Advancing the Illinois Grievance Campaign
Upon reading ULK 46 I was once again reminded of the difficulties that us prisoners face trying to have our grievances heard. I would like to share with ULK readers a remedy for this issue that I have discovered.
Pursuant to Powe v. Ennis, 177 F.3d 393 (5th Circuit 1999); and Lewis v. Washington, 300 F.3d 829 (7th Cir. 2002), if prison officials refuse to hear your grievance, your administrative remedies are exhausted. You do not need a response to your grievance to pursue your issue in the courts. You need only prove that you filed the respective grievance.
This can easily be done. First, after you have written your grievance fill out a Proof of Service form stating that on such-and-such date you sent so-and-so a grievance regarding such-and-such issue. After you have filled out the Proof of Service form get it notarized at your facility's law library. Secondly make sure to make copies of both your grievance and the Proof of Service form to keep in your files. Finally, repeat this process at every level of your state's grievance system.
For example: In Illinois there is a three-step grievance system. I have personally used this method in the past (successfully). First, I filed my grievance with my counselor; next I filed it with my institution's grievance office; then I filed it with the Administrative Review Board. Each time I filed my grievance I also filed a Proof of Service form. By doing so I was able to show the Court that I had attempted to resolve my claims through the grievance process. This resulted in the court siding with me and denying the State's Motion for Summary Judgement. I am enclosing proof of this method's success for MIM(Prisons) to verify.
Although this is not the ideal solution it is one that will allow prisoners to pursue their legal matters without being obstructed by the Capitalist swine.
Example Proof Of Service
Hereby comes [your name] to swear under penalty of perjury that on the date signed below I sent the [prison name] Grievance Officer a grievance dated [date] concerning the misplacement of my TV and Norelco Razor by prison authorities through the institutional level mail service.
Executed this ___ day of _____ [month] ________ [year]
[get this stamped and signed by a notary public.]
MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a helpful update to the country-wide grievance campaign and likely is a tactic that can be used in states other than Illinois. How "easily" this tactic can be employed depends on the conditions of one's confinement. As some prisoners are held in 24-hour lockdown, with no access to a law library, and the only receipt offered for filing a grievance is another beating from prison guards, they might not be able to easily employ this tactic. But for many prisoners, this might be a stepping stone from having one's grievances altogether ignored, to getting one's foot in the door in the courts.
Many people have requested copies of our state-specific petitions to demand grievances be addressed after running into problems with the grievance system. From all the petitions we have sent out, we've heard few updates about the progress on this campaign. It's important that we sum up our political practice and learn from it. And through this summing up we can determine how to best modify our practice to improve it. We call this ongoing summing up and improving of our practice "dialectical materialism." This is a scientific approach to our political work that enables us to learn from doing, and when we do this summing up publicly, through a newspaper like Under Lock & Key, we can apply these lessons across a broad base of organizers and be far more effective in the work that we are all doing.
So if you use, or have used, the above tactic, be sure to tell ULK if it helped you, or what you did to improve it. That way we can all learn from each others' practice to improve our own.