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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: March, 1991

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Volume 2, Number 3

In this issue:

  1. Sex Offender "Treatment" in Washington State, In Whose Best Interest? (p 1)
  2. Review: A Saga of Shame (p 2)
  3. Loss of Legal Materials States Claim for Denial of Access To The Courts (p 2)
  4. Disclosure of AIDS Condition Violates Right to Privacy (p 3)
  5. Treatment Effective Against Drug Use (p 3)
  6. Avenue to Attack Habitual Criminal Conviction (p 3)
  7. Getting Tough Approach To Crime Fails to Produce Results (p 3)
  8. Toward Creating a More Equal Sentencing System (p 5)
  9. Editorial (p 6)
  10. Prison Discipline Study (p 7)
  11. U.S. Now Has World's Highest Incarceration Rate (p 7)
  12. The New and Improved Marion (p 8)
  13. Letters From Readers (p 9)
  14. Will The Racists Please Stand Up? (p 10)

Sex Offender "Treatment" in Washington State, In Whose Best Interest?

Sex Offender "Treatment" in Washington State, In Whose Best Interest?

By Dan Pens

The Washington State Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP) currently ensconced in TRCC receives national acclaim. They publish statistics which portray them as an unqualified success story. Taken at face value the statistics are impressive. The overall recidivism rate for sex offenders is somewhere around 80 percent. The SOTP claims a recidivism rate for their graduates of 20 percent. It~s no wonder that as one current participant reports, "they have tours of people from all over the country parading through here on an almost daily basis."

The statistics are deceptive. A closer analysis of how the SOTP achieves those impressive figures reveals a troubling story. Before we analyze, though, let~s have a look at some of the details of how the program operates

One of the most troubling aspects of SOTP is the absolute lack of confidentiality. For any mental health professional to provide meaningful treatment, there must be a level of trust between the terapist and client(s). Mental health professionals will tell you that this is a critical requiremetn of effective treatment.

Because of changes in the law made by the 1990 Legislature, nothing ...

Review: A Saga of Shame

A SAGA OF SHAME is a 20-page tabloid dealing with racial discrimination and the death penalty in the U.S. in its current and historical concerts. A lot of the information has been presented before in other publications and PLN has reported some of the statistics in previous issues. Saga of Shame brings all the information together in one place. It also has an excellent overview of the U.S. Supreme Court's long history of tolerating racial discrimination as well as the racism in the application of the death penalty. This publication has a lot of food for thought not just for death penalty abolitionists but also for the wider anti-racist struggle. Highly recommended. For order information write to: Quixote Center, A Saga of Shame, P.O. Box 5206, Hyattsville, MD 20782

Loss of Legal Materials States Claim for Denial of Access To The Courts

Loss Of Legal Materials States Claim For Denial Of Access To The Courts
A prisoner's allegation that prison officials had accepted and lost materials essential to his pursuit of post-conviction relief stated a claim for denial of access to the court, even if the materials were not "irreplaceable." The Court of Appeals suggested that a higher standard of care may be required of prison officials when they deal with prisoner's legal materials. See: Gregory vs. Nunn, 895 F.2d 413 (7th Cir. 1990).

Disclosure of AIDS Condition Violates Right to Privacy

Disclosure Of AIDS Condition Violates Right To Privacy
The federal district court in New Jersey ruled that disclosure of a person's medical condition, especially exposure to or infection with HIV (the virus suspected of causing AIDS), is disclosure of a "personal matter" in violation of the constitutionally protected right to privacy. Such disclosure also violates the rights of family members as well as the infected person. The government must show a compelling interest to justify disclosing such information. See: Doe vs. Borough of Barrington, 729 F.Supp 376 (D NJ 1990).

Treatment Effective Against Drug Use

As the debate wages over the best way to rid the country of drugs, a government report said research shows drug treatment has proven effective against repeated use and drug-related crime.

The government's triennial report to Congress, Drug Abuse and Drug Abuse Research, released January 16, called drug abuse a "chronic disorder," in which recurrences are common and repeated periods of treatment are frequently required. It said research shows promising developments in the drug treatment arena.

"By virtually every criterion used, there is good evidence that drug abuse significantly decreased following treatment" the report said. "Other destructive personal and social effects of drug abuse, such as drug related crime, suicidal behavior, psychiatric problems, incarceration and unemployment, are also reduced."

Avenue to Attack Habitual Criminal Conviction

Avenue To Attack Habitual Criminal Conviction
On January 8th the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a decision that a court can be ordered to review the constitutionality of a prior conviction before a person found guilty of a new crime is sentenced as a repeat offender. The case stemmed from a ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that an Indiana man sentenced in 1981 to eight years in prison for two counts of battery, and an additional 30 years because he was deemed a "habitual offender," has the right to appeal an earlier conviction on which the habitual offender status was based.

William Crank was convicted in 1974 in Lafayette, Ind., of second-degree burglary, and served his sentence. He now contends that conviction (and thus the bulk of his latest sentence) is invalid because his attorney in the 1974 case did not adequately represent him.

The Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case, while a victory for Crank, was done without comment and sets no national precedent. (90-489, Jack R. Duckworth, et al., vs. William E. Crank.)

Getting Tough Approach To Crime Fails to Produce Results

Getting Tough Approach To Crime Fails To Produce Results
By Ed Mead

Anthony P. Travisono is the Director of the American Correctional Association (ACA), a national organization consisting of prison wardens and other high-level correction officials. He also edits On The Line, the ACA's official newsletter. When writing his Editorial for the January 1991 issue of that paper, Mr. Travisono outlined the record breaking growth in the number of people being sent to prison, and then concluded:

"The final answers to our problems are outside the criminal justice system. Either prevention systems must be developed in our schools or community agencies to target potential offenders or we must learn to punish less expensively and for shorter periods of time." (Editor's note: The option of screening school children for possible criminal tendencies is clearly not a viable one.)

He said that sentences are not likely to get shorter, pointing out that "[t]he October 1990 issue of Corrections Compendium reported that life sentences have increased by 45 percent in the last two years." After some additional figures on the growing length of prison terms, Travisono asked: "Are prisons going to become places for lifers with very little to do ...

Toward Creating a More Equal Sentencing System

Toward Creating A More Equal Sentencing System
In 1981 the Washington state legislature enacted the Sentencing Reform Act (SRA) in order to change from a rehabilitation based system of corrections to a punishment oriented sentencing policy. Two additional reasons for the change, as set out in RCW 9.94A.010 (2) and (3), were to:

I. "Promote respect for the law by providing punishment which is just."

2. "Be commensurate with the punishment imposed on others committing similar offenses."

For the most part the SRA has met its goals for those sentenced after the 1984 effective date of the act. But this more just and progressive approach to sentencing has not been fairly applied to the approximately 1,400 pre-SPA prisoners still in custody. According to the parole board's 1987 Report To The Legislature, 53 percent of pre-SRA offenders had their term adjusted above the applicable SRA guideline ranges, whereas the courts, during that same period, imposed exceptional terms in only 3.7 percent of the cases, and over half of those exceptional terms (56 percent) were below the SRA range. Moreover, pre-SPA offenders have an additional hoop to jump through once they have completed the new board-imposed minimum ...


Editorial Comments
By Ed Mead

Here is another edition of our newsletter. We hope that you find it is a good one. The Prison/Community Alliance is going to be working toward getting rid of this state's parole board and will need all of the help that can be generated. If there is any way you can encourage your loved ones on the outside to attend the next meeting, please do so. Every now and then there comes a time when it is necessary to make a determined effort to overcome the demoralization and cynicism that paralyzes our forward progress. That time is rapidly approaching. If we are to be successful with the initiative campaign we will be needing the assistance of a lot of family members and supporters.

Also printed in this issue, entitled "Creating A More Equal Sentencing System," is an article containing an outline of the proposed legislation we intend to have placed on the 1992 ballot though the initiative process. In our next issue we should have the exact wording that will be used, rather than the general outline contained here. But for now we need input from you on the overall adequacy of this ...

Prison Discipline Study

The Prisoner Rights Union (PRU) in California in 1989 started a survey to determine the prevalence of extreme forms of discipline in the American prison system. To do so they mailed out questionnaires to prisoners in 41 states across the U.S. Based on useable returns from 650 respondents and a review of the literature on prisons and scholarly studies of staff on prisoner violence. Two of the scholarly studies relied upon in part involved staff and prisoners at the penitentiary in Walla Walla.

The study reaches the conclusion that extreme forms of discipline, ranging from beatings and assaults of prisoners to sensory deprivation for prolonged periods are the norm in maximum security prisons across the U.S. with little differences from state to state or region to region.

Most of the information received was from prisoner respondents. Prisoncrats in various states placed barriers to prisoner's receipt of the questionnaire claiming that only studies approved by the DOC can be conducted. Despite this ban, 15 prisoners at WSR and WSP responded to the survey.

The survey showed that 70% of the respondents had personally witnessed beatings and other forms of physical assault on prisoners by guards, fists, boots and ...

U.S. Now Has World's Highest Incarceration Rate

The U.S. now has the highest recorded rate of imprisonment of any nation in the world, according to a new report by The Sentencing Project. With over one million inmates in prison and jail, the U.S. surpasses both South Africa and the Soviet Union.

The study also found that black males in the U.S. are imprisoned at a rate four times that of black males in South Africa: 3,109 out of every 100,000, as compared to 729 in South Africa. The annual cost of incarceration for the U.S. was estimated at $16 billion, and for the estimated 454,724 black male prisoners, almost $7 billion.

"Despite all the claims, the same policies that have helped make us a world leader in incarceration have clearly failed to make us a safer nation," stated Marc Mauer, assistant director of The Sentencing Project and author of the report. "We need a fundamental change of direction, towards proven programs and policies that work to reduce both imprisonment and crime."

The study, Americans Behind Bars: A Comparison of International Rates of Incarceration, found that per 100,000 population, the U.S. incarcerates 426 people, South Africa 333, and the ...

The New and Improved Marion

By Paul Wright

As we were preparing this issue of PLN we received several articles describing the horrible conditions of control units in Florida, New Jersey and Marion, Illinois. Most Washington prisoners are familiar with the local version of this phenomenon: the Intensive Management Units (IMU). What these types of prisons al have in common, aside from innocuous names, is that their purpose is to break and crush prisoners mentally, emotionally and spiritually through a combination of isolation, sensory deprivation, deprivation of the most basic necessities, and an agenda of humiliation and domination (e.g. the beatings, shackling, digital rapes under guise of a "search", and verbal harassment, etc.) and in the case of Marion, contaminated water as well.

Some 35 states have built or are now building Marion type control units (California recently opened an entire prison at Pelican Bay modeled on Marion, i.e. complete lockdown). Marion was put on a total lockdown in 1983; prisoners are locked in their cells 23 hours a day, allowed 2 hours of outside yard a week and deprived of all educational and work opportunities. The prisoners can also be chained naked and spread eagle to their concrete bunks for "misbehaving." IMU ...

Letters From Readers

Hey - I got issue #2 of PLN tonight. I read the article on sex offenders and thought it was excellent. Not only was I not offended, I agree with you 100%.

Look - we all have our prejudices as to what is an "okay" crime and what isn't. I don't think the views on such things have really changed much over the years. But what I see as the single most damaging aspect, that which blocks progress for the good of all, is that people can't (or won't) set aside their petty judgments and differences to unite in a common cause.

I have to say that the one good thing (other than winning) that came out of the [cross gender] search case here [at Purdy] is that 95% or more united on a level of commonality that overcame the bullshit. That's too rare.

Constantly I hear people talking about how fucked up everyone else is in this madhouse, and many times I have had friend, close friends, look at me in silence when I say isn't it a shame that we waste all that energy and focus on each other instead of directing it where ...

Will The Racists Please Stand Up?

By Paul Wright

The 101st Congress has passed the Racial Justice Act (RJA). What the RJA does is prohibit racism in the application of the death penalty. As currently applied a disproportionate number of the men and women on death row across the U.S. are Black, Hispanic or Na¬tive Americans. The RJA would allow a defendant in a death penalty to show that racism was a factor in being given the death penalty by introducing statisti¬cal evidence showing the death penalty is disproportionately applied against minorities. The RJA still awaits being passed in the senate where it has already lost once by a 20 vote margin.

Not surprisingly the Bush administration has lobbied extensively to defeat the RJA and 21 state attorney generals, including Washington's own Ken Eikenberry, have signed a letter opposing passage of the RJA. Among those who joined Eikenberry in opposition to the RJA are attorney generals: Siegelman (AL), Corbin (AR), Clark (AR), Woodard (CO), Kelly (CT), Bowers (GA), Jones (ID), Pearson (IN), Cowan (KY), Guste (LA), Moore (MS), McKay (NV), Del Tufo (NJ), Stratton (NM), Thronburg (NC), Henry (OK), Frohnmayer (OR), Preate (PA, Medlock (SC), Tellin¬ghuisen (SD) and Meyer (WY).

Nebraska ...


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