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Prison Legal News: March, 1998

Issue PDF
Volume 9, Number 3

In this issue:

  1. Kafka in the Desert: Palestinian Detainees Struggle (p 1)
  2. Israeli Soldier Jailed for Refusing to Guard Palestinian Detainees (p 3)
  3. Tales from the Washington IMU Crypt (p 4)
  4. From the Editor (p 4)
  5. Reaching the Breaking Point (p 5)
  6. Fingers in the PIE (p 5)
  7. BJS Reports on Sentencing and Imprisonment (p 6)
  8. Doing Life: Reflections of Men and Women Serving Life Sentences. Portraits and Interviews (p 6)
  9. Peruvian Lawyers Arrested (p 7)
  10. Pro Se Tips and Tactics (p 8)
  11. California Irradiates Prison Visitors (p 9)
  12. WSP Mail Rules Upheld (p 10)
  13. Washington Porn Ban Challenged (p 10)
  14. BOP Porn Ban Held Unconstitutional (p 10)
  15. Struggle at Folsom (p 11)
  16. Spanish Speaking Prisoners Entitled to Interpreters (p 12)
  17. Court Questions PLRA IFP Provisions (p 14)
  18. Attorney Fee Award in Smoking Suit Affirmed (p 14)
  19. Arizona Court Fee Law Upheld (p 15)
  20. AZ Jail's Discriminatory Treatment of Muslims Requires Trial (p 15)
  21. Slavery in South Carolina (p 16)
  22. Ohio Death Row Uprising (p 17)
  23. West Virginia Jailers Sentenced to Prison (p 17)
  24. Turning the Screws in California (p 18)
  25. Sixth Circuit Discusses Habeas IFP (p 19)
  26. Tax Court Required to Assist in Witness Subpoena (p 19)
  27. News in Brief (p 20)
  28. Ad Seg May Require Due Process (p 21)
  29. Snitch Jacketing States 8th Amendment Claim (p 21)
  30. Supervisors Liable for Excessive Force (p 22)
  31. Ohio Students Rally in DC (p 22)
  32. Health Care Contractor Subject to Monell Liability (p 23)
  33. Evidence Must Support Disciplinary Ruling (p 23)
  34. Survivors Manual (p 24)
  35. Zain Fallout Continues (p 24)
  36. Failure to Protect Informant Violates 8th Amendment (p 25)
  37. Class Action Certification Clarified (p 25)
  38. New Jersey DOC Required to Follow Own Rules (p 26)
  39. Pelican Bay $600,000 Wrongful Death Settlement (p 26)

Kafka in the Desert: Palestinian Detainees Struggle

Imagine, if you will, an isolated prison in the desert. Surrounding the one conventional prison building is a large compound, divided into barbed wire enclosures, each holding several dozen prisoners in tents. The compound is walled in, and guarded by military police. The prisoners, however, are civilians. They have not ...

Israeli Soldier Jailed for Refusing to Guard Palestinian Detainees

Yuval Lotem, a 40-year-old lieutenant in the Israeli Army reserve, like most Israeli men is called up for active duty several weeks a year. In early July 1997, Mr. Lotem was called to active duty and assigned guard duty at the Megiddo prison. When he arrived there, he observed two ...

Tales from the Washington IMU Crypt

Reader Mail

In case you'd like to report on recent events at Shelton [in one of Washington state's three "IMU" Control Units] here are the basics. In the first week of September [1997] a female guard told guys on F-tier to get ready for yard. [Only] One guy ...

From the Editor

Beginning the first of March, 1998, the PLN book The Celling of America: An Inside Look at the U.S. Prison Industry will be on sale in bookstores nationwide. To date the feedback we've received on the book has been very positive. If you've read the book please ...

Reaching the Breaking Point

A guy was mad over having his letter rejected because his girlfriend said something [in the letter] about sex. He was also tired of being lied to about getting out of IMU [Intensive Management Unit, Washington state's version of a 23/7 Control Unit].

So last week [just before ...

Fingers in the PIE

I thought you might be interested in the Prison Industry Enhancement (PIE) program that was implemented at select Virginia prisons in 1997. The program allows the VDOC to contract outside of Virginia for prisoners to perform labor at minimum wage. I worked in the program until I found out how ...

BJS Reports on Sentencing and Imprisonment

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released two reports that may interest PLN readers: Prisoners in 1996 (NCJ 164619, June 1997) and Felony Sentences in the United States, 1994 (NCJ 165149, July 1997).

The report on prisoners provides state-by-state (and federal) prison population statistics through year-end 1996. Highlights:

During 1996 ...

Doing Life: Reflections of Men and Women Serving Life Sentences. Portraits and Interviews

by Howard Zehr

Book Review by Dan Pens

What does it mean to face a life prison sentence? That question holds a unique meaning in Pennsylvania, where more than 3,000 men and women are doing life. In Pennsylvania the only way out of a life sentence is commutation, and ...

Peruvian Lawyers Arrested

Between November 18-21, 1997, in Lima, Peru, agents of the Peruvian political police, DINCOTE, arrested lawyers Ernesto Messa Delgado, Carlos Gamero Quispe, Luis Ramon Landaure and Teodoro Bendezu Montes. The arrestees' family members said they were given no reason for the arrests and noted that the detentions occurred after the ...

Pro Se Tips and Tactics

By John Midgley

In my last column, I began a discussion of summary judgment motions in prison cases, which I continue in this column. In prison cases, summary judgment motions are often made by defendants to try to get judgment without the need to go through a trial. Under Federal ...

California Irradiates Prison Visitors

The California Department of Corrections (CDC) has installed nine high-tech X-ray scanners in six prisons and has plans to install them throughout the 33-prison system. The devices, based on "back-scatter" X-ray technology, are used to search visitors. The machine produces a crude image of visitors' bodies without their clothing.

"I ...

WSP Mail Rules Upheld

Joseph Allen filed suit challenging various aspects of the mail policy at the Washington State Penitentiary. After filing suit Allen did no discovery and when the defendants moved for summary judgment he did not bother responding. Not surprisingly, the court ruled against Allen. Surprisingly, the court decided to publish its ...

Washington Porn Ban Challenged

Playboy Suit Not Frivolous: In an unpublished ruling the court of appeals for the ninth circuit held that a federal court in Spokane, Washington, erred when it dismissed as frivolous a lawsuit by prisoner Mark LaRue challenging the censorship of his subscription to Playboy . In his complaint LaRue alleged that ...

BOP Porn Ban Held Unconstitutional

In the March, 1997, issue of PLN we reported the September 30, 1996, enactment of the "Ensign Amendment," named after its author Nevada congressman John Ensign (R). The law was enacted as a rider to the federal government's massive budget bill. No hearings or debate were held by congress ...

Struggle at Folsom

by W. Wisely

On August 11, 1997, almost 400 prisoners in California's New Folsom prison staged a one-day work strike to protest continuing elimination of privileges and programs. Six members of the Men's Advisory Committee were placed in administrative segregation, suspected of leading the strike.

"The [prisoners] were ...

Spanish Speaking Prisoners Entitled to Interpreters

In a wide ranging and extensive ruling a federal court in the District of Columbia held that by failing to provide interpreters to non English speaking Hispanic prisoners the DOC violated the plaintiffs' eighth and fourteenth amendment rights. As the first published ruling in a class action suit involving language ...

Court Questions PLRA IFP Provisions

In a rare voice of dissent to the PLRA's filing fee provisions, Judge Reynolds of the U.S. district court in Wisconsin, described the filing fee requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, then summed it up.

"This provision is mean spirited and unnecessary. In forma pauperis is fundamental ...

Attorney Fee Award in Smoking Suit Affirmed

The court of appeals for the eighth circuit affirmed an award of $11,299.17 in attorney fees to a prisoner who sued over being exposed to Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS, AKA second hand smoke). In the December, 1996, issue of PLN we reported Weaver v. Clarke , 933 F. Supp ...

Arizona Court Fee Law Upheld

Afederal district court in Arizona upheld the constitutionality of a state statute that requires prisoners to pay the full filing fee in state court actions they initiate. The Arizona legislature enacted A.R.S. § 12-306(c) and A.R.S. § 12-302(B) which eliminates the waiver of filing fees in ...

AZ Jail's Discriminatory Treatment of Muslims Requires Trial

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit held that a district court erred when it granted summary judgment to jail officials regarding claims of discriminatory treatment by a Muslim jail prisoner. Benjamin Freeman was held in the Maricopa county jail in Arizona for nine months. Freeman, a practicing Muslim ...

Slavery in South Carolina

What is the difference between a good slave and a bad slave? The South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) knows: Good slaves "continue to work and stay out of trouble".

Below is the full text of a memorandum addressed to the South Carolina "inmate population" and signed by SCDC Director ...

Ohio Death Row Uprising

In the November '97 PLN , we reported "Tensions Rise in Ohio Prisons." Our coverage of the September 5, 1997 uprising on Ohio's death row at the Mansfield Correctional Institution (MANCI) was based entirely on published press reports, and as such was woefully inadequate. PLN has since obtained several first-hand ...

West Virginia Jailers Sentenced to Prison

Former Grant County, West Virginia, sheriff John Leatherman, 39, was sentenced October 14, 1997, to six years in the state penitentiary on a civil rights count and one year in the county jail on a battery count. Leatherman pleaded no contest in a case where female jail detainees were forced ...

Turning the Screws in California

by W. Wisely

Each year, the California Department of Corrections asks the Legislature for an ever-increasing piece of the state's tax pie based in part on claims that violence in the prison system is increasing. The truth is, violent incidents inside have been steadily declining the past decade, the ...

Sixth Circuit Discusses Habeas IFP

The court of appeals for the sixth circuit has outlined the procedures habeas corpus petitioners seeking In Forma Pauperis (IFP) status must follow. Every circuit to consider this issue has held that the Prison Litigation Reform Act's (PLRA) filing fee provisions do not apply to indigent habeas corpus petitioners ...

Tax Court Required to Assist in Witness Subpoena

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit held that a tax court's refusal to honor subpoenas filed by an indigent pro se prisoner litigant, without prepayment of the witness and mileage fees, violated the prisoner's right of access to the courts. Douglas Hadsell is an Oregon state ...

News in Brief

AZ : In November, 1997, the state DOC announced that the construction of a 4,150-bed prison complex at Gila Bend, a 200-bed juvenile prison at the same location and an 800-bed addition to a Yuma prison was $19 million over budget. The combined projects were supposed to cost $190.5 ...

Ad Seg May Require Due Process

The court of appeals for the second circuit held that a district court wrongly concluded that administrative segregation (ad seg), in and of itself, does not violate due process. The court held prisoner plaintiffs must be given an opportunity to develop a factual record for their ad seg claims.

Emmeth ...

Snitch Jacketing States 8th Amendment Claim

Afederal district court in New York held that a prison guard calling a prisoner a snitch with the intention of causing the prisoner harm by other prisoners states a claim for violation of the eighth amendment. Anthony Watson, a New York state prison, filed suit claiming a guard told prisoners ...

Supervisors Liable for Excessive Force

The court of appeals for the eighth circuit affirmed an award of compensatory and punitive damages against a guard who beat a handcuffed and unresisting prisoner, the four guards who held the prisoner down during the attack, the lieutenant who supervised the beating and the warden who had repeatedly ignored ...

Ohio Students Rally in DC

Students from Dayton Ohio's Colonel White High School were outraged when they read about Kemba Smith in Emerge magazine. Smith, a 24-year-old Virginia woman, was sentenced to 24 years in federal prison without the possibility of parole for refusing to cooperate with federal prosecutors who wanted her to testify ...

Health Care Contractor Subject to Monell Liability

The court of appeals for the eleventh circuit held that private companies performing traditional government functions are liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 but enjoy the protection of Monell v. Dept. Of Social Services of New York , 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018 (1978). Junior Buckner was ...

Evidence Must Support Disciplinary Ruling

Afederal district court in Indiana granted an Indiana state prisoner's petition for habeas corpus, finding that no evidence supported a disciplinary committee's "guilty" finding of possessing intoxicants. Timothy Hayes was infracted for possessing intoxicants after a guard found a bottle of an "orange substance" in Hayes' cell. The ...

Survivors Manual

How do you survive in a concrete coffin?

With the proliferation of Control Unit (aka SuperMax) prisons in the U.S., an increasing number of prisoners struggle for an answer.

Survivors Manual is a 72-page paperback written by and for people who live in Control Units. The manual was compiled ...

Zain Fallout Continues

Fred Zain was a crime lab serologist, who tested evidence for the West Virginia state police from 1979 to 1989, and was chief of serology his last five years. During that time Zain falsified evidence and testified about the results of tests he never performed.

In 1989, Zain took a ...

Failure to Protect Informant Violates 8th Amendment

The court of appeals for the third circuit held that prison informants have an eighth amendment right to be protected from the consequences of their informing and that a lower court erred in failing to appoint counsel. Jerome Hamilton is a Delaware state prisoner. Since at least 1976 he has ...

Class Action Certification Clarified

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit held that a district court erred when it dismissed as moot a jail detainee's lawsuit challenging conditions on a jail chain gang, before ruling on the plaintiff's motion for class certification. Timothy Wade filed a lawsuit seeking only injunctive relief ...

New Jersey DOC Required to Follow Own Rules

The appellate division of the superior court of New jersey held that a prisoner was entitled to reversal of a disciplinary sanction because the prison hearing officer disobeyed a court ordered prison rule requiring the prisoner to sign a form documenting what procedures take place at disciplinary hearings.

Melvin Johnson ...

Pelican Bay $600,000 Wrongful Death Settlement

California taxpayers coughed up another $600,000 to settle a use-of-force lawsuit at Pelican Bay State Prison. The biggest chunk of the award goes to the family of Jesse Castillo, who was shot and killed by guards while engaged in a fistfight on Pelican Bay's "A" Yard.

"It was ...