Chief of Police Jerome Boles, the Lansing City Jail administrator, and several Lansing police officers were named ...

WI DOC Ends Censorship of PLN

In early August 2000, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) announced it would end its haphazard ban on PLN in Wisconsin prisons. Since January 2000, some Wisconsin prisons had refused to allow prisoners to subscribe or renew their subscriptions to PLN by paying for the subscription via their prison trust fund account.

The supposed reason for the ban was the Wisconsin's DOC claim that PLN constitutes "legal services", and because PLN is edited by prisoner Paul Wright it therefore constituted "paid legal services." Wisconsin prison rules prohibit prisoners from paying other prisoners for legal services. Hence the ban.

Several Wisconsin prisoners used the grievance system to no avail. PLN also wrote to DOC secretary Jon Litscher and his office responded stating PLN would be banned on this basis in all Wisconsin prisons.

PLN retained Milwaukee attorney Larry Albrecht and ACLU National Prison Project attorney David Fathi to litigate the censorship. Mr. Fathi sent the Wisconsin DOC a demand letter stating that the PLN ban violated PLN's First Amendment rights and was otherwise unconstitutional. The demand letter stated that if the ban was not lifted immediately, litigation would ensue.

The Wisconsin DOC responded by lifting the ban and claiming ...

From the Editor

Paul Wright

Recent issues of PLN have reported on criminal justice news in Texas and the response from Republican presidential candidate, George Bush Jr., to these events. PLN has reported on Bush's supervision of the Texas plantation-like prison system and death machine to duly point out the fact that, in the real world, a compassionate conservative is the same as a friendly fascist.

By no means should PLN's coverage be construed as a backhanded endorsement for Al Gore. PLN's nonprofit status does not allow us to endorse candidates for political office anyway. While commentators have long compared the United State's two party system as two empty bottles with different labels, this is proven even more so with regards to criminal justice issues. For prisoners at least, the difference between the Republican and Democratic parties is the difference between being beat to death with a 2' x 4' and being beat to death with a baseball bat.

While everyone remembers the infamous "Willie Horton" television ads used by George Bush Sr. in the 1988 presidential campaign, Al Gore actually first raised the Willie Horton matter in his own presidential primary campaign against Michael Dukakis. Al Gore's ...

News in Brief

Belgium: On July 10, 2000, Bertrand Sassoye, a political prisoner of the Combatant Communist Cells (CCC), was released after serving 14 years in prison. Sassoye had been convicted of participating in dozens of bombings carried out by the CCC against NATO and capitalist targets in Belgium. CCC members Pascale Vandegaarde and Didier Chevolet were released from Belgian prisons last February. Pierre Carette, considered by police to be the leader ofthe CCC, is the sole CCC member who is still imprisoned.

Brazil: On August 7, 2000, Jair Coelho, 68, was jailed on fraud and racketeering charges stemming from his lucrative contract to supply all prison food in Rio de Janeiro state, about 22,000 boxed meals a day. The quality of food supplied by Coelho has been criticized by prisoners and prison officials alike. Coelho has grown extremely wealthy from his prison food monopoly. While in prison awaiting trial he will be eating his company's food. Prison officials placed Coelho in protective custody. "This precaution was taken because there was a risk of retaliation from prisoners who eat the food supplied by his company," said Alvaro Lins, director of the Rio de Janeiro prison where Coelho is confined.

CA: On ...

Arpaio Runs for Reelection on Backs of Prisoners, For the Third Time

By Paul Wright

With the American electoral process consisting largely of saccharine spectacle, and with no substantive issues to get in the way of corporate rule, prisoner bashing has become an accepted political path to elected office. Politicians vie with each other to show who is most insensitive to human rights issues.

Mark Twain once commented that no man's life, limb, liberty or property was safe when the legislature was in session. For prisoners the same can be said whenever politicians run for office.

Joe Arpaio is the Phoenix, Arizona sheriff dubbed "America's Toughest Sheriff" by tabloids. Arpaio is a publicity hound who has garnered media attention by banning coffee and sexually explicit magazines at the jail, feeding prisoners rotten food, housing them in tents, dressing them in pink underwear and striped uniforms, instituting chain gangs, etc.

Little reported by the corporate media are Arpaio's more brutal practices which include the regular beatings and assaults of prisoners and medical neglect. PLN is the only publication that regularly reports the settlements and jury verdicts rendered against Arpaio for the unconstitutional conditions that run rampant in his jail. This includes the $8.5 million settlement paid to the family ...

 

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