North Carolina Prisoners Lack Access to Courts

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[Legal] [North Carolina] [ULK Issue 29]
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North Carolina Prisoners Lack Access to Courts

The prison system in North Carolina does not have a law library. The courts say they don't need to provide law libraries because we have the North Carolina Prisoner Legal Service, Inc. (NCPLS). The truth is NCPLS helps maybe one or two prisoners a year.

Recently NCPLS sent me a letter telling me not to write back about the publication class action lawsuit case Urbanial v. Stanley until I have filed a grievance and the grievance is appealed to Step 3 and I get the response back. When I did that I sent the grievance and response to NCPLS, only to have them send the materials back without any letter explaining why they sent them back.

I have requested assistance from NCPLS in civil matters 25 or more times. This is going back to the 1990s when my civil rights were being violated over and over again. As NCPLS states in one of their letters, it's a price we the prisoners must pay for being prisoners. I am not allowed to even touch a staff member, and they should not be allowed to unjustly pepper spray me, etc. When they do, I have to go through a grievance system before I can file the lawsuit in court, and when I do file lawsuits they are dismissed. As you can see, I am given no legal assistance in filing these lawsuits either.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade continues to fight repression and censorship with the odds stacked against h. Over the years, others in North Carolina have been researching and fighting the lack of law libraries. Unfortunately, on paper, the nominal existence of the NCPLS enables North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) to skirt the Constitutional requirement that it provides its prisoners access to courts.

Bounds v. Smith 430 U.S. 817 (1977) permits prison authorities to provide either law libraries or counsel to satisfy this requirement, but it does not need to provide both. When a prisoner's appointed counsel is useless, and they don't have a law library in which to research a case to challenge this, their only hope is assistance from outside organizations and supporters.

The Prisoners' Legal Clinic is one such organization, under the MIM(Prisons) umbrella, which was reestablished a few years ago in an attempt to provide some of this much-needed legal support to our comrades with an anti-imperialist focus. One of the help guides we distribute for prisoners to use and build on is related to access to courts. This help guide is in very rough format currently, but with the expertise of our jailhouse lawyer contacts we can clean it up, and begin to distribute it more widely.

To get involved in the Prisoners' Legal Clinic, write to MIM(Prisons) and say you want to put in work on this project!

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