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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: April, 1991

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Volume 2, Number 4

In this issue:

  1. The LBC's Final Report to the Legislature: A Retreat From The Principles of the SRA (p 1)
  2. Years of Change (p 2)
  3. Panel Blasts BJA for Ending Drug Treatment Projects (p 2)
  4. Did DOC Lie on Computer Issue? (p 3)
  5. More Federal Money for Prisons (p 4)
  6. From The Editor (p 4)
  7. Habitual Criminal Case Update (p 5)
  8. John Perroti on Hungerstrike (p 5)
  9. Bush Keeps Crime on Front Burner (p 5)
  10. Beating in the MANCI Control Unit (p 5)
  11. Pennsylvania Lawmakers Want to Axe Parole Board (p 5)
  12. ".100 Hearings" Opinions Of An Attorney (p 6)
  13. Murder Case Update (p 6)
  14. Political Prisoners Hunger Strike in France (p 7)
  15. Oppression and Resistance at Canada's Prison for Women (p 7)
  16. To a Bureaucrat (p 8)
  17. Reviews (p 8)
  18. Women's Report (p 9)
  19. Non-English Messed Over (p 9)
  20. Shelton Changes (p 9)

The LBC's Final Report to the Legislature: A Retreat From The Principles of the SRA

By Ed Mead

On January 17, 1991, the Legislative Budget Committee (LBC) issued a "proposed final report" on the performance of the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board (ISRB). The LBC assessed the operations of the ISRB in the context of the dual sentencing system that still exists in Washington State. Their "finding and conclusions" reflect the philosophy of the report. It says, in applicable part:

"We find that the current policies of the board, and its discretion in making release decisions, provide a greater measure of public safety protection than presently exists under the Sentencing Reform Act (SRA). There are and will continue to be people who will reach the end of their sentences but who will still pose an unacceptable risk to public safety if they are released. Under the [old] indeterminate system, these people can be denied parole or release until ... their statutory maximum terms. For some prisoners this maximum is life. These same people under the [new] SRA would have to be released at the end of their determinate terms, even if there are compelling reasons to believe they will reoffend."

The LBC report "recommended a comprehensive review of the sentencing system" to be completed in 1991. This ...

Years of Change

By B. Roland Blankenship

One thing every old convict asks himself at one time or another is: Is prison change better than the old way of doing time?

Backing up to the days of slave labor when a simple complaint could buy you 8-28 days in the hole, I have seen each privilege fought for and won by convicts who were willing to stick their necks out and take that giant step to bring about a more humane way of living through a prison sentence. When I think of the guys who have fell and died by riot guns, clubs, the months of sleeping on a cold concrete slab and getting longer sentences in order to make things better for the ones yet to come, I must ask myself; was it worth it?

It would take a week to describe the price convicts have paid for clean sheets, decent working hours, a daily shower, clean clothing, more than 3 letters a week, tape deck/radio, a television and telephones, visitation rights of more than one hour a month. A law library, educational books and teachers to help us learn and earn an education. I never thought I would live to ...

Panel Blasts BJA for Ending Drug Treatment Projects

Panel Blasts BJA For Ending Drug Treatment Projects

A House committee has issued a report alleging that the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), which manages the $492-million drug enforcement grants program, discontinued funding of drug treatment in prisons and jails, and then tried to mislead the committee into thinking that those funds had actually been increased.

"For [the Department of] Justice to deny drug rehabilitation to incarcerated convicts means it ignores one of the fundamental principles of incarceration, to rid our prisoners of addiction so they can function in society," said Rep. John Conyers, Jr., chairman of the House Government Operations Committee, which released the report. "Our prisons are becoming addict factories, moving them in and moving them out, failing to clean them up when we finally have them off the streets."

At the hearings a subpanel of the committee chaired by Rep. Bob Wise (D-W.Va.) probed reports that BJA was eliminating all drug treatment programs from the "discretionary' portion of the drug grants program. In response to a request from the subcommittee, BJA submitted a comparison of Fiscal Year 1989 drug treatment grants with those for FY 1990. But most of the funding in M 1990 was for ...

Did DOC Lie on Computer Issue?

Did DOC Lie On Computer Issue?

By Ed Mead

Back in the late '70s I was involved in an armed escape attempt from the state prison at Walla Walla. It was my first time in a state prison, and the experience was to teach me a lot about the low regard my captors had for the truth.

The escape was to be made at 8:30 p.m., after the Men Against Sexism (MAS) banquet, by some group members who were on the banquet's clean up crew. The visiting room would have been closed for hours at that point, so there was no possibility of anyone but MAS members and prison staff being harmed because of the escape effort.

The plot was busted a day or two before it was to take place, and all us would-be escapees were unceremoniously dumped in the hole. We were infracted for attempted escape, and in those infractions it was clearly charged that we were going to try to escape at 8:30 p.m., long after the visiting room was closed. Yet once we were safely locked up the warden met with both family members and selected prison leaders. He told them ...

More Federal Money for Prisons

More Federal Money For Prisons

While critics of the Bush Administration have been arguing that the war on drugs has become a "nonwar" since Operation Desert Storm began, the U.S. Justice Department says the fight to free the nation of the scourge of narcotics remains a top Administration priority.

Narcotics programs are the primary focus of DOJ's Office of Justice Programs (OJP) plan for the current fiscal year. In its program guide for discretionary funds (a total of approximately $119 million) OJP states: "The number one domestic problem facing our nation today is illegal drug trafficking and use."

"It is an insidious and unlawful activity that permeates many aspects of our society, damaging our health, our economy, our domestic security and most importantly, blighting the promise of our children and this nation," OJP states in the announcement of funding availability.

The answer to this problem is intervention that is focused, coordinated and aggressive, as well as punishment of both drug Traffickers and users that is swift, certain and appropriate. Drug users must be held accountable.

A key part of the Administration's anti-crime program is incarceration. "We're committed to incapacitating felons," the announcement stated. Our prison population ...

From The Editor

By Paul Wright

Welcome to another issue of PLN. Next month will mark one full year of publishing PLN. This is our twelfth issue. We started out planning to make it a four to six issue project to see what kind of a response we got. We started out with just Ed and myself and one person on the streets to take care of the printing and mailing of PLN. We ran into a problem when Mote, the outside person, objected to an article by Ed and refused to print that issue.

We were able to find someone else to print and mail PLN. It was still basically three people putting PLN together and mailing it. Since then we have slowly grown. We have a steady core of volunteers who are able to put PLN together each month, staple it and get it into the mail. We started out hand typing PLN on our respective typewriters, we are now desktop published. Ed and I would like to take this opportunity of our first anniversary to thank everyone that has helped make PLN, not only possible, but better and improved as we go on. We also want to thank everyone that ...

Habitual Criminal Case Update

For those who have been following the habitual criminal issue, there is some news. The lead case, In Re Echman, which is pending in the State Supreme Court, challenges the way the Board conducted 1457 reviews. It is argued that the Board was directed by the Legislature to review all habitual criminal minimum terms and apply SRA guidelines ranges. And since the Board did not follow the law, attorneys are asking the Court to order the Board to re-review the habitual criminal terms and to do as directed by SHE 1457 to apply SRA ranges.

Oral argument in Echman took place on January 23, 1991. The attorneys advised that everything went very well, and with some luck we should have a decision within a couple-three months. If this action proves successful, the Board will have to re-review all of the habitual criminal terms and apply SRA ranges and give adequate written reasons for not doing so.

John Perroti on Hungerstrike

John Perroti On Hungerstrike

John Perroti and his partner, Linda Leisure, have been on a hunger strike since February 14, 1991. Perroti has been held on a one-man isolation tier supposedly only until MANCI's AC unit opened. His visits have been restricted to one hour noncontact visit in full restraints - a month. His mail is censored and often destroyed and behavior modification practiced in full force. Prisoncrats refuse to release him from AC and refuse to transfer him to MANCI as promised.

Letters of protest of his treatment and requesting a transfer can be sent to:

George Wilson, Director
Dept. of Rehabilitation and Corrections
1050 Freeway Drive North
Columbus, OH 43229.

Bush Keeps Crime on Front Burner

Bush Keeps Crime On Front Burner

President Bush, who expressed disappointment with the limited crime control bill approved by Congress last year, has signaled that he intends to keep anti-crime initiatives on the national agenda this year, beginning with a national conference that was held last month.

In his State of the Union speech, the president said, "We're determined to protect another fundamental civil right - freedom from crime and the fear that stalks our cities. The Attorney General will soon convene a crime summit of our nation's law enforcement officials. And to help us support them, we need tough crime control legislation, and we need it now."

The summit meeting, held in Washington between March 3-5, was sponsored by the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs, and included representatives of the nation's top law enforcement agencies. The Administration used the meeting to push the legislative package that is expected to reach Capitol Hill soon. It will include four major provisions that failed to pass the Congress last year: limits on habeas corpus petitions by death row inmates; expansion of the "good faith" exception to the exclusionary rules to include cases where not search warrant was issued ...

Beating in the MANCI Control Unit

Beating In The MANCI Control Unit

By John Perroti

MANSFIELD, OHIO - On February 8, 1991, in the super-max administrative control unit (AC-Isolation) at the Mansfield Correctional Institution (MANCI) high tech prison, designed after the U.S. Penitentiary at Marion, II, 35 guards and high ranking prison officials opened six prisoners food slots - cuffed the prisoners behind their back and proceeded to enter the cells, beating each prisoner with their fists, boots and clubs. Two prisoners kicked their cell doors off the hinges but were restrained. These brutal beatings were unnecessary and excessive. The prisoners beaten were: Eric "Sudan" Swafford #178862; Mike Woods #152543; K. Patton #R132770; Ike Thompson #156151; Clay #216762; and Eugene Adams #144736. Adams was beaten so badly he required numerous stitches to his head. The beds and all their belongings were then removed from their cells and these men are forced to sleep naked on the floor with only a thin plastic mattress.

In sheer frustration of their situation, the prisoners have started a death fast, begun on the 9th of February 1991. They will not eat until an investigation is started concerning the beatings, they receive proper medical treatment, their beds and property are returned, warm ...

Pennsylvania Lawmakers Want to Axe Parole Board

Pennsylvania Lawmakers Want To Axe Parole Board

Leaders of the Pennsylvania House and Senate Judiciary Committees said they will introduce legislation this year to strip the Parole Board of most of its authority as a way to reduce prison overcrowding. The lawmakers said the number of state inmates would decline by at least 5,000 over IO years by allowing most inmates to leave prison when their minimum prison terms end. It would also make sentencing more objective and understandable by the public, they said.

Sen. Steward Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Pennsylvania is one of only two states that has both sentencing guidelines and a fully powered Parole Board. "We are operating under a system detrimental to both inmates and institutions," Greenleaf said. "Our antiquated system employs guidelines for sentencing, but at the time of parole eligibility the system essentially retries the inmate at the end of his sentence in what is often perceived as an arbitrary and highhanded manner."

The legislation would still allow inmates to be kept in prison for parole violations or serious prison misconduct. Those decisions would be made by the Corrections Department. Corrections Commissioner Joseph Lehman also supports the package.

".100 Hearings" Opinions Of An Attorney

".100 Hearings" Opinions Of An Attorney

by Barbetta Ralphs, Atty.

As an attorney, I concur with the person who believed the Board was "maxing out" the majority of persons to whom they have allowed .100 hearings, or, at the very least, given them extra time which is far beyond discretion, in my opinion. If the prison population falls dramatically, so will the necessity for high paid employees of the Dept. of Corrections and other affected agencies. Since nothing can be done to extend time for SRA inmates, it stands to reason that the only alternative of the Board, to justify its existence, and of the Dept. of Corrections, to continue to obtain funding for its high-priced upper echelon, is to give more time to the only inmates at their disposal, the pre-SRA group.

It is true that PRP's are not a "speedy form of relief;" the Court of Appeals, or the Supreme Court, can delay their decision until it becomes moot and meaningless. Counsel is not appointed at the Court of Appeals level, whether or not such should be done, so that attorneys who hope for some menial reimbursement end up "pro bono" which few sole proprietors can afford ...

Murder Case Update

Some of you with 1st degree murder convictions that occurred prior to July 1, 1984, have been appearing before the Board for so-called 1457 minimum term settings. Information received by this writer indicates that the Board is handing out very long terms in the vast majority of the cases, and it is using the SRA laws (which are harsher than the old ones) to guide the minimum term setting process. That application of the SRA has been challenged on ex post facto grounds by attorneys from Evergreen Legal Services in In Re Thompson, which is pending in the State Supreme Court. On Wednesday, January 23, 1991, the Court heard oral argument in Thompson. Attorneys report that everything went very well, though it is of course impossible to guess what the Court will ultimately do. There should be a decision within 3-5 months. If successful, all the reset minimum terms for Pre-SRA lifers serving 1st degree murder terms (with the possibility of parole) will be rendered invalid and re-instating the old 13.4 term eligibility review date.

Political Prisoners Hunger Strike in France

By Jean Marc Rouillan

[Editors note: this article is translated and based on a letter from Jean Marc to one of PLN's editors.] FRESNES, FRANCE

The latest struggle here in France is a rolling hunger strike, one of us will not eat for a week, then another won't eat and so on, and other prisoners are also going on strikes and other forms of struggle and agitation. Our demand is an end to our isolation in control units, this is something that affects all French prisoners.

In July of 1989, members of Direct Action ended our second hunger strike after being assured by the Ministry of Justice that we would be re-grouped in units of two and be treated in compliance with French law. This was soon shown to be untrue and we were progressively subjected to a new form of isolation.

Special control units of arbitrariness, prohibitions and restrictions were made for us, completely isolated from the prison population, with no recreation activities, work, study or sports available to us. We were/are locked in our cells all day except for the 2-1/2 to 3 hours a day we are allowed to walk in a small ...

Oppression and Resistance at Canada's Prison for Women

Oppression And Resistance At Canada's Prison For Women

KINGSTON, ONTARIO - On February 12, 1991, Lorna Jones, a native prisoner, was found hanging in her cell. Her's was the fifth suicide by a native prisoner at the Prison for Women (P4W) in the last 18 months. Lorna had been serving a two-year sentence for robbery and was due to be paroled in August.

On Wednesday, Feb. 13, 1991, with grief and anger over the death running high, especially for the prison conditions that drive prisoners to suicide, a group 20 prisoners on "A" range refused orders to return their cells, they blockaded a range and undertook the destruction of furniture, windows, etc.

The resistance was ended by the prison's riot squad using dogs, gas and physically subduing the women prisoners. The prison was locked down and at least 11 of the women involved were put in the hole where some were kept naked in tiny, cold concrete cells, one woman had an asthma attack and languished three hours before receiving medical attention. The women involved are also facing numerous charges including rioting, destruction of government property, disobedience, assault and uttering a death threat. For their defiance and resistance ...

To a Bureaucrat

To A Bureaucrat

You are as irrelevant

to my future

as I am to yours.

I have no power over you

and I seek none.

But, you are unhappy

to be likewise.


You pretend

to have influence

with the big people

enabling you

to pull the strings

of my destiny.


I am relieved

that you pretend.


Once we move on

from our present abode

YOU are, as I,

nothing.


What will separate us

and, thankfully, distinguish

you, from I,

is, Of course,

your craving for the means

to control my life.


I am not important

you calmly agree.

That you are not important,

you furiously dispute.

Okay, then,

you are important but...

only to yourself.

--Anthony Mclntyre Long Kesh

Reviews

RESISTANCE - Documents and analysis of the illegal front. Is an irregular tabloid that has news and analysis of militant autonomist, anti-imperialist, national liberation, and anti-nuclear struggle in the advanced capitalist countries. The latest issue has articles about native struggle in Canada, a discussion paper on patriarchy from the Revolutionary Cells in Germany, the Resistance conspiracy case and more. Resistance is free to prisoners and costs $6.00 per year for "free people." Write: Resistance, P.O. Box 790, Station A, Vancouver, B.C., V6C2N6, Canada.

WOFPP Newsletter - is a monthly newsletter by Womens Organization For Political Prisoners. It covers the plight of women political prisoners, mostly Palestinian, in Israeli jails, their conditions of confinement (usually pretty brutal), charges against them, etc. For more information write: WOFPP, P.O. Box 31811,Tel Aviv 61318, Israel.

CHALLENGE - is a quarterly journal that covers events inside Israel and the Middle East. Recent issues have included articles on the conditions of confinement for Palestinian political and social prisoners, torture of prisoners by the Shin Bet (Israeli internal secret police), imprisonment and persecution of Jewish anti-apartheid activists in South Africa and much more. An excellent publication. Write: Hanitzotz, P.O. Box 1575, Jerusalem, Israel.

LOVE ...

Women's Report

Prisoner's Legal News is an excellent monthly magazine that I sincerely hope is generating interest and financial support, to which I will soon be adding.

The major concern among most women in prison is the welfare of their children, many of whom were declared to be wards of the state upon their mother's arrest. Over 90% of women in prison are mothers, and the majority of those are single mothers with sole custody of the children. What happens to the children of female prisoners?

Other than that, it has been my experience that most women in prison are not inclined to be actively interested in political issues. There are many reasons for this, including the low level of literacy and the havoc that drug abuse has wreaked upon their minds, but I believe that the fundamental reason lies much deeper. Most women who are in prison today have all their lives been dominated by another person, usually a male. They have been made to feel that they are powerless alone, and that they must be dependent and subservient in order to be acceptable. They have very low self-esteem, and they do not believe that they have any control ...

Non-English Messed Over

Many of our inmates are Mexican and/or Central American citizens. They are called up to legal mail line and receive registered letters from their home countries. These letters usually contain a few well worn, soiled American dollars. The institution counts them and has the inmate sign for postage to return the few pitiful dollars to the sender! Because of rules that say the institution will only accept money orders, these poor people are unable to have the cash put on the books. The cash is returned to their loved ones, probably by regular surface mail which may or may not get to the sender. This is a crime. I lived in Guatemala and Mexico for a few years, but my Spanish is really terrible. Someone needs to file something to stop this cruel practice. People in those countries are poor. They cannot afford to lose dollars, and the few dollars they could spare for their loved one who is a prisoner of the American system are sent with total love. Like the widow's mite in the Bible. They also cannot get P.O. money orders to send their loved ones, they must send cash. Is this done at ...

Shelton Changes

I am a 25-year-old inmate serving time in Washington State Correction Center at Shelton. Since my incarceration here at Shelton I have watched expensive reconstruction projects occurring rapidly, such as Birch and Spruce Halls turned into more R-units, more fencing and razor wire, as well as stadium lights that are bright enough to light Candle Stick Park on the darkest evening. They actually had to use a helicopter at taxpayers' expense to install these lights, a total of about 35 to 40 of them. There is talk among the teachers and inmate students that the education building's days are numbered. This would mean no education, no chaplaincy and another of several disjointed arrays of the superintendent's pet prison industry endeavors. There is also talk that Pine Hall will become S.O.C. housing the most seriously disturbed and dangerous felons in this state. This should frighten the tax paying citizens in Shelton to death. There are other things I have made no mention of at this time in fear for my safety as a prisoner. But to make it short this is becoming a maximum-security facility quickly. I urge the people of this state to question Mr. Peterson ...

 

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