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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: September, 1991

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Volume 2, Number 9

In this issue:

  1. Remembering Attica: Twenty Years Later (p 1)
  2. The Rich Get Richer (p 3)
  3. Prisoners Are Entitled to Recovery For Underpayment of Wages (p 3)
  4. Women Prisoners Entitled to Equal Education (p 4)
  5. The Class Implications of Prisoner Rights Litigation (p 4)
  6. Supreme Court Slams Conditions Case (p 5)
  7. Group Cites Shift from Education to Prisons (p 5)
  8. Prison/Community Alliance Update (p 5)
  9. Editorial (p 6)
  10. Prison Discrimination Illegal (p 6)
  11. CBCC Mail Suit Filed (p 7)
  12. Families Against Mandatory Minimums (p 7)
  13. State and Federal SRA Parole Systems Similar (p 7)
  14. Why Do Legal Work? (p 7)
  15. Racial Discrimination at Raiford (p 8)
  16. More Racism in Florida's Slammers (p 8)
  17. Resistance at Pelican Bay Gulag (p 8)
  18. View From Italy (p 9)
  19. Prison Education (p 9)
  20. 24-Hour Cell Lights (p 9)

Remembering Attica: Twenty Years Later

By Ed Mead

On September 13, 1978, prisoners at Walla Walla celebrated Attica Day by holding a sparsely attended memorial talent show in the prison's auditorium. On September 13, 1979, the Washington Coalition Against Prisons (WaCAP) braved heavy rain to stage a rally in Olympia to protest overcrowding and other oppressive aspects of Washington's prison system. On September 13, 1980, the annual Attica Day event in Washington state took the form of a conference in Seattle on prison work. There has not been an Attica Day celebration in this state since.

This September 13th marks the 20th anniversary of the Attica uprising. It is a good time for prisoners to ask "Why an Attica Day?" There are several good reasons. First, it is important for prisoners still working for progress to honor their comrades who have fallen in the struggle for justice. Secondly, it is essential for us on the inside to understand the lessons of Attica, both positive and negative, so that such loses can be minimized in the future. Thirdly, the uprising at Attica represents a symbol of resistance and the birth of greater prisoners' movement.

To appreciate the events at Attica it is first necessary ...

The Rich Get Richer

The Rich Get Richer...

The North American working class is now ninth in the world in terms of wages and benefits, and continues to decline. At this point the earnings of the U.S. working class have been driven back to what they were in the mid-1960s.

More than 60 million people in the U.S., nearly one-quarter of the population, live in poverty and are struggling day to day. By contrast, a tiny traction of the population controls enormous wealth. The median net worth of the top 1 percent of households is 22 times greater than the median net worth of the remaining 99 percent of households. The median net financial assets of the top 1 percent of households is 237 times greater than the median net 8nancial assets of the other 99 percent of the population. That 1 percent owns 90 percent of outstanding stock shares.

The wealth of the richest 5 percent of the population increased by 37.3 percent from 1977 to 1988. The wealth of the richest 1 percent increased by 74.2 percent. At the same time, the number of people in poverty increased by one-third.

Prisoners Are Entitled to Recovery For Underpayment of Wages

Prisoners Are Entitled To Recovery For Underpayment Of Wages

By Mark Cook, Leavenworth, Kansas

There are over one Million prisoners in the United States, yet we are not counted as part of the US statistical labor force. It is in the interest of those politicians in office who claim their political regime has improved the US economy not to let the public realize that the unemployment rate in the US is one percent higher than presently reported and steadily rising. It would not be good politics to publish that a method of reducing the unemployment rate is to imprison as many laborers as possible.

Prisoners are included as employees under the federal Fair Labors Standards Act (FLSA). In section 13 of the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. 213 (1982), Congress has set forth an extensive list of workers who are exempted expressly from FLSA coverage. The category of "prisoners" is not on that list See Carter v. Dutchess Community College, 735 F.2d 813 (2 Cir. 1984) and Woodall v. Partilla 581 F.Supp 1066 (N.D.Ill.E.D. 1984).

This means prisoners, contrary to common belief, are entitled to minimum wages as well as fair labor practices and ...

Women Prisoners Entitled to Equal Education

Women Prisoners Entitled To Equal Education

Glover v. Johnson, 934 F.2d 703 (6th Cir. 1991) is a class action suit originally filed in 1978 by female Michigan state prisoners claiming violation of their right to equal protection because they were not provided with educational vocational training programs comparable to those of male prisoners. The case has wound its way up and down the courts ever since and the lower court had found in 1981 that the womens right to equal protection had in fact been denied and ordered the appropriate relief. The instant case here is an appeal by the Michigan DOC defendants after being found in contempt by the district court for failing to comply with it's previous orders mandating equal education access for female prisoners.

On appeal the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Court of Appeals held that the district court had abused it's discretion in finding the DOC in contempt for not implementing work pass and vocational programming as these were not included in the lower court's final order in 1981.

The Court of Appeals upheld the civil contempt finding for the defendants disobeying previous ...

The Class Implications of Prisoner Rights Litigation

The Class Implications Of Prisoner Rights Litigation

Compiled by Ed Mead

Today the most reactionary and violent faction of the ruling class controls the government. These right-wing conservatives ignore the root causes of crime and instead seek to scapegoat prisoners and the poor for all sorts of social ills. And, as can be seen by recent Supreme Court rulings, they express a special disdain for prisoner litigation and those who initiate it.

The radical chic of prison involvement peaked in the 1970s and has been in decline ever since. It will not return until there is once again a thriving progressive social Involvement on the outside. That may be as much as a decade or more away.

We prisoners are essentially alone, possess little power or influence, and are virtual slaves of the state. Prisoners lack even the pretense of political franchise (the vote) or other basic democratic rights. The means by which we can expand democracy, improve conditions, or reduce physical abuses are few.

Since our isolation is so nearly complete, our weapons few; the choice for many of those with a budding political awareness is essentially one be between self-destructive resistance or passive submission to increasingly intolerable conditions ...

Supreme Court Slams Conditions Case

Just before finishing its last session, the United States Supreme Court handed down a ruling making it more difficult for prisoners to challenge the constitutionality of prison conditions. The five to four decision held that prisoners must prove that prison officials not merely maintained inadequate facilities, but deliberately did so.

The court's reasoning was that under the eighth amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment it isn't enough to prove that prison conditions are below minimum standards. A prisoner must also show that these inadequate conditions were the result of "deliberate indifference."

The case involved a lawsuit filed by, an Ohio inmate who alleged a broad range of inadequate prison conditions, including overcrowding; poor heating, cooling and ventilation; unsanitary restrooms and dining facilities; and housing with mentally ill and physically sick inmates. The practical effect of the ruling, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, is that prison officials can avoid liability for, all these practices by saying they lack the funds to improve the conditions and can't obtain more state money.

The dissenting opinion, written by Justice Byron White, and joined by Justices Thurgood Marshall, Harry Balckmun and John Stevens, was less optimistic. The dissent said it ...

Group Cites Shift from Education to Prisons

Group Cites Shift From Education To Prisons

The criminal justice system is "stealing" dollars away from public education, according to a study by the national Center on Institutions and Alternatives (NCIA), an Alexandria, Virginia-based criminal justice research organization. "We're trading textbooks for prison cells," a NCIA representative said in releasing the report. "But the more money we throw at the criminal justice system, the more it fails."

American cities now spend 20 percent more on law enforcement than on education, NCIA found. In 1968-69, city spending per capita for criminal justice was $27, compared to $34 for education. By 1988-89, the priorities had reversed; cities spend $130 per capita on criminal justice, and $106 for education.

A similar situation was found at the county level, where criminal justice overtook education in appropriations in 1982. By 1988, the gap had grown to 52 billion; criminal justice funding exceeded education funding by approximately 12 percent.

At the federal level, the government cut its aid to education by more than 35 percent between 1979 and 1989, while increasing its criminal justice spending by 29 percent in constant (inflation-adjusted) dollars, NCIA said.

The study was based on figures from the U.S Bureau ...

Prison/Community Alliance Update

By Carrie Roth

I received a copy of the June 24, 1991 indeterminate Sentence Review Board (ISRB) minutes today and in it is another example of the ISRBs' inability to adequately perform their duties. In the minutes is a short paragraph which states, "Ms. Bail sent a memorandum to Chase Riveland regarding the admission of indeterminate offenders to the Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP) and the criteria for admission.' She received a follow-up letter from the Director of that program which would lead one to believe the indeterminate offenders are eligible and the Board can refer inmates or encourage them to volunteer. This information is contrary to what we have been told before. Therefore, Ms. Bail has asked for clarification from Dr. Schwartz and Mr. Cedeno."

I need to give you some background. I became aware in late 1988 that pre-July 1, 1987 offenders were being denied admission to SOTP solely because of the date of their offense. The law was written mandating treatment to those offenders who committed after DSHS turned over treatment to the DOC. The first Sentencing Guidelines Commission meeting I attended was in late 1988 or early 1989. I stated to the Commission members that pre-July ...


Editorial Comments

By Ed Mead

Welcome to yet another edition of the PLN. In this issue I have an article on the class implications of prisoner rights litigation. It was written in response to one of many letters we get from readers asking about the politics of doing legal work from the inside. Some feel legal work is a useless and dead end form of activity. (See the letter from L.F. at Dwight Women's Prison in this issue's Letters Page.) When Paul and I write about issues of class it is usually not merely to talk politics from a soapbox, but rather to answer the real questions that emerge around people's day-to-day practice on the inside. If you have comments, either on Lisa's letter or my article on class and law, pass them on to us. These are the kinds of discussions that make for a lively newsletter.

What does not make for good reading, though, is our constant calls for you to dig into your pockets for more money to support the work we are doing. We pay as much as 69 cents an issue to get each copy of the PLN into your ...

Prison Discrimination Illegal

Mark Labounty, a black New York state prisoner fled suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming violation of his Eight amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and his right to equal protection of the law because he was denied work as a prison electrician while white prisoners were not. Labounty also claimed that no black prisoner had been allowed to work as an electrician in over ten years at Greenhaven prison. The district court dismissed the suit upon defendants motion as being "frivolous."

The Court of Appeals reversed in part and remanded the case finding that if he can prove his discrimination claim Labounty is entitled to relief. The Court of Appeals upheld dismissal of the 8th Amendment claim finding no "punishment" was involved. See Labounty v. Adler, 933 F.2d 121 (2nd Cir.1991)

CBCC Mail Suit Filed

By Paul Wright

In May of 1991 CBCC mailroom staff here began a practice of rejecting without notice to the prisoner or the sender or an opportunity to appeal all mail that arrived without the prisoners DOC number on it. No notice of any type was given of this practice and it was applied to all CBCC prisoners. Among my mail rejected was my draft copy of PLN for the June 1991 issue which led to a delay in it's editing and other letters and magazine subscriptions.

In June of 1991 I filed suit in U.S. District Court in Seattle claiming violation of my First Amendment rights to free speech and communication in the mail being rejected and violation of my right to due process of law where the mail was rejected with no notice to me or any opportunity to appeal the rejection which is specifically mandated by WAC, DOC and CBCC policies as well as the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Procunier v. Martinez.

Sued as defendants in the action are mailroom sergeant Abe Clark, mailroom employee Joan Smith, Grievance Coordinator Mark Crewson Superintendent Neil Brown and Associate Superintendent Bob Shaw. Right now the case ...

Families Against Mandatory Minimums

FAMM is a nationwide organization of citizens working for the repeal of statutory mandatory minimum sentences. Its members consist of prisoners, their families and loved ones, lawyers and civil rights activists. Mandatory minimum sentences are sentences which must be served with no possibility of parole or early release and which give the prosecutor enormous power in deciding what charges to press. First time offenders are heavily impacted by these sentences.

FAMM is gathering information about outrageous sentences imposed because of mandatory minimums. They have an information packet and membership form (membership is free) available upon request. In view of the Supreme Court recently upholding a Michigan law that requires life without parole for anyone caught with over 650 grams of cocaine or heroin, and a number of laws with mandatory minimums recently passed by Congress, there is a need to stop and limit these practices.

For more information write:

2000 "L" St. N.W., Suite 702
Washington D.C. 20036

or call (202) 833-FAMM.

State and Federal SRA Parole Systems Similar

I find the articles in PLN dealing with Washington state's dual sentencing procedure interesting and thought provoking because the federal system is going through something worse. There are at least four sentencing procedures going on here. The oldest is for those prisoners sentenced under the Board of Paroles Act, which was repealed in 1976. Parole under that Act is supposed to be based, in part, on rehabilitation. The Parole Commission Act, which replaced the Board of Paroles, follows a discretionary system of guidelines. The latest system is the federal SRA, where prisoners (defendants) are sentenced by the court as Washington state SRA defendants are sentenced. But in the federal system, old law prisoners get none of the benefits of the new law nor are we given any non-discretionary dates.

The fourth class of convict is the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) prisoners. They haven't committed any crimes in the U.S. Their "paroles" are more iffy than that of U.S. prisoners.

The U.S. Parole Commission was supposed to be abolished in 1987, but they got a five year extension until November of 1992. Another five year extension was granted recently so they'll be in business ...

Why Do Legal Work?

Dwight Correctional Center is served educationally by Lewis University, " A Christian Brothers University." Lewis University offers courses entitled Paralegal I and II (16 weeks each), which I have decided to take. According to Lewis University, "the primary purpose of this course is to train inmate law library clerks to possess a level of skill and general knowledge in legal research and writing. The student will develop a knowledge of the specific areas of substantive and procedural law in which they are most likely to assist other inmates who use the institutional law library."

I doubt, for various reasons, that I will become a law library clerk, but aside from that, I still had mixed emotions about originally signing up for the course. I believe that one must like to practice a skill before one can do it well, and I am not fond of the law. In fact, I despise the current lawmaking process, and have nothing but contempt for the current legal system. Would I, then, make an effective paralegal?

You may ask, "Why, then, bother to take the course!" I'm taking it because to better understand how this system works, and to impart that understanding to those ...

Racial Discrimination at Raiford

Racial Discrimination At Raiford

The prison population at gulag Union Correctional Institution (UCI) in Raiford, Florida, borders on 1,500 captives. The population is made up of approximately 800 Blacks (55%), 675 Whites (43%), and 120 Hispanics (7%).

Under the compulsory slave labor theme of the thirteenth amendment, prisoners in Florida are compelled to work for the state. At UCI job classification is a systematically racial placement. Black and other non-white prisoners are selected and placed in undesirable jobs (poorly managed, supervised and operated), like food service, the laundry, inside grounds, and horticulture. While white prisoners predominate in desirable jobs, such as dental laboratory, maintenance, machine shop, general supplies, radio/television repair, electronics, carpentry, air conditioning, and vocational classes. Here is a racial breakdown of UCI job assignments:

Food Service: Blacks 100, Whites 7, Hispanics 15

Laundry: Blacks 75, Whites 20, Hispanics 5

Inside Grounds: Blacks 50, Whites 15, Hispanics 7

Horticulture: Blacks 47, Whites 13, Hispanics 4

Janitorial services, housing areas, administration building, school, and the recreation yard make up the remaining jobs, which are predominantly made up of Black and Hispanic prisoners.

We feel that this is a colorable claim under 42 U.S.C. section 1983 civil ...

More Racism in Florida's Slammers

More Racism In Florida's Slammers

I have recently heard of the PLN and at this time I will share some headlines of the legalized slavery here at Martin Correctional Institution. There are serious racial problems at MCI within the administration and continuous harassment and brutality by correctional officers. The most flagrant problems at MCI can be defined within two categories. The negative attitude exhibited by guards towards the inmates in their charge, and the failure to provide adequate resources. Racism permeates the atmosphere at MCI. It surfaces daily in racist acts against inmates; derisive racial remarks, threats, and other forms of harassment by correctional officials abound.

Although racism and its manifestations defy easy categorization, they cannot be ignored. Close management, for example, is dominated with Black inmates who have been deprived of the right of going before the review board as required by the rules; cannot earn gain time; no rehabilitative programs; no physical access to the law library; no proper outdoor exercise; cannot play chess; checkers, cards; or smoke on the recreation yard, etc. Caucasian inmates are having a hard time to be placed in close management status and easier for them to be put on CM2 or ...

Resistance at Pelican Bay Gulag

Resistance At Pelican Bay Gulag

Greetings from the Control Unit in California's Pelican Bay state prison. I am litigating a civil rights act lawsuit 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983, due to being forcibly double celled here. The case is Fetters v. Marshall, N.D. Cal. Case No. C-91 -0633. Correctional personnel here at Pelican Bay tend to harass and play psychological mind games with prisoners. I filed an administrative grievance on mental domination/resistance breaking tactics being used on prisoners here. I drew a parallel with Stammheim Prison in Germany and the tactics used to violate the United Nation's Declaration of Human Rights guarantees of the RAF. It was denied, of course. I made a draft of Biderman's chart of coercion and put it in as an exhibit in the appeal. I focused on isolation, threats and degradation issues experienced in this gulag. Due to people who have gone before me and given all to the struggle, I am proud to continue my battle against oppression here in California's Department of Corrections. The resistance will not stop.

T.R.F., Crescent City, CA

View From Italy

The U.S. prison system is one of the worst in the world: it is a means of mass oppression and control against the "minorities" (the people of the inside colony) and the proletarians - a perfect example of "class justice" as Marx said - and a specific means of destruction of the revolutionary people, those who oppose the system. So we can see the biggest prison system inside the richest economy of the world and the most sophisticated strategy of solitary confinement and sensory deprivation, such as Marion. And now imperialism benefits from the experiences of different countries in order to build a general counter insurgency strategy, of repression and maltreatment of it's social and political prisoners. Imperialism, and U.S. imperialism above all, all the times speaks out about "human rights standards, " yesterday denouncing the Soviet Union, today Cuba, but imperialism crushes peoples human rights every day and everywhere. Human rights standards is a class definition. Now the U.N. is a "democratic" covering in the hands of the U.S. and the other industrialized western countries, as the "watchdog" of capitalism against the people and proletarians of the world (look at the Palestinian people and Kurdish people, Iraq ...

Prison Education

As you know, the 9th Circuit ruled in Hernandez vs. Johnston (a case out of MICC) that we don't have a right to education or rehabilitation. My opinion is the that whole "school in prison" thing is a sham. The state could care less about education for prisoners. It's used as make-work to occupy people. Like here [Clallam Bay] Peninsula College is not even accredited! That means they can't offer degrees and credits won't transfer to a place that will.

Then there's the level of learning my high school classes were more challenging than this stuff I'm taking now. The state likes to pour money into stuff like video and computer stuff while the vast majority of prisoners lack basic literacy skills. I tutor the non-English speaking prisoners here and until recently there was no specialized ESL texts.

Nearly all of the materials being used in the literacy program is stuff that I've drawn up on my own. I've had to teach guys to read and write (the alphabet, their name, etc. from square one) with note cards I've made myself because there are no materials to do it with because ...

24-Hour Cell Lights

Prisoners confined in the oppressive and mentally debilitating environment of the Intensive Management Unit (IMU) at Walla Walla are being subjected to a highly effective form of sensory deprivation, a part of which being the lights in cells that are kept on 24 hours a day.

These lights, which just happen to be directly over the head of the bed, are kept on 24 hours a day. This is supposedly to enable the prison's watchdogs visual contact while making general rounds, and during count times. But this is just an excuse that masks a program of mental oppression. If the prison administration were not so preoccupied with surpassing the Hitler regime's technologies of mental torture they could simply order IMU guards to use flashlights for these count times, etc.

In reality, these lights are kept on in order to interrupt prisoners' natural sleeping patterns, thus said prisoners are kept continually tired, causing them to become less resistive and more passive prisoners.

The sickest result of this mental torture is that many of the 95 or so prisoners being held in the W.S.P. IMU are being left no valid alternative than to turn to the institution's ...


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