Monday, June 12, 2006

Better Butter, Better TV and Better Prices? What A Riot!

As reported by KIFI in Idaho Falls:

85 Idaho inmates housed in a Texas jail are on lockdown after a non-violent protest Saturday morning. The inmates refused to return to their cells inside the building after completing recreation time outdoors at the Newton County Correction Center.The protest lasted for over seven hours.They demanded butter for rolls, more television channels and cheaper commissary prices. The warden said preliminary information indicates the prisoners were plaining their demonstration since arriving at the facility to protest their out-of-state transfer.Currently, there are over 400 Idaho inmates housed at the center.Offenders are being sent out of state because Idaho's prisons are full, and have been for several years.The Idaho Department of Corrections estimates 1,400 Idaho offenders will be incarcerated out of state by the year 2010.

In my "own private Idaho," I would like to see the Department of Correction and the Commission of Pardons and Parole issue a joint letter to all out-of-state prisoners that says the following: (1) all prisoners involved in the incident in Texas will have their parole eligibility dates moved back a minimum of two years, (2) all prisoners involved in the incident in Texas will be denied parole and will be required to "top their time out" if they are engaged in any further disobedient or riotous behavior, (3) any other out-of-state prisoners involved in any similar incidents will have their parole eligibility dates moved back, and (4) any additional prison time to be served will be served at an out-of-state prison. Prison isn't supposed to be vacation with room service. It's punishment. It makes me think even harder about Article VII of the Bill of No Rights I posted last week.

Arbitrary and Capricious recently posted a blawg entitled ID: Idaho inmates, Texas abuse, describing an allegation that at least one Idaho inmate had been handcuffed, beaten, and maced at the same Texas facility this last spring. Director Thomas Beauclair and an Idaho delegation flew down to Texas to investigate the incident. That is at least some indication that Idaho authorities take matters of safety and propert treatment of inmates seriously. The inmate involved stated in a letter to his sister that the treatment stopped once the Texas warden was notified and intervened. This emphasizes the fact that inmates should address concerns through proper channels. If the prison employees abused the inmates in a manner that warrants criminal charges, the investigation should be referred to the appropriate prosecution authority. If abuse occurs again, Idaho needs to consider moving the inmates to a different facility.

This latest act of defiance does not appear to be in response to the prior beating allegation. The prior problem also doesn't legitimize being petty about such things as more butter, more channels and cheaper commissary.

I do not feel sympathy for the inmates that get shipped to other states. I believe that when they decided to engage in criminal behavior, they were simultaneously giving up their right to choose what their living arrangements were going to be and for how long. I think it is incredibly unfortunate that Idaho is shipping inmates out of state. I understand that affects families, people who did not commit the crimes. And, it affects prosecutors too. I was recently informed by IDOC that I would have to pay $3,000 to $4,000 in order to get a prisoner back from Minnesota to testify in a robbery trial. But, like many things, being shipped out of state is something that inmates should have given some consideration to before they decided to engage in the criminal behavior that put them in prison. It is no secret that Idaho ships inmates out of state. It has been happening for years. Would-be criminals need to prepare for it. Out-of-state prisoners need to accept it.


At June 14, 2006 7:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I represent two Idaho inmates who are housed out of state. One in Minnesota and one in Texas via Minnesota. The one currently housed in Texas told me immediately upon his arrival that conditions were deplorable. Neither he nor the other Minnesota inmates had any complaints about the facility in Minnesota. I also believe that most inmates are cognizant of their behavior in the facility and very much want to parole as quickly as possible. I find it disturbing that 85 inmates all could be convinced to stage a protest and risk disciplinary sanctions/parole ramifications over butter, and commissary prices. I strongly suspect that their list of demands included much more substantive items than those. Also, a normal inmate has recourse to filing a writ of habeas corpus to address the conditions of confinement. Typically these are fill in the blank forms in the prison law library suited to the particular court that handles those filings (i.e. Ada County). I suspect none of that is available in the Texas facility. Does an Idaho inmate in a Texas prison file a writ in Idaho or Texas? Good question. Lastly, I would note that IDOC was not supposed to ship anyone out of state that had pending cases and as noted I have 2 clients that I'm trying to represent from a time zone away.

You may ultimately be correct in your comments but I suspect there is far more layers to then onion than indicated in that article.

At June 24, 2006 9:16 AM, Blogger Anonymous Law Student said...

Good post. I'm there all the way with you on the "prison is supposed to be punishment" thing.

The only thing I will say, is that Texas is notorious for taking that to the extreme.

However, prison riots are extremely dangerous. I think agree that the prisoners should be punished for it. If they have greivances, there are proper channels for that.

At July 20, 2006 4:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One wonders how Killeen will handle this type of (inevitable) event in the future - he did, after all, _sue_ the DOC for housing inmates in county jails.

At July 28, 2006 10:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the last comment regarding riots should be totally unaccepted and punishable. The incarcerated must have several channels they can air their greivances and be heard and considered if valid. To say the incarcerated should not expect it to be a motel or resort is correct but they should not also expect to be treated or placed in a mid-evil atmosphere.
I can't help but wonder why the overcrowding of the prisons really exist? Is it possible that maybe certain judicial communities need funding to keep their negatively runned programs for "crisis", etc.. There seems a high percentage of people getting incarcerated for first time bad check writing, DUI's and domestic problems. There should be mandatory alternative programs that are proactive and set up to truly help lower reoccurance percentage. I think if it becomes necessary and prison becomes the only option I.S.C.I. has one of the more proactive programs going and for the most part staff that have a proactive approach, and at least some respect. Unfortunately most the private prisons don't have the same. It should be recognized that a lot of the incarcerated have treatable emotional or mental challenges that these programs CAN help to making thier reentry back into society successful. A lot of these people that are incarcerated aren't "bad" people. They just need the opportunity to learn better life skills and ways of redirecting and handling thier emotions/stresses/etc. Treating people like cattle with no respect or concern is a very blinded, self rightous approach in my opinion. No one person is perfect or without fault. Some are "luckier" or working in positions where they can feed on their "blind" thinking and get away with it. Unfornuately,in that situation, neither that person in "power" nor the person incarcerated ever gets the help they need.


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