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Prison Legal News: June, 1998

Issue PDF
Volume 9, Number 6

In this issue:

  1. Mis-Managed Health Care in Texas Prisons (p 1)
  2. Pelican Bay Cellie Slayings (p 3)
  3. From the Editor (p 4)
  4. Human Rights Watch Condemns Indiana Control Units (p 4)
  5. Descent Into Madness: An Inmate's Experience in the New Mexico State Prison Riot (p 5)
  6. Prisons and Aids: A Public Health Challenge (p 5)
  7. Pro Se Tips and Tactics: Limiting the Burdens of Pro Se Inmate Litigation (p 6)
  8. New York Prisoner Awarded $56,000 for Beating (p 8)
  9. Bureau of Prisons Sexual Abuse Suit Settled for $500,000 (p 9)
  10. Delay in Medical Treatment States Claim (p 10)
  11. Bob Bensing, Hero, Dies Suddenly (p 11)
  12. Spokane County Corrections Officials Accused of Cover-up (p 11)
  13. PLRA Filing Fee Provisions Not Retroactive (p 12)
  14. PLRA Termination Provisions Unconstitutional (p 12)
  15. Some PLRA Fee Questions Answered by the Seventh Circuit (p 13)
  16. Eighth Circuit Issues PLRA IFP Procedures (p 13)
  17. Fatal Mismanagement at Ohio CCA Prison (p 14)
  18. California Prison Psychologist Kills Child, Self (p 14)
  19. Parolee Must Receive Morrissey Hearing (p 15)
  20. $6.5 Million Spent in California Sexual Harassment Suit (p 15)
  21. Involuntary Medical Experiments Violate Due Process (p 16)
  22. PLN Writer Exiled by CCA (p 16)
  23. Illinois Court Access Suit Dismissed (p 17)
  24. Refusal of Non-Lethal Injection Kills Arizona Prisoner (p 17)
  25. State Weasel Monitors Private Prison Chicken Coop in Texas (p 17)
  26. San Francisco City and County Jail Conditions Held Unconstitutional (p 18)
  27. Discriminatory Policy Enforcement Actionable (p 19)
  28. Michigan's Parole Amendments Constitutional (p 19)
  29. Colorado Prisoners Passing Up Parole (p 20)
  30. Alabama HIV+ Prisoners Case Remanded Once Again for Proper RA Consideration (p 20)
  31. Segregation Conditions Defined for Sandin Purposes (p 21)
  32. Attention Veteran Prisoner Activists (p 21)
  33. Race Requirement for Religion Struck Down (p 22)
  34. Washington Good Time Cap Clarified (p 22)
  35. Trial Required in Religious Diet Claim (p 22)
  36. Repeal of South Carolina Furlough Law Violates Ex Post Facto (p 23)
  37. Beating by Unknown Guards States Claim (p 23)
  38. News in Brief (p 24)
  39. Vigilante Attack on Prisoner Requires Trial (p 25)
  40. Sexual Harassment Actionable (p 26)
  41. PA County Medical Co-Payment Constitutional (p 26)

Mis-Managed Health Care in Texas Prisons

In 1993, Texas state prisons over-flowed with 70,000 prisoners. But the state was nearing completion of a $1.5 billion prison construction program that would more than double the number of state prisons. State Comptroller John Sharp appreciated what few Texans knew: the $1.5 billion prison construction price ...

Pelican Bay Cellie Slayings

Felipe Cruz, more than seven years into a 17-to-life sentence for second degree murder out of L.A. County, was found unconscious in his Pelican Bay SHU cell on the morning of November 1, 1997. He was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Prison officials said ...

From the Editor

Once again, I come to you with greetings, good cheer, and to beg for money. This time, however, I'll show you the PLN budget in black and white. But before I do that, let me give you the bottom line and let you know what you can do to ...

Human Rights Watch Condemns Indiana Control Units

In October, 1997 the international human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) released Cold Storage: Super-Maximum Security Confinement in Indiana , a report on the Maximum Control Facility at Westville and the Secured Housing Unit at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. Cold Storage vigorously condemns the extreme isolation regimen as a ...

Descent Into Madness: An Inmate's Experience in the New Mexico State Prison Riot

by Mike Rolland, 1997

If the 1971 rebellion at Attica typified the internal cohesion, strength, and political awareness of the U.S. prison movement in the late 60s and early 70s, the 1980 riot at the Penitentiary of New Mexico State (PNM) in Sante Fe epitomized the choked, unfocused rage ...

Prisons and Aids: A Public Health Challenge

Prisons and AIDS: A Public Health Challenge

by Ronald Braithwaite, Theodore Hammett and Robert Mayberry

Prisons and AIDS is a well-informed, highly statistical overview of the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS in prisons and jails. The book focuses on education programs and the means to implement prevention of HIV infection in ...

Pro Se Tips and Tactics: Limiting the Burdens of Pro Se Inmate Litigation

Review of Limiting The Burdens Of Pro Se Inmate Litigation: A Technical Assistance Manual For Courts, Correctional Officials, And Attorneys General , by Lynn S. Branham (American Bar Association, 1997).

Given all the anti-prisoner publicity that usually surrounds discussions of pro se prisoner litigation, the use of the phrase "limiting the ...

New York Prisoner Awarded $56,000 for Beating

U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Scanlon (Northern District, NY) ordered two guards at the Clinton Correctional Facility (CCF) in Dannemora, NY, to pay $56,000 in compensatory punitive damages to former CCF prisoner Nelson Cay to punish them for their "sadistic and savage beating" of Mr. Cay in 1988.

Following ...

Bureau of Prisons Sexual Abuse Suit Settled for $500,000

On Tuesday, March 3, 1998, at 3:00 p.m., at the United States District Court in San Francisco, U.S. District Court Judge Thelton E. Henderson was presented with a settlement of a civil rights suit against the United States Bureau of Prisons brought by three women prisoners who ...

Delay in Medical Treatment States Claim

The court of appeals for second circuit held that a district court erred when it dismissed as frivolous a prisoner's claim that his eighth amendment rights were violated when a leg injury was misdiagnosed and treatment delayed. Allen Hemmings was being held in a Vermont jail when his Achilles ...

Bob Bensing, Hero, Dies Suddenly

The world lost a hero in the struggle for human rights on February 3, 1998. Southern Center for Human Rights lawyer Bob Bensing, 42, was returning to Atlanta, GA, from Valdosta State Prison after meeting with two prisoner plaintiffs. His car reportedly hydroplaned and crossed the median into oncoming traffic ...

Spokane County Corrections Officials Accused of Cover-up

An independent counsel hired by Spokane County, Washington, says that top officials at the county's Geiger Corrections Center wrongly fired a former guard and then conspired to falsify evidence so the firing would stick. The guard, Sandra "Sunny" Pilkington, was fired for misconduct in 1992 for allegedly hugging one ...

PLRA Filing Fee Provisions Not Retroactive

The court of appeals for the fourth circuit held that the provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) that require prisoners filing civil actions or appeals in forma pauperis (IFP) to ultimately pay the filing fees in full, do not apply retroactively. The court further held that the district ...

PLRA Termination Provisions Unconstitutional

A federal district court in Arizona held that the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) section providing for termination of consent decrees entered into prior to the PLRA's enactment is unconstitutional, as being violative of the separation of powers doctrine. The court further ruled that the state was not entitled ...

Some PLRA Fee Questions Answered by the Seventh Circuit

The court of appeals for the seventh circuit held that once a trial court determines that an appeal is taken in bad faith, a prisoner is disqualified from proceeding in forma pauperis on appeal. Any subsequent appeal, if determined to be frivolous, would count as a second strike against the ...

Eighth Circuit Issues PLRA IFP Procedures

The court of appeals for the eighth circuit has issued a ruling describing the procedures it and all district courts in that circuit will use to assess and collect filing fees from prisoners who file with In Forma Pauperis (IFP) status. The court notes that the Prison Litigation Reform Act ...

Fatal Mismanagement at Ohio CCA Prison

In February 1998, federal judge Sam Bell ordered the Corrections Corp. of America to halt the transfer of inmates from Washington, D.C., to the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center (NOCC), a CCA-owned prison in Youngstown, Ohio. Bell agreed with Alphonse Gerhardstein, the Cincinnati attorney representing NOCC prisoners, that CCA administrators ...

California Prison Psychologist Kills Child, Self

Tracy Lynn Johnson, 33, worked as a prison psychologist at the California Medical Facility (CMF, Vacaville) until she went on "stress leave" on September 5, 1997. [CMF, Vacaville is at the center of a long-running class action suit over inadequate mental health care]. Four months later Johnson died of strangulation ...

Parolee Must Receive Morrissey Hearing

A parolee who is convicted of a new crime has a due process right to a parole revocation hearing that fulfills all six requirements of accurate fact-finding set out in Morrissey v. Brewer , 408 U.S. 471, 92 S.Ct. 2593 (1972).

William John was convicted in 1976 on federal ...

$6.5 Million Spent in California Sexual Harassment Suit

by W. Wisely

The cost to California taxpayers will top $6.57 million in a sexual harassment suit judgment handed down November 30, 1997, against the Department of Corrections. The amount included $2 million in damages, $1.8 million paid to private defense attorneys retained for the seven month trial ...

Involuntary Medical Experiments Violate Due Process

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit held that doctors who administer drugs without a patient's consent for research purposes violate the right to substantive due process. The court also held that fact questions existed which precluded summary judgment. Charles Johnson was seriously injured while trying to evade ...

PLN Writer Exiled by CCA

PLN Writer Exiled by CCA

Alex Friedmann is a prisoner and a journalist. Until recently he also warmed a for-profit bunk at the Corrections Corporation of America's (CCA) South Central Correctional Facility in Clifton, Tennessee. That is, until his corporate warders decided that Alex Friedmann presented a threat to ...

Illinois Court Access Suit Dismissed

When the U.S. supreme court decided Lewis v. Casey , 116 S.Ct. 2174 (1996) [ PLN , Aug. 1996] PLN noted that the ruling essentially gutted prisoners' right of access to the courts and made it virtually impossible for class action court access claims to succeed. This case illustrates those predictions ...

Refusal of Non-Lethal Injection Kills Arizona Prisoner

Arizona prisoner Teshome Abate, 39, died Jan. 3, 1998, after a four month hunger strike.

In 1989 Abate brought suit against the department of corrections seeking to acquire his Ethiopian Orthodox Christian diet. Ethiopian Orthodox leaders had informed officials their faith requires adherence to Old Testament dietary laws. There was ...

State Weasel Monitors Private Prison Chicken Coop in Texas

Robert L. Dearing is the deputy director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. The jail commission is in charge of inspecting and certifying county jails, including those that are privately operated. The jail commission's authority to enforce state standards, in effect, gives it the life-and-death power over private ...

San Francisco City and County Jail Conditions Held Unconstitutional

A federal district court in California ruled that numerous conditions of confinement at San Francisco county jail # 3 violated contemporary standards of decency and the eighth and fourteenth amendments. Of particular importance to West coast readers, the court found that the jail's vulnerability to earthquakes was unconstitutional. Since most ...

Discriminatory Policy Enforcement Actionable

The court of appeals for the eighth circuit held that the discriminatory enforcement of prison policies is actionable as an equal protection violation. William Foster is a black Missouri state prisoner. A prison policy required that all electronic equipment be bought from the prison commissary. Foster requested permission from warden ...

Michigan's Parole Amendments Constitutional

The court of appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that the 1992 amendments to Michigan's parole laws, that postpone initial mandatory review hearings for certain state prisoners and reduce the frequency of subsequent mandatory parole hearings, do not violate the Ex Post Facto Clause of the U.S. Constitution ...

Colorado Prisoners Passing Up Parole

More than 2,500 Colorado state prisoners opted to stay in prison rather than ask for parole during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1997. More than 20 percent of those who waived parole hearings were close to ending their full sentence, usually within six months to a year. But ...

Alabama HIV+ Prisoners Case Remanded Once Again for Proper RA Consideration

The court of appeals for the eleventh circuit held that prisoners asserting a claim to Rehabilitation Act (RA) protection had the burden of showing that they were "otherwise qualified" under the Act, or could be made so by reasonable accommodation, and that the trial court's determination that RA rights ...

Segregation Conditions Defined for Sandin Purposes

The court of appeals for the seventh circuit held that district courts evaluating the impairment of a liberty interest in prison disciplinary hearings should compare segregation conditions of confinement throughout the entire state prison system. The court expressed doubt that prisoners would ever be able to show a liberty interest ...

Attention Veteran Prisoner Activists

Celling of America co-editor Daniel Burton-Rose is working on a book about prisoner activism in the 1960s and 70s. Daniel is seeking contacts with veterans from that period. Rememberances of involvement in work stoppages, anti-racist organizing, prisoner unions, etc. are especially welcome. Send letters to: Daniel Burton-Rose; c/o Prison ...

Race Requirement for Religion Struck Down

Afederal district court in Louisiana held that a prison rule allowing only ethnic Native Americans to engage in Native American Religious (NAR) practices was unconstitutional. Seven Louisiana state prisoners housed in a private prison operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) on contract to the Louisiana DOC, filed suit ...

Washington Good Time Cap Clarified

AWashington state court of appeals held that prisoners convicted of violent class B felonies were entitled to a one third good time sentence reduction and not the fifteen percent reduction calculated by the Washington DOC. Craig Mahrle was convicted of solicitation to commit second degree murder. The Washington DOC applied ...

Trial Required in Religious Diet Claim

Afederal district court in California held that disputed facts required a trial to determine if a segregated Muslim prisoner's religious rights were violated when he was denied a special diet during Ramadan. Roderick Washington, a California state prisoner, filed suit claiming he was denied the diet Muslim prisoners in ...

Repeal of South Carolina Furlough Law Violates Ex Post Facto

The court of appeals for the fourth circuit held that amendments to a South Carolina statute which eliminated furlough rights for prisoners convicted before its passage violate the ex post facto clause of the U.S. constitution. In 1983 the South Carolina legislature enacted S.C.Code.Ann. § 24-13-720 which ...

Beating by Unknown Guards States Claim

Afederal district court in the District of Columbia held that a prisoner's claim that he was beaten unconscious by three unknown guards stated a claim for violation of the eighth amendment. James Arnold, a District of Columbia (DC) prisoner, was returning to his cell from a prison official's ...

News in Brief

AZ : On April 1, 1998, former Perryville prison warden Thomas Sullivan was convicted by a Maricopa county jury of raping three girls, ages 8-16. A 16 year Arizona DOC employee, Sullivan was arrested in March, 1996, when DOC employees reported the allegations to superiors. One of his victims, now in ...

Vigilante Attack on Prisoner Requires Trial

The court of appeals for the second circuit held that issues of fact as to whether guards were personally involved in a vicious attack on a prisoner, precluded summary judgment for the guards. The court also held that a statement allegedly made by one of the guards to one of ...

Sexual Harassment Actionable

The court of appeals for the seventh circuit held that sexual harassment by prison staff is actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The ruling is important because it defines when prison staff act under "color of state law" for liability purposes. Eric Walker, an Illinois state prisoner, filed suit ...

PA County Medical Co-Payment Constitutional

The court of appeals for the third circuit held that a program charging prisoners a small ($3-$5) fee when they sought medical care, is not per se unconstitutional, nor as implemented, under the eighth amendment. The court further held that the program is not unconstitutionally vague, that the procedures ...