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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: March, 1994

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Volume 5, Number 3

In this issue:

  1. Court Enjoins BOP Phone System (p 1)
  2. OH Prisoners Seek Court Access (p 2)
  3. Ohio to Build Super-Max Prison (p 2)
  4. Minor Detainees Entitled to Education (p 3)
  5. 9th Circuit Affirms Gutting of WSR Consent Decree (p 3)
  6. Chicago Police Torture Suspects (p 4)
  7. Court Rules Suit Waiver is Not Enforceable (p 4)
  8. New Book Planned (p 5)
  9. S.Ct. Hears Argument in Prisoner Attack Case (p 5)
  10. Smoking Ban Upheld (p 5)
  11. Someone Wants to Listen to You! (p 5)
  12. The Rights of Visiting and Visitors (p 6)
  13. A Tomb in Columbia (p 8)
  14. Eighth Circuit Clarifies Retaliation Standard (p 10)
  15. Consent Decree Modified to Permit Racial Segregation (p 10)
  16. PCP Responds to Allegations of Gay Persecution (p 11)
  17. Voices from the Chowchilla Women's Prison (p 12)
  18. News in Brief (p 14)
  19. Prison Takeovers, Austerity Protests Wind Down in Argentina (p 15)
  20. Needs Mail Stamping of Prisoner Mail Information (p 15)
  21. 100 Plus Killed in Venezuelan Prison Riots (p 15)

Court Enjoins BOP Phone System

On October 13, 1993, Judge Henry Wilhoit of the U.S. District Court in Kentucky entered a preliminary injunction barring the federal Bureau of Prisons from implementing its Inmate Telephone System (ITS). The case is Washington v. Reno, case number 93-217 and 93-290. Readers should note that so far this is an unpublished opinion that cannot be cited for precedent, but it does affect all BOP facilities in the U.S.

Conchita Washington and several other prisoners at the federal prison for women in Lexington, Kentucky, filed suit claiming that the BOP is ITS discriminates against poor and disabled prisoners. The BOP began implementing a phone system, ITS, which changed its phone system from one which allowed collect calls only to one which is direct dial requiring prisoners to pay for the calls. In order to be able to make phone calls prisoners must also participate in the "Inmate Financial Responsibility Program," IFRP. The IFRP is a coercive program designed to force prisoners to pay all fines, restitution, etc. All funds received by a prisoner from any source are subjected to IFRP collection. Thus, prisoners who do not wish to participate in the IFRP receive virtually no phone privileges. Non-IFRP ...

OH Prisoners Seek Court Access

Ohio prisoners have filed a class action suit alleging that the Ohio DOC has promulgated conditions which prevent the exercise of prisoners right of access to the courts. The claims include depriving prisoners in segregation and protective custody of law library access and access to persons trained in the law. Not providing persons trained in the law to assist illiterate and functionally illiterate prisoners in general population and segregation to assist in the filing of legal papers in court; not providing pens, paper or carbon paper to prisoners too poor to afford them due to the high costs of hygiene supplies on the inmate store; not providing adequate supervision of prison law libraries to ensure that the prisoner law clerks are either literate or capable of assisting others in filing claims in court; not providing prisoners with hygiene supplies; not providing Ohio prisoners with sufficient work pay for them to purchase hygiene supplies such as toothpaste, soap, aspirin, etc., which leaves prisoners unable to afford legal supplies for litigation; overcharging prisoners for legal photocopies; refusing to make photocopies for prisoners unable to pay the extortionate rates; refusing to mail legal mail to the courts if the prisoner cannot afford to ...

Ohio to Build Super-Max Prison

In the wake of the April, 1993. rebellion at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) which left 10 dead Ohio prisoners and prison activists had hoped the state would examine it's policies which result in Ohio have the highest level of overcrowding in the nation at 178%. The state's response has been one of more repression. The state has announced plans to build a super-max prison similar to the facilities at Pelican Bay in California and the federal penitentiary at Marion, IL. These super-max prisons have prisoners locked in their cells 23 hours a day, deprived of human contact and virtually all communication with the outside world. These prisons have been criticized by human rights groups and are the focus of extensive litigation concerning both conditions of confinement and brutality that occurs within them.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) has formed a committee to develop plans and recommend a site for the new super-max prison. If the general assembly approves the funds, the prison will have 550 beds. Since Marion became a lockdown prison in 1983 some 37 states have since built super-max prisons whether they need them or not. This trend is now reaching ...

Minor Detainees Entitled to Education

Twenty-three school age detainees in the Cook County Jail (Chicago, Illinois) filed suit alleging they were either denied complete access to regular and special educational services during their period of pre-trial detention or received services vastly inferior to those provided non-detainees. The plaintiff prisoners claimed this condition violated their substantive and procedural due process rights, their equal protection rights, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 USC § 1400 et. seq ., and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794. The defendant school and jail officials filed a motion to dismiss the suit arguing that plaintiffs have no right to an education. the district court denied the motion.

The opinion begins by noting there is no right to an education under the federal constitution. The plaintiffs claimed that only 39 percent of school-aged pretrial detainees are in need of special education services were receiving them. They were not being taught courses other than reading and math, lacked textbooks, workbooks, or other instructional materials and were not given learning disability assessment and instruction. 1,470 school age pretrial detainees were not receiving any kind of educational services. The court ruled that these facts were sufficient to state a substantive ...

9th Circuit Affirms Gutting of WSR Consent Decree

By Paul Wright

In 1978 prisoners at the Washington State Reformatory (WSR) in Monroe, WA filed suit over inhumane prison conditions at the prison. In 1981 prisoners and the DOC entered into a consent decree whereby the prisoners dismissed the suit in exchange for, among other things, an agreement that the DOC would keep the WSR population at it's single cell capacity. This was done under the belief that many of the conditions complained of, i.e. violence, idleness, inadequate medical care, dilapidation of the physical plant, etc., resulted from overcrowding. No sooner was the ink dry on the consent decree than prison officials began trying to weasel out of it. In fact, the single celling provisions of the decree were not met until 1987.

This case has been up and down through the courts several times since it was filed. It has been appealed to the ninth circuit by the state three times since 1990. We have covered the ups and downs of the case in detail since PLN began. The latest round of litigation which set the stage for this ruling was when the district court ruled that the terms of the consent decree were met in ...

Chicago Police Torture Suspects

[Generally PLN only reports on cases involving prison civil rights issues or the occasional procedural matter affecting pro se litigants. This is a police brutality case which we present more for it's informational value than it's relevance to prison litigation. All too often we hear about police torture and "human rights" abuses but invariably they occur in far away lands not friendly to the US government. Yet the same types of abuses commonly associated with third world countries routinely occur here in the US. Occasionally a court will report the matter.]

In 1982 Andrew Wilson shot and killed two Chicago policemen. He was duly convicted and sentenced to death but later had his conviction reversed and is now serving a sentence of life without parole. He filed suit under section 1983 because shortly after his arrest he was massively tortured by Chicago police in an effort to obtain a confession from him. The torture consisted of being punched, kicked, smothered with a plastic bag, being given electrical shocks and forced against a hot radiator throughout the day of his arrest until he confessed. The state supreme court had already reversed his conviction because the confession was coerced and ...

Court Rules Suit Waiver is Not Enforceable

This case involves release-dismissal agreements where a party will agree not to sue a government agency or official and the agency in turn agrees to either drop or reduce charges against the person. In many cases prison officials will have prisoners agree not to file suit in exchange for release from segregation, transfers to more desirable prisons, or other real or imagined benefits.

Diane Cain is a Pennsylvania citizen arrested and charged with several criminal violations of the Pennsylvania criminal code. Before trial Cain asked to be placed in the Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD) program so that upon completion of probation the charges against her would be dismissed.

Under a policy of the local district attorney, if the police may face civil liability the DA will not approve ARD unless the petitioner first executes a release-dismissal agreement. Cain signed the agreement and released her claims against the policemen who arrested her. She later filed suit against the policemen claiming they had used excessive force in arresting her. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgement, claiming that the release-dismissal agreement provided them with an absolute defense.

The district court agreed and ruled that because Cain had signed the release voluntarily ...

New Book Planned

The Hidden Side of The Criminal Justice System by prisoners, ex-prisoners, their family members and loved ones. Prisoners and ex-prisoners: Who are you? Send us your poetry, art, fiction, or personal history.

Prisoners, ex-prisoners, family and loved ones: How "just" is the trial process? What is the effect of limiting the rights of the accused, the convicted, the imprisoned, and the condemned? How are victims chosen inthe death penalty "lottery"? How does society lose by impsing the death penalty? What are the root causes of crime? Why does a prison forcibly drug a prisoner and what is the result? What earns a prisoner time in a security housing unit--and release? In what ways does life on the streets affect a prisoner--and affect society after release? How does prolonged isolation and other tortures affect a prisoner--and affect society after release? What causes recidicvism? How are prisoners prepared to reenter society? Give the public the other side of the story!

Some of your submissions may be printed in the North Coast Xpress. Send written materials to: North Coast Xpress, P.O. Box 1226, Occidnetal, CA. 95465

S.Ct. Hears Argument in Prisoner Attack Case

On January 12, 1994, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Farmer v. Brennan , Case no. 92-7247. Farmer is a transsexual federal prisoner who was raped after being placed in general population at the U.S. Penitentiary at Terre Haute, IN. She filed suit claiming that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to her safety by placing her in such an environment where they knew or should have know she was likely to be sexually assaulted. The district court had dismissed Farmer's suit stating she had not shown prison officials were aware of any danger or risk to her. The court of appeals for the seventh circuit affirmed.

The Supreme Court will decide the extent of prison of ficial's liability for failing to protect prisoners in their care. The plaintiffs ask that the court focus on the obviousness of the risk involved to rule in Farmer's favor. The government argued that prison officials must have "actual knowledge" of danger to a prisoner's safety before they can be deliberately indifferent to the prisoner's safety.

Stop Prisoner Rape, a nonprofit educational group which seeks to do just what its name says, filed an amicus brief with ...

Smoking Ban Upheld

In May of 1993 officials at the Berks County Prison in Pennsylvania initiated a policy which prohibited smoking by prisoners at the facility. Four prisoners filed suit claiming that the ban on smoking constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of their eighth amendment rights. They also claimed that a program designed to help tobacco addicts overcome their craving for tobacco products was not adequate to help the former smokers and constituted deliberate indifference to their medical needs. The district court upheld the ban, finding it constitutional.

The court notes that there is no constitutional right to smoke in jail or prison. The court took judicial notice of the Surgeon General's report that smoking causes increases in the occurrence of lung and larynx cancer, coronary artery disease and chronic bronchitis and that even second hand tobacco smoke kills over 4,000 Americans a year. Because prison officials are responsible for prisoner's health care and medical needs such a smoking ban is not inconsistent with society's "evolving standards of decency."

Given the health risks associated with tobacco use and the fact that more and more facilities in the free world prohibit smoking such a ban does not conflict ...

Someone Wants to Listen to You!

I would like to hear from young inmates (25 years of age and younger) who would like to help me write the story of young people in prison. I wish to learn about your thoughts on friendship, punishment, loyalty, authority, fear, school, family and anything else you think I need to know about. I want to listen to you and learn about the prison experience for young people

Please write:
Professor Gary Packwood
Baldwin-Wallace College Division of Business Administration
Kamm Hall
Berea Ohio 44017 - 2088

Thank you in advance for your help. Please give this ad to a friend who can help. I will respond to your letters.

The Rights of Visiting and Visitors

By Paul Wright

For every prisoner and the relative, friend or loved one of a prisoner, visiting is an issue of paramount importance. While most prison officials pay lip service to the idea that visiting is important and that they want to do everything to enable prisoners to maintain ties to their families and the community, which lowers recidivism based on studies by the National Institute of Justice, the reality is often quite different. Not only are prisoner's visitors treated as bad or worse than prisoners themselves, in many cases they are treated worse than people actually arrested on suspicion of having committed a crime. This serves to discourage visiting as well as degrade and humiliate visitors whose only "crime" is having a friend or relative in prison.

As a general rule prisoners have no federal constitutional right to visiting and prison officials can deny the privilege for any reason or no reason at all. See: Kentucky Dept. of Corrections v. Thompson , 109 S.Ct. 1904 (1987) and Evans v. Johnson , 808 F.2d 1427 (11th Cir. 1987). Nor is there a right to contact visits. See: Block v. Rutherford , 468 US 576, 104 S.Ct. 3227 (1984). The ...

A Tomb in Columbia

By Raul Zibecchi

[The following article appeared in the December 10, 1993, edition of the Uruguayan weekly Brecha . It was translated and edited by PLN Editor Paul Wright. Given the fact that tens of thousands of Americans languish in prison as casualties in the "War on Drugs" we think this article may interest our readers given the fact that the mainstream media contains little or no serious analysis of US drug policy and it's consequences.]

Finally, Escobar achieved his goal: "To have a grave in Columbia before a cell in the United States."

Surrounded by musicians of the National Athletic Club of Medellin playing his favorite song, "The King," by Jose Alfredo Jimenez, whose lyrics proclaim "but I continue being the king," and accompanied by thousands of followers who sang the praises of their benefactor, Pablo Escobar was buried in Medellin after having unnecessarily exposed himself by making phone calls to his family or having been a victim of informants.

Perhaps the truth will never be known, but what is true is that the most wanted man in the world, pursued for years by the Search Group consisting of more than 2,000 soldiers, fell in a rather simple ...

Eighth Circuit Clarifies Retaliation Standard

George Goff is an Iowa state prisoner. On January 15, 1990, another prisoner at a medium security facility reported being stabbed. Confidential informants allegedly told prison officials that Goff was the culprit. On January 19, 1990, the prison's warden and deputy warden were served with lawsuits challenging conditions of ...

Consent Decree Modified to Permit Racial Segregation

In 1988 a prisoner at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF)at Lucasville, OH, filed suit challenging the prison's practice of assigning prisoners to cells based on their race. This practice led to the racial segregation of prisoners. The court appointed counsel in the case, a class was certified and eventually a consent decree was negotiated. The consent decree mandated that cell assignments based on race were to be terminated and instead random cell assignments were made. The only exceptions were in cases where the warden or his designee found that racial segregation of a particular prisoner was necessary for security reasons.

In April, 1993, SOCF prisoners rebelled leaving 9 prisoners and one guard dead. One of the conditions for their surrender eleven days later was that the consent decree in this case be reviewed stating that the policy of forced integrated celling had caused tensions which contributed to the events leading to the rebellion. This case comes from the court's review of the decree and the prison officials' motion to modify the decree to permit the racial segregation of prisoners.

Prison officials maintain they are unable to continue random, integrated celling because the files and records of ...

PCP Responds to Allegations of Gay Persecution

By Paul Wright

Since we began publishing PLN we have reported on struggle and conditions affecting political prisoners of diverse movements, groups and parties around the world, to include Palestinian, Irish, Puerto Rican, New Afrikan, Anti-imperialist and Peruvian prisoners to name a few. Generally this reporting has met with interest and approval from our readers because PLN is one of the few publications that covers this type of news. Our coverage of struggle by political prisoners of the Communist Party of Peru (PCP, also known in the mainstream media as the Shining Path ) has been a bit more controversial.

In the August, 1992, issue of PLN we printed a letter by Lofofora Contreras who claimed that the PCP persecuted gays and thus shouldn't be supported. At the time we responded to his concerns. We contacted the PCP on this matter at the time but did not receive their reply in time for that issue. Mr. Contreras wrote us a follow up letter which we print below. We sent a copy of the letter to the PCP for their response which we include. We apologize for the delay in printing the letter and article on what has become, at least ...

Voices from the Chowchilla Women's Prison

Women in prison are entitled to the same community standard of care that people have outside. However, just the opposite is true at the Central California Women's Facility at Chowchilla, California (CCWF). The CCWF is probably the largest women's prison in the country.

The Facts
There are over 3,000 women incarcerated at CCWF. Approximately 100 are known to have HIV.
There is no HIV/AIDS medical doctor on the staff, and no routine exams or clinical follow-up.
The prison just hired a gynecologist. The waiting time is several months. There are women with level four pap smears who are not receiving follow-up care.
The infirmary is unlicensed. The prison doctor is a pediatrician with little knowledge of women's health care needs. Guards with an elementary first aid course (MTAs) dispense medication and diagnose illnesses. Recently 450 women prisoners signed a petition protesting abusive treatment from MTAs.
There is no confidentiality. All "known" HIV+ women live on C Yard. A xeroxed list of women with HIV was circulated on the prison yard that had been left out on an administrator's desk. Because of the ignorance and stigma surrounding HIV, many women refuse to identify as HIV ...

News in Brief

[This is a new feature in PLN which will provide short news items related to prisons which while interesting are not big enough to make up an article. If you like this feature let us know and send us news clippings of interest.]

17 Dec 1993, Moreno Amud the warden of a maximum security prison in Mexico was arrested on corruption charges after a riot left 15 prisoners dead and 11 injured. The riot occurred after prisoners attacked a group of prisoners that had been extorting and threatening them. The charges against Amud claim that he knew of the extortion activities but covered them up in exchange for bribes... 13 Nov. 1993 , a search of the Carandiru prison in Brazil, which holds 4,850 prisoners, led to military police finding over 350 knives and edged weapons. They also found duplicate keys to the prison, alcohol and drugs. A month earlier prisoners had taken 27 guards hostage to protest cell searches... 19 Jan. 1994 , Michael Mahoney, a prison industries supervisor at the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe, WA was charged in Snohomish County Superior Court with second degree child molestation. Prosecutors claim that Mahoney, 48, fondled a 13 year old girl ...

Prison Takeovers, Austerity Protests Wind Down in Argentina

Awave of prison rebellions throughout Argentina ended on Dec. 22 when inmates in Bahia Blanca reached an agreement with government negotiators. The inmates turned the institution back over to authorities only after they agreed to address the prisoners' demands and promised no reprisals. The prisoners were demanding respect for their human rights, commutation of sentences and a streamlining of the judicial process. (Radio Havana Cuba Latin America Newsline 12/22/93) The prison takeovers began on Dec. 16 when more than 200 inmates took over the facility at Bahia Blanca. At the peak of the rebellion on Dec. 21, close to 3,000 inmates had control of 14 prisons across Argentina and were holding more than 80 hostages, most of them guards. That same day, Justice Minister Jorge Maiorano announced that he would send a bill to the Parliament proposing the reduction of sentences and speeding up of the trial process. On Dec. 21 the Association of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo announced its solidarity with the prisoners and condemned the government repression carried out against many of the inmates. (ED-LP 12/22193 from AFP)






Needs Mail Stamping of Prisoner Mail Information

On November 1, 1993, Wisconsin Prisons started to stamp prisoner mail as originating in a prison. We filed for a temporary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. On October 28, 1993, the court came back with a dismissal order, stating it was not a violation of the prisoners constitutional rights. Is there any other PLN readers that would have information on this that we could use? If there is, could you please send it?
Randy Smith # 097993
P.O. Box 3310
Oshkosh, WI. 54903-3310

[Editor's Note: PLN receives mail from virtually every prison in the United States. Almost all the envelopes indicate the sender is either a prisoner or located in a prison/jail. Those prisons who do not are definitely in the minority nowadays. We recently received a letter similar to yours from prisoners in the California DOC which recently began a similar practice. This practice has been challenged in the courts and upheld as not infringing any constitutional right. Check out your West's Federal Digest for the citations. Not to be unduly pessimistic, but I don't think it is likely that a court will stop the practice given ...

100 Plus Killed in Venezuelan Prison Riots

At least l09 prisoners have died and 54 remain injured after a group of inmates started a fire at Sabaneta prison in Maracaibo, Venezuela, on Jan. 3. Sabaneta prison is racially segregated, with about 800 Guajiro Indians on one side and some 2,000 non-Indians on the other. The fire was apparently started by a group of Guajiros, who attacked the non-Indian side, setting fire to two cell blocks. "It was an act of vengeance that was planned," said prison director Luis Zambrano, explaining that a Guajiro inmate was decapitated on Dec. 30 by the non-Indians.

Oswaldo Espina, an inmate who survived the Jan. 3 incident, said the Guajiros were armed with firearms, Molotov cocktails and knives, but added that the National Guard also attacked with gunfire and tear gas. According to AP, Justice Minister Fermin Marmol Leon did not confirm or deny that the National Guard may have shot some inmates. All the dead are believed to be non-Indians; Maracaibo's Justice Ministry says none of the Guajiros were hurt. Noeli Pocaterra, a spokesperson for the Guajiros, Venezuela's largest indigenous nation, disputed the official story on how the incident began: "It's very hard to believe the version ...


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