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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: February, 1992

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Volume 3, Number 2

In this issue:

  1. Occupation Justice: The Israeli Treatment of Palestinians (p 1)
  2. Maximum Security Unit Prisoners Win Access Suit (p 2)
  3. Ex-Mayor Barry Having Sex in Visiting Room? (p 2)
  4. Plea for Help (p 2)
  5. Prisoner Can Receive Diploma in Mail (p 3)
  6. Access and Indigency Expanded (p 3)
  7. From the Editor (p 3)
  8. Typewriters for Prisoners (p 3)
  9. Denial of Personal Hygiene Items States Claims (p 4)
  10. Caring Captors? (p 4)
  11. Supreme Court Informers (p 4)
  12. Bush Campaign Silences Prisoner (p 4)
  13. Bibliography of Selected Prison Cases (p 4)
  14. The Capacity of Prison Overcrowding (p 5)
  15. Prison/Community Alliance Update (p 6)
  16. Reviews (p 6)
  17. Justice Dept. to Take Back Higher Inmate Limits (p 7)
  18. CBCC IMU Hungerstrike (p 8)
  19. Indiana Ad Seg Policy Does Not Create Liberty Interest (p 8)
  20. State May Retain Private Attorneys to Defend DOC (p 8)
  21. Prisoners Get Squeezed (p 9)
  22. Letter from China (p 9)
  23. Reply from Germany (p 9)
  24. Reply to: Guards, Victims or Villains? (p 9)

Occupation Justice: The Israeli Treatment of Palestinians

In February 1985 the Ramallah Military Court inflicted five years' imprisonment upon a 13-year old boy from Dheishe Refugee Camp, in the course of an "instant trial" lasting not more than one afternoon.

Following that trial, Jerusalem peace activists Gideon Spiro wrote letters to all three of the military judges involved, stating that "this trial made a mockery of any concept of justice, being reminiscent of the trials in the courts of dictatorial and tyrannical regimes" and wishing the judges' sleep to be nightly interrupted by nightmares reminding of the Palestinian child Ahed's experiences in the Israeli prison. The judicial system did not take kindly to this criticism; Spiro was prosecuted and sentenced (by a civilian court) to two months suspected imprisonment for "insulting a public official."

Three years later, at the beginning of the Intifada, "instant trials" became the rule at the military courts. Mass arrests were carried out by the army, and the High Command expected the military judges to help break the uprising by swiftly handing down the required number of "deterring" verdicts. It was at that time that Adv. Felicia Langer - well known since 1967 for her determined defense of Palestinians - decided to retire and ...

Maximum Security Unit Prisoners Win Access Suit

The U.S. District Court for Delaware ruled in favor of the inmates at the Delaware Correctional center's Maximum Security Unit (MSU). The prisoners claimed in a 1983 action that the law library services provided at the MSU facility were wholly inadequate. The security measures were oppressive, including the ...

Ex-Mayor Barry Having Sex in Visiting Room?

Ex-Mayor Barry Having Sex In Visiting Room?

From: Seattle Times, January 6, 1992

Washington - Former Washington Mayor Marion Barry denied an allegation published in The Washington Post that a woman performed oral sex on him in a prison visiting room in front of dozens of inmates and their families.

Barry, serving a six-month sentence in Petersburg, Va., federal prison on a misdemeanor conviction of cocaine possession, told local TV station WRC last night that the incident "did not happen."

He said the man who told The Post of the alleged incident, Floyd Robertson, made the charge in order to try to get in the good grace of prison authorities.

Plea for Help

Plea For Help

Demba Diop is a Mauritanian expatriate confined at the Rheinbach prison in Germany on fabricated charges. Demba is the only black prisoner of the 500 prisoners at Rheinbach. Demba has been an active participant of the FLAM (Forces de Liberation Africaine de Mauritanie) since the early 1970s and is identified as such by the Mauritanian government which rules under Islamic law.

Amnesty International has documented thousands of cases of political imprisonment, torture, murder and unfair trials of FLAM members by the Mauritanian government. (See: "Mauritania 1986-1989: Background to a Crisis of Three Years of Political Imprisonment, Torture and Unfair Trials" by Amnesty International, 1989.)Despite an appeal from Amnesty International and other human rights groups, the Mauritanian government continues these practices.

Prison officials in Germany have injected the AIDS virus into Demba after treatment for a thrombosis of his leg. He is now testing HIV positive and they refuse to provide him with any medication to bring the disease into remission. They are also attempting to deport him back to Mauritania where he faces execution by the Mauritanian government.

Demba does have two court appointed lawyers, listed below. We ask that you actively help Demba seek political ...

Prisoner Can Receive Diploma in Mail

Bobby Griffin is a Missouri state prisoner who graduated from a college paralegal course. Upon graduation the college mailed him his diploma and grade transcript. This was rejected by prison officials who claimed prison regulations prohibited prisoners from having original diplomas and transcripts to prevent forgeries by prisoners and instead gave Griffin photocopies and mailed the originals to his family. Griffin filed suit under § 1983 claiming violation of his First, Fourth and Fourteenth amendment rights.

The prison official defendants moved for summary judgement claiming prisoners have no federal rights to receive the original diploma and transcript when they are provided with a copy. They also moved for summary judgement on qualified immunity grounds. The district court denied both motions and on an appeal by the defendants the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed and remanded for trial.

The Court of Appeals held that Griffins right to receive his mail subject to valid mail regulations was well established and prison officials were not entitled to qualified immunity.

The Court held that the lower court was correct in finding issues of fact in dispute requiring a trial because Griffin had presented affidavits from numerous Missouri prisoners who had been allowed ...

Access and Indigency Expanded

Access And Indigency Expanded

A law library rule merely saying prisoners "shall be provided physical access to law library during assigned law library hours," when considered against the backdrop of uncontested allegations of inadequate access, was held not "to provide detailed guidelines to thwart arbitrariness." The court also struck down a prison policy on indigency that forced prisoners to chose between purchasing essential hygienic supplies and essential legal supplies. "This 'choice' is unacceptable," the court said. Summary judgement was granted to the prisoner petitioners on both the access and the indigency issues.

The district court went on to address other aspects of the right of prisoners' access to the courts, granting considerable relief to the plaintiff prisoners. One surprising aspect of this ruling is a requirement that law clerks receive training to be legal assistants. See, Gluth v. Kangas, 773 F.Supp. 1309 (D.AR 1991)

From the Editor

From The Editor

By Paul Wright

Welcome to another issue of PLN. We are pleased to report that we are now registered as a tax exempt educational corporation with the IRS. What this means is that we can take advantage of cheaper postage rates to mail PLN to you each month. This should cut our postage costs by about two-thirds. It also means that donations to PLN are also tax deductible for those of our readers that pay income taxes. Please contact us if you want to make a generous donation and write it off for tax purposes. We ask our readers to keep this in mind if you know of any companies or such who have a photocopier that they want to get rid of. With our tax exempt status we can accept a donation of a copier that can be written off as a donation for tax purposes by the donor. Our primary expenses in producing PLN are postage and printing. We have now cut our postage costs as far as we can, so if we can cut our printing costs we will extend the life of PLN.

Please check the mailing label on your issue of PLN ...

Typewriters for Prisoners

Typewriters For Prisoners

The Typewriters for Prisoners Project (funded by a grant from Resist) has a few more typewriters to donate to prisoners. Preferences are: 1. inside groups that are involved with education or organizing; 2. prisoners who are using typewriters to help a number of other people. Write and tell us about your project or work, and why you need a typewriter. Check with your mailroom and about regulations regarding the kind of typewriter you can receive and any special paperwork or shipping instructions.

Typewriters for Prisoners
c/o Prison Book/Redbook
92 Green Street
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130.

Denial of Personal Hygiene Items States Claims

Denial Of Personal Hygiene Items States Claims

A Kentucky state prisoner claimed that while he was held in a county jail he was denied personal hygiene items for two weeks which violated his Eighth amendment rights. He also claimed that jail officials refused to provide him with stamps, envelopes, writing materials and legal materials and an opportunity to call his lawyer and that this violated his right of access to the courts.

The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim because he failed to respond to the defendants motion to dismiss. The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuits reversed.

The Court of Appeals held that the district court had abused its discretion in dismissing the case. Specifically, the Court ruled that if Carver can prove he was denied personal hygiene items for two weeks then he is entitled to relief under the Eighth amendment.

The Court of Appeals went on to rule that a local court rule authorizing dismissal if a party did not respond was incompatible with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure where the moving party bears the burden of proving that they are entitled to have the case dismissed regardless of whether ...

Caring Captors?

By Robert Pierce

A recent issue of the Cincinnati Enquirer contained an article in which Mid-Western law enforcement officials were complaining about the increasing cost of providing health care to prisoners in county jails. One sheriff, Tim Bivins of Lee County, Illinois, had what he thought was an answer. He said: "I had a case where a guy needed heart surgery, and it was going to cost about $25,000. I went to the state's attorney and got the inmate released for time served. Two months later, I read his obituary.

Supreme Court Informers

The most recent (#39) issue of Covert Action Information Bulletin contains an interesting article by Alexander Charns titled "FBI Involvement in the Supreme Court." Mr. Charns is a lawyer who has written a book concerning the FBI and the American judiciary. In this article Charns notes that in the recent Thomas confirmation hearings the FBI apparently missed the allegations by Anita Hill of sexual harassment when they investigated Thomas. Charns notes the conflict of interest in having one executive branch agency charged with conducting "impartial" investigations for the senate when the president is their client:

In response to Freedom of Information Act requests by Charns, the FBI produced nearly 4,000 pages of documents on the Supreme Court and federal judiciary. They reveal that the FBI has used Supreme Court employees and Justice Fred Black as informants. The FBI also kept close tabs on those justices and judges perceived as being liberal, this included wiretaps and mail interceptions.

Apparently the separation between branches of the government is not too strong as Charns received "confidential" memos from J. Edgar Hoover's files which show that Supreme Court justice Abe Fortas was involved in leaking and discussing confidential court conferences involving pending ...

Bush Campaign Silences Prisoner

Brett Kimberlin is a federal prisoner serving time for drug and weapons charges. In November, 1988, a few days before the presidential elections, he was going to have a press conference where he was going to relate his account of having sold marijuana to now vice president Dan Quayle. Before he could have the press conference he was thrown into ad seg for 'his own protection.' Twice more he tried to have a press conference and twice more he was put in segregation. Kimberlin filed suit against federal prison officials claiming violation of his rights to free speech and due process. The government moved for dismissal and /or summary judgement. District Court judge Harold Greene granted their motion in part.

Judge Greene ruled there was an issue of fact requiring a trial as to whether or not Kimberlin had been placed in seg because of the content of his proposed communication with the media. The judge noted that the head of the BOP, Mr. Quinlain, with some 45,000 prisoners in his care had never personally ordered a prisoner placed in ad seg yet he had done so in this case. The judge denied the defendants motion for qualified immunity ...

Bibliography of Selected Prison Cases

Bibliography Of Selected Prison Cases

This is the second edition of this useful 32 page booklet by South Dakota prisoner Roger Flittie. It provides a very good reference point for prison case law. With sections covering everything from class action conditions of confinement suits to ad seg, disciplinary actions, property, due process, access to the courts, racial discrimination, etc. It is up to date all the way to 1991. It also has a very useful section of cases listing damage awards to prisoner plaintiffs. As most prisoner litigants know, judges and juries are not very generous in awarding damages to prisoners, even in cases of serious injury. So the list provides a reference point of how much money to ask for in a lawsuit or to settle for in a settlement.

The book also contains an extensive listing of groups and organizations which are involved in prison struggle and support. It lists their addresses and a brief description of the group. It also includes useful information such as self-help materials for jailhouse lawyers, lawbooks and such available from the government, etc.

The Bibliography is available for $12.00, postage paid, from: Prison Information Services, P.O. Box 616, Sioux Falls ...

The Capacity of Prison Overcrowding

The Capacity Of Prison Overcrowding

By Wm. Daniel M. Ravenscroft, Attorney At Law

A major difficulty in describing the extent of prison overcrowding is that there is no general agreement as to the definition of the "capacity' of overcrowded institutions.

To merely count the number of prison beds and inmates assigned to them does not address the issue at all. In fact, it is more often than not, that no one takes into consideration the need for flexibility of assignments to needed hospital care, disciplinary areas and in many cases, work assignments.

More important, the 100 percent-occupancy concept does not truly reflect other conditions in the prison setting that contribute to dangerous overcrowding, such as staff ration, duration of confinement, access to showers, toilets, health and medical services, food service, work and recreation.

Many California institutions have adopted the "broom closet, classroom" approach for finding bedspace, and in some cases, using the recreational areas such as gymnasiums for purported short-term housing, which in most cases, equates long-term instead.

Today's courts have imposed, in some instances, limits that are substantially below numerical bed counts. Nevertheless, the institutional officials have paid little or no attention to these mandates.

Additionally, in California ...

Prison/Community Alliance Update

By Carrie Roth

The Prisoner/Community Alliance received a phone call from former Rep. Doug Sayan on Jan. 21, 1992. He said that the draft bill is now at the Code Revisors Office. The bill is an Omnibus bill which will include several aspects of sentencing. As of this date, Jan. 22, 1992, Rep. Hargrove, Chair of the House Subcommittee on Corrections has agreed to sponsor the bill. On Monday, Jan. 27, 1992 there was another hearing before the Subcommittee on Corrections in which those who testified at the Dec. 6, 1992 hearing were asked to testify again.

What we know of this bill, as of this writing, is part of it calls for the elimination of the ISRB, another part is to eliminate parole revocations. Also included is a part to change the sentence structure of the Sentencing Reform Act. The biII goes to the Executive Committee on Monday, Feb. 3, 1992. We have not yet seen the bill and will not see it until it is printed. This causes some concern with us.

We have been told that in order to get some we need to give some. We have been told that the changes in the SRA ...


USA A LOOK AT REALITY is a quarterly human rights tabloid newspaper. Previous issues have examined the racism in use of the death penalty and brutality in the American gulag. The latest issue examines events at Attica and its prison legacy today, 20 years later. It has a chronology of prison rebellions in the past two or three years, including Southport, NY, Trenton, NT, Hagerstown, MD, and others. Each issue covers areas of interest to those involved in the struggle for human rights in the criminal injustice system in the U.S. For subscription information write: Quixote Center, P.O. Box 5206, Hyattsville, MD 20782.

WALKIN' STEEL is the newsletter of the Committee to End the Marion Lockdown. In 1983 the federal penitentiary at Marion, IL was locked down and turned into a big control unit. Since then, some 35 states have opened control units modeled on Marion. The CEML is starting a campaign to halt construction of a new control unit prison in Florence, CO, that will replace Marion. This issue has updates on that campaign, information on control units in various states, and articles on Attica. Each issue lists a variety of resources they have available, such as ...

Justice Dept. to Take Back Higher Inmate Limits

Justice Dept. To Take Back Higher Inmate Limits

By Ronald J. Ostrow, Los Angeles Times

From: Seattle Times, January 15, 1992

Agency taking hard-line position on crowded prisons

WASHINGTON - Outlining a major policy shift, Attorney General William Barr said yesterday that the Department of Justice will be "receptive" to states' efforts to remove court-ordered population caps at overcrowded prisons.

Barr, in a hard-line speech to the California District Attorneys Association in Palm Springs, Calif., said that many federal judges went too far in the 1970s and 1980s in deciding what the Constitution requires to remedy purported; "cruel and unusual punishment" in prisons.

"If we want to reduce violent crime, we must press ahead unrelentingly with the policy of incapacitating violent criminals through incarceration," Barr said. "The choice is clear: More prison space or more critne." The speech comes as President Bush has seen his popularity fall as Democratic opponents question his ability to solve domestic problems, including crime. Political critics note that even as prison populations set new records, the nation's crime rate continues to rise.

Barr's policy shift drew immediate criticism from Elizabeth Alexander, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union's national prison project, which ...

CBCC IMU Hungerstrike

Did you happened to hear about the 2-1/2 day hungerstrike? They brought 10 of us here from WSP (Walla Walla) IMU to supply bodies to justify opening an IMU at CBCC. We got here and F unit isn't even prepared to accept IMU prisoners. 8 out of the 10 brought from WSP were on the highest possible levels in WSP IMU. We had TVs, could order store, be tier porters, etc. We arrive here and for the first two weeks were allowed nothing except legal work and some of us didn't get that. No hot water, no outside yard, no legal library policy, no library policy, no school programs except GED, store list with nothing but candy on it. We aren't allowed any of the property we had at WSP IMU like our store, cosmetics, etc. It took me 7 days to get a notary, cell searches twice a day, and so on. So we went on a hungerstrike protesting the isolation status they had on us and the lousy conditions. CUS Leahy was given 20 pages of complaints and solutions. After two days people started getting weak and the strike fizzled out, but we got ...

Indiana Ad Seg Policy Does Not Create Liberty Interest

Two Indiana state prisoners filed suit over being placed in administrative segregation (Ad Seg). They claimed their right to due process had been violated and sought relief under § 1983.

The district court dismissed the suit on the grounds they did not have a liberty interest in not being placed in ad seg.

On appeal the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal. At page 1252 the courts lists the criteria it uses to determine if a state has created a liberty interest for prisoners to remain out of ad seg. To do so, a policy must be binding on the officials it is addressed to: Exhaustive in that if none of the criteria are satisfied prison officials are forbidden to segregate the prisoner; and definite in that none of the criteria is so open ended as to give officials limitless discretion in segregating the prisoner as they please.

Applying this analysis, the court found that the state statute in conjunction with prison policy were too vague to be enforceable as a federal right.

In any case, the court held, the prisoners had received all the process they were due to in the form of notice and an opportunity to be ...

State May Retain Private Attorneys to Defend DOC

State May Retain Private Attorneys To Defend DOC

A Missouri state prisoner filed suit claiming he was denied medical care by prison officials. The state attorney general then contracted a private law firm to represent the defendants prison officials.

O'Connor, the prisoner plaintiff, filed a motion to disqualify the defendants counsel on the grounds that such contracts violate the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, 28 USC § 1915 as well as Missouri state law.

The district court granted O'Connors motion and held that Missouri's retention of private law firms to represent state employees in prisoner civil rights cases violated state law, the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution and 28 USC § 1915 (d).

On an interlocutory appeal the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded. The Court of Appeals held that it was improper for a federal court of conclude the Missouri attorney general was violating the state laws he was charged with enforcing.

The Court of Appeals held that O'Connor did not have standing to challenge the defendants choice of counsel because he could point to no injury he had incurred as a result of their choice of counsel. The Court found no violalion of either the ...

Prisoners Get Squeezed

The massive New York state budget crisis is starting to hit the prisons. Governor Cuomo, like other politicians, plans to squeeze pennies from those who have nothing, while leaving the fat cats sacrosanct. The main cuts are slated for Medicaid and schools. Also they plan to take 20% of prisoners' pay (the average pay is about $4 per week), raise commissary prices 10%, and charge $5 fines for misbehavior. I don't yet have a reading on what the response will be. I think one way or the other things will get worse for us.

This situation is just one aspect of broader problems with the economy, which seems to be headed into something deeper and more protracted than a typical recession. This will mean a lot more hardship on top of the already criminally skewed priorities of the society. Politically it should be bad for Bush, but I still find it scary because the main and most virulent voices out there are promoting scape-goating - anger toward people of color, welfare, prisoners, etc. - and deflecting anger away from the rich and powerful.

D.G., Comstock, N.Y.

Letter from China

Letter From China

Thank you for the Prisoners Legal News. It is not only a source of some news from the prisons in the U.S.A., but also a window through which I can see the prisoners' live in other countries. I enjoyed it very much.

Prisoners' life in China is very bad; their living condition is terrible compared with the condition in the U.S.A. Several prisoners crowd in a small, unclean cell. No good food to eat, sometime even not enough food to eat, no entertainments, working all day long. No good medicine and other daily necessities.

But their are some advantages to those prisoners. For example, before they got incarcerated, the government will declare how long they will stay in prison, even tell them the date they get free. If they behave themselves very good in jail they can go home earlier. In China there are not too many prisons, the crime rate is dropping down in recent years. Political prisoners usually stay less longer compared with violent criminals. The only political lifer I know is Mao's former wife, who committed suicide last May.

I read the PLN and found several articles that are ...

Reply from Germany

Reply From Germany

We are referring to the readers letter from Germany in your issue from November 1991.The writer, D.D., is giving the misleading impression that all RAF prisoners were betraying each other for personal gain. This is applying only to those former RAF members who had been hiding in the former German Democratic Republic after 1980. None of the RAF prisoners who have been in hunger strike in 1989 has been cooperating with the authorities or is doing so. We are requesting you to publish this important differention as a readers letter.

Members of the families of the political prisoners
in the German Federal Republic

Reply to: Guards, Victims or Villains?

I've sent for a copy of the September 1991 issue of "Blueprint for Social Justice" and read both articles in it as you suggested. While the authors of these articles divulged some good points concerning the behavior of prison guards, their superiors and the psychology of prisondom, I think that they are lacking in the sense that they attempt to paint guards (in their capacity as guards) as innocent employees of the state, who if guilty of anything, are guilty of allowing themselves to be indoctrinated and used by the state in the brutal control and subjugation of prisoners. But, this is far from the truth. Prison guards are tools of the bourgeoisie and its state - the ruling class. They are members of an armed organization of the state, i.e., the armed forces, national guard, police forces and prisondom, who are entrusted with the chief responsibility of enforcing the rule of the owning class. True, many of them become prison guards out of dire need to help feed, clothe and house or take care of their families, but their marriage to their job as guards or service to the state is a part of their oath and commitment ...


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