News

California Female Prisoners Sterilized

By Prison Legal News

More than 130 female prisoners at two California facilities were sterilized over a four-year period without required state approval, and some of the women have claimed they were pressured, harassed and even tricked into signing forms agreeing to the sterilizations. The procedure, known as tubal ligation, involves severing a woman’s fallopian tubes to prevent eggs from reaching the uterus; the operation requires general anesthesia and is considered permanent.

The surgeries were performed from 2006 to 2010 at outside medical facilities by doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for California Correctional Health Care Services – the federal court-appointed receiver over CDCR medical care – said the procedures violated state regulations that restrict tubal ligations not deemed medically necessary. They did not, however, violate state law.

According to public records, doctors were paid $147,460 to perform the sterilizations on female prisoners from the California Institution for Women and Valley State Prison in Chowchilla. The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), which first reported the story on July 7, 2013, initially identified 148 prisoners who were sterilized from 2006 to 2010, but that number was later revised downward to 132 after a further review indicated some of the women had been counted twice. “Perhaps 100 more” prisoners were reportedly sterilized between 1997 and 2006.

Although they signed consent forms, several of the women complained they were pressured into agreeing to the procedures by medical staff and doctors, especially the OB-GYN at Valley State Prison, Dr. James Heinrich.

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Sixth Circuit: Disciplinary Conviction Does Not Bar Excessive Force Claim

By Christopher Zoukis

Prisoners who claim they were assaulted by guards in violation of the Eighth Amendment are not barred from challenging such abuse in court even if they were found guilty of disciplinary charges in connection with the incident, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has held. Moreover, it is erroneous for a district court to rely on a guard’s written account of the incident when videotape evidence is readily available.

In overturning a grant of summary judgment in favor of a prison guard, the Court of Appeals ruled that the guard’s alleged act of slamming a handcuffed prisoner into a wall and then to the floor was an event legally distinct from the prisoner’s alleged assault on the guard moments earlier. Prison guards who use excessive force after subduing prisoners are not immunized from court oversight as a result of disciplinary infractions against the prisoner, the Sixth Circuit wrote.

Michigan state prisoner Toran V. Peterson filed suit in federal court, claiming that a prison guard identified only as “Jones” had, without provocation, pushed up on his handcuffed arms to “slam” him into a wall, then lifted him three feet off the ground to slam him to the floor. Peterson was not seriously injured but filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint, alleging cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment among other claims.

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Can Federal Prisoners Blog From Prison?

By Christopher Zoukis

Yesterday a regular Prison
Law Blog
reader, who is preparing to self-report to a Federal Prison Camp,
brought a question to our attention.  He
asked, “Once I self-surrender, can I blog from prison?”  As regular readers of the Prison Law Blog
know, we love tackling First Amendment in the correctional context issues.  We provide some answers on blogging from
prison.

The Question: Can I
Blog From Prison?

Federal prisoners, and those in state custody for that
matter, have a right to the exercise of their First Amendment privileges. 
In the prison context, this means creatively writing and seeking
publication for those creative writings. 
These creative writings could be letters, articles, blog posts, books,
reports, studies, or even drawings.*1  Yes,
even political cartoons are protected by the First Amendment.

The most common question concerns writing in the electronic
realm.  This is a grayer area, but a
solid one from the case law perspective. 
The Federal Bureau of Prisons’ “Manuscript” program statement
clearly states that prisoners are allowed to write for publication and they can
mail out their manuscripts as general correspondence, without staff approval or
authorization.  This is in line with the
BOP’s “Correspondence” program statement.  These program statements, though, don’t
specifically authorize federal prisoners
to write for electronic publication. 
After all, the “Manuscript” program statement was promulgated
in the 1990s, back when the internet wasn’t commonplace in homes and really
wasn’t heard of on cell phones. 
Regardless of the lack of specific and direct authorization to write for
the online marketplace, the Prison Law
Blog
asserts — as case law and other experts in the field support — that
prisoners have a right to write for online publication, either on a personal
blog or at larger media or creative writing outlets (e.g., the Huffington Post, Slate.com, Salon.com, ANDmagazine.com etc.).

Restrictions on Content

In terms of the writing itself, the only real area to be
mindful of is the content.  Prisoners
most certainly can voice their objections to or feelings about anything.  They can also voice their political, personal,
and other sorts of opinions.  But what
they can’t do is violate existing laws through their writings or, more specific
to the prison context, write anything which would hinder the “good order,
security, or operations of the institution.”

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