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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: October, 2004

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Volume 15, Number 10

In this issue:

  1. U.S. Torture: A Sordid History Of Official And Systematic Abuse (p 1)
  2. Florida's Rush to Disenfranchise Felons Before the 2004 Election (p 11)
  3. Restoration of Voting Rights in Washington (p 12)
  4. Georgia DOC to Provide Court Access With Computers, Legal Software (p 13)
  5. Seventh Circuit Allows Sanctions for Frivolous Habeas Corpus Petitions (p 13)
  6. Two Empty Bottles With Different Labels: John Kerry on Criminal Justice Issues (p 14)
  7. Denial of Nation of Islam Literature Unconstitutional (p 16)
  8. California Prisons Contract-Medical-Care Audit Reveals Millions In Waste (p 17)
  9. Scrubbing Abu Ghraib Away (p 18)
  10. From the Editor (p 20)
  11. Report Downplays Wrongful Convictions in U.S. (p 21)
  12. Acrimonious Michigan Prisoners' Rights Suit Settled After 15 Years (p 22)
  13. PLRA Applies to Juveniles; Claim Administratively Exhausted (p 23)
  14. Tulia Travesty Settled for $6 Million (p 24)
  15. Mismanaged, Money-Losing Folsom City Prison Closed (p 27)
  16. New Jersey Over Detains Prisoner Two Years Due to Illegal Sentence Calculation (p 28)
  17. $300,000 Awarded for Delayed Treatment of New York Prisoner's Hearing Loss (p 28)
  18. Democratic Organization Gives Some Felons Second Chance (p 29)
  19. Stun Belt Violates Due Process; Habeas Granted (p 30)
  20. VP's Drug Dealer Retaliation Claim Ordered to Trial (p 31)
  21. Report Blasts South Carolina Plan to Privatize Prison Health Care (p 32)
  22. Guards Let California Prisoner Slowly Starve to Death (p 33)
  23. The Citebook (p 34)
  24. Parents of Deceased Wisconsin Boot Camp Prisoner Settle for $462,000 (p 34)
  25. Florida DOC Ordered to Assist Felons Restore Their Voting Rights (p 35)
  26. New York Court Awards Prisoner $180,000 in Slip and Fall (p 36)
  27. California Internet Injunction Upheld (p 36)
  28. Preliminary Injunction Granted to Religious Objector of Tuberculosis Skin Test (p 37)
  29. Prisons Almanac 2004 Prisons Foundation, Washington, DC (p 38)
  30. New Mexico Lawyers Entitled to Jail Visiting, Phone and Records Access (p 38)
  31. Texas Syndicate Gang Members Busted - Again (p 39)
  32. U.S. Supreme Court: Guantanamo Detainees and "Enemy Combatants" Have Access to Habeas Corpus (p 40)
  33. California Awards Wrongly Incarcerated Man $428,000 (p 41)
  34. News in Brief (p 42)
  35. Jury Awards $20,000 to Nurse Stuck by Needle from HIV Positive Prisoner (p 44)

U.S. Torture: A Sordid History Of Official And Systematic Abuse

by G . Flint Taylor

The brutal and sadistic torture by U.S. military prison guards, military intelligence officers, and CIA interrogators which is being revealed daily in the mainstream media has brought protestations from President Bush, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and others who, despite apparently approving many of these techniques, have claimed that torture is "un American" and is the product of a few overzealous "bad apples." Alternatively, other officials advance the proposition that the use of such torture by U.S. forces is a recent phenomenon, necessitated by the post-9/11 threat of Al Qaeda and related terrorism. In fact, torture as an interrogation technique and as a means to inflict sadistic punishment has long been systematically practiced by the U.S. military abroad, as well as by police interrogators and prison guards here at home.

The torture techniques which are now being revealed as those practiced by prison guards and military police at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and by the CIA operatives at Guantanamo, in Afghanistan, and in other secret locations - - - including electric shock, hoodings, simulated drowning and suffocation, mock executions, sodomy with nightsticks and other sexual and racial assaults and humiliation, brutal beatings, and sleep ...

Florida's Rush to Disenfranchise Felons Before the 2004 Election

By David M. Reutter

After George W. Bush won Florida by 537 votes in the 2000 election, an uproar arose when it was learned that election supervisors, using a list compiled by an Atlanta firm, had mistakenly identified voters as felons and purged them from voter rolls. Some supervisors mistakenly allowed actual felons to vote or turned away legitimate voters as suspected felons. Florida is one of six states that imposes a lifetime civil and voting rights ban on anyone convicted of a felony.

It is unknown how many valid voters were disenfranchised, but the resulting outcry led to the purchase of new voting machines and the reform of Florida election laws. The new process requires election supervisors to send certified letters to suspected felons. If they do not respond, they are removed from voter rolls. Civil groups lament the unfairness of putting the burden of proof on the voter.

In mid-May 2004, the state provided county election supervisors a list of 48,000 possible felons. Those supervisors are trying to develop safeguards in addition to the certified letters. "We have to identify a proper procedure to ensure that anyone removed is actually a felon," said Ion Sancho, the Levin ...

Restoration of Voting Rights in Washington

by Nancy Talner and Julya Hampton

Are you registered to vote for the upcoming Presidential election? Even if you have a prior felony conviction, you may be eligible to register to vote in Washington. This article explains how ex-felons can get their voting rights restored.

Under the Washington Constitution, Art. VI, sec. 3, all persons convicted of "infamous crimes" (all felony convictions) lose the right to vote upon conviction. When an individual is convicted of a felony crime, the court clerk is required to notify the county election official in the county of the felon's last known address. When the election official receives the notice, the offender's voter registration is cancelled. County election officials notify the Secretary of State of all cancelled voter registrations on a weekly basis.


How can I get my right to vote back?


Persons convicted of a felony are eligible to restore their right to vote when they have completed all the conditions of their sentence. Although losing the right to vote is automatic, the process for restoring that right is not.

What you need to do depends on where and when you were convicted:


Ø If you were convicted in Washington after 1984 ...

Georgia DOC to Provide Court Access With Computers, Legal Software

Georgia DOC To Provide Court Access With Computers, Legal Software

The Georgia Department of Corrections (DOC) is changing the way it affords prisoners access to courts. Out are the six lawyers who provided prisoners with free legal assistance. In are computers, legal software, and paralegals.

According to Bill Amideo, chief legal counsel for the DOC, the state has already purchased 170 computers loaded with Westlaw legal database software to be used in prison law libraries statewide.

Under the new plan, which was reported in the November 30, 2003, Atlanta-Journal Constitution, the state will also hire up to four paralegals to assist prisoners, though they will be prohibited from dispensing legal advice, said Amideo. Library supervisors will also be trained to help prisoners negotiate the software.

Since 1996, six attorneys from an Alpharetta law firm have provided free legal aid to Georgia's 47,000 prisoners through the Center for Prisoners' Legal Assistance. According to the center's director, Craig Cascio, the firm's annual $1.1 million contract was not renewed at the end of 2003.

One of the Center's main duties was correcting wrongly entered sentences, said Cascio, who estimates the center saved state taxpayers $17.7 million ...

Seventh Circuit Allows Sanctions for Frivolous Habeas Corpus Petitions

The Seventh Circuit has sanctioned two prisoners for filing frivolous habeas corpus actions under 28 U.S.C. § 2256 complaining about prison conditions.

Jerry Montgomery and Larriante Sumbry are Indiana state prisoners with "long histories of filing frivolous lawsuits" which resulted in the Seventh circuit fining Montgomery $500 and blocking his future civil suit filings. Sumby had "three strikes" under the PLRA and was barred from future civil suit filings until he paid all outstanding fees and sanctions.

Both prisoners had engaged in what the court deemed "a growing trend in abusive filings: state prisoners who are restricted filers using habeas corpus petitions to challenge non-custodial state actions." The court noted that although such suits were frivolous, they still wasted limited resources as each received briefing and review by a three-judge panel because the screening provisions and requirements for a certificate of appealability do not apply to habeas petitions not challenging state criminal proceedings. See: Walker v. O'Brien, 216 F.3d 626 (7th Cir. 2000).

Relying on In re McDonald, 689 U.S. 186 (1989), the Seventh circuit held that it too has the ability to sanction litigants to ensure that its "resources are allocated in a way ...

Two Empty Bottles With Different Labels: John Kerry on Criminal Justice Issues

By Paul Wright

“Americans on the frontlines - our first responders, military forces, sheriffs, policemen, firefighters, and civil defense volunteers - must have the very best equipment, training and support possible. Our safety and freedom are the envy of the world and John Kerry and John Edwards will ensure this does not change. A Kerry-Edwards administration will recruit more law enforcement and emergency professionals, combat Meth labs and drug abuse, and build a stronger judicial and prison system in rural areas.”

John Kerry for President Website, www.Johnkerry.com

The issue of felon disenfranchisement, where millions of Americans convicted of crimes that may or may not have resulted in imprisonment cannot vote in government elections, is one of growing importance. Around the country various lawsuits are challenging such laws under various theories, so far with mixed results. Some political pressure, especially by the black community is raising awareness about how this results in dilution of the black vote and undermines any notion of equality and democracy. In a system that claims to be a democracy the right to vote should be a fundamental right. But the flip side of the same coin is that people who wish to vote should have ...

Denial of Nation of Islam Literature Unconstitutional

by David M. Reutter

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals held that prison officials' refusal to allow prisoners to receive Nation of Islam literature was unconstitutional, but prison officials were entitled to qualified immunity from money damages for their illegal actions. Pennsylvania prisoners Richard X. Sutton, Robert X. Wise, and Michael X. Walker were placed on Special Management Unit at the State Correctional Institute at Camp Hill (SCI). Pursuant to Administrative Directives 801 and 802, they were limited to a personal Bible, Holy Koran, or other religious equivalent.

The prisoners requested access to various texts written by Fard Muhammad and Louis Farrakan from their personal property. Camp Hill's Muslim Chaplain Adeeb Rasheed was asked by the property room guard if the requested texts were religious. Rasheed determined they were not religious. The prisoners then filed grievances. Reverend James W. Smith, the Facility Chaplian Program Director, and Father Frances T. Menei, Administrator of Religious and Family Services, examined the requested texts. Their response to the grievance found the books are not essentially religious in nature and they "smack of racism and hatred." The prisoners then filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action alleging First Amendment violations. The district ...

California Prisons Contract-Medical-Care Audit Reveals Millions In Waste

At a time when the California Department of Corrections (CDC) is already under intense Legislative criticism for overspending its annual budget by $544.8 million (see: PLN, Aug. 2004, p. 41), an April, 2004 report by the California State Auditor revealed that CDC repeatedly violated its own policies regarding contracting for prisoner medical care, overspending $6 million in just four analyzed contracts alone. Flaws identified by the auditors include exceeding standard rates for particular medical procedures, overspending contract limits and ignoring guidelines intended to contain costs. In addition, 77% of such contracts were awarded without competitive bidding.

CDC's costs for contracts with private hospitals, specialty care physicians and outside laboratories have risen 15% per year for the past four years, reaching $239 million in fiscal year 2003-2004. These increases far exceed the growth rate seen in the outside community, although CDC's needs are understandably skewed by the concentrated need to treat AIDS, hepatitis, mental illness and an aging prison population as 25,000 lifers continues to be denied parole.

CDC's annual health care costs run over $900 million per year, approaching 20% of their budget. And that is with fewer than 1% of Hepatitis-C infected prisoners presently ...

Scrubbing Abu Ghraib Away

SCRUBBING ABU GHRAIB AWAY

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

If persistent news tips are correct, the U.S. Army's report on the barbarities at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison will lodge blame for the events there at the rank of colonel and below, and no real bigwigs or command staff officers will be tied to the vile events that took place in the American-controlled gulag.

If so, I'm tempted to say: "I told you so."


When the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke, I wrote that the nation must prepare for an efficient, neat, tidy whitewash. The grunts would bear the brunt of any discipline, and the dudes at the top would emerge unscathed.

There it is.

When it first happened, I thought back to the scandals that rocked SCI-Greene several years ago, when a score of guards were charged with brutal, racist, and vile behavior against men in the hole. Roughly two dozen guards were fired, but after union appeals, most were quietly reinstated, after the media furor died down.

One day, while on the way to the yard, a young red-haired guard said, "It's all about protecting yer ass, that's all the white shirts care about _ ...

From the Editor

From The Editor

by Paul Wright

The month of September will be the last month that Hans Sherrer, PLN's circulation manager will be with us. After several years working for PLN Hans is moving on to other activities. As PLN's circulation manager, Hans oversaw our database and ensured changes were made in a timely manner and that people received their issues. He also produced PLN's subscription and book flyers, handled our outreach efforts with Books to Prisoners programs around the country and otherwise helped expand PLN's circulation to our current all time high of more than 4,000 subscribers. Hans also updated and created PLN's website, at www.prisonlegalnews.org.

In addition to his work with PLN, Hans is also one of the nation's leading experts on wrongful convictions and his writings on the subject have appeared in law review journals and Justice Denied, as well as PLN. Hans will be sorely missed and we wish him luck with his future endeavors.

PLN's annual fundraiser started on September 15, and this issue has our annual fundraising letter in it. We are including it in the issue rather than sending it to readers in ...

Report Downplays Wrongful Convictions in U.S.

A report by University of Michigan staffers and law students _ Exonerations in the United States: 1989 through 2003 _ was released to the public on April 23, 2004. The report analyzed data from 328 cases during that 15 year period in which the defendant was officially declared, "not guilty of a crime for which he or she had previously been convicted."

The report concentrated on rape and murder convictions, since 319 of the 328 cases studied involved a defendant convicted of one or both those crimes. One of two areas the researchers focused on, was how often several factors known to contribute to a wrongful conviction - eyewitness misidentification, perjury and a false confession - were present in those cases. It was found that 64% of the people exonerated of rape and/or murder had been misidentified, 15% had falsely confessed, and a prosecution witness had committed perjury in 44% of the cases.

The other area reported on is how race relates to exonerations. It was found that people of various races are exonerated at about the same rate as they are convicted _ unless the person was under 18 at the time of arrest. Almost eight times as many blacks ...

Acrimonious Michigan Prisoners' Rights Suit Settled After 15 Years

by John E. Dannenberg

A class-action lawsuit launched by Michigan state prisoners in 1988 which ultimately cost taxpayers $7.5 million in litigation costs was settled on November 4, 2003, resulting in prisoners gaining appropriate classification and psychiatric services, plus restrictions on administrative segregation that exacerbates serious psychological illness. In addition to retaining personal word processors, prisoners also attained expanded law libraries with 25 hour/week access and adequate photocopies, prompt legal mail processing, and longer attorney phone calls. Specified winter protective clothing was permitted as well. The acrimonious history of the case is replete with repeated attempts by the state to recuse Ingham County Circuit Judge James Giddings, culminating in a public rebuke by former Michigan Governor John Engler denigrating Judge Giddings as a "lunatic who must have gotten a mail-order law degree."

Prisoners John Cain, Raymond Walen, Jr., Elton Mizell, Paul Dye, John Ewing, Delbert Faulkner, C. Moore, Ramon Cobos and Ronald Simpson-Bey sued the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) in the Michigan Court of Claims. Initially, the suit was a reaction to MDOC's then newly-announced tougher disciplinary system, as well as restrictions on prisoner clothing and personal property. Judge Giddings blocked the new regulations, setting the ...

PLRA Applies to Juveniles; Claim Administratively Exhausted

A New York federal district court has held that the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) applies to juvenile prisoners, and the juvenile's actions to air his grievance informally satisfied the PLRA's administrative remedy exhaustion requirement. Corey Lewis, a delinquent resident of the Tyron Residential Facility in Johnston, New York, and his mother Vanessa Lewis filed a civil rights action, alleging Youth Division Aides Aaron Gagne and Joseph Rump intentionally caused his hand and wrist to be burned on a metal heater while trying to restrain him. They also alleged deliberate indifference to serious medical needs for failing to properly treat his injury.

Arguing that Lewis failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, the defendants moved for summary judgment. Lewis argued the PLRA does not apply to juveniles. The PLRA mandates all "prisoners" must exhaust "administrative remedies as are available" as a condition precedent to bringing a federal lawsuit. The PLRA defines a prisoner as "any person incarcerated or detained in any facility who is accused of, convicted of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms and conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program." The phrase "adjudicated delinquent" can only possibly apply ...

Tulia Travesty Settled for $6 Million

Tulia Travesty Settled For $6 Million

by Hans Sherrer

On August 22, 2003, Texas Governor Rick Perry pardoned 35 people whose convictions stemmed from a Swisher County drug investigation that began in 1998.

The prosecution of those people began with the arrest of 43 people in the Tulia, Texas area on July 23, 1999. All but one of those people was accused of selling less than 3.5 grams of powder cocaine _ a second degree felony punishable under Texas law by up to 20 years in prison. However many of them were accused of selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school or park _ which enhanced their alleged offense to a first degree felony punishable by life in prison.

Thirty-eight of the arrested people were subsequently convicted _ 11 after a trial and 27 by a brokered guilty plea. The many guilty pleas by people protesting their innocence followed the sentences ranging from 12 to 434 years, that were imposed on the first eight defendants convicted after a trial.

In spite of the convictions, flaws in Swisher County's investigation began appearing soon after the arrests. Most noticeably, charges against five people were dropped for reasons that ...

Mismanaged, Money-Losing Folsom City Prison Closed

by John E. Dannenberg

Faced with losing $1.4 million in the following year, the City of Folsom, California, closed its 14 year-old, 380 bed minimum security prison and laid off most of the 70 city workers on June 30, 2003.

Known as the Folsom Community Correctional Facility (FCCF) [one of 16 such CCFs contracted out by the California Department of Corrections (CDC)], the city prison (separate from the two state prisons in Folsom) used prisoners to sort recyclables from city garbage. Beyond merely losing money, FCCF wilted under a scathing audit by the State Inspector General exposing major security, health and management deficiencies.

The six-month long audit revealed "deteriorating buildings, broken equipment, lax supervision of inmates, visitors and volunteers, and easy access on the part of inmates to tools and supplies that could be used as weapons.... The main front door of the facility cannot even be locked." The confidential report, obtained by the Sacramento Bee, "leveled devastating charges against the way the prison was run by its director, Wally Smith." Indeed, FCCF initially refused to release any files to auditors or to even grant them entry to conduct the audit, until the Inspector General obtained court orders.

The ...

New Jersey Over Detains Prisoner Two Years Due to Illegal Sentence Calculation

The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division has held that the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC) cannot depart from the terms a sentencing judge imposes. In September 1994, prisoner Larry Hill was released on parole for a 1990 conviction. On January 31, 1997 and July 25, 1997, he received five year sentences for new charges, which were to run concurrently. On May 21, 1997, Hill's parole was revoked. Because the sentences were imposed at different times and with the parole violation considered an aggregation, the NJDOC ran the five year sentences consecutively, and Hill's established maximum release date was set for October 29, 2004.

Hill wrote the trial judge, Honorable Hector DeSoto, who twice clarified his order to NJDOC as the sentences to be run concurrently pursuant to the plea bargain. Unfortunately, the state has shown a dogged resistance to admit that they committed error," wrote Hill in court documents after NJDOC refused to heed Judge DeSoto's clarification.

The NJDOC argued that state law allowed it to: 1) aggregate the January 31, 1997 with the May parole violation; and 2) sentences imposed at different times cannot be run concurrently and consecutively. The Superior Court noted ...

$300,000 Awarded for Delayed Treatment of New York Prisoner's Hearing Loss

On October 31, 2003 a New York Court of Claims awarded Fishkill Correctional Facility prisoner Darryl Dickerson $300,000 for a partial hearing loss suffered because he was not provided timely medical treatment.

Dickerson claimed he heard a popping noise while he was exercising on the prison yard on August ...

Democratic Organization Gives Some Felons Second Chance

America Coming Together (ACT)--a democratic group working to ensure that George W. Bush is not reelected--is employing felons to conduct door-to-door voter registration drives in Missouri, Florida, Ohio, and possibly 14 other states crucial to the November 2004 elections.

ACT contends that convicted criminals deserve a second chance in society and argues that the felons it employs are not a threat to public safety. We believe it's important to give people a second chance," said Mo Elleithee, a Washington-based spokesman for the group. The fact that they are willing to do this work is a fairly serious indication that they want to become productive members of society.

Pursuant to federal law, ACT is an independent organization not affiliated with the John Kerry campaign. However, many of the group's workers are Democrats with past ties to Kerry and his advisers.

Elleithee confirmed that felons have been used to register voters in Missouri, Florida, and Ohio. He also said ACT may have employed felons in 14 other swing states as well, including Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Elleithee declined to comment on how many felons ACT ...

Stun Belt Violates Due Process; Habeas Granted

by John E. Dannenberg

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the use of a stun belt to restrain a California criminal defendant during his trial violated due process of law and was grounds for reversal upon a factual finding that he was prejudiced by it.

Frederico Gonzalez was forced to wear an electronic stun belt during his trial in a California court. He claimed that the mere presence of this device psychologically disadvantaged him. A stun belt operates by sending a 50,000 volt, three to four milliampere electrical current for eight seconds into the left kidney area, following blood channels and nerve pathways. It causes incapacitation within a few seconds with welts and severe pain, and is typically followed by uncontrolled defecation and urination. Muscular weakness continues for approximately 30-45 minutes, accompanied by heartbeat irregularities or seizures. It is used as an alternative to shackles, to get around the due process violation of having the defendant seen in chains by the jury. The question presented here was whether such impairment of a defendant's mental faculties was a violation of his due process rights.

Relying upon United States v. Durham, 287 F.3d 1297 (11th Cir. 2002 ...

VP's Drug Dealer Retaliation Claim Ordered to Trial

In a case that has continued on and on like the Energizer Bunny, the District of Columbia has denied the Bureau of Prisons defendants' latest motion for summary judgment and ordered a trial. This case was filed in 1990 by Brett Kimberlin, a prisoner at the Federal Correctional Institution at El Reno, Oklahoma. Since filing, the case has been before the D.C. Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court twice. PLN has reported the events of this litigation since its inception.

The complaint alleges that in October 1988 Kimberlin began contacting members of the new media, telling them that in the 1970's he had sold marijuana to then Republican vice-presidential candidate, Dan Quayle. This contact was made over the telephone, which did not require prison approval. Five days before the 1988 presidential election, NBC News requested permission to interview Kimberlin in person on camera. The request was initially denied until after the election, but ultimately approved as "Kimberlin's fundamental lack of creditability" made broadcast of his "allegations before the election unlikely." NBC News never aired the interview.

After the NBC interview, other news organizations requested to interview Kimberlin, Prison officials decided a group interview would ...

Report Blasts South Carolina Plan to Privatize Prison Health Care

South Carolina's disastrous 15-year experiment with prison health care privatization should be a warning to those hardheaded state leaders who plan to do it again, according to a report sponsored by Grassroots Leadership and South Carolina Fair Share. Authored by Dr. Marguerite Rosenthal, sociology professor at Salem State University in Massachusetts, Prescription For Disaster: Commercializing Prison Health Care In South Carolina details the state's failed effort at privatization from 1986 to 2000 and documents the myriad problems encountered by other states that have experimented with commercializing prison health care services. Released on April 12, 2004, the sharply critical 12-page report followed an announcement by the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) that health care services in all of the state's prisons would soon be privatized. Three companies have already submitted bids: Correctional Medical Services of St. Louis, Wexford Health Services of Pittsburgh, and Prison Health Services of Brentwood, Tennessee.


The South Carolina Experience


From 1986 to 2000, the SCDC contracted a portion of its prisoner health services to the notoriously corrupt Correctional Medical Services (CMS). Initially covering just 3 prisons, CMS was providing medical services to ten prisons when the company terminated its state contract in January ...

Guards Let California Prisoner Slowly Starve to Death

Guards Let California Prisoner Slowly Starve To Death


Seventy-two year old Khem Singh, who spoke no English and was crippled and wheelchair-bound, died of starvation in his Corcoran State Prison Substance Abuse Treatment Facility (SATF) cell on February 16, 2004, after guards allegedly let him waste away without food or medical care for two months. This occurred in the same facility where another prisoner bled to death only two weeks earlier when his dialysis shunt opened. After his howls for help went unanswered for hours, he died alone in his cell while assigned guards _ whose union motto boasts "the toughest beat in the state" _ watched the Super Bowl on TV instead.

Singh, a former Sikh priest from Modesto, California, had been removed from his position due to internal politics, but continued to teach children religion. During this period, he was charged with and convicted of molestation and sentenced to 27 years-life. He proclaimed his innocence and that he had been framed.

Baljit Kaur, Singh's wife, accused prison guards of brutalizing him in December. She said that they threw beef in his food, knowingly rendering it inedible because of his religious beliefs; that they kicked him when he ...

The Citebook

by Tony Darwin, Starlite, Inc., 2004, 20th ed., 308 pp., $35.95, soft cover

Review by Michael Rigby

For anyone not trained in the law, navigating the U.S. judicial system can be a daunting prospect. But with knowledge comes confidence, and that's exactly what Tony Darwin provides with The Citebookthe nation's number one selling legal assistance manual.

In this prisoner-friendly reference guide, Darwin lists the cases integral to various types of litigation, by category, and gives a short synopsis detailing the importance of each. Categories include search and seizure; Brady violations; civil and constitutional rights; courts, judges and trials; cruel and unusual punishment; drugs; First amendment; freedom of information; habeas corpus; marriage, divorce and children; medical; parole-probation-supervised release; and prison rules and regulations, just to name a few.

But The Citebook is more than its name implies. Through this often humorous, always relevant book, Darwin eases the fear of pro se litigation by walking the reader through the legal landscape using layman's terms and providing practical, down-to-earth advice each step of the way.

The Citebook contains an informative introduction. Part I is an overview of the U.S. judicial system, including state and federal courts, administrative ...

Parents of Deceased Wisconsin Boot Camp Prisoner Settle for $462,000

The parents of a Wisconsin state prisoner who died due to exercise stress after his medical complaints were ignored settled their wrongful death suit for $462,000.

The Homeslys were parents of a male 20-year-old Wisconsin state prisoner who died of exercise stress. The son opted to attend the "Atlas ...

Florida DOC Ordered to Assist Felons Restore Their Voting Rights

Florida DOC Ordered to Assist Felons Restore their Voting Rights


by David M. Reutter

A Florida circuit court has ordered the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) to assist ex-felons who did not receive help in the application process for restoration of their civil rights as required by state law. Florida is one of six states that imposes a lifetime civil and voting rights ban on anyone convicted of a felony. The loss of civil rights takes away not only the right to vote but also the right to hold public office, serve on a jury, and qualify for certain types of state occupational licenses required for many jobs.

The FDOC, pursuant to § 944.293 Florida Statutes, is required to assist those who are about to be released from custody or supervision in the filing of an application for restoration of their civil rights. Between 1992 and 2001, the FDOC admits it failed to assist 124,769 offenders in filing the Office of Executive Clemency (OEC) application for civil rights restoration. As many as 30,000 of those offenders qualify for rights restoration without a hearing. The remaining offenders require a hearing before their rights are restored; that process often ...

New York Court Awards Prisoner $180,000 in Slip and Fall

On June 3, 2003, a court of claims in Rochester, New York, awarded prisoner Samuel K. Tambe $180,000 for injuries he sustained when he tripped over an elevated sidewalk slab at the Groveland Correctional Facility in Sonyea, New York.

After the fall, Tambe suffered intense pain and discomfort in ...

California Internet Injunction Upheld

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the statewide permanent injunction issued by the U.S. District Court (N.D. Cal.) enjoining the California Department of Corrections' (CDC) policy prohibiting prisoners from receiving Internet-generated mail. Prison Legal News also filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of the plaintif in this case. The brief was drafted by Tien Lee of the Electronic Frontier Foundation on PLN's behalf.

Frank Clement, a prisoner at Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) had successfully prosecuted a writ of habeas corpus in the district court to enjoin PBSP officials from implementing their policy of arbitrarily prohibiting prisoner mail solely because it was Internet-generated. Affecting only about 500 of PBSP's 300,000 letters per month, and not meeting any of the "legitimate penological interest" tests of Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78 (1987), the policy was deemed a prima facie violation of Clement's First Amendment rights. Because in the meanwhile, eight other CDC prisons had implemented copycat regulations in an attempt to bootstrap the ban into a statewide truism, District Judge Claudia Wilken broadened the sweep of her order into a statewide injunction. See: Clement v. California Dep't of Corrections ...

Preliminary Injunction Granted to Religious Objector of Tuberculosis Skin Test

by David M. Ruetter

A New York federal district court has granted a preliminary injunction to a prisoner who objected on religious grounds, to taking a Purified Protein Derivative Test(PPD) to detect tuberculosis (TB). In a previous unpublished opinion, the court held the religious rights of Selam Selah, a prisoner at Auburn Correctional Facility, were substantially burdened by the New York State Department of Correctional Services (NYDOCS) policy of requiring mandatory PPD tests. When Selah asserted his religious objections and refused a PPD test, he was placed in tuberculin hold.

The court held a two day hearing on Selah's motion for a preliminary injunction and found three forms of TB exist: (1) Latent TB is where one has been exposed to and contracted TB but suffers no adverse effects; (2) Active TB is where one becomes ill throughout the body; and. (3)Active Contagious TB is where the lungs are infected and the disease is capable of spreading by sharing air space with others. The court also found there are three methods to detect TB: (1)PPD test, which is the injection of a substance containing a derivative of TB that causes a skin reaction; (2) Chest x-rays ...

Prisons Almanac 2004 Prisons Foundation, Washington, DC

Reviewed by John E. Dannenberg

Prisons Almanac is a refreshingly eclectic collection of 140 of "the most promising and uplifting prison-related news stories of the previous year" produced in classic almanac format by the Prisons Foundation. The Almanac also provides a current statistical picture of American prisons and prisoners as well as 16 commentaries of sage advice and predictions for prisons in 2004 penned by a cross-section of learned minds from around the nation.

In its first seven pages, the Almanac compactly presents highlights of the latest U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) data on American federal, military, state and privately-operated prisons and jails. Digesting many published BJS charts and tables, these numerical highlights portray the socioeconomic realities of U.S. incarceration as well as the most recent trends.

Quite naturally, these trends inspire predictions for the coming year which are presented next in 17 pages of independent thinking offered by such diverse expositors as Elton Edwards (Florida ACLU Restoration Project), author Tom Lagana (author of Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul), Paul Krassner (satirist and publisher of The Realist), Judith Trustone (founder of Sage Writers), Prof. Dianne Fenton (Criminal Justice, Livingstone College, N.C.), and several prisoner ...

New Mexico Lawyers Entitled to Jail Visiting, Phone and Records Access

A New Mexico federal district court has entered a preliminary injunction that enjoins jail officials from prohibiting class counsel from having access to the jail, its prisoners and staff, its records, and from imposing time limits on telephone calls to lawyers by prisoners. This is a class action suit that includes "all persons with mental and/or developmental disabilities who are, or in the future may be, detained at" the Bernalillo County Detention Center (BCDC).

A settlement agreement between the parties was entered on November 6, 1996. On or about June 17, 2003, the last of the class and sub-class members were transferred from BCDC to the newly constructed facility, the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC). Jail officials then prohibited class counsel from interviewing class members and staff at MDC and changed the telephone policy for prisoners to only allow them five minutes to talk with counsel. Class counsel tried to mediate the matter with jail officials, but those officials would not allow them access to MDC unless they agreed not to be paid for their visits and not to report to the court anything concerning MDC. Class counsel moved for a temporary restraining order seeking access to MDC.

Jail officials ...

Texas Syndicate Gang Members Busted - Again

by C. C. Simmons

Deep in the bowels of the 4,000-man H. H. Coffield State Prison in east Texas, a young prisoner is locked in a telephone-booth-size holding cage. He screams obscenities at everyone. In the next corridor, a squad of guards attired in helmets, gas masks, and padded vests attempts to extract a prisoner from a cell where he has possession of a mop and is threatening to harm someone.

Moving to a parallel hallway, a guard walks quickly with a plastic shield in front of him to deflect feces and urine that shouting prisoners throw through their cell bars.

Further along, in a hallway where scores of the most dangerous prisoners are housed in one-man cells, the silence is eerie. Here, members of the Barrio Azteca prison gang enforce a code of silence and mutual respect. "We know how to do time," explains one gang member.

The decrepit Coffield facility holds about 1,000 of the 5,000+ confirmed gang members confined in Texas' 100 state prisons. While prison officials' purported goal is to break up the gangs, entire cellblocks are set aside for mutually exclusive occupancy of Barrio Azteca, Mexican Mafia, Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos, Raza Unida ...

U.S. Supreme Court: Guantanamo Detainees and "Enemy Combatants" Have Access to Habeas Corpus

U.S. Supreme Court: Guantanamo Detainees and "Enemy Combatants" Have Access To Habeas Corpus


by John E. Dannenberg

In three interrelated decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that "enemy combatant" detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba or in the continental U.S. may not be held indefinitely without due process of law, that they have access to habeas corpus proceedings in the U.S. district courts (or military tribunals) and that a detainee's habeas corpus petition was procedurally defective when it named as respondent U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld rather than the brig commander having the prisoner's custody.

In fighting the amorphous war on terrorism, the Bush administration hastily made up new rules on how to deal with "enemy combatants" captured in such faraway places as Afghanistan and other alleged al-Qaeda fundamentalist-Islamic strongholds. The centerpiece of the Bush detention program was a spontaneously erected prison at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. This "Devil's Island" facility was secure due to its isolation and theoretically immune from U.S. justice because it was outside the physical jurisdiction of the courts. The end result was that "detainees" - both U.S. citizens and those of many foreign ...

California Awards Wrongly Incarcerated Man $428,000

The State of California awarded $428,000 on September 24, 2003 for the 12 years of false incarceration served by an East Palo Alto, California man whose murder conviction had been abated when Santa Clara County prosecutors became convinced they had put the wrong man behind bars.

Quedellis "Rick" Walker was convicted in 1991 of killing his ex-girlfriend Lisa Hopewell. After he had exhausted all appeals, his attorney, Alison Tucher, came up with evidence that Walker was the wrong man and had been framed. A judge declared Walker innocent and ordered his release.

Walker filed a claim with the state under California Penal Code § 4904, which provides for legislative appropriation of $100 per day for such false incarceration. Assemblyman Joe Simitian introduced a separate bill for Walker, AB 1302, at 2:30 a.m. of September 13, 2003 _ the last night of the politically stalemated state budget bill session. AB 1302 turned out to be the only budget item that night for which the sharply partisan legislature could put aside differences to muster the necessary 2/3 vote. If it had not passed, Walker would have had to wait another year to gain budget approval for his reparation ...

News in Brief

Alabama: In May, 2004, Gail Munnerlyn sued the Alabama Department of Corrections for its practice of allowing uninsured prisoners to drive DOC vehicles. Munnerlyn was injured when her car was struck by a DOC work release van driven by an uninsured prisoner. Her attorney, Kenny Mendelsohn, said "I believe that legally, morally, and from a public safety standpoint, convicts should not be allowed to drive without insurance. Apparently [DOC] commissioner Campbell believes that it is okay. But that's what they built the courthouse for." A DOC spokesman said the decision not to insure prisoner drivers was made by the state Department of Finance, not the DOC.

Alabama: On August 17, 2004, Clint Morris, 20, a prisoner at the Shelby county jail who was injured in a fight at the jail on July 18, 2004, died from injuries he sustained in the fight. After the fight Morris complained of pain and swelling in his neck before being taken to a hospital on July 25, where he eventually died. Morris was in jail awaiting trial on charges that he failed to appear for various traffic violations. His family questioned the apparent denial of medical care.

Arizona: On August 17, 2004, Michael ...

Jury Awards $20,000 to Nurse Stuck by Needle from HIV Positive Prisoner

On November 26, 2003, a Massachusetts jury awarded a nurse at a medical center, which treated prisoners from a nearby Worcester County prison, $20,000 for emotional distress that resulted from being stuck by a needle from an HIV positive prisoner. The nurse sued, under a negligent supervision theory, the ...


 

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