Skip navigation
Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: July, 1995

View as PDF
Issue PDF
Volume 6, Number 7

In this issue:

  1. Supreme Court Turns Back Parole Challenge (p 1)
  2. 4th Cir. Clarifies IFP Dismissal Standard (p 2)
  3. Private Physician Subject to Section 1983 Liability (p 3)
  4. No Interlocutory Appeal of Discovery Order (p 4)
  5. 9th Cir. Upholds Attorney Fee Award (p 5)
  6. Appointment of Counsel (p 5)
  7. Unprovoked Assault States Claim (p 6)
  8. Prisoners Entitled to Meaningful Ad Seg Review (p 6)
  9. Helms Amendment Ruled On (p 7)
  10. Qualified Immunity Granted for Denial of Exercise (p 8)
  11. AA Probation Requirement Illegal for Atheist (p 9)
  12. Denial of Food May Violate Eighth Amendment (p 9)
  13. Confinement Claim Barred by Res Judicata (p 10)
  14. NJ Sex Offender Registration Ruled On (p 10)
  15. Retaliatory Infraction States Claim (p 10)
  16. PA Class Action Settlement Published (p 11)
  17. Denial of Witnesses Violates Due Process (p 11)
  18. Dismissal for Failure to Amend Complaint Reversed (p 11)
  19. Warden Survey Released (p 12)
  20. TDCJ Selling Counterfeit Meat (p 12)
  21. MI Drug Patch Testing (p 13)
  22. CA Families Fight to Maintain Bonds (p 13)
  23. NV Phone Rate Scalping Examined (p 13)
  24. 51 Months for Sex With Prisoners (p 14)
  25. Who's Treating the Doctor (p 14)
  26. AL Brings Back Chain Gangs (p 15)
  27. Violence Increases in Fed Prisons (p 15)
  28. SC Prisoners Protest Haircut Policy (p 15)
  29. From The Editor (p 16)
  30. FL Prisoner Has Right to Die (p 16)
  31. Books Available: The Penitentiary in Crisis: From Accomodation to Riot in NM (p 17)
  32. Books Available: Cages of Steel (p 17)
  33. Books Available: Barred: Women, Writing and Political Detention (p 17)
  34. Prisoners and the Law (p 17)
  35. Book Review: Prison Violence in America (p 18)
  36. Litigation Status Report Available (p 18)
  37. News in Brief (p 18)
  38. Book Review: Civil Liability in Criminal Justice (p 18)
  39. The Rise and Fall of California's Radical Prison Movement (Book Review) (p 18)
  40. Raze the Walls Burned (p 19)
  41. Health Problems in WY (p 19)

Supreme Court Turns Back Parole Challenge

In the July, 1994, issue of PLN we reported Morales v. California DOC, 16 F.3d 1001 (9th Cir. 1994). The appeals court held that a California statute that was modified to allow for parole hearings every three years instead of every year violated the Ex Post Facto provisions of the US constitution. In a 7 to 2 ruling the supreme court has reversed that ruling.

Jose Morales is a California prisoner convicted of first degree murder in the killing of his girlfriend in 1971. He was released on parole in 1980 and plead guilty to second degree murder for killing his wife, whom he had met in prison. At the time of his second murder conviction California law provided for annual parole hearings. This law was later amended to allow for parole consideration hearings every three years for those prisoners who had been convicted of murder more than once.

Morales first became eligible for parole in 1989 and was found unparoleable. His next hearing was scheduled three years later. Morales filed a habeas corpus petition claiming that the change in parole eligibility hearings violated his rights under the Ex Post Facto clause, namely that he was entitled to the ...

4th Cir. Clarifies IFP Dismissal Standard

The court of appeals for the fourth circuit has limited the discretion of district courts to dismiss suits filed in forma pauperis (IFP) on grounds of frivolousness where the court believes the complaint is untimely. The court also discussed when a cause of action accrues in cases where the cause of medical injury may not be readily apparent. The case involved a § 1983 suit filed by Maryland state prisoner Ghulam Nasim who claimed that while imprisoned between 1983 and 1989 he was denied medical treatment for stroke and spinal disk disease. He also claims to have suffered medical complications resulting from exposure to asbestos in prison. Nasim claimed that asbestos was falling from the prison ceiling into his cell and no notice or warning was provided that such exposure might be dangerous or that protective measures should be taken.

The district court dismissed Nasims suit on grounds that it was untimely and barred by Marylands three year statute of limitations which applies to § 1983 actions in that state. Nasim filed suit in 1993. He claimed he did not realize until 1991, after reading magazine articles, that his illnesses were the result of asbestos exposure. Nasim appealed the dismissal and the ...

Private Physician Subject to Section 1983 Liability

Private physicians who show deliberate indifference to prisoners serious medical needs may be sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 even though they are not prison employees. With the increased trend of prison systems contracting out prisoner medical care this fourth circuit decision firmly reestablishes the states obligation to provide medical care and does not allow the state to avoid liability by having private practitioners care for prisoners. Clay Conner, a Virginia state prisoner, was trampled by a steer during a prison livestock operation and suffered injury. He was examined by Dr. Kerry Donnelly at the Radford Orthopedic Center (RAC). Donnelly prescribed Motrin as part of the treatment even though Conner told him that it made his ulcers bleed. Conner complained about this to a prison physician as well and the prison doctor said he could not override Donnellys prescription.

Conner visited Donnelly four times at the RAC over a six month period. After being informed of the hemorrhaging caused by the medication Donnelly refused to take any action on the matter and eventually refused to treat Conner. Donnelly was an employee of the RAC and neither he nor the RAC were employed by the state of Virginia nor had ...

No Interlocutory Appeal of Discovery Order

In a sharply worded opinion the eighth circuit court of appeals has described the limited circumstances in which it will entertain an interlocutory appeal from a district courts discovery orders. The case involves Sherman White, an Iowa state prisoner, who filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming he was placed in segregation as punishment for failing to reveal privileged attorney client communications. Prison officials claimed he was placed in segregation because of his suspected involvement in an assault on a prisoner and after he turned over illegal drugs to prison officials.

In connection with his suit, White's attorney sought discovery of the files created by prison officials in connection with their investigation of White's possible involvement in the assault. These files were created for any future criminal or disciplinary charges that might be filed, even though no charges have been filed in the three years the investigation has been "open". The defendants provided the files for in camera inspection by the court but resisted producing the files for White's attorney, claiming they were protected from disclosure as attorney work product and because disclosure would undermine prison security. The district court ordered the files produced to ...

9th Cir. Upholds Attorney Fee Award

This is not a prison case per se. It involves the ninth circuit court of appeals upholding an award of attorney fees of $66,535 in a case where the plaintiff only recovered nominal damages of $1. Because prison litigation often involves small or nominal damage awards this case will ...

Appointment of Counsel

In the February, 1994, issue of PLN we extensively discussed the third circuits ruling in Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147 (3rd Cir.1993) which set forth the standards district courts should use when ruling on pro se prisoner plaintiffs motion for appointment of counsel. The ruling was an important one from the third circuit because it was the first time it had addressed the issue in a comprehensive ruling. The case was remanded to the lower court with instructions to apply the enunciated principles and decide if counsel should be appointed. The lower court decided to appoint counsel.

The case involves Harvey Tabron, a Pennsylvania state prisoner who claims that prison officials witnessed and allowed another prisoner to attack him and failed to take appropriate steps after they overheard the prisoner threaten him. Shortly after filing suit Tabron filed a motion for appointment of counsel which the court denied. The district court later went on to grant summary judgment in favor of the defendants and dismissed the action. The appeals court reversed on the appointment of counsel ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings. The appeals court did not address the summary judgment ruling because if counsel ...

Unprovoked Assault States Claim

The sixth circuit court of appeals held that an unprovoked assault by Ohio prison guards states a claim for an eighth amendment violation. In doing so, the court rejected the prison guards' contention that unprovoked assaults do not, as a matter of law, state an eighth amendment claim. The case involves David Pelfrey who was assaulted by two prison guards who threatened him with a knife and cut off most of his hair with the knife when Pelfrey attempted to collect his mail. Pelfrey filed administrative complaints which went nowhere, he then filed suit under 42 U.S.C.§ 1983.

The defendant prison guards responded with a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). They claimed that Pelfrey's complaint did not state a cognizable claim because even if the facts were true as he alleged, at most he stated a claim for common law assault and not for a violation of the eighth amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. "The defendants argued that even if they had cut off Pelfrey's hair without provocation or justification, their actions did not constitute `punishment' because it was not administered for penological or ...

Prisoners Entitled to Meaningful Ad Seg Review

New York state law has created a liberty interest for its prisoners to remain free from administrative segregation (ad seg) and prisoners cannot be held on indefinite ad seg status without meaningful review of that status. Prisoners have no federal constitutional right to remain free from ad seg but such a right may be created by state law. See: Hewitt v. Helms, 459 US 460,103 S.Ct. 864 (1983). Julio Giano attempted to escape from prison and was placed in segregation and transferred to another prison. After his release from segregation he was stabbed and seriously injured. He was placed in involuntary protective custody and again transferred. Giano repeatedly sought his release from IPC status and prison officials refused, claiming his previous escape attempt and the stabbing (which Giano did not divulge the reasons of) justified his retention in segregation.

Giano filed a writ of habeas corpus in state court and that was denied. He then filed suit in federal court claiming that his continued segregation violated his federal rights. The defendants moved for summary judgment which the court granted in part and denied in part.

The defendants claimed that Giano was collaterally estopped from relitigating the same claims ...

Helms Amendment Ruled On

In the December, 1994, issue of PLN we analyzed various provisions of the federal crime bill that was passed that year. One of the provisions was the Helms amendment which limited the relief that federal courts could grant in class action suits brought by prisoners alleging overcrowding and such. At ...

Qualified Immunity Granted for Denial of Exercise

In the May, 1994, issue of PLN we reported Allen v. City and County of Honolulu, 39 F.3d 936 (9th Cir. 1994) which held that prison officials were not entitled to qualified immunity for denying a segregated prisoner at least one hour of exercise per day. In that case, the court held that the right to at least an hour of exercise a day was so well established, no reasonable prison official could have thought it was reasonable to deny it to a prisoner, in or out of segregation. [Editors Note: For an extensive discussion of the case law and right of segregated prisoners to outdoor exercise see the January, 1995, issue of PLN. Back issues are still available for $1.]

The sixth circuit court of appeals has reached the opposite conclusion. Morris Rodgers was a Michigan state prisoner in administrative segregation. He was later placed in disciplinary segregation for a 37 day period after being infracted for a rules violation. According to Michigan DOC policy prisoners in disciplinary segregation are only afforded one hour of out of cell exercise a day for five days every thirty days. Rodgers filed suit claiming that this violated his eighth amendment rights ...

AA Probation Requirement Illegal for Atheist

In the May, 1994, issue of PLN we reported Warner v. Orange County Dept. of Probation, 827 F. Supp. 261 (SD NY 1993) which refused to dismiss a probationers claim that being forced to attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings as a condition of probation violated his first amendment rights because ...

Denial of Food May Violate Eighth Amendment

As district court in New York has held that depriving a prisoner of all meals for a two day period may violate the eighth amendment when imposed as a punitive sanction. Sean Williams is a New York prisoner confined in a control unit. After refusing to return a food tray prison guards withheld all other meals from him for a two day period. Williams claims to have lost consciousness and thus required medical attention. After this episode he suffered digestive problems, stomach and chest pains and dizziness. He filed suit contending that the denial of food for two days violated his eighth amendment rights, that the denial took place without a hearing also violated his due process rights.

The defendants moved for summary judgment and sought dismissal of the suit. They did not contest the facts set forth in Williams suit. Instead, they argued that by refusing to return his tray Williams was refusing to accept his meals. The court denied the motion to dismiss, noting that the case was very similar to Moss v. Ward, 450 F. Supp. 591 (WD NY 1978) where a court held that denying a prisoner food for four days was unconstitutionally disproportionate punishment for ...

Confinement Claim Barred by Res Judicata

The May, 1995, issue of PLN reported on Rooding v. Peters. 864 F. Supp. 732 (ND IL 1994) in which the court found unconstitutional an Illinois DOC policy which required prisoners to serve at least 60 days in an IDOC facility, even if this meant holding them past their release date. Rooding had filed suit in federal court seeking money damages for being held past his release date, he had already won a habeas petition in state court.

This latest ruling in the case is the court granting the defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings. The court held that Rooding's claim was barred under the doctrine of Res Judicata, which does not allow parties to relitigate the same issues once a judgment has been entered. The court held that because a state court had granted a judgment in favor of Rooding to the effect that his confinement was illegal he could not sustain a separate cause of action under § 1983. In response to Rooding's argument that money damages are not allowed in state court habeas proceedings (or federal ones for that matter), the court held that "plaintiff could have and should have petitioned the state court ...

NJ Sex Offender Registration Ruled On

In 1990 Washington state passed the Community Protection Act which contained provisions requiring that sex offenders register with police and it also allowed law enforcement officials to notify the public of the sex offender's address, criminal history, etc. Since then several other states have passed similar laws. New Jersey passed its Sexual Offender Registration Act (known as Megan's law, after a seven year old girl who was raped and killed by a paroled sex offender) in late 1994. The New Jersey law required that sex offenders register with police and allowed police to publicly disseminate the name, photo, home address, place of employment and other personal information about the registered sex offender.

Alexander Artway, a convicted sex offender, filed suit claiming that the law violated several provisions of the constitution including the ex post facto clause (which bans increasing the punishment of a crime after it is committed), the eighth amendment, due process, equal protection and privacy rights. Artway had been convicted, and released, before the law went into effect.

The court gave an extensive history of each of the issues raised by Artway. The court gave ample discussion to the cases which have upheld the Washington state ...

Retaliatory Infraction States Claim

An Illinois district court has reaffirmed that prisoners retain a first amendment right to complain about prison conditions without fear of being subjected to retaliation by prison officials. Selma Geder, an Illinois state prisoner, filed numerous administrative grievances complaining about prison conditions. In retaliation for such complaints he was infracted for allegedly being Ainsolent and disobeying a direct order. He was found guilty at a prison disciplinary hearing and punished. Geder filed suit under 42 U.S.C. ' 1983 claiming that the retaliatory infraction violated his first amendment rights and that the disciplinary hearing was constitutionally deficient as well. The defendants moved for summary judgment which the court denied in part and granted in part.

"Prison inmates have a protected First Amendment right to submit written and oral complaints about prison conditions, and where there is evidence of retaliation against constitutionally protected speech, the protection of prisoner's due process rights does not shield prison employees from a Section 1983 claim." "To state a claim for retaliatory treatment, a complaint need only allege a chronology of events from which retaliation may be inferred." Geder presented affidavits that several days before receiving the infraction he had filed three grievances complaining of ...

PA Class Action Settlement Published

The October, 1994, issue of PLN reported that on August 12, 1994, attorneys representing all Pennsylvania state prisoners had reached a settlement with prison officials of that state regarding almost every aspect of prison conditions in that state. The district court has published the entire settlement agreement for those interested ...

Denial of Witnesses Violates Due Process

A federal district court in New York has held that a prisoner's due process rights were violated at a disciplinary hearing when the hearing officer refused to call a guard as a witness and failed to interview the guard to determine what his testimony would be. Michael McConnell, a New York state prisoner, was infracted and accused of two separate disciplinary violations, one involving drug possession the other weapons possession. Two hearings were held.

McConnell claimed his due process rights were violated at both hearings because the hearing officer refused to call guards as witnesses to testify on his behalf. The court held there was no due process violation at the first hearing because the hearing officer correctly held that the guard's testimony would be repetitive of documentary evidence present at the hearing, namely that he had signed the disciplinary report but had not in fact found the drugs.

The court reached the opposite conclusion with regards to the second hearing. Because McConnell was in segregation prior to his hearing he was entitled to assistance in "marshaling evidence and preparing a defense to disciplinary charges against him." Under Eng v. Coughlin, 858 F.2d 889, 897-98 (2nd Cir ...

Dismissal for Failure to Amend Complaint Reversed

The court of appeals for the second circuit has held that a pro se prisoner's complaint should not be dismissed for failure to file a clear and concise complaint, failing to comply with the pleading requirements of Federal Civil Procedure and for failing to submit to discovery. Noah Simmons filed suit claiming that he received grossly inadequate medical care while he was a pretrial detainee in New York City's Rikers Island jail facility. After filing suit he requested appointment of counsel and sent the court a letter seeking summary judgment, both of which the district court denied. The court ordered Simmons to file a Aclear and concise statement of his claim@ so pro bono counsel could evaluate it. The defendants filed a motion to take Simmons's deposition in order to clarify his claims and Simmons did not respond to their letters. The defendants sought leave of the court to take Simmons's deposition and the court, on its own motion dismissed the action. The reasons given by the court were that Simmons's complaint was Aconfused, ambiguous, vague, and otherwise unintelligible@ and not in compliance with Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 8.

Simmons appealed and the court ...

Warden Survey Released

On December 21, 1994, Illinois US senator Paul Simon (D) released a survey he had conducted of 157 prison wardens across the country. Simon told a news conference he was releasing the survey because it was time for a "reality check" as congress gears up for yet another crime bill.

Asked "Do you think most elected officials are offering effective solutions to crime?" 85% of the wardens answered "no." Only 10% answered "yes." Two thirds of the wardens surveyed stated that prison space could be better used by imposing shorter sentences on non-violent offenders to make room for those convicted of violent crimes. They also stated there were too many minor drug offenders behind bars.

At the news conference former director of the federal prison system Michael Quinlain stated that the combination of a massively growing prison population combined with the newly popular removal of privileges such as weights, televisions and recreation items could prove deadly.  He said "I am worried there is going to be a disaster in our prisons. We will not be able to manage them effectively."

TDCJ Selling Counterfeit Meat

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice(TDCJ) is getting into the fast food business. This is a new and different type of fast food, though. What makes it a fast is how fast prisoners whisk their trays to the garbage can to dump the fake soy-based meat substitute off of their trays.

The new soy product is called Vita Pro. Larry Kyle, the director of Texas prison industries, says that under what he terms a Agentleman's agreement with Vita Pro Foods, Inc. of Montreal Canada, the Texas prison system will be the sole distributer of this new wonder product to cost-conscious prisons and jails all over the United States. The TDCJ hopes to make a cool, fast $4 million on the distribution deal this year alone.

The Vita Pro fake meat has already been served to Texas prisoners for some time. Kyle says that if any of the prisoners have noticed the difference, none have complained. Maybe we should forward him some of the letters we have gotten from Texas readers with their spontaneous, unsolicited testimony on Vita Pro. One letter described the product as looking and smelling like Alpo dog food, though in all fairness to Kyle, the ...

MI Drug Patch Testing

A reader submitted a copy of a MDOC memorandum from the acting warden of Egler Prison, in Jackson Michigan, which we quote in full:

AThis facility has been selected to participate in a Pilot Study of the PharmChem Sweat Patch as a means for testing drug abuse. Beginning in early December, all prisoners at this facility who are selected for drug testing by submitting a urine specimen will also be tested with the PharmChek Sweat Patch. The Pilot Study will last approximately six (6) months.

AThe patch is an absorbent pad contained in a hospital-like bandage worn on the upper arm or lower rib cage of the prisoner being tested. The patch is to be worn for a period of two weeks. At the end of the two week period the patch will be removed and an additional urine specimen will be requested.

ADuring the pilot period no misconduct reports will be written based on the sweat patch test results. Misconduct reports will be written when a prisoner refuses to allow the patch to be applied, removes it without authorization, or tampers with it. Also, misconduct reports will continue to be written for positive urine tests, and refusals to submit ...

CA Families Fight to Maintain Bonds

Hundreds of family members, loved ones, friends, and advocates  converged  on  the California Department  of  Corrections headquarters April 27, 1995, to express their support for family ties and opposition to a proposed administrative regulation which would eliminate family visits for a large segment of the prison population.   Speakers,  including  volunteers  from  Pro Family Advocates,  Family Net, Concerned Citizens for Prisoners, Friends Committee on Legislation, and the Prison Law Office, were limited to five minutes each.   The public hearing ran from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., when prisoncrats shut the doors, turning away dozens of citizens, some of whom traveled over seven hundred miles, to voice their right to speak.

A rally was held directly in front of the hearing room from 12:00 noon until  2:00 p.m.  Michael Satris,  an attorney,  and founding member of the San Quentin, California based Prison Law Office, was a featured speaker at the rally.   Mr. Satris spent the morning in Marin County Superior Court moving for a prospective Temporary Restraining Order which would prohibit state prison officials from enforcing restrictions on family visiting if the administrative regulation is approved.   Sources inside the CDC admit tens of thousands of ...

NV Phone Rate Scalping Examined

In response to complaints from prisoners, family members and prison activists, the Nevada Public Service Commission (PSC) began work in December on a plan to regulate phone systems at jails and prisons. PSC Commissioner, Galen Denio, said he has to review testimony and documents from telephone companies and prison officials before deciding what action will be taken.

A proposed plan calls for caps on telephone rates charged to those who use phones in Nevada jails and prisons. Under the proposal, companies providing those phone services could charge no more than the highest rate of any long-distance company operating in the state. Operator surcharges on local calls would also be capped.

Though this may hardly sound like a good deal for prisonersCwho could still be charged the highest rates of any phone customers in the stateCit should provide considerable relief from the rate scalping that has been perpetrated on this Acaptive market.  Mark Collins of Mound House, who is a former sheriff's deputy, said he was recently billed $87 for a month's worth of calls to a friend in jail. He said the Nevada Bell rate for the same calls would have been $29. Collins said the same prisoner ...

51 Months for Sex With Prisoners

Suspended Gulf County (Pensacola), FL Sheriff Al Harrison, 52, was found guilty by a federal jury on January 27, 1995, of seven misdemeanor counts of violating the civil rights of five former female prisoners at the Gulf County Jail over a period of several years. The jury found that Harrison forced the women prisoners to have sex with him in his office in exchange for furloughs and other favors. Several other women, including former prisoners, a former sheriff's department employee and the ex wife of a family friend, testified that Harrison had coerced sex from them or made advances they rejected. The prisoners' testimony was bolstered when FBI agents testified they had recovered semen from the chairs and carpets in Harrison's office that were shown by a DNA match to be his. Harrison took the stand and denied the charges against him.

On March 24, 1995, judge Lacy Collier sentenced Harrison to 51 months imprisonment. While the charges were only misdemeanors the sentences were run consecutive. Collier said he would normally exceed federal sentencing guidelines in cases involving the violation of the public trust but did not do so in this case because of Harrison's otherwise spotless ...

Who's Treating the Doctor

In September, 1994, the Washington DOC hired James McGuire to work as a psychiatrist at the McNeil Island Corrections Center (MICC). His work involves diagnosing and prescribing drugs to sex offenders, among other prisoners at the facility. This in itself is unremarkable. What is unusual is the fact that McGuire had lost his license to practice psychiatry in Alaska, and had to leave that state, because he had been having sex with a patient for a five year period. Alaska is one of the toughest states in the country to lose a medical license for medical malpractice, according to PLN sources.

Karma VanGelder, a former Alaska state trooper, testified before the Washington state Medical Quality Assurance Commission that McGuire was treating her for multiple personality syndrome and forced her to have sex with him. McGuire admitted having sex with VanGelder and is in group therapy. Kevin McGovern, McGuire's psychologist, said he thought McGuire was gaining insights into his problem and could safely handle the work at McNeil because he isn't interested in having sex with grown men.

The state asked the medical board to suspend McGuire's license to practice medicine here in Washington based on the Alaska ...

AL Brings Back Chain Gangs

Ron Jones, commissioner of the Alabama DOC, has announced that it has ordered 300 sets of leg irons to the tune of $17,000 so prisoners can be put to work for the first 90 days of their sentences. Jones is carrying out a directive from Republican Governor Fob James that new prisoners be denied television; that they be put to work, and that their first impression of prison Abe so unpleasant that they never come back.

Alabama currently uses minimum security prisoners, without shackles, to pick up litter around highways. But over half of Alabama's prisoners have medium and maximum security classifications which do not allow them to work outside of prison compounds. AWith leg shackles, we can put higher risk inmates to work@ on the outside, said Jones. Jones stated the chains would allow five prisoners to work in a group with 8 feet of chain between the prisoners. The first chain gang will start in Limestone County.

Asked by the media, no one at the AL DOC could recall when or why the DOC had done away with chain gangs. The chain gangs will be used along heavily traveled interstate highways in full view of motorists ...

Violence Increases in Fed Prisons

BOP records show an increase of violence at the five older U.S. Penitentiaries at Atlanta, Leavenworth, Lewisburg, Lompoc and Terre Haute. Statistics from the two newer prisons at Florence and Allenwood are not yet available.

BOP records show that prisoner assaults on guards increased 11% in 1994 over the previous year. Prisoner on prisoner assaults increased a reported 28.5%. Ten prisoners were killed in assaults at the five prisons in 1994, compared to a total of nine during the previous two years. One BOP guard was killed in Atlanta, the first such killing in seven years.

Donald Tucker, president of the council of prison locals of the American Federation of Government Employees, attributes the increased violence to under staffing. According to BOP records, however federal prison staff have increased from 23,913 in 1992 to 26,265 late last year. And BOP projections call for a further increase to 40,000 staff by the year 1999.

Greg Bogdan, a spokesman for the BOP said that the reason there is more violence is because there are more prisoners. The total Federal prison population increased from 63,930 in 1991 to 85,540 last year.

Although the construction of new ...

SC Prisoners Protest Haircut Policy

In February, 1995, Michael Moore, a prison administrator from Texas, was appointed head of the South Carolina DOC. He promptly implemented the Aget tough on prisoners policies of recently elected Republican governor David Beasley. To date this has included cutting back on work release and furloughs and announcing a new policy which would require all prisoners to have short hair, be clean shaven and wear uniforms.

At 8:30 AM on April 17, 1995, a fight broke out in the cafeteria of the Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia, SC, a medium-maximum security prison holding 1,000 prisoners. Sporadic fighting and fires broke out in various areas of the prison. During the uprising five guards were stabbed with four left in serious condition with stab wounds to the head, chest and back. During the cafeteria melee three prison employees were taken hostage and released eleven hours later after five prisoners were assured they would not be shot by prison guards and they were allowed to meet for five minutes with an Associated Press newsman and two photographers to complain about the haircut policy and other restrictive policies being implemented by Moore. The five prisoners who met with the media denied ...

From The Editor

From the Editor

by Dan Pens

Paul says I can only have a thousand words; we have backlog of articles and cases waiting for space. So I'll get right to it. We recently started including a Adrop card in every issue. Sorry if they fall out and make paper cuts on your toes.  So far we have had a positive response. The drop card makes it easier for people to send us donations or renew their subscriptions. They are also great for passing along to friends and family (encourage them to subscribe!). And when Bobo down the tier comes to borrow this month's issue of PLN you can just hand him the subscription card instead... maybe he'll get the message.

But along with the positive response, we have also gotten a lot of cards back with zero money and zero stamps, just a name, address and an AX in the check box for AINDIGENT PRISONER RATE - Send what you can, we'll pro-rate your subscription.  These guys don't even include a brief letter, just the card. If it costs us $0.99 to produce one issue (See: Notes From the Editor in the May >95 PLN ...

FL Prisoner Has Right to Die

In 1972 Florida prisoner Michael Costello filed a lawsuit that eventually turned into a class action suit that resulted in improving living conditions, court access and medical care for state prisoners. Governor Lawton Chiles estimated that the costs to the state for litigating the suit, before it was settled in 1993, was $4 million. On January 3, 1995, Costello went on a hunger strike to protest transfers to different prisons motivated by prison officials' desire to retaliate against him for his successful litigation. Prison officials sought to force-feed him and Costello went to court to prevent that from happening. Assistant Attorney General Amanda Wall, representing the DOC, argued that Costello was only trying to Amanipulate the system by going on hunger-strike

On March 3, 1995, Martin County Circuit Judge Larry Schack ruled, in a sixteen page opinion, that hunger striking prisoners have a right to refuse food and medical treatment and starve themselves to death. Costello's right to privacy (readers will note that it is the right to privacy which upholds womens' right to abortions, most privacy right cases deal with abortion, contraception and the right to die) includes his right to refuse food and medical care. It was ...

Books Available: The Penitentiary in Crisis: From Accomodation to Riot in NM

The author is a former New Mexico assistant attorney general who was involved in investigating the causes and effects of the Santa Fe prison riot in 1980. The book takes a fairly objective analysis of the rise of the American prison movement in the 60's and 70's and how this affected the New Mexico prison system. The prison struggle is put into a historical context of the upheavals then affecting society and how this impacted the New Mexican prison population. While a bit long winded at times the book gives a graphic account of the events leading up to the riot and the riot itself. Given the current tendency towards Atough on prisoners laws, this book gives a good account of where such polices have led in the past. Cost: $19.95 (hardback), available from State University of New York Press, State University Plaza, Albany, NY. 12246.

Books Available: Cages of Steel

Due to a shortage of space we are just giving short announcements to readers as to which books are available that may be of interest. The brevity of the review is no reflection on the quality of the book, just a matter of our being short on space.

Cages of Steel, edited by Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall is a compilation of essays and chapters by some fifty political prisoners and prisoners' rights activists about the reality of the American prison system. Of the books currently available on the American prison system this is the best one in terms of putting American policies of imprisonment into a social, political and economic context. The authors document how the United States criminalizes political dissent and holds many political prisoners, while denying it does so. An excellent book, highly recommended. 435 pages. ISBN 0-944624-17-0. Cost $16.95 plus $1.50 for US postage, $3.00 for overseas postage. Available from: Maisonneuve Press, P.O. Box 2980, Washington D.C. 20013-2980, (301) 277-7505

Barred: Women, Writing and Political Detention, by Barbara Harlow, examines and presents the writings of women political prisoners in Northern Ireland, Palestine, El Salvador, Egypt, South Africa and the United ...

Books Available: Barred: Women, Writing and Political Detention

Barred: Women, Writing and Political Detention, by Barbara Harlow, examines and presents the writings of women political prisoners in Northern Ireland, Palestine, El Salvador, Egypt, South Africa and the United States. The book gives an analysis of the dynamics of resistance movements and political detention, the educational and social role of prisons and the place and treatment of women as political prisoners. All too often the role of women in revolutionary movements is minimized or ignored. This book does an invaluable job of letting the world know about women's contributions to revolutionary movements and their struggles in prison as well. Harlow examines how prison literature affects the community, in and out of prison along with the role of women in liberation movements and the treatment of women political prisoners. Highly recommended. ISBN 0-8195-6258-0, Cost $17.95 (paperback). Available from: University Press of New England, 23 South Main St. Hanover, NH. 03755. (603) 643-7107.

Prisoners and the Law


Prisoners and the Law is the title of the four volume set by law professor Ira Robbins. First published in 1985 the set is regularly updated, most recently in December of 1994. While many books on prisoner rights give an overview of the applicable case law Robbins does that and much more. Numerous legal scholars, attorneys, judges, prison experts and others have contributed to this set, which allows for authoritative chapters written from different perspectives. It also includes several law review articles from law schools such as Harvard, Yale, etc.  In addition to case law and legal issues the volume also includes policy and philosophical issues such as privatizing prisons, the role of accreditation by the American Correctional Association, prison industries, the future of prison reform, etc. These chapters make the book invaluable for everyone from prison litigants, attorneys, judges, writers, and anyone interested in getting a broad overview of prison issues.

The book begins with an overview of the American prison system, its reliance on incarceration, the evolution of prisoner rights, correctional developments, resolving prisoner grievances out of court, modification of consent decrees and an overview of the law on prisoners' rights and means of enforcement. The first ...

Book Review: Prison Violence in America

by M. Braswell, R. Montgomery and L. Lombardy.

The book opens with a letter from George Jackson, excerpted from Soledad Brothers. What follows is a rather detailed and scholarly examination of numerous aspects of prison violence. Included are chapters on the impact of Ruiz v. Estelle, a historical-statistical overview of prison riots, a detailed analysis of the Attica and Santa Fe riots, theories about the causes of prison riots, prisoner on prisoner violence, prison rape, prisoner on staff violence, staff on prisoner violence, political culture and its impact on staff violence, and more. The book is well seasoned with charts, numbers, graphs, and each chapter is topped off with footnotes and exhaustive source material references. The analysis of the Santa Fe and Attica riots seemed particularly relevant to current events. It would be wise for law makers and prison policy makers to dust off this historical information... or be condemned to repeating it. Cost is $28.95.

Litigation Status Report Available

The National Prison Project of the ACLU has issued its latest, updated status report on state prisons and the courts. The report gives a detailed listing, by state, indicating which prisons and prison systems are under court order or consent decrees to limit their populations or otherwise improve their conditions of confinement. Only three states have never been involved in major litigation challenging overcrowding or prison conditions.

The report gives case citations (many of these cases have been going up and down the courts for, literally, decades) and summaries of the class action suits filed and what their current status is. This report is invaluable for anyone involved in major institutional reform litigation as well as anyone interested in the scope of this type of litigation over the years. The 18 page report is highly informative and available from the NPP (address on page 20) for $5 post paid.

News in Brief

WA: Dan Hughes, the city maintenance supervisor of West Richland used a work crew from the Coyote Ridge Correctional Center to fix the irrigation system, clean a forklift and paint a fuel tank at his home in 1992 and 1993. The prisoner work crew was under contract to do maintenance projects for the city. City officials have stated that Hughes will not be disciplined unless he is prosecuted. The State Auditor's Offices stated that Hughes' conduct violated state law on the use of prison slave labor. The Benton County prosecutor has not responded to PLN's inquiry of whether criminal charges would be filed against Hughes.

D.C.: On May 22, 1995, a federal jury ordered the city's Department of Corrections to pay a total of $1.425 million to six employees who were sexually harassed by DOC employees. It was the first time a government agency has been successfully sued on a class action basis for sexual harassment. The illegal conduct included demands for sexual favors and reprisals against those who refused or complained.

MI: As part of a growing national trend, the Michigan DOC has announced plans to ban smoking in all of its prisons by ...

Book Review: Civil Liability in Criminal Justice

Book review by H.E. Barrineau III

This 108 page book provides a minimalist and simplistic, but quite broad overview of § 1983 litigation. It is aimed at criminal justice employees who are likely to be sued. The book is liberally spiced with relevant case citations, but rather lacking in detailed case law analysis. This book could be an invaluable tool to the novice litigator. It provides a useful road map of case citations to help a novice navigate through the case law relevant to various types of §1983 actions. The book lacks information on civil procedure and provides no examples of how to draft briefs or motions. For the beginner, though, the book could be used as an effective learning tool. Cost is $16.95. Both Prison Violence in America and Civil Liability are available from the Anderson Publishing Company, P.O. Box 1576, Cincinnati OH 45201-1576.

The Rise and Fall of California's Radical Prison Movement (Book Review)

This is a history of the California prison movement from 1950 to 1980, focusing on San Quentin state prison and highlighting the role that prison reading and writing played in the creation of radical prisoner ideology in those years. This was an extraordinary era in California prisons, one that saw the emergence of a highly developed radical convict resistance movement inside the walls. Cummins examines writers like Chessman, Eldridge Cleaver, George Jackson, the Black Panthers, Black Muslims and the Symbionese Liberation Army and Black Guerrilla Family. Also described are how outside activists became involved in building the prison movement and how prisoner's books were able to reach far beyond prison walls to influence opinion, events and policy.

While the book is interesting we feel it has some shortcomings, namely it ascribes the collapse of the California prison movement to it being too radical rather than to repression by the state, the overall retreat of progressive movements with the Vietnam war being won by the Vietnamese, etc. A rebuttal pointing out these fallacies in greater detail than we can run here in PLN has been written by Marti Hiken, Director of the NLG's Prison Law Project and should definitely ...

Raze the Walls Burned

Raze the Walls (RTW) is a Seattle based anti-prison collective that has supported prison activists (including PLN), published a prisoner resource directory among other activities. On May 12, 1995, they suffered a big setback when the squatted house they occupied burned to the ground. Not only did they lose their home but they also lost their office space, computer, files, photocopies and everything else associated with the project.

Their recent letter to PLN states in part:  AAt this time we are attempting to replace all of the material that was associated with the project while trying to rebuild our personal lives. This will be a long and difficult process that we hope to have accomplished by August 15, 1995. Until then we will not be able to respond to current, past or future requests. If you have sent us money or stamps, sorry but those were lost in the fire along with your original letter.

RTW can use any donations that folks can afford in order to get their prison support work going again. They can be contacted at: RTW, P.O. Box 22774, Seattle, WA. 98122-0774. (206) 328-8571.

Health Problems in WY

We have a new Health Service provider that took over from the state. They worry about costs over and above prisoners' health care. The name of the provider is Wexford Health Services, Inc. Their home office address is 4500 PGA Blvd. Suite 302, Palm Beach, FL 33418. It is rumored that they provided services in Alabama ten years ago and were kicked out. Besides Wyoming they are providing services in Michigan, Illinois; South Dakota and Florida. I'm wondering if you could print something asking if any of your readers has information about past or present litigation against this company or has discovered any other information about them they would be willing to share. There are several suits filed against them in Wyoming, but none of them are in the discovery stages yet that I am aware of. We are having problems with them changing medication without doctors orders, not passing out medications in a timely manner or handing out the wrong medications to the wrong people. They deny surgery after the doctors have recommended it, have tampered with medical records, lied to the prison administration and are guilty of general incompetence. Please send any information to Andy Renken, 2121 ...


Federal Prison Handbook



Prisoner Education Guide side



Federal Prison Handbook




Prisoner Education Guide side