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Prison Legal News: October, 1996

Issue PDF
Volume 7, Number 10

In this issue:

  1. UNICOR Hogs Body Armor Market (p 1)
  2. Prisoners May Be Allowed to Lead Religious Services (p 2)
  3. From the Editor (p 3)
  4. The "Honorable Men" Defense (p 4)
  5. Plaintiff Entitled to Respond to Qualified Immunity Defense (p 5)
  6. Alleged Work Refusal Requires Trial (p 5)
  7. Unrest in South American Prisons (p 6)
  8. Less than Lethal Force Liability (p 7)
  9. Smoke and Mirrors (p 7)
  10. A Matter of Fact (p 8)
  11. Correction (p 8)
  12. Cause of Action Accrues on Disciplinary Reversal (p 9)
  13. Prisoner Testimony Must Be Considered in Spears Hearing (p 9)
  14. Texas Parole Rules on Litigants and Victim Statements Enjoined (p 10)
  15. Extending Release Date Violates Eighth Amendment (p 11)
  16. Attorney Fees Awarded for Opposing Motion to Vacate (p 11)
  17. Attica: Looking Back 25 Years (p 12)
  18. Jail Guards File Suit (p 13)
  19. Fifth Circuit Applies New Standard to Detainee Claims (p 14)
  20. MCC Settlement Upheld (p 15)
  21. Evidence Required for Disciplinary Sanction, Sandin Questioned (p 15)
  22. Pepper Spray Madness (p 16)
  23. Pepper Spray Unsafe? (p 17)
  24. Indigents Entitled to Full Credit for Pretrial Detention (p 18)
  25. De Novo Review Required of Magistrate's Report (p 18)
  26. Texas Shaving Rule Declared Illegal (p 19)
  27. Parolee's Jail Rights Discussed (p 19)
  28. Missouri Haircut Rule Upheld under RFRA (p 20)
  29. No Right to Assistance in Family Law (p 21)
  30. Retaliation for Grievance Committee Participation Requires Trial (p 21)
  31. PI Granted in Haircut Claim (p 22)
  32. Court Responsible for Jury Demand (p 22)
  33. Complaint Can't Be Dismissed if Partial Filing Fee Paid (p 23)
  34. No FLSA Protection for Work Release Prisoners (p 23)
  35. Right to Witnesses and Court Access Well Established (p 24)
  36. News in Brief (p 24)
  37. Court Okays Disclosure of AIDS Status (p 25)

UNICOR Hogs Body Armor Market

In the July '96 issue of PLN we published "Furniture Manufacturers Threatened by UNICOR," an article about how Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (FPI, which uses the trade name UNICOR), dramatically expanded its "market share" of furniture sold to the military and government agencies and how the expanded use of federal ...

Prisoners May Be Allowed to Lead Religious Services

A federal district court in Pennsylvania ruled that a prison rule prohibiting prisoners from leading religious services may be unconstitutional. Four Muslim prisoners in a Pennsylvania state prison filed suit challenging a prison rule which prohibited prisoners from leading religious services. Prior to the new rule prisoners could choose a ...

From the Editor

Welcome to another edition of PLN. Last month we intended to run Jaan Laaman's article, "Attica - Looking Back 25 Years," which appears on page of this issue. Due to a prison lockdown, Jaan was unable to get the article to us in time for the September issue. I hope ...

The "Honorable Men" Defense

[Editor's Note: With this issue PLN welcomes its third quarterly columnist, Mumia Abu-Jamal, a political prisoner on death row in Pennsylvania.]


"The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was ambitious:

If it were so, it was a grievous fault;

And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it. Here, under leave ...

Plaintiff Entitled to Respond to Qualified Immunity Defense

The court of appeals for the fifth circuit held a district court improperly dismissed a prisoner's civil rights complaint when it did not allow the plaintiff to respond to the defendants' qualified immunity defense. Donald Todd, a federal prisoner, filed suit claiming his right to equal protection and to ...

Alleged Work Refusal Requires Trial

The court of appeals for the second circuit held that a district court erred when it disregarded a prisoner plaintiff's affidavit that he had not refused a work assignment. The court also declined to decide whether state prisoners have a federal liberty interest when deprived of prison privileges.

Alphonso ...

Unrest in South American Prisons

Brazil

On February 3, 1996, a specialized military police unit killed two prisoners and wounded another in a Sao Paulo police station after putting down a rebellion by 127 prisoners protesting a lack of water at the facility. "It's not normal" to shoot protesting detainees, admitted a Sao Paulo ...

Less than Lethal Force Liability

The April, 1995, issue of the Creighton Law Review contains and extremely informative article titled Less Than Lethal Force Weaponry: Law Enforcement and Correctional Agency Civil Law Liability for the Use of Excessive Force, by Neal Miller. While much of the article's focus is on the use of force ...

Smoke and Mirrors

Review by George Everett

Smoke & Mirrors has less to do with drugs than it does with the true casualties of the long-fought War on Drugs -- the many civil liberties that all of us have lost, especially in the last decade, as federal policy has amassed greater and greater powers in the hands of police and prosecutors.

Dan Baum puts you in the room as each new Drug War law, court decision or policy change is discussed and created. The reader watches his or her own Constitutional rights stripped away piece by piece by people who should have known better.

This not a dry book about legal precedence and maneuvers, however; each new onslaught is placed in context by how it affects the people most harmed by them. The names, faces, lives, and families of the Drug War's victims are vividly displayed.

For instance, Baum tells about an innocent African American landscaper named Willie ...

A Matter of Fact

A 1988 study of California prisoners concluded that there is a strong positive correlation between prisoners' visiting and their successful transition to the free world. Of those who received 12 or more visits in their last year of incarceration, 68.5 percent had "satisfactory outcomes" (presumably meaning no arrests or ...

Correction

In the July, 1996, issue of PLN we reported Prison Litigation Reform Act Passed. On page three we incorrectly stated that the PLRA limits attorney fees to $40 an hour for out of court work. The PLRA limits attorney fee recovery to 150% of the amount set in 18 U ...

Cause of Action Accrues on Disciplinary Reversal

The court of appeals for the second circuit held that the statute of limitations for a § 1983 action does not begin to run until a prisoner has successfully challenged the disciplinary hearing in state court. Theodore Black is a New York state prisoner. In 1990 he was infracted and found ...

Prisoner Testimony Must Be Considered in Spears Hearing

The court of appeals for the fifth circuit held that a district court abused its discretion when it heard a prisoner's testimony during a Spears hearing and then disregarded it and dismissed the complaint. Danny Eason, a Texas state prisoner, filed suit claiming his eighth amendment rights were violated ...

Texas Parole Rules on Litigants and Victim Statements Enjoined

A federal district court in Texas issued an extensive injunction prohibiting the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (TBPP) from taking into account either a prisoner's litigation history or unverified protest statements which oppose a prisoner's parole in making parole decisions. The court denied relief concerning consideration of ...

Extending Release Date Violates Eighth Amendment

A federal district court in Illinois held that the eighth amendment is violated when a prisoner is held almost two years past his release date. Don Campbell, an Illinois state prisoner, was released from prison in 1986 to serve a two-year term of Mandatory Supervised Release (MSR). A few months ...

Attorney Fees Awarded for Opposing Motion to Vacate

The court of appeals for the fifth circuit affirmed a district court's award of almost $38,000 in attorney fees to class counsel for opposing a jail defendant's motion to vacate a consent decree. In 1978 prisoners at the Madison County jail in Madison, Mississippi filed suit challenging ...

Attica: Looking Back 25 Years

[Editor's Note: Jaan Laaman, Ohio-7 political prisoner, served time at Attica in 1971 and is currently incarcerated at U.S.P. Leavenworth. Due to a shooting and prison lockdown, this 25-year anniversary article is being published a month late. The Attica uprising occurred in September, 1971. Here is a ...

Jail Guards File Suit

Five jail guards, disciplined for throwing a blanket over the head of a mentally ill detainee and choking him into a coma, have sued the Santa Clara (Calf.) County Department of Correction and its two highest officials, claiming that they were unjustly scapegoated. The lawsuit, filed April 29, 1996 names ...

Fifth Circuit Applies New Standard to Detainee Claims

The court of appeals for the fifth circuit has significantly weakened the constitutional protections afforded pretrial detainees by adopting a new standard affording significantly less protection than prior supreme court decisions had mandated. Haley Hare committed suicide while in the Corinth, MS jail after being arrested on a petty larceny ...

MCC Settlement Upheld

The court of appeals for the seventh circuit held that a district court properly approved a settlement agreement dismissing a prison conditions class action suit over the objections of numerous plaintiffs. In 1991 prisoners at the Maximum Control Complex (MCC) in Indiana filed suit challenging numerous aspects of the control ...

Evidence Required for Disciplinary Sanction, Sandin Questioned

A federal district court in Indiana refused to dismiss a prisoner's habeas corpus petition challenging his disciplinary segregation because it was not clear what constituted a deprivation sufficient to invoke due process. A hearing officer's failure to indicate the evidence relied on could violate due process if there ...

Pepper Spray Madness

[The author is an attorney in private practice in Seattle, Washington, and a frequent writer on police accountability issues. She is also on the Steering Committee of the National Coalition on Police Accountability. This article first appeared in the Spring 1996 Issue of COVERT ACTION QUARTERLY.]

Imagine that someone has ...

Pepper Spray Unsafe?

COPWATCH, a citizens' group in Berkeley, CA, has noted an increase of in-custody deaths, and has pointed to pepper spray as possibly causing or contributing to those deaths. According to Berkeley Police Department Captain Doran, however, police officials consider pepper spray a safe alternative to firearms and an indispensable tool ...

Indigents Entitled to Full Credit for Pretrial Detention

The court of appeals for the tenth circuit held that a defendant who is incarcerated prior to trial due to indigency (unable to afford bail) must be given full credit towards the minimum and maximum sentences he is convicted of. James Hall, a Colorado state prisoner, was arrested in 1977 ...

De Novo Review Required of Magistrate's Report

The court of appeals for the eighth circuit held that a district court's erroneous statement that no objections had been filed to a magistrate's report and recommendation constituted prima facie evidence that the district court did not perform the requisite de novo review of the report. Larry Grinder ...

Texas Shaving Rule Declared Illegal

A federal district court in Texas ruled that a prison rule requiring prisoners be clean shaven violated a Muslim prisoner's religious rights and enjoined the rule. Johnson Lewis, a Texas state prisoner and a Muslim, filed suit claiming that prison regulations requiring that all Texas prisoners be clean shaven ...

Parolee's Jail Rights Discussed

The court of appeals for the fifth circuit addressed, for the first time ever, the question of what rights are retained by a parolee who is charged with a crime and is also held on a detainer. Steven Hamilton was on parole for various sex offenses when he was arrested ...

Missouri Haircut Rule Upheld under RFRA

Missouri Haircut Rule Upheld Under RFRA

The court of appeals for the eighth circuit reversed a federal district court ruling which had held that a Missouri DOC rule requiring prisoners to have short hair and banning sweat lodges violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). In the June, 1995 issue ...

No Right to Assistance in Family Law

The court of appeals for the sixth circuit held that prison officials are under no obligation to provide prisoners with the assistance of counsel in child custody cases. This is the latest installment in the ongoing saga of Glover v. Johnson, a class action suit filed 20 years ago by ...

Retaliation for Grievance Committee Participation Requires Trial

A federal district court in New York held that a prisoner who serves on a prison grievance committee cannot be retaliated against for assisting other prisoners in filing grievances. Jeffrey Alnutt, a New York state prisoner, filed suit claiming his first amendment rights were violated when prison officials retaliated against ...

PI Granted in Haircut Claim

A federal district court in Kentucky granted a motion for a Preliminary Injunction (PI) to a Hasidic Jew whose claimed his religious beliefs were violated when prison officials forced him to cut his hair. Several Kentucky state prisoners in Protective Custody (PC) filed suit challenging various aspects of their confinement ...

Court Responsible for Jury Demand

The court of appeals for the second circuit held that checking a box on a civil cover sheet constituted a timely demand for a jury trial. Tyrone Wright, a New York state prisoner, filed suit claiming he was beaten by prison guards. When Wright filed suit he did not include ...

Complaint Can't Be Dismissed if Partial Filing Fee Paid

The court of appeals for the second circuit held that district courts cannot require indigent litigants to pay a partial filing fee and then dismiss their complaints as frivolous under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d). Jerry Hughes, a New York state prisoner filed suit claiming a district attorney had ...

No FLSA Protection for Work Release Prisoners

The court of appeals for the fifth circuit held that neither the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) nor Louisiana law offered relief to a work release prisoner challenging a contractual provision requiring he contribute ten percent of his net earnings to a sheriff's victim compensation fund. Charles Reimonenq ...

Right to Witnesses and Court Access Well Established

A federal district court in Kansas held prisoners had a well established rights in 1984 to call witnesses at disciplinary hearings and to be free from retaliation for exercising their right of access to the courts. Jerry Smith, a Kansas state prisoner, had his briefcase searched prior to a trip ...

News in Brief

AL: Gabel Taylor was shot and killed on July 18, 1996, after winning a bible knowledge contest. Taylor and his killer were comparing their knowledge of the bible. When Taylor won his opponent became angry, left, returned with a gun and shot him.

CA: On August 13, 1996, 27 prisoners ...

Court Okays Disclosure of AIDS Status

The court of appeals for the seventh circuit held that prison officials may casually disclose a prisoner's AIDS status to other prisoners and staff but that denying barber services is unconstitutional. Dennis Anderson was an Illinois state prisoner with AIDS. The prison warden told a guard that Anderson had ...