The Best Reforms for the Grievance Process

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[Campaigns] [Legal] [Missouri]
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The Best Reforms for the Grievance Process

In Missouri, our complaints are easily silenced; the caseworker simply throws the grievance form in the trash. A prisoner has no way to prove the form was ever even submitted. This tactic is especially prevalent in segregation units.

I wonder what state has the best grievance system. I certainly hope it isn't Missouri, because ours is too easily sabotaged. I do not have any experience with other states' procedures, but I did see a grievance form for Arizona's procedure belonging to a prisoner in Missouri on interstate compact. It looked better than Missouri's, mainly because the prisoner keeps a copy.

Will comparing states grievance procedures in a court case be effective in bringing about change? I am willing to entertain the possibility, but how will we know what state has the best procedure? The Prisoners' Legal Clinic will need to form a team of comrades from the various states to discuss the differences and their experiences.


MIM(Prisons) Legal Coordinator adds: We don't rely on the Amerikkkan court system for our ultimate liberation, but while we're stuck here in the belly of the beast we try to use the courts to our advantage in our revolutionary organizing. A long-term project of United Struggle from Within and the Prisoners' Legal Clinic (PLC) is the campaign to ensure our grievances are addressed. Our subscribers have been submitting petitions to prison administrators, prisoner advocacy groups, and the Federal government in several states, some for years. These petitions notify the prisoncrats of all the corrupt ways grievances are being mishandled and misused on the ground.

In some states, we've had success with our grievance petitions. Other states have come down with more creativity with their repression. In those states that don't respond to the petitions, a lawsuit will likely be necessary to push this struggle further.

This author discusses the tactic of comparing grievance procedures to see which states have more reliable remedies for administrative relief, and using this information in a lawsuit to push your own state to adopt these tactics.

It is vital to keep a copy of the grievance in any case and in any system. If the system does not allow the you to keep a receipt or copy of the grievance, then it is much more difficult to track a grievance and prove that it was submitted. This of course makes it much easier for the grievance to end up in the trash.

As we're looking forward to the development of the campaign to have our grievances addressed in several states, we can start discussing legal tactics to use in a lawsuit. Besides ensuring that a prisoner is able to keep proof that a grievance was submitted, what other procedural reforms would improve the grievance process?

Of course procedural safeguards won't always prevent the grievance from being "lost," or keep it from being used as an excuse to harrass the persyn filing the complaint. But the more protections we can build into the grievance processes, the better we can protect ourselves from abuses — abuses of the grievance process, and in prison generally.

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