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Friday, June 10, 2011

Revised Administrative Remedy Program

This post isn't going to be a step-by-step guide to file a "grievance" through the Administrative Remedy Program, but will instead give a description of the program, what it is for, & how it has recently changed. I am, however, in the process of authoring some "how-to" guides, & the ARP will be thoroughly covered. In the meantime, if you're looking to give some info about the ARP to a loved one in the Mississippi Department of Corrections, you can tell them to start by requesting Policy 20.08 from the Inmate Legal Assistance Program wherever they are housed.


The Administrative Remedy Program (ARP) was certified by the U.S. District Court (Greenville Division) on February 15, 1994. On April 18, 1994, this formal administrative remedy instrument was installed by the Mississippi Department of Corrections in all its facilities for use by any inmate in the custody of the Department. The Prison Litigation Reform Act enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1996 requires a prisoner to exhaust all available administrative remedies before they can proceed with a suit in the courts. Informal resolutions can still be sought, but to ensure their right to use the formal procedure, a prisoner must file a request to the Legal Claims Adjudicator of the ARP within 30 days of when the incident occurred.


According to policy, the ARP is set up so a prisoner can seek a formal review of a complaint which relates to any aspect of their incarceration (policies, conditions, or events) that affect them personally. My personal experience with the program is that the respondents do not seek to remedy the matter or investigate, but use the process to deter & discourage a prisoner from seeking remedies to their legitimate complaints & delay them from pursuing the matter in court. Usually I do not bother filing an ARP request unless I am willing to carry the matter to court, & that is what I prepare for from the outset.



As of August 19, 2010, the ARP was amended from a three step to a two step appeal process, supposedly because the third step was not needed & may have impeded or slowed inmate access to court. I don't understand how it could have slowed access to court because it STILL HAS A 90 DAY TIME LIMIT from initiation to completion. At least a prisoner doesn't have to deal with the extra paperwork of the unnecessary third step now.



Once the prisoner has filed their complaint with the Legal Claims Adjudicator of the ARP within 30 days of the incident, the request is screened by the Adjudicator & the prisoner is notified if their request is being rejected & the reason for the rejection. The ARP is supposed to notify the prisoner when their request is accepted, but they don't. From the day the request is accepted for processing, the First Step Respondent has 40 days to reply.



After receiving the first step response, a prisoner can proceed to the second step within 5 days if they are not satisfied by indicating such & the reasons why on the response form & forwarding it to the Legal Claims Adjudicator. The Second Step Respondent has 45 days to respond. When the prisoner receives the second step response, they have exhausted the administrative remedies &, if not satisfied, can proceed on to court.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Victim's Father Protests Prisoner Transfer


Victim's advocate John Harmon (and father of fallen officer Casey Harmon) has recently made it into the media -again- by second-guessing MDOC officials and publicly protesting the transfer of prisoner Steven Farris from the Mississippi State Penitentiary to Wilkinson County Correctional Facility. Mr. Harmon's main concern was that WCCF was too "modern" for the likes of Steven Farris, and that Farris should still be housed somewhere on the grounds of the MSP at Parchman. >In the process of preparing to close Unit 32 at Parchman, about 70 prisoners were transferred to WCCF over a period of weeks. The WCCF houses prisoners of all security custody levels, including those with similar or worse charges than Farris, as well as at least two former death row prisoners, and has the same maximum security level as Unit 32. Contrary to what Mr. Harmon would like the public to believe, this transfer wasn't out of the norm.

If you'd like to read Steven's response to Mr. Harmon's protest and grandstanding, click here. The family and friends of Steven Farris manage this blog and help him make this more than a one-sided affair by typing and publishing his handwritten posts.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Understanding the Limitations of the Consent Decree

Wading through the mire that is legalese isn't an easy task. I hope that I am able to shine some light on the framework that the courts must work within when dealing with correcting unconstitutional prison conditions. I'll try to not veer off the topic.

I always recommend reading the laws and cases for yourself. The restrictions I speak of now can be found in United States Code Annotated, Title 18- Crimes and Criminal Procedure, Part II- Criminal Procedure, Chapter 229- Postsentence Administration, Subchapter C- Imprisonment, 18 U.S.C.A. §3626, which has been effective since November 26, 1997.

§3626 is no joke, and it begins setting limits with its first lines:

Appropriate remedies with respect to prison conditions
  (a) Requirements for Relief.--
      (1) Prospective relief.--
          (A) Prospective relief in any civil action with respect to prison
          conditions shall extend no further than necessary to correct the
          violation of the Federal right of particular plaintiff or plaintiffs.
          The court shall not grant or approve any prospective relief unless
          the court finds that such relief is narrowly drawn, extends no
          further than necessary to correct the violation of the Federal
          right, and is the least intrusive means necessary to correct the
          violation of the Federal right. The court shall give substantial
          weight to any adverse impact on public safety or the operation
          of a criminal justice system caused by the relief.

The courts are being told to grant the least amount of relief possible; just enough to correct the problem. And if the possible changes might be too costly or might effect public safety (as with releasing prisoners due to overcrowding), it's possible the courts won't grant relief at all.

A rash of prisoner lawsuits, many of which were frivolous, precede the laws and decisions that severely limited suits brought by prisoners. The Prison Litigation Reform Act set the stage and was followed by 18 U.S.C.A. §3626. Since then, more and more hurdles have been set up to obstruct prisoner litigation.

As I mentioned in the post titled, MDOC To Be Released From Presley v. Epps Agreement, one of the things that is limited is how long court ordered or enforced relief can last. The relevant subsection of §3626 reads:

(b) Termination of Relief.--
    (1) Termination of prospective relief.--
        (A)
In any civil action with respect to prison conditions in which
        prospective relief is ordered, such relief shall be terminable upon
        to motion of any party or intervener--
            (i) 2 years after the date the court granted or approved the
            prospective relief;
            (ii) 1 year after the date the court has entered an order denying
            termination of prospective relief under this paragraph; or
            (iii) in the case of an order issued on or before the date of
            enactment of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 2 years after
            such date of enactment.

This is why, two years after the final modification of the consent decree, it had to be dismissed without prejudice. And now that Unit 32 has been closed down, the conditions there are a moot point. It was agreed upon between the plaintiffs and defendants in the Presley v. Epps suit that the standards for the Presley class would follow the class members wherever they were moved in the process of closing Unit 32.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Rules & Restrictio​ns for Mail (WCCF specific)

The rules and restrictions for sending mail to prisoners in Wilkinson County Correctional Facility differ slightly from the rules and restrictions for sending mail to prisoners at the Mississippi State Penitentiary. I will address the differences here, but suggest you read both. To read MSP's mail rules click here.

One of the major differences I've seen that I find encouraging is how the mailroom handles returning "non-allowable items" a prisoner might be sent by mistake. Instead of just returning whole letters because someone sent a prisoner a laminated bookmark or some such, the mail inspectors will remove the item and send the letter on to the prisoner. The prisoner must sign a form stating what he chooses to be done with the item. He can have it mailed back to the sender, sent to a different address, or have it destroyed. The prisoner also has the choice to appeal the decision. That's professional. That is the way it's supposed to be done.

Here are the differences in the rules:

  • A prisoner can still receive (2) two pages with printed material from the Internet -front and back on each if you choose- but WCCF is more lenient on this arbitrary rule.

  • Only (10) ten pictures per envelope, and the pictures are to be no larger than 3 in. x 5 in. A prisoner can only have ten pictures in his personal property at WCCF, anyway.

  • No more than (6) newspaper clippings per envelope. >Prisoners at WCCF are allowed to recieve up to (4) four paperback books per package. Click the link for more on sending books.

  • Prisoners at WCCF are only only allowed a subscription to (1) one adult/pornographic magazine. No magazine depicting penetration is allowed.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Wilkinson County Correctional Facility

In the process of emptying Unit 32 of prisoners, I was transferred to Wilkinson County Correctional Facility in Woodville, Mississippi. A trip of approximately 200 miles, lasting between 4 and 5 hours, sandwiched in with 9 other inmates, one of which was just doused in pepper spray.

Any change from the environment of Unit 32 was welcome. The Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman has an oppressive air about it -so much so that every time I've left the grounds of that prison, it has felt like a literal weight was lifted from my shoulders.

Wilkinson County Correctional Facility is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America, and has contracted with the MDOC since last year to start housing prisoners on longterm-segregation status. Normally they wouldn't have wanted to house prisoners that are on longterm-seg because it costs more, but with the downturn of the economy in recent years, the corporation reevaluated its policy.

Understandably, WCCF wasn't prepared to house the prisoners shipped in from Parchman. They were not accustomed to dealing with this many prisoners in lockdown. They are still adjusting, but I have to say, they are making progress. I will write about conditions in a future post. I do want to give some basic info here.

The main administration is composed of Warden Jacquelyn Banks, Assistant Warden Vines, and Assistant Warden Walker. From what I've seen, they aren't about micromanaging. They appoint individuals to positions and allow them to do their jobs. That makes for a better atmosphere than that of Unit 32, where the style of administration was exactly the opposite.

WCCF's physical address is 2999 U.S. Highway 61 North, and it's located two miles north on Highway 61/junction 563.

The mailing address is:

Wilkinson County Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 1079
Woodville, MS 39669-1079

And they can be reached by calling- (601) 888-3199

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Getting Personal

Though there is a more informal feel to what's reported and talked about here at PrisonInmatesLife, if you want it raw and uncensored from Steven and in his own "voice", check out his personal blog, The Writing On The Wall. There you'll read about his personal thoughts, experiences, ideas, opinions and much more. So check it out. Take a look into the abyss. . .
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A Change of Scenery

After 9 years at Unit 32, Steven Farris was transferred to Wilkinson County Correctional Facility on October 29, 2010. We are hoping the move is to an environment where he will be given an opportunity to work and earn his way out of lockdown and to a less restrictive housing unit. As with anything else, we've heard good and bad about it. If it's possible though, he wants to avoid getting involved in another prolonged legal battle.

We have news to post, and we'll be updating you -where we can- on what has happened at Unit 32 and in general at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. If you have any info you would like to pass along to us, or if you have questions, comments, or whatever else -give us some feedback and don't hesitate to contact us.
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About Steven

My photo
Steven Farris is a prisoner who has been incarcerated since a month after his 16th birthday in 1998. Currently serving a life sentence without the possibility for parole, he is seeking to educate the public about the true nature of prison and the widespread and negative effects of the prison industrial complex. Steven has worked with both the National Prison Project of the ACLU, as well as the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in furthering this effort.

You can contact him directly at:
Steven Farris #R5580
WCCC
P.O. Box 1889
Woodville, MS 39669-1889

Check out my other blog:

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