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Prison Legal News: July, 1996

Issue PDF
Volume 7, Number 7

In this issue:

  1. Prison Litigation Reform Act Passed (p 1)
  2. Zimmer Amendment Passed (p 5)
  3. From the Editor (p 5)
  4. Double Justice: A Documentary Film About Race and the Death Penalty (p 6)
  5. New Jersey Jail Guards Indicted in Beating Death (p 6)
  6. Visiting in Prison (Video) (p 6)
  7. A Matter of Fact (p 6)
  8. Prisoner Accounts Add Up to Millions (p 7)
  9. Alabama Prison Chief Fired over Women in Chains (p 7)
  10. Prison: An Entitlement System? (p 7)
  11. Segregation Enhancement May Violate Due Process (p 8)
  12. Haircut Rule May Violate Equal Protection (p 8)
  13. No Immunity for Washington Religious Name Retaliation (p 9)
  14. $1.44 Million for Medical Indifference (p 9)
  15. Warden Liable for Prison Rape (p 10)
  16. Newell Superseded (p 10)
  17. New Jersey Governor Vetoes Frivolous Bill (p 11)
  18. Minnesota Prisoners Strike for Minimum Wage (p 11)
  19. New York Work Release Creates Liberty Interest (p 12)
  20. Private Prison Executive Sentenced in Fraud Scheme (p 12)
  21. No Right to Wages Under Interstate Compact (p 12)
  22. New York Prisoners Entitled to Disciplinary Due Process (p 13)
  23. Arizona Held in Contempt over Masters' Fees (p 13)
  24. Washington Legislation Passed (p 14)
  25. Alaska Prisoner Has Right to Call Witnesses at Hearing (p 14)
  26. Attorney Fees Awarded in Death Row Brutality Case (p 15)
  27. Retaliatory Transfer and Discipline Unconstitutional (p 15)
  28. Mysterious New Syndrome Discovered (p 16)
  29. Jail Detainee's Court Access Right Violated (p 16)
  30. Failure to Protect States Claim (p 17)
  31. Furniture Manufacturers Threatened by UNICOR (p 17)
  32. Massachusetts Phone Injunction Affirmed (p 18)
  33. Legal Services Funding Cut (p 19)
  34. Khalfani Trial Due to Begin (p 19)
  35. Bivens Provides Remedy for Work Injury to BOP Prisoners (p 20)
  36. Gang War Assault States Claim (p 20)
  37. Muslim Can't Be Punished for Refusal to Handle Pork (p 21)
  38. Cavity Search in Public States Claim (p 21)
  39. News in Brief (p 22)
  40. U.S. Supreme Court to Review Cases (p 23)

Prison Litigation Reform Act Passed

On April 27, 1996, president Clinton signed the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) into law attached as a rider to the budget for the Justice Department. The PLRA is the culmination of a lengthy campaign waged by prisoncrats and the National Association of the Attorney Generals (NAAG) to restrict prisoners ...

Zimmer Amendment Passed

When president Bill Clinton signed the budget for the Department of Justice it included a rider inserted by Congressman Dick Zimmer (R-NJ). In its entirety it states: "None of the funds made available in this Act shall be used to provide the following amenities or personal comforts in the federal ...

From the Editor

In recent issues Dan and I have mentioned that we were seeking funding to pay a staff person until PLN was able to cover a staff salary on its own. So far we haven't had much luck at getting any grants in the amount needed. We are going to ...

Double Justice: A Documentary Film About Race and the Death Penalty

Double Justice: a Documentary Film About Race and the Death Penalty

This is a 19 minute video tape produced by the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project. The film places the legal imposition of the death penalty in the US in the historical context of American slavery and its legacy. The ...

New Jersey Jail Guards Indicted in Beating Death

Analdo Ortega was being held in the Hudson County, N.J., Jail in March of 1989 awaiting trial on burglary charges. According to court testimony, Ortega asked for a blanket and that triggered the anger of some of his captors. Shortly thereafter he was beaten to death.

Four jail guards ...

Visiting in Prison (Video)

Double Justice: a Documentary Film About Race and the Death Penalty

This is a 19 minute video tape produced by the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project. The film places the legal imposition of the death penalty in the US in the historical context of American slavery and its legacy. The ...

A Matter of Fact

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has a $2.5 billion annual budget and 40,000 employees. It is the largest state agency in Texas.

From January 1977 to October 1995, 302 prisoners were executed in the U.S. In that same time period, 95 death-sentenced prisoners either died ...

Prisoner Accounts Add Up to Millions

The U.S. prison population has tripled in the last fifteen years and now stands at well over a million. But the number of bodies is not the only statistic that has grown. According to the Newhouse News Service, 1995 saw record sums of money move through prisoner accounts: In ...

Alabama Prison Chief Fired over Women in Chains

Alabama's prison commissioner, Ron Jones, was abruptly fired on April 26th after announcing plans to put female prisoners on chain gangs. Jones had ordered the warden at Julia Tutwiler State Prison for Women to develop the chain-gang policy. He said the plan was in reaction to male prisoners who ...

Prison: An Entitlement System?

According to a recent computer analysis, Alabama's prison population has tripled since 1980, but the state's crime rate has remained the same. A Birmingham News analysis of Corrections Department statistics and census records show that nearly one of every 167 Alabamans older than 14 are in a state ...

Segregation Enhancement May Violate Due Process

A federal district court in New York held that extending a prisoner's term in segregation without a hearing may violate his right to due process because it imposed an atypical hardship because this particular prisoner was almost seven feet tall and had difficulty being comfortable in segregation. In the ...

Haircut Rule May Violate Equal Protection

A federal district court in Hawaii held that a prison rule requiring that prisoners have short hair and remain clean shaven may violate the constitution's guarantee to equal protection of law and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Edmund Abordo, a Hawaii state prisoner, filed suit claiming that the ...

No Immunity for Washington Religious Name Retaliation

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit held that prisoners have a clearly established right to use legally adopted religious names and prison officials were not entitled to qualified immunity for violating that right. The court also held such prisoners did not have a clearly established right to notary ...

$1.44 Million for Medical Indifference

On April 5, 1996, a Denver, Colorado district court jury awarded former prisoner Arthur Nieto $1.44 million in damages against Colorado state prison officials for showing deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. According to the evidence proved at trial, Nieto was imprisoned at the Delta Correctional Facility in ...

Warden Liable for Prison Rape

The court of appeals for the sixth circuit held that supervisory prison officials can held liable under the eighth amendment when they ignore the risk of sexual assault to vulnerable prisoners that are later raped. Timothy Taylor is a Michigan state prisoner who is 5 feet tall, weighs 120 pounds ...

Newell Superseded

In the April, 1996, issue of PLN we reported Newell v. Sauser, 64 F.3d 1416 (9th Cir. 1995) which held that Alaska prison officials were not entitled to qualified immunity for infracting a prisoner who had another prisoner's legal papers in his cell. On March 11, 1996, the ...

New Jersey Governor Vetoes Frivolous Bill

In the January '96 issue of PLN we featured "TX Anti-Litigation Law," about a law passed in Texas purportedly to stem "frivolous" litigation by prisoners. Also in that article was information about how this type of law was crafted by the National Association of Attorneys General and has been promoted ...

Minnesota Prisoners Strike for Minimum Wage

[The March 21 issue of Workers World reported that "a struggle exposing super-exploitation of prison labor has broken out at the Oak Park Heights Correctional Facility in Minnesota." The following account is excerpted from that article. Readers may note that Minnesota prisoners have lost litigation seeking the minimum wage. See ...

New York Work Release Creates Liberty Interest

A federal district court in New York held that prisoners retain a due process liberty interest in remaining in work release. Quentin Hollingsworth, a New York state prisoner, was participating in a work release and home furlough program while nearing the end of his sentence. He held a job earning ...

Private Prison Executive Sentenced in Fraud Scheme

In 1993 Clifford Todd, 68, was chairman of Kentucky based U.S. Corrections Corporation, a private prison firm. In March of this year he was sentenced by a federal judge to a 15-month prison term.

Todd pleaded guilty to mail fraud last year for his part in a bribery and ...

No Right to Wages Under Interstate Compact

No Right to Wages under Interstate Compact

The court of appeals for the eighth circuit held that neither the Interstate Corrections Compact nor Missouri state law required that Missouri prisoners held out of state be paid for their labor. Kenneth Jennings was a prison guard at the Missouri State Penitentiary ...

New York Prisoners Entitled to Disciplinary Due Process

A federal district court in New York held that New York state prisoners retain a state created due process liberty interest to be free from disciplinary segregation. This is the one of the first post Sandin v. Conner, 115 S.Ct. 2300 (1995) cases involving New York prison regulations. Raymond ...

Arizona Held in Contempt over Masters' Fees

In the October, 1995, issue of PLN we reported the ongoing war between the Arizona DOC (ADOC) and the federal judiciary as prison officials sought to evade compliance with federal court orders. Because the Arizona DOC has not been willing to comply with court orders in the past, the court ...

Washington Legislation Passed

The Washington legislature was in session for a mercifully short 60 day session between January and March, 1996. In that period several hundred anti-prisoner and anti-defendant bills were introduced, at a cost of $1,500 each. While several passed the legislature about half of those passed were vetoed by governor ...

Alaska Prisoner Has Right to Call Witnesses at Hearing

The Alaska supreme court held that refusing to allow a prisoner to call witnesses and to question the accusing staff member at a prison disciplinary hearing violated the prisoner's due process rights. Mattfi Abruska is an Alaska state prisoner. He was infracted for alleged indecent exposure after a prison ...

Attorney Fees Awarded in Death Row Brutality Case

A federal district court in South Carolina awarded a prisoner's attorney $29,516.50 in attorney fees and $1,856.17 in costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988. Cecil Lucas is a death row prisoner in South Carolina. After becoming drunk and combative with prison guards he ...

Retaliatory Transfer and Discipline Unconstitutional

The court of appeals for the eighth circuit affirmed an award of damages and attorney fees to an Iowa prisoner who was infracted and transferred after he cooperated with an investigation into guard misconduct. Robert Cornell was contacted in 1987 by DOC internal affairs staff conducting an investigation into whether ...

Mysterious New Syndrome Discovered

by Dan Pens

The Santa Clara County (Calif.) Board of Supervisors decided to commission a report. They assembled a team of independent corrections specialists to study every aspect of the county jail's operation. The County Supervisors wanted to find out why jail detainees seemed to mysteriously die after "tussling ...

Jail Detainee's Court Access Right Violated

A federal district court in Pennsylvania held that pretrial detainees retain a right of access to the courts. Charles Turiano, a PLN subscriber, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming his right of access to the courts was violated when he was held in the Huntingdon County, PA ...

Failure to Protect States Claim

The court of appeals for the fifth circuit held that a district court erred in dismissing as frivolous a suit by a prisoner claiming his eighth amendment rights were violated when they failed to protect him from attack by other prisoners. Billy Horton, a Texas state prisoner, was assaulted by ...

Furniture Manufacturers Threatened by UNICOR

Small furniture manufacturers say they could be driven out of business by a rival they simply can't compete with: the government-owned Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (FPI). The corporation uses the trade name UNICOR and "employs" prison labor in federal prisons to manufacture furniture for the military and government agencies ...

Massachusetts Phone Injunction Affirmed

The court of appeals for the first circuit affirmed a district court's contempt finding against prison officials concerning the monitoring and taping of prisoners' phone calls. In 1979 William Langton and David LeBlanc filed suit against Massachusetts prison officials over the interception and monitoring of their phone calls, including ...

Legal Services Funding Cut

In 1974 Richard Nixon created the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). The purpose of the LSC was to make grants to agencies and groups around the country which provided legal services to the poor: welfare recipients, prisoners, public housing tenants, aliens, farm workers, etc. In recent years Republicans have worked hard ...

Khalfani Trial Due to Begin

Leonard McQuay, also known as Khalfani X. Khaldun, was due to be released in 1997 from the Indiana prison system. But on December 13, 1994, Khalfani was transferred to the Maximum Control Complex in Westville, under investigation for it allegedly stabbing a prison guard at Indiana State Prison. [See: 'IN ...

Bivens Provides Remedy for Work Injury to BOP Prisoners

A federal district court in California held that prison officials may not retaliate against prisoners who request medical treatment; that the Prison Industries Fund is the sole remedy for federal prisoners who suffer work related injuries but does not bar a Bivens claim for denial of treatment to the injuries ...

Gang War Assault States Claim

A federal district court in New York held that a prisoner who was attacked as part of a "war" between Hispanic and Jamaican prisoners stated an eighth amendment claim for prison officials' failure to protect him. Ted Knowles is a New York state prisoner originally from the island of Antigua ...

Muslim Can't Be Punished for Refusal to Handle Pork

The court of appeals for the eighth circuit held that a district court erred when it granted prison officials qualified immunity for punishing a Muslim prisoner who refused to handle pork. Roosevelt Hayes is an Arkansas state prisoner and a Muslim. He was assigned a work assignment in the prison ...

Cavity Search in Public States Claim

The court of appeals for the tenth circuit held that strip searches by members of the opposite gender may violate the fourth amendment. Willie Hayes, a Colorado state prisoner, filed suit claiming his fourth, eighth and fourteenth amendment rights were violated when he was subjected to a visual body cavity ...

News in Brief

Australia: On May 6, 1996, 30 prisoners in Adelaide's maximum security Yatala prison took 3 guards hostage and threatened to kill them if police stormed the prison. No reason was given for the hostage taking.

Brazil: On May 9, 1996, 53 prisoners escaped from the Carandiru prison by digging ...

U.S. Supreme Court to Review Cases

Washington Disc. Case

On April 29, 1996, the US Supreme Court announced it would hear an appeal by Washington state prison officials involving a prisoner's challenge to the loss of good time during a prison disciplinary hearing. Jerry Balisok filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 challenging the ...