Skip navigation
Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: February, 1991

View as PDF
Issue PDF
Volume 2, Number 2

In this issue:

  1. The Parole Board Audit Report (p 1)
  2. No Blood For Oil (p 1)
  3. Response To "Tread Carefully" (p 3)
  4. Mothers in Prison (p 4)
  5. Spending on Corrections Rises Sharply (p 4)
  6. Texas Woman Wins $125,000 Settlement (p 4)
  7. Station Files Suit to Televise Execution (p 4)
  8. Nutraloaf and the Law in the Northwest (p 5)
  9. Florida DOC Officials Harass Women (p 5)
  10. New York Report Matches National Study Results (p 5)
  11. Some Peruvian Prisoners Released (p 5)
  12. Women Prisoner's Hunger Strike in Texas (p 6)
  13. From The Editor (p 6)
  14. Prisoner Assaulted by Guard (p 7)
  15. X-Ray Searches of Prisoners Found Unlawful (p 7)
  16. Prison Officials Liable for Not Correctly Computing Prisoner's Sentence (p 7)
  17. Insufficient Facts to Support Exceptional Terms (p 7)
  18. Clallam Bay Prisoner Brutalized (p 8)
  19. Deliberate Indifference Demonstrated (p 8)
  20. Habitual Criminal Case Update (p 8)
  21. Prison's Water Contaminated (p 9)
  22. Exception to Slave Labor (p 10)

The Parole Board Audit Report

Ed Mead

The Legislative Budge Committee (LBC) has issued its preliminary report on the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board (ISRB). The December 14, 1990, report was an audit that examined the operations of the Board in the context of the dual sentencing system that now exsists in the state of Washington. The audit, rumored to have been initiated by victim rights groups, focused on how well the Board accomplishes its goal of protecting the public.

The passage of the Sentencing Reform Act (SRA) of 1982 created a dual sentencing system in this state. One system is indeterminate and is based upon the rehabilitative ideal. The newer system is determinate and is based primarily on the principle of punishment. RCW 9.95.100 establishes rehabilitation as the criterion for release of pre-SRA prisoners, whereas under the SRA sentence lengths are maximums and there is no end-of-term review regarding a prisoner's rehabilitation. The conflict between these two sentencing systems has resulted in a situation in which two prisoners serving time in the same prison for identical offenses, and both having access to the exact same programs, only one is pre-SRA and is being rehabilitated while the other is post-SRA and is being ...

No Blood For Oil

By Paul Wright

As we go to press with this issue of PLN the United States is preparing to attack Iraq in the Persian Gulf. There's a large number of veterans from past imperialist adventures still in prison throughout the United States today. PLN does not support the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait nor the regime of Saddam Hussein. By the same token, we also vigorously oppose American interference in the Middle East and do not believe that restoring a feudal monarchy and maintaining Exxon's level of profits is worth the life of one American soldier (already some 90 have died without a shot being fired) to say nothing of the carnage and destruction that will be wreaked upon the Arab population of the region. George Bush's hypocrisy in this whole sordid adventure is readily apparent; Israel occupies the nation of Palestine and territory that is part of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan this has been repeatedly condemned by the United Nations, the U.S. hasn't sent troops but they have sent money and weapons: to the Israelis. We hear Bush talk about sanctions not working thus making a need for the use of military force, yet ...

Response To "Tread Carefully"

Response To "Tread Carefully"

By Paul Wright

In Issue #1, Vol. 2, of PLN we had an article by Mark LaRue titled "Tread Carefully With Sex Offenders." In it Mark discusses, among other things, SSB-6259. This bill in the state senate, which passed and has since become law, among other things, called for sex offenders to register with police. Mark supported that part of the bill stating it would protect citizens from being victimized and better help the surveillance of convicted sex offenders.

I think that Mark is wrong in supporting any type of registration of ex-prisoners, sex offenders or not. Mark starts with the assumption that this registration will only apply to sex offenders. Time and time again we have seen laws passed which only dealt with sex offenders and it turned out that when there was no opposition to it they turned around and broadened it to affect ail prisoners. Examples of this was when the parole board started requiring polygraph (lie detector) tests for sex offenders on parole, no one complained and within a year everyone on parole had to submit to polygraphs if it was a condition to parole. More recently the state legislature ruled that ...

Mothers in Prison

Mothers In Prison

[The following article about Mothers in Prison was excepted from the "Pacific" section of the December 2, 1990, issue of the Seattle Times/P-1, and then edited further to meet the informational needs of Prisoners' Legal News readers.]

Lori and Raynette are both inmates at the Washington Prison for Women near Purdy, and each of them, like many of their peers, have given birth while behind bars. The experience is much the same for all of Purdy's inmate mothers. They are taken to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tacoma where the delivery takes place, then within two or three days the infant is taken away and the mother is sent back to prison. Lori and Raynette describe the parting as the single most painful event of their lives and the source of their deepest anguish.

"The second I handed her over, I didn't want to live again," Raynette says. "I just wanted to get up and run. I wanted to scream, 'No! No! No!' But I couldn't say anything, couldn't do anything. I almost blacked out." Such separations are endured with increasing frequency at Purdy, where three-quarters of the prison population are mothers ...

Spending on Corrections Rises Sharply

Spending On Corrections Rises Sharply

Federal, state and local governments in the United States spent $61 billion in fiscal year 1988 for civil and criminal justice, an increase of 34 percent since 1985, according to a report recently issued by the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics. The report includes these figures related to corrections:

Three cents of every government dollar spent in 1988 was for justice activities; a penny went for corrections.
Since 1979, state government spending for building prisons increased 593 percent, that's 2.6 times faster than spending to operate correctional institutions. State governments spent 3.5 percent of their dollars for corrections. That percentage includes building and operating prisons and running probation and parole programs.
In October 1988, the nation's civil and criminal justice system employed 1.6 million people, with a payroll for the month of $3.7 billion.
Single copies of the report, "Justice Expenditure and Employment, 1988, may be obtained from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, Box 6000, Rockville, MD 20850.

Reprinted from Corrections Today

Texas Woman Wins $125,000 Settlement

A woman won a $125,000 settlement from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles that may set a precedent for more civil suits involving parole decisions. The woman was raped by a man who had been sentenced in 1977 to 123 years in prison for attacking 21 women. He ...

Station Files Suit to Televise Execution

Station Files Suit To Televise Execution

A San Francisco public television station, KQED, has filed a suit against the governor for permission to broadcast executions. Currently, cameras are barred and witnesses are not permitted to take notes. A DOC representative said the rules exist because executions are not intended to be public spectacles. At last report the suit is still pending.

Nutraloaf and the Law in the Northwest

Nutraloaf And The Law In The Northwest

By Wasseneh Taddesse

Nutraloaf is a dog-food type substance fed to prisoners on segregation status, generally to those who have committed some additional infraction while on that status. As with all repressive measures, the practice has been abused by those who hold power over others. A struggle has resulted that is just now getting the attention of the federal courts. Here we will review of few of the recent rulings handed down on the feeding of nutraloaf to segregation prisoners.

The first and one of the better decisions on the nutraloaf issue is LeMaire v. Maass, 745 F.Supp. 623 (D.Ore. 1990), in which the court held that both the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause were violated when guards at the Oregon State Penitentiary placed inmates on controlled feeding status (nutraloaf) for conduct not directly related to the misuse of food or utensils. Nutraloaf, which is made from blending, freezing and later baking foods used in meals, is designed to be eaten without utensils (it is served in a block). The court upheld the use of "controlled feeding" at least ...

Florida DOC Officials Harass Women

A recent investigation by Florida DOC investigator Clayton Lambert of complaints of sexual harassment made by several female employees against Martin Correctional Institution (MCI) warden David Farcas and Southeast Florida DOC director William Rouse.

The six women claimed that Rouse and Farcas made sexual comments to female employees, French kissed them and stuck their tongues in their ears.

Farcas received a written reprimand from Rouse, who is his supervisor. Rouse, in turn, received an oral reprimand from his superiors in Tallahassee.

New York Report Matches National Study Results

A study released in October of 1990 found that nearly one out of every four young black men in New York state is under the control of the criminal justice system on any given day. The results of the joint study by the Correctional Association of New York and the state Coalition for Criminal Justice were similar to the findings of a national study done last winter by The Sentencing Project.

The New York study found that 23 percent of the state's 193,000 black men between the ages of 20 and 29 are in state or local prisons or on probation or parole.

Some Peruvian Prisoners Released

Prisons in Peru are so overcrowded and under financed that two prisoners a day are dying at Lurigancho prison (where 5,900 are housed). As a result of these conditions, prisoners went on a hunger strike for better conditions. The result of this strike was a "depenalization" decree by which some 20-25 prisoners a day are being released, this includes mainly prisoners who have not yet been convicted of anything.

This does not affect the many political prisoners or those accused of "subversion," most of whom are held at Cantogrande prison.

In 1986 the Peruvian government, using helicopter gunships and Marines, murdered hundreds of political prisoners and prisoners of war (most of whom were members of the Peruvian Communist Party, also known as Sendero Lumioso or "The Shining Path"), under guise of quelling a prison revolt. Now, outside observers are no longer allowed to inspect the political prisoners living facilities nor to visit them.

Women Prisoner's Hunger Strike in Texas

Women Prisoner's Hunger Strike In Texas

By Ana Lucia Gelabert

Gatesville, Texas, November 28, 1990. At 12 midnight tonight at least eight women prisoners at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Mountain View unit will begin an indefinite hunger strike in protest of the scheduled December 6, 1990, execution of Texas prisoner Betty Beets: the first woman to be executed in Texas in several decades. Letters on the intent and reasons for the hunger strike have been sent to the Governor of Texas, prison authorities and the press.

Activists here smell a rat by way of a possible deal between lame duck governor Bill Clements, a Republican, who has vowed to execute a woman before leaving office and newly elected governor Ann Richards, a Democrat, in such a way that Clements carries the blame for such an unpopular ad without tarnishing Richards image as a liberal so early in her governorship.

Although the striking prisoners emphasize that the hunger strike is in no way a work stoppage, but a peaceful protest, prison authorities appear in a frenzy and increasing retaliatory actions against the strikers as they fear the hunger strike might spread out quickly and end up in a ...

From The Editor

By Paul Wright

Welcome to the tenth issue of PLN . As our readers may recall issues 6, 7 and 8 of Vol. 1 of PLN had been censored by prisoncrats at the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton, WA. The excuse they had given for this censorship was that the article about the dog running wild in #7 and the drawing of the pig were a "threat to security" and that PLN's solicitation of stamps to help cover our expenses was "in violation of institutional rules." This was appealed to the Director of Prisons, Larry Kincheloe and he overruled the decisions by his minions at Shelton and those issues of PLN have been delivered. So hopefully that issue of censorship has been resolved.

PLN is still banned in Texas by the Texas Department of Corrections. The attorney representing the class of prisoners in the Guajardo class action is currently investigating the matter and so far the Texas attorney general has not responded to his letters. The TDC has a long history of censoring prisoner rights publications and has lost the issue several times in court, but apparently they keep trying to get away with it. We will keep our readers ...

Prisoner Assaulted by Guard

Prisoner Assaulted By Guard

A prison employee was held liable for $1,000 after sticking the barrel of his revolver in the inmate's mouth and cocking the trigger. The prisoner had sought damages for assault in a federal civil rights suit against the prison employee. He claimed that the ...

X-Ray Searches of Prisoners Found Unlawful

X-Ray Searches Of Prisoners Found Unlawful

A claim that a x-ray search was ordered by prison security officials without medical authorization was not frivolous. The failure to inquire into the plaintiff's medical history to consider the possible cumulative effect of x-rays, to get a doctor's order, to have medical personnel present, and to record the x-ray in his medical chart evidenced deliberate indifference.

The court also held that the search may have violated the Fourth Amendment. A "generalized penological interest in searching inmates for contraband" is not sufficient justification; reasonable suspicion that a prisoner is secreting contraband is required, and prison officials must show that less intrusive means would not detect the contraband. The manner of search is also important. Here, the x-ray was performed by a prisoner technician with no medical staff present and no medical history taken. See: Nitcher vs. Cline, 899 F.2d 1543 (8th Cir. 1990)

Prison Officials Liable for Not Correctly Computing Prisoner's Sentence

A federal prisoner brought a Bivens action against the warden and administrative systems manager for failing to investigate his claim that his sentence was miscalculated. The prisoner repeatedly asked prison officials to correctly compute his sentence to show time he had served in a German prison. They refused to do so.

The prisoner filed and won a Habeas Corpus action in federal district court. He then filed a suit for declaratory and relief and money damages. The district court ruled for the prisoner and on appeal the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling.

District Judge Bilby told the defendants: "You see, that's one of the things about bureaucrats that bothers me. You just can't sit on your duff and not do anything." He further stated: "If you just sit around and don't do anything, you do run a chance of being responsible." The Court of Appeals agreed wholeheartedly.

The Court of Appeals ruled that when prison officials fail to take action that they have a clearly established duty to take and the failure to act is a contributing factor in the violation of a prisoners constitutional rights, a qualified immunity defense will not be available ...

Insufficient Facts to Support Exceptional Terms

Insufficient Facts To Support Exceptional Terms

Division One of the Washington State Court of Appeals has vacated an exceptional term imposed by the parole board due to insufficient facts in the record to support the sentence imposed by the board.

Luis Vega, while incarcerated at the Reformatory, participated in an assault on a fellow inmate. Vega ultimately pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and the parole board imposed a 7-1/2 year sentence. That sentence was subsequently reviewed by the board in 1987, pursuant to SHE 1400. At that review the board noted that Vega's SRA guideline range for the assault was 13 to 17 months, but went on to impose an exceptional minimum term of 34 months. One of the main reasons given for the imposition of an exceptional minimum term was "that this type of behavior [assaults] tends to seriously disrupt the orderly operation of the institution and warrants an exceptional sentence."

The Court of Appeals reversed the board, holding that: "The reason [given by the board] relates only to the possible effect of prison violence, i.e., the tendency of in-prison altercations to disrupt operations and lead to further violence. The reason is therefore so broad that ...

Clallam Bay Prisoner Brutalized

By Paul Wright

On December 17, 1990, at about 6:35 in the evening several prisoners got into a fight in the F-Unit (Close Custody) rotunda area. Eventually guards carted the participants of that fight off to the "hole." At about 7:10 that evening Aaron Fast, a black prisoner, was called to the F-Unit duty office. Present in the duty office were Sgt.'s Frank and Delong and six prison guards and counselor Kent Gonzalez. F-Unit prisoners, locked in our pods, watched in horror as Aaron was browbeat into a corner by Frank and Delong who then rushed him and within seconds all 8 prison guards were on top of Aaron and he was hidden from view.

A few minutes later after Aaron had his hands handcuffed behind his back he was dragged out of F-Unit, his face visibly bruised, screaming in pain that his arm had been injured. Some 10 minutes later he was taken from the segregation unit (which is down the hall from F-Unit) to the hospital for treatment. It has been reported that Aaron's arm was broken during the incident.

Aaron had not been involved in the earlier fight in any way. He's ...

Deliberate Indifference Demonstrated

Proof of prison administrators' "consistent pattern of reckless or negligent conduct" in providing prisoners with medical care is enough to establish the deliberate indifference to prisoners' serious medical needs necessary to make out an Eighth Amendment violation and hence to subject the officials to civil liability. The December 4, 1990, ruling by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court finding that the response of administrators at a Minnesota prison to an outbreak tuberculosis, which included a failure to develop written infection-control policies, to maintain adequate medical records, or to provide a full-time physical and medical director, amounted to deliberate indifference.

The court rejected the officials' contention that the Eighth Amendment requires that some sort of intentional deprivation of medical care be shown. It looked to City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378 (1989), in which the Supreme Court held that a municipality may be held civilly liable for inadequately training its employees if that failure to train amounts to deliberate indifference to the rights of those coming into contact with the police. Under this ruling, " [l]iability attaches only when the failure to train amounts to a city policy or custom," the Eighth Circuit noted ...

Habitual Criminal Case Update

You may recall that last year the Legislature passed SHE 1457 (now in RCW 9.95.013) which directed the Board to review all habitual criminal minimum terms and to apply SRA guideline ranges to them. You may also know that - as usual - the Board essentially ignored the law and re-determined habitual criminal minimum terms in only five (5) of the seventy (70) cases it reviewed.

In response, we organized an effort to challenge the Board's actions in the courts. Two (2) personal restraint petitions (PRP) were filed in the State Supreme Court to challenge the board's entire 1457 review process. However, the Supreme Court staff inaccurately reported to the court that the two petitions raised issues that only affected a small group of people and hence the two petitions were transferred to Division III of the Court of Appeals.

Right after the transfer, three (3) other prisoners filed personal restraint petitions in the State Supreme Court, and others started filing in the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court got the message and has now decided to hear the cases before it.

Evergreen Legal Services Attorneys John Midgley, Pat Arthur, and Bob Stalker represent us in the consolidated ...

Prison's Water Contaminated

By Ray L. Levasseur

Prisoners at the U.S. Penitentiary, Marion, Illinois, have said for years that the government is poisoning us with contaminated water. The government has categorically denied these accusations. On September 28, 1990, a report issued by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) (U.S. Dept. of Health Services) confirms that the Marion water supply is toxic and presents a health threat to prisoners. The reports states that the most immediate concern is the high levels of Trihalomethanes (THM's), including chloroform, in the water. Some of the tested water samples contain more than twice the amount of THM's established as an acceptable level by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In 1979 the EPA established a standard of 100 parts per billion (ppb) for THM's in drinking water. There is general agreement among scientists, environmentalists and the EPA that this standard for THM's is not strict enough to protect public health. The recent ATSDR report shows concentrations of THM's as high as 245 ppb in Marion's water.

THM's are a carcinogen known to cause cancer. The best known THM is chloroform which can damage the liver and kidneys ...

Exception to Slave Labor

Exception To Slave Labor

I would like to commend the staff of PLN (issue #8) because, in my opinion, it is the best issue yet. I was impressed with the listing of competent authorities for the facts and figures presented in the articles. One thing though that I would like to see further comment on was the two cases from the federal appellate court which were not complimentary to prisoners' rights. The one which I thought was particularly irritating was the one which held that prisoners could be forced to work without it being contrary to the involuntary servitude clause of the 13th amendment.

I believe there are still [parts in the U.S.] in which criminal judges make the stipulation of "labor" a part of the judgment and sentence. This was at one time a general practice and it was common to see convicted felons sentenced to "five years at hard labor," and similar sentencing practices. In Washington state a sentence, by law, is to be "confined" (loss of liberty) and nothing else. Therefore, I believe it might be possible to successfully attach any arbitrary policy or practice of forced labor [on the grounds that] it would be punishment ...


Federal Prison Handbook



Prisoner Education Guide side



Advertise here




Prisoner Education Guide side