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Prison Legal News: April, 1997

Issue PDF
Volume 8, Number 4

In this issue:

  1. US Supreme Court: Florida Gain Time Statute Violates Ex Post Facto (p 1)
  2. California EFV Injunction Reversed (p 3)
  3. California Slashes Family Visits (p 3)
  4. From the Editor (p 5)
  5. Law's Nature (p 6)
  6. A Matter of Fact (p 7)
  7. PLRA Consent Decree Termination Provision Unconstitutional (p 8)
  8. Reversal of Frivolous Dismissal Voids PLRA Strike (p 8)
  9. PLRA Applied to Attorney Fees (p 9)
  10. Prisoners Retain Right to Safety (p 10)
  11. Philadelphia Fined for Degrading City Prisons (p 10)
  12. Racial Violence in California Lockups (p 11)
  13. Florida Private Prison Criticized (p 11)
  14. Impregnated Arkansas Prisoner Wins Suit (p 12)
  15. No Double Jeopardy in Massachusetts Disciplinary Hearings (p 13)
  16. Inadequate Jail Staffing Violates Due Process (p 13)
  17. Ohio Jail Construction Corruption? (p 14)
  18. No Immunity for Eighth Amendment Violation in Rectal Search (p 14)
  19. Beating and Strip Cell Require Trial (p 15)
  20. Farmer Remanded Again, for Discovery (p 16)
  21. Connecticut Supreme Court Upholds Phone and Mail Restrictions (p 16)
  22. Drug Sales Boom in Wisconsin Prisons (p 16)
  23. Virginia Felons Disenfranchised (p 17)
  24. A Native American Resource (p 17)
  25. Ex-Sheriff Sex Offender Retains Pension (p 17)
  26. FJC Prisoner Litigation Guide (p 17)
  27. Louisiana Jail Abuse Settlement (p 18)
  28. Texas Lawyers Unhappy About Conscription (p 18)
  29. ABA Calls for Halt to Executions (p 18)
  30. CBCC Associate Superintendent Resigns (p 19)
  31. Copying Claims Not Barred by Res Judicata (p 19)
  32. News in Brief (p 20)
  33. Double Celling States Eighth Amendment Claim (p 21)
  34. Seventh Circuit Analyzes RFRA (p 22)

US Supreme Court: Florida Gain Time Statute Violates Ex Post Facto

On February 19, 1997, a unanimous United States Supreme Court held that the revocation of previously granted good time credits violates the ex post facto provision of the United States constitution. The Court held that subjective intent on the part of legislatures was immaterial for ex post facto purposes. In ...

California EFV Injunction Reversed

In the September, 1995, issue of PLN we reported that a Marin county superior court judge had issued a preliminary injunction enjoining Title 15, section 3174(e)(1) of the California Code of Regulations (CCR). The regulation in question eliminated family visits for a wide category of prisoners, including those ...

California Slashes Family Visits

The young Hispanic woman, juggling a squirming infant under each arm, began to cry as she read the notice posted on the wall of the visitor processing building at Lancaster prison. For months prisoner rights advocates had been warning visitors, trying to organize resistance, but few believed it would ever ...

From the Editor

Longtime PLN readers may recall that in early 1994 Ed Mead, PLN's former co-editor, and I filed suit against the Washington State Indeterminate Sentence Review Board (ISRB, aka the parole board). The suit challenged the "no association" parole condition they had placed on Ed that prohibited from having contact ...

Law's Nature

"Laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the law." Oliver Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield (1766)


For many jailhouse lawyers, especially those new to the craft, there is a sort of "awe" that governs their study, contemplation and utility of the law. Like new converts to a religion they ...

A Matter of Fact

New York City jails have an average daily population of 20,000. Cigarettes sell for $2.36 a pack, and city jails sell about 8,000 packs per day (not counting weekends) for a total of nearly $5 million in annual cigarette sales. A proposed ban on smoking in NY ...

PLRA Consent Decree Termination Provision Unconstitutional

A federal district court in Michigan held that provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) calling for the immediate termination of consent decrees where no findings of constitutional violations were made by the court, was unconstitutional on several grounds. The PLRA created 18 U.S.C. § 3626(b)(2 ...

Reversal of Frivolous Dismissal Voids PLRA Strike

The court of appeals for the fifth circuit held that the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) applies retroactively to appeals pending on its date of enactment as well as cases dismissed prior to its enactment. The court also held that dismissals based on frivolousness which are reversed on appeal do ...

PLRA Applied to Attorney Fees

A federal district court in Michigan held that the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) required that attorneys representing prisoners be paid a maximum of $112.50 an hour. Hadix v. Johnson is the long running Michigan class action suit. After prevailing in the district court in a challenge to a ...

Prisoners Retain Right to Safety

The court of appeals for the second circuit held that a district court erred in dismissing a prisoner's failure to protect claim on the basis that the prisoner could not name his attackers beforehand. The court also held that district courts cannot resolve conflicting deposition testimony by granting summary ...

Philadelphia Fined for Degrading City Prisons

A Philadelphia common pleas court panel fined the city $2.2 million for "degrading" conditions in the city's prisons.

The judgment, passed down by a three judge panel in early October, 1996, was accompanied by a contempt of court citation for the city. The fine and citation stem from ...

Racial Violence in California Lockups

On Friday, September 27, 1996, rioting broke out among more than 200 black and Latino prisoners in New Folsom's B Facility. The violence lasted some 31 minutes with fighting on the yard, in the medical clinic, and in prison industries. Guards fired over 30 rounds from assault rifles and ...

Florida Private Prison Criticized

by Glenn Wright and Dan Pens

Louisville, Kentucky based private prison vendor U.S. Corrections Corporation (USCC) was sharply criticized by Florida's Auditor General in three separate reports issued by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA). The reports were the result of state audits of ...

Impregnated Arkansas Prisoner Wins Suit

An Arkansas state prisoner was awarded $120,000 after a jury heard her claim that she was impregnated by one guard and sexually harassed by another. The federal court jury found that Laura Berry's constitutional rights were violated by former guard Randall Reed and former Sgt. Jay Oswalt at ...

No Double Jeopardy in Massachusetts Disciplinary Hearings

In the October, 1995, issue of PLN we reported that a state trial court in Massachusetts, in an unpublished ruling, had dismissed criminal indictments against twelve prisoners because the indictments were brought after the prisoners had already been subjected to prison disciplinary hearings and punishment. The trial court held that ...

Inadequate Jail Staffing Violates Due Process

The court of appeals for the fifth circuit held that a jail staffing practice that allowed a lone male guard to oversee female detainees could be held to violate due process after a woman detainee was raped by a guard. The court held that financial considerations alone do not justify ...

Ohio Jail Construction Corruption?

Questions arise as to whether a contract for the Franklin County jail renovation was legal. The county commissioners awarded the unbid contract in May 1995 to Voinovich-Sgro Architects, Inc., a subsidiary of the Voinovich Group, owned by Paul Voinovich, the brother to Governor George Voinovich. John Hay, a man who ...

No Immunity for Eighth Amendment Violation in Rectal Search

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit reversed a jury verdict which had found prison officials had violated a prisoner's eighth amendment rights during a rectal search but that they were entitled to qualified immunity for doing so. The court held these findings were inconsistent and reversed and ...

Beating and Strip Cell Require Trial

The court of appeals for the tenth circuit held that beating a naked, handcuffed, non-resisting prisoner violates the eighth amendment; that placing a prisoner in a strip cell without blankets or heating violates the eighth amendment as well. The court also discussed when a district judge should be recused from ...

Farmer Remanded Again, for Discovery

The court of appeals for the seventh circuit held a district court erred in dismissing a case without allowing the plaintiff to conduct discovery in order to oppose the defendants' motion for summary judgment. In doing so the court gives a detailed discussion of the relation between discovery, compelling discovery ...

Connecticut Supreme Court Upholds Phone and Mail Restrictions

In the February, 1995, issue of PLN we reported that Connecticut state prisoners had filed a class action suit in state court challenging prison regulations that required the recording of prisoner phone calls and that prisoners, outgoing mail could be read and censored by prison officials.

The Connecticut supreme court ...

Drug Sales Boom in Wisconsin Prisons

One of every eight adult and juveniles in Wisconsin's prisons or reform schools are receiving psychotropic drugs for a mental disorder. According to Sharon Zunker, director of Wisconsin's Department of Corrections Bureau of Health Services, the cost of psychotropic drug treatment has grown from about $58,000 in ...

Virginia Felons Disenfranchised

Virginia is one of 13 states that permanently revoke the voting rights of felons. As a consequence, nearly a quarter of a million Virginians, most of them black men, cannot vote.

A Virginia newspaper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, examined state police records to compile a report citing 241,420 convicted felons ...

A Native American Resource

The Traditional Native American Tobacco Seed Bank and Education Program (TNAT) at the University of New Mexico has three objectives: 1.) Collecting, preserving, growing and distributing the seeds of the many traditional Native American types of tobacco; 2.) Educating Native Americans about the dangers of tobacco misuse; 3.) Providing traditional ...

Ex-Sheriff Sex Offender Retains Pension

In the July 1995 issue of PLN we reported "51 Months for Sex With Prisoners," about Gulf County (FL) sheriff Al Harrison, then 52, who was convicted of seven misdemeanor counts of violating the civil rights of five female prisoners over a period of several years. The jury found that ...

FJC Prisoner Litigation Guide

The Federal Judicial Center, a branch of the federal judiciary, has published a 172 page book, "Resource Guide for Managing Prisoner Civil Rights Litigation." The book is written for judges and court personnel who receive, process and rule on prison suits. The book pays special attention to the Prison Litigation ...

Louisiana Jail Abuse Settlement

Iberia Parish, Louisiana, reached an agreement December 2, 1996, with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to settle a lawsuit alleging prisoner abuse in the parish jail. The suit was filed by the DOJ in June, 1996, against then-sheriff Errol Romero and then jail warden Danny David.

The DOJ ...

Texas Lawyers Unhappy About Conscription

In 1995 Congress cut funding for some twenty-odd regional death penalty resource centers, pro bono legal aid clinics which specialized in death penalty appeals. The Texas legislature halved the $4 million in state funds budgeted to pay for counsel in state capital appeals cases to go along with a state ...

ABA Calls for Halt to Executions

In February, 1997, by a vote of 280 to 119, representatives of the American Bar Association's House of Delegates endorsed a report calling for a nationwide suspension of executions until the judicial process is overhauled.

The report was offered jointly by the A.B.A.'s individual rights and ...

CBCC Associate Superintendent Resigns

The November 26, 1996, edition of the Peninsula Daily News reported that Lisa Wikstrom, a guard at the Clallam Bay Corrections Center in Washington had filed a $1 million damage claim against the state, claiming she had been sexually harassed. Wikstrom's claim stated that Steve Sowers, associate superintendent at ...

Copying Claims Not Barred by Res Judicata

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit held that an Alaska state prisoner's claim that he was denied photocopies was not barred by res judicata where a similar claim was litigated in a class action suit but the issue was not raised. Timothy Hiser, an Alaska state prisoner ...

News in Brief

CA: In December, 1996, prison psychiatric counselor Massoud Shadzad was arrested while fondling a female prisoner at the Elmwood Correctional Center for Women in Milpitas and charged with sexual battery. The investigation began when Shadzad promised a female prisoner cigarettes in exchange for her panties and she reported the offer ...

Double Celling States Eighth Amendment Claim

The court of appeals for the third circuit set forth the conditions under which double celling will violate the eighth amendment. The court also held that segregation prisoners are entitled to legal assistance to present their claims to the courts. Several New Jersey state prisoners held in Protective Custody (PC ...

Seventh Circuit Analyzes RFRA

The court of appeals for the seventh circuit gave its first ruling on the application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to prison cases in that circuit and in doing so defined what constitutes a "substantial burden" on religious practcies. The court consolidated two appeals by Muslim prisoners in ...