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Prison Legal News: December, 1996

Issue PDF
Volume 7, Number 12

In this issue:

  1. Three Strikes in California (p 1)
  2. Censorship of Rap Tape States Claim (p 3)
  3. Analysis of People v. Romero (p 3)
  4. Hungry for Justice in L.A. Jail (p 4)
  5. From the Editor (p 4)
  6. Transportation Costs Can't Be Imposed on Losing Plaintiffs (p 5)
  7. A Matter of Fact (p 5)
  8. Pro Se Tips and Tactics (p 6)
  9. Black Prison Movements (p 7)
  10. Washington Prisoners Lose Computers, Again (p 8)
  11. CRIPA Stays Not Appealable (p 9)
  12. Botched Escape Sparks Rebellion (p 10)
  13. Texas Guard Cleared in Controversial Shooting (p 11)
  14. Twelve Political Prisoners Gave their Lives in a Death Fast in Turkey (p 12)
  15. Motive in Denying Due Process Irrelevant (p 14)
  16. Georgia Prisoners Retain Right to Safety (p 14)
  17. Upsizing Federal Law Enforcement (p 15)
  18. ADA Ruling for Deaf New York Prisoners (p 15)
  19. New York Voting Rights Case Vacated (p 16)
  20. Iowa DOC Shake-Up (p 16)
  21. PLRA Stay Provision Held Unconstitutional (p 17)
  22. PLRA Not Retroactively Applicable to Special Masters (p 17)
  23. Attorney Fees Awarded in Smoking Suit (p 17)
  24. PLRA Not Applicable to Appeals Filed before Passage (p 18)
  25. PLRA Not Retroactive on Attorney Fees (p 18)
  26. Update on Washington Money Seizure Suit (p 19)
  27. Habeas Required for Disciplinary Hearing Challenges (p 20)
  28. Prison Officials Liable for Double Celling (p 20)
  29. No Immunity for Failure to Protect Prisoner from Violence (p 21)
  30. PI Granted on Winter Clothing Claim (p 21)
  31. News in Brief (p 22)

Three Strikes in California

By all accounts, the three strikes sentencing law in California is a failure according to criminal justice experts. They point out that three strikes is applied more often than not to people of color, that it hasn't reduced crime, that it's overwhelming the court system and bankrupting the ...

Censorship of Rap Tape States Claim

Afederal district court in Wisconsin granted a prisoner plaintiff's motion for in forma pauperis status holding that censorship of a rap music tape states a claim for a first amendment violation. James Golden, a Wisconsin state prisoner, filed suit challenging the censorship of a rap music tape he had ...

Analysis of People v. Romero

On June 20, 1996, the California Supreme Court decided People v. Romero (1996) 13 Cal.4th 497, 917 P.2d 628, 65 USLW 2017, 96 Daily Journal DAR 7229. The question posed in the case was whether trial judges retained discretion to strike prior felony convictions under the so-called three ...

Hungry for Justice in L.A. Jail

More than 50 detainees at the Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles participated in a hunger strike, protesting a lack of legal reference materials and law library access, in August 1996.

The hunger strike appears to have been confined to one section of the jail. Of the 74 men ...

From the Editor

Welcome to another issue of PLN . If you read these editorials often, you've no doubt noticed that we usually mention that PLN is entirely reader supported and we need donations from you. Somehow you always manage to send "just enough." And we manage to make ends meet. Lately, though ...

Transportation Costs Can't Be Imposed on Losing Plaintiffs

The court of appeals for the seventh circuit affirmed a district court ruling holding an unsuccessful prisoner plaintiff was not liable for costs incurred in transporting him and his witnesses to trial. Bill Sampley, a PLN supporter, and Michael Holland are Indiana state prisoners who filed suit against Indiana prison ...

A Matter of Fact

There are 1.5 million private security guards employed in the U.S., outnumbering police three to one. Communities, individuals, and businesses spent $52 billion on private security in 1990, twice the amount of tax revenues going to police.
The crime rate dropped 4 percent overall in 1995 according to ...

Pro Se Tips and Tactics

Prisoners who challenge jail or prison conditions or practices in a pro se lawsuit should be aware of the possibility of turning the case into a class action. In deciding whether to seek class treatment, you should consider both whether your case meets the legal requirements for becoming class action ...

Black Prison Movements

Review by Daniel Burton-Rose

This impressive offering from the Network of Black Organizers (NOBO) provides coverage of many of the issues confronting Black and New Afrikan prisoners and their outside communities. A large portion of the writings are by political prisoners and POWs past and present, such as Mumia Abu-Jamal ...

Washington Prisoners Lose Computers, Again

In 1986 prisoners at the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe, WA were allowed to purchase computers and software and keep them in their cells. The program at its peak had some 56 prisoner computer owners in it. During this period the only problem that arose was one prisoner who hid ...

CRIPA Stays Not Appealable

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit held that district court orders which stay proceedings for a limited time to require exhaustion of prison administrative remedies pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutional Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e are not appealable. Two Arizona state prisoners filed ...

Botched Escape Sparks Rebellion

[Editor's Note: There is no source PLN is aware of that keeps accurate statistics on the number of prison disturbances/rebellions. It is apparent to many who monitor prison news, including PLN, that the number of rebellions is on the rise. We attempt to cover them when possible, but ...

Texas Guard Cleared in Controversial Shooting

Last month PLN reported "In Harm's Way: Texas Prisoner Killed," about the fatal shooting of 21-year-old prisoner Daniel Miguel Avellaneda by 35-year-old French Robertson Unit prison guard Neal Harms.

Six weeks and one day after the July 8 shooting, a Jones County grand jury in Anson, Texas, a tiny ...

Twelve Political Prisoners Gave their Lives in a Death Fast in Turkey

When Aygun Ugur, an imprisoned militant from the outlawed Turkish Communist Party/Marxist-Leninist (TKP/ML), died on the 63rd day of a hungerstrike, Turkey was shocked. In a nation which is continually rocked by political crises and rebellion, this summer's death fast by left-wing political prisoners posed the greatest ...

Motive in Denying Due Process Irrelevant

The court of appeals for the sixth circuit held that prison officials are liable for keeping a prisoner in administrative segregation without a hearing if they acted intentionally or with deliberate indifference; their motive in doing so is irrelevant. Gregory Howard, a Michigan state prisoner, filed suit after he was ...

Georgia Prisoners Retain Right to Safety

The Georgia state supreme court ruled that prisoners retain a right to protection and safety from other prisoners. Marvin Yizar, a Georgia state prisoner, is a former Atlanta policeman serving a life sentence for murder. Yizar had previously arrested and prosecuted many of the prisoners with whom he now shares ...

Upsizing Federal Law Enforcement

In his 1996 State of the Union address, Clinton promised to end the "era of big government." But while federal agencies from the Department of Energy to the Labor Department are being downsized, federal law enforcement appears to be moving briskly in the opposite direction.

The Clinton administration's fiscal ...

ADA Ruling for Deaf New York Prisoners

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of NY ruled in favor of hearing impaired New York prisoners litigating a number of constitutional and statutory issues relating to the imprisonment of hearing impaired prisoners. The court held that the defendants, New York Department of Correctional Services (DOCS), violated ...

New York Voting Rights Case Vacated

In the January, 1996, issue of PLN we reported Baker v. Cuomo , 58 F.3d 814 (2nd Cir. 1995) where the second circuit court of appeals reversed and remanded a lower court ruling dismissing a lawsuit by New York state prisoners challenging the voting disenfranchisement of convicted felons. See: Baker ...

Iowa DOC Shake-Up

The Iowa DOC administration under director Sally Chandler Halford is taking a "get tough" position against prisoners. Up for a tough reconfirmation next year by the senate, the director plans to shake-up the whole system in the wake of recent incidents within the Iowa system.

The changes by the DOC ...

PLRA Stay Provision Held Unconstitutional

In two separate rulings different judges in Michigan held that the stay provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), codified at 18 U.S.C. § 3626(e) are unconstitutional. Among the PLRA's provisions to section 3626(e) which provides that "Prospective relief subject to a pending motion [for ...

PLRA Not Retroactively Applicable to Special Masters

A federal district court in California held that the Prison Litigation Reform Act's (PLRA) provisions limiting the source and amount of payment to special masters appointed to monitor compliance with court orders did not apply to special masters appointed prior to the PLRA's enactment on April 26, 1996 ...

Attorney Fees Awarded in Smoking Suit

A federal district court in Nebraska awarded a prisoner plaintiff $8,346 in attorney fees and $2,952 in expenses in a suit challenging Nebraska state prisoners' exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS, also known an second hand smoke). This to the first published case to discuss the award of ...

PLRA Not Applicable to Appeals Filed before Passage

The court of appeals for the second circuit held that the Prison Litigation Reform Act's (PLRA) fee provisions did not apply to appeals submitted prior to its passage. The court also held that summary judgment rulings must be properly supported by the record. Michael Ramsey, a New York state ...

PLRA Not Retroactive on Attorney Fees

The court of appeals for the eighth circuit held that the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) provisions limiting attorney fees in prison cases is not to be retroactively applied. The court also affirmed the district court ruling that the practice of randomly double celling prisoners at the Nebraska State Penitentiary ...

Update on Washington Money Seizure Suit

In the August, 1996, issue of PLN we reported the history and then current status of Wright v. Riveland, the class action suit challenging the constitutionality of Washington statute RCW 72.09.480, which allows the DOC to seize 35% of all funds sent to prisoners. For more details refer ...

Habeas Required for Disciplinary Hearing Challenges

The court of appeals for the eighth circuit held that prisoners challenging the results of prison disciplinary hearings that result in the loss of good time cannot challenge the hearing result via 42 U.S.C. § 1983, but instead they must present their claim as a habeas corpus petition after ...

Prison Officials Liable for Double Celling

In the September, 1996, issue of PLN we reported Jensen v. Gunter , 73 F.3d 808 (8th Cir. 1996) where the appeals court vacated a district court ruling that double celling practices at the Nebraska State Penitentiary (NSP) violated the eighth amendment where the district court had not made any ...

No Immunity for Failure to Protect Prisoner from Violence

The court of appeals for the eighth circuit held that prisoners have a clearly established right to be protected from violence by other prisoners. The court also gave a detailed discussion of appellate jurisdiction in reviewing interlocutory appeals by prison officials who have been denied qualified immunity at the trial ...

PI Granted on Winter Clothing Claim

Afederal district court in New York granted a preliminary injunction ordering prison officials to provide segregation unit prisoners with winter clothes in order for them to have access to outdoor exercise. Ronald Davidson, a New York state prisoner, filed suit challenging the inadequacy of medial care he had received and ...

News in Brief

CA: Former L.A. Rams cornerback Darryl Henley and Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) guard Rodney Anderson were indicted in June, 1996, on charges of conspiring to kill federal judge Gary Taylor and former Rams cheerleader Tracy Donoho. The indictment states that Anderson smuggled a cellular phone into Ronley's jail ...