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  #1  
Old 07-06-2018, 02:04 PM
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Default Can't Believe I am actually trying this

So,
I was trying to find ways to help guys and girls getting released to see that they can make it just like I have. One of the other guys I talk to who just got out a few months ago as well as someone I know on the inside both said why don't I do something for people who are still in as well as going in. I asked like what and they both said same thing. Since I am writing great papers for school, why not put together a manual on inmate rights and the right way to get jail and prison staff to do what we need and something telling people not only how to survive in the system but to encourage them to make it by showing them they can survive. So I started the Prisoners' Rights Handbook. It is a work in progress. If all goes well the Survivors Guide to Jail and Prison (You can do this) will be written as well. While I did pretty well on the first chapter, I'm still trying to figure how to get this to people on the inside.

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Old 07-06-2018, 02:10 PM
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Is this area specific? Rules, regs and general conduct expectations vary wildly between jurisdictions and even inside of those.

I'm interested in how you frame "getting prison staff to do what you need" because those parameters are generally laid out inside the departments' operation or regulations manual.

A handbook on surviving incarceration would be more realistic in the general sense that there are social and emotional aspects that department manuals definitely don't advise inmates through. But even that would need a lot of research from a psychology and boots on the ground perspective.
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Old 07-06-2018, 02:51 PM
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Yeah, not to pooh-pooh the idea, but it sounds like you might be trying to reinvent the wheel.

Every inmate in every jurisdiction can request the official prison "Policies and Procedures" manual from staff at any time, which explains prison rules and how to go about making requests the proper way through proper channels.

The problem is, those "policies and procedures" vary greatly between states and are being updated constantly, so there really is no one-size-fits-all instruction. You'd have to do tons of research and publish a different manual for every state if you really wanted to give prisoners accurate information.
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Old 07-06-2018, 03:44 PM
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Not even just state to state... even facilities in the same state or same CITY can have totally different protocol.

Even emotional and etiquette advice wouldn’t be applicable from one prison to another. Each prison has its own culture, its own etiquette, its own unspoken rules.

Frankly... your scope is astronomical and you need to narrow it WAY down. You may even be opening yourself up to legal trouble if you provide inaccurate information in an official-sounding manner and someone finds themselves hurt or in trouble for following it.
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Old 07-06-2018, 11:14 PM
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Also, on any writing project you should check out whoever's written other things sort of like it. In your case I'd look at Michael Santos and Christopher Zoukis.
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Old 07-07-2018, 08:47 AM
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In your case I'd look at Michael Santos and Christopher Zoukis.
And even those guys are only "experts" when it comes to federal prison, they don't have much experience in state.

Those heading to prison can find just as much sage advice (and probably more up-to-date information) just by coming here to PrisonTalk and asking questions, rather than paying some consultant thousands of dollars or buying expensive books for the same information they can get here for free.
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Old 07-11-2018, 12:28 AM
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Originally Posted by joetnymedic View Post
So,
I was trying to find ways to help guys and girls getting released to see that they can make it just like I have. One of the other guys I talk to who just got out a few months ago as well as someone I know on the inside both said why don't I do something for people who are still in as well as going in. I asked like what and they both said same thing. Since I am writing great papers for school, why not put together a manual on inmate rights and the right way to get jail and prison staff to do what we need and something telling people not only how to survive in the system but to encourage them to make it by showing them they can survive. So I started the Prisoners' Rights Handbook. It is a work in progress. If all goes well the Survivors Guide to Jail and Prison (You can do this) will be written as well. While I did pretty well on the first chapter, I'm still trying to figure how to get this to people on the inside.

Joe
Bless you for doing this! I hope it comes that you end up netwrking with others so that Prisoner's Rights Handbook eventually could have reigon specific incarnations. Dont be disuaded, there are plenty of individuals who dont want prisoners to know such things!
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Old 07-11-2018, 07:14 AM
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Bless you for doing this! I hope it comes that you end up netwrking with others so that Prisoner's Rights Handbook eventually could have reigon specific incarnations. Dont be disuaded, there are plenty of individuals who dont want prisoners to know such things!
It has nothing to do with not wanting prisoners to know things. It’s a matter of not wanting someone to disseminate incorrect or misleading information. A couple of guys experiences in one prison is not enough research, and the OP indicated he has already written one chapter based on that information.

Others were simply pointing out that accurate, up-to-date, and facility-specific information is already widely available online and in the handbook each inmate receives at intake- rendering such a “handbook” somewhat less than useful.
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Old 07-11-2018, 11:05 AM
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One logical place to touch base would be Paul Wright at Prison Legal News. He might have some clear ideas about what's needed and what's possible.

Now I'm curious. There's been more than one comment here recommending the admission and orientation handbooks the facilities hand out. Are those more accurate than I've heard? Do any of them provide advice about what information to put in a grievance form and how to organize it?
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Old 07-11-2018, 11:42 AM
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One logical place to touch base would be Paul Wright at Prison Legal News. He might have some clear ideas about what's needed and what's possible.

Now I'm curious. There's been more than one comment here recommending the admission and orientation handbooks the facilities hand out. Are those more accurate than I've heard? Do any of them provide advice about what information to put in a grievance form and how to organize it?
I went downstairs and grabbed an orientation handbook to see what’s up. There’s a whole chapter on grievances and what to do, divided up into sections like facilities, healthcare, phones/visiting/mail, finances. There’s also a template for the form in the book so they can just copy it on regular paper.

Obviously every club is different, but this is remarkably thorough.
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Old 07-11-2018, 11:53 AM
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One logical place to touch base would be Paul Wright at Prison Legal News. He might have some clear ideas about what's needed and what's possible.

Now I'm curious. There's been more than one comment here recommending the admission and orientation handbooks the facilities hand out. Are those more accurate than I've heard? Do any of them provide advice about what information to put in a grievance form and how to organize it?
Would not those handbooks be a layout of THAT faciiliities rules and laws of behaviour etc. Even if they are including various oppurtunities/classes/programs that may be available through the prison...But not really the same thing as an inmate being aware of what rights that they should still retain while incarcerated.
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Old 07-11-2018, 01:23 PM
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The thing you have to keep in mind with prison, is that the moment you walk through those prison gates, you forfeit most of your rights.

You no longer have a First Amendment right to free speech, free assembly, or free practice of religion. If you try to organize or rile people up or form a protest, you're going to find it broken up pretty quick and the instigators thrown in the hole. You can only practice your religion at set times once a week if the chaplain allows, provided an outside facilitator is available to come in to host.

You certainly have no Second Amendment right to bear arms, or weapons of any kind.

You have no Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure -- you and your property can and will be searched at any time, for any reason, as prison staff sees fit.

You have limited Fifth Amendment rights against being a witness against yourself. You can choose to remain silent during disciplinary hearings, but your silence can be held against you, unlike how it's supposed to work on the outs.

You have no Sixth Amendment right to an attorney, nor may you necessarily question witnesses, during parole hearings. You can hire a parole attorney at your own expense, but one won't be provided to you free of charge.

You have no Seventh Amendment right to trial by jury, for any disciplinary hearing. Your case will be decided solely by a few administrative staff, or the appointed parole board, not by your peers.

And, of course, the Thirteenth Amendment abolishes slavery, EXCEPT as punishment for a crime. So you can be forced to submit to slave labor without compensation as well, or face disciplinary action if you refuse to work.

Really, the only rights you retain as a prisoner are your Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishments. And even those are open to interpretation by the courts.

By and large, you have few rights in prison. You only have allowances, those spelled out in the prison rulebook (Polices and Procedures), telling you what you are allowed to do, and only then if you go through the proper channels.

And that's what we've been saying in this thread... those particular rules (polices and procedures) vary between institutions, so your best bet is to just look them up when you get there. Either from the intake handbook at orientation that is usually pretty thorough or from the more verbose P&P manual that you can request from staff at any time. And of course, your fellow prisoners can always help show you the ropes.
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Old 07-11-2018, 08:35 PM
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There's another issue to this in my experience - which is that the official rules aren't always observed. I ran across many instances where staff just didn't follow the rule - sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. A lot depended on which staff person was involved and sometimes on how that person was feeling on that day. In fact, one of the most difficult things about the whole experience is that you could not rely on any rule, even one you didn't like, being enforced or followed consistently. And since, as Nickel Timer points out, you have no rights, there isn't much you can do when the rules aren't followed...



I am, though, all for trying to give people more info about what prison is like - which I think this site does as well as anywhere. I'm sure none of us want to discourage OP from being helpful, but writing it up in a booklet may not achieve what he wants.
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Old 07-11-2018, 11:12 PM
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I don't know if it's competition or inspiration, but check out this book about prison disciplinary action:
https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/stor...gation-manual/
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Old 07-11-2018, 11:53 PM
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Purely out of curiosity, I Googled "Prisoner's Bill of Rights" to see what would come up. In short, nothing further than what's been said here. Things like sexual harassment, racial discrimination, abuses of power...all of those, as well as the complaint procedure, are typically covered in the handbook issued or available to inmates at every facility.

I did find this of interest for those addressing a failure of the facility or department to observe basic rights or a challenge to the procedures practiced by a department of corrections. It's the National Prison Project Litigation Docket. It's a listing, by state of litigation for practices believe to be violations of inmate rights. These cases, and their outcomes, may prove useful in pursuing action if your loved one feels their rights-- which again, are few, have been violated.

I think the big takeaway from this thread is that while the intent is good, it's essentially reinventing the wheel and at that, taking it backward a few steps. Correction departments outline policies and procedures and every time I've looked, I've been able to find those online so it's not privileged information. There are websites and organizations that specialize in inmate rights, like the ACLU. Weigh their entire research and legal team's experience against the potential of one person exploring inmate rights and you might feel a bit like a snowflake staring up at an iceberg. Personal experiences are valuable, but again, we have the largest inmate population in the world. Massive amounts of narrative already comes out from behind the gates. Part of PTO's work is to share that.

So, as the potential author, what could a single volume of work provide to inmates of all walks of life that isn't already out there?
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Old 07-12-2018, 07:48 AM
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There are websites and organizations that specialize in inmate rights, like the ACLU.
And that is definitely worthy of mention... IF indeed you exhaust all official prison channels and still can't get help with a legitimate complaint, you can always write to your local ACLU chapter for further assistance.

But it should be stressed that the ACLU can only help if you've completely exhausted the entire grievance process, including appeals, so that there is a clear paper trail of prison staff being non-responsive to a legitimate complaint. So your first line of recourse is still to follow prison polices and procedures and give them a chance to work first.

Back in 2010, I volunteered on as legal intern for the ACLU of Idaho for several months, and my first job assignment was helping screen and triage all the intake mail from prisoners, so that the one dedicated staff attorney on payroll could assist with responding to legitimate complaints. The most frustrating part of the job though was that there were just so many frivolous complaints to sift through, people whining about minor issues or inconveniences or just "unfair treatment" by their prosecutor or judge or particular facts of their case, that even the few legitimate complaints we often found the prisoner hadn't exhausted the grievance process first to give prison staff a chance to remedy the issue before any further legal action could be taken.

There ARE civil remedies that can be pursued in cases of genuine prison abuse of rights. Measures such as 1983/Bivens actions or even class-action lawsuits in cases where wholesale neglect/abuse is going on. But again, there's going to need to be documentation. There's going to need to be a paper trail. And that means going through the official chain-of-command and doing things by the book first, to give the prison a chance to respond and take care of it, which they usually do. Because prisons don't like being sued.
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Old 07-12-2018, 10:49 AM
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And that is definitely worthy of mention... IF indeed you exhaust all official prison channels and still can't get help with a legitimate complaint, you can always write to your local ACLU chapter for further assistance.

But it should be stressed that the ACLU can only help if you've completely exhausted the entire grievance process, including appeals, so that there is a clear paper trail of prison staff being non-responsive to a legitimate complaint. So your first line of recourse is still to follow prison polices and procedures and give them a chance to work first.
Absolutely. I was a bit unclear in my post. I was thinking along the lines of searchable and printable information that the OP was looking to share, the ACLU website has a plethora of easy access articles and redirects. I can't imagine trying to fit 1/10th of that info into a handbook along with everything else under the umbrella of "rights and survival".
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Old 07-13-2018, 07:02 AM
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The other thing to note... Some states flat out ban self help books for various reasons. You would need to investigate whether you could even reach your target audience.
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Old 07-13-2018, 08:48 AM
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Not everybody knows how to create a solid paper trail. That takes practice and education. Maybe there's value in telling people how to skip the things that don't work.

I'm thinking here of someone I never met or exchanged letters with but who indirectly got me into prison reform. She discovered that her fellow inmates were doing a bad job filling out grievance forms and began helping them write more effective ones. The prison authorities did not thank her.

The WA DOC ombudsman will have as one job giving inmates technical assistance with self-advocacy. There's a lot more to it than "Here's where you get the form and here's where you drop it off and here are the deadlines". Teaching people to write who-what-when-where, to build timelines, to know what it makes sense to ask for -- those are out of scope for an A&O handbook.
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Old 07-13-2018, 09:44 AM
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Anyone can create a paper trail.

The biggest problem I saw with complaints not being addressed inside was due to very poor grammar skills on the part of the complainant, making it hard for their concerns to be properly articulated.

Keep in mind that the vast majority of prisoners inside are high school drop-outs, so their English skills are often abysmal.

Quote:
Of all of the males in federal and state prisons, 80 percent do not have a high school diploma.
https://slspotlight.com/opinion/2018...-go-to-prison/

That isn't a problem that is going to be solved by self-help books. Only by offering more classes and formal education, helping prisoners improve their reading and writing skills, can they learn to be better communicators. Not just in prison, but in all walks of life.
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Old 07-13-2018, 10:35 AM
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Not everybody knows how to create a solid paper trail. That takes practice and education. [...]Teaching people to write who-what-when-where, to build timelines, to know what it makes sense to ask for -- those are out of scope for an A&O handbook.
I think Nickel hit it on the head. I agree with you, but yet another handbook won't help folks struggling with basic comprehension/communication skills. Unless-- and I'm going off the idea that this book will be written come hell or high water, that advice is something along the lines of find a mentor who knows how to file grievances and ask for assistance. But that opens up the fish for a whole world of trouble, as well.
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Old 07-13-2018, 07:59 PM
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Unfortunately not all ACLU's engage in prisoner's rights. In Arkansas they will send pamphlets but only take death penalty cases to litigate. They do not have funds to provide any attorneys to suport prisoner's rights. In Vermont the ACLU does no prisoner's rights litigation, they refere everyone tot he State Pirsoner's Right's Office at teh Defender General, who does have attorneys to litigate prisoner's rights issues.



Another area a lot of people neglect to use are the Disability Rights federally funded projects in each state who have staff attorneys to assist those with disabilities, like mental illness, and will assist prisoners.



It sounds like the OP is trying to give general knowledge but in the area of grievances, medical care etc. The ACLU National Prisoner Project produces pamphlets which can be printed from the internet and sent to inmates. The Center for Constitutional publishes the Jailhouse Lawyer's Handbook which can be found here for printing https://ccrjustice.org/sites/default...rsHandbook.pdf.



Prison Legal News sells Protecting Your Health and Safety for $10 which talks about grievances.



As everyone has mentioned it is different from jurisdiction to jurisdictional and even from federal circuit to federal circuit.



I agree that just because it's a policy doesn't mean it is followed by DOC. What if DOC doesn't answer a grievance? In some jurisdictions the case law says the grievance is denied and the administrative remedies are exhausted and litigation can ensue. In others the inmate must administratively appeal the failure to answer through the entire grievance process.



My point is that it might be best to provide these available resources to those who ask by spending the time and resources to print and mail them. That is a big help to those inside trying to deal with issues and grievances.





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And that is definitely worthy of mention... IF indeed you exhaust all official prison channels and still can't get help with a legitimate complaint, you can always write to your local ACLU chapter for further assistance.

But it should be stressed that the ACLU can only help if you've completely exhausted the entire grievance process, including appeals, so that there is a clear paper trail of prison staff being non-responsive to a legitimate complaint. So your first line of recourse is still to follow prison polices and procedures and give them a chance to work first.

Back in 2010, I volunteered on as legal intern for the ACLU of Idaho for several months, and my first job assignment was helping screen and triage all the intake mail from prisoners, so that the one dedicated staff attorney on payroll could assist with responding to legitimate complaints. The most frustrating part of the job though was that there were just so many frivolous complaints to sift through, people whining about minor issues or inconveniences or just "unfair treatment" by their prosecutor or judge or particular facts of their case, that even the few legitimate complaints we often found the prisoner hadn't exhausted the grievance process first to give prison staff a chance to remedy the issue before any further legal action could be taken.

There ARE civil remedies that can be pursued in cases of genuine prison abuse of rights. Measures such as 1983/Bivens actions or even class-action lawsuits in cases where wholesale neglect/abuse is going on. But again, there's going to need to be documentation. There's going to need to be a paper trail. And that means going through the official chain-of-command and doing things by the book first, to give the prison a chance to respond and take care of it, which they usually do. Because prisons don't like being sued.
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Old 07-13-2018, 11:22 PM
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So, go by the book, but how do you make it persuasive to prison employees who are trained to believe everything an inmate says is manipulation or lies? That's a key question that the A&O handbook isn't going to answer.
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