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Prison Legal News: May, 1996

Issue PDF
Volume 7, Number 5

In this issue:

  1. Citizen Anti-Crime Initiatives? How the Gun Lobby Bankrolls the War on Crime (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 5)
  3. State Murder Machine Picks Up (p 6)
  4. Texas Rent-A-Cells Burn (p 7)
  5. Texas Grooming Code May Violate RFRA (p 7)
  6. Texas Prison Developer Arrested in Escape Plot (p 8)
  7. VitaPro Fraud Scheme Unveiled in Texas (p 8)
  8. Spain and Belgium Abolish the Death Penalty (p 9)
  9. Dismissal of Women's Suit Affirmed (p 9)
  10. More Trouble in Texas Rent-A-Jails (p 9)
  11. Pennsylvania Prison Stormed (p 10)
  12. A Doctor in Prison (p 10)
  13. USP Atlanta Locked Down (p 11)
  14. Stunned in Pennsylvania (p 11)
  15. Michigan Parole Law Unconstitutional (p 12)
  16. Prison Rape Opponents Sue to Protect Award-Winning Web Site from Internet Censors (p 13)
  17. Sexual Assault During Search Illegal (p 13)
  18. Arizona Death Row Chain Gang Problems (p 14)
  19. Dismissal of Suit for Not Attending Deposition Reversed (p 14)
  20. Bad Apples in Florida DOC (p 15)
  21. Criminal Conviction Inadmissible Evidence (p 15)
  22. Jail Guards' Convictions Affirmed (p 16)
  23. Attorney Fee Award Upheld in Jail Suit (p 16)
  24. Complaint Need Not List Capacity Defendants Sued In (p 17)
  25. Jury Power in Action (p 17)
  26. Denial of Bed Linen States Claim (p 18)
  27. Litigants Must Be Given Writing Materials (p 18)
  28. Section 1983 Appropriate for Disciplinary Hearings (p 19)
  29. Retaliation Claims Survive Sandin, but PI Reversed (p 19)
  30. CDC Mental Health System Ruled Deficient (p 20)
  31. Summary Judgment Notice Must Be Given by Court (p 21)
  32. News in Brief (p 22)

Citizen Anti-Crime Initiatives? How the Gun Lobby Bankrolls the War on Crime

Recent years have seen a plethora of so called anti-crime initiatives placed on various state ballots, the most famous being the "Three Strikes You're Out" type laws. These initiatives purport to be efforts by state citizens who are fed up with crime and who are doing something about it ...

From the Editor

This issue marks PLN's sixth year of publishing and 72 consecutive issues. For anyone familiar with alternative publications in general and prison publications in particular this is a significant milestone. Ed Mead and I started PLN on a trial basis in 1990, we decided to print six issues and ...

State Murder Machine Picks Up

State Murder Machine Picks Up Speed

Fifty-six people were executed by sixteen states in 1995. That was the highest national figure since 1957. As usual, Texas led the nation with 19 executions in 1995. Since the supreme court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, there have been 313 executions in ...

Texas Rent-A-Cells Burn

The February issue of PLN featured "Kidnapping and Extortion Texas Style." Several county jails in Texas are scrambling to pay off the "junk munis" (municipal bonds) they used in the late 1980's to build rent-a-jails. Their clientele of Texas state prisoners dried up after the state spent $2 billion ...

Texas Grooming Code May Violate RFRA

The court of appeals for the fifth circuit held that a district court erred in dismissing a Texas prisoner's claim that prison grooming regulations, requiring that prisoners be clean shaven and have short hair, violated his rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The court upheld dismissal of ...

Texas Prison Developer Arrested in Escape Plot

A private prison developer with business ties to a former Texas state prison director was arrested in January and charged with plotting to help a convicted murderer escape from prison for a $750,000 fee.

Patrick Harold Graham - using the alias Harold Robert also extended the offer to the convict ...

VitaPro Fraud Scheme Unveiled in Texas

Texas state prison officials have asked a judge to nullify an agreement to purchase $33.6 million worth of VitaPro, a soy-based food product, saying the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) had no authority to sign such a contract. Under the deal between the TDCJ and VitaPro Foods, Inc ...

Spain and Belgium Abolish the Death Penalty

As the U.S. increases the number of people it murders each year the trend in favor of state-sanctioned murder is ebbing elsewhere. Fifty-five countries around the world have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, fifteen others have abolished it for social crimes such as murder and thirty other ...

Dismissal of Women's Suit Affirmed

The court of appeals for the eighth circuit affirmed the dismissal of a class action suit by women prisoners in Iowa. Past issues of PLN have reported Pargo v. Elliot, 49 F.3d 1355 (8th Cir. 1995), a class action suit in which women prisoners in Iowa claimed that they ...

More Trouble in Texas Rent-A-Jails

by Bryon W. Ferguson

Hawaii prisoner Larry Earl Pagan decided he'd had enough of Texas hospitality. Pagan, shanghaied from a Hawaii state prison [See: "Kidnapping and Extortion Texas Style" in the Feb '96 PLN], escaped in February from the Newton County Correction Facility in Southeast Texas.

Pagan made a ...

Pennsylvania Prison Stormed

Last October, in the dead of night, Graterford Correctional Institution (GCI) prisoners were subjected without notice to an unprovoked assault by storm troops dressed in black, booted, many helmeted and all carrying clubs. [See: PLN, Dec '95]

All GCI prisoners, suddenly awakened, were strip-searched, hands cuffed behind their backs, some ...

A Doctor in Prison

I was dismayed by the article on page six of the November '95 PLN about the WA Doctor Scandal. I am a board certified family physician who is doing two five-year hits for third degree sexual assault of two female patients.

I hope when I am paroled in 2-3 years ...

USP Atlanta Locked Down

Prisoners at U.S.P. Atlanta are now on lockdown and are seeking assistance of counsel - pro bono - to represent their interests in litigation against the BOP and warden Willie Scott.

On Thursday, January 18, 1996, a guard working in the education department was stabbed during an altercation between himself ...

Stunned in Pennsylvania

I am getting ready to file a tort claim lawsuit against the government for personal injury due to the reckless use of explosive bombs, AKA "Stun-Grenades" [against prisoners at FCI-McKean].

Does anyone know anything about these [stun-grenades] or can direct me to a case (other than the very recent 73 ...

Michigan Parole Law Unconstitutional

A federal district court in Michigan held that 1992 amendments to Michigan laws extending the time period between parole reviews violated the ex post facto clause of the US constitution. This case consists of a class action suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 filed by MI prisoners. The class ...

Prison Rape Opponents Sue to Protect Award-Winning Web Site from Internet Censors

Stop Prisoner Rape, Inc., a nationally organized group dedicated to fighting against the rape of incarcerated persons of all genders and ages, joined the American Civil Liberties Union and 19 other plaintiffs today (Feb. 7, 1996) in asking the courts to declare censorship of "indecent language" on the Internet unconstitutional ...

Sexual Assault During Search Illegal

The court of appeals for the eighth circuit held that a guard who sexually harasses and assaults a prisoner during a strip search violates the fourth amendment. The court rejected the guard's defense that he was not a "state actor" for § 1983 purposes because he was acting to satisfy ...

Arizona Death Row Chain Gang Problems

In December, 1995, Arizona's governor Fife Symington launched a program placing death row prisoners on a chain gang working in the prison's vegetable garden [Reported in the March '96 issue of PLN]. According to an Arizona newspaper report there have been two violent incidents involving death row prisoners ...

Dismissal of Suit for Not Attending Deposition Reversed

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit held that a prisoner appearing at a deposition hearing, but refusing to testify, was not a "failure to appear" within the meaning of Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(d). Robert Estrada, a California state prisoner, had filed suit against various prison officials ...

Bad Apples in Florida DOC

Kenneth Smith, fired from four separate Florida prisons, exemplifies a problem the Florida DOC has: keeping "bad apples" out of the barrel. Smith was fired from prisons for repeatedly violating prison rules, drunken driving, and a criminal conviction for resisting arrest, yet always managed to get rehired at a different ...

Criminal Conviction Inadmissible Evidence

A federal district court in Pennsylvania ruled in favor of a prisoner's motion in limine to prevent prison officials from introducing evidence about his criminal history to impeach his testimony. This ruling will prove useful to any prisoner litigating a civil rights claim as all too often the attorney ...

Jail Guards' Convictions Affirmed

On November 29, 1995, the US court of appeals for the sixth circuit issued a ruling affirming the federal conviction of three jail guards for violating prisoners' civil rights. Ulysses Tines, Glynn Bridgeforth and Belinda Marshall were guards employed at the Shelby County jail in Memphis, TN. Marshall was the ...

Attorney Fee Award Upheld in Jail Suit

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit has upheld an award of attorney fees to the plaintiffs in a jail religious discrimination suit who did not win in court but who caused jail policies to be changed. The court also held the plaintiffs were entitled to fees to defend ...

Complaint Need Not List Capacity Defendants Sued In

The court of appeals for the fourth circuit has held that plaintiffs suing under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 need not specifically plead in their complaint that the state officials are being sued in the individual rather than their official capacities. Instead, courts must look to the substance of the ...

Jury Power in Action

A single mother in Cleveland, Ohio went on trial for welfare fraud. She was charged with "stealing" $11,000 in cash and food stamps over a two-year period. Between June 1988 to January 1990 she is accused of working at a $6,000-a-year part time job emptying bedpans and bathing ...

Denial of Bed Linen States Claim

A federal district court in New York held that denying a prisoner blankets and bed linen while in segregation stated a claim for an eighth amendment violation. Keith Macguire, a New York state prisoner, filed suit claiming he was subjected to verbal abuse by prison officials and later placed in ...

Litigants Must Be Given Writing Materials

The court of appeals for the seventh circuit has held that prisoners must be provided with writing materials in order to ensure their right of court access. Such claims are not dependent upon a showing that the underlying claim would have succeeded, only that the prisoner was deprived of the ...

Section 1983 Appropriate for Disciplinary Hearings

The court of appeals for the eighth circuit has held that prisoners can challenge prison disciplinary hearings under § 1983 without exhausting habeas corpus remedies. Billy Joe Armento-Bey, an Iowa state prisoner, filed suit in federal court under § 1983 claiming his due process rights were violated during a prison disciplinary hearing ...

Retaliation Claims Survive Sandin, but PI Reversed

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit has held that prisoner retaliation claims have survived the supreme court ruling in Sandin but that prisoners bear a heavy burden when seeking a preliminary injunction (PI) on a retaliation claim. In the December, 1994, issue of PLN we reported Pratt v ...

CDC Mental Health System Ruled Deficient

California's prison system (CDC) was cited by a federal judge for "gross inadequacies" in the delivery of mental health care services to prisoners. On September 13, 1995, U.S. district judge Lawrence Karlton put the bite on the CDC, issuing an 82 page court order with teeth in it ...

Summary Judgment Notice Must Be Given by Court

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit has reaffirmed that when a district court considers matters outside the pleadings in ruling on the sufficiency of a complaint it must give the plaintiff notice and allow the plaintiff an opportunity to respond. Webster Lucas, a California state prisoner, filed suit ...

News in Brief

Greece: After a 12 day uprising at a 150-man maximum security prison in Corfu, 44 prisoners escaped by digging out of the prison on March 9, 1996. Sixteen were recaptured within a few hours of the escape. The uprising was part of a protest by Greek prisoners at five prisons ...