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Prison Legal News: July, 1998

Issue PDF
Volume 9, Number 7

In this issue:

  1. U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Heightened Pleading Standards for Intent Based Claims (p 1)
  2. Youth in Washington Prisons Challenge Lack of Education (p 3)
  3. From the Editor (p 4)
  4. Letter of Apology from TCI (p 4)
  5. PLN Sues Utah Department of Corrections Over Bulk Mail Ban (p 5)
  6. Where International Law Ain't Law (p 5)
  7. No Interlocutory Appeals in Decree Terminations (p 6)
  8. PLRA Three Strikes Ruling Vacated (p 6)
  9. Consent Decree Termination Upheld (p 6)
  10. Seventh Circuit Upholds Constitutionality of Physical Injury Requirement (p 7)
  11. DARK NIGHT Field Notes (p 8)
  12. Prisoner 'Stress Response Syndrome' Described (p 8)
  13. Truth Takes a Holiday in Virginia DOC Press Release (p 9)
  14. Behind Closed Doors: Struggle in Washington IMU's (p 10)
  15. Former Texas Prison Chief Indicted (p 12)
  16. Eight California Prison Guards Indicted (p 13)
  17. Presence of Prison Rape in Utah Denied (p 14)
  18. New Mexico S.Ct Grants Asylum to Little Rock Reed (p 15)
  19. FBI Law Enforcement Sting Nabs 53 in Ohio (p 15)
  20. High-Tech Vendors Penetrate Prison Market (p 16)
  21. $350,000 Awarded in Ohio Prisoner Death (p 17)
  22. California Whistleblowers Silenced, Punished (p 17)
  23. Wisconsin Joins the Control-Unit Fraternity (p 17)
  24. Former Arizona Governor Sentenced (p 18)
  25. Another Florida Gain-Time Statute Unconstitutional (p 18)
  26. Transgender Treatment Questioned (p 19)
  27. Sexual History Evidence Limited in Rape Suit (p 19)
  28. Hepatitis C Epidemic Threatens California Prisoners (p 19)
  29. Pennsylvania Consent Decree Clarified (p 20)
  30. 8th Circuit Orders BOP Sentence Reductions (p 20)
  31. Seg Conditions Analyzed for Sandin Purposes (p 21)
  32. News in Brief (p 22)
  33. Right to Psychiatric Care Clearly Established (p 24)
  34. Gender Motivated Violence Act (p 24)
  35. Injury Required to Enforce Grand Jury Law (p 25)
  36. Washington Child Support Minimum Struck Down (p 25)
  37. Criminal History Inadmissable for Impeachment (p 25)

U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Heightened Pleading Standards for Intent Based Claims

By Paul Wright

On May 4, 1998, the United States supreme court held that civil rights plaintiffs do not have to meet a heightened standard of pleading when filing suit against government officials. Lawsuits alleging an improper motive on the part of government defendants, i.e., retaliation claims, do not ...

Youth in Washington Prisons Challenge Lack of Education

by David C. Fathi

Youth incarcerated in the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) are challenging the state's failure to provide them with basic and special education, as required by state and federal law.

The lawsuit, Tunstall v. Bergeson , was filed in state court on November 21, 1997, and certified ...

From the Editor

We would like to thank Youth Emergency Services in Texas for awarding PLN a $1,000 grant with which to do sample mailings. We would also like to thank an East coast prisoner, who prefers to stay anonymous, for his donation of $500 so we can run 28 page issues ...

Letter of Apology from TCI

Reader Mail

Dear PLN ,

We are aware of the difficulties our customers have had over the past several months in attempting to obtain service from us. Demand has been so great that, because of being underfunded and understaffed, we were not able to serve many of the people who contacted ...

PLN Sues Utah Department of Corrections Over Bulk Mail Ban

On April 23, 1998, PLN and PLN subscriber Walter Thomas filed suit against the Utah DOC in U.S. district court in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Utah DOC has a policy which prohibits prisoners from receiving materials sent via third and fourth class mail (AKA "bulk mail"). This includes ...

Where International Law Ain't Law

The very essence of civil liberty certainly consists in the right of every individual to claim the protection of the laws, whenever he receives an injury. One of the first duties of government is to afford that protection. . .

Marbury v. Madison (1803) (quoting Lord Blackstone's Commentaries)

When U. S ...

No Interlocutory Appeals in Decree Terminations

The court of appeals for the Sixth
circuit held that it lacks jurisdiction to hear interlocutory appeals in motions to terminate consent decrees. In 1984 the United States sued the state of Michigan over unconstitutional prison conditions. The lawsuit was settled with a consent decree where the state of Michigan ...

PLRA Three Strikes Ruling Vacated

In the February, 1997, issue of PLN we reported Lyon v. Vandekrol , 940 F. Supp. 1433 (SD IA 1996) where a federal district court held that 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g), section 804 of the PLRA, violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. constitution. Section 1915(g ...

Consent Decree Termination Upheld

In the June, 1997, issue of PLN we
reported Inmates of Suffolk County Jail v. Sheriff of Suffolk County , 952 F. Supp. 869 (D MA 1997) in which a federal district court in Massachusetts upheld 18 U.S.C. § 3626, the PLRA provision which allows for the immediate termination of ...

Seventh Circuit Upholds Constitutionality of Physical Injury Requirement

The court of appeals for the seventh circuit upheld the constitutionality of section 803(d) of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) which limits money damages to only those cases involving physical injury. Several Indiana state prisoners filed suit under the Eighth amendment claiming mental and emotional injuries stemming from ...

DARK NIGHT Field Notes

DARK NIGHT field notes

DARK NIGHT field notes is a most excellent quarterly magazine chronicling progressive struggle. Why I had never been exposed to this zine before, I don't know. Issue #11 (its focus on prison struggle) found its way to my desk, and after reading it I knew ...

Prisoner 'Stress Response Syndrome' Described

The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) and related court rulings have raised imposing obstacles to prison civil rights litigation, effectively gutting class action claims against overcrowding and other conditions of confinement. Increasingly, courts require a showing of how such conditions are violating the constitutional rights of individual plaintiffs, rather than ...

Truth Takes a Holiday in Virginia DOC Press Release

Virginia state prisons chief Ron Angelone announced in July, 1997, that he would drop his blanket ban on reporters entering prisons for face-to-face interviews with prisoners, but said reporters would still not be allowed into 10 of Virginia's 52 state prisons.

"I remain steadfast in my contention," said Angelone ...

Behind Closed Doors: Struggle in Washington IMU's

In the "Intensive Management Unit" at the state prison in Shelton, WA a man who looks to be in his 50s is wearing an orange plastic rain jacket and pacing the parameter of the "yard." The yard is really just a 30-by-40-foot cement room with metal screen for a ceiling ...

Former Texas Prison Chief Indicted

The former head of the Texas prison system has been indicted on six counts of federal bribery, conspiracy, fraud and money-laundering charges stemming from his role in a shady multi-million dollar contract to purchase a soy-based meat substitute to feed Texas prisoners. [The VitaPro scandal is discussed in detail in ...

Eight California Prison Guards Indicted

by W. Wisely

It's going to be duck-hunting season," said one of the Corcoran prison guards who staged fights between prisoners in rival gangs just before Preston Tate was shot and killed according to Department of Corrections reports. Now eight Corcoran guards, including a lieutenant and two sergeants, are ...

Presence of Prison Rape in Utah Denied

Early in 1996 Utah's Legislature mandated that state prison hospitals achieve national accreditation. Consequently, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) was given a three-day review of Utah prison medical records and a tour of Utah prisons, including interviews with prisoners and staff. Accreditation is based on a ...

New Mexico S.Ct Grants Asylum to Little Rock Reed

Timothy Reed, better known as Little Rock Reed, fled from Ohio parole authorities in 1993, ending up in new Mexico. Ohio filed extradition papers with New Mexico authorities, expecting Reed to be apprehended and returned to their custody. The New Mexico district court, however, refused extradition in Reed v. Ortiz ...

FBI Law Enforcement Sting Nabs 53 in Ohio

FBI Law Enforcement Sting Nabs 53 In Ohio

In February, 1998, a federal grand jury indicted 53 Cleveland area people as a result of an FBI sting operation where federal agents posed as drug kingpins and hired police, county jail guards, a deputy sheriff, and several "law enforcement imposters" to ...

High-Tech Vendors Penetrate Prison Market

by W. Wisely

Ascanner that detects a heartbeat fifteen feet underground, a razor blade that crumbles when tampered with, clear plastic televisions and radios. Sound like some high-tech future? Guess again. These are just a few of the new technologies being used and considered by the California Department of Corrections ...

$350,000 Awarded in Ohio Prisoner Death

$350,000 Awarded In Ohio Prisoner Death

Sybil Norris, 29, was doing a six-month stretch for shoplifting at the Ohio Reformatory for Women when she died, needlessly, of an asthma attack.

Two years later, in December 1997, the Ohio Court of Claims awarded $350,000 ($150,000 for pain and ...

California Whistleblowers Silenced, Punished

Two California prisoners, suspected of tipping reporters to a controversial story inside the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility near San Diego, were placed in administrative segregation (aka "the hole") and later transferred to other prisons.

A San Diego television station reported in September, 1997, that workers in the prison's ...

Wisconsin Joins the Control-Unit Fraternity

Wisconsin Joins The Control-Unit Fraternity

On the morning of December 17, 1997, as thirty protesters gathered in a parking lot in Boscobel, a small farm town isolated in the rural southwest corner of Wisconsin, police squad cars wheeled into the lot. Sheriff's deputies informed the demonstrators that signs and ...

Former Arizona Governor Sentenced

 

In September, 1997, Republican Governor J. Fife Symington, III, was convicted in federal court of seven counts of fraud related to fabrications and misrepresentations he made on financial statements in securing loans. Following his conviction, he resigned as Governor.

On February 2, 1998, Symington was sentenced by Federal Judge Roger ...

Another Florida Gain-Time Statute Unconstitutional

In a 5-2 decision the Supreme Court of Florida held that a recently enacted statute requiring the mandatory abrogation of state prisoners' right to earn "incentive gain-time"1 for up to six months following prison disciplinary convictions, was an unconstitutional ex post facto law, as was the administrative promulgated to ...

Transgender Treatment Questioned

The court of appeals for the seventh circuit issued a ruling that prisoners suffering from gender dysphoria (i.e., transexualism) are not entitled to curative treatment under the eighth amendment. The ruling is extremely unusual in that it comes as an "advisory opinion." A long standing judicial principle is that ...

Sexual History Evidence Limited in Rape Suit

Afederal district court in New Mexico held that private prison officials were limited in what questions they could elicit about a prison rape victim's sexual history. Tanya Giron is a prisoner who was forcibly raped by private prison guard Danny Tor2ez while in a Corrections Corporation of America (CCA ...

Hepatitis C Epidemic Threatens California Prisoners

Hepatitis C, a potentially deadly strain of liver disease, is spreading out of control through the California prison system. Blood tests conducted on 4,764 incoming prisoners for a three month period in 1994 showed that 41 percent were infected with the disease. Unlike some other forms of hepatitis, there ...

Pennsylvania Consent Decree Clarified

Afederal district court in Pennsylvania held that a consent decree was applicable only to prisoners confined to six prisons named therein. The court further held that violations of the decree could be considered by the court in contempt proceedings. However, the court would only entertain institution- or system-wide violations, which ...

8th Circuit Orders BOP Sentence Reductions

Joining the third and ninth circuits, the eighth circuit court of appeals held that a BOP program statement denying sentence reductions to non violent drug offenders was contrary to the purpose of 18 U.S.C. § 3621(e)(2)(B), an early release statute which allows a one year sentence ...

Seg Conditions Analyzed for Sandin Purposes

Building on prior recent decisions, the court of appeals for the second circuit held that district courts must analyze segregation conditions when determining whether prisoner plaintiffs have a federal due process liberty interest in remaining free from such confinement. Thomas Wright, a New York state prisoner, was infracted for rioting ...

News in Brief

AZ : On March 17, 1998, Michael Garvey, executive director of the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency was fired for sexually and racially harassing employees. Francine Williams, a former board employee, filed suit claiming Garvey had repeatedly and frequently made sexually offensive and suggestive remarks. Williams, who is Jewish and has ...

Right to Psychiatric Care Clearly Established

The court of appeals for the sixth circuit held that prisoners' right to psychiatric care was clearly established and prison psychiatrists who failed to properly treat a suicidal prisoner were not entitled to qualified immunity from money damages. Anthony Wade was a mentally ill Michigan state prisoner who committed suicide ...

Gender Motivated Violence Act

In the December, 1994, issue of PLN we reported the enactment of the Gender Motivated Violence Act (GMVA), 42 U.S.C. § 13981 and suggested that prisoners and their attorneys consider using it in civil litigation for money damages. To date it does not appear that any prisoners have used ...

Injury Required to Enforce Grand Jury Law

The court of appeals for the District of Columbia circuit held that while individuals can seek judicial enforcement of a law requiring that evidence be presented to a grand jury, the party seeking enforcement must allege injury in order to have standing. Federal prisoners Joe Mohwish and Donald Sargeant sent ...

Washington Child Support Minimum Struck Down

The Washington state court of appeals, Division I, held that RCW 26.19.065, which requires a statutory minimum child support payment of $25 per month, violates federal law and the supremacy clause. David Gilbert, a Washington state prisoner, was court ordered to pay $25 a month in child support ...

Criminal History Inadmissable for Impeachment

In a ruling useful to prisoner litigants whose claims go to trial, a federal district court in New York gave a detailed discussion on the limits of using prior criminal history to impeach the testimony of felon witnesses. While not involving prison or jail litigation per se, the problem is ...