Skip navigation

Prison Legal News: May, 1994

Issue PDF
Volume 5, Number 5

In this issue:

  1. Giving Cons and Ex-Cons the Vote (p 1)
  2. Drugging of Prisoners Upheld (p 2)
  3. Lifers Vote in General Election (p 2)
  4. Consent Decree Creates Right to Uninspected Legal Mail (p 3)
  5. OK State Courts Can Hear Prison Suits (p 3)
  6. Stay of Suit Not Appealable (p 4)
  7. Prison Officials Can't Prevent Jailhouse Lawyers From Assisting Other Prisoners (p 4)
  8. Witnesses May Be Subpoenaed at Government Expense (p 5)
  9. AZ DOC Denies Court Access (p 5)
  10. Evidence Required to Sustain Disciplinary Ruling (p 6)
  11. Prisoner Litigants Have Right to Out of State Citations (p 6)
  12. Phone Company State Actor for Section 1983 (p 7)
  13. Atheist Challenges AA Probation Requirement (p 7)
  14. Visitor Awarded Damages (p 7)
  15. ISRB Must Follow Own Rules (p 8)
  16. Improper Testimony Requires Reversal (p 8)
  17. Accessible Facilities Required for Disabled (p 8)
  18. VT Class Action Suit (p 9)
  19. FL Reforms Sentencing Law (p 9)
  20. Medical Claims Standards Discussed (p 9)
  21. WA Civil Commitment Challenged (p 10)
  22. Qualified Immunity Hinges on All Relevant Law (p 10)
  23. Hearing Required Before Denial of IFP (p 10)
  24. CDC Spreads Gangs (p 11)
  25. NJ Prison "Emergency" 12 Years Old (p 11)
  26. Prisoner Beating Filmed (p 11)
  27. Petty Drug Criminals Fill BOP (p 11)
  28. Prison Rape Survivors Sought (p 12)
  29. Justice Watch (p 12)
  30. Informants Must be Reliable (p 12)
  31. DOJ Orders MS Jails Closed (p 12)
  32. Guard's Attack for Smoking States Claim (p 12)
  33. Ask the Media if Crime pays, Then Who's Footing the Bill? (p 13)
  34. Prisoners Employed by PIA Seek Minimum Wages (p 13)
  35. Chelan County Jailer Jailed (p 13)
  36. Slaves of the State (p 14)
  37. Prisoners = Profit (p 15)
  38. News in Brief (p 16)
  39. From The Editor (p 17)
  40. Algerian Prison Break (p 18)
  41. Chilean Prisoners Resist Control Unit Move (p 18)
  42. Book Review: Subpoena George Bush - The Anatomy of a Cover Up (p 18)
  43. Marion Prisoners to be Moved Soon (p 20)

Giving Cons and Ex-Cons the Vote

By Andrew Shapiro

During Congress's annual open season on criminals, few lawmakers are eager to defend the rights of the accused, let alone the convicted. So it was particularly refreshing this year to see a proposal in an alternative crime bill submitted by Representative Craig Washington that would have guaranteed ...

Drugging of Prisoners Upheld

Albert Sullivan is an Illinois state prisoner forcibly drugged against his will for the past five years. Sullivan filed suit under § 1983 claiming that he has a due process right to stop taking the drugs long enough to prove he does not need them. He also challenged the Illinois ...

Lifers Vote in General Election

The Lifers' Group, Inc. of Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Norfolk, succeeded in providing all of the nearly 1,300 prisoners there the opportunity to register and vote in the 1993 November General Election. The group's leaders presented a petition to the Norfolk Town Clerk with the requisite number of certifiable signatures ...

Consent Decree Creates Right to Uninspected Legal Mail

In 1976 prisoners at the Indiana State Reformatory in Pendleton, IN filed suit challenging the conditions at the prison. In 1977 the parties entered into a consent decree settling the suit. With respect to legal mail the decree provided that it would not be opened, read, censored or copied and ...

OK State Courts Can Hear Prison Suits

Dennis Waldon is an Oklahoma state prisoner. He was infracted and punished in a prison disciplinary hearing resulting in the loss of one hundred days of good time credits. Waldon filed a writ of habeas corpus and/or mandamus in the Alfalfa County district court claiming that prison officials had not ...

Stay of Suit Not Appealable

Oscar Bean is a Missouri state prisoner. He filed suit claiming he was denied due process at a disciplinary hearing accusing him of assault. He sought declaratory relief, damages and attorneys fees.

The district court granted the defendants' motion to stay Bean's suit for 90 days pending the exhaustion of ...

Prison Officials Can't Prevent Jailhouse Lawyers From Assisting Other Prisoners

Paul Gibbs is a Michigan state prisoner and jailhouse lawyer. He was placed in segregation in late 1990 for possessing contraband. On April 2, 1991, he was reclassified back to the general population. Due to a lack of bed space he remained in segregation. On April 8, 1991, he allegedly ...

Witnesses May Be Subpoenaed at Government Expense

Larry Williams was a prisoner in the Poinsett County, AR, jail. He filed suit challenging various conditions at the jail as being unconstitutional and that the sheriff threatened him in an attempt to prevent him from pursuing the suit. After an evidentiary hearing, the district court ruled in favor of ...

AZ DOC Denies Court Access

This case deals with a class action suit filed by Arizona state prisoners. They claimed that Arizona prison officials denied them access to the courts by enacting policies that unduly abridged their ability to file and litigate court actions. The district court ruled in the prisoners' favor on all counts. ...

Evidence Required to Sustain Disciplinary Ruling

Robert Nicholson is a Rhode Island state prisoner. In 1988 he told prison officials and state police investigators that he had been assaulted by two prison guards. His complaint was later investigated by the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ concluded that there was insufficient evidence upon which ...

Prisoner Litigants Have Right to Out of State Citations

Rick Petrick is an Oklahoma state prisoner. The sentence he is serving in Oklahoma was enhanced as a result of prior convictions from Minnesota and North Dakota. While confined at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary (OSP) he sought to bring collateral attacks against the out of state convictions. The OSP law ...

Phone Company State Actor for Section 1983

Milton Griffin-El is a Missouri state prisoner. He filed suit against MCI Telecommunications Corporation and state prison officials over the phone company's practice of announcing to persons called by prisoners that the calls originated from a prison. The court upheld MCI's practice of paying it's 25% commission to the Missouri ...

Atheist Challenges AA Probation Requirement

Robert Warner was convicted of drunk driving in New York state and sentenced to three years probation. One of the probation conditions was that he attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Warner is an atheist and objects to compulsory attendance of AA meetings because of AA's emphasis on god and ...

Visitor Awarded Damages

A man visiting his brother in jail was awarded damages both for battery and for violation of his civil rights, based on a guard's attack on him and making of racially derogatory remarks. On appeal, the Minnesota state appeals court ruled that because the racial slurs were coupled with the ...

ISRB Must Follow Own Rules

Charles Cashaw was a Washington state prisoner. He filed a Personal Restraint Petition (PRP, a state habeas petition) challenging the actions of the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board (ISRB) in setting a minimum prison term to coincide with his court imposed maximum sentence. The court of appeals had granted Cashaw's PRP ...

Improper Testimony Requires Reversal

Ronald Davidson is a New York state prisoner. He filed suit claiming that a prison guard had destroyed his legal materials after they had an altercation. The case went to trial. The guard's attorney, from the state's Attorney General's office, sought to admit evidence to the jury that Davidson had ...

Accessible Facilities Required for Disabled

In a class action suit, Arizona state prisoners challenged the lack of access for mobility impaired prisoners to bathrooms, showers and cells, delays in receiving medical devices and hearing aids and violations of the Rehabilitation Act.

The court found that the Arizona DOC houses 68 prisoners confined to wheelchairs or ...

VT Class Action Suit

On December 13, 1993, lawyers from the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, together with Vermont attorneyMitchell Pearl of Langrock, Sperry and Wool, filed a class action lawsuit against the State of Vermont on behalf of all Vermont prisoners. Filed in federal district court in Burlington, the ...

FL Reforms Sentencing Law

Florida has built 10,729 new prison beds in the past five years yet has been unable to keep up with its growing prison population. In May of 1993 the Florida legislature passed the Safe Streets Initiative which has the goal of reducing prison overcrowding to ensure that violent and repeat ...

Medical Claims Standards Discussed

Ronald Brewer is an Iowa state prisoner. He suffers from coronary artery disease. Employees of Correctional Medical Services (CMS), a contractor with the Iowa DOC, prescribed medicine for Brewer's illness but the treating doctor made an error in the dosage. Brewer filed suit claiming that he was denied the correct ...

WA Civil Commitment Challenged

As reported in the December, 1993, issue of PLN the Washington state supreme court upheld the provisions of the Community Protection Act which mandates indefinite confinement of persons deemed to be "sexual predators" until such time as they are "cured." On January 25, 1994, nine prisoners confined under this law ...

Qualified Immunity Hinges on All Relevant Law

While this is not a prison case we are reporting it because it is a Supreme Court ruling affecting qualified immunity defenses. Qualified immunity allows government officials to escape liability for money damages, even when they violate constitutional rights, as long as the right violated was not "clearly established" at ...

Hearing Required Before Denial of IFP

Khalid Alexander is a Nevada state prisoner. He tried to file suit and requested in forma pauperis status in order to proceed without paying the normally required filing fees. The Nevada district court has a policy of requiring prisoners to pay a partial filing fee based on either the value ...

CDC Spreads Gangs

According to the Intelligence Operations Bulletin, published by the California Attorney General's office, the California DOC's policy of trying to remove prisoners from their "negative" (i.e. city) environment is contributing to the spread of gang membership in rural areas.

Cited as an example was the Los Angeles Court policy which, ...

NJ Prison "Emergency" 12 Years Old

On January 20, 1994, New Jersey governor Christie Whitman renewed a 12 year old "emergency" declaration that forces counties to keep more than 3,600 state prisoners in their jails and accept the state's payment rate. As earlier reported in PLN the New Jersey state supreme court had imposed an April ...

Prisoner Beating Filmed

The January 5, 1994, issue of the New York Times reported that two New York state DOC guards, Korey Gordon and Edward Sharrow, had been fired after they were caught on video tape brutally beating prisoner Jason McDade. McDade was handcuffed and not resisting when the guards struck him on ...

Petty Drug Criminals Fill BOP

Attorney General Janet Reno ordered a study to determine if the growing use of mandatory minimum sentences was causing overcrowding in the federal prison system. The study, produced by former Deputy Attorney General Philip Heyman, the BOP and selected U.S. Attorneys, found that 16,316 or 21.5% of federal prisoners have ...

Prison Rape Survivors Sought

Stop Prisoner Rape (SPR) is a non-profit organization dedicated to stopping the all too common practice of sexual assaults within prisons and jails. SPR has recently received numerous media requests where television programs, magazines and journalists are seeking prison rape survivors to interview for news stories. If you are a ...

Justice Watch

By Dan Cahill

Justice Watch (J.W.) is a grass roots organization that supports prisoners, their families, and all who work for humane conditions until such time as prisons no longer mirror a society based on classism and racism.

J.W. organizes trips to Ohio and Kentucky prisons to help maintain ties ...

Informants Must be Reliable

John Brewer is an Ohio state prisoner. While held at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) in Lucasville he was infracted for stabbing another prisoner. At his disciplinary hearing he was found guilty of aggravated assault based on statements by confidential informants. The finding was upheld on appeal by the ...

DOJ Orders MS Jails Closed

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), citing conditions such as maggot-infested cells, racially segregated holding cells, fire hazards and a high number of jail suicides, has ordered the closing of jails in four Mississippi counties, Neshoba County, Sunflower County, Lauderdale and Jones County.

The DOJ also cited more than a ...

Guard's Attack for Smoking States Claim

Allain Norman was a detainee in the Norfolk County jail in Virginia. While being processed into custody he asked a trusty for a drag off his cigarette. As soon as he began to smoke, jail deputy Otis Taylor ran down the hallway and swung a heavy set of brass keys ...

Ask the Media if Crime pays, Then Who's Footing the Bill?

Ask The Media if Crime Pays, Then Who's Footing the Bill?

By Dan Pens

A recent survey by the Center for Media and Public Affairs shows that the three major networks aired more than twice as many crime stories last year as in 1992--even though the crime rate remained virtually ...

Prisoners Employed by PIA Seek Minimum Wages

By Mark Merin

Prisoners who have worked for the California Prison Industries Authority ("PIA") have filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court in Sacramento to obtain minimum wage for their work (now $4.25 per hour) instead of the pittance they now receive. If this case is successful and ...

Chelan County Jailer Jailed

Bob Conklin, the chief of corrections for Chelan County, WA. was arrested on child molestation charges in January, 1994. Since January 13, 1994, he has been held in protective custody in the King County jail, unable to post bond. Prosecutors claim that the 50 year old Conklin molested five teenage ...

Slaves of the State

By Paul Wright

Many people have the mistaken impression that slavery was outlawed or abolished in the United States after the civil war by the passage of the 13th amendment. Unfortunately, that was not the case. The 13th amendment reads: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crimes ...

Prisoners = Profit

By Anthony Sciarrino

With all the attention that the media has lavished on our national "drug problem," and the painfully slow growth of our economy, it is surprising that so little attention has been paid to one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S., Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (FPI). ...

News in Brief

UK The British government began a pilot study to set up a genetic DNA database of convicted criminals. Legislation pending in Parliament would expand police powers to take DNA samples from saliva and hair samples. A UK official was quoted as saying: "We will bring the full force of modern ...

From The Editor

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

Welcome to another issue of PLN. This issue is kind of special. It marks the 4th anniversary of PLN, that's right, 48 consecutive issues! Our first issue appeared in May of 1990. For the first couple of issues it was kind of hit and ...

Algerian Prison Break

On March 10, 1994, guerrilla fighters of the Islamic front attacked the Tazult prison in the rugged Aures mountains of Algeria. Four guards were wounded and seven kidnapped during the attack which lead to at least 400 prisoners escaping. During the attack one guard and five guerrillas were killed.

Government ...

Chilean Prisoners Resist Control Unit Move

On February 20, 1994, Chilean prison officials transferred 48 political prisoners, members of the anarchist Lautaro movement and the Marxist Frente Patriotico Manuel Rodriguez (FPMR), to a recently completed control unit (CU) built within the old penitentiary of Santiago. A total of 200 political prisoners who have been arrested during ...

Book Review: Subpoena George Bush - The Anatomy of a Cover Up

by John Perrotti

Subpoena George Bush, by Aaron Caleb with Douglas Slaton, is the story of former Lucasville 14 member Richard Armstrong. For those unfamiliar with the Lucasville 14, they were fourteen prisoners confined at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, who, relying upon the Helsinki Agreement accord, renounced ...

Marion Prisoners to be Moved Soon

I received a Denver Post article last week with the latest on Florence. The BOP says that the high security prison will open in February. The administrative Maximum prison (AKA "supermax") will open in the "spring or summer." The only Marion prisoners we expect to be sent to High Security ...