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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: August, 1996

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Volume 7, Number 8

In this issue:

  1. Supreme Court Reverses Court Access Case (p 1)
  2. ABA Wants Pro Se Litigation Info (p 4)
  3. Discovery and Proof in Police Misconduct (p 5)
  4. From the Editor (p 5)
  5. Notes from the Unrepenitentiary (p 6)
  6. Attorney Fees Awarded in Jail Suit for Attorney-Client Space (p 6)
  7. Prison Visitor Allowed to Refuse Search (p 7)
  8. A Matter of Fact (p 7)
  9. Anti-Terrorism Act Terrorizes Habeas Petitioners (p 8)
  10. Publications Review (p 10)
  11. 5th Circuit Bars Ad Seg Claims (p 10)
  12. Beating Shackled Prisoners States Claim (p 12)
  13. Canada's Prison Chief Resigns (p 12)
  14. U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Kansas Civil Commitment Case (p 13)
  15. BOP Ad Seg Rules Don't Create Liberty Interest (p 14)
  16. Women Prisoners Win Court Access Claim (p 14)
  17. New Washington Prison Needs Major Repairs (p 15)
  18. Canadian Prisoners Regain Voting Rights (p 15)
  19. Washington Money Seizure Suit Update (p 16)
  20. Wisconsin Property Policy Violates RFRA (p 17)
  21. VitaPro Update (p 18)
  22. Brig Fire Sparks Political Debate (p 18)
  23. $168,500 Awarded in Prisoner's Death (p 19)
  24. Guards' Smoke Violates Eighth Amendment (p 19)
  25. TVs for Justice (p 20)
  26. New Jersey MCU Suit Settled (p 20)
  27. Departing Visitor Cannot Be Searched -- Strip Search Okay (p 21)
  28. News in Brief (p 22)
  29. Settlement Reached in Alabama Chain Gang Suit (p 23)
  30. Photocopies Required for Court Access (p 23)

Supreme Court Reverses Court Access Case

In the June, 1995, issue of PLN we reported Casey v. Lewis, 43 F.3d 1261 (9th Cir. 1994) in which a unanimous panel of the ninth circuit court of appeals affirmed most of a lower court ruling designed to ensure Arizona prisoners' right of access to the courts. In Casey v. Lewis, 834 F. Supp. 1553 (DC AZ 1992) [PLN, Vol.5, No. 5] the district court held that the Arizona DOC's law libraries and legal assistance programs violated prisoners' right of access to the courts. Specifically, the court held that the following areas were constitutionally deficient: the contents of the law libraries; the access to the libraries; legal assistance for prisoners who were illiterate or non-English speaking; library staffing; the indigence standard in order to receive legal supplies; the photocopying policy that allowed the confidentiality of legal documents to be breached and limitations on prisoners' phone calls to their attorneys. After appointing a special master to assist in developing proper injunctive relief the court issued a permanent injunction requiring the ADOC to implement the legal access plan devised by the special master. The ADOC appealed, challenging the district court's findings of fact and conclusions of law ...

ABA Wants Pro Se Litigation Info

The Bureau of Justice Assistance has awarded the American Bar Association a grant to develop a technical-assistance manual to limit the burdens of pro se prisoner litigation while maintaining prisoners' constitutional rights. The manual will include an assessment of the burdens which pro se inmate litigation is placing on courts, correctional officials, and state attorneys general and provide recommendations to alleviate those burdens without undermining prisoners' constitutional rights. Chapters in the manual will, at a minimum, discuss the following areas: (1) the use of technology; (2) partial filing fees; (3) legal assistance programs; (4) early-case-evaluation hearings and other efficient case management processes and screening mechanisms for pro se prisoner litigation; (5) administrative remedies; and (6) model forms.

In gathering information for this project, project staff have solicited, and are receiving input and ideas from, prisoner assistance organizations, DOC directors, state attorneys general, and a number of courts. They are also inviting feedback from prisoners themselves. In particular, the following information would be helpful:

1. Comments and observations about the kinds and amount of burdens which pro se prisoner litigation is placing on courts, correctional officials, and the attorney general in your state.

2. Comments and observations about the benefits, if ...

Discovery and Proof in Police Misconduct

Book Review

Review by Allan Parmelee

Litigating any issue against a police or prison official is tough based on the many loopholes built into the system for their benefit. Discovery & Proof in Police Misconduct Cases (D&PPMC) by Stephen Ryals, shows actual examples of the necessary elements of a complaint for various issues, and even includes examples of discovery and often overlooked sources of information. This book discusses in detail the pleading requirements and core elements of § 1983 claims with samples of most types of complaints relative to police and prison guard misconduct.

This book, compared to other legal resources, is easy to read and includes a level of detail even non-lawyers will easily understand. The D&PPMC discussion of liability against supervisory officials and conspiracy claims is explained together with sample motions to compel discovery, and includes primary analysis of overcoming defense objections to plaintiff discovery. D&PPMC also discusses expert witnesses and statistical proof, along with the defense perspective that is important for a plaintiff to understand. The book also includes a section on pretrial preparation and taking a case to trial.

To assist in bringing a case against law enforcement officers or prison guards, the samples and ...

From the Editor

Last month Paul announced our (much regretted) impending rate increase. A year ago we raised our Institutional rate from $35 to $50/yr, but our individual rate remained at $12/yr. This year, as of September 1, we are raising the individual rate. We are also splitting the individual rate into two separate categories. As such, we will have several categories of subscribers:

Prisoner - subscriptions are $15/yr. As in the past, we will accept postage stamps as payment. From now on, however, we require a donation of no less than $5 at a time. Your subscription will be pro-rated, depending on your circumstances, ability to pay, and our financial status. For a $5 donation you will receive at the very least four issues of PLN. To make things easier on everyone, though, we ask that prisoners try to send the full $15 in one payment for a 1-year subscription.

Individual - The subscription rate for non-incarcerated persons is $20/yr. If you can possibly donate more, please do so. Extra donations from those who can afford to give more allow us to subsidize subscriptions for indigent prisoners in control units or on death row.

Institutional/Professional - This rate remains at ...

Notes from the Unrepenitentiary

[Editor's Note: With this issue of PLN we introduce a new columnist, Laura Whitehorn, whose column will appear quarterly (February, May, August, and November). Laura is an anti-imperialist prisoner of war confined in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. When most people think of imprisonment, they reflexively form a mental image of male prisoners. A significant number of PLN readers, however, are women in state and federal prisons. We invited Laura to become a PLN columnist, in part, to give voice to the growing number of female prisoners in the U.S. We also hope that Laura's columns will raise the consciousness of all PLN readers to the plight of women prisoners, whose conditions of confinement and experiences of imprisonment are often more inhumane than that of male prisoners. Despite this, and despite the explosive growth in the population of female prisoners, they remain less visible than male prisoners. Along with John Midgeley's quarterly column, we now have a monthly guest columnist every month. Our third columnist will be Mumia Abu Jamal, whose first column will appear in the October issue.]

What does it mean that women are the fastest growing segment of the u.s. prison population ...

Attorney Fees Awarded in Jail Suit for Attorney-Client Space

Criminal defense attorneys filed suit against the Washington County Jail in Oregon claiming that the space available for client consultation violated their clients right to counsel by inhibiting full and free consultation between clients and counsel; violated the attorneys' right to practice their profession according to the highest standard; and ...

Prison Visitor Allowed to Refuse Search

The court of appeals for the state of Maryland held that prison visitors cannot be searched once they agree to turn back from a guard booth; detention of a prison visitor requires probable cause based on a reasonable, articulable suspicion that the visitor has engaged in criminal activity.

Tyrone Gadson and a friend went to a Maryland state prison to drop money off for a prisoner. Driving along an access road to the prison Gadson was stopped at a "guard booth" next to the road. Gadson did not read three signs along the road stating that vehicles and visitors were subject to search. Upon being searched at the booth a state trooper told Gadson a dog would perform a "drug sniff" of his vehicle. Gadson told the trooper he objected to search and wished to leave the area. The request was denied. The dog alerted to the presence of drugs. Gadson admitted to the presence of contraband, and a search revealed marijuana, crack cocaine, an electronic scale and other drug paraphernalia. Gadson was charged in circuit court with drug possession and he filed a motion to suppress the evidence. The motion was denied and he appealed. The sole issue was ...

A Matter of Fact

Since 1991, Ohio's corrections budget has grown by $527 million, a 110 percent increase. Ohio now spends three times more money on state prisons than it does on grade school students.

Of 20,088 Maryland prisoners in 1994, 15,457 were black -- a staggering 76.9 percent. Ninety percent of the 281 prisoners in Maryland's Super Max prison (MCAC) in 1994 were black.

According to FBI statistics, in 1992, the murder rates in states which have abolished the death penalty averaged 4.9 murders per 100,000 population; states still using the death penalty averaged 9.1 murders per 100,000 population.

The state of Ohio spent more than $34 million in riot related expenses stemming from the 11-day 1993 Easter uprising at Lucasville. The $34 million includes costs of controlling the uprising, prosecuting 47 prisoners and repairing and renovating the prison.

James "Andy" Collins, former executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said, "The goddamn media did as much as anyone to build all those prisons [in Texas] because they fanned the flames of public hysteria. The issue of crime has become entertainment. Turn on the TV. Cops, Rescue 911. That kind of crap." -- Texas ...

Anti-Terrorism Act Terrorizes Habeas Petitioners

[Editor's note: A future issue of PLN will report on the other aspects of the Counter-Terrorism bill.]

Every election year, politicians compete to be "tougher on crime" than their opponents. In the last couple of decades, federal habeas corpus has generally been spared from this battle only because judges kept beating the politicians to the punch. The Supreme Court has added restriction after restriction to the Great Writ, creating many traps for the unwary.

Given the tiny number of prisoners successfully completing this obstacle course, it is hard to imagine how anyone could think habeas corpus was contributing to the crime problem. Nevertheless, Congress and the President decided that it was about time they took some credit for restricting prisoners' rights. The result was the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which was signed into law on April 24, 1996. The legal citations for the Act are Pub. L. 104-132, 1 10 Stat. 1217.

The Act amends 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241-2255 (the chapter in the U.S. Code concerning habeas petitions by state and federal prisoners) in several ways. It also adds an entirely new chapter to the U.S. Code, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2261-2266 ...

Publications Review

Periodically we like to inform our readers of other publications out there that are informative and helpful to those interested in prison issues. On the last page of each issue we plug those publications that are of interest to a national audience and focus on prisoner rights. One of the keys to effective activism is being informed of what is going on, both locally, nationally and even internationally. All of the publications listed below help do this. If you can afford it you should subscribe to all of them.

Correctional Law Reporter: a 16 page magazine published six times a year, CLR is edited by Loyola Law professor Fred Cohen and former WA AAG Bill Collins. Each issue contains an overview of court decisions, analyzes trends within the courts and reports on literature available. CLR has devoted considerable space lately analyzing the impact of the supreme court's Sandin v. Conner decision. The editor's view is that prison litigation serves an important role in maintaining humane prisons. Subscriptions are $129.50 a year for six issues. Write: Civic Research Institute, 4490 Route 27, P.O. Box 585, Kingston, NJ 08528.

Corrections Compendium: is a monthly 32 page magazine that ...

5th Circuit Bars Ad Seg Claims

The court of appeals for the fifth circuit has held that in the wake of Sandin v. Connor, 115 S.Ct. 2293 (1995) administrative segregation does not constitute a deprivation of any constitutionally protected liberty interest. Rolando Pichardo is a Texas state prisoner. Prison officials placed him in administrative segregation claiming he is a member of the Texas Syndicate. Pichardo denies any gang affiliation and claimed that prison officials had abused their discretion in placing him in ad seg. After a Spears hearing the district court dismissed the complaint holding it was legally frivolous. The appeals court, in a brief ruling, affirmed.

The appeals court rejected the contention that Texas prison policies governing prisoners' placement in ad seg create any type of liberty interest. "In Sandin, the Court held that the petitioner's 'discipline in segregated confinement did not present the type of atypical, significant deprivation in which a state might conceivably create a liberty interest.' In the wake of Sandin, as we recently have held, 'administrative segregation, without more, simply does not constitute a deprivation of a constitutionally cognizable liberty interest.'" See: Pichardo v. Kinker, 73 F.3d 612 (5th Cir. 1996).

In Luken v. Scott, 71 F.3d ...

Beating Shackled Prisoners States Claim

A federal district court in Georgia held that the eighth amendment prohibits the beatings of handcuffed and shackled prisoners. Federal prison employees are not immune to state law claims of assault and battery. The case involves two federal prisoners at the US Penitentiary in Atlanta, GA. They were housed in the prison segregation unit and got drunk and became belligerent with prison staff. A prison riot team came to move the prisoners to different cells and they violently resisted. After being subdued and handcuffed they were dragged, face down, several hundred feet and down some stairs. Once in new cells they were ruthlessly beaten, kicked and stomped by prison guards. The prisoners filed suit contending the beating and a lack of medical care afterwards, violated their eighth amendment rights. The district court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment in part and denied it in part.

The court analyzed the plaintiffs' claims solely under the eighth amendment holding that the fifth amendment provides no additional protections to prisoners. The court noted that had this claim involved the use of force employed to remove the plaintiffs from their cell it would have granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. But ...

Canada's Prison Chief Resigns

The head of Canada's prison service resigned immediately after a report was released April 1, 1996, about the abuse of female prisoners at the Kingston Prison for Women in April of 1994. "I have come to the conclusion that a change in leadership would be the best course of action at this point in time," John Edwards wrote in his resignation letter to the Prime Minister.

His resignation comes after a Canadian judge assigned to investigate the 1994 Kingston incident criticized the prison service, saying it gets away with breaches of individual rights that judges, lawyers and the courts never do.

The judicial inquiry was demanded by an outraged public who viewed a videotape broadcast on CBC television. The tape showed male prison guards, dressed in intimidating black "ninja" goon-squad gear, beating and forcibly strip searching female prisoners at the Kingston Prison for Women. One prisoner had her bra sliced off by a guard.

The incident occurred several days after six women prisoners had been thrown into segregation cells. The six were denied contact with their lawyers and were not allowed out of their seg cells even for an hour of daily exercise. In solidarity and protest, the other ...

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Kansas Civil Commitment Case

In 1990, the year PLN began publishing, the Washington State legislature passed the country's first civil commitment law. Dubbed the 'Sexual Predator Law," it empowered the state to institute civil proceedings against prisoners nearing the end of their terms of confinement. The civil proceeding is used to determine if the prisoner suffers from a mental abnormality or personality disorder which makes the person likely to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence. Upon such a finding, the prisoner no matter that he may have served his entire prison sentence day-for-day -- is indefinitely committed to a "secure facility" in what amounts to preventative detention for crimes that he may commit at some future date.

Over the past six years, PLN has followed the law's progress and reported the outcomes of various challenges to it. The Washington law was upheld by the Washington Supreme Court and later ruled unconstitutional by a federal district court in Seattle. That case is currently under appeal in the ninth circuit.

After the Washington Supreme Court upheld the controversial law, several other states confidently passed similar laws. Kansas and Wisconsin passed virtual "clones" of the Washington law; Minnesota, California and others passed similar laws.

On ...

BOP Ad Seg Rules Don't Create Liberty Interest

The court of appeals for the seventh circuit held that federal Bureau of Prison (BOP) rules do not create a liberty interest in federal prisoners not being placed in administrative segregation and once in segregation federal prisoners are not entitled to periodic reviews or hearings on their status. Jerome Crowder was placed in administrative segregation while being held in a federal detention center. He filed suit claiming his fifth amendment right to due process was violated when he was placed and kept in ad seg for three months without a hearing. He also claimed his eighth amendment rights were violated when his paraplegia was not treated. The district court dismissed all claims and the appeals court, in a brief ruling, affirmed.

The district court had held that 28 C.F.R. § 541.22(c)(1), the BOP's ad seg rules, created a due process liberty interest. See: Crowder v. True, 845 F. Supp. 1250 (ND IL 1994). [PLN, Vol. 5, No. 9]. After that the supreme court issued its ruling in Sandin v. Conner, 115 S.Ct. 2293 (1995) which changed the focus of due process analysis in prison cases so that only "significant and atypical deprivations" not contemplated ...

Women Prisoners Win Court Access Claim

Past issues of PLN have reported the class action suit filed by women prisoners in Nebraska concerning a wide range of prison conditions. See: Klinger v. Nebraska DOC, 824 F. Supp. 1374 (D NE 1993); 31 F.3d 727 (8th Cir. 1994) and 887 F. Supp. 1281 (D NE 1995 ...

New Washington Prison Needs Major Repairs

Washington's newest prison, Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC), constructed in 1993 at a cost of $113 million, was originally slated to open in November, 1993, but the Washington DOC decided to delay opening the prison for nearly a year in order to save money in operating costs. [See: "Airway Heights Opens," PLN Vol. 5 No. 9] It now appears that the decision to delay opening AHCC is at least partly responsible for a multi-million dollar boondoggle.

The 1996 Washington legislature allocated $5.3 million for emergency cooling and heating system repairs for AHCC. Less than a year after the medium-security portion of the prison opened, DOC staff discovered that sections of the prison were without cool air. The problem with the chilled air system stems from faulty pipes buried 12 feet underground. The lines, about 4,600 feet long, deliver water used to cool and heat prison buildings.

A preliminary analysis of the system failures conducted by state engineers suggests that design and installation errors are the cause of the leaking pipes. "We think it's a chronic, system wide problem, not just a few mistakes here and there," said DOC's chief engineer Bill Phillips. DOC engineering budget ...

Canadian Prisoners Regain Voting Rights

On December 27, 1995, Canadian prisoners won another round in an on-going legal battle for their fundamental right to vote in Canadian federal elections. A Canadian federal court declared unconstitutional the latest federal ban on prisoner voting. The Canadian government plans to appeal the ruling.

This latest ruling follows on the heels of a string of victories for Canadian prisoners culminating in 1993 with the Supreme Court of Canada striking down a previous ban which prevented any prisoner from voting in a federal election with a law which denies voting for only those serving sentences of over two years. As a result of this most recent ruling, the new law is now also of no force and effect and subject to further court rulings or legislation. All Canadian prisoners who are citizens now have the right to vote in federal elections.

Two suits challenging the voting ban were heard together by the federal court. One suit was filed by a group of prisoners at Stony Mountain prison, including representatives of the Native Brotherhood, and the other by a former prisoner in Kingston.

Government lawyers argued that the ban was justified because it "morally educated" non-prisoners of their "civic responsibility" and ...

Washington Money Seizure Suit Update

In the June, 1996, issue of PLN we reported that Washington prisoners at Clallam Bay had protested the implementation of a statute which will seize 35% of all funds received by prisoners from sources outside prison. In the August, 1995, issue of PLN we reported that the Washington legislature had passed a law, RCW 72.09.480 that states: "When an inmate receives any funds in addition to his or her wages or gratuities, the additional funds shall be subject to the deductions in RCW 72.09.111(1)(a) and the priorities established in Chapter 72.11 RCW." RCW 72.09.111(1)(a) is the statute that applies to prisoners who have voluntarily agreed to work in prison labor industries that ostensibly pay the minimum wage and mandates the seizure of 35% of their gross wages. The statute specifies deductions of five percent to the public safety and education account for the purpose of crime victim's compensation; ten percent goes to a prisoner savings account maintained by the DOC in which the prisoner gets no interest and has no control over and twenty percent is a kickback paid directly to the DOC to "contribute to the cost ...

Wisconsin Property Policy Violates RFRA

A federal district court in Wisconsin held that a state DOC policy sharply restricting prisoner property violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) when it prohibits prisoners from wearing religious jewelry. The court held that the policy did not violate the RFRA in that it restricted the number of publications prisoners could possess. The court gave a lengthy ruling to discussing the Wisconsin property policy being challenged; the RFRA, its legislative history and its application to prisons. A prior ruling, Sasnett v. Department of Corrections, 891 F. Supp. 1305 (WD WI 1995), discussed other challenges to the property policy and the application of the RFRA to property claims.

Anyone litigating an RFRA action will find this case useful because it cites several recent law review articles discussing the RFRA's application to prison litigation. Turning to the merits, the court held that a prison rule banning the wearing of religious ornaments and jewelry placed a substantial burden on the prisoners' free exercise of religion. The court notes recent rulings involving Native American prisoners and feathers; prayer caps and Muslim prisoners; and religious beads and Santeria prisoners. In this case the ban on the wearing of crosses was a significant incursion ...

VitaPro Update

Over the past year PLN has published several articles about events revolving around a $33.7 million contract between the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and Canadian-based VitaPro Foods, Inc. Since our last report, several developments have come to light.

The Austin American-Statesman reported that Montreal businessman Yank Barr who owns the VitaPro company, is an ex-convict, having served time in a Canadian prison for (of all things) extortion and conspiracy. "It's another bizarre chapter in an already seedy story," said Allen Polunsky, Texas Board of Criminal Justice chairman.

Polunsky's predecessor, Andy Collins, resigned under a cloud of suspicion after several of his shady business deals came under scrutiny. After Collins resigned he accepted a $1,000-a-day job as a VitaPro consultant. A Collins business associate, Patrick Graham, arrested in a bizarre escape-for-hire plot, helped broker a deal with Louisiana state prison officials for the purchase of 20 tons of VitaPro. That contract is now under scrutiny.

The use of VitaPro in Louisiana prisons received a poor review from prison officials and prisoners, many of whom complained of a bad taste. About 17 tons of the 20-ton purchase now sits in Louisiana state warehouses. According to Warden ...

Brig Fire Sparks Political Debate

On March 29, 1996, several "illegal aliens" allegedly used electrical wire to ignite toilet paper, sheets and mattresses at a military brig at Miramar Naval Air Station in California. The resulting fire, and especially the smoke, created havoc. Panicked prisoners began to riot.

"What they did not calculate is that the facility would fill up with smoke which it did rapidly," said U.S. Attorney Alan Bersin. "That's what lead to the major disturbance and the upheaval in the institution. It was a question of survival for the 174 inmates."

There were 384 prisoners in the brig at the time, 174 federal "illegal alien" detainees and 210 incarcerated military personnel. The brig was opened to INS detainees just a week before the fire. Official reports indicate the fire was started by 10 of the INS detainees who were protesting inadequate canteen privileges. The prisoners were moved into the brig's recreation yard and then transferred to a federal detention center in San Diego. The fire was extinguished in just over an hour. The political debate surrounding the incident, however, still smolders.

The policy of using the brig to house illegal aliens was announced last fall by Attorney General Janet ...

$168,500 Awarded in Prisoner's Death

Gregory Stampley, 46, was convicted in 1993 of kidnapping and making terroristic threats. He was sentenced to eight years and sent to the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater. Prison doctors who examined him diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia, aggressive-personality disorder and bipolar disorder.

According to court documents, on Jan. 13 or 14 ...

Guards' Smoke Violates Eighth Amendment

A federal district court in Illinois held that a guard deliberately blowing smoke into the face of a prisoner with respiratory ailments violates the eighth amendment. Clarence Walker is a 65 year old Illinois state prisoner who has emphysema, asthma and diabetes, among other medical problems. Walker went to the unit sergeant's office and asked Walter Laseter, the acting sergeant, to summon a medical technician to assist in administering an insulin shot. Laseter refused and ordered Walker to leave. When Walker refused Laseter lit a cigarette and blew smoke in his face, chased him around the office yelling "die mother fucker die." Walker then had an asthma attack causing him to cough uncontrollably, gasp for air and secrete mucus from his mouth and nose. Walker claimed Laseter and another guard committed similar acts on other occasions, which Laseter denied. Walker informed the prison warden of these acts and nothing was done to resolve them. Walker filed suit claiming this behavior violated his eighth amendment right to medical care. The defendants sought summary judgment, which the court denied.

The defendants first claimed that no reasonable finder of fact could find that the defendants had actually blown smoke into Walker's ...

TVs for Justice

According to a Tulsa newspaper, Oklahoma prisoner Bruce Hawkins filed a suit in which he claimed he was assaulted and abused by prison guards and then denied medical treatment. Federal district court judge Ralph Thompson held there was no merit to the case and ordered Hawkins to pay $5,567 in court costs and attorney fees for filing a frivolous lawsuit.

Hawkins had no money so Attorney General Drew Edmondson moved to confiscate the only thing of value that Hawkins had: a $50 television set. Hawkins tried to hide the set, then tried to mail it to relatives. But Cleveland County deputies showed up at the prison in time to take the TV into custody.

Edmondson said the state spent $22,000 in winning the case. He said that even if the only thing they have to show for it is a used $50 TV set, it's money well spent because it "serves notice" on prisoners that there is a penalty for filing frivolous lawsuits.

Perhaps Oklahoma prisoners should think twice about filing a lawsuit the next time they are assaulted and abused by prison guards. Rather than go through the arduous struggle of litigation, they should contact the ...

New Jersey MCU Suit Settled

On December 22, 1995, the federal district court in New Jersey signed a settlement order dismissing a class action suit filed by prisoners in New Jersey's Management Control Unit (MCU). The plaintiff class in the suit was composed of all black prisoners in the MCU since 1990. The settlement ...

Departing Visitor Cannot Be Searched -- Strip Search Okay

In the February, 1995, issue of PLN we reported Spear v. Sowders, 33 F.3d 576 (6th Cir. 1994) in which the court of appeals for the sixth circuit held that both the strip search and the car search of a prison visitor were unconstitutional and their unconstitutionality was clearly established at the time. Thus the defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity from money damages or suit. The court noted that the issue before them was not merely whether the defendants actually violated Spear's fourth amendment rights, but whether those rights were clearly established when the officials performed the search. The court granted the defendants' motion for a rehearing en banc and reversed its prior ruling. On rehearing the court held that while the law governing visitor strip searches was clearly established, prison officials could have reasonably believed their conduct did not violate the law. Nevertheless, they were still liable for not allowing the plaintiff to leave the prison rather than be subjected to a strip search.

Tina Spear regularly visited her boyfriend, Daniel Wade, at the Northpoint Training Center, a Kentucky state prison. Upon arriving for a visit on Christmas day in 1990 prison officials told her ...

News in Brief

CA: On May 10, 1996, El Cajon jail guard Gerald Thomas Williams was sentenced to a year in jail for having sex with a 14 year old girl he met on the Internet. Williams used the nickname "Lonely Me" when he met the girl in an on-line "chatroom."

CA: On June 8, 1996, Mark Varrass, a security guard, was accidentally shot to death by a colleague while patrolling the closed down Mira Loma Jail Facility in Los Angeles County.

FL: On March 27, 1996, Dade County jail guard John Raimondo was indicted for murdering and dismembering a wealthy Hungarian couple. Robbery was given as the motive.

FL: Petr Taborsky got patent on a better way to treat sewage by superheating a clay-like substance found in kitty litter. At the time he made the discovery Taborsky was a chemistry student at the University of South Florida. When he got a patent on his discovery the university filed grand theft and theft of trade secrets charges against him. Taborsky was found guilty and sentenced to a year's house arrest, 15 years probation and judge's order not to use any ideas from his research. The judge ordered Taborsky to sign over ...

Settlement Reached in Alabama Chain Gang Suit

A year after Alabama became the first state in the nation to revive the use of chain gangs, state officials have agreed to end the practice permanently. As this issue goes to press details are sketchy and it is unclear whether the state has agreed to abandon chain gangs altogether or simply end the practice of chaining prisoners together in groups of five.

What is clear, however, is that a settlement was reached in the lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The suit challenged the practice of chaining prisoners together, claiming that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. As soon as PLN obtains a copy of the settlement we will provide readers with a complete report.

Photocopies Required for Court Access

A federal district court in Ohio held that a prison policy which charges prisoners 35 cents per copy and does not allow a credit system violates prisoners' right of access to the courts. Scott Giles, an Ohio state prisoner, filed suit challenging the Ohio prison system's practice of charging prisoners 35 cents per copy and not allowing prisoners to make copies on credit. Giles earns $9 a month. During the course of litigation and discovery, prison official defendants produced documents Giles had requested but demanded that Giles pay for the copying, which he could not afford.

The court noted that prisoners have no general constitutional right to free, unlimited photocopying services. Prisoners can show their right of meaningful access to the courts has been impeded when they are denied copies of legal pleadings or exhibits, or when prison policy on copies is unreasonable. See: Johnson v. Parke, 642 F.2d 377 (10th Cir. 1981); Gluth v. Kangas, 951 F.2d 1504 (9th Cir. 1991); Allen v. Sakai, 48 F.3d 1082 (9th Cir. 1994) and Jones v. Franzen, 697 F.2d 801 (7th Cir. 1983).

"...Some reasonable means of access to a photocopy machine will be necessary to protect ...

 

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