ACLU Lawsuit Charging Inadequate Care At Women’s Prison To Proceed

ACLU Lawsuit Charging Inadequate Care At Women’s Prison To Proceed
Federal Judge Rejects State Request To Dismiss Class Action Lawsuit

FOR IMMEDIATE ERELEASE
November 25, 2009

CONTACT:
Will Matthews, ACLU National, (212) 549-2582 or 2666; media@aclu.org

Chris Ahmuty, ACLU of Wisconsin, (414) 272-4032, ext.13; cahmuty@aclu-wi.org

MILWAUKEE – A federal judge has denied a request by Wisconsin state officials to dismiss a class action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin and the law firm of Jenner & Block charging that grossly deficient health care and mental health treatment jeopardizes the lives of women prisoners at a state prison.

In a sternly-worded ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph T. Randa said there “is a great deal of evidence demonstrating that there are systemic and gross deficiencies in staffing, facilities and procedures” at the Taycheedah Correctional Institution (TCI), Wisconsin’s largest women’s prison, and that the evidence suggests that state prison officials “are and have been subjectively aware of the risks that are posed by the administration of medical and mental health care at
TCI.” Judge Randa described the state’s attempt to have the case dismissed as “curious” given that the state’s own expert witness described health care at TCI as a system “designed to let people ‘fall through the cracks.’”

“I am pleased that the court is allowing our litigation to proceed and look forward to bringing the case to trial,” said Gabriel Eber, staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project. “Without court-ordered changes, women at TCI will continue to suffer needlessly in a system that still fails to comply with the requirements of the Constitution.”

In a first-of-its-kind class action lawsuit filed in 2006 on behalf of women prisoners in Wisconsin, the ACLU charges that the state prison system puts the lives of women prisoners at risk through grossly deficient health care, provides far inferior mental health treatment as compared to men and fails to provide reasonable accommodations to allow prisoners with disabilities to access basic prison services. Judge Randa’s decision allows all three claims to proceed to trial.

The lawsuit asks the court to order reforms to the system so that constitutionally adequate care is made available. In April 2009, Judge Randa entered a preliminary injunction ordering that significant changes be made immediately to TCI’s dangerous system of administering medications to prisoners.

The ACLU’s lawsuit charges that the prison’s health system violates the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The lawsuit also charges the health system violates the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection, because the women receive mental health care far inferior to what male prisoners receive. The ACLU says in the lawsuit that these lapses in mental health care occur against the backdrop of a prison system that has a suicide rate of twice the national average.

“Judge Randa’s decision recognizes a ‘mountain of evidence’ showing the continued failure of state officials to fix a system that has been in crisis for years,” said Larry Dupuis, Legal Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “It is far past time that state officials be held accountable.”

The lawsuit names as defendants a number of senior officials in the state corrections department as well as Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle.

A copy of Judge Randa’s ruling is available online at: www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/flynn-et-al-vdoyle-
et-al-decision-and-order

A copy of the ACLU complaint is available online at: www.acluwi.
org/wisconsin/police_prisons/TCI%20Complaint%20–%20for%20filing.pdf

News from Utah State Prison, Draper 2009

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Utah State Prison, Draper 2009
I wish strength to all comrades worldwide. Last year on April 16th I caused a code red
count by not racking in and having the SWAT Team deployed. For a couple hours I was
considered AWOL from this Utah plantation. I sat in protest of the conditions and unjust
treatment we were subject to last spring.
Since then I’ve been housed here in supermax, and along with the escape attempt they
charged me with last year, there’ve been several inciting riots and disorderly conducts.
My comrades in these actions have since been moved, if that’s the word. One terminated
or paroled and I wish him luck on the streets. The other, after continual abuses, resorted
to hanging himself last month. And I want to just say to Spider and all those that choose
that route, you’re not forgotten and may you finally rest. I’m exposing as much as I can
about these sadistic guards and have been studying law to better arm myself and
eventually bring a rock solid case against the USP.
One pig was fired because of me documenting his exploits, but he has since been
rehired, though it seems, and I hope, it’s only temporary. The pig got a lawyer and he’s
suing the DOC for firing him. Sgt. Feikert doesn’t realize that in a way he’s now fighting
on our side, the oppressed side. His lawsuit will weaken his and the prison industrial
complex’s capital. No matter who eventually wins, it’s still a pig-on-pig fight and I can
think of no better way at their throats than that.
By refusing OMR, I and others, especially almost all of section 3, have pretty much shut
down most all moves and the pigs have had to come up with new policies and rules to
move us. One comrade in section 3 has been back here over 15 years, but his story is
he’s been kept here because the pigs fear his mind and political actions. The section 3
strike has, I assume, been his resistance and I want to wish strength to him and all those
who are down.
Amerikan prisons are growing and no way a body looks at that fact is positive. Yet as a
presence, us comrades are growing also. Both in numbers and knowledge, strength, and
solidarity. We must all not become complacent but train our bodies and minds to be ready for action when the call to arms sounds. It’s not ‘if,’ it’s ‘when.’
(Rage Against the Machine) Word is born, Fight the war, fuck the norm, Now I got no
patience, So sick of complacence, With the D – E – F – I – A – N – C- E, Mind of a
revolutionary, So clear the lane, The finger to the land of the chains, What? The land of
the free? Whoever told you that is your enemy, Now something must be done, About
vengeance, a badge and a gun, Now action must be taken, We don’t need the key, We’ll
break in.
I feel the time is nearing for revolution as the bloodthirsty U.S. overextends militarily
overseas, and opportunities and weaknesses are becoming exposed here at home. Every
small strike or rebellion we cause matters. We must remember that, and I want to say
RIGHT ON to P.A.N. and all those that uphold the struggle by letting our voices be
heard. We, as captives, have really no choice but to struggle. Either we struggle as a
whole or lay down. But these ABC Networks and others have my, and I think I speak
for us all, appreciation and respect, for all the tiresome, time consuming work and
support you all provide for us convicts.
In Unity! Up the Struggle!
Brandon Green #35439,
UI 208
Utah State Prison P.O. Box 250,
Draper, Utah 84020

Prisoner assaulted by staff in Ely State Prison

1st of December 2009

I would like to open this letter with my utmost respects. I was told to write you & tell you about my story in hopes of a little help! Here´s the truthful story about an assault that two C.O.´s put on me.

My name is Jeremiah Van Clinton. On 11-16-09 I was told by two C.O.´s (H. & J.) in Unit 2B-25 at Ely State Prison Max. to cuff up & they were doing a cell search of my cell so I did cuff up in hand & leg cuffs. I was brought to a gated locked shower, while those C.O.´s conducted a search on my cell.

I was in the shower 10 to 15 minutes when the C.O.´s H. & J. finally came to get me to go back to my room. I asked the two C.O.´s what they took out of my room & C.O. Herring told me “Not to fucking worry about it!” I said: “Don´t bite my head off, I was just asking a question.” The C.O.´s got my shower open and C.O. Herring grabbed one of my arms & Jones the other. C.O. H. yanked me out of the showers, almost making me fall, since I was in hand & leg cuffs. He told me: “So you think you´re tough! I´ll fuck you up, you´re not shit!”
I said: “I´m not trying to be tough, I just asked a question that´s it.”

C.O. H. said: “Turn around or I´ll plant your face on the floor.” He said: “Walk faster” too. I turned my head and told´em: “I can´t walk no faster, in leg cuffs, stop yanking me so hard. I didn´t even get to turn my head back before C.O. H. stepped on my leg chain & shoved me to the ground; he got into my ear and said: “I´ll kill you, you ain´t shit!” J. had my feet and was saying: “Stop resisting, faggot.” I said I am not resisting, I didn´t do shit!”

C.O. H. then put me in a choke hold and was choking me until I couldn´t breathe. Then he got in my ear again & said: “Fuck you, you ain´t shit, why don´t you give me a real reason to fuck you up?”

He finally stopped choking me and I said: “You just choked me for no reason.” Then that is when I felt the first (k)nee to the back of my head causing my forehead to hit the guard rail real hard, making a bump right away, then the second (k)nee hit me causing my right eye to hit the floor, then the third nee hit me, causing my left eye to hit the rail so hard it almost knocked me out & it slipped my whole eye open so bad, I had to be rushed to the hospital for inside and outside stitches. There is a camera footage of my face & pictures. I now got a two inch scar, headache that never goes away & numbness, and my eyebrow twitches uncontrollably. I got witnesses who saw it and made affidavits, stating what they have seen.

They moved me out of my unit and would not let me talk to no one. I was not given nothing for the pain, even after I asked. Instead of the C.O.´s getting into trouble for clearly using unnecessary force and violating my 8th Amendment, they wrote me up, falsifying legal documents, keeping me from witnesses, and now they are moving me to a whole other prison & did not give me no pain meds.

They say I was resisting and trying to head-butt the C.O.´s, but that is not what the witnesses saw, even though they don´t count, ´cause they are criminals, and cops are always right.

If you could please help in some way I would be so very grateful for it. I don´t know anything about the law.

Thanks and Please,

Jeremiah

Jeremiah Clinton
#95836
NSP
P.O. Box 607
Carson City, Nevada 89702

Letter to the Editor about Members of the Pardons Board

From the Sparks Tribune (but not yet published online…) (click to see larger version).

Letter to the Editor, by Tonja Brown. December 27, 2009.

Dear Editor,
I’m writing this letter in an effort to bring to light the injustice that is being perpetrated by our public officials, four of whom are now up for re-election: Justices James Hardesty and Ron Parraguirre, Attorney General Masto and our governor, Jim Gibbons.

In May, Judge Brent Adams ordered Washoe County District Attorney, Dick Gammick to turn over the entire file in Mr. Nolan Klein’s case. On June 10, newly discovered evidence was found. On June 24, I appeared before the Nevada Pardons Board to bring it to their attention the acts within in the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office.

I presented to the Pardons Board dozens of documents, including the hand-written notes, that a former assistant district attorney made on our motion for discovery that he was not going to turn over any of the materiality or exculpatory evidence despite a 1988 court order to do so. The Pardons Board knew that this attorney violated Brady v. Maryland by withholding all of the materiality and exculpatory evidence that showed another person was responsible for the crime in which my innocent brother, Nolan Klein, was convicted of 21 years ago.

On Nov. 19, the Pardons Board knew that the assistant district attorney had defied a court order to turn over all of the evidence in the case. They also knew that the newly discovered evidence that was found in the file that would not only clear Mr. Klein of the crime but newly discovered evidence was found that supports Mr. Klein’s claims in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that our AG Masto is trying to get dismissed because of Mr. Klein’s recent death.

One would think that they would have placed Mr. Klein on the November’s Agenda for an exoneration, but, no they would rather cover up the acts of the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office for the last 21 years. How many more innocent people will die in prison because they want to condone the bad acts of officials under the color of law? Could your loved one be next? We need transparency in government not more cover-ups. We, the voters, need to be heard. We must send a message that we are not going to condone their actions and vote them out of office. For those of you who were considering running for office, here is your opportunity to make a difference.
Tonja Brown
Carson City

Come to the next Meeting of the Board of Prison Commissioners

Next Meeting of the Board of Prison Commissioners: Januari 12, 2010.

Write and send in your comments for the record. Maybe you have questions? Grievances? Unanswered questions? Complaints? Suggestions? This is your chance to submit the comments and if you are in the area, to read them out to the Board.

It may be that you feel not heard by the Board, but remember, if we do not tell them, they can always say the “did not know.” Now, they can not deny that there are abuses and extremely bad conditions in the prisons of Nevada. Because we told the Board about them. Witnesses from inside prisons, and family members, friends of prisoners, professionals like nurses testified of the bad state of the prisons in Nevada.

Should we care? Of course! Most prisoners will be free one day, living in the community again. Do we care about Human Rights? Well prisoners are humans too, even if you or I want to place all our anger, frustration on them. Human rights are not only for ´good´ people….

Investing in proper rehabilitation of prisoners is vital for the rest of the state and country. It costs more to incarcerate a person than to rehabilitate someone, because if it goes well, they will never return to prison. I am not sure whether the authorities want emptier prisons though….

Even better investment would be to start with good education and jobs. Not jobs in the guard/security incarceration industry I mean (although there is a shortage of personnel, leading to frustrations and stress at the workplace, where people are being incarcerated. Maybe also less long sentences would be a solution to create less stressful situations?), but jobs with dignity and respect. Rehabilitating prisoners, and preventing crime from happening by providing better education and help for families with children, and creating less criminal offenses would be a very important step.

Are elderly prisoners really a threat to public safety?

Nursing homes with razor wire
Are elderly prisoners really a threat to public safety?
By David Fathi
LA Times
December 23, 2009

Sometime in the 1970s, the United States began a love affair with incarceration that continues to this day. After holding nearly steady for decades, our prison population began to climb as criminal justice policy took a sharply punitive turn, with the massive criminalization of drug use, “three strikes” laws and other harsh sentencing practices. More people were going to prison, and staying there longer. By 2005, the prison population was six times what it had been in 1975.

One little-known side effect of this population explosion has been a sharp increase in the number of elderly people behind bars. According to the Justice Department, in 1980 the United States had about 9,500 prisoners age 55 and older; by 2008, the number had increased tenfold, to 94,800. That same year, the number of prisoners 50 and older was just shy of 200,000 — about the size of the entire U.S. prison population in the early 1970s.

People age 50 or 55 may seem a bit young to be classified as elderly. But because their lives have often been characterized by poverty, trauma and limited access to medical care and rehabilitative services, most prisoners are physiologically older than their chronological age would suggest, and more likely to have disabling medical conditions than the general population. One study cited by Ronald H. Aday in his 1994 article in Federal Probation concluded that the average prisoner over 50 has a physiological age 11.5 years older than his chronological age.

With 1 in 11 U.S. prisoners serving a life sentence — in some states, the figure is 1 in 6 — it’s no surprise that the number of elderly prisoners is skyrocketing. In 2007, the New York Times profiled then-89-year-old Charles Friedgood, a New York state prisoner who had served more than 30 years of a life sentence for second-degree murder. Although he had terminal cancer and had undergone several operations, including a colostomy, he had been denied parole five times before being released in 2007. Friedgood at least had the opportunity to apply for parole; in some states, parole has been abolished, and a life sentence means exactly that.

Being in prison is hard on anyone, but the elderly face special dangers, particularly if they are ill or disabled. Some have complex medical and mental health needs that prisons are ill-equipped to handle. Many prisons are not accessible to persons with mobility impairments; for them, bathing, using the toilet or even getting in and out of their cells can be a difficult, dangerous challenge. And older prisoners are more likely to be robbed, assaulted or otherwise victimized.

Some states have so many elderly prisoners that they have built special facilities to house them. Several years ago I visited the Ahtanum View Corrections Center, Washington state’s prison for the elderly. Everywhere I looked were aged, frail, disabled people, some of whom could barely move without assistance. The prison’s webpage helpfully points out that a volunteer clergy team is available to assist prisoners with “end-of-life issues.”

The main justification for incarceration is to protect public safety. But it’s hard to see the public safety rationale for keeping so many elderly people in prison.

It’s even harder to understand the economic justification. Incarceration is expensive — about $24,000 per year for the average prisoner, according to a 2008 Pew Center on the States report. Keeping someone over 55 locked up costs about three times as much. Given that criminal behavior drops off dramatically with advancing age, this is a major investment for very little return.

As the United States faces its worst fiscal crisis in decades, many states are taking a hard look at their prisons, which consume a large and increasing portion of state budgets. As part of this long overdue re-examination, lawmakers should ask whether so many elderly people really need to be in prison and whether the state should be in the business of operating nursing homes with razor wire.

David Fathi is director of the U.S. division at Human Rights Watch.

Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-fathi24-2009dec24,0,1216548.story

House Introduces Crucial Prison Litigation Reform Legislation

From: ACLU
December 16, 2009

Bill Would Reform Law That Denies Access To Courts For Victims Of Prison Rape And Other Abuses

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (202) 675-2312 or media@dcaclu.org

WASHINGTON – Congressman Robert Scott (D-VA) introduced landmark legislation today that is aimed at reforming how prisoners can bring lawsuits defending their rights. Congressman Scott’s bill would reform the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) which was originally passed by Congress in 1996 as a way to stem the tide against what were thought to be frivolous lawsuits by prisoners. Since that time, the law has been used repeatedly to deny justice to victims of rape, assault, religious rights violations and other serious abuses. The American Civil Liberties Union has been fighting for necessary reforms to the PLRA on several fronts and lauded the introduction of Congressman Scott’s bill, H.R. 4335, The Prison Abuse Remedies Act of 2009 (PARA).

“The PLRA was passed to curb what were thought to be frivolous lawsuits but it has instead slammed shut the doors of the courthouse to our country’s prisoners who have suffered true and legitimate harm,” said Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Prisoners can suffer torture, unsanitary conditions and degrading treatment and still not meet the requirements to file a lawsuit under the PLRA. Our nation’s prisoners should not continue to be further shackled when it comes to their legal rights.”

For over a decade, the ACLU has opposed certain provisions of the PLRA that prevent prisoners from bringing lawsuits about inhumane treatment and undermine constitutional protections. For example, the PLRA requires that prisoners exhaust the internal complaint process of their correctional institution before they can file a lawsuit. This requirement may sound simple, but in practice it allows prison officials to apply complex and often arbitrary rules that make it impossible for a prisoner to complete grievance processes, especially if the prisoner is mentally ill, illiterate or a juvenile. In addition, this requirement exposes prisoners to retaliation from guards, especially where prisoners are required to give their paperwork to the very guards who have abused them, leading to intimidation, more abuse and a culture where prisoners fear filing complaints because the consequences of standing up for one’s rights can ultimately make life in prison worse.

“For too long, prisoners have been impeded from seeking redress of their most fundamental constitutional and human rights in federal court,” said Amy Fettig, staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project. “It is imperative that the rule of law be returned to U.S. prisons and jails by restoring the ability of federal courts to hold them accountable for violating the Constitution.”

One of the worst requirements of the PLRA mandates that prisoners suffer a narrowly defined physical injury in order to get compensatory damages. Under this provision of the law, some courts have found that victims of sexual assault or prisoners who have had their right to religious freedom violated are denied relief under the law because they were not “physically injured” for purposes of the PLRA.

Application of the PLRA to youth is especially dangerous because children are even more vulnerable than adult prisoners to sexual abuse and other victimization, and many youth either do not know of or do not understand the grievance systems in their facilities, and many more fear retaliation for filing grievances. As a result, the PLRA effectively bars many incarcerated youths, their parents and advocates from being able to address serious problems with their conditions of confinement.

“The PLRA only worsens an already crippled criminal justice system,” said Macleod-Ball. “The new bill is more important than ever with more than one in 100 Americans behind bars, ever-shrinking state budgets and increasingly abusive conditions of confinement. We urge Congress to pass the Prison Abuse Remedies Act as quickly as possible.”

For more information on PLRA visit: www.aclu.org/prison/restrict/32803res20071115.html