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Prison Legal News: March, 1993

Issue PDF
Volume 4, Number 3

In this issue:

  1. Supreme Court Strikes Blow Against Attorney Fees (p 1)
  2. Federal Judge Says Prisoners Denied Access to Courts (p 1)
  3. Okay to Steal Mail (p 2)
  4. Congress OKs Fed Cons to Pay Cost of Prison (p 2)
  5. Freezing Temperature Violates Eighth Amendment (p 2)
  6. Federal Prison Terms Increasing (p 2)
  7. Prisoners No Longer Entitled to Witness Fees (p 3)
  8. Death Threats and "Snitch Jacketing" by Guards Unlawful (p 3)
  9. Court Cannot Dismiss Suit if Partial Filing Fee Paid (p 3)
  10. Court Cannot Supply Elements of Complaint (p 3)
  11. Maxed Out Washington Cons Have Right to Earn Good Time (p 4)
  12. Dismissal of HIV+ Conditions Suit Reversed (p 4)
  13. Prison Bosses Liable for Rights Violation (p 4)
  14. Penn. Senate Warned of Possible Prison TB Epidemic (p 4)
  15. Right to Avoid Tobacco Smoke Exposure not Established (p 5)
  16. Washington Smoking Suit Dismissed (p 5)
  17. Exposure to Tobacco Smoke Violates Eighth Amendment (p 5)
  18. Vermont Ends Smoking Ban (p 5)
  19. Indiana DOC Must Allow Witnesses at Hearings (p 6)
  20. Prisoners Win Suit Over Circulating Petition (p 6)
  21. Prisoner Entitled to Religious Diet (p 6)
  22. Kentucky Cons Used as Scabs (p 6)
  23. What's Wrong With This Picture? (p 7)
  24. Editorial (p 7)
  25. Section 1983 Proper Remedy for Disiplinary Violations (p 8)
  26. Ex-Louisiana Officials Fined for Racial Segregation (p 8)
  27. Jury Must Be Asked If Prisoner Testimony Credible (p 8)
  28. Palestinians Sue Tear Gas Maker (p 9)
  29. Crisis in the French Gulag (p 9)
  30. Package Forwarding Service for Cons (p 10)
  31. Oregon Wants Prisoners to Pay for Incarceration (p 10)
  32. NIJ To Study Roots of Crime (p 10)
  33. Battered Women in Prison (p 10)
  34. 1990 U.S. Prison Population Stats (p 11)
  35. No Welcome for Princess Anne (p 11)
  36. Prisoners File Record Number of Suits (p 11)
  37. Clinton for Prisoners: More Bad News (p 12)
  38. Disabled Executed (p 12)
  39. Reviews and Correspondence (p 13)

Supreme Court Strikes Blow Against Attorney Fees

Since 1976, the Civil Rights Attorney Fees Award Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1988, has ensured that state officials would be forced to pay the attorney fees of the litigants who successfully sue state officials for violations of federal rights. This law has been especially important to prisoners for two ...

Federal Judge Says Prisoners Denied Access to Courts

Prisoners in Arizona have been denied adequate means to communicate with lawyers, perform legal research, and otherwise receive legal assistance, according to a recent decision by United States District Judge Carl Muecke in Phoenix, AZ.

Ruling in Casey v. Lewis, a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of all Arizona ...

Okay to Steal Mail

Two Missouri state prisoners wrote and telephoned US postal officials to complain that prison administrators were "stealing, holding, tampering with, censoring, delaying and destroying" their mail in violation of federal postal laws. The postal officials refused to investigate the prisoners' claims. The prisoners then filed suit against the officials claiming ...

Congress OKs Fed Cons to Pay Cost of Prison

Congress has approved legislation allowing the Federal Bureau of Prisons to collect "user fees" from federal inmates equal to the costs of a year's incarceration. The Justice Department, which sought the legislation, estimated that about 9 percent of the 30,000 new inmates who enter the prison system each ...

Freezing Temperature Violates Eighth Amendment

Four prisoners at the Iowa State Reformatory segregation unit were sent outdoors to a recreation area while prison guards searched their living unit for weapons. The temperature was sub-freezing with a significant wind chill factor. The prisoners requested not to go outside. They were placed outdoors with only coats even ...

Federal Prison Terms Increasing

Offenders sentenced under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines are more likely to go to prison and to stay there longer than were offenders sentenced for crimes committed before the guidelines took effect in November, 1987,according to U.S. Justice Departments Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). BJS said that in 1990 ...

Prisoners No Longer Entitled to Witness Fees

In October of 1992 former President Bush signed bill HR-2324 into law which prohibits the payment to incarcerated persons of witness fee's in federal court. The law amends 28 U.S.C. § 1821 and overrules the US Supreme Courts decision in Demarest v. Manspeaker, 498 US 184 (1991), which ...

Death Threats and "Snitch Jacketing" by Guards Unlawful

Craig Northington is a Colorado state prisoner assigned to community placement. While going to his work site plainclothes prison officials surprised him, put guns to his head without identifying themselves as prison guards, threatened to kill him and verbally and physically assaulted him while returning him to the local jail ...

Court Cannot Dismiss Suit if Partial Filing Fee Paid

Autry Clark is an Ohio state prisoner. He filed suit against Ocean Brand Tuna claiming he bought cans of cat food from the prison commissary that had been re-labelled as tuna fit for human consumption. Clark became ill after eating the tuna. He filed suit in federal court claiming the ...

Court Cannot Supply Elements of Complaint

Joseph Pena is a prisoner at the Washington State Penitentiary. He was subjected to a digital rectal search without probable cause and filed suit under § 1983. Prison officials sought dismissal of the complaint on grounds Pena had failed to state a claim and that they were entitled to qualified and ...

Maxed Out Washington Cons Have Right to Earn Good Time

This is a case that will only be of interest to prisoners in Washington state, as our system of issuing good time credits is probably the strangest in the nation. This case deals with a Washington state prisoner who filed a personal restraint petition seeking review of a decision of ...

Dismissal of HIV+ Conditions Suit Reversed

Two HIV+ Mississippi state prisoners filed suit against Mississippi state officials challenging numerous aspects of the state DOC's policy regarding HIV+ prisoners. The policies they challenged include: placing HIV+ prisoners in administrative segregation and denying them all privileges; not providing adequate AIDS treatment (to include medication) and diagnosis; a ...

Prison Bosses Liable for Rights Violation

Willie Horne is a retarded New York state prisoner who was infracted, not provided with a counsel substitute at a disciplinary hearing, and was punished. Horne filed suit claiming that prison officials violated his due process rights by subjecting him to a disciplinary hearing without a counsel substitute when they ...

Penn. Senate Warned of Possible Prison TB Epidemic

Tuberculosis may spread from state prisons and become Pennsylvania's number one health concern if officials fail to implement proper controls, a witness told a state Senate committee last November in Harrisburg.

ACLU lawyer Stephan Presser said the recent discovery that nearly one-quarter of the inmates at Graterford Prison in ...

Right to Avoid Tobacco Smoke Exposure not Established

In part of the continuing split among the circuits on this issue, some circuits have held exposing prisoners to Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) violates the eighth amendment, see: Hunt v. Reynolds, above. Other Circuits have held it does not. See: Wilson v. Lynaugh, 878 F.2d 846 (5th Cir. 1989 ...

Washington Smoking Suit Dismissed

Ronald Guilmet is a Washington state prisoner at Walla Walla. Guilmet does not smoke and a smoker was placed in his cell. Five days later Guilmet complained to the unit sergeant that cigarette smoke bothered him. About five days after this Guilmet was assigned a non-smoking cellmate. Guilmet filed suit ...

Exposure to Tobacco Smoke Violates Eighth Amendment

Two non-smoking Tennessee prisoners suffering from various medical problems were forcibly celled with prisoners who smoked. They claim the Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) of their cellmates aggravated their existing medical conditions. They filed suit in district court under § 1983 claiming prison officials had violated their eighth amendment rights by double ...

Vermont Ends Smoking Ban

The Nov. 26, 1992, edition of the Seattle Times reports that the Vermont DOC has ended its ban on prisoner smoking. The Vermont DOC had banned smoking, in July 92, to counter indoor air pollution problems and avoid lawsuits by non smoking prisoners.

The reason given by prison officials for ...

Indiana DOC Must Allow Witnesses at Hearings

Jerry Forbes is an Indiana state prisoner who refused to take a urine test because the prison did not publish its testing procedures. He was infracted and requested prison officials as witnesses at his hearing and they refused to appear. He was found guilty, lost good time credits and was ...

Prisoners Win Suit Over Circulating Petition

Dennis Wolfel and three other Ohio state prisoners, including longtime PLN supporter John Perotti, were infracted and disciplined for circulating a petition complaining of brutal prison conditions. The petition was going to be sent to Amnesty International, the international human rights group, to request an investigation of prison conditions in ...

Prisoner Entitled to Religious Diet

Warren Bass is a New York state prisoner who filed suit under § 1983 after being denied a diet of meals prepared in accordance with his religious beliefs. The defendant prison officials moved for summary judgement on the basis of qualified immunity from money damages. The district court denied their motion ...

Kentucky Cons Used as Scabs

Prisoners from a privately-run jail in Louisville, Kentucky have been used as scabs in the three-month-old strike by UFCW Local 227 against Fischer Packing Company. The prisoners were brought into the plant after the strikers rejected the company's "best and final offer" by a margin of 402 to 2 ...

What's Wrong With This Picture?

By Paul Wright

A judge in Maryland recently sentenced a university student to six months in jail after the student was discovered to have cheated on his Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), which is the test used for college admissions. The student cheated by paying another student to take the test ...

Editorial

Why do you think Paul and I go through all the trouble to put out this paper each month? Why do our outside volunteers so consistently work to produce and mail every issue? It certainly isn't because we or our volunteers have nothing better to do with our time ...

Section 1983 Proper Remedy for Disiplinary Violations

Two Arizona state prisoners were found guilty of drug use at a disciplinary hearing and lost 2 years of good time credits, did 15 days in isolation, lost privileges, were moved to higher security levels, and placed on a more restrictive parole status. They filed suit under § 1983 claiming that ...

Ex-Louisiana Officials Fined for Racial Segregation

Two former Louisiana corrections officials must pay $4,000 in fines for segregating inmates by race, a federal judge said. In his ruling October 27th in Baton rouge, a U.S. District judge lowered the judgment from $10,000 recommended by a federal magistrate earlier in the year.

Fined were ...

Jury Must Be Asked If Prisoner Testimony Credible

Jeffrey Rainey was a North Carolina pretrial detainee. He claimed that in the course of a dispute with a jail guard the guard used excessive force against him by slamming him into a wall three times, injuring his back. He filed suit under § 1983 and at trial a jury ruled ...

Palestinians Sue Tear Gas Maker

According to Al Fair of Nov. 23, 1992, in December, 1991, the New York based Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit on behalf of nine families of Palestinians killed by tear gas in Israeli occupied Palestine. The suit, Abu Zeinah v. Federal Laboratories, was filed in U.S. District Court ...

Crisis in the French Gulag

As you may know, the French prison system is one of the worst in Western Europe; its conditions and facilities of confinement are the same as those of bloody Turkey!

In the 1980's things only worsened. Each year there are more prisoners and they are always serving heavier sentences ...

Package Forwarding Service for Cons

Looking for someone to mail a gift for you? Thanks to a service called Mail-A-Gift, fathers who have never had the chance to select and independently send their child a birthday present can do so now, and husbands can send their wives gifts such as candy or flowers. Mail-A-Gift is ...

Oregon Wants Prisoners to Pay for Incarceration

The Oregon DOC has introduced a bill into the Oregon Legislature that would allow the state to charge prisoners for their costs, which include transportation, room, board, clothing, security, medical and other living expenses. According to the DOC, the average cost of care for an Oregon prisoner is $47.85 ...

NIJ To Study Roots of Crime

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has announced its support for a vast study of the ways in which criminal offenders differ from law-abiding people, and what leads certain people into criminal behavior. Directors of the "Roots of Crime" project said it will be "the most sophisticated, broad-based, and ambitious ...

Battered Women in Prison

Every fifteen seconds a woman in the U.S. is beaten. One California state prison study found that 93 percent of women who had killed their mates had been battered by them. There are approximately 650 women in California state prisons for killing their abusers.

The California Coalition for Battered ...

1990 U.S. Prison Population Stats

By Ed Mead

The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics has just come out with two more books containing figures on the nation's prison population. The first is a 32-page pamphlet entitled Census of State and Federal Correctional Facilities-1990, and the second one is a 189-page book named Correctional ...

No Welcome for Princess Anne

No Welcome For Princess Anne

Princess Anne of British royal family fame, did not receive a friendly welcome from some her less fortunate subjects when she paid a visit to Horfield Prison in Bristol.

Prisoners threw food and rubbish in a protest over conditions before the visit, and among the ...

Prisoners File Record Number of Suits

By Paul Wright

We often hear prison officials, the various attorney generals, and the courts complain about what they call a "flood" of prisoner litigation. I, for one, became curious as to how many lawsuits constitute a "flood." I have been in several prisons over the last few years and ...

Clinton for Prisoners: More Bad News

With Clinton's election many prisoners are optimistic that there will be some changes for the better after 12 years of jackboot politics by the Republicans. In past issues of PLN I've mentioned Clinton's despicable record on the death penalty. That record includes 4 executions, dozens of death ...

Disabled Executed

On January 19, 1993, the state of Virginia executed Charles Stamper. Stamper had been confined to a wheelchair since his spinal cord was injured in a prison brawl. Stamper was denied permission to walk to the electric chair in leg braces and a walker. Instead, prison guards shuffled him into ...

Reviews and Correspondence

Crossroad: A New Afrikan Captured Combatant Newsletter is a quarterly publication which specializes in coverage of political prisoners and prisoners of war in the U.S. from a New Afrikan perspective. Recent issues have included an excellent interview with Assata Shakur, peer advocacy in AIDS education in prison, control units ...