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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: January, 1994

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Volume 5, Number 1

In this issue:

  1. Ninth Circuit Approves Oregon Control Unit Conditions (p 1)
  2. Outgoing Mail May Contain Slander (p 2)
  3. Bankruptcy Appeal Filed When Mailed (p 3)
  4. Discipline For Rude Letter Struck Down (p 3)
  5. WI Prisoners Not Entitled to Minimum Wage (p 3)
  6. Law of Medical Treatment Explained (p 4)
  7. Conditions Habeas Requires Administrative Exhaustion (p 4)
  8. WA State DOC "Work Ethic" Program: Capitalist Training Camp, or Liberal Rehabilitation Scheme? (p 5)
  9. Court Declines to Define "Frivolous" Suits (p 6)
  10. Exposure to Cold Weather States Claim (p 6)
  11. Death Row Prisoners Entitled to Limited Contact Attorney Visits (p 7)
  12. Prisoner's Assault Claim Must Go to Trial (p 7)
  13. MI Hearing Officers Have Absolute Immunity (p 7)
  14. Only One Appeal on Qualified Immunity (p 8)
  15. Classification Chief Liable for Attack (p 8)
  16. Making Con Drink from Toilet States Claim (p 9)
  17. Parole Commission Guidelines Not Ex Post Facto (p 9)
  18. Visitor Cannot Withdraw Consent to Search Once Search Has Begun (p 9)
  19. Common Law Right to Inspect Court Records (p 9)
  20. Nominal Damages in Eighth Amendment Claim Upheld (p 10)
  21. No Cause of Action in Reversed Disciplinary Sanction (p 10)
  22. "Tough On Crime" Law Increases Michigan Crime Rates (p 11)
  23. Reviews (p 11)
  24. WA DNA Identification Statute Upheld by District Court (p 12)
  25. Editorial (p 12)
  26. BOP Must Disclose Program Statement (p 12)
  27. Weed and Seed: The Fortress Culture (p 13)
  28. Disastrous Conditions in Vermont Prisons (p 14)
  29. Materials on Prison Rape Survival Available (p 14)
  30. Dime Down (p 15)

Ninth Circuit Approves Oregon Control Unit Conditions

By Paul Wright

This is a case which challenged numerous conditions of confinement at the Oregon State Penitentiary's Disciplinary Segregation Unit (DSU), which is a control unit. The ruling does not bode well for prisoners seeking to question such conditions.

The sole plaintiff is Samuel Lemaire. The district court largely ruled in his favor in Lemaire v. Maas , 745 F.Supp 623 (DC OR 1990), which we reported in PLN at the time. The state appealed and the court of appeals for the Ninth Circuit vacated and remanded the lower court's ruling. The appeals court opinion is essentially a rubber stamp of approval for common control unit practices.

In making its ruling, despite clear factual disputes, the court relied heavily on Lemaire's behavior. Lemaire is serving a life sentence for murder. Six weeks after arriving at OSP he attacked a guard. Then days after release from DSU for that offense he stabbed a reputed informant and child molester 10 to 14 times. While in DSU he apparently assaulted numerous staff members, bombarded them with feces and urine, attacked other prisoners, stabbed guards and was otherwise difficult to manage.

The district court found most of the response by ...

Outgoing Mail May Contain Slander

Aprisoner at the Iowa Men's Reformatory received a major disciplinary infraction for "verbal abuse" as a result of comments included in a letter he had written to his brother. The prisoner, Rick Bressman, wrote: "yeah, their (sic) real assholes, my counselor is a dick head, the officers working here ...

Bankruptcy Appeal Filed When Mailed

Three Pennsylvania state prisoners appealed the dismissal of their appeals from bankruptcy court after the district court held the appeal was untimely. Bankruptcy appeals must be filed within ten days, and in this case the prisoners gave their appeals to prison officials within the ten days, but they were not received by the court until eight days after it was due.

The court of appeals for the third circuit vacated and remanded. The appeals court applied Houston v. Lack , 487 U.S. 266, 108 S.Ct 2379 (1988), to bankruptcy appeals and held that the appeals are filed when given to prison officials for mailing. The court gave an extensive discussion of Houston 's application to the filing of documents by prisoners, including a review of other circuits rulings on this issue. See: In re Flanagan , 999 F.2d 753 (3 Cir. 1993).

Discipline For Rude Letter Struck Down

Lobester Loggins is a Missouri State prisoner. In 1989 he sent his brother a letter. Pursuant to prison policy a prison mail clerk opened and read the letter, which stated in part that "there's a beetle eyed bitch back here who enjoys reading people's mail." The letter continued ...

WI Prisoners Not Entitled to Minimum Wage

In part of the continuing struggle to obtain minimum wages for their labor, five Wisconsin prisoners filed suit under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. The Wisconsin prison industries program, under the name of Badger State Industries (BSI) operates a vehicle and bicycle license plate factory at the Waupun prison and a laundry service at the Oshkosh prison. The customers of both industries are limited to state and municipal government agencies. Prisoners are paid according to Wisconsin statute § 303.01 (4), which is substantially less than the prevailing minimum wage.

The district court dismissed the suit on BSI's motion for summary judgement, holding that the FLSA does not apply to prisoners in this case. The court noted that prisoners are not automatically excluded from the minimum wage provisions of the FLSA. The court cited most recent court decisions considering the application of the FLSA to prisoners and pointed out that most, but not all, have declined to extend the FLSA to prisoners working for private entities.

The court relied heavily on Vanskike v. Peters , 974 F.2d 806 (7 Cir. 1992), in ruling in the defendants' favor. Vanskike held that paying prisoners ...

Law of Medical Treatment Explained

By Ed Mead

Case Goes to Trial Over $12.40 Pair of Glasses

Aprisoner at the Iowa State Penitentiary (ISP), Dean Benter, filed a suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the eighth amendment. Benter claimed his captors ...

Conditions Habeas Requires Administrative Exhaustion

Raleigh Irby is a prisoner at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Chicago. He petitioned the district court for release under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 (the habeas corpus statute) because he was not receiving adequate medical treatment for severe congenital disk disease.

The district court held that Irby's petition for release was barred because he had not first exhausted his administrative remedies with the Bureau of Prisons. The purpose of the exhausted remedies doctrine "is to allow administrative agencies to correct their own mistakes and thus to avoid needless and costly litigation." See: Irby v. True , 823 F. Supp 582 (ND IL 1993).

WA State DOC "Work Ethic" Program: Capitalist Training Camp, or Liberal Rehabilitation Scheme?

WA State DOC "Work Ethic" Program: Capitalist Training Camp, or Liberal Rehabilitation Scheme?

By P. L. G.

During the last session of the Washington State legislature, there was a bill passed mandating that DOC implement a "Work Ethic Program" by November 1, 1993. The McNeil Island Annex, a minimum security work camp, was the site chosen, and being housed there myself, I have had the opportunity to see the camp staff hired, new additions to the facility built, and now the first class of prisoners arrive to begin their "Work Ethic" experience. [This is a so- called boot camp.]

When I first heard of the "Work Ethic" camp my first reaction was: "Who in DOC knows anything about work, or ethics"? And then I thought about the obvious, and blatant capitalist message that was being sent by the powers that be, that if paraphrased would go like this: "If someone breaks the law, what they need is a little capitalist training, so they can become manageable, exploitable, good little worker bees."

On the other hand this is the first time since the Sentencing Reform Act took effect, in 1984, that there has been law that provided for a alternative to ...

Court Declines to Define "Frivolous" Suits

Anthony Brown is a Maryland state prisoner. After telling prison medical staff he had already been vaccinated, he was given another tuberculosis inoculation and broke out in a rash. Brown filed suit under §<%0> 1983 claiming that the vaccination violated his eighth amendment rights. The district court granted Brown leave to proceed in forma pauperis and then dismissed the suit for failing to state a legal claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (d). The court of appeals for the fourth circuit affirmed.

The appeals court gives a brief overview of the history of prisoner civil rights litigation. Noting that in 1966 state prisoners filed 218 suits in federal courts while in 1991 they filed 36,722. It is clear that the appeals court takes a rather dim view of prisoner litigation and makes the interesting claim that by subjecting prison employees to civil rights litigation it "deters qualified technical personnel from accepting or retaining positions in prisons where they must spend a great deal of their time defending and preparing for lawsuits. Thus, the monetary claims themselves may have the effect of diminishing the capabilities of prisons to raise their own standards."

The court points out that 28 U.S ...

Exposure to Cold Weather States Claim

Ronald Chandler is a Missouri state prisoner. He filed suit claiming that prison officials violated his constitutional rights by providing a dining room too small to accommodate all the prisoners in his housing unit at once; poorly supervising the noisy and chaotic dining room; not providing enough salt and pepper shakers or cereal bowls to adequately serve all prisoners; failing to ensure that the trays, pitchers and eating utensils were properly cleaned; and failing to provide enough juice and tea. He also claimed he was often forced to wait outside in the rain or freezing cold without adequate protective clothing while other prisoners finished their meals.

The district court dismissed the entire case as frivolous under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d). The court of appeals for the eighth circuit, in a brief opinion, affirmed in part and reversed in part.

The appeals court upheld dismissal of Chandler's claims concerning the dining hall because he did not claim or allege he was denied a reasonably adequate diet and failed to allege any facts showing he was denied the "minimal civilized measure of life's necessities."

The appellate court reversed the dismissal of the claim of being forced to stand ...

Death Row Prisoners Entitled to Limited Contact Attorney Visits

This case involves a class action suit filed by Oklahoma death row prisoners and prisoners in the control unit of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. The case provides a revealing look at the mentality driving the construction of control units.

The OSP control unit is called H Unit. It was opened in November of 1991, planned and designed by an informal DOC committee. The court states: "The philosophy and design of the new unit were modeled on the federal penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, the highest security facility in the federal prison system. There is no direct proof or reasonable inference that this non-contact philosophy was in response to any specific act or situation that existed in H block. Rather, it appears to be a general philosophy that the less the contact the less the danger."

When H Unit opened prison officials had made no provision for confidential attorney visitation. The current attorney-client visitation provisions are what is being challenged in this suit. The accommodations have the attorney separated from his client by grated plexiglass and a barred window. There is a pass-through space 16 inches wide and 4 inches high. All the attorneys and clients who have used the cubicle testified ...

Prisoner's Assault Claim Must Go to Trial

Prisoner's Assault Claim Must Go To Trial

William Moore is a prisoner at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) in Lucasville. He filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming that his eighth amendment rights were violated when prison guards came to his cell, handcuffed him, and proceeded to savagely beat him with fists and clubs. The defendants filed for summary judgement and painted a completely different picture of events.

The defendants stated that a major disturbance was in progress with prisoners flooding the cellblocks, starting fires, and throwing objects. They claimed Moore was one of the instigators. They said that after being handcuffed and escorted out of the area Moore turned and grabbed one of the guards shirt collar. The other guards then used their clubs in a "come along" technique to control Moore. After being restrained, they claimed Moore was taken to a set of stairs where he slipped and fell, injuring two guards. The defendants denied striking and beating Moore. The district court granted the defendant's motion for summary judgement over Moore's objections.

The court of appeals for the sixth circuit reversed and remanded the case for trial. As a preliminary matter the ...

MI Hearing Officers Have Absolute Immunity

James Sullivan is a Michigan state prisoner. He was infracted for having a urinalysis test that indicated marijuana use. At his disciplinary hearing he stated he had been using the legal pain killer and anti-inflammatory Ibuprofen, which was sold in the inmate store. He sought to introduce evidence showing Ibuprofen caused false positives for marijuana use in EMIT urine tests. The hearing officer refused to accept the evidence, and found Sullivan guilty of the disciplinary charge.

Sullivan filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the hearing officer's refusal to even consider his evidence violated his right to due process of law. The district court disagreed and dismissed the complaint as being frivolous.

In Michigan, disciplinary hearings are conducted by professional hearing officers, who are attorneys, under the direction and supervision of a special hearing division of the Michigan Department of Corrections (DOC). Citing Shelly v. Johnson , 849 F.2d 228 (6 Cir. 1988), the court held that Michigan DOC hearing officers are entitled to absolute judicial immunity in the case and could not be sued.

The court considered the merits of the case and ruled that even if he could be sued, the hearing officer had ...

Only One Appeal on Qualified Immunity

Only One Appeal On Qualified Immunity

This case involves a taxpayer suing an IRS agent claiming her constitutional rights were violated when the agent garnished her wages and seized her house, even though he knew she owed no taxes. While this is not a prison case, the legal issue presented, appeals of denial of qualified immunity, is familiar to any prison litigator because a qualified immunity defense is frequently invoked by prison officials.

In this case the IRS agent sought summary judgement on qualified immunity grounds in 1989. The district court denied the motion and Silverman filed an interlocutory appeal which he later dismissed. In 1991 Silverman again sought summary judgement on qualified immunity grounds, which the court again denied. Silverman filed yet another appeal.

The court said the purpose of allowing immediate appeals of the denial of qualified immunity is to safeguard the immunity from suit that the doctrine represents, rather than a mere defense to liability. The opportunity to appeal an adverse qualified immunity ruling before trial preserves the defendant's rights.

The appeals court went on to hold that: "A defendant is not, however, free to file multiple pre-trial appeals from denials of qualified immunity motions." The ...

Classification Chief Liable for Attack

Classification Chief Liable For Attack

Israel Nelson was convicted in an Ohio court of assaulting his common law wife and was sent to a medium security prison. His wife contacted him and informed him that her brother, a major cocaine dealer, was plotting to have him attacked by associates at the prison. Based on this information, Nelson sent two letters to Roger Overberg, the chief of classification for the Ohio Department of Corrections (DOC), informing him that he feared for his safety.

Overberg's sole response was to send Nelson a form letter about initial classification. The letter in no way addressed Nelson's safety concerns, and Overberg conducted no investigation of Nelson's claims nor did he instruct Nelson to contact local officials or seek protective custody. Nelson was severely beaten by two assailants and spent five days in the hospital.

Nelson filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that Overberg had violated his eighth amendment right to remain free from cruel and unusual punishment when Overberg reaffirmed his prison placement after Nelson informed him that he had enemies there.

Overberg filed for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds and the district court denied the motion. Overberg ...

Making Con Drink from Toilet States Claim

Making Con Drink From Toilet States Claim

Apro se prisoner at the Indiana State Prison, Craig Thomas, filed a civil rights claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The complaint raised a number of issues, only one of which survived the state's motion for summary judgement. The surviving claim was an eighth amendment violation flowing from Thomas' placement in a segregation cell which had no running water in the sink. Thomas filed numerous complaints, and was told by his captors that the sink would be fixed. During the ensuing 33 days no repairs were initiated or completed on the sink. Thomas maintains that he had to drink water from the toilet in his cell.

Summary judgement was not granted in this case because the district court judge found a genuine issue of fact as to deliberate indifference, as well as the material fact of whether the cell had access to running water. Hence, the judge ruled, there were issues of material fact on both the objective and subjective components of the eighth amendment claim. See: Thomas v. Brown , 824 F. Supp 160 (ND IN 1993).

Parole Commission Guidelines Not Ex Post Facto

The federal prisoner in this case, Noble Simpson, filed a pro se habeas corpus petition against the U.S. Parole Commission. Simpson's suit challenged, on ex post facto grounds, the Commission's application at his second parole hearing of it's guidelines which were not in effect at the time of his first hearing. He also alleged that the Commission violated the separation of powers doctrine by establishing parole guidelines exceeding those established by Congress. The district court granted summary judgement in favor of the respondent Parole Commission. Simpson appealed from that judgement and the appeals court affirmed the finding that there was no genuine issue for trial.

With regard to ex post facto claims, the appeals court noted that Simpson's claim was that the 1990 guidelines "substantially diminish[ed] or eliminat[ed] [his] eligibility for parole." The court responded by noting that the parole commission determines a prisoner's suitability for parole, not his eligibility, as the latter is determined by the length and nature of one's sentence.

As for Simpson's claim that the commission violated the doctrine of separation of powers by establishing parole eligibility guidelines which exceed those established by Congress, once again ...

Visitor Cannot Withdraw Consent to Search Once Search Has Begun

Visitor Cannot Withdraw Consent To Search Once Search Has Begun

This prison case comes to us via a suppression of evidence hearing in a federal drug prosecution.

Arthur Spriggs went to visit a prisoner at the Lorton Reformatory, a District of Columbia prison. Prior to entering the prison all visitors are subjected to a pat search. Spriggs was pat searched, removed his shoes and allowed his mouth to be searched. When informed he could not wear sweat pants under his jeans he offered to remove them. Upon removing the sweat pants the guard requested to examine his groin.

At this point Spriggs objected and sought to terminate the attempt to visit in order to halt the search. This was refused and Spriggs was restrained by guards and a federal agent who continued the search. They discovered ten balloons of heroin and one of cocaine.

The district court expresses quite a bit of frustration at drug cases arising out of Lorton and calls the prison a "public disgrace" due to the ready availability of drugs within the prison.

The court went on to hold that once a prison visitor has received fair notice of the scope of a search, they cannot ...

Common Law Right to Inspect Court Records

This is not a prison case but it involves a net maker's suing a competitor for theft of trade secrets. In the course of the litigation various documents were submitted under seal and protective order to the court. That litigation was settled. A shareholder in Applied Extension Technologies (AET) filed suit against AET claiming securities fraud and sought disclosure of the sealed records in court custody. The district court denied the shareholder's motion and he appealed.

The court of appeals for the third circuit vacated and remanded. The court gave an extensive history of the "existence of a pervasive common law right to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents." This right antedates the constitution and applies to both criminal and civil cases.

The court noted that access to civil proceedings records promotes public respect for the judicial process and helps assure that judges perform their duties in an honest and informed manner. The court said it has applied the presumption of public access to a wide variety of civil records, including summary judgement exhibits, civil trial transcripts and exhibits, settlement documents and transcripts of hearings for a preliminary injunction.

The court held ...

Nominal Damages in Eighth Amendment Claim Upheld

Rederick Cummings was accused of attempting to rape a prison employee. During the course of "investigating" the rape allegations prison officials beat Cummings several times. Cummings filed suit alleging that the beatings violated his eighth amendment rights. At trial a jury found two of the defendants liable and awarded him ...

No Cause of Action in Reversed Disciplinary Sanction

Victor Sowell is a New York state prisoner. He was infracted for inciting a riot, assault and disobeying a direct order. He was transferred to a different prison and placed in segregation prior to his disciplinary hearing. At the hearing Sowell requested that the infracting guard be present, that a sergeant be interviewed as a witness, and that the incident report be included into evidence. Sowell's staff adviser was able to interview the sergeant but not the guard, nor did he obtain the incident report. Sowell was found guilty at the hearing and sentenced to 365 days in segregation.

Sowell appealed the decision to the New York DOC Commissioner who reversed the infraction for "procedural error." A new hearing was held and the only new evidence the hearing officer received into evidence was the reporting guard's statement. The hearing officer denied Sowell's other requests. Sowell was again found guilty and again sentenced to 365 days in segregation. He appealed and again the infractions were reversed. This time no new hearing was held and Sowell was released from segregation and his record expunged of the infraction.

Sowell filed suit for money damages, claiming that he spent five months ...

"Tough On Crime" Law Increases Michigan Crime Rates

Despite the increased use of prison as a criminal sanction, nearly every category of violent crime rose from 1981 to 1991. In the past decade, Michigan's legislature has passed many "tough on crime" laws and quadrupled the state's corrections budget, according to a study by the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency (MCCD).

An MCCD report listed dozens of laws approved by the state legislature since 1981, increasing penalties for many types of crimes. As a result, the State Department of Correction's budget has climbed from $225 million in Fiscal Year 1981-82 to more than $1 billion in FY 1992-93. Despite the massive increases in spending, three new state prisons remained empty due to a lack of operating funds.

According to the study, it is clear that criminal justice policy continues to be developed and implemented in Michigan without regard either to effectiveness or cost. In the current legislative session, bills have been introduced to establish mandatory prison terms for burglary, abolish minimum sentence reductions for good behavior, sentence juvenile offenders as adults, and impose additional mandatory penalties for substance abuse.

MCCD called for a moratorium on further crime legislation until sentencing guidelines are developed by an ...


La Patria Radical is a bi-lingual (English and Spanish) tabloid published by the MLN (Movimiento de Liberacion Nacional, a Puerto Rican independence party). Each issue provides information about the Puerto Rican independence movement, community activism, government repression of the movement and updates on the numerous Puerto Rican political prisoners and prisoners of war held by the US government for challenging the colonial regime imposed on Puerto Rico. The latest issue has a big insert The Price of Struggling for Freedom , which consists of articles by and about Puerto Rican POW's and PP's, their conditions of confinement, struggles, etc., and includes poems and pictures. Anyone interested in either the Puerto Rican independence movement or political prisoners in the U.S. should subscribe. Subscriptions are available for a donation. Write to: MLN, 1112 N. California, Chicago, IL. 60622.

Coalition for Prisoners Rights Newsletter is a national, monthly newsletter, free to prisoners and their families, on politics and prison conditions. Modest sliding subscription fee for others write: CPR, P.O. Box 1911, Santa Fe, NM. 87504.

Endeavor is a bi-monthly tabloid published by death row prisoners in Texas. Each issue contains death penalty and prison news, articles, poems, reviews of Supreme ...

WA DNA Identification Statute Upheld by District Court

The state of Washington has adopted legislation requiring prisoners convicted of sex offenses or violent crimes to submit to a blood draw in order to provide officials with DNA identification information. Joe Ryncarz filed a pro se 42 U.S.C. section 1983 action alleging the forcible extraction of his blood violated his constitutional rights. The statute, RCW 43.43.754, requires that every individual convicted of a felony after July 1, 1990, who was convicted of a sex offense or violent crime, "shall have a blood sample drawn for the purposes of DNA identification and analysis." Guards at the Washington State Penitentiary forced Ryncarz to submit to such an extraction.

The court reviewed the case on the state's motion to dismiss. It held that the forcible taking of blood samples for DNA purposes did not violate the fourth amendment, even in the absence of individualized suspicion, because the government had an interest in obtaining such blood. The court also rejected the prisoner's free exercise of religion claim under the first amendment. The fact that giving a blood sample was against prisoner's religious beliefs, the court ruled, was immaterial in light of the government's "compelling interest ...


Editorial Comments

By Ed Mead

Well, at long last here I am writing my very first editorial from the streets! Regular PLN readers will remember that some month ago I initiated a campaign to get myself free. For reasons I still don't quite understand, I am finally out here in minimum custody. What this means in real terms is that my cage is larger, my leash longer, the bribes more numerous. Other than that things are just the same. And my work will be the same, too. The newsletter will not only continue, it is going to be even better. And at last I will be able to put some computer time into the calendar project and other PLN-related tasks that have been put off for too long.

Paul put together the contents of the December issue all by himself. That was because I was off in a federal prison trying to convince my captors that the court order mandating my release was indeed genuine. This month, however, the burden of putting the newsletter together fell entirely on my shoulders.

Hope you like the PLN's new format. I will occasionally experiment with different styles, trying them out until ...

BOP Must Disclose Program Statement

George Cowsen-El is a federal prisoner at Marion, Illinois. He filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) seeking disclosure of BOP program statement 5511.2, which deals with stand up counts. He also sought disclosure, under the Privacy Act (PA), of his own medical records. The BOP refused to disclose the program statement and withheld twelve pages of Cowsen-El's medical records, stating they would disclose them to a physician but not to him.

Cowsen-El filed suit in the federal court in the District of Columbia. The court ordered the BOP to disclose the program statement but upheld the withholding of the medical records.

The court held that exemption 7(e) of the FOIA, 5 U.S.C. § 552, which exempts disclosure of law enforcement records, does not apply in this case because the BOP had failed to meet it's burden of showing that the program statement was compiled for law enforcement purposes. The court notes that the FOIA's statutory exemptions are to be narrowly construed. Internal agency policies are wholly unrelated to investigations or prosecutions and, thus, are not exempt from disclosure.

The court upheld the denial of Cowsen-El's ...

Weed and Seed: The Fortress Culture

America's inner cities are being militarized. And Operation Weed and Seed, initiated in 1991 by the Bush administration in order to subordinate social spending to the agenda of the Justice Department, lies at the heart of the assault.

Michael Zinzun of Los Angeles's Coalition Against Police Abuse puts it bluntly: "Operation Weed and Seed does nothing but further militarize our communities and criminalize our youth - criminalize an entire generation. It's this system's solution to a shortage of jobs and educational opportunities. Instead of social services, poor communities of color get collective punishment."

Many poor neighborhoods, particularly public housing projects, can now without exaggeration be compared to high-rise bantustans or, as Mike Davis so aptly put it in the pages of Crossroads , "strategic hamlets." In these "locked-down" communities, day-to-day life is micromanaged by the police and private security. Since Weed and Seed was launched, militarization of the country's ghettos has taken a turn for the worse. Weed and Seed, promoted as a way of providing social services, is actually a federal law enforcement program that turns ghettos into free-fire zones. So far, 20 cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Seattle are participating in this latest ...

Disastrous Conditions in Vermont Prisons

Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project who have just visited four Vermont Prisons announced today that they plan to extend and deepen their investigation into unconstitutional prison conditions there. Attorney Edward Koren, team member and veteran litigator in major prison conditions cases around the country, ranked Vermont's prisons among the worst he has encountered in many years. "There seem to be a number of disastrous health and environmental issues in Vermont's facilities which are caused or exaggerated by the extreme overcrowding, but the worst problem we have encountered so far is the virtually complete lack of medical, dental or mental health care for even the most gravely ill prisoners. The denial of even rudimentary health care indicates a deliberate indifference to inmates' most basic human needs."

The team also stressed that the explosive overcrowding in Vermont's prisons is in large part caused by Department of Corrections officials and prison staff. "Prison staff has virtually unbridled power to arbitrarily force prisoners to `max out' their sentences," said team attorney Margaret Winter. "They use this power to force hundreds of inmates into highly controversial behavior modification programs. These programs not only waste precious corrections ...

Materials on Prison Rape Survival Available

The Safer Society Program has recently produced and published a series of audio tapes made by ex-prisoners specifically for men confined in jails and prisons. Rape in prison is an important issue that has received all too little attention due to the stigmas attached to the subject. With virtually no materials available on the subject this effort meets a definite need.

The Prisoner Rape Education Project consists of a 27 minute audio tape emphasizing sexual assault avoidance tactics intended for use in prisoner orientation programs. Becoming a Survivor is a 90 minute audio tape emphasizing survival issues for victims of sexual assault in prison. Overview for Jail/Prison Administrators and Staff is a 46 page manual for staff. All these materials are available in Spanish as well as English versions. The full set of materials is available for $20.00 plus $5.00 shipping from: Safer Society Press, P.O. Box 340, Brandon, VT. 05733. (802) 247-3132. Prisoners can obtain a free copy of tape 2, Becoming a Survivor , from: SPR, C/O ABC No Rio, 156 Rivington St. NY. NY. 10002.

Dime Down

By Bill Dunne

The lockdown at the U.S. Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, is now a decade old. The magnitude of the decades in human experience is obvious in the marking of cultural epochs--the sixties, the fifties, the eighties. It even emerges in popular music as the definition of a long time--"ten years has got behind you" and "ten years burnin' down the road." And if ten years is a long time in the real world, imagine what it is in a repressive sarcophagus such as the control unit prison Marion has become.

For seven years I was a shadow in the dark concrete corners of dungeon Marion, from February of 1985 to March of 1992. I learned the prison was and is an experiment in social manipulation and control that was and is carried out with zero concern for the welfare of the experimental subjects or the communities into which all but a very few of them will eventually be released. I was shown there is not even a pretense that the regimen is intended to be constructive for prisoners, though swine petulantly insist they are not guards but correctional professionals. I found that to the extent anyone ...


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