Skip navigation
Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: November, 1997

View as PDF
Issue PDF
Volume 8, Number 11

In this issue:

  1. Private Transportation Firms Take Prisoners for a Ride (p 1)
  2. Escaped Prisoner Rides into Sunset (p 2)
  3. Tensions Rise in Ohio Prisons (p 3)
  4. From the Editor (p 4)
  5. Notes from the Unrepenitentiary (p 5)
  6. Oklahoma Pulls Out of TX Rent-A-Jail (p 6)
  7. DOJ to Probe Texas Rent-A-Jail (p 6)
  8. 'Training Video' Reveals Beatings in Texas Rent-A-Jail (p 6)
  9. ACLU and PLN Challenge Washington DOC Censorship (p 7)
  10. Alive Today! Death Row Calling U.S.A. (p 7)
  11. Texas Parole Case Reversed (p 8)
  12. PLN Editor Settles Retaliation Suit (p 9)
  13. Ohio Prison Doctor Liable in Asthma Death (p 9)
  14. Detention and Corrections CaseLaw Catalog (p 10)
  15. Criminal Practice Handbook (p 10)
  16. Restoring Justice (p 11)
  17. Civil Disabilities of Convicted Felon: A State-by-State Survey (p 11)
  18. Texas Mandatory Release Statute Creates Liberty Interest (p 12)
  19. A Matter of Fact (p 13)
  20. NM Prisoners Refuse to Break Rocks (p 14)
  21. BOP Sentence Reductions Cannot Be Denied Retroactively (p 14)
  22. Former Prison Security Chief Convicted (p 15)
  23. Attention Foreign Nationals (p 16)
  24. Prisoner Literacy Obscure & Outdated (p 16)
  25. Sewing Our Own Destruction (p 16)
  26. Prisoner Calls Big Business in CA (p 16)
  27. Trailers for Tana (p 17)
  28. Electronic Guards of the Future? (p 17)
  29. Exiled From Idaho (p 17)
  30. Media Allowed Access to CA Executions (p 17)
  31. PLRA Exhaustion Requirement Jurisdictional (p 18)
  32. 3rd Cir. Applies 'Imminent Danger' Exception to PLRA 3 Strikes (p 18)
  33. Factual Findings Required in 8th Amendment Suit (p 19)
  34. Attica Justice -- Served 26 Years Later (p 19)
  35. Fear Alone Doesn't Violate Eighth Amendment: No Immunity for Retaliation (p 20)
  36. Pepper Spray Uprising in Arkansas (p 21)
  37. Washington Officials Liable for Seizing Court Tape (p 21)
  38. Fourth Amendment Forbids Taping of Jail Confession to Clergy (p 21)
  39. News in Brief (p 22)

Private Transportation Firms Take Prisoners for a Ride

by Alex Friedmann

Many of the hundred-thousand-plus prisoners of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) are familiar with the BOP's buses that shuttle convicts around the country. The federal government also maintains a fleet of a dozen planes designated for transporting prisoners, known as ConAir, which was brought to the public's attention with the release of the 1997 action movie of the same name. But prisoners in state and county lock-ups are subject to local transportation services to move from one prison to another. And there's a lot of moving going on: In addition to intrastate transfers and interstate extraditions, a growing number of corrections departments are exiling prisoners to out-of-state "rent-a-jail" facilities (most of them privately owned or operated) ostensibly to relieve overcrowding and save money.

With a growing demand for prisoner transport services, private for-profit companies have entered the market to fill this lucrative niche; many of these companies are small-scale operations that are paid flat-rate fees and per-mile expenses by state and local governments. And because the majority of small private transport services utilize vans and other passenger vehicles, they are exempt from most federal regulations regarding the operation of commercial over-the-road vehicles (except ...

Escaped Prisoner Rides into Sunset

Eight federal prisoners being transported in a van operated by Federal Extradition Agency escaped July 30 near Ordway, Colorado. Two guards working for the private transport firm were driving nine prisoners across Colorado when they stopped to drop one prisoner off at the Crowley county sheriffs department. One guard took the prisoner inside and the other reportedly fell asleep in the van.

One of the prisoners, David Glick allegedly snatched the keys from the dozing guard and freed himself. He then stole two revolvers and a 12-guage shotgun, say authorities, woke the guard and told him to drive away.

The other guard was coming out of the sheriffs office when he saw the van pull away. He said his partner waved at him as the van sped off.

Seven of the eight escapees were caught within hours, not far from the van. Glick allegedly commandeered a pickup, drove it a short distance and abandoned it near a ranch where he forced the rancher to give him his best horse. The rancher told authorities that he last saw Glick, clad in chaps and a cowboy hat, stolen from him, riding into the sunset across the open prairie.

About 60 law enforcement ...

Tensions Rise in Ohio Prisons

A PLN subscriber wrote to describe a "mini riot" which occurred June 3, 1997, in one of the dorms at the North Central Correctional Institution in Marion, OH. He reported that six prisoners and two guards were injured.

The disturbance "was brought on by the severe takeback of our property rights. As with nothing to lose and acting up likewise," the prisoner wrote to PLN. "With the parole board giving out long and often unjustified continuances, what do they expect?"

On July 9, 1997, prisoners at the Orient Correctional Institution (OCI) located near Columbus, OH, set fire to 8-dormitory. Fires were reported in the gym, two other dorms (7 and 4E). Several small trash fires were also ignited in other locations around the prison. Fire departments from three surrounding communities responded. The prison was locked down. Buses were brought in to evacuate 400 of OCI's 2,100 prisoners because smoke and fire damage rendered 8-dorm uninhabitable. Prison officials pegged the damages at $75,000.

"What instigated the fire," writes a PLN reader at OCI, "was the beginning of a punishment program last night called Responsible Adjustment Standard Bay (RASB). Last night 64 prisoners were ordered to report to the ...

From the Editor

The past several months have seen a lot of changes at PLN. Our sample mailing campaign has been proceeding so that by the end of this year we will have mailed out more than 50,000 sample copies. It is still too early to tell what our total response will be. We hope at least 1% subscribe. A two percent response is considered excellent by the direct mail industry. Our goal is to double PLN's circulation to at least 5,000 subscribers.

As we got underway we discovered that this growth requires a new mailing list program. PLN has used the same program, designed by Dan in 1991, for the past six years. While the program has served us well in the past it is now outmoded and slowly dying. The good news is that one of our volunteers, a professional computer programmer, is custom designing a new mailing list program for PLN, one that is quicker and more efficient to use. The down side is that due to software advances this will require that we upgrade our computer equipment in order to actually use it. PLN subscribers will soon be receiving a fundraiser letter from us asking if ...

Notes from the Unrepenitentiary

Pick up your trumpet, raise your voice: it's time to make noise. 1998 will see two important efforts to win the release of all u.s.-held political prisoners and prisoners of war. These efforts need the support of all justice loving people, all those who stand against the ever increasing repression this country and its government are producing.

In March, 1998, "Jericho '98" will bring a national demonstration to the gates of the white house. Initiated and led by New Afrikan POW's and activists on the street, this mobilization demands the release of all left wing political prisoners and POW's held in federal and state prisons across the u.s. A few months later, the Puerto Rican independence movement will rally in D.C. to mark the 100th anniversary (July 25, 1998) of U.S. colonial domination of Puerto Rico. A focal point of this demonstration will be the demand to release the 15 Puerto Rican POW's and political prisoners in u.s. custody.

All around the world, governments include discussion of the status of their political prisoners in negotiations over elections and peace agreements. Only the u.s. refuses to admit that it holds ...

Oklahoma Pulls Out of TX Rent-A-Jail

The state of Oklahoma announced in July that it would pull 500-plus prisoners out of the Limestone County Detention Center, in part because of a conflict over the use of pepper spray on "unruly inmates."

Limestone County, Texas, contracts with a private firm, Capital Correctional Resources, Inc. (CCRI), to operate its rent-a-jail. The approximately 540 Oklahoma prisoners make up about two-thirds of the Limestone facility's population.

The withdrawal was precipitated by a series of complaints by Oklahoma prisoners and family members about the use of pepper spray. Oklahoma's policy allows the use of pepper spray only in emergencies and with the approval of the highest-ranking guard on duty. The policy at the Limestone rent-a-jail allows for the use of pepper spray in "minor disturbances" and requires only a sergeant's authorization.

Oklahoma was paying Limestone County about $41 per prisoner per day, or about $8.5 million annually. News accounts report that after paying on the debt incurred in building the rent-a-jail and paying the private operator, Limestone County makes a profit of more than $800,000 annually.

The Oklahoma prisoners were slated to be transferred out of Limestone in groups of 90 - 100 to another for-profit prison ...

DOJ to Probe Texas Rent-A-Jail

The Brazoria County Jail, site of the video-taped beatings that aired on network television, is but one of 38 for-profit jails or prisons in the state of Texas. And it's not the only one with problems, just the one with the most press.

A week before Brazoria County erupted into the national spotlight, the U.S. Justice Department's civil rights division announced that it planned to investigate the Dickens County Correctional Center (DCCC).

The facility is operated by the Bobby Ross Group, based in Austin, Texas. It is one of many small "Rent-a-Jails". in the state, housing primarily out of state prisoners about 60 miles east of Lubbock.

Colorado removed 140 of its prisoners from DCCC in June. The facility houses other prisoners from Hawaii and Montana, and hopes to fill the cells vacated by Colorado prisoners with fresh, profit-producing, warm bodies from Missouri.

The DCCC has experienced numerous problems in the last year. In August, 1996, 120 Hawaii and Montana prisoners refused to report to their jobs or return to their cells. Guards fired warning shots in an attempt to quell the disturbance. A month later, warden George Fry was fired for violating prison policies in dealing ...

'Training Video' Reveals Beatings in Texas Rent-A-Jail

The state of Missouri was swift to react to the explosive national news coverage resulting from the release of a video tape showing Missouri prisoners being kicked and beaten during a "shake down" at a Texas Rent-A-Jail. The state of Missouri announced that it was terminating its $6 million contract Capital Correctional Resources, Inc. (CCRI), operators of the Brazoria County, Texas, prison where the video-taped beatings took place.

CCRI also operates the Limestone County, Texas, Rent-A-Jail whose Oklahoma prisoners were pulled out by Oklahoma state officials concerned about CCRI's "inordinate use of pepper spray" and "quality of life" issues at the Limestone Rent-A-Jail.

The Brazoria County video tape "shocked" a national TV audience who saw Missouri prisoners kicked, beaten, set-upon by dogs, and targeted by stun gun-wielding deputies. The incident was video-taped in September of 1996, and CCRI was reportedly using the tape as a training aid. The video came to light only as the result of discovery motions filed on behalf of several Missouri prisoners litigating the adverse conditions suffered by out-of-state exiles in the Brazoria County Rent-A-Jail.

It is worth noting that Missouri state officials could not have been unaware of the conditions their exiled prisoners faced ...

ACLU and PLN Challenge Washington DOC Censorship

In its 1995 session the Washington state legislature considered HB 1054, which would have censored a wide variety of publications sent to prisoners based on their "sexual" or "violent" content. HB 1054 was not passed but the DOC got the message and "reinterpreted'' its 1992 mail censorship policy, DOC policy 450.100, and commenced the total censorship of all publications deemed to be "sexually explicit," ranging from Playboy and Penthouse to local weekly newspapers such as The Stranger and Seattle Gay News. Many times the claimed basis for the censorship was ads, cartoons or written text in the publications. MIM Notes, bi weekly newsletter of the Maoist Internationalist Movement was also singled out for total censorship, because each issue has a statement saying MIM advocates the building of public opinion for the seizure of power through armed struggle. Several Washington prisons also refused to deliver publications from non profits such as PLN because they were mailed at third and fourth class mail rates, in others subscriptions were banned unless a prisoner purchased the subscription from his prison trust account.

On August 7, 1997, the ACLU of Washington filed suit in U.S. district court in Tacoma challenging numerous aspects of ...

Alive Today! Death Row Calling U.S.A.

If you are on the row in the USA and would like to have your story broadcast over radio and/or published, call collect and we will talk. I will record our conversation(s) and mail copies to the News Net service in your state, Pacifica Radio, and the National Radio Project.

I am John Wunjo. My number is (617) 497-2522. If you want to write, send poetry or art, my address is: P.O. Box 382482; Cambridge, MA 02238-2482.

Texas Parole Case Reversed

In the October, 1996, issue of PLN we reported the class action suit Johnson v. Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice, 910 F. Supp. 1208 (WD TX 1995) in which a federal district court in Texas ordered the state parole board to not consider "protest letters" unless the letters were disclosed ...

PLN Editor Settles Retaliation Suit

In the May, 1993, issue of PLN we reported that PLN editor Paul Wright had won a reversal and remand from the ninth circuit court of appeals in an unpublished ruling, Wright v. Rebiero, a retaliation suit filed against Washington state prison officials. On May 6, 1997, the case was ...

Ohio Prison Doctor Liable in Asthma Death

A federal district court in Ohio held that factual disputes required a trial to determine if Ohio DOC medical staff were liable in the death of a prisoner who died from an asthma attack. Ernest Davis was an Ohio state prisoner with asthma. Assigned to work in the prison kitchen, he asked for a different job because steam in the kitchen was adversely affecting his asthma. No action was taken on his request. After suffering an asthma attack shortly thereafter, Davis was placed in the prison infirmary where he died.

Davis's mother filed suit on behalf of his estate claiming prison medical staff were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs when they failed to monitor his vital signs, provide adequate treatment or transfer him to a real hospital. The defendants moved for summary judgment which the district court granted in part and denied in part.

The court cites numerous cases allowing estate administrators to file 42 U.S.C. § 1983 actions on behalf of victims killed by state officials. The court held that disputed facts, namely expert medical testimony for each party claiming Davis had received adequate medical care (defendants) and experts claiming he had not (plaintiff), required ...

Detention and Corrections CaseLaw Catalog

By Paul Wright

If you are a jail or prison litigator have you ever wished for a digest of all the major and most of the minor cases dealing with the subject you're litigating? I know I have. Hours spent poring over the West's digests where prison cases reside in any one of five or six major topic categories will only reinforce this desire. To answer this need there is the "Detention and Corrections Caselaw Catalog" (DCCC), a 1,500 page listing of more than 3,500 court decisions, edited by Rod Miller and Donald Walter.

Within the fifty chapters the DCCC lists all cases in chronological order and even notes the prison or jail the case arose from. Each case is described in a concise summary ranging from 10 to 300 or so words. The margin of each case describes the major holding of each decision which makes it quick and easy to use.

Divided into two volumes, the fifty major topic chapters give the researcher a good starting point. The general topic index allows the researcher to quickly zero in on a given topic by indicating where in the book it may be found. Starting with ...

Criminal Practice Handbook

Books dealing with criminal law and its practice are relatively common. Many such books are multi-volume sets totaling thousands of pages and costing hundreds of dollars. The result is they tend to be used more as references of last resort for those able to purchase them. Apparently tired of that state of affairs, Boston criminal defense lawyer Stephen Hrones and Salinas, California delinquency lawyer Catherine Czar set out to write a book defense lawyers could actually use in the real world.

The result is the "Criminal Practice Handbook," a concise 680 page powerhouse of information divided into sixteen well organized chapters. Designed for use by the beginning criminal law practioner and attorneys who do relatively little in the way of criminal defense work, the text is invaluable for pro se prisoner litigants representing themselves at trial or on appeal as well as the criminal defendant awaiting trial who is represented by counsel.

The book is designed to let the defense attorney know what he's supposed to be doing, and conversely, let the client know what is supposed to be done. Starting with a chapter on how to conduct client interviews, it moves smoothly into bail, arraignment and trial court ...

Restoring Justice

Over the years, countless people have asked me The Question. People who have never been imprisoned (and who think my 16 years behind bars makes me an expert) are especially prone to ask it.

"You seem to be very well informed about criminal justice issues," The Question usually begins, "how would you reform the criminal justice system?"

It's a tough question. And I usually respond by saying that the U.S. Gulag System is beyond "reform". The notion of "reform" concedes that, as Margaret Thatcher quipped about capitalism, "There Is No Alternative." But there is at least one criminal justice alternative: Restorative Justice.

Restoring Justice, by Daniel Van Ness and Karen Heetderks Strong (Anderson Pub., 1997) provides a thorough conceptual, theoretical, and practical overview of restorative justice. Other good books have been written on the topic, most notably Changing Lenses, by Howard Zehr (Herald Press, 1990). But Restoring Justice pushes beyond the frontiers of restorative justice laid out by previous books, both extending and clarifying the definition of the topic.

"In the following chapters," the authors write in the book's forward, "we present our arguments for why criminal justice is in need of a new vision, and we ...

Civil Disabilities of Convicted Felon: A State-by-State Survey

By Jon Marc Taylor

Under federal and various state laws, conviction of a felony has consequences that may continue long after the sentence has been served. Convicted felons may lose essential rights of citizenship, such as the rights to vote and to hold public office, and may be restricted in their ability to obtain occupational or professional licenses. Restoration of one or more of these rights frequently can be achieved, either automatically by the passage of time or the occurence of an event, such as completion of a sentence, or through some affirmative executive or judicial act, which may be based on evidence of rehabilitation.

Civil Disabilities of Convicted Felons, first published by the Office of the U.S. Pardon Attorney in 1992, the October 1996 volume represents its first comprehensive update. The survey was initially undertaken in evaluating pardon applications from federal offenders seeking a pardon for the purpose of restoring civil rights and/or removing other legal disabilities. Research revealed that the laws governing the same rights and privileges vary greatly from state to state. The area of firearms disabilities presents special problems, involving for state felons a complex interplay of federal and state law. The survey is ...

Texas Mandatory Release Statute Creates Liberty Interest

The court of appeals for the fifth circuit held that Texas prisoners have a due process liberty interest in their good time credits as it affects their mandatory parole release date. Nesbitt Madison, a Texas state prisoner, was infracted for allegedly assaulting his cellmate. At the disciplinary hearing Madison attempted to introduce his medical records to show he had sustained no injuries, and a witness statement from a guard stating he was told by Madison's cellmate that he had been injured by falling from his bed. The hearing officer denied the requests, found Madison guilty and sentenced him to 30 days of commissary restriction; 30 days of cell restriction and 30 days loss of good time.

Madison filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming his right to due process was violated at the hearing. The district court dismissed the suit as frivolous after holding Texas state prisoners have no liberty interest in their good time. The court of appeals vacated the ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings.

State prisoners have no federal constitutional right to good time credits while in prison. But states can create a federal due process liberty interest when they decide to ...

A Matter of Fact

The 1987 Federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual had 325 pages. In 1988 there were 225 federal sentencing appeals. The 1996 Federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual had ballooned to 1,137 pages. In 1995 there were 8,731 federal sentencing appeals.

There were 41 federal prisons constructed between 1900 and 1980.

States and the federal government built 213 new prisons (168 state and 45 federal) between 1990 and 1995. As of mid-year 1995, there were 1,500 state and federal prisons with a capacity of 976,000 beds -- up 41 percent in the five-year period.

Between 1990 and 1995, the combined state and federal prison population increased 45 percent, from 773,919 to 1,125,979.

In 1980, there were 24,363 federal prisoners; 33 percent (8,085) were minorities. In 1995 there were 100,432 federal prisoners, and 64.7 percent (65,000) were minorities.

Federal law enforcement expenditures in 1987 totaled $7.5 billion. Five years later, in 1992 they had risen to $17.4 billion.

The 1998 federal Dept. of Justice budget request seeks a 4.9 percent increase for a total of $19.3 billion, including increases of: 7.1 percent for the FBI, 7 percent for the DEA ...

NM Prisoners Refuse to Break Rocks

New Mexico state corrections chief Rob Perry announced a proposal in June 1997 to allow disciplinary segregation prisoners to reduce their seg time if they agree to break rocks with sledgehammers. The proposal may have had more to do with publicity than punishment. The rock-breaking plan was duly reported by the local press and picked up by the AP wire.

But 56 Santa Fe Penitentiary disciplinary seg prisoners responded to Perry's proposal with a signed statement of their own, which they managed to leak to the press. The 56 seg prisoners say they have no intention of breaking rocks.

"We have been given disciplinary segregation and we will serve it with dignity and respect without having to break rocks," the prisoners' statement reads.

A chagrined Perry blamed the statement and a lack of volunteers for the rock pile on intimidation by gangs. He then announced a plan to have disciplinary sea prisoners join a work gang already in place -- prisoners who dig ditches and level areas of the prison yard and pull weeds.

Santa Fe attorney Mark Donatelli, who frequently represents New Mexico prisoners, said Perry's new proposal "contradicts the secretary's earlier statements that [rock-breaking] would be ...

BOP Sentence Reductions Cannot Be Denied Retroactively

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit held that a Bureau of Prisons (BOP) policy which created a new definition of "non-violent" offense could not be applied retroactively to deny a one-year sentence reduction to prisoners who had successfully completed a substance abuse program. 18 U.S.C. § 3621(e)(2)(B) allows the BOP to reduce by one year the sentence of prisoners convicted of non violent offenses, provided they complete a substance abuse program.

This case involves three prisoners convicted of unarmed bank robbery, 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a), who entered the BOP's 500 hour substance abuse program in March, 1995, under the belief that upon completing the program their sentences would be reduced by one year. In May, 1995, the BOP published 28 C.F.R. § 550.58 (1995) which established eligibility criteria for the sentence reduction; it did not specifically address the eligibility of armed or unarmed bank robbers.

In July, 1995, two of the petitioners in this case were notified that they were eligible for the § 3621(e) early release. In April, 1996, the BOP issued Program Statement 5162.02 which stated bank robbers, armed and unarmed, were not entitled to early ...

Former Prison Security Chief Convicted

By Julia Lutsky

William T. Mack, 53, was convicted at the end of May in a continuing federal investigation of corruption at the Mansfield Correctional Institute (MANCI) in Ohio. Mack, who had been chief of security at MANCI prior to his transfer to Grafton Correction Institute (GCI) in February of 1995, was found guilty of two counts of mail fraud and one of wire fraud in Federal District Court in Cleveland. The charges against him centered around an airline ticket which he accepted from James D. Crow, III, then a prisoner at MANCI, and the signing of incorporation papers for two businesses which Crow and fellow MANCI prisoner, Edward Swiger, 30, ran from the prison.

Crow, 32, began serving an 87 month federal sentence last February at Milan, Michigan for masterminding business from MANCI and for smuggling drugs into the prison in soup cans. Swiger has also been convicted of federal conspiracy for his part in the drug smuggling.

Convicted in the same investigation was Mansfield private detective and former Richland County deputy sheriff William N. Spognardi. Spognardi, 42, had pleaded guilty to bank fraud for which he received one day of custody, 4 years of supervised release, a $4 ...

Attention Foreign Nationals

Greetings from Alliance of Incarcerated Canadians in American Prisons (AICAP). Our purpose is to have all foreign citizens [not just Canadians] to serve their sentences in their home countries. In September, 1996, Congress enacted new amendments under the Immigration Reform Act, which allows for transfer of offenders to serve their sentences in their home countries [this info not independently verified by PLN's Editors]. However, Michigan and a few other [states] are bucking it by giving denials to those individuals who apply to serve their sentences in their home countries.

In our next newsletter we will be providing the information of these denials and of those who have been denied by the courts. [The following notice accompanied this letter]

Incarcerated Canadians & other foreign nationals in American prisons, have you sought transfer to your country of citizenship? Were you denied? If so, Alliance of Incarcerated Canadians in American Prisons wants to hear from you. Send copies of denials with an S.A.S.E. to:

811 Peoples Rd. Suite 2
Sault, ONT, CANADA P6C 3V8

Prisoner Literacy Obscure & Outdated

A news item you might want to use in the paper: Washington Post (Feb. 18, l997) reported that the OMB [a federal budget office] compiled a "secret list" of 254 federal programs that could be cut to save money. They wouldn't release the entire list at that time (I think they released it, at least in part, a few weeks ago), for fear of alerting: "special interest groups." Instead, they released a short list of "selected terminations," including: Research on cranberry and blueberry disease; literacy programs for prisoners; 5 federal highway projects; and "several other obscure or outdated programs."

I guess we [prisoners] fall into the same general category as sickly cranberries. No wonder I've never liked Thanksgiving!

Sewing Our Own Destruction

When I saw Dan Pens' front page PLN article [Oct. '96] on UNICOR production of bullet resistant vests (there's no such animal as "bullet proof" vests) I was struck by the difference in perspective. I read some of the same material he relied on for his article. Sure, the BOP engages in unfair marketing practices -- and vests is not the only commodity they do this with -- which is worth hooting about, but what I saw as a critical issue in all this is the level of collaboration by prisoners engaging in such production.

On the one hand they are slave laborers and on the other hand they produce equipment designed to be used against the rest of us -- just as they (UNICOR workers) produced bomb components to drop on the Vietnamese years back, or on the Iraqis just a few years ago.

We're talking about prisoners making protective vests for federal prison guards -- from tower guards to goon squad thugs (apparently they are going to be making "slash resistant" vests next). How big a step is this from minimum/medium security prisoners who build maximum security prisons so they can get more good time and other privileges?

I ...

Prisoner Calls Big Business in CA

Prisoners' loved ones are hit with a $3.00 surcharge [connect fee] whenever they accept a collect call from a California prisoner. The $3.00 surcharge is in addition to the per-minute billing.

The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved this $3.00 surcharge after MCI presented it to them. The PUC approved MCI's request because of the terms of a Master Contract called the "Public Access Telecommunications System" created by the Department of General Services. The contract was created on "correctional advice" and it deals exclusively with "public pay telephones." Yet the "public" pays only a $1.05 surcharge when using a pay phone. Only those accepting collect calls from CA prisoners are forced to pay the $3.00 surcharge. Prisoners' families are also denied freedom of choice known as equal access, preference of carriers, or discounts available to other MCI customers.

Until 1992 the commissions derived from prisoner phone calls were deposited in the Inmate Welfare Fund (IWF). According to Richard Flores, who heads the IWF for California prisons, "this was stopped because the California Penal Code does not specifically authorize this. Now the monies are being deposited into the State General Fund. The problem with this ...

Trailers for Tana

I have received new insight into the warden [Tana Wood's] motivations for arbitrarily taking away as many EFV [Extended Family Visit, aka trailer visit] privileges as she can.

In the early 90's at MSC [the Medium Security Annex of the Washignton state penitentiary at Walla Walla], they built three EFV units with prisoner Welfare Fund money. These units are very nice, and big.

The few prisoners who are still allowed [to have] EFVs here were notified a few days ago that starting September 1, all EFVs would [take place in] the main institution's [EFV] facilities. This is because they are turning the MSC EFV units into offices for their staff.

I would be willing to bet you more money than I have that warden Wood isn't going to recompense the prisoner Welfare Fund a single dollar.

A.L., Walla Walla

Electronic Guards of the Future?

The Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) is conducting a pilot program at the Cook Unit. If they like the results, ADC will implement the program state-wide.

I am sure you are familiar with these electronic ankle bracelets that people on home arrest are required to wear? [Editor's Note: Yes. They are heavily advertised in Corrections Today magazine] That's right. They are going to have every prisoner in that 800-bed unit wearing one of these bracelets 24/7.

James Ricketts, who was the ADC director prior to Sam Lewis, is the president or something of this [ankle bracelet] company. The company is giving ADC enough sensors and bracelets for Cook Unit. Thereafter, ADC will have to buy everything for the rest of the units in the state. [Just like crack dealers. The first dose is always free]

Sensors have been installed throughout Cook Unit. These sensors emit some kind of pulse every 15-20 seconds which locates each bracelet on the yard to within two feet. Anytime they want, ADC can play back the tapes and know exactly who was within two feet of anything that goes down. Anytime. Anywhere.

The guards will be equipped with a panic button, and ...

Exiled From Idaho

I'm a prisoner from Idaho doing time in a private facility in Minnesota. I'm sure you all never hear much about the DOC in Idaho. It's pretty small, a little less than 4,000 prisoners. It has much of the same problems as the rest of the states. However, prison news is news.

Overcrowding is a big problem. Idaho moved 150 to a private prison in Minnesota, more than 200 to Texas, and more are slated to go to Texas.

The parole board is out of control, has been for years. Many prisoners are still doing time after their fixed [minimum sentence], even model prisoners and first-time offenders. You've heard this same story from many states for some time now.

The Idaho legislature had a vote about the first part of this year [1997] for an investigation of the parole board, IDOC, sentencing practices, and possible reform. It was voted down. Missed it by one vote, 14 to 15. The legislature then went ahead and allocated [funds] for more prisons, "private prisons". The same story again. Lock 'em up and throw away the key.

D.M., Minnesota

Media Allowed Access to CA Executions

A federal district court in California held that media witnesses who attend state executions must be allowed to witness the entire proceeding. When California began lethal injection executions in 1996, it did not allow witnesses to enter the observation room adjoining the execution chamber until the victim was already strapped into the gurney and IV tubes had been inserted in his arms. Various groups, including the California First Amendment Coalition and the Society of Professional Journalists, filed suit claiming the procedure violated their first amendment rights.

The court gave a very interesting history of the role of public executions in history and the trend, starting in the 1830's, to bring executions into the privacy of prisons. Anyone interested in the death penalty and its history will find this ruling of great interest.

The court held that in order to perform a useful function, witnesses must be able to perceive the nature and quality of the execution. The court granted summary judgment for the plaintiffs and issued an injunction stating: "Defendants are directed to allow witnesses to executions by lethal injection to view the procedure at least from the point in time just prior to the condemned being immobilized, that ...

PLRA Exhaustion Requirement Jurisdictional

A federal district court in Arizona held that the PLRA's administrative exhaustion requirement, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), requires prisoners to exhaust administrative remedies and the failure to do so deprives the court of subject matter jurisdiction. Dallas Morgan, an Arizona state prisoner, filed suit claiming prison guards endangered his safety by telling other prisoners he was a child molester and a homosexual, after which he was assaulted by other prisoners. Morgan sought protective custody, which was denied. Morgan filed a grievance but did not pursue the entire grievance process because the Arizona DOC did not provide a timely response.

After Morgan filed suit, the defendants filed a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) to dismiss the suit for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, claiming the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the claim. Prior to the PLRA's enactment, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 imposed no administrative exhaustion requirement. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) states: "No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such ...

3rd Cir. Applies 'Imminent Danger' Exception to PLRA 3 Strikes

The court of appeals for the third circuit held that a district court erred when it dismissed a prisoner's In Forma Pauperis (IFP) suit because three prior suits had been dismissed, when the instant suit claimed the plaintiff was in imminent danger. Henry Gibbs is a Pennsylvania state prisoner and, according to the court, a frivolous litigator and government informant. Gibbs filed suit claiming that he gave a prison law librarian his legal papers to copy and she allowed a prisoner law clerk to read the papers, which revealed that Gibbs was a government informer. As a result, the law clerk allegedly called Gibbs a "snitch," threatened to kill him and told other prisoners Gibbs was an informant, resulting in two attacks against Gibbs. Six months after the last attack took place, Gibbs filed suit against the law librarian. Shortly afterwards prison officials transferred him to SCI Graterford.

The district court dismissed Gibbs' IFP petition under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g), which forbids IFP status for prisoner litigants that have previously had three suits dismissed as being frivolous. An exception is allowed if the prisoner is in "imminent danger of serious physical injury." This provision was created by ...

Factual Findings Required in 8th Amendment Suit

The court of appeals for the seventh circuit held that district courts must make clear, specific factual findings when ruling on contested issues relevant to prisoners' constitutional claims. Aaron Isby, an Indiana state prisoner, filed suit claiming his eighth amendment rights were violated when he was placed in a freezing cell whose walls were covered with feces, urine, blood and food. After a bench trial the district court dismissed Isby's claims.

The appeals court reversed and remanded. The court expressed its opinion that a delay of 19 months between the bench trial and when the district court issued its ruling was too long. The court also held that the defendants' failure to answer the amended complaint was not grounds for a default judgment.

The court affirmed dismissal of Isby's due process claims by holding he was not entitled to a hearing before being placed in a control unit. However, the cold and filthy cell claims, if proven, would entitle Isby to relief.

The court remanded the case for factual findings because the district court did not state what it had found the actual facts to be. The appeals court expressed its confusion by the fact that the lower ...

Attica Justice -- Served 26 Years Later

The old Italian proverb postulates that "revenge is a dish best served cold." Justice is a dish also usually served cold, although those with a taste for justice rarely prefer it so. Maybe somebody should ask Frank Smith.

Twenty-six years after Smith was beaten and tortured in an orgy of ...

Fear Alone Doesn't Violate Eighth Amendment: No Immunity for Retaliation

The court of appeals for the seventh circuit held that a prisoner's fear of being attacked, by itself, does not violate the eighth amendment. The court also held that prison officials who retaliate against prisoners who complain about prison conditions are not entitled to qualified immunity. John Babcock, a federal prisoner, was stabbed seven times in an attack by members of the Mexican Mafia (MM) who allegedly had a contract on him. Babcock was transferred to the U.S. penitentiary at Terre Haute, IN, which was supposedly free of MM members. Upon arrival Babcock claimed he recognized members of the MM, which was confirmed by prison officials who advised him to "just keep your eyes open."

Babcock sought protective custody and from there filed repeated grievances seeking a transfer to a prison free of MM members. Babcock remained in segregation for ten months, when he asked why the transfer was taking so long he was told by prison officials that it was because of the grievances he was filing. After being transferred Babcock filed suit claiming his eighth amendment rights were violated by placing him the same prison as his sworn enemies and his first amendment rights were violated ...

Pepper Spray Uprising in Arkansas

Wrightsville Arkansas, prison farm labor camp, July, 1997. The sweltering daytime temperature tops 100 degrees. It's still more than 80 degrees just after midnight. And then a spark is lit.

A guard at the Arkansas DOC Wrightsville Unit, reportedly acting on a tip, went into one of the 50-man barracks to search a prisoner for drugs. A struggle ensued. When the guard pepper-sprayed the prisoner, other prisoners jumped in. According to an AP report, "The officers escaped, bruised but apparently without serious injury."

Prisoners took control of the building, and an adjacent 50-man barracks, according to DOC PR flack Dina Tyler. She said the prisoners surrendered at 3:30 a.m. after guards in riot gear surrounded and threatened to storm the barracks. All 96 prisoners in the two barracks were then cuffed and taken away for questioning.

According to DOC investigators, only 15 prisoners were instigators. Tyler said that the 500 prisoners in other barracks were not involved and probably slept through the whole thing. PLN has not obtained first-hand reports from prisoners who witnessed the event. The facts reported here are from the "official version" of events, fed by Tyler to the press.

Associated Press

Washington Officials Liable for Seizing Court Tape

In an unpublished ruling, the court of appeals for the ninth circuit held prison officials were not entitled to qualified immunity for intentionally withholding a prisoner's video taped court transcript. Robert Wrinkle a Washington state prisoner at the Clallam Bay Corrections Center, sought to submit a pro se brief to supplement that of his attorney in his direct criminal appeal. To do so he needed to review his video taped trial (many counties in WA video tape rather than transcribe trials resulting in a tape rather than a written transcript). The tape were duly sent to the prison where unit supervisor Michael Leahy put it in his desk and let it sit there for over a year, depriving Wrinkle of the ability to file his supplemental brief.

Wrinkle filed suit claiming denial of the tape violated his right of access to the courts. The federal district court in Tacoma dismissed the suit. The court of appeals reversed and remanded, holding that Wrinkle had shown actual injury to his right of court access. The court also held that Leahy and prison warden Robert Wright were not entitled to qualified immunity from money damages because Wrinkle had produced circumstantial evidence that ...

Fourth Amendment Forbids Taping of Jail Confession to Clergy

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit held that state prosecutors, judges and jail officials violated the fourth amendment and the now defunct Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb, by secretly taping the confession a jail detainee gave a Catholic priest. Conan Hale was being detained in the Portland, Oregon, jail accused of killing three people when he asked to speak to a catholic priest. Upon learning of Hale's request detectives obtained a search warrant to record any conversation Hale might have with clergy.

Timothy Mockaitis, a Catholic priest, went to the jail to speak with Hale. Hale confessed to the crime while Mockaitis performed the sacrament of penance (AKA confession), which was duly recorded by police. When the taping became known, the archdiocese protested and demanded the tapes destruction. State courts refused to act on the church's request so the church filed suit in federal court claiming their rights under the RFRA and fourth amendment were violated. The district court dismissed the suit. See: Mockaitis v. Harcleroad, 938 F. Supp. 1516 (D OR 1996).

The court of appeals reversed and remanded. The court rejected the claim by jail officials that the RFRA ...

News in Brief

AR: The DOC announced plans to convert the Hiland Mountain Correctional Facility into a women's prisons as the legislature refuses to provide funds to build one. Hiland currently houses 230 male sex offenders undergoing treatment. During a 1-year transition, the prison will be co-ed, housing male sex offenders and female prisoners, the only prison in the U.S. to do so. Alaska has 200 women prisoners and only 66 beds in its current women's prison, the rest are housed in small numbers in male prisons.

CA: On June 10, 1997, Sacramento county paid jail detainee Willie Culp $30,000 to settle his federal lawsuit claiming Culp was beaten by sheriff's deputies after he protested the beating of another prisoner. Culp was being detained on traffic charges when beaten.

CA: On August 19, 1997, Merced county jail prisoners George Applegate and Richard Hernandez escaped from the jail by overpowering an unarmed guard and taking his keys.

Columbia: On July 19, 1997, 32 policemen were injured while doing a surprise search at Cali's Villa Hermosa prison. The police began the search acting on a tip that prisoners were planning an escape. During the search police were attacked with ...


Federal Prison Handbook



Prisoner Education Guide side



Federal Prison Handbook




Prisoner Education Guide side