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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: October, 1993

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Volume 4, Number 10

In this issue:

  1. Documents Filed When Delivered to Prison Officials (p 1)
  2. Access to Courts: Standing to Assert Right (p 1)
  3. Censoring Legal Mail States Claim (p 2)
  4. Bar on Access to Court Records Struck Down (p 3)
  5. Court Access for Spanish Speakers (p 3)
  6. Pro Se Detainee Has Access Rights (p 3)
  7. Ninth Circuit Reverses Powell Decision (p 4)
  8. Florida Builds More Prisons (p 5)
  9. ACLU Reaches Accord With Hawaii in Prison Case (p 5)
  10. NY Re-Examines Tough Drug Laws (p 5)
  11. Elements of Jail RICO Suit Explained (p 6)
  12. Due Process Required Before Hole Time (p 6)
  13. Destruction of Evidence Allows Adverse Inference (p 7)
  14. Prohibition of Beatings Well Established Law (p 7)
  15. Evidence Must Support Disciplinary Charge (p 7)
  16. Right to Die Rulings Grow (p 8)
  17. Denial of Physical Therapy Shows Deliberate Indifference (p 8)
  18. No Qualified Immunity for Denial of Medical Care (p 9)
  19. Right to Hot Water Clearly Established (p 9)
  20. Research Directory (p 9)
  21. Prison Slavery Upheld, Again (p 10)
  22. From The Editor (p 10)
  23. Clinton Unveils "Anti-Crime" Package (p 11)
  24. Families Against Mandatory Minimums (p 12)
  25. Professionalism at Purdy Women's Prison (p 13)
  26. BOP Not Liable for Guard Raping Prisoner (p 13)
  27. Cops Shaft Informant (p 14)
  28. Murderer Fired From Prison Job (p 14)
  29. PA Women File Suit Over Property (p 15)
  30. Some Food for Thought: Prisoners Are Not Inmates (p 15)
  31. Grievance System Sham (p 15)
  32. Needs Haircut Information (p 16)
  33. Prison Flooded (p 16)

Documents Filed When Delivered to Prison Officials

In two separate cases from the fifth and eleventh circuits, the appeals courts have adopted the Supreme Court's ruling that documents are considered filed in court when they are delivered to prison officials for mailing by pro se prisoner litigants.

Lawrence Thompson is a Texas state prisoner. He filed suit under § 1983 and the case was referred to a magistrate. The magistrate recommended that the suit be dismissed as frivolous and informed Thompson that he had ten days in which to file any objections to the recommendation with the presiding judge.

Thompson requested, and received, an extension of time for filing the objections. He mailed his objections in an envelope provided by the court on November 18, 1991, two days before the deadline. On December 4, 1991, prison officials returned the envelope citing his failure to put his name and DOC number on the envelope. Thompson remailed the objections and they were received by the court on December 12, 1991, 22 days past the deadline. The court adopted the magistrates report and dismissed the suit holding his objections were not timely.

The court of appeals for the fifth circuit vacated and remanded. The appeals court adopted the supreme court ...

Access to Courts: Standing to Assert Right

Access To Courts: Standing To Assert Right

This access to the courts case was filed by the Prisoners' Legal Association (PLA), a sanctioned organization of seven jailhouse lawyers operating inside the East Jersey State Prison. The PLA claimed they were harassed because of their litigation efforts performed in behalf of other prisoners. The case was heard before the U.S. district court on a motion for summary judgment filed by the defendant prison officials. The court ruled in favor of the prisoners.

Judge Sarokin started his opinion by saying: "What distinguishes our society from most others is the continued right of access to the judicial process afforded even to those who have been charged, tried and convicted of a crime. In order to make such access meaningful," the judge continued, "prisoners need not only the physical tools to create and submit their complaints and petitions for relief, but frequently due to their own deficiencies in education or language skills, they also need the intellectual tools possessed by others."

As noted above, the PLA prisoners charged they were the victims of harassment and retaliation because of their prison sanctioned efforts on behalf of other prisoners. The defendants filed a motion for ...

Censoring Legal Mail States Claim

Henry Lavado was a federal prisoner whose legal mail from attorneys, the ACLU and various state and federal law enforcement agencies was opened and read outside of his presence. Some of his legal mail was opened and read in his presence. Lavado filed suit under Bivens claiming that the opening of his legal mail outside of his presence, and reading of his legal mail, violated his first, fourth, fifth and sixth amendment rights. He sought money damages, injunctive and declaratory relief. Lavado was released from prison but continued to prosecute this action. The district court dismissed the claims for money damages, holding that the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. The court dismissed the remaining claims for equitable relief by holding Lavado's release from prison had mooted those claims. The court of appeals for the sixth circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded.

The appeals court reviewed the district court's denial of Lavado's motions for the appointment of counsel and to compel discovery and affirmed the ruling by finding no abuse of discretion because indigent litigants are not entitled to counsel and discovery was not needed in the case.

The court gave an extensive review ...

Bar on Access to Court Records Struck Down

The Massachusetts legislature passed the Criminal Offender Record Information System (CORI) which changed the conditions by which the public gained access to court records in the state criminal justice system. The state courts used this law to prohibit unrestricted access to the alphabetical indices of the parties in criminal proceedings, which is used to track cases.

Several news organizations filed suit in federal court claiming that this ban on public access violated the first amendment. The district court agreed and ruled in their favor.

The court gave a detailed historical and legal review of the fact that public access to records submitted in criminal court proceedings has been a right since before the founding of the United States. This right is protected by the first amendment. The analysis to be employed in determining whether to afford public access to materials generated by criminal proceedings is 1) an inquiry into the historic availability of the materials; and 2) whether such availability plays a significant positive role in the functioning of the particular process in question.

The purpose of this inquiry is to ensure the objectives of the statute are sufficiently important, the means chosen by the state must effectively promote the ...

Court Access for Spanish Speakers

This is a § 1983 access to the courts case filed by a county jail prisoner who was not conversant in the English language. The plaintiff, Acevedo, claimed that his jailers denied him meaningful access to the courts by failing to maintain an adequate law library and to provide a Spanish-speaking legal assistant. Acevedo sought both monetary and injunctive relief, but he was removed from the jail before the court heard the motion for summary judgment filed by the defendant jailers.

The U.S. district court judge evaluated the standards by which a motion for summary judgment and the law applicable in access to the courts cases. The court said, "for prisoners who cannot read or understand English, the constitutional right of access to the courts cannot be determined solely by the number of volumes in, or size of, a law library." While granting summary judgment in many aspects of this case, it was not granted on the access issue. "It would be wholly contrary to the spirit and purpose of Bounds to conclude that the provision of a law library afforded that protection for prisoners who cannot understand the language in which books are written" "Clearly," the court continued, " Bounds ...

Pro Se Detainee Has Access Rights

A detainee held in the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) at San Diego, named Gust Janis, was awaiting trial on federal drug manufacturing and possession charges. Janis was also involved in a number of other criminal and civil cases, telling the court he has some sixty-seven civil actions pending. Janis filed a motion, in connection with his criminal case, claiming that his right of access to the courts was effectively denied by various shortcoming in the legal research facilities at the jail (MCC).

The threshold question was whether the right of access to the courts includes general civil litigation, as the issue had not been squarely addressed in the ninth circuit. The district court adopted the reasoning of the fifth and eleventh circuits, holding that the constitutional right of access to the courts includes access for general civil legal matters. This was an issue because the MCC law library did not provide materials for civil research.

The court ordered that Janis be given access to state law on various subjects (because of the detainers on him from several states), that selected civil law books be provided to him, that the federal criminal law in the jail's law library be expanded ...

Ninth Circuit Reverses Powell Decision

By Robert Powell

To understand just what has happened in this case one must first understand Washington state law. At the time of my conviction a person who was found guilty of Murder in the First Degree was either sentenced to death or life imprisonment. If sentenced to life imprisonment the parole board set a term of confinement and in most cases they acquiesced to RCW 9.95.115.

RCW 9.95.115 requires that a mandatory minimum term of twenty consecutive years, less good time, be served before the parole board could parole a person sentenced to life, provided that the superintendent issued a letter (certificate) stating that the convicted person has been confined for twenty years, less good time, and has done the work assigned in a faithful and diligent manner.

Well, a new law was passed in 1989 allowing the parole board to set terms that complied with the Sentencing Reform Act (SRA) of 1984 and eliminated the need for the superintendent's letter. The parole board (now called the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board) went right to work and re-set all the minimum terms of murderers at terms longer than the twenty years as required by the ...

Florida Builds More Prisons

The Florida state legislature in late May approved a plan to spend $215 million on prison construction and also voted to overhaul state sentencing guidelines.

The expansion package, which passed during a special legislative session called by Gov. Lawton Chiles, will add 10,524 beds to the prison system over the next five years. 8,510 prison beds, 1,511 alternative program beds and about 500 beds for juvenile prisoners. It includes funding for four new prisons as well as dorms added to existing prisons, work camps and drug treatment centers.

About 3,500 prison beds and all the alternative beds are expected to be in operation within a year, heading off a potential early release crisis. Prison officials had feared that by October they would have to begin including violent offenders in their early release program to meet statutory bed capacity. Florida currently houses 50,000 prisoners.

The legislators also agreed to raise the prison population cap from 97.5 percent of the system's capacity to 99 percent before early release programs take effect. This will allow for the use of an additional 792 beds.

The new sentencing legislation narrows the definition of habitual offenders, a step intended ...

ACLU Reaches Accord With Hawaii in Prison Case

ACLU Reaches Accord with Hawaii in Prison Case

Aconsent agreement was reached in July in a nine-year old Hawaii prison law suit, it was announced by Alvin J. Bronstein, executive director of the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, D.C., Governor John Waihee, and state public safety director George Sumner. The accord establishes a timetable for the dismissal of a 1984 lawsuit brought on behalf of prisoners by the National Prison Project and the local ACLU over unconstitutional conditions at two Hawaii prisons.

The new agreement will continue the process of improving conditions at the Oahu Community Correctional Center (OCCC) and the Women's Community Correctional Center (WCCC).

At a mid-July press conference in Honolulu, Bronstein said, "There is a delicious irony in announcing the agreement on this particular date. Nine years ago this week I first toured the WCCC and OCCC. I have never seen conditions as bad as I did that day. There were people sleeping on the floor, in corridors, in classrooms. It was so crowded there was no way to keep it clean."

At that time, the population at the women's prison was 300% of capacity, meaning there were ...

NY Re-Examines Tough Drug Laws

Former New York governor Nelson Rockefeller decided to launch a "get tough on crime" approach to dealing with that state's drug users and dealers. In 1973 Rockefeller had the state legislature pass a "lock `em up and throw away the key" approach to drug crimes. Twenty years later, law enforcement and corrections officials, state lawmakers and anti-drug advocates say they would prefer the Rockefeller laws would die and give birth to new drug rules which better fit the times.

"The Rockefeller drug laws have lost any deterrent effect they might once have had," state Correctional Commissioner Thomas Coughlin recently testified before a state Assembly committee looking at the impact of the two decade-old drug policy. Coughlin said the rules need to be revamped because they do nothing but dump drug abusers into the state's overcrowded prison system.

Rockefeller's tough drug laws are forcing law enforcement agencies to "lock up the wrong people, for the wrong reasons," Coughlin said. They also force the state's judges to mete out the same punishments to drug abusers as to violent offenders such a rapists, he added. "The identical treatment of those two offenses, which have such a disproportionate impact on ...

Elements of Jail RICO Suit Explained

Billy Joe Ashe is a Montgomery County, Texas, prisoner. He filed suit claiming that in retaliation for filing suit against members of the Sheriff's Department he and his co-plaintiff, and their prisoner witnesses, were subjected to a frightening pattern of physical violence and brutality by members of the Sheriff's Department. The acts were committed pursuant to the sheriff's policy of using physical violence to punish uncooperative prisoners.

The plaintiffs filed suit under section 1983 for violation of their constitutional rights, and under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c) and (d). The district court granted the defendant's motion for summary judgement and dismissed the suit. The court of appeals for the fifth circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded the case for further proceedings.

The court gave a detailed explanation of the burden borne by the moving party in a summary judgement motion. It held that in this case the defendants had completely failed to show there were no material issues of fact in dispute nor that they were entitled to judgement as a matter of law. The district court also failed to set out any reasons ...

Due Process Required Before Hole Time

Acounty jail prisoner in Lubbock, Texas, filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against his captors. He alleged jailers violated his right to due process by placing him in lockdown without a hearing. The prisoner's crime was to ignore guards who ordered him to close his cell door (he told them it was their job to close the doors). The prisoner was charged with disobeying orders and engaging in disruptive conduct. He was thereupon placed in lockdown, where he remained for nearly a month.

The district court dismissed the prisoner's complaint as being legally frivolous under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d), on the basis of the pleadings alone. The prisoner appealed and the court of appeals reversed the lower court. "Our remand is prompted," the appeals court said, "because it is unclear from [the prisoner's] pleadings whether the lockdown was for punitive reasons and whether the lockdown entailed solitary confinement." The fifth circuit had previously held that the use of punitive isolation without affording due process is unacceptable and violates the fourteenth amenment.

The remand in this case was not due to any specific legal principle, though, as much as it ...

Destruction of Evidence Allows Adverse Inference

Jerry McCrary-El is a Missouri state prisoner. He filed suit under § 1983 claiming that prison guards used excessive force in moving him to the back of his cell, within the prison's segregation unit, to place a cellmate in his cell. After a trial a jury found in favor of the defendants. McCrary-El appealed several of the trial court's evidentiary rulings. The court of appeals for the eighth circuit affirmed the jury verdict.

The appeals court upheld the lower court's ruling admitting into evidence a videotape of a second cell move (the issue before the jury was whether excessive force was used in the first cell move on the same day). The court held the video was relevant to any injuries McCrary-El had sustained in the first cell move and was thus admissible.

The court also affirmed the admission into evidence of past conduct violation reports concerning alleged misconduct by McCrary-El. The court held this was relevant to the defendants state of mind because "the question of excessiveness of force, cannot be assessed in a vacuum, it will vary from circumstance to circumstance" because not all prisoners require the same amount of force. The court recognized the danger ...

Prohibition of Beatings Well Established Law

Steven Hill was a jail prisoner in the Tazewell County, IL, jail. When ordered to leave his cell to clear it for another prisoner Hill questioned why he was being moved. William Shelander, a guard, responded by grabbing Hill's hair and shoulder, pulling him out of the cell, slamming his head and back into the metal bars of the cell across the hall and then proceeding to punch and kick him. Hill suffered injuries to his head, face, back and groin. He filed suit claiming that the beating violated his eighth amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Shelander sought summary judgement on qualified immunity grounds. The district court concluded that the law was well established that such beatings were unlawful and denied the motion.

Shelander appealed and the court of appeals for the seventh circuit affirmed in part and dismissed part of the appeal for a lack of jurisdiction.

The appeals court gave an extensive, detailed discussion of the law of qualified immunity in general and as it applied to eighth amendment brutality claims. The court held that while immunity questions are generally objective questions of law to determine whether the right was clearly established ...

Evidence Must Support Disciplinary Charge

Lloyd Brown is a District of Columbia prisoner held at the Lorton prison in Virginia. Brown was infracted for throwing a fermented solution of milk, feces and urine in a guard's face. He was charged with assault and destruction of property, and three other offenses. The disciplinary board found him guilty of all five charges and sentenced him to 14 days in segregation.

Brown filed suit under § 1983 claiming that the assault and destruction of property charges violated his right to due process because the charges were not supported by any evidence presented at the disciplinary hearing. He also claimed the board violated his due process rights by not providing him with an adequate written statement setting forth the reasons it relied upon in reaching its decision. The district court agreed with Brown.

The court held, as an initial matter, that Lorton prison disciplinary rules create a due process liberty interest that is enforceable in federal court under § 1983. Noting that the only evidence presented to the disciplinary board was the guard's infraction report, the court held "nothing in the report serves as evidence that the plaintiff committed the offenses of assault or damage to property."

Because the ...

Right to Die Rulings Grow

A quadriplegic prisoner and a woman imprisoned in a persistent vegetative state occasioned recent "right to die" rulings in two states.

The California Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a quadriplegic prisoner who is not terminally ill but who must be assisted by others to perform bodily functions such as eating may refuse the insertion of a feeding tube, even if he dies as a result. The doctrine of informed consent includes the right of a competent adult to choose non-treatment, the court said. Thor v. Superior Court of Solano County , CalifSupCt, No. SO26393, (7/26/93).

The court said the state has legitimate interests in preserving life, preventing suicide, protecting innocent third parties, and maintaining the integrity of the medical profession. But a survey of these interests yielded nothing of enough moment to overcome the prisoner's right to refuse unwanted treatment.

A prison doctor's fear that complying with the prisoner's wishes would lead to civil and criminal liability was groundless, the court said. A treatment or non-treatment decision made by a patient who has been properly informed of the possible consequences discharges the physician's duty to render care, the court explained.

Though the prison context often ...

Denial of Physical Therapy Shows Deliberate Indifference

Joel Durmer was a New Jersey state prisoner. Shortly before being imprisoned he suffered two strokes which left him weakened and partially paralyzed. His treating physician prescribed extensive physical and water therapy which he received until he entered the DOC's custody.

After entering the New Jersey state prison system Durmer informed the Mid-State Prison doctor, defendant O'Carroll, of his stroke and immediate need for physical therapy. O'Carroll did not reinstitute physical therapy but instead sent Durmer to be examined by doctors at the Trenton State Prison. Durmer was duly examined and those doctors also recommended physical therapy. Durmer never received any type of physical therapy. Over a one year period he saw various prison doctors but was never actually given the physical therapy because it is only an effective treatment for strokes within 12 to 18 months after the stroke occurs. By that time, more than 18 months had passed since Durmer had the strokes. Durmer filed suit under § 1983 claiming that the lack of physical therapy constituted deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. The district court granted summary judgement to the defendants and dismissed the suit.

The court of appeals for the third circuit affirmed ...

No Qualified Immunity for Denial of Medical Care

George Cornelious was assaulted and badly beaten in Jefferson City, MO. While receiving treatment at a local hospital he was arrested due to an outstanding warrant. The treating doctor gave the arresting police a head injury monitoring sheet on which to chart and monitor his care. At 3:40 AM police delivered Cornelious to the Cole County jail.

The jail officer on duty called the jail administrator, Mark Robinett, to report that Cornelious had been brought to the jail with bruises and injuries. Two hours later Robinett was informed that Cornelious was sick and throwing up blood.

The next day Cornelious' mother, Vickie Foulks, came to the jail concerned about his slurred speech. She asked to see Cornelious or to be allowed to bring in a doctor, at her expense, to examine him. Jail officials denied both requests. After two days of laying semi-conscious in his jail cell Cornelious was taken to a hospital where it was discovered his brain had swollen to the point it couldn't be controlled with medication. Doctors operated on Cornelious, removing part of his brain which left him severely disabled.

Foulks filed suit against the responsible county and jail officials under § 1983 claiming that ...

Right to Hot Water Clearly Established

Philip Mathews is an Illinois state prisoner. While he was confined in the segregation unit of the Stateville prison he was held in a cell without hot water for eleven months. His repeated oral and written requests that the hot water be fixed were ignored by prison officials. Mathews filed suit under § 1983 claiming that the denial of hot water, which prevented him from bathing, violated his eighth amendment rights.

Prison officials filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted under Rule 12 (b)(6) by arguing that prisoners have no right to hot water. They also sought summary judgement on qualified immunity grounds by arguing that if such a right did exist, it was not clearly established thus entitling the defendants to immunity for their actions.

The district court denied both motions. The court held that prisoners have a right to hot water in their cells. It denied the defendant's qualified immunity by holding Mathews had clearly shown a deliberate indifference to his needs by the "defendant's refusal to cure a readily remediable condition despite his numerous importunings to correct the problem, and what is perhaps more important ...

Research Directory

Keep yourself up-to-date and in the know. Complete list of 1993 federal prison cases published in the Federal Supplement and Federal Reporter 2d is available from:
Wayne B. Alexander
BSCC/MB: 258
P.O. Box 73
Norfolk, Mass. 02056

Send $2.90 in stamps to cover postage, handling, and costs of materials.

Prison Slavery Upheld, Again

By Ed Mead

Prisoners in various Minnesota correctional facilities filed a class action suit in an effort to secure minimum wages for the work they performed in the many prison industries. The industries in question produce items such as furniture, truck and auto body products, mattresses, textiles, and notebooks; they also provide services such as data entry, assembly, market research, and printing to private companies with whom the state has contracts. The plaintiff prisoners also alleged that prison officials sell prison industry products in interstate commerce to governmental entities and to the private sector. The plaintiffs alleged that in 1991, total sales for prison industries exceeded $11 million, and forty percent of the sales were in the private sector.

The prisoners are paid between fifty and seventy-five cents per hour, and they may earn good time credits on those days they work. The substance of their complaint consisted of an alleged violation of their statutory and constitutional rights by the state's failure to pay them minimum or prevailing wages for the work performed in prison industries, and by punishing prisoners who refuse to work in industries by depriving them of good time credits.

This case, like so many others ...

From The Editor

From the Editor

Welcome to another issue of PLN . Lately we have been sending out a lot of sample issues of PLN to encourage new subscribers. In August we sent an issue to every prison law library in the US. If our prison readers could encourage their respective libraries, prisoner clubs/groups, prison newspapers, etc., to subscribe to PLN at our institutional rate it would serve a twofold purpose; getting PLN to more people and raise our revenue base. We have display ads and subscription flyers available for anyone interested in helping us reach new subscribers. Part of the problem is that our target audience of prisoners and their loved ones is difficult to reach. So we will need your help in making inroads in this area.

We can also provide bulk copies of PLN to anyone interested; contact Ed or myself for information on this. On another note, if you have moved or otherwise changed your address please let us know. The post office charges us 35 cents for every issue it returns as "undeliverable," and it results in your missing an issue or two (assuming we are able to locate you). In cases where an issue is returned ...

Clinton Unveils "Anti-Crime" Package

By Paul Wright

On August 11, 1993, president Clinton revealed his proposed new "anti crime" legislation. A few months ago I wrote an article in PLN concerning Clinton's campaign promises as they affected prisoners. It appears that things are worse than expected.

With Slick Willie having reneged or backed off on most of his major campaign promises (i.e. gays in the military, middle class tax break, etc.) it looks like he is going to deliver on his promise of repression, prisons and death. Coming from the man who interrupted his presidential campaign to fly home to publicize the execution of a mentally retarded black man, this is not surprising.

At the center of the proposal is spending $3.4 billion to put an additional 50,000 police on the streets. He calls this "a major downpayment" on his campaign promise for 100,000 more police. PLN readers should note that, according to the National Institute of Justice, there are approximately 500,000 Americans employed in law enforcement at all levels throughout the US. An increase of 20 % is a very significant increase no matter how you look at it. An increase in police is called a "front end ...

Families Against Mandatory Minimums

FAMM is a national, grassroots organization of the friends and family members of prisoners serving "mandatory minimum" sentences. In the 1980's, as part of the "war on drugs" the U.S. congress and many state legislatures passed laws mandating minimum sentences for many types of offenses, most but not all were drug offenses. The results were harsh sentences for even the most minimal drugs offenses. Mandatory minimums removed the discretion judges previously had in imposing sentences. Instead, this discretion was shifted to the prosecutor who, by choosing the charges to indict on and prosecute was, in essence, choosing the sentence as well. This resulted in many injustices such as defendants who choose to inform on their co-conspirators receiving lesser sentences than their underlings.

FAMM was formed to educate the public and lobby congress about changing mandatory minimum sentencing. They have rapidly grown and now have chapters in 34 states. Aside from large amounts of information on this subject they also publish an excellent bi-monthly newsletter called FammGram that is filled with information on sentencing laws, lobbying and the federal prison system.

The most important thing about FAMM is that it is the organized effort of prisoners, their friends and ...

Professionalism at Purdy Women's Prison

By V.M .

Being incarcerated here at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) for the past few years, I have had the opportunity to observe the behavior of those designated by the state to make sure that we stay incarcerated, that being the guards. Or more appropriately termed, Satan's Minions, as I so fondly refer to them.

As you may or may not know, we here at WCCW recently won the cross gender pat search case that the DOC pathetically tried to enact. They even went so far as to say that the male guards employed here could conduct these intrusive body searches in a "professional" manner. And were I a person of a lesser sense of humor, I probably would have been outraged at such a blatant and obvious disregard for our well being.

I looked up the definition of "professional" in my ever-handy Websters , and interestingly enough, the definition did not seem to fit the behavior of the last four male correctional officers that mysteriously ceased working here in the past two months.

The DOC obviously has a different definition of "professionalism" than any of us incarcerated here, unless we're talking about sex offenders. And ...

BOP Not Liable for Guard Raping Prisoner

Lisa Flechsig was a prisoner at the federal women's prison in Lexington, Kentucky. After undergoing surgery she was taken to a local doctor's office for follow up treatment. BOP guard Bruce Trent was assigned to escort Flechsig to the doctor's office. En route to the doctor's office Trent removed her handcuffs and told her his apartment was nearby and they could stop there for a drink. Flechsig told him she did not want to go to his apartment, Trent stated that if she did not go with him he would claim she had tried to escape. Trent took Flechsig to his apartment and raped her.

Flechsig filed suit against the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) claiming that their negligence led to the rape. The district court dismissed the suit by holding that Trent was not acting within the scope of his employment when he raped Flechsig, thus the BOP and U.S. were not liable for his actions.

The court of appeals for the sixth circuit affirmed the lower courts dismissal.

The appeals court held that to determine liability under the FTCA the district court must ...

Cops Shaft Informant

In 1989 John Fay was serving a 15-35 year sentence for a second degree murder committed in 1973 and a 1984 armed robbery. While at the county jail pending a hearing on the robbery conviction, Fay came in contact with two guys who had just been arrested for an across the state crime spree. The two men, both in their early 20's, approached the 49 year old Fay with an escape plot. The two youngsters had outside help and they planned to take hostages.

Fay contacted the sheriff on duty, who in turn told the plot to the Pennsylvania State police stationed nearby. Fay subsequently met with the state police and agree to pretend to join the escape plan and to introduce one of the police officers as an associate of Fay's who would assist in the escape. In return, the state police promised Fay he could stay in the county jail as a trusty, and where he could have furloughs. Fay faithfully performed the undercover work for the police. A week later he was transferred to a more secure facility.

When Fay tried to collect his 30 pieces of silver (the transfer to a better joint), corrections ...

Murderer Fired From Prison Job

By Paul Wright

Massachusetts is currently being ruled by the Republican Weld administration. Governor Weld was elected to office on a "tough on crime" platform. Weld is himself a former federal prosecutor. Among his more interesting campaign promises were those to restore the death penalty in Massachusetts and to remove color TV sets from every state prison (presumably the black and whites will go too).

Even the Weld administration is a bit embarrassed by the news that it hired Gerry Dale for the $621 a week job monitoring whether or not state prisons and jails were adhering to state regulations governing the security and treatment of prisoners. What is unusual about Dale is that he himself is a convicted felon, whose employment in a correctional job is prohibited by state law.

Dale is a former federal prison guard. He served three years in prison for murdering a prisoner. While transporting a busload of prisoners in North Carolina he ordered an ace bandage and duct tape wrapped around the face of bank robber Vinson Harris. Harris suffocated to death and Dale was charged with violating Harris' civil rights. Facing life in prison, Dale pleaded guilty to assault with intent to injure ...

PA Women File Suit Over Property

by D.M. Muncy, PA

Our other lawsuit, on our property, seems to be at a standstill. The defendants filed an answer to our complaint, we filed an answer to their answer and now we're just waiting. We've heard nothing since June. We tried for a TRO/Preliminary Injunction but the judge denied both as well as our request for counsel. Meanwhile, the "search team" (AKA "goon squad") keeps coming into our cells and taking our property which doesn't comply with the new property regulations. This place is a pit and we have a warden, Mary Byrd, who is a psycho. I get so upset at these women, because they just won't stick together on anything. That's why we're treated worse than male prisoners.

None of the women's litigation groups in Pennsylvania are worth squat. We've tried N.O.W. and they never answered. We've tried the Women's Law Project, and they said they were "too busy."

Some Food for Thought: Prisoners Are Not Inmates

By Ojore Lutalo

[Ed. Note: Readers will note that PLN rarely refers to prisoners as "inmates" or "residents." We usually change any such terms to "prisoners" when we reprint pieces or publish articles. Ojore, a New Afrikan political prisoner, explains the reasoning behind this].

The vast majority of prisoners (especially politically conscious prisoners) resent being referred to as "inmates" because we are being detained as prisoners, which means against our will! The word "inmate" is used mostly by prison functionaries, attorneys (not progressive attorneys) and whoever else is employed in the so-called field of correction.

It's very important to acknowledge how languages become sterilized and de-radicalized and that soon, the warders (including some of the prisoners themselves) could be referring to the prisoners as "residents" as if we were on vacation or something else in that regard!

Penologists control the prisons and it's their goal to distort the reality of prisons and prisoners by identifying prisons as "correctional facilities" as opposed to "prisons" and "penitentiaries," while identifying prisoners as "inmates" or "residents" as opposed to "prisoners" in their endeavors to lull the general public into thinking that conditions in captivity are humane and that the warders operating the ...

Grievance System Sham

This letter is directed specifically at inmates within the Florida Department of Corrections, but may be of interest to any prisoner utilizing the grievance procedure in their state.

If the grievance procedure is "certified," as it is in the State of Florida, exhausting administrative remedies is required by the state and federal courts prior to filing a lawsuit.

I personally view the procedure in Florida, especially Baker Correctional Institution, as a "sham" and a vehicle used by officials to distract you from the actual cause of the grievance, by giving you inane responses that have little or nothing to do with the grieved issues. Generally, one official will lie and fifty others will swear to it.

After the informal grievance to institutional officials, the appeal goes to the department's inmate grievance committee. There, they request extension of time after extension, which is generally denied by the prisoner, and taken anyway by the committee.

The Administrative Code of Florida, and most likely your state, has a provision that grievances will be responded to within 30 days UNLESS an extension is agreed upon by the parties. I have had the DOC take up to four unauthorized extensions and know of instances ...

Needs Haircut Information

I need to know if any prisons in the United States, state or federal, allow their prisoners to grow beards and have long hair. If you don't have their address just listing their names would be a start.

Prisoners here at the Georgia State Prison have filed a class action suit on this issue. We are required to cut off all the hair on our head, military fashion, and are not allowed any hair on our faces. The state claims this is for sanitation and security reasons. We need to show that other prison systems allow prisoners to have beards and long hair without any problems. If PLN readers can send us policies and affidavits on this issue it would be very helpful.

John Harris # EF291-705
H.C.O.1 Star Route,
Georgia State Prison
Reidsville, GA. 30499

Prison Flooded

We at Menard are suffering the ravages of the Mississippi river flooding. Because of the flooding, all normal services are up in the air. We are given potable water in half ounce little milk containers, and not in sufficient quantities to wash with. The prevailing wind comes in to us from across a pig farm and the smell of the pig feces combined with the rancid stench of decaying, unwashed bodies create a totality of conditions far beyond any punishment a sentencing court could envision. We should be given many extra "good time" days for every day spent in this fetid oubillette. The problem is that the jive turkey that runs this "place of wrath and tears" can't handle the river and the men at the same time. He's put the prison on lockdown in 95 plus degree heat and just doesn't care.

C.M. Menard, IL.


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