Crackdown on jailhouse lawyers
SHELTON, Wash.—Inside the Intensive Management Unit we are limited to four hours per week to do legal research on the computer. The computer program is called Versus Law. It is a system that is much less adequate than what the state attorneys general have at their disposal.
For example, the states have the Westlaw and Lexis Nexis systems with access to all informational databases in the 50 states. This includes access to the lower federal courts, intermediate federal courts, and the Supreme Court.
Their system allows status flags to show up if a case has been overruled by other decisions. Along with trained paralegals with the proper education to assist the attorneys general, they have access to photocopying services, notaries public, and the "good old boy" club whose members look out for each other.
A prisoner, on the other hand, has to go through a giant obstacle course to fight for his innocence. He has to expose violations of procedural or evidentiary errors, and any other prejudices which the criminal injustice system has placed on them. Many prisoners lack the educational skills to fully understand the governmental process. Many are still trying to learn how to read and write effectively.
There are very few prisoners in here who actually have a firm understanding of the legal process in order to file post-conviction remedies such as writs of HABEAS CORPUS, personal restraint peititions, direct appeals, discretionary reviews, writs of MANDAMUS, writs of CERTIORARI, and other matters such as civil rights violations (42 U.S.C.§ 1983) suits, and so on.
The older convict generation who fought for our rights, and presented to the courts a picture of life from inside the U.S. prison system, are now dying off. A new, younger generation is taking the place of the older one who had to endure harsh, often dangerous, conditions.
This generation of older cons, whom I mostly respect, caused a drastic change from within the prison system. They created a new class of citizen within the corporate justice system in which all the legal publishing companies learned that they could market off the expense of our lives from within these walls.
The era of the prison litigator is dying due to a new breed of politicians who have this lock-'em-up, throw-away-the-key mentality. This narrow-thinking group has a lot of dirt under its own rug and is just trying to sway us away from the big picture. These politicians make so-called budget cuts to slowly take away educational programs, legal and research books, and so on.
Instead of a maturing civilized society, we are going backwards inside these walls to the days when prison conditions were much harsher. Only now it seems the younger generation has been numbed in their way of thinking. They have forgotten about the founding generation of prison reformers who made it possible for us to have what we take for granted.
—Michael T. Donery (political P.O.W.)
Published by News and Letters Committees