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Prison Legal News: December, 1997

Issue PDF
Volume 8, Number 12

In this issue:

  1. Massachusetts Prisoner PAC Assailed by Governor, DOC (p 1)
  2. Prisoner PAC Announces Formation (p 2)
  3. Trial Required in Retaliation Claim (p 3)
  4. Arizona Holiday Package Decree Modified (p 3)
  5. Supreme Court Rulings Trickle Down: Washington Civil Commitment (p 5)
  6. From the Editor (p 5)
  7. Supreme Court Rulings Trickle Down: WA Good Time (p 5)
  8. Arizona Death Row Chain Gang Killing (p 5)
  9. Supreme Court Rulings Trickle Down: RFRA (p 5)
  10. Pro Se Tips and Tactics (Summary Judgments) (p 6)
  11. Ohio Overtime Gravy (p 7)
  12. Leon County Employees Replaced by Slaves (p 7)
  13. Private Prisons Cheaper? (p 8)
  14. Jury Awards $201,501 to Raped Indiana Prisoner (p 8)
  15. AEDPA Applies to Prison Disciplinary Hearings (p 9)
  16. The Poor Get Poorer - The Rich Get Prisons (p 9)
  17. Uprisings in New York State Prisons (p 10)
  18. A Matter of Fact (p 11)
  19. NJ Guards Threaten Walkout Over Vests (p 11)
  20. Second Circuit Approves Disciplinary Hearing Surcharge (p 12)
  21. Utah Prisoners May Build Own Cages (p 12)
  22. AA Still Violates the Establishment Clause (p 13)
  23. U.S. and Russia Reaching Record Levels of Incarceration (p 13)
  24. Eleventh Circuit Approves and Applies the PLRA (p 14)
  25. Fifth Circuit Rules on Appeals to Denials of IFP Status (p 15)
  26. D.C. Prisoners Win No Smoking Injunction (p 16)
  27. More Ohio Jail Construction Corruption (p 17)
  28. Frivolous State Litigation (p 17)
  29. GAO Reports Available: Private and Public Prisons (p 18)
  30. GAO Reports Available: Federal and State Prisons (p 18)
  31. Pepper Spray Report (p 18)
  32. New York State Drug Sentencing Report (p 18)
  33. The Abuse of U.S. Women Prisoners (p 19)
  34. Qualified Immunity in Failure to Protect Claim (p 20)
  35. Montana Prisoners Have Liberty Interest in Classification Hearings (p 21)
  36. WA Officials Liable for Seizing Court Tape (p 21)
  37. VI Decree Modification Denied Under PLRA, DOC Held in Contempt (p 22)
  38. CCA Unveils Aggressive New Marketing Ploy (p 23)
  39. Federal Jail in NYC a Mob Social Club? (p 23)
  40. Peruvian Prisoners Rebel (p 24)
  41. Washington Sex Offender Notification Enjoined (p 25)
  42. DC DOC Official Convicted of Contempt (p 25)
  43. New Jersey Jail Brutality Settlement (p 26)
  44. Man Jailed for Saying 'No' to TB Drugs (p 26)
  45. Prisoner Awarded $30,001 in Beating Suit (p 27)
  46. More Evidence Required in Retaliatory Infractions (p 27)
  47. Counselor Liable in Failure to Protect Claim (p 28)
  48. Americans with Disability Act Applies to Jails (p 28)
  49. Alabama AG Moves to Dissolve 17 Consent Decrees (p 29)
  50. Knowledge of Risk May Establish 8th Amendment Liability (p 29)
  51. News in Brief (p 30)

Massachusetts Prisoner PAC Assailed by Governor, DOC

In mid-August, Acting Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci personally directed prison guards to conduct a shakedown of several state prisons. And what contraband were the guards instructed to root out? Weapons? Drugs? No, something much more sinister and threatening to public safety -- voter registration cards! Campaign literature!

Massachusetts is one of ...

Prisoner PAC Announces Formation

We are proud to announce the creation of the Massachusetts Prisoners Association, a newly registered Political Action Committee working on behalf of the more than 20,000 prisoners currently confined within the Massachusetts Prisons and Houses of Correction and their family members, addressing the concerns of prisoners in the political ...

Trial Required in Retaliation Claim

A federal district court in New York held prison officials were not entitled to qualified immunity in a prisoner's lawsuit claiming he was retaliated against for suing them and that a trial was required to resolve the claims. Nathan Brown, a New York state prisoner, filed suit claiming prison ...

Arizona Holiday Package Decree Modified

In the June, 1997, issue of PLN we reported the lengthy, tortured history of efforts by the Arizona DOC to eliminate holiday packages [On the Edge of Midnight]. The ruling cited in that article, Hook v. State of Arizona, 98 F.3d 1177 (9th Cir. 1997) has been withdrawn on ...

Supreme Court Rulings Trickle Down: Washington Civil Commitment

Washington Civil Commitment La.: In the November, 1995, issue of PLN we reported Young v. Weston, 898 F. Supp. 744 (WD WA 1995) where a district court in Washington struck down as unconstitutional that state's civil commitment law. The case was on appeal when the supreme court decided Hendricks ...

From the Editor

Greetings and welcome to another issue. Last May, PLN received two $10,000 grants to use for outreach mailings of sample issues to attract new subscribers. From May through November we printed and mailed an average of 7,000 extra copies per month. The resulting new subscription orders have not ...

Supreme Court Rulings Trickle Down: WA Good Time

In the February, 1996, issue of PLN we reported Gotcher v. Wood, 66 F.3d 1097 (9th Cir. 1995) where the ninth circuit held that Washington prisoners have a protected liberty interest in their good time credits. The supreme court vacated Gotcher at 117 S.Ct. 1840 (1997) [PLN, July ...

Arizona Death Row Chain Gang Killing

PLN has previously reported how the death row chain gang in Arizona has resulted in numerous incidents of violence, including prisoners being wounded by shotgun blasts to quell fighting.

On July 9, 1997, the violence took a bizarre and deadly turn. On that date, Rebecca Lynn Thornton, 38, who had ...

Supreme Court Rulings Trickle Down: RFRA

In the April, 1997, issue we reported the seventh circuit's ruling in O'Leary v. Mack, 80 F.3d 1175 (7th Cir. 1996) where the appeals court interpreted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The U.S. supreme court has vacated that ruling for reconsideration in light of City of ...

Pro Se Tips and Tactics (Summary Judgments)

By John Midgley

A tool used in many prison and jail cases, especially by defendants, is a summary judgment motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. If you lose a summary judgment motion brought by the defendant, you have lost your case (unless you can get the summary judgment ...

Ohio Overtime Gravy

According to a report in the Columbus Dispatch, overtime pay for Ohio state employees is expected to reach an all-time high of $72 million in 1997. Among the 68 Ohio state agencies, employees of the state's burgeoning prison system account for $23.7 million, about a third of the ...

Leon County Employees Replaced by Slaves

Leon County, Florida, sheriff Larry Campbell beamed with pride as he watched one of his campaign promises come true. Fourteen zebra-striped prisoners filed onto a bus waiting to take them to their first day of forced labor clearing brush along county roads. Campbell was especially proud of the lurid black ...

Private Prisons Cheaper?

The New Mexico state DOC contends that Corrections Corporation of America has overcharged the state by nearly $2 million since the CCA-operated Women's Correctional Facility at Grants N.M. opened some eight years ago. State officials also say that CCA is not living up to a deal struck in ...

Jury Awards $201,501 to Raped Indiana Prisoner

By John Emry

Graylon Bell was placed in the Plainfield Correctional Facility operated by the Indiana Department of Correction in January of 1994. Shortly after, another prisoner, Grady Vaxter, started hitting on Bell hinting Vaxter was interested in Bell and wanting Bell to cooperate. Bell did what he could to ...

AEDPA Applies to Prison Disciplinary Hearings

The court of appeals for the seventh circuit held that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), Public Law No. 104-132, which amended the federal habeas corpus statutes, applies to habeas petitions challenging prison disciplinary hearings. The court also held Indiana prisoners have a state created liberty interest in ...

The Poor Get Poorer - The Rich Get Prisons

Wall Street recently celebrated an initial public offering (IPO) and welcomed the addition of a spanking new growth-oriented corporation: CCA Prison Realty Trust.

This Nashville-based corporation is a spin-off of the world's largest private prison corporation -- another Wall Street darling, Corrections Corporation of America -- whose stock is one of ...

Uprisings in New York State Prisons

By Julia Lutsky

Brutality by guards lay behind a major uprising at the Mohawk Correctional Facility in upstate New York in July 1997. Josea Benefield, a 22 year-old African-American prisoner in solitary confinement was reported to have hung himself with a bed sheet on Thursday, July 17. He had been ...

A Matter of Fact

The U.S. adult population increased 19 percent from 1980-95 (from 163.5 million to 194 million), while the U.S. adult prison population increased 237 percent during the same period (from 319,598 to 1,078,545).

According to Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) figures, "drug offenders" constituted 26 ...

NJ Guards Threaten Walkout Over Vests

On July 31, 1997, New Jersey state prisons were locked down after a guard was fatally stabbed and angry union leaders told guards for the next shift not to report for work unless the state agreed to purchase body armor vests.

Bayside State Prison guard Fred Baker, 35, was stabbed ...

Second Circuit Approves Disciplinary Hearing Surcharge

The court of appeals for the second circuit held that the imposition of a mandatory surcharge against prisoners found guilty of certain rule violations did not violate due process, that the failure to provide a hardship waiver for indigents did not violate equal protection, and that the surcharge satisfied a ...

Utah Prisoners May Build Own Cages

In a 1997 Utah state budget bill, the legislature directed that an "inmate construction and building maintenance" program be developed.

"The purpose of this program should be to expand inmate employment in construction-related fields in order to provide training for the inmate and a cost savings to the state," according ...

AA Still Violates the Establishment Clause

A federal district court in New York reaffirmed its earlier decision holding that a condition of probation requiring an atheist to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment. A nominal damage award of $1 was reinstated.

This case was initially reported in the July 1995 ...

U.S. and Russia Reaching Record Levels of Incarceration

A new 59-nation study by The Sentencing Project reveals that Russia and the United States have reached record levels of incarceration and are far ahead of other nations in their use of imprisonment.

The study also found that a 92% increase in the U.S. rate of incarceration had little ...

Eleventh Circuit Approves and Applies the PLRA

By James Quigley

The court of appeals for the eleventh circuit held that the provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) apply to cases pending prior to its enactment; that the filing fee requirements of the Act do not violate equal protection; and to the extent that the filing ...

Fifth Circuit Rules on Appeals to Denials of IFP Status

The court of appeals for the fifth circuit held that prisoners denied In Forma Pauperis (IFP) status in the district courts and whose lawsuit is dismissed as frivolous under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 can appeal that ruling. The court also backed away from recent rulings it had made holding ...

D.C. Prisoners Win No Smoking Injunction

In the May, 1996, issue of PLN we reported Crowder v. Kelly, 928 F. Supp. 2 (D DC 1996) where the district court granted a preliminary injunction ordering District of Columbia prison officials to place the prisoner plaintiffs in non smoking living quarters and to enforce its no smoking policy ...

More Ohio Jail Construction Corruption

In the April '97 issue of PLN we reported "Ohio Jail Construction Corruption?" about questionable contract provisions and cost overruns by a construction firm owned by Ohio governor George Voinovich's brother. That article was about the firm's $9 million renovation of the Franklin county jail.

The construction company ...

Frivolous State Litigation

By Paul Wright

The court of appeals for the eighth circuit held that a prisoner's demotion from administrative to punitive segregation did not implicate any federal due process liberty interest. We would not normally report this case because it involves no new or novel legal concepts, what makes this ...

GAO Reports Available: Private and Public Prisons

By Julia Lutsky 

GAO Reports Available


Federal and State Prisons: "Inmate Populations, Costs and Projection Models," November 1996, GAO/GGD-97-15

Private and Public Prisons: "Studies Comparing Operational Costs and/or Quality of Service," August 1996, GAO/GGD-96-158

Reflecting both the relatively recent "get tough on crime" and the age-old theme ...

GAO Reports Available: Federal and State Prisons

Federal and State Prisons: "Inmate Populations, Costs and Projection Models," November 1996, GAO/GGD-97-15

Private and Public Prisons: "Studies Comparing Operational Costs and/or Quality of Service," August 1996, GAO/GGD-96-158

Reflecting both the relatively recent "get tough on crime" and the age-old theme of corporate profit there are two ...

Pepper Spray Report

Research Review: "Use of Force Policies and Training Recommendations: Based on the Medical Implications of Oleoresin Capsicum," by Darrell Ross, PPCT Director of Research.

Oleoresin Capsicum (OC; pepper spray) is now widely used by police departments throughout the country for the control of "resistant individuals." Spicy oils have been used ...

New York State Drug Sentencing Report

Angela Thompson, a 17-year-old with no prison record participated in a single sale of 2 oz and 33 grains of crack cocaine to an undercover officer for which she received a 15-year-to-life sentence.

Cruel and Usual : "Disproportionate Sentences for New York Drug Offenders," A Human Rights Watch Report, March 1997 ...

The Abuse of U.S. Women Prisoners

It is really like this dirty little secret that everyone in corrections knows about and doesn't want to talk about. It is a huge problem." The words are those of Brenda Smith, senior counsel of the National Women's Law Center quoted in the December 1996 Human Rights Watch ...

Qualified Immunity in Failure to Protect Claim

By James Quigley

The court of appeals for the fourth circuit, sitting en banc, held that there is no constitutional violation when unarmed prison guards fail to immediately intervene to protect a prisoner from assault by an armed prisoner; that the failure of prison officials to immediately confiscate the alcoholic ...

Montana Prisoners Have Liberty Interest in Classification Hearings

By Danny Arledge

The Montana state supreme court held that state law creates a liberty interest for prisoners accused of misconduct in prison classification hearings. Daniel Orozco, a prisoner at the Montana State Prison, was accused of conspiring to traffic in drugs. He was given a "Due Process Notification" and ...

WA 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 ...

VI Decree Modification Denied Under PLRA, DOC Held in Contempt

A federal district court in the Virgin Islands made specific factual findings under the terms of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) holding that prison and jail conditions on the island were unconstitutional and required federal court intervention to resolve via enforcement of an existing consent decree. While many observers ...

CCA Unveils Aggressive New Marketing Ploy

The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) plans to build a 2,000-bed prison in California's Mojave Desert -- on speculation. CCA President David L. Meyers said his private prison corporation has no guarantee the California Department of Corrections (CDC) will send prisoners the proposed facility, nor has CCA yet held ...

Federal Jail in NYC a Mob Social Club?

Reputed Mafia mobsters reportedly turned Brooklyn's Federal Metropolitan Detention Center (M.D.C.) into a cozy social club -- with the help of corrupt guards. Detainees hosted visiting business associates and dined in high style with smuggled in meatballs, manicotti and chicken cutlets, washed down with vodka and wine, according ...

Peruvian Prisoners Rebel

By Dan Axtell

On June 20, 1997, over 5,000 prisoners in Lurigancho prison in Peru took over the prison during the course of a riot. According to Peruvian congressman Daniel Espichán Tumay, the riot was triggered by overcrowding, outcry over illegal transfers, and bad food. Espichán, president of the ...

Washington Sex Offender Notification Enjoined

The federal district court for the western district of Washington has issued a preliminary injunction enjoining the state from retroactively applying the provision of Washington's Community Protection Act of 1990 calling for the "community notification" of recently released sex offenders.

The plaintiff, identified only as "John Doe," was recently ...

DC DOC Official Convicted of Contempt

The court of appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the criminal contempt conviction of District of Columbia official Sylvia Young. Young was convicted after she harassed and retaliated against women DOC employees who had filed suit claiming that sexual harassment and retaliation against women employees was rampant throughout ...

New Jersey Jail Brutality Settlement

Seventeen former detainees of the Sussex County (NJ) Jail settled a lawsuit alleging a pattern and practice of guard brutality, inadequate medical and psychiatric care, and inadequate legal access. As part of the settlement, the county agreed to pay $372,000; install video surveillance cameras throughout the jail, including in ...

Man Jailed for Saying 'No' to TB Drugs

An Olympia, WA, man was jailed in mid-March 1997, for refusing to take his tuberculosis medicine. Kenneth Elkins, 44, was living homeless in Olympia after having been released from McNeil Island Corr. Ctr. in the summer of 1996.

In November, 1996, Elkins was diagnosed with infectious TB and the state ...

Prisoner Awarded $30,001 in Beating Suit

A federal jury in Bangor, Maine, awarded damages to 25-year-old Billy Williams for being beaten by two guards while imprisoned in Maine's Supermax prison in 1994. A seven-member jury deliberated for two and a half hours before deciding to award $30,000 in punitive damages. They also awarded $1 ...

More Evidence Required in Retaliatory Infractions

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit held that when guards falsely accuse prisoners of misconduct in retaliation for the exercise of constitutional rights, the guard's accusation is not entitled to deference under the "some evidence" standard of review normally used in prison disciplinary decisions. The court also ...

Counselor Liable in Failure to Protect Claim

A federal district court in Illinois held a prison counselor could be found liable for denying a prison snitch protective custody when the informant was later attacked by his many enemies. Hubert Hill is an Illinois state prisoner who has informed on numerous prison gang members on many occasions over ...

Americans with Disability Act Applies to Jails

In two separate rulings, federal district courts in Ohio and Michigan held that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 42 U.S.C. § 12131 and the Rehabilitation Act (RA), 29 U.S.C. § 794, apply to county jails.

Leonard Raufman was imprisoned in the Kalamazoo county jail on a parole ...

Alabama AG Moves to Dissolve 17 Consent Decrees

Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor and state Prison Commissioner Joe Hopper went into federal courts across the state July 2, 1997, moving (under provisions of the PLRA) to dissolve consent decrees governing conditions at three state prisons and 14 county jails. This action was accompanied by an orchestrated campaign of ...

Knowledge of Risk May Establish 8th Amendment Liability

The court of appeals for the sixth circuit held that a prison investigator's report indicating a prisoner was at risk of attack was sufficient to establish eighth amendment liability on the part of supervisory prison officials, if they read it. The court also held that a prison warden's ...

News in Brief

AK: In October, 1997, Alaska state police announced they were searching for Virginia parolee Wil Adams, AKA Skip Adams Taylor, on felony gun charges. Adams served 16 years in Virginia prisons for murdering a young woman. Paroled in 1995 Adams moved to Barrow and was hired as a clerk in ...