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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: June, 1992

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Volume 3, Number 6

In this issue:

  1. Pelican Bay Conditions Suit Filed (p 1)
  2. Crime Rates Continue Upward Climb (p 1)
  3. Trafficking in Children Condemned (p 2)
  4. Gay/Lesbian Prisoner Anthology Seeks Submissions (p 2)
  5. Hand Me Downs (p 3)
  6. Looking Back, Learning Lessons, PLN's Early Days (p 4)
  7. Control Units: Isolation in 1992 (p 4)
  8. Home Release Status Revoked for Exercising Right to Silence (p 5)
  9. Amnesty International Condemns Abuse of Women Cons (p 5)
  10. Pleas for Medical Attention Ignored (p 6)
  11. Publications to Read (p 6)
  12. Prison Officials Assault Public Records Law (p 7)
  13. Prisoner Litigant and Prison Law Library Secondary Resource List (p 7)
  14. From The Editor (p 8)
  15. Washington Lifers Prevail in District Court (p 9)
  16. Washington's Prisons to Reach 10,000 (p 9)
  17. Beating Violates Eighth Amendment (p 9)
  18. South Africa Suspends Executions (p 9)
  19. Suit Filed Over Telephone Services (p 9)

Pelican Bay Conditions Suit Filed

The Pelican Bay Information Project (PBIP) is an independent citizens' group that has formed in response to the complaints of prisoners. The group is composed of prison visitors, writers, ex-prisoners, lawyers and human rights advocates. Since Pelican Bay's 1250 cell Security Housing Unit (SHU) opened in 1989, prisoner rights advocates have been deluged with information documenting the systematic abuses at "the Bay." In October of 1991 a team of project lawyers and investigators interviewed 54 prisoners at Pelican Bay. That on-site visit and their continuing correspondence with SHU prisoners provides PBIP with the knowledge it needs for its efforts to inform Californians about the harsh realities of life in the SHU.

Lawyers for prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison in California recently filed a class action civil rights complaints against the California Department of Corrections (CDC), according to the PBIP. The primary allegations are as follows:

1. Cruel and unusual conditions of confinement in SHU. 22.5 hours per day are spent in a small, bare walled, windowless cell. 90 minutes of exercise are allowed in a bare enclosure called " the dog run" with no toilet facilities. To use the dog run the prisoners must consent to a strip ...

Crime Rates Continue Upward Climb

By Ed Mead

Preliminary figures from the FBI's recently released Uniform Crime Reports show violent crimes reported to police last year increased by 5 percent, continuing a seven-year trend of increases. The rate of violent crime per capita rose to the highest level in three decades, and the overall crime rate was the second highest since 1960, exceeded only in 1980, according to a comparison of the FBI figures with the population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The FBI Uniform Crime Reports include only crimes reported to police. Therefore, criminologists consider the FBI report a less reliable indicator of crime than the National Crime Survey, which interviews victims. The most recent National Survey's preliminary figures showed violent crimes rose by 7.9 percent in 1991.

Crime rose 3.1 percent in Washington State last year, with the largest increase in Bellingham and Spokane, according to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. Statewide the preliminary statistics for 1991 showed that violent crimes were up 7.1 percent, with robbery and rape both up by 14 percent.

A total of 25,909 violent crimes occurred in Washington in 1991 and 284,250 property crimes. Seattle had ...

Trafficking in Children Condemned

Trafficking In Children Condemned

From: World Perspectives

The UN Commission on Human Rights, located in Geneva, has released a report on child slavery, child trafficking and child prostitution. It says 10 years ago the number of children aged 10-14 who were victimized in one or more of these ways was estimated at 88 million. Today the number of child slaves increases daily. Most of them live in the world's poorest countries, chiefly in Asia.

The report also charges that 150,000 children are illegally being forced to work in slave labor in New York City.

The commission makes a plea in its report for special assistance to poor families, tighter laws on child labor and severe penalties to those who sell children or force them into prostitution.

Gay/Lesbian Prisoner Anthology Seeks Submissions

Cold Iron , an anthology of writing and art by and about lesbian, gay and queer prisoners, is seeking submissions. Any work that reflects the experiences and concerns of lesbian, gay and queer prisoners, their lovers, families or friends will be considered.

"I am especially interested in articles that are the result of collaboration between prisoners and non-prisoners. A focus of the anthology will be on building bridges in an attempt to create and maintain positive relationships across the walls," said editor Lin Elliot, a Cherokee/Scotch/Irish prisoner incarcerated at Clallam Bay, Washington. Individual works are also desired.

The anthology will reflect the diversity of lesbian, gay and queer communities, including works by women and men of all ages, races, national origin, and political, religious and economic perspectives. The following types of experiences of incarceration are especially appropriate for Cold Iron: juvenile detention centers and reform schools; the problems facing transsexuals in prisons; homophobia in the system; prison lovers; the treatment of gays, lesbians and queers in foreign prisons; mental patients and involuntary incarceration; confinement of the elderly; racism and homophobia in prison; the problems facing ex-cons; and the sexual abuse of prisoners. These topics are suggestions and do not ...

Hand Me Downs

By Dan Pens

I was only five.

My mind didn't belong entirely to me yet. So much of it belonged to the world, especially to whomever I was with, and double-especially to adults, and triple especially to Grandpa 'cause he knew everything. He was so large and wise and funny and he paid attention to me. His face had bumps and valleys and lines and wrinkles and gray and black whiskers. He had yucky orange stains on his fingers from smoking Camels and he smelled like whiskey... except I wasn't supposed to notice that part. I loved my Grandpa.

It's funny now; I can't remember how it happened to be. Grandpa and I were in the front seat of his old blue Chevy, just the two of us. Just him and me. That's what I remember about it mostly. The seats were black. They were smooth and soft, the dashboard was curved like a sculpture. The glove box had a mesh grill on it that I loved to stare at. And it smelled like a car, like Grandpa's car.

I had never, ever felt so happy and special before. I had Grandpa all to ...

Looking Back, Learning Lessons, PLN's Early Days

By Ed Mead

When the PLN first started out we experienced a lot of banning at various prisons, both in Washington State and elsewhere. One such event took place when the second issue of the paper was banned from both the Penitentiary and the Reformatory here in Washington. Paul and I immediately drafted a comprehensive civil rights complaint challenging the censorship, but just days before the suit was to be filed, both bannings were reversed on administrative appeals. Warden Blodgett, when deciding to allow the PLN into his prison, said our newsletter "fails to rise to a level of having the potential to be intellectually disruptive to our population." He went on to say that most of the writing is done "by radical, but harmless, malcontents that receive little support or sympathy from our general population. The articles promote somewhat archaic concepts that fail to generate patronage from our very young population." He said that each future issue would be carefully examined by officials, presumably to insure that we stay "harmless."

Our old lawsuit raised a number of issues that deserve another little peek at today. One such issue was that prisoncrats repeatedly suppressed our paper. This was not because ...

Control Units: Isolation in 1992

By N.J. Community Relations Program American Friends Service Committee

In 1975, after the tumultuous years of the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the prisoner's rights movement, Trenton State Prison in New Jersey established an administrative isolation unit for politically dissident prisoners. The Management Control Unit, which now has 96 beds, houses those prisoners who have not broken institutional rules, but who, as a result of their convictions and expressions, are seen to be a threat by the prison administrators. This unit isolates activists and leaders from the prison's general population, as it attempts to reshape their convictions by subjecting them to an extraordinary level of physical control and sensory deprivation. Prisoners in the MCU are denied all the collective activities of normal prison life, have increased surveillance by guards who record their daily activities and regularly search cells and their persons, and suffer the physical abuse of strip searches by guards in riot gear which accompany all recreation and visits. A physical cage has been built on each tier for any activity, such as a hearing or a haircut, which must take place outside the cell.

Although confinement in the Management Control Unit is not ...

Home Release Status Revoked for Exercising Right to Silence

By Adrian Lomax

Steven Asherman was doing a fourteen-year bit for manslaughter in the Connecticut prison system. After he had served three years, the keep [guards] approved Asherman's application for Supervised Home Release. SHR is not parole, but an intensive supervision program similar to those involving electronic monitoring. Asherman lived in an apartment with his wife and worked as a computer systems analyst.

After nine months on SHR, Asherman's SHR supervisor ordered him to report to DOC offices to undergo a psychological evaluation. At that time, Asherman's habeas corpus petition attacking the manslaughter conviction was pending in federal court. Because of the possibility of success in the habeas proceedings and a subsequent retrial on the manslaughter charge, Asherman's attorney wrote a letter to the DOC stating that Asherman would appear for the evaluation, but that he would not answer any questions relating to his conviction. Because of the refusal to answer questions relating to his conviction, the keep revoked Asherman's SHR status and returned him to the joint.

Asherman filed a habeas petition in federal court claiming that the revocation violated his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The federal district court ruled in Asherman's ...

Amnesty International Condemns Abuse of Women Cons

From: World Perspectives

Amnesty International (AI) has launched an appeal to governments around the world to stop the rape and sexual abuse of women during detention.

In a recently published report AI said women all over the world are subjected to sexual abuse by police and prison officers. This type of torture is widely used to force concessions or humiliate women in custody. Some cases involve pregnant women and teenage girls.

AI says governments often refuse to recognize that rape and sexual abuse is a violation of human rights. The report says that women must be protected from abuse and anyone violating women's human rights must be brought to justice.

Pleas for Medical Attention Ignored

Pleas For Medical Attention Ignored

By Adrian Lomax

[Editorial Note :While medical neglect by our captors is nothing new, we are printing this piece because of the commonness of the events described, not because it is "news " to those of us on the inside .]

On the evening of March 30, 1992, Joseph Griffin was locked in his cell on the top tier of the Southwest Cell Hall at Waupun, Wisconsin's end-of-the-line max joint. At about 6:15 p.m., "Grif", as he was known to Waupun convicts, sent a tier tender down to the Sgt.'s station with a message that he was feeling ill and wanted to see the medical personnel. Sgt. Steve Tetzlaff, the guard in charge of the cell hall for the evening shift, ignored the message.

At 6:30 Grif began yelling down to Tetzlaff, insisting that he needed medical attention. Tetzlaff continued to ignore him. Around 6:45, Grif's pleas became louder, and several other inmates joined in yelling for medical staff.

At 7:00 Tetzlaff sent a guard up on the tier to see what the problem was. Grif told the guard that he was experiencing extreme pain in his head. He ...

Publications to Read

Publications To Read

By Ed Mead

You can't expect to understand the world and its political processes unless you have accurate information on these subjects. The Middle East, for example, is an important area of concern to the people of this nation - we've just fought a war there. But how much do we as citizens really know about events in that region, even well publicized ones, and how good is the analysis of happenings in the area that we see on television and in the newspapers? How ignorant are we? Ask yourself what the basic terms of the Shamir-Peres-Baker peace plan are. You don't know because they have yet to appear in the mainstream media. When you do get news it is so distorted it is useless. The U.S.-Israel refusal to permit Palestinians to choose their own representatives to negotiate the planned capitulation, by way of another example, is regarded by the ruling class media as a forthright and honorable thing. This same lack of information and distorted analysis is taking place not only around events in the Middle East, but all over the world.

How can you fight back? You can counter this misinformation ...

Prison Officials Assault Public Records Law

By Adrian Lomax

Ayear ago bills were introduced in both houses of the Wisconsin legislature that would have changed the state's public records law so that prisoners would no longer have any right to inspect government records, including those maintained by the Department of Corrections. The bills were introduced, at the behest of the DOC, in an attempt to silence criticism of prison officials. In the past few years Wisconsin prisoners have, in several instances, used materials obtained under the public records law to expose lies, fiscal mismanagement, and outright malfeasance on the part of DOC officials.

The DOC lobbied hard for the law, claiming the change was necessary to preserve prison security. Despite strong opposition from newspapers, a prisoners' advocacy group, the Wisconsin ACLU, and prisoners themselves, the bill passed in the State Assembly last November.

Fortunately, the state Senate took a closer look at the DOC's motives, and the bill stalled. At the end of March Wisconsin's legislature adjourned for the year, without senate approval of the public records bill. The DOC's plan is dead for now.

I've heard reports that some other states have attempted similar laws. I'm very interested in ...

Prisoner Litigant and Prison Law Library Secondary Resource List

By Robert Pierce

In the field of law, books that deal with an overall view of a topic, those that are used in teaching law, or that are encyclopedic in nature, are known as secondary resource materials. These secondary resources are essential to the jailhouse lawyer when developing strategies on writs and/or when researching the origins of a certain area of law.

It appears that these types of books are the most underdeveloped sort of material in prison law libraries; therefore, in an effort to level the playing field against the State, The Prison Legal News recommends that every prisoner activist seek to insure that the following list of secondary resource material is available to prisoners at their respective law libraries. If the books are not available, try to get these titles added to your local law libraries. We did it by using monies from the Inmate Welfare Fund.

Prisoners' Self-Help Litigation Manual , revised second edition, by Daniel E. Manville, Oceana Publications Inc., New York, 1983. THE BIBLE FOR THE JAILHOUSE ATTORNEY!

Prisoners and the Law , by Ira P. Robbins et. al., Deerfield, Illinois, 1985.

Rights of Prisoners , by James J. Gobert and Neil P. Cohen, McGraw-Hill Book Company ...

From The Editor

By Paul Wright

Welcome to another issue of the PLN. We encourage our readers to submit articles and information about happenings in their areas so we can publish them in the paper. However, what some folks have done recently is send us bundles of documents with no background information. For example, one reader in Mississippi sent us about 40 pages of documents that he had sent to the Justice Department, etc., about bad prison conditions at the Mississippi State Prison at Parchman. Rather than send bundles of documents for us to wade through, it is far better for you to send us articles that are already written and ready to go. It is also far cheaper in terms of postage and quicker for us to determine if we will publish it or not. A suggestion is that articles to PLN about bad prison conditions, etc., should also state what is being done about the situation to improve it. Prison conditions are bad everywhere; that isn't news. What we need to know is how prisoners are organizing themselves to improve conditions and otherwise struggling for progressive change.

Our last issue may have had a few more than the usual number ...

Washington Lifers Prevail in District Court

By John Midgley, Attorney At Law

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Zilly has ruled in the Powell case that SHB 1457 is ex post facto as applied to Mr. Powell's first-degree murder sentence. The state has been directed to determine Mr. Powell's parole eligibility under the terms of the "old law," former RCB 9.95.115. The state has filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, so that court will review Judge Zilly's decision.

Importantly, in turning down one lifer's motion to intervene in Powell , Judge Zilly wrote that "the final decision in this case will be binding on all inmates similarly situated to petitioner Robert Patrick Powell." Therefore anyone who has completed (or nearly completed) his or her 20 year mandatory term (less good time) should ask the superintendent for a certification of meritorious conduct and a recommendation that the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board grant parole. Such a certificate and recommendation is, of course, necessary under the old law before the ISRB can consider parole. Anyone who does get a superintendent's certification should then ask the ISRB to consider paroling them.

I would appreciate ...

Washington's Prisons to Reach 10,000

Washington's Prisons To Reach 10,000

Washington State's jammed prisons soon will hold a record 10,000 inmates, and the state is stepping up construction of more cells to head off the unrest that often comes with overcrowding.

"We've been pretty lucky that we haven't had problems," such as violence caused by overcrowding, Tana Wood, assistant director of prisons, said.

Corrections Secretary Chase Riveland said the inmate population at the state's 13 prisons is at a record daily average of 9,750, some 65 percent over their rated capacity. It will for the first time reach more than 10,000 inmates on a daily basis this summer.

Wood and Riveland said space for more than 3,300 new beds is under construction at Connell, Franklin County; Airway Heights, Spokane County; Clallam Bay, Clallam County; McNeil Island and the Washington Corrections Center for Women at Purdy.

Riveland said the major cause of the rising inmate population is sentences. The state's inmate numbers grew by 17.8 percent from 1990 to 1991, primarily due to new commitments of drug offenders, he said.

From: Seattle Times, 5/28/92

Beating Violates Eighth Amendment

Alfred Flowers is a Louisiana state prisoner who was handcuffed and shackled after a disciplinary hearing, then beaten and kicked by three prison guards without provocation. Flowers suffered a sprained ankle, small abrasions and limited movement range of his limbs as a result of the attack. He then filed suit ...

South Africa Suspends Executions

On March 27, 1992, the South African government announced a temporary moratorium on executions in Pretoria. The Minister of Justice said that executions have been suspended until an interim bill of rights has been agreed upon in negotiations between the government and the African National Congress (ANC), who are currently involved in negotiating a new constitution. At this time it isn't known when an agreement on the constitution will be reached because the racist white minority government seeks to continue to deny it's citizens the right of one person, one vote.

The Minister of Justice said that even though the carrying out of executions is temporarily suspended, the courts will continue to impose death sentences and the government will continue the legal process of considering clemency petitions on behalf of prisoners who have exhausted all available avenues of appeal. The government did not announce the names of the 17 prisoners whose clemency petitions had been denied nor which of them were political prisoners. A further 257 prisoners remain under sentence of death in Pretoria.

At this time the United States and Japan are the only industrial bourgeois democracies who murder their citizens with judicial sanctions (i.e., impose ...

Suit Filed Over Telephone Services

South Carolina prisoners have filed a class action suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 47 U.S.C.201(b) and 202(a) of the Federal Communications Act. The defendants are officials in the South Carolina DOC and the U.S. Sprint telephone company.

The prisoners allege that the telephone company practice of announcing to would be recipients of prisoner telephone calls that the caller is in prison is unconstitutional and violates their right to freedom of speech. The Federal Communications Act makes it unlawful for telephone companies to engage in any type of discriminatory practice or subject any person or class of persons to undue prejudice or disadvantage. The Act provides for damages from the carrier for any such violations.

A copy of the complaint, Federal Communications Act, Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, etc., are all available for $2.00 or seven 29¢ stamps from: Creations, P.O. Box 2403, Burlington, NC 27216-2403.


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