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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: September, 1994

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Volume 5, Number 9

In this issue:

  1. The Unconstitutionality of Discriminatory Jury Selection (p 1)
  2. Michigan Prisoner Challenges Jury Selection Process (p 2)
  3. Prison Racial Segregation Illegal (p 3)
  4. The Death Penalty in Black and White (p 4)
  5. Demanding Death (p 6)
  6. Delay in Dental Care Creates Fact Dispute (p 7)
  7. PA Prisoners Enjoy Right to Parole Consideration (p 7)
  8. Disciplinary Guilty Plea No Waiver to Suit (p 7)
  9. Breach of Contract Claim OK Against Medical Contractor (p 8)
  10. BOP Ad Seg Rules Create Liberty Interest (p 8)
  11. New Trial for Beating (p 9)
  12. VA "Men Only" Boot Camp Illegal (p 9)
  13. WA Mail Policy Illegal (p 10)
  14. Further Developments in WA Powell Case (p 10)
  15. Airway Heights Opens (p 11)
  16. WA DOC Enjoined From Taking Costs (p 11)
  17. Few Programs for FL Women Prisoners (p 12)
  18. S.Ct. Distinguishes Habeas and Section 1983 (p 12)
  19. Two Dead in CT Riots (p 13)
  20. Juries Tougher on Prisoner Litigators in Big Law Suits (p 13)
  21. PA Supreme Court Justice Sentenced (p 13)
  22. Prison TV: Luxury or Management Tool? (p 14)
  23. News in Brief (p 15)
  24. FL DOC Corruption (p 15)
  25. From The Editor (p 16)
  26. Justice for Mark Cook - It's Way Past Time (p 16)
  27. Letter From Mark Cook (p 17)
  28. South American Prison News (p 18)
  29. Art and Writings Against the Death Penalty / Save Mumia Abu Jamal (p 18)
  30. The "Correcting Corrections" Project Distributes Prison Video Documentaries (p 19)

The Unconstitutionality of Discriminatory Jury Selection

The foundation for an analysis of the right to be a juror, or be tried by a jury of peers is securely rooted in the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The Sixth Amendment prohibits any substantial under-representation of minorities. The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits discrimination in jury selection.

American law has long held that the exclusion of persons from juries because of race is unconstitutional both to the person excluded and the person standing trial (see Ex Parte Commonwealth of Virginia, 100 US 339, 25 L.Ed 676 (1880) and Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 US 303 (1880)). In Ex Parte Virginia, supra, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the imprisonment of a circuit court judge who was found to be excluding persons of African descent from jury duty.

In Carter v. Jury Commission, 90 S.Ct 518 (1970) and Turner v. Fouche, 90 S.Ct 532, black citizens brought civil rights lawsuits because they had been excluded from jury duty through unconstitutional jury selection procedures. A citizen has a constitutional right to participate in the administration of justice through sitting on juries. Any person who is denied this right because of ...

Michigan Prisoner Challenges Jury Selection Process

PLN rarely reports on criminal law cases, but when we think one will interest our readers we print it. Such is the case with an interesting legal struggle going on in Michigan. PLN reader Emmett Jones (see his article on page 1, The Unconstitutionality of Discriminatory Jury Selection) initiated a challenge to the Michigan state jury selection system that has rocked the courts.

Jones was convicted in 1988 of unarmed robbery by an all-white jury in Kalamazoo county. In 1992 he appealed his conviction and won a reversal because the trial judge failed to give proper instructions to Jones when he chose to represent himself. The state appealed and the case was sent to the state supreme court. Meanwhile, Jones started studying the law in earnest. He got a job in the prison law library so he could study more diligently. The time was well spent. In March of 1993 he filed suit in federal court under 42 USC §1983, §1985 and §1986. He named the circuit court judges in Kalamazoo county (among others) as defendants, claiming that they knowingly and intentionally rigged the jury selection process to exclude minorities from sitting on juries in criminal trials. The defendant judges ...

Prison Racial Segregation Illegal

In 1970s a federal judge issued an injunction enjoining racial discrimination in the operation or administration of the Louisiana State Penitentiary (LSP) at Angola, LA. The court ordered prison officials to immediately correct the effects of any past racial discrimination and to maintain Angola as a completely integrated facility. Despite ...

The Death Penalty in Black and White

By Michael Ross

"[The] evidence shows that there is a better than even chance in Georgia that race will influence the decision to impose the death penalty: a majority of defendants in white-victim crimes would not have been sentenced to die if their victims had been black."

Surprisingly those words were written by former United States Supreme Court Justice William Brennan in 1987 when he criticized the majority of the Court for continuing to uphold a "capital-sentencing system in which race more likely than not plays a role...."

Racism; it's a nasty word and many people would prefer to look the other way and deny its very existence. But not only does it exist, it exists in one of the most sensitive areas of our judicial system - capital punishment.

The question of racial discrimination in capital sentencing procedures has prompted an ongoing debate. And racism was a major reason why United States Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun recently deplored our country's use of the death penalty stating: "I feel morally and intellectually obligated simply to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed." And he further stated "it surely is beyond dispute that if the death penalty cannot ...

Demanding Death

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

Michael Alan Durocher, of Florida's Death Row, wrote to the Governor, literally begging for death. Gov. Lawton Chiles agreed, signed his death warrant, and Durocher sent him a thank you note.

On August 25, 1993, at 7:15 a.m., Durocher, 33, got his wish.

California's death row convict, David Mason, fired his appellate lawyers, saying he was both willing and ready to breathe his last in the gas chamber. Mason, 36, angrily decried what he called the "industry" of lawyers who capitalize off of appeals in capital cases. Even after his last ditch change of heart, where he sought life, his case came to symbolize the growing incidence of death row prisoners who demand death. There is, however, a critical difference between perception and reality.

There are approximately 2,600 men and women on Death Row in the U.S.. To date, only 26 people have volunteered to be executed; less than 1%. The Washington, D.C.-based National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty has assembled facts on this phenomenon detailing the race of those persons choosing execution and found what is shown on TABLE 1:



21 ...

Delay in Dental Care Creates Fact Dispute

Wardell Patterson is a Missouri state prisoner. On February 12, 1992, Patterson had a tooth filled by William Pearson, the prison dentist. The next day Patterson began suffering from swelling, headaches and severe pain. Patterson's unit manager contacted Pearson about the problem and Pearson instructed him to file a "sick call request." Patterson promptly did so. Despite this and repeated requests for treatment Pearson did not extract the infected tooth until April 15, 1992, over two months after Patterson first complained of pain. Patterson filed suit claiming that this lengthy delay in treatment violated his eighth amendment rights. The district court granted summary judgement in favor of Pearson holding that at most Paterson disagreed with the treatment he had received, and dismissed the suit. In a brief opinion the court of appeals for the eighth circuit reversed and remanded.

The appeals court simply held that this case was indistinguishable from Fields v. Gander, 734 F.2d 1313 (8th Cir. 1984), where summary judgment was reversed because the prison dentist in that case refused to provide follow up dental care for three weeks, despite knowledge that the prisoner patient was suffering severe pain "could support a finding of an eighth ...

PA Prisoners Enjoy Right to Parole Consideration

By William L. Marshall

In an opinion entered February 28, 1994, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court held that under Section 11 of the PA Parole Act (61 P.S. § 331.22), while the PA Board of Probation and Parole ("the Board"), in its discretion has authority to either grant or deny a state prisoner parole. Section 11 does not in anyway restrict a prisoner's right to apply for parole once a minimum sentence expires. Nor does it grant the Board discretion to refuse to consider any prisoner's application for parole. See: Marshall v. PA Board of Probation & Parole, Case No. 198 M.D. 1993 (PA Commonwealth Ct. 2-28-94) _ A.2d _ (1994).

This ruling arose from a civil action commenced by William L. Marshall, a state prisoner at SCI-Huntingdon, challenging a decision by the Board refusing to process his parole application until he gained a favorable recommendation from the Pa. Department of Corrections. The court determined that the Board improperly refused to process Marshall's parole application and ordered relief.

The decision is important to Pennsylvania prisoners because: (1) Under state law, parole decisions are discretionary, there are no "good time" provisions; prisoners have no right to parole and only become "eligible" for release at the expiration of the minimal sentence. Bachman v. Jeffes, 488 F. Supp 107 (MD PA 1980). (2) The Board has implemented a policy of refusing parole consideration to segregated, and certain prisoners requiring them to complete their total (maximum) sentences. Gillespie v. Pa. Board of Probation & Parole, 505 A.2d 403, appeal denied 515 PA. 588, (1986). And (3) The court had previously held that because prisoners have no inherent right to parole, any decision by the Board was not subject to judicial review. Reider v. Pa. Board ...

Disciplinary Guilty Plea No Waiver to Suit

Joe Reeves is a Texas state prisoner. He was infracted for placing his food tray outside his cell in the segregation unit. A prison rule required that food trays remain inside prisoner's cells until collected by guards. Reeves had received no notice prior to this that his behavior was prohibited. At his disciplinary hearing Reeves pleaded guilty to the charge. He later filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming that the lack of prior notice violated his due process rights. After an evidentiary he ring a magistrate dismissed the suit holding that by pleading guilty to the disciplinary charge Reeves waived all non-jurisdictional claims, including his claim that he could not be punished for conduct of which he had no notice. The court of appeals for the fifth circuit reversed and rendered a verdict that the disciplinary hearing was arbitrary and capricious, in violation of due process.

It is well established law in the fifth circuit that it violates due process to punish prisoners for acts they could not have known were prohibited. See: Adams v. Gunnell, 729 F.2d 362 (5th Cir. 1984). Prisoners are entitled to prior notice or fair warning of what conduct is ...

Breach of Contract Claim OK Against Medical Contractor

On December 22, 1992, Eddie Cherry began serving a 30 day sentence in the Polk county jail, Florida, for drunk driving. At the time of his incarceration he told jail staff that he drank approximately a case of beer a day. Over the next two days he repeatedly sought medical attention for symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal. On December 25, Cherry's wife contacted jail staff and told them that her husband had a history of delirium tremens (DTs) during alcohol withdrawal and that he was in immediate need of a physician's attention. Cherry's cellmate and other prisoners repeatedly told jail staff that Cherry required medical attention because he was hallucinating and shaking violently. Cherry was taken to the jail infirmary where he was shackled to his bed. On December 26, still hallucinating and suffering from DT's, Cherry jumped or fell off the end of his bed. Due to the shackles Cherry struck his head on the concrete floor and died five days later as a result of his injuries.

Loretta Cherry, Cherry's wife, filed suit against jail officials and Prison Health Services (PHS), a Delaware corporation which was contracted to provide medical care and services ...

BOP Ad Seg Rules Create Liberty Interest

Jerome Crowder is a paraplegic federal prisoner confined to a wheelchair. He filed suit against officials of the Metropolitan Corrections Center (MCC) in Chicago claiming he was placed in administrative segregation without a hearing and as a result of this he was denied proper medical care. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12 (b)(6). The district court denied the motion in part and granted it in part. On the defendant's motion to reconsider the court held that the BOP 's rules on administrative segregation (ad seg) create a due process liberty interest. However, this right was not clearly established so the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. The district court held that 28 C.F.R § 541.22, the BOPs ad seg rules, create a due process liberty interest. Noting that prisoners have no right under the federal constitution to remain out of segregation, the court must look towards state and federal administrative rules and law to determine if a due process liberty interest has been created by the state.

The court reviews numerous cases that, prior to this, have held that BOP ad seg regulations ...

New Trial for Beating

Clifton Thomas is an Illinois state prisoner. While confined at the Pontiac Correctional Center, Thomas was accused of stabbing another prisoner. The state sought and received a court order to obtain a blood sample from Thomas to aid in the investigation of the stabbing. Prison guards summoned Thomas to the prison hospital and requested the blood sample from Thomas who refused to provide it. The guards then attempted to hold Thomas down in order to take the blood sample. Eventually ten guards and a lab technician were involved in the effort to restrain Thomas and take the blood sample. It was during this process that a guard, Robert Heath, punched Thomas in the face, yelled at him to shut up and in the process knocked four of his teeth loose. Thomas filed suit under § 1983 claiming that being hit while already restrained violated his eighth amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

At trial a jury found that Heath was liable for hitting Thomas but awarded no damages. Thomas moved for a new trial on the issue of damages or that the verdict be amended. Heath renewed a motion for a directed verdict or, in the alternative ...

VA "Men Only" Boot Camp Illegal

In 1990 the Virginia legislature created a Boot Camp Incarceration Program (BCIP) which became effective on January 1, 1991. Those entering the BCIP usually spend 90 days in it followed by a year's probation. Those unable to enter the program, including all women, spend longer sentences either in prison or on parole. While the legislature set forth eligibility criteria when it created the BCIP, none of those criteria require that participants be male. Since the program opened no females have been allowed to attend.

Jennifer West was convicted in Virginia state court of possessing cocaine with intent to distribute. Citing the lack of a female boot camp program in Virginia she requested permission to participate in the Community Diversion Incentive Program. Her request was denied and she was sentenced to 9 years imprisonment, with three years suspended and six years on probation. She was released from prison after serving 14 months. She filed suit under § 1983 claiming that in implementing the BCIP statute the Virginia DOC acted unconstitutionally by not allowing women to participate, thus foreclosing the availability of the statute's favorable sentencing provisions for female offenders. The district court agreed with West that excluding women from the ...

WA Mail Policy Illegal

Timothy O'Keefe is a prisoner at the Washington State Penitentiary (WSP) at Walla Walla. In October, 1993, O'Keefe tried to mail six pieces of outgoing mail as legal mail. The letters were addressed to the prison warden; US Postal Inspector; State Higher Education Coordinating Board; Employment Security Dept. and a DOC official. WSP mailroom officials refused to mail the letters as legal mail and returned them to O'Keefe who refused to accept them. Prison officials sent three of the letters as regular mail, O'Keefe sent the remaining letters to the court as exhibits. Prison officials contended that the mail did not meet the definition of "Legal Mail" set forth in Department of Prisons (DOP) mail policy 590.500. O'Keefe filed suit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief that the actions of WSP staff and DOP policy 590.500 violated the US constitution.

District Court Judge Alan McDonald granted summary judgement in O'Keefe's favor. As the court notes, it is an issue of first impression for the ninth circuit of whether mail between prisoners and non-attorneys, i.e. government officials and agencies, is protected from being opened and read by prison officials. The court held ...

Further Developments in WA Powell Case

This is a further update on developments in the Powell litigation. The Attorney General's office recently filed in the Ninth Circuit a document in which they claimed that the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board will treat superintendents' recommendations for parole under RCW 9.95.052 just as they would have treated a superintendent's certificate of meritorious conduct under former RCW 9.95.115 --that is, as making the person who gets such a recommendation immediately eligible for parole consideration by the Board.

In response, we have filed a motion stating that the Board's interpretation is news to us; that we doubt they have applied this interpretation of law to anyone; and that even if this were the interpretation they are using, it would not matter because the AG has told superintendents not to issue certificates under former .115 and there is strong evidence that DOC officials do not make parole recommendations under .052 until at or near the end of the minimum term set by the Board. The motion therefore asks that the case be sent back to Federal District Court Judge Thomas S. Zilly for two purposes: 1) to end the blocking of the availability of the ...

Airway Heights Opens

The Spokane Spokesman Review reports that on July 15, 1994, the 1,024 bed Airway Heights Correctional Center (AHCC) officially opened near Spokane, Washington, by accepting its first 40 medium security prisoners. The prison cost Washington state tax payers $113 million to build and was slated to open in November, 1993. In order to save money the state delayed opening it until first April, then November, 1994. By opening it ahead of that schedule the state spent an extra $5 million, according to associate superintendent Al Ramos. The prison's minimum security camp was closed and its 256 prisoners moved into the prison. The camp closure was supposedly to "save money." Yet it indicates an over classification of prisoners.

AHCC is scheduled to be expanded with two additional living units added by 1997. This will increase the numbers of beds to 1,900. The Washington DOC is currently at 141% of its rated capacity. Mandatory sentences, longer sentences, "3 strikes you're out" sentences and reductions in early release time have all contributed to prison overcrowding in Washington state. According to DOC boss Chase Riveland, Washington will need to keep building and opening a new 1,900 bed prison every ...

WA DOC Enjoined From Taking Costs

Past issues of PLN have reported on the tactic seized upon by the Washington Attorney General's office to retaliate against prisoners who exercise their right of access to the courts, namely billing prisoners for the costs incurred by the AG in litigating [See PLN, Vol. 4, No. 6]. A party against whom a bill of costs is lodged by the federal court clerk can object to the district judge within five days of the orders entry.

Don Hemphill is a prisoner at the Washington State Penitentiary (WSP) and a PLN reader. After the ninth circuit dismissed his suit, which he had won in the district court, challenging the DOC's digital probe policy, the AG's office filed a bill of costs against him. The clerk entered an order of costs on September 16, 1993, but Hemphill waited until November 2, 1993, to file his objections to the costs. Because of the delay he was barred from objecting to the bill of costs.

However, District Court Judge Justin Quakenbush entered a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) barring the DOC from collecting costs from Hemphill. In the TRO issued December 14, 1993, Judge Quakenbush noted that had Hemphill filed a timely ...

Few Programs for FL Women Prisoners

Despite laws requiring that women prisoners receive the same job training in prison as men, Florida spends one third less on women's programming than men's and limits their training to low paying jobs, according to a study released by the Florida House Corrections Committee in March, 1994.

The study reports that the state spends $1,580 per year for each of the 233 women prisoners in prison vocational programs, about $800 less than for each man. Training available to women is limited to four fields: cosmetology, bookkeeping, sewing and waste water treatment, which is offered at only one prison.

Corrections Today, June, 1994

S.Ct. Distinguishes Habeas and Section 1983

The two most common suits filed by state prisoners in federal courts are 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas corpus petitions which challenge the length or legality of confinement and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suits which seek money damages for civil rights violations. There are important procedural differences between the two types of action. Federal habeas actions require that a petitioner first exhaust state remedies by presenting his claims to a state court before entering federal court; it does not allow for money damages. Section 1983, in contrast, carries no such exhaustion requirement. A § 1983 petitioner can file directly in federal court seeking money damages, injunctive and/or declaratory relief for suffering a constitutional violation by state officials.

Roy Heck was convicted in Indiana state court of manslaughter for killing his wife. While his appeal was pending in state court, Heck filed a § 1983 suit in federal court against the prosecutors who convicted him and an investigator with the Indiana State Police. Heck alleged that the defendants had obtained his conviction in an unlawful manner by destroying exculpatory evidence and using allegedly illegal means to obtain his conviction. Heck sought only money damages, he did not ask for injunctive ...

Two Dead in CT Riots

At 6:45 PM on July 12, 1994, 200 prisoners were in the recreation yard of the medium security Carl Robinson Correctional Facility at Enfield, Connecticut. For reasons not reported to PLN, a number of prisoners put on hoods and used makeshift weapons to hunt down and beat other prisoners. By 10 PM that evening, when fully armed state police tactical teams in battle dress broke through barricades erected by prisoners, two prisoners were dead and fifteen injured. Two guards suffered minor injuries.

The recently opened prison houses prisoners in dormitories so that after the riot prison officials could not secure the prisoners in cells. The prison holds 1,060 prisoners. The riot is the latest in a wave of riots and rebellions which have swept Connecticut prisons in the past year. Much of it, according to prison officials, is "gang related."

Juries Tougher on Prisoner Litigators in Big Law Suits

In this land of big lawsuits, the growth of multimillion dollar jury awards may have been halted. Juries nationwide have become tougher on people who sue doctors, insurance companies, and prison officials--siding less often with the plaintiffs. There is evidence that the size of the awards has leveled off, too.

In 1992, prisoners won 52 percent of the civil rights cases decided by jury verdicts, down from 63 percent in 1989, according to Jury Verdict Research, a legal publishing firm in Horsham, Pennsylvania. They are the only ones to compile such data nationally. The 1993 statistics are not yet available, but preliminary figures suggest the downward trend continued. The firm's research also indicates that despite the occasional colossal award that garners publicity and revives claims that juries have run amok, the size of awards has leveled off.

Theories abound as to why the shift has occurred, but the most widely accepted seems to be that criticism leveled at juries and their perceived largesse by two of the most affluent defendants--the Justice Department and the prison industry insurance companies--has sunk in.

Brian Shenker, Editorial Director of Jury Verdict Research, said, "There's been such a campaign by the prison industry ...

PA Supreme Court Justice Sentenced

On June 13, 1994, Rolf Larsen, a justice on the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court for the past sixteen years, was removed from office and sentenced to two years' probation for arranging to have his doctor prescribe tranquilizers in the name of court workers. He was also ordered to perform 240 hours of community service. He faced a maximum penalty of 20 years on the original charges and he could have received 20 months in prison. Perhaps his lenient sentence was due to the fact that he was a judge.

The state Judicial Conduct Board has also charged Larsen with offenses including lying to a grand jury and giving preferential treatment to friends when accepting appeals. The legislature will continue in their attempt to impeach Larsen so that if his sentence is overturned on appeal he won't be able to resume his job as a Supreme Court justice.

Prison TV: Luxury or Management Tool?

By Paul Wright

In March 1994, the Florida state legislature passed a law severely restricting how the DOC could spend prisoner welfare funds. It specifically prohibited the expenditure of welfare funds for cable television, to rent movie videos, televisions, VCRs or purchase other electronic entertainment equipment for prisoners. The law was passed on a 37 to 1 vote in the state senate. Corrections officials predicted the move would lead to more violence in state prisons unless the legislature provides other activities to keep prisoners busy.

The Florida DOC does not allow its prisoners to privately own television sets. This law effectively removes all televisions from Florida state prisons. Only a handful of the state's 65 prisons had cable TV. Lawmakers claimed not to like the idea of prisoners watching TV, movies or playing video games.

In Massachusetts former federal prosecutor William Weld was elected governor as a hardline republican vowing to "get tough on crime." One of his campaign pledges was to rid the state's prisons of television sets (one of the other pledges was to restore the death penally). As of this writing it is unknown whether he has accomplished this or not.

In Michigan state prisoners ...

News in Brief

WA: On June 3, 1994, former King County (Seattle, WA) jail guard Andre Gantt, 35, was sentenced to 26 months imprisonment after pleading guilty to two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. The drugs in question were cocaine and marijuana which Gantt was smuggling into the jail to give to prisoners. About 100 of Gantt's former co-workers, guards at the jail, signed a petition asking the judge to give Gantt the maximum sentence allowed by law, claiming that his actions had endangered them.

CA: The California DOC earned approximately $6.2 million in telephone commission kickbacks from calls made by prisoners.

WA: On June 5, 1994, three prisoners in the Yakima county jail climbed through the ceiling of their unit shower and escaped through the roof by climbing down a braided sheet rope. Two of the prisoners were being held on first degree murder charges.

WV: On June 30, 1994, Robert Shepard used dental floss to braid a rope which he used to scale an 18 foot fence and escape from the recreation yard of the South Charleston, West Virginia jail. Shepard, awaiting a preliminary hearing on robbery and weapons charges, was the first ...

FL DOC Corruption

The July 1, 1994, edition of the Tampa Tribune reported that graft and corruption permeate the Florida DOC's purchasing system. As an example, the story reported that an investigation by the state inspector general discovered the Florida DOC paid $5.42 for a single tube of Pepsodent toothpaste. The amount was paid even though the tubes still carried a drug store price tag of 97 cents. The toothpaste is purchased for Muslim prisoners because it does not contain pork by-products. The March 15, 1994, report from the inspector general stated that Glades Correctional Institution (GCI) spent $8,453 on toothpaste for approximately 100 Muslim prisoners between May, 1992, and August, 1993.

Despite finding a pattern of overpricing by C&C Industrial Supply, the Belle Glade company that sold GCI the toothpaste, the prison system continues doing business with the company. Florida Comptroller Gerald Lewis was never notified of the findings despite the fact that C&C has done over $608,000 worth of business with the DOC and other state agencies in the past three years.

GCI's purchasing manager, who approved the purchases is a personal friend of the C&C president. Their relationship was a key issue ...

From The Editor

From the Editor

By Paul Wright

Welcome to another issue of PLN. In the March, 1994, issue of PLN we started the News in Brief column which carries little tidbits we think readers might be interested in but which either don't merit an article of their own or that we don't have enough information to do an article on. When we started the column I asked for feedback on whether readers liked it or not. So far no one has commented on it one way or the other. I'd like some feedback on whether or not you would like us to continue the column or drop it.

Recently we have had requests from folks offering things for sale that wish to trade or rent PLN's mailing list. This has not come up before now. We haven't done anything about it because I wanted to make sure that we gave readers who don't want their names and addresses divulged a chance to let us know so that we can remove them from any lists that we decide to rent or trade. I have had doubts about the wisdom of renting/trading our mailing list. On ...

Justice for Mark Cook - It's Way Past Time

The Vietnam war was fought not only on the soil of Southeast Asia, but in the streets of the U.S. as well. Anti war activists struggled to end a conflict they knew to be unjust and extended their fight to include justice and equality for all human beings. Some felt compelled to take measures outside the law to stop a war between governments that killed thousands weekly in Vietnam, and to end the war of racism and poverty that claimed countless more lives in this country.

Mark Cook, a native of Seattle, was an officer of the Black Panther Party, which established community programs such as breakfast for children, free food give-aways, and medical clinics. With his founding of groups such as CONvention and the Bridge Project, Mark helped prisoners and ex-prisoners through establishing job training programs in prison, supporting prisoners' labor rights struggles, and creating job placement programs for those recently released. Throughout the late sixties and early seventies, Mark struggled to end not only the Vietnam War, but the systems of racism and imperialism that caused that war.

Across America activists challenged the war on a variety of fronts: electorally, non-violently, and militarily. In Seattle, the George ...

Letter From Mark Cook

by Comrade Mark

I appreciate the political support folks want to give regarding my case and will compliment it whenever I can. I will mostly focus on the legal aspect and do the major portion of that work with the attorneys. As of this date I have still not received any paperwork from the ISRB [Parole Board] concerning my minimum term status. I don't disagree with the 196 month decision, but only the "time start" date they set. [His state time and federal time should have been set concurrently, as Ed's was, which would entitle Mark to immediate release.]

My input on the "political line" to take involving my case may not agree with yours. The issue is not Mark Cook's case but the historical conditions that were the impetus of Mark Cook's activities and the actions of all political prisoners and POW's.

The impetus of the various social-economic-political movements of the late '60s and early '70s was the Viet Nam War. It was a war the U.S.A. had no justifiable cause of involving its military. Television allowed the young people to witness the ravages of that war as well as the older ...

South American Prison News

Brazil: According to the Brazilian Ministry of Justice there are an average of two and a half riots a day in Brazilian prisons and jails. The Brazilian prison crisis became evident on March 15-16, 1994, when the Archbishop of Fortaleza was taken hostage by prisoners, along with 14 other visitors, during a prison visit. Fr. Prancis Readon, coordinator of the Prison Pastoral of the Sao Paulo Archdiocese said prisoners rebel when they are frustrated. The main reasons for this are the lack of judicial help, lack of a health system along with the daily violence suffered through torture, beatings and other punishments. Readon said he felt there would be more riots and hostage takings as long as the state continued its policy of not treating prisoners like human beings and citizens. On July 7, 1994, 10 prisoners at the Porto Alegre prison took 24 staff members hostage in the prison hospital. On July 8, 1994, the prisoners, armed with revolvers, escaped from the prison with at least nine hostages in vehicles provided by prison officials in response to their demands. In a series of running gunfights outside of the prison in the city eight of the prisoners and a policemen ...

Art and Writings Against the Death Penalty / Save Mumia Abu Jamal

by Adrian Lomax

Mumia Abu-Jamal learned early what happens to African Americans who speak their minds. In 1968, at the age of 16, Mumia and some of his friends marched in Philadelphia to protest the presidential candidacy of arch-segregationist George Wallace. Police severely beat Mumia and then charged him with assaulting them.

The experience so enraged and politicized the young activist that he became a founding member of Philadelphia's chapter of the Black Panther Party. With Mumia at the forefront, the Philadelphia Panthers loudly protested the ongoing brutality of the legendarily racist Philly police under chief, and later mayor, Frank Rizzo.

The FBI eventually smashed the Black Panthers, and Mumia went on to become a journalist. In the mid-1970s he worked for several Philadelphia radio and television stations, including WHYY-TV, Channel 12. Mumia's interest in exposing the crimes of the Philly cops never waned, and the police war against MOVE, a group of radical Black utopians, showed Philadelphia's finest at the top of their form.

On August 8, 1978, Rizzo's troops marched on the MOVE compound. Their violence was so extreme that police shot other police officers in the cross fire. The MOVE members surrendered and ...

The "Correcting Corrections" Project Distributes Prison Video Documentaries

Community activists in Madison, Wisconsin have joined together to develop the Correcting Corrections Project. Correcting Corrections combines art and journalism to create a series of educational videos, to organize community meetings, to arrange for radio and cable television broadcasts, and to stimulate media coverage which will inform the public about prison and jail issues. Prisoners, former prisoners, visitors, staff from prisons and jails, legislators and community workers describe their experiences by attending town meetings and giving interviews for the videos. This grassroots effort hopes to open serious and critical public dialogue to examine and challenge existing penology. Although the focus is on Wisconsin, the content is relevant nation-wide. Two videos have been released so far, Part III is in production and more videos are planned.

Video co-producers Glenn and Jackie Austin and Marshall Weber are independent video artists working on prison issues. (Jackie is also the President of Wisconsin-CURE, Inc.) They have released two half-hour shows, both available on a one-hour VHS tape. Part I, Crimes of Punishment, is a documentary giving an overview of the problems in prisons and jails. Featured in the video is the story of Adrian Lomax, a Wisconsin prisoner placed into segregation for writing a ...


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