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Prison Legal News: December, 1995

Issue PDF
Volume 6, Number 12

In this issue:

  1. 10th Circuit Vacates Utah Court Access Order (p 1)
  2. Denial of Toilet Unconstitutional (p 2)
  3. From the Editor (p 2)
  4. Opening Legal Mail Violates Access to Courts (p 3)
  5. Detainee States Claim for Retaliation and Med Needs (p 4)
  6. WI Court Upholds DOC Classification Policy (p 4)
  7. Sending State Responsible for Legal Materials (p 5)
  8. RFRA Analyzed and Applied in 10th Circuit (p 5)
  9. Missouri Ad Seg Damages Award Upheld (p 6)
  10. Reversal of Disciplinary Hearing Doesn't Moot Suit (p 6)
  11. CA Guard Plants Ammo (p 7)
  12. Open Prison Barracks Unsafe (p 7)
  13. Iowa Crime Legislation (p 8)
  14. Job Discrimination States Claim (p 8)
  15. Withholding of Legal Papers Illegal (p 9)
  16. Guard and Prisoner Get Damages in Beating Trial (p 9)
  17. Washington Translation Suit Settled (p 10)
  18. Detainees May Be Disciplined (p 11)
  19. Ohio Prison Doctor Imprisoned (p 12)
  20. Ohio Mental Health Decree Entered (p 12)
  21. Jail Detainee Entitled to Law Library Access (p 13)
  22. South Korean Political Prisoners Protest (p 13)
  23. Sexual Harassment Violates Eighth Amendment (p 14)
  24. PA Prison Investigated for Corruption; Biggest Shake Down Ever (p 15)
  25. TRO Granted in Alaska Sex Offender Registration (p 16)
  26. No Change in Michigan Consent Decrees (p 16)
  27. Denying Witnesses in Disciplinary Hearings Illegal (p 17)
  28. Florida Repeal of Earned Time Law Upheld (p 17)
  29. Charging for Medication May Violate Eighth Amendment (p 18)
  30. Random Urinalysis Okay (p 19)
  31. NJ Prisoners Have Liberty Interest in Staying in Population (p 19)
  32. RFRA TRO Granted (p 20)
  33. Jury Demand Must Be Timely (p 20)
  34. Court Access May Require Counsel (p 21)
  35. Contract Physicians Entitled to Qualified Immunity (p 21)
  36. Texas Detainee Wins Damages for Ad Seg Placement (p 22)
  37. HIV/AIDS in Prison and Jail (p 22)
  38. Prisoners Entitled to Rely on Marshalls for Service (p 23)
  39. News in Brief (p 23)

10th Circuit Vacates Utah Court Access Order

In the November, 1994, issue of PLN we reported Carper v. Deland, 851 F. Supp. 1506 (D UT 1994) which involved a class action suit filed by Utah state prisoners claiming that the DOC's method of providing court access, contract attorneys with no law library access, was constitutionally deficient ...

Denial of Toilet Unconstitutional

A district court in Texas has held that placing a jail detainee in a cell with an inoperable sink and toilet and barely functioning shower and denial of hygiene materials violates the eighth amendment. Isiah Sanford was a detainee in the Ector County Jail in Texas when he was placed ...

From the Editor

Welcome to another edition of PLN. We have published continuously for five and a half years now. A lot of people write and ask the same question, "Gee, how did you guys do it?" The answer is simple, hard work and persistence. It's pretty much the same tried and ...

Opening Legal Mail Violates Access to Courts

The court of appeals for the third circuit has held that opening a prisoner's legal mail outside his presence violates his right of access to the courts. The court also held that this right is well established so that prison officials who violate it are not entitled to qualified ...

Detainee States Claim for Retaliation and Med Needs

The court of appeals for the seventh circuit has held that pretrial detainees are entitled to adequate medical care and have a right to be free from retaliation for complaining of guard misconduct. Richard Murphy was a pretrial detainee in the Tazwell and Mason county, Illinois, jails. He filed suit ...

WI Court Upholds DOC Classification Policy

A Wisconsin state appeals court has upheld DOC rules which establish minimum periods that lifers are required to serve in maximum security prisons. The DOC rules assign each lifer to one of four security classifications, based on the prisoner's conviction, criminal history and sentence structure. The DOC's chief ...

Sending State Responsible for Legal Materials

The ninth circuit has agreed with other circuits, holding that when a state prisoner is transferred to another state, the sender is responsible for ensuring the prisoners' access to the courts. James Boyd is a Kansas state prisoner who was transferred to the Washington State Penitentiary. He filed suit against ...

RFRA Analyzed and Applied in 10th Circuit

The court of appeals for the tenth circuit has issued its first ruling analyzing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1, holding that it may well require prison officials to provide Native American prisoners with sweat lodge facilities. Robert Werner, a Utah state prisoner, filed suit ...

Missouri Ad Seg Damages Award Upheld

The eighth circuit court of appeals has affirmed an award of money damages to Michael Weems, a Missouri state prisoner, who was denied a review hearing while in administrative segregation. The court reaffirmed that Missouri state prisoners have a due process liberty interest of remaining in population and upheld the ...

Reversal of Disciplinary Hearing Doesn't Moot Suit

The court of appeals for the eighth circuit has held that a state court reversal of a prison disciplinary hearing does not preclude the prisoner filing suit for money damages in federal court. The appeals court also criticized and reversed the lower court for dismissing a claim under Fed.R ...

CA Guard Plants Ammo

California prison guard, Mark B. Hardisty, not satisfied with his share of gravy from the state trough, decided he'd get himself some extra overtime pay. "That is the allegation they've come up with," says Hardisty's lawyer, Mike Rains of the Department of Corrections' case against his client ...

Open Prison Barracks Unsafe

In the past fifteen years of massive prison expansion many prison systems have opted to build open dormitory type prison barracks because they are substantially cheaper to build than conventional cell blocks. There are inherent shortcomings in this type of prison design. The Connecticut DOC recently discovered it can't ...

Iowa Crime Legislation

The 1995 Iowa legislature passed a new wave of bills that affect many Iowa prisoners and ex-prisoners. Among these new laws are: The refusal of the county treasurer to renew vehicle registrations if the person has unpaid delinquent restitution; the inmate hard labor law [Iowa Code § 904.701] which provides ...

Job Discrimination States Claim

While prisoners have no right to a job or work assignment they may not be discriminated against on the basis of their race. Lawrence Quinn, a white Pennsylvania state prisoner, applied for the position of clerk in a prison shoe plant. The plant foreman told him he could not have ...

Withholding of Legal Papers Illegal

A federal district court in New York has held prison guards liable for withholding a prisoner's legal papers for more than two years. The court awarded the plaintiff one dollar in nominal damages and $500 in punitive damages to deter further conduct by prison guards. Donald Frazier, a New ...

Guard and Prisoner Get Damages in Beating Trial

A federal district court in New York entered a jury verdict in favor of a state prisoner who was beaten by prison guards, the court also ruled in favor of one of the guards who sued the prisoner out of events arising from the same incident. The ruling in this ...

Washington Translation Suit Settled

On January 23, 1995, Judge William Dwyer, US District Court in Seattle, accepted a stipulated motion in Lopez v. Riveland, Case No. C93-1030WD, a wide ranging lawsuit which challenged the almost complete lack of translation facilities for non- English speaking prisoners in the Washington DOC. This is one of the ...

Detainees May Be Disciplined

The court of appeals for the first circuit has reversed a district court ruling that pretrial detainees may not, consistent with the constitution, be punished for misconduct in the jail. In the Dec. '94 issue of PLN we reported Collazo Leon v. US Bureau of Prisons, 855 F. Supp. 530 ...

Ohio Prison Doctor Imprisoned

Harry Schutte was the medical director at the Marion Correctional Institution in Marion, OH when his license to practice medicine was suspended after he was arrested and convicted for forging prescriptions. Schutte, who was addicted to the drug Stadol and synthetic morphine, did not notify prison officials of his license ...

Ohio Mental Health Decree Entered

A far reaching consent decree governing the delivery of mental health care to Ohio prisoners was entered on 10 July 1995. The consent decree resulted from a §1983 suit filed in 1993 and certified as a class action on June 7, 1995. The prisoner plaintiffs were represented by Robert B ...

Jail Detainee Entitled to Law Library Access

A district court in Texas has held that jail prisoners have a right to law library access in order to defend against lawsuits in which they are the defendant, the court also held that a "bookmobile" system of allowing prisoners to check out specifically requested law books on a periodic ...

South Korean Political Prisoners Protest

In early August, 1995, hundreds of political prisoners began a hunger strike to demand their freedom and the end of national security laws that prohibit contact with people in North Korea. The government denied the strike was taking place and stated that anyone taking part would be denied release because ...

Sexual Harassment Violates Eighth Amendment

A federal district court in the District of Columbia (DC) granted extensive injunctive and declaratory relief for a class of women prisoners who filed suit challenging their conditions of confinement in DC prison facilities. The rights of women prisoners were also violated under Title IX when they were denied access ...

PA Prison Investigated for Corruption; Biggest Shake Down Ever

In September, 1995, several prisoners from the 3,490 man Graterford state prison testified before the Pennsylvania senate judiciary committee about corruption at the state prison. The prisoners testified that prison officials accepted bribes typically between $100 and $300 to expunge prisoners' record of infractions. The testifying prisoners, Jonathan Brown ...

TRO Granted in Alaska Sex Offender Registration

Since 1990, when Washington state passed the Community Protection Act (CPA), many states have followed suit and copied its provisions. The Washington CPA is one of the most draconian laws of its type in the country concerning the registration and civil commitment of sex offenders. Ironically, it has withstood repeated ...

No Change in Michigan Consent Decrees

For almost 20 years Michigan state prisoners have been embroiled in class action prison litigation designed to ensure constitutional conditions within the Michigan prison system. Despite entry of consent decrees, the Michigan DOC has constantly sought to terminate their legal obligations imposed under the decrees. In twin rulings on motions ...

Denying Witnesses in Disciplinary Hearings Illegal

A federal district court in Massachusetts has held that a prison policy denying witnesses from the prison's general population to segregated prisoners' disciplinary hearings was unconstitutional. Brendan McGuinness is a Massachusetts state prisoner who was infracted for allegedly getting into a fight with a guard. At the disciplinary hearing ...

Florida Repeal of Earned Time Law Upheld

In 1988 the Florida state legislature enacted Fla.Stat. § 944.277 (1988) which extended the amount of gain-time awarded to prisoners. This was one of several statutes enacted by the Florida legislature in order to maintain the Florida prison population within the limits imposed by a series of federal court ...

Charging for Medication May Violate Eighth Amendment

A federal district court in Indiana has held that requiring prisoners to pay for medication when they are able to does not violate the eighth amendment. However, prison officials' refusal to provide over the counter medication to indigent prisoners with serious medical problems violates the eighth amendment. As more and ...

Random Urinalysis Okay

In the July, 1994 issue of PLN we reported Lucero v. Gunter, 17 F.3d 1347 (10th Cir. 1994) where the court of appeals reversed dismissal of a Colorado state prisoner's suit alleging a fourth amendment violation where he was subjected to a harassing urinalysis test. The court had ...

NJ Prisoners Have Liberty Interest in Staying in Population

The court of appeals for the third circuit has held that New Jersey state prisoners have a due process liberty interest, enforceable in federal court under § 1983, to remain in general population. David Sheehan is a PLN reader at the New Jersey state prison in Trenton. While housed in the ...

RFRA TRO Granted

A federal district court in Arizona granted a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to an Arizona state prisoner who filed suit seeking relief for violation of his religious rights to a Kosher diet, to long hair, a colored head covering and to maintain a vow of poverty. Paul Luckette is an ...

Jury Demand Must Be Timely

The court of appeals for the eleventh circuit, in a case of first impression for that circuit, held that the right to a jury trial is fundamental and reversed a bench trial ruling against a prisoner holding he should have received a jury trial. The case involves Robert Burns, a ...

Court Access May Require Counsel

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit has affirmed a lower court ruling holding that the right of court access requires either access to law libraries or the assistance of counsel only through the pleadings stage of civil rights complaints or habeas corpus petitions. The case arose from a ...

Contract Physicians Entitled to Qualified Immunity

The court of appeals for the seventh circuit has held that physicians hired by a prison to provide medical care are entitled to qualified immunity when sued by prisoners. As more and more prison systems attempt to cut medical care costs by contracting the care out, prisoner suits against the ...

Texas Detainee Wins Damages for Ad Seg Placement

A federal district court in Texas awarded $700 in compensatory damages to a county jail prisoner placed in administrative segregation without due process and held there for fourteen days. The court also considered the matter of prisoners' right to safety from attack by other prisoners. Benny Nettles was held in ...

HIV/AIDS in Prison and Jail

The Department of Justice has released its latest statistics on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in prison and jail facilities for 1993. As of that year 21,538 out of the 880,101 prisoners in state and federal prisons, 2.4% of the total, were known to be infected with ...

Prisoners Entitled to Rely on Marshalls for Service

The court of appeals for the sev enth circuit has extended prior rulings and held that state prisoners are entitled to rely on the Marshalls service to serve their lawsuits on prison officials. The Marshall's failure to properly serve prison officials is "good cause" to avoid dismissal under Fed ...

News in Brief

Venezuela: On September 22, 1995, police entered the Catia prison in Caracas to search for weapons and drugs when prisoners shot at them. In a five hour riot four prisoners were killed and 26 people injured, including a guard and a policeman. Hundreds of soldiers stormed the prison and regained ...