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Prison Legal News: February, 1996

Issue PDF
Volume 7, Number 2

In this issue:

  1. How the Florida DOC Circumvents Prisoners' Rights to Meaningful Access to the Courts (p 1)
  2. Jury Awards $39,000 in Texas Scalding (p 4)
  3. From the Editor (p 4)
  4. RFRA Case Set for Trial (p 5)
  5. Washington DOC Costs Policy Enjoined (p 5)
  6. Ohio Update (p 6)
  7. Unrest in NY Prisons (p 6)
  8. Suspect Peppers in LA (p 6)
  9. An Angry White Man (p 7)
  10. U.S.P. Lewisburg Lockdown (p 8)
  11. Washington Court Access Suit Settled (p 9)
  12. New Jersey Takes Computers (p 10)
  13. Jurors Challenge Tennessee Constitution (p 10)
  14. Alaska Overcrowding Fines Increase (p 10)
  15. Attorney Fee Award Affirmed (p 11)
  16. ISRB Can't Change Rules to Avoid Compliance with Court Order (p 11)
  17. Washington Prisoners Have Liberty Interest in Good Time (p 12)
  18. No Jurisdiction for Some Appeals (p 13)
  19. Kidnapping and Extortion, Texas Style (p 13)
  20. Irish POWs in the US (p 14)
  21. Peru Political Materials (p 14)
  22. It's About Time: Americas Imprisonment Binge (p 14)
  23. Weight Lifting Info Available on the Internet (p 15)
  24. No Immunity for Retaliatory Discipline (p 15)
  25. Fifth Circuit to Require Administrative Exhaustion (p 16)
  26. Georgia Prisoner Strangled by Guards (p 17)
  27. Colorado Prisoners Riot in Texas Jail (p 17)
  28. $7,639.20 Awarded in Retaliatory Transfer (p 18)
  29. No Immunity for AIDS RA Claim (p 19)
  30. Partial Filing Fee Allowed (p 19)
  31. BOP Multiple Cell May Violate Constitution (p 20)
  32. Failure to Provide Medical Treatment Unlawful (p 20)
  33. Court Access in Massachusetts DDU Challenged (p 21)
  34. CDC Hobby Shop Ruling Affirmed (p 21)
  35. NC Prisoners Riot in Tennessee (p 22)
  36. Fabricated Charges State Claim (p 22)
  37. Ninth Circuit Rejects Disciplinary Double Jeopardy (p 23)
  38. Sandin Applied Retroactively (p 23)

How the Florida DOC Circumvents Prisoners' Rights to Meaningful Access to the Courts

by William Van Poyck and Enrique J. Diaz

Although prisoners' constitutional right to meaningful access to the courts has been clearly established for almost three decades, the Florida DOC continues to evade and circumvent their constitutional obligation to accord prisoners their rights by employing blatantly unconstitutional rules and policies. Florida ...

Jury Awards $39,000 in Texas Scalding

On September 21, 1995, a federal jury in Houston awarded Texas state prisoner Roland Rudd $39,000 in damages against prison guards Robert Bergeron and Leonardo Herrera. The jury found that the Bergeron splashed a pitcher of hot coffee on Rudd's face and refused to provide him with medical ...

From the Editor

PLN has reached the point where we need at least one full time staff person on the outside. The amount of work that needs to be done is beginning to overwhelm our volunteers. The trouble with the idea that we pay someone is simple: We can't afford it. At ...

RFRA Case Set for Trial

A federal district court in Pennsylvania held that a factual dispute existed as to whether a jail's policy banning detainees from wearing religious headgear substantially burdened the exercise of religion under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb(b). In its ruling, denying the defendants ...

Washington DOC Costs Policy Enjoined

Past issues of PLN have reported the ongoing efforts by the Washington attorney general's office to intimidate prisoners who file civil rights suits. Part of this strategy has included seeking costs against prisoners who lose such suits then taking every last penny from the prisoners account. We have reported ...

Ohio Update

At Mansfield Correctional Institution (MANCI) the warden, Dennis Baker, Major Mack, the Business Manager, and two guards were placed on administrative leave while the FBI and State Highway Patrol (SHP) investigated allegations they accepted gratuities and kickbacks from a prisoner, J. Crow, whom they allowed to operate a business from ...

Unrest in NY Prisons

[Editor's Note: New York state's Republican majority legislature passed laws that mandate double bunking of the NYDOC prison system. Most cells in NY state prisons are tiny, a mere 9' x 6'. There is a high incidence of both AIDS and the deadly "drug resistant strain of TB ...

Suspect Peppers in LA

I was reading through a few old PLNs and ran across an article on page 11, Vol. 5, No. 10, (Oct. 1994) concerning pepper gas [spray].

In 1992 prisoners here at Angola [LA] bucked work call after one section [of prisoner workers] was ordered to build the death gurney to ...

An Angry White Man

I would like you to know that I was so offended by your editorial in the November 1995 issue that I canceled my subscription. I will not support financially or in any way be associated with a publication ran by such blatantly Europhobic minority racists. You obviously get your history ...

U.S.P. Lewisburg Lockdown

On November 1, 1995, several prisoners created a disturbance in the mess hall. They took a case of soda pop and barricaded themselves into one of the dorms. They proceeded to construct a cannon, using a cue ball for a projectile. When the riot squad stormed the dorm, the prisoners ...

Washington Court Access Suit Settled

In the April, 1994, issue of PLN we reported the filing of Scott v. Peterson which challenged numerous aspects of court access for Washington state prisoners. On October 31, 1995, most of the suit was settled and the settlement terms were effective November 30, 1995. The settlement is between five ...

New Jersey Takes Computers

Since about 1985 the New Jersey DOC has allowed prisoners to possess personally owned computers in their cells and for approved prisoner groups to have computers in their offices. On September 12, 1995, the NJ DOC announced that effective September 18, 1995, it plans to begin phasing out prisoner owned ...

Jurors Challenge Tennessee Constitution

Two prospective jurors who were excluded from capital trials in Tennessee because of their religious objections to the death penalty have filed a temporary injunction against the state, charging that barring them violates the state constitution. They cite Article I, Section 6 of the document, which says, "The right to ...

Alaska Overcrowding Fines Increase

In the November 1995, issue of PLN we reported on prison overcrowding in Alaska. In 1981 Alaska prisoners filed a class action suit challenging overcrowding and conditions in the prison system. The prisoners won most of the suit, the key aspect was a court ordered maximum population of 2,665 ...

Attorney Fee Award Affirmed

The court of appeals for the District of Columbia has affirmed an attorney fee award for over $341,000 in a case involving prisoners beaten by prison guards. The appeals court held that it was entirely appropriate for public interest attorneys to be compensated under the fee shifting provisions of ...

ISRB Can't Change Rules to Avoid Compliance with Court Order

ISRB Can't Change Rules to Avoid Compliance with Court Order 

The Washington state supreme court held that the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board (ISRB, AKA the parole board), could not retroactively amend its regulations in order to deny prisoners relief. In this case the court granted the Personal Restraint Petition ...

Washington Prisoners Have Liberty Interest in Good Time

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit has ruled that Washington state prisoners retain a state created due process liberty interest in not losing their good time credits unless they are provided with due process at a disciplinary hearing. It also held that § 1983 provides the appropriate means for ...

No Jurisdiction for Some Appeals

The court of appeals for the eighth circuit has held that it lacks jurisdiction to hear appeals on issues not decided on the merits in the district court. Marlon Robinson, a Missouri state prisoner, filed suit claiming prison officials were deliberate indifferent to his serious medical needs by not providing ...

Kidnapping and Extortion, Texas Style

In the dead of the night, they come to your cell. You wake up with a flashlight shining in your face. You hear the rattle of chains. "Roll 'em up, boy... you're goin' for a ride.' The next day you get a bed roll and make your new bunk ...

Irish POWs in the US

Most people are well aware of the fact that the British government holds hundreds of Irish Republican prisoners of war and political prisoners as a result of its efforts to crush the Irish independence movement. Less well know is the fact that Irish republican POWs are held in several other ...

Peru Political Materials

Since 1980 the Communist Party of Peru (PCP) has led a people's war against the US backed government in that country. Despite the capture of the party's chairman in 1992 the war has continued as the party recovered from the setbacks it suffered that year. PLN has reported ...

It's About Time: Americas Imprisonment Binge

It's About Time: America's Imprisonment Binge, by John Irwin and James Austin, Wadsorth Publishing Co. (1994), provides an excellent critical analysis of the American prison system and makes a very strong case against America's excessive reliance on the use of imprisonment as the main answer to the ...

Weight Lifting Info Available on the Internet

Past issues of PLN have reported on the efforts to halt or curtail weight lifting in prison. Strength Tech, Inc., a supplier to the prison weight lifting industry, has created and dedicated an Internet web site to the issue of prison weight lifting. The web site contains a wealth of ...

No Immunity for Retaliatory Discipline

The court of appeals for the fifth circuit has reaffirmed that prison officials who retaliate against prisoners who exercise their constitutional rights are not entitled to qualified immunity. The court also held that district court orders refusing to dismiss pendent state law claims are not cognizable on interlocutory appeals. Claude ...

Fifth Circuit to Require Administrative Exhaustion

In two separate rulings the fifth circuit affirmed dismissal of prisoners' section 1983 suits for failure to exhaust administrative remedies (i.e. the prison grievance procedure). In doing so, the court significantly expanded previous supreme court rulings that had held such exhaustion could only be required if a prisoner sought ...

Georgia Prisoner Strangled by Guards

On September 12, 1995, a guard at the Lee Arrendale Correctional Institution in Alto, Georgia, told 22-year-old prisoner, Samuel Rivers to clean his cell. Rivers had shredded newspapers and 'carpeted" his cell with them. When he refused to clean up the cell, five guards were summoned to take him to ...

Colorado Prisoners Riot in Texas Jail

On page 13 of this issue of PLN we feature an article about 500 Colorado prisoners who were abducted from Colorado prisons and shipped to the Bowie County Jail in Texarkana, TX. The 500 Colorado prisoners have been fighting the move ever since, primarily through a lawsuit filed by the ...

$7,639.20 Awarded in Retaliatory Transfer

Afederal district court in Iowa awarded $7,639.20 in compensatory and punitive damages to a prisoner who was transferred from an Iowa state prison to Arizona in retaliation for suing and filing grievances against Iowa prison officials. The plaintiff, Alfonso Sisneros, was largely successful on his retaliation claim. However ...

No Immunity for AIDS RA Claim

Afederal district court in New York has held that a state agency, the DOCS, did not enjoy immunity from suit under 29 U.S.C. § 794, the Rehabilitation Act (RA). Edward Timmons, a New York state prisoner, was wrongly diagnosed as having AIDS in 1984. As a result of the ...

Partial Filing Fee Allowed

The ninth circuit explicitly reaffirmed prior rulings which permit the district courts to collect a partial filing fee from prisoner litigants. Two California state prisoners sought to file § 1983 lawsuits in federal court. Both requested permission to proceed in forma pauperis, without paying the filing fees. The district court held ...

BOP Multiple Cell May Violate Constitution

Afederal district court in New York has held that providing prisoners with 29 square feet of living space, per prisoner, in a multiple person cell may violate the constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Andrew Karacsonyi, a federal prisoner, filed suit because of conditions he was subjected to ...

Failure to Provide Medical Treatment Unlawful

The court of appeals for the fourth circuit has held that jail guards have a duty to provide medical care for injuries resulting from attacks by other prisoners. Failure to do so may subject them to eighth amendment liability. In its ruling the court maps out the elements of a ...

Court Access in Massachusetts DDU Challenged

Afederal district court in Massachusetts expressed severe reservations about the court access afforded to prisoners confined in that state's control unit, or Departmental Disciplinary Unit (DDU). Manuel Ferreira was placed in the DDU after being infracted for allegedly leading a group demonstration. He filed suit on several issues relating ...

CDC Hobby Shop Ruling Affirmed

In the February, 1995, issue of PLN we reported In Re Yakle , the habeas corpus petition granted by a California state Superior Court which held that Section 3100(a) of 15 California Code of Regulations, required the California DOC (CDC) to establish and maintain a hobbycraft program at the Susanville ...

NC Prisoners Riot in Tennessee

On October 28, 1995, more than 100 North Carolina prisoners at the Corrections Corporation of America owned private prison in Mason, TN rioted, demanding to be returned to North Carolina. The prisoners smashed toilets and sinks and knocked a hole in a dormitory wall. Guards at the prison ended the ...

Fabricated Charges State Claim

The court of appeals for the second circuit has held that a prisoner alleging guards had planted contraband in his cell in retaliation for prior lawsuits had presented sufficient evidence to proceed to trial. The court also held that the federal § 1983 suit wasn't barred by an unsuccessful state ...

Ninth Circuit Rejects Disciplinary Double Jeopardy

The ninth circuit has joined the third and second circuit in holding that prison officials do not violate the double jeopardy clause of the constitution by subjecting a prisoner to administrative disciplinary proceedings and later to criminal prosecution. It is the first ninth circuit case to specifically discuss application of ...

Sandin Applied Retroactively

In the August, 1995, issue we discussed the supreme court's decision in Sandin v. Connor , 115 S.Ct. 2293 (1995) which held that states do not create a due process liberty interest in their regulations unless there is a "substantial" deprivation at issue. The first circuit case to apply ...