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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: October, 1994

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Volume 5, Number 10

In this issue:

  1. Retaliation Case Dismissal Reversed (p 1)
  2. CBS Liable for Filming Search (p 2)
  3. Prisoner Mail Trashed at Waupun (p 3)
  4. WA DOC Negligence Caused Prisoner Death (p 3)
  5. The Forgotten Crime Victim (p 4)
  6. MS Prison Officials Indicted (p 5)
  7. New York Police Falsify Evidence (p 5)
  8. Fraudulent Police Chemist Flees Justice (p 5)
  9. No Immunity for Delay of Medical Care (p 6)
  10. Prisoners Have Right to Prompt Sentence Computation (p 6)
  11. Court Returns Fines (p 6)
  12. Federal Public Defenders Govt. Employees for FTCA (p 7)
  13. Ad-Seg Placement Without Hearing Illegal (p 7)
  14. No Right to HIV Testing (p 8)
  15. Correct Jury Instructions Needed for Beating Trial (p 8)
  16. MO Court's HIV Disclosure Rule Struck Down (p 9)
  17. Name Change Statute Upheld (p 9)
  18. Agreement Reached in State-Wide Pennsylvania Prison Case (p 10)
  19. New Trial Required for Improper Testimony (p 10)
  20. Florida Prisoners Have Right to Attend Forfeiture Trial (p 10)
  21. Seg Prisoner Entitled to Competent Hearing Help (p 11)
  22. Bias in Military Death Penalty (p 11)
  23. U.S. Number 1 (in Murder, Violence, Imprisonment, etc.) (p 11)
  24. Pepper Spray Hazardous (p 11)
  25. German Court Legalizes Soft Drugs (p 12)
  26. El Salvador Prison System in Crisis (p 12)
  27. PR Prisoners Rebel (p 12)
  28. The Fire Inside (p 13)
  29. Eleventh Anniversary of Marion Lockdown (p 15)
  30. News in Brief (p 15)
  31. Amnesty Criticizes OK Control Unit (p 16)
  32. From The Editor (p 17)
  33. $273,000 Settlement for Gassing (p 18)
  34. Reviews (p 18)
  35. Peruvian Government to Stand Trial for Prison Massacres (p 19)
  36. $1 Million for Boiling Prisoner (p 19)
  37. $153,400 Awarded to Estate for Stabbing Death (p 19)
  38. $1.7 Million Settlement for Beating (p 19)
  39. Swedish Prisoners Mutiny (p 19)

Retaliation Case Dismissal Reversed

Muriel Black is an Illinois state prisoner. In 1984 he filed suit under § 1983 claiming that prison officials had violated his constitutional rights by filing false disciplinary charges against him, harassing him, etc., after he complained of racial discrimination at the prison. In 1985 the district court dismissed the suit. The court of appeals for the seventh circuit reversed and remanded, finding that Black had stated a cause of action for racial discrimination and that genuine issues of fact remained as to whether he was confined in segregation because of racial discrimination or in retaliation for complaining of such discrimination. See: Black v. Lane, 824 F.2d 561 (7th Cir. 1987).

On remand the lower court appointed counsel and the defendants eventually defaulted by not responding to Black's amended complaint in the action. The magistrate awarded Black $50 for racial discrimination and dismissed substantial parts of the complaint for failing to state a claim, the court also dismissed about half the defendants. Black again appealed and the seventh circuit again reversed and remanded, holding that Black had adequately stated a claim for retaliation and denial of his due process rights. The court notes that ten years after filing suit ...

CBS Liable for Filming Search

This case has nothing to do with prison litigation. We are reporting it because it deals with the ongoing propaganda war being waged against criminal defendants and poor people. It is the first reported court decision to hold a television broadcaster liable for accompanying police agents on a search and filming it for broadcast. Anyone who has watched Cops, Hard Copy, America's Most Wanted, or any of the other "real life" cop shows has seen the degrading and propagandistic manner in which the victims of police repression are portrayed. The broadcasters and the police can be sued and held liable for such actions.

In 1992 Secret Service agents obtained a search warrant from a federal court authorizing the search of an apartment shared by Babatunde Ayeni, his wife Tawa and small son Kayode seeking evidence of a credit card fraud operation. At 6 PM on March 5, 1992, several Secret Service (SS) agents forced their way into the Ayeni residence announcing they had a warrant to conduct a search and ask questions. Only Mrs. Ayeni and her son were home at the time. At about 8:15 PM four more SS agents arrived with a film crew from the ...

Prisoner Mail Trashed at Waupun

In the editorial in the September, 1994, issue of PLN, we noted that subscribers at the Waupun Correctional Institution at Waupun, WI. had complained of not receiving their issues of PLN. Shortly thereafter we learned why. The August 4, 1994, edition of the Wisconsin State Journal reported that postal inspectors had begun to investigate staff members at WCI after prisoners' First, Second and Third class mail was discovered in the garbage. Eleven mailroom guards were temporarily reassigned to other duties pending an investigation to determine why prisoners' mail was being thrown away. Warden Garly McCaughtry was reported saying there were at least 50 pieces of mail involved. As of this writing Wisconsin prison officials have not responded to PLN inquires as to why PLN has not been delivered to Waupun subscribers when sent via bulk mail. PLN has also contacted the US attorney's office about the matter and informed them of the problems related to delivery of PLN.

A Waupun reader reports that the corruption and thievery goes even deeper than the trashing of mail may suggest. Stating that one of the mailroom guards, Sgt. Perre, was arrested when a search of his home revealed property items (TV's ...

WA DOC Negligence Caused Prisoner Death

By Paul Wright

In the July, 1994, issue of PLN we reported on the death of Gertrude Barrow, a prisoner at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) at Purdy. On May 16, 1994. Barrow died of a perforated ulcer with acute peritonitis after repeatedly seeking medical care from her captors. After her death the Washington DOC contracted with David Dugdale, its medical consultant, to determine which errors resulted in Barrow's death and how such deaths could be prevented in the future. Dugdale, an assistant medicine professor at the University of Washington, was accompanied by Larry Pogue, a doctor with the Group Health Cooperative and Holly Wallaston, a nurse practitioner and director of nursing at the King County (Seattle) jail. After visiting the WCCW, interviewing the medical staff and warden, the trio issued their report

The report states that there were communication difficulties between Dr. Badger (the WCCW treating physician) and nursing staff. Better communication likely would have led to better monitoring of Barrow's condition, and hence earlier detection of her deteriorating condition.

There was also misinterpretation of the clinical findings in the case because most of the clinical management was done by a physician's assistant with ...

The Forgotten Crime Victim

In the seemingly unending clamor for revenge against people in prison and those accused of committing a crime, a particularly vulnerable, unchampioned, group remain overlooked. Casualties of America's "War On Crime," a growing number of people have lost their lives to the unchecked discretion of judges, prosecutors, and police, and the indifference of the public. There are no fund-raisers, government resources, rallies, or lobbyists, and little hope for them. Caught between the hidden agendas of politicians, the media, and special interest groups on one hand, and the public's fear of crime on the other, the wrongfully convicted person is the forgotten crime victim.

In their book, In Spite of Innocence, Michael Radelet, Professor of Sociology at the University of Florida, and Hugo Bedau, Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University, feature 400 cases in which an innocent man or woman was sentenced to death. By conservative estimates, five-percent of the people in California prisons are innocent. With more and more limited state funds being sucked into the blackhole of the prison building guarding-maintaining complex, less money is allocated to provide attorneys, investigators, experts, and other services to indigent persons charged with a criminal offense. The majority of criminal defendants ...

MS Prison Officials Indicted

On June 14, 1994, US Attorney Alfred Moreton III made public a grand jury indictment of six current and five former Mississippi state prison officials in the 1991 beating of Larry Floyd, a prisoner at the Mississippi State Penitentiary (MSP) at Parchman. The five former employees have already admitted guilt and pleaded guilty to either participating in the beating or trying to cover it up. The other six officials, including Steven Puckett, now the Deputy State Corrections Commissioner, are charged with violating Floyd's civil rights. Floyd, a convicted murderer, was beaten after escaping from the Parchman prison. He was found the next day in an abandoned house near the prison. Court documents allege that Floyd, who was not resisting prison officials, was kicked and hit with a walkie talkie and handgun. Puckett was present at the scene, witnessed the assault and failed to stop it. At the time, Puckett was the MSP superintendent. If convicted Puckett faces 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Presumably Mr. Puckett will now be reflecting on his ideas of penal reform.

New York Police Falsify Evidence

Like any organized criminal enterprise, the New York State Police relied on the code of silence to protect them from exposure. The silence was broken in 1991 when a former state trooper, David Harding, applied for a job with the CIA. Harding apparently wanted to impress his prospective employers with his "covert operation" skills. During the course of a polygraph exam, Harding boasted that he had faked fingerprint evidence in several hundred criminal investigations. He also admitted to stealing large sums of cash from drug raids, and falsifying the weight of confiscated cocaine (to upgrade the offense to a more serious crime).

The CIA decided Mr. Harding's skills were not required, that for whatever reasons, he would not make a good operative. It took 15 months for them to relay Harding's incredible disclosures to New York State Police headquarters in Albany. That's when the plot began to unravel.

The Governor of New York appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the allegations. Harding was investigated, charged, and pleaded guilty to perjury committed in four separate trials. One of the cases involved a vicious assault on an elderly man. A suspect in the assault was informed that police (Harding ...

Fraudulent Police Chemist Flees Justice

A former West Virginia state police chemist, Fred Zain, 43, accused of rigging criminal evidence in two states is missing and being sought by Texas authorities. Texas state district Judge Mickey Pennington issued what is called a "capias warrant" in Texas, meaning any law enforcement agency that finds Zain should arrest him.

Zain, a crime lab serologist, tested evidence for the West Virginia state police crime lab from 1979 to 1989, and was chief of serology his last five years. That state's Supreme Court last year ruled he may have fabricated evidence in as many as 138 cases.

While testifying as an expert witness in dozens and dozens of West Virginia rape and murder cases, Zain reported the results of tests he never performed, co-workers testified. They complained to Zain's superiors as early as 1985, but nothing was done.

In 1989, Zain took his pro-prosecution reputation and a letter of recommendation from the West Virginia Governor and headed to Texas, where he was named head of serology at the Baxter County medical examiner's office in San Antonio. He kept his Texas job until last year, when allegations stemming from his work in West Virginia reached San Antonio ...

No Immunity for Delay of Medical Care

Willie Harris was a pretrial detainee in the Coweta County, Georgia, jail. When he was arrested his hand was injured by tight handcuffs. Upon arrival at the jail, on September 6, 1990, he requested treatment for the injury. He was seen by the jail nurse on September 28 and later by the doctor who recommended a nerve conduction study. In November Harris requested medical attention for his hand which was now curled up and unusable. Upon being taken to the local hospital emergency room, the treating doctor called the sheriffs office and told them Harris required treatment and surgery. Unable to make bond Harris remained in jail and received no treatment or surgery. On March 11, 1991, he received the needed surgery, after he had been transferred to the state prison system.

Harris filed suit under § 1983 claiming that the delay of necessary medical care by the sheriff violated his eighth amendment rights by showing deliberate indifference to his medical needs. The jail defendants sought summary judgement on grounds of qualified immunity for their actions which the district court denied. The defendants filed an interlocutory appeal which the court of appeals for the eleventh circuit denied.

The appeals court held ...

Prisoners Have Right to Prompt Sentence Computation

David Plumb is an Oregon state prisoner. He filed suit under § 1983 claiming that his right to due process under the fourteenth amendment and his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the eighth amendment were violated by state and county officials. He claimed that they delayed his receiving Credit for Time Served (CTS) in a county jail which resulted in his being wrongfully imprisoned for 83 days after the date on which he should have been released. The court rejected the Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation granting the state and county's motion for summary judgement when it ruled that the county was not entitled to qualified immunity and that Plumb's eighth and fourteenth amendment rights were indeed violated.

Plumb had spent 83 days in county jail prior to being sent to the Oregon DOC to serve his 12 month sentence. He asked state authorities to credit him with his 83 days CTS. They said that they would credit him with any CTS he could get the county officials to certify. Plumb wrote the county officials several times in order to certify his jail time and return it to his captors, the Oregon DOC ...

Court Returns Fines

In 1976, prisoners of the Allegheny County Jail in Pennsylvania filed suit against their keepers over unconstitutional jail conditions. Over the next 18 years of litigation, the court imposed $2,729,300 in fines against county officials who refused to abide by court orders to alleviate overcrowding and improve conditions at the jail. In an order issued March 30, 1994, District Court judge Cohill ordered the court clerk, on his own motion, to return the fines to the county to be used for the exclusive purpose of jail construction and drug rehabilitation programs.

In his order Judge Cohill notes that the jail population has soared from 429 when the litigation was filed to 1,270 in 1994 with a continuous overflow of poor defendants unable to make bail. The court commends jail officials for owning up to their constitutional obligations of providing a jail that comports with the federal constitution.

"Critics have accused the court of `coddling' prisoners. I need only remember the stench which assailed the nostrils when I entered the jail for the first time in 1976, or recall the sight of human beings strapped down on canvas cots, their wrists and ankles held tight by leather thongs ...

Federal Public Defenders Govt. Employees for FTCA

Joseph Sullivan is a federal prisoner who filed suit against the two federal public defenders who represented him in a parole revocation proceeding. Sullivan initially filed suit in federal court under the court's diversity jurisdiction. In a previous decision the seventh circuit had remanded this case back to the district court for a deterrnination of whether or not the Westfall Act, which amended the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) at 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b), applies to federal public defenders (FPDs) sued by clients. See: Sullivan v. Freeman, 944 F.2d 334 (7th Cir. 1991).

The district court held that public defenders are government agents under the Westfall act and for FTCA purposes. The district court dismissed the individual defendants and substituted the US government as a defendant. The lower court then dismissed the action without prejudice so that Sullivan could pursue his administrative remedies with the appropriate federal agency. Sullivan appealed, challenging the application of the Westfall act to his claim. The court of appeals for the seventh circuit affirmed.

In a case of first impression, this is the first court ruling to hold that federal public defenders are government employees subject to the FTCA and the ...

Ad-Seg Placement Without Hearing Illegal

Huey Wright is a New York state prisoner. In 1983 Wright was attacked in his cell by two other prisoners and placed in segregation on disciplinary charges. Three days later the disciplinary charges were dismissed by a hearing officer but Wright was retained in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) for an additional 67 days without any type of hearing. Wright filed a writ of habeas corpus in state court claiming he was illegally detained in SHU. He was released from SHU and a stipulated order was entered expunging all mention of the incident from his files. Wright then filed suit for money damages in federal court claiming that the 67 days he spent in SHU without a hearing violated his right to due process under the fourteenth amendment. The district court dismissed the suit with prejudice. The court of appeals for the second circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded.

The appeals court noted that in Matiyn v. Henderson, 841 F.2d 31 (2nd Cir. 1988) it held that New York state regulations governing prisoners' placement in administrative segregation (ad seg) created a due process liberty interest in remaining free of ad seg placement. In Matiyn the court ...

No Right to HIV Testing

In 1989 a Kentucky state prisoner, John Doe, requested testing for the HIV virus which causes AIDS. His request was denied because he did not meet the criteria for HIV testing established by Kentucky Corrections Cabinet Policy 13.5. That policy states: "Testing for the Presence of HIV antibodies. No routine testing will be undertaken. The physician may order the test for an individual under the following circumstances: a. The inmate presents clinical symptoms. b. The inmate provides a presumptive history of exposure. c. A pregnant inmate reporting a history of intravenous drug use, prostitution or sexual activity with an intravenous drug user."

In 1991 Doe was transferred to another Kentucky state prison and he again requested testing, this time stating he may have been exposed to the virus while having sex with prostitutes. Testing was done and it showed he was HIV positive. Further medical tests showed the condition was advanced and his immune system had seriously deteriorated by the time his infection was discovered. He was released from prison later that year. Doe filed suit claiming that the denial of HIV testing on request and Policy 13.5 violated his rights under the eighth amendment. The district court ...

Correct Jury Instructions Needed for Beating Trial

Keith Howard is a Missouri state prisoner. Upon returning to the prison after an outside medical visit, Howard was ordered to strip for a search. He refused and was thrown to the floor by several guards, hand-cuffed, forcibly stripped and taken to his cell. In this process Howard's head ...

MO Court's HIV Disclosure Rule Struck Down

Judges in Cole County, Missouri enacted a local court rule requiring that jail officials inform them, in camera, whether a prisoner scheduled for a court appearance had an infectious disease or carried the HIV virus believed to cause AIDS. The purported reason for the rule was an effort by the trial judges to protect the public and court personnel from contagious diseases in general and HIV/AIDS in particular. The judges told prosecutors they would deny writs ordering defendants' presence in court unless jail officials provided the requested medical information. Prosecutors objected and appealed. The court of appeals for the Western District of Missouri invalidated the rule, holding it to be unconstitutional.

The state appeals court ruled that forcing the disclosure of prisoners' HIV status violated their right of privacy. Conditioning the prisoners' courtroom attendance upon disclosure of their HIV status also violated their right of access to the courts. Because there was no hint that past or present criminal activity in the courtroom presented any danger of HIV transmission the rule was an unreasonable burden on prisoners. Furthermore, prisoner medical records are entitled to privacy, especially with regards to AIDS/HIV "For the government or a prison system or ...

Name Change Statute Upheld

Kevin Mathews is a Texas state prisoner who filed suit under § 1983 challenging the constitutionality of § 32.22 of the Texas Family Code. The statute in question prohibits convicted felons from changing their names unless the person has been discharged from parole or probation, has been pardoned or two years have passed since parole or probation were completed. Mathews is a Muslim and sought to change his name to a Muslim name. The district court dismissed the suit for failing to state a claim and the court of appeals for the fifth circuit affirmed.

Mathews relied on Felix v. Rolan, 833 F.2d 517 (5th Cir. 1987) which held that adoption of Islamic names by prisoners was protected by the first amendment and should not be unduly burdened by prison officials. The fifth circuit in this case held that O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 107 S.Ct. 2400 (1987) required that they uphold the statute because Mathews still had other ways of practicing his religion and changing his name implicated prison security. In Felix the court had held that requiring a prisoner to use both his original and his religious name satisfied any security concerns by prison officials.

Not ...

Agreement Reached in State-Wide Pennsylvania Prison Case

On Aug. 12, 1994, lawyers representing the prisoners announced that they have reached a settlement with the State of Pennsylvania in Austin v. Lehman, the state-wide prison conditions case filed in November, 1990. The agreement has been presented to U.S. District Judge Jan DuBois for approval.

In 1990, the ...

New Trial Required for Improper Testimony

Michael Kemp is a Missouri state prisoner. He filed suit under § 1983 claiming that a prison guard, Antonio Balboa, had confiscated his epilepsy medication and flushed it down the toilet. This resulted in Kemp having epileptic seizures during which he injured himself. The case went to trial and a jury ...

Florida Prisoners Have Right to Attend Forfeiture Trial

A Florida state prisoner whose property was the subject of a forfeiture proceeding while he was imprisoned had a right under the due process clause of the Florida Constitution to be present at the trial, the Florida Court of Appeals for the Fourth District ruled on May 25, 1994.

Referring to the principles on forfeiture trials laid down in Department of Law Enforcement v. Real Property, 588 So.2d 958 (Fla S.Ct. 1991), the court deemed it "beyond any serious argument that appellant, whether he was incarcerated in a governmental institution or not, had a due process right to be heard at every stage of the forfeiture proceeding. In this particular case, that right was especially important because his right to forfeiture turned on his own testimony as to the occurrence that gave rise to his alleged participation in the criminal conduct with the property involved." The trial court should have either continued the case until the claimant was released or compelled his presence. See: Preston v. Fort Pierce, Fla, Case No. 931810, Fla Ct. App, 4th District. 55 CrL 1298, June 29, 1994.

Seg Prisoner Entitled to Competent Hearing Help

Kenney Nix is a South Carolina prisoner. He was charged with violations of prison rules, placed in administrative segregation and found guilty of the charges at a disciplinary hearing. Prior to the hearing, Nix was assigned a staff member to assist him in gathering witness statements. The staff member claims he was unable to locate the requested prisoner witnesses in the prison. At the hearing Nix requested the presence of two prisoner witnesses whose testimony would exonerate him of the alleged misconduct. The hearing officer denied the request stating such requests had to be made prior to the hearing, in writing. The staff advisor claimed he was not aware of such a rule. Nix filed suit under § 1983 claiming that the denial of witnesses at the disciplinary hearing violated his right to due process. The state argued that he did not have such a right and if he did, it was not clearly established and the defendants were thus entitled to qualified immunity.

While the Supreme Court, in Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 US 539, 94 S.Ct. 2963 (1974) held that prisoners are entitled to assistance, either from another prisoner or from a staff member, if they are illiterate or ...

Bias in Military Death Penalty

The Vol. 5, No. 6, issue of PLN reported on studies showing the new federal death penalty was racially biased. A recent report issued by the Death Penalty Information Center notes that of the six men (three soldiers, two marines and an airman) awaiting execution at the US Disciplinary Barracks in Ft. Leavanworth, Kansas, five are black. This falls into the historic pattern of military executions. Between the 1950 passage of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and 1961, when military executions halted, eight of the nine soldiers executed were black, one was white.

All of the current military prisoners awaiting executing have been convicted of killing whites, those convicted of killing black victims have received life sentences. The military has not executed, with judicial sanction, any of its members since 1961. That will likely change in the near future as several of the soldiers awaiting execution have almost exhausted their military appeals and their death warrants will be forwarded to president Clinton for signature. As Governor of Arkansas Clinton never granted a petition for clemency and presided over the murder of four prisoners, one of them, Ricky Rector (who was Black or metally disabled), during his presidential campaign.

David ...

U.S. Number 1 (in Murder, Violence, Imprisonment, etc.)

The United Nations released its 1994 Human Development Report in mid June, 1994. According to the report, the United States is first in murders, first in military spending, first in rapes and first in road accidents in the industrialized world. It said that 20 children a day died from gunshot wounds in 1992, 14 million crimes were reported to police, more than 2 million workers were physically attacked and nearly 6.5 million others were threatened with violence. Consumer spending on illegal narcotics in the US is thought to exceed the combined income of more than 80 developing countries, said the report. During the 1980s, real earnings of Americans fell by 3 percent and nearly 15 percent of the population now lives below the poverty line.

It is not known by PLN whether the UN report also mentioned that US is number 1 in another category: imprisonment of its citizens. For several years now the US has lead the world in its per capita imprisonment rate of 455 per 100,000 of its population. Indeed, the state of California has the second largest prison system in the world after China.

Pepper Spray Hazardous

The July 2, 1994, issue of the Seattle Times reported that troopers with the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) will no longer be sprayed with pepper spray as part of their training. The change in policy came after patrol Lt. Harold Frear filed a complaint with the Florida state Labor Department. As part of the FHP's training, troopers were sprayed with the pepper spray to be familiar with its effects. When sprayed onto a person's face, the chemical burns the skin and causes temporary blindness. It takes between 10 to 15 minutes to recover from the spray, which contains a hot pepper extract and other chemicals.

Frear's lawyer said that the FHP doesn't known enough about the long term effects of the pepper spray and that troopers shouldn't be blasted with it. According to Labor Department officials who investigated Frear's complaint, the spray contains hazardous chemicals and at least four troopers sprayed with the chemical suffered injuries serious enough to require medical attention.

Readers will note that while troopers will no longer be sprayed, they will still have the chemical and be able to spray citizens. Chemical agents are routinely used against prisoners by prison ...

German Court Legalizes Soft Drugs

On April 28, 1994, the Federal Constitutional Court, Germany's highest court, ruled that possession of small quantities of hashish and marijuana should no longer be the subject of criminal penalties. The ruling came as the court affirmed the 1992 lower court ruling by Lubeck judge Wolfgang Neskovic. The judge had ruled that all laws against marijuana and hashish were unconstitutional because they violated the German constitution's equal protection provisions. He said that the users of cannabis products deserved the same protection as the users of other intoxicants, such as alcohol and tobacco. Prosecutors appealed the decision.

Under the 7 to 1 high court ruling, laws against cannabis products remain on the books but police may no longer make arrests for its possession. The court held that possession of cannabis products "in small quantities and exclusively for personal use" would be legal. The ruling leaves it up to the states to decide what amount shall be "small." The government estimates that 8 million of Germany's 80 million citizens use marijuana and hashish regularly.

The new policy resulting from this court ruling will not be as tolerant as that of the Netherlands where marijuana and hash are openly sold ...

El Salvador Prison System in Crisis

On August 4, 1994, 300 prisoners at the San Miguel prison in El Salvador took a judge and his secretary hostage to protest prison conditions. The hostages were freed a few hours later after judicial officials signed an agreement to study the prisoners' demands for prison reforms. The demands include an end to prison transfers, permission to set up prisoner groups and government assistance for prisoners after their release. The judge was at the prison to investigate disturbances that on August 2, 1994, left one prisoner dead.

On August 19, 1994, hundreds of armed prisoners clashed with guards during an attempted mass escape from El Salvador's biggest prison "La Esperanza" (The Hope) which holds 2,300 prisoners near the capital of San Salvador. The prisoners were armed with rifles, pistols and grenades. By the next day police and soldiers had retaken most of the prison, leaving one guard dead and two wounded with nine prisoners dead and 15 wounded in the clashes. The escape attempt began when a group of women arrived at the prison for conjugal visits with the prisoners.

The prison at La Esperanza has been the site of numerous escape attempts. Since November, 1993, more than ...

PR Prisoners Rebel

On July 10, 1994, more than 8,000 prisoners in 16 prisons across the US occupied island of Puerto Rico went on strike to protest overcrowding and bad living conditions. Puerto Rico's 34 prisons hold almost 11,000 prisoners. For the first ten days of the strike prisoners refused to do their chores or work until prison officials agreed to improve prison conditions and they had met with prisons administrator Otto Riefkohl.

On July 20, 1994, the strikers at the Rio Piedras Correctional Complex in San Juan, which holds 2,160 prisoners, took a more active stance by rioting twice in the same day. In the first incident, at about 6:45 AM, when prisoners refused to go to court hearings and medical appointments, some 1,200 prisoners set fire to four staircases and attacked guards with clubs and knives. Twelve guards and 59 prisoners were injured in this incident, according to prisons spokesperson Wanda Rivera. She claimed the rioting and fires were under control by 11 AM. The second protest began at 2:15 PM that day while the press conference about the first incident was in progress. Three prison guards were attacked by prisoners with clubs. Rivera ...

The Fire Inside

October, 1994, marked the eleventh year of collective punishment at the United States penitentiary, Marion. It marked a decade of lockdown, control unit regimes and government lies. No doubt the federal Bureau of Prisons will commemorate the event by rolling out its propaganda wagon, and indulging the public with some contrived fantasy about the lockdown's purpose and effectiveness. Silently, they'll rejoice at the well-orchestrated scam they've pulled off.

In a society that criminalizes poverty and makes racism a redeeming social value, the Bureau of Prisons simply plugs its propaganda arm into a mass media whose corporate ownership serves its own interests. There is significant political capital to be had by scapegoating the disenfranchised and deflecting the public's attention away from the real issues which affect their quality of life.

Marion is the most written about prison in the world. One of the battle lines drawn in October, 1983, was for public opinion. The government is winning this battle hands down. The Bureau of Prisons utilizes a highly effective public relations strategy which revolves around the agitprop slogan "the worst of the worst" to describe Marion prisoners. It is a soundbite which condenses "nigger, spic, white trash ...

Eleventh Anniversary of Marion Lockdown

I was asked to put together an article to tell my side of the story of how the cruel and unjustifiable lockdown at Marion kicked off eleven years ago. I am supposedly one of the two reasons (excuses) BOP officials gave to justify the lockdown. PLN is the only news media with enough walkin' around sense to ask those of us actually involved in the "inside" story to give an account of events.

I have had some dealings with magazine and book writers in the past who have twisted my words, put their own words into my mouth, taken prison officials' version of events and printed them as facts while ignoring what I said, all in the name of being "objective." When one writer failed to include the fact that a guard had threatened me, he said he thought his readers wouldn't believe it. This was before the Rodney King incident, so maybe now the red-blooded, brain-dead citizens living in the suburbs of fascist America would be more prepared to entertain the idea that cops and prison guards actually brutalize people just for the hell of it.

I don't want to waste all of this space, though, writing ...

News in Brief

WA: In May, 1994, three former prisoners and two staff members of the Snohomish county jail filed suit in US District Court in Seattle claiming that they contracted tuberculosis at the jail due to its lax testing and screening policies. The plaintiffs' attorney, Ted Spearman, stated that people have told jail workers they had active, infectious TB and they were housed in the jail's general population. The jail lacks adequate ventilation and proper exposure to ultraviolet light which are considered preventive measures.

Brazil: Four people died and 10 were wounded in a thirty hour prison riot in early July, 1994, at the Porto Alegre prison, according to government officials. A police inspector was among the dead and the warden was among the wounded.

Rumania: In a bid to escape forced labor by being placed in hospitals, Rumanian prisoners have taken to hammering nails into their heads. According to prison doctors, since March, through mid August 1994, more than 30 prisoners have hammered nails into their heads by banging their heads against walls to insert the nails. Rumania holds over 45,000 prisoners in harsh, overcrowded conditions. Prison officials said nail hammering prisoners have had their sentences lengthened in an ...

Amnesty Criticizes OK Control Unit

On June 14, 1994, Amnesty International (AI) released a report harshly criticizing the control unit at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary (OSP) at McAlester. An AI investigation team toured the prison's H. Unit in March, 1994, and found that some 350 prisoners are held 23 or 24 hours a day in underground, concrete, windowless cells which allow virtually no natural light or fresh air. Prisoners can only exercise during weekdays, five at a time, for one hour in a bare, enclosed, concrete yard that gives no view of the outside. "Prisoners are confined to a concrete world in which they never see a blade of grass, earth, trees or any other part of the natural world," said the report.

Since H unit opened in November, 1991, AI has received repeated complaints about its conditions, which the human rights group considers to be in breach of both US and international standards governing the treatment of prisoners. Some prisoners housed in the unit have developed severe depression since being in the unit, which was designed by a committee of prison staff. The report focused mainly on the 118 death row prisoners because they are housed in H unit indefinitely, either until the ...

From The Editor

From the Editor

by Dan Pens

Greetings to PLN readers from the new co-editor. I have worked with Ed and Paul since nearly the very beginning, helping to type articles, writing, editing, and proof reading (an odious chore). I originally came on board when the mailing list grew to over a hundred readers because of my dBase programming skills. I developed the dBase program used by PLN volunteers to manage the mailing list. Over the years I have invested countless hours to help put this newsletter out each month.

I devote my time and energy to the PLN because I believe it is a valuable tool in the struggle for prisoners' rights and I consider it a good use of my time. PLN provides a much needed service to prisoner litigants, and provides a "voice" for views that get little or no play in the rightwing dominated "for profit" media.

After thirteen years of imprisonment, I recently saw the ISRB (parole board) and got an additional five years tacked onto my minimum. After explaining to my parents what the board did, why, and how, my mom said, "They can't do that .. can they?" And my dad echoed, "Why, son ...

$273,000 Settlement for Gassing

A hallucinating diabetic was sprayed in the face with a chemical spray called "Freeze + P." after he had been arrested and tried to escape. The spray contains tear gas and a red pepper derivative. After being held in the Montgomery County, Alabama, jail for a week he was transferred to ...


AntiShyster is a bi-monthly 48 page magazine "dedicated to raising hell for lawyers." It presents a critical examination of the American legal system, both civil and criminal. Recent articles have included non-lawyers running for judicial offices, tax laws, listing of public corruption cases by the office holder convicted, the Bar Association's monopoly on law practice, and more. Coming from a conservative view it seeks to de-mystify the legal system and make it more accessible and understandable to non lawyer citizens. Subscriptions are $25.00 a year. Write: AntiShyster, P.O. Box 540786, Dallas, TX. 75354-0786.

Weekly News Update is the weekly newsletter of the Nicaragua Solidarity Network. Each issue comes filled with news and information not reported by the mainstream American media. In fact, PLN regularly reprints prison related articles from WNU and uses it as a resource for other articles. While I disagree with a lot of their political analysis, the information is detailed enough that people can draw their own conclusions from it. They are seeking to expand their circulation and will send a free sample on request. Subscriptions are a bargain at only $25.00 a year for 52 issues. Write: NSN, 339 Lafayette St. New ...

Peruvian Government to Stand Trial for Prison Massacres

On June 19, 1986, political prisoners of the Communist Party of Peru (PCP) held at three prisons revolted demanding government compliance with agreements previously reached governing the prisoners' conditions of confinement. The Peruvian government of then President Alan Garcia refused to negotiate with the prisoners, who had seized the prisons, and sent in the armed forces who blasted their way into the prisons using artillery, helicopter gunships and rockets. Several hundred PCP prisoners were murdered by government forces, many after they had surrendered and were in government custody again.

On June 16, 1994, the Inter-American Court of Justice announced it would try Peru for the disappearance and murder of 127 PCP Prisoners of War (POWs) during the prison sieges. Juan Abugattas of Amnesty International stated "The ruling will include the government of current President Alberto Fujirnori for failing to investigate and punish those responsible and pay compensation costs to families of the victims."

A trial now pending in the Inter-American Court will rule on the murders committed by government troops at the prison on Fronton Island in 1986. Several members of the Republican Guard were punished for killing 240 prisoners at Lurigancho prison in Lima, many after they had already ...

$1 Million for Boiling Prisoner

Vaughn Dortch is a California prisoner held at the Pelican Bay prison control unit. After suffering mental deterioration Dortch covered himself in fecal matter. The administration ordered guards to wash it off and the guards took Dortch to the prison infirmary where they placed him in a steel tub of ...

$153,400 Awarded to Estate for Stabbing Death

$153,400 Awarded To Estate for Stabbing Death

An Ohio state prisoner was stabbed to death in a prison kitchen by another prisoner. The victim's estate sued the Ohio DOC claiming that because of inadequate security procedures with regards to kitchen knives and inadequate supervision of the assailant, the ...

$1.7 Million Settlement for Beating

A homeless man arrested for not paying a $100 fine for shoplifting food was booked into the Los Angeles County Jail. He refused to take an X-ray test for tuberculosis and was placed into an unsupervised hallway with a much taller prisoner who had earlier been certified as mentally disturbed ...

Swedish Prisoners Mutiny

On July 23, 1994, prisoners at the Tidaholm Prison, 200 miles Southwest of Stockholm, Sweden, refused to return to their cells at lock up time to protest the solitary confinement given to three prisoners after a fight earlier that day. Prison officials stated that some 115 of the 165 prisoners participated. The mutineers climbed onto the roof of a workshop and threatened guards who withdrew. The prisoners also set fire to the prison's guardhouse, school and workshop.

The prisoners surrendered after a show of force by prison officials when the latter received police reinforcements from Stockholm. A prisoner interviewed on national radio said tensions had been running high at the prison due to overcrowding.


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