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Prison Legal News: February, 1997

Issue PDF
Volume 8, Number 2

In this issue:

  1. New Plantation (p 1)
  2. Washington Grievance Mail Case Reversed (p 5)
  3. Costs of Crime (p 6)
  4. Late Notice of Appeal Allowed (p 8)
  5. Notes from the Unrepenitentiary (p 8)
  6. Eyewitness News from Missouri (p 9)
  7. New Improved Chain Gang (p 9)
  8. Circus is in Town (p 10)
  9. Stunning Revelations (p 11)
  10. Kansas Prisoners Lose Welfare Fund Suit (p 11)
  11. PLRA's IFP Provisions Violate Equal Protection (p 12)
  12. Third Circuit Rules that PLRA Doesn't Apply to Habeas (p 12)
  13. PLRA IFP Provision Applied Retroactively (p 12)
  14. PLRA Doesn't Apply Retroactively to Special Masters (p 12)
  15. Rosenberg Fund for Children (p 13)
  16. South Carolina Consent Decree Terminated under PLRA (p 13)
  17. Corcoran Prison Cover-up (p 14)
  18. Tennessee Jail Overcrowding is State's Fault (p 15)
  19. Prison Health Report Issued (p 16)
  20. Book Review: Constitutional Rights of Prisoners (p 16)
  21. Women's Prison Book Project (p 16)
  22. World Criminal Justice Systems: A Survey (p 16)
  23. Corrections in the Community (book) (p 16)
  24. New Jersey Sex Offender Registration Injunction Vacated (p 17)
  25. Prison Population Growth in 1995 (p 17)
  26. No Administrative Exhaustion Requirement in 7th Circuit (p 18)
  27. Informant Testimony Must Be Reliable (p 18)
  28. New York Work Release Creates Liberty Interest (p 19)
  29. Private Prison Liable for Wrongful Imprisonment (p 20)
  30. Lawsuits Target Georgia Prison Abuse (p 20)
  31. ADA Requires Phones for Deaf (p 21)
  32. News in Brief (p 22)
  33. Inadequate Public Defender Funding Unconstitutional (p 23)

New Plantation

In the new world order, the ideological concerns that previously persuaded the capitalist ruling class to purchase social and labor peace with a comparatively generous social contract and high living standards no longer hold sway. The US ruling class will need to take drastic measures in order to maintain its ...

Washington Grievance Mail Case Reversed

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit held that mail to and from government agencies is entitled to no special treatment and may be read and censored by prison officials outside the prisoner's presence. In the September, 1994, issue of PLN we reported O'Keefe v. Murphy, the ...

Costs of Crime

by J.W. Mason

Suppose you could calculate the dollar value of the costs of crime -- lost property, medical bills, missed work, pain and suffering -- and figure out its total yearly cost to society? While "putting a dollar value on the suffering resulting from crime might seem cold and impersonal ...

Late Notice of Appeal Allowed

The court of appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(a)(6) allows the late filing of a notice of appeal where the party misses a filing deadline through no fault of their own. Eduardo Benavides sued the Bureau of Prisons under the ...

Notes from the Unrepenitentiary

In the last months of 1996, the court system in Israel legalized torture. Preventing "terrorist attacks" makes it necessary, the courts ruled, to use physical torture to extract information from Arab "suspects."

Fifty years ago the nazis used similar rationales to justify the dehumanization of Jews and other "threats" to ...

Eyewitness News from Missouri

This is the eyewitness account of what went down here at the Jefferson City Correctional Facility on August 10, 1996. At about three in the afternoon, a prisoner in Four House was being seen on a [disciplinary] violation. The caseworker (guard) got loud with the prisoner and he stabbed her ...

New Improved Chain Gang

Just so you will know, contrary to many published reports nationwide, the chain gang HAS NOT been abolished in Alabama. They have simply stopped chaining the prisoners on the chain gang in groups of five. These prisoners are still individually chained for no other reason than humiliation and degradation.

These ...

Circus is in Town

by Mr. Wolf

Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote, 'The degree of a civilization in society can be judged by entering its prisons and jails." By the events which unfolded in Phoenix, Arizona during September, 1996, it is no doubt evident now to the world at large that America, and particularly ...

Stunning Revelations

Recently Governor Thompson signed into law a bill permitting prisoner chain gangs in Wisconsin. In a high-tech twist on the old Southern chain gangs, Thompson's program includes requiring prisoners to wear electrical stun belts in addition to being chained at the ankle.

When activated, the stun belt sends a ...

Kansas Prisoners Lose Welfare Fund Suit

A federal district court in Kansas held that state prisoners were not entitled to injunctive relief regarding how money from the Inmate Benefit Fund (IBF) was spent by the DOC. Kansas state prisoners filed a class action suit challenging how the Kansas DOC spends money generated by prisoner phone calls ...

PLRA's IFP Provisions Violate Equal Protection

A federal district court in Iowa held that the In Forma Pauperis (IFP) provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) are retroactive and violate the equal protection clause of the fifth amendment. Section 804(d) of the PLRA created a new subsection to the IFP statute which allows indigents ...

Third Circuit Rules that PLRA Doesn't Apply to Habeas

The court of appeals for the third circuit held that the Prison Litigation Reform Act's (PLRA) provision that prisoner litigants pay the filing fee for civil actions does not apply to habeas corpus petitions. The court gave an extensive discussion to the history and intent of the poorly drafted ...

PLRA IFP Provision Applied Retroactively

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit held that 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), which allows courts to dismiss prisoner suits that have been filed In Forma Pauperis (IFP) at any time if determined to be frivolous, can be applied retroactively to appeals pending at the time ...

PLRA Doesn't Apply Retroactively to Special Masters

A federal district court held that provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) limiting payment to special masters and requiring that such payment be borne by the federal judiciary, were not retroactive and did not apply to masters appointed before its enactment on April 26, 1996.

Federal courts sometimes ...

Rosenberg Fund for Children

by Carol Carvalho, RFC Director of Grantmaking

The progressive community needs to support activists, prisoners rights advocates and political prisoners who risk their lives and economic security for causes of peace, justice, protection of the environment and equal rights. The Rosenberg Fund for Children (RFC) was created to provide for ...

South Carolina Consent Decree Terminated under PLRA

The court of appeals for the fourth circuit upheld the termination of a consent decree pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) and rejected challenges to the constitutionality of the PLRA. In 1982 South Carolina prisoners filed suit challenging conditions of confinement throughout the state prison system. In 1986 ...

Corcoran Prison Cover-up

by W. Wisely

On October 7, 1994, former California prison guard Richard Caruso decided he had enough. The frequent shooting of prisoners forced into fights staged, then covered up, by guards at Corcoran prison's Security Housing Unit (SHU) weighed on his conscience. So, Caruso gathered evidence of the abuse ...

Tennessee Jail Overcrowding is State's Fault

Tennessee is now spending over $100 million a year to house state prisoners in county jails - a 14% increase from the previous year. Despite 7,350 prison inmates being double-celled, state prisoners still overcrowd jails because the state has no room for them.

As of July 19, 1996, 2,056 ...

Prison Health Report Issued

The National Institute of Justice, a branch of the Department of Justice, has published a 125 page booklet titled "Managing Prison Health Care and Costs." The book provides an overview of rising prison health care costs with national examples of various cost containment strategies. The book is aimed primarily at ...

Book Review: Constitutional Rights of Prisoners

Fifth edition, is an 804 page book by law professor John Palmer. The book examines the history, evolution and current state of prisoner rights, with extensive case citations. Organized into thirteen chapters Palmer examines the use of force; right to visitation, association, mail and phones; segregation, disciplinary hearings; legal services ...

Women's Prison Book Project

The Women's Prison Book Project (WPBP) is a group of volunteers organizing to provide women in prison with free reading materials covering a wide range of topics from legal and education materials to politics, history, and women's health.

There are other prison book projects, but we seek to ...

World Criminal Justice Systems: A Survey

by Richard Terrill is a 472 page book examining the criminal justice systems of France, England, Sweden, Russia and Japan. In that respect the title is misleading as all five countries are industrialized bourgeois democracies that have more in common with each other than with, say, Bolivia, Zaire, Algeria or ...

Corrections in the Community (book)

by Edward Latessa and Harry Allen is a 473 page college textbook giving an overview of criminal sanctions other than prison, such as probation, home detention, community services, etc. The authors' underlying theme is that prisons generally do more harm than good and efforts should be made to minimize the ...

New Jersey Sex Offender Registration Injunction Vacated

In the July, 1995, issue of PLN we reported Artway v. Attorney General of New Jersey, 876 F. Supp. 666 (D NJ 1995) where a district court held that a New Jersey sex offender registration law was constitutional as far as requiring sex offenders to register with police upon release ...

Prison Population Growth in 1995

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, Prison and Jail Inmates, 1995, an estimated 1,585,400 persons were incarcerated in the U.S. at year end 1995. The state and federal prison population topped a million (1,078,357) with an additional 507,044 in local jails.

The ...

No Administrative Exhaustion Requirement in 7th Circuit

The court of appeals for the seventh circuit held that prisoners seeking money damages need not exhaust administrative remedies prior to filing suit. The court also held a district court erred when it dismissed a complaint filed in forma pauperis solely because the plaintiff was already litigating another suit against ...

Informant Testimony Must Be Reliable

A federal district court in Texas granted habeas relief to two Texas prisoners who had lost good time at a disciplinary hearing based on unconfirmed informant testimony. Morris Broussard and Gary Johnson filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action contesting the loss of good time at a disciplinary hearing ...

New York Work Release Creates Liberty Interest

A federal district court in New York held that state law creates a due process liberty interest which requires a hearing before prisoners can be removed from work release. The court also held that res judicata did not bar a § 1983 suit in federal court where the same issue had ...

Private Prison Liable for Wrongful Imprisonment

A federal district court in Florida held that a private corporation which ran a county jail under contract was liable for a detainee's wrongful imprisonment. Thomas Blumel was arrested without a warrant after being accused of violating a restraining order. Blumel was then placed in the Hernando County Jail ...

Lawsuits Target Georgia Prison Abuse

by Robert Bensing, Esq.

Prisoners in Georgia have recently filed two lawsuits, challenging the Georgia Department of Corrections' (GDC) shakedowns of Georgia prisons. A shakedown entails a search of an entire prison's prisoner population and prisoner living areas. While the shakedowns are ostensibly to discover contraband, many prisoners have ...

ADA Requires Phones for Deaf

A federal district court in Michigan held that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12131 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, requires state prison officials to provide prisoners and the people they call with Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD). The ...

News in Brief

AZ: On October 20, 1996, six Alaska prisoners at the Central Arizona Detention Center in Florence, a private prison operated by Corrections Corporation of America, escaped by cutting through three wire fences. Four prisoners were recaptured shortly afterwards and the warden insisted the prison was secure. Leslie Simpson and Edward ...

Inadequate Public Defender Funding Unconstitutional

A federal district court in Illinois held that a lack of adequate funding for public defenders assigned to represent indigent defendants in state court appeals violates the federal constitution when it causes delays in excess of two years. Over the past ten years the number of appeal cases assigned to ...