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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: June, 1991

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Volume 2, Number 6

In this issue:

  1. Civil Commitment Roasted on ABC's Nightline (p 1)
  2. Which Shell is the Pea Under? Government Crime Statistics Invoke Slight of Hand (p 2)
  3. Mail to Public Officials and Media Protected (p 2)
  4. Court Upholds Collection of Blood Samples for DNA Data Bank (p 2)
  5. Female Guards Can Pat Search Male Prisoners (p 3)
  6. Medical Care (p 3)
  7. From The Editor (p 3)
  8. Prisoner Victims of Guard Assault Win Damages (p 3)
  9. Prisoner With AIDS Care Found Lacking (p 4)
  10. Mere "Institutional Security" Claim Not Enough (p 5)
  11. Crime and Revolution, Prisons Don't Work (p 5)
  12. Life Without Parole Okayed for 13-Year Old Killer (p 5)
  13. Still Not the Hilton (p 6)
  14. Reviews (p 6)
  15. Biden: Violence Is At a New High (p 7)
  16. Human Rights in the U.S. Criminal Justice System (p 7)
  17. New Report Cites Higher Rates of HIV Infection Among Inmates (p 7)
  18. Puppets on Strings of Oppression (p 8)
  19. Aftermath MANCI Control Unit & Perotti Update (p 9)
  20. Inhumane Living at CCI (p 9)
  21. Pro-War Hypocrisy (p 9)

Civil Commitment Roasted on ABC's Nightline

By Dan Pens

I had gotten word through the grape vine that Nightline was going to do a show on the Washington civil commitment law. So I stayed up several nights in a row to check it out. The plight of the Kurdish refugees seemed to be the dominant story all week long. Then, on Friday night, April 26th, the roving spotlight of Nightline focused its beam on Washington's civil commitment (witch trial) proceedings.

The first ten minutes of the show was a filmed background report. It was a fairly typical TV news report... long on visual images and soundbites, short on fact or substance. There were clips of the victim's lobby talking about the need to lock up the sex-fiend monsters. They showed footage of one such miserable creature being dragged away from his civil commitment "trial." Governor Gardner was shown signing the law arid proselytizing about the need to protect innocent victims. The TV reporter did his commentary while standing in front of a fence bristling with razor-wire. What news story about prison would be complete without the bristling razor-wire shot? In short, the background report was about what you'd expect from the bourgeois media ...

Which Shell is the Pea Under? Government Crime Statistics Invoke Slight of Hand

The U.S. Justice Department claims a "definite and positive" link between locking people up and violent crime rates in the United States. As more offenders go to prison, the argument goes, violent crime decreases.

It seems there was a 17% decrease in the nation's imprisonment rate during the 1960s, but in the 1970 and 1980s the imprisonment rate increased by 39% and 99%, respectively. Conversely, the Justice Department argues, there was a .100% increase in violent crime in the 1960s, but decreases in the growth rate during the next two decades - down 47% in the 1970s and down 11 %n in the '80s. Thus, it is contended, the large increase in prison populations during the '70s and'80s worked to lower the rate of increase in violent crime. The conclusion, of course, being the need to continue prison expansion.

Bolstered by such sound logic, the current administration has made the building of more prisons a key part of its anti-crime program. The Department of justice's 1992 budget allocates $2,159,640,000 to the federal prison system, and 24.4% increase over 1991. The federal prison population was about 25,000 in 1981, is about 60,000 ...

Mail to Public Officials and Media Protected

Mail To Public Officials And Media Protected

The New Jersey Department of Corrections had a regulation that prevented them from opening outgoing "legal correspondence," but allowed prison officials to open,-read; and censor mail being sent to public officials, government agencies and media representatives. Prisoners challenged the rule in state courts, arguing that such mail should be treated as privileged "legal correspondence."

The New Jersey Supreme Court agreed with the prisoners. While such mail could contain dangerous material such as escape plans, plans relating to ongoing criminal activity and threats of blackmail or extortion, the court went on to hold "that threat is minimal when we consider the proposed audience: legitimate public officials, government agencies, and members of the media."

Against such "minimal security risks;" the court concluded, "rests the significant free speech rights of inmates" to communicate personal grievances concerning the institution, conditions of confinement and unlawful activity. The court therefore ordered that the rules on outgoing mail be amended to treat mail to those recipients from inmates as privileged mail. In re Rules Regarding Inmate Mail, 120 NJ. 137, 576 A.2d 274 (1990).

[Editor's Note: Washington's Administrative Code (WAC), section 137-48, defines outgoing mail to ...

Court Upholds Collection of Blood Samples for DNA Data Bank

A federal court has affirmed a Virginia policy of collecting DNA samples from incarcerated felons, saving the practice does not violate the inmates' right to privacy or constitute unreasonable search of seizure. The ruling is believed to be the first in the nation in a case challenging a state's mandatory collection of DNA samples.

Virginia last summer began taking blood samples from all inmates convicted of felonies, intended to establish a DNA criminal data bank, similar to the FBI's fingerprint files. At least 10 other states have similar laws, but most call for collection of DNA samples only from certain categories of offenders, mainly sex offenders.

U.S. District Judge James C. Turk ruled March 4 that the state has a "special law enforcement need" for the DNA samples, citing high recidivism rates among felons. (The higher the recidivism rate, the more likely DNA taken from a blood stain or other evidence at a crime scene would turn up a "match" from a DNA data bank of former prison inmates.) A computerized data bank with DNA profiles of offenders could deter crimes or help in the capture of suspects, Judge Turk said.

The judge ruled that the DNA ...

Female Guards Can Pat Search Male Prisoners

Prisoners at a Nebraska state all-male prison brought a civil rights lawsuit complaining that their constitutional right to privacy was violated by pat searches performed by female guards and by female guards observing them nude or partially nude while they showered, used toilet facilities, dressed and undressed, and slept. They also asserted that the provision of greater privacy protection to female inmates at Nebraska state prisons violated their right to equal protection.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit rejected the claims. It held that allowing female guards to pat search male prisoners on the same basis as male guards was a reasonable practice as applied in the Nebraska state penitentiary and did not violate any privacy interest which prisoners retained. The pat searches were performed in a professional manner that did not include an instruction to deliberately search inmates' genital and anal areas, although incidental touching might take place. Any privacy rights retained by the inmates, the court held, were outbalanced by the internal security needs of the prison and the legitimate equal employment rights of female guards.

The court also said that treating male inmates differently than female prisoners as to privacy did not violate ...

Medical Care

A former federal prisoner with diabetes was awarded $500,000 for failure to prison medical staff to provide proper diagnosis and treatment of foot infection which let to below-the-knee amputation of his right leg. The prisoner brought suit against the U.S. pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 ...

From The Editor

By Paul Wright

Welcome to another issue of PLN. As I write this I don't know how successful our plea for donations in the last PLN was. Hopefully everyone who hadn't donated yet was overcome with a spirit of generosity.

In an attempt to avoid having to ask for money each issue we are hoping to acquire institutional subscribers to PLN. From now on PLN will be available to institutions such as companies, agencies, libraries, law libraries, etc. for the low rate of $60.00 a year.

To do this we need help from our prison readers and those who are employed by agencies that have some input into what publications are subscribed to. If you like PLN and think others would benefit from reading it, take this issue of PLN to the librarian or person responsible for ordering subscriptions at that facility and encourage them to subscribe to PLN at our institutional rate.

This will accomplish two things. First, it will make PLN available to a wider body of readers than it is now, and secondly, if we can sell just 24 institutional subscriptions we can publish PLN at our current rate for a year with no ...

Prisoner Victims of Guard Assault Win Damages

Prisoner Victims Of Guard Assault Win Damages

Ten prisoners in the D.C. jail learned they were being transferred to another facility. A number of the inmates passively resisted the transfer. They alleged that after the transfer, they were beaten by correctional officers. None of the inmates were placed in ...

Prisoner With AIDS Care Found Lacking

The national commission on AIDS has concluded a study of AIDS in prisons and jails with the finding that "the situation today for many prisoners living with [the AIDS] disease is nothing if not 'cruel and unusual.'"

After visiting prisons, holding a fact-finding hearing, and gathering other information, the 15-member findings commission said, "The finds were sobering and troubling .... Prisoners with HIV disease are often subject to automatic segregation from the rest of the prison community, despite the fact there is no public health basis for this practice. Lack of education of both inmates and staff creates fear and discrimination ... and unjust policies directed toward inmates living with HIV disease. Despite high rates of HIV infection [among prisoners] and an ideal opportunity for prevention and education efforts, former prisoners are re-entering their communities with little or no added knowledge about HIV disease and how to prevent it," the commission said.

The Commission, whose members were appointed by the President and Congress, recommended that the U.S. Public Health Service develop guidelines for treatment and prevention of HIV disease in all federal, state, and local correctional facilities. Adequate health care should include, at a minimum, access to HIV testing, regular examinations ...

Mere "Institutional Security" Claim Not Enough

Mere "Institutional Security" Claim Not Enough

A former prisoner of the Nevada State Prison brought a federal civil rights complaint against guards claiming that his fourth, eighth and fourteenth amendment rights were violated. He contended the violation occurred when guards forced him to submit to a blood test, supposedly in connections with an AIDS test, by threatening to shoot him with "taser" guns.

The trial court dismissed the complaint and the prisoner appealed. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that the guards offered "no evidence that the AIDS test, if such was the purpose of the blood sampling," was "reasonably related to legitimate penological interests."

The prisoner alleged that each inmate had been already screened for AIDS upon entering the prison, and that prison officials knew that no prisoners-had AIDS at the time the samples were taken. The defendant prison officials did not contest these allegations. The prisoner also claimed that the blood samples were collected in order to help train medical personnel in the administering of AIDS tests.

"Without a further explanation [of the reasons for the test], general protestations of concern for the welfare of the citizens of Nevada and the prison ...

Crime and Revolution, Prisons Don't Work

Crime And Revolution, Prisons Don't Work

Edited from MIM notes

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. government, the United States is number one in the world - number one in imprisonment.

More people are in prison and jail in the United States than in any other country.

More than one million people incarcerated makes for 426 per 100,000 residents as of June 30,1989. South Africa came in second with 333 and the Soviet Union came in third with 268.

In Europe the figures range from 35 to 120 per 100,000. Asian countries range from 21 to 140.

For Black males the figure is 3,109 in the United States and 729 for South Africa.

Since 1980 the nation has doubled its prison population, but overall crime fell 3.5 percent. Meanwhile, the United States spends $16 billion a year imprisoning people.

No this article is not from the twilight zone. The figures come from the U.S. government.

What comrades should learn from this is that once again the criminal justice system is not a solution to any problem. It can't stop crime. It's only bologna to say that putting ...

Life Without Parole Okayed for 13-Year Old Killer

On April 15 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to overturn a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for a Washington state 13-year old boy convicted of murder. The state courts had held that the sentence did not violate the eighth amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

The case involved Barry Massey, convicted of killing a Tacoma marina owner during a robbery. He was 13 at the time, and accompanied by a 15-year old with a criminal record who allegedly orchestrated the killing. Massey sufferers from a learning disability, had a thirdgrade reading level, and a borderline IQ of 77, and had never been in trouble with the law before his arrest on murder charges.

Massey's attorney wrote that: "One cannot know with any degree of reasonable probability that your of such tender age cannot be rehabilitated."

Still Not the Hilton

Still Not The Hilton

From: Out Of Time 2/91

The Bureau of Prison's (BOP) 'mission' to isolate, hide and break the spirit of women political prisoners (a la Lexington High Security Unit, Lexington, KY 198688) continues at Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) Marianna in Florida. The tactics, environment, and locale have changed. The name of the game is still isolation; the goal is creating passive, idle women. Currently Silvia Baraldini, Marilyn Buck and Susan Rosenberg are incarcerated in this, the newest maximum security prison for women.

Marianna is a small, rural community in the Florida Panhandle. It is 75 miles from Tallahassee, quite a distance to major air transportation and there's no public bus service to the prison. Thus .the expense to visit women inmates is great. The result is obvious: family and friends can't get there, little visiting takes place and the feelings of isolation are increased.

Internally the women are isolated from one another. Each cell has its own T.V. There's no large outdoor field so no team sports. Educational programs are via video cassettes. Women don't participate together in educational or cultural programs. No communal activities means no collective sense and ...

Reviews

World View is the quarterly publication of the Political Prisoners Rights Campaign. The spring 1991 issue is 16 81/2x11 pages and contains articles on western military intervention in the USSR; a response to Amnesty International criticizing that organization for a pro US/UK bias (for example, Al. has not criticized the British occupation of Northern Ireland with it's death squads, torture, lack of civil rights, etc.) and it's policy of not supporting political prisoners who have advocated the use of violence such as Nelson Mandela; there is an excellent article on the Basque independence struggle and an article on international law and political prisoners. This is highly recommended for anyone interested in political prisoners. For information write: Political Prisoners Rights Campaign, B.M. Box 2300, London WCIN 3XX, England

MIM Notes is the monthly journal of the Maoist International Movement. Each issue has at least one page devoted to prison struggle. MIM also has a listing of books on political and economic theory that are available to prisoners. Write: MIM Distributors, P.O. Box 3765, Ann Arbor, MI 48106.

Biden: Violence Is At a New High

Biden: Violence Is At A New High

Last year was "the bloodiest year in the United States history," with the murder toll jumping to an all-time high of 23,200, and rapes, robberies and assaults also reaching record levels, according to a report released by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

The "epidemic of violent crime sweeping the nation" has damaged the credibility of the justice system, the report said. "Indeed, all elements of out criminal justice system are approaching collapse ....The nation's state and local law enforcement officers are out-gunned, under-manned, and ill-equipped ....The backlog of criminal cases before the nation's courts is crippling the nation's prisons and jails are filled well beyond the capacity they are designed and staffed to handle ....And the juvenile corrections system is falling apart."

The study, based on preliminary FBI Uniform Crime Report figures for 1990 and other justice Department data, was prepared by the Democratic majority staff of the judiciary Committee. It was issued as Senator Biden introduced his omnibus anti-crime legislation.

The report offers and unusually grim view of crime and criminal justice in the United States. The "record carnage" of 1990 is "terrifying" compared even ...

Human Rights in the U.S. Criminal Justice System

Human Rights In The U.S. Criminal Justice System

by Equal Justice U.S.A.

In addition to it's current use and expansion of the death penalty, the United States enters the 1990's with the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Over one million of our sisters and brothers are behind bars in state, county and federal jails and prisons. Statistics show that very disproportionate numbers of poor and minorities - and, increasingly, those who work in solidarity with them - fill these institutions. A hard and honest look at the demographics of the prison population clearly shows that such systemic biases deeply permeate our criminal justice system -a system promising "equal justice for all." We have identified the primary biases as:

Economic Bias: The majority of prisoners are unemployed or underemployed when they are arrested. One study found that 71 % of those incarcerated earned less than $10,000 a year. Most are illiterate. Not surprisingly, two-thirds of all prisoners are serving time for property (i.e. economic) crime. And, while only 26% of wealthy defendants serve prison time, 53% of poor defendants are incarcerated. Further, poor people are much more likely to receive a death sentence. While the ...

New Report Cites Higher Rates of HIV Infection Among Inmates

The virus that causes AIDS may be more common among prison and jail inmates, especially women, than previously thought, according to a new study based on testing of nearly 11,000 inmates entering 10 prisons and jails between mid-1988 and mid-1989. The study, conducted by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control, found that rates of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection ranged from 2.1 percent to 7.6 percent for male inmates, and 2.5 percent to 14.7 percent among females.

A variety of earlier studies have indicated HIV infection rates as high as 17.4 percent among inmates from the New York City area, but far lower rates elsewhere. The names of the prisons and jails in the new study were not released, but they were said to represent all areas of the country. The findings were reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

At nine of the 10 correctional facilities, women had higher rates of HIV infection than men. The difference was greatest among prisoners under age 25, with 5.2 percent of women in that age group testing positive, compared to 2.3 percent of the men ...

Puppets on Strings of Oppression

Puppets On Strings Of Oppression

By Christofer Kneech

All of you came to prison because society did not enjoy your behavior and actions, whether they condemned such actions to be criminal when they may or may have been, but you all have a common relation which is that you are prisoners in confinement, being insulted, beatened, maced, kicked, assaulted and basically oppressed by your hosts: PRISONCRATS.

I would think that a person would truly come to find that such behavior modifying techniques cause pain, both mentally and physically and that they would rather avoid such treatment instead of recommending it.

But it seems this isn't the case, at least not in Ohio prisons. Here, we are "honored" with puppets who aid such inhumane treatment by fighting their fellow comrades, or joining forces with the puppeteers as a Inmate Organized Crime Bureau Investigator (IOCBI) and snitching and bringing the police to your cell. These are the people who try and intimidate fellow comrades by saying such ludicrous statements as "You can't beat the system" or " There's no use in standing up'cause you can't win." This transmissible disease seems to have spread to the vast majority of ...

Aftermath MANCI Control Unit & Perotti Update

Numerous organizations inquired into the beatings of six prisoners in the AC Control Unit at Mansfield, Ohio prison by 35 guards. The Cleveland ACLU has requested a written explanation and investigation into the matter. A civil rights complaint was filed by a free world citizen with the U.S. Department of Justice charging prisoncrats with violating the prisoners' rights. An investigation is ensuing. We urge citizens to lodge civil rights complaints with the U.S. Department of justice each time prisoners are brutalized by prison guards. In wake of the brutal beating inflicted upon Rodney King by the LAPD, and investigation by the U.S. Department of justice into a pattern and practice of brutality, we must demand the same investigation into the pattern and practice of brutality in our gulags. When a citizen lodges a complaint with the Department of Justice, they are more apt to investigate than when a prisoner does so. Therefore, we urge all families and friends of prisoners to lodge complaints with the Department of justice whenever a prisoners rights are violated.

On March 1,1991, Linda Leisure ended her fast at the urging of John Perotti. On April 19, 1991, two prisoncrats from the ...

Inhumane Living at CCI

Inhumane Living At CCI

By Angelo Crimi

CHILLICOTHE, OHIO - Prisoners at Chillicothe Correctional Institution (CCI) confined in the segregation unit are constantly subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.

Prisoners are confined to a building that is over 100 years old and the penalogical practice it was built for is inadequate for 20th century correctional purposes, subjected prisoners to cruel and unusual punishment. The plumbing is as old at the building and only cold water is available in the cells.

On A-Range none of the 18 cells have a flushing mechanisms. The flushing is controlled by guards and as a result of this practice prisoners are subjected to smelling their earlier emitted urine and feces while they sleep and eat. This is denying them equal protection of the law and subjecting them to more cruel and unusual punishment.

When prisoners are placed in "Strip Cells" they are denied toothbrushes, soap and other items necessary to maintain their personal hygiene. This violates institutional policies.

The cells are infested with roaches, ants, rodents (rats and mice) and other insects as well as bird droppings. At times the prisoners foods is sprayed with dangerous chemicals (roach spray) and they are forced to eat it ...

Pro-War Hypocrisy

By Paul Wright

In early March of this year I received a T-shirt that said "official WWI souvenir, brought to you by ITT Rockwell, General Electric, et al." With a small U.S. flag with a skull and crossbones on it.

Property guard L. Marts denied the T-shirt saying it "depicted violence."

I appealed the denial to Superintendent Neal Brown who weaseled around the censorship question and told me to appeal it to Larry Kincheloe, the Director of Prisons.

After appealing it to Kincheloe he replied by stating he was rubberstamping Brown's decision to deny me the shirt because "it is reasonably believed it will cause or incite violence." As the reason changes from the initial denial to the appeal and the buck is passed.

While anti-war T-shirts and messages are deemed conducive to "violence," prison employees are running around with U.S. flags, yellow ribbons, etc., on their shirts saying "We Support Our Troops" and the hearings officer has a poster on his office window with helicopter gunships saying "We Support Our Troops and God Bless America." So apparently the warden and director of prisons find pro-war sloganeering to be fine but anyone that disagrees with
their jingoistic ...

 

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